George Leo Frankenstein’s View of McPherson’s Ridge and Reynolds Woods

This 1866 George Leo Frankenstein watercolor encompasses the wooded area where Union Major General John F. Reynolds was killed. Based on Frankenstein???s annotations, the location seems to be in the proximity of the former Gettysburg Country Club, a…

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This 1866 George Leo Frankenstein watercolor encompasses the wooded area where Union Major General John F. Reynolds was killed. Based on Frankenstein’s annotations, the location seems to be in the proximity of the former Gettysburg Country Club, along Chambersburg Pike (U.S. Route 30) at the western foot of McPherson Ridge.  Frankenstein, standing on ground between the Union and Confederate lines on July 1st, 1863, was looking east, taking in an area against which A. P. Hill launched a series of Confederate assaults. While the growth of the trees and modern development make it impossible to obtain this view today, Frankenstein’s painting provides a remarkable view of a historic landscape that no other visual evidence captures. Today, if one were to stand where Frankenstein painted this scene, he/she would see the Gettysburg Country Club.  The country club, which opened in 1948 and was once a favorite place of Dwight Eisenhower, closed in 2008 because of unpaid back taxes and mortgages.  This painting reveals the possibilities of historic preservation, for while much of the former golf course seems likely to end up in the hands of the National Park Service, some of the acreage will remain in the hands of private developers.  Due to the modern incursions of man and unchecked natural growth, this piece of art offers a one-of-a-kind view of this portion of America’s most celebrated battlefield, ground over which Archer’s and Brockenbrough’s men marched to defeat, and over which Scales’ North Carolinians passed in the final attacks on the Union position on Seminary Ridge in the distance.
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David McConaughy’s Letter of Invitation to Robert E. Lee

In the summer of 1869, Gettysburg attorney David McConaughy, president of the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, invited former Confederate commander Robert E. Lee to participate in a reunion of officers in Gettysburg for the purpose of …

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In the summer of 1869, Gettysburg attorney David McConaughy, president of the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, invited former Confederate commander Robert E. Lee to participate in a reunion of officers in Gettysburg for the purpose of interpreting and memorializing the battlefield.   Inviting Lee was an obvious choice for McConaughy. The general, however, was clearly reluctant to attend the event or indulge in Civil War remembrance. In fact, the public attention he received often made him uncomfortable and he became more reticent in divulging his side of the story. At face value, his desire to not “keep open the sores of war” appears to be a magnanimous gesture meant to suppress the ill will engendered by remembrance of the War’s bitter sectional animosities. That Robert E. Lee politely refused to attend a public event celebrating his most famous defeat is understandable. Lee was a reserved individual who rarely betrayed his innermost feelings.  For example, Lee delegated the task of writing his famed and emotional farewell address to the Army of Northern Virginia to his aide, Colonel Charles Marshall. However, a look at Lee’s own words and actions in the years following his surrender at Appomattox offers further insight into why the Civil War remained a painful topic of discussion for Lee.

Of all the veterans McConaughy sought to bring to the battlefield the former commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee, guaranteed the greatest amount of publicity for McConaughy’s project. After his surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia in April 1865, Lee became the embodiment of both reconstruction and reconciliation for the beleaguered South. Lee’s public persona was that of a defeated yet dignified elder statesman whose grace offered dejected Southerners a model of behavior to emulate.    Continue reading “David McConaughy’s Letter of Invitation to Robert E. Lee”

North Carolina and Virginia Memorials at Gettysburg: A Study in Contrasts

Sixty-six years after the repulse of ???Pickett???s Charge,??? the failed July 3, 1863 assault that represented the high-water mark of the doomed Confederate States of America, a host of devotees congregated at Seminary Ridge south of Gettysburg, Pennsy…

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Sixty-six years after the repulse of “Pickett’s Charge,” the failed July 3, 1863 assault that represented the high-water mark of the doomed Confederate States of America, a host of devotees congregated at Seminary Ridge south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to pay homage to those North Carolinians who participated in the epic attack. Among those in the delegation was the then governor of North Carolina, O. Max Gardner, his immediate predecessor, Angus W. McLean, Mrs. E.L. McKee, the President of the North Carolina division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), which sponsored the memorial, and several other enthusiastic Southern partisans. Major-General B.F. Cheatham, the Quartermaster-General of the United States Army, and son of a Confederate major general, was proud to accept this monument on behalf of the United States War Department. During the ceremony, following the addresses of Mrs. McKee and past UDC president, Mrs. Marshall Williams, Cheatham expressed his gratitude toward the ladies of the South for making this monument a reality: “If there is any one person I honor more than a Confederate soldier it is his wife or sweetheart, whose courage, self-denial and moral support made his record possible. You are the daughters of those women, and today it is your persistent effort which finally brings about the erection of monuments and the marking of historic spots where your fathers fought, more than sixty years ago. May I offer you my congratulations upon the accomplishments of your desires here and upon the superlative good taste shown in the design selected.” Continue reading “North Carolina and Virginia Memorials at Gettysburg: A Study in Contrasts”

The Court-Martial Case of Private Francis Dill, Co. K, 9th Regt. P.R.C.

The Court-Martial Case of Private Francis Dill Co. “K” 9th Regt. P.R.C. The case against Pennsylvania Reservist Private Francis Dill seems pretty straightforward at first glance. The court, consisting of Pennsylvania Reserves colonels, convened on…

By Braxton Berkey

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The case against Pennsylvania Reservist Private Francis Dill seems pretty straightforward at first glance. The court, consisting of Pennsylvania Reserves colonels, convened on August 4, 1863 to hear the testimony of four of Pvt. Dill’s comrades. Captain James Ballentine and Sergeant James McVicker were called as witnesses for the prosecution, and Sergeant John Hunter and Pvt. Alexander Caldwell spoke on behalf of Dill. Reading the transcript of the case, two things become apparent. First, Pvt. Dill’s supposed offense, “misbehavior before the enemy” for absenting himself on July 2, 1863 and not reappearing until July 4, seems egregious. Second, his excuse for going AWOL (having sore feet for want of shoes) was not taken seriously by the court. Furthermore, Pvt. Dill’s witnesses, Sgt. Hunter and Pvt. Caldwell, did little to save Dill from a “guilty” verdict. When Dill pointedly asked Sgt. Hunter during examination “Have I not always done my duty as a soldier?” Hunter’s response was both feeble and noncommittal. In essence, Sgt. Hunter said he believed that Pvt. Dill had always done his duty but was not certain because he had transferred from another company in the 9th Regiment in April 1863. Clearly, Pvt. Dill did not confer with his witnesses or coordinate any effective defense on his behalf.  Continue reading “The Court-Martial Case of Private Francis Dill, Co. K, 9th Regt. P.R.C.”

Letter from Captain Robert B. Arms to His Son Robert, 25 October 1889

Arms??? letter to his son Robert contains several statements which highlight the long process of remembrance for many Civil War veterans. In the immediate aftermath of the War, many veterans on both sides desired nothing more than to be left alone w…

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Arms’ letter to his son Robert contains several statements which highlight the long process of remembrance for many Civil War veterans. In the immediate aftermath of the War, many veterans on both sides desired nothing more than to be left alone with their own thoughts. However, as decades passed, the further veterans were separated from the trauma of combat the more willing many became to share their experiences with relatives and the general public. The ebb and flow of Civil War remembrance among Union veterans is apparent in the membership levels of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Founded in 1866 as a fraternal organization, the GAR became the largest, most prominent group lobbying for benefits for aged Union veterans. During the 1870s, GAR membership dwindled and some chapters nearly went out if existence. The low numbers may be due to several factors:  raising families, starting careers and a general disinterest in reliving the agonies of war all played a role in the near collapse of the organization. Continue reading “Letter from Captain Robert B. Arms to His Son Robert, 25 October 1889”

The Children of the Battlefield: The Picture that Identified Sergeant Amos Humiston of the 154th New York Volunteers

For Sergeant Humiston, the photo of his three children was more than a comfort in his dying moments.

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For Sergeant Humiston, the photo of his three children was more than a comfort in his dying moments. Had he not taken it with him into battle and died grasping it, in all likelihood Humiston’s tombstone in the Soldiers National Cemetery would have read “Unknown,” leaving Mrs. Humiston and her children to speculate as to how their soldier died. Instead, the Humiston family was given closure and could move forward with their lives. The families of 979 soldiers buried in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery were not as fortunate. One example of this is the tragic deaths of three brothers in Co. “B,” 142nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Adam, Enos, and Samuel Cramer each received a mortal wound while their regiment defended a line of battle directly west of the Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary on July 1, 1863. When the 1st and 11th Corps were forced to retreat back through Gettysburg toward Cemetery Hill, these men, their commander, Colonel Robert Cummins, and many other Union casualties were left to the care of the jubilant Confederates. Adam and Enos died on the 1st, but Samuel, with his left arm and leg amputated, lingered for eight more days before succumbing to his wounds on July 9th. His brothers are buried in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in graves marked unknown, but when Samuel’s body was moved for burial, it was sent with a note detailing the death of his brothers and confirming his identity. (These men are distant relatives of the author of this post.) Continue reading “The Children of the Battlefield: The Picture that Identified Sergeant Amos Humiston of the 154th New York Volunteers”

George Leo Frankenstein’s View of East Cemetery Hill

This 1866 painting by George Frankenstein depicts a good portion of the so-called ???fish hook??? of the Union line during the Battle of Gettysburg. The scene that Frankenstein depicted is largely unchanged from what it looked like on the night of Jul…

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This 1866 painting by George Frankenstein depicts a good portion of the so-called “fish hook” of the Union line during the Battle of Gettysburg. The scene that Frankenstein depicted is largely unchanged from what it looked like on the night of July 2, 1863 when the hardest fighting occurred at this spot. The furrows on the bottom right are particularly eye-catching. They are most likely fortifications constructed by the Union soldiers defending East Cemetery Hill.  What do these fortifications suggest about the fighting on East Cemetery Hill? Why are they featured in a painting completed three years after they were last used?

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