Civil War

Bombproof Tents in Petersburg, 1864

16 March 2015
Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Part of Federal Line of Works showing bombproof tents occupied by U.S. Colored Troops in front of Petersburg, Virginia on August 7, 1864.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

U.S. Military Telegraph Battery Wagon, 1864

6 March 2015
Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

U.S. military telegraph battery wagon at Army of the Potomac headquarters during the Siege of Petersburg in June 1864.

The Seacoast Mortar “Dictator”

23 February 2015
Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

The 13-inch seacoast mortar called the “Dictator” is shown above in front of Petersburg, Virginia in October 1864. The seacoast mortar weighed around 17,120 pounds and, due to it’s weight, was transported by railway truck along the railroad track. It fired a 200+ pound shell with a charge of 20 pounds of powder. The angle of elevation was forty-five degrees and had a range of around 4,600 yards.

When fired, the recoil would send the flatcar it was stationed on to recoil 10 to 12 feet on the tracks. During the siege of Petersburg, the “Dictator” was manned by Company G of the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery. The Fort Pitt Foundry created about 162 of these 13-inch seacoast mortars.

The process of moving the “Dictator” is described on the back of a stenograph as the following:

This large sea-coast mortar is mounted on a special flat-car made very strong for this purpose. This mortar-car is on General Grant’s Military Railroad at Petersburg. The car is readily moved along the line and the mortar is fired whenever required; it is thus made very effective and annoying to the enemy, for it is something like the Irishman’s flea, “when they put their hands on it, it ain’t there;” in other words, when they turn the fire of their batteries on the “Dictator,” our boys hitch on to the car and run it along out of the line of fire and commence pegging away again. By the time the “Johnnies” find out where the “Dictator” is and get the range to smash it, “it ain’t there” again; the boys run it along to a new stand for business.

The “Dictator” is currently mounted at Hartford, Connecticut.

Another view of the "Dictator". Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Another view of the “Dictator”. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

The "Dictator" at Petersburg shown on its rolling platform. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

The “Dictator” at Petersburg shown on its rolling platform. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

The "Dictator" being moved along the railroad tracks. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

The “Dictator” being moved along the railroad tracks. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Sources
Tucker, Spencer C. American Civil War: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2013.
Mortar Dictator“, Library of Congress.
The Seacoast Mortar called “The Dictator” at the Siege of Petersburg 1864,” IronBrigader.com.

Union Camp in Petersburg, 1864

2 February 2015
Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

A Union camp in front of Petersburg, Virginia in August 1864.

Outer Confederate Line, 1864

18 January 2015
Photo Credit: U.S. Army

Photo Credit: U.S. Army

Photograph of the outer line of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, Va., captured by 18th Army Corps on June 15, 1864.

Letters From the Front – Civil War

5 January 2015

Letter From the Front Photo

The following letter is from nurse Clara Barton to her cousin, Vira on the eve of major fighting during the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Head Quarters 2nd Div.
9th Army Corps-Army of the Potomac
Camp near Falmouth, Va.
December 12th, 1862 – 2 o’clock A.M.

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross. Barton served as a nurse for Union soldiers at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Photo Credit:

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross. Barton served as a nurse for Union soldiers at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Photo Credit: NPS

My dear Cousin Vira:

Five minutes time with you; and God only knows what those five minutes might be worth to the many-doomed thousands sleeping around me.

It is the night before a battle. The enemy, Fredericksburg, and its mighty entrenchments lie before us, the river between – at tomorrow’s dawn our troops will assay to cross, and the guns of the enemy will sweep those frail bridges at every breath.

The moon is shining through the soft haze with a brightness almost prophetic. For the last half hour I have stood alone in the awful stillness of its glimmering light gazing upon the strange sad scene around me striving to say, “Thy will Oh God be done.”

The camp fires blaze with unwanted brightness, the sentry’s tread is still but quick – the acres of little shelter tents are dark and still as death, no wonder for us as I gazed sorrowfully upon them. I thought I could almost hear the slow flap of the grim messenger’s wings, as one by one he sought and selected his victims for the morning. Sleep weary one, sleep and rest for tomorrow toil. Oh! Sleep and visit in dreams once more the loved ones nestling at home. They may yet live to dream of you, cold lifeless and bloody, but this dream soldier is thy last, paint it brightly, dream it well. Oh northern mothers wives and sisters, all unconscious of the hour, would to Heaven that I could bear for you the concentrated woe which is so soon to follow, would that Christ would teach my soul a prayer that would plead to the Father for grace sufficient for you, God pity and strengthen you every one.

Mine are not the only waking hours, the light yet burns brightly in our kind hearted General’s tent where he pens what may be a last farewell to his wife and children and thinks sadly of his fated men.

Already the roll of the moving artillery is sounded in my ears. The battle draws near and I must catch one hour’s sleep for tomorrow’s labor.

Good night near cousin and Heaven grant you strength for your more peaceful and less terrible, but not less weary days than mine.
Yours in love,
Clara

Letter via National Park Service

VI Corps soldiers in trenches, 1863

4 November 2014
Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Soldiers of the VI Corps, Army of the Potomac, in trenches before storming Marye’s Heights at the Second Battle of Fredericksburg during the Chancellorsville campaign, Virginia, May 1863.

[Zim’s Note: This photograph is sometimes labeled as taken at the 1864 Siege of Petersburg, Virginia]

Letters From the Front: Civil War

10 September 2014

Letter From the Front Photo

Letter from Harvey Black in Brandy Station, Virginia. Black, descended from the founding family of Blacksburg, Virginia, served as a surgeon to the Army of Northern Virginia. In this letter to his wife Mary (whom he affectionately nicknamed Mollie) he recounts their courtship and expresses the great love he has for her.

Brandy Station,

Sunday night, Nov. 1 [1863]

My dear Mollie

I rcd a letter today from a very handsome lady to play cupid. Although not accompanied by her likeness yet her image was so indelibly impressed upon my mind that the likeness itself could not recall the features more vividly than they are impressed. I first met her in a village in Western Va when I was about 17 years old and she 8. I afterwards saw her frequently and occasionally was in her company, and nonwithstanding the disparity of our ages, I became so favorably impressed with her fair face and gentle manners that I frequently said to myself that I wished she was older or I younger.

In 3 to 4 years she had grown so much that the disparity in age seemed to grow less. Never did a lady witness the budding of a flower with more requisite pleasure than did I the budding of that pretty little girl into womanhood. She made much of my thoughts while in Mexico and more upon my return home. While at the University of Va., I not infrequently found my thoughts wandering from the dry textbook to contemplate by the aid of memory the features and form of this little girl.

After I completed my studies, I traveled in the west and expected to find a home in some western state, but not finding a place to suit me, together with the persuasions of that fair face, induced me to return.

I entered, as you know, actively into the pursuit of my profession with the determination to make at least a fair reputation and tried to withdraw my thought from everything else, but I found this little fairy constantly and pleasantly intruding into all my plans, whether of pleasure or interest. At this period she met me politely and respectfully but seemed to grow more distant, coy & reserved, so that I frequently thought that even the ordinary attentions of common politeness & courtesy were no special source of pleasure to her.

In a few instances when she has arrived at about the age of 15 this shyness and reserve seemed to be forgotten, and I would pass an hour or two in the enjoyment of her company with great pleasure to myself and I imagined with at least satisfaction, if not enjoyment, to her. I began to think that my happiness was identified with hers. I began to pay her special visits or at least seek opportunities by which I might be in her company. I sought her society on pleasure rides and thought it not a hardship to ride 65 miles in 24 hours if part of the time might be spent with her. She always exhibited or observed the decorum of modest reserve which might be construed into neither encouragement nor discouragement.

After the delibertation & reflection which I thought due to a matter which involved my happiness for life, I felt that her destiny and mine were probably intended to be united, and that all the adverse counsel which I could give myself could bring no objections. I felt that I ought both as a matter of duty and happiness give my whole life to her, who for 9 years had my attention and devotion, though concealed love.

After a few little billets and interviews, and with a full declaration of the love I desired to bestow, I received a measured and loving response and was made most happy in the anticipation of the celebration of the nuptials fixed at some 6 months hence. This time glided nicely & happily, though not too rapidly, away from me. The hours of leisure were spent with her and my visits were always welcomed with that cordial welcome, that maiden modesty, so much to be admired. Tis true that on one occasion she did rest her elbow upon my knee and look with confidential pleasure in my face and made me realize that indeed I had her whole heart.

Suffice it to say, the happy day of our marriage arrived and since then, hours, days, and years of time, confidence & happiness passed rapidly away, and only to make us feel that happy as were the hours of youthful days, they compare not with those of later years and perhaps even these may not be equal to that which is in reserve for us.

I dont know how much pleasure it affords you to go over these days of the past, but to me they will ever be remembered as days of felicity. And how happy the thought that years increase the affection & esteem we have for each other to love & be loved. May it ever be so, and may I ever be a husband worthy of your warmest affections. May I make you happy and in so doing be made happy in return. A sweet kiss and embrace to your greeting.

But maybe you will say it looks ridiculous to see a man getting grayhaired to be writing love letters, so I will use the remnant of my paper otherwise…

Yours affectionately H Black

Letter Credit: Special Collections, University Libraries, Virginia Tech

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

Next Page »