** Please check out my tribute page to two of my Civil War relatives who never made it home **

Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31, 2012

Of all the places on the Gettysburg battlefield, there is one place that stands out as being particularly sanctified: the Soldiers’ National Cemetery located along Taneytown Road. Since childhood I have noticed a very heavy and tangible ambiance, sacred, somber, and overwhelming at times. At night it seemed that that blanket of valor, honor, pride, and sorrow was heaviest . . . there was a presence there, not necessary in a ghostly manner, but simply there.

A walk through the National Cemetery is enough to drive many to tears or at least to grief and sorrow. The thing I noticed first and the thing that touches me most today is the sheer number of gravestones. Small, white slabs stretch as far as the eye can see. So many. Each stone represents a man lost, a life taken prematurely. And of course there are unknown graves as well. The Soldiers’ National Cemetery holds not only the graves of Union soldiers killed during the battle of Gettysburg in 1863 but also of World War II soldiers as well as other individuals. It seems as though the black wrought-iron fence that separates the National Cemetery from the older Evergreen Cemetery was brought from Washington D.C. The stone wall that one can see most clearly along Taneytown Road is not the original, but was restored in 1980 to appear just as it did in the 1860s.

Especially after dark, the National Cemetery exudes a sort of
heavy somberness that demands respect for those who lie there.
In 1863 this area, like most of the battlefield, was farmland. A cornfield was located on this spot. In August, David Wills, credited with setting the ball rolling for the National Cemetery, bought this land and later saw it turned into one of the most hallowed places in the nation, if not the world. Burials likely began in November after the dedication and after President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

During the next three decades, bodies long-forgotten were interred here. In 1889, for instance, construction workers came upon Civil War remains. In 1899 there were two separate incidences of Civil War dead being discovered over thirty years after the battle of Gettysburg. These men, too, found a final resting place in the sacred ground of the National Cemetery.

Still more were found in 1900 and in 1915. The last Civil War-era remains were interred here in 1997 after an unidentified soldier was discovered near the railroad cut along McPherson’s Ridge. There is much speculation that although only Union soldiers were to be buried here, it is very likely that the soldier was a Confederate. Other Confederates, who have since been identified, are known to have been accidentally buried here as well.



Co. E, 21st Mississippi Infantry (“Hurricane Rifles”)

Born April 23, 1828 --- Died July 03, 1863 at age 35

Cpt. Stamps had the distinction of being the nephew of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, a fact which likely shaped his life (for better or for worse, none can say). When he died at Gettysburg at age 35, he left a two-year-old daughter, Mary, at home. It is likely that he met his death in the Peach Orchard during Gen. William Barksdale’s charge. Cpt. Stamps is buried at the Davis Family Cemetery in Woodville, Mississippi. An image of him can be found here.

(c) 2012 Skies of Blue and Gray

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