Exercising the First Amendment at Gettysburg

IMG_6338The Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Private J.W. Culp Camp, and Scott Hancock, got permits today, March 5, 2016, to exercise their first amendment rights at Gettysburg National Military Park. The events took place at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial.

The permits were requested under the first amendment of the United States Constitution which grants all citizens the rights to freedom IMG_6300of speech.  As custodians of land owned by the American people, the National Park Service has a responsibility to make that land available for exercising those rights.  The Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 2.51), the Director’s Orders on Special Park Use and the Management Policies of the National Park Service all provide clear guidance on First Amendment activities in the parks.

IMG_6364The National Park Service mission in preserving and protecting the historic resources at Gettysburg includes making them available to all Americans, even those whose views are contrary to the majority of the American public.

National parks host hundreds of first amendment activities each year, the majority of which take place in our nation’s capital.  Some, like Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, reflect the prevailing mood of the American people, while others deliver a more controversial message whose validity is ultimately judged by the American people. The one constant of all of these assemblies is the professionalism of National Park Service and its staff in administering these activities.

IMG_6361Gettysburg National Military Park staff staffed the event to ensure the safety of everyone involved and to protect park resources and visitors.

Katie Lawhon, management Assistant, March 5, 2016

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Gettysburg’s Operational Update, Spring 2016

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These Honored Dead: Samuel Fitzinger, 106th Pennsylvania


Nat. Cem

No visit to Gettysburg National Military Park is complete without stopping at the Soldier’s National Cemetery, arguably the most important location on the battlefield. Many travel to the quiet location upon Cemetery Hill to look upon the graves of the fallen and see the site where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famed Gettysburg Address.While generations have looked to Lincoln’s rhetoric to define the meaning of the Civil War, we must never forget that Lincoln’s speech was the result of the sacrifice of thousands upon the fields of Gettysburg in July 1863.

The sacrifices which were made at Gettysburg were not just those of soldiers. Mothers, fathers, wives, children, brothers, and sisters sacrificed as well by giving up their loved ones to the cause of the Union. Lincoln proclaimed that, while the world would one day forget the words spoken at the cemetery dedication (an unlikely occurrence, given the lasting fame of the Gettysburg Address), it could never forget what the soldiers did at Gettysburg. What they did here meant that thousands across the country received letters such as this one, posted below.

Corporal Samuel Fitzinger was a member of Company B, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. On July 2, 1863, as the Confederate brigade of Ambrose Ransom Wright launched an attack on the Union center on Cemetery Ridge late in the day, the 106th Pennsylvania was one of the Union regiments tasked with repulsing the Southern charge. On the same fields made famous the following day by Pickett’s Charge, Pennsylvanians clashed with

Monument to the 106th PA

Relief on the monument of the 106th PA showing their advance toward the Codori Farm.

Georgians late in the day of July 2nd. As the Southern tide began to break, the men of the 106th Pennsylvania surged forward from the stonewall along Cemetery Ridge, making their way toward the Codori farm, where a number of Wright’s Georgians were taking refuge. It was here, on the fields near the Codori barn, where Corporal Fitzinger was killed in action. His body was buried near the barn, which by the time the battle was through, had seen some of the most ferocious combat in all of American history.

Several weeks after the battle, once the pace of campaigning had slowed sufficiently, Captain James Lynch of Company B wrote this letter to Margaret Fitzinger, Samuel’s mother.

106th Pa Vols.

July 27, 1863

Mrs. Margaret Fitzinger,


I take advantage of the first opportunity which offers itself to send you the only relic found upon the body of your deceased son, Samuel [the relic was Samuel’s Testament]. He died a soldier’s death while bravely fighting on Pennsylvania soil in defence of the glorious institutions which our fathers won for us by their blood. He was a good and faithful soldier and any mother might well be proud of such a son. His body was buried where he fell in a field near a barn which was burnt during the engagement and immediately in front of the position held by the 2nd Corps on Granite Ridge [Cemetery Ridge]. His grave is marked by a head board with name and Company on it. He fell on the 2nd during an attack by my company on the barn which was then filled with Rebels. While sympathizing with you in your bereavement I cannot but reflect that he died as I would wish to fall, with his face to the enemy and his last moments were rendered happy by the knowledge that he had done his full share in the accomplishment of a Glorious Victory.

If I can be of any service to you, do not hesitate to command me.

Very Truly Yours,

James Lynch, Captain, Company B, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteers

P.S. I send the testament and this letter by Samuel Reynolds one of his comrades who can probably give you any further information you may desire.

Dan at the codori farm

The author, with the Codori Farm in the background.

For Margaret Fitzinger, the loss of her son was devastating. Her husband, John Fitzinger, had passed away before the Civil War, meaning that she was entirely reliant upon Samuel for her support. Margaret married John in 1837 when she was just 16, and it does not appear that she received any education, as the documents in her pension file have a simple “x” for her mark in lieu of a signature. Samuel worked and lived in Philadelphia, and every Saturday night he brought home his weekly earnings from his job and gave them to his mother, whom he cared for. When he enlisted in the army, he did the same with his monthly pay. Thus, Samuel’s death on Cemetery Ridge meant that now Margaret had lost her husband and her son, and no longer had any means of supporting herself. In March of 1864, she was awarded a mother’s pension of 8 dollars a month, commencing from the date of her son’s death in July 1863 and continuing for the rest of her life. Margaret was in her early forties when Samuel died at Gettysburg; it is unknown how long she lived while mourning the loss of her son upon the battlefield. While Samuel was initially buried on the Codori farm, his remains were later reinterred in the Soldier’s National Cemetery. Today, Samuel rests in the Pennsylvania Section, Row F, Grave 51.

It must be remembered that, without grieving mothers receiving letters such as this, the “new birth of freedom” at Gettysburg would not have been possible.

Ranger Dan Vermilya
Gettysburg National Military Park

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The Other Gettysburg Addresses: Presidential Orations at Gettysburg – Part 3

This week we continue with the final installment of our three part series on presidential orations at Gettysburg, focusing on the final two American presidents to offer substantive remarks on the battlefield.  

Lyndon B. Johnson

Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke from the rostrum on Memorial Day, 1963. Little could he know that less than six months later events would thrust him into the presidency. It was the centennial of the Civil War, but how the centennial was observed depended on who you were and where you lived. For some the centennial provided additional support and motivation for “massive resistance” to desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement. For others, the centennial was a reminder that “the new birth of freedom” that Lincoln had spoken of was still not a reality for all Americans.


Lyndon B. Johnson, Spring 1963. Image Courtesy of the The New York Times

Martin Luther King had written his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” the previous month. Three weeks before Johnson spoke at Gettysburg, a stunned nation watched on television, as one thousand Civil Rights demonstrators, many of them still in high school, were attacked with fire hoses and police dogs, as they attempted to march to the city hall in Birmingham, Alabama. Throughout the South, but sometimes in northern cities as well, there were protests and counter-protests. Some ended peacefully; many others did not.

At the same time, the planet was facing the peril of nuclear annihilation and the Cold War had divided the nations of the world into compacts and treaty states of NATO, the Warsaw Pact, or the Third World. How could America stand up as a symbol for freedom, liberty, and justice around the world when so many were being denied freedom, liberty, and justice at home?

This was the atmosphere that shaped Johnson’s words when he spoke in the Cemetery.

January 1, 1963 had been the 100th anniversary of the formal Emancipation Proclamation. Johnson would link his words to both that earlier document and the Gettysburg Address. Jamie Thorton would later write, if “Abraham Lincoln spoke of physically freeing Black Americans, Johnson spoke of freeing their souls.” [i]

Johnson spoke to his audience that “we, the living, have not forgotten—and the world will never forget—the deeds or the words of Gettysburg. We honor them now…” At the same time, “we are called to honor our own words…with resolution in the deeds we must perform to preserve peace and the hope of freedom.” [ii]

As we maintain the vigil of peace, we must remember that justice is a vigil too—a vigil we must keep in our own streets and schools and the lives of all our people—so that those who died here on their native soil shall not have died in vain.”

One hundred years ago, the slave was freed. One hundred years later, the Negro remains in bondage to the color of his skin. The Negro today asks justice. We do not answer him—we do not answer those who lie beneath this soil— When we reply to the Negro by asking, ‘Patience.’

Unless we are willing to yield up our destiny of greatness among civilizations of history, Americans—white and Negro together—must be about the business of resolving the challenge that confronts us now.

Our nation found its soul of honor on these fields of Gettysburg one hundred years ago. We must not lose that soul in dishonor now on the fields of hate.”

Johnson went on to say that we are a nation of laws and that Americans fail when they use violence, rather than the law to gain justice.

“If it is empty to ask Negro or white for patience, it is not empty—it is merely  honest—to ask perseverance…The answers will only be wrought by our perseverance together. It is deceit to promise more as it would be cowardice to demand less.

The Negro say, ‘Now.’ Others say, ‘Never.’ The voice of responsible Americans—the voice of those who died here and the great man that spoke here—their voices say, ‘Together.’ There is no other way.”

 The audio recording of the entirety of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Gettysburg speech is available here, thanks to the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. 

Dwight Eisenhower

            For the 100th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, President John F. Kennedy had been invited to speak at Gettysburg. Unfortunately, Kennedy needed to mend some political fences in Texas. I’ve often wondered how history would have changed had he not gone to Dallas or if perhaps Gettysburg might have been the site of a second national tragedy. This is something we will never know.

The organizers needed to find a substitute. Vice-President Johnson had delivered a powerful, moving message in May, but he was also in Dallas with the President. Fortunately, there was a local cattleman and farmer who was available to take the President’s place.


Eisenhower at Gettysburg.

In 1950, Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower bought a farm at the edge of the Gettysburg battlefield. It was the first and last home they would buy. In 1952, Eisenhower was elected to the first of two terms as the nation’s 34th President. In 1961, Eisenhower left the Oval Office and returned home to Gettysburg. In addition to being a former President, Eisenhower had also been the Supreme Commander of all Allied Forces in Europe during World War II. It had been the forces under his command that had freed Occupied Europe from the control of Nazi Germany. He had been the first Supreme Commander of NATO as the specter of Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and nuclear annihilation threatened the peace after the war. Some of the soldiers that had served under Eisenhower’s command were now buried in the National Cemetery. Eisenhower’s fame and stature among the citizens of the U.S. and the entire world made him the right choice to speak from the Rostrum.

Standing near where Lincoln spoke, Eisenhower said that it was, “here we sense his (Lincoln’s) deep dedication to freedom, (and) our own dedication takes added strength. Lincoln had faith that the ancient drums of Gettysburg…would one day beat in unison, to summon a people, happily united in peace…” [iii]

Like Lincoln, Eisenhower spoke about the past, the present, and the future. As Vice-President Johnson did a few months earlier, Eisenhower reminded us that our work was not finished, and “because of human frailty, it will always be unfinished.”

“Where we see the serenity in which time has invested this hallowed ground, Lincoln saw the scarred earth and felt the press of personal grief. Yet he lifted his eyes to the future, the future is our present. He foresaw a New Birth of Freedom…

We read Lincoln’s sentiments, we ponder his words—the beauty of the sentiments enthralls us; the majesty of his words holds us spellbound—but we have not paid to his message its just tribute until we ourselves live it…

 True to democracy’s basic principle that all are created equal and endowed by The Creator with priceless human rights, the good citizen now, as always before, is called upon to defend the rights of others as he does his own; to subordinate self to the country’s good; to refuse to take the easy way today that we might invite disaster tomorrow; to accept the truth that the work still to be done awaits his doing.”

Eisenhower reminds us that Lincoln looked to the future:

 “…Lincoln still asks of each of us, as clearly as he did of those who heard his words a century ago, to give increased devotion to the cause for which soldiers in all our wars have given the last full measure of devotion. Our answer, the only worthy one we can render to the memory of the great emancipator, is ever to defend, protect, and pass on unblemished, to the coming generations the heritage—the trust—that Abraham Lincoln, and all the ghostly legions of the past, with unflinching faith in their God, have bequeathed us- a nation free, with liberty, dignity, and justice for all.”

Eisenhower was the last president to speak from the rostrum of the Soldiers’National Cemetery. Other presidents have visited Gettysburg since Eisenhower spoke in 1963, but today they are low key events, usually not publicized until after the President has left the area. Security concerns may no longer allow the President to speak from the rostrum where several of his (or maybe someday her) predecessors spoke. That would be unfortunate. While they could never match Lincoln’s eloquence, (though Hoover, Johnson, and Eisenhower came close), their messages had much to tell us about who we were and who we are. They should not be forgotten.

Ranger John Nicholas
Gettysburg National Military Park


[i] Thorton, Jamie: “President Lyndon Johnson: Stepping Up to the Battlefield.” (online) https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-207553698/vice-presiedent-johnson-stepping-up-to-the-battlefield. (subscription required)

[ii] Lyndon B. Johnson: “Remarks of Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson, Memorial Day, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania May 30, 1963.” LBJ Presidential Library (online). http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu./johnson/archives.hom/speeches.hom/630530/.asp

[iii] “The Lost Presidential Speech made at the Gettysburg Address Anniversary.” Constitution Daily (online). Posted Nov. 19, 2014.  http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2014/11/the-lost-presidential-speech-made-at-the-gettysburg-address-anniversary.

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Down Memory Lane at Gettysburg

Primary.NPSCentennialLogo.FullColorOn February 11, 1895, federal legislation created Gettysburg National Military Park.  Yes, the park was created before there even was a “National Park Service”(created 21 years later in 1916).  In fact one of the reasons I think the Gettysburg battlefield boasts so many monuments and markers is that, as the generation of Civil war veterans passed into their golden years and thought long and hard about how the battle and the war would be remembered, they wanted monuments to tell the story through the ages.  They never could have imagined the concept of a National Park Ranger, whose primary job is to tell the story of the Battle of Gettysburg!

A few years ago Kathy Georg Harrison, a former historian of Gettysburg National Military Park, shared these historic photos and detailed captions with me for a project we were working on.  One further note: it may be useful here to note the administrators of the Gettysburg battlefield through different eras. They are: the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association (GBMA) 1864-1895; Gettysburg National Park Commission 1893-1922; U.S. War Department 1922-1933; and the National Park Service 1933-present.

Let’s celebrate the establishment of Gettysburg National Military Park 121 years today by taking this pictorial walk down memory lane…

The Battle-Taneytown Road at Meade's Headquarters 1863Taneytown Road at Meade’s Headquarters – This is a portion of an Alexander Gardner photograph taken a few days after the battle, looking from a point south of the Leister house in the direction of Cemetery Hill.  The orchard is visible at the left of the picture.  The dead horses probably belonged to Meade’s staff and men in the Signal Corps that were killed during the cannonade on July 3.  Sidenote: The widow Leister, who lived in what became Meade’s headquarters, had lots of the dead horses piled up on her property, to keep until they rotted so she could use their bones as fertilizer.

The Battle-PowersHill and Cemetery Hill 1863Powers Hill and Cemetery Hill – This is part of an Edwin Forbes painting based on drawings he made here during the battle.  Forbes was travelling with the Union army as a reporter/illustrator.  This painting depicts ambulances on the Granite School Road, reserves sitting on the hill to the south of the road and Union forces marching to the battlefield along the Baltimore Pike.  The lower slope of Powers Hill appears in the middle ground and Cemetery Hill appears in the distance above it.  When we removed nonhistoric trees from Powers Hill in 2012, we retained a grove of trees at the base of Powers Hill  just as depicted in this painting.  FYI—the grove was Meade’s Headquarters after he was forced out of the Leister House until sometime late on the 4th of July when he moved closer to Cemetery Hill.

Gettysburg Address--Soldiers' National Cemetery c. 1890Soldiers’ National Cemetery c. 1890 – This is a view towards the Soldiers’ National Monument from one of the original internal drives through the Civil War interment sections.  On the right of the photo are the curbing headstones of the Maine section; on the left is one of the large sections of the unknown dead with their marble posts.  Much foliage in this photograph belongs to planting that was added by the War Department after they acquired and incorporated the cemetery into administration by the Quartermaster General (1872).  This planting within the burial section undermined the design intent of the William Saunders plan.  The heads of the Norway Maple tree allee of the original Saunders design appears at the extreme left of the photo.

Notice the cannon carriage near the monument. A number of carriages were placed in the national cemetery at varying locations near the Soldiers’ National Monument and near the Reynolds statue to signify the military presence but not as site-specific markers. The storage building (the current maintenance building in the cemetery) was constructed to house these carriages during the winter. Cannon carriages became standard components of the newly created national cemetery system. Once the Gettysburg National Park Commission placed artillery position markers in the cemetery these movable carriages were moved there.

Monumentation--First Style of GBMA monumentationFirst Style of Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association (GBMA) Monumentation –  GBMA contracted for the painting of wooden signboards to mark the positions of the various units of the Union army, started during the 1870s.  This one, to the 150th PA, was located along Hancock Avenue.  The view is in the direction of Taneytown Road near the Biggs House.  Today, a small granite monument to the 150th PA marks this same spot.

Monumentation--Commemoration of Battery positions c.1880Commemoration of Battery Positions c. 1880  – Cannon from the Civil War era, condemned by the War Department, were donated to the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association by Act of Congress for the battlefield.  Most of the artillery sent to Gettysburg did not reflect the type or caliber of the guns used there in 1863 but were mounted anyway to designate artillery positions on property owned by the Association.  This photo shows mounted guns on East Cemetery Hill.  The ones in the foreground, mounted on blocks of rustic granite, were the first commemorative devices to monument the battlefield—similar structures were erected on the summit of Little Round Top.  These particular guns are in the lunettes of Stewart’s Battery B 4th U.S. Artillery.  The ones in the lunettes in the background are mounted on wooden carriages, several of which were purchased by the Association to replace the granite mounts.  The wooden carriages proved to be too expensive and were short-lived which led to the park Commission deciding to purchase iron carriages.  Click here for more about early cannon carriages at Gettysburg.

Monumentation--Model of Penna. MonumentModel of Pennsylvania Monument – This photograph shows the winning design entry in 1908 for the Pennsylvania State monument, erected and dedicated in 1910.  The design was made by architect W. Liance Cottrell, with help from Samuel Murray who sculpted the relief panels and the statue of Victory.  This monument brought to a climax the money expended, the size to which these structures had attained, and the desire to personally acknowledge every soldier who performed his duty at Gettysburg.  We had come a long way from the painted handboards.

The Commission--Paving Gutters, United States Ave.Paving Gutters United States Avenue – One of the first tasks assigned to the Commission was the opening of avenues along the Union and Confederate positions and inventing a systematic way to visit and understand the battlefield.  Although the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association had an avenue system, it was rutted, bumpy, poorly graded, hardly maintained and existed only on the Union side of battlefields.  The Commission laid out avenues that were the envy of urban areas all along the east coast; engineers and supervisors of towns and cities visited the park solely for the purpose of finding a way to mimic the perfection and beauty of the park’s avenue system.  This photograph shows one of the improvements to one of the first avenues laid out by the Commission—United States Avenue.  The avenue had been graded and constructed along the Telford system and was enclosed with a pipe rail fence.  Later, to improve drainage many of the avenues had stone gutters laid on their edges.  This photograph shows two park employees—the highest paid were the pavers—systematically putting the puzzle together and laying them.  You can see from the photograph that the Commission was very light-handed when it came to development.  The route of the gutters was hand dug and limited only to the exact dimensions where the gutter would be installed.  The man with the horse owned the horse, which was rented from the owner.  The horse would be paid, the man who apparently just stood around when not hauling and dumping, was not paid.  Who knows how much bran and oats that horse went out and bought on the way home from work!  The house in the background is the Trostle House.  The large tree to the right of the house and just inside the pipe fence is the “Sickles Headquarters Tree” that still stands there today.

All credit is due to Kathy Georg Harrison, retired historian at Gettysburg National Military Park, for this blog post, originally prepared as a power point presentation.  Any errors are likely the result of my editing. Also, thanks to Winona Peterson, the park’s Cultural Resource Program Manager for her assistance on this post. On this, the 121st birthday of Gettysburg National Military Park, I am honored to share some of this amazing history with each of you.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, 2/11/2016


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The Other Gettysburg Addresses: Presidential Orations at Gettysburg Part II

From Abraham Lincoln to Dwight Eisenhower, Gettysburg has long been associated with the American presidency. Since 1863 numerous sitting presidents have journeyed to Gettysburg, and following in Lincoln’s footsteps, have offered speeches and orations that are a reflection of how different generations, and presidents, have remembered and reflected the American Civil War.  This is part two of a three part series focusing on presidential speeches and orations at Gettysburg. Part I covered Rutherford Hayes, Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge.

Herbert Hoover

After Calvin Coolidge’s dull speech of Memorial Day 1928, President Herbert Hoover would give a truly great oration filled with wonderful metaphors, imagery, and eloquence. The Great Depression had already begun, (though its worst years had not hit the U.S. yet), when Herbert Hoover spoke from the rostrum in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Hoover’s address would not just be heard by listeners and reporters in the cemetery, but was broadcast over national radio networks. The entire nation has the opportunity to listen along as the President and Gettysburg community observed Memorial Day in 1930.

Hoover Gettysburg Times June 2 1930

The Gettysburg Times devoted a portion of their June 2, 1930 edition to Hoover’s visit.

Hoover pointed out that “most of those who bore the burdens of the Civil War have joined their comrades who sleep beneath the mounds” in national cemeteries. “The time must come all too soon when these living ties of our generation with the historic past will have passed on. Then we shall have only cherished memories to remind us of those men who heroically died and those women who bravely suffered for great ideals, or who lived on to consummate the reunion of our country, to give stability to its Government, and peace to its people.”[1]

“Every American’s thought of this great battlefield of Gettysburg flashes with the instant vision of the lonely figure of Lincoln, whose immortal words dominate this scene. No monument has been or can be erected here so noble as that simple enduring address which has become part of this place. Greater than the tribute of granite or bronze remains that memorable message to the American people. That appeal for the unity of our people and the perpetuation of the fundamentals of democracy is as vital today in our national thinking as it was when Lincoln spoke. Behind him were 70 years of national experience that had passed between himself and Washington. His words from their span of the past rang with courage and assurance for the future. Though no President has been so beset, though no time in our history has been so dark, though never have strong men been so affected with doubts, yet in the midst of all that turmoil he found the strength to lift his head above the clouds and proclaim that vision which passing years have so fully confirmed.”

Hoover would go on to say that while Americans were facing a new day with new, very ominous problems that seemed to have no solutions, they could take comfort in following Lincoln’s example of courage and faith.

“In the weaving of our destiny, the pattern may change, yet the woof and warp
of our weaving must be inspired by those inspired ideals of unity, of ordered liberty, of equality of opportunity, of popular government, and of peace to which this Nation was dedicated…The weaving of freedom is and always will be a struggle of law against lawlessness, of individual liberty against domination, of unity against sectionalism, of truth against demagoguery, of peace against fear and conflict. In the forming of this pattern, the abuse of politics often muddies the stream of constructive thought and dams back the flow of well-considered action.”

“In the solution of the problem of our times we have some new lamps to guide us. The light of science has revealed to us a new understanding of forces and a myriad of instruments of physical ease and comfort to add to the joy of life. The growth of communications, of education, of the press, have made possible a new unity of thought and purpose. But the light that guides our souls remains the same as that whereby our fathers were led. It is the store of knowledge, the great inspirations of men’s souls, the ideals which they carry forward, that have lifted the Nation to ever greater heights.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Roosevelt spoke twice at Gettysburg. The more well-known visit was in 1938 for the 75th anniversary observance of the battle, the last reunion of the veterans of the Blue and Gray. That reunion also played host to the dedication of the Eternal Peace Light Memorial on Oak Hill.  Forgotten today is his visit four years earlier in 1934 and his Memorial Day speech in the National Cemetery.

Hitler had become chancellor of Germany a year earlier; Japan was already in Manchuria; and Mussolini would attack Ethiopia the following year, but Americans were in the worst years of the Depression and overseas problems were not yet on Roosevelt’s mind.

FDR’s 1934 speech focused on reconciliation not just between north and south, but of the entire American people as the nation attempted to dig its way out of the Depression. He almost ignored Gettysburg and the battle there, as if he was trying to distance himself from Lincoln, though he would ultimately circle back  in the last sentence of his remarks.

In his closing remarks Roosevelt linked the Gettysburg battlefield to Valley Forge, Valley Forge to Philadelphia, Philadelphia to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and finally Philadelphia to George Washington’s inauguration and

Roosevelt 1934

The Gettysburg Times reported an estimated 100,000 people were on hand to hear Roosevelt’s 1934 speech.

presidency. He told his audience that Washington recognized “the strength of local and State and sectional prejudices and how strong they might grow to be, and how they might take from the national Government some of the loyalty the citizens owed to it”.[2] Washington toured the different parts of the new country in 1789-91 in order to help foster a sense of sense of national unity. He had hoped that national highways and canals would be “aids not to sectional, but to national development.” When the country was within “driving distance” (Roosevelt’s words) of the thirteen states that had been possible, but as the nation expanded, the transportation and communications of the day could not keep up.

Following up on his theme of continental transportation and communications, Roosevelt had a very different, and novel reason for the cause of the Civil War. He told his audience that when the railroads came, they were developed for local and sectional use. With the nation’s boundaries extending sea-to-sea, the country had become several “self-contained territories” with limited ties and connections to each other. “People were not thinking in terms of national transportation or national communication…The tragedy of the Nation was that the people did not know one another because they had not the necessary means of visiting one another.”

Mindful that there were Civil War veterans in the audience, Roosevelt linked them with the current generation, “Since those days, two subsequent wars, both with foreign Nations, have measurably allayed and softened the ancient passions. It has been left to us of this generation to see the healing made permanent.”

With the Depression dominating American life in the 1930s, Roosevelt proclaimed a new reconciliation, not of the North and South, but of the farm and the city. He told his listeners:

“We are all brothers now, brothers in a new understanding. The grain farmer of the West and in the fertile fields of Pennsylvania do not set themselves up for preference if we seek at the same time cotton farmers of the South; nor do the tobacco growers complain of discrimination if, at the same time, we help the cattle men of the plains and mountains.”

“In our planning to lift industry to normal prosperity, the farmer upholds our efforts. And as we seek to give the farmers of the United States a long-sought equality, the city worker understands and helps. All of us, among all States, share in whatever good comes to the average man. We know that we all have a stake–a partnership in this Government of this, our country.”

“Today we have the means of knowing each other—means that have at last sounded the doom of sectionalism…”

“Here at Gettysburg, here in the presence of the spirits of those who fell on this ground, we
give renewed that the passions of war are moldering in the tombs of Time and the purposes of
the peace are flowing today in the hearts of a united people.”

John Nicholas, Gettysburg National Military Park

[1] Herbert Hoover: “Memorial Day Address at Gettysburg Battlefield.” May 30, 1930. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=22214

[2] Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Address at Gettysburg.”, May 30, 1934. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=14685

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The Other Gettysburg Addresses – Presidential Orations at Gettysburg

photo meld 2

Every orator who speaks at Gettysburg lives in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln’s 272 word address. Those brave enough to mount the podium on Dedication Day, or during any other of the numerous occasions for speechifying that the battlefield presents, usually begin their effort by begrudgingly acknowledging the impossibility of supplanting Lincoln’s “few appropriate remarks.” Words less ambitious and prose less soaring spare the speaker from any unflattering comparison with Lincoln.

Throughout the past century and half, the challenge of following Lincoln has been confronted by a number of illustrious and not-so-illustrious American Presidents. Each has offered unique remarks  that are illustrative of the man  and the time in which it was spoken. While most fall short of the high bar set by Lincoln, they comprise an interesting chapter in the history of Gettysburg, as well as the presidency. Today we begin a new series, penned by Ranger John Nicholas, that will examine the  “other Gettysburg Addresses.”  

Every year, thousands, perhaps a million visitors walk through the Taneytown Road gates of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Almost always, the first question visitors  ask as soon as they walk through the gates is: Where was Abraham Lincoln? It’s a fair question; the Gettysburg Address is one of the most well-known and well-loved speeches in any language in world history. Who wouldn’t want to know where those words were first spoken by the man who spoke them? The first structure a visitor sees as they come through the gates is the Speakers’ Rostrum. They will think, “That has to be the spot where Lincoln stood!”  I often see people, sometimes singly, sometimes in groups (often school kids) climb the rostrum to stand where they believe President Lincoln spoke his immortal words. They sometimes recite the Gettysburg Address with as much dignity and solemnity as they can muster and try to imagine what it would have been like to stand there on November 19th, 1863. The rostrum is a great place to give a speech and every November 19th speeches will be made from there; but President Lincoln wasn’t there.


The Rostrum in the Soldier’ National Cemetery. The site is often confused as the location where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. In reality it was constructed in 1879 and stands some distance from the actual site. 

Abraham Lincoln never spoke from the rostrum. He couldn’t have; it wasn’t constructed until 1879, fourteen years after his death. But while Lincoln didn’t speak from the rostrum, there have been six other presidents who did speak from that spot: Rutherford B. Hayes, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower.  One future president, Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson, also spoke from the rostrum. Six of the seven presidents spoke on Memorial Day, then observed on May 30th. The event known today as Dedication Day, the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address on November 19th, did not become a tradition until 1938.

It takes a great deal of self-confidence to be the President of the United States, but I’m sure any successor to the 16th President would be intimidated to have to follow Abraham Lincoln and his words on the very ground where he spoke them. He’s a hard act to follow. What could they say that would add but not detract from what Lincoln spoke on Cemetery Hill on November 19, 1863?

I’ve often said that Lincoln’s words are about the past, the present, and the future. What path would these succeeding presidents follow? What would these presidents say about the past, their present, and the future? Would they merely reflect on Lincoln and Gettysburg in 1863 or would they try to get past the Address quickly so as not to invite comparison? Would they apply Lincoln’s words to their own times and the trials and the world in which they lived? Would their words provide inspiration for the future?

Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford B. Hayes was the first president after Lincoln to speak in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Hayes spoke from a wooden platform constructed on the same spot where the current rostrum is located. (As mentioned earlier the current rostrum was not built until 1879.) Hayes was a Civil War veteran, (though he was not at the Battle of Gettysburg).  He was also the president who ordered the removal federal troops from the former Confederate states, which effectively ended Reconstruction, so I had hoped that he would provide a veteran’s insight on the war and its aftermath. It was not to be.


Rutherford B. Hayes

Hayes said nothing about his own experience or events that had happened during or after the war or the war’s effect on Americans. He did remind his listeners that Lincoln and those who responded to his call to suppress the rebellion, “gave their lives for the Union, liberty, and for a stable, constitutional government.” Hayes hoped that contemplating the National Cemetery and the landscape of the battlefield would allow Americans to better appreciate their country and its institutions and help them be better prepared for the duties which had been bequeathed to them by the soldiers buried in the cemetery.[1]

Hayes followed Lincoln’s example in the brevity of his remarks. His entire speech is a single paragraph, nine sentences long. If the Associated Press reporter’s short- hand transcription of the words of Lincoln’s speech is accurate, then Lincoln spoke a total of 269 words on November 19, 1863. On May 30, 1878, President Hayes spoke only 253 words, but the last 44 words are the last sentence from Lincoln’s address. Only 209 words belong to President Hayes.[2]

Theodore Roosevelt

The assassination of President William McKinley ended the life of the last Civil War veteran to be elected to the Oval Office. The vice-president who succeeded him as president, Theodore Roosevelt, spoke from the rostrum in 1904.

Evening Sun, May 30, 1912

Two presidents prepare their respective Gettysburg remarks. The Evening Sun, May 30, 1912

A new century with a new, vital, young president, Roosevelt was forty-three years old when he spoke at Gettysburg. The United States had emerged as a player on the world stage, millions of immigrants were flocking to its shores, the economy was booming, and the nation was bursting with energy. In the years after the Civil War, Pragmatism, a distinctly American philosophy, had been conceptualized by Charles S. Pierce, William James, and John Dewey. Roosevelt, with his emphasis on practical idealism and living “a strenuous life”, was the very embodiment of that philosophy.

Roosevelt ascribed those same ideals to the soldiers who fought at Gettysburg:

“The Civil War was a great war of righteousness; a war waged for the noblest ideals, but waged also in thoroughgoing, practical fashion. That is why you won then because you had the ideals, because you had the lift of soul in you, and because also you had the right stuff in you to make those ideals count in actual life. You had to have the ideals, but if you had not been able to march and shoot you could not put them into practice… this victorious war of ours meant the triumph of both liberty and order, the triumph of orderly liberty, the bestowal of civil rights upon the freed slaves, and at the same time the stern insistence on the supremacy of the national law throughout the length and breadth of the land.”

Roosevelt reminded his listeners that the soldiers who won at Gettysburg and the soldiers who fought to the end of the war “made their countrymen forever their debtors, (and) have left us far more even than the memories of the war itself… (And) the lessons they taught us are lessons as applicable in our everyday lives now as in rare times of great stress.”   

Roosevelt goes on to tell us what those lessons were:

       “The men who went into the army had to submit to discipline, had to submit to restraint through the government of the leaders they had chosen, as the price of winning. So we, the people, can preserve our liberty and our greatness in time of peace only by ourselves exercising the virtues of honesty, of self-restraint, and of fair dealing between man and man.”[3]

Some in the audience that day would learn first-hand the lessons the President spoke of at Gettysburg. Americans were already involved in a guerrilla war in the Philippines. In 1906, U.S. Marines would be deployed to Cuba. The following year, “the Great White Fleet”, a newly expanded and modernized United States Navy would begin a world tour to demonstrate America’s growing military power. In 1916, the U.S. Army would be chasing Poncho Villa in Mexico. By that point, World War I had already begun in Europe. Four million Americans would serve in “The War to End All Wars”. Some of those Americans would be buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery. 

Calvin Coolidge

It was the “Roaring Twenties”. The Great War was over, and unlike in Europe, it had left few scars on the United States. But while the war did not touch U.S. soil, Americans would experience new challenges and once again make a break from the past. More and more citizens were leaving the farms for towns and cities. Railroads and  automobiles were allowing Americans to move north, south, east, and west.

Change always produces some turmoil, and newspapers were filled with stories of the Teapot Dome Scandal, the Red Scare, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and widespread lynching in the South. Beginning in 1915, the Ku Klux Klan, which had almost disappeared after 1872, was resurrected and by 1924 had 2 million members.[4] Gangsters like John Dillinger, “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Bonnie and Clyde, and Al Capone made front page news.

In 1920, women won the right to vote and began to have a great effect on the economy as businesses began to direct their advertising towards those most responsible for household purchases. The first “teenagers” were coined to designate them as a group distinct from children and adults. For better or worse, the radio, phonograph, and motion pictures were creating a distinctly American popular culture. The automobile was providing young people with greater mobility and a way for them to date out of their parents’ eyesight. Women were wearing “flapper” dresses and shorter hairstyles and


Calvin Coolidge

swooning to Rudolph Valentino and Douglass Fairbanks. Young couples were listening to jazz, (critics claimed the music was satanic and led to sex crimes), dancing the Charleston, and, (despite Prohibition), drinking bootleg whiskey and bathtub gin. It was all very shocking to older generations of Americans.

Calvin Coolidge was the president. Today Coolidge is remembered as a man of few words. That was not true on Memorial Day, 1928 when he spoke from the rostrum. At 3,115 words, Coolidge’s remarks were the longest presidential address given in the National Cemetery, (at least so far).

Coolidge noted that Gettysburg is “one of the great historic battle grounds on this continent. In the magnitude of its importance it compares with the Plains of Abraham, with Saratoga, and with Yorktown… (and is associated with) one of the greatest addresses ever delivered by one of the greatest men ever in the world, Abraham Lincoln.”[5] Coolidge mentioned that U.S. Treasury had thus far paid out between six and seven billion dollars in Civil War pensions and at the time of Coolidge’s remarks was still paying out $200,000,000 annually to veterans, widows, and orphans and another $560 million to veterans of the World War.

After briefly acknowledging both wars and war veterans, the President quickly pivoted away from this topic and gave what was essentially a State of the Union Address. Although he said the United States would not entirely retreat from the world back into isolationism, it’s clear that Coolidge wanted to return to the days before the Great War and all of its upheavals. He promised that the U.S. would keep its Army and Navy small to show our neighbors that we were no threat to peace. Coolidge stated that America’s world-wide interests were in maintaining that peace and he spent the majority of his speech expounding on those hopes, and what the U.S. and other nations needed to do to keep and maintain it.

The most interesting part of the President’s speech was focused on the issue of crime. Coolidge believed that the reasons for the increase in crime was due to a loosening of moral standards in American society. “If the people are careless and indifferent, if they look with complacency on crime and assume a sentimental attitude towards criminals, little reform can be hoped for…good government can only be secured by eternal vigilance…” While Prohibition didn’t ban the manufacture and consumption of alcohol, (merely its sale and importation), laws were widely flaunted and organized crime was thriving as a result of it.

In some places the law was barely enforced, while several states and many counties went beyond the limits of the 18th Amendment and banned alcohol completely. Towards the end of his remarks Coolidge stated that it was his opinion that legislatures, (he implied state legislatures but he could also have been speaking of Congress here), were exceeding their constitutional authority. He said “such action is a larceny of power.”

Coolidge’s speech was dull and uninspiring. Overall, despite America’s crime problem, he painted a picture of happy, peaceful, and contented Americans with a prosperous industry, agriculture, commerce, and good credit, not realizing that the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression was just around the corner.


John Nicholas
Gettysburg National Military Park

[1] Rutherford B. Hayes: “Memorial Day Speech, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania May 30, 1878,” Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center (online). http://www.rbhayes.org/hayes/content/files/RBHSpeeches/presidentialspeeches326.htm

[2] Johnson, Martin P., Writing the Gettysburg Address. Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press. 2013  pp. 201-209

[3] Theodore Roosevelt: “Memorial Day Speech, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania May 30, 1904,” The Almanac of Theodore Roosevelt (online) Complete Speeches.


[4] The Southern Poverty Law Center. “The Ku Klux Klan: A History of Racism and Violence” 6th edition Montgomery, AL 2011 www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/Ku-Klux-Klan-A-History-of-Racism.pdf

[5] Calvin Coolidge: “Address at Gettysburg Battlefield,” May 30, 1928. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=458




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Birthday Events at Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site

Jason_7-2-15_0030For the Centennial of the National Park Service throughout 2016, rangers and other staff at all 409 parks will be working closely with community partners, local businesses, schools, and governments to celebrate a century of serving the American public. We’re reaching out to our local communities, through social media and traditional media.

Why celebrate 100 years of national parks? It’s simple: we’re asking people to discover their parks because these places matter.  America’s national parks are beautiful, emotional places.  Places like Gettysburg National Military Park, Flight 93 National Memorial, and the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail tell us more about who we are and help us understand history. Many parks are natural wonders that offer scenic getaways, wildlife viewing and other adventures. The centennial is about celebration, discovery and making new connections.

Primary_FindYourParkLogo_URLThe 100th birthday theme is Find Your Park – a public awareness and education campaign celebrating the milestone centennial of our national parks and setting the stage for a new century of service.

Find Your Park invites you to see that a national park can be more than a place — it can be a feeling, a state of mind, or a sense of American pride. Beyond vast landscapes, the Find Your Park movement highlights historical, urban, and cultural parks, as well as the National Park Service programs that protect, preserve and share nature, culture, and history in communities nationwide.

Our birthday events include:


Civil War activities for kids

“Come Walk with Me” Community Wellness event – On April 30, Gettysburg National Military Park is partnering with Wellspan Health, Healthy Adams County, the Gettysburg School District, the Gettysburg Adams Chamber of Commerce, the YWCA of Gettysburg, United Way of Adams County, South Central Community Action Programs, Inc. and others to host a large-scale fitness fair and walking event at Warrior Stadium in Gettysburg, with a large, group-walk through Gettysburg National Military Park’s Culp’s Hill.  Meets the NPS Call to Action 3, History Lesson, and Call to Action 6, Take a Hike; Call Me in the Morning. To learn more and register go to: http://www.adamscountycomewalkwithme.org

Spotted salamander Evan Grant USGS

Spotted salamander courtesy USGS

Gettysburg BioBlitz – Gettysburg National Military Park and grade school students from throughout the Gettysburg school district will have a BioBlitz on May 20 at Lincoln Elementary’s  stadium, woodlot, and pond, and nearby national park lands. The day will include biodiversity discovery activities focusing on reptiles, amphibians, plants, birds, mammals, aquatic macro-invertebrates and potentially acoustical data from bats. The goals will be to create a new passion and excitement for the works of scientists; to create a new awareness of parks as classrooms; and to create a new generation of citizen scientists and future stewards of our parks by conducting fun, engaging, and educational biodiversity discovery activities.  This program meets the NPS Call to Action 7, Next Generation Stewards.

The Gettysburg/Appomattox Centennial Student Exchange Program – Classes from Gettysburg and Appomattox Va. participate in this student exchange program, visiting and taking part in special events and programs in each other’s parks.  Appomattox students came to Gettysburg for Dedication Day in November and Gettysburg students will go to Appomattox for the battle anniversary in April 2016.  The program is sponsored by the National Park Service, Gettysburg Foundation, and the Appomattox Foundation.  Meets the NPS Call to Action 3, History Lesson.


General Eisenhower painting

Presidential Paint and Wine Nights at Eisenhower NHS – The Gettysburg Foundation, Adams County Arts Council, and Eisenhower National Historic Site staff have created this popular new, after-hours arts event. The event features a tour of the Eisenhower home and a ranger talk about Eisenhower’s hobby of oil painting.  Participants see some of Ike’s original works of art, followed by painting instruction and refreshments. Stay tuned for dates in May, June and August. Meets the NPS Call to Action 3, History Lesson, and Call to Action 10, Arts Afire.

Expanded Artists in-Residence programs – The 2016 program, set to coincide with the NPS Centennial, will offer eight month-long residencies at Gettysburg starting in March and continuing through early November. Artists create work inspired by their stay at the Gettysburg battlefield. Public programs will include Gettysburg’s “First Friday” events at the Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station. Sponsored by the National Parks Arts Foundation, the National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation, with support from the Adams County Arts Council. Meets the NPS Call to Action 3, History Lesson, and Call to Action 10, Arts Afire. To learn more go to: http://www.nationalparksartsfoundation.org/

Primary.NPSCentennialLogo.FullColorCentennial Classroom Rangers – To celebrate 100 years of the National Park Service, Park Rangers and other park staff are visiting Gettysburg area schools to talk about our local National Parks (Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site), as well as the value and importance of the entire national park system. Meets the NPS Call to Action 3, History Lesson.  To learn more go to: http://www.nps.gov/gett/learn/education/distance-learning.htm

Every Kid in a Park –  Through special support from the Gettysburg Foundation and Gettysburg Tours, we are inviting all 4th grade students to enjoy free visits to the David Wills House at Gettysburg National Military Park and the Eisenhower National Historic Site. The program is a White House initiative. Fourth graders go to http://www.everykidinapark.gov to complete an activity and obtain a free annual entry pass to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks. This program meets the NPS Call to Action 3, History Lesson.

Sometimes a birthday is just about the cake and presents; the NPS Centennial is about so much more.  Special funding opportunities are providing some long lasting benefits for parks.  Stewardship goals in parks often require funding or elbow grease to address long-term preservation needs, Gettysburg needs like planning better trails in the parks, for example, and projects that address over-use at Little Round Top. These are two of the legacy projects we are working on and here are several others:

  • Enhancing volunteerism at Gettysburg and Eisenhower by creating a catalog or guide to volunteer opportunities at the parks to better match skills and abilities of volunteers with service learning projects in the parks;
  • Using agro-tourism and the local foods movement to make connections with new audiences;
  • Creating deeper connections with millennials through the Friends of Gettysburg “Recruit” program, social media projects and other efforts;

Come join us for these new programs and our well-loved, classic programs at both Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site.  In 2016 we want you to Find Your Park!

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, January 21, 2016


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“I never saw men more resolved upon an accomplishment.” Lt. Colonel Franklin Gaillard Writes Home, Part 2.

“I have been intending to write you for some time,” the letter began, “but we were so continually on the move and the wagons with writing material not being convenient I have delayed longer than I should have.”

The writer was exhausted but finally enjoying the first free moments provided him in over two weeks of hard marching and the aftermath of the battle at Gettysburg. It was not until July 17 when Lt. Colonel Gaillard and his regiment were back in Virginia, when he finally had the opportunity to look at one or two letters written from home and try to answer them with the same optimism he’d expressed barely three weeks earlier. This would be tough; how would he explain the experience of battle in Pennsylvania to his family, so far away? He regiment had suffered heavily, not only in the battle but in the loss of material and even morale, despite the bravado so highly touted by him and his men as they trudged through enemy territory. Written over a period of ten days, the young colonel took up his pen and decided to hold nothing back:

Another terrible battle has been fought and I am yet safe. Moultrie[i] too passed through untouched. Poor Eddie received a very painful wound and one which will give him trouble for some time. I stopped at the Brigade infirmary as we were retiring from Gettysburg and saw him. He was suffering a good deal of pain and seemed to dislike very much being left in the hands of the enemy. I regard his wound as severe but not serious. [ii]  There will be published in the papers a list of casualties, I took a great deal of care in the preparation. The reports of captain of companies were submitted to the surgeon to obtain concurrence of opinion as to the nature and extent of wounds.

The battle of Gettysburg was, I think, the most sanguinary of the war and was as clear a defeat as our army ever met with. Our Brigade suffered very severely. The 2nd Regiment I have no hesitation in saying was the hero regiment of the Brigade on the occasion. I can not recur, even in thought, to their gallantry without the proudest emotions. We received order to advance as soon as we started we came under artillery fire of the enemy’s batteries. For four hundred yards our line moved beautifully forward not wavering nor hesitating in the slightest degree. We were to take a battery immediately in our front and I never saw men more resolved upon an accomplishment. We had crossed two fences and our line was unbroken although many gaps had been in the ranks. In the midst of this beautiful advance the regiment to our right commenced moving by the right flank, that is, facing to the right. The directions we receive required us to dress to the right so that this regiment would face to the right and then to the front. We would have to conform supposing that the orders came from General Kershaw. I afterward learned that it did not. The consequences were fatal. We were, in ten minutes or less time, terribly butchered. A body of infantry to our left opened on us, and as a volley of grape would strike our line, I saw half a dozen at a time knocked up and flung to the ground like trifles. In about that short space of time we had about half of our men killed or wounded. It was the most shocking battle I have ever witnessed. There were familiar forms and faces with parts of their faces shot away, legs shattered, arms torn off, etc. Yet moving to the right but not retiring we occupied a piece of woods which gave us protection until the battery was taken by the Mississippi Brigade under Gen. Barksdale. The Regiment of our own Brigade to our right fell back before a very heavy body of infantry.

Notwithstanding all this, our men stood their ground. The enemy’s infantry came up and we stood within thirty steps of each other. They loaded and fired deliberately. I never saw more stubbornness. It was so desperate I took two shots with my pistol at men scarcely thirty steps from me. I could not see that I did any damage but there were some seven or eight dead lying just about where I was shooting.

Rose Farm

The Rose Farm where Kershaw’s S.C. Brigade saw heavy fighting on July 2, 1863 (GNMP)

Wofford’s Georgia Brigade coming up on our left supporting the Mississippi Brigade, we charged upon the party opposed to us and drove them pell-mell through the woods, shooting them down and taking prisoners at every step. We pursued them to the foot of the stone mountain, the strong point in their position, where we attacked them. Here the bullets literally came down upon us as think as hailstones. It is scarcely necessary to say we fell back. But the Yankees did not venture to pursue. We held until next evening the larger portion of the battlefield we fought on. It was thickly strewn with their dead.

The battle was an unfortunate one. Our army went into it in magnificent style and I never saw it fight better but the position defeated us. For this I blame our Generals. In a day, by our injudicious attack they defeated the most brilliants prospects we have ever had. It was caused by their overconfidence. The greatest misfortune is that it destroyed the unbounded confidence reposed in Gen. Lee. Before, the army believed he could not err. They now see that he can once in a while. Viewed in a political aspect it was a disaster to us, in my judgment. Its injurious effect can only be counteracted by them attacking us and being well whipped. I think such will be the result. I hope they may come dashing upon us, expecting to find us demoralized. Our men suffered terribly for shoes. Our ammunition became short and our line of communication was so long that we lost a great many wagons. I am more satisfied than ever that invasion is too hazardous for us.

Dead on the Rose Farm.

Dead of Gaillard’s regiment lie in unfinished graves on the Rose Farm. (Library of Congress)

The fall of Vicksburg I take quite patiently. I made up my mind when Fort Donaldson fell that the Mississippi River was gone. I do not believe they are going to gain one tenth the advantages from it they anticipate. Had we not invaded Pennsylvania we would have been in a condition to reinforce the armies in the West. We will have to fall back and give the enemy deeper lines to operate through. Gen. Bragg has almost checkmated Rosencrantz by this policy. I feel very anxious to hear from my brothers and nephews.

Capt. Wallace, now major, and Col. Kennedy were both wounded and have gone home on sixty days’ furlough. Adjutant Sill was also wounded and has gone home on a forty days’ furlough. Mr. Booze, the Colonel’s orderly who messed with us lost a leg and was severely wounded in the arm. He was left in the hands of the enemy, so that of the five in the mess I am the only one left. Lieut. Perry of Co. H and myself are the only two of the old officers of the Regiment left with it. I feel quite lonely at times, but my increased responsibility diverts me, as only one of the old company commanders is with his company. The others are all inexperienced and slow to assume authority so that I have some trouble on this score.

When I commenced this letter we were at Bunker Hill between Winchester and Martinsburg. I was prevented from finishing it, put it in my trunk and have not been able to conclude it until now the 27th of July near Culpepper.

Our army is all here recruiting rapidly and will give Mr. Meade a warm reception should he come down upon which I am disposed to doubt. In the package of things sent home by Moultrie there is a pair of shoes, a present to Daughter from Gen. Kershaw. I got nothing in Pennsylvania or Maryland in the way of clothing or goods of any kind. The people did not want to trade and our money was really worth little or nothing to them. There was an immense amount of plundering. Our army would have been demoralized had we been victorious and remained long over there. Now that we have got back to Virginia it is very hard to break the men from their acquired habits over there. The people looked at us with sour faces, long faces, and indifferent faces. All they seemed to fear was that we would burn their houses. Horses and cattle they gave up as small matter.

Tell David and Daughter I did not get one thing for them or for myself. I hope I will soon get another letter from David. Now that Daughter has gone to school I suppose she will soon be writing letters too.

Yours affectionately, Franklin Gaillard

Excuse my paper; it got thoroughly saturated when the wagons were recrossing the Potomac.

The two letters written by Colonel Gaillard that summer provide the historian exquisite detail of not only his personal experience and confidence in the course of the war, but he sincerely shared the moods and privations of the men of his regiment during the Gettysburg Campaign. The 2nd South Carolina Infantry suffered a physical loss of 169 officers and men out of the 410 that started the fateful charge of the brigade across the George Rose Farm on July 2, but the survivors were also deeply affected by the dashing of their hopes of southern independence at Gettysburg.  Union soldiers- the Army of the Potomac- were not going to be so easily “whipped”.

Unfortunately, Gaillard did not survive the war. This remarkable man was killed at the Battle of Wilderness on May 6, 1864, and is buried in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Thankfully, his wartime letters have been preserved and so useful to historians such as Mac Wycoff, author of A History of the 2nd South Carolina Infantry: 1861-1865 (Fredericksburg, VA: Sgt. Kirkland’s Museum and Historical Society, 1994).  Yet, we cannot help but be saddened by the loss of a man who could have told us so much more had he survived and lived to complete the record he began in his wartime letters home.

-John Heiser
Historian, Gettysburg National Military Park


[i] Sergeant Moultrie Brailsford, Company I, 2nd South Carolina Infantry

[ii] Corporal Edmund Gaillard, Company I, 2nd South Carolina. Corporal Gaillard was taken prisoner by Federal troops and treated at Camp Letterman hospital near Gettysburg. Unfortunately, he succumbed to his injuries on October 15, 1863.

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“We can whip three or four (of them) to one.” Lt. Colonel Franklin Gaillard Writes Home, Part 1.

“I had no idea that it was the beginning of so grand a movement as it has resulted in here we are now in the great and powerful state of Pennsylvania marching in the direction of her Capitol.”

Seated in camp near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Franklin Gaillard was flush with excitement as he busily described to his son the enthusiasm he felt at the moment: “I do not know, of course, what Gen. Lee is going to do, for like a good general he will keep his intentions to himself and his Lieut. Generals. But it appears to me very much as if he is going to strike a blow at Harrisburg and if he can succeed in taking it, it will be a brilliant triumph for our arms.”

It was June 28, 1863, and Gaillard’s regiment, the 2nd South Carolina Infantry, was resting after a rapid and tiresome march across the Potomac River into Maryland and Pennsylvania, where he and his men were then enjoying their role as invaders. The 34 year-old officer, strikingly handsome and eloquent, was a prolific letter writer and his descriptive account of the campaign in letters sent to his children and family that summer have fortunately survived, with copies of the transcribed letters currently housed in the Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Born in 1829 to planter parents in Pineville, South Carolina, Franklin Gaillard developed a gift for writing and understanding politics while attending South Carolina College, now the University of South Carolina at Columbia. It was a socially elite school, a training ground for upper class South Carolina families and Gaillard found the interaction with classmates, schooling to become future businessmen, lawyers and political leaders, most intriguing. Though his family had relocated to Alabama from the Palmetto State, Franklin stayed with his uncle in Fairfield County and attended Mount Zion Academy in Winnsboro before he enrolled at the college where he excelled in all of his classes. Graduating as class valedictorian in 1849, Gaillard appeared to be on the road to success when the feverish news of gold in California caught his interest. Accompanied by countless others, the venturous Gaillard journeyed to California to seek his fortune in the gold fields but after three years of discouragement, returned to his uncle’s home in Winnsboro where he renewed his interest in politics and writing as the owner of the Winnsboro Register, a decidedly southern democratic newspaper. He also married that same year, the union producing two children before his wife’s untimely death in 1856. Soon after her passing, he accepted the job as chief editor of the Carolinian newspaper in Columbus. Here, Gaillard was exposed to the rhetoric of States Rights arguments and was active among the many social circles where reported insults to Southern society were hotly debated and discussed.

Gaillard and children

Franklin Gaillard with his children, ca. 1858. (Findagrave.com)

Secession and war was the inevitable outcome and Gaillard found himself in the middle of the fever to serve his home state. Connections with legislators and others provided Gaillard with the opportunity of an officer’s position so he enlisted and mustered into service as a lieutenant in what became Company A of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Regiment. He took an immediate liking to the military and was so well respected by fellow officers and enlisted men alike that he rose through promotion to the rank of major and then lieutenant colonel of the regiment, commanded in the summer of 1863 by Colonel John D. Kennedy, a native of Camden, South Carolina. The 2nd South Carolina had a storied record of service through the tough campaigns in the summer and fall of 1862 and again during the Chancellorsville Campaign that spring. Despite the hardships and an injury suffered the previous fall, Lt. Colonel Gaillard was enthusiastically hopeful that this summer campaign in Pennsylvania would see the end of the war and his exuberance on that warm June day when he penned his letter could not be contained:

The enemy have nothing but raw troops in our front. I think we can whip three or four to one. Then we could march on towards Philadelphia and Gen. Hooker would have to come to our front to save it and we would thus free Maryland and maybe take Washington and Baltimore. This summer is going to be filled with great events and if Providence will favor our efforts I hope mighty things for our country will be achieved. Our Army never was in better health and spirits.

Since we left Fredericksburg we have marched about one hundred and sixty miles. In our march from Culpeper to Ashby’s Gap we had a terrible march. The sun as very hot and then so many men marching along together made it very dusty. In the old settled country, the farmers find great difficulty in getting rails. Where we passed it was mountainous and stony and the people would gather up large quantities and make stone walls which answer the purpose of a fence and are very durable. When our troops would be down in a valley, no wind could refresh them, with the sun coming down heavily upon their heads, the heat increased by the reflection from the walls, and the dust stifling them so that they could not breath in pure air, the gallant fellows, many, very many, would turn red in the face from blood rushing to their head and fall to the ground with sun stroke. We got to Ashby’s Gap (and) stopped two or three days and then we had a very heavy rain and one or two days of wet and cloudy weather. This revived them all like pouring water on wilted plants. Nearly all came up. We stopped there to guard this Gap and it was well we did for the enemy’s Cavalry assisted by a small force of infantry drove our Cavalry several miles before them and we all thought whipped them pretty badly. We had crossed the Shenandoah River and had to recross it and go back three or four miles to keep the Yankees from taking the Gap. Next day the Yankees went back and Stuart’s Cavalry went poking along at a very slow pace as if they were in no great hurry to overtake them. They now claim in the papers that they drove them back but we who were there and saw them know better. Our Cavalry is very little account and have very little to boast of. There are more than half of them who are with their horses lamed or sore backed with the wagons. They have got so now that as soon as a fight begins they think they have nothing to do but to go back to the rear and let the Infantry do the fighting. Our boys ridicule them very much whenever they pass.

Fording the Potomac

Confederates ford the Potomac River in June 1863. (Battles & Leaders)

I am afraid our men will suffer for shoes. These long marches are very trying on men’s feet and shoes. You would be very much amused to see the men crossing a river. A regiment is marched down to the banks and halted long enough to allow them to pull off their pantaloons. If the water is over waist deep they put bayonets on their guns and hang their cartridge boxes on them, then right shoulder shift arms and wade across on fine spirits as if it was a frolic. The Yankees carry pontoon trains along with them but our boys say that every man in General Lee’s Army carries his own pontoons. It is very funny to pass through these Yankee towns to see the long sour faces. Our men go on and pay no attention to them. They only laugh at them when they make themselves ridiculous. Things are very cheap here in their stores but they will not take our money and Gen. Lee has issued very stringent orders about private property. He is very right for our Army would soon become demoralized if they were allowed to do as many of them would like to. Many of them think it very hard that they should not be allowed to treat them as their soldiers treated our people but we must not imitate the Yankees in their mean acts. Gen. Lee is going to support his Army over here and this will tax the people here and make them feel the war.

Your very affectionate father,
Franklin Gaillard

Four days after mailing his hopeful letter, Colonel Gaillard would be in the thickest of the fighting at Gettysburg, an event that would forever after change his perspective on the hope of southern victory.

John Heiser
Historian, Gettysburg National Military Park


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