A Wounded Alabamian at Gettysburg

The final drama of the Battle of Gettysburg was an ill-fated Union cavalry assault launched against the extreme right of the Confederate lines. It was likely during this fight on July 3rd that twenty-three year-old Lieutenant J.P. Breedlove, of th…

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The final drama of the Battle of Gettysburg was an ill-fated Union cavalry assault launched against the extreme right of the Confederate lines. It was likely during this fight on July 3rd that twenty-three year-old Lieutenant J.P. Breedlove, of the 4th Alabama, received his wound. A Minié ball entered the right side of his abdomen just above the inguinal ligament (approximately where the seated man above has an entry wound in his front) and traveled downward, severing part of Breedlove’s large intestine before exiting his body. As terrible as this wound was, Breedlove could count himself lucky. From experience, many surgeons knew wounds of the large intestine to be less fatal than wounds of the small intestine. One of the reasons for this higher rate of survival was the relative infrequency with which large intestine wounds became infected. Breedlove’s own experience seems to confirm this, for despite feces escaping from his wound, it healed steadily with only simple dressings for treatment. With this said, however, his wound had not healed over until well into November, some four months after Gettysburg, and was serious enough to necessitate him being left behind at the close of the battle.

With the devastating repulse of Pickett’s Charge, the Army of Northern Virginia was left in a precarious position. Though the Army of the Potomac had been badly worn down during three days of fighting, the specter of it mounting a counterattack remained. General Robert E. Lee had to get his army back across the Potomac River as quickly as possible in order to effectively disengage the enemy. To accomplish this, any man wounded too seriously to travel in a wagon train had to be left behind – Breedlove and some 5,000 other Confederates all told. Continue reading “A Wounded Alabamian at Gettysburg”

The Aftermath at Gettysburg: The Long Road Home

Case ??? Private William Furlong, Co. G, 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, aged 33 years, was wounded at the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1st, 1863, by a fragment of shell, which struck the external angular process of the frontal bone and c…

By Thomas Skaggs

Case — Private William Furlong, Co. G, 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, aged 33 years, was wounded at the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1st, 1863, by a fragment of shell, which struck the external angular process of the frontal bone and carried away the left superollinary ridge. The wound was about one and a half inches in width and four inches in length. He was insensible  only for a short time, and, considering the serious nature of the injury it us remarkable that he walked with his companions to a sand-bank, and actually dug therefrom, with his own hand, the fragments of the shell which inflicted the injury. He received little or no treatment until July 16th, when he was admitted to Cotton Factory Hospital, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Tepid water was injected into the wound and several spiculae of bone were removed from the substance of the brain. One piece, however, was not removed and still remains, as it was feared that hemorrhage would follow; besides, the conscious condition of the patient did not warrant further interference. The pulse throughout remained normal, and sleep natural. On August 10th, the patient was cheerful, and healthy granulations had commenced. There was considerable tumefacation of the left eye, and inability to move eyelids. On forcibly opening them the pupil was found dilated; the intellect was unimpaired. On August 18th, the pulsations of the brain were still manifest, although granulations were nicely closing the wound. During August and September, scales and spiculae of bone which were forced to the surface by the granulations, were removed. He was discharged on September 14th, 1863. He is not a pensioner. The case is reported by Acting Assistant Surgeon Lewis Post.

The casualty lists from the battle of Gettysburg were unprecedented to that point in American history. Thousands of men died in a small town in south central Pennsylvania.The massive loss of life on July 1st through the 3rd can be attributed to many factors – poor tactics and new military technologies have often been put forth as catalysts for the massive bloodshed during those three hot days in 1863. While statistics reflect the great loss of life, individual stories like that of Private William Furlong of the 153rd Pennsylvania put a human face on the catastrophe. For many, Gettysburg was just a name on a list of many battles. For the civilians who lived in Gettysburg, their town had been changed into a massive field hospital catering to thousands of injured soldiers. For Private Furlong, Gettysburg was a moment that forever altered his life. Continue reading “The Aftermath at Gettysburg: The Long Road Home”

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”

Rufus Weaver and Gettysburg’s Confederate Dead

Dead in the immediate vicinity of Culp???s Hill, though not in danger of the farmer???s plow, had been buried in shallow, mass graves. Culp???s Hill had been the site of fierce fighting on July 2nd and 3rd as Confederate troops sought to dislodge the Ar…

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Dead in the immediate vicinity of Culp’s Hill, though not in danger of the farmer’s plow, had been buried in shallow, mass graves.  Culp’s Hill had been the site of fierce fighting on July 2nd and 3rd as Confederate troops sought to dislodge the Army of the Potomac’s right flank.  The above photograph is illustrative of the manner in which Confederate dead were interred by the Union burial parties beginning on July 4th.  On July 5th, civilian Clifton Johnson visited the hill and bore witness to the economized strategies of these men.  At that point, burial parties were hurrying to deal with bodies that had been lying out for up to three days:

I went over to Culp’s Hill Sunday.  They were burying the dead there in long narrow ditches about two feet deep.  They would lay in a man at the end of the trench and put in the next man with the upper half of his body on the first man’s legs and so on.  They got them in as thick as they could and only covered them enough to prevent their breeding disease.

J. Howard Wert was more impressed with the burial methods at Culp’s Hill, but was nonetheless descriptive of how Confederate dead were piled in trenches. Continue reading “Rufus Weaver and Gettysburg’s Confederate Dead”

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.”

Exploring the Bond between Officers and their Men and in the Civil War

The tradition of militaries honoring their officers has a long and rich history, from antiquity when the Emperor of Rome bestowed the corona muralis upon the first soldier to plant his standard upon the enemy battlements to the more recent Victori…

By Nathan Hill

The tradition of militaries honoring their officers has a long and rich history, from antiquity when the Emperor of Rome bestowed the corona muralis upon the first soldier to plant his standard upon the enemy battlements to the more recent Victoria Cross of the British Army and the Medal of Honor of the American military for gallantry in service. Captain Robert B. Arms of the 16th Vermont Regiment, 2nd Vermont Brigade, was one of the thousands of soldiers during the American Civil War who received decoration from their government; in his case these decorations included his rank insignia and a Veteran Medal.

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Continue reading “Exploring the Bond between Officers and their Men and in the Civil War”

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”

Patriotism or Greed? More to the Story?

“Undoubtedly many of the citizens of Gettysburgh and vicinity are patriotic and generous, but they had a queer manner of showing it.”

By Sean Parke

July-24_crounse_articleThis blog post is a continuation of a topic first introduced in my earlier post entitled “Patriotism or Greed? Damage Claims after the Battle of Gettysburg.”

The adjacent artifact is a newspaper article by Lorenzo L. Crounse , a reporter for The New York Times. The  first post in this series cited an article that he wrote on July 7 and (published on the 9th) about the lack of patriotism among the citizens of Gettysburg (Click here to view Crounse’s July 7 article). The above article was written on July 21 and published on the 24th. This report is in response to a piece in the Gettysburg Star and Sentinel which defended the reputation of Gettysburg civilians and was signed by over twenty clerics and businessmen.

Continue reading “Patriotism or Greed? More to the Story?”

Patriotism or Greed? Damage Claims after the Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg brought the reality of war to northern civilians. Typically when people discuss the experiences of the citizens of Gettysburg they include tales of bravery, such as the well-known hero John Burns…

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The Battle of Gettysburg brought the reality of war to northern civilians. Typically when people discuss the experiences of the citizens of Gettysburg they include tales of bravery, such as the well-known hero John Burns, or the tragic Virginia “Jennie” Wade.  The stories rarely include themes of greed, selfishness, or unpatriotic behavior. However, this was a claim made against the citizens of Gettysburg in 1863. Lorenzo L. Crounse , a reporter for The New York Times wrote on July 5 that, “The actions of the people of Gettysburg are so sordidly mean and unpatriotic as to engender the belief that they were indifferent as to which party was whipped. . .. they have only manifested indecent haste to present their bills to the military authorities for payment of loses inflicted by both armies . . . .” This post will explore this accusation through an examination of a damage claim submitted by a Gettysburg resident.

Continue reading “Patriotism or Greed? Damage Claims after the Battle of Gettysburg”