Friday, December 21, 2012

The Iconic Places

As Christmas draws near we have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to our Civil War heritage.  Although we've lost many locations of great importance, we can still stand at places like the Sunken Road or The Angle and almost get an idea of what happened in the fields around us nearly 150 years ago.  Thanks to groups like the Civil War Preservation Trust and its supporters, acre after acre of new hallowed battlefield land has been added to expand opportunities for our understanding of the momentous event, protecting these important fields forever.  For this weeks post and for the sake of being thankful for the heritage we've inherited, enjoy some pictures of our Civil War Iconic Places.


Antietam National Cemetery

Ball's Bluff National Cemetery

The Sunken Road or Bloody Lane at Antietam

Ewell's Earthworks along Saunders Field at The Wilderness

Federal Redoubt at the Murphy Farm at Harpers Ferry

Downtown Harpers Ferry

Artillery on Henry House Hill

Innis House and the Telegraph Road at Fredericksburg

Federal Gun near the East Woods at Antietam

North Carolina Monument on South Mountain, land saved by the CWPT

Monument at the location of Stonewall Jackson's Mortal Wounding at Chancellorsville

Sedgwick Monument at Spotsylvania

Stevens Rock at Chantilly marking the location of the death of General Isaac Stevens

Belle Grove Plantation on the Cedar Creek Battlefield

East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg

Virginia Monument at Gettysburg

The Wheatfield and Winslow's Guns at Gettysburg

Monocacy Junction
15th NJ Monument at the Bloody Angle or Mule Shoe Salient, Spotsylvania

Friday, December 14, 2012

Harrisburg Cemetery and the Civil War

           Residing between Herr and State Streets in the eastern part of the city of Harrisburg is the historic Harrisburg Cemetery.  The cemetery celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1995 and is the final resting place for many well-known citizens of all walks of life dating from the time of the revolution.  The cemetery was officially chartered in 1845 and is currently on the National Register of Historic Places.  Along with all the wonderful history, the cemetery is staffed by more than helpful and interested caretakers who know their way around the large plot.
          With regards to this blog, there are many well known and "should be better known" Civil War heroes buried in the cemetery. There is also a special plot containing soldiers that died in the care of Harrisburg's Civil War hospital.  This plot, Section Z, contains the graves of 155 soldiers, 15 of whom were Confederate prisoners of war that died while in the Harrisburg Hospital station.  Some of the better known Civil War officers/personalities interred in the cemetery include Major General John White Geary, Brigadier General James A Congdon, Brigadier General Joseph Knipe, Brigadier General George Zinn, Lt. Colonel George Fisher McFarland, Colonel James Cameron, Colonel Henry McCormick, and Secretary of State Simon Cameron.
          A visit to this hallowed cemetery is more than worth your while.  Whether perusing the Civil War heroes or just taking a stroll through this beautiful place, Harrisburg Cemetery well deserves its protection on the National Register of Historic Places for future generations to come and learn of the nation's past sacrifices as well as to help us understand the core values of what it means to be a citizen of the state and nation.

Below are some of the better known interments in the cemetery.

Bvt Brigadier General James A Congdon of the 12th PA Cavalry
Colonel William Jennings
Colonel William W Jennings who commanded the 127th PA (Dauphin County Regiment) through the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville...later commanding the 26th PA Emergency Militia against Jubal Early's Division on the 26th of June at Gettysburg

Captain George Brooks of Company D, 46th Pennsylvania Infantry was killed in action at Antietam

Captain George Brooks, 46th PA KIA Antietam

Colonel George Fisher McFarland of the 151st PA ("Schoolteachers Regiment") - Was severely wounded at Gettysburg and lost his legs...the regiment suffered 70% casualties on July 1st fighting a delaying action on Eastern McPherson's Ridge
Colonel George F McFarland
Bvt Brig Gen Robert W McCoy 
Section Z - Civil War section of the cemetery which includes 155 soldiers
Some of the 15 Confederates buried in Section Z... based on the dates it is very possible many of them were wounded at Gettysburg
Major General John White Geary...12th Corps commander who commanded a division at Gettysburg and was later Governor of Pennsylvania
Statue to General Geary next to his grave plot
Simon Cameron burial....1st Secretary of War under President Abraham Lincoln

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fredericksburg 150th Anniversary

This weekend kicked off the commemoration of the Battle of Fredericksburg, 150 years later.  The National Park Service held their main event on Sunday, but special events will be continuing through next weekend.  The actual anniversary is on Thursday December 13th.  Burnside's Army of the Potomac lost nearly 13,000 men during their futile assaults against Lee's entrenched positions on Marye's Heights.  They also temporarily broke through Lee's lines at the Slaughter Pen Farm against Prospect Hill, but without proper supports, only added to the total casualty count.  By comparison, Lee lost about 5,000 men.  This past weekend the park held living encampments, special tours, battle reenactments and keynote speakers in memory of the men who lost their lives during the Union disaster that was Fredericksburg.

For more information on the battle of Fredericksburg please click on the link below:

The Civil War Preservation Trust also just released a wonderful new panoramic tour of the Fredericksburg Battlefield on their website, so if you cannot make it to anniversary events this is a great way to see the field and understand the people and events in the Fredericksburg Campaign.
CWPT Fredericksburg Tour

The following link is the 150th Anniversary schedule for anyone that might have the opportunity to get to Fredericksburg before the end of the commemoration.

Photos from this weekend:

Fredericksburg National Cemetery with over 15,000 interments and less than 3,000 of them identified
Procession down the Sunken Road for the Wreath laying on the Kirkland Monument 
Remembering not just the slaughter, but the acts of charity during the battle
Confederate reenactors tramp up towards Marye's Heights to demonstrate the attacks
Innis House from Marye's Heights with the Sunken Road 
Kirkland Monument with  Brompton on the Hill
Interior of the Innis House, still with visible damage from December 13, 1862
Exterior of the Innis House

Friday, November 30, 2012

In the Spirit of the Exam

Tomorrow, Saturday December 1, 2012, the exam for the next group of Licensed Battlefield Guides will be administered in Gettysburg.  To all those taking the test and anyone with the passion to share the story of the men and women that fought not only at Gettysburg, but in the entire American Civil War, I wish everyone the best of luck!  For this weeks blog post we'll find out how much we know!  Here are some questions to get your mind moving!  They all pertain to Gettysburg (Gettysburg Campaign and Park History) and in some instances there might be more than one answer.  The answers will be posted on Monday.

1.)  On what regimental monument is there a lion subtly carved into the base of a statue?
A. 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry
B. 37th Massachusetts
C. 78th & 102nd New York
D. 74th Pennsylvania

2.) What regiment has the most monuments on the Gettysburg Battlefield?
A. 95th New York
B. 118th Pennsylvania
C. 110th Pennsylvania
D. 27th Connecticut

3.) Name the three original directors of the Gettysburg National Park Commission.

4.) At what time did the fighting on Culps Hill begin and end on July 3rd, 1863 (approximate)?

5.) How many Union soldiers killed in the battle are buried in the National Cemetery?
A. 3,566
B. 3,512
C. 3,578
D. 8,455

6.) How many unknown soldiers are buried in the National Cemetery?
A. 979
B. 1,432
C. 659
D. 980

7.) Name this Union division commander that fought at Gettysburg...

8.) What monument is this?

9.) At what Pennsylvania town did Federal and Confederate Cavalry clash on June 30, 1863?
A. Aldie
B. Middleburg
C. Carlisle
D. Hanover

10.) What was the first regimental monument on the battlefield (not including the National Cemetery)?
A. 1st Vermont
B. 2nd Massachusetts
C. 83rd New York
D. 143rd Pennsylvania

11.) What regiment fired the first Federal infantry volley of the battle?
A. 24th Michigan
B. 2nd Wisconsin
C. 14th Brooklyn (84th New York)
D. 56th Pennsylvania

12.) The 20th Maine and Colonel Joshua Lawerence Chamberlain are famous for "refusing the line" on the Federal left flank on July 2nd.  Can you name the regiment that performed the same action against greater enemy strength on the right flank on that same evening?
A. 137th New York
B. 46th Pennsylvania
C. 1st Maryland Regiment Potomac Home Brigade
D. 107th New York

13.) What was the population of the town of Gettysburg during the Civil War?
A. 2,900
B. 2,400
C. 2,100
D. 1,900

14.) Name the color sergeant of the 143rd Pennsylvania that on July 1st periodically turned towards the enemy during the First Corps' retreat from McPherson's Ridge to shake his fist at the advancing Rebels.

15.) Last but not least, name all five Union generals killed or died of wounds at Gettysburg.

1. C 2. A&D 3. John N. Page, William Forney, John Batchelder
4. 5AM-11AM 5. B 6. A
7. Albion Howe 8. 126th NY 9. D
10. B 11. D 12. A
13. B 14. Ben Crippen 15. Strong Vincent, Samuel Zook, Stephen Weed, Elon Farnsworth, John Reynolds

Friday, November 23, 2012

Misfit Cavalry

Brigadier General Albert G. Jenkins
          Anyone who has done much reading on the Gettysburg Campaign has probably come across material relating to the Confederate cavalry blunders that aided the Army of Northern Virginia in nothing short of defeat at Gettysburg.  The argument has been raging since those fateful days in July of 1863.  Any student of the campaign knows about JEB Stuart's misgivings (that is depending on your side of the fence) in regaining contact with the boss.  Stuart truly has become the scapegoat to many people regardless of whether or not his actions were wrong or right.  Besides the discussion of Stuart's shortcomings though, Robert E Lee still had plenty of cavalry moving with the army and I would argue that maybe the fault rests with the commanding general alone.  A more concerted use of the cavalry he had at hand could have made the difference.  In regards to Stuart, as we know to be true in other situations with Lee at Gettysburg, sometimes a more stringent exercise of command may have been necessary.  But that brings us to our topic of the week, Lee's misfit raiders, the troopers of Albert Gallatin Jenkins command and their role in the Gettysburg Campaign.  This single brigade of 1,300 men was very close to directly impacting the course of what we now know as the largest battle of the entire Civil War.  The "stars in their courses seemed against them" though.
Downtown Chambersburg, PA
          Jenkins was a Brigadier General at the age of 32 years old and despite some of the negative feedback nudged towards his command, he was a very bright young man.  From Greenbottom, Virginia, he graduated from Jefferson College and also attended Harvard University in the study of law.  Before the outbreak of the great rebellion he was holding a seat in the United States Congress dating to 1857, finally resigning to offer his services to the Confederacy in 1861.  He was a delegate to the first Confederate Congress, but decided his services were best utilized in the field.  He quickly rose to the rank of Brigadier General and was relied on heavily through the early stages of the war, leading mostly raiding details in Kentucky and Ohio before being recalled to the east by Robert E Lee himself.  Lee used Jenkins men hard in the Shenandoah Valley, but that was all a distant memory by the summer of 1863.
          Jenkins led a colorful band of troopers to say the least.  Not known for their dash and elan in comparison to Stuart's troopers, the men under Albert Jenkins were a bit of a rag-tag bunch.  Regardless of outward appearance and despite their lack of complete subordination to military protocol in every detail, they were experienced soldiers by June of 1863.
          As Lee's army moved north Jenkins' command led the way for Ewell's Second Corps into Pennsylvania.  He aided in the capture of Martinsburg although Union troops escaped in the night after his request for capitulation failed.  On June 17 Jenkins reached Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, requesting the citizens to turn over all their weapons in two hours.  Unfortunately his pickets detected Union Cavalry advancing in their direction and he withdrew towards Maryland and the security of Rebel infantry.
 "Early in the morning the citizens were ordered by the general to give up all weapons, and we received about 500 guns of all sorts, sabres, pistols, etc. The useful arms were loaded on wagons and the others were destroyed. About 11 o'clock news reached headquarters of the advance of a strong Yankee force, and consequently we evacuated the city and fell back upon Hagerstown, Md." 
- 1st Lt. Hermann Schuricht, Co D 14th Virginia Cavalry
Rupp House in Mechanicsburg, PA - Built in 1773 it served
as JenkinsHeadquarters while in the Harrisburg Area
The early part of the campaign was a stunning operation on the part of Lee's Second Corps officers which to this point included General Jenkins.
          On June 27, Jenkins and his men entered Carlisle and by this point in the campaign General Stuart and his three brigades were in a blackout with army headquarters.  Jenkins had his headquarters located at the Rupp House in Mechanicsburg, PA, probing the defenses of Harrisburg and hoping that the opportunity might exist to capture that crucial federal state capital.  On June 28, Jenkins and his men even fought the northern most battle of the entire campaign at Sporting Hill, driving back federal militia sent out from the defenses of Harrisburg to make a stand.  With Union militia out of the way, Jenkins now had his chance, but it was not to be.  On that very day, Robert E Lee received word that the Army of the Potomac was across the river for which it was named.
          On June 29, all of Lee's forces were concentrating in the direction of Cashtown, a tiny village on the eastern slopes of South Mountain along one of the major roads leading to Gettysbug.  For  Jenkins' command, the 29th and 30th were spent reconnoitering the defenses of Harrisburg before finally receiving word from Ewell to head towards the action.  After leading the push into Pennsylvania Jenkins' brigade was now one of the farthest units from the field of battle.  They made slow progress in starting south after trying to rapidly pull together all their outposts and skirmishers, all the while being harassed by Federal cavalry.  One regiment of the brigade that had been detached to Early's Division (17th Virginia) actually participated in the fighting on July 1.
John Majors House on the Harrisburg Road -
Site of General Jenkins headquarters July 1 - 2, 1863
          Jenkins and his rag-tag band of troopers finally reached the scene of the action around 5pm on July 1.  He set up his headquarters in the John Majors home along the Harrisburg (Heidlersburg) Road which is approximately 3 miles from 'the diamond' in Gettysburg.  The remainder of the evening was spent foraging and catching up with a much needed rest.
          Early on July 2 Albert Jenkins divulged in scouting the scenes of the previous days' struggles and trying to gain an understanding of the dispositions of both armies.  He was then summoned to General Lee's headquarters where he was informed that his command was to guard the left flank of the Confederate line along the Hanover Road.  This would then relieve two brigade's of Ewell's Corps for an attack that Lee was planning for later in the day.  Lee's plan was to strike the Federal left with Longstreet and follow it up with an attack on their right with Ewell.  He would need every brigade which made the role of Jenkins' 1,300 man brigade all the more important.  They would be the only security guarding the roads that led to the Confederate rear and with any luck, a successful attack might roll up the Federal line.
          Jenkins returned to his command near the Majors House and 'boots and saddles' rang out across the camps.  Before long his command was on the Harrisburg Road in column and heading south towards the village of Gettysburg.  After advancing only a mile, Jenkins halted the command and they moved into Blocher's Woods along Rock Creek.   He rode with his staff officers to the crest of Blocher's Knoll (now Barlow's Knoll) to surmise the opposing positions.  Originally Jenkins was told by Lee that the attack on July 2nd was to begin sometime around noon.  At this point in the story of Jenkins' command at Gettysburg, events start to become really foggy and many questions can be raised.  Here we will continue with what we know is 100% factual.  Shortly after reaching Blocher's Knoll, Jenkins was viewing dispositions through his field glasses when his staff noticed a rising puff of smoke from the hill in the distance (Cemetery Hill).

"In the morning we advanced into the valley between Seminary Ridge and the mountain range held by the Union army. Jenkins' Brigade was posted in a piece of woodland, part of yesterday's battlefield, in sight of the seminary and the city of Gettysburg. Both armies had been reinforced and concentrated during the night. General Stuart, with the main force of our cavalry, was not at hand, and for want of cavalry the defeated Federals had not been pressed, and still held and fortified the eminence, above Gettysburg, controlling the valley. Our forces were in possession of the town. We were wondering at the silence prevalent, only in long intervals the report of a gun was heard. General Jenkins resolved to reconoitre, and I was of his companions. Arriving on top of a hill our party attracted the enemy's attention, and we were fired upon. A shell exploded among us, wounding the General and his horse."  1st Lt. Hermann Schuricht, Co D 14th Virginia Cavalry
Blocher's Knoll from Almshouse Cemetery on a cloudy day -
Site of Brigadier General Jenkins' wounding
Of the entire party, Jenkins was the only man hit. His horse was killed and his face was lacerated by a shell fragment that left him unconscious.  He was quickly removed from the hill and then carried to the Majors House where he had set up his headquarters the day before.
          With the wounding of Jenkins a disaster in tactics would befall the attack that Ewell was then to carry out.  No one took command of Jenkins' Brigade or made an effort to carry out his assignment.  Because of this Ewell's two brigades on Benners Hill were never relieved and thus he was short these valuable men when he needed them most in his attack on the evening of July 2.  Multiplying the disaster was the fact that David Gregg's Federal Cavalry had also moved out the Hanover Road towards the Confederate flank, making contact with Walker's Stonewall Brigade near Brinkerhoff's Ridge.  Again this occupation of time helped to keep troops out of the assault to which they were supposed to be a part.  Another one of the great 'what-ifs' of the battle, in hindsight we know that Ewell's attack on the evening July 2 was a failure, but if only he hadn't lost that substantial force because of the wounding of Albert Jenkins.  These are the intricate events that unwind history from their intended path.
          Albert Jenkins did eventually recover from his wound later in the fall of 1863.  He recruited a a large cavalry force in Virginia during the winter months and was selected as the commander of the Department of Western Virginia.  On May 9, 1864 Jenkins was mortally wounded and captured at the battle of Cloyd's Mountain while fighting George Crook's Union Cavalry.  He died twelve days later on May 21, 1864 at the age of thirty three.

Jenkins Monument at the Rupp House in Mechanicsburg, PA
14th Virginia (Maj. Benjamin F. Eakle)
16th Virginia (Col. Milton J. Ferguson)
17th Virginia (Col. William H. French)
34th Virginia Battalion (Lieut. Col. Vincent A. Witcher)
36th Virginia Battalion (Capt. Cornelius T. Smith)
Jackson's (Virginia) Battery (Capt. Thomas E. Jackson)

1st Lt. Hermann Schurict's Diary
Battle of Cloyd's Mountain

Sunday, November 18, 2012

2012 Remembrance Day Illumination

For this week's blog post I just wanted to share some pictures.  This is the annual 2012 Remembrance Day Illumination at Gettysburg National  Cemetery.  If you have never attended an illumination, you need to.  Although we can get some spectacular pictures, pictures certainly do not draw the emotion that standing amongst the graves evokes.  3,564 human beings, sons, brothers, fathers, uncles...each with a story...each with a light over their grave.

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