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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 30, 2013

One of my favorite state memorials on the Gettysburg battlefield can be found along West Confederate Avenue just before you reach Millerstown Road and the turnoff for Sachs Covered Bridge. Dedicated to the many Mississippi soldiers who fought on all three days of battle, this striking monument took shape in the early 1970s. I remember standing at the pink granite base and looking out over the quiet summer fields and the Sherfy farm in the distance. It was near this spot that Gen. William Barksdale urged his Mississippi soldiers toward the Peach Orchard on July 2nd. This action would later be known as “Barksdale’s Charge.”

I’ve always been amazed at how sculptors can take nondescript hunks of bronze and turn them into human likenesses, and the Mississippi state memorial is a prime example of this. Everything --- from the wounded soldier still holding the fallen flag to the soldier readying to disable the enemy with the butt of his rifle --- is minutely detailed. Interestingly enough, as stated above, Mississippians fought all three days at Gettysburg: during July 1st they made a desperate stand at the Railroad Cut; on July 2nd they took part in Barksdale’s Charge; and during July 3rd they helped make up the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge (which is often mistakenly thought to have been a solely Virginian affair).



Co. I, 62nd Pennsylvania Infantry

Born 1828 --- Died July 02, 1863 at age 35

Sgt. Osborn, whose pre-war residence was Beaver Township, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, breathed his last on the George Rose property which would later be appropriately named “the Bloody Wheatfield.” Back home, his wife Mary Jane mourned his loss, as well as his children Ambrose, aged fifteen; John, aged fourteen; Bernard, aged twelve; Mary, aged eight; Sarah, aged six; John, aged three; and Isaac, just an infant. The five eldest children were born to Isaac’s first wife Anna, who had died in 1857. Sgt. Osborn was buried at Gettysburg National Cemetery. A photo of him can be found here.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28, 2013

Reverend Michael Bushman could have had no way to know that his beautiful farm of brick and stone would be the last home many Confederate soldiers would ever see. The Bushman farm, located along Warfield Ridge, would have been visible to the Texan and Arkansan soldiers under Gen. John B. Hood, and likely to Alabamian troops as well. The house is especially beautiful and was constructed in sections, the left half built of fieldstone and the right half built of brick with a stone base. It dates from the early 1800s. The large white barn was constructed in the 1830s.

The Bushman farm served a greater purpose during the battle than just to look pretty, however. It is thought that Union sharpshooters probably harassed Gen. Hood’s men from this farm on July 2nd and were quickly chased out. Anecdotal evidence suggests it may have been used as a hospital. Its battle usage notwithstanding, the Bushman farm is in a beautiful location. Just behind the farm and its attractive wooden and white picket fences looms Little Round Top, and anyone standing in the front yard could have easily gazed up at the face of the hill with its scattering of prehistoric boulders.



28th Virginia Infantry

Born October 18, 1839 --- Died July 03, 1863 at age 23

As Lt. Graybill enlisted at Amsterdam, Virginia, this was likely his pre-war residence. Family history says he was a teacher at Roanoke College at age seventeen and enlisted in the Confederate army at age twenty-one. He was one of thousands of Southern men who took their last stand in the ill-fated Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge on July 3rd. Lt. Graybill was later buried at Amsterdam Cemetery.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Friday, January 25, 2013

January 25, 2013

95th New York on the left, 6th Wisconsin on the right
The famous western “Iron Brigade” was not fated to march off entirely together at Gettysburg; while the 2nd and 7th Wisconsin, the 19th Indiana, and the 24th Michigan battled first Archer’s Tennesseans and then later North Carolinians under Gen. James J. Pettigrew, the 6th Wisconsin had a different mission to fulfill. These rugged men were posted alongside what is now known as the Railroad Cut on McPherson’s Ridge, attempting to drive away Joseph Davis’ Mississippians. It must have been a daunting moment when they realized that they alone of their brigade were given this task while the rest of their comrades entered mortal combat in McPherson’s Woods. But they were not about to stain their valorous reputation.

In 1996, when a Civil War soldier’s remains were found near this location, some speculated that the man might have belonged to the 6th Wisconsin. Unfortunately this is never been determined, and just as many believe him to be a Mississippian. Today the 6th Wisconsin’s monument, as well as that of the 95th New York, can be found to the right of the Railroad Cut.



Co. G, 32nd Massachusetts Infantry

Died July 02, 1863

Very little information seems to exist about Pvt. Healey though it is known he worked as a laborer before the war, setting up shop in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He is buried at Gettysburg National Cemetery.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23, 2013

For those who are battle buffs like me, it’s not enough to simply know that a struggle took place at Devil’s Den. I want to know who was where and which units did what. Fortunately, the monuments of the Gettysburg battlefield tell the story well. The monument standing up like an obelisk in the top right of the above photo belongs to the 4th Maine Infantry. It is sometimes difficult to remember that the road which now traverses the Devil’s Den area – Sickles Avenue – did not exist in 1863, and the rocky hills and valleys must have made it tricky for brigades to form up. The 4th Maine’s position was probably along what is now Sickles Avenue near the small creek known as Plum Run.

While engaged at Devil’s Den, the men from Maine had much the same problem as their Confederate counterparts coming across Triangular Field . . . no place to hide, unless, of course, they decided to try their luck diving behind a boulder. But the 4th Maine would do no such thing. They stood firm, taking heat not only from Southerners desperately climbing Little Round Top but also from Gen. Evander Law’s Alabamians who showed up at the most inopportune moment.

The 4th Maine monument itself is quite interesting also. As far as I remember, it is the only monument directly located at Devil’s Den (not counting the 99th Pennsylvania and 124th New York which are both located “above” the den on the heights of Houck’s Ridge) or is at least the closest to the den itself. It dates from the late 1880s and sits directly atop one of the prehistoric diabase boulders for which Gettysburg is so famous.



Co. A, 45th North Carolina Infantry

Born December 30, 1838 --- Died July 01, 1863 at age 24

Lt. Boyd’s family had the unhappy distinction of losing three sons to the war, and he himself was killed at Gettysburg on the first day of battle. (Brother Samuel Hill Boyd died in May 1864 during the Battle of the Wilderness). By the age of twenty-four Lt. George Boyd had distinguished himself as lieutenant but was taken from life by an indiscriminate cannonball. “Find A Grave” says that one of the sons of that family was never found and received a memorial stone at Wentworth Methodist Church in Wentworth, North Carolina, but it does not specify if this was Lt. Boyd.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Monday, January 21, 2013

January 21, 2013

  Like most of America in the 1860s, Gettysburg prided itself on its variety of churches and other religious institutions, and the most famous of these was the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Though the seminary now consists of various buildings, some of which were built after the 1863 battle, the “crown jewel” of the complex is Schmucker Hall named for Samuel S. Schmucker. This is the building many refer to when speaking of the “seminary” as a whole.

The artful brick building, so well-known as a place of prayerful contemplation, soon served new and unpleasant purposes; during the battle it was used both as an observation point (due to the cupola that offered a stunning view of the surrounding fields) and as a field hospital. It may have been the largest such hospital in town.

Schmucker Hall draws visitors not merely because of its history but also because of its architecture, and those with a Protestant background might find it amusing to say “hello” to the bronze statue of Martin Luther that sits patiently by the wayside. Battlefield enthusiasts will be excited to note that the “Seminary Ridge Museum” will be opening in Schmucker Hall in July 2013.



Co. H, 147th Pennsylvania Infantry

Born May 13, 1839 --- Died July 03, 1863 at age 24

Sgt. Howerter likely never guessed that his future would involve the military; as a younger man he studied religion and likely strove for the ministry. His pre-war residence (per the 1860 census) was at Longswamp, Berks Co., Pennsylvania. Sgt. Howerter was mortally wounded at Culp’s Hill and was later buried at Saint Paul’s Union Cemetery, Mertztown, Pennsylvania (another source says Saint John’s Union Church in Mertztown). A photograph of Sgt. Howerter can be found here.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Friday, January 18, 2013

January 18, 2013

As I mentioned before, the artillery of Gettysburg has always fascinated me. Over the years I’ve tried to snap random photos of random artillery pieces to identify in the future. The above cannon is located along West Confederate Avenue across from the Virginia State Memorial and is a 12-pound Howitzer associated with Poague’s Battalion. According to the “Historical Marker Database” and photographer Craig Swain, these particular guns were in existence at the time of the battle, having been cast in Georgia by Noble and Brothers just a year earlier. I remember walking across to these cannons on a warm April day, enjoying the scenery and soaking in the ambiance. There is just something about old artillery pieces that invites photography.



Co. E, 3rd Arkansas Infantry

Born 1840 --- Died July 02, 1863 at age 23

Pvt. Amason was born in Georgia and moved to Arkansas as a child. His prewar residence was likely Franklin, Arkansas. He enlisted in Champagnolle. His family provided him with a marker at Bethel Cemetery in El Dorado, Arkansas, but it is very likely that he is still buried on the Gettysburg battlefield. The 3rd Arkansas was a member of Hood’s Texas Brigade during the battle and for long afterwards, and it is very likely he was killed either while crossing Warfield Ridge past the Michael Bushman farm or coming out across Triangular Field after emerging from the trees at the base of Big Round Top.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January 16, 2013

There are different theories concerning how Devil’s Den got its name. The most prevalent seems to be that a large snake known as “the devil” had its lair inside the rocks. Whatever the root of the legend, there is an actual “den” within the ragtag outcropping of boulders so well known in Civil War history. If you do a little exploring in the section of rock that runs parallel to Sickles Avenue, you’ll discover a “cave” that is most likely home to a natural spring, probably a tributary of Plum Run creek. Unfortunately, when I visited, this den had been desecrated by modern-day carvings and the occasional piece of trash.


 Co. I, 2nd Massachusetts Infantry

Died July 03, 1863
Pvt. Bailey, who worked as a shoemaker and whose pre-war residence was Wilmington, Massachusetts, was initially buried along Baltimore Pike. His final resting place is Gettysburg National Cemetery. The 2nd Massachusetts’ monument at Spangler’s Spring is the oldest military monument placed on the field of battle. It is very likely that he was involved in the 2nd’s charge against Confederate-held breastworks on Culp’s Hill. History says that Major Charles Morse, who would have been Pvt. Bailey’s commanding officer, found it difficult to believe what his unit was supposed to accomplish. He famously said, “It is murder, but it’s an order.” Unfortunately, in Pvt. Bailey’s case and in the case of many others, his words rang true.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray 

Monday, January 14, 2013

January 14, 2013

I recently learned that there were 412 infantry regiments engaged at the battle of Gettysburg. 238 of these were Union and 174 were Confederate. It made me wonder about particular regiments and how each one was full of individuals with their own lives and dreams, many of which would never be realized. Today I chose to feature the 49th Pennsylvania Infantry. The choice isn’t random --- one of my close relatives fought in this unit. Though this particular soldier wasn’t at Gettysburg, I’m sure he knew many of the men who were.

The 49th Pennsylvania fought in a rather out-of-the-way place, at least if you take the major tour stops of the Gettysburg battlefield into consideration. Their location was along present-day Howe Avenue. They didn’t play a particularly dramatic part in the fight, but they were partially responsible for shoring up the Fifth Corps’ center on July 2nd. On July 3rd the regiment helped to defend the round tops. Then as now, the 49th’s position was marked by Taneytown Road. They weathered roaring cannons on the third day of battle and remained relatively untouched. The 49th was thus able to say that their regiment marched out with the same number of men who marched in. This was a blessing few other units had.

It is interesting to note that, according to the “PA Roots” website, members of the 49th were posted at Devil’s Den on July 4th to canvas the area and provide resistance to any remaining Confederate threats that might arise. This seems odd considering that the battle had ended on the 3rd. The Army of the Potomac wasn’t taking any chances. On a modern note, anyone wishing to visit the 49th Pennsylvania monument can turn right off of Sykes Avenue (the main tour road at Little Round Top) and past the 20th Maine position; right onto Wright Avenue, which curves; across Taneytown Road / Route 134; and onto Howe Avenue.

My relative wasn’t yet a member of the 49th Pennsylvania during the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign, but I still wanted to feature him. His name was Isaac Riegel (also spelled Riegle, Reigel, and Riggle) and he was only seventeen years old when he enlisted in Co. I on February 26, 1864. His service records describe him as gray-eyed and brown-haired, with a fair complexion, and his height was 5 feet 8 inches. Seventeen was the last age he would ever reach. Isaac was killed on May 10, 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, just three months after his enlistment. His burial site is unknown. It may be that he was never moved off the battlefield or that he is buried in an unmarked grave in the Fredericksburg Cemetery. Whatever the truth, I am extremely proud to call him my kin.


Co. E, 2nd South Carolina Infantry 

Died July 01, 1863 

Pvt. Allen was one of many South Carolina boys for whom George Rose’s farm was an initial burial place. He was laid to rest beneath a cherry tree until his final journey to Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Friday, January 11, 2013

January 11, 2013

Along Taneytown Road there is a small and relatively unassuming white house that passers-by might disregard if not for the historical marker in the front yard. Though the wide front porch and various windows at different heights proclaim it is a dwelling-place, a side view might put one in mind of a barn. This small and simple structure was known as the Lydia Leister residence during the battle of Gettysburg, and it was also used as the headquarters of Gen. George Gordon Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac.

“Meade’s Headquarters” is one of three distinctive buildings in the Gettysburg National Park where, although entrance is forbidden, a glance inside the windows reveals a house relatively-unchanged since the time of the battle. “Look and don’t touch” might be a good sentiment for these houses. The other two such dwellings are the Abraham Bryan farm (see my post of January 2nd) along Hancock Avenue near the area of the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge, and the Philip Snyder farm along Confederate Avenue and Warfield Ridge. At the Leister house, a view of the inside will convince visitors that people made do with cramped spaces in the “olden days.”

Contemporary photographs show that the Leister house was certainly not spared during the July 3rd bombardment, though many believe the Confederate artillery simply missed their intended targets and hit the structure instead . . . it is unlikely that they tried to destroy it.



Co. C, 80th New York Infantry

Born 1831 --- Died July 01, 1863 at age 32

Cpt. Corbin’s pre-war occupation certainly did not hint at his forthcoming military career . . . he was a school principal in Rondout, New York, before the war broke out. He was married to Sarah and had three children: Judson, who was ten during the Gettysburg campaign; Robert, who was seven; and Emma, who was four. Cpt. Corbin was laid to rest at the Gettysburg National Cemetery. A picture of him can be found here.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

January 09, 2013

Many of the states that participated in the battle of Gettysburg never got the fame they deserved. Tennessee is one of these. Those who proved themselves worthy of remembrance were part of Gen. James J. Archer's Tennessee Brigade, which engaged the Iron Brigade on the first day of battle and which was later funneled into the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge. It is believed that Tennesseans were also present in the town of Gettysburg itself. Here they supposedly worked as snipers inside homes such as the beautiful Shriver House Museum, gunning down Union troops on East Cemetery Hill.

The Tennesseans who fought and died at Gettysburg are honored by the Tennessee State Memorial located very near the North Carolina State Memorial along West Confederate Avenue. This small, unassuming granite monument was dedicated in 1982 and is often missed by travelers, though its streamlined design and an outline of the state of Tennessee on its base are quite striking. This monument lends itself for some stunning photos at dusk, when sunset colors reflect in the polished granite. The face of the monument reads as follows: “Tennessee – Valor and Courage Were Virtues of the Three Tennessee Regiments.”

Lest we forget.


Co. K, 4th Georgia Infantry

Born July 05, 1831 --- Died July 01, 1863 at age 31

Before the war began, Lt. Col. Winn had worked as a physician in Americus, Georgia. In 1861 he bid farewell to his wife of five years and to his sons Cooper and David to join the war as a Georgia soldier. He quickly rose through the ranks until he reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in November 1862. His life ended just shy of his 32nd birthday, and he was later buried at Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah. A photo of Lt. Col. Winn can be found here.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Monday, January 7, 2013

January 07, 2013

When pondering the large-scale battle of Gettysburg, it’s easy to forget that each unit locked in mortal combat underwent its own isolation, a sensation of being complete alone on the battleground with only the enemy by your side. One such case was the intense firefight between the 26th North Carolina and the 24th Michigan on July 1st, 1863. The 26th North Carolina was perhaps the largest unit in the Army of Northern Virginia . . . unfortunately they were good candidates for the saying “the bigger they are, the harder they fall,” as they lost nearly 80% of their men on that first day.

They moved into Herbst Woods (also known as McPherson’s Woods or Reynolds Woods) on McPherson’s Ridge around 3:30 in the afternoon, quickly becoming engaged by the famous Union Iron Brigade consisting of the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin, the 19th Indiana, and the 24th Michigan. Michigan and North Carolina went head-to-head. For hours the “Tarheels” and the “Wolverines” poured fire into each other’s ranks, fighting what would become known as possibly the most intense fighting in the entire battle of Gettysburg. Casualties included Col. Henry Burgwyn, an able commander and a gallant soldier. It is said that fourteen color bearers of the 26th were lost during that engagement.

When the smoke cleared, the 26th North Carolina was utterly broken. They had lost over 550 men. Yet this sacrifice did not prevent them from being funneled into the infamous Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge two days later. It was grievously appropriate that they incurred the nickname of “Bloody 26th.” Whatever men had survived the initial onslaught found themselves in the most trying circumstances of their lives. 800 men of the 26th had come to Gettysburg. Only about 70 left.

The 26th North Carolina memorial in Herbst Woods was dedicated in the late 1980s. It somberly faces the statue-topped 24th Michigan monument across the road, the two monuments staring each other down just as the men of both units did in real life. In my opinion, these woods are some of the most peaceful of the battlefield, and the road, known as Stone-Meredith Avenue, is often quiet. Such irony is staggering.



Co. C, 1st Vermont Cavalry

Died July 03, 1863

Pvt. Smith’s pre-war residence was in Duxbury, Vermont, and his first assignment with the Vermont Cavalry was apparently as a cook. He was remembered as a good Christian and a fine friend and was greatly missed. He fell fatally wounded during the battle of Gettysburg and was taken to a field hospital where he later passed away. Pvt. Smith was initially interred on the Slyder farm but was later moved to the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Friday, January 4, 2013

January 04, 2013

The small “castle” at Little Round Top is without doubt one of the most beautiful monuments on the battlefield, and certainly one of the largest. Dedicated to the 12th and 44th New York, it stands high on the summit of the Union “high ground” as a fanciful yet somehow somber structure dedicated to those New Yorkers who fought valiantly on the second day of battle. It has stood at the spot since the 1890s and has been a favorite of those making the trek to the summit of Little Round Top.

Historically it has been possible to climb to the bottom platform of the castle for a beautiful view of Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, Houck’s Ridge, and beyond, but as I haven’t done so for about ten years, I have no idea if the castle stairs are still open to climbers. I remember that the stairs are very narrow . . . if someone is coming down, the person going up just has to wait. I also recall the echoes. If you say anything inside the main hall, it will sound as if the spirits of those who fought at Little Round Top have come to pay a visit.

Whether or not you can go up in the castle, views from the bottom section are striking as well. Many a photographer has framed photos in the doorway. Also remember to take a look at the plaques. They contain names of the New York men who fought here at Little Round Top, who helped preserve the high ground for the Union. Please take a moment of silence for those men on the muster rolls who never made it home. At the very top of the castle “turret”, visitors might notice a Maltese cross-like symbol. This is the Fifth Corps badge. Such badges figure prominently on the monuments of Gettysburg.



Co. B, 8th Alabama Infantry

Born about 1840 --- Died July 03, 1863 at age 23

Pvt. Arnold is listed in the 1860 census as living in Coosa, Alabama. He worked as a farm hand. It is likely that he had Irish parentage, as many of the soldiers in the 8th could claim ancestry from the Emerald Isle. The 8th Alabama was part of Wilcox’s brigade and attempted to provide cover for the men stepping out on the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge, but many were wounded in that attempt. Pvt. Arnold was likely one of them. After losing his life during the battle of Gettysburg, he was buried in the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, in the portion allotted for “Gettysburg Dead.”

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January 02, 2013

The Abraham Bryan (sometimes spelled Brian) farm has the distinction of being one of the “famous” farms of the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge, though it is probably mentioned less often than the beautiful red three-spired Nicholas Codori barn. Abraham Bryan’s very life and livelihood were threatened in the summer of 1863; as an African-American he was in danger of being taken off to slavery in the South when Confederate soldiers arrived in Gettysburg. He was not about to forfeit his little white home and little white barn for a life of servitude, and so he fled when the time was right.

This farm, located near the Cyclorama building whose appearance most people tend to either hate or love, is adjacent to Ziegler’s Grove. An interesting feature is that although the house is not open to the public, if you park at the side of Hancock Avenue and walk up a bit you can peer inside the windows on either end of the house to see the Civil War-era furnishings inside. It is difficult to imagine seven people (Abraham, his wife, and five children) packed together in such a small dwelling.

The Bryan house was constructed over a period of fifty years beginning about 1800, and the handsome barn across the street was built by previous owners just seven years before the battle. Northern troops utilized the house as a shelter and meeting-point. Battle damage scarred the Bryan farm as a result of the artillery bombardment of July 3rd.


Died July 02, 1863

A few days ago, while I was perusing the Gettysburg National Cemetery burial records, I discovered a very sad annotation. It simply listed soldiers as “Unknown Zouaves burned in the destruction of Sherfy’s barn.” As I’m the sort who wants to put identities to the lost and forgotten, I dug a bit deeper and discovered that these men were actually members of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry, known as “Collis’ Zouaves.” During the battle they had been wounded in the line of fire, and, desperate for shelter, had discovered the large red Sherfy barn. It must have seemed like a godsend.

They waited in agony for their wounds to be cared for, but no one came . . . at least no one from their own army. Soon after, the barn, sparked by the combustion of mortal combat, caught ablaze, though few could say how it happened. The wounded men of the 114th Pennsylvania were trapped inside. By the time the fire burned its way out and the barn lay in ashes, they were already dead. Though all deaths at Gettysburg were grievous and horrific, this fate was particularly heinous --- and so unexpected. Unfortunately I cannot name the men who died, as even the official reports of the 114th Pennsylvania state that they could not be identified.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray