Monday, October 29, 2012

Fight It Out! - Captain John C. Conser


John Conser - Courtesy Ronn Palm Collection
http://www.ronnpalmmuseum.com/
          Today we will meet a man that served in the 105th Pennsylvania Volunteers, also known as the 'Wildcats.'  His name is John Cassida Conser.  He was born on January 25, 1826 in Miles Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania.  In 1851 Conser moved to Winslow (near Reynoldsville) in Jefferson County, PA.  He was a lumberman as were many of his comrades in arms.  At the start of the war he was elected Second Lieutenant of Company H and by the time of his death he was commanding the regiment at the rank of Captain.  
          Captain Conser was truly a fighter.  As his record shows he was wounded six times, the seventh time being his death wound.  Time and again this brave man returned to the ranks to weather the storm with his men.  It is hard to imagine from our modern perspective what could drive a man to continually return to the front line after so many serious wounds, when he could have stayed at home honorably after the first...but return he did.  His record as a soldier almost takes on a superhuman like quality, but in the end Captain Conser would not only lose his life, but his identity as well.  His final resting place joins the host of great Civil War mysteries, such a tragic tribute for such an admirable soldier and human being.  He left behind a wife and three young children.  It is difficult to imagine the existence of such courage in our world today.
          Here is his story.    



          JOHN C. CONSER was born in Centre county, Pennsylvania, in the year 1826, and in the same year his parents, who were worthy, respectable people, removed to Clarion county, Pennsylvania, and settled near the town of Clarion. Here John Conser spent his childhood and his boyhood days. He was a studious, conscientious boy. At an early age he displayed a great admiration for the military pageants of the day, attendmg all the military reviews with his eldest brother George, who was colonel of a regiment composed of the uniformed militia of the counties of Clarion, McKean, Elk, and Forest.
          In 185 1 he removed to Jefferson county, where he soon afterwards married and settled in Reynoldsville, and was known and respected as one of the best citizens of that little village, until the commencement of the war called into action all the patriotism that had been slumbering in his bosom from boyhood, and he was one of the first to enlist from Reynoldsville. He was chosen second lieutenant of Company H, One Hundred and Fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and promoted to captain of that company April 20, 1863. He was commissioned major May 6, 1864, but was never mustered as such.
          At the battle of Fair Oaks Captain Conser received his first wound ; while crawling on his hands and knees, reconnoitering the enemy, a ball struck him on the head, grazing the scalp and stunning him for a time. Afterwards, in the terrible retreat through White Oak Swamp, that night, he almost lost his life in those dismal recesses, and, writing of it, said : " It was the most horrible night I ever experienced." He was again wounded at Fredericksburg. A minie-ball struck his shoulder, and, glancing off along the blade of his sword, entered the fleshy part of his arm, inflicting a severe wound. At Bristow Station he, with his little command, was captured before they could give any resistance. Being taken prisoner here he was carried to Richmond, where he was consigned to the tender mercies of Libby prison. On the march to Richmond the rebels were very scarce of rations, and all he had to eat was raw, green corn. The consequence was that he suffered severely. When lodged in Libby prison he was much annoyed by one of the guards, an old rebel, who would tell Captain Conser on all occasions that the Union side was "clean licked out," and that when he got out of there he would find the North not worth " shooks." The brave officer replied that when he " got out of Libby and came again to Richmond, it would be when it was taken by the Union troops and the Confederacy smashed." After his experience at Libby his greatest desire and ambition was to be with the army at the taking of Richmond ; but, alas ! brave, noble officer, when that day came he had entered into the eternal city, dying on the very threshold of victory.
          At Gettysburg he was again wounded, being shot in the head just above the left temple, and was carried off the field for dead, and as such reported and mourned by his friends. However, he recovered from this severe wound, and, after a short stay at his home, he again hastened to the front, joining his regiment in time to receive another wound at Auburn. At the battle of the Wilderness he received a severe sabre-wound in the thigh, from the effects of which he was still lame at the time of his death. He was again wounded at Petersburg, June 18, 1864, and, after recovering from that wound, while on his way to rejoin his regiment, he was met at Fortress Monroe by those having in charge the dead body of Colonel Craig, who had just fallen at Deep Bottom. Stopping long enough to assist in forwarding the remains of his brave friend and gallant commander to his friends in the North, he hurried on to his regiment, and was in all the subsequent skirmishes and marches up to the hard-fought battle of Boydton Plank Road, October 27, 1864, where, while surrounded by an overwhelming force of the enemy, he was killed in that terrible hand-to-hand conflict. An eye-witness of his fall says
     "We were surrounded when I heard Conser say, 'Men, we are surrounded. Will you surrender? Won't you fight it out?' Three rebels attacked him, and, while fighting them with pistols and sword, another rebel came up, and, placing his gun almost against his body, blew the contents of the piece into his side, and he fell dead."
Memorial to John Conser at Reynoldsville Cemetery
          The enemy being driven back after this, Captain Redic and others of the regiment attempted to bring off the body of Major Conser, but the rebels rallying in force, they were obliged to leave him on the field ; and whether he was ever accorded the rites of burial will never be known. And thus, when almost in sight of Richmond — at the taking of which he so ardently hoped to assist—he fell, his last words being: "Fight it out!"
          Major Conser was one of the bravest and most self-sacrificing officers in the army. When he first entered the service, and again when he re-enlisted, it was urged upon him that his duty to his wife and little children forbade him leaving them but though no man loved his family more fondly, his duty to his country in that hour of its peril was paramount above all other considerations. To-day, while his bones perhaps lie bleaching beneath the rains and suns of the Southern sky at Boydton Plank-road, in the memory of his fellow-soldiers and in the hearts of his friends an enduring monument is erected. Major Conser left a wife and four children, who still reside in Reynoldsville, Pa.

From "History of the One Hundred and Fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers" by Kate M. Scott

Born: January 26, 1826

1860 Census: Lumberman, age 34
Winslow (Reynoldsville), PA - Jefferson County
Married to Mary (24) - Three Children - Samantha (1), Emma (4), Cordelia (6)

Wounds:
Fair Oaks, VA - June 1, 1862 - Head
Fredericksburg, VA - December 13, 1862 - Shoulder/Arm
Gettysburg, PA - July 2, 1863 - Head
Auburn, VA - October 13, 1863
Wilderness, VA - May 6, 1864 - Thigh (Saber Wound)
Petersburg, VA - June 18, 1864
Boydton Plank Road, VA - October 27, 1864 - Abdomen (point blank rifle shot)

Died: October 27, 1864 while commanding regiment
His body was never recovered.  A memorial to Captain Conser today stands at the Reynoldsville Cemetery in Reynoldsville, Jefferson County, PA.

Resources:
OR Report for September 24, 1864
OR Report for October 7, 1864



Saturday, October 27, 2012

Debt Repaid


           James Samuel Wadworth was born on October 30, 1807 in western New York State. His educational accomplishments speak highly for themselves. He attended both Harvard and Yale Universities and was also admitted to the New York state bar. In 1834 he married Mary Wharton and without entering any of the fields for which he was qualified, the couple spent most of their time at their estate in Geneseo, New York. The fortune amassed through his father's agriculture ventures provided young James with plenty of financial responsibility. Later Wadsworth would enter the political arena as an organizer of the Free Soil Party, later joining the Republican Party in support of Abraham Lincoln.
          When the war broke out in 1861, James Wadsworth was 53 years old and their was no doubt about his patriotic heart. He organized two shiploads of supplies to be sent to Washington DC in support of the city's defenses at his own expense of nearly $17,000. After the defeat of Federal troops at First Bull Run on July 21, 1861, Wadsworth was appointed the Military Governor of Washington DC.

Brigadier General James Samuel Wadsworth
          “It was during his tenure as Military Governor that the background for an amazing series of events took place. In that first year of war, the capital was a hotbed of pro-southern sentiment and the Union authorities were kept constantly vigilant to potential threats. One Virginia farmer caught in this web of uncertain times was Patrick McCracken. Picked up by a military guard on suspicion of spying, McCracken was thrown into the Old Capital Prison without being formally charged. Some time passed before the case reached the attention of Wadworth. He believed McCracken's version of the story and ordered him released. Finding that the man had spent his money and was without the means to return to Virginia, the General furnished him ample funds from his own pocket to continue his journey.
          The Army of the Potomac plunged into the area known as the Wilderness in May of 1864, colliding head on with their old adversary, the Army of Northern Virginia. Into this tangled region Wadsworth again led his division. Hit by a Confederate flanking attack, his division crumbled. Wadsworth himself was severely wounded in the head and left lying on the field behind the Confederate lines. Carried to a field hospital in the rear, the wound was examined and pronounced fatal. Shortly after dark on May 7, Patrick McCracken, visiting the hospital to bring food and milk to the wounded from his nearby farm, came across the man who had helped him nearly two years before. The next morning when he again appeared in camp he secretly dropped a small package of food at Wadsworth's tent. There the General's companion, a Massachusetts doctor, Z. Boylston Adams, attempted to give him some milk. It was the last that Wadsworth would ever receive. When McCracken returned later that afternoon, he found that the General had died. He went to the Confederate surgeon in charge and asked permission to move the body to his own family burial ground. He then wrote to Mrs. Wadsworth to inform her of her husband's death and resting place. Later that month the General's body was removed and sent home to his family in New York. The old debt had been repaid.”1

Wadsworth Monument at Gettysburg
          General Wadsworth had an illustrious career as commander of the 1st Division of the 1st Corps starting in December of 1862. Being lightly engaged at Chancellorsville, his supreme moment came at the battle of Gettysburg where his 1st Division held the Confederate wave in check on the morning and afternoon of July 1st. His command fought valiantly at a very high cost and bought time for Major General George Meade to concentrate his Army of the Potomac on the heights south of town. His division was again engaged on the second and third days of the battle helping to secure Union victory. 
          As stated above he commanded his division in the fall campaigns at Bristoe Station and Mine Run, and eventually in the Wilderness in May of 1864. On May 6, 1864, he fell from a Rebel bullet while gallantly urging his troops forward. Dying on May 8, he received a brevet promotion to Major General. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. McCracken, the general now rests eternally at Temple Hill Cemetery in Geneseo, New York, near his home.

1. Excerpt from “Gettysburg: Stories of Men and Monuments As Told By Battlefield Guides” by Frederick W. Hawthorne

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

When Past Meets Present


Captain Albert G. Cummings - 5th NH
     We all know there are times in life when we feel right in line. Of course these times may make up for all the times we don't, but sometimes certain events really make me question myself, as if to say, “can this really be the case?” I had another such one of these experiences very recently.
     I have had some mysterious connection to the Civil War era since the time of my boyhood. I had the pleasure of knowing my Great Grandfather and I remember sitting on his lap at their home up in Schuylkill County watching the movie Glory and listening to Grandpa Leroy tell me all about my ancestor that fought in the great war. The last time I saw him as I was leaving his hospital room, he said my name. I stopped and turned around.  He then put his hand up to his brow and saluted me. I sometimes wonder if it was a friendly reminder that it was now my turn to carry the torch.
     From there my grandparents took my siblings and I to Gettysburg and told us our family's role in the war, further fostering my passion for Civil War history. As a kid, instead of playing cowboys and indians, I was playing the part of JEB Stuart or Unconditional Surrender Grant, awaiting the next attack from the enemy. Not once did my parents ever tell me to stop being foolish, but they continued and continue to support my interest in the fascinating period that was the Civil War.
     This may seem a bit irrelevant, but as I am getting older, I find that Civil War history runs through every course of my life. Maybe it's because I'm constantly looking for it, but as a great writer once said...”how can we possibly see what is above us if we're constantly looking down at the ground.” The most recently unearthed family connection may seem petty to many, but it is a connection none the less.
     I was just having a normal day, surfing the vast web for more information on units and men to which I have taken an interest, when I stumbled across another internet blog. This blog involved a gentleman by the name of Albert G. Cummings. Mr. Cummings was born in 1844 in East Lebanon, New Hampshire and when the great war broke out, he enlisted with the 1st New Hampshire Infantry. Serving out his 9 month term he mustered out honorably with his regiment in September of 1861. As the conflict continued to pick up steam, his patriotic fire was not quenched and he reenlisted with the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry as a 1st Sergeant. He continued on his upward trek as a company commander through the war with bravery and strong leadership skills, eventually attaining the rank of Captain of Company F before mustering out of service in 1864. He was wounded at Fair Oaks, Fredericksburg and Chancellosville and a very proud member of the regiment that suffered the greatest number of casualties in the entire war.
     After the war Captain Cummings decided it was time to settle down and purchased a farm in the small Pennsylvania town of Millersburg, 29 miles north of the capitol, Harrisburg. For the sake of the story, Millersburg is my hometown as well.
     In his post war years, while conducting work on the farm, Captain Cummings was an inventor. His inventions which received patents include the Propeller Wheel (1896), Hydraulic Packing Device (1903) and a Land and Water Boat (1906). Captain Cummings died on August 3, 1911 with what many would consider a lifetime filled with stories of adventure. Although he served in the Civil War, through the research of Mr. Norman Gasbarro, we know that no pension card exists and his name is also not found on Millersburg's Civil War Monument.
      Here is where the story gets interesting for me. I really discovered this story by accident and I went home and shared this information with my family. I thought it was neat that a member of the 5th New Hampshire (one of the most famous of Civil War fighting units) lived and was buried in my hometown. When I said the name Cummings, I could instantly see a look of surprise come across the face of my parents.
When I was a kid, one room of the house where my siblings and I were not permitted to cause destruction was the “good room.” The “good room” is a sitting room filled with antiques and some of my family's more personal items. We as kids of course were not always successful in our bid to keep the energy down, but the room was more creepy to us at that time than it was interesting.
The sofa belonging to Captain Cummings Parlor Set
     In this “good room” sits a parlor set consisting of three Victorian chairs and a sofa dated to the late 19th Century. They are beautiful pieces of furniture, all hand carved and exquisite. It just so happens that in the 1980s the Cummings Farm, north of Millersburg, went up for auction and my parents were in attendance. At the end of the sale my father told my mother to come look what he had purchased. She followed him over to an outbuilding and inside was a pile of furniture covered in dirt and bird feces that mortified her. My father cleaned up the rosewood furniture and it has been sitting in the “good room” ever since. My mother also picked up a children's tea set at the sale.
     Now is when the tale comes full-circle. As you've gathered by now, all these items belonged to the late Captain and his wife. My parents also have a picture of the Cummings Farm that is rarely seen. Yes, it is merely old furniture, but now it has a story and the story goes to show that there are treasures of historical significance under our very noses.
     Whatever our beliefs of the afterlife may be, the story of Captain Cummings now lives on, which is to me in some way, a continuation of life for this very interesting man. Although it took many stars to align this tale, it definitely was worth discovering no matter how you look at it.  

Resources:
Mr. Gasbarro's Article on Albert G. Cummings - 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Last Terrible Picture


#10
A Visitor to the Cyclorama

     Some years ago an old man with silvery hair was led into the cyclorama of Gettysburg by a bright-faced little girl. Aged and feeble, he sat down, while the child described to him the features of the picture. Occasionally he asked her a question as in doubt of the accuracy of her account. She had described the charge of the Confederate columns and the struggle at the stone wall, when he asked: “But where's the artillery, May?” “Do you mean the big guns? They're over there on the hill in a row.” “All in a row?” he asked, “yes,” she said; “there are some more down here, but they are all upset. I think they are bursted.” “Is that where the men are coming over the hill?” “Yes, grandpa.” “Is there a grove of trees?” “Yes, it seems to be full of men, but the smoke is so thick you cannot see them.” “O, I see them,” he cried. It was then noticed by some of the party near him that he was blind. The little girl answered: “O, no, grandpa, you can't see them.” “Yes, I can,” said the old soldier. “I can see the men, the grove, and the broken cannon lying about.” The child looked at him in innocent surprise, and said: “You are joking, grandpa,” “No, my dear,” answered the old man. “No, that was the last thing I ever saw. There was a caisson exploded there just this side of the stone wall, and that was the last terrible picture I ever saw, for it was then that I lost my eyesight, and I have never got the picture out of my mind.”

- James R. Randall. “Memorable Vision of Gettysburg,” Confederate Veteran, vol. 15, 1907, p. 389.

The "exploding caisson" in Philippoteaux's painting

The Manner in Which it Was Lost


#9
The Manner in Which it Was Lost – Charles Davis 13th MA

     "While we were on the Seminary Ridge, spent cannon-balls could occasionally be seen rolling slowly along the earth from the battle-ground to the north of us. Such a sight was common enough during battles, as every soldier knows, and once in a while a man was seen who was foolish enough to try stopping one. While we were busy with our earthworks, such an incident happened close to us. One of our officers saw a soldier of a Wisconsin regiment, with great glee, boldly put out his heel to stop a ball that was rolling toward him, supposing it to be the easiest thing in the world to do. Those who saw his purpose yelled with all their might; but it was too late, for when their remonstrances reached his ear his leg was off. The poor fellow cried like a child to think he had lost his leg in such a manner, when, as he said, he would gladly have lost it in action. It was pitiable to see his grief as he exclaimed, ”I shall always be ashamed to say how I lost it.” It is so difficult for a person unacquainted with the fact to appreciate the latent force in a cannon-ball as it rolls innocently along the ground, that old soldiers took pains to caution new recruits about the danger of attempting to stop one with the foot."

It was near "Old Dorm" that this member of the 13th MA witnessed a Wisconsin
soldier trying to stop a solid shot with his foot in a failed attempt.


The Timbers Farm


#8
The Timbers Farm: Through the Thick of It

     On July 2nd, 1863 a number of important landmarks dotted the southern end of the Gettysburg Battlefield that still stand to this day. Names like Weikert, Sherfy, Rose, Klingel and Codori still remain today through the edifices that withstood the hailstorm of shot and shell on that horrific day nearly 150 years ago. In fact, the historic structures of Gettysburg have in and of themselves become a sort of monument.
But what about those places that have since been forgotten? Obviously with the passing time and a need for bigger and better creature comforts, some old shells have been completely overhauled, if not obliterated, to create the needy homes of our modern era. There are though still remnants of the past that are all but forgotten by those individuals lucky enough to stumble across their humble remains.
     One such ruin is that of the Wentz House which still guards the east side of the Emmitsburg Road just north of the Peach Orchard. All that remains is the beautiful stone foundation, but it is truly amazing how many visitors go to a place such as the famous Peach Orchard at Gettysburg and probably don't even know that it exists. There is also the even lesser known Tawney House across from Culps Hill on the east side of Rock Creek. At the center of sharpshooting in the area of the battlefield that saw the longest sustained combat of the entire battle, those old foundation walls surely have some stories to tell. Both of these old houses were most definitely used as field hospitals for the maimed and dying throughout those horrible days in July of 1863.
     There is another old farm that probably receives the least attention of all the farms at Gettysburg while sitting in the shadow of July 2nd's famous landmarks such as Devils Den, The Wheatfield, Big and Little Round Top. That farm is more commonly known today as the Timbers Farm. Truth be told, during the battle it was owned by George W. Weikert and occupied a beautiful piece of ground just south of Rose Run on a hillside that might remind one of the images of the Welsh countryside. All that remains of the farm is the original stone foundation of the house. On July 2nd this farm was in the midst of a terrible inferno that was Longstreet's famous attack towards the previously mentioned sites of fame. Two, possibly three of the Confederate brigades that made that fateful attack passed around and through the yard of this house. As I finally stumbled across this site after a couple days of searching last winter, I couldn't help but imagine the poor souls that rested upon the dirt floor that I was now perusing. Anderson's Georgians surely used the structure for their wounded and maybe even as cover during their advance early on. Commanded by the guns of Smith's Batteries on Houck's Ridge only a few hundred yards away, they probably quickly headed for the ravine in their front until his guns were silenced.
     Through all the terrible carnage that the farm witnessed, it survived the battle although scarred like many of Gettysburg's dwellings. After the war, the farm took new ownership in the form of an African American man named John Timbers. When General Warren came back to survey the field for creation of an accurate terrain map published in 1888, the farm took its new owners name. Curiously much of the historical record after the change in ownership is scant. There is a lot of lore that resides in the rest of the story. One thing that is for certain is that John Timbers hung himself in the barn. The legend that surrounds his downfall rests on stories of being haunted by spirits of the men that fought for the ground on that steamy July 2nd, 1863.
     Whatever the story may be, it certainly is interesting to sit on the foundation at that vantage, searching out the terrain details and contemplating all that happened at such a hallowed place. There are plenty of treasures still to be found, even on such trodden places as the Gettysburg Battlefield.

Foundation of the "Timbers" (Weikert) Farm near Roses Woods

Lt. Colonel John Fraser


#7
The Men Who Fought: Lieutenant Colonel John Fraser

     In our seventh week, we'll get to know a lesser known individual that was forced into the lime light on July 2nd in the thickest of the fight. That individual is Lieutenant Colonel John Fraser.
     Fraser was born in Cromarty, Scotland and spent much of his young life along the inlets and coves of northern Scotland near Inverness. Fraser was no average young man though. By 1850 at the age of 23 he had graduated from the University of Aberdeen in Mathematics. His intelligence was far above the average and he was awarded for his wits with the coveted Huttonian Prize in Mathematics (awarded every 10 years).
Shortly after graduation he began his travels which led him to the West Indies where he started his career as a life long educator, teaching in the Bahamas. He then moved to New York City to take ownership of another difficult academic program before finally moving to McConnellsville, Pennsylvania where he was offered a professorship in Mathematics and Astronomy at Jefferson University in Canonsburg, PA. Professor Fraser excelled, nurturing "passion and reason in the sciences." He even tutored after class, not only in his subjects,but in history, law botany, philosophy and literature. "Oh, to give the young the eyes to see."
Absence of the southern students in 1861 reflected the national schism of civil war. Amid dissension and enlistments, Professor Fraser waited for a commission. One day in 1862, he locked up the observatory and announced to his class, "Gentlemen, what the stars are up to is now of no interest to us. We will leave Mars to his own business... and become sons of Mars with 'On to Richmond' as our cry. Permit me to introduce to you Captain John Fraser and to announce that the chair of mathematics in this college is now vacant."
Captain Fraser enlisted on August 12, 1862, at age 35, in command of Co. G, of the 140th Pennsylvania Volunteers. At Harrisburg, he was elected lieutenant colonel of the regiment. Sent to guard the Northern Central R.R. in MD, they were ordered in December to Falmouth, VA to join the Second Corps "on its way to earning its reputation as the shock troops...transporting the Pennsylvanians to the eternal fire and back." After winter camp at Falmouth, the regiment received their baptism of fire at Chancellorsville supporting a battery near the Chancellor house. Little did they know what awaited them just up the road at the sleepy Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg.
     On July 2nd after General Sickles moved his line out to the Peach Orchard, the 2nd Corps was sent to support his collapsing line. Lt. Colonel Fraser and the 140th under the command of Colonel Richard P. Roberts were sent towards the crest of a place known locally as Stoney Hill. The fighting was fierce and very deadly. Within a short time the brigade commander was mortally wounded and the overall command kept passing down the line with each officer being shot down. After the Colonel of the 140th was shot down (Colonel Roberts), command of the entire brigade fell to John Fraser, although by this time in the fight shear chaos rained and the Confederate troops had his men almost entirely surrounded. By all accounts Colonel Fraser led the men off the field with the best that could be expected under the circumstances. The regiment suffered a fearful number of casualties, but somehow a small remnant of them, including Colonel Fraser, were able to escape.
The following is from Colonel Fraser's Official Report after the battle:
About 4p.m. the brigade was marched rapidly to the left, to assist the Third Corps, which was then sustaining a fierce attack. When it arrived nearly opposite the place assigned to it, the brigade was formed in line of battle, with the One hundred and fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers on the extreme right, and was moved rapidly forward to engage the enemy. As the order was given, the regiment opened a brisk fire, which it kept up with great firmness and coolness, steadily driving the enemy before it until we reached the crest of a small hill. During the advance to this crest, the four left companies of this regiment, with the regiments to the left, gradually made a considerable wheel to the right. Shortly after reaching the crest, I observed a great many to the left of this brigade moving rapidly to the rear, and the rebels, apparently fresh troops, in large numbers and in good order marching to outflank us on the right. Anxious to know what orders General Zook had to give in the crisis, I sent twice to get instructions from him, but neither the general nor any of his staff could be found. I did not know at the time, nor until after the fight was over, that General Zook had been mortally wounded when leading the brigade into action. Inferring from the large numbers of men who to the left of my regiment were continuously rushing to the rear, that a large portion of our division was actually retreating, I judged it necessary for the safety of those who had wheeled considerably into the enemy's ground to maintain my position and keep the enemy at bay as long as possible. I therefore held my position until I considered it necessary to order my men to march in retreat, which they did at first in good order, the four right companies halting several times, and firing, to check the pursuit of the enemy...
Colonel Roberts was killed while bravely leading on his men at the commencement of the action on July 2nd.”
     Colonel Fraser would be the regiment's commander through many more battles until finally being captured at Spotsylvania after being wounded in 1864. He was released thanks to General Sherman's march through Georgia in December of 1864 and would survive the remaining months decorated as a war hero. He was later given a brevet promotion to Brigadier General for “honorable and faithful” services during the war.
The brave Colonel wasn't done yet though. After the war he continued his pioneering in education, becoming the chancellor of the University of Kansas as well as the president of what would become Pennsylvania State University. In 1877 he finally decided to give up on the politics of education and became a professor at Western University which became the University of Pittsburgh. Unfortunately he contracted smallpox only a year later and died on June 5, 1878.
     John Fraser is not only a hero because of his war service, which is impressive for man with no military background, but also for his efforts in the realm of education. When we walk the grounds of Gettysburg, or any other battlefield for that matter, we need to remember that each one of the people that were willing to sacrifice their lives here had a story. They were not the drones or columns of blue/gray robots we imagine being thrown into a caldron, they were living and breathing people with feelings, emotions and intellectual aspirations. Let us not forget the fruits of their labor.

Lt. Colonel John Fraser - 140th PA

Two Brothers


#6
How Two Brothers Came out of the War – The Raleigh News and Observer
January 25, 1884

In front of Baumgartern's photgraph gallery two pictures of two good citizens of this county are displayed, one of which is labeled “before the war,” and the other “after the war.” They are pictures of Dr. Henry J. Walker and Mr. Levi J. Walker (13th North Carolina State Troops), one of whom is a prominent merchant of Charlotte. The picture taken before the war represents them as two beardless youths with clasped hands wearing the Confederate uniform. In the picture taken after the war they appear just the same, except that both have beards and the left leg of each is gone. In the battle of Gettysburg, Mr. L. J. Walker had his left leg shot off at the knee, and on the retreat from Gettysburg his brother, Dr. H. L. Walker, had his left leg shot off in exactly the same manner, so identically that one brother can wear the other's artificial leg.
This coincidence of legs is not without its advantages, as will be illustrated by this incident: A few days previous to Mr. L. J. Walker's marriage, he had the misfortune to break his wooden leg and was thus placed in an awkward dilemma, but found his way out of it by calling on Dr. Walker, whose leg he borrowed and the wedding passed off happily. Brave soldiers they were, these Walker brothers. They are good citizens too, and our county people hold both of them in warm esteem.
Sometimes we forget the lasting impact that the war left on so many...even if they did survive the terrible battles, many of them had permanent scars to carry with them as a reminder of that terrible blood letting we know as the Civil War. As in this instance, many learned to live with their difficulties in an attempt to move on with a "normal" lifestyle. Beyond the nearly 700,000 deaths in the American Civil War, nearly three times that many suffered wounds in battle.

Charles Weygant - 124th NY


#5
Captain Charles H. Weygant's Experiences on the Field Post-Battle

The thick foliage caused dark shadows to fall upon these acres of mangled bleeding human forms. Away down through the trees flickering lights could be seen, the reflections of which fell with ghastly effect upon the corps of surgeons who, with coats off and sleeves rolled up, were gathered at, or moving rapidly to and fro about the amputating tables. After a moment's hesitation at the edge of the woods I resolved to attempt to pick my way through towards where I hoped to find the objects of my search, but as I moved on among those, for the most part, prostrate men, their groans and piteous appeals for help appalled me. Several in a state of delirium were shouting as if upon the battlefield, and others, believing I was a surgeon, besought me to stop just a moment and bind up the wounds from which their life-blood was ebbing. Presently a man I was about stepping over, sprang to his feet, shook in front of me a bloody bandage he had just torn from a dreadful, gaping wound in his breast, and uttered a hideous, laughing shriek. This sent the hot blood spurting from his wound into my very face. Then he threw up his arms as if a bullet had just entered his heart, and fell heavily forward across a poor mangled fellow, whose piercing wails of anguish were heart-rending beyond description. I could endure no more, and wheeling about, hurried over the wounded and dying to the open field again, and returned to the regiment, glad that I had informed no one of my intended errand of mercy, for I was heartily ashamed of the weakness which had caused me to turn back.”

Captain Charles Weygant

Lt. Colonel George Arrowsmith - 157th New York


#4
Lt. Colonel George Arrowmsmith (157th NY) related by John Applegate

     “There are many heroes in American history who have won national fame. There are many others whose reputations are more circumscribed, but who were just as brave, just as patriotic, just as self-sacrificing. The last may be counted by the hundreds of thousands who, at the call of the President for volunteers, went forth from the counting-house, the farm, the workshop to engage in deadly strife with the enemies of our country. Many were young men of rare promise, talented, cultured and brave, and who might have attained high national distinction in civil or military life, but were cut down in battle at the very threshold of their career. As observed by President Lincoln in a compliment to the character and intelligence of regiments arriving in Washington at the beginning of the civil war, they contained individuals quite competent to discharge the functions of the highest executive office of the nation. I propose to speak of one of these gallant heroes, a youth of brilliant promise, cut down in the morning of life; a soldier of this republic, who entered the field to die, if need be, for the honor of its flag, with no expectation of a return to peaceful pursuits until the object of the war had been accomplished.

Washington, D. C, July 27th, 1863.
Mr. Editor:

As several incorrect reports have been madewith reference to the death of Lieutenant-
Colonel Arrowsmith, I thought it would be gratifying to his friends to know all the particulars just as they are. The morning of the day on which the battle occurred, the regiment marched from Emmetsburg, a distance of ten miles, reaching Gettysburg very much worried. The greatly superior numbers against which the First Corps were contending made it necessary for the Eleventh to be thrown promptly forward. Without stopping for rest we were moved through the town upon the double quick and placed in position behind Dilger's Battery, which was soon engaged by three batteries of the enemy. While lying there the numerous shot and shell thrown among us rendered our horses so unmanageable we both dismounted and sent them to the rear. After the rebel batteries had been silenced the whole brigade was thrown forward. Soon after reaching the position assigned us I was ordered by General Schimmelfenning to move over some distance to the right and attack the enemy, who were then driving the Second Brigade of our Division. This order I proceeded at once to execute. In order to get my regiment into position to do effective service, I found it necessary to move up to within fifty yards of the enemy, who by the time I reached my position had placed a whole brigade in line to resist my attack. The attack was made, Colonel Arrowsmith occupying his proper position on the right, encouraging his men and faithfully and gallantly doing his whole duty, while I gave my attention to the centre and left. We had been fighting but a short time, when, upon looking to the right, I discovered that the Lieutenant-Colonel was missing. I moved at once to the right and found him lying upon his back, badly wounded in the head, breathing slowly and heavily, and evidently insensible. As my presence along the line was more necessary that he had fallen, I could stop but a moment, and returned to my position. The men were falling rapidly and the enemy's line was taking the form of a semi-circle, evidently with the design of surrounding us, at the same time concentrating the fire of their whole brigade upon my rapidly diminishing numbers. An enfilading fire from a battery upon our left was also doing fearful execution. I had looked around several times to see if some support would not be sent, or an order for retreat. Neither came. The last time I looked I saw one of General Schimmelfenning's aides about half way across the field, taking the saddle off his horse and running back, and I learned from some of my wounded men who fell before we reached our position, that the same aide came out a short distance and hallooed to me to retreat. I, however, heard no order. Seeing that we were likely to be all shot down or taken prisoners, I ordered a retreat. From the wounded left on the field I learned that the Lieutenant-Colonel died shortly after the retreat. An attempt was made to bring him off, but the proximity of the enemy and the hot firing prevented. Lieutenant-Colonel Arrowsmith died, as every true soldier would wish to die, at his post, gallantly fighting for his country. A brave man, a skillful officer, possessing a keen sense of honor, generous to a fault, bound to him by a long personal attachment formed and ripened in the various relations of teachers and pupils, associate teachers and fellow officers, I mourn his loss as that of a brother, and offer to the family and friends of the lamented hero my warmest and tenderest sympathy.
I am, sir, with great respect,
Your obedient servant,
P. P. Brown, Jr., Col. 157th N. Y. Vols.”

     It is idle to speculate upon what he might have been had his life been spared. We accept him with admiration and gratitude for what he was. Enlisting as a mere boy, without rank, he was at once unanimously chosen by his fellow volunteers as the commandant of the company. In one year, for merit, he was promoted to the office of Assistant Adjutant-General upon the staff of General Tower, upon the recommendation of the Division Commander, General Ricketts. Without leaving the army, he was elevated to the field office of Lieutenant-Colonel by the Governor of New York, who was thus prompted by the fame of the soldier, and was only restrained from appointing him Colonel by his generous refusal to accept the position over a friend. On the eve of Gettysburg his comrades urged his
higher promotion, with flattering testimonials from persons of distinguished military rank, but here was ended his rising career. It was an honorable death, and his epitaph is briefly written: a sterling soldier, a true patriot, and a brave man.” - From Reminiscences and Letters of George Arrowsmith of New Jersey by John Applegate, 1893

     Lt. Colonel Arrowmsith graduated from Madison College (now Colgate) in 1859 and became a member of the New York Bar in 1860. He was indeed a bright young, but very generous and unassuming mind. Beloved by his men as much if not more than his family in many ways, this young man was only 24 years old at the time of his death at Gettysburg on July 1st, 1863. At the age of 24, in the prime of his youth, he led 410 men into battle with the coolness of an officer twice his time in age and experience fearlessly laying down his life in that terrible maelstrom of death and destruction that would forever be known as the Battle of Gettysburg.

Lt. Colonel George Arrowsmith

Captain Donaldson's Discovery


#3
Captain Francis A. Donaldson (118th PA) on his Discovery of Captain William Dunklin (44th AL)

“At the foot of the hill (Big Round Top) and in the gorge (Slaughter Pen), there were thrilling, horrifying scenes of blood and carnage. The dead lay in all shapes and in every direction, some upon their faces, others on their backs, while others were twisted and knotted in painful contortions.
I counted thirty seven bodies, all dressed alike, in a course dark material with black felt hats...
A little in front of these bodies, with his head resting on a stone, his body straightened out and hands folded across his breast, lay, as if asleep, one of the handsomest men I ever saw...He appeared to be about 35 years of age, was dressed in gray cloth jacket and pants, neither showing much wear, and appeared to be at least 5 feet 10 inches in height, weighing, probably, about one hundred and seventy pounds. His face had been shaven upon the cheeks the day of his death, leaving a splendid luxuriantly flowing chestnut beard upon his chin. The ball that had slain him had pierced his heart, passing thro' a letter in his breast pocket from which I learned his name to be Wm. A. Duncan, [sic] Capt. 44th Alabama Regt., and dated from Selma...I cannot tell you how sad the fat of this fine looking soldier made me feel. Indeed I could picture to myself the anxiety of his family for intelligence from this terrible battlefield,...and I could fancy the long lapse of years without one word, without one sign from their dear one, and their heart sickness from hope deferred. At parting, I grasped his cold hand in mine and bid farewell to the noble form that lay stretched in death before me.”

The area where Captain Dunklin was killed was a hotspot for discoveries of remains from the great battle and sadly, Captain Donaldson's prediction about the want of intelligence from his loved ones was fulfilled. There is no record that exists showing Dunklin was ever even buried and as was the case with many of the dead in and around the “Slaughter Pen”, many were just thrown into the great crevices among the boulder strewn banks of Plum Run, probably resting there to this day.


Captain Campbell Tredwell Iredell (47th NC)


#2
Captain Louis T. Young (Aide de Camp to Brigadier General Pettigrew) on the death of his best friend Captain Campbell Tredwell Iredell - 47th North Carolina Infantry

“While lying in our position looking at the preparations being made for the grand assault, intelligence was brought me of the death of one of my dearest, friends, Captain Campbell T. Iredell, Co. C, 47th N.C. He had lost his right arm by a shell in the first days fight, but his death was totally unexpected, and I cannot express the grief it gave me. - Dear Cam. Two long heart-corroding years have passed since then, yet it is an event of to-day. - The memory of the past comes over my soul. Our marches, our bivouacs, our wants, our abundance, our sorrow, our rejoicings, each and all, they were common to us both.
When on that fatal field, thou wast stricken unto death, it was I, whose heart beat proud at thy heroic bearing, it was I, whose hands, in thy support, were bathed in thy flowing blood, - shed a holy sacrifice for liberty. And to-day, upon that blood-washed field, the green grass waves between thy clay and heaven. Sleep Well! - though in a stranger's land – undisturbed by the mighty noise of thousands, who come to commemorate - my defeat, - thy victory. Sleep well! For in this our sorrow-stricken land, there are faithful ones, who daily bend the knee here, while their hearts are resting there, in the grave with thee. And I , not among the least, will cherish the memory of thy manly virtues, until this weak flesh shall sleep its long, last sleep, where our souls shall commune together again in the spirit land.”

Captain Iredell was 27 at the time of his death and as far as is known, his remains were never recovered and no record exists, except for the fact that he was buried on the Polly Farm. He may still to this day rest where the “green grass waves between thy clay and heaven.”



Anna Holstein on Lt. Isaac Dunsten (105th PA)


#1
Mrs. Anna Holstein, a nurse at Camp Letterman on Lt. Isaac Dunsten 105th PA

"In the officers' row lay, for some weeks, a young lieutenant, from Schuylkill County, Penna., with both thighs shattered, suffering fearfully. A few hours before his death, at his request the Holy Communion was administered to him; after joining in the solemn services, he remained perfectly still - unconsciously "passing away," as those present thought, - until a glee club, from Gettysburg, going through the hospital, singing as they walked, paused at his tent and sung - without knowing anything of what was passing within - "Rally round the Flag." The words and the music seemed to call back the spirit to earth, and forgetting his crushed limbs and intense suffering, sprang up, exclaiming: "Yes, boys, we did 'rally round the flag;' and you will rally oft again!" then sank back exhausted, and soon was at rest."


There was an error in this gadget

Search This Blog

Follow by Email