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.

Friday, November 9, 2012

First to Fall

Morning light in the National Cemetery
          In all of history's greatest events there seems to be a human condition that makes our conscious ask, "who was first?" , along with a host of other 'most and biggest' questions.  The battle that took place at Gettysburg on the first three days of July 1863 is no different in this respect.  It is regarded as the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil, nearly 51,000 Americans pouring out their life's blood in defense of cause and comrade.  Many historians would argue that the stakes were never higher than at Gettysburg.  It is true that when we look back at history already understanding the final outcome, it is much easier to point to the climactic events.
          In July of 1863 and further, to the period of tactical jostling by both armies as they moved back towards Virginia, no one would have defined Gettysburg as the turning point of the war at the time.  No one knew that Appomattox was only 21 bloody months away.  No one even knew that Gettysburg would be the biggest battle of the war.  They knew it was big, but the calculations of human cost at the time barely correlate to the numbers we now find to be the most accurate.  In fact in the fall of 1863 and even up until the siege of Petersburg, there was much hope and assurance to be found in the Confederacy that victory might still be a real possibility.  Something larger or even equal to the scale of Gettysburg was still in the cards and although no individual battle did reach the mass human costs of Gettysburg, later engagements were bloodier and more sustained.  For an example all one has to do is look at the Overland Campaign.
          Besides the question of the largest battle of the war, we have lesser touched on 'firsts and mosts.'  Historians have asked for many years who was the first victim to fall at Gettysburg.  This broad question in itself ignores more specific implications.  When we ask that question, are we talking about the entire campaign (June 3 - August 14), the fighting in Adams County near Gettysburg (June 26 - July 4), or the three day epic battle itself (July 1-3)?
          We do know the answer to all three of these questions and when it comes to the award for first in this category, there really are no winners, only patriotic men that fell in their budding youth.  No single death is more important than another, but for the sake of history, we should leave no stone un-turned.
21st PA Cavalry Monument -
Marking the spot where Pvt. George Sandoe fell
          The first soldier to fall north of the Mason-Dixon Line was Corporal William H. Rihl.  Rihl was a member of Company C, 1st New York Cavalry and in the summer of 1863 he was twenty years old.  On June 22 north of Greencastle, PA, his company was ambushed on the Flemming Farm by a band of Albert Jenkins' Confederate Cavalry.  During the brief, but hot engagement, Rihl was shot through the head and killed instantly.  Jenkins' troopers buried Rihl in a shallow grave near where a present monument honoring the corporal now stands.  After the Confederates moved on, local citizens buried Rihl in the Lutheran church yard.  In 1886, Rihl was re-interred for the last time by the local GAR post and now rests eternally near where he fell, his grave marked by a large obelisk to forever commemorate his status as the first to fall in the campaign.
          The first Union soldier to fall in fighting around Gettysburg (or in Adams Co.) was Private George Sandoe of the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry.  On June 26, Confederate infantry moved through the town of Gettysburg in their effort to move east and take the Pennsylvania capitol of Harrisburg.  A division under Jubal Early and cavalry of Elijah White's Comanche Battalion got into a very brief scrap with the 26th PA Emergency Militia, driving them pell-mell into the countryside north of Gettysburg.  As the Confederate advance continued, they pushed skirmishers and cavalry pickets down the different roads radiating from the center of town.  The Baltimore Pike was one of those roads and Private Sandoe was sitting on his horse near the Nathaniel Lightner home talking to Mr. Lightner's son when the Confederate cavalry pickets approached.  They asked the men to surrender, but they refused. Turning their horses and trying to escape, the pickets fired upon the two Yankees.  Lightner made good his escape, but poor George Sandoe was shot in the head and died in the road.  Private Sandoe had only mustered into Federal service three days before this encounter and was within shouting distance of his Adams County home.  Sandoe's body was taken to the Mount Joy Church Cemetery south of Gettysburg where visitors can still visit the grave site of the first to fall in Adams County.  The 21st PA Cavalry monument now marks the spot where Private Sandoe fell that day.
          Our final soldier in this  unfortunate trio is Private John Weaver of the 3rd Indiana Cavalry.  He is considered the first casualty of the epic three day battle.  On the morning of July 1, Weaver and his regiment were a part of John Buford's cavalry division that started the action west of Gettysburg in an effort to slow down the advance of Confederate General Henry Heth's Division, allowing time for Union infantry to arrive on the field.  Private Weaver was the first to fall, his horse being killed outright beneath him and he taking a large piece of shrapnel in his left leg due to a Confederate shell exploding nearby.  22 year old Private Weaver was taken to the rear where they amputated his leg successfully, but this was just the beginning of the fight for his life.  Unfortunately Weaver succumbed to infection a month later on August 3.  He now rests eternally in the Indiana Plot of the National Cemetery.
          Although the memory of these brave men survives by the retelling of their story, they are still just three of the thousands that perished in the campaign, not to mention the hundreds of thousands more that fell on other battlefields during the war.  Inglorious as the distinction of first to fall may be, the record still stands and their sacrifice was not in vein.  Truth be told these men are at least remembered, unlike the 979 men lying unknown in the National Cemetery and the thousands more in national cemeteries that dot the southern landscape.
One of the many...Antietam National Cemetery

Some good reads and links! --- Also most of these stories are covered in the major books about the campaign...Coddington, Pfanz, Sears, Trudeau if you would like some different takes.

Pennsylvania Civil War Trails

The Fog of Gettysburg

Lincoln and the Human Interest Stories of the Gettysburg National Cemetery

Rihl Monument near Greencastle, PA

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Joseph Craig's Horse

At the battle of Mine Run, Adjutant Joseph Craig's horse was shot from under him just as the regiment was going into action. Taking off the accoutrements, he sent them to the rear, and supposed he had seen the last of the old horse which had carried him over so many miles of the “sacred soil;” but what was his surprise, next morning, to see the “big bay” walking around in the rear of the regiment. He had been shot by a musket-ball between the eyes, the bullet just penetrating the frontal bone, but not entering. He was useless, however, for his intellect, or instinct, seemed to have left him, and he could not be guided by the rein, but would go wherever he chose, in spite of curb, bit, or spur. A bullet from one of the men's Springfield rifles ended his war record.

From History of the One Hundred and Fifth Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers by Kate M. Scott p.253-254

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Beloved Leaders

Major James Cromwell -
124th New York

          Major James Cromwell was 23 years old as he assisted in leading the 124th New York “Orange Blossoms” toward the tiny crossroads town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He was beloved by his men and marked as a young officer of great promise in the Army of the Potomac. The regiment's Colonel, Augustus Van Horne Ellis, at the age of 36, had a good deal of adventurous experience before the war and was not one to back away from a fight. He was a sea captain on the west coast and also befriended the King of Hawaii. Soon after the start of their blossoming friendship Ellis was offered the position of head of the Hawaiian Navy...that is until he found out they had no vessels.
          The 124th New York had been in the service of the United States since September of 1862 and was lightly engaged in their first campaign at Fredericksburg. The following spring at Chancellorsville the regiment lost over 200 men and were in the thickest of the fight. This hardening experience provided the men of the 124th a taste of that fatal type of contact with the enemy that festers in the mind for years after the conflict. Although a terrible price for any regiment, the experience would pay dividends in their next combat venture.
          July 1st, 1863 found the regiment on the march towards the destination by which the rest of the army was pacing itself in the fastest possible manner, Gettysburg. The Union First and Eleventh Corps had opened the battle with General Lee west and north of the town, buying time with lives. Finally forced to fall back, Union troops reformed on the high ground south of town, making the most defensible terrain in that part of Central Pennsylvania their bastion.
Colonel Augustus Van Horne Ellis -
124th New York
          The 124th New York arrived with the rest of Ward's Third Corps Brigade on the evening of the 1st. After a morning of confused dispositions on the part of their corps commander, General Daniel Sickles, they moved west towards a new position cresting the south end of Houck's Ridge around 2PM. The regiment was placed in support of Smith's New York Batter above Devils Den. The regiment to their left (4th Maine) was the extreme left of the Federal Army at Gettysburg. Around 4PM, General James Longstreet launched his audacious assault on the Union left flank. Colonel Ellis, Major Cromwell and the men of the 124th could see the tidal wave about to strike them as it swept off the ridge in their front. Berdan's Sharpshooters fell back in their front, fighting all the way. Smith's 4 guns in front of the New Yorkers belched their deadly iron towards the advancing Rebel ranks.
          The first hard contact reached the right of the 124th New York in front of the 20th Indiana. Major Cromwell went over to Colonel Ellis and asked if he might be given permission to make a charge and knock the Confederates of Robertson's Brigade off course. Ellis denied this request preferring to await the time when the enemy was within range. As the Confederates drew nearer, Cromwell sensed the urgency in an effort that might drive the momentum from the foe. He again approached Ellis for permission to charge the enemy in their front, meanwhile the 1st Texas under Colonel Philip Work inched closer and closer to their line under the deadly missiles of Smith's Battery until they reached a point by which Smith's guns could not depress their muzzles sufficiently to render any more damage.
          Finally Ellis decided that the time had come and he gave Major Cromwell permission to lead an advance. Ellis and Cromwell both donned steeds for the attack to the protests of many of their men. The commander of the right wing of the regiment, Lt. Colonel Francis Cummins remained on foot, but was soon felled by shrapnel from an exploding shell. Cromwell continued to carry out the assault. The attack was very successful and Ellis proudly watched as Cromwell led the left portion of the regiment into the advancing Texans, driving them forth in their own powerful tidal wave.
          As the Rebels began to scatter, victory, even if temporary, seemed near and at that moment a small band of the enemy unleashed a volley. With shouts of triumph on his lips, down went the gallant Major Cromwell, shot through the heart at the age of 23 years. Many of the men were horrified that their beloved leader had fallen and turned into ferocious beasts. Colonel Ellis screamed above the noise, “My God! My God men! Your Major's down; save him! Save him!”
          With that the energy of the men in the ranks swelled and they started pouring a devastating volley into the Texans. At that moment Colonel Ellis was directing the fire of his boys when a minie ball came crashing through his brain. The firefight turned vicious for both Federal and Confederate troops and then the 44th Alabama showed up on the regiment's left flank. Colonel William Perry ordered the left half of his regiment to wheel up over Devil's Den and the right half up the Plum Run Valley. This they did with fearful execution.
Monument to the 124th New York -
Erected in 1884, the first monument to a
New York Regiment
          The 124th New York was forced to fall back towards Smith's guns now under the command of a captain with all their colonel, lieutenant colonel and major all down. They retreated all the way back to the south edge of Rose's Woods. Finally to their appeal, help arrived in the form of the 99th Pennsylvania under Major John Moore. At the same time, the regiment that was holding the left flank of the brigade, the 4th Maine, finally was able to reform and charged up the north slope of Houck's Ridge above the Den to reclaim the lost territory. The combination of Maine and Pennsylvania men helped to re-stabilize the line for a short period.
          Eventually though, the Confederate numbers would tell and Ward's Brigade, including the remnants of the “Orange Blossoms,” were forced to withdrawal. The cost to the regiment in those left on the field was 35 men killed, 58 wounded, and 5 missing of the 238 men that went into battle on July Second. Even worse, the regiment's command structure was totally destroyed and their beloved leaders had breathed their last. 
          Today on the south end of Houck's Ridge stands a monument to the 124th New York. It was the first monument placed to honor a regiment from the state of New York. The crowning feature is a very life-like full casting of Colonel Augustus Van Horne Ellis, permanently watching over the fields upon which the enemy came charging nearly 150 years ago. One of the persisting Gettysburg legends is that the rock upon which the regimental monument stands is where the bodies of Ellis and Cromwell were taken in the midst of the fight.
Veterans of the 124th New York attend the dedication of their monument on Houck's Ridge - 1884

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