Civil War

15th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry

6 May 2014
15th Kansas Volunteer Calvary

Photo Credit: Kansas Memory

This tintype shows Captain Oran Curtis, to the left, with members of the 15th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, Company F between 1860 and 1870. Captain Curtis was the father of United States Vice President Charles Curtis.

Video: Civil War Vets & the Rebel Yell

24 October 2013

Rare footage of Civil War veterans doing the Rebel Yell. In this exclusive clip from the 1930s, Confederate veterans step up to the mic and let out their version of the rallying cry.

Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, 1865

15 October 2013

The 28 men in this picture are from Company E, 4th United States Colored Infantry. They were one of the detachments assigned to guard the Washington, D.C. during the American Civil War. Here they are photographed with their rifles at Fort Lincoln (now the Fort Lincoln neighborhood) on November 17th, 1865. The 4th United States Colored Infantry was one of  the 175 regiments that comprised the United States Colored Troops which first started recruiting in 1863. By the end of the Civil War, the United States Colored Troops constituted almost one-tenth of the Union Army.

Captured Cannons, 1865

30 August 2013
Photo Credit: George Eastman House

Photo Credit: George Eastman House

View of park of artillery captured at the Battle of Chattanooga, November 24, 24, 25, & 26th, 1863. Photo taken around 1865.

Daniel Emmett & “Dixie”

25 August 2013
Sheet Music for "Dixie". Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Sheet Music for “Dixie”. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

“Dixie” was one of the most popular songs to have emerged in the United States during the 19th century. As all roads began leading to the Civil War, “Dixie” reinforced and strengthened the identity of the South. However, this was not intention of the song’s composer who was a loyal Unionist and, reportedly, disgusted by its southern popularity.

Photograph of Dan Emmett in blackface, probably early 1860s. Photo Credit: Source

Photograph of Dan Emmett in blackface, probably early 1860s. Photo Credit: Source

Daniel Emmett was born and raised in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Musically inclined, he taught himself to play the fiddle at a young age. After a brief stint in the Army (was discharged after they found out he had falsified his age to enlist), he traveled with circus bands. It was there he realized his knack of impersonations, especially of African-Americans. Emmett began performing in blackface with his fiddle in minstrels.

In 1859, Emmett composed “Dixie” while with the Bryant’s Minstrels. It was performed for the first time while touring the south. The song incorporated much of the traditions of African-American song and dance. As the Civil War approached, the South identified strongly with the tune. So much so that “Dixie” was used in the campaign against  Abraham Lincoln’s presidency run. Interestingly, Lincoln also used it during his own campaign and at his inauguration in 1861. “Dixie” was also played during Jefferson Davis’ inauguration as President of the Confederacy.

Both the North and the South viewed the meaning of the song differently. The North saw “Dixie” as anti-slavery song that prompted action against the system. Publishers in the North tried to rewrite some of the words in order to support its cause and gave it such titles as “Dixie Unionized.” However, the original tune withheld these changes and the new ones never caught on. The South used “Dixie” as its unofficial anthem and battle cry. The words, such as the chorus  (“In Dixie’s Land I’ll take my stand, to live and die in Dixie”), substantiated their feelings and the length they would go to protect their land and beliefs. The American Social History Project explains the possible reasons the South identified so strongly to “Dixie”:

Its text, like the closing “walk arounds” from other minstrel shows, pictured the South as a happy land bathed in rural nostalgia, an appealing contrast, perhaps, to the urban squalor of New York, not to mention its cold winter weather.

Photograph of Daniel Emmett. Photo Credit: Source

Photograph of Daniel Emmett. Photo Credit: Source

Some have stated that “Dixie” was played during General Pickett’s ill-fated charge at Gettysburg as well as when the South surrendered. It was one of Lincoln’s favorite tunes and he had the White House band play it to support the reunification of the country. A few days before his assassination, Lincoln said of the song, “I have always thought ‘Dixie’ one of the best tunes I have ever heard. Our adversaries over the way attempted to appropriate it, but I insisted yesterday that we fairly captured it. . . .”

Since the Civil War, “Dixie” has been synonymous to mean the South. Something Emmett, a staunch Unionist, would not have liked. Regardless, he created a song that withstood the years. However, he was never able to capitalized on it since he sold all rights to a publisher for $500. He was also late in copyrighting the song. Many other minstrel groups and performers used it without giving him the due credit as the creator. Many people have come forward, claiming they invented “Dixie” instead of Emmett. Four years after his death in 1904, over 37 people claimed “Dixie” was actually their own.

The video is of the 1916 rendition of Dixie by the Metropolitan Mixed Chorus with Ada Jones and Billy Murray.

Further Reading
Daniel Decatur Emmett,” Songwriters Hall of Fame
American Social History Project
Dan Emmett Music & Arts Festival

Confederate Soldier Ambrotypes

2 August 2013

These photographs are ambrotype portraits are of Confederate soldiers. The following is how the Library of Congress described what an ambrotype is and the process in which it was created:

The invention of wet collodion photography processes in the 1850s allowed the development of two new kinds of photographs–ambrotypes and tintypes. These new formats shared many characteristics with the earlier daguerreotypes but were quicker and cheaper to produce. Primarily used for portraiture . . . .

James Ambrose Cutting patented the ambrotype process in 1854. Ambrotypes were most popular in the mid-1850s to mid-1860s. Cartes de visite and other paper print photographs, easily available in multiple copies, replaced them.

An ambrotype is comprised of an underexposed glass negative placed against a dark background. The dark backing material creates a positive image. Photographers often applied pigments to the surface of the plate to add color, often tinting cheeks and lips red and adding gold highlights to jewelry, buttons, and belt buckles. Ambrotypes were sold in either cases or ornate frames to provide an attractive product and also to protect the negative with a cover glass and brass mat.

Private Japhet Collins, Confederate States Army, ca. 1861. Photo Credit: Southern Methodist University

Private Japhet Collins of the Confederate States Army, ca. 1861. Photo Credit: Southern Methodist University

Private William Savage Moore

Private William Savage Moore of Richmond “Parker” Virginia Light Artillery Battery, 1st Company Howitzers Virginia Light Artillery Battery, and I Company, 15th Virginia Infantry Regiment and lock of hair in case. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Brigadier General John Gregg

Brigadier General John Gregg of the Confederate States Army, ca. 1861. Photo Credit: Southern Methodist University

Photograph shows a soldier in 1861 in a Confederate uniform of Company E, "Lynchburg Rifles," 11th Virginia Infantry Volunteers holding 1841 "Mississippi" rifle, Sheffield-type Bowie knife, canteen, box knapsack, blanket roll, and cartridge box

Photograph shows a soldier in 1861 in a Confederate uniform of Company E, “Lynchburg Rifles,” 11th Virginia Infantry Volunteers holding 1841 “Mississippi” rifle, Sheffield-type Bowie knife, canteen, box knapsack, blanket roll, and cartridge box. Photo Credit: Charles R. Rees/Library of Congress

Private George T. Brown

Private George T. Brown of the Confederate States Army, ca. 1861-1865. Photo Credit: Southern Methodist University

First Lieutenant Eli N. Baxter

First Lieutenant Eli N. Baxter of the Confederate States Army. He is wearing a hat with “MG,” Marshall Guards from Marshall, Texas, in brass and a “1″ for 1st Texas Infantry, ca. 1861-1865. Photo Credit: Southern Methodist University

Brothers Private William Savage Moore and Private John C. Moore of Richmond "Parker" Virginia Light Artillery Battery, 1st Company Howitzers Virginia Light Artillery Battery, and I Company, 15th Virginia Infantry Regiment, in early Richmond depot shell jackets. Photo Credit: Charles R. Rees/Library of Congress

Brothers Private William Savage Moore and Private John C. Moore of Richmond “Parker” Virginia Light Artillery Battery, 1st Company Howitzers Virginia Light Artillery Battery, and I Company, 15th Virginia Infantry Regiment, in early Richmond depot shell jackets. Photo Credit: Charles R. Rees/Library of Congress

Thomas William Blount

Double portrait of Thomas William Blount with another Confederate soldier, ca. 1861-1865. It is noted that Blount came from the Blount family estate, San Augustine. Identification based on provenance. Supposedly, Blount was the first Texan to volunteer for the Confederate Army. He was at the organization of the Confederate States at Montgomery, Alabama, February-March, 1861. Blount’s father was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Photo Credit: Southern Methodist University

Private David Lowry, of Company E, 25th Virginia Cavalry Regiment, Company A, 41st Virginia Infantry Regiment, and Company D, 47th Virginia Infantry Regiment, in uniform and corsage of flowers with musket and book, between 1861 and 1865. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Private David Lowry, of Company E, 25th Virginia Cavalry Regiment, Company A, 41st Virginia Infantry Regiment, and Company D, 47th Virginia Infantry Regiment, in uniform and corsage of flowers with musket and book, between 1861 and 1865. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Unidentified cavalry soldier in Confederate uniform with slant breech sharps carbine, two knives, and two revolvers. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Unidentified cavalry soldier in Confederate uniform with slant breech sharps carbine, two knives, and two revolvers between 1861 and 1865. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Battle of Gettysburg – Day 3

3 July 2013

This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. From July 1 – July 3, 1863 the bloodiest battle in the entire American Civil War waged around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania between Union Major General George Gordon Meade’s Army of the Potomac and Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. This is Day 3 of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Battle of Gettysburg – Day 1
Battle of Gettysburg – Day 2
Gettysburg Day 3

“We gained nothing but glory, and lost our bravest men.”

- Lt. John T. James, the 11th Virginia Infantry, Pickett’s Division

Preparing for Battle

Map of the third and final day during the Battle of Gettysburg. [Union is in blue and Confederacy is in red.] Map Credit: Hal Jespersen, cwmaps.com

Map of the third and final day during the Battle of Gettysburg. [Union is in blue and Confederacy is in red.] Map Credit: Hal Jespersen, cwmaps.com

The third and last day of the Battle of Gettysburg was the hottest yet. Fighting went late into the night and neither army had any reprieve. While their armies were fighting, General Lee and General Meade began planning for the next day. Meade called “a council of war” at his headquarters at the Lydia Leister house to hear the opinions of some of his corps and divisional commanders. Figuring Lee would probably make a move at the Union’s center line to weaken and divide them, Meade told General John Gibbon (commanding the area in the middle of the line), “Gibbon, if Lee attacks tomorrow, it will be in your front.” Lee’s plan was to do exactly that.

While the North’s main plan was to take a defensive position and let Lee attack first, Lee decided on a three element plan. According to the Gettysburg National Park Service, Lee’s plan was for “Longstreet’s First Corps, reinforced by the fresh infantry division of Major General George E. Pickett, would assault the Union left, while Ewell’s Second Corps assailed the Federal right flank at Culp’s Hill. Major General James E. B. Stuart’s cavalry would support the infantry effort by maneuvering east of Gettysburg where they both posed a threat to the Union rear and would be in an ideal position to pursue and harass a retreating Army of the Potomac.”

Lee’s proposed plan failed for two reasons. Firstly, he did not met with his men the night before as Meade had, so there was a breakdown in communication that led to confusion. Secondly, while most of Meade’s plan centered on being ready for Lee in a defensive position, he also did not keep all his troops merely standing around – which is what Lee thought. Meade made the first move on the third and last day.

The Fighting Begins

Charge of the 2nd Maryland Infantry, CSA into the "slaughterpen" at Culp's Hill, Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. So severe were the casualties among the Marylanders that General Steuart is said to have broken down and wept, wringing his hands and crying "my poor boys". Photo Credit: Source

Charge of the 2nd Maryland Infantry, CSA into the “slaughterpen” at Culp’s Hill,  July 3, 1863. So severe were the casualties among the Marylanders that Gen. Steuart is said to have broken down and wept, wringing his hands and crying “my poor boys”. Photo Credit: Source

Gunshots began early on July 3, 1863 as Union troops tried to take back areas they lost in the previous days of fighting. The specific point of contention was the lower slopes on Culp’s Hill. The 12th Corps batteries launched a full bombardment where the Confederates were on the hill. When Lee wanted to start his offensive (at the center of the Union line), Longstreet was not ready and had doubts about the entire plan. Pickett’s men were not even on the field yet. Ewell was engaged already in a bitter battle over Culp’s Hill. Around 11 a.m. and after seven hours of fighting, the second battle on Culp’s Hill ended. The Union lines were still strongly intact.

Meanwhile, Stuart’s cavalry marched east of Gettysburg to begin their assult. Their movement was seen by the Union who quickly order their own cavalry under Brig. Gen. David M. Gregg to cover the right flank. The opposing forces made contact in mid-afternoon. They traded artillery fire, sent in soldiers and mounted forces before it all resulted in a draw. Gregg and the Union were successful in squashing the Confederacy’s attempt at stationing themselves at both the front and rear of the Union. So far two of Lee’s three elements had failed. Their last attempt would become the “symbol of Southern courage.”

Pickett’s Charge

Thure de Thulstrup's Battle of Gettysburg, showing Pickett's Charge, 1887. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Thure de Thulstrup’s Battle of Gettysburg, showing Pickett’s Charge, 1887. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Like a grey wave washing over almost a mile of open and exposed field slopes, 12,500 Confederates marched in line towards Union defense. The men were initiating Lee’s last attempt of getting a foothold in the enemy’s defenses. Longstreet lead the massive infantry assault from Seminary Ridge. The soliders were from 10 brigades, including those under the command of Maj. Gen. George Pickett. They carried bright regimental flags as their lines were blasted by double canister shells and Union riflemen and sharpshooters.

Before the men marched onto the field, the Confederates launched a massive bombardment. Most of it missed its mark and their artillery reserve dwindled. At 3:00 p.m. the 12,500 began marching across three-quarters of a mile of open field – a suicide march. As they neared, the Southerns began to run with Picket reportedly shouing, “Charge the enemy and remember old Virginia!”

Confederate Maj. Gen. George Edward Pickett. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Confederate Maj. Gen. George Edward Pickett. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Those who got through the field were met with small arms fire from well protected infantrymen. Gaps within the Union’s line began to emerge near the Corpse of Trees and The Angle. The Confederates took that opportunity to break through and engage in hand-to-hand combat. It was short-lived but the spot is known as the “high water mark of the Confederacy.” A mixture of exhaustion and not enough men caused the remaining rebels to retreat back across the field, the Union continued to fire at them.

Over 6,000 Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded or taken prisoner.  Pickett’s Charge was named after Maj. Gen. Pickett – much to his dismay. Pickett’s division lost 26 o the 40 field grade officers, all three of its brigade commanders and suffered 2,655 casualties. After their retreat, Pickett was said to have been inconsolable. He blamed Lee for the disaster and, when asked by Lee to prepare his division in case the Union countered, Pickett replied, “General Lee, I have no division.”

Old Friends: Hancock & Armistead

Confederate Brig. Gen. Lewis Armistead (left) and Union Maj. Gen. Winfield Hancock were old friends before the Civil War put them on opposite sides. They would not see each other until Pickett's Charge. Only one would make it out alive.

Confederate Brig. Gen. Lewis Armistead (left) and Union Maj. Gen. Winfield Hancock were old friends before the Civil War put them on opposite sides. They would not see each other until Pickett’s Charge. Only one would make it out alive. Photo Credit: Source/Source

Union Maj. Gen. Winfield Hancock and Confederate Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead both commanded their forces during Pickett’s Charge, were wounded and were old friends. They had served together in southern California and in the Mexican War. When the Civil War broke out, Hancock stayed with the United States Army while Armistead joined the Confederate States Army. At the farewell party before leaving, Armistead reportedly told Hancock, “Goodbye, you can never know what this has cost me.” Armistead also gave Hancock’s wife a prayer book in which he had “Trust In God And Fear Nothing” inscribed in it.

During Pickett’s Charge Armistead led his brigade at the front. After noticing the regiment’s colors were down, he waved his hat from his saber’s tip shouting “Come on, boys, give them the cold steel! Who will follow me?” His brigade got the farthest hitting what is known as the “high water mark of the Confederacy.” Union forces launched a counterattack and Armistead was shot three times crossing the wall.

Meanwhile, Hancock led his troops similar to Armistead but on a horse. Throughout the three days of fighting, and especially during Pickett’s Charge, he would ride up and down the line encouraging his troops and double-checking for weaknesses. He and his men were in the thick of it and a bullet struck the pommel of his saddle. It entered his inner right thigh, embedding wood fragments and a bent large nail.

As Armistead lay bleeding, he asked about Hancock. They told him that his friend was also badly wounded to which Armistead cried, “Not both of us on the same day!” The story goes that he turned to Hancock’s aide Capt. Henry Bingham and said, “Tell General Hancock, from me, that I have done him and you all a grave injustice.”

Armistead’s injury was quite severe and he died two days later. Hancock could not go to his friend because of his own injury. One of Armistead’s dying wishes was that his personal effects and Bible be given to Hancock.

Ginnie Wade

Ginnie Wade, killed by one of the 150 bullets that hit her sister's house, was the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Ginnie Wade, killed by one of the 150 bullets that hit her sister’s house, was the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg. Photo Credit: NPS

Born May 21, 1843, Ginnie Wade lived in Gettysburg at her family home. She worked with her mother as a seamstress and, to make ends meet, they also cared for a little boy. When the fight first broke out on July 1, her family fled to her sister’s house on Baltimore Street. During the first day, Ginnie distributed bread and water to Union soldiers. They spend the next day preparing bread and giving it out.

Many of Gettysburg’s civilians did similar things. Here is where her story greatly, and sadly, differs. On July 3, 1863 around 7 a.m., Confederate  sharpshooters began firing through the north windows of the house. An hour later, Ginnie began making biscuits even though bullets ricocheted through the house. A half an hour later, a bullet hit her while she was kneading dough. Ginnie was killed instantly after it struck her back. She was the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Johnston "Jack" Skelly was mustered into Co. E, 2nd PA Volunteer Infantry in April of 1861. Photo Credit: Source.

Johnston “Jack” Skelly was mustered into Co. E, 2nd PA Volunteer Infantry in April of 1861. Photo Credit: Source.

At the time of her death, Ginnie was engaged to Gettysburg local Corp. Johnston “Jack” Skelly. Two weeks before she was killed, Jack was mortally wounded fighting for the Union at the Battle of Winchester. Private Wesley Culp, another Gettysburg native who went to school with both of them and was fighting for the Confederacy, stumbled upon Jack in a field hospital. Jack knew he would not survived and gave Wesley a note to give to Ginnie.

Wesley, still carrying the note, died during the Battle of Gettysburg – the same day Ginnie was killed. Worse yet, Wesley Culp was killed near his uncle’s farm at Culp’s Hill. William Culp, Wesley’s brother, fought for the Union as an officer. William survived the war and reportedly thought his brother was a traitor for fighting for the Confederacy against Pennsylvania. The story goes that William never spoke of Wesley again.

Jack succumbed to his injuries on July 12. Jack and Ginnie were buried close to each other at Gettysburg’s Evergreen Cemetery. An executive order was issued to allow a flag to fly at her grave 24 hours a day. Ginnie Wade and Betsy Ross are the only women in the United States that were given this executive order.

Aftermath & the Gettysburg Address

A burial party inters the dead from the Battle of Gaines' Mill on the battlefield. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

A burial party inters the dead from the Battle of Gaines’ Mill on the battlefield. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Lee was unsuccessful at gaining the upper hand or the upper land at Gettysburg. They were low on many things – most importantly they were low on morale. The Confederate Army lost a staggering 28,000 of the 75,000 men – a 38 percent casualty rate. There was no choice but to retreat. Lee’s second attempt at a Northern invasion failed as well as the hope of winning the war.

Meade’s forces numbered around 97,000 before Gettysburg. After the three days of fight, the Union army was 23,000 less. As the South retreated and the North followed but heavy rain and Confederate rear guards made their efforts ineffective.

As the armies moved out of Gettysburg they left behind thousands and thousands of dead and wounded soldiers. Surgeons and medical personnel from both sides stayed back to tend to the wounded. Local citizens also helped by bringing clothing, food and water. They created temporary shelters and helped with the wounded. The battlefields still held the bodies of the fallen. African American laborers were given the task of burying the dead. In the three days of fighting, as many as 51,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, captured or missing. It was said that the rivers and streams ran red with all the blood that was shed.

The only confirmed photo of Abraham Lincoln (circled) at Gettysburg, taken about noon, just after Lincoln arrived and some three hours before the speech. To Lincoln's right is his bodyguard, Ward Hill Lamon. Photo Credit: Source

The only confirmed photo of Abraham Lincoln (circled) at Gettysburg, taken about noon, just after Lincoln arrived. To Lincoln’s right is his bodyguard, Ward Hill Lamon. Photo Credit: Source

Four months after the Battle of Gettysburg, on November 19th, President Lincoln traveled to the town to dedicate the Soldiers National Cemetery which honored the killed Union soldiers. His physical features were described by an observer:

“[Lincoln’s] face, lined and sad, bore traces of tremendous worry the ordeal of war had brought to him. His expression was benign and kindly, and the strength of his character seemed to be evidenced in the pronounced features; a high forehead, a prominent nose and a decided chin jutting below firmly-set lips. His countenance seemed to reflect the tragedy of war and the significance of his visit to Gettysburg on that day.”

Lincoln was not the principal speaker that day and was only invited as a formality. His address was only 10 sentences long and lasted for 2 minutes. Not everyone in the audience could hear him but his message became immortalized in the history books. A message proclaiming that even hope could arise from war’s sacrifices and that the Civil War was a struggle for the principle of human equality.

The Great Reunion of 1913

Photograph taken on July 3, 1913 during the reunion at "Bloody Angle." Pickett's men are in foreground and the Union men  (likely the Philadelphia Brigade) are lined against the wall. They wait to shake hands which the camera in the left middle is set up to capture. The monument in the upper left honors the 71st Pennsylvania. Photo Credit: Bain News Service/Library of Congress

Photograph taken on July 3, 1913 during the reunion at “Bloody Angle.” Pickett’s men are in foreground and the Union men (likely the Philadelphia Brigade) are lined against the wallwaiting to shake hands. The monument in the upper left honors the 71st Pennsylvania. Photo Credit: Bain News Service/Library of Congress

After the Civil War’s guns became silent and the smoke cleared the battlefields, the country began to heal. The war pitted brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor and countryman against countryman. No one knew that better than those who fought it. Veterans from both sides periodically visited Gettysburg and the graves of fallen friends, family and comrades to reflect, heal and find peace.

In 1913 a formal reunion was organized to honor the 50th Anniversary. More than 50,000 attended including President Woodrow Wilson who stated: “These venerable men crowding here to this famous field have set us a great example of devotion and utter sacrifice. They were willing to die that people might live. But their task is done. Their day is turned into evening. They look to us to perfect what they have established. Their work is handed unto us, to be done in another way but not in another spirit. Our day is not over, it is upon us to full tide.”

Veterans of both sides gather under their respective colors in July 1913 during the Great Reunion, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Veterans of both sides gather under their respective colors in July 1913 during the Great Reunion, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Sources
John MacDonald, The Historical Atlas of the Civil War, New York: Chartwell Books, Inc., 2009.
John Keegan, The American Civil War: A Military History, New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 2009.
Glenn W. LaFantasie, “How Lincoln Won and Lost at Gettysburg,” Papers of the Ninth Gettysburg National Military Park Seminar, Gettysburg, PA: Gettysburg National Military Park, 195-209, 2002.
Anthony M. Nicastro, “Why Gettysburg?: An Analysis of the Command Decisions and Intelligence Failures That Led to Gettysburg,” Papers of the Tenth Gettysburg National Military Park Seminar, Gettysburg, PA: Gettysburg National Military Park, 143-153, 2005.
Civil War Trust
National Park Service
The National Guard
U.S. Army

Battle of Gettysburg – Day 2

2 July 2013

This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. From July 1 – July 3, 1863 the bloodiest battle in the entire American Civil War waged around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania between Union Major General George Gordon Meade’s Army of the Potomac and Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. This is Day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Battle of Gettysburg – Day 1
Battle of Gettysburg – Day 3
Gettysburg Day 2

They say the noise was incessant as the sound
Of all wolves howling, when that attack came on.
They say, when the guns all spoke, that the solid ground
Of the rocky ridges trembled like a sick child.

- Stephen Vincent Benet

Defensive Positions

During the evening and night hours on July 1, 1863 both the Union and Confederate infantry forces had arrived. There were now around 160,000 soldiers at Gettysburg. At the end of the first day, the Union soldiers were positioned on higher, ridged ground south of the town. Their defensive position was like a “fish hook” and started at Culp’s Hill, traveled west to Cemetery Hill where it curved around and went south down Cemetery Ridge.

Map of the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. [Confederates lines are red; Union lines are blue.] Photo Credit: Map by Hal Jespersen, www.cwmaps.com

Map of the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. [Confederates lines are red; Union lines are blue.] Photo Credit: Map by Hal Jespersen, www.cwmaps.com

Unlike the previous morning, fighting did not start until the afternoon. Both armies took the morning hours to gather their troops, survey the area and shift their forces. It was humid and warm, but the men knew that the day was ripe with tension. It was understood that it “would be a day of bloodshed and that with some of us our next sleep would be the cold sleep of death.” Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade again waited for Confederate General Robert E. Lee to make his move.

Lee shifted his forces to form a parallel line across from the Union line starting at Seminary Ridge, traveling east through the town before curved southeast and ended on a point opposite Culp’s Hill. The Confederate line was nearly five miles long while the Union had the interior lines.

Sickles’ Move

Meade ordered Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles to take up defensive positions on the southern end of Cemetery Ridge. Sickle’s III Corps held the Union left, bottom of the fish hook, and were anchored to the north by the II Corps and to the south was the hill known as “Little Round Top.” The hill held the Union’s signal station which was vital for quick information. Stickle was unhappy with where he was stationed because he believed the land was too low. At 1 p.m. he moved his III Corps from the Little Round Top area to the “Peach Orchid” – an area with a slightly higher terrain. It was almost a mile in front of Cemetery Ridge. In doing so, Sickles weakened Meade’s concentrated defensive line, stretching it too thin. Additionally, he left his force open to attacks from multiple sides with no anchors.

Federal breastworks in the woods on Culp's Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Federal breastworks in the woods on Culp’s Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Attacking the Flanks

Lee was still waiting on Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry to arrive; however, he could not wait any longer. He ordered a coordinated demonstration on both Union flanks at Culp’s and Cemetery Hills. While Meade and the Union’s soldiers were focused on defending those positions, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s I Corps would stealthily attack the Union’s left flank. Due to faulty intelligence, Lee was unaware of Sickle’s re-positioning. Sickle’s III Corps was directly in their path, forming a rough V-shaped line.

Right before the fighting began, around 3:30 p.m., Meade arrived at the Peach Orchard after learning of Sickle’s unauthorized move. Sickle, recognizing the vulnerability of the position and Longstreet’s incoming batteries, he acquiesced, stating “I will withdraw to my original position, if that is what you prefer, General.” Seeing the advancing Confederates, Meade responded “It is too late sir, those people won’t let you!” At about 4:00 p.m. Longstreet and Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill’s divisions charge the Union left flank at Devil’s Den, the Peach Orchard, Little Round Top and the Wheatfield. Brig. Gen. Gouverneur Warren orders brigades to defend Little Round Top before the Confederates could take it. The second day of battle had begun.

Little Round Top, western slope, photographed by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, 1863. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Little Round Top, western slope, photographed by Timothy H. O’Sullivan, 1863. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Meade sent reinforcements (taken from Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill) to Sickle’s line. Despite their best efforts, the Peach Orchard position collapsed by 6:00 p.m. Confederate troops shifted their focus to Cemetery Ridge – now weakened after troops were sent to the Peach Orchard. Meade’s Cemetery Ridge line held. By 7 p.m. Lee’s main offensive attack had lessened and the Union pulled through. The night, however, was not over.

As dusk fell, Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell began his assault on the Union right against Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill. Even though many of Culp’s Hill’s original defenders were sent elsewhere during the day, those who remained had utilized their rocky surroundings and constructed fortifications. The Confederates attacked but were slowed down when they could not breach the constructed earth barriers. The intense fighting lasted well into the night but the Union held their positions. Since they operated within concentrated, interior lines, it allowed men to move and defend weakened areas quickly and easily while the Confederate line was stretched miles long.

1st Minnesota Civil War drum, 1861. The 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment was the first unit from any state pledged to fight for the Uni1st Minnesota Civil War drumon. As part of the Army of the Potomac, the 1st took part in many significant battles and campaigns including Bull Run, the Peninsula Campaign, Antietam, and Gettysburg.The Battle of Gettysburg was the 1st Minnesota’s finest hour, where it made a heroic charge that helped secure the Union victory. The regiment suffered heavy losses as a result.

1st Minnesota Civil War drum, 1861. Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society

Notable State Militias 

As with the first day of battle, state militias again contributed greatly. Some of the bloodiest fighting took place in the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard and north to Cemetery Ridge. It is at Cemetery Ridge where the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, outnumber 4-to-1, made their stand. The 1st Minnesota was one of the first units called into service at the start of the Civil War. Confederate infantry threatened to pour through a gap in the Union lines. If the South got a foothold on Cemetery Ridge, the North likely would have been pushed off. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock ordered the 1st Minnesota forward. Lowering their bayonets, 262 Minnesotans charged. Their actions stalled the Confederate until the III Corps took over. The 1st Minnesota’s flag fell five times and rose again every time. Of the 262 who charged, 215 became casualties in only five minutes. The 1st Minnesota’s 83.1 percent casualty rate is still the largest loss by any surviving military unit during a single day’s engagement in United States history.

In 1889, veterans of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry gathered at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, with Gen. Chamberlain. He is seated at center right, bracketed by the Maltese Cross banner and the unit's regimental flag. Photo Credit: Maine Historical Society

In 1889, veterans of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry gathered at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, with Gen. Chamberlain. He is seated at center right, bracketed by the Maltese Cross banner and the unit’s regimental flag. Photo Credit: Maine Historical Society

In the famous battle for control of Little Round Top, the 15th Regiment Alabama Infantry faced off against the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry. The 15th Alabama, led by Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood and commanded by Col. William C. Oates, charged the hill guarded by the 20th Maine. The Confederates were quite exhausted at the time, having marched over 20 miles prior to the assault. However, they fought anyways. After one and a half hours of intense fighting (as well as six different spirited attacks by the 15th Alabama) the 20th Maine, led by former professor Col. Joshua Chamberlain, found themselves low on ammunition and morale. Told to protect Little Round Top “at all costs,” Chamberlain knew they could not withstand another attack attempt. So the 20th Maine famously fixed their bayonets and charged downhill, surprising and scattering the Confederates. They held the hill. Oates later said of his opponent, “There never were harder fighters than the Twentieth Maine men and their gallant Colonel. His skill and persistency and the great bravery of his men saved Little Round Top and the Army of the Potomac from defeat.” In turn, Chamberlain said of the 15th Alabama: “these were manly men, whom we could befriend and by no means kill, if they came our way in peace and good will.”

Statistics of Day 2

The areas of fighting  on Day 2 included the Peach Orchard, Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Trostle’s Farm, Cemetery Ridge, Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill. While the Confederates gained some ground, the Union still held onto their strong positions. July 2, 1863 was the largest and costliest during the Battle of Gettysburg. An estimated 90,000 Union soldiers faced off against 70,000 Confederates of which around 20,000 were killed, wounded, captured or missing. The second day is ranked as the 10th bloodiest battle of the war and had more causalities than the larger Battle of Fredericksburg. With no clear victor in sight, generals planned their next steps. Civilians braced themselves for more chaos and destruction. Soldiers prepared for battle – some prepared for death.

Dead Confederate soldiers in the "slaughter pen" at the foot of Little Round Top after the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Dead Confederate soldiers in the “slaughter pen” at the foot of Little Round Top after the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Photo Credit: Alexander Gardner/Library of Congress

Sources
John MacDonald, The Historical Atlas of the Civil War, New York: Chartwell Books, Inc., 2009.
John Keegan, The American Civil War: A Military History, New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 2009.
Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body, Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1928.
Andrew Curry, “Turning the Tide,” U.S. News & World Reports: Secrets of the Civil War, 21-22, 2012.
Anthony M. Nicastro, “Why Gettysburg?: An Analysis of the Command Dicisions and Intelligence Failures That Led to Gettysburg,” Papers of the Tenth Gettysburg National Military Park Seminar, Gettysburg, PA: Gettysburg National Military Park, 143-153, 2005.
James Hessler, “Dan Sickles: The Battlefield Preservationist,” Civil War Trust.
Hampton Smith, “First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment,” MNopedia, March 13, 2012.
20th Maine Volunteers
Civil War Trust
National Park Service
The National Guard
U.S. Army

Panorama of 2nd Day's Battle, 1909. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Panorama of 2nd Day’s Battle, 1909. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Battle of Gettysburg – Day 1

1 July 2013

This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. From July 1 – July 3, 1863 the bloodiest battle in the entire American Civil War waged around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania between Union Major General George Gordon Meade’s Army of the Potomac and Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. This is Day 1 of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Battle of Gettysburg – Day 2
Battle of Gettysburg – Day 3

Gettysburg Day 1

On June 3, 1863, Gen. Robert E. Lee led his Army of Northern Virginia north. Encouraged by his astounding victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia, Lee decided to attempt a second invasion north. In part, he hoped to take some pressure off of war-ridden Virginia by taking the battle elsewhere. He had invaded the North nine months before. That time he marched into Maryland and the fighting culminated with the Battle of Antietam – the bloodiest single-day battle of the American Civil War. His second attempt would prove just as futile and just as deadly.

General Robert E. Lee, 1863 Photo Credit: Julian Vannerson/Library of Congress

General Robert E. Lee, 1863. Photo Credit: Julian Vannerson/Library of Congress

To Gettysburg

Lee’s decision to move north again was a tactical one. It was a chance for the South at ending the war. A Union blockade had cut off trade with Europe, effectively halting the South’s economy. While Lee won at Chancellorsville it was to the tune of 13,000 causalities, including his right-hand man – Gen. Stonewall Jackson. The cost of the war in both monetary and human value was taking its toll. Southern support was growing thin. A Union defeat in the north could ignite a northern peace movement and draw more support. “It was a calculated decision based upon the understanding that there was only so much sand left in the Confederate hourglass. A protracted war is one the South simply can’t win,” says Peter Carmichael, a historian at Gettysburg College.

Major General George Gordon Meade. Photo Credit: Matthew Brady/Library of Congress

Major General George Gordon Meade. Photo Credit: Matthew Brady/Library of Congress

This time Lee’s objective was Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania. As the 75,000 Confederates moved (some of which were a bit scattered) through the countryside, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker stationed the nearly 100,000 Union forces parallel to Lee’s to create a “wall” between enemy forces and Washington D.C. and Baltimore.

Just three days before the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln relieved Hooker of his command. Lincoln then assigned Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade as the commander of the Army of the Potomac. Meade, considered a man of strategic acuteness, was surprised as his promotion. He was a respected senior officer with much experience but he had never directed an army on campaign. Meade, himself, favored Maj. Gen. John Reynolds as Hooker’s replacement. In a letter to his wife Margaret on June 28, Meade described how he was notified.

“Yesterday morning, at 3 a.m., I was aroused from my sleep by an officer from Washington entering my tent, and after waking me up, saying he had come to give me trouble. At first I thought that it was either to relieve or arrest me… He then handed me a communication to read; which I found was an order relieving Hooker from the command and assigning me to it.”

Map of the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Map by Hal Jespersen, www.cwmaps.com

Map of the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. [Confederate lines are red; Union lines are blue.] Map by Hal Jespersen, www.cwmaps.com

Once Meade took over command of the Union Army he needed to come up with a strategy on what the Army’s next move would be. He decided that Lee would be the one to attack first since he invaded enemy territory. After looking at the options, Meade realized it would be more strategic for the Union Army to await Lee’s attack with a strong defensive position than to pursue the Confederates all around Pennsylvania. When Lee learned of Meade’s advancing forces, he began to gather his scattered troops to turn back to Cashtown.

Gettysburg was near Cashtown and an ideal town to hold since it stood at the north of an open, rolling countryside that was only sparsely wooded. Its brick and solid buildings would be comfortable. Some buildings, such as the Gettysburg College and a Lutheran seminary, had cupolas that could be used as observation posts. It became the host of the battle “more by chance than by design.”

The Battle Begins

On June 30, a Confederate brigade of Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill’s Third Corps saw some soldiers in Gettysburg. Maj. Gen. Henry Heth believed the soldiers were part of the Pennsylvania militia and did not think there were very significant. Lee made it clear that he wanted to avoid any engagements since the Confederate Army was not yet concentrated. Heth, on the other hand, ordered two of his brigade to scout the area out in force the next morning.

The “Pennsylvania Militia” was actually two Union cavalry brigades under Brig. Gen. John Buford. They were stationed in a defensive position west of town on higher land. Buford asked for more support sensing an upcoming attack.

Monument of the first shot at Gettysberg, located west of Herr Ridge on Chambersburg Pike. Photo Credit: Lpockras/Source)

Monument of the first shot at Gettysberg, located west of Herr Ridge on Chambersburg Pike. Photo Credit: Lpockras/Source)

It all came to a head the next morning – July 1, 1863. Around 7:30 a.m. Two Confederate divisions under Heth were moving east along the Chambersburg pike to Gettysburg when they met Buford and his cavalry brigade. Buford was able to hold the Confederates until reinforcements, under the command of Maj. Gen. Reynolds, arrived two hours later. It became clear that the Confederates were advancing strongly. Reynolds feared the enemy would hold the higher ground first. He sent a report to Meade in which he promised: “I will fight him inch by inch and if driven into the town I will barricade the streets and hold him back as long as possible.” Not long after he wrote the message a bullet struck Reynolds in the head and he died. He was the highest ranking general killed at Gettysburg.

General John F. Reynolds. Photo Credit: Source

General John F. Reynolds. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Around 2:00 p.m. Lee arrived on the battlefield. He wanted Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell to seize the high ground of Cemetery Ridge. Ewell decided to wait until reinforcements came. During this time, the Union forces created a strong defensive line on the higher ground. The Union also understood that Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top and Culps Hill were critical defensive positions and, if the Confederates took control of them, it would be extremely difficult to dislodge them.

Each side would gain and lose ground throughout the day. Finally, the Confederates moved the Union lines back though the town to Culps Hill, Little Round Top and Cemetery Ridge. By 4:30 p.m. the battle was over for the day. The Confederates held the town of Gettysburg. Meade arrived on the Union side around midnight. He took stock of their situation and decided to fight from where they were instead of retreating. The Union had ended up on higher ground which would play to their advantage in the next days.

The Iron Brigade Monument in the Gettysburg National Military Park which is located in the vicinity where the Brigade first became engaged with the Confederate Army. Photo Credit: Robert Swanson

The Iron Brigade Monument in the Gettysburg National Military Park which is located in the vicinity where the Brigade first became engaged with the Confederate Army. Photo Credit: Robert Swanson

Notable State Militias

There were notable contributions by state militias on July 1. The veteran “Iron Brigade,” one of the toughest units in the army, was comprised of five regiments from Wisconsin (2nd, 6th and 7th), Michigan (24th) and Indiana (19th). The 2nd Wisconsin was the first on the scene and was commanded, rather briefly, by Maj. Gen. Reynolds before his death. Gettysburg was the Iron Brigade’s finest hour during the Civil War but also it’s deadliest. In the morning, the Iron Brigade was successful in counterattacking the Confederate brigade of Brig. Gen. James J. Archer and capturing him. However, the tide changed in the afternoon with the arrival of the 26th North Carolina. With 843 soldiers it was the largest regiment in either army at Gettysburg. It was said that the 26th North Carolina “came on with rapid strides, yelling like demons.” They faced off with the 24th Michigan, but the numbers of the 26th North Carolina overwhelmed the Michigan brigade. Their fight was the bloodiest regimental engagement of Gettysburg. Both the 24th Michigan and 26th North Carolina suffered more causalities than any other regiment. The 26th North Carolina had 687 causalities (including a colonel and lieutenant colonel) and the 24th Michigan lost 363 of their 496 soldiers. The 2nd Wisconsin also suffered heavy losses during the fighting on McPherson’s Ridge. They incurred 233 causalities out of 302 soldiers.

Statistics of Day 1

The areas of fighting during the first day included McPherson’s Ridge, Oak Hill, Oak Ridge, Seminary Ridge, Barlow’s Knoll and in and around the town of Gettysburg. It involved around 50,000 soldiers and an estimated 15,500 were killed, wounded, captured or missing. Eight Medals of Honor were awarded to Union soldiers for their actions on July 1. The first day of the Battle of Gettysburg is ranked as the 12th bloodiest battle during the Civil War. It had more causalities than Bull Run and Franklin battles combined.

As evening and night came so did the reinforcements and stragglers. The forces swelled and the stage was set for another bloody battle pitting neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother as so many of the Civil War’s battles did. The town would become battle ridden. The fields covered with the dead and dying. Churches, stores and homes would be transformed into hospitals. Even though the battle started without the knowledge or consent of either Lee or Meade the land would forever echo the deadly story of when they met.

Gen. Meade's headquarters on Cemetery Ridge. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Gen. Meade’s headquarters on Cemetery Ridge. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Sources
John MacDonald, The Historical Atlas of the Civil War, New York: Chartwell Books, Inc., 2009.
John Keegan, The American Civil War: A Military History, New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 2009.
Andrew Curry, “Turning the Tide,” U.S. News & World Reports: Secrets of the Civil War, 21-22, 2012.
Anthony M. Nicastro, “Why Gettysburg?: An Analysis of the Command Dicisions and Intelligence Failures That Led to Gettysburg,” Papers of the Tenth Gettysburg National Military Park Seminar, Gettysburg, PA: Gettysburg National Military Park, 143-153, 2005.
Civil War Trust
National Park Service
The National Guard
U.S. Army

Battle of Gettysburg: Infographic

30 June 2013
Infographic Credit: The History Press

Infographic Credit: The History Press

Telling War Stories, 1924

24 June 2013

G.A.R. vets P.R. Barker and John Houder from Fitzgerald, Georgia, tell war stories to kids on historic Boston Common in August, 1924. The G.A.R. stands for the Grand Army of the Republic. It was a fraternal organization composed of Union veterans.