Living to Remember: Harry W. Lewis’s Enduring Civil War

Part 1 of 3: Hell Broke Loose”: Surviving 1862 and Capture at Gettysburg

By Danielle Russell ’25

After being captured on July 3, 1863, during the Battle of Fairfield, Harry W. Lewis of the 6th U.S. Cavalry was sent to Belle Isle Prison in Richmond, Virginia. Lewis survived the horrors of Belle Isle, but the memories of his experiences plagued his later years as he struggled to comprehend all he had endured. In part 1 of 3 in this mini-series, Danielle Russell ’25 describes how, as a member of the 6th U.S. Cavalry, Harry W. Lewis survived the Peninsula Campaign and rescued his younger brother after Fredericksburg, but nothing could prepare him for the events that led to his capture at Gettysburg. Danielle is the 4th-great niece of Harry Lewis.

July 3, 1863, represented a day that twenty-two-year-old Harry Whitlock Lewis would remember for the rest of his life. Decades after the Battle of Gettysburg, he began to revisit the pivotal moment that became inextricably intertwined with his memories of his service with the 6th United States Cavalry.

Born on August 30, 1840, in Harborcreek, Pennsylvania, Harry was the seventh of ten children born to Marcus Lewis and Sarah Allen. His father owned a prosperous farm and steam-powered sawmill, which provided a comfortable existence for Harry and his siblings. Having experienced the deaths of his mother, both grandfathers, an uncle, and an older brother by age fourteen, Harry was no stranger to death. Although he did not know it then, further tragedies awaited him.

Horatio Farnham Lewis, Harry’s younger brother, in early 1863 (Image from author’s collection).

Marcus Lewis Jr., Harry’s younger brother, date unknown (Image from author’s collection).

Harry’s cousin, William Harrison Lewis, in the uniform of John McLane’s three-month regiment (Image from

Many years later, Harry recalled harvesting apples in the orchard at his family’s Fairview farm. He fondly remembered the “monster apples” he sampled with one of his brothers, which required the young boys “to use both of our little hands to hold the apple,” much to the amusement of onlookers. Although he didn’t specifically mention which brother that memory related to, it is possible that it was his brother Horatio, or his brother Marcus, both of whom died fighting for the Union. Harry’s memories were all he had left of his brothers in the post-war years, so it is possible that his particularly prominent remembrance of that childhood incident in the orchard was tied to one of his younger brothers.

Raised in a staunchly Whig and later Republican home, with a younger brother having campaigned for Lincoln during the 1860 presidential election, Harry enlisted in Company K of John McLane’s three-month Erie regiment on April 26, 1861. As Harry recalled years later, the regiment wore “light orange shirts, with blue flannel pants and jackets, trimmed with orange braid” and what he described as “regular army caps.” At the expiration of three months, Harry was discharged from the regiment on July 26, 1861. Waiting a mere three days, on July 29, he enlisted in Company G of the 6th United States Cavalry. At the time of his enlistment, he was twenty-one years old, with light hair, grey eyes, and a fair complexion. He stood just five feet and one-half inches tall.

Harry suffered two injuries in his first year with the 6th, both while the regiment was stationed in the defenses around Washington D.C. According to testimony given by Joseph Kaltenbacher, another member of the 6th, in January 1862, he was riding his horse when it slipped on ice. As he fell to the ground, he was hit by another horse, and injured his right arm. Not long afterwards, he reinjured the same shoulder after trying to prevent Corporal Alanson Alden’s horse from bolting, having been struck by his own horse in the confusion. These injuries rendered him “lame for a long time,” according to Kaltenbacher, but he recovered and continued his service with the 6th. The wound continued to plague him in his later years and became a central factor in his pension application.

Although his injuries and their lasting effects marked significant events in the first year of his service, two other events stood out more prominently in his memory from that time. Between September 1861 and March 1862, Harry and the 6th were stationed outside Washington. Much to Harry’s delight President Lincoln frequently reviewed the regiment, once, as Harry noted “from the front porch of the White House.” While he also recalled seeing Lincoln in February 1863 and August 1864, Harry remembered that “Lincoln was a good horseman and usually wore a tall silk hat.” Harry’s frequent sightings of the President were certainly personally meaningful given that his younger brother, Horatio Lewis, helped campaign for Lincoln in the 1860 election.

The Battle of Fredericksburg constituted a second memory that lingered in Harry’s mind. In what must have been a horrifying experience, on December 13, Harry and the 6th were in a position that enabled them to watch an Erie regiment, the 145th Pennsylvania Infantry, participate in the assault on Marye’s Heights. As he watched the chaos unfold, Harry could not have known that his cousin, eighteen-year-old Franklin Gifford Lewis, of Company D, as killed in the assault, and his younger brother, seventeen-year-old Horatio Farnham Lewis, also of Company D, was wounded. The next day, John Irvin Gregg, also of the 6th, informed Harry that he had learned from the 145th’s injured colonel, Hiram Loomis Brown, that Horatio was lying wounded in a house on Caroline Street.

John Irvin Gregg, who informed Harry of Horatio’s injury at Fredericksburg (Image from

After he rushed to his younger brother’s aid, Harry carried him across the street to a more spacious house and dressed his brother’s wounds before returning to his regiment. Although he could not have known at the time, that day, December 14, 1862, marked the last time the brothers saw each other. Seven months later, Lieutenant Horatio Lewis died of wounds received at the Battle of Gettysburg, while Harry’s Confederate captors forced him to march south towards Richmond. Harry likely did not learn his beloved brother’s fate until his parole in early 1864. Nonetheless, he never forgot his brother and, in his later years, made frequent visits to the 145th’s monument at Gettysburg, near the site of his brother’s mortal wounding, to contemplate his brother’s legacy.

The Goolrick-Caldwell House in Fredericksburg, where Harry treated his younger brother Horatio’s injuries (Image by author).

Although Fredericksburg loomed in his later memory, the early actions of the Gettysburg Campaign also impressed themselves upon Harry’s mind. Across several articles, Harry relayed his memories of the June 9, 1863, Battle of Brandy Station. In a September 30, 1907, article he insisted that, even forty-four years later, he could still “see in my mind’s eye those glistening bayonets as we repeatedly charged.” After his squadron commander, Lieutenant Ward, was killed, Harry gained command, and struggled to lead his men off the field, while “one by one the men and horses were picked off.” The nightmarish scene’s impression on Harry’s mind makes sense, especially considering that out of forty-eight men who crossed the river, only nineteen recrossed that evening. Of the twenty-nine casualties, only two men “were ever heard of or reported for duty again.” Given the 6th’s horrific casualties at Gettysburg, Harry’s remembrance of Brandy Station is curious. Perhaps it stemmed from the near sixty-percent casualties, or perhaps it was due to the fact that he was responsible for leading his men back across the river. Even in his position as commander, Harry was unable to save most of his men from the harsh fates that awaited them.

Despite his exciting personal encounters with Lincoln and his extensive campaigning through the war, the dozens of articles about his military service focused primarily on the Gettysburg Campaign and the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaigns. Of the Peninsula Campaign, Harry simply wrote “Sherman said, ‘War is hell.’ This was hell broke loose.”

Harry W. Lewis, Feb. 1863 (Image from Hagen History Center, Erie, PA).

Gettysburg and Fairfield

Leading up to Gettysburg, Harry and the 6th “could see the dust clouds hovering over Lee’s army” near the Blue Ridge mountains. On June 21, the 6th passed through Aldie Gap, where their brigade was ambushed in an attack that saw the brigade (what Harry termed) “cut all to pieces” and resulted in more than 125 casualties. Luckily, Harry and the 6th were able to “save the balance of the rifles from being captured.” After the Confederates managed to turn the Army of the Potomac’s left flank near Upperville, Harry, as Sergeant, was instructed to lead a squadron between two regiments that were under the command of the soon-to-be Major General George Armstrong Custer. After General Gregg asked General Pleasanton to “bring up the Sixth cavalry band,” Harry and his squadron “rushed those Johnny Rebs back into and through the woods” to the tune of “The Irish Washerwoman.” The jig’s lively tune certainly seems an odd choice, although the selection of the traditionally Irish song is likely what imprinted the moment in Harry’s memory. The nearly overwhelming chaos of battle clearly left a variety of curious, if not conflicting impressions upon front-line soldiers such as Harry. After encountering some Union troops fleeing for the rear, Harry and the rest of the 6th urged the men to drive back the enemy, which they did. This time, Harry noticed the band played “Bonaparte’s Farewell.”

In the following days, Harry led another squadron of twenty men into Hagerstown, roughly twenty miles from their camp. After discovering the trail left by the Confederates, Harry and his squadron rode into Hagerstown around dusk. Although they had initially discovered numerous “stragglers,” as Harry termed them, once the Confederates noticed Harry and his men, “they vamoused the town in a hurry.”

In his articles, Harry reported little else about the 6th’s actions for July 1st or 2nd, but chose to resume his narrative with July 3rd, when General Merritt tasked the regiment with traveling to nearby Fairfield, where the “reb wagon train” was “loading up grain and flour at a grist mill.” After leaving two companies with General Pleasonton’s headquarters, Harry and the remainder of the 6th marched for three hours, until they had traveled sixteen miles to Fairfield. Noticing that the men were “tired, dusty, and thirsty” in the humid July heat, Harry recalled that the female inhabitants of Fairfield offered them “cups and buckets of water,” which they eagerly accepted while hurrying through town to the grist mill.

Arriving at a crossroads near the grist mill, Harry and the 6th discovered the Sixth and Eleventh Virginia Infantry regiments. With a stone wall on one end of the soon-to-be battlefield and a newly installed rail fence on the other, the 6th Cavalry dismounted and began firing. Once the Eleventh Virginia tore down the fence “and swarmed on our flank,” Harry realized that their “fate was sealed.” After a short battle of roughly half an hour, Harry and over 150 men of the 6th were captured. Along with a group of other men from the 6th, Harry was forced to give up his revolver to his captors. Much to his horror, as he did so, “three men at my right were shot with their own revolvers.” Instead of being afforded the fair treatment that surrendering soldiers on both sides expected from their foe, the Confederates’ cold-blooded murder of Harry’s comrades stood in stark contrast with the dignified surrender they anticipated. Having just relinquished his own weapon, Harry was even more horrified when the Confederate pointed the revolver back at him. Before his captor had a chance to pull the trigger, a Confederate officer rode up and, after recognizing Harry, “sprang from his horse,” asking, “Hello, Lewis, how are you?” The man was Sergeant Wesley Atwood Hoffman, of the 7th Virginia Cavalry, who had previously been captured by Harry just a few months prior, in October 1862, near Harper’s Ferry. Relieved, Harry remembered him, replying “All right old, boy.” After exchanging pleasantries and discussing the status of two other men Hoffman knew from his time a prisoner-of-war when captured by the 6th, Harry and the roughly 150 other prisoners were led to the Gettysburg-Hagerstown pike, where they were “corralled in a field” with other prisoners. One of the prisoners yelled to Harry’s group, inquiring “What troops are those?” Harry responded, to which the man replied “Is Sergeant Harry Lewis there?” Harry walked over to the man, John Starr, of Company B, of the 145th Pennsylvania Infantry. Starr informed Harry that his younger brother, Horatio, a Lieutenant in Company D, 145th Pennsylvania, “had been badly wounded, his left leg broken (bone shattered) near the body.” Although Starr and other comrades attempted to rescue Horatio, they were overwhelmed by the advancing Confederates, and captured before the young lieutenant could be taken to the rear. In his newspaper article that recounted the event, Harry described the way that Starr plainly told him his eighteen-year-old brother “would probably bleed to death.” Harry was no stranger to death, of both family members and comrades, but he was almost certainly stricken by this news. Remembering Horatio’s recovery after a wound received at the Battle of Fredericksburg just a few months prior, it is possible Harry may have held out hope that his brother was capable of recovery; however, the tone of Starr’s announcement would likely haunt him for weeks. Although Harry likely never knew it until his release months later, Lieutenant Horatio Lewis died at the Second Corps hospital on the Jacob Schwarz Farm on July 20, 1863, at the age of eighteen. The uncertainty surrounding his beloved younger brother surely plagued Harry during the duration of his captivity. Tragically, none of Harry’s wartime letters survive, so it is not known for sure whether he attempted to write home and inquire as to Horatio’s predicament, but he likely did.

Later that evening, Sergeant Hoffman once again approached Harry, this time bringing “a piece of hoecake and a chunk of bacon.” In parting, Harry remembered Hoffman said, “Good-bye, Sergeant Lewis, we have to move on up the road.” Harry lamented their parting, noting in his October 5, 1907, article that he “never met the fine fellow” again. Although their loyalties differed, Harry and Sergeant Hoffman shared the bond of all soldiers as well as a mutual code of honor that often imbued the martial interactions of men in the 19th-century. Additionally, the two were connected through their alternating experiences of captor and prisoner of war. The respect they accorded each other sprang from the just treatment they received while serving time as each other’s prisoner.

The Confederate captors provided the Federal prisoners with flour and kettles from a nearby farmhouse, but Harry felt unwilling to eat what he termed “paste,” at least, not “without any salt or milk.” However, some of his fellow prisoners were hungry enough to attempt to make a meal from the scant rations. Shortly afterward, it began to rain, until it seemed to Harry that “the whole country was afloat.”

Positioned between two brigades of General Longstreet’s First Corps, the prisoners began their southward march on July 5, two days after their capture. Much to Harry’s great interest, his position afforded him numerous opportunities to see the famous General Longstreet that day – an experience he likely never expected to have during the war.

General James Longstreet (Image from Library of Congress).

Harry noted that multiple prisoners attempted to escape, but each attempt failed, and the men “were driven back at the point of a bayonet.” The repeated escapes convinced the Confederates it was necessary to surround the prisoners with two columns of guards, one on either side. While Harry does not explicitly state whether he joined his comrades in attempting to escape, when referring to the escape attempts, he uses the term “us,” suggesting it was possible. His mind likely still on his severely wounded brother and comrades from whom each step southward he was becoming more distanced, Harry looked to his fellow prisoners-in-arms for comfort and strength to complete the long march to Richmond.

L’Italia Unità! L’America Unità![1]: Italians and the American Civil War

By Lauren Letizia ’23

Italian immigrants and their culture have greatly impacted the historic and modern landscape of the United States. From the creation of Columbus Day to The Godfather film franchise, Italians and Italian-Americans have been prominent pieces of the melting pot that is the American experience. Before their integration in the late 20th century, Italians were spurned by the largely English-Protestant Americans of the 18th and 19th centuries. Because most Italians were Catholic and had darker skin, they were not considered white and, like Irish immigrants, were prohibited from certain jobs because of their religion. Despite these social and economic obstacles of the 18th and 19th centuries, Italians and other immigrants were eager to support their adopted country. During the American Civil War, Italians made significant contributions to the Union war effort that have been largely overlooked in military and social histories.

When Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard officially instigated the war with his bombardment of the Federal Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, thousands of Northern soldiers flocked to answer President Lincoln’s call for 75,000 military volunteers, swelling the force far beyond that number. Surprisingly, hundreds of officers and soldiers from the Italian Army traveled to the American legation in Turin to volunteer for the Union Army. Because of Italy’s parallel struggle for unification and liberty, Italian nationals strongly identified with the United States’ war aims. Additionally, many Italians were opposed to slavery based on their Catholic faith.  Interestingly, several hundred Italians did ultimately volunteer for the Confederacy, instead choosing to identify with its claim of “States’ rights,” which the individual kingdoms in Italy proclaimed prior to unification.

In Italy, a notice published by the American delegation via the Italian government stated that the Americans did not need Italian volunteers. When word reached United States Secretary of War, William Seward about the Italians’ enthusiasm, he ordered the American foreign minister to Italy, George P. Marsh, to investigate acquiring Italian volunteers, on August 19, 1861.

Since many of the Italians who wished to join the Union Army were experienced soldiers or officers in the Italian Army, they asked to be officers in America. However, Union officials balked because they did not believe the Italians spoke English well enough to command American soldiers. Moreover, financial obstacles blocked more extensive efforts to recruit Italians for the Northern cause. By the late summer and early fall of 1861, the United States’ economy began to feel the strain of the widening conflict and could not pay the Italians’ wages or travel expenses. Therefore, few enlisted Italian soldiers could afford to emigrate to the United States. Yet, financial problems did not stop the federal government from trying to recruit a select few Italians with particular military prowess.

Most notably, in 1861, President Lincoln offered the famous Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi a commission as a major general in the Union Army. In August, Seward claimed he had received a letter from Garibaldi stating his intention to accept Lincoln’s commission. Though his claims never came to fruition, as Italy continued to reel from its own civil war and Garibaldi was wracked by political controversy, he sent many of his officers to the United States. They were assigned to the command of Major General John Fremont, who served as the head of the Department of the West until 1862.

General Giuseppe Garibaldi (1860) Source; J. Paul Getty Museum (object no. 84.XM.637.9); Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Though Garibaldi did not come to America during the Civil War proper, his galvanizing spirit and revolutionary military campaigns abroad inspired Italian immigrants and Italian-American soldiers to take up arms in America’s Civil War. In May of 1861, the 39th New York Infantry nicknamed the Garibaldi Guard, was formed in New York City. Its soldiers wore brilliant red shirts and bersaglieri plume on their caps. Standard bearers carried the Italian flag alongside the American flag when they marched. Of the regiment’s 350 immigrant troops representing a kaleidoscope of European countries, 50 were Italians, and many served with great distinction. For example, during the Battle of Cross Keys on June 29, 1862, the 39th’s active commander, Captain Odoardo (Edward) Venuti, was wounded in action while leading his men. A little over a year later, Captain Venuti was killed during the Battle of Gettysburg.  His name is etched on the New York State Monument to the Garibaldi Guard on Cemetery Ridge. According to its regimental history, the 39th NY lost “119 by death from wounds, and 159 by death from accident, imprisonment or disease, of whom 94 died in prison.”[2]

Garibaldi Guard Monument on the Gettysburg Battlefield Source; Gettysburg Stone Sentinels, “Union Monuments,”

James Clay Rice: 39th New York Volunteers Source; New York State Museum and Veterans Research Center, “39th New York Infantry Regiment,”

Though Garibaldi was unable to support the United States’ war effort physically, he and many other Italians supported the Union’s ideological cause, particularly emancipation and the abolition of slavery. On August 6, 1863, over a year after Lincoln published the Emancipation Proclamation, General Garibaldi sent Lincoln a short but heartfelt letter stating his support for the decision:

“In the midst of your titanic struggle, permit me, as another among the free children of Columbus, to send you a word of greeting and admiration for the great work you have begun. Posterity will call you the great emancipator, a more enviable title than any crown could be, and greater than any merely mundane treasure. You are a true heir of the teaching given us by Christ and by John Brown. If an entire race of human beings, subjugated into slavery by human egoism, has been restored to human dignity, to civilization and human love, this is by your doing and at the price of the most noble lives in America.

It is America, the same country which taught liberty to our forefathers, which now opens another solemn epoch of human progress. And while your tremendous courage astonishes the world, we are sadly reminded how this old Europe, which also can boast a great cause of liberty to fight for, has not found the mind or heart to equal you.[3]

In 1860, roughly 13 percent of the American population was foreign-born. Because these immigrants mainly settled in Northern industrial states, one in every four Union soldiers was an immigrant. Recent estimates claim that 534,000 men out of the 2 million United States soldiers were foreign-born. Moreover, approximately 18 percent of soldiers had at least one immigrant parent. Immigrants or immigrant-born soldiers made up 53 percent of the United States Army.[4] Between 5,000 and 10,000 Italians or Americans of Italian descent served in the American Civil War, mainly for the United States. They contributed significantly to vital battles such as the Second Battle of Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Harper’s Ferry. Major General Edward Ferrero, the highest-ranking Union officer of Italian heritage, led the 51st New York Infantry in almost all these significant battles except Gettysburg and Harper’s Ferry. Their war stories and experiences represent the collective effort immigrants from many nations put forth to fight for their new home’s ideals, to prove themselves as “true” Americans, and to affirm for their native homelands and the world that genuinely America was the last best hope for democracy on earth. As a country of immigrants, American Civil War history should include the victories and sacrifices of immigrant soldiers. Only by having their stories told will we gain a fuller picture of the vast impacts and legacies of the bloodiest war in our history.

Presidential Review of the Garibaldi Guard Source; Killed at Gettysburg,


American Battlefield Trust. “Giuseppe Garibaldi to President Lincoln.” Civil War Primary Source.

Belfiglio, Valentino J. “Italians and the American Civil War.” Italian Americana 4, no. 2 (1978): 163–75.

New York State Museum and Veterans Research Center. “39th New York Infantry Regiment.”

[1] Translation: Italy United! American United; Italians chanted the former during General Garibaldi’s campaigns for unification in southern Italy. Many Italian soldiers transferred their enthusiasm for a united Italy to the fight for union during the American Civil War.

[2] New York State Museum and Veterans Research Center, “39th New York Infantry Regiment,”

[3] American Battlefield Trust, “Giuseppe Garibaldi to President Lincoln,” Civil War Primary Source,

[4] Don H. Doyle, “The Civil War Was Won By Immigrant Soldiers,” Time, December 23, 2019.

The Forging of Braves: The Cherokee and the American Civil War

Lauren Letizia ’23

The American Civil War is one of the most widely studied areas of the United States’ history. Its battlefields are popular tourist sites, and its soldiers and generals are depicted in textbooks, paintings, and memorials across the country. The basic facts of America’s bloodiest conflict are well-documented: The Civil War between the Northern Union and the Southern Confederacy was a battle over the future of the mass enslavement of human beings and the fate of American democracy. After four gruesome years, three-quarters of a million soldiers and 50,000 civilians died, and 4 million African Americans were freed from slavery.

However, another hostile conflict exploded during the Civil War. Fueled by resentments and political angst from 20 years prior, the Cherokee Nation exacted revenge against the United States and the Southern states (respectively) that had destroyed their communities by participating in many battles on behalf of both the Confederacy and the Union.Not long before the war, the federal government had removed the Cherokee from their southern homes with the help of the soon-to-be Confederate state officials; by alternately taking up sides with each, the Cherokee were able to take out their anger against those whom they considered the prime oppressor of natives.  As a result of that participation, however, the Cherokee Nation emerged as the second-most devastated citizenry, behind the Southern Confederacy. Already struggling from their forced removal from the southern Appalachians to Oklahoma in 1838 and 1839 during the Trail of Tears (1830-1850), the Cherokee people continued to die from diseases, hunger, exposure, and loss of land during the Civil War. Approximately one-third of the Cherokee population died between 1861 and 1865.[1]

The reasons for which the Cherokee and other Native Americans participated in the Civil War were quite different from those of white and black soldiers. Many nations chose sides or remained neutral to maintain the little land and property the government had given them. The Cherokees were the most populous of the so-called Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee, Chickasaw, and Seminole). They were also considered the most assimilated of the tribes, commonly dressing in “white” clothing, using European farming techniques, and creating the only written Native language and newspaper.[2] Moreover, wealthy Cherokees often owned enslaved people and operated plantations. Of the 100,000 residents in western Indian Territory, 14 percent were enslaved Black Americans.[3] Because of the Cherokees’ heavy reliance on slavery, the Confederacy figured they could count on Cherokee support during the war. Additionally, some Native American nations cast their allegiance with the South because they deeply distrusted the United States federal government. This distrust, coupled with the similarities in their slaveholding political economy, resulted in the majority of the Cherokee Nation siding with the Confederacy. On 28 October 1861, a published declaration explained the Cherokee-Confederate alliance:

The Cherokee people had its origin in the South; its institutions are similar to those of the Southern States, and their interests identical with theirs. Long since it accepted the protection of the United States of America, contracted with them treaties of alliance and friendship, and allowed themselves to be to a great extent governed by their laws……

In now carrying this resolution into effect and consummating a treaty of alliance and friendship with the Confederate States of America the Cherokee people declares that it has been faithful and loyal to is engagements with the United States until, by placing its safety and even its national existence in imminent peril, those States have released them from those engagements.

Menaced by a great danger, they exercise the inalienable right of self-defense, and declare themselves a free people, independent of the Northern States of America, and at war with them by their own act. Obeying the dictates of prudence and providing for the general safety and welfare, confident of the rectitude of their intentions and true to the obligations of duty and honor, they accept the issue thus forced upon them, unite their fortunes now and forever with those of the Confederate States, and take up arms for the common cause, and with entire confidence in the justice of that cause and with a firm reliance upon Divine Providence, will resolutely abide the consequences.[4]

After the war began and an alliance was declared, previous internal wounds within the Cherokee Nation began to reopen between old rivals. Before the ethnic cleansing of the Five Tribes during the Trail of Tears, Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross had refused to sign over his nation’s land. He had relocated to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) only under President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. Though many Cherokees saw Ross’s stance as solid and justified, an opposition group had emerged under the leadership of brothers Stand Watie and John Ridge. Calling themselves the Treaty Party, Watie recruited only 2 percent of the population to support signing over Cherokee land and relocating out west.[5] Watie and the Treaty Party signed the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, selling the nation’s territory to the federal government for $5 million. Ross and his 16,000 supporters were essentially forced to make this decision and ultimately traversed the country with the other Cherokees on the Trail of Tears.[6]

Once the Cherokees had settled into their new territory in Oklahoma, violence ensued between the two rival groups. On June 22, 1839, John Ridge, his uncle, and his cousin were murdered, most likely by Ross supporters. In response, those who supported Ridge allegedly raised funds to hire killers to murder Ross.[7] This plan was never enacted but solidified a blood feud between Watie and Ross. Moreover, the rivalry became subjected to racial tension between the Cherokees of “mixed-blood” and “full-blood.” Because Watie and members of the Treaty Party were mostly mixed-raced, Ross and his supporters questioned their loyalty to the nation and indigenous interests.[8] A fierce political fight for tribal control persisted until 1860, but Ross and the “full-blood” Cherokees maintained the nation’s leadership. An uneasy peace between Ross and Watie took hold.

Cherokee Chief John Ross (1858)
Encyclopedia Britannica,

When the Confederate government was formed in February 1861, the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, sought support from indigenous communities. Southern strategists knew protecting the Mississippi River and its surrounding fertile soil was vital to the war effort. Davis wanted to use Indian Territory and the west as a breadbasket and launching pad for military expeditions for Southern expansion. In late 1861, the Confederates made overtures to Chief Ross and the Cherokee Nation. Davis appointed the former Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Albert Pike of Arkansas, as the negotiator and Southern messenger. He was well received by the Five Tribes and found them enthusiastic about a new country.[9] Within the Cherokee Nation, Stand Watie emerged as an ardent supporter of the Confederacy. An owner of approximately 100 enslaved people, he was motivated by many of the same political and economic interests as white Southerners. On July 12, 1861, he was granted a colonel’s commission in the Confederate Army and raised 300 indigenous soldiers into the 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles.

CSA Colonel Stand Watie
“The Cherokee Registry,”

However, the leadership of the Cherokee Nation was much less enthused by the impending conflict. Principal Chief Ross vocally promoted neutrality. He stated, “We [the Cherokee Nation] do not wish our homes to become a battleground between the states and our soil to be rendered desolate and miserable by the horrors of civil war.”[10] Ross believed that maintaining the federal treaties with the United States would allow the Cherokees autonomy over their land and community. The Northern government, unfortunately, chose a lackluster approach to secure the alliance or neutrality of the Cherokees and the rest of the Five Tribes. The Lincoln administration and Congress gave Ross little financial or political incentive, weakening Cherokee and broader native acceptance of neutrality. As a result, Chief Ross dramatically shifted his view of the war. After calling a conference of tribal leaders, Ross urged his people to accept an allegiance with the South.[11] A treaty was signed on October 7, 1861. Ross’s decision has been highly criticized by modern historians. However, his nation had little to no support from the United States government and was surrounded by tribal nations already aligned with the Confederacy. Additionally, Ross received pressure from the rowdy minority of Stand Watie.

Though the Cherokee Nation was finally united in its alliance with the Confederacy, internal tensions continued to mount over the question of abolition. Stand Watie was a slaveholder, and many other Cherokee elite also owned or profited from slavery, including Chief Ross. On the other side, some Cherokee opposed slavery, such as the members of the traditionalist Keetoowah Society. This political animosity further deepened the existing schism between Watie’s mixed-bloods and Ross’s full-bloods, as Watie was much more vocal about preserving the “peculiar institution.” Consequently, Cherokee men served on both sides of the American Civil War.

The war was particularly fierce in Indian Territory. For three years, the Union and the Confederacy bludgeoned each other for control of the land and the allegiance of the tribes who occupied them; neither side could obtain absolute dominance in the region. The combat intensified as the Confederates utilized the Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Choctaws in their pursuit of Arkansas. Initially, Native Americans were wary of leaving their land because they wished to use their new military status to protect their communities at home. In response, the Confederates tried to convince them to leave Indian Territory for Arkansas through lucrative economic offers, such as ensuring that the Native American soldiers promptly received their owed soldier’s pay.[12]

Flag of the Colonel Watie’s Mounted Rifles
“Cherokee Braves Flag,” Civil War Virtual Museum,

Under the command of Confederate negotiator, Albert Pike, two Cherokee mounted rifle units, a Choctaw-Chickasaw regiment, and a Muscogee regiment merged together to become what is known as Pike’s Indian Brigade, comprised of 2,000-3,000 indigenous soldiers. The most infamous engagement for the Cherokee was the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 7 and 8, 1862. Of the 2,500 Confederate troops involved in the Arkansas clash, almost 900 were Cherokee. The Cherokees, joined by some Texans, surprised Iowan cavalry regiments stationed on a small farm, severely wounding their lieutenant and capturing three Union guns. Notoriously, the Cherokees allegedly engaged in the scalping of dead and wounded Iowan soldiers to celebrate their small victory. However, while the Confederates celebrated, more Union troops arrived at Pea Ridge and ultimately pushed the Confederates into a retreat.

The Cherokees’ mutilations were said to have taken place in the woods, but Northern newspapers and military leaders decried the breach of conduct and pilloried Pike. He resigned from his commission in July of 1862. After the war, Pike was indicted in federal court for inciting war atrocities.[13] In the minds of Union troops, retaliation for these atrocities was the only solution. Captain Oliver Hazard Perry Scott of the 3rd Iowa Cavalry fumed, “There was two of them infernal Indians taken prisoner, and we have seen one that was killed. I wish it had been the last of that race. There was quite a number of our men scalped by them, two of our company…. There will be no quarter shown them after this, that is certain.”[14]

As the war continued, the Cherokee Nation remained burdened with political divisions. While Watie and his 2nd Mounted Rifles remained fervently loyal to the Confederate cause, Ross and the 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles began to waver after the Confederate victories in the West began to slow in the Fall of 1862. Ross and Union-leaning natives thought of recasting their lots with the North.  As a result, a majority of the 1st Cherokee soldiers deserted and allied with the United States in October of 1862. The  rest of their regiment was dissolved and absorbed into that Colonel Watie’s command. Chief Ross traveled to Washington, D.C. one year later to ask President Lincoln for clemency, which he received. Ross’s three sons soon joined the Union Army. In contrast, Watie was the last Confederate colonel to surrender at the war’s end.

The 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles
“A Guide to Cherokee Confederate Military Units, 1861-1865,” The People’s Path,

Less than 30 years after the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee Nation and other Native Americans had been dealt another deadly blow. Thousands of indigenous people had died due to the American Civil War. Because there were no thorough census records of the native population in Indian Territory, it is unknown how many indigenous people perished, but some historians estimate the death rate was 50 percent of the populations in Oklahoma and Arkansas. After the war, the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA) calculated 14,000 surviving Cherokees in Indian Territory, a decline from 21,000 before the Nation joined the conflict. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, D.N. Cooley laid bare the harsh reality of the war’s repercussions for the nation, stating, “[The Cherokee] need food, clothing, tools, everything in fact, to begin life again.”[15]

In addition to their physical and material losses, the Cherokee faced stark social deterioration. Unionist supporters and former Confederate allies exacted violence and retribution against one another. The OIA Southern superintendent stated that the Cherokee Nation’s enmity was so potent that “no human power can reconcile” the fractious community. He estimated that 10,500 Cherokees remained loyal to the United States while 6,500 had joined the Confederacy. Many pro-Confederate Cherokees remained estranged from the larger Cherokee Nation and Indian Territory altogether during the postwar years, including Stand Watie. He would die during the legal process to retain his pre-war home on September 16, 1871, in present-day Delaware County, Oklahoma.[16] His archrival, Chief Ross, died in Washington, D.C., on August 1,1866. Despite the significant indigenous death toll as a result of the war, neither the Confederate states  nor the federal government ever officially  acknowledged the vital role of indigenous military participation in the conflict. Particularly after the alleged atrocities at Pea Ridge,  white government officials once again saw Native Americans as “savages” in need of taming.

The struggle to rebuild the Cherokee Nation continued for decades after the Civil War. Because of federal reconstruction treaties foisted onto the Five Tribes, the Cherokee and other indigenous communities lost more of their autonomy and strength. The first treaty abolished African slavery in tribal nations—a necessary measure, but one which dealt a heavy economic blow to many Cherokee. The second treaty concession established an intertribal council on which the superintendent of the OIA would serve as chief executive. The third treaty demanded that all five nations acquiesce their land in various locations for the construction of railroads.[17]The United States exploited the nations’ vulnerable positions to extract more land concessions. The Cherokee Nation was forced to concede more territory to the federal government to relocate additional, unwanted indigenous communities from across the country into Indian Territory. Moreover, the Five Tribes were no longer in control of the distribution of their land and were forced to give tribal citizenship to Native Americans of other tribes as the United States government pushed indigenous people of different regions into Indian Territory. OIA and government officials believed this policy would lessen chances of intertribal warfare and harassment. To add insult to injury, no federal preference was given to those who remained loyal to the United States. All Native Americans were seen as equally fastidious and expendable. In 1865, the federal government told the chiefs of the Five Tribes that they had forfeited any tribal rights, land claims, and compensation once they joined the Confederacy. All members of the tribe who allied with the South were punished as traitors.

Freedmen camped in Cherokee territory
“Cherokee Nation Seeks Cherokee Freedmen Stories, Photographs,” Antoinette Grajeda, Arkansas Soul, February 4, 2022,

The American Civil War enveloped the entirety of the United States. Native Americans were too often caught in between two belligerent nations who did not truly care for their interests. The United States government had repeatedly violated treaties, while the Southern states had pushed the Five Civilized Tribes out of the region. Wedged between a rock and a hard place, the Cherokee and other nations tried to retain some semblance of unity, heritage, and autonomy as they were yanked between two self-serving actors. The Civil War considerably altered the fragile socio-political system of the Cherokee Nation, as it reopened existing wounds between two diametrically opposed leaders. Seen as mercenaries or convenient cannon fodder, the Cherokee Nation and other Native American tribes gained very little from their participation in the American Civil War. Furthermore, in an ironic twist, now that the nature of future western settlement had been determined through a war in which natives had played a significant role, native lands became tantalizing targets for national expansion and beacons for individualistic profiteering in the newly reunited America. As such, the war for indigenous rights and freedom would continue for centuries.

Cherokee Family (1935)
Domain unknown–466826317626266124/

[1] Grace Steele Woodward, The Cherokees, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963).

[2] “Cherokees at Pead Ridge,” American Battlefield Trust,

[3] “Five Civilized Tribes and the American Civil War,”

[4] “Declaration by the People of the Cherokee Nation of the Causes Which have Impelled Them to United Their Fortunes with Those of the Confederate States of America,” October 28, 1861, Cherokees and the American Civil War,

[5] Clarissa W. Confer, The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 20.

[6] Danna Bell, “The Cherokee Nation and the Civil War,” Library of Congress Blogs, November 10, 2022,

[7] Bell, “The Cherokee Nation,”

[8] “Five Civilized Tribes and the American Civil War,”,

[9]“Five Civilized Tribes and the American Civil War,”

[10] Confer, The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War, 42.

[11] Confer, The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War, 50.

[12] Robert Pahre, “How the Cherokee Fought the Civil War,” Indian Country Today, September 13, 2018,

[13] “Cherokees at Pea Ridge,” American Battlefield Trust,

[14] “Cherokees at Pea Ridge,”

[15] Confer, “The Cherokee Nation and the Civil War,” 144.

[16] Confer, The Cherokee Nation and the Civil War, 147.

[17] “Reconstruction Treatises,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society,,federal%20government%20and%20settled%20elsewhere.

Battlefields and Baseball: Affirmations of the All-American Identity

McKenna White ’25

It is no secret that one can find all manner of oddities in the shops of Gettysburg; however, located in a small basket on the floor of the Civil War Store’s back room is perhaps the last thing one would expect to find: A baseball. This baseball, pictured above, is covered with important battle dates and painted images of Civil War battlefields and generals. It even includes the signatures of Generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant.

Though these two things, baseball and the Gettysburg battlefield, seem mutually exclusive, they have both become staples of the all-American identity. Throughout the years, citizens of the United States have engaged in activities and practices that affirm their Americanness and affirm their patriotism to themselves and others. Baseball has become so entwined with American identity that it is commonly called America’s pastime and is the national sport of the United States. Players of the sport have also been regularly immortalized in trading cards and other related memorabilia.

In the same line of thinking, every year thousands of people from around the country make the pilgrimage to Gettysburg, the so-called “High-Water Mark of the Confederacy,” “turning point of the Civil War,” and site of  “America’s Bloodiest Battle”.  Therefore, it makes perfect sense that any “true” American citizen would want to possess an object that doubly re-affirms their patriotism, allowing them to remember, or in some cases prove, their visit to one of America’s most important historic sites while participating in the commercial culture of America’s favorite game.

Yet, the placement of these baseballs in the shop is also quite telling. First and foremost, they are located in one of the back rooms, situated amongst the novelty name keychains, plastic figurines and toy guns. Their location, combined with their placement on the floor and the fact that, although they commemorate some of the bloodiest battles in American History, these baseballs have no images of blood or gore, support the idea that the sale of these baseballs is targeted towards children, particularly young boys.

Imagine an 8-year-old boy walking into the shop during his family’s trip to Gettysburg. He drags his parents towards the room with all the toys and is immediately enthralled with the plastic rifles and miniature figurines; however, when he goes to take a closer look at the products, he notices a basket of Civil War baseballs that have pictures of battles and generals. He picks one up, thinking of how cool he will look showing it to his friends back home because it has not one, but two signatures of Civil War Generals, much like the baseball cards they’ve been collecting, or the baseball they might have taken to a game on which to collect signatures of their favorite players. Alternately, he might be thinking of how much fun he will have playing catch with his dad (what could be more American than that?). His parents agree to buy the baseball, simply happy he is “engaging” with the history around him.

For many, visiting Gettysburg is a rite of passage. Hundreds of thousands of Americans and their families visit the small Pennsylvania town every year, with tourist groups ranging from middle school class trips to Boy Scout Troops, to Veterans Associations. For some, it is their first taste of the history constituting what some scholars have termed “America’s only all-American conflict;” for others it is merely an assertion of their all-American identity—a pilgrimage to (arguably) their nation’s most famous “shrine.” For everyone, it is a unique experience that they want to remember and continue to engage with, in some form, well after their visit. How better to do so than by purchasing a Gettysburg-themed keepsake imbued with a jointly iconic symbolism of the United States: The baseball.

 A Gettysburg Ghoul: Magnets, Memorabilia, and the Marketing of Civil War History at Gettysburg

Carly Jensen ’24

Who doesn’t love a good magnet? These fun keepsakes are popular decorations for fridges, washing machines, and lockers. Every glance at them is a reminder of a fun vacation. Magnets serve as a tool for memory; they bring a person back to where they bought their souvenir. This Gettysburg ghoul magnet from Gettysburg Souvenirs & Gifts (pictured above) is an adorable and fun reminder for tourists who visit the battlefield. However, it also gestures (however playfully) toward another way for visitors to connect with the repercussions of the largest battle of the Civil War, particularly the shocking bloodshed, death, and grief that resulted in its wake. Exploring a battlefield may not resonate with everyone; however, a material object visitors can take home with them may help to provide a visual and tangible connection to the history they just encountered. Although cute, this magnet depicts a dead soldier, thus reminding its purchasers of the hauntingly gruesome toll that the battlefield they just visited exacted on thousands of men long after returning home.

Gettysburg is well-known for being the site of the war’s bloodiest battle and the historic cemetery where Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address. The town draws people, old and young, interested in the Civil War from across the globe. One popular attraction for families is ghost tours. These walking groups travel around town in search of frightening ghost encounters while the tour guide provides a history of the town and the surrounding buildings. Often led by a charismatic guide in period garb, these tours are the trip’s highlight for families. Magnets like the one pictured above are excellent reminders of that highly sensory connection with history. Visitors can fondly recall the warm summer night they spent wandering the streets of Gettysburg, touring the battlefield, and enjoying an ice cream after their ghost tour. They could imagine that the “glowing orb” that they saw on their tour could have looked like the cute ghost on their magnet. They may even wish to return for another chance to contemplate the bloody battle and maybe even encounter the wandering spirit of one of its long-dead combatants.

The ghost in this magnet is floating above headstones in a cemetery. However, it is unclear where the spirit is; the Confederate kepi bars him from actual burial at the National Cemetery. Perhaps he is there hovering, haunting his Union enemies for eternity. His packs, potentially full of cartridges, hard tack, or letters from home, remain with him in death as reminders of his life cut short by war.

Gettysburg has a unique perspective on tourism. For many, Gettysburg is the first and only Civil War battlefield they visit because of its name recognition. Therefore, it is essential to market the town well as the Civil War experience as a whole. This magnet shows how Gettysburg continues to be haunted by the effects of the most significant 19th-century conflict in American history. The imagery immerses visitors in Gettysburg’s ongoing history; ghosts continue to plague the town even 150 years later. The magnet is a tangible way for tourists to remember the ghost tours, the National Cemetery, and the overall ghastly battle events in a way that continues to spark the imagination long after their return home. Souvenir shops also encourage people to purchase kitschy items like this to remember (and market) their visit; everyone wants a piece of the most famous Civil War town.

Ghost-themed magnets are among many on display at Gettysburg Souvenirs & Gifts and are common to the rest of the town. Gettysburg is full of stores with eye-catching memorabilia, but this magnet stands out because of the ghostly imagery and tactile nature. Children love to play with rubbery and bendable objects, making this a popular magnet choice. It also appeals to the sensationalized idea that tourists visited a “haunted” town. The manufacturer made an interesting choice by creating a Confederate ghost instead of a Union one. After all, the Federals were the victors. The “Lost Cause” narrative of Southerners fighting for a noble cause against impossible odds may inform this choice. The soldier’s body floats above the graves of possible enemies, doomed to mourn forever the loss of his fellow Confederates who fought and died courageously against a formidable foe. Many tourists are particularly fascinated by Confederate history because of popular notions of universally gallant, chivalrous Southern soldiers and their doomed fight for secession new nation. This magnet plays on this romantic appeal and creates a souvenir for visitors interested in Southern history, swayed by the often poignant, sentimentalized portrayals of the Confederate cause.

Ghost tourism and iconography is a huge selling feature for Gettysburg. Many people believe a place with such an incredible amount of violent death must surely be haunted. They crave to glimpse a soldier who fought in a war over a hundred years ago. Many tourists are not Civil War buffs, so ghost tours and stories are ways that they can actively engage with the battlefield and town’s history on a more sensory and imaginative level. Sometimes, this kind of engagement can fuel further interest in unpacking the history and legacy of the battle on an even deeper level. This magnet is a reminder of the soldiers who died at Gettysburg, and the experiences the tourists had interacting with the repercussions of mass death and possibly their own spirit encounters here. Alternately, it can serve as another unique collectible for the individual or family who has made a hobby of historical “ghost tourism” and might collect similar magnets or memorabilia from other supposedly haunted historical sites they have visited.  Whatever the reason behind the purchase, this magnet on a family’s fridge or board will serve as a constant reminder of their visit to Gettysburg, the still palpable legacies of the mass bloodshed that occurred there, and the thrill of the unknown that still enshrouds the historic town and battlefield in mystery.

War Born: Orphaned Children of the American Civil War and the Evolution of Orphan Care

Lauren Letizia ’23

War breeds victims. Whether the victims are mutilated soldiers, widowed spouses, childless parents, or parentless children, war will always create sorrow. The American Civil War claimed the lives of 750,000 soldiers by 1865. This figure does not account for the incalculable suffering of the American civilians who now had to navigate a world without their loved ones. Perhaps the most vulnerable segment of civilian victims was the orphaned children. The war left tens of thousands of children orphaned or “half-orphaned,” meaning the children lost a father but still had a mother.[1] According to the US Census Bureau, the number of orphaned children housed in orphanages rose from 7,700 in 1850 to 60,000 in 1880.[2]

Between 1861 to 1865, many of the farms and much of the infrastructure within the Confederate states were damaged and destroyed by enormous battles and bombardments. As a result, many Southern children experienced the pain of war firsthand. For example, two of Virginia’s most prominent orphan asylums were the Richmond Female Humane Association (RFHA) and the Richmond Male Orphan Asylum (RMOA). Though established before the Civil War, these organizations came to fruition during the conflict and Reconstruction. They were typically run by boards of directors as well as a president. Before the war, organizations like the RFHA and RMOA would often reserve placement for children of wealthy or upper-middle class parentage. After war was declared, the care of orphaned children of Confederate soldiers quickly became a societal badge of honor, and the RFHA and RMOA began to accept poorer children. Because of this expansion, the orphanages educated their charges in skills that would supply economic or social value to their larger communities, such as sewing, housework, or physical labor.[3]

As the war intensified, Southern business owners, homemakers, and others turned increasingly to child labor as slavery eroded and young men left for the battlefield. In 1862, the RMOA reported that 22 boys had left its facility, “including four runaways, and the remainder ‘having been placed in positions more advantageous under the circumstances, or having been returned to their mothers, who needed aide, and could find them employment in these trying times.’”[4] After the abolition of slavery and the war’s end, white orphanages would advertise their wards as better labor alternatives to the newly freed African Americans. Asylums also utilized this avenue to increase the number of children they could house, leasing children to apprenticeships, factories, and farms opened beds.

Richmond Male Orphan Asylum at 1900 Amelia St., 1909
(“It’s All Relative: Richmond Families (1616-2016)” exhibit at The Valentine, Oct. 13, 2016-June 18, 2017, in Richmond, Va. The Valentine. No. P.74.35.01.)

 During Reconstruction, the RFHA and the RMOA tried a new tact to raise money from the few remaining wealthy elite. They prominently linked the practice of aiding the orphaned children of Confederate soldiers to Southern patriotism and Lost Cause ideology. By donating money, clothing, and other goods to these needy children, claimed the orphan asylums, Southerners maintained their fallen heroes’ dignity and honor.

On the other side of the Mason-Dixon Line, the Northern states also faced the challenge of caring for dependent children. Pennsylvania, for example, contributed the second largest number of soldiers to the United States Army (New York was first). The state lost approximately 15,000 men to combat or mortal wounds. Many men who came home later died from wartime injuries or maladies. If one includes in the state’s total death count those who perished from disease and these other delayed factors, that number exceeds 30,000 soldiers.[5] Therefore, thousands of children were orphaned, half-orphaned, or lived in homes that could not sustain them.

 During the antebellum era, the United States experienced a wave of social and civil movements spurred by the Second Great Awakening from 1790 to 1840. In the North, the Awakening hammered home community outreach and benevolence concepts based on Evangelical and Protestant theology. Philosophical thoughts such as Transcendentalism promoted the creation of utopian communities and espoused the recognition of human dignity. After 1840, the Second Great Awakening had indeed awakened vital social missions such as the Temperance Movement, abolitionism, prison and asylum reform, and care for the poor and orphaned.

Additionally, within Pennsylvania and other northern states, a powerful pro-elementary education movement took hold during the antebellum era. At a banquet in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1826, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens decreed, “Education. May the film be removed from the eyes of Pennsylvania and she learn to dread ignorance more than taxation.”[6] The embrace of widespread childhood education helped grow support for other “morality-improving” benevolent institutions such as orphan asylums throughout the North in the lead-up to the war. Additionally, by the beginning of the Civil War, American perceptions of poverty and “the poor” were shifting significantly due to the reverberations of the Second Great Awakening and its emphasis societal uplift and reform. (It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that such reform efforts became more intertwined with the mission of social control). As state and federal governments passed laws more compassionate to this segment of the population, such as ending both debtors’ prisons and the imprisoning of children in adult jails, many Americans categorized the poor into “deserving” and “undeserving.” Widows and orphans were considered the epitome of the “deserving” poor.[7] The “undeserving” poor were gamblers, alcoholics and the chronically unemployed. Unfortunately, at the time of the Civil War, many orphanages were privately- or church-owned, located in the country, or unequipped to handle the number of orphans created by the war. As a result, in late 1864, Pennsylvania and other states established official asylum systems that were controlled and maintained by the state. However, although Northern and Southern states tried to implement improved options for orphan childcare, institutional violence, and neglect still managed to fall through the cracks.

One of the most famous examples of orphan abuse took place at the National Homestead in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The establishment of the Homestead was inspired by the death of Union Sergeant Amos Humiston. Humiston was killed during the Battle of Gettysburg with a photograph of his three children in his pocket. The image was found by a local girl and was later published in newspapers by Dr. John F. Bourns,  in an effort to return to photograph to Humiston’s family. His widow eventually reclaimed the image. Moved by the Humistons’ story, Dr. Bourns decided to launch a fundraiser for the family and to construct a widows’ and orphans’ home. The Homestead was opened in 1866 with great support from prominent veterans like General Ulysses S. Grant. However, it began to slide into infamy.

“The Children of the Battlefield”
(“Wills House Virtual Identity: Philinda and Amos Humiston,” National Park Service,

 In the 1870s, the headmistress, Rosa J. Carmichael, abused the orphans in her care. She constructed a dungeon, complete with chains, in the Homestead’s basement for those she deemed mischievous or unruly. As the stories leaked into town from former wards, Carmichael was charged with neglect and cruelty in 1876. The townspeople called for the closure of the Homestead, and by 1877, it was permanently shuttered.

General U.S. Grant with orphans of the National Homestead
(In Errol Morris, “Whose Father Was He?” Part Three. New York Times,

Despite such instances of neglect and abuse of white orphans, overall, the orphan experience was vastly different for African American children and the formerly enslaved children. They experienced racism and neglect in both the North and the South. Black children were not permitted in Southern asylums such as the RFHA and the RMOA and were usually subjected to harsh labor and apprenticeships throughout the country. In the Northern states, separate orphanages and organizations were founded for Black children. One of the most prominent African American orphanages was the Howard Orphanage and Industrial School in New York City. When enslaved women escaped the South before and during the Civil War, they were often forced to relinquish their children to find work. These children would either be relegated to servitude somewhat akin to slavery, forced into homelessness, or housed in jails with adults. In 1866, a widowed Black woman named Sarah Tillman decided to take in 20 African American children in Manhattan. She gained support from a Black Presbyterian minister named Henry Wilson, and they founded an orphan asylum.

African American school children; Howard Orphanage and Industrial School
 (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed February 22, 2023.

Theirs was a challenging mission, as racism was rampant in the North. For example, in 1863, the Quaker New York Colored Orphan Asylum was explicitly targeted and burned to the ground during the city’s draft riots and had yet to be rebuilt by 1866. Soon after its opening, the orphanage entered financial turmoil and was forced to indenture its wards into service. This practice was highly criticized by female abolitionists and black community leaders, who were specifically concerned about the fate of Black children. In the late 1890s, the asylum added trade school to its core mission, empowering its wards to make money and learn valuable professional skills. The Howard Orphanage and Industrial closed in 1918, but its benefactors rerouted their finances toward improving Blacks’ educational opportunities throughout New York and the country. 

Girls learning to bake at the Howard Orphanage and Industrial School (c. 1900)
(Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed February 22, 2023.

The America Civil War forever altered the United States’ physical and social landscape. Not only were cities and communities destroyed, but over half-a-million men were dead, and millions of enslaved people were free. Amongst the chaos of battle and its aftermath, the nation’s most vulnerable children were in dire need. Because of the war, federal and local organizations began implementing networks and foundations to care for orphaned and disadvantaged populations. By no means free from classism, racism, and abuse, the United States had set up a new path towards universal concern for citizen welfare and relief.

[1] James Marten, ed. Children and Youth During the Civil War Era. (New York: New York University Press, 2012), 173-174.

[2]  Susan Whitelaw Downs and Michael W. Sherraden. “The Orphan Asylum in the Nineteenth Century.” Social Service Review 57, no. 2 (1983): 272–90.

[3] Marten, Children and Youth During the Civil War Era, 173.

[4] “Report of Board Managers, Presented to Annual Meeting, Spring of 1862,” Philip Francis Howard Papers, Library of Virginia,

[5] Frederick H. Dyer, A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, Vol. 1, Number and Organization of the Armies of the United States (New York: Thomas Yoseleff Publisher, 1959), 12.

[6] Sarah D. Bair, “Making Good on a Promise: The Education of Civil War Orphans in Pennsylvania, 1863–1893.” History of Education Quarterly 51, no. 4 (2011): 460–85.

[7] Bair, “Making good on a Promise,” 461.

USCT Toy Soldiers for Sale…and Black Confederates?

Charlie Miller ’25

Gettysburg Souvenirs and Gifts is a classic souvenir shop, where families from far and wide negotiate mementoes and purchases with their children after a long day of walking up hills, perusing monuments, and following along with the audio tour. The store sells everything related to Gettysburg, including relics, shot glasses, and t-shirts. In the front room, they have a small section on the wall for toy soldiers. These figurines are just that–toys. However, the highly popular collectibles market that has seen various old, seemingly “worthless” trinkets like baseball cards and dolls also includes these miniature warriors. People young and old have long delighted in creating vast recreations of famous battles throughout history, collecting famous troops, or simply entertaining themselves or their child on a rainy day.

This store sells all manner of Civil War toy soldiers, from the plastic (and cheaper) sets of the blue and gray, to the carefully crafted and painted figures from the Irish brigade, the iconic green flag and gold harp gleaming on each one. While serious collectors often spend hours researching every facet of a prospective purchase, casual toy-soldier enthusiasts may well glaze over the matter of historical accuracy when dealing with these figurines. Admittedly, as I looked at the display, my eyes scanned over several of the soldiers, and I reminisced about my days playing with toy soldiers in my room as a child. However, in doing so, my gaze soon fell upon a cluster of soldiers whose real life counterparts never actually fired a shot at Gettysburg: United States Colored Troops.

Over 175,000 black men fought for the Union, beginning in 1862 when President Lincoln signed the Second Confiscation and Militia Acts. By the end of the war, they made up around one-tenth of the entire United States force, and fought bravely in many brutal engagements. Some of the most famous of those units include the 54th Massachusetts Colored Troops, who stormed the Confederate garrison at Fort Wagner, the subject of the Academy-Award winning 1989 film, Glory. Often due to the nature of their assignments and to the brutality with which Confederate soldiers fought them, Black soldiers sometimes fell at a substantially higher rate than white soldiers, and were paid far less. Confederates’ particularly violent treatment of Black soldiers reached a crescendo during Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s infamous, controversial massacre of surrendering troops (many of them black) at Fort Pillow, Tennessee on April 12, 1864.

It is intriguing that Gettysburg Souvenirs and Gifts features USCTs for sale, as the only African-Americans directly involved with the military actions of the Gettysburg campaign were the slaves who accompanied Lee’s men on their march north, along with the free blacks who were captured and sent south (often back into bondage) by the Confederates.  It appears that the store’s merchandise choice may be an attempt to connect Gettysburg with the greater American Civil War. For many visitors, Gettysburg is their first and only Civil War battlefield, and as is evident in the National Park Service’s own museum as well as at other institutions in town, there is a growing emphasis to more squarely contextualize Gettysburg’s role within the larger war, both for historical accuracy and to help those first-time Civil War tourists to appreciate broader themes and stories beyond, yet still somehow related, to Gettysburg proper.

Along these lines, perhaps the inclusion of USCT toy soldiers is a conscious attempt to connect Gettysburg to the cause of emancipation and the black freedom struggle that was so inextricably bound up in the cause of Union and why soldiers fought at Gettysburg at all. If such intentions are indeed reflected in the store’s choices, it would represent a relatively modern approach to marketing and understanding the battle and war within a grander context. For many, the battlefield long has been viewed through a reconciliatory lens, where both northerners and southerners could come to marvel at the bravery and heroic actions of the men that fought on each side, regardless of their causes. Many of those individuals have yearned to minutely analyze every tactical maneuver made on the field. However, in more recent years, an increasing number of visitors have sought look to connect the historical landscape more broadly with the causes and outcomes of the war, particularly with regards to emancipation and race relations.

Needless to say, this contemporary (and for some more uncomfortable) approach is often missing in merchandise and souvenir shops throughout town. Gettysburg Souvenirs and Gifts might sound like one of these typical shops that does not delve into the causes or politics of the war, but their sale of a USCT toy soldier shows otherwise. Alternately, but relatedly, maybe they are seeking to be inclusive in their merchandise such that they are better able to appeal to a wider and more diverse group of visitors who yearn to see their racial history and Blacks’ contributions to the war as a whole reflected in the kinds of merchandise available for sale in town.

While this store’s apparent attempt at selling merchandise that is more historically inclusive is praiseworthy, my optimism was admittedly sullied by something I encountered on another visit to the store: A Black Confederate toy soldier.

The “Black Confederate myth” is a well-known fallacy, and one that has been exaggerated and inflated to justify the Southern cause by promoting the narrative that the Confederacy was fighting merely for states’ rights, and that slavery was a benevolent institution. While Southern Blacks sometimes accompanied their enslavers in the ranks, there are no records of any African-Americans seeing combat as a part of the Confederate army. No Black man ever dressed in gray and was a soldier in the form that the figurine shows. While toy soldiers are often meant to provide a re-creation or specific interpretation of a battle, the sale of a Black Confederate toy soldier has other implications for the seller’s intentions, whether they be indeed rooted in promoting the Lost Cause narrative, or simply an historically uninformed attempt at providing “collectibles for all.”

Toy soldiers have provided a variety of functions through history, even including aiding military leaders in planning their campaigns. Now, collectors look to find toy soldiers, old and new, that are unique and capture a specific part of military history.  Unfortunately, neither a child interested in collecting toy soldiers for play nor an adult who is not particularly well –versed in the history of the Civil War era would likely think to second-guess the historical accuracy of such a figure, and might indeed believe that there were actually Black Confederate soldiers.

The sale of representative figurines of soldiers that, on one side did not exist, and on the other side, were prevalent but not present at Gettysburg brings up interesting questions and discussions about the possible motivations or reasons behind the merchandise for sale at Gettysburg Souvenirs and Gifts.  Whether or not certain messages are intentional through the sale of particular merchandise, such messages are being readily and enthusiastically consumed by scores of visitors from across the country, and even around the world, some for better, others for worse.

Civilians in the Spotlight: Civil War Newspaper Propaganda Beyond the Battlefield

By Emily Jumba ’24

Pairing: The Bedford Gazette, July 10, 1863, Image 2 (“The First Onset—Death of Reynolds”) and The Western Democrat, July 21, 1863, Image 2 (“Another Account”)

In the days, weeks, and months following the Battle of Gettysburg, journalists and newspaper editors feverishly attempted to recapture the full details, implications, and meaning of the massive fight that had transformed one small, formerly obscure, south-central Pennsylvania town into a household name. While some reporters struggled to ascertain the exact facts of the battle amidst the chaotic aftermath, others wrote with clear political agendas intended to sway the hearts and minds of their readership and, in turn, bolster their respective side’s support for the war effort. Still others searched for meaning in the aftermath through the prisms of religion, world history, and other lenses.  In this mini-series, students will explore the myriad ways that 19th-century newspapers, throughout the North and South, “re-fought” the Battle of Gettysburg, its factual components, and its larger significance in print in the immediate aftermath of the fighting.

The Bedford Gazette’s “The First Onset—Death of Reynolds” and The Western Democrat’s “Another Account” both discuss not only the fighting of the battle of Gettysburg, but also the experiences of civilians throughout the battle. Both papers were from small towns, although they supported opposing sides of the war.  The Bedford Gazette operated out of Bedford, Pennsylvania and had a population of 1,328 people in 1860.  Charlotte, North Carolina (the home of The Western Democrat) was closer to the size of Gettysburg, with 2,265 people in 1860.  Although both newspapers came from similarly sized towns, the focus of their descriptions of the battle differed significantly.  Surprisingly, The Bedford Gazette delves into far greater detail on the specifics of the fighting and the people involved in it compared to its southern counterpart, despite the former’s article having been written sooner after the battle, when fewer battle details may have been confirmed.  In addition, the articles portray the experiences and character of the civilians whose homes were caught in the crossfire in vastly different way, perhaps as an additional means of war propaganda.

The Bedford Gazette was based in rural southern Pennsylvania, about ninety miles west of Gettysburg.  Immigrants (particularly Germans) predominately settled the area during the latter half of the eighteenth century.  The article “The First Onset—Death of Reynolds,” was originally published in Baltimore, although, curiously, the name of the Baltimore paper was not cited by The Bedford Gazette.  The article may have been borrowed from the unnamed Baltimore newspaper for two reasons: It has a heavy focus on the struggle of the Eleventh Corps (unlike many other post-battle articles that attempted to describe the first day’s fighting and often focused on the actions of the First Corps), and it painted the Pennsylvanian civilians in an overall positive light.  Residents of Bedford possibly felt ties to the Eleventh Corps because a significant number of immigrants (many of them German) filled its ranks. Many of the original European settlers of the Bedford area were German immigrants; thus, while local regiments did not fight with the Eleventh Corps, an ethnic connection existed between the two.  In the socio-economic hierarchy of the nineteenth century United States, German and Irish immigrants fell towards the bottom, and therefore were not generally portrayed in a very positive light.  This article, to the contrary, does portray people of German ethnicity as courageous soldiers who fought well, which likely appealed to the descendants of German settlers in Bedford. 

In addition, the article may have been chosen for re-printing in Bedford because it also portrays the civilians of Gettysburg in such a positive light, braving the bullets flying through the streets to aid Union soldiers in need: “They appeared elevated by noble impulses above the sentiment of fear,” the article gushed.[1]  As fellow Pennsylvanians living not far from the battlefield, Bedford residents would be eager  to consume news about the brave actions of their fellow civilians caught in the fighting.  Additionally, the paper’s glowing portrayal of Gettysburg’s largely German and Pennsylvania-Dutch community also would have struck a chord with the heavily German community of Bedford, particularly because so many newspaper reports of the time were rife with derogatory commentary about the supposed coarseness, selfishness, rudeness, and unattractiveness of Pennsylvania’s German settlements. The editor of the paper also likely hoped that this segment would serve as propaganda for supporting the war effort because it showcased the deep devotion to the war effort that even non-combatant civilians held in their hearts. This article stands out not only for mentioning the civilians at all, but also for highlighting their contributions to the war that defied typical nineteenth-century gender roles; instead of merely hiding out in their basements or fleeing the town altogether as passive and helpless victims, the women of Gettysburg were lauded for venturing out into the danger of battle to bring refreshments to the soldiers. In addition to praising and showcasing the supposed strength of Union morale among the northern citizenry and their unwavering devotion to the war effort, the paper also seems to imply that if the women of Gettysburg can risk their lives in patriotic service to the Union, then certainly so can their men on future battlefields.

“Another Account” in The Western Democrat is far less unit-specific in its description of the battle and portrays the civilians living in Pennsylvania as timid people who quickly fled town before the battle.  Rather than just focusing on July 1, 1863, this article describes all three days of the battle and describes the general movements of the Confederate troops on each day.  The units discussed are typically the usual names that appear in many newspapers regarding each part of the battle, rather than those in the northern article that focused on many 11th Corps troops.  Similar to its counterpart though, this paper describes its own soldiers’ fighting as valiant and heroic.  For example, when describing General Archer’s surrender, the “Another Account” article notes that his troops held out as long as possible while being greatly outnumbered to lessen the shame of surrendering: “[They were] taken prisoners…while obstinately refusing to yield a point that they were attempting to hold against overpowering numbers.”[2]   This article also takes a dramatically different approach to describing the northern civilians. It claims they fearfully abandoned their homes prior to the battle, which were full of food that the Confederates stole and items that they destroyed. In addition, it claims that the invasion shattered supposed  northern illusions of the southern army, stating, “The people were terrified, and wondered greatly that the poor, starving and weak Confederate army could be of such gigantic proportions.”[3]  Not only does the article show the Pennsylvanians  as cowardly and not being willing to stand up to defend their property, but it also tries to argue that the Confederate troops got the best of the northerners, whose land had thus far avoided most of the ravages of war.  The foodstuffs and other acquisitions that the Confederates made off with was a comparatively small  victory, but the editor was clearly scrambling to use that victory as propaganda to help put a positive spin on the otherwise disastrous Confederate defeat  which, he likely feared, would sink public morale.

Both “The First Onset—Death of Reynolds” and “Another Account” describe the battle of Gettysburg and the way civilians reacted to it, yet they include different details that could be used as propaganda to boost the morale of readers (particularly regarding their portrayals  of civilians).  Both attempted to accurately relay the facts of what happened during the battle; indeed, even the differing portrayals of the civilians contained varying elements of truth.  Each person experienced the battle differently, and while some people did flee the battle, others did attempt to provide refreshments for soldiers or help the wounded.  The large discrepancies between the articles mostly stem from the decision over which stories the editors wanted to tell and in what light, rather than whether specific actions actually happened or not.  In both cases, they chose civilian stories that would appeal to their audience and portray the Gettysburgians in a specific manner that benefitted their respective side, showcasing how even the common citizen could be weaponized as a propaganda tool in both the northern and southern press.

Works Referenced

“Bedford, PA Population.” Accessed December 2, 2022.

“Charlotte, NC Population.” Accessed December 2, 2022.

Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. The XI Corps, German Immigrants, and the Battle of Gettysburg, 2017.

“German-Americans and the Eleventh Corps Historical Marker.” Accessed December 2, 2022.

“Gettysburg, PA Population.” Accessed December 2, 2022.

“History of Bedford.” Accessed December 2, 2022.

The Battle of Gettysburg. “11th Corps Organization at Gettysburg.” Accessed December 2, 2022.

The Battle of Gettysburg. “Monument to the 11th Corps at Gettysburg, Photograph and Map Location.” Accessed December 2, 2022.

The Bedford Gazette. “The First Onset—Death of Reynolds.” July 10, 1863, sec. Image 2.

The Western Democrat. “Another Account.” July 21, 1863, sec. Image 2.

[1] The Bedford Gazette. “The First Onset—Death of Reynolds.” July 10, 1863, sec. Image 2.

[2] The Western Democrat. “Another Account.” July 21, 1863, sec. Image 2.

[3] The Western Democrat. “Another Account.” July 21, 1863, sec. Image 2.

Where a Painting Lies

By Hayden McDonald ’25

Sitting on the floor of the Civil War Store on Steinwehr Avenue, leaning against a glass case of Gettysburg-themed hoodies and mugs, lies a painting. This painting, framed in a classy wooden mounting, stands out as an oddity when compared with many of the other items for sale around it. In a store chock full of toy muskets, Confederate shot glasses, and Robert E. Lee- themed pocket watches, a painting of this caliber draws some attention. Resting by itself on the floor of the shop, proudly displaying its $45 price tag, it entices any passerby to stop a moment and take a closer look.

The manner in which a work of art depicts war is key to understanding how it is meant to be interpreted. War is, after all, the thing which wears two faces. It is a thing of glory, of heroism, of individual and collective valor. It is unfortunate, but it is necessary, and through war some of the most revered of human traits are brought to the fore. And yet war is hell. It is destruction, devolution, despair borne of deep-seated political, sectional, an ideological divisions. It shatters friendships, families and nations alike, and leaves a smoldering trail in its wake. Clearly, this painting focuses mostly on one of those interpretations: A lone Union man gallantly operates a cannon all by himself against the advancing tides of an unseen foe, his comrades either shot down or having fled from his side. A disabled gun sits helpless in the foreground, serving as a reminder of the dangers of battle. Behind the lone patriot waves the stars and stripes, blurred in the haze of black powder smoke. This artwork celebrates the heroism and gallantry of battle, and of the individual, specifically. The flag in the background reinforces the patriotic zeal that it is designed to evoke. The battle that is taking place could be any during the Civil War, but what matters is the man and the action that is unfolding. It is not necessarily a rare, complicated, or noteworthy piece of fine art, yet it embodies many of the same sentimental war tropes as do many of its more expensive cousins.

The odd placement of the painting within the store thus seems to create a disconnect between the artwork’s subject matter and its display. . One might expect that something of this relative commercial value and  subject matter, with its lofty implications about Union, war, and individual valor, would be displayed in a place of prominence and easy viewing–someplace where it could catch the eyes of wandering shoppers and pique their interest, not sitting out of the way on the floor where someone would have to crouch to get a proper view of the art. Why, then, would the shop owners decide to place this painting here? It is clear that this shop does not receive most of its revenue from the sale of paintings; far from it. It is a place to purchase a plastic rifle, or a kepi, or a T-shirt with a witty phrase on it. It is not a place to peruse the visual arts. There are other places to do that in Gettysburg, and the Civil War Shop seems to acknowledge that. However, the inclusion of such a piece in a store like this suggests some attempt to make the shop seem more “official” in its hawking of “history and heritage”-themed souvenirs. After all, there can’t be a Civil War store in Gettysburg that doesn’t have a painting for sale.

In Gettysburg, there has long existed a nearly inseparable, though at times uneasy bond between commercialization and commemoration. This visual tidbit of the (supposedly) “real” war helps to bridge the gap between the shop’s distantly-connected-to-history Gettysburg souvenirs and the heart of what makes the town and battlefield worth visiting and remembering in the first place. It serves as an admission on the part of the shop that perhaps Gettysburg does and should mean more than just lighthearted, collectible memorabilia such as shot glasses and toy guns, and yet the commercial remains inextricably bound up with the commemorative. Indeed, if one looks broadly enough, perhaps a more authentic, however sentimentalized, meaning of Gettysburg can be found anywhere in town, even leaning against a display case on a shop floor.

The Wild West of Gettysburg

By Olivia Taylor ’25

One can find apparel and merchandise to suit truly any member of the family while perusing the shops in Gettysburg’s commercial districts. Pictured above are two toy handguns: One “Johnny Reb” and one “Billy Yank.” This photograph was taken in the “Civil War Etc, Etc.,” store at the Gettysburg Outlets, though this exact product can be found in several different gift shops throughout Gettysburg.

Looking at the “Johnny Reb” and “Billy Yank” toy guns, one can imagine the exact scene in which they might be used: Two kids chasing each other around the battlefield, pretending to shoot at each other, while their parents take in the more historical aspects of the Gettysburg battlefield by gazing at monuments and reading interpretive waysides. For children, these toy guns turn the Gettysburg battlefield into a sensory experience, which exposes them to history through play, rather than simply reading or hearing about it. History becomes exciting and engaging–a hands-on “adventure” rather than words in a book or a monument inscription.

That being said, with the exception of “US” and “CS” screen-printed onto the “holsters” of these cap guns, there is really nothing about them that screams “Civil War.” In fact, most soldiers did not even carry a sidearm. If anything, these toys much more closely resemble something out of the “Wild West.” By tying these supposed “Civil War-themed souvenirs” to the iconic imagery of the “Wild West,” the manufacturer seems to be trying to romanticize and dramatize the idea of war; when we think of the “Old West,” we tend to think of noble, stoic cowboys who, through grit and brave determination, stood their ground on the American frontier, pistols ever by their side to intimidate their enemies.  So, too, did the stalwart common soldier of the North and South, the manufacturer wants you to believe, and so can you when you purchase these pistols!

 However, as fun and engaging as these items seem to be on the surface level, it is important to note that they obscure much about the realities of Civil War combat and the experiences of the common soldier on the front lines. The presumably average Civil War soldier takes on the same air as a rough-and-tumble cowboy, an almost lawless gunslinger who is out fighting largely on his own, on behalf of his own interests, as we are often led to believe that the American cowboy of old had. Such fighting is often portrayed as thrilling and glorious. In reality, for the average soldier, combat was nothing glorious; it was dirty, it was painful, and it was terrifying. By eliding Civil War combat with the stereotypical shootouts on the American frontier, the manufacturer is thus encouraging particularly youngsters to imagine Civil War battles—as romantic, stoic fights akin to that of a Western stand-off, and implies that they, too, can re-live the experiences of those soldiers by playing battle with these “authentic” souvenirs of Gettysburg. America, they are led to believe, was thus forged through thrilling and daring adventures, on romantic landscapes, by daring and heroic gunslingers on the eastern battlefields and western frontier alike.

 All that being said, Gettysburg is known as “the town” to visit for a Civil War-oriented family vacation. The sale of products like these toy guns does indeed provide an engaging, fun, and active means for kids to connect with the battlefield on a surface level that does have its own benefits, given that they might not yet be able to fully appreciate the deeper history of the location. These guns sell because they create a playful, albeit sanitized, version of Civil War combat and the soldiering experience that likely reminds young visitors of familiar tropes like the American cowboy of the “Wild West.” Though seemingly mundane, toys like these enable children to build an initial connection with historical events, gaining exposure to topics that they might not encounter in school for many years. For some, fond memories of purchasing the “Johnny Reb” or “Billy Yank” toy gun while on a family trip to Gettysburg and running through their backyards back at home, “re-creating” the Gettysburg landscape might well spark future interest in the Civil War, and prompt an eventual return to the battlefield—a return in which the nuances and complexities of Civil War combat, soldiering, and Gettysburg’s place in the historical record might begin to unravel themselves just a bit more.