Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Battle Anniversary 9: In natura tranquillitatis est


There is something about the tranquility of the Battlefield in the darkening of an evening. There are few places around anymore that show as many stars, and viewed from the Wheatfield, a full moon rising over Little Round Top is superior to any thunderous dawn of Kipling’s. In the summer, after the visitors go, the park’s non-human inhabitants come out – deer anywhere around the park, fox kits playing at the intersection of Hancock and Pleasanton Avenues, bobcats screaming up and down both Round Tops. In natura tranquillitatis est.

No one can prepare you for the first time you drive up Hancock Avenue on a mid-July evening, and as you pass the copse of trees, if you look to your left, you see them: thousands of gun flashes in the fields over which Pickett’s, Pettigrew’s and Trimble’s men strode in their crouching walk into the face of death. You know, finally that they are only fireflies, but for a moment…

On those very quiet nights, when only the insects sing, you can sometimes park in the old Cyclorama parking lot and roll down your windows, and catch something extra in the air. You listen to the cycle of the cicadas, and once in a while they synchronize and you hear him, “…come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this… poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated…”

In a gushing storm you can hear the crash of the artillery with every thunderclap, and the roar of the muskets in the teeming rain, and as the wind swirls faster, you hear the rising moan of the wounded.

And in the shimmering light of a full moon you see the men standing silent guard in their line of battle – monuments not men, but monuments erected by the men who fought here and survived. There was something very, very special about these fields, and hills. It was so special, the men were drawn back to these grounds, and they came, every five years for almost a century until none were left. They were no longer enemies, but brothers who had experienced Hell and came away from the maelstrom with their lives.

When they returned they chased out the gamblers, the prostitutes, the trolley line, and the commercial ventures, and they did so out of their own pockets, buying up small parcels of ground, some not much bigger than a 12 foot square, as that was all they could afford. In such measures they bought the land on which the trolley ran, and then evicted it…not without a court fight, but the government took that up with the trolley operators. It was the second time they paid for this land. In their minds, and in their hearts, they already owned it, not for themselves, but for this nation, under God.

These men, who’s lives were measured by fate on those three days in July, these men came back, and as long as they could they made sure proper respect was paid to the ground that had soaked up so much blood, theirs, their messmates, their friends, brothers, cousins, and tens of thousands of men they never knew, never saw, nor would they ever meet.

It was these men who crafted the permanent memorial that is this park, this Battlefield. First with their sweat and blood, and later with whatever dollars they could spare, and sometimes with dollars they could not spare. And every five years they’d come back, and erect another monument and pair of flank markers, and some of them would speak, and men who were never here would speak bold and inspiring words, and there would be that sad feeling that every time they came back there were fewer still. But it was an inner drive, a duty to perform as long as one of them survived, to keep coming back here to honor and pay tribute to all who fought here, that this nation might live.

Those of us who were never there at that time, and that is all of us, every single person on the face of this planet, and all to come, have no recourse but to stand and try to imagine -- a fruitless exercise, but to try to imagine the enormity of it all. It cannot be honestly done for we have nothing in our experience, any of us, to compare with what they experienced here. Movies and reenactments can give us a sense of it, but no one can possibly know what it was like. D-Day in 1944 where the Allies had 150,000 men engaged, lost about 10,000. At Gettysburg, the Confederates had approximately 65-75,000 men and had over 28,000 casualties, while the Army of the Potomac with somewhere around 90,000 men lost over 23,000.

From 8 AM on July 1st, to approximately 8 PM on July 3rd, a period of 60 hours, the combined average loss rate was 850 men every hour, 14 men every minute -- every single hour. That is a man down every four seconds.

Numbers like that are incomprehensible, not only in total, but in trying to get a grasp in one’s mind, to understand the enormity of it by trying to break it into little pieces, as the men themselves broke this Battle into smaller pieces. The Seminary, Barlow’s Knoll, The Wheatfield (where the fighting was probably as bad as, and perhaps more dreadfully efficient than the fighting during Pickett’s Charge), The Peach Orchard, Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, Seminary Ridge, Culp’s Hill, East Cemetery Hill, Cemetery Ridge, Benner’s Hill, Powers Hill, and the farms, Rose, Weikert, Sherfy, McPherson, Culp, Benner, Codori and Trostle. All those names, each in their own nook on the Battlefield - names that will live in American history as places where a nation was re-forged, where its course was corrected, and a wrong was righted.

Where once the sound was so immense and terrifying, and sights presented before the eyes that the mind could not swallow, now it is a somber, and reverent field, a field that drains a million tears in a small brook called Plum Run – a field on which those men gave the last full measure of devotion.

In natura tranquillitatis est – in nature there is tranquility.

GettysBLOG

Copyright © 2005-2017: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Battle Anniversary 8: The Cleansing, July 4-5

After the fighting ended on that 3rd day of July, 1863, and after the smoke had cleared, some 125,000 men stared blankly across the slope separating Seminary Ridge from Cemetery Ridge, and wondered what version of Hell would next present itself. A small group of soldiers ventured out from Union lines on Cemetery Ridge, in front of the artillery pieces that were now cooling and silent. They went forward and worked to put out the blaze in front of those guns, where grass, and clothing and bodies themselves had caught fire from the intense heat of the furious blasts.

If you had not been present for the battle, but had happened on it just at this time, you would have heard the moaning, and screams of thousands of wounded and dying who were laying on that slope, and around those guns. Those that had partaken of the battle, who had fired their guns in as rapid a fashion as they could, and had defended those cannons from the enemy, heard only the ringing in their ears. In some cases it would be days before they could hear normally, in other cases, they never would.

Ambulance attendants, hospital orderlies, and work crews from all the regiments that were able to muster them, on both ridges, began to move forward to collect, first the wounded, then later, the dead. As they had the night before, the bands of all the regiments, brigades, divisions and corps, began to play along Taneytown Road, to mask the sounds coming from the hospitals in the rear. Down the western slope of Seminary Ridge, the Confederate bands played. Because of that gun-deafness, few who were in the front lines could hear the bands. It was a good thing, perhaps, for it meant they were the lucky few who could not hear the screaming and the low, steady moaning sound that came from the hospitals, not quite hidden by the music.

Officers busied themselves scurrying along the regimental and company fronts, straightening their lines, checking their men, making sure they had all gotten fresh ammunition, and water. The sergeants would be along later with some food, hardtack most likely, and perhaps some salt beef from a commissary barrel someone was actually able to locate.

Out on the slope, frequent shots rang out as a wounded horse or mule was found and its misery ended.

As the twilight deepened into full night, one could look across the slope between the ridges and see lanterns moving about on the field, as the removal process continued. For once, neither side had the stomach to take the other under fire. For once exhaustion and a surfeit of bloodletting forced humanity upon them.

Lee had his troops dig in along Seminary and Oak Ridges during the night and early morning, expecting a counter attack from Meade. But none came. A late afternoon probe by Meade turned up little.

After a hazy dawn, a prisoner exchange was requested by General Robert E. Lee, and declined by Major General George G. Meade. It was Union policy that prisoner exchanges cease, because the Confederacy refused to treat captured United States Colored Troops, and their white officers the same as white troops, and their white officers; and because the United States was winning a war of attrition against the Confederacy, and the return of Confederate prisoners who would fight again after parole, would only help prolong the war.

Sometime in the early afternoon hours of July 4th, 1863, it began to rain. All day in the fog and the rain, the recovery continued. Some wounded would lay there for days before being discovered and taken to hospitals. Many who searched for Confederate dead and wounded were their slaves, looking for their masters. As many as 10,000 had accompanied the Army of Northern Virginia on the campaign. Now, as it became obvious that the Rebels had suffered a setback, many of the slaves were running from the army, and into the freedom of the Pennsylvania countryside – behind Union lines.

Lee ordered a few units to build rather large fires along Seminary Ridge after nightfall on the 4th to cover for the departing units. Indeed, he had sent his main supply train, some twenty miles in length, back toward the Potomac River earlier in the day, complete with the wounded, and the prisoners Meade refused to exchange. They went west, initially toward Chambersburg, but only to turn south once over the crest of South Mountain. Now it was time for the Army to go. They headed southwest toward Hagerstown by way of Fairfield, and Waynesboro.

By evening the rain had increased its intensity. Cavalry troopers pursuing the retreating Confederates over South Mountain near the village of Monterey on the evening of the 4th, slogged up the steep mountain road, fighting not only the mud and the Confederates, but the driving rain, and the rushing torrents that drained down from the crest of the mountain. The terrain on either side of the road was so treacherous that the Confederates needed to place only one artillery piece in the road, aiming it down at the men of Brigadier General George A. Custer’s Michigan Cavalry Brigade. Custer’s men knew they were close and eventually carved out a five mile long section of Major General Richard S. Ewell’s Corps supply train, which was approximately 17 miles long. The Battle of Monterey Pass could be heard, and the gun flashes seen miles to the west in Waynesboro.

Back at the battlefield, the teeming rains continued to wash the blood from the ground, and rocks. The rains kept up for days, and why not? Had there not been so much blood spilled that the rains would need time to do the cleansing? During this time, a few militia troops, and many civilian volunteers once again scoured the battlefield for wounded, and buried the dead upon which they stumbled.

To see the weather, one need only look at the photographer’s images, those in particular of Alexander Gardner, the Scotsman hired by Matthew Brady to come to America in 1857, or Timothy O’Sullivan, both of whom were part of a group of about 20 that Brady sent out across the country to photograph the Civil War. Anything in the distance in any of the views is shrouded in fog and mist.

They arrived sometime on July 5th. They started taking pictures immediately, trying to capture the dead, and get an image of the numbers of the dead. It had been the dead of the September, 1862, Battle of Antietam, that had both repulsed and enthralled the visitors to Brady’s New York gallery. It brought the human price of the war home to all who viewed those images.

By the time Gardner and O’Sullivan arrived, most of the Union dead had been removed from the fields. What we are left with is the view of row upon row of Confederate dead, and soldier after soldier, now a cold photographic subject that was once a warm and breathing human being. Pictures of the dead made money, so pictures of the dead is what Brady got from his photographers.


Two of the most famous photos, The Harvest of Death (above), and its opposite view (below), which purport to be the only photographs showing Union dead on the Battlefield, are, to this day, still a mystery as to the location on the Gettysburg Battlefield where they were taken. We favor the theory that these men are the dead of the 5th New Jersey, killed by Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade on July 2nd while on picket duty stretched between the Spangler Farm and the Sherfy Farm.



One can see the weather when the photographs were taken.

It rained, it poured, for days. Some have ventured to guess that a hurricane slowly moved through the area, dumping tropical rains on the Pennsylvania countryside.

The three days of killing on the fields surrounding the town of Gettysburg had made for very hot work. By day, the sun burned through the hazy humidity warming the air into the mid to upper 80s, and by night, it likely never went below the upper 60s. And coming a mere ten days after the summer solstice, those hot days allowed for maximum daylight hours – hours that could be used for the butchery of battle. It was rarely wasted, with most fights going from the afternoon, into the evening, and sometimes continuing all night long. It was hot, all three days…hot and dry.

Now, though, the great cleansing had begun. The armies had moved off, and Nature was doing its best to cleanse itself from this great killing that occurred over these beautiful rocky fields, and through these woods and orchards. It was as if it was eager to remove the scars of an insult, but even for Nature it was too late. The ground had been hallowed by blood, and by blood its hallowing would remain. And nothing, ever, would sully that hallowing.

GettysBLOG
Copyright © 2005-2017: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Monday, July 03, 2017

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,


When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained, and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

• For protecting them by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
• For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
• For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
• For depriving us in many cases of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
• For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
• For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
• For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
• For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms. Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren:
• We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.
• We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here.
• We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare:
That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown,
and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved;
and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce,
and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

GettysBLOG

We support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" -- GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” -- GettysBLOG

Remember in May and November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2005-2017: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Battle Anniversary 7: "The Men Lay in Heaps", July 3, 1863 - Morning & Afternoon

Gettysburg Pennsylvania. July 3, 1863

The Bliss Farm
On the morning of July 3, 1863, the small farm belonging to William Bliss was the focus of entirely too much attention. Situated some 100 yards west of the Emmitsburg Road, the farmhouse, and barn, and the orchard behind the buildings, were providing cover for men of both sides. The Confederates of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, holding Seminary Ridge about a third of a mile farther west sent skirmishers and sharpshooters to the Bliss Farm buildings to use them as cover while they sent sniper fire up the slope onto Cemetery Ridge, and, to the left, up the western and southern slopes of Cemetery Hill. The large barn, situated on some of the highest ground in the area, was of stone and brick construction, with the lower level German style overhang facing the road. From the five cattle doors on the lower eastern side, and from the slits in the side of the upper story Confederate sharpshooters were wreaking havoc with the Union troops on Cemetery Ridge, and Cemetery Hill, and the Union skirmishers along the Emmitsburg Road.

The 14th Connecticut Infantry Regiment was sent forward to drive the ‘Johnnies’ off the Bliss Farm. They eventually did so, at some cost. While in possession of the farm buildings, couriers arrived from Cemetery Ridge bearing orders to burn the buildings to deny the Confederates use of the cover. Gathering up his men, Major Theodore G. Ellis ordered them to stack hay in the barn, furniture and bedding in the house and to set the piles ablaze after evacuating all the wounded from both buildings. Once the fires were going in earnest, Ellis and his men withdrew to the main Union line on Cemetery Ridge under cover of the thick smoke issuing from the blaze. As the building began to collapse, the pickets along Emmitsburg Road set up a cheer.

The Cannonade
Sometime around 1 PM, two ‘Napoleons’ from the Washington Artillery of Louisiana fired a single round apiece, as a signal to the rest of the artillery: “Commence Firing”. Lined up in an arc from the Peach Orchard in the south, curving through the fields west of the Emmitsburg Road, to Seminary Ridge and all the way up to the Lutheran Seminary itself in the north, over 100 guns opened up, directing most of their fire at the top of Cemetery Ridge, and the west and north side of Cemetery Hill. To a soldier in the 14th Connecticut, “It seemed as if all the Demons in Hell were let loose and were howling through the air.” For the next hour, Confederate artillery pounded away at Cemetery Ridge and Cemetery Hill. Here, an artillery caisson full of ammunition was hit, exploding in a ball of flame, and eliciting cheers from the Confederate gunners, and from the Infantry waiting in the woods behind them. There a section of stone wall was breached, and more cheers went up. The Yankee artillery fired back for a while, and then, one by one, the Union guns fell silent, on orders from their Chief of Artillery, General Henry Hunt. Hunt wanted the Confederates to think their cannonade was effectively taking out the artillery batteries arrayed along Cemetery Ridge, so he ordered them to cease fire one at a time and to pull back off the west slope of the ridge and out of danger. The Confederates took the bait.

Alexander
Colonel E. Porter Alexander was in command of the cannonade for the Confederates. At about 1:40 PM, he sent a message to Major General George E. Pickett, the man designated to Command the advance of some 12,000 infantrymen across the mile of open ground between Seminary Ridge and Cemetery Ridge. The note said, “The 18 guns have been driven off. For God’s sake come on quick or we cannot support you ammunition nearly out.”

Hunt
Brigadier General Henry Hunt was a practical thinking genius. He was innovative: he had developed a method of bringing ammunition to the gunline in a fast manner by using the ambulances of the Army of the Potomac to haul ammunition forward, and to bring wounded back. 

[His management of the artillery throughout the three day battle was simply magnificent, and a large factor in the eventual outcome. As good as the Union Artillery was at Gettysburg, for the most part, the Confederate Artillery was that bad. It was not that they lacked the skill, but they lacked the manufacturing capacity in the South to make uniform fuses for the shells.]

Pickett
Pickett’s men moved out of the woods on Seminary Ridge and formed a line a mile long. About 2 PM, as the artillery fire slackened, they moved forward, the regiments in their brigades, formed in line abreast, two or more ranks deep. One officer from the 12th New Jersey later wrote that it was, “the grandest sight I ever witnessed.” A Sergeant from the 14th Connecticut said, “It was a glorious sight to see, Rebels though they were.” A Union artillery officer offered the more sobering outlook, “Our chances for Kingdom Come, or Libby Prison were good.”

Hunt
The previously withdrawn artillery units were quickly returned to their locations on the west crest of Cemetery Ridge, and immediately began a deliberate, and steady fire into the ranks of the advancing Confederates.

The Men
From time to time, segments of the long Confederate line would disappear from sight, having marched into a swale. Some were forced to climb the sturdy split rail fences that partitioned off the land into separate lots on both sides of the Emmitsburg Road. At such times they were particularly vulnerable to Union fire. Finally, they reached the Emmitsburg Road, and climbed the fence on the west side, and using that sunken road as cover for a brief respite from the angry shelling, buzzing rifle miniƩ balls, and whirring shards of artillery shells, they dressed their lines once more for the final assault, and climbed the fence on the east side of the road, taking up the advance.

Pickett
As Pickett’s three brigades maneuvered across the fields, angling north from the Codori Farm, three regiments from George Stannard’s Vermont Brigade stepped out and down the western slope of Cemetery Ridge where two of them took Pickett’s men under fire on the flank. The Vermonters stayed out in front of the Union lines and when Pickett’s men swung in toward the Copse of Trees, the Vermonters struck their right flank a second time.

8th Ohio
On the Union right, the doughty and seasoned veterans of the 8th Ohio Regiment advanced along a sunken lane parallel to the Confederate assault’s northern-most Brigade, that of Colonel John Brockenborough’s Virginians. The Ohio men advanced from the lane and struck the left flank of the Virginians, forcing them to withdraw in some disarray.

Wilcox and Lang
Back on the Confederate right, a late starting force of two Brigades under Brigadier General Cadmus Wilcox, and Colonel David Lang surged forward over the same ground they had the day before, only to have been ambushed by Union artillery and the valiant 1st Minnesota Infantry Regiment. Today’s results would be worse. The 13th Vermont faced south and struck the left of David Lang’s Brigade emerging from the ravine below the Codori Farm in the same place Wilcox’s Alabamans had been ambushed the day before. Wilcox bore the brunt of Colonel Freeman McGilvery’s artillery brigade firing from hidden ground on Cemetery Ridge. Wilcox and Lang turned their men and withdrew.

The High Water Mark of the Confederacy
At last, approximately twenty minutes after they stepped off, the Confederate line reached the main Union defenses on Cemetery Ridge: a low stone wall behind which several brigades of infantry waited. From a range of about 30 yards, both sides stood in line and blazed away at each other with rifle fire. In places, artillery blasted gaping holes in the Confederate lines. To keep the line of fire clear for the cannons, Union troops stayed out of the way, and thus, gaps in the line of infantry appeared. A breakthrough was made in front of the guns of Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing’s Battery A, 4th United States Artillery. Brigadier General Lewis Armistead, one of Pickett’s brigade commanders, climbed over the wall, holding his hat impaled on his upright sword, and yelled, “Who will follow me?!” A few dozen actually did, before being swept away by Cushing’s guns, as he fired the last round before succumbing to his many wounds. Infantry reserves stepped forward to plug gaps, and to keep other units in front of them from breaking and running. Conspicuous for his courage and leadership was Brigadier General Alexander Webb, commanding a brigade of Pennsylvanians assigned to the area known as ‘The Angle’. Before long, the fight was over, and the long walk back to Seminary Ridge began for the survivors.

Thompson
Near sundown, Captain Benjamin Thompson of the 111th New York Infantry gazed to the west from the crest of Cemetery Ridge. He later recorded, “No words can depict the ghastly picture. The track of the great charge was marked by the bodies of men in all possible positions, wounded bleeding, dying, and dead. Near the line where the final struggle occurred, the men lay in heaps, the wounded wiggling and groaning under the weight of the dead among whom they were entangled."

Custer
Custer sensed them coming, again. So did his temporary boss, Major General David M. Gregg, to whom Custer had been loaned from Kilpatrick's Division of Cavalry on the south end of the Battlefield. Custer and Gregg both figured that Stuart would be trying to get behind the Union center, so they waited for him to show up at some farms about three miles east of town. Sometime in the mid afternoon, Stuart appeared, just as expected. Custer rode out in front of his 7th Michigan Cavalry Regiment and called to them, "Come on, you wolverines!" There followed a large noise, some describe it as sounding like two trains crashing head on, as the two bodies of horsemen closed on each other south of the Rummel farm, colliding with their cavalry sabers drawn.

The fight at what is now called East Cavalry Field lasted several hours, and Custer was far from being the only Union hero...there were many. And in the end, Stuart retreated back to Gettysburg, defeated three times in four days by the 23 year old Custer. [Custer would be Stuart's nemesis for nearly another year, until Michigan troops killed Stuart at the Battle of Yellow Tavern].

Pickett
The cost was excruciatingly high. In Pickett’s Division, there were 2,653 casualties – killed, wounded, captured, or missing. It is estimated that the Confederates, who began the day with a fight on Culp’s Hill, and ended it with Pickett’s Charge (and a few later small engagements), lost approximately 10,000 men on July 3.

The Toll
During all three days of the Battle of Gettysburg, Union casualties are estimated at 23,049 (3,155 killed, 14,529 wounded, 5,365 missing). The Confederate losses were worse: 28,063 (3,903 killed, 18,735 wounded, 5,425 missing).

That is a total of 51,112.

Wert
Historian Jeffry D. Wert writes in his stunning and riveting book, Gettysburg: Day Three, “By nightfall on July 3, forty thousand officers and men from both armies, the dead and wounded, lay either on the battlefield or in makeshift field hospitals. The enormity of the numbers awed the survivors and moved them to write of it.” One artilleryman wrote, “I have seen many a big battle, most of the big ones of the war, and I never saw the like.” One of Colonel David Lang’s Floridians wrote, “I never saw the like of dead.”

As President Abraham Lincoln put it when dedicating the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg four months later, “…we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

Source 
Gettysburg: Day Three, by Jeffry D. Wert, Simon & Schuster, New York 2001. ISBN 0-684-85914-9.

[Statistics, facts, and quotations used in this essay have come from Wert's book. In the estimation of this blogger, it is the best comprehensive one day battle book written about the Battle of Gettysburg, if not the entire Civil War. It is highly recommended to all as an essential part of any serious student of history's library, as the author deeply examines the "why" behind the events.]

 GettysBLOG

Copyright © 2005-2017: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Battle Anniversary 6: "My Poor Boys. My Poor Boys.", July 2, 1863 - Night

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. July 2, 1863. Evening and night.

Johnson
Johnson’s Division of Ewell’s Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia was ready. They were on the east side of Rock Creek waiting to hear Longstreet’s assault commence. Johnson was uncomfortable, however, in that he was lacking his largest brigade, the fabled Stonewall Brigade, under Brigadier General James A. Walker. Walker’s Brigade had been occupied since that morning by the pesky dismounted cavalry troopers of the 10th New York and 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiments. Because their presence on the left flank of the Army of Virginia likely signaled the presence of an even larger force behind it, Johnson took no chances and left the Stonewall Brigade behind when he advanced, with orders to the effect that when he felt the situation had eased, and he could safely move up to the rest of the Division without endangering the army, Walker was to do so.

Suddenly there was a roar from a distance slightly left of directly ahead. That was Longstreet’s men going into action on the other end of the line, and the signal for Johnson to order his men forward.

But Johnson waited while details of his men cleared the fences along Rock Creek out of the way for his Division to cross and begin their assault. He was also waiting for Walker to come up with the Stonewall Brigade.

[Culp’s Hill is actually two hills, a high crest on the north and a much lower one, more of a short ridge, to the south, with a saddle in between of even lower ground.]

Greene
Brigadier General George Sears Greene, 2nd of 35 in his West Point class of 1823 – forty years earlier, commanded a Brigade of New York troops on the upper crest of Culp’s Hill. At 62 years of age, he was arguably the oldest officer in the Army of the Potomac. Perhaps Brigadier General Isaac Trimble, West Point class of 1822 was the oldest on the Confederate side.

Greene commanded five New York regiments. Earlier in the day, Greene had prevailed upon his Division Commander, Brigadier General John Geary to allow defensive works, something Geary was unwilling to do initially.

Greene’s men built trenches three feet deep, with header logs over the rims, providing maximum protection for his men. They were ready.

Geary 

Brigadier General John W. Geary commanded the Second Division of the 12th Corps, Army of the Potomac. He had been ordered to remove two brigades earlier in the day to help stem the tide on Cemetery Ridge.

Johnson
It was growing dark when Johnson began to move. To his surprise, Johnson’s men began the climb up the lower slope of Culp’s Hill virtually unopposed. Finding the Union works empty, they slipped in and waited. After midnight, Geary’s brigades began to filter back into their lines, only to be fired upon. It took a while to get their tired minds straight on who was shooting at them as they initially thought they were being fired upon by friendly forces in the darkness. Once the realization set in that the Confederate were in their works, a concerted effort was made to move them out.

Meanwhile, Jones’ Brigade of Virginians, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Robert H. Dungan, and Williams’ Brigade of Louisiana Troops, and Steuart’s Brigade (Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland) began the climb up the face of Culp’s Hill, in an effort to take it by frontal assault.

It began in the wee hours of the morning of July 3.

Greene
Greene’s regiments took turns in the trenches with the header logs, firing for almost an hour, then being replaced by a rested regiment. As the rested men went forward to enter the works, they would cheer. The regiments being replaced would hurry down to a hollow in the ground and rest, get water, clean their weapons, and draw fresh ammunition. After a short rest, they would cycle back into the works, cheering.

This tactic enabled Greene to keep a steady fire up around the clock, and to keep his men fresh, and their weapons working. The result was several regiments of Louisiana troops, and some Virginia regiments from Johnson’s Division pinned down on the hill unable to move forward, or back, doing their best to make themselves small, or to find a rock or tree to hide behind.

Toward sunrise Geary sent four fresh regiments to Greene, who simply added them to the rotation. It was a tactic that was perfect for the defenders, and it worked exceptionally well under Greene’s direction. The old campaigner was a tough commander, but his men respected him. They respected him even more for giving them cover from which to fight.

There were losses, however. As the regiments swapped in and out, they were briefly targets for the Confederates laying below the works. And more than one Confederate miniƩ ball found its way into the gap between the header logs inflicting a head or shoulder wound.

Steuart
Brigadier General George H. Steuart, West Point class of 1848, where he graduated 37th out of 38, commanded the last of the attacks on Culp’s Hill in mid-morning of July 3. It was an absolute blood bath, and Steuart was in tears when the survivors returned from the effort. As he watched them, Steuart tearfully repeated “My poor boys. My poor boys.”

GettysBLOG

Copyright © 2005-2017: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.