Gettysburg

 

 

 

 

In theory, the Union rally point was suppose to be this Federalist era mill to the SE of Gettysburg – good ground for a fight – but things rarely went the way that the Union Army Commander ever wanted them to go.

 

When the fighting broke out on the 1st of July, our ancestors had spent the night before sleeping on the grounds of a Catholic girls school known as St. Joseph’s College.  The notes of the sisters and the regiment comment that things were rather pleasant with the soldiers showing the Sisters the proper respect. 

 

 

The regiment used Washington Street to pass through the town as the rallied at the site of the monument.  It was a hot, humid day with the local citizens providing water to the men marching on the double quick.  The regiment’s officers and sergeants would remember Washington Street and try to use it later in the day…

 

When the 11th came marching through Gettysburg, they rallied here at the site of the monument – located along what is today Howard’s Lane.  [Note that the oak tree is no longer there, it was probably a victim of a storm that hit many of the trees a couple of years ago.]

 

    

 

The 11th Corps objective was to take the ridge North-Northeast of the Seminary.  They would be assisted with the artillery expertise of Captain Dilger, whose firing abilities convinced some of the Confederate artillerymen to pull their pieces back from the crest of the ridge.  This allowed the brigade to advance into the field seen in the foreground of the top two pictures.  There is some indication that the 74th, 45th NY and the 61st OH, made it to the area in and to the right of the McLean House – Bret is researching this odd reference to see if there is merit to it.  If so, then the regiment was literally right below and to the left of the cannon found in the bottom picture

 

By late afternoon, the 11th Corps was out manned and out gunned as Confederate Gen. Ewell’s men continued to swell southward towards Gettysburg.  Arguably, as noted in an article by Kevin O’Brien, the 11th Corps was given an assignment that was difficult if not impossible to undertake – nothing new some of us might argue on behalf of our ancestors.  [See bibliography for the citation for O’Brien’s article.] 

 

When the retreat of the Union forces began, the 74th’s officers attempted to return to Cemetery Ridge via Washington Street.  Passing back through town via Washington Street, the regiment passed Gettysburg College and came to Stevens Run.  Little has changed at the crossing of Stevens Run – while the road and bridge are more modern in design, the height of the bridge is believed to be about the same as it was on 1 July 1863.  Confederate forces were surging into town down Baltimore Street.

 

Lt. Roth decided to ride across the bridge, his men were all using the high ground associated with the bridge and road as cover.  Disregarding the pleading of his troops, and riding forward indicating that there was nothing to fear, Lt. Roth took a sharpshooter’s bullet that killed him nearly instantly.  Within a short period of time, many of the regiment’s officers would be killed, wounded or missing – leaving a lot of the decisions to the sergeants.

 

 

An interesting relic was seen by Bret and I later that weekend at a relic show – the Infantry Hat Insignia was found at Gettysburg College in the basement which was used for a hospital during the battle.  The officers of the 74th would have worn a similar insignia.

 

A historical side light near the bridge is the Eisenhower home used by the General and his family. 

 

    

The men poured into town and efforts were being made by the various officers to keep the regiment together – easier said than done in the accompanying confusion.  After crossing Stevens Run, the 74th saw Confederate regiments coming into town from the West via the railroad and Chambersburg Pike.  The men made a dash down Washington Street and towards the center of town.  When they came to the Chambersburg Pike, they knew Confederates were coming from the West; their hopes were to utilize Baltimore Street to get back to the Cemetery.  Turning east on the Pike, the men came to the town square where chaos reigned supreme and were greeted by fire from advance Confederates coming into the square. 

Caught in between advancing Confederate forces, and in front of Christ Lutheran Church, a decision was made for the men to use the alleys as their means of retreating south.  *** Regiment was assigned the task, forlorn as it was, of providing sniper fire and cover for the retreating regiment.  Through the allies and spaces between the houses the men fled.  Christ Lutheran Church would later be the site of a tragedy as Chaplain Horatio Howell of the 90th PA was shot by a confederate skirmisher who probably mistook the Chaplain for a line officer due to the uniform and sword he was wearing.

       

 

During the Union retreat, one of the more noted events of Schimmelfennig’s life occurred.  Keep in mind that the good General was not wealthy by any means, and he was required to supply his own horse and had done so.  On this day, he wore a simple Union jacket without apparently his ranks.  That slip of dress probably helped save his life.  As the men were fleeing through the alleys and gaps between the houses – look at the picture of Bret and Lexie above – Schimmelfennig was trying to find ways through which he and his horse could travel.  Hacking through the thick planking of the fences, Schimmelfennig’s progress was slow at best.  Men suggested he abandon the horse, but the thought of loosing such a valuable commodity was more than he was willing to bear.  His travels brought him into an alleyway that was for all practical purposes a dead end.  Unable to turn around, he tried defending himself.  One account notes that he then jumped over the fence and scrambled into hiding in the and a rifle butt to the body tumbled him off his horse and over the fence, and hid along a watercourse in the back yard of the Garlach home.  Later he would crawl into the woodshed.  Another account notes that the General leaped while being knocked from his horse.  Because of his dress, the Confederates did not pursue the General.

 

In the pictures above, Anna Garlach is pictured with the General and the place of his hiding for the remainder of the battle.  The brick house is the Garlach home.  The bottom picture is Lexie standing in the alleyway where the events took place.

The men poured back through town and rallied near a fence below Cemetery Hill.  The picture below was taken up on the hill looking north towards where the 74th had been.  For the rest of the day and a good portion of the next day, the 74th would be involved in a skirmish across a “no-man’s land”. 

 

The 74th utilized the upper story of the Wagon Hotel – located in the vicinity of this convenience store – that looked down the Baltimore Pike.  Skirmishers went forward from that location into the area between the Wagon Hotel and the Farnsworth House – used as a sniper post by the Alabamians under the command of Major Blackford.  The house pictured below is the site of the Rupp Tannery – the house pictured below being built on the site of the Tannery in 1868.  Mr. Rupp, a German, hid with his family in the cellar, still there today, while Union soldiers occupied the front of the property and the Confederates operated the rear.  There is some indication that Mr. Rupp conversed with German speaking Union soldiers and provided them with details as to the Confederate movements on the other side of his building.  Bret is checking into this as well.  Today the house is a B & B.  It is also next store to a great military history bookstore!

 

Some of the regiment’s casualties probably occurred during the shelling of this area by Confederate artillery. 

 

 

A great picture of the area of town that our ancestors were involved in can be found in the article about the 5th Alabama’s sharpshooters – by N.A. Trudeau entitled “Taking Aim at Cemetery Hill.”  See the bibliography for the reference citation.  The Farnsworth House (then called the Sweeney House) was used by Confederate sharpshooters during the battle.  The marks and chips in the brick were caused by bullets during those first few days in July – more likely than not a few of our ancestors did the damage.

 

 

This second marker is located within the Cemetery grounds and behind the North fence.  It was placed by the regiment association after the war and following the placement of the “dying Gaul” monument pictured elsewhere. 

  

What is interesting is that there is an event during the night of July 2nd, when the Confederates attempt to take Cemetery and or Culp’s Hill – arguably something they should have done on the 1st day but did not for various reasons.  That portion of the battle required the assistance of troops as the Confederate forces poured into the area between the two ridges noted in the two pictures – Lexie on the Cannon and the rock fence and cannon below the other picture.  Could some of the 74th been assigned to that task??  They were on the other side of the Gate House and would have been easy to call up and deploy.  Bret will have to research this question and let us know?

   

 

 

 

This is a picture of Howard’s Monument looking back up at East Cemetery Hill – taken on the second visit to the battlefield.

 

 

So folks – that is the tour of Gettysburg from a 74ther’s perspective.  My thanks to Bret and to Lexie – who at a young age demonstrated the tenacity of her ancestors having spent hours traipsing about the battle field with her father and his Northwestern friend and not a single complaint.  Thank you again Lexie! 

 

Our ancestor’s service was impressive during Gettysburg.  Again Confederate forces would overwhelm them, but they held their ground to the best of their ability – if not making attempts to gain ground for their new Army Commander – General Meade.  When you walk Gettysburg, do so with a sense of pride in what our ancestors did those three days.  Know also you walk along the paths that they did – a brick house may have been the place some young maid gave your ancestor a sip of water, or the source of cover from skirmish fire as they retreated back to the Cemetery. 

 

 

 

 

This monument is in Washington D.C. – I found it by accident and coincidence.  I had taken the wrong train into D.C. from Alexandria and realized that I needed to get off before I was many, many blocks from the Capital – where I had a series of meetings.  The night before I had left a memory stick – not used thank God – on the metro and I was beating myself up for that pretty hard.  Well, sometimes things happen for a reason.

 

First, I came across the GAR memorial erected across the street from the Navy Memorial.  That was a pleasant surprise and it turned my thoughts on the positive side – as a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, this was something I personally could relate to that morning. 

 

Second, I came across the Meade Memorial erected by Pennsylvania in celebration of her heroic son.  It is located near the various court buildings.  It is an awesome memorial and really does capture your attention.  More so for those very much aware of the Meade’s roll in the course of the Union’s history.

 

So, I hope you enjoyed the virtual tour with a few side trips along the way.  Thanks to Bret and Lexie – couldn’t have happened without them.