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

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

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