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

Friday, March 29, 2013

March 29, 2013

The South Carolina State Memorial near the Longstreet Tower is a simple but beautiful monument dedicated to those who fought and fell for the Palmetto State. The monument itself is fairly new --- it dates to the early 1960s --- and is partially constructed of Georgia granite. Anyone brave enough to climb the nearby tower will have an excellent view of the South Carolina Memorial and many other monuments and battlefield landmarks.

What may come to mind when pondering fallen South Carolinians at Gettysburg is the photographic image of fallen Southerners awaiting burial at the George Rose farm near Stony Hill. It is highly likely that many of those men were Carolinians of Semmes’ and Kershaw’s brigades. There were other South Carolinian regiments at Gettysburg as well, the state being represented by cavalry, infantry, and artillery in this epic battle.


Co. D, 157th New York Infantry

Born 1841 --- Died July 01, 1863 at age 22

Pvt. Owen held various jobs in Homer, New York, before enlistment, including working as a farm hand and laborer. Unlike most of the deceased Union soldiers at Gettysburg, he was buried at Evergreen Cemetery. Little is known of his life.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Friday, March 15, 2013

March 15, 2013

 **I'll be off for vacation next week. My next post will be Friday, March 29**

It has become a miniature obsession of mine to identify as many Gettysburg artillery batteries as possible, and I’m always relieved when a personal photograph clearly identifies the artillery in question. There are quite a few batteries located along the 11th Corps Line “off the beaten path” of the Gettysburg tour route. The one shown above is Dilger’s Battery, properly known as Battery I, 1st Ohio Light Artillery. It was heavily (and fruitfully) involved in the first day’s battle and withdrew when the majority of the 11th Corps did so, yet still managed to take a stand before retreating through the streets of Gettysburg.

Two 12-pounder Napoleons flank the handsome monument to Dilger’s Battery which dates from 1887. If you go to check it out, don’t forget to look for Wheeler’s Battery, the 13th New York Independent Light Battery, and its array of 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.


Pulaski Artillery (Georgia)

Born 1832 --- Died July 3, 1863 at age 31

Cpt. Fraser was in command of the Pulaski Artillery also known as “Fraser’s Battery.” He is buried at Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia, though that may not be his actual resting place. There seems to be a conflict regarding Cpt. Fraser’s actual death date. Some genealogists place it on July 3rd and others on July 11th.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March 13, 2013

If you’ve studied the battle of Gettysburg, you’ve likely seen the photo of the “dead sharpshooter” posed in the “sharpshooter’s nest” above Devil’s Den. Though it’s been theorized many times that the photo was posed, that doesn’t diminish the memory of so many Texans and Alabamians (as well as men from Maine and probably others) that truly did die among the boulders. When I look at this photo I took just a few weeks ago, it’s very easy to see how soldiers could have secreted themselves between the rocks, taking advantage of the gigantic boulders for protection and using them as a hard place on which to balance their rifles. The branches visible in the background belong to the Devil’s Den witness tree.

I recently heard that a number of soldiers found dead at Devil’s Den had actually died from concussions. The Union gunners on Little Round Top, located across the "Valley of Death" from the ominous boulder den, attempted to silence pesky sharpshooters by lobbing cannonballs into the fray. The sound of ball against boulder was so deafening and jarring that a few men actually died from it. Whether or not the “sharpshooter” story is ever completely proven to be right or wrong, the area is certainty steeped in bloodshed.


Co. I, 14th Connecticut Infantry

Born August 18, 1840 --- Died July 03, 1863 at age 22

Cpl. Puffer was born in Coventry, Connecticut and was still living there when he enlisted on July 28, 1862. He is buried at Gettysburg National Cemetery. There is little information available about his life.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Monday, March 11, 2013

March 11, 2013

The longer I study Gettysburg and all its nooks and crannies, the more I find myself inexplicably drawn to certain regiments for no particular reason other than that they strike a chord with me. One of these is the 114th Pennsylvania, “Collis’ Zouaves.” (The ‘honored today’ section in my January 2nd post explains how wounded members of this unit met a horrific fate when the barn in which they were resting burned down during the battle). As I studied where exactly the 114th had been on the field, I was surprised to note that I had taken a photo showing their route without being aware of it at the time. This happens often . . . I find myself wanting to take a particular shot without it having much meaning, then later I learn that a unit in which I’m interested actually fought at that spot.

The above image shows many battlefield features. The part of the photo that involves the 114th Pennsylvania ranges from the area of the George Weikert farm where the regiment camped out on the night of July 1st (at right; it’s not visible here); the Abraham Trostle farm visible in the top center; and the fields now known as “Excelsior Field,” which the 114th had to cross before passing through the Peach Orchard to the Joseph Sherfy farm. The Peach Orchard is directly to the left and out of the photo. However, this image is significant for more than the 114th Pennsylvania. Various other events took place here during the battle of Gettysburg, including the 9th Massachusetts Battery’s stand at the Trostle Farm and the Excelsior Brigade’s tussle in the field shown here in the center.


Co. K, 16th North Carolina Infantry

Born 1835 --- Died July 1863 at age 28

Lt. Morgan seems to have gone by the name “Whitfield Morgan.” He held various jobs before the war, including Court Clerk and teacher. His star rose quickly --- he became a lieutenant in just a little over a year --- and he participated in quite a few battles including Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Lt. Morgan’s last stand came at Gettysburg on the 3rd day of battle, when he fell during the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Friday, March 8, 2013

March 08, 2013

One of the most easily recognized monuments on the Gettysburg battlefield isn’t technically a monument. The iconic memorial sprawling out across Oak Ridge is the Eternal Light Peace Memorial, dedicated seventy-five years after those three bloody days of July 1863. Both Union and Confederate veterans flocked to the site in 1938 to watch the unveiling, and it must have been quite a sight to behold. Most striking was that states from above and below the Mason-Dixon Line donated hard-earned funds to pay for a lovely monument symbolizing national peace.

During the battle of Gettysburg this hill was vacant, at least until Confederate artillerists arrived. A. P. Hill’s Artillery Reserve and various batteries under the command of Gen. Robert Rodes soon set up shop on this advantageous ground. There were supposedly six different batteries spread out across the slope. It’s a history buff’s dream vacation to mark the differences between Parrotts, Whitworths, and Napoleons, though unfortunately this spot can be crowded for much of the day (watch out for buses if you want the place to yourself!) The current, commemorative artillery batteries at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial are well-marked and give a good idea of who did what. Perhaps the most touching feature of the memorial is the “eternal flame” that can be seen from many vantage points across Oak Ridge and McPherson’s Ridge. It’s especially beautiful in the evening.

If you stand in the parking lot and look straight out from the memorial toward the fields, you’ll probably be looking toward the spot where Gen. Alfred Iverson’s North Carolinians were ambushed on the first day of fighting. A slight walk to the left will reveal the solitary cannon of Carter’s Battery and, further down the slope of Oak Ridge, the Moses McLean farm. Stay tuned for a post concerning the various artillery batteries at Oak Hill.


Co. D, 84th New York (14th Brooklyn) Infantry

Born 1841 --- Died July 01, 1863 at age 22

Pvt. Atkin, not a native of America but of England, selflessly sacrificed himself for the Union. Before the war he worked as a stonecutter in Brooklyn. In this case there is a treat for those who want to know more about the men in blue and gray whose blood soaked these hallowed fields: a physical description. Papers describe Pvt. Atkin as being hazel-eyed, brown-haired, and 5’7”. A picture of him can be found here.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March 06, 2013

Missing Battery B

Photo taken Jun 2003
Years past, I would always stay at Larson’s Quality Inn along Buford Avenue in Gettysburg, and my favorite “perk” was that guests could go behind the motel and walk down to the beautiful Napoleons representing Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery. I’ve always loved cannon. It was easy to see how these guns (these were not the originals) assisted Wisconsin and New York troops at the nearby Railroad Cut and otherwise lent a hand to the embattled units of the Iron Brigade. Years later when I became very interested in this particular brigade, I was thrilled to learn that the artillery battery I had enjoyed so well and had considered a perk of every trip was actually considered an “honorary member” of that famed organization.

Only the marker remains- photo taken Nov 2012

Unfortunately, I noticed in recent years that the cannons of Battery B, 4th U. S. Artillery are no longer located at Larson’s Quality Inn. The large marker remains but the artillery pieces are gone. I think this happened around 2010. Considering that there are many other cannon on the battlefield, it might be odd that this had such an effect on me, yet I found it very sad for two reasons. The most important reason was that if there were artillery pieces here during the battle of Gettysburg, some ought to be here now. The second reason is that they were a part of my love affair with Gettysburg, one more episode throughout my many visits that helped me connect with the power and stark beauty of artillery and brought me closer to the battle as a whole.

The remaining marker was dedicated in the early 1900s and is made of bronze and granite, as is its sister marker across from Evergreen Cemetery at East Cemetery Hill. The battery at Cemetery Hill is still flanked by brooding cannon that characterize the Gettysburg battlefield so well.


Co. K, 15th Georgia Infantry

Born 1832 --- Died July 03, 1863 at age 31

Pvt. Laughlin owned land in Sparta, Georgia before the war. He was buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, and there is unfortunately very little information concerning his war service.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Monday, March 4, 2013

March 04, 2013

The 74th Pennsylvania Infantry didn’t have it easy. The men of the Eleventh Corps weren’t well-equipped to deal with the heat of battle, and when things got hot they tended to, well, act in a less-than-sterling manner. Veteran soldiers scoffed at the German troops and used colorful language to describe their track record. Maybe the bad luck that the 74th Pennsylvania’s stone memorial has experienced in Gettysburg is somehow a manifestation of that. 
Photo taken in late 2003

It started in late 2003 when a vehicle veered off the road at the Eleventh Corps Line tour and slammed into the 74th. On a subsequent trip I saw the damage and took the 2003 photo. It was a very sad thing, lying in pieces, injured and seemingly beyond help like the men who fell in battle so many years before. It made people wonder how things like this could happen and what we could do to prevent such tragedies. Strangely, in 2010, that same monument was apparently struck again.

 Luckily for the 74th, there were some very talented hands available, and after awhile the monument was restored to its former glory. There are some cracks that may present themselves to the trained eye, but nothing more. The cracks are a good reminder. Civil War history is painful, deeply emotional, and full of holes --- full of ugly memories --- but in and around those cracks is a valorous, sweeping story too vast and too important to ignore.

Photo taken in 2013


Co. D, 69th Pennsylvania Infantry

Born 1836 --- Died July 03, 1863 at age 27

Sgt. McCabe had already suffered a war wound by the time Gettysburg rolled around, but as soon as he was able to be up and about, he delved right back into the action. His last stand would be at Cemetery Ridge during the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge. Sgt. McCabe was later buried at Old Cathedral Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray

Friday, March 1, 2013

March 01, 2013

While every regiment at Gettysburg deserves acclaim and should always be remembered, there are particular units that hold a special place in my heart. One of these is the 24th Michigan Infantry of the “Iron Brigade of the West.” The fighting between this unit and the 26th North Carolina, which took place at Herbst Woods along McPherson's Ridge, was possibly the most vicious of the entire battle. Before my most recent Gettysburg trip I was looking at old photos and noticed a 2006 shot of the 24th’s secondary monument at Culp’s Hill. Various denominations of loose change were scattered across the flat top of the monument as a sign of respect, remembrance, or pride, or perhaps all three. When I planned my most recent trip in 2013, I knew I had to do the same.

It wasn’t much. There were six pennies, some well-worn, but it wasn’t visual pizzazz I was looking for. I wanted to honor the dead. I wanted to feel as if I was doing my part in keeping the 24th Michigan’s memory alive. Also, I hoped that other visitors who stopped by this secluded site at the bottom of Culp’s Hill just above Stevens Knoll might see that someone cared enough to leave the pennies. Maybe they’d even want to learn more about the unit. Maybe they’d bring a memorial of their own.

Photo taken in 2006; not my coins :-)
This particular marker dates only from 1995 and marks the spot where, after being nearly annihilated on July 1, 1863, survivors of the 24th Michigan entrenched in a defensive position. The first day of Gettysburg marked a zenith . . . never again would the Iron Brigade have the manpower to be the driving force they once were, yet their legend would live on. In fact, in 1865, the 24th was honored with the invitation to guard President Lincoln’s body en route to his funeral service.


Co. F, 38th North Carolina Infantry

Born 1824 --- Died July 01, 1863 at age 39

Pvt. Yount engaged in farming before the war and his residence was in Catawba County, North Carolina. He left behind his wife of nearly seven years, Catherine; three daughters, 6-year-old Adeline or Angeline, 3-year-old Turley Ellen, and 1-year-old Lydia; and a son, 4-year-old Reuben. After his initial burial on the battlefield, Pvt. Yount was taken to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

(c) 2013 Skies of Blue and Gray