Sometimes it happens that there are certain monuments on the Gettysburg battlefield, certain regiments, that you’re drawn to seemingly for no reason. For instance, I’ve always been really interested in the 26TH North Carolina Infantry. The closest personal connection I can think of is that I’ve visited the state quite a few times on the way to Florida, but other than that, nothing.
My Civil War ancestors and distant relatives all fought for the Union. Regardless of the reason, I feel peaceful when I visit the 26TH’s monument in Herbst Woods at McPherson’s Ridge, and I find their story intriguing. Shot to pieces on the first day of battle, funneled into the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge on the third day . . . their story is heartbreaking yet valiant.
And then there’s an even sadder aspect. Many sets of brothers and cousins fought in the 26TH North Carolina, side-by-side in those woods, and many were either killed outright or later died in field hospitals in the area. One of the families that suffered most was the Kirkman family. Four of their boys, Henry Clay Bascom (known as Bascom), George E. Badger, William Preston (called Preston) and Wiley Prentiss (Prentiss) were all drawn up in battle lines at Gettysburg on that first day.
Bascom and George were twins, both nineteen. Preston, the eldest of the four, was only twenty-five. When the smoke cleared, Preston was dead and George would soon follow. Bascom survived until the first of September 1863, and though he was thought to be recovering, fate intervened. The only surviving brother was Prentiss. Though he would escape Gettysburg, he wouldn’t survive the war. He died in March of 1865 in the Union prison camp at Point Lookout, Maryland.
PVT. JONATHAN ELVIN LEAVITT
Co. D, 12TH New Hampshire Infantry
Born July 14, 1838 --- Died July 05, 1863 at age 24
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