Behind the Scenery: Gettysburg’s Cannon Shop

Cannon mark the Battery A Fourth U.S. Artillery position at Gettysburg

Cannon mark the Battery A Fourth U.S. Artillery position at Gettysburg National Military Park

In an out-of-the-way industrial building in Gettysburg, National Park Service preservation workers grind it out, day after day. Literally. This blog post explores Gettysburg National Military Park’s cannon carriage restoration shop.

This circa 1890 photo taken at Little Round Top shows a collapsed cannon carriage - possibly a 30-year-old wooden carriage  - a compelling reason to purchase new carriages of cast iron.

This circa 1890 photo taken at Little Round Top shows a collapsed cannon carriage – possibly a 30-year-old wooden carriage – a compelling reason to purchase new carriages of cast iron.

More than 1300 monuments mark the fields at Gettysburg and 400 cannon.   Each is a silent sentinel telling the story of the battle.  They were placed here long before “National Park Rangers” were invented.

The majority of the cannon tubes are original but the carriages were wooden during the Civil War and in order to withstand time, early park managers had cast iron carriages created to closely resemble what the artillery units used at Gettysburg. The carriages were purchased by the War Department beginning in 1895 through about 1910. They were manufactured in Gettysburg by the foundry of Calvin Gilbert.

GETT 41106 Drawing 58

Brian Knepper

Brian Knepper at work on the wheel of a carriage.

The park’s cannon carriage restoration program is supported by the Gettysburg Foundation.  The Foundation has rented space for the shop in a former factory building in Gettysburg since January 1999.

The shop is not open to the public.

More than 300 of these historic carriages have been restored by Gettysburg National Military Park staff and returned

Michael Wright with implements that will go onto the carriage before painting.

Michael Wright with implements that will go onto the carriage before painting.

to the battlefield. The current staff includes Michael Wright and Brian Knepper, preservation workers, and a number of very dedicated volunteers.

The first step in the process is sandblasting to remove the primer coat that was initially put on in the late 1990’s after the lead paint had been removed.   Park staff then inspects the carriages to assess their general condition, structural defects and missing hardware.

Many of the load-bearing elements have stress fractures or damaged castings due to their age and to exposure to the elements for more than 100 years on the battlefield. Often the spokes and/or fellows are badly damaged and need to be repaired or replaced. To do this, the wheel must be removed.

Craters and defects are being filled on this cast iron carriage.

Craters and defects are being filled on this cast iron carriage.

All welded repairs are ground and dressed. Craters and defects are filled with polyester based automotive body filler. At this point, the implements are attached to the carriage, including the sponge chain holders, elevator screws and prolonge hooks.

The joints are caulked, and each carriage gets two coats of primer and two coats of official “Gettysburg artillery green” paint, with black paint applied to all the

Gettysburg National Military Park Volunteer Barb Adams paints a carriage.

Gettysburg National Military Park Volunteer Barb Adams paints a carriage.

hardware items. This work is done almost exclusively by volunteers.

Park staff is more than 75% of the way through the process of restoring every single carriage at Gettysburg. Efficiency will improve in 2015 when we move the shop into the three-bay garage at Gettysburg’s former Armory. The Gettysburg Foundation is raising funds for this project   Learn more about how to help here.

This painstaking restoration process for Gettysburg’s cannon carriages requires approximately a month of a craftsman’s time per carriage.  Next time you’re on the Gettysburg battlefield we invite you to take a closer look at these carriages and craftsmanship that goes into their care and preservation.

They are fragile artifacts that commemorate the service of those who fought here.  Please join us in their protection.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, 10/23/14

Posted in Gettysburg cannon | Tagged | 5 Comments

James Jackson’s Civil War: The Story of a Confederate Colonel Accused of Cowardice at Gettysburg – Part II

Continued from Part I of James Jackson’s Civil War: The Story of a Confederate Colonel Accused of Cowardice at Gettysburg.

It is extremely difficult to make sense of Colonel James Jackson’s performance at Gettysburg. The letter he wrote to his wife was quite descriptive of the battle action. It chronicled in much detail the 47th’s movements up and over Big Round Top and their repeated attempts to dislodge Vincent’s men on Little Round Top. Yet it is clear from other sources that Jackson was simply not with his regiment when it went into battle that day. It was, instead, commanded by Lt. Col. Michael Bulger.  Because of this, Jackson most likely based the contents of his letter home strictly on what he had heard from other members of the regiment in the aftermath of the fight.

Jackson Blog Colonel James W. Jackson 47th AL paint

James Jackson, Colonel of the 47th Alabama Infantry. Image courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama

As the 47th Alabama advanced that late Thursday afternoon at Gettysburg, Colonel James Jackson remained behind and he apparently stayed well to the rear. Perhaps his body had finally given up and failed him; perhaps he was among those many “hundreds” he claimed had fainted or collapsed from exhaustion after so trying a day. There can be no denying that his body had been wracked with illness and with pain ever since he had first donned the uniform in 1861 and especially after his wound at Antietam. It is possible, though, that Jackson intentionally remained in the rear that day. He had already tendered his resignation and he may have been simply looking forward to returning once more to his family, which that year grew to include a newborn son. Perhaps we will never know for certain. But to Major James Campbell of the 47th Alabama there was no question. Left in command of the regiment after the resignation of Jackson and the wounding of Lt. Col. Bulger on the slopes of Little Round Top, it was up to Campbell to write the Official Report of the 47th’s actions on July 2. He wrote it on August 7 and in it, he complained of Jackson’s performance and hinted about Jackson’s cowardice. According to Campbell, there was “some confusion” during the regiment’s advance “owing to the fact that in the charge the lieutenant-colonel [Bulger] expected the colonel [Jackson] to give all necessary commands, and the colonel remained so far behind that his presence on the field was but a trammel on the lieutenant-colonel.” At the end of the report, Campbell wrote that out of the 21 officers in the regiment, “All of these (the 21) acted well. The colonel and adjutant are not included in this number.”[1] It is possible, of course, that Major Campbell may have bore a personal grudge against Jackson for some, unknown reason, but still, and as Gary Bruner pointed out in an article documenting the actions of the 47th Alabama at Gettysburg, “the fact that Major Campbell’s report stood, uncorrected by any higher officer, accusing Colonel Jackson of not only mishandling his troops, but strongly implying cowardice as well, is extremely telling.”[2]

Colonel James W. Jackson paid a high price fighting in support of his cause but despite his physical sacrifice—his sickness and his injury—the deepest wound the young officer sustained in the war may have very well been this post-Gettysburg report, which attacked his character and his bravery. We may never know what happened, exactly, that Thursday afternoon, but since the history of Gettysburg so thoroughly dominates the historiography of the Civil War, Colonel James Jackson’s name, when it is discussed, is oftentimes linked to cowardice. Citing Major Campbell’s report as testimony, some historians claimed Jackson resigned in disgrace following Gettysburg, although he had originally submitted his resignation prior to the battle. Either way, Major James Campbell was unkind to Jackson and his words continue to haunt the colonel’s legacy. Captain Joseph Burton, however, who also served under the sickly young doctor in the 47th, was more charitable when years later he wrote that Jackson was “. . .a good officer and a brave man, but he was so thoroughly disqualified physically to be a soldier.”[3]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It had been almost two years since Gettysburg and since he had last worn his faded, dust-covered gray uniform. Ever since his resignation in mid-July 1863, Jackson had lived at his parents’ plantation home in Greenville, along with his wife Jennie and their two children—six-year-old Tallulah and two-year-old Clyde. He had spent most of those two years bedridden, having never been able to recover his ruined and wrecked health. But that day in April, 1865, duty summoned him once more to uniform. The war may have been over but Union raiding parties were still out there and now, one of them was galloping fast toward Jackson’s home and family.

Fully dressed, James Jackson ventured outside while his wife, mother, and two young children remained in hiding in the house. He painfully mounted his horse and rode out toward the spot where his father had just taken the family’s livestock. Along the way, however, Jackson came to a sudden halt when he spotted the blue-coated horsemen heading in his direction. They also caught sight of him and, suddenly, half the Union men galloped after him while the other half continued riding to the house. When that half arrived at the house, Jackson’s blind mother, amid much commotion and shedding tears, pleaded with the officer in command of the raiding party to take what they wanted but to spare her son’s life. As she begged, she told them that her son was so weak, so sick that he had essentially come home to die. Hearing the heartache in the elderly woman’s voice, the officer promised that her son, if captured, would not be hurt. The Union men soon galloped away, leaving James’s mother and wife no doubt weeping and the children fearful that they may never see their daddy again. Word soon arrived that Colonel Jackson had been ridden down and captured—and that he was most likely dead—but this proved to be a false report, for not long after, Colonel Jackson was seen limping up the plantation road and toward the house. He had, indeed, been captured but the Union officer, after confiscating Jackson’s horse, ordered him to be released. Now, he was returning home. …for the last time, as it turned out.[4]

grave of Jackson paint

The grave of Col. James W. Jackson, Greenville City Cemetery

Colonel James Jackson did, indeed, come home to die and following this brief but nerve-wracking encounter with the blue-coated Union horsemen in mid-April 1865, he retired once more to the bedroom. He never again rose but remained bedridden for the next two-and-a-half months. Finally, on July 1, 1865, Jackson called upon his father, Hinson, and begged that he look after his beloved Jennie and their two young children; he knew the end was near. Later that same day, Colonel James Jackson breathed his last. He was only 33 years old. Next day—July 2—James Jackson was buried in the Greenville City Cemetery. It was exactly two years from the date of that fateful day at Gettysburg when his 47th Alabama charged up the boulder-strewn slopes of Little Round Top; two years from the date when his reputation was ruined and his wartime record scarred with accusations of cowardice, whether fairly or not. And those accusations continue to haunt Colonel Jackson’s legacy to this day just as tragedy continued to haunt his family. Less than a week after the death of his son, Hinson Jackson collapsed and died suddenly, while dear little Tallulah Jackson died in 1866 at the age of seven.[5]

John Hoptak, Park Ranger

[1] Report of Major James Campbell, in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol. 27, Part II, page 395.

[2] Bruner, 21.

[3] Burton quoted in Ibid.; In Lee’s Colonels, Robert Krick suggests that Jackson resigned in disgrace [pg. 189], while Stewart Sifakis, in his work, Who’s Who In the Confederacy, recorded of Jackson that “not all of the officers in the Army of Northern Virginia were heroes.” In his article on the 47th Alabama, Gary Bruner also wrote that Jackson “resigned in disgrace immediately after Gettysburg.”

[4] Laine and Penny, 131-132.

[5] Ibid.; “Family Group Record” James Washington Jackson, in 47th Alabama Regimental Unit File, in the Collections of the Antietam National Battlefield Library.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

James Jackson’s Civil War: The Story of a Confederate Colonel Accused of Cowardice at Gettysburg – Part I

Wearily, the suffering, young veteran sat up in bed; then, slowly, he rose to his feet.  Colonel James Washington Jackson was only 33 years old but the war had wrecked him, left him broken. A few years earlier he was youthful, exuberant, and full of life. Now it was a struggle for him just to stand. Since the outset of war in 1861, the fervent secessionist had battled illness and injury while faithfully and bravely fighting for his cause. Throughout his two years in uniform he had been plagued by disease and battered by bullets. It had been nearly two years since he had left the army, immediately after the great battle at Gettysburg, but now duty had again summoned him to uniform. The enemy was approaching and the sickly young colonel was determined to confront them.[1]

It was mid-April 1865 and America’s civil war was at last drawing to a close. There were still a few small Confederate armies in the field but most everywhere else throughout the Confederacy resistance had entirely collapsed. Richmond had fallen and President Jefferson Davis was on the run. A few days after the fall of Richmond—at a crossroads village known as Appomattox Court House—General Robert E. Lee surrendered his famed Army of Northern Virginia, or at least what was left of it. People throughout the North rejoiced at news of the triumph, yet their joy was vanquished completely just a few days later when news of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination fell like a thunderclap across the land.

Things may have been far quieter and more subdued in faraway Greenville, Georgia, but, even so, some trouble did remain. Sherman’s army had left long ago, leaving a smoldering landscape in its wake, but still, small bands of soldiers wearing blue galloped across the countryside, raiding homes and confiscating horses, cattle, or whatever else they might find of value. And one day in mid-April 1865—as the rest of the nation reacted to the news of Lee’s surrender and of Lincoln’s murder—one such raiding party galloped up to the plantation home owned by Colonel James W. Jackson’s father. For the past two years, Colonel Jackson had resided there, along with his young wife, Jennie, their two young children—six-year-old Tellulah and two-year-old Clyde—along with Jackson’s elderly, blind mother and his aging father who was already out that morning, attempting to hide the family’s livestock from the marauding band of blue-clad soldiers.[2]

Upstairs, Colonel Jackson slowly dressed in his faded, dust-covered gray uniform with its gilded gold braiding upon its sleeves and the fading stars upon its collar. Likely this was the same uniform he had worn while serving in Lee’s army as commander of the 47th Alabama Infantry and as he put it on that April day in 1865 to once more confront the enemy, one must wonder if his mind raced back to painful memories of far distant fields, such as those at Cedar Mountain, Antietam, or Gettysburg, where the regiment had suffered such heavy losses. There would have been little time for reflection just then, however, for the enemy was approaching fast, galloping toward his home and family.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jackson Blog Colonel James W. Jackson 47th AL paint

James Jackson, Colonel of the 47th Alabama Infantry Image courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama

James Washington Jackson was born in September 1831 in Meriweather County, Georgia, and was raised in Greenville, the county seat. As a young man he attended the Greenville Military Academy then set off for New York to study medicine. He graduated from the University Medical College (today the New York University School of Medicine) in 1851. Following graduation, twenty-year-old James Jackson returned to Greenville and established a practice. In 1856, he struck out on his own and settled in Lafayette, Alabama, where he again established a medical practice. The Census of 1860 reveals that he was married by 1860 and that he and his wife, Jennie, had a one-year-old baby girl named Tallulah. A second child—a son named Clyde—would arrive three years later, in 1863.[3]

Young Dr. Jackson was working hard to grow his practice and establish a comfortable life for his family when, in November 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. An ardent supporter of states’ rights, Jackson cried out for secession and no doubt applauded when, on December 20, South Carolina became the first state to do so. Mississippi was next, seceding on January 9, 1861, followed the next day by Florida and then by Jackson’s native Alabama on January 11. A young and aspiring leader in the community, Jackson helped to raise the Lafayette Guards, a militia company that would become Company A of the 7th Alabama Infantry upon the outbreak of war.

As its captain, Jackson led his company to Pensacola, Florida, where the 7th Alabama Infantry was formally organized and first assigned. The regiment spent the summer training at Pensacola, its soldiers quickly becoming adept in the ways of a soldier. Yet it was there also where the grim realities of life in a Civil War camp set in. Sickness was widespread and disease spread quickly through the ranks. Captain Jackson’s company was stationed at Fort Barrancas where disease took an especially heavy toll. In a July 10 letter to his wife Jennie, the young captain wrote that “[t]here is a great deal of sickness in the camp & a good portion of [the sick] die. I have sixteen [soldiers in the company] down sick at this time. Some with the measles & others [with] Typhoid Fever. . . .I think that if we stay throughout the summer that at least one half [of the men] will die.”[4] Unfortunately, Captain Jackson would soon find out firsthand just how debilitating disease could be. He fell victim to some illness—what, exactly, the records do not reveal—and in October the former doctor tendered his resignation. In poor health, he traveled back home to his wife and daughter in Lafayette to recover. By the spring of 1862, however, the now thirty-year-old Dr. Jackson believed he was once again well enough to return to the army.[5]

That spring, the call for volunteers had once more been sounded and throughout Alabama companies were again being organized. And just as he did the previous spring, James W. Jackson went to work seeking out volunteers. It was not long before he raised yet another company, one that would be assigned to the newly-formed 47th Alabama Infantry. Seeking higher rank, Jackson sought a leadership position within the new regiment, and once the 47th was fully raised, its men took a vote and elected Jackson as their lieutenant-colonel, or the regiment’s second in command. James M. Oliver, and attorney from Tallapoosa County, was elected colonel. Jackson must have been satisfied with the results and with his promotion but there was some grumbling in the ranks. Some of the men of the 47th believed Jackson was simply too sick and too broken down physically for such a high command.[6]

Jackson may have still been quite unwell but in June 1862 he again bade farewell to Jennie and young Tallulah and set off for war. The 47th traveled to Virginia where, outside Richmond, it was assigned to Taliaferro’s Brigade, in Stonewall Jackson’s wing of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. A few days after he and his men arrived, Lt. Col. Jackson took the time to write to his family. He was “happy” to tell them that the climate in Virginia was improving his health considerably and expressed his hope that he “will again become sound.” And although he and his men did not actively participate in any of the fighting that defined the bloody Seven Days’ Battles outside of Richmond, Jackson did write about hearing the sounds of battle at least, with “the heavy peals of artillery & the lesser but more constant roll of musketry.” He reveled in the army’s triumph and boasted about McClellan’s mighty army having been driven back and expressed his hope that the Confederate army would soon try “the game of invasion ourselves.”[7] Sure enough, Robert E. Lee did, indeed, turn his attention north and toward another Union army that had been organized and placed under the command of General John Pope. Seeking to destroy Pope before his force could link with up McClellan’s, Lee ordered Stonewall Jackson’s men north and it would not be long before Lt. Col. Jackson and the rookie soldiers of the 47th Alabama found themselves in the middle of their first fight.

It was at a place called Cedar Mountain where they experienced the shock and carnage of battle for the first time. Just prior to the battle, Colonel Oliver had taken ill and command of the regiment suddenly devolved upon young Jackson. Although new to command and new to battle, Jackson and the men of the 47th put up a commendable effort. They were ultimately driven back, however, and routed from the field but not before losing 12 men killed and 76 wounded. James Jackson was swept up in the retreat. Still suffering from poor health, the young lieutenant colonel was on the verge of collapse yet, the very next day, Jackson found himself formally elevated to regimental command upon the resignation of Colonel Oliver. Now officially as its commander, Jackson would lead the 47th Alabama again at 2nd Manassas where it was also heavily engaged. It was there, at 2nd Manassas, where brigade commander William Taliaferro fell seriously wounded and his place was soon taken by Colonel Edward T.H. Warren of the 10th Virginia Infantry.[8]

After his smashing victory over Pope at 2nd Manassas, Lee continued driving north, and as James Jackson wished, pursued the “game of invasion” by leading his Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River and into Maryland. In the days ahead, the 47th Alabama crisscrossed the lush agricultural countryside, marched up and over South Mountain, re-crossed the Potomac River near Williamsport, and helped force the evacuation of a small Union garrison at Martinsburg, Virginia, before continuing south toward Harpers Ferry. Left behind at Martinsburg was the 10th Virginia along with its commander, Colonel Warren. With Taliaferro’s wounding and Warren’s detachment, the brigade would now be led by its next senior commander, who happened to be Colonel James W. Jackson of the 47th Alabama. It had been less than a month since he first assumed regimental command but such was the high rate of attrition among the other regimental commanders that Jackson nonetheless found himself in brigade command. In the days ahead, Jackson would lead Taliaferro’s highly-thinned brigade during the siege of Harpers Ferry and especially into the hell that was Antietam.

When dawn broke on that fateful September 17, 1862, Colonel James W. Jackson’s brigade was positioned just to the west of the Hagerstown Turnpike and a few hundred yards north of the humble meetinghouse of the local Baptist Brethren congregation, whom outsiders referred to as Dunkers. To their immediate rear and rising to their left were the trees of the West Woods. Starke’s Louisiana troops stood directly to their left while several hundred yards to their front were the soldiers of the famed Stonewall Brigade, commanded that day by Colonel Andrew Jackson Grigsby. In all, Colonel J.W. Jackson went into battle that day with four heavily depleted regiments—the 23rd & 37 Virginia and the 47th & 48th Alabama—whose total, combined strength did not exceed 500 men.

The heavy sounds of artillery pierced the eerie early morning silence. Soon a cacophony of noise erupted across the fog-draped battlefield: the sharp crack of musketry mingling with the pitiful cries of the wounded and piercing rebel yell.  Thousands of soldiers in blue advanced through the fog like dark silhouettes, bearing down upon the thinly-held Confederate lines. In front of Jackson’s position, the soldiers of the Stonewall Brigade struggled mightily against the great strength of the hard-fighting Iron Brigade, which was advancing down both sides of the Hagerstown Pike. After a short, sharp contest, Grigsby’s line crumbled and the men broke to the rear in the face of greater numbers. In that second line, however, General William Starke was determined to drive the Yankees back. Once the retreating Virginians had cleared his front, Starke ordered a counter-attack. With a yell, his Louisianans charged out of the woodlot. They were soon followed by Colonel Jackson’s men. Amid a heavy fire, the soldiers of both units turned to their right, toward the post-and-rail fence lining the Hagerstown Pike.  Early in the counter-charge, Starke had been gunned down, shot several times and mortally wounded. This left young Colonel Jackson in overall command of this rather forlorn assault. Writing to his wife just a few days after the slaughter, Jackson recorded that his men advanced “under a heavy shower of grape shot, bombshells, and musket balls,” while Captain R.J. Jennings of the 23rd Virginia wrote that the Federals “just mowed us down.”[9]

Confederate Dead Along Hagerstown Pike at Antietam Gardner Image LOC

Confederate Dead Along the Hagerstown Pike at Antietam. (LOC)

As soon as Jackson’s men reached the fence lining the western side of the Turnpike “they all fell down & began firing.”  Only a few yards away—indeed, from behind the fence that lined the eastern side of the Hagerstown Pike—stood Wisconsin soldiers of the Iron Brigade, distinctive in their black hats. As his casualties rapidly mounted, Jackson made every effort to get his men to charge over the fence but, as he wrote, “the fire was so destructive that they would not rise.”  In the midst of this tempest of shot and shell, Jackson found himself in a dire situation. “I found I was the only man standing for a Quarter of a mile,” he wrote, “all the [soldiers of the] Brigade being in a recumbent position & although they loaded and fired; yet they did not do the exicution they would have done if they had charged up to the barrells of the enemy.”  Taking fire from the front, from their flank, and even from the rear, Starke’s Louisianans and Jackson’s Alabamans and Virginians fell back. Just moments before the retreat commenced, however, a bullet tore into Colonel Jackson’s right arm, with “the ball penetrating to the bone.”  Jackson “hobbled off the field” and attempted to rally as many of his men as possible but the wound would force him to relinquish command. Of the 500 or so men Jackson led into the fight that morning, 173 became casualties, a 35% loss. Casualties in Jackson’s 47th Alabama were so high that the following morning, only 17 soldiers answered the roll call. [10]

James W. Jackson described Antietam as “the hardest fight I was ever in & it seems allmost miracelous that I escaped.” He further reflected that combat “is a terrable thing and it takes nerves of iron to stand the battles we are having in this country.”[11] As he had twice proven, Jackson certainly possessed those “nerves of iron” to stand up to battle, but his body was simply failing him and his poor health would only continue to worsen after the wound he received to his right arm at Antietam. Afterwards, the ailing Colonel took a leave of absence and made the long journey back home to his wife and daughter in Lafayette, Alabama. He would remain there for the next several months but with the return of spring in 1863, Jackson longed to return again to service and to his regiment. Believing himself sufficiently recuperated, the indomitable Jackson, for the third time in the past two years, once again left his home and family behind and headed off to war. Upon his departure this time, however, Jennie Jackson, along with young Tallulah, bade farewell to their home in Lafayette and made their way to Greenville, Georgia, where, for the time being at least, they would reside with James’s parents. Most likely Jennie made this move because by this time she was pregnant with the couple’s second child.

When Colonel Jackson arrived back in the camps of the 47th Alabama he discovered that much had changed. The regiment had been transferred from Stonewall Jackson’s command to General James Longstreet’s First Corps, and placed specifically in Evander Law’s all-Alabama brigade, of General John Bell Hood’s Division. Following a partially successful campaign near Suffolk, Virginia, Longstreet and his men returned to Lee’s Army in early May though not in time to participate in the Battle of Chancellorsville, a battle that many today consider Robert E. Lee’s greatest victory. For Lee, however, this brilliant victory had cost him 13,000 of his best soldiers—nearly 20% of his army—including his chief lieutenant, Stonewall Jackson who had been gunned down and mortally wounded. Worse, the army had little to show for its success. It had not achieved any long-lasting gains—not a single foot of ground—while the Union army was simply forced back to its former positions. Longstreet later wrote that victories such as Chancellorsville were “fruitless” and were “consuming” the army.[12] Thus, in the aftermath of Chancellorsville and even as the remains of Stonewall Jackson were being lowered in the ground, Robert E. Lee set out to achieve more. With the clock ticking ever louder against the Confederacy, Lee planned to once more take his army north and seek out a smashing victory on Union soil.

The result, of course, was the Gettysburg Campaign.

Lee’s army began marching away from its campsites near Fredericksburg, Virginia, in early June 1863. At first, the men headed west toward Culpeper but then they turned to the right, and marched north, down the Shenandoah Valley, toward the Potomac River and the Mason-Dixon Line beyond. Colonel James Jackson led the 47th Alabama as it marched north with Longstreet’s columns. On June 24, the head of Longstreet’s corps reached the Potomac. Covering more than 100 miles on foot in just three weeks, the march north was a grueling one, especially in the early summer heat and along the dust-covered roadways. Hundreds of men in butternut and gray—as well as hundreds of others in blue—fell out, collapsing from exhaustion or from heat stroke. The march north must have also been a particularly exhausting one for Colonel James Jackson. Despite his strong desire to remain in the army—fighting for his cause and for his country—he simply was not physically capable. Though he possessed an unconquerable and determined spirit, the young, sickly officer finally recognized his physical condition and on June 23, 1863, he submitted his resignation.[13]  Unfortunately for him, however, his resignation would not be approved and accepted until the second week of July and after the armies had come to blows at Gettysburg.

Colonel James Jackson and the soldiers of the 47th arrived near Gettysburg sometime around noon on July 2. There were few soldiers, in either army, who were more thoroughly exhausted upon their arrival at Gettysburg than these Alabama soldiers. On July 1, when the advance elements of both armies collided west and north of Gettysburg, the 47th, along with the rest of Evander Law’s brigade, was nearly thirty miles away, on the western side of South Mountain, though they could still hear the muffled sounds of battle emanating from the other side of the mountain. They bedded down that Wednesday night at a small hamlet known as New Guilford with instructions to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. Their orders arrived early the next morning and by 4:00 a.m., they were on their way. Marching east from New Guilford, Law’s men marched up and over South Mountain and covered more than twenty miles even before arriving at Gettysburg.[14] Their legs were sore and aching, their canteens had long since been emptied, and all the Alabamians looked forward to was just a little break—a quick breather—but it was simply not to be, for when they arrived and rejoined the other brigades of Hood’s Division just to the west of Gettysburg, General Longstreet set all his men in motion, moving them south in order to carry out Lee’s planned assault for the day.

Lee’s plan for that Thursday, July 2, called for Longstreet to launch the major attack upon the Union left flank while at the same time Richard Ewell was to commence a demonstration against the Union right, to be converted into a general assault should the opportunity present itself. It is well known that Longstreet did not like the plan. Indeed, he did not much like the prospect of attacking at all at Gettysburg. Several times he tried to talk Lee out of it, seeking instead to persuade the army commander to shift the army further to the south and east in effort to draw the Union army out of its strong defensive position and force Meade into attacking them. Yet Lee insisted and Longstreet ultimately complied. So, despite his protestations, when Law’s exhausted and parched Alabamians arrived sometime just before noon, Longstreet began shifting his men south, to their designated jumping-off point: a point just to the west of a large peach orchard—a point that Lee believed would be opposite the Union left flank. What Longstreet discovered, however, upon his arrival there, was that the Union army was simply not holding the position Lee had thought.

Instead of his men being opposite the Union flank, Longstreet’s leading division—under Lafayette McLaws—found itself directly across from a heavy line of blue-coated soldiers in and among the peach trees, just five hundred or so yards away. Worse, the Union battle lines also extended north along the Emmitsburg Road and further to the south and east, stretching off toward the Round Tops. It was immediately apparent that Lee’s entire plan of attack was based on poor intelligence and a poor understanding of the Union position. Longstreet was now forced to change his plan of attack. It was originally intended for McLaws to kick off the assault but now it would be left to John Bell Hood. As directed, Hood, the hard-fighting Kentuckian, led his men further to the south and lined them up to the right of McLaws’s Division.  Going into position on the far right of Hood’s first line—and thus on the extreme right flank of the entire Confederate army—were the thirsty and fatigued soldiers of Law’s Alabama brigade. To their front, rising up roughly one mile to the east were two hilltops, which history would soon label as Big and Little Round Top. Closer still, and just in front of Little Round Top, was a bizarre, jumbled collection of tremendous rocks and boulders known as Devil’s Den. Atop these rocks and all along the ridgeline that stretched to the far left-front of Law’s men were soldiers in blue backed up by artillery.

It was nearing 4:00 p.m., and though the fighting that second day at Gettysburg had yet to begin, Law’s Alabama soldiers had already been awake and on their feet for well over twelve hours that day and already they had marched nearly 25 miles. Sweaty, overheated, and breathing deep, Law’s men formed with the 4th Alabama on the left of the brigade line, followed to their right by Colonel Jackson and 47thAlabama and then the 15th, 44th, and 48th Alabama Infantries. The ground to their immediate front was rolling, uneven, and broken up by a series of fences while in the distance loomed those rocky hilltops. It would be difficult ground to advance across and few, if any, of the soldiers relished the prospect of attacking the Union troops in such a strong, naturally defensive position.   Hood repeatedly urged against it while General Law formally protested the orders to attack. Like Longstreet had done earlier, Hood and Law now argued to shift even further to the south and work their way around the Union left and behind the Round Tops instead of attacking them head on. But there would be no relenting on Lee’s part; only a few hours of daylight remained, tempers had already flared. . .there would be no talking Lee out of it. The orders would stand and the attack would go forward as directed.

Longstreet’s grand assault kicked off sometime just after 4:00 p.m. when Evander Law’s Alabama soldiers stepped forward from the trees lining the southern extension of Warfield Ridge and across that rolling, broken ground. To their left the Texans and Arkansans of Jerome Robertson’s brigade swept forward, while to their rear, two brigades of Georgia soldiers—under Generals Henry Benning and George “Tige” Anderson—prepared to move out in support. Immediately all these men came under heavy artillery fire from the Union guns posted atop Devil’s Den and from those posted further to the north in and around the Peach Orchard. The terrain further disrupted formations. General Hood, the divisional commander who objected to the attack, was soon seen being carried from the field, having suffered a severe wound that would leave his left arm paralyzed for the rest of his life. Command and control of his division began to fall apart even as his four brigades pressed onward. At one point during the advance, Evander Law halted the two regiments on the far right of his line—the 44th and 48th Alabama—and directed them to move in a northerly fashion, behind the other regiments of his brigade, and toward the Union guns that had been raining shot and shell upon them from Devil’s Den. These two regiments soon became entangled with the regiments of Robertson’s Brigade in their own struggle against the Union soldiers atop the boulder-strewn ground.


The Confederate assault on Little Round Top, as painted by Edwin Forbes. (LOC)

When these two regiments redirected their advance to the north, it left the 47th and 15th Alabama now constituting the far right of Law’s line. They, too, had suffered fire from the artillery fire but they pressed on ahead, driving toward the tree-covered western slopes of Big Round Top. They were especially pestered in their advance by the green-clad soldiers of the 2nd United States Sharpshooters who were well-positioned behind the numerous stone walls and fences that crisscrossed the ground. The Sharpshooters fell back slowly—steadily—in the face of the oncoming Alabamians, who pursued them every step of the way. . .and all the way up the steep western slope of Big Round Top. In their exhausted, worn-out condition, the 650 or so soldiers of the 15th and 47th Alabama nevertheless climbed and crawled and panted their way to the very summit. But again there would be no rest for these weary men; orders soon arrived for the 15th and 47th to sweep down the northern side of the mountain then attack up Little Round Top, where, just minutes earlier, Union soldiers from Colonel Strong Vincent’s brigade had arrived and taken up position. So, down the hillside the Alabama men went, all the while they could hear the steady sounds of combat raging to their left and to their front as the fighting at Devil’s Den reached a fever pitch and as the soldiers of the 4th Alabama and 4th and 5th Texas attacked the right of Vincent’s line on Little Round Top. Then—suddenly—a crash of musketry broke out directly to their front as the soldiers of the 83rd Pennsylvania and 20th Maine rudely welcomed these Alabamians to the brawl. Several times the Alabama soldiers surged up the southern slope of Little Round Top but all to no avail. The contest would rage until just after 6:00 p.m. when, alone and unsupported, the soldiers of the 15th and 47th Alabama fell back, being hurried along the way by the bayonet-wielding, charging soldiers of the 20th Maine Infantry.  It had been an especially rough, trying day for these Alabama soldiers and their losses were heavy.

Several days after the bloodshed and while the army was in the midst of its retreat from Gettysburg, Colonel James W. Jackson penned a lengthy and insightful letter to his wife Jennie describing the battle action and recording his thoughts about Lee’s decision to attack on July 2:

Camp Near Hagerstown

My Dear Wife

Providence had been kind enough to take me once more through the dangers of a battlefield. I am now with the army at Hagerstown seven miles from the Potomac. We have had one of the bloodiest battles of war without a favorable result for us. We met the enemy near Gadesburg [Gettysburg] Pennsylvania. [H]e had intrenched himself on a mountain ridge & extended his line about seven miles. General Lee, contrary to the opinion of every one, attacked him in his strong position. I will give you an idea of the part of the field I fought on & you can get an idea of the whole for our part was a sample of the whole. It was about three o’clock in the evening of the second of July that we approached the mountain. I saw at once that the position was a very strong one & concluded the enemy would have to leave his position before he could get a fight out of us. But contrary to my expectations & the advice of his Generals, as I am told, Gen. Lee ordered us to advance. The distance we had to charge was at least a mile & a half without a shrub to protect us in our advance. I drew the men in line & ordered them to advance. It would have done you good to see the brave fellows answer the order with a shout & clash of bayonets. The charge begun; my Regiment had the line at the distance of fifty to a hundred yards. The enemy seeing the determination of my men began to throw grape canister & shell into us thick as you ever saw hail stones. But it would all do no good; the men would advance. The Regiments continued to advance, though not all at the same rate. For before half the distance was cleared my Regiment was in advance of the line. . .at least a hundred & fifty yards. My men being very much fatigued we halted for a moment behind a stone fence [which was] the only covering from the place we had started to the foot of the mountain. I gave them only a moment to rest & gave the order to advance. Then the slaughter commenced in earnest[;] we were in good range of their sharp shooters; but we could get no crack at them; from the fact that they were entrenched behind stone fences. We got in about a hundred yards of the first line when the men gave a shout & charged it at double-quick. The Yanks waited until we come in forty or fifty paces & gave way and fled. We pursued & they fled, making a stand behind any rock on the mountain which were as thick as they could be. We followed them to the very top which was the distance of one mile to the foot. By the time we reached the top we had but half our men. When the [Union] army arrived on the [Little Round] top, they made a stand; we reformed our line to charge them. We approached in a five paces of it & found it almost perpendicular with a breast work of rock at the top that reached to the shoulders of the enemy behind it. We were ordered to take it & our gallant boys walked up to the very top, but as fast as they did so they were sacrificed. Our men had marched that day a distance of thirty miles & were completely exhausted before they began this charge & they fainted on the field by hundreds. We made four efforts to take the top but failed. We then fell back about three hundred yards & then up a breast work of rock. . . .We lost a great many in killed & wounded. . . .”[15]

Toward the end of the letter, Colonel Jackson also informed his wife, bluntly and quite succinctly, that he had resigned and that he would “come home as soon as I can get off.”[16] It will be recalled that Jackson had tendered his resignation almost two weeks earlier—on June 23—though it was not until after the Battle of Gettysburg before it was accepted. As we shall see next week, for Colonel Jackson and especially for his legacy, this was to be most unfortunate.

John Hoptak, Park Ranger

[1] Gary Laine and Morris Penny, Law’s Alabama Brigade in the War Between the Union and Confederacy. [Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: White Mane Publishing, 1996]: 131-132.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Biographical Information found in 47th Alabama Regimental Unit File in the Collections at the Antietam National Battlefield Library; 1860 U.S. Census, Chambers County, Alabama, population schedule for LaFayette, Alabama, p. 2, Dwelling 7, Family 7.

[4] Letter, James W. Jackson to Jennie Jackson, July 10, 1861, from Pensacola, Courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

[5] Robert K. Krick, Lee’s Colonels [Morningside Bookshop, 1992]: 189.

[6] Laine and Penny, Law’s Alabama Brigade, 28-29.

[7] Letter, James W. Jackson to Jennie Jackson and Family, July 6, 1862, from Near Richmond, Courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

[8] Penny and Laine, Law’s Alabama Brigade, 32.

[9] Letter, James W. Jackson to Jennie Jackson, September 21, 1862, from “On the Potomac River,” in the 47th Alabama Regimental Unit File in the Collections of the Antietam National Battlefield Library; R.J. Jennings to Ezra Carman, 12/15/1897, in Carman Files, Antietam Battlefield Library.

[10] James W. Jackson to wife, 9/21/1862; Laine and Penny, 32-40.

[11] James W. Jackson to wife, 9/21/1862.

[12] James Longstreet quoted in Stephen Sears, Gettysburg [New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 2003]: 6.

[13] Morris M. Penny and J. Gary Laine, Struggle for the Round Tops: Law’s Alabama Brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg. [Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: White Mane Publishing, 2007]: 164.

[14] Gary P. Bruner, “Up and Over Big Round Top: The Forgotten 47th Alabama,” Gettysburg Magazine, No. 22 (January 2000): 9-10.

[15] Letter, James W. Jackson to Jennie Jackson, July 7, 1863, from “Near Hagerstown,” Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

[16] Ibid.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Neinstedt 1 Fire at Gettysburg

The fence that runs between the Neinstedt feild on the left and the Wiekert orchard on the right, looking north with the Pennsylvania Memorial in the background.

A prescribed fire is planned for this area. The fence runs between the Neinstedt feild on the left and the Wiekert orchard on the right, looking north with the Pennsylvania Memorial in the background.

Final preparations are underway for the prescribed fire at Gettysburg National Military Park that will take place Tuesday, October 7, weather permitting. National Park Service (NPS) fire specialists will burn 30 acres northwest of the intersection of United States Avenue and Hancock Avenue, not far from the Pennsylvania Memorial.

The west side of the project area is a large field that was owned by Conrad and Henry Neinstedt and produced wheat in 1863. The east side was George Weikert’s pasture in 1863. During the battle of Gettysburg, hundreds of soldiers, as well as many horses and artillery pieces, trampled these agricultural lands.

Neinstedt 1 map GETT Prescribed Fire

A map of the prescribed burn area.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FIELDS: In the summer of 1863, the large field owned by Conrad and Henry Neinstedt that is today on the north side of United States Avenue was planted in wheat. It had grown tall and rich that summer. The Neinstedts lived in Gettysburg. Henry, who owned a thriving printing business, and Conrad, a laborer, used the parcel of land sandwiched between the Abraham Trostle and George Weikert farms to provide their families with wheat for flour, as well as a cash crop for sale to local residents. On the eastern border of the Neinstedt’s land was George Weikert’s orchard and pasture. This land was also in fine condition prior to the arrival of the two armies on what would be the battleground of Gettysburg. Union skirmishers deployed over the Neinstedt’s land overnight of July 1, and by the end of July 2, the Neinstedt’s wheat crop was gone; trampled near to dust by hundreds of soldiers as well as horses and artillery pieces rushing to the front. Near the center of the field, Battery I, 5th United States Artillery had made a desperate stand against the 21st Mississippi Infantry, only to be overrun and captured until Union reinforcements arrived to re-take the guns. This scene of intense fighting on July 2, 1863, has been preserved as farmland ever since. Its significance is partially overshadowed by events that took place nearby on July 3, 1863 – Pickett’s Charge.

the Battery I 5th U.S. Artillery monument in the Neinstedt field.

the Battery I 5th U.S. Artillery monument in the Neinstedt field.

Text on the Battery I, 5th US Artillery Monument (courtesy of the Stone Sentinels website)

Army of the Potomac
Fifth Corps
Artilery Brigade
Battery I
Fifth U.S. Artillery
Four 3 inch Rifles
Lieut. Malbone F. Watson commanding

July 2 About 4:30 p.m. arrived and took position north of Little Round Top 5:30 moved to the front at the Peach Orchard. On the advance of the Confederates driving back the infantry the Battery was retired across Plum Run near the Trostle House and fired shell and canister at the approaching Confederates until the Battery disabled by the loss of men and horses was captured by the 21st Mississippi Infantry. It was almost immediately recaptured with the assistance of the 39th New York Infantry and being unserviceable was taken to the Artillery Brigade.

This rear view of the Battery I 5th US Artillery monument shows the marker for the position where the gun was retaken.

This rear view of the Battery I 5th U.S. Artillery monument shows the marker for the position where the gun was retaken. The Trostle barn is in the background.

Casualties: killed 1 man, wounded 1 officer and 18 men, missing 2 men

PROTECTING CULTURAL RESOURCES: The areas around the monument (Battery I, 5th US Artillery), as well as the monuments, artillery, and earthworks along Hancock Avenue, the fence line in the center of the project area, the orchard and the perimeter of the prescribed fire will be mowed prior to ignition. The mowed areas will be wetted with water. Additionally there will be a sprinkler line in place along the perimeter to keep the surrounding fields damp. Wind conditions and soil and vegetation moisture levels will dictate the exact time of ignition. If winds are too high or surrounding conditions are too dry the prescribed fire would be canceled and rescheduled for more favorable conditions.

The Neinstedt field with the 5th U.S. Artillery monument

Looking northwest from United States Avenue toward the Neinstedt field with the 5th U.S. Artillery monument in the center background.

Based on the park’s Fire Management Plan/Environmental Assessment published in July 2014, we are continuing to use prescribed fire as a viable management technique to help maintain historically open fields of the Gettysburg battlefield landscapes, an important goal of the park’s General Management Plan.

The date of the prescribed fire is dependent on conditions being within required weather parameters such as wind, temperature, and relative humidity; an alternative day may have to be selected. The prescribed fire will be conducted from approximately noon through the afternoon, followed by patrol and monitoring to ensure the fire is completely out. The park will issue a follow-up news release if an alternate date is selected.

The perimeter of the prescribed fire will be mowed prior to ignition. The mowed area will be wetted with water. Additionally there will be a sprinkler line in place along the perimeter to thoroughly wet down the control lines as needed before the fire. NPS staff will monitor air quality and smoke impacts as well as visibility on nearby roads. Short-term closures of Hancock Avenue or United States Avenue may be necessary to ensure visitor and firefighter safety.

Last October, the National Park Service conducted the first prescribed fire ever at Gettysburg NMP,  , burning 13 acres of fields on the historic Snyder farm, in the southern portion of the battlefield. Use of prescribed fires reduces herbicide use and impacts in the park.

HOW DO PRESCRIBED FIRES DIFFER IN HISTORIC AREAS VERSUS NATURAL AREAS? In a natural area fire efforts may try to replicate natural fire cycles rather than accomplish a vegetative management goal. In a historic area like Gettysburg, potential archeological artifacts and features like fences and stones walls must be protected. We’ll be protecting and monitoring these features during the project.


Grasses and woody vegetation where the prescribed fire is planned at Gettysburg.

OVERALL OBJECTIVES: The overall objectives are to maintain the conditions of the battlefield as experienced by the soldiers who fought here; perpetuate the open space character of the landscape; maintain wildlife habitat, control invasive exotic species; and reduce shrub and woody species components. By choosing a time just before shrub and woody species move into winter dormancy, the effects of the fire reduces the plants’ energy reserves and diminishes vigor and growth potential for the following spring.

FUNDING: The project is funded by the National Park Service Wildland Fire Management Program. Personnel from the PA Bureau of Forestry are planning to assist in the prescribed fire implementation.

By Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, 10/2/14

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

Another Piece of the Puzzle on Cemetery Ridge

Moving the Battery F 5th US Artillery marker at Gettysburg National Military Park

Moving the Battery F 5th US Artillery marker at Gettysburg National Military Park

Yesterday, another piece of the puzzle was locked into place on Gettysburg’s Cemetery Ridge when National Park Service (NPS) staff moved the Battery F 5th U.S. Artillery monument back to the spot where it had originally been placed more than 100 years ago. In the early 1960s when Gettysburg National Military Park was preparing to build the Cyclorama building, the monument was moved. The spot where it had existed for more than fifty years would soon be covered in concrete.

About the monument: The monument represents the 116 men of Battery F, 5th United States Artillery who were led at Gettysburg by First Lieutenant Leonard Martin, a twenty-two year old West Point graduate. They brought six ten-pounder Parrott rifles to the battlefield and belonged to Col. Charles Thompson’s artillery brigade of the 6th Army Corps. On July 3rd,


following the repulse of Pickett’s Charge and the two-hour artillery bombardment that preceded it, the battery was ordered to limber up and report to the front. Around 4:00 p.m. the battery occupied a position in Ziegler’s Grove on the northern extension of Cemetery Ridge. They remained here as a reserve for the rest of the battle, not engaged and suffering no casualties. 10686766_10152722836952432_5278857524911311385_nBeginning in 1907 the United States War Department began marking the position of regiments and batteries belonging to the regular army. The granite marker indicating the position of Battery F, 5th US Artillery was placed during this time and is the battery’s only representation on the field.

One of the original goals of the park’s Museum and Visitor Center, which opened in 2008, was to return the center of the Union battle line on Cemetery Ridge to its appearance at the time of the fighting and to restore, preserve and protect historic and commemorative features where the two outdated buildings and their parking lots once stood. The other goals were to: take better care of the artifacts and archival collections of the park; ensure the long term preservation of the Cyclorama painting which was threatened by the conditions in which it had been displayed; and improve the museum experience for park visitors.

Demolition of the old Visitor Center in 2009.  NPS photo by Barb Adams.

Demolition of the old Visitor Center in 2009. NPS photo by Barb Adams.

Thanks to our partners at the Gettysburg Foundation we have continued to make steady progress. They have raised funds for and accomplished: the demolition of the old visitor center in 2009; the planting 41 apple trees to reestablish the Frey orchard (North) in 2010; and the demolition of the Cyclorama building in 2013, and the removal of the old Visitor Center parking lot in 2014.

Each one of these steps has helped to

Cyclorama building demolition in 2013.

Cyclorama building demolition in 2013.

reconnect the historic landscapes of the battlefield. By removing modern intrusions on NPS lands along the battle line of the Union army we have helped to reconnect the famous Union fishhook. As a result, we have improved the integrity of the battlefield landscapes and improved our visitors’ understanding of what happened at Gettysburg and why it’s so important. It doesn’t get more mission related than that for national parks… preserving the resources and improving public access and understanding.

There are a few more steps to come in this long project. The Gettysburg Foundation is now raising funds for changes to the National Cemetery parking lot which would allow the replanting of missing portions of Ziegler’s Grove, and rehabilitation of the historic terrain of Ziegler’s Ravine, a low point in Cemetery Ridge partly filled in to build the Cyclorama parking lot, which is now known as the National Cemetery parking lot.   This lot will be reduced in size to allow space to reestablish some of the missing terrain features as well as historic Hancock Avenue’s end at  Taneytown Road. In the meantime, in early 2015, volunteers and park staff will be rebuilding historic fences near the location of the old Visitor Center parking lot and along Steinwehr Avenue.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, September 25, 2014

Posted in Monuments at Gettysburg, Museum and Visitor Center | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Gettysburg in My Hometown: Lieut. Col. Taylor, 20th Indiana Infantry

The stories of the individuals involved in the battle of Gettysburg are profound. They are told and retold, written about again and again, and never cease to captivate audiences. Park visitors travel hundreds of miles, sometimes thousands, to be at Gettysburg so that they can stand and walk in the footsteps of those historical personalities. However, it is not always necessary to travel far to find a link to Gettysburg. Sometimes all you have to do is explore your own hometown.

Taylor Frockcoat

The frock coat of William Taylor. Image courtesy of the Tippecanoe County Historical Association.

Connections to the battle of Gettysburg and the people involved in that three day struggle may not be too far from where you are currently seated as you read this blog post. If you look close enough, you may find modern references to individuals who served at Gettysburg. Perhaps there is a school in your community named after a soldier who fought at Gettysburg, such as Strong Vincent High School in Erie, Pennsylvania, which is named in honor of Col. Strong Vincent, who fell mortally wounded on Little Round Top on July 2. Maybe your county is named for a soldier who fought at Gettysburg, such as Sedgwick County in Kansas, named in honor of Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick, who commanded the Union Sixth Corps during the battle. Or maybe there is a cemetery near your home that serves as the final resting place for those who gave their lives at Gettysburg, such as Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia, which was chosen as one of four locations to inter Confederate soldiers killed at Gettysburg. The list can go on and on. Today I would like to share a Gettysburg connection I made before I began working at Gettysburg National Military Park.

While a volunteer at the Tippecanoe County Historical Association located in Lafayette, Indiana, I was responsible for creating an exhibit of Civil War artifacts. Two of the artifacts I put on display were a Union officer’s frock coat and a carte-de-visite of the coat’s owner. Upon further examination, I discovered that the coat and CDV belonged to William Calvin Linton Taylor, a participant of the battle of Gettysburg. I was thrilled to find artifacts such as these – ones that belonged to a soldier who fought in one of the greatest battles of the American Civil War, and one that was possibly worn during that fight. There they were, right at my fingertips.

William C. L. Taylor was born in Lafayette, Indiana, on May 22, 1836, to John Taylor and Mary Ann Brown. John was a successful town merchant who “accumulated considerable property” before his death in 1865. Mary Ann was John’s second wife and passed away in 1847, when her son William was around 10 years old. John married a third time to a woman named Emma. By 1850 John and Emma were caring for eight children, Taylor being the second oldest.[1]

WCL Taylor

Image courtesy of the Tippecanoe County Historical Association.

William Taylor grew up along the banks of the Wabash River, not far from where the Battle of Tippecanoe was fought on November 7, 1811. He entered Indiana University at Bloomington, Indiana, when he was around 15 years old, and became a member of Phi Delta Theta in 1854. Taylor graduated with a Master of Arts in 1855, then studied law in the office of Orth & Stine in Lafayette and passed the bar the next year. From 1858 to 1859 Taylor was a common pleas prosecutor in Tippecanoe County.[2]

When the Civil War began Taylor, along with his older brother, Marshall, enlisted in the Union army. On July 21, 1861, the same day the Battle of Bull Run was being fought hundreds of miles away in Virginia, Taylor entered Company G, 20th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment as a private. The very next day he was commissioned a first lieutenant in that company. The regiment was mustered into Federal service on July 22, and then ordered to Cockeysville, Maryland, to guard the Northern Central Railroad. Marshall Taylor became captain of Company H, 10th Indiana Infantry, and saw service in the Western Theater of war.[3]

The 20th Indiana was ordered from Maryland to North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras in September, 1861, where it experienced hardships relating to military routine and coastal life. Taylor and the 20th Indiana went on to serve at various locations along the eastern seaboard until it was assigned to the Union Army of the Potomac on June 8, 1862, which was then confronting Confederate forces on the Virginia Peninsula. Taylor was promoted captain of Company G, his commission dating to November 20, 1861. He received another promotion on February 12, 1863 to serve as the 20th Indiana’s major, and was then commissioned lieutenant colonel on June 6, 1863.[4]

These Hoosiers served with the Army of the Potomac until October 18, 1864 when it and the 19th Indiana Infantry were consolidated and continued service as the 20th Indiana until July, 12, 1865. The 20th Indiana saw some of the worst the Civil War had to offer. The original enlistees and commissioned officers of the regiment participated in engagements on the Peninsula, at Second Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Overland Campaign, and the Siege of Petersburg.[5]

During the Gettysburg Campaign, the 20th Indiana was commanded by Col. John Wheeler and assigned to Brig. Gen. J. H. Hobart Ward’s Second Brigade, Maj. Gen. David B. Birney’s First Division, of Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles’ Third Corps. When Sickles made his fateful decision on July 2 to advance his corps west of the Union army, Wheeler and his approximately 400 men took up a position on Houck’s Ridge in George Rose’s Woods. Taylor, as lieutenant colonel, would have taken his position behind the left or right wing of the 20th Indiana so that he could lead and control that section of the regimental battle line.[6]


The regimental monument to the 20th Indiana Volunteers.

Col. Wheeler and Lieut. Col. Taylor were both mounted, which was unusual for a number of reasons. First, though majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels were authorized to have mounts, an officer’s movements would be obstructed while moving around on horseback through a wooded grove. Secondly, these officers had proven their bravery and skill on previous battlefields. They must have known the unnecessary risk they were taking by riding during the fight. Why not secure the horses to a tree or send them to the rear? We may never know. Wheeler and Taylor must have been inspiring to see as the shouts of men and the sporadic but ever increasing small-arms firing grew louder and louder along their front.

The approaching danger to the 20th Indiana’s front could not be mistaken. Union skirmishers were driven back by over 450 Confederate soldiers belonging to Col. Van H. Manning’s 3rd Arkansas Infantry and Lieut. Col. Phillip A. Work’s 1st Texas Infantry, approximately 420 strong. These regiments belonged to Brig. Gen. Jerome B. Robertson’s Brigade of Maj. Gen. John B. Hood’s Division, Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet’s First Corps.[7]

The moments leading up to the encounter between the Arkansans, Texans, and Indianans would have been tense. The Arkansans and Texans would have experienced some difficulty advancing through Rose Woods while maintaining their formation. Further disrupting their organization would have been the sporadic  fire from the Union skirmish line, which would have caused gaps to open in the 3rd Arkansas and 1st Texas, prompting Confederate officers to encourage their men to step up and guide on their flags. The Hoosiers would have been waiting as the woods before them came alive with the shouts and cheers of human voices. Lieut. Col. Taylor would have been seen riding up and down a portion of the 20th Indiana’s line, encouraging his men to stand firm. The sulphuric smell from the black powder would have infiltrated the noses of the combatants, sweat would have stung their eyes, and their mouths would have turned dry from their growing anxiety. At about 4:00 p.m.the terrible clash came.


Rose Woods, Gettysburg National Military Park, looking towards the position held by the 20th Indiana.

The 20th Indiana fought with the 99th Pennsylvania Infantry on its right and the 86th New York Infantry on its left. Gen. Ward ordered his right regiments “not to fire until they could plainly see the enemy” in their front. When the Confederates arrived at the proper distance, the Union line began its destructive work. Ward wrote that the first volley fired by his men “checked the enemy’s advance suddenly, which gave our men an opportunity to reload, when another volley was fired into them.” The intensity of the firepower surprised the Confederates and forced them into “much disorder,” thereby allowing the 99th, 20th, and 86th regiments to advance to what Lieut. Col. Taylor referred to as a “brow of a small hill,” about 75 yards in their front. This was only the beginning of a see-saw motion by the Northerners and Southerners for control over the disputed ground.[8]

The new line taken up by the 99th, 20th and 86th regiments was difficult to hold, especially after the 99th Pennsylvania was withdrawn from its position and sent to the brigade’s left flank at Devil’s Den. In order to address this new danger on the 20th Indiana’s right, two companies – B and H – both under the command of Capt. Charles A. Bell, were deployed to secure the gap. Bell’s line was able to shoot into the left flank of the 3rd Arkansas and cause even more chaos, but the two lines held firm as the men loaded and fired as quickly as they could. Confusion prevailed as the contending forces fired into the other’s lines, and men fell either killed or wounded, including Col. Manning, who fell wounded, and Col. Wheeler, who was struck in the head and killed instantly. Wheeler’s death placed Lieut. Col. Taylor in command of the regiment.[9]


The Wheeler Rock. Image courtesy of the Adams County Historical Society.


The Wheeler Rock in 2014.

The desperate struggle in Rose’s Woods was destroying both the 3rd Arkansas and 20th Indiana. Lieut. Col. Taylor continued leading his men and cooperating with the 86th New York to his left and the 17th Maine Infantry, which had gone into position on Taylor’s right. Taylor was near the men of Company I when he met the usual fate of officers who ride on horseback into a battle. Taylor, leaning over in his saddle and in pain, approached the captain of Company I, Erasmus C. Gilbreath, and called out, “Gil, you will have to take charge of the line as I am wounded.” Taylor, after an incalculable amount of time leading the 20th Indiana at Gettysburg, was now out of the fight. The command of this regiment, as with all regiments, was typically reserved for those with a rank of colonel. Due to gradual attrition in camp, on the march, and in battle, however, command now fell to a captain. Taylor exited the battle as the fight continued on, but did receive some recognition for his performance in the fight from his superior, Gen. Ward.[10]

The nature of Lieut. Col. Taylor’s wound is not known, but it must not have been critical for Taylor returned to his regiment and led it for the duration of the Gettysburg Campaign. The beating that the 20th Indiana received on July 2 on Houck’s Ridge was severe. The regiment suffered 152 casualties, of which 32 were killed outright. Capt. Gilbreath recalled that it was a “sorrowful little band” after their participation in the battle.[11]

William Taylor was promoted colonel of the 20th Indiana on July 3, 1863, and continued in that capacity until he was mustered out on October 5, 1864. He had risked his life to defend his nation, survived, and would have to carry the physical and psychological scars as he prepared to make the great transition back into civilian life.[12]

Col. Taylor returned to Indiana and began working as an attorney once more. By 1870 Taylor was married to Elizabeth “Lizzie” McPheeters, and the two had a three year old girl named Mary. In 1874 Taylor moved his family to Bloomington where he served as a city attorney. He and Lizzie had a second child in 1878, whom they named Joseph, and in 1881 resettled in Taylor’s hometown, Lafayette, where he would serve one term as a judge in the Tippecanoe Circuit Court. Taylor passed away on February 18, 1901, at the age of 64, and was buried in Greenbush Cemetery in Lafayette, Indiana.[13]

Encountering a carte-de-viste of William C. L. Taylor and his officer’s frock coat at my local historical society came as a great surprise. Placing these artifacts on exhibit for the community to see helped preserve Taylor’s memory, and to tell of his involvement in numerous battles and skirmishes, including the battle of Gettysburg. Though I was 600 miles from the battlefield, these artifacts made me feel connected to that hallowed ground.

What Gettysburg connections can you find in your hometown? Please share your photos on the park’s Tumblr page at

Casimer Rosiecki, Park Ranger

* Gettysburg National Military Park would like to thank the staff at the Adams County Historical Society and Tippecanoe County Historical Association for their photographic assistance in this post.

[1] Biographical Record and Portrait Album of Tippecanoe County, Indiana (Chicago, IL: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1883), 452-454. Accessed August 16, 2014; 1860 United States Federal Census, Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, IN; family 1367, dwelling 1360, lines 1-16; June 23, 1860; National Archives Microfilm M-653, Roll 300; Accessed via on August 16, 2014.
[2] Biographical Record and Portrait Album of Tippecanoe County, Indiana (Chicago, IL: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1883), 452-454. Accessed August 16, 2014; 1850 United States Federal Census, 5th Ward, Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, IN; family 1361, dwelling 1361, lines 33-42/1-4; September 24, 1850; National Archives Microfilm M-432, Roll 175; Accessed via on August 16, 2014; Walter B. Palmer, The History of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity (Menasha, WI: Phi Delta Theta, 1906), 157. Accessed August 16, 2014; Richard P. DeHart, Past and Present of Tippecanoe County, Indiana (Indianapolis, IN: B. F. Bowen & Company, 1909), 165. Accessed August 21, 2014.
[3] William H. H. Terrell, Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana, Volume 2 (Indianapolis, IN: W. R. Holloway, 1865), 178-193. Accessed August 16, 2014; Ibid, 67-74. Accessed August 16, 2014.
[4] William H. H. Terrell, Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana, Volume 2 (Indianapolis, IN: W. R. Holloway, 1865), 178-193. Accessed August 16, 2014.
[5] William H. H. Terrell, Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana, Volume 2 (Indianapolis, IN: W. R. Holloway, 1865), 178-193. Accessed August 16, 2014.
[6] John W. Busey and David G. Martin, Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg (Hightstown, NJ: Longstreet House, 1986), 245.
[7] John W. Busey and David G. Martin, Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg (Hightstown, NJ: Longstreet House, 1986), 280.
[8] The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1889), Series 1, Volume 27, Part 1, 493; Ibid, 506.
[9] The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1889), Series 1, Volume 27, Part 1, 506.
[10] Recollections of Captain Erasmus C. Gilbreath, Drawer 2-2, Folder 6IN-20, GNMP Library; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1889), Series 1, Volume 27, Part 1, 494.
[11] John W. Busey and David G. Martin, Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg (Hightstown, NJ: Longstreet House, 1986), 245; Recollections of Captain Erasmus C. Gilbreath, Drawer 2-2, Folder 6IN-20, GNMP Library.
[12] Bloomington Daily Telephone (Bloomington, IN), No date. Bloomington History – “Looking Back on Old Bloomington,” Folder 2, Monroe County (Indiana) Historical Society, A post-war newspaper article states that Taylor was “wounded several times” during the war and was wounded “seriously at Gettysburg and at the Battle of the Po.”
[13] 1870 United States Federal Census, 4th Ward, Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, IN; p. 60, family 58, dwelling 57, lines 1-4; June 20-26, 1870; National Archives  Microfilm M-593, Roll 362; Accessed via on August 16, 2014; 1880 United States Federal Census, Bloomington, Monroe County, IN; pp. 26-27, family 275, dwelling 241, lines 48-50/1-2; June 14, 1880; National Archives Microfilm M-1254299, Roll 299; Accessed via on August 16, 2014; “Indiana Obituary – Judge W. C. L. Taylor, Jurist and Civil War Veteran,” Indianapolis Journal (Indianapolis, IN), Feb. 19, 1901. Accessed August 16, 2014.
Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Enduring Might of Melody and Verse: Songs of Victory!

In our final post examining music inspired by the battle of Gettysburg, we have three songs about the Union victory: Gettysburg!, The Heroes of Gettysburg, and George Meade: The Hero of Gettysburg.


Sheet music for Gettysburg

Gettysburg! (Library of Congress)

Another song commemorating the Union victory at Gettysburg is Alfred Delaney’s 1863 composition, Gettysburg! The exuberant song celebrates in a taunting manner how the Southern army was bested at Gettysburg through seven whole verses!

  1. The boldest and the bloodiest raid
    The Southern Legions ever made,
    Was when their countless thousands strayed
    To Gettysburg!Laden with spoils upon each back,
    A wolf-like and ferocious pack,
    How few e’er found the homeward track
    From Gettysburg!
  1. Exultant with their bold career,
    And flushed and gay with goodly cheer,
    They rushed, with little thought of fear,
    To Gettysburg!But there they met upon the path
    The lion North inflamed with wrath,
    And roused for Liberty or Death
    At Gettysburg!
  1. On! As a mighty throng they came;
    On! Like a hurricane of flame,
    To conquer or to fly in shame,
    From Gettysburg!Horsemen and foot of all degrees,
    Of Southern hives and haunts the lees,
    They came, our Northern homes to seize,
    At Gettysburg!
  1. Fearful and bloody was the shock,
    A whirlwind battling ‘gainst a rock,
    And human life an empty mock
    At Gettysburg!Thousands on thousands fought and fell,
    And many a wild and fearful yell
    Rose o’er that fratricidal hell,
    At Gettysburg!
  1. Yes ‘twas a fierce and bloody fray,
    A glorious yet a gory day
    The dead in dread confusion lay
    At Gettysburg!
    On like an avalanche they came!
    The low in birth, the high in fame,
    The champions of a cause of shame
    At Gettysburg!
  1. But when the fearful strife was o’er
    And night and silence reigned once more
    At Gettysburg!
    And while it streams upon the air,
    Oh! Let no human heart despair,
    For God was surely with us there,
    At Gettysburg!
  1. And Waterloo itself shall fade,
    Before the nobler, mightier deed,
    The victory achieved by Meade,
    At Gettysburg!
    The lion conquered in his lair,
    The Braggart flying in despair,
    God help the souls that perished there,
    At Gettysburg!

The Heroes of Gettysburg

Heroes of Gettysburg

The Heroes of Gettysburg (Library of Congress)

Dedicated to the friends of the heroes who fell in the battle at Gettysburg, The Heroes of Gettysburg was composed by James A. Scott and Max J. Coble in 1864.  The song touts Gettysburg as holy ground, and urges all who come to Gettysburg to honor the sacrifices of the soldiers that fought and died here.

  1. From the bloody Rappahannock,
    Where in myriads lie!
    Whose who perished for the nation,
    That it might not die!
    Came our glorious patriot army,
    Once again to meet,
    Traitor hordes in shock of battle,
    And their hopes defeat.


Up!  Shake off thy slumber, Mighty nation, rise!
Marshal forth thy hosts for battle, Under Freedom’s skies.

  1. And they fought as those fight only,
    Who defend the right;
    Whom the cause of truth and justice
    Nerves with double might;
    ‘Till the foe, dismayed and beaten,
    Were compelled to yield,
    With their broken columns flying
    From the bloody field.


  1. And the spot is now immortal,
    Where our heroes died,
    ‘Mid the awful roar and carnage,
    Of the battle’s tide.Their dear memories in the nation,
    Never shall decay;
    It shall bear in fond remembrance,
    Gettysburg’s proud day.


Pause! The earth is holy
Where our heroes lie!
And the winds are ever whisp’ring
Of their victory.

  1. Blessed heroes! Here forever
    Rest ye from your toil.
    Now is o’er, “life’s fitful fever,”
    Trouble and turmoil;
    In the soil you died defending,
    Take you last, long sleep!
    While your loved ones o’er ye bending
    Bitter tears shall weep.


  1. O’er the earth your deeds are sounded,
    To its farthest part;
    And your battlefield is bounded
    By a nation’s heart!
    To the latest generations
    Shall your names go down,
    Clothed with Glory’s bright creations,
    Honors and renown.


  1. Here shall come to offer incense,
    Braves of every clime;
    And your tomb shall be a Mecca
    To the end of time.
    Oft in future song and story,
    Shall your deeds be told,
    With new pride until the heavens
    Be together rolled.


General Meade: The Hero of Gettysburg

Hero of Gettysburg score

The Hero of Gettysburg (Library of Congress)

Published on July 4, 1865, this piece honors the victor of the battle, George Gordon Meade.  In fact several of the songs from this series are dedicated to Meade, including Jenny Wade: The Heroine of Gettysburg, The Battle of Gettysburg, and Gettysburg!.  While history has not been kind to Meade, the citizens of the time knew who the victor of Gettysburg was.  To honor his deeds during the war, the song General Meade: The Hero of Gettysburg was composed, and set to the tune of “Hail to the Chief.”

AIR.— Hail to the Chief who in triumph advances.

  1. Hail to the chieftain who comes in his glory,
    With all his fresh laurels wreathed on his brow,
    Which tell to the nation the great thrilling story,
    How bravely he drove back the proud Southern foe.


When through the woodland shade,
And up the mountain glade,
Echo carried to the winds the loud martial strains,
And along the sounding shore,
Where Susquehanna’s waters pour,
Was heard the cannon’s dreadful roar,
From Gettysburg plains.

  1. He comes like a conqueror, with bright armor gleaming,
    Fair hands to greet him like white lillies wave;
    Long may the chief, on whom mild eyes are beaming,
    Live in the hearts of the fair and the brave.


He comes in his warrior pride,
Spread the tidings far and wide,
Let them resound through country and town,
Raise high the banners gay,
Spread flowers in his way,
And gather the choicest wreaths,
The hero to crown.

  1. Columbia, we honor thy noble commander,
    And give to the patriot the applause which is due;
    May we from thy shrine ne’er be tempted to wander,
    But ever give praise to the valiant and true.


Let shouts of welcome rise,
In loud exulting cries,
Let the nation’s chorus swell in boldest of strains,
And every passing breeze,
Which sweeps through the forest trees,
Tell of the victories,
Of Gettysburg plains.

Many popular songs came out of the American Civil War, but only a few were inspired by the battle of Gettysburg.  The next time you listen to a CD, mp3 player, or even a record, remember that music is powerful; as such, music is a powerful way to commemorate.  While there are many forms of commemoration at Gettysburg, monuments, markers and such, there are also musical tributes.  This form of remembrance…music…is something that we all can take joy in, both today, and during the American Civil War.

P.S.  Just for fun…two immensely entertaining if somewhat inaccurate modern musical tributes to the Battle of Gettysburg…showing even in our own modern generations Gettysburg continues to inspire musical composition…

The Brandos: Gettysburg

Iced Earth: Gettysburg (1863)

-Nate Hess
Gettysburg National Military Park

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Enduring Might of Melody and Verse: Instrumental Pieces

We continue our look at music inspired by the Battle of Gettysburg, and today present two instrumental pieces: Pickett’s Charge March, and the Battle of Gettysburg.

Pickett' s Charge March

Pickett’s Charge March by John Prosinger (University of Virginia Library)


Pickett’s Charge March

While the Battle of Gettysburg was a defeat for the South, pride could still be taken in the bravery of Southern soldiers.  The following march was composed by John Prosinger of the Hollins Institute of Virginia sometime between 1863 and 1865; this song commemorates the bravery shown by those sections of the Army of Northern Virginia that made Pickett’s Charge.  Please note this is an instrumentalist piece.  All the music comes from instruments, and there are no verses.

Battle of Gettysburg

Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg (Library of Congress)

Another instrumentalist piece commemorating the Battle at Gettysburg, in this case the Union victory, is the song Battle of Gettysburg composed by J.C. Beckel in 1863.  In the piece, Beckel tells the story of the battle through melody alone; once again, there are no words.  Even so, certain sections represent the various events of the battle.  In the sheet music, there are notations describing the various events that go along with the music.  Note the incorrect parts stating that general’s Darius N. Couch and William F. Smith attacked the Army of Northern Virginia from the rear, as well as a combined assault by the Union army.  The notations for the song are as follows:

  1. March of the Grand Army of the Potomac under Major General George Gordon Meade into Pennsylvania July 1st. 1863.
  2. The Rebels approaching under General Lee (cavalry advance).
  3. Halt.
  4. Attack on the 1st and 11th Corps and fall of General Reynolds.
  5. Genl Reynolds killed.
  6. Tremendous firing of the Rebels, answered by the Union forces.
  7. Shells flying.
  8. Retreat.
  9. Drums beating.
  10. The 3rd Corps advancing gallantly (music as if approaching in the distance, gradual cres.).
  11. Drums.
  12. The 5th & 6th Corps come up bravely to the tune of Yankee Doodle.
  13. Drums.
  14. The New York Volunteers and Pennsylvania Militia, under Genls Couch & Smith cross the Susquehanna and attack Lee in the rear.
  15. Grand combined attack of the whole Army under Genl Meade.
  16. Terrific Cannonading.
  17. The Rebels retreat, flying in all quarters.
  18. Cannon.
  19. Grand victory of Genl Meade.
  20. The old flag floats again over Gettysburg.
  21. Three grand hurrahs and a tiger.
  22. Cries of the wounded.
  23. The Rebel prisoners marching to Baltimore.
  24. Grand Finale. Star Spangled Banner.

In the next and final part of the series, we’ll be looking at “songs of victory.”

-Nate Hess
Gettysburg NMP

Posted in Civil War Music, Romances of Gettysburg | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Enduring Might of Melody and Verse- Sentimental Songs of Gettysburg

Confederate commander Robert E. Lee has often been quoted as stating: “I don’t believe we can have an army without music.”  If he were to issue that statement again today, he might change it to: “I don’t think we can have a teenager without an iPod.”  Music utterly permeates our culture.  Individuals worldwide have access to the medium of music through mp3 downloads, internet streaming, and CD’s.  Music is used to express pleasure, pain, and everything in-between.  Different styles of music have told these tales throughout the decades: various varieties of pop, rock and roll, and jazz…yet even before these more modern genres the Civil War soldier used music as well.  Music gave soldiers a way to fight boredom, both in camp and on the march.  Music not only helped give orders in battle, but also sometimes assisted in rallying men.  Soldiers and civilians across both North and South expressed political opinions through music; they also took inspiration and solace in song, just as they do today.  Furthermore, song can be used to commemorate major world events.  The most famous American example of this might be our own national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the verses of which were inspired by the British attack on Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.  Even so, there are other examples…and nothing seems to capture the American imagination quite like the Battle of Gettysburg.  The events surrounding the Battle of Gettysburg, fought for three days on July 1, 2, and 3 of 1863, leave a plethora of incidents to inspire song and verse.  Indeed, there will be several songs composed during the Civil War in the wake of America’s bloodiest battle, about America’s bloodiest battle.  The information and sheet music images for the following songs in this series of blog posts are drawn mostly from the Library of Congress; the information and image for the Pickett’s Charge March comes from the University of Virginia library.

The Children of the Battlefield

Children of the Battlefield

(Library of Congress)

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter” Revisited, Part III

Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg

The body behind the sharpshooter’s “covert” with extraneous equipment placed in the scene by the photographers for better effect. (Library of Congress)

Can the uniform of the dead soldier in “The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg” provide us with additional details about his identity? Possibly, but understanding how Lee’s vast army was uniformed in the summer of 1863 is a challenge unique to itself.

By the spring of 1863, a majority of the soldiers in the “Army of Northern Virginia” were clothed in uniforms provided by their home states, shipped to the army from state-operated depots located in major southern cities. Georgia, for example, had clothing depots in Atlanta, Columbus and Athens where uniforms based on a state-adopted pattern were manufactured, gathered for inspection and shipment to Richmond where these items were then distributed to Georgia units serving in Lee’s army. When compared side by side to the uniform patterns adopted by other southern states such as North Carolina and Virginia, there were distinctive differences.  “Uniformity” of the army was anything but and without doubt, the variety of styles and intermittent issue of clothing were some of the primary reasons for the somewhat ragged appearance of southern ranks; that as well as the different material and dyes used for coats, jackets and trousers made from southern manufactured cloth or material imported from Europe. Even so, the logistical nightmare of getting clothing to Richmond warehouses followed by transport to the army caused countless shortages and more often than not, soldiers were forced to improvise by acquiring clothing through other means, primarily from sources directly at home, by purchase or even through theft. Though the old commutation system (towns and counties provided uniforms for their own volunteers) had failed by early 1862 in favor of the state depot system, home-made uniforms still came to the army through the kindness of ladies’ support groups, sewing circles, and individuals. As it turned out there was little on any Confederate uniform that identified its source other than a distinctive pattern or a state seal impressed on the buttons.

The individual in this photograph wears a skirted coat (commonly referred to as a frock coat) of a design often seen worn by troops from states where skirted coats were first adopted in 1861 as a state pattern- Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia troops come to mind. And though the typical short-waisted jacket was more common by the summer of 1863, contemporary photographs of Confederate soldiers from Tennessee and Texas reveal men from those states in skirted coats as late as 1864. Yet those examples appear to be a state-issue pattern and quite different from the coat on the Devil’s Den “sharpshooter”, which appears to be made of a coarse jean material with an uneven six button front, large exterior pocket on the left breast and unadorned collar and cuffs. Large exterior pockets similar to this example show up in photos of Confederates wearing battle shirts (a large overshirt, meant to be an exterior garment) and some early commutation jackets, but those examples slowly disappeared after a few month’s wear and it’s doubtful any could have existed in the Army of Northern Virginia’s ranks at this time of the war.

Uniform detail

Detail of the uniform coat with its large exterior breast pocket.  The black canvas bag at the shoulder is the deceased’s haversack. (Library of Congress)

A very good examination of this  soldier’s uniform has been previously offered at “Blue and Gray Marching”, a site hosted by James M. Schruefer specializing in study of army uniforms and logistics at and many others have also tried to analyze the coat and compare it with known examples. Mr. Ben Tart, who has a degree in textile history and many years of research into southern cloth and historic dyes, has likewise studied these photos and points out that the material composition of this soldier’s coat and trousers appear to be the typical jean cloth produced by southern mills- a wool mix on a cotton warp, the pattern having an effect of “dizziness” with its single direction of weave. Unfortunately, it is impossible to identify what mill produced this cloth or the region from which it possibly came since this style of weaving was common in numerous southern mills. Remindful of the early commutation days of supply for southern regiments, the coat is quite possibly one manufactured by the ladies of a small town, shipped with other coats of a similar pattern to the army quartermaster for eventual issue to Georgia soldiers serving in Virginia. Or could the uniform be one made specifically for the soldier who wears the garment? In either case, the coat’s details are certainly not typical when compared to uniform coats and jackets in photos of soldiers taken in 1863, including those that still cling to the bodies of dead southerners photographed elsewhere on the battlefield.

21st NC INF, Mast, p. 45

Cousins Nathan Gwynn and Alexander Chatham, 21st NC Infantry in 1861. (Mast, State Troops & Volunteers.)

Is this soldier’s coat truly a-typical? Maybe not. As Mr. Tart pointed out, a remarkably close match to it appears in a wartime photo of two cousins from Surrey County, North Carolina, published on page 45 in the excellent study by Greg Mast, State Troops & Volunteers, A Photographic Record of North Carolina’s Civil War Soldiers of North Carolina (NC Division of Archives & History, Raleigh, 1995). Cousins Nathan Gwynn and Alexander Chatham both served in Company H, 21st North Carolina Infantry and stand for the camera in uniforms that certainly do not fit any typical pattern of the style provided by the North Carolina state quartermaster, and are very similar to the coat on the body of the individual in Devil’s Den. The dress and equipment in the Gwynn and Chatham photo suggests it was taken sometime in the summer months of 1861- Chatham was elected 3rd lieutenant in September 1861 and Gwynnn was discharged that December. But could any coat like this have survived after two years of hard campaigning and wear? It’s possible, but given the conditions of average field wear, a uniform item such as this would exhibit a lot more discoloration and wear to the material’s finish than what is revealed in high resolution versions of the Gardner photographs.

So does this possibly identify the man as a North Carolinian? Doubtful, since there were no soldiers from North Carolina in Hood’s Division or in the battalion of sharpshooters that occupied this area of the field on July 2 and 3, 1863, and the uniform is not typical of North Carolina-issue clothing in 1863. As noted before, Devil’s Den was occupied by Georgians. Could this soldier have acquired this early, non-typical coat from a North Carolina soldier? Also doubtful, given that Georgia (like North Carolina and Virginia) was very successful at manufacturing and providing clothing to its native troops on the east coast throughout the conflict. Why would a Georgia soldier draw clothing from the North Carolina quartermaster’s stores?

Thomas Kitchen, 8th GA INF

Cpl. Thomas Kitchen, 8th Georgia Infantry, sits for his portrait in the Georgia state regulation uniform. (Library of Congress)

As discussed previously, this deceased soldier was most likely a member of a Georgia regiment, a state that in 1861 adopted “a single breasted frock coat of Georgia Cadet gray, with a skirt extending one half of the distance from the top of the hip to the bend of the knee,” as the official dress uniform for enlisted men. The early coat, seen here as worn by Corporal J. Thomas Kitchen, Company I, 8th Georgia Infantry (at left), indeed has some similarities in style and design to the uniform coat in question. In an effort to stretch the supply of material, the regulation was modified in 1862 or early 1863 and the short-waisted jacket adopted for enlisted men, but that first regulation coat evidently survived within companies of Georgia regiments as well as among some individuals. While the sharpshooter’s coat is not a 100 percent match, it does have some characteristics of the early Georgia regulation coat and unlike the common depot pattern jackets, was most likely produced by seamstresses in a small Georgia town, meant for one of the native sons from their area.  (For more on early North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia uniforms, visit the informative pages at

Little can be discerned from the trousers or additional clothing items other than being examples of Confederate-issue trousers and private purchase clothing (the shirt), though this individual’s shoes are not typical of the examples of Confederate shoes found on the battlefield that have survived in museum collections, including those at Gettysburg National Military Park. A well-known post-battle account written by Isaac Moorhead about his visit to the battlefield in October 1864, included his discovery of a skeleton in Devil’s Den and retrieval of one of the dead man’s shoes, “a ‘Georgia state shoe’ made from canvas, with leather tips and heel stiffeners.” (Isaac Moorhead, “A Visit to Gettysburg – October 1864”, GNMP Library) It’s unclear how Moorhead knew or could identify that relic shoe’s heraldry to Georgia. The state had 125 shoe and boot makers producing footwear for the state’s troops during the war, but any specific pattern in Georgia that substituted canvas for the leather top is unknown to this author. Moorhead’s discovery of the bones and shoe in 1864 was most likely not this individual. Our deceased soldier’s footwear is a low-quarter shoe with leather tops, more common to civilian attire than military.

Though nothing in particular about this man’s uniform can help identify the state from which he came, it does technically provide us with a possible clue when combined with other data gleaned from the Official Records and objects found in the series of photographs taken by Gardner and his associates. We rely on the course of battle action and subsequent events that occurred in the area where his body was first discovered and where casualties were incurred as late as the afternoon of July 3, 1863, when the 15th Georgia Infantry made a desperate race to extricate itself from the grasp of a substantial Union force.

Was this man a Georgia soldier? Most likely, yes. Was he member of the 15th Georgia Infantry? Again, the answer is most likely yes. Was the 15th Georgia Infantry uniformed in the same fashion as this soldier? Possibly, but photographic evidence outside of these images at Devil’s Den have not yet come to light. Will we ever know the true identity of this “sharpshooter” whose image in death is so closely identified with Devils’ Den and the Battle of Gettysburg? Probably not. His name, company and regiment were lost the moment his comrades raced away to safety on that warm July afternoon, leaving him on the field to the care of other men who only saw him as just another “dead Rebel”. His living record lost, only later would the riddle of his post-mortem service at the site where he fell and later as the primary subject of “the covert of a rebel sharpshooter”, (Gardner, Sketchbook, plate 41) be recognized by Frederick Ray and explained by William Frassanito.

Home of a Rebel Sharphooter, Gettysburg

A long time battlefield curiosity, the stone barricade where the “sharpshooter” was photographed stands today, though not in its original form. Re-built several times after the war, the stones were last cemented in place during the 1950’s.

Comparable to the subjects in other pitiful scenes of the dead photographed at Gettysburg, this young southerner had a name, unit and state affiliation. His family lived somewhere in Georgia, praying for his welfare and for a safe return home possibly on the same day and at the same hour these images were being preserved on glass, their son or father destined to become the dead sharpshooter in “The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter” at one of the deadliest sites on the Gettysburg battlefield- Devil’s Den.

Yet, did he ever sit for a likeness in some photographer’s studio or field camp and could that photo, with a faded name scribbled on the back or in the case that holds the glass, be hidden away, long forgotten in a box in someone’s attic or closet? The possibility of such a discovery keeps us searching and hopeful to finally answer the question, who was that young Rebel sharpshooter found by Alexander Gardner and his photographers in Devils’ Den so long ago?

John Heiser
Gettysburg National Military Park

Posted in 15th Georgia Infantry, Historical Memory, Photography, Uncategorized | 9 Comments