Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Unknown Soldiers

150 years later there is much to learn about our Nation's most destructive war.  Previous estimates on the number of dead for both North and South were at about 620,000.  Recent research by J. David Hacker of the University of Binghamton has pushed that number upward by more than twenty percent, with estimates from 752,000 to 851,000 dead.  That is the equivalent of approximately seven million deaths in a modern population comparison for a an event of similar catastrophic proportions.  Difficult to fathom?  The massive population implications of the Civil War are a distant kind of idea in so many ways, but the vast numbers can very much complicate our understanding to an even greater extent.  Simply put, there are few words or numbers in the English language that can adequately describe the devastation to human life during the American Civil War.1

Unknown officer believed to
be a member of the 24th Michigan.
Author's Collection
For thousands of American families,  the ability to appropriately grieve the loss of a loved one was never a reality.  Thousands upon thousands of soldiers from both sides of the fight fell without identification as 'unknown soldiers.'  Paying a visit to any one of the 131 U. S. National Cemeteries (12 maintained by the NPS) is the best way to understand the sacrifice of soldiers who we know not of, but only the great events in which they breathed their last.  Thousands of period photographs show us the faces of these seemingly ordinary men that rose to the occasion when their respective countries called them.  So many of these images are a mystery though.  With no identification on large numbers of CDVs, tintypes and cabinet cards, we are left with our own imagination.  In some ways the phenomena of so many unknown soldiers falling on distant fields may have added to the romanticism and myth that has long since surrounded the war between the states.  Obviously with nothing romantic about the loss of identity, when we look at the human costs of the terrible conflict, there can be few such dreaded fates as this for any human being.2

"Who they were, none know.
What they were, all know."3

Below is a list of some of the better know Civil War National Cemeteries and their staggering numbers of unknown dead, along with the total Civil War burials.  There are two variables that we need to keep in mind as we absorb the numbers below.  First, National Cemeteries were established for the burial of Federal soldiers.  That means there is another entire side to these numbers for Confederate soldiers which we will probably never have even close to concrete estimations for.  Secondly, when we see these statistics, remember that we are dealing with much more than just numbers.  These were living, breathing, walking, talking, loving people just like you and I, that had families, hopes, dreams and long, productive lives ahead of them....or so they hoped.  The story of death in the Civil War is greatly explored in one of the best modern books involving Civil War history called, This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust.  I highly recommend it to scratch the surface of this dark, but necessary part of the story.

Partially identified 3rd Corps soldier of the
74th New York Infantry. Author's Collection.
ANDERSONVILLE, GA: 921 unknowns, 13,714 total = 6.7%
ANTIETAM, MD: 1,836 unknowns, 5,032 total = 36.4%
FORT DONELSON, TN: 512 unknowns, 670 total = 76.4%
FREDERICKSBURG, VA: 12,770 unknowns, 15,243 total = 83.8%
GETTYSBURG, PA: 979 unknowns, 3,564 total = 27.4%
Poplar Grove (PETERSBURG), VA: 4,579 unknowns, 6,718 total = 68.2%
SHILOH, TN: 2,357 unknowns, 3,584 total = 65.8%
STONES RIVER, TN: 2,562 unknowns, 6,850 total = 37.4%
VICKSBURG, MS: 12,954 unknowns, 18,244 total = 71.0%4
WINCHESTER, VA: 2,347 unknowns, 4,440 total = 52.9%

"We sleep here in obedience to the law.
When duty called, we came.
When country called, we died."5

1. Hacker, J.David. "A Census-Based Count of Civil War Dead."Civil War History. LVII.No. 4 (2011): 307-348. Print.
2. U.S. National Cemetery Administration. Web. <http://www.cem.va.gov/cems/listcem.asp>.
3. Inscription on north side of monument to unknown soldiers at Stonewall Cemetery in Winchester, VA
4. U.S. National Cemetery Administration. Web. <http://www.cem.va.gov/cems/listcem.asp>.
5. Inscription on the Georgia State Monument at Gettysburg.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Civil War 'Walkie-Talkie' - The Messenger

Signal display on July 2, 2013 for visitors during the 150th
Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Note: You can just barely make out the signal flag on
Little Round Top in the distance.
Battlefield communication is one of those subjects imperative to the outcome of every conflict in history.  Many visitors to Civil War battlefields have been introduced to the importance of communications in command and control of the era.  They are introduced to signal communications on the more famous battlefields like Gettysburg, done with a wig-wag flag system (there is a great display in the museum).  They hear of the telegraph, which also played an integral role in many of the war's greatest campaigns.  In some cases it was the lack-there-of, or transmission speed that made the bigger impact.  Studies of acoustic shadows have been released in publication form and the impact of auditory senses on the battlefield made for some interesting scenarios in many instances.  Historian Garry Adelman of the Civil War Trust has been quoted to say, "imagine the difference it would make if there was one 'walkie-talkie' on a Civil War battlefield."

At the fundamental level, simple transmittal of orders on a Civil War battlefield is seemingly primitive especially when compared to our modern military systems, but vital none the less.  As simplistic as methods of the period may seem, their importance in the collaboration of a command structure during key moments in a campaign made all the difference.  Little has been written about the job of Civil War staff officers and their paramount role on the battlefield.  In this brief post we will meet a few of these messengers who communicated the important clips of information from unit to unit under the demands of their superior officers, and try to better understand their role.  Ultimately these men helped to dictate the outcome of the Civil War.

The position of a messenger in the Civil War was a very dangerous job and the success, or failure, of these individuals in a time-sensitive combat situation could completely alter a battle scenario.  Indeed there are many stories of these messengers being wounded or killed, the transmittal of orders being delayed or lost, and whole regiments being nearly annihilated because of the failure of transmission, all an obviously important part of the communication system from top to bottom.  Likewise, when not in the midst of combat, the paperwork committed by these individuals was far ranging and in some cases probably quite monotonous, although extremely necessary logistically speaking.

Special Order No. 15 issued to Graham's Brigade,
naming Henry Tremain as Aide-De-Camp for
General Daniel Sickles.  "He will be obeyed and
respected accordingly." -signed by Captain
and A.A.G. Fitzhugh Birney, April 24, 1863
Author's Collection
To get an idea of the character of these individuals it is only necessary that we understand their titles.  Let us first look at the regimental level.  In the thick of a fight it was indeed most common place for orders to be transmitted via line officers through a superior officer.  That superior officer was in many cases the regimental adjutant.  The adjutant was technically a floating rank and a position of honor.  Not necessarily on the ladder system of rank, it served a technical function within the regimental staff.  This means that a regimental adjutant would carry their official rank as a subtitle to adjutant.  For example, an adjutant could be a 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Lieutenant, or whatever pre-induction rank they held.  That being said, an adjutant held much more sway than someone of equal rank, but on the line.  They were the direct link to the authority of the commander of the regiment to which they served.  They not only dictated orders from the regimental commander as a sort of enforcer, but were also the comminique with surrounding units.  They were the 'walkie-talkie' on a  Civil War battlefield.  When not in battle, they were the authority in charge of regulating camp life and carrying out the orders directed to the regimental commander.  They kept paper records or reports, wrote out orders, and transmitted those orders.  They were, the messenger.  Likewise, a regimental adjutant was in many cases the personal choice of the regimental commander.  If the regimental commander were to be promoted to brigadier general, it was not uncommon to see them move up the chain of command together. 1

As we move up the unit nomenclature chart of a Civil War army beyond the regimental level, there are also brigade, division, corps and army adjutants known in rank as 'Adjutant General' (A.G.), 'Assistant Adjutant General' (A.A.G.), or 'Acting Assistant Adjutant General' (A.A.A.G.).  There is also the position of 'Aide-de-Camp' (A.D.C.) which is similar to those previous, but more closely affiliated with a particular officer or unit commander as an assistant or aide to that commander.  For instance, if a brigadier general was promoted to major general, in many cases he would take his aide-de-camp and other staff members with him.  This was not always the case, but very often was.  It is also not uncommon to see a high ranking officer who would use these positions to the benefit of a sibling or family member (Example: Major General David Bell Birney and his half-brother Fitzhugh Birney).  This in no form indicts these individuals of copping out of front-line duty.  As previously mentioned, no matter how you look at it, these were dangerous jobs.  Basically the duties of the A.G., A.A.G., A.A.A.G. and A.D.C. were the same as that of the regimental adjutant, but they were dealing with a larger body of control.  These men could hold sway over some fairly large units. 2

For example at Gettysburg, General Samuel Zook (commanding the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division of the 2nd Corps) was taken by Major General Daniel Sickles' aide-de-camp, Major Henry Tremain, to assist the 3rd Corps at the Peach Orchard on July 2, 1863.  Viewed by Zook as an obstruction to his current orders, he asked that the order be transmitted by General Sickles himself.  Tremain gave Zook his word that the order came from his corps commander and they both rode of to meet with Sickles.  After conferring, Zook and his brigade filed off to destiny towards Stoney Hill, where he was shortly after mortally wounded. 3

Indeed, while some of these messengers played a major role in how battles were waged, they exposed themselves to terrific dangers as well.  They were all in the line of fire, from regimental to army command.  It was a dangerous undertaking and statistically their chances of being wounded or killed were within the same realm of every other front-line soldier.  At Gettysburg the Army of the Potomac's infantry staffers on brigade level or higher suffered 14% casualties.  The overall casualty rate for the army's infantry was about 29%.  If we were to include regimental adjutants, the staff percentage would most certainly come close to the army's overall percentage. 4

Order issued May 1, 1864 by General Hays only
a few days before his death in the Wilderness,
written by Captain and A.A.G. George Painter
Corts, the man with whom he triumphantly
rode on July 3 at Gettysburg after the charge.
Author's Collection. 
We need to look no further than the famous action in Herbst Woods at Gettysburg on the first day of the battle, which pitted the 24th Michigan against the 26th North Carolina in a violent death struggle in which the North Carolinians eventually prevailed.  Captain Westwood McCreery was on the staff of General James Johnston Pettigrew and had given McCreery a message to transmit to the 21 year-old "boy colonel" of the 26th North Carolina during the fight, Henry Burgwyn.  The message was this;"your regiment has covered itself with glory."  After passing along the message to Colonel Burgwyn, McCreery saw the regimental flag go down and in an act of gallantry, placed the flag aloft once more.  He was immediately felled with a shot through the chest, his crimson blood staining the banner with which moments before, he had been waving on high.  The regiment was nearly destroyed at Gettysburg. 5

By the same token, these soldiers, or messengers, also shared in all the spoils of victory.  On July Third, after the repulse of Pickett's Charge, General Alexander Hays (commander of the 3rd Division of the 2nd Corps) was handed some captured Confederate battle flags.  Not being able to handle them alone, he handed one to each of the staffers he had with him.  These two lesser known men were Captain George Painter Corts and Lieutenant David Shields.  They then rode"along the ridge, dragging captured Confederate battle flags on the ground. Hays's jubilant veterans were emitting "cheer after cheer” as the three riders passed through their ranks.  They would encircle the entire division's line before halting.  Shields, whom Hays had kissed on the cheek when the Rebels had fled, called it "the grandest ride men ever took."  Both Corts and Shields remained in their staff positions during the duration of the war, always carrying out their duties to the utmost. 6

This is but a tiny sampling of the duties of "messengers" or staff officers during the Civil War, but there are some amazing stories yet to be discovered.  Dodging shot and shell, risking life and limb, these adventurous and interesting soldiers truly experienced the war from the driver's seat.  Their perspectives witnessed some of the national turning points and most intricate of situations during America's most deadly conflict.    

View from Cemetery Ridge near the 111th NY Monument towards the Codori Farm.
It was in this area that Hays, Corts and Shields made "the grandest ride men ever took."
1. Craighill, William P. "Articles 16-19." The 1862 Army Officer's Pocket Companion: A Manual For Staff Officers in the Field. Mechanicsburg, PA: 2002. Pages 45-50 cover nomenclature of army staffs.
2. Ibid.
3. Jorgensen, Jay. Gettysburg's Bloody Wheatfield. Shippensburg, PA: White Mane Books, 2002. 90.  Pfanz, Harry W. Gettysburg The Second Day. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1987. 269-270. 
4. Busey, John W., and David G. Martin. Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg. Fourth. Hightstown, NJ: Longstreet House, 2005. 125-143, 345, 458. Using staff numbers from this compilation of statistics, a total of 384 staff officers served at Gettysburg from brigade level up in the Army of the Potomac's infantry corps.  This does not include the escort bodies.  Of those 384 men, 53 are listed as casualties which rounds to a rate of 14%. The overall casualty rate is based on a total infantry strength of the Army of the Potomac.
5. Gragg, Rod. Covered With Glory: The 26th North Carolina Infantry at the Battle of Gettysburg. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2010. 129. 
6. Wert, Jeffry D. Gettysburg Day Three. First. New York, NY: Touchstone, 2001. 245.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gettysburg 150th - In The Wake Of The Storm

It becomes my duty forward to you the painful intelligence of the death of your son, John F. Morse, a member of my company.  He died in the Regimental Hospital at daylight Friday morning...We buried him Sunday morning at 10 o’clock on an eminence in front of our camp...Your affliction is a heavy one, but it will be somewhat of a consolation to know that his whole company share with you, your grief, and while you have lost a son, they have lost a comrade, noble, generous, and loved-one whose place now made vacant will not be easily filled, he whose kind deeds, and cheerful prompt discharge of every duty assigned him, has left an example well worthy the emulation of every one. 1

Imagine how many letters like the one above were sent after every major battle and minor skirmish of the Civil War.  Further, the largest reaper of the Civil War soldier was disease, only adding to the vast pile of letters to be delivered on the home front.  By the summer of July 1863, these letters had become quite common in the post office of nearly every small town and hamlet of the United and Confederate States of America.  With the end of hostilities at Gettysburg and the campaign itself, the story of the tragic event was only just transitioning.  Surely the majority of those soldiers still "fit for duty" had long moved on and were preparing for the next military confrontation, but there were still over twenty thousand soldiers left in the vicinity of Gettysburg in the wake of the storm.  For a town of approximately 2,400 citizens, overwhelming would be an understatement.  What we refer to as the end of a Civil War battle is really only the beginning of a profound story that merits as much (if not more) attention as the fighting itself.  

Nearly every commercial property and private residence in and around Gettysburg was transformed into some sort of carnal house.  There were aide-stations, field hospitals, recovery rooms, supply stations, coffin shops, embalming tents and lastly, cemeteries, spread over much of the blighted landscape.  The inexorable pungents wrought the air of pestilence and death.  On top of the wounded and dying men left behind, the town was imploded with an influx of sight-seers, benevolent groups and those who had come in search of a loved one.  The aftermath story is indeed as complex as the battle itself and covers an even greater time frame.  Even in its complexity, it is a story that truly draws on the depths of human emotion, easily evoking empathy and pulling us closer.  Very much like a vehicular accident that one might pass on a daily commute; we don't necessarily want to see the scene, but we can't help but take a glance and absorb.  There are literally thousands of perspectives on what for many became the crux of their lifetime of experiences.    

Spangler Farm
One of the thousands of stories comes from the George Spangler Family.  George and his wife Elizabeth had a thriving subsistence farm of over 160 acres by the time of the battle, only about two miles south of town.  They had four children from ages fourteen to twenty-one.  Despite the numerous reports of the advancing armies and a possible collision nearby, George and his family decided to wait it out.  On July 1 their lives changed forever. 2  

As the two armies clashed north and west of Gettysburg, both armies began scouting out locations for field hospitals and the numerous other logistical sites required for their sizable commands.  The boundaries of the Spangler Farm rest directly between the Taneytown Road and the Baltimore Pike.  These two significant roads were main avenues of advance for a large portion of the Army of the Potomac, placing the property directly in the cross-hairs.  As the fighting rumbled along on July 1, the Second Division of the Eleventh Corps commandeered the property for use as the divisional hospital.  The Spangler family took refuge in a room on the second floor where they remained for the duration of the fighting.  As the hospital stewards, surgeons and other personnel moved in, much of the Spangler's tangible property was quickly confiscated.  Anything that could be of use to the medical staff was affected, from bed sheets to cook-ware. 3

The Spangler's barn rapidly became inundated with the incoming wounded soldiers who started flowing regularly towards the property on the afternoon and evening of July 1.  The threshing floor became the triage station, while the basement became the staging area for the four operating tables in full execution under the eaves of the lower floor of the barn.  The Second Division's Surgeon-in Chief Daniel Brinton said he "was not absent from the hospital more than once and then but for an hour or two.  Very hard work it was, too, and little sleep fell to our share."  The "four operating tables were going night and day," carrying out their excruciating business with the speed of a fast-food drive-through window.  Fingers, legs, arms, feet and anything else that could be sawed off were done so with little thought except for getting the deed done as quickly as possible and getting the next victim onto the table. 4

Soon there were so many wounded that the house and outbuildings were simply overflowing.  As the prolific situation became exacerbated by the gargantuan struggle that boomed on for two more days, the wounded soldiers were spread out over the surrounding fields.  Many laid down upon the once bountifully yielded crops of Mr. Spangler's long hours and hard-working hands.  This would produce a harsh toll later for these soldiers exposed to the natural elements, some might consider it nature's retribution.  The wounded were coming in by the hundreds and the Second Division hospital became the Eleventh Corps hospital.  While they came in droves, the Union Artillery Reserve trampled onto the northern portion of the property with 114 cannons, limbers and caissons, nearly 2,400 men and 1,500 horses, destroying everything in their path. These reserves were called into action at the critical juncture on July 2 in places now forever famous; The Peach Orchard, Cemetery Ridge and Cemetery Hill. 5

At the northern most point of George and Elizabeth's farm is an eminence known as Powers Hill.  The Army of the Potomac transformed the once peaceful hillside into a tactically brilliant artillery platform that on the morning of July 3, spewed a death-storm of shell and shrapnel onto the Confederate forces attacking Culps Hill.  The position proved pivotal and the Confederate attempt was repulsed after seven hours of vicious carnage.  Later that day, the Spangler Farm was caught in the hailstorm of Confederate iron during the famous artillery barrage which heralded the legendary Confederate assault by Pickett, Pettigrew and Trimble.  The overshoots, intended for the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, started falling among the helpless soldiers
Looking inside the wagon shed...this is where Confederate
soldiers were kept, isolated from the Federal wounded
laying in and around the barn.  
There I had a fine view of the bursting shells coming in our direction.  There were at one time six explosions of shells in one moment....The danger was becoming so great that every man was removed excepting myself and an old German...The surgeon who had been in shortly before looking at my wound ran for his life...As he passed the door he called...'get out of there as soon as you can,'... knowing that I could not move.  He soon sent two men to carry me away...They placed me in the lower part of the barn, in a building called a wagon shed.  This place was occupied mostly by wounded Rebels. The wagon shed eventually housed approximately one hundred Confederate soldiers over the course of the hospital's existence.  Another more humorous story comes from a letter written by Private Emory Sweetland of the 154th New York on July 26 to his parents.  "The other day we had some wounded Rebs in the cellar of the barn and, the door being open, a stray pig walked in.  One of the Rebs entered a complaint to the Doctors waiting boy that we allowed hogs to roam about among their wounded.  The boy asked him if the hog recognized any acquaintances among the Rebs!" 6  

Later that evening, one of the more famous officers to pass through the hospital was brought in for care from the day's late battlefield.  Brigadier General Lewis Addison Armistead was wounded twice after crossing the stone wall with his band of courageous men at the climax of the July 3 assault.  His wounds by all accounts were not mortal in nature and he received care in the Spangler's summer kitchen. Numerous other well-known soldiers were brought to the farm as well.  Colonel Eliakim Sherrill of the 126th New York in the Second Corps, who led Willard's Brigade during the repulse of Pickett's Charge, was brought to the farm where he later died.  Major General Francis Barlow and Frederick Stowe (Harriet-Beecher Stowe's son) also spent time recuperating on the spoiled property. Private George Nixon of the 73rd Ohio died at the Spangler Farm of wounds received while skirmishing along the base of Cemetery Hill.  He was the great-grandfather of President Richard Nixon. 7

As the glorious Fourth of July dawned in 1863, most Union soldiers hadn't even the slightest glint of elation in their systems.  Indeed a stark pathos pervaded the landscape which provided the wearied Union soldiers with a hollowed sense of victory at Gettysburg.  Eleventh Corps commander, Major General Oliver Otis Howard, visited the hospital on July 4 saying, "I saw long rows of men lying under the eaves of the building, the water pouring down upon their bodies in streams.  Most of the operating-tables were places in the open...partially protected against the rain...There stood the surgeons, their sleeves rolled up...their bare arms as well as their linen aprons smeared with blood...around them pools of blood and amputated arms or legs in heaps...a surgeon, having been long at work...put down his knife, exclaiming that his hand had grown unsteady, and that this was too much for human endurance, hysterical tears streaming down his face."  The belief among soldiers that a good rain always followed a bloody battle held true at Gettysburg.  Surgeon Brinton remembered that "a heavy rain came...and as we had laid many in spots without shelter some indeed in the barnyard where the foul water oozed up into their undressed wounds, the sight was harassing in the extreme."  In these conditions men died and somehow, survived. 8

On July 5 the forty-six year old General Armistead passed away.  It has been said that he died from exhaustion, prostration, or maybe even a shattered pride.  He was initially interred in the hospital cemetery just south of the house and summer kitchen, one of many who would lay in repose in Mr. Spangler's south field.  At least 205 soldiers north and south were buried there.  George Spangler's 1,200 board-foot of cord-wood that had been recently stored in the barn, was taken out and fashioned into coffins, headboards and fencing to enclose the cemetery plot.  General Armistead's body was later removed in early August by members of his family and taken to Baltimore.  Many of the Union soldiers were also removed with the formation of the National Cemetery, some even being taken next door to Evergreen Cemetery.  With efforts finally being made in the 1870s to remove Confederate dead to southern cemeteries, a number of those men buried at the Spangler Farm were re-interred in the south.  That being said, there are at least a half dozen Confederate soldiers with no record beyond that period who may very well rest eternally under the Pennsylvania loam in Spangler's south field, along with hundreds of amputated limbs. 9    

The gory work of a Civil War hospital continued on the Spangler Farm until the first week of August in 1863, when the perfunctory hospitals throughout the area were consolidated into one large general hospital on the York Road.  It became known as Camp Letterman after the medical director of the Army of the Potomac and the bloody deeds of caring for the maimed continued on until  November 20, 1863. 10

As for the George, Elizabeth and the couple's four children, life would go on.  Of course they left something behind in those fateful days of July, but they too were able to recuperate their belongings.  In many ways, they were the lucky ones.  The landscape would necessarily take time to heal, but the Spangler Farm was bigger and better than ever within fifteen years of the end of the war.  A number of damage claims were filed by George Spangler in the 1870s ranging from $2,500 to $3,000.  In March of 1881, the U.S. Treasury Department finally awarded sixty dollars made payable to Spangler's attorney.  Whether or not George and his family ever received the check is unknown. 11  

The story of the Spangler Farm does not end there though.  The Spangler Family remained on the property until the very early part of the twentieth century when the farm changed hands a number of times until 1953,
when it was bought by the Andrews Family.  They held the deed until putting the farm on the auction block in 2008.  The bidding met with great competition, some of those involved having plans for development, others with a brighter future in mind that included saving the hallowed site for future generations, namely...the Gettysburg Foundation.  Through trepidation at the uncertain future, hard-work and perseverance finally paid off for the non-profit organization which was able to purchase the farm, saving it for future generations.  Although it fell into their hands a historical gem, the Gettysburg National Military Park's superintendent at the time was quoted as saying, "the great thing about the Spangler Farm is that it largely hasn't been touched since 1863...the bad thing is that it largely hasn't been touched since 1863." 12 

Since 2008 the Gettysburg Foundation, in cooperation with the National Military Park's easement, has been working to preserve and restore the site in an effort to allow public visitation.  This goal was finally realized earlier this year on Memorial Day weekend.  The summer kitchen is the first fully preserved building on the property and the others are waiting in the wings for the necessary funds.  There is a long road ahead in terms of properly restoring and preserving the site.  Every penny and minute that can be furnished will be extremely appreciated not just by the Gettysburg Foundation, but by future generations as well.  If you are interested in helping, please follow the link below and in the comments section, type: "Spangler Farm Donation."

The site is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week until the weekend of August 17-18, 2013 from 11 AM - 3PM.  If you would like to visit, get your free ticket at the Visitor's Center and you will need to take the shuttle, as there is no public parking available at the site.  Shuttles return every half hour.  Future plans at the site include a walking trail from the Visitor's Center to the farm and preservation of all associated property features.  
July 4, 2013 at Spangler Farm


1. Humphrey, William. 28 January 1862.  Ed. Britt Isenberg. Author's Collection.  William Humphrey was Captain of Company D in the 2nd Michigan Infantry and rose to the rank of Brevet Brigadier General, commanding a brigade of the 9th Army Corps during the Overland Campaign and being wounded twice at the battle of Spotsylvania on May 12, 1864.  He was back in time for the initial assaults on Petersburg where he commanded a brigade through October of 1864 and then mustered out of Federal service.  
2. Coco, Gregory A. A Vast Sea of Misery. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1988. 105. Print.
Motts, Wayne E. . "The George Spangler Farm: 11th Army Corps Hospital." Gettysblog. The Gettysburg Foundation, 28 Apr 2011. Web. 19 Jul. 2013. 
3. Ibid.
4. Coco, Gregory A. A Vast Sea of Misery. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1988. 107. Print.
5. Busey, John W., and David G. Martin. Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg. Fourth. Hightstown, NJ: Longstreet House, 2005. 116. Print.  The author chose to round the number up.
6. Coco, Gregory A. A Vast Sea of Misery. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1988. 105. Print.
Coco, Gregory A. On The Bloodstained Fields: I&II. Orrtanna, PA: Colecraft Industries, 2013. 40. Print.
7. Hess, Earl J. Pickett's Charge: The Last Attack at Gettysburg. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. 213-214, 349. Print.        
Motts, Wayne E. . "The George Spangler Farm: 11th Army Corps Hospital." Gettysblog. The Gettysburg Foundation, 28 Apr 2011. Web. 19 Jul. 2013.
8. Coco, Gregory A. A Vast Sea of Misery. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1988. 106. Print.
9. Hess, Earl J. Pickett's Charge: The Last Attack at Gettysburg. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. 213-214, 349. Print.
Motts, Wayne E. . "The George Spangler Farm: 11th Army Corps Hospital." Gettysblog. The Gettysburg Foundation, 28 Apr 2011. Web. 19 Jul. 2013.
10. Coco, Gregory A. A Vast Sea of Misery. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1988. 172. Print.
11. Motts, Wayne E. . "The George Spangler Farm: 11th Army Corps Hospital." Gettysblog. The Gettysburg Foundation, 28 Apr 2011. Web. 19 Jul. 2013.
12. Ibid.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gettysburg 150th Part 3 - John Batdorff and Henry McDaniel

June 27, 2013

John G. Batdorff
2nd Lieutenant
John George Batdorff
149th Pennsylvania
Stone's Brigade, Doubleday's Division, Reynolds' 1st Corps

John Batdorff was born in 1839 and raised by his grandparents near Myerstown in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.  There is but little information about his upbringing in rural Pennsylvania, but by the outbreak of the Civil War many men from his area had enlisted in the newly formed state regiments.  Batdorff enlisted with the 149th Pennsylvania (2nd Bucktails) in August of 1862 as a Second Lieutenant, the regiment being raised by Colonel Roy Stone, a member of the original 'Pennsylvania Bucktails.'  Early service with the 149th PA kept Batdorff and his comrades on duty in the Washington Garrison until February of 1863 when the regiment joined the First Corps, Army of the Potomac.  They were involved in the Chancellorsville Campaign, but very lightly engaged and still untested in battle.

As the army marched to Gettysburg in pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, they would soon get enough battlefield experience to last more than a lifetime.  The 149th PA arrived on the battlefield late in the morning of July 1 and took position near the McPherson Farm buildings along the Chambersburg Pike.  Maneuvering into a number of different lines, Batdorff was a busy soldier that morning assisting in getting Company C into its proper place in line.  Like the building of a massive thunderstorm on a hot and humid summer evening, both armies were extending their lines and awaiting the culmination of the buildup of troops.  It was only a matter of time until the thunder once again started to roll on that first day of July, 1863.

149th PA Monument on McPherson's Ridge...the
Lutheran Theological Seminary in the distance
When the storm broke, the 149th PA and its sister regiments found themselves in a very unstable part of the Federal battle line.  They got hammered from both the north and the west by Confederate batteries which were belching forth a fierce-some fire.  Outnumbered and outflanked, the Federal position could not remain and after a desperate fight that lasted for what must have seemed like an eternity to the men wearing their buck-tails aloft, it was time to get out!

Lieutenant Batdorff faced the dangerous obstacle of retreat like everyone on the line and this story comes out of that harrowing experience.  "Captain John Bassler of the 149th Pennsylvania Infantry was wounded in the thigh during the Union Army's hectic retreat on the first day of the Battle.  Second Lieutenant Batdorf came to his rescue - but Bassler found it impossible to walk even with this assistance.  Batdorf then told him to "get on my back."

"As they trotted toward safety, Rebel bullets zipped by, no doubt encouraging Batdorf to even greater efforts with his heavy burden."

"Later, within Yankee lines, Lieutenant Batdorf jokingly said that Bassler must not give him too much "credit for disinterestedness; that his object in carrying me on his back was to shield himself from the Rebel bullets!"

Descriptive list written and kept in the field desk of Captain
John G. Batdorff for Private Jonathan Witman, who also
served at Gettysburg and was unscathed, only to be wounded
at the battle of the Wilderness in May of '64. (author's collection)
Batdorff was later wounded on July 3, but survived his wounds to be promoted to Captain of Company C, in which capacity he served until the end of the war.  The regiment was engaged in the Overland Campaign and the actions around Petersburg, losing many more men to the Confederate lead storms.  After the war Batdorff returned to Millbach in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania where he resumed his activities as a well-known farmer and eventually became the County Treasurer, living out his days near his boyhood home.  "He was widely known and universally liked...He was a loving husband and father, and a true friend. In politics, he was a staunch Republican, and in the last days of the nineteenth century, he was honored by his party with election to the office of county treasurer, which he filled to the complete satisfaction of the taxpayer. He was a member of the Lutheran congregation at Millbach, and stood high in the councils of the church. His wife, who was Miss Elizabeth Illig, and a daughter, Miss Carrie Batdorf, at home, survive. He was the last of his family, his sister, Mrs. Albert Karmany, of Myerstown, preceding him in death six years ago. He was aged 65 years."  He died in 1905 after a life of dedicated service and bravery.

Sources: Gregory A. Coco, On The Bloodstained Field I&II, p.12, 2013.  Historical Data Systems, Inc.  Lebanon Daily News, 15 September 1905.

Monument to the 149th PA on Cemetery Ridge marking their position on July 3 at Gettysburg...
Batdorff was wounded somewhere in this area during Pickett's assault.

Post-war image of Major McDaniel
Henry Dickerson McDaniel
11th Georgia
Anderson's Brigade, Hood's Division, Longstreet's Corps

Major Henry McDaniel was one of those young officers thrown into the cusp of regimental command because of the mounting losses on July 2 at Gettysburg.  His regiment was the 11th Georgia and a part of George 'Tige' Anderson's Brigade.  At 26, the young man led his regiment through the fray at Gettysburg's infamous "Wheatfield."  The attack was very deadly and through extraordinary circumstances McDaniel managed to do not only a competent job, but one which warrants consideration in his rise to the occasion.  His official report was written only five days after the guns fell silent at Gettysburg and is in my opinion, one of the more detailed accounts we have of Anderson's Brigade's actions in 'The Wheatfield.'

"JULY 8, 1863.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the part borne by the Eleventh Georgia Regiment in the engagement near Gettysburg, Pa., on the 2d instant.

The regiment went into action under command of Col. F. H. Little. He having been severely wounded during the action, the command devolved upon Lieut. Col. William Luffman. Fear the close of the battle, Lieutenant-Colonel Luffman took command of the brigade, when the command of the regiment devolved upon myself.

The scene of action was reached by a march of several miles, under a burning sun, and for the distance of 1 mile under a terrific fire of the enemy's batteries. Advancing to the crest of the hill where the Emmitsburg pike enters the woods in front of the enemy's position, along a ravine near the base of the mountain, the regiment bore unflinchingly, with the remainder of the brigade, the severe enfilading fire of the enemy's batteries upon Cemetery Hill until ordered to advance.

17th Maine Monument at left...This is the original stone wall along
the southern edge of 'The Wheatfield' that Major McDaniel
and his men of the 11th Georgia fought over against the
17th Maine and later, units of the 2nd Corps. 
The Eleventh Georgia is the right center regiment of the brigade, and went into action in its place. The advance was made in good order, and, upon reaching the belt of woods in front, a vigorous fire was opened upon the enemy, followed up by a vigorous charge, which dislodged them from the woods, the ravine, and from a stone fence running diagonally with the line of battle. This formidable position was occupied by the Eleventh Georgia, and a galling fire opened upon the enemy's front and flank, causing his line to recoil in confusion. At this juncture, Brigadier-General Anderson came in person to the regiment (a considerable distance in advance of the remainder of the brigade and in strong position, which was at the time held and might have been held against the enemy in front), and ordered Colonel Little to withdraw the regiment to the crest of the hill, on account of a movement of the enemy in force upon the left flank of the brigade. The regiment retired in good order, though with loss, to the point indicated.

After a short interval, a second advance was made to the stone fence, but, after a furious conflict, the failure of support on the right forced the brigade back a distance of 100 yards. The third advance was made in connection with the entire line on that part of the field, and resulted, after a conflict in the ravine of half an hour, in the rout of the enemy from the field. This rout was vigorously pressed to the very foot of the mountain, up the sides of which the enemy fled in the greatest confusion. The loss of the enemy was here very great, his dead lying upon the field by the hundred. Nothing but the exhausted condition of the men prevented them from carrying the heights. As it was, with no support of fresh troops, and with the knowledge that the enemy was pouring re-enforcements from their right into the ledges of the mountain, it was found impracticable to follow him farther.

In this charge, large numbers of prisoners taken by men of this command were sent to the rear, but no guards were kept over them specially, and it is impossible now to ascertain the number. The regiment retired with the line to the ravine, and went into bivouac for the night, the pickets of the brigade holding the field. The rout of the enemy was manifested in the fact that no attempt was made to follow our retreat, and scarcely any effort to annoy us in retiring.

The regiment lost many valuable officers and men. Among the killed are Capt. M. T. Nunnally, Company H; Capt. John W. Stokes, Company B, and First Lieut. W. Holmes Baskin, Company K, who fell gallantly at their posts. A complete list of the casualties is herewith transmitted. From this it appears that the number of killed was 23, of wounded 171, and of missing 5; total, 204.

I take pleasure in testifying that the behavior of officers and men was satisfactory and worthy the proud name heretofore won by the troops of this army.
I am, your obedient servant,
Major, Commanding Eleventh Georgia Regiment.
A. A. G., Anderson's Brigade. "

McDaniel was wounded and then captured at a temporary hospital near Funkstown, Maryland only a few days after writing this report.  He was taken to a Federal prison camp.  He survived the war and had a remarkably vivid career in politics after the war which included governorship of the state of Georgia.  He also became a millionaire and died at age 89 in 1926.

Sources: Milan Simonich, Gettysburg: Profiles in Courage / Henry D. McDaniel, Pittsburgh Post Gazette,  July 6, 2003. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the  Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 1880-1901, Washington, D.C., Ser. 1, Vol. xxvii, Pt. 2, p. 401-403.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Gettysburg 150th Part 2 - The Story of John Callis and Thomas Kenan

June 26, 2013
Today's officers share in a unique story that truly illustrates the 'small world' we all live in.  It is one of my personal favorites from the greater Gettysburg story and it sheds light on the ties that bind us all.

Raleigh, NC, 22 August, 1893.

Gen.  John B. Callis, Lancaster, Grant County, Wisconsin.
My Dear Sir :—Upon a recent visit to Gettysburg and going over the ground where the first day's battle as fought, I was forcibly reminded of the circumstances under which I met you, and which have been related by me to others, numbers of times in the last thirty years.

You and I were in opposing commands. You were Lieutenant-Colonel of the Seventh Wisconsin, and I was Colonel of the Forty-third North Carolina Infantry, Daniel's Brigade, Rodes' Division, Ewell's Corps. After the engagement had continued for some time the Union forces fell back and occupied Seminary Ridge, and later in the afternoon this became the point of attack by the Confederates and was carried by them. The firing having ceased and comparative quiet restored, Lieutenant Shepherd, of my regiment, reported to me that among the wounded in our front was Lieutenant-Colonel Callis, of the Seventh Wisconsin, and that he(or his father's family) "was from Fayetteville, X. C, Shepherd himself being also a Fayetteville man. This fact no doubt interested him. Thereupon I went forward and found you lying a little beyond the crest of the ridge, and about the spot where I stood the other day at Gettysburg.  After some conversation and doing what I could in your behalf, I caused you to be carried to the building near by, in which the wounded Union soldiers were placed for immediate treatment. I think it was the large brick Seminary building. And shortly afterwards one of my men handed me a pair of splendid spurs which he said you had presented to me. I sent them home and have prized them highly ever since. I well remember telling you that "You are now my prisoner, and I'll treat you well ; I may be yours later on." And so it happened, for I was wounded on Gulp's Hill on 3 July, taken off the field, placed in an ambulance and captured on the retreat on the night of 4 July, with many other wounded Confederates, and was a prisoner until the war closed.

43rd NC Monument along E Confederate Ave near Culps Hill
I hope we will meet at 'Gettysburg again, not on a hostile, but on a friendly historic field, when our performances will be impressed with a character different from that of 1863. A committee has been appointed by the government, charged with the duty of marking the lines of the Confederate troops in the interest of history, and I have been in correspondence with Colonel Bachelder, its chairman, in reference to that matter. I may therefore go to Gettysburg again, and, if so, will write you, and request your presence at that time.

I will be pleased to learn your military career after the time referred to above. The Adjutant-General of your State, upon my application, gave me your address.
Yours truly,
Thos. S. Kenan

To this letter the following reply was received:

Lancaster, Wis., 3 September, 1893.

Colonel Thos. S. Kenan, Raleigh, N. C:
My Dear Colonel:—Your favor of a recent date is before me and its contents highly appreciated. It contains convincing evidence of the fact that we met in deadly combat on the historic field of Gettysburg 1 July, 1863, over thirty years ago—I now carrying a souvenir in the shape of a minie ball in my right lung, and you bearing honorable scars, evidencing the fact that we both fought desperately for the causes we individually thought just. And now after thirty years we are exchanging friendly greetings. Thus it is ‘paritur pax belIo.’  I have always admired a gentleman who never forgets that he is a gentleman no matter what his environs may be, and must say that I took you to be such, when you kindly treated me as your prisoner of war on the field at Gettysburg, hence the presentation of my spurs, I thinking I would have no more use for them. I was doubtless somewhat delirious with pain when you came up to me, but the facts were so indelibly fixed on my mind that they are as fresh to me as though they were of yesterday, and are as follows: On the morning of 1 July, 1863, about 9:30 o'clock, the Iron Brigade, composed of the Second, Sixth and Seventh Wisconsin, Nineteenth Indiana and Twenty-fourth Michigan, charged General Archer's Brigade on Willoughby's Run and captured General Archer and most of his brigade. In this charge my horse was killed and I was slightly wounded, and not taking time to shed my spurs, I went in on foot. We held Willoughby's Run until 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when Ave found ourselves in the little end of a "V" being flanked on the right and left by A. P. Hill's and Ewell's Corps. General Reynolds, of our first corps having been killed and General Meredith, commanding our brigade, and most of our field officers, having been wounded or killed in the morning, what was left of our brigade was in a tight place. We moved by the right of companies to the rear, making the Seminary on the Ridge our objective point. Being closely pursued by the Confederates, we faced, wheeled into line and fired; then again by the right of companies to the rear, loading on the march, and, as before, wheeled into line and fired. We executed the same movement with terrible effect.

Worm fence along Herbst Woods with McPherson Barn in the distance.
Many a brave North Carolinian bit the dust in that movement before we reached the Seminary. At this juncture I was shot in the right breast, the ball entering my lung, and here it still remains. Captain Hobert, of my regiment, made a detail, with himself, to take me off the field. They carried me over the pike into a field near the old railroad grade, where they were compelled to surrender and were taken prisoners to the rear, leaving me where you found me. The first thing I remember, I was surrounded by private Confederate soldiers, who were curiously examining my uniform, they taking my coat off, in the side pocket of which was my pocket book containing $220 in greenbacks and gold, with papers by which I might be identified should I be found dead on the field. They went and sat down on the railroad grade near by and were examining the contents of the pocketbook when an officer came to me and saw my condition. He interrogated me as to my rank, regiment, name and nativity, and in stooping over me to catch my words I though I could see signs of pity depicted on his face, which gave me hope. I asked him to unbuckle the spur from my boot. He did so and seeing the other foot bootless, he asked its meaning. I told him some of the men had pulled it off without unbuckling the spur and that it nearly tore the leg off. He looked around and found the boot with the spur on it; he took it off and threw the boots and spurs by my side, asking at the same time if they had taken anything else from me. I told them they had taken my coat and money. He inquired who they were, and I, pointing to them on the railroad grade, said, "There they are now." He looked and saw them and ordered them to restore the pocketbook and money, which they did—he placing the book and money in an inside pocket of my coat. I told him to take the money and send it to my family, as I feared it would be an incentive for the men to finish me and take the money as soon as his back was turned on me. He replied, "I will see that you are taken care of," and I soon found myself in charge of two Confederates, one a German and one an Irishman, with a negro to bring water and pour on my wounds, and faithfully too, they did their whole duty. I looked around and found that you were not in sight. I told the men that I was glad that I had given you my spurs as a partial reward for your kindness, and the Irishman replied, ''Yis, sor, he's a mighty foine man, so he is sor." And the German said, ''Yah, he bin so better as glide." I think this was the first thing that provoked a smile since I had been shot. You know it rained that night, which was a God-send to me, for it cooled the fever that was burning in me. In this condition I lay on the field until the afternoon of 3 July, when the Confederates commenced falling back over me, and I fearing the cavalry and artillery might crush me, begged the men to take me to some place of safety, and they took me to a little house just across the pike and left me on the porch until the owner of the house came, who was a kind-hearted old Pennsylvania German, and he took me in and placed me on a straw bed in the corner of the room. The two men having heard that you were killed dodged into the cellar and remained there all night. On the morning of the 4th, General Buford's Cavalry came in pursuit of the Confederate forces and his chief surgeon caused me to be taken into the city where I received the best of care in a private house for three months before I could be removed to my home. * * (Here followed an account of his subsequent military services, promotion to Brigadier-General and election to Congress in 1868.)

Monument to the 7th Wisconsin at the edge of Herbst Woods
I have told the story of the spurs and your kindness until it has become a "campfire story" all over the State, and told it as I relate it to you ; and I wish there were more frequently such interchange of friendly greetings between ex-Confederate and Union soldiers as this between you and me.

I was born in Fayetteville, NC, 3 January, 1828. When I was ten years old my father removed to Benton county, Tennessee, and in 1840 to Lancaster, Grant county, Wisconsin, while it was a Territory. After I was of age I was actively engaged in business pursuits until 1861, when the call to arms was sounded in tones of thunder from the mouth of the first gun that was fired on the proud emblem of our nationality, then floating over the walls of Fort Sumter. I then conceived it to be not only my privilege, but my patriotic duty to abandon my business, my home and my family for a time and go to battle for the Nation's safety. My father, whose memory I revere, viewing the situation from a Southern standpoint, but at the same time being honest in his convictions, advised otherwise, saying that I was going to war  with my own flesh and blood, as all of our relatives lived in the South, but I followed the dictates of my own convictions and went, and ever since have been proud of having done my duty. * * *

Keep the spurs. Colonel, with my blessing, but I hope the occasion may never come for you to use them so vigorously that you will think yourself criminally guilty of cruelty to animals, as I have, many times. Pardon me, if I have deployed my skirmish line of thought on untenable ground, in this my disconnected answer to your tersely written communication on 22 August. With assurances of my highest regard and sincere desire for mutual and perpetual good feeling and friendly relations, I am very respectfully yours,
John B. Callis.
P. S. —I shall be more than glad to meet you at Gettysburg as indicated in your favor, my health permitting.

The ill health of General Callis prevented his meeting Colonel Kenan at Gettysburg as proposed, and he died in the year 1897.

From: Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-65. Volume V.  Thomas Kenan and John Callis. pp 611-616.  1901.  Also reprinted in North Carolina Remembers Gettysburg.  Michael C. Hardy. pp 92-97. 2011.

Thomas Kenan
43rd North Carolina
Daniel's Brigade, Rodes' Division, Ewell's Corps

Thomas Stephen Kenan was born in Kenansville, North Carolina in 1838 and was an 1857 graduate of the University of North Carolina.  He and his brother were involved in a local militia unit at the outbreak of the war.  The company, of which Kenan was Captain, became part of the 12th North Carolina before being consolidated into the new 43rd North Carolina.  Kenan was elected Colonel and led the regiment through all its travails up to Gettysburg.  On the morning of July 1 the regiment was heavily engaged against the Stone's Bucktail Brigade and portions of Cutler's Brigade.  The regiment was not engaged on the second day of the battle, but moved to the Confederate left to support Johnson's Division's attack against Culps Hill where they were again engaged on the morning of July 3.  Kenan survived not only Gettysburg, but the entire war.  Afterwards he was engaged in politics through the state General Assembly of North Carolina, UNC's Board of Trustees and a number of other posts.  He died in 1911.

Lieutenant Colonel
John Benton Callis
7th Wisconsin
Meredith's Brigade, Wadsworth's Division, Reynolds' First Corps

John Callis was born on January 3, 1828 in Fayetteville, North Carolina and had a fluid life as a youth, moving to Tennessee and later Lancaster, Wisconsin.  In his antebellum adult days he moved to California as a mercantile and was involved in the mining business.  He later returned to Wisconsin where he enlisted in the 7th Wisconsin as a Lieutenant at the outbreak of the war.  As a result of attrition, Callis became the commander of the 7th Wisconsin in the famed Iron Brigade during the Maryland Campaign in 1862.  At Gettysburg on July 1 he was severely wounded in the chest and his recovery was a long road.  He never again served in the field with the Army of the Potomac, taking command as superintendent of the War Department in Washington D.C. at the end of the war.  After the conflict he moved around a bit and became a congressman before his death in 1898.

NCPedia: http://ncpedia.org/biography/kenan-thomas-stephen

Joseph Barnett Family History: https://sites.google.com/site/josephbarnettfamily/genealogy/john-benton-callis

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Gettysburg 150th Part 1 - Colonel Daniel Christie and Captain John Phillips

As the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg draws near, we will begin a post highlighting the individuals involved with the campaign. On each day you will be introduced to one Union soldier and one Confederate Soldier who made history at Gettysburg 150 years ago.  The focus (as you will see) is on the line officers of the respective armies.  These are the men who were directing the battle, from company level to regimental level, on the front lines of the action.  Keep in mind as you read about these fascinating and courageous individuals, that very real bullets and artillery shells were flying about them and they shared in the same breadth of human emotions that each and every one of us experiences at every moment of every day.  These are the men that decided the fate of the nation at Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863.

June 25, 2013

Colonel Christie
23rd North Carolina
Iverson's Brigade, Rode's
Division, Ewell's Corps

Sounds of strenuous battle reached us early on the morning of Wednesday, 1 July, as we pressed forward towards Gettysburg, the obscure Dutch town so soon to be made famous. Our brigade(Iverson's) led Ewell's corps and was the first to become engaged as he hurried forward to succor A P Hill, then hard pressed. At Willoughby Run our Field Officers dismounted. Approaching from the north by the Heidelburg road till within about a mile of the field of battle, we filed off by the right flank to the Mummersburg road. As we emerged from the woods and moved down the slope to the latter road twenty pieces of artillery opened up on us with grape, from the left, inflicting some loss.

The Mummersburg road here runs east and west. Very close to the road on the south side stands the Fourney house. This house stands in the northwest corner of the Forney field, which extends about half a mile from the house along the Mummersburg road, and is about a quarter of a mile broad. Across this road near the Forney house the brigade was formed facing east. Along the path or eastern side of the field and on a ridge ran a stone fence, which formed part of the enemy's line. Behind this fence, alone, lay hidden from view, more men that our assaulting column contained. A body of woods extended from the southeastern corner of the field for about two hundred yards along its southern side.

The brigade about 1,450 strong, advanced under artillery fire through the open grass field in gallant style, as evenly as if on parade. But our brigade commander(Iverson) after ordering us forward, did not follow us in that advance, and our alignment soon became false. There seems to have been utter ignorance of the force crouching behind the stone wall. For our brigade to have assailed such a stronghold thus held, would have been a desperate undertaking. To advance southeast against the enemy visible in the woods at that corner of the filed, exposing our left flank to an enfilading file from the stronghold was fatal. Yet this is just what we did. And unwarned, unled as a brigade, went forward Iverson's deserted band to its doom. Deep and long must the desolate homes and orphan children of North Carolina rue the rashness of that hour.

View from Oak Ridge towards Oak Hill:  Christie and the 23rd
advanced from left to right on the right-center part of the
brigade line moving against Union Soldiers hidden behind
a stone wall out of view from this angle to the right.
When we were in point blank range of the dense line of the enemy rose from its protected lair and pointed unto us a withering fire from the front and both flanks. For Battle's brigade, ordered to protect our left flank, had been thrown into confusion by the twenty pieces of artillery and repulsed by the right wing of the Federal line just as we came up. This effected, the enemy moving under cover of the ridge and woods, disposed his forces to enfilade our right from the woods just as our left was enfilade from the stone fence.

Pressing forward with heavy loss under deadly fire our regiment, which was the second from the right, reached a hollow or low place, running irregularly north, east and southwest through the field. We were then about eighty yards from the stone fence to the left and somewhat further from the woods to the right, from both of which, as well as from the more distant corner of the filed in  our front, poured down upon us a pitiless rifle fire.

Unable to advance, unwilling to retreat, the brigade lay down in this hollow or depression in the field and fought as best it could. Terrible was the loss sustained, our regiment losing the heaviest of all in killed, as from its position in line the cross enfilading fire seems to have been the hottest just where it lay. Major C C Blacknall was shot through the mouth and neck before the advance was checked. Lieutenant Colonel R D Johnson was desperately and Colonel D H Christie mortally wounded, as the line lay in the bloody hollow. There too, fell every commissioned officer save one; the recorded death-roll footing up 54 killed and 82 wounded. The real loss was far greater, almost surely 50 percent, greater. Captain G T Baskerville, Company I, Lieutenant C W Champion, Company G, and Adjutant Junius B French were killed. Captain A D Peace, Company E, and Lieutenant Wm H Mundy were wounded. Captain H G Turner, Company H was wounded and captured. Captain Wm H Johnston, Company K was captured.

Looking across 'Iverson's Pits' towards the stone wall from which Union
soldiers blasted the brigade and Christie's 23rd North Carolina
The carnage was great along our whole line, which, except the Twelfth Regiment on the right, was at the mercy of the enemy. The Twelfth, under Colonel Davis, protected somewhat by the lay of the field and being further from the stone wall, refused both wings and fighting to the right, left and front, gallantly beat off its assailants till help came....

Daniel Harvey Christie was born in Federick County, Virgina, 28 March 1833 and was educated at a military school. He became a citizen of Henderson, NC in 1857. The breaking out of the war found him in charge of the Henderson Military Institute which he had established. His gallant conduct and wounds at Seven Pines and Cold Harbour have already been mentioned.

Although the later wound was very severe within sixty days he returned to his command and devoted himself diligently to the work of recruiting and disciplining his regiment. At South Mountain his management of his regiment was such as to elicit from General Garland words of the highest praise for himself and his regiment, a few minutes before Garland fell. After Sharpsburg he commanded Anderson's brigade till Colonel Bryan Grimes reported for duty. At Gettysburg, his last battle, Christie's conduct was especially gallant. Here he held his men in position under a most terrific fire for an hour till the whole regiment was killed, wounded or captured, except a Lieutenant and sixteen men. He was in the act of leading a charge against the stone fence when he fell, with his men and officers thick around him. Colonel Christie was buried at Winchster, another Colonel of Twenty-third being laid by his side a year later.  (From "Twenty-Third Regiment," Turner and Wall)

Captain Phillips
Company B, 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry 
Farnsworth's Brigade, Kilpatrick's Division, Pleasanton's Cavalry Corps

John Wilson Phillips was born in 1837 and enlisted with the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry in 1862, commanding Company B as its Captain.  The regiment had but little experience when the Gettysburg Campaign began and even missed action at Brandy Station.  On June 30 that all changed.  

The 18th PA received the brunt of Stuart's ambush at Hanover, PA as they were in the rear of the column.    After a long and vicious fight, the Pennsylvania regiment had lost 3 men killed, 24 wounded and 57 missing or captured.  Phillips survived this action, but there was still more to come.  Engaging little during the first two days at Gettysburg, the regiment was called to the left as a part of Elon Farnsworth's Brigade on July 3.  Late in the evening the regiment participated in the infamous attack against well positioned Confederate infantry of Hood's Division by division commander Judson Kilpatrick.  They charged down Bushman Hill and did not make it far.  Phillips recalled that "Shells were flying thick and fast over our heads as we went, cutting off an occasional limb from the trees, and a rattling fire of musketry was coming from the front.  Too high firing of the enemy alone saved  us from terrible loss.  Owing to the brush and thick woods, we did not discover until we had gone almost through the timber and could begin to see in the opening beyond, that the enemy were lying behind a stone fence that skirted the woods and separated them from the fields."  

Area into which Phillips and the 18th PA
charged from treeline in right-center
distance towards the stone wall
As Phillips and his men came closer to the stone wall occupied by Texans, they were hit with another sheet of flame and Phillips went down being hit by a spent ball in the side of the head.  He momentarily lost his senses, but was helped to the rear by men in his company.  During this futile charge across the open fields of the Bushman Farm the 18th Pennsylvania lost another 22 men, although the casualties should have been seemingly higher.  

Once General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia started its withdrawal over South Mountain, the Union Cavalry was again engaged almost daily with southern vanguards in the rear of the column.  On July 7, a severe action took place at Hagerstown, Maryland in which the 18th Pennsylvania was again heavily engaged with Confederate cavalry and infantry.  Phillips once again led a charge in the narrow streets of the town and somehow managed to survive unscathed.  It was a hotly contested fight in which the famed Captain Ulric Dahlgren led Company A in a charge to the town square and was severely wounded in the foot.  The regiment again lost heavily with 8 men killed, 21 wounded and 59 missing or captured.  Through the entire campaign in Pennsylvania the 18th lost 194 men and went from greenhorns to veterans. 

18th PA Cavalry Monument on  Bushman Hill at Gettysburg
The 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry had greatly distinguished itself during the Gettysburg Campaign and Captain Phillips was recommended for promotion.  It would not come until April of 1864 when he became the unit's Major.  In this new position he led the regiment through many engagements both light and deadly.  He was wounded again at Hanover Court House in May of 1864 and captured in November of that same year near Cedar Creek.  He was released in March and was once more wounded before the close of hostilities, also being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, at which rank he ended his military career.  Phillips published his diary after the war and transplanted to California where he died in 1896.

Historical Data Systems, Inc.
History of the Eighteenth Regiment of Cavalry, Pennsylvania Volunteers.  Potter, Rodenbough, Seal.  1910.    
Gettysburg's Forgotten Cavalry Actions.  pp 44-47. Eric J. Wittenberg. 2011

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