The 153rd Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

Kostic  (17)

The three day Battle of Gettysburg marked a turning point not only in the course of the American Civil War, but also for the future of the United States of America. Join Park Rangers and Licensed Battlefield Guides during the 153nd Anniversary for a series of free guided walks and talks that discuss, explore, and reflect on this important chapter in our nation’s history.

Note: On all park avenues please park your vehicle on the right side of the road, unless otherwise directed, with all wheels on the pavement. Schedule is subject to change.

Daily Ranger-Guided Programs
Friday, July 1 – Sunday, July 3

Battlefield in a Box: An Overview (30 minutes) – Become part of the battlefield in this interactive overview program! Join a National Park Ranger and build a map of the battlefield using props. This program is perfect for the first time visitor wanting a better understanding of the battle. Meet at Ranger Program Site 1, daily at 10:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M.

Lincoln and the Soldiers’ National Cemetery (40 minutes) – Explores the meaning and cost of the Battle of Gettysburg, and of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Find out how the National Cemetery was established, who is buried there, and why Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address still has meaning for us today. Meet at the Taneytown Road entrance to the National Cemetery, daily at 11:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M.

Care of the Wounded (1 hour) – Over 27,000 soldiers were wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg. Explore how these men were evacuated, treated, and ultimately, how most of their lives were saved. Meet at Ranger Program Site 2 behind the Museum and Visitor Center, daily at 3:00 P.M.

Civil War Soldier (1 hour) – Over 160,000 soldiers participated in the Battle of Gettysburg. Find out why they enlisted, why they fought, and what they endured during the four years of the American Civil War. Meet at Ranger Program Site 1 behind the Museum and Visitor Center, daily at 2:00 P.M.

Family Activities and Hands on History
Friday, July 1 – Sunday, July 3

During the 153rd Anniversary children of all ages can visit the Family Activities and Hands on History station at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. Discover hands-on history stations, hourly special guest appearances called “Mystery History Guest”, and “Join the Army” programs to learn more about the people involved in, and affected by, the battle of Gettysburg.  You can also pick up and check in your Gettysburg and Centennial Junior Ranger booklets.

Family Activities and Hands on History Hours: July 1 – 3 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Group Lobby. Mystery History Guest: 10:00 a.m., 12:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m.. Join the Army: 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. daily.

July 1

Special Programs – Friday, July 1

Battle Walks
These special 2- to 3-hour programs explore key episodes and phases of the battle and involve significant hiking and walking, occasionally over rough terrain. Water, headgear, sun protection, insect repellent and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended.

10:00 a.m.
“The Air Was Full of Lead” – Joseph Davis’ Brigade on July 1st
Perhaps no other brigade at Gettysburg experienced the joy of victory and pangs of defeat so quickly as Davis’ Mississippians and North Carolinians. Join Park Ranger Matt Atkinson and explore Davis’ attack on Cutler’s Brigade, the fatal advance to the Railroad Cut, and the Union counterattack.

Meet at the intersection of Buford and Reynolds Avenue. Park on the right of Buford Avenue.

 2:30 p.m.
“Misconduct at Gettysburg”- General Alfred’s Iverson’s North Carolina Brigade on July 1.
Around midday of July 1, General Robert Rodes’ Division formed line of battle on Oak Hill northwest of Gettysburg. In the center was Brigadier General Alfred Iverson’s veteran North Carolina brigade, which crossed the Forney farm in perfect precision as if passing in review. Within seconds, Iverson’s command was nearly destroyed and his confidence and ability to lead shattered. This brief yet bloody encounter on the first day of Gettysburg continues to inspire controversy and debate to this very day. Join John Heiser, Historian at Gettysburg National Military Park, in exploring the disaster that befell the brigade that day

Meet and park at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial, Auto Tour Stop #2.

6:00 p.m.
“Every Moment Could Not be Balanced With Gold…” Cemetery Hill: Union Retreat, Confederate Pursuit
As Federal forces retreated to Cemetery Hill on the evening of July 1, 1863, the fortunes of both North and South stood in the balance. Join Licensed Battlefield Guide John Archer for a walking tour to see those moments through the eyes and experiences of its participants.

Meet at the entrance of East Confederate Ave and Lefever Street.  Park along East Confederate Avenue.

 Real Time Programs
These 30- to 45-minute programs provide a brief overview of key moments during the Battle of Gettysburg at the time they occurred, 153 years ago.

9:00 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.      The First Shots – Nate Hess                
Meet at Auto Tour Stop 1, McPherson Ridge. Park on Reynolds Avenue.

10:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.     The 6th Wisconsin at the Railroad Cut – Caitlin Kostic 
Meet at the General Wadsworth Monument on Reynolds Avenue. Park along Reynolds Avenue.

2:30 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.    Junius Daniel Strikes McPherson Ridge  – Daniel Vermilya
Meet at the General Wadsworth Monument on Reynolds Avenue. Park along Reynolds Avenue.

3:45 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.    The 153rd Pennsylvania at Barlow Knoll  – Chuck Teague
Meet at Barlow’s Knoll, East Howard Avenue. Park along East Howard Avenue.

5:00 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.    Rally on Cemetery Hill: Hancock and Howard at the End of the 1st Day – Matt Atkinson
Meet at the Baltimore Street Entrance to the Soldiers’ National Cemetery

Sacred Trust Talks and Book Signing
Continuing a tradition of the popular Sacred Trust Talks and Book signings, the Gettysburg Foundation and Gettysburg National Military Park will host renowned authors, historians, and National Park Service Rangers to discuss the impact of the American Civil War on contemporary politics, industry, medicine and culture.

7:00 p.m.
Opening Panel: A Conversation about Combat – From Gettysburg to Afghanistan

 “A Conversation about Combat – From Gettysburg to Afghanistan” will feature renowned historians Dr. Alexander Rose and Dr. Carol Reardon, alongside combat veterans Brig. Gen. James Campbell and Lt. Col. William Hewitt as they discuss the experience of battle throughout American history. From leading men on the front lines of Cemetery Ridge to the jungles of Vietnam, the American soldier has confronted experiences and challenges both unique and universal. 

Meet at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. Seating is limited for this free panel discussion so tickets are required and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. To reserve your tickets, click here or call (877) 874-2478


Special Programs – Saturday, July 2

Battle Walks

These special 2- to 3-hour programs explore key episodes and phases of the battle and involve significant hiking and walking, occasionally over rough terrain. Water, headgear, sun protection, insect repellent and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended.   

 10:00 a.m.
“Into the Very Vortex of the Tempest:” The 12th New Hampshire Infantry at Gettysburg
Late on the afternoon of July 2, 1863, the 12th New Hampshire Infantry of General Daniel Sickles’s Third Corps, Army of the Potomac, suffered nearly fifty percent casualties in a desperate and deadly struggle along the Emmitsburg Road.  Join Ranger John Hoptak and follow in the footsteps of this hard-fighting regiment, assume the identity of one of its soldiers, and learn his fate while discovering the largely unheralded and untold story of the 12th New Hampshire’s service and sacrifice at Gettysburg.

Meet at the Pennsylvania Memorial, Auto Tour Stop 12. Park along Sedgwick Avenue. 

2:30 p.m.
From the Peach Orchard to the Valley of Death: Advance and Retreat with De Trobriand’s Brigade
On the afternoon of July 2, 1863 five Union regiments under the command of a French author turned soldier, took part in some of the most bitter and brutal fighting of the Battle of Gettysburg. From the Valley of Death to the Sherfy Peach Orchard, the men of Philippe Régis de Trobriand’s brigade would never forget what they saw, and did on that summer day. Supervisory Ranger Christopher Gwinn will retrace the advance and retreat of one of the most remarkable units in the Army of the Potomac.

Meet at the Wheatfield, Auto Tour Stop 9. Park along Sickles Avenue.

6:00 p.m.
We Shot Them to Pieces: The Second U.S. Sharpshooters in the Slyder Lane
Follow Licensed Battlefield Guide Gar Phillips and walk the rarely-visited and rugged ground that helped an elite unit of 169 sharpshooters to break up and delay an attack of 40 times their own number of men. The Second U.S. Sharpshooters bought precious time for the Union army to secure the left flank of the Army of the Potomac on Little Round Top, though their story and sacrifice remain largely unknown.

Meet at the Texas Monument, South Confederate Avenue.  Park along South Confederate Avenue.

Real Time Programs

These 30 to 45-minute programs provide an overview of key moments during the Battle of Gettysburg at the time at which they occurred 153 years ago.

 8:30 a.m. – 9:15 p.m.     Lee Plans for Battle – Troy Harman
Meet at the North Carolina Memorial, Auto Tour Stop 4.
Park on West Confederate Avenue.

12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.    Berdan’s Sharpshooters in Pitzer Woods  – Zach Siggins
Meet at the Longstreet Equestrian Statue, near Auto Tour Stop 6.
Park on West Confederate Avenue.

1:30 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.    Sickles Takes the High Ground – Dan Welch
Meet at the Peach Orchard. Park on Sickles Avenue. Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

3:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.    Hood Prepares to Attack – John Nicholas                    
Meet near Auto Tour Stop 7, at the Park Picnic Area.

4:15 p.m.  – 4:45 p.m.    The Battle for Little Round Top – Philip Brown
Meet at the Warren Statue, Auto Tour Stop 8, on Little Round Top.

5:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.    Into the Valley of Death – Bill Hewitt
Meet at Devil’s Den. Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

5:45 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.     The 4th Michigan in the Wheatfield –  Daniel Vermilya
Meet at Auto Tour Stop 9, The Wheatfield. Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

6:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.     Chaos at the Trostle Farm – Emma Murphy
Meet at the Trostle Barn. Park on United States Avenue.

7:20 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.    Sacrifice of the 1st Minnesota – Chuck Teague
Meet at Auto Tour Stop 12, The Pennsylvania Memorial. Park along Hancock Avenue.

8:15 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.     Night Fighting on East Cemetery Hill – Jarrad Fuoss
Meet at the Howard Equestrian Statue, East Cemetery Hill

Campfire at Pitzer Woods
Over the anniversary of the battle Park Rangers will host hour-long presentations, offering unique perspectives on the events of 153 years ago. Held nightly at 8:30 p.m. at the Pitzer Woods Amphitheater.

Voices from the Battlefield: The Second Day of Battle – Ranger Daniel Vermilya
The second of July, 1863 marked the largest and bloodiest of the three days of fighting at Gettysburg. No one who took part in the fighting, or witnessed it, would ever forget the experience. Join Ranger Daniel Vermilya as he offers a glimpse into the experience of combat on July 2nd by sharing the words and memories of its participants.

Dan at the codori farm

Special Programs – Sunday, July 3

Battle Walks
These special 2- to 3-hour programs explore key episodes and phases of the battle and involve significant hiking and walking, occasionally over rough terrain. Water, headgear, sun protection, insect repellent and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended.   

10:00 a.m.
Pickett’s Charge: Was There a Second Wave?
When Longstreet stated to Lee on the morning of July 3, 1863, “there never was a body of fifteen thousand men who could make that attack successfully,” he emphatically concluded with, “it would take twice that many men and even then the issue would be in doubt.” If one surveys all Confederate troops placed within supporting distance of the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble assault, they add up to an additional 15,000 men. Did Lee and Longstreet arrange for another 15,000 combatants in a supporting role? Would they have moved forward under the right conditions? How did their presence contribute to Pickett’s fallback and the final retreat of Lee’s army? Join Ranger Troy Harman for this in-depth experience.

Meet at Virginia Memorial, Auto Tour Stop #5. Park along West Confederate Avenue.

2:30 p.m.
“A Desperate Thing to Attempt”- Pickett’s Charge
Visitors are invited to follow in the footsteps of the Confederate soldiers that took part in Pickett’s Charge, the climactic moment of the Battle of Gettysburg. Who were the men that made this assault, what motivated them, and what did they experience in the fields between Seminary and Cemetery Ridge? Join Ranger Dan Welch and Caitlin Kostic retrace the route of the most famous charge in American military history.

Meet at the Virginia Memorial, Auto Tour Stop 5. Park along West Confederate Avenue.

6:00 p.m.
After Pickett’s Charge: Bloody Combat on the Afternoon of July 3rd
The Battle of Gettysburg did not end with the massive assault known as Pickett’s Charge. Infantry and cavalry forces maneuvered, fought, and retreated throughout the afternoon. Amidst the wreckage of the second day’s battle, casualties mounted, cannons were recaptured, cavalry charged infantry, breastworks were erected, and a general was killed. Join Licensed Battlefield Guides Garry Adelman and Tim Smith for a fast-paced hike that focuses upon these actions on the south end of the Gettysburg Battlefield.

Meet at the Wheatfield, Auto Tour Stop 9. Park along Sickles Avenue.

Real Time Programs
These 30- to 45-minute programs provide a brief overview of key moments during the Battle of Gettysburg at the time at which they occurred 153 years ago.

8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.    The 2nd Massachusetts in Spangler Meadow – Nate Hess
Meet at Auto Tour Stop 13, Spangler’s Spring.
Park on East Confederate and Williams Avenue.

8:45 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.    Steuart’s Brigade Attacks! – Dan Welch
Meet at the Auto Tour Stop 13, Spangler’s Spring.
Park on East Confederate and Williams Avenue.

9:45 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.    Lee and Longstreet at Odds – Karlton Smith
Meet at the Peach Orchard. Park on North Sickles or United States Avenue.
Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.    Fight at the Rummel Farm: East Cavalry Field –   John Nicholas
Meet at the Ranger Program Sign on Confederate Cavalry Avenue.
Park on Confederate Cavalry Avenue.

11:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.     Battle for the Bliss Farm – Bill Hewitt
Meet at the Abraham Brian Farm. Park on Hancock Avenue.

1:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.    The Cannonade – Philip Brown
Meet at the High Water Mark, Auto Tour Stop 15. Park on Hancock Avenue.

3:30 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.    The Defense of Cemetery Ridge – Gregory Hillebrand
Meet at the Meade Equestrian Monument. Park on Hancock Avenue or in the National Cemetery Parking Lot.

Campfire at Pitzer Woods
Over the anniversary of the battle Park Rangers will host hour-long presentations, offering unique perspectives on the events of 153 years ago. Held nightly at 8:30 p.m. at the Pitzer Woods Amphitheater.

Voices from the Battlefield: The Third Day of Battle – Ranger Karlton Smith
The setting of the sun on the evening of July 3, 1863 marked the end of the Battle of Gettysburg. Those fortunate enough to have survived the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War would begin to piece together their memories, actions, and impressions. Join Ranger Karlton Smith and examine the story of July 3rd through the recollections of those who lived to tell the tale.

84th NY Infantry at Gettysburg NMP

The 84th New York Infantry monument looks out over  the first day’s battlefield.

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Bearing Witness – Gettysburg’s Commemorative Landscape


Commemorative era steps from Sykes Avenue to the summit of Little Round Top (tinted postcard, 1910). These steps no longer exist.  The monument is to the 91st Pennsylvania.

The thousands of monuments, markers, and memorials continue to bear witness to the experiences of individuals associated with the battle of Gettysburg and are a testament to how the battlefield has become a stage for the reconciliation of a once-divided nation, national commemoration of the Civil War, and a place of personal connection for Civil War veterans, their families, and visitors who continue to be drawn to this landscape.

Recently we received a question via this blog about why we are planning to rebuild the Hancock Avenue gate, a feature that is commemorative and did not exist on the field at the time of the battle of Gettysburg.   It’s worth taking some time to answer.

The management of historic landscapes is often complex and multi-layered. On the landscapes of Gettysburg National Military Park are features related to the 1863 battle, such as farm houses, rock walls, and fence lines, as well as commemorative features that have been placed on the field, such as monuments, markers, memorials, and historic avenues. In addition, Gettysburg includes a specific, designed landscape within the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

Commemorative features on the Gettysburg battlefield are nationally significant and their preservation is a vital part of the mission of Gettysburg National Military Park which is:

Gettysburg National Military Park preserves, protects, and interprets for this and future generations, the resources associated with the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War, the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, and their commemorations.


Avenue fencing and the 74th Pennsylvania monument along Howard Avenue in 1900.  The Adams County “poor farm” buildings in the background are now gone.  “Pipe-rail” fencing defined the avenues and monuments, creating a designed corridor.



Cross sections of the avenues showing the hand-laid, Telford road base and gutters.


The Battle of Gettysburg was quickly recognized as a defining event in the nation’s history, which led to early and ongoing efforts to preserve the battlefield landscape, including its topography and terrain.

Commemoration of the events of the Battle of Gettysburg resulted in a landscape of monuments, memorials, and markers which record the history and emotions of Civil War veterans and others who wanted to leave this legacy for future generations.

The momentous nature of what occurred at the battle of Gettysburg along with the high level of preservation and accurate marking of the battlefield landscape continues to draw people to Gettysburg National Military Park, a place of national consciousness where individuals can consider the far-reaching implications of the battle, the Gettysburg Address, and the American Civil War itself.

Commemorative Landscapes and Features:


Sickles Avenue had already been re-routed by 1914 to eliminate confusion and more closely follow the lines of battle.

From 1863 to 1927, veterans and survivors of the battle preserved the grounds of Gettysburg and created commemorative features that still define the park today.  Most monuments and other commemorative features were constructed during this period.  During the early part of this era, the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association focused almost exclusively on commemorating Union positions.

The 1895 law establishing Gettysburg National Military Park expanded upon the 1893 Commission Act, authorizing the federal government to preserve for the American people the “important topographic features of the battlefield” and to preserve and mark the battle positions. The law gave the Gettysburg National Park Commission (GNPC), which was run by veterans of the Civil War, the tools to protect the historic and natural resources that comprised the battle setting in 1863.


Today’s park maintenance complex is a sprawling non-historic intrusion on the landscape that the park would love to relocate someday with one exception: the historic roller building shown here in 1910.  It was built to house the steam roller for maintenance of the avenues and is a historic structure.  Discoloration from the steam engine’s exhaust is visible above the right door.

park maintenance bldg 2016

The maintenance complex today surrounds the historic roller building, which still shows black from the engine exhaust above the right door.

The Commission’s preservation and memorial activities included creating tablets to the regular army of the United States, as well as designing and building commemorative features such as the park’s historic avenues, observation towers, and more.  These features had a permanent impact upon this landscape, resulting in a commemorative landscape on the original battlefield landscape.


The Smith Granite Company delivering the 1st Massachusetts monument, crated, 1886.  Taken on Emmitsburg Road, looking south.  The barn faintly visible in the background is part of the Rogers farm (demolished by the park in the 1930s).

Many, but not all, of these structures on the battlefield still exist.  Commemorative features preserved today include more than 1,300 monuments, markers and tablets; steel observation towers at Culp’s Hill, Warfield Ridge, and Oak Ridge; the avenue system with its numerous culverts and bridges; and repaired/rebuilt stone walls and fences on the battlefield.


The First Shot marker on Chambersburg Road, 1900.  Note the commemorative era fencing which is the same design as depicted above with the 74th Pennsylvania monument.

The National Park Service allowed fewer monuments to be built during its management period from 1933 onward, with the exceptions of commemorative monuments to Confederate States erected during the 1960s. In 1999, the National Park Service placed a moratorium on new monuments at Gettysburg National Military Park.


Rebuilt stone walls along West Confederate Avenue, 1905.  This design was used by the War Department in the 1890s when they repaired and rebuilt “stone fencing” along the battle lines.


Small sections of “stone fencing” still have the design created by the War Department when they rebuilt and repaired the walls.  This is along West Confederate Avenue near the McMillan Woods campground.

The park is currently developing a strategy for how to preserve commemorative features and which ones we would potentially bring back in the future, like the Hancock Avenue gate.  This document, called the Commemorative Era Treatment Philosophy, will include a concise historical overview of the development of the commemorative landscape; identify typical landscape characteristics and features associated with the commemorative landscape, including issues pertaining to existing physical condition and historical integrity; and provide general treatment principles to guide future landscape rehabilitation, including reasons for reestablishing commemorative landscapes or individual features that have been lost or obscured.

The draft plan will be available for public comment in 2017.


Thanks to Winona Peterson, Gettysburg National Military Park, for assistance with this article and for the images.

Katie Lawhon, May 26, 2016

Posted in Commemorative features, Monuments at Gettysburg, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

“A Very Great Injustice” – Wagons, Monuments, and the 84th Pennsylvania


Cemetery Ridge and the position of the monument to the 84th Pennsylvania.

No one could say that the 84th Pennsylvania was not a hard fighting regiment. From the time the unit mustered in on the 21st day of December 1861 to the moment the shattered remnants of the regiment stacked their arms a final time on the 29th of June 1865, they had participated in twenty four battles and engagements, excluding the innumerable skirmishes, forays, and patrols that accompanied service with the Army of the Potomac. Of the 1,310 men that had at one time or another been enrolled in the regiment, a total of 750 would be listed as casualties. The grim efficiency of disease, which typically snuffed out more lives than actual combat, claimed 102 men in the regiment while the terrors of battle killed 128.

The 84th had seen action at Cedar Mountain and at Chancellorsville. They had confronted Jackson’s Foot Cavalry in the Valley and slugged it out with Longstreet’s men at the Wilderness.  By the first month of 1865 the unit was so under-strength the survivors were consolidated with the 57th Pennsylvania and that new organization would see combat at Hatcher’s Run and during the long advance to Appomattox. When those still standing returned to Dauphin County, or Philadelphia, or Clearfield, they did so as hardened veterans. No one could say that the 84th Pennsylvania was not a hard fighting regiment.

On the 11th of September, 1889 the now aged and gray veterans of the regiment traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to officially dedicate their regimental monument. The imposing stone, detailing the many battles fought and campaigns undertaken, still stands prominently along Pleasonton Avenue. Crowned with an intricate representation of the symbol of the III Corps, and featuring a chiseled relief of two crossed rifles, the monument takes its place proudly aside the hundreds of others that dot the landscape and that help make Gettysburg one of the best marked battlefields in the world. Flank markers indicating the left and right of the line of battle provide modern visitors a visual clue as to the size and alignment of the regiment, and a brief description of the regiments service during the campaign is etched in the stone. From a distance there is nothing particularly unusual about the marker, though a closer examination reveals an interesting and unique tale.

When the surviving members of the 84th Pennsylvania decided to erect a monument honoring their regiment and fallen comrades, they could theoretically have placed it at any of the major battlefields on which they fought. Though not nearly as numerous as those at Gettysburg, Union regimental monuments can be found sprinkled through the battlefields of Virginia and Maryland. The 27th Indiana has a small marker on the Chancellorsville battlefield, the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery is commemorated at the Harris Farm, and in 1909 the veterans of the 15th New Jersey placed a monument in front of the works at Spotsylvania, to name but a few.

The regimental association of the 84th chose Gettysburg. Their desire to place a monument on the Gettysburg battlefield is in no way unique or remarkable. By the 1880’s the Gettysburg had emerged as the preeminent “Union Memorial Park,” where the sacrifice, devotion, and ultimate triumph of the Union Army – particularly the Army of the Potomac – was to be forever enshrined. Gettysburg was northern soil, the site of the first decisive victory against Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, and a Mecca of sorts for the cause of the Union,  sanctified by the words of the martyred Abraham Lincoln. Comparatively few Americans would, as an act of pilgrimage, travel to Cedar Mountain or Hatcher’s Run, but at Gettysburg they would come in droves.  A stone tablet on Cemetery Ridge, complete with flank markers and appropriate inscription, would stand eternal on the sacred landscape telling the story of those men long after their mortal remains had turned to dust. In short, Gettysburg was the place where Union veterans wanted to be remembered.

For the veterans of the 84th Pennsylvania this poised a problem. While the regiment certainly belonged to the Army of the Potomac, and while they most assuredly took part in the Gettysburg Campaign, they never actually took part in the battle itself. On the 30th of June as the regiment was approaching Taneytown, Milton Opp, the commanding officer of the regiment, was ordered to guard the supply trains that were following the army north. The following day, as news of an impending battle swept through the ranks, Opp requested that the order be rescinded. To his dismay it was not. Rather than making their way to the front, the rank and file of the 84th were ordered to accompany the trains to Westminster…even further from the field of battle.

On the 2nd of July, as the other regiments of Joseph’s Carr’s brigade battled along the Emmitsburg Road, the 84th Pennsylvania was twenty miles away. Perhaps the sound of battle reverberated that far, or perhaps an occasional gust of wind carried the scent of burned powder. If so, it would have been the 84th’s only sensory participation in the battle. Opp and his men rejoined their brigade a few days later. Two hundred and forty men were with the regiment. They suffered no casualties.

In 1889 the primary steward of the Gettysburg battlefield was the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association. In order for the survivors of the 84th Pennsylvania to place a monument on the field, they had to first obtain approval of this organization, and more


John Bachelder, Superintend of Tablets and Legends

importantly of John B. Bachelder.  Bachelder, who carried the imposing title of “Superintendent of Tablets and Legends” considered himself a kind of guardian of the battlefield and its history. He had helped to establish a host of rules and regulations regarding the placement of monuments on the field that would serve to stymie, infuriate, and ultimately interpret the park. The most significant, at least as far as the 84th was concerned, was that regimental monuments had to be placed where the original line of battle had been established. For regiments like the 1st Minnesota or the 20th Maine, that was a fairly easy task. The 84th Pennsylvania had never formed a line of battle though…or if they had they did so twenty miles away. Another rule indicated that each regimental monument must be accompanied by flanks markers. Yet another problem for the Pennsylvanians.

The survivors of the regiment gained support from their former brigade commander Joseph B. Carr. In a letter addressed to the Board of Commissioners of the Memorial Association, Carr stated that “The Eighty Fourth Regiment was one of the best and most reliable commands…To deprive this regiment of the recognition it is entitled to, upon that memorable battlefield, would, in my opinion, be a very great injustice.”

Joseph Carr

Joseph B. Carr, brigade commander for the 84th Pennsylvania

As the veterans of the 84th repeatedly mentioned, that they were not at Gettysburg was no fault of theirs. The duty they performed was necessary work, and even if only in a small way, served to make the victory at Gettysburg possible. Captain Thomas Merchant gave voice to many former members of the regiment who had guarded the trains outside of Westminster. “That duty was quite as necessary of performance, fully as important, carrying with it as much of possible danger, as was actually encountered by regiments engaged on the field, and as much of actual danger as did not fall to the lot of several of the regiments who were no more on the field than were the troops with the trains, and which regiments wrote Gettysburg on their battle-flags without a question as to its being rightly there.”

“I would respectfully suggest that the monument be
erected at a point near where my headquarters were, previous to the second days engagement,” Carr concluded. Ultimately the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association agreed, though the ultimate placement of the monument was situated in a rear area reserved for such difficult cases. In keeping with the rules for the erection of monuments on the battlefield, the survivors of the 84th placed flank members astride their monument,  positioned east to west rather than north to south, as if to indicate their deployment far from the field of battle.



The 84th Pennsylvania’s left flank marker.

For those unaware of the trials and tribulations of the unit, the presence of their monument  on Cemetery Ridge might convey an erroneous depiction of the battle. Without reading the inscription, it is reasonable to assume the regiment was positioned at that spot and suffered from the shot and shell that rained down upon the other Union units positioned there. Yet the intent of the veterans of the regiment was never to inspire confusion. Rather it was to provide context.

Few survivors of the Army of the Potomac would have argued that Gettysburg represented, at least in retrospect, the defining moment in their years of service. Those who fought there, and survived, were duly proud of having been a participant in one of the titanic moments in American history. Ultimately though, Gettysburg was just one stop during the long campaign that was the American Civil War. Veterans wanted to be remembered at Gettysburg, but they didn’t want to be remembered just for Gettysburg. Their monument was to speak of the Mud March and the Battle of Williamsburg as much as it was to tell of the fighting at the Peach Orchard or Devil’s Den. It was to represent why they fought, as much as it was to indicate where they fought.  For the men of the 84th, their monument at Gettysburg wasn’t just to tell future generations that they guarded trains in Westminster. It was to tell them of Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania and Winchester and the countless other places where their friends and comrades had died defending the Union.

As Thomas Merchant intoned in his dedicatory speech, “The memorial which is here placed speaks from all along the line, from Bath [The regiments first battle] to Appomattox…For the moment it moves aside, and where it was, and within the lengthening of its shadow, we see them all and as we glance from right to left, from front to rear, one is taken from here, another from there, one by one, from the highest in rank to the lowest, from the oldest in years to the youngest, the man and the boy; first the two hundred and thirty in the time of the war, then the many who have left us in the days that have intervened; and then comes the shaft into the space which was made for it. We look upon it now, and know that it stands for them. The time is coming when it will stand for all whose names made up a regimental roll.”

Christopher Gwinn
Supervisory Ranger


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“Where that Flag Stood was an Ordeal of Death”: Sergeant William Lilly and the 149th New York Infantry on Culp’s Hill

Culps Hill

On September 18, 1892, veterans of the 149th New York Volunteer Infantry met once again upon the battlefield of Gettysburg in south-central Pennsylvania. As with many veterans groups who returned to Gettysburg years after the battle, their purpose that day was to dedicate a monument to the action which had taken place during those three days of July 1863, twenty-nine years before. The 149th New York had been one of the key regiments in the Army of the Potomac on July 2, 1863, holding the right flank of the Union battle line under severe pressure that evening as the sun set behind the Pennsylvania hills. Earlier that day, most of the 12th Corps had been sent elsewhere to reinforce the center of the Union battle line along Cemetery Ridge, leaving behind just one brigade of infantry under the command of Brigadier General George Sears Greene to hold Culp’s Hill. Backed up by battered units from the 1st and 11th Corps, which had suffered 50% losses fighting the day before north and west of town, Greene and his men—roughly 1,300 in number—had held off enemy attackers from the division of Edward “Allegheny” Johnson, over 5,000 strong. For over two hours, Greene’s men used the landscape around them, which they had worked at transforming with breastworks earlier that day, to repulse the repetitive Confederate assaults. When the guns fell quiet that evening, Johnson’s Confederates had gained a foothold at the base of Lower Culp’s Hill, but Greene’s soldiers still held the summit, anchoring the right flank of the Army of the Potomac.

In the midst of that heavy fighting, there were numerous acts of heroism, bravery, and sacrifice, many of which are not well known today. While popular history has afforded great notoriety to actions elsewhere on the fields of Gettysburg, Culp’s Hill and the men of George Greene’s brigade seem to languish in the shadows of history. Just as darkness covered them in their evening fight on Culp’s Hill, so too they and their stories are largely in the dark reaches of obscurity in popular renderings and histories of the battle.

In the dedicatory speeches delivered that day in 1892, however, the veterans of Greene’s brigade shined a light on the heroic acts of their comrades from twenty-nine years earlier. Among the names mentioned repeatedly was that of William Lilly.

William C. Lilly enlisted in the 149th New York in the summer of 1862, answering President Lincoln’s call of that summer for 300,000 new volunteers to fill the Union ranks and put down the rebellion. When he signed up, he was thirty-three years old. He had been married for nearly fourteen years when he joined the army. He and his wife, Mary Newbury, were wed on Christmas Eve in 1849 in their hometown of Syracuse, New York. Mary and William never had any children of their own, but that did not stop them from being parents. In 1851, they adopted a two year old boy and named him William H. Lilly. By the time the war began, the young William was a teenager. He and his mother Mary stayed at home while the elder William Lilly went off to fight.

In the months preceding the Battle of Gettysburg, Lilly gained experience and rose through the ranks. In March of 1863, he was promoted from corporal to the regiment’s color sergeant. He was to have the honor of bearing the regimental flag in battle for the 149th New York. At Chancellorsville in May, Lilly was wounded, but remained with the command. Indeed, he was with his regiment on July 2, when the men took position on Culp’s Hill just southeast of the town of Gettysburg.

The flag which Lilly carried at Gettysburg was the symbol and pride of the regiment, and of their home, Onondaga County. In May of 1962, the Onondaga Historical Society published a booklet on the Civil War flags which were in their care and collection. Among them was the flag of the 149th New York, the same one which Lilly held on Culp’s Hill on July 2nd. The flag was described as such:

“The flag is of the best silk, made of the regulation dimensions, bordered with heavy yellow silk fringe, and the 34 stars in the field richly embroidered. Across the middle of the stripes is the inscription: Presented to the 149th regiment, NYSV by the officers of Onondaga Salt Springs, September 1862. An extension staff for this elegant flag is mounted with an elaborate golden eagle, just below which hang rich bullion cords and tassels. The flag and its attachments are of the best quality and manufacture. Its cost was about one hundred dollars.”

As the Confederate attackers swept up the wooded hillside that evening, Lilly planted the flag of the 149th New York on the breastworks that the men had built earlier that day. As the heavy rate of fire intensified on both sides, the flag became a focal point for Confederate bullets. By some accounts, the flag was pierced by over eighty bullets during the fighting that night. This storm of lead tore apart the fine silk and fractured the staff. Once the staff was broken, the flag fell forward, off the breastworks and toward the charging enemy.


Bullet riddled trees on Culps Hill. A testament to the ferocity of the fighting there.

In this moment of intense firing, at great risk to his own life, Sergeant Lilly jumped forward into action. He crossed the breastworks, grasped the fractured flag staff and pulled the tattered colors back behind Union lines. Realizing the importance of keeping the flag flying during such a crucial moment, Lilly began fixing the flag staff itself. He broke apart the tops of ammunition boxes, using the fragments of wood to straighten the broken flag staff, tying it together with the leather straps he had removed from his knapsack. In this moment of ingenuity, when he and his comrades were being attacked by an entire division, five times their strength, Lilly was acting to save the symbol of the Union which his brothers in arms were fighting to save. Seeing the tattered flag, with its mended staff, emerge back atop the breastworks helped to renew the fighting spirit of the men of the 149th New York.

When the fighting subsided, Greene’s men had successfully repulsed the Confederate assaults. The following morning, fighting would resume at Culp’s Hill. The rest of the 12th Corps returned to their positions and were forced to fight back the Confederates who had made gains there the night before. The 12th Corps proved itself successful on July 3rd, reclaiming the lower slopes of Culp’s Hill and repulsing several more waves of Confederate attackers. The right flank of the Union was safe, and the route of supplies and communication along the Baltimore Pike was secure. All that would have been rendered moot without the bravery of Greene’s men on the night of July 2nd.

For William Lilly, as well as the rest of the 12th Corps, 1863 had more fighting in store for them. Several months after their success at Gettysburg, the men of the 11th and 12th Corps were hurried west to Chattanooga to help save the embattled and beleaguered Army of the Cumberland. Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee had nearly cut off the Union soldiers in Chattanooga from all outside assistance and supplies. In late October, it fell to some of the 12th Corps soldiers who held Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg to break through the impasse. On October 28, during fighting at Wauhatchie, Tennessee, Lilly was shot through the thigh and severely wounded. He was taken to a hospital in Bridgeport, Alabama, where he lingered. While in the hospital, Oliver Browne of the 149th observed Lilly in a moment of compassion with a wounded Confederate soldier.

Lilly Death Cert

Just after the battle of Wauhatchie, where Lilly was mortally wounded, he was transferred, in a cold driving rain-storm, from an open field hospital to an ambulance for transportation to the rear.  In the same vehicle was a desperately wounded Confederate soldier, half naked and shivering cold.  Poor Lilly, although suffering from pain and chilled from loss of blood, observed his fellow traveler, and being moved with compassion, remarked, “My friend, I guess I will have to share my blanket with you,” and suiting the action to the word, withdrew a part of the covering his friend had tenderly placed about him and wrapped it around his pristine foe.

Within a few days, Lilly was dead. He succumbed to his wound on November 2, 1863. He was thirty-four years old. His remains were brought home to Syracuse, where he was buried.

During that same fighting at Wauhatchie, other heroes of Culp’s Hill fell in battle. Most notably, George Greene himself was hit, with a Confederate bullet passing through his lower jaw. Greene’s wound effectively ended his Civil War combat career, though Greene would live until 1899.

The regimental flag which Lilly had saved would live beyond him. While Lilly died in early November, the fighting around Chattanooga continued for some time. Several weeks after Sgt. Lilly succumbed to his wounds, a new Color Sergeant, John Kiggins, bravely held aloft the same flag as the men advanced headlong into artillery fire on the slopes of Lookout Mountain. During their charge on November 24, 1863, the men of the 149th came under artillery bombardment from both Northern and Southern guns. Realizing the peril this crossfire was creating, Kiggins stood up on a stump and waved the regimental flag, signaling the Union guns to halt their friendly fire. Kiggins continued forward, carrying the flag up to the top of Lookout Mountain, and for his actions that day, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, becoming one of six soldiers of the 149th to receive the nation’s highest award during the Civil War.

Because of the damage done to the battle flag in 1863, the regiment received a new one in 1864. The new flag was carried through the Atlanta Campaign, where the regiment took part in heavy fighting at Peachtree Creek on July 20, 1864. The men then participated in Sherman’s famed March to the Sea, campaigning in the Carolinas, and helping to ensure the final defeat of the Confederacy. Having performed valiantly on many a battlefield, the 149th mustered out on June 12, 1865.

For the men of the 149th New York who gathered on the wooded slopes of Culp’s Hill in 1892, though William Lilly was no longer with them, the memory of his actions that day still lingered.

Captain George Collis was one of the speakers that day. In his remarks that day, Collins spoke of the monument design which the men had chosen, describing the brass relief which adorned the stone on Culp’s Hill.

When a design was first broached, a statue placed on a suitable pedestal was suggested, and a pleasing and an appropriate subject was sought after. The courageous act of Color Sgt. William C. Lilly, who during the engagement at this place saw the staff of his colors while standing on yon breastwork shot in twain, gathered up the pieces and coolly, under fire, mended the broken member with splints from a cracker box and straps from his knapsack, was recalled. It resulted in a design drafted by Comrade George J. Sager, representing this act of heroism of our color bearer.

Afterwards a tablet was suggested by General Barnum [Col. Henry Barnum commanded the 149th at Gettysburg; he was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Lookout Mountain in November 1863] showing breastworks and men under fire placed behind it; this resulted in the embodiment of the two ideas blended in one design.

149th NY Monument

Relief on the monument of the 149th New York, depicting Lilly splicing the flag staff. Image courtesy of Stone Sentinels.

For some today, it might seem strange that the remembrances of a regiment would focus so heavily on a soldier rescuing and fixing their flag in the midst of such a pivotal fight. The monument does not feature a bayonet charge or an officer who was slain defending the line, but a soldier who used broken ammunition boxes to fix a flag staff. Perhaps that is illustrative of what soldiers cherished both during and after the war. To the men of the 149th, the flag which they carried was a symbol of all they fought to save. Preserving the flag was as important as preserving the Union, and Sergeant William Lilly’s efforts helped to do both, giving the men strength to continue fighting in the midst of their most trying hours.

In remarks dedicating the monument to the 149th New York, Colonel Lewis Stegman, who had led the 102nd New York at the battle, had this to say of Lilly’s heroic actions.

And what of the One hundred and forty-ninth in these perilous hours? Right here it stood, here it fought, here it mastered the foe. In its historic character it is part of Greene’s Brigade, at Culp’s Hill, but just upon this spot is defined its own personality… here Lilly twice spliced the flagstaff shot from his hands as he reared them aloft, riddled and town by eighty gaping wounds. Does that tell a tale? It means that where that flag stood was an ordeal of death; that the men who defended it that night and the next day, who fired their muskets and held their swords, were worthy to be enshrined with the noblest, the bravest, and the truest of soldiers who have ever lived in any generation. Here they proved a heroism never surpassed in the annals of warfare.

Nine years after the men of the 149th dedicated their monument on the Gettysburg battlefield, in 1901, Captain George Collins wrote of the lasting significance of the regimental flag which Lilly had rescued in the fire of battle thirty-eight years before. Thanks to the efforts of Lilly, and of others, the flag was preserved and on display in Onandoga County clerk’s office in New York, where all could see it as a testament to the tenacity of those who fought to preserve the Union during its darkest and most trying of hours.

“To the present generation, this flag means little, but to me it is almost as dear as my life. Often I go to County Clerk’s office and look at it lovingly, and as I do so the tears invariably creep into my eyes as I think what that old flag means to me and to all the members of the old One Hundred and Forty-ninth regiment. They worship that flag and prize it as one of the most precious of their earthly possessions.”

Ranger Daniel Vermilya
Gettysburg National Military Park


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Gettysburg: A Powerful Partnership

POP graphic

The National Park Service is currently considering a proposal from the Gettysburg Foundation to increase fees at the Museum and Visitor Center and some other activities and attractions within Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site.  To learn more about this proposal, we encourage you to read the report and tell us what you think. The deadlines for comments is May 25, 2016.

May is Preservation Month so let’s take a closer look at this partnership.


­Preservation is at the core of the Gettysburg Foundation’s projects and goals:  For 27 years the Gettysburg Foundation has stood with the National Park Service as the steward of preservation, restoration and education at Gettysburg National Military Park, attending to the serious and ongoing preservation needs of the battlefield as well as at Eisenhower National Historic Site.  Prior to 2006, the Gettysburg Foundation was known as the Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg established in 1989.

Fundraising and Donations: The Gettysburg Foundation funded, designed and constructed the park’s $ 103 million Museum and Visitor Center which opened in 2008. In the past ten years, the Foundation raised nearly $30 million to support:

  • $2 million for education programs
  • $21 million for acquisition of land, historic structures and artifacts
  • $5.7 million to preserve historic landscapes, structures and monuments
  • $1.2 million to support the commemoration of 150thanniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address.

Support and Advocacy:  Since 1989 the Gettysburg Foundation has increased awareness and relevancy of Gettysburg’s two national parks through its “Friends of Gettysburg” memberships, volunteer opportunities and more.  An active corps of 25,000 Friends members enjoys more meaningful engagement with the NPS, strengthening and expanding our support nationally and internationally. Their new “Recruit” membership levels helps target Millennials – a demographic that the NPS is trying hard to engage. Friends programs and other Foundation projects offer philanthropic support that directly benefits the two national parks in Gettysburg and the National Park Service as a whole.

Recent Projects include sponsoring National Park Service Centennial events, fundraising for the rehab of Little Round Top and the rehab of Cemetery Ridge, funding the new cannon carriage restoration shop, education programs, acquisition of numerous important objects for the park’s museum collections and much more.

Throughout our Centennial year we’re trying harder than ever to engage with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates.  The Gettysburg Foundation and the Friends of Gettysburg continue to play a critical role in our success.

Katie Lawhon, May 5, 2016

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Winged Victory: A Closer Look at the Pennsylvania Memorial

One day, while giving a tour of the field of Pickett’s Charge, I kept referring to the Union artillery line of Lt. Col. Freeman McGilvery.  For much of July 2 & 3, 1863 McGilvery’s guns occupied the long stretch of Cemetery Ridge from near the intersection of modern day Pleasanton Avenue south to the George Weikert Farm. Standing near the Point of Woods on Seminary Ridge, it is difficult to identify the location, but as a reference point, I kept pointing to the “winged angel” atop the Pennsylvania Monument.  After a few minutes, a tour participant asked “who’s the lady atop the building?”

PA STate monument 3

The Pennsylvania Memorial dominates the southern half of the Gettysburg battlefield. The largest, costliest, and most ornate monument on the battlefield, it stands in tribute to the Pennsylvanians who fought, and died, on the fields which it towers over. Perched atop the dome is a distinctive and evocative bronze figure of an angel. Clutching a sword in one hand and a palm branch in the other, she is frozen in  the act of moving forward toward an unseen foe. But who is she?

On June 13, 1907, Gov. Edwin Stuart appointed nine Union veterans to The Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Commission.  The Commission had the task of finding a suitable location for the Pennsylvania State Memorial “to commemorate the services of the soldiers of Pennsylvania in the battle.”  The Commonwealth appropriated $140,000 for the construction, $10,000 for the dedication ceremonies, $20,000 to reimburse the railroads for transportation, and another $40,000 to furnish bronze statues of Abraham Lincoln, Gov. Andrew Curtin, and six general officers of Pennsylvania.  In 1908, fifty-one designs for the new monument were submitted. The model of architect W. Liance Cottrell ultimately won.


Initial design of the Pennsylvania Memorial. (GNMP)

Cottrell’s design incorporated the beaux-arts style “which advocated a grandeur in architecture, a merging of several styles (as here, baroque and neoclassical), and a rich adornment by various media, especially sculpture.”  The style had become popular in America during the 1890’s.  In order to tell the story of Pennsylvania at Gettysburg, the monument incorporates the names of all the state’s army, corps and division commanders along the exterior cornice and the interior cornice features the name of twenty-four brigade officers.  Every soldier that served from Pennsylvania is listed on eighty-four bronze tablets that line the base exterior of the monument.  In 1911, eight bronze, larger than life, statues of such figures as Lincoln, Curtin, and Meade were installed.  The Pennsylvania Monument assimilates 1,252 tons of granite, 1,410 tons of broken stone, 740 tons of sand, 366 tons of cement, 50 tons of steel bars, and 22 tons of bronze for a total of 3,840 tons of material.

Samuel Murray was selected to make the statue to crown the monument.  He was one of


Samuel Murray. (LOC)

the leading sculptors in America at the time.  Based in Philadelphia, he had studied under
the famous painter Thomas Eakins.  Murray’s previous sculptures, which won gold and silver medallions, had been displayed nationally and in Paris.  Over the course of his career, his works included the statues of Commodore John Barry in Independence Square, Senator Boies Penrose in Harrisburg, Bishop Shanahan Memorial in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Harrisburg, the prophets on the Witherspoon Building in Philadelphia, and the Father William Corby Statue at Gettysburg.

Murray was commissioned to cast the bronze statue of Victory to crown the dome of the Pennsylvania Monument.  As his inspiration, he chose the Winged Victory of Samothrace from classical antiquity.  Exhibited at the Louvre in Paris, this statue dates from the second century B.C. and is known for its incorporation of “theatrical stance, vigorous movement, and billowing drapery.”


Winged Victory of Samothrace. Image courtesy of the Louvre.


Augustus Saint-Gauden’s Sherman Memorial in New York may have also influenced Murray.  Erected in 1903, Saint-Gauden’s winged goddess had garnered much public praise and certainly Murray was aware of this fact.


The Sherman Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gauden. Image courtesy of City University of New York.

For his version, Murray altered Victory to include the olive branch in her left hand and the sword in her right.  The addition of this symbolism made the statue represent both peace and war.  As a final touch, Murray cast Victory from melted cannon, linking her in a tangible way to the American Civil War.

victory 10


Today, the “Goddess of Victory and Peace” still stands, ever watchful, symbolically leading the Pennsylvania troops forward!   She remains one of the most iconic images on the battlefield.

Ranger Matt Atkinson
Gettysburg National Military Park

Post Script: The pictures of Victory come from the collection of Barb Adams.  Barb has volunteered with the cannon restoration shop and visitor services for many years.  In 2013, Victory received preservation treatment and Barb went up in the lift for a close up view.  Many thanks to her for these pictures! 




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The Battlefield Foray 2016: Spring Arrives in Gettysburg

Over the past two days Gettysburg National Military Park hosted the inaugural “Battlefield Foray,” a series of free hikes and walks that traversed nearly the entirety of the park. It was a great way to welcome the return of spring to south-central Pennsylvania and the kickoff to what we hope will be a great year of walks, talks, and hikes out on the battlefield. We were incredibly grateful and fortunate to have so many of you out on the field with us.

1st Day Panorama

Cars line Reynolds Avenue for the first program of the Battlefield Foray.

Each of the different hikes on Saturday and Sunday examined a unique aspect of the two armies that fought at Gettysburg. In particular, the different arms of the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac (infantry, artillery, and cavalry) were discussed and explored on a part of the battlefield where that particular branch played a prominent role.

Saturday began early, with Park Historian John Heiser leading a tour focused on the backbone of both armies; the infantry. Though Union cavalry initiated the fighting outside of Gettysburg on July 1st, the day as a whole was dominated by the infantrymen. Though the skies were slightly overcast, and a brief drizzle momentarily moved through the first days field, nearly one hundred visitors followed John as he discussed the opening shots of the battle, as Union infantry regiments in Maj. Gen. John Reynold’s I Corps confronted elements of Confederate Gen. Harry Heth’s command. Tromping through Reynold’s Woods and down McPherson Ridge, the story of units like the 24th Michigan, 26th North Carolina, and 2nd Wisconsin were brought to life on the ridges and in the woodlots where those units fought.

John H. 2

Along Meredith Avenue at the northern edge of Reynold’s Woods. The monument to the 7th Wisconsin is on the left. 

John H.

Park Historian John Heiser discuss the afternoon fighting on July 1st between the Iron Brigade and Johnston Pettigrew’s  Confederate regiments.

Later in the day Ranger Matt Atkinson delved into the role artillery played during the fighting on the 2nd Day. Confederate artillerymen E. P. Alexander wrote of the fighting on July 2 that, “I don’t think there was ever in our war a hotter, harder, sharper artillery afternoon than this.” From Warfield Ridge to the Trostle Farm, Matt explored and discussed the Union and Confederate batteries that dueled for supremacy on the bloodiest day of the battle of Gettysburg.

Matt at the Peach Orchard

The exploits and service of units like Battery F, Pennsylvania Light Artillery, better known as “Hampton’s Battery” was discussed from the vantage point of their position on July 2nd. Hampton’s Battery lost roughly 18 men killed and wounded during the fighting at Gettysburg, most of it during the hour they were engaged at the Peach Orchard.

Peach Orchard

By the late afternoon the rain and overcast clouds of the morning gave way to a blue skies and warm weather. The final program of the first day of the Battlefield Foray brought participants to the East Cavalry Battlefield where Ranger Tom Holbrook described the clash of Union and Confederate horsemen that took place their mid-day on July 3rd, 1863.

Sickles Avenue

On Sunday Licensed Battlefield Guides Garry Adelman and Tim Smith led an all day hike that brought the story together. Leaving from the Visitor Center, they led participants on a hike of the entire position of the Army of the Potomac on July 2nd and 3rd, 1863. By walking the entirety of the Union “Fishhook” at Gettysburg, visitors gained a greater appreciation for the size of the battle and battlefield, and that the fighting that took place at individual locations throughout the battle was in actuality part of one, interconnected, struggle.

Tim and Garry on Little Round Top

Licensed Battlefield Guides Tim Smith and Garry Adelman near the monument to the 155th Pennsylvania on Little Round Top.

We want to thank all of those that showed up and explored the park with us. Hopefully we will see you all out on the field again soon. For more information on ranger led programs, and future events at Gettysburg National Military Park, visit our website at

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Conspicuous Gallantry, ‘Medal of Honor’ Spotlight Exhibit opens today

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of one’s life above and beyond the call of duty. – Medal of Honor Citation


Museum staff put the final touches on the new Medal of Honor exhibit at Gettysburg National Military Park

The new Spotlight Exhibit in the lobby of the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center is showcasing Gettysburg National Military Park’s collection of six Medals of Honor, including Alonzo Cushing’s, awarded in 2014. This free exhibit opened today and will remain on display for six months.

One of the primary goals of the National Park Service at Gettysburg is to tell the compelling stories of the Battle of Gettysburg and the American Civil War – creating memorable visits. Merely preserving and protecting these resources is not enough if the public does not believe the stories are relevant and important. We must continue to make the case that Gettysburg still matters. And we must tell these compelling stories to every one of our 1.2 million annual visitors.

The key to history is the story. Nothing can be more compelling to our visitors than the stories of valor and sacrifice illustrated by the Medal of Honor recipients in this exhibit. In all, 64 soldiers received the Medal of Honor for their actions at the Battle of Gettysburg. For each of these outstanding acts, there are untold numbers of soldiers on both sides who committed acts of bravery and self- sacrifice for their comrades and their cause.

Jason_4-13-16_0054_1At Gettysburg, so often we talk about leaders, but it is really the acts of individuals that make the difference.  Battles are individual struggles on a large scale.  Through the ages, the highest calling of man has always been to put one’s own life at risk for the benefit of others, and to perform above and beyond the call of duty.


This whole exhibit came about in December 2014 when President Obama honored Alonzo Cushing with the Medal of Honor.  Cushing’s descendants and the National Park Service committed to continuing to tell Cushing’s story at Gettysburg.

The National Park Service is tremendously grateful for the opportunity to continue to honor these soldiers.  We’d like to thank the donors of the artifacts who helped make this exhibit possible and the Gettysburg Foundation for supporting this exhibit.


Medals of Honor now on display at Gettysburg are:

Daniel P. Reigle, Corporal, Company F, 87th Pennsylvania Infantry. At Cedar Creek, Virginia, October 19, 1864. Date of issue: October 26, 1864. For gallantry while rushing forward to capture a Confederate flag at the stone fence where the enemy’s last stand was made.

Edward L. Gilligan, First Sergeant, Company E, 88th Pennsylvania Infantry. At Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1, 1863. Date of issue: April 30, 1892. Assisted in the capture of the flag of the 23rd North Carolina Infantry.  The 88th Pennsylvania attacked the retreating Confederates of the 23rd North Carolina, capturing nearly the entire regiment.  Captain Joseph Richard fought with the regimental color bearer, who only gave up when, according to Gilligan “I reasoned with him with the butt of my musket.”

 James J. Purman, Lieutenant, Company A, 140th Pennsylvania Infantry. At Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 2, 1863. Date of issue: October 30, 1896. While engaging troops of the 24th Georgia Infantry in the woods south of the Wheatfield, Purman voluntarily assisted a wounded comrade to a place of safety while the enemy was in close proximity, hence narrowing his route of withdrawal.  In attempting to withdraw across the Wheatfield, Purman received the fire of the enemy and a wound, which resulted in the amputation of his left leg.

 Wallace W. Johnson, Sergeant, Company G, 6th Pennsylvania Reserves. At Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 2, 1863. Date of issue: August 8, 1900. As Union forces of the 3rd Corps became actively engaged with Confederate forces near Little Round Top and Devil’s Den, regiments of the Pennsylvania Reserves from the 5th Corps arrived to reinforce them.  The Pennsylvanians came under sniper fire from the John Weikert farmhouse.  Johnson and five other men from the 6th Reserves volunteered to assault the house and neutralize the Confederates.  They rushed the structure under thick fire, broke down the barricaded door, and captured the Confederates.

 Alonzo H. Cushing, First Lieutenant, Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery. At Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 3, 1863. Date of issue: November 6, 2014. Distinguished himself by acts of bravery above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an artillery commander in Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery. . .  He refused to leave the battlefield after being struck in the shoulder by a shell fragment. . .  As he continued to direct fire, he was struck again — this time suffering grievous damage to his abdomen. . .  Still refusing to abandon his command, he boldly stood tall in the face of Major General George E. Pickett’s charge and continued to direct devastating fire into oncoming forces. As the Confederate forces closed in, Cushing was struck in the mouth by an enemy bullet and fell dead beside his gun.

In 2013, we posted a blog with more information about Medals of Honor in the Gettysburg collection.

This post is based on Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Ed W. Clark’s remarks at the opening of the Medal of Honor exhibit at Gettysburg National Military Park’s Museum and Visitor Center, April 14, 2016


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Pin(n)ing For the 2016 Season – Thoughts by a Ranger of the Line





Reader mine, the spring season is once again upon us in the park!  Soon, the park interpreters will be out on the resource giving programs, greeting the numerous visitors pouring in from near and far.   Roaring lawn mowers groom the cemetery, while ticks annoy the determined explorers.  The ancient rituals renew.

Some comments, often repeated by sharp-eyed guests as they encounter uniformed staff are observations as to the overall state of the park; the vast majority of them are very positive.  “The monuments look great!” or “You always manage to keep the cemetery nicely trimmed.” As an interpreter, that’s usually an awkward moment for me, as I strain to point out that I did not do that hard work the visitor presently so admires; but that other individuals in our NPS team did.  Lord knows, I wouldn’t want to wrestle with trees, repoint those monuments, or re-weld, polish and paint all those cannons.  But here, I fiercely thank those who do.  Sometimes, I fear my explanations insufficient on that score.  Even though some of us might appear more “visible” to the public at large, in our own way, through our diverse gifts, we all strive to participate equitably in fulfilling the mandate of the 1916 Organic Act:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there is hereby created in the Department of the Interior a service to be called the National Park Service,… which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

I started out in “the Service” in 1982 as a Volunteer, when I earned my first, “old-style” VIP pin.

volunteer pin

From that date, I’ve always had an historical interest in NPS pins and badges.  For this Centennial year of 2016, the NPS chose to further highlight the occasion by offering a special badge, which could be worn only for the anniversary year.  Outside of Law Enforcement, which got a distinctive design of their own, four potential styles were voted on.  The one I favored, a more traditional sort that combined elements of the early to mid-1900’s and the present – issue badge, was rejected.

Photo 1 Nps Badge 1946

NPS Badge, 1946-1960

The official Centennial badge, for non-Law Enforcement personnel, appeared much different than the standard badge (below.)

Present Day badge

Present NPS Badge

Centennial Badge

2016 Centennial Badge

In fact, to my eye, it first looked like a giant version of the “Ranger Tie-Tack” that is worn with the winter uniform.  I wasn’t all that happy with it.  Nonetheless, I ordered one.  When it arrived, however, I was struck with a flash not unlike General Warren’s “Moment of Recognition.”  It was the ubiquitous Park Service arrowhead, first designed in the 1950’s, and decorated with a few Centennial motifs. But at its most basic, it was designed in the shape of an arrowhead, the prize Native American relic I had often hunted relentlessly as a boy.

Not only on the Centennial badge, then, but in every NPS arrowhead insignia and patch are the artistic incorporations of those words from 1916, “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein” But the real meaning lies deeper. For no more appropriate artifact than an arrowhead could possibly have been chosen. By itself, an arrowhead is naught but a sharpened rock.  To be useful, it must be firmly lashed with sinew to a carefully selected piece of wood, carefully fletched at the rear to fly straight and true to accurately hit its target; in the hands of a skilled archer, with a clear eye.

What was with a real arrowhead, remains truthfully embodied in our emblem today.  Many in the NPS, given the nature of their assignments, do not even wear a uniform or a badge; yet their functions for the parks are as essential today as the shaft or the feathers were in guiding the arrowheads of old. Working as a team, perhaps we’ll see another 100 years, continuing in the delicate arc between preservation and use of the precious places that are our trust.  I probably won’t be here for that one.  But others will, and I wish them all my best.


Ranger Bert Barnett,
Gettysburg National Military Park


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When the Martians Visited Gettysburg

It was very soon after the Battle of Gettysburg when the recounting of battle events and experiences evolved to become battlefield legends, which flourished as the tourism industry in Adams County grew.  Most were quite sentimental- blue and gray calling an informal truce to share the water of Spangler’s Spring, the forgotten body of the Confederate sharpshooter at Devil’s Den, the message to Jennie Wade that was never delivered, and the like. These were good stories, published in battlefield guidebooks and souvenir pamphlets, or told again and again by battlefield guides, historians and other interested parties. Of course the more recent phenomena pertains to the numerous ghosts and spirits purported to be haunting both town and battlefield, shamelessly promoted through countless books, magazines, television programs and the numerous “ghost tour” companies who themselves seem to be haunting the streets of downtown Gettysburg.  Yet somewhere between the period of battlefield legends and the current ghost tour craze were the fairly complacent years after World War II when the only real threat to America was the great “Red Menace” and invaders from outer space.

Gettysburg Times July 9, 1947

Did Aliens Visit Gettysburg in 1947? (Gettysburg Times, July 9, 1947)

Outer space, you ask? We may look back on the 1940’s and 1950’s Science Fiction craze with a smile and a wink, but for many it was deadly serious! Even the small community of Gettysburg was not immune from invaders from outer space.

On July 8, 1947, a group of visitors were picnicking at the Pennsylvania Monument when they witnessed half a dozen silver objects fly over the battlefield and disappear in the east, not once but twice. Aghast at the site of these unknown objects slicing across the sky, the couples reported their experience that would be logged up as one of numerous suspicious sightings of “flying saucers” throughout the country that year, described as everything from saw blades to round, silver disks that made little or no noise as they whirled across the sky. Little did this group know at the time how this odd observation was only one incident of the tantalizing craze that would not only grip Adams County, but the nation as a whole- earth was being invaded. Was Gettysburg on the intergalactic list of places to visit?

Gettysburg Times, July 8, 1947Not since 1938, when Orson Welles’ infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast gripped many Americans in fear of alien invaders, had America thought for one moment about the threat from beyond the cosmos. But here it was, flying over the Pennsylvania Monument in the broad daylight of a sunny July afternoon.

The post-World War II era saw an explosion of strange sightings, reports of flying saucers, and other bizarre events seemingly beyond reasonable explanation. It was the new science fiction, which extended itself beyond radio broadcasts and books to movie screens all across the country. There was something flying around up there and though no one had any idea of what it may be; “it” had finally made an appearance over Gettysburg National Military Park.

There never was a full explanation or official disclosure about the 1947 sighting over the park. It was simply chalked up as one of the numerous sightings of unidentified flying objects that flourished around the country over the ensuing decades and certainly those picnickers who were enjoying their afternoon in the park on that day in 1947 had no idea they would part of the national sensation of observing “Flying Saucers” and quite possibly the beginning of an alien invasion!

And barely four years later, Hollywood would produce the epic film, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” where a flying saucer landed on the national mall in Washington, DC. Isn’t it unfortunate the script writers did not see this story in the Gettysburg Times first and have Klaatu’s ship land on the lawn beside the Pennsylvania Monument? That’s probably for the best given the nation’s capital was a more pertinent choice in those early years of the Cold War.

Park employees will sometimes be questioned as to the existence of ghosts or spirits on the battlefield, but few have ever asked if any of us have seen or witnessed UFO’s coursing across the park sky. Hopefully the interest in that phenomenon faded a long time ago, along with drive-in movies and bell bottom jeans.

John Heiser
Historian, Gettysburg NMP

Posted in Battlefield Legends and Lore, Romances of Gettysburg | 4 Comments