Lt. William R. Warner, 13th Massachusetts Infantry


Lt. William R. Warner

William R. Warner enlisted early in the war, July 16, 1861, at Fort Independence, Boston Harbor.   At age nineteen, he was one of the many recruits that rushed to defend the flag and stamp out the Rebellion.  Probably because he was a clerk prior to the war, Warner entered the service at the rank of sergeant.  He stood at 5’ 11” inches tall having a “light” complexion, black eyes, and dark hair.   On March 1, 1863, he was promoted to orderly sergeant and on June 30 entered the officer ranks as a 2nd Lieutenant.


The 13th Massachusetts marched onto the fields of Gettysburg as veterans.  The regiment “saw the elephant” early in the war at Beller’s Mill, near Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.  (good luck finding anything on that one)  They wore out a good pair of shoes chasing “Stonewall” Jackson up and down the Valley in the spring of ’62.  Later that year, the regiment fought with John Pope’s Army at Cedar Mountain and Second Manassas before being reorganized into the Union First Corps for the Maryland, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville Campaigns.

On June 30, Warner and his comrades were in Emmitsburg, Maryland with the intrepid John Reynolds leading their column north in pursuit of Lee.  They would not have to wait long to find him.  It is here that we pick up with Warner’s narrative of events.

Wednesday, July 1  1863

Started on march to Gettysburg about   a.m.  In obedience to orders from Col. Leonard, I turned over my gun & equipment to Co. K. and reported to Capt Cary of Co G as 2nd Lt. but minus sword or arms of any kind.   Gettysburg was distant about nine miles. We had a shower while on way.  The 1st & 3rd Divisions of our Corps marched in advance of us.

Some distance before reaching G. we began to hear the guns opening the conflict, and later we were met by an Aid with message “that we were wanted & that Buford with Cavalry was engaged.”  Soon in some way rumor reached us that Gen Reynolds was wounded and before we entered the outskirts of G. we heard that he had been Killed.  We turned off of pike to the left, at a brick house( I think) through an orchard and pushed on towards a large Seminary on the crest of a ridge.  Here we halted perhaps half hour but long enough to throw up some breastworks of considerable strength, for hearing brisk fighting, not far in front of us, & extending well to our
right, and seeing (as well as feeling) every indication that a great battle was about to be fought, every man worked willingly & rapidly in effecting some slight protection,  Then, orders came to move, and we quickly crossed a road (on our right from Seminary) keeping under the slope which was thinly covered with woods.  Here, by the roadside, I notice the first man, whom I knew, belonging to our Division, who was wounded, Capt, J. O. Williams of 12th Mass. Passing through the woods, we attempted to form a line at a stone wall- possibly we were halted there a few moments to allow stragglers to get up- then across an open field to another piece of woods, and hardly before we could realize it we were in the midst of a battle.


The 13th Massachusetts belonged to Gabriel Paul’s brigade.  The brigade remained in reserve near the Seminary until being summoned to relieve Henry Baxter’s men along the north face of Oak Ridge (near the present observation tower).  The regiment held the extreme right of the First Corps line along the Mummasburg Road.



Capt. William Cary

I had thought very little about it, I mean in the matter of dwelling upon it, & dreading it, and when once engaged, had no time to think.  My first impulse, was to pick up a gun & some cartridges, and I loaded & fired several time, Sergeant Wheeler of Co. K, was almost the first man I saw struck, – He fell over backwards, a ball having ploughed his forehead, -About the same moment, six or seven of the tallest men of Co K. on the right were wounded Harvey Ross, H. Culling. John Flye, M. O. Laughlin, Melville Walker.


In Company, G. which I was stationed with, I noticed Corp H. A. Sanborn who had just returned to Regt, on recovery from a wound at Antietam, As he was struck, he turned to the rear, & stood as if hesitating a moment and then fell.  In Co H. S.A. Hayes, a middle aged man (who had been detailed as Teamster, until within a short time) was shot & cried out, “Who will take care of my children now.”

In some Company, J. M. ________, a tall slim young man with very black hair & dark features fell & I recall vividly the ghastliness of his face contrasted with his dark hair, as I noticed him for a moment,  In Company to right, which was The Color Col. Sergeant Roland B. Morris Carrying the Colors was shot down. Every man in the Regiment will recall the piercing shrieks of agony, which were wrung from him.  I mention these men among the many others of the Regt who fell at same time, because I happened to notice them, more especially.

At the left of the Regiment passing back & forth stood Major Gould,  His voice could scarcely be gould_j_p-majorheard amid so much noise of fire-arms, & tumult , but when it could be heard, it was, “Do your duty – noble sons of Massachusetts – do your duty- “Remember you states &c &c.”

One can hardly tell, how long we remained at this point, but at the time Morris fell we were pushing toward the road which lay in front of us, & where we swept in a body of rebel prisoners of an Alabama Regt.  As the fire slackened, with numbers largely reduced by Killed, wounded & those who had gone to rear with wounded & prisoners, we withdrew from extreme advanced position back across the open field to the first piece of woods we passed through & where part of our Brigade then faced in another direction.  From the crest of the ridge, we saw considerable bodies of the enemy, moving to our left (toward Seminary where from the heavy firing, we knew our troops were being badly pushed,  Looking to the front & more especially to the right where there had been a gap between us & 11th Corps, – we could see the 11thCorps withdrawing closely followed by long lines of the enemy,  we knew it could only be a question of a few minutes before the orders must come for removal from this exposed position.  When orders came, flags were followed, (ours in hands of Capt Howe & David Schloss) but Regiment Organization was impossible.  When we came in full sight of Seminary the last Battery was retreating at full speed toward the town.


David Schloss, 13th Massachusetts

 Making as short a cut as possible, toward G. we came to RR. Embankment, on top of which we attempted to push way . As a volley would come from one side, numbers would leave embankment in hope of shelter on other side, then a volley from that side (Seminary side) and others would rush down the left side.

Coming to a culvert under the track, We noticed it already packed full with stragglers of men who hesitated to go farther.  Before we reached culvert, Schloos carrying State Flag was knocked down by the arm of a soldier of 14th Brooklyn who was torn to pieces by a shell & whose brains were scattered over the flag.

On one of the streets of G. I met Lt Whiston with half dozen or more swords in his hands, which he taken from prisoners,  He offered me one, but having already picked one up , I declined his offer.  Why he failed to escape I cannot see, unless his bundle of swords overloaded him, but he was taken prisoner & carried to Richmond.  Before reaching the centre of G. – with others, I left the streets passed through some back yards.  Seeing a _______of rain water, without stopping for cup, I dipped my hands into the water & drank.  A shell came shrieking over, and we ducked still lower.  With water dripping we rushed on, into the street & dense throng all pushing toward Cemetery Hill.

In the Square, I saw an officer mounted upon a fine horse (equipment yellow) struck by a shell & thrown –horse & rider against the sidewalk, up to the side of the house no one stopped to look at him, Bullets shot & shell were pouring in from both directions and looking up the side streets we could see the reb soldiers standing & firing.

As we approached the Cemetery we came under cover of the guns of 11th Corps, already in position & out of the reach of the enemys fire, So our pace slackened.  We finally rallied around our Division flag.  

That night we spent on Cemetery Hill to the left of the Cemetery facing towards the town.

Our Regt        numbering    men. 

Our Brigade      “

The Officers of Co K. Lt Whiston & Lt Samuel Cary, both having been taken prisoners,  I was assigned to that Company again.


The 13th Massachusetts entered the battle with 284 men present for duty.  That night only 99 answered the roll call.

Matt Atkinson
Park Ranger

The Park thanks Brad Forbush for the generous use of the images and Mr. Eric Locher for donating a copy of Warner’s memoirs .


Posted in Army of the Potomac | 3 Comments

Into the Fight with the 4th Texas



I had the opportunity recently to delve into the regimental files here at the park library and do a little digging on the 4th Texas Volunteer Infantry.  Being one of the more famous Confederate units to take part in the battle of Gettysburg, most students of the Civil War will recognize the regiment as part of the famed Texas Brigade of the Army of Northern Virginia. Closely associated with  John Bell Hood but commanded at Gettysburg by Jerome Robertson, the 4th brought roughly 415 men into the fighting on July 2nd, 1863 and ultimately sustained a loss of about 27%, or 112 of those engaged.

In revisiting the regiment, and combing through the files collected by previous historians at Gettysburg National Military Park, I was reminded of the many poignant and descriptive first hand accounts these Texans had left behind. Taken as a whole, the memoirs, diaries, letters, and official reports attributed to the unit comprise some of the most descriptive testimony of the fighting on the 2nd Day of the Battle of Gettysburg, and more particularly, the struggle for Little Round Top. Through the recollections of soldiers like Val Giles, John West, Decimus et Ultimus Barziza, and others the sensory experience of combat comes alive, as does the feelings and experiences of the soldiers in the regiment. When paired with the preserved battlefield landscape, their stories and memories become palpable and tangible. Walking the route of the assault of the 4th Texas on July 2nd, with accounts in hand, is an easy way to cox from the landscape the history of what happened here. Inspired by the accounts I read, I set out to do just that this morning.

Christopher Gwinn
Supervisory Ranger

img_1632“We were put into the fight about 3 o’clock in the afternoon of the 2d, having marched all night on the 1st and laid in line of battle all the morning of the 2d, and my first lesson as a recruit was to lie for about half an hour under what the most experienced soldiers called the worst shelling they ever witnessed. Several were killed and many wounded in a few feet of me, and the infernal machines came tearing and whirring through the ranks with a most demoralizing tendency.” – John West, 4th Texas

img_1631“We were some hours getting into position, but finally formed in an open field, under the declivity of a gradually rising hill in our front, upon the top of which the artillery was posted.” – Decimus et Ultimus Barziza, 4th Texas.


“The enemy shells screamed and bursted around us, inflicting considerable damage. It is very trying upon men to remain still in the ranks under a severe cannonading. One has time to reflect upon the danager, and there being no wild excitement as in a charge, he is more reminded of the utter helplessness of his present condition.
– Decimus et Ultimus Barziza, 4th Texas.

About 4.30 p.m. the 2d instant, we were ordered to advance on the enemy, who occupied the heights about 1¼ miles distant, the Fifth Texas, the directing battalion, on my right, and the First Texas on my left. – Maj. John P. Bane, Commanding 4th Texas


“The long cry of Attention! Brought every man to his feet, and the details were made to pull down the fence in our front. Everyone knew what it meant, and it was really a relief to move forward. The word ‘Forward’ was given, and on we moved.”
– Decimus et Ultimus Barziza, 4th Texas.


“And forward we went. The word was passed down the line, “Quick, but not double quick,” but we moved as fast as we could. Off went blankets, knapsacks and all surplus baggage, and yelling and screaming we rushed on the batteries—one on a lofty eminence beyond a rock fence and a small branch, the other back of it on quite a mountain about three hundred yards farther off and a little to the right—were full three quarters of a mile from us when the word “forward” was given.”
– John West, 4th Texas


“So soon as we cleared the brow of the hill and became exposed to the enemy’s artillery, off we went, not at an orderly double quick, but in a wild, frantic, desperate run, yelling, screaming and shouting; over ditches, up and down hill, bursting through garden fences and shrubbery, occasionally dodging the head as a bullet whistled by the ear.” – Decimus et Ultimus Barziza, 4th Texas.


“Arriving in a road, we halted a minute or two, reformed and started again. On we go with the same speed, jumping over and plunging through creeks, pulling through mud, struggling through underbrush, still keeping the loud, irregular and terrible Confederate yell.” – Decimus et Ultimus Barziza, 4th Texas.


“Shells and grape shot, canister and Minnie balls, came hurtling through our ranks, bursting screaming, whistling – still that same wild, reckless, unhesitating rush towards enemy guns.” – Decimus et Ultimus Barziza, 4th Texas.


“I met the enemy in full force in a heavy, wooded ground, sheltering themselves behind rocks, from which, after a sharp contest, he was driven to the heights beyond, in our front and in close proximity to the mountain, and there I was pained to learn that the gallant Lieut. Col. B. F. Carter was severely wounded while crossing a stone wall near the base of the mountain.” – Maj. John P. Bane, Commanding 4th Texas



“Suddenly we find ourselves at the base of a range of hills – a rough, woody, rocky country. Here the great severity of the Federal Infantry stopped our progress, and then commenced a rapid, continuous and murderous musketry fight; we at the base, they on the sides and top of the hills…” – Decimus et Ultimus Barziza, 4th Texas.


“The side of the mountain was heavily timbered and covered with great boulders that had tumbled from the cliffs above years before. These afforded great protection to the men. Every tree, rock and stump that gave any protection from the rain of Minie balls that was poured down upon us from the crest above us, was soon appropriated.”
– Val Giles, 4th Texas


“There were places full ten or fifteen feet perdendicular around which we were compelled to go, and the entire ascent would have been difficult to a man entirely divested of gun and accouterments. It was a mass of rock and boulders amid which a mountain goat would, have revelled, and being subjected to a fire on our left flank, made it a most dangerous and unsafe place for a soldier, and many a fellow reminded me of the alliteration, “Round the rude rock the ragged rascal ran.” – John West, 4th Texas

“Finding it impossible to carry the heights by assault with my thinned ranks, I ordered my command to fall back in the skirt of timber, the position then occupied being enfiladed by the batteries on the left and exposed to heavy fire of musketry in my immediate front.”
– Maj. John P. Bane, Commanding 4th Texas


“From behind trees and huge rocks we poured in our fiery discharges; the din was incessant and deafening.” – Decimus et Ultimus Barziza, 4th Texas


“Being joined by the Fifth Texas on my right, I again attempted to drive the enemy from the heights by assaults, but with like results. Again, being re-enforced by the Forty-eighth Alabama, commanded by the gallant Colonel [James L.] Sheffield, and the Forty-fourth Alabama, whose commander I did not learn, we again charged their works, but were repulsed, and then, under the order of General Law, I ordered my command to fall back under cover of the timber, on a slight elevation within short range of the enemy.” – Maj. John P. Bane, Commanding 4th Texas


“By this time order and discipline were gone. Every fellow was his own general. Private soldiers gave commands as loud as the officers. Nobody paid any attention to either.”
– Val Giles, 4th Texas


“During this musketry engagement we were within from twenty five to fifty yards of the enemy. The trees were literally barked, and thousands of bullets flew to atoms against the hard rocks. Our line was compelled to retire, and left me wounded in the hands of the enemy.” – Decimus et Ultimus Barziza, 4th Texas

“At the dawn of day, I had a stone wall about 2 feet high thrown up, which afforded some protection to the men occupying the position…”– Maj. John P. Bane, Commanding 4th Texas


“At Gettysburg that night, it was about seven devils to each man. Officers were cross to the men, and the men were equally cross to the officers. It was the same way with our enemies. We could hear the Yankee officers on the crest of the ridge in front of us cursing the men by platoons, and the men telling him to go to a country not very far away from us at that time.” – Val Giles, 4th Texas

Posted in Army of Northern Virginia, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Gettysburg’s New Foundation Document

ela_sunrisesort-10To effectively manage a national park and plan for its future, a basic understanding of its resources, values, and history is needed – a foundation for planning and management. These are called foundation documents. Foundation documents are at the core of each park’s planning portfolio. Foundation Documents for Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site were completed in August and are now available on the park websites.

The core components of a foundation document include a brief description of the park as well as the park’s purpose, significance, fundamental resources and values, other important resources and values, and interpretive themes.

Here is an overview of Gettysburg’s Foundation Document:

_01PURPOSE – The purpose of Gettysburg National Military Park is to preserve, protect, and interpret for this and future generations the resources associated with the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War, the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, and their commemorations.

SIGNIFICANCE – Upon the fields and rolling hills and in the streets of town, more soldiers fell at the Battle of Gettysburg than in any other battle fought in North America before or since. The culmination of the Gettysburg Campaign, this three-day battle fought on July 1–3, 1863, thwarted the political and military aims of the Confederacy and its second invasion of the North during the American Civil War.

In dedicating the Soldiers’ National Cemetery on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, which gave meaning to the sacrifices of the dead at the Battle of Gettysburg and inspired the living to continue the “unfinished work” of the war to affirm “a new birth of freedom” for the nation.

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

Commemorating the events of the Battle of Gettysburg, a National Military Park was established, resulting in a landscape of monuments, memorials, and markers that record the history and emotions of Civil War veterans and others who wanted to leave this legacy for future generations.

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

The massive 377-foot cyclorama painting, the Battle of Gettysburg, depicting Pickett’s Charge, the final Confederate attack, is the largest oil-on-canvas painting in North America and is among the last 19th-century cyclorama paintings in existence.

ela_sunrisesort-21FUNDAMENTAL RESOURCES AND VALUES – Fundamental resources and values are those features, systems, processes, experiences, stories, scenes, sounds, smells, or other attributes determined to warrant primary consideration during planning and management processes because they are essential to achieving the purpose of the park and maintaining its significance.

  • Battlefield Landscape
  • Commemorative Landscape
  • Soldiers’ National Cemetery
  • Museum Collections
  • Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama Painting
  • Historic Structures
  • Hallowed Ground
  • Legacy of the Gettysburg Address
  • Archeological Resources Associated with the Battle of Gettysburg

Gettysburg National Military Park contains other resources and values that are not fundamental to the purpose of the park and may be unrelated to its significance, but are important to consider in planning processes. These are referred to as “other important resources and values” (OIRV). These resources and values have been selected because they are important in the operation and management of the park and warrant special consideration in park planning.

  • Natural Communities
  • Nonbattle-Related Archeological Resources
  • Appropriate Recreation

_07INTERPRETIVE THEMES – The following interpretive themes have been identified for Gettysburg National Military Park:

  • The Civil War was the result of decades of increasing divisiveness caused primarily by the issue of slavery that pulled the nation apart economically, socially, and politically.
  • The Gettysburg Campaign was directly influenced and shaped by the 1863 strategic military / political situation of the nation. The evolution, conduct, and eventual outcome of the campaign and battle were directly related to the geography, topography, and landscape features of the region, as well as to the tactics, leadership, and organization of the respective armies.
  • The soldiers who fought at Gettysburg were, for the most part, battle-hardened veterans. Their backgrounds varied as much as their reasons for being there. Their experience in combat and the aftermath of battle were both uniquely individual and universal. .
  • The Battle of Gettysburg touched the lives of civilians both near and far. Farmers whose land became battlegrounds, citizens in town, those who tended the wounded, buried the dead, or came to locate a friend or loved one were forever changed by their experience here. The tremendous human cost of Gettysburg touched and changed the lives of families, neighbors, and the general population in small towns and large cities of both the North and the South.
  • In his Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln focused the nation’s attention on the Union sacrifices, as well as its evolving meanings and consequences, when he stated that it would lead to a “new birth of freedom” for the nation; a charge that still challenges us today.
  • jason_7-13-15_0012The hundreds of monuments, markers, and memorials, many created by the veterans themselves, continue to bear witness to the experiences of individuals associated with the Battle of Gettysburg and are a testament to how the battlefield has become a stage for the reconciliation of a once divided nation, national commemoration of the Civil War, and a place of personal connection for Civil War veterans, their families, and visitors who continue to be drawn to this park.

For a copy of the Foundation Document for Gettysburg National Military Park click here.

Katie Lawhon, September 15, 2016

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Find Your Story: The New McKenna Resource Room at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center

Ever wonder if you have family ties to the historic Battle of Gettysburg? Looking for more information on your ancestor who may have served during the American Civil War? More than 165,000 Americans fought in the Battle of Gettysburg and more than 3 million served in the ranks of the Union and Confederate armies. On the home-front millions of men, women, and children, free and enslaved alike, experienced the war in unique and often tragic ways.  On a daily basis, the Rangers and staff at Gettysburg National Military Park are asked to help assist visitors trying to connect with that history in a deeply personal way. Tracking down and researching Civil War ancestors can shed light on how their family experienced the American Civil War and make the past come to life in profound ways.


More often than not though, tracking down a Civil War ancestor is more difficult than one might imagine. With limited tools and resources, most visitors looking for information at the park have left empty handed. Recently however, the park and the Gettysburg Foundation have taken steps to change that.

The newly re-imagined McKenna Resource Room at the Museum and Visitor Center, which is free and open to the public, now has staff and tools to help future visitors answer those questions and discover their personal Civil War story.


Ranger Emma Murphy stands by the new work-stations in the Gettysburg National Military Park Resource Room.

With expanded hours and new tools the McKenna Resource Room is more than just a research library. Staffed by National Park Service volunteers who can help you get started and guide your journey the room offers visitors and researchers the opportunity to immerse themselves in their personal connection to the history and importance of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War .


Ancestry and Fold3 allow visitors to access a wealth of primary sources, such as military service records, pension files, and more.

Open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the McKenna Resource Room gives visitors free access to information using, Fold 3 and National Park Service Civil War Soldiers and Sailors databases. Some of these resources also allow you to go beyond the Civil War and look up information about soldiers that served more recently. Pension records, census data, birth, death, and marriage records and much more are only  a click away. No reservations are needed.

Whether you are visiting Gettysburg for just a day, or if you live in the local community and love genealogy, we hope you find the new McKenna Resource Room at Gettysburg National Military Park a useful tool to uncover your family history.



Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

A Victory on South Cavalry Field

Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt is not a household name. Even among aficionado’s of the Battle of Gettysburg, Merritt’s involvement in the fighting on July 3rd, 1863 is often a footnote to a footnote, overshadowed by larger events occurring elsewhere at the same time. His brigade of federal cavalry, belonging to the division of Gen. John Buford, arrived on July 3rd, and participated in heavy skirmishing and sparing with a detachment of the 1st South Carolina Cavalry in the fields and farms bordering the Emmitsburg Road. The Union cavalry temporarily drove the rebel skirmish line back (across land that would one day belong to President Dwight Eisenhower) but timely reinforcements from Brig. Gen. Evander Law’s  Confederate division stalled and rebuffed their advance. Thus the fighting in that sector of South Cavalry Field ended, as did the larger Battle of Gettysburg.

On July 18, near the town of Petersville, Maryland, Merritt penned his official report on the Campaign, dedicating only a single paragraph to the fighting the men of his Reserve Cavalry Brigade participated in:

“…I marched with the brigade about 12 m. to attack the enemy’s right and rear, and annoy him, while the battle was progressing on the right. I marched on the Gettysburg road about 4 miles, where my advance and skirmishers were engaged. Here the brigade drove the enemy more than a mile, routing him from strong places, stone fences, and barricades. This fight last about four hours (some time after the cannonading had ceased on the right), and was finally brought to a close by heavy rain.”

The historiography of the Battle of Gettysburg, like Merritt himself,  has largely glossed over the role his men played at Gettysburg. The size, scope, and carnage of Pickett’s Charge, which occurred at the same time, captured far more attention and played a far more significant role in dictating the ultimate outcome of the battle. Likewise, preservation efforts in the late 19th century were more focused on securing iconic locations such as Little Round Top, Culp’s Hill, and Cemetery Hill, than the fringe of the battlefield.

Geographical isolation, and the difficulty of visiting the scene where Merritt’s men battled has further obscured South Cavalry Field. Merritt’s brigade tablet, a sort of bronze and stone island unto itself, is virtually isolated from the rest of the National Military Park. A small strip of park land, numbering only a few acres, sits to the east of the Emmitsburg Road. A similar fate befell the tablets commemorating the regular army units under his command, the 1st, 2nd, and 5th United States Cavalry (The 6th US Cavalry, also under Merritt’s command, was engaged near Fairfield, Pennsylvania on July 3rd and did not participate in the fighting at South Cavalry Field). Visitors searching for the more impressive monument to the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry will have to look quickly. It sits partially hidden along the roadway, and is often missed.

The fields, farms, and woodlots where Merritt’s men engaged their Confederate foes was never preserved or protected in the same manner as other areas of the battlefield, though fortunately, much of it retains its 19th century agrarian appearance.

Nearly 154 years after the fighting along the Emmitsburg Road, the South Cavalry Battlefield has been granted a new lease on life. Nearly 75 acres of battlefield land located west of the Emmitsburg Road and south of the Eisenhower National Historic Site, has just recently been preserved and donated to the National Park Service. Visitors will now be able to explore an entirely new section of the Gettysburg Battlefield and thereby gain a much better appreciation of an oft neglected chapter in the Gettysburg story.

This new addition to the park is thanks to the generosity of Roxanne Quimby. Quimby is better known for lip balm and organic shampoo than for battlefield preservation, having founded and developed the popular Burt’s Bees company. She is also an avid conservationist and a long time supporter of the National Park Service.

On August 23, 2016 roughly 85,000 acres owned by Quimby in upstate Maine was transferred to the Department of the Interior. It was soon thereafter established as Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, the newest addition to the National Park Service system. At that same time, Quimby quietly donated other parcels of land to the National Park Service, including 75 acres south of the Gettysburg National Military Park on the historic George Bishop and the James Ewing farms.

Bishop Farm

In 1863 the George Bishop farm occupied the site. The house is post-battle, as is the majority of the red bank barn seen in the background of the photo.

Bishop Farm Barn

Many of the timbers in the barn are hand-hewn, and perhaps date from the battle. Other elements of the structure are clearly 20th century, but one can’t help but wonder if Merritt’s cavalrymen or soldiers from the 1st South Carolina Cavalry encountered the same beams.


The property can be accessed by a narrow drive way that most likely runs along the original George Bishop farm land. Sweeping views to the north reveal the Show Barn of Eisenhower National Historic Site, an obvious post-battle structure. The most distant tree line marks the western slope of Seminary Ridge.


In 1863, near the center of the photo, stood the small farm of James Ewing. Ewing’s house was burned during the fighting, and many of the planks and fences on his property were cannibalized and used in the construction of a crude breastwork, or as Merritt described “a barricade.” The breastwork most likely ran left to right across the ridge line in the front of the Show Barn.


A one stage in the fighting, the 5th United States Cavalry attempted to outflank the Confederate defenders by launching an attack against the rebel right. The wood line and ridge above would have provided an avenue of approach for the advancing cavalrymen.


From near the center of the new property, looking south, can be seen the site of the George Bishop farm. Modern buildings now occupy the site. This is the same vantage point that members of the 1st South Carolina Cavalry would have had of the advancing Union forces.


Looking due south from the near the presumed site of the Confederate breastworks. The Bishop Farm site is marked by the buildings in the far distance.

Gettysburg National Military Park would like to extend our deep thanks for this new addition to the park. We are excited for future Battle Walks, trails, and new opportunities to explore and understand the Gettysburg battle and battlefield.


Christopher Gwinn
Supervisory Ranger


Posted in Battlefield Farms, Battlefield Preservation | 8 Comments

A grand old birthday for the National Parks!


Gettysburg Cake Cutting NPS Centennial

From left, reenactor Larry Korczyk, Eisenhower Site Manager Ahna Wilson, Gettysburg Superintendent Ed Clark, and Gettysburg Foundation President Joanne Hanley cut the cake with a Civil War sword.

Today is our birthday: 100 years old!  The national parks include 413 of the country’s most distinctive places, from iconic scenery such as Yosemite and the Everglades to historic sites like Gettysburg and Little Rock High School, as well as monuments, seashores, recreation areas and wildlife habitats.

More than 300 million people visited the national parks last year, and we’re on pace to surpass last year’s record attendance.

Founders Day cake at Gettysburg NMPNational Parks are huge economic drivers:  Tourism to Gettysburg and Eisenhower Parks created $95 Million in economic benefits in 2015. More than 1 million visitors to Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site in 2015 spent $71.1 million in communities near the park, supporting 977 jobs in the local area .

Public-private partnerships at Gettysburg and throughout the system help fund essential education programs, historic preservation, wildlife protection and building repairs at hundreds of national parks, monuments and recreation areas. This type of support helped create many of the new parks, especially the newest: Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument which was created yesterday and includes 87,500 acres of land donated to the National Park Service.


Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, painting by Thomas Moran

Let’s look back at how it all got started.  Established in 1872, Yellowstone was the first National Park in the world. Gettysburg was one of four “national military parks” created in the 1890s, many years before there was a National Park Service.  The War Department managed these battlefield parks and continued to use the fields for training exercises. The others were Chickamauga and Chattanooga, authorized in 1890, Shiloh in 1894 and Vicksburg in 1899.

National Park Service established in 1916. Organic Act         “ … to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations …

The first parks were all natural areas.  When the NPS began to manage historic sites like battlefields there was a learning curve.  It required a different approach.  Eventually we became the leaders for how to do interpretive programs that tell the stories of some of the most important moments in American history.


Stats about the NPS:

  • The system includes 413 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
  • Approximately 22,000 permanent, temporary, and seasonal employees…diverse professionals
  • Largest: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, AK, at 13.2 million acres
  • Smallest: Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, PA, at 0.02 acres
  • Total recreation visitors to the national parks in 2015: 307,247,252
  • An extraordinary group of Volunteers-in-Parks (440,000 people) donated 7.9 million hours of service to our parks in 2015.


Gettysburg National Military Park

  • $6.8 million      FY 2016 federal budget
  • $68 million       Visitor spending in 2015
  • 1,154,585        Visitors in 2015, an increase of 5.4% over 2014
  • 6,034               Acres in the park boundary
  • 3012                People donated 41,028 hours of service in FY 2015
  • 61                    Permanent employees and 36 seasonal employees in FY 2016

Eisenhower National Historic Site

  • $1.1 million      FY 2016 federal budget
  • $3.1 million      Visitor spending in 2015
  • 54,377            Visitors in 2015, a decrease of 6.6% compared with 2014
  • 769                  People donated 19,934 hours of service in FY 2015
  • 690                  Acres in the park boundary
  • 8                      Permanent employees and 3 seasonal employees in FY 2016

As we close out the Centennial year we continue to have more programs:

  • Farm to Table dinner at Eisenhower on August 27.
  • Friends of Gettysburg’s  ‘Recruit’ Pick and Party on August 28.
  • Presidential Paint and Wine night on Sept. 22 at Eisenhower NHS.
  • Artists in Residence programs which will continue through 2017.

Centennial Legacy Projects funded in part by the Gettysburg Foundation…

  • The rehab of Cemetery Ridge at Ziegler’s Grove, including bringing back Ziegler’s Ravine and the Hancock Avenue gate.
  • Planning to address overcrowding and erosion at Little Round Top.
  • Maintaining the historic landscapes of the two parks, including new ideas.  We have local farmers, and we’ve had them for years but now we have them growing grain for a local distillery.  We’re embracing the “Eat local” movement.
  • Possible opportunities to preserve historic structures such as farm houses through leasing, possibly even with public opportunities to stay in the homes like other parks are doing in Cape Cod and the C & O Canal.
  • New education programs with support from the Gettysburg Foundation.

Primary.NPSCentennialLogo.FullColorMost importantly we’re looking forward to another century of service to you, the American public.  Come visit.  Find Your Park.

Katie Lawhon, 8/25/2016

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Flowers for Mom: The Tragic Tale of a WWII Lieutenant Laid to Rest at Gettysburg


Summer is often a moment of jubilation as students depart school and families plan much-anticipated vacations. Yet, it is also a fitting time for reflection as our nation commemorates somber holidays and anniversaries that reflect our national struggles. The memorial landscape of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg offers a prime venue for such contemplation.

One story emblematic of sacrifice revolves around a young man, Ralph L. Stehley, born in Altoona, Pennsylvania in 1922. Coming of age during the Great Depression, his life was nonetheless more difficult than most as his father passed away in 1936. As a single child, he and his mother, Florence, worked tirelessly to provide for themselves amid the economic woes of the era. If anything, Stehley’s personal struggles only motivated him to excel. A resident of 1219 Thirteenth Avenue, a devoted member of the First Lutheran Church, and a star student at Altoona High, his exemplary record both in and out of the classroom earned him a seat at Gettysburg College following his 1938 high school graduation at age 16.

Ralph Stehley 1943 Spectrum

 This clip from Gettysburg College’s 1943 yearbook, The Spectrum, highlights Ralph Stehley’s long list of accomplishments.Courtesy Gettysburg College.

While enrolled at Gettysburg, Stehley earned nearly every academic accolade imaginable. He was a member of the drama club, the debate team, the rifle team, treasurer of student government, member of the Student Christian Association, the Phi Kappa Rho fraternity, and many more. Stehley also developed a talent in journalism, propelling him to become editor of the school newspaper and yearbook. By this time, the nation’s entry into WWII forced American universities to revamp and hasten their curriculum. Stehley was a member of the campus army reserve corps and was bound for military service following his January 1943 commencement (the first mid-year commencement in the history of that school due to wartime needs.)

Stehley graduated from officer candidate school at Fort Benning on September 18, 1943, and subsequently trained at various bases throughout the South into 1944, from where he departed for Europe that April. As a lieutenant in the 119th Regiment of the 30th “Old Hickory” Infantry Division, Stehley led GIs into the hedgerows of France as the Allies desperately tried to maintain the momentum of the Normandy invasion. Yet, home never seemed too distant. Captain Leo E. Ziegler, also from Altoona, was Stehley’s commanding officer. Additionally, Ralph kept in constant communication with his mother via letter writing. On August 25, 1944, she received a bouquet of birthday flowers special ordered by her far away son. Surely, this was a definitive sign that he was alive and well.

The Battle of MortainLess than two weeks prior to his death, Lt. Stehley’s 30th Division participated in the Battle of Mortain. This August 1944 battle resulted from the German’s desire to launch a counteroffensive and push the Allies back to the sea. The 30th Division gained acclaim for their desperate victory there. The up-close nature of this combat is dramatically captured in artist Keith Rocco’s “The Battle of Mortain” courtesy of the National Guard.

Sadly, her sense of alleviation was unfounded. Ralph’s August 18 letter was his last. He was killed in action on August 21—four days prior to his mother obtaining the flowers. She received the news through the dreaded Western Union telegram on the evening of September 11. Now alone, she spent the next five years waiting for the return of her only son’s remains. In the interim, her son’s body rested in a foreign cemetery nearly 4,000 miles away. For as distant as the war was, its dark consequences loomed above her life in the most dramatic of ways.


This September 1944 clipping from the Altoona Mirror speaks of Lt. Stehley’s death

The bureaucratic process of war dead repatriation was often an agonizingly long and drawn-out affair. Next of kin were essentially granted three options: leave a killed son buried overseas, return their remains to their hometown, or lay them to rest in a domestic national cemetery. Mrs. Stehley elected the third option. Yet, the day of her son’s return could not arrive soon enough. After the war, according to Michael Sledge, “families had to wait two, three, four, or five years and longer before being able to bury their loved ones. This delay had many perfectly logical reasons, but logic plays little part in the normal range of human emotions, let alone at the extreme edge of grief that accompanies death.” Families were left in an emotionally painful limbo as they awaited an essential component of grieving: burial.

Between 1947 and 1949 over 400 war dead were interred in the Soldier’s National Cemetery at Gettysburg. Over 1,600 WWII veterans, many of whom subsequently passed decades later of natural causes, rest in America’s most visited battlefield. On April 21, 1949, Stehley became one of them—buried within cannon shot of his alma mater. Florence spent the next twenty-seven years of her life pondering the life her son could have enjoyed.

I first learned of Stehley’s moving story while I was employed as a seasonal ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park. Our common hometown, our shared interest in history, and our similar age connected me to his tale in a profound way. That bond was strengthened last year when I quite inadvertently came across the officer’s Purple Heart Medal on display in the Altoona Area Public Library’s Alumni Room—a space dedicated to Altoona High history and former students. Through the cooperation of the library staff, I was temporarily entrusted with Stehley’s medal. I watchfully transported it to his grave-site in Gettysburg where fellow WWII reenactors and I held a brief but meaningful moment of remembrance.

DSC_0278Jared Frederick with Lt. Stehley’s original Purple Heart medal at his grave on June 6, 2015.

As one of my former professors constantly proclaimed, history surrounds us. It does us well to remember that citizens from all walks of life played small but transformative roles in some of the most momentous episodes of the past. Many of them, including 22 year-old Ralph Stehley, never returned.

Stehley’s tragic tale is merely one of hundreds to be discovered on these hallowed grounds. An ideal time to reflect upon these stories of sacrifice is during the Eisenhower WWII Weekend. The signature event of the battlefield’s sister park, Eisenhower National Historic Site, takes place September 17-18 this year. Licensed Battlefield Guide Ralph Siegel will present free guided walks about the World War II dead buried in the cemetery. These hour-long, free guided tours are offered Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Visitors should park in the National Cemetery parking lot on Taneytown Road. The tour begins inside the Taneytown Road cemetery gate.

From that same hillside in 1863, Abraham Lincoln spoke of the value of preserving democracy in the name “of the people.” Eighty years later, a subsequent generation of Americans pledged themselves to that same commitment on a global stage.  The serene grounds of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery offer the ideal locale for such a meaningful recognition.

– Jared Frederick
Penn State – Altoona

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Walk through Ziegler’s Grove

Today, despite the blazing heat, we thought we would show you some images of the work currently being done at Ziegler’s Grove and at the old National Cemetery Parking Lot. For background on why construction and rehabilitation is happening at this site read our previous blog post.


We begin near the Lydia Leister farm, used as the headquarters of George Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac,  and head due north towards the town of Gettysburg. The monument on the left honors the Oneida Cavalry of New York which served Meade’s headquarters during the battle, providing orderlies, couriers and guards. The monument was placed on the field in 1904.


As we make our way down the path, still heading north, we pass the  site of the former Cyclorama Center. That structure once dominated the western view from this position and would have sat among the trees at center. The old Cyclorama building was removed in 2013, marking the first step in the rehabilitation of this section of the battlefield.


Tucked along the fence line observant visitors can find a marker for the 7th West Virginia Infantry. The 7th was the only West Virginia infantry unit to serve in the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg. Originally positioned in this location, they were ordered to East Cemetery Hill during the twilight hours of July 2nd, 1863 to assist XI Corps units struggling to repulse the Confederate brigades of Hays and Avery.


Much of the work near the old National Cemetery parking lot necessitated the removal of vegetation, opening up new and unexpected view-sheds.


Work is currently underway to restore the battle-era topography of Ziegler’s Grove and the northern stretches of Cemetery Ridge, including a gentle ravine that separated Cemetery Ridge from Cemetery Hill. In the distance can be seen the Taneytown Road and the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.


Looking due west we can see the tablet to Battery G of the 2nd United States Artillery. Commanded on July 3rd by Lt. John Butler, they were  not engaged during the battle. Held in reserve on July 2nd, they occupied this position on July 3rd after Pickett’s Charge had already been repulsed. The rear slope of Cemetery Ridge, near the camera position, would have been the location where the limbers for this battery were placed.


Looking west from the edge of the work zone we can see Hancock Avenue and the monument to the 126th New York. This particular regimental memorial, topped with a granite clover leaf – symbol of the II Army Corps, was placed on the battlefield in 1888.


The markers to Battery G of the 2nd US Artillery and Battery F of the 5th US Artillery, commanded by Leonard Martin, sit where the Cyclorama Center once dominated the landscape.


Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Side by Side: Two Civil War Paintings

Combined Paintings v2The painting on the left is “The Armed Slave” by William Spang, painted in 1870.  Officially known as “A Virginia Slave – A Hero of Harpers Ferry,” it is now on display in a new exhibit at Gettysburg National Military Park.

On the right is Spang’s “The Old Veteran,” completed 20 years later.  These paintings represent, in vivid color and clarity, the war’s origins and outcomes.  To the left, a slave reads calmly and intently, cigar in hand, rifle-musket with bayonet close, ready to take up arms in the fight for freedom in John Brown’s ill-fated 1859 slave uprising.  To the right, a veteran, surrounded by the mementos of the war, pays homage to his comrades and his former supreme commander, reflecting on events long past.

The painter William Spang was born in Pennsylvania, and trained as an artist before the war, working in a studio in Philadelphia and exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  He enlisted in the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry in late 1862, serving in the regiment until the end of the war.  After the war, he continued to work actively as a painter, commanded Meade Post #2 of the Grand Army of the Republic in Philadelphia, and married his former pupil, Adelaide Paris, when he was 72 (she was 41).  Tragically for the couple, he died the following year and was buried in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Both these paintings and many other works, many by former soldiers, are on display in the exhibit, “With Brush, Mold, Chisel, and Pen: Reflections of Civil War Art” in the Gilder Lehrman gallery of the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. The exhibit opened earlier this summer and features paintings, sculpture and decorative arts from the collections of Gettysburg National Military Park, the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

My thanks to Curator Greg Goodell for his assistance with this post.

Katie Lawhon, Senior Advisor, August 4, 2016

Posted in Gettysburg Art, Museum and Visitor Center, Uncategorized, Veterans, Weapons & Artifacts | 1 Comment

“I don’t think we can have an Army without music” – Music of the 1860’s


“I don’t think we can have an Army without music.”

 – General Robert E. Lee, CSA[1] 

The German author and poet, Berthold Auerbach once wrote, “Music washes away the dust of everyday life.” People have always needed music; to liven up a party, comfort us when we’re sad, to entertain us, to make work easier, to inspire us, to bring us closer to God.

Today music is everywhere. We are inundated with it on our computers, our phones, on television, in our cars, in the grocery store, even when we’re on hold. It’s there whenever we want it, and it’s only a click away. It is so readily available, that it is often taken for granted. It has become wallpaper for the ear.  However, for many of us, we couldn’t get through our day without it.

For Americans in the 19th century, music was just as important to them as it is us. Perhaps even more so. Without satellite radio, iTunes, CDs, or other means to record or broadcast performers, music was an event; something that the listener experienced in a more immediate way. It was simple: you played or sang music yourself, or you listened to somebody play or sing for you. Almost every community had somebody that could sing or play one or more instruments. Many were willing to teach others how to play music.

The piano was invented in the early 1700s; the first one came to America in 1760. By 1800, new manufacturing techniques that improved the piano’s tonal quality and projection, made it a popular instrument in concert halls, taverns, and especially in the home. It was an instrument that was fairly easy to learn to play, could be played by one, two, or even three people, be used to accompany singers or other instruments, and was also an attractive piece of furniture. Owning a piano was a sign of middle-class respectability.

Outside of urban areas, the desire to play music was so strong that slaves on plantations and people on the frontier often made and played music on homemade guitars, banjos, (an instrument with roots in Africa), and fiddles; on tambourines, drums, and even ham bones. Churches raised money to buy a pump organ to accompany their choir.

And what were Americans listening to in the mid-19th century? Immigrants brought melodies with them from the Old World to the New One. Early English, German, and Moravian settlers brought church hymns and folk songs with them. French Acadian music drifted up the Mississippi River from New Orleans, while German polkas flowed downriver and then west to Texas and Missouri. Swedish folk songs were heard in the upper prairie states, while Irish and Italian folk songs were popular in New York and Boston. Slaves in the South fused their melodies and rhythms brought from Africa and bent Western European harmonies to create spirituals and work songs which in the early 20th century would evolve into jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, country, rock, soul, and hip-hop.

Pic 1

A Union Army sergeant with his guitar (Library of Congress)

The Napoleonic Wars, along with other turmoil in Europe, brought a huge influx of professional musicians to the United States. According to one unknown German immigrant musician, by 1828 in New York City alone, there were over 2,000 immigrants who earned their living by either playing or teaching music. During the Civil War, there were so many opportunities to play music for a living that in 1862 the first musicians’ union forms in New York City with established pay scales. [2] New Orleans was the opera capital of the United States, and in many major cities, you could hear symphony orchestras staffed with professional musicians. Famous singers and musicians from Europe often toured the United States playing in packed theaters. Jenny Lind, billed as the “Swedish Nightingale” by P.T. Barnum, had 30,000 people waiting for her when her ship docked in New York City and a ticket to her concert in Boston, was auctioned off for $625![3]

Controversial today, one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the cities was the minstrel show. Minstrel shows began in the taverns of New York City’s Lower Broadway and the Bowery districts in the mid-1830s and remained popular even into the early 20th century.

Even before Joshua used trumpets to blow down the walls of Jericho, armies have had music. Perhaps more than anybody else, soldiers needed music to inspire them to victory or console them in defeat, to bury the dead, to cheer up the sick and the wounded, to remind them of home and better times, to communicate orders and the time of day, to entertain and help unwind at the end of a long day.

The military band tradition began in Europe in the 1700s and came to the colonies during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Early military bands in the United States were patterned after the European model. That meant woodwinds: usually two hautbois (oboes), two clarinets, two bassoons or serpents (and an early ancestor of contrabass clarinet), a horn (with no valves or keys), and a trombone. The influence of Turkish military bands inspired the adoption of drums and cymbals.

The invention of the keyed brass instruments like the keyed bugle and cornet, (a cousin of the trumpet), allowed brass musicians to play with some of the facility of flute, clarinet, and oboe players, but with greater volume and carrying power than woodwinds. The invention of the piston-valve in the 1830’s, solved the problem of leaky keys and finally allowed brass players to play melodic lines with more fluidity as their woodwind counterparts. By the 1850s, most of the woodwinds with the exception for the fife, and occasionally the clarinet, were gone. Indeed, many bands were now made up entirely of brass and percussion.

Some of the most popular brass instruments were saxhorns invented for military bands by Adolphe Sax in Paris. Sax’s instruments ran the full range from soprano to bass. Sax had also invented a line of woodwind instruments called saxophones; but these would not reach American shores until after the war.

Pic 2

   Union soldier with his saxhorn and family (Library of Congress)

Military musicians were divided into two groups both with specific functions:  field musicians and band musicians. Field musicians played the fife, bugle, and field snare drum.

Since the voice of an officer giving orders had a limited carrying distance, the mission of the field musicians were transmit routine orders. They were the public address system of the army. Field musicians had little or no musical ability. They didn’t need it. The instruments they played were relatively easy to learn and the music they were required to play required little technical ability.

Pic 3

Field Musicians of the 30th PA (Library of Congress)

Field musicians often learned their trade on the job; the primary requirement necessary was the ability to memorize the many calls and signals that regulated a soldier’s day. Calls were the alarm clock of the army. They told you when to wake up, when to assemble, when to eat, when to go on sick call, when to drill, when to take care of the horses, when to go to church, when to go on picket duty, and when to go to sleep. There were also signals to assist the commander in the movement of troops such as “forward”, “halt”, “commence firing”, and “retreat”.  To hear “Reveille”, “Drill Call”, and the “Adjutants Call”, click the icons below:

The popularity of brass instruments led to the development of community brass bands. Professional brass bands toured the country and featured famous soloists. Many militia companies in the North and South had their own bands, and those bands followed their companies and regiments into the army. “The tradition of associating band music with all civil, social, and community celebrations was established long before the war.”[4] When the Civil War began, bands were a valuable recruiting tool. No self-respecting regiment could really call itself a regiment without a band and often popular brass bands were sometimes enlisted en masse into a regiment, with several regiments competing to get the best bands and famous soloists.

While Patrick Gilmore’s Band in the 24th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment was reputed to be the best band in the Union Army, not every regiment or brigade was so lucky. The band of the famous Iron Brigade boasted of having the best drum major in the army but the worst band. [5]

In 1862, there were 4,000 musicians in the Union Army. The expense of having to maintain so many bands in the Union Army cost the Federal government four million dollars a year. The U.S. Congress finally had to pass a bill eliminating regimental bands and limiting bands to one per brigade.

Pic 4Soldiers of the 8th New York, “Elmira Cornet Band” (Library of Congress)

With fewer resources, the Confederate armies had fewer bands. That did not mean Confederate soldiers were any less enthusiastic about music. General Jeb Stuart, was a connoisseur of music, and always ensured there were musicians at his headquarters and he sometimes went into battle accompanied by a banjo player. The band of the Stonewall Brigade was considered one of the best, if not the best band in Lee’s army. Many Moravian immigrants settled in North Carolina and served in bands during the war; the best known of which was the 26th North Carolina band, which served a Gettysburg.

Pic 5

Confederate soldier with a saxhorn (Library of Congress)

Bands performed for a variety of functions: military parades and reviews, funerals, executions, on the march. Bands marched at the head of a column of troops, (still the custom today in military ceremonies). Some brass instruments were over the shoulder instruments with the bell of the instrument pointing behind the musician towards the marching troops.

Sometimes bands were used to deceive the enemy. General Pierre G. T. Beauregard used to the Band to cover the retreat of his army from Corinth, Mississippi. The band would perform from location to another, giving the impression that Confederate troops still occupied Corinth. The Federal troops finally realized they were being duped and captured the whole band.[6]

When bands were not performing music for military functions, they performed concerts for the troops. The band book of the 26th North Carolina’s band included marches, transcriptions from French, German, and Italian operas, dances, and folk and popular songs of the day. Bands on the other side shared the same repertoire.

In the winter of 1862-63, both the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Potomac were positioned along the Rappahannock River. One evening, a band on one side of the river began playing. Soon massed Union bands began playing along the bank of the river for the enjoyment of both armies. Men on both sides sat along the river and silently listened while others would sing along with the bands. After a while, Confederate soldiers on the south side of the river requested that the bands play some their songs. The bands immediately began to play, “Dixie”, “The Bonnie Blue Flag,” “Maryland, My Maryland,” and other songs. Finally, a band began playing, “Home, Sweet Home”. As Bruce Catton would write, “Both armies tried to sing it, and it was a rather sentimental occasion. After all, these boys were a long way from home. They knew perfectly well that many of them were never going to see home again; as soon as the warm weather came, they would be fighting each other. The song got a little too much for them and pretty soon the bands finished the music by themselves.”

The 21st Annual Gettysburg Music Muster will be held AUG 12-13. All performances are free to the public

John Nicholas
Park Guide
Gettysburg National Military Park


[1] Sign in the Admin building of the 392nd “Fort Lee” Army Band, Fort Lee, Virginia, circa 1998.

[2] Olsen, Kenneth E. Music and Musket: Bands and Bandsmen of the Civil War Greenwood Press, Westport, CT. 1981 p. 21, p. 219

[3] Cornelius, Stephen H. Music of the Civil War Era Greenwood Press, Westport, CT. 2004 p.14

[4] Olsen, Kenneth E. Music and Musket: Bands and Bandsmen of the Civil War Greenwood Press, Westport, CT. 1981 p. 33

[5] Lt. Loyd Harris of the 6th Wisconsin would write, “Our men were just as ready to wager anything from a box of cigars to a month’s pay, rations included, that our band was without exception the worst of all.” Heardegen, Lance J. and William J.K. Beaudot  In the Bloody Railroad Cut at Gettysburg  Morningside House Dayton, OH 1990  p. 112

[6] Davis, James A. “Musical Reconnaissance and Deception in the American Civil War”, The Journal of Military History 74 #1 (January 2010) pp. 80-81

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments