Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Gettysburg Scrapbook: The First Day

I woke this morning a little after six o'clock, and after opening a window in my living room I noticed it rained quite a bit over night. By the time I was up, however, the rain had ended and the weather showed all the promise of a beautiful summer morning. Temps were low, a light breeze was blowing, so I figured I'd do something I don't often do. . .tramp around the Gettysburg battlefield. I've been living here for four years already, but it seems I spent more time on the fields before I moved. During the springs and summers at least, I spend five days a week at the Antietam battlefield, and by the time I get home, well, there just isn't that much time. I thought this morning, then, that I would go out and maybe recapture that almost indescribable feeling I got when I didn't live in Gettysburg, but years back when I traveled here on weekends or while on vacation with my family.
It was a glorious morning, and I had my camera along. So here are just a few images I captured early today while tramping north and west of Gettysburg, on the fields where the three-day battle began. . .

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General John Buford's Statue, and, just yards behind. . .
the equestrian statue of General John F. Reynolds.
I used to fashion myself as something of an expert on the battle of Gettysburg. But during the past three years, my study of the battle has taken a back seat as I immersed myself in ALL things Antietam. Now I am often at a loss when trying to recall Gettysburg's timeline, chronology, the organization of the armies, and even some of the brigade and division commanders. Of the Army of the Potomac's leaders, I believe only 20% of its brigade, division, and even corps commanders who had served at Antietam were present at Gettysburg.
The McPherson Farm, with the McPherson Woods behind. Reynolds was slain early that Wednesday morning, July 1, 1863, leading his 1st Corps into action.

Another view of the McPherson barn, this time looking north-east from the woodline.

It's soon going to be time for harvest, I suppose. Here is the statue of General Abner Doubleday (you know, the guy who didn't invent baseball) rising above and behind the rows of corn.
And, of course, the famed Lutheran Seminary.
Cannon atop Oak Hill (McPherson barn in far distance, to the right of the barrel).

Oak Hill is one of those places on the battlefield where, I am almost embarrased to say, I have never really visited often. This is a shame, for on these heights one has an incredible view of the First Days' fight. Pictured above is a cannon representing Carter's Battalion of Robert Rodes's Second Corps divison, Army of Northern Virginia. It is evident how Carter's guns and Rodes's infantry had the best ground of all on July 1.
Below are several more images taken from Oak Hill. . .
This picture is looking south-westerly over Gettysburg. . .the heights south of town, where the Army of the Potomac would rally after their reverse on the First Day can be seen beyond.

A rare Whitworth Gun with the Peace Light beyond. . .
Looking north toward Oak Hill from modern-day Howard Avenue, where the 11th Corps would go into position. By the time Howard's men arrived, Rodes's Confederates had already reached Oak Hill and were hammering away on the right flank of the Federal 1st Corps, held by General John Robinson's men. . .two brigades, which, by the way, had seen terrible combat in the Cornfield at Antietam nine and half months earlier.

Another view of Oak Hill (far distance, right. . .you might see the Peace Light). Oak Ridge, where Robinson's men tenaciously held on despite terrible loss before being driven back is to the left. . .This picture was also taken from the perspective of the 11th Corps. Soon after settling into line, Howard's men came under attack from General George Doles's Confederate brigade, which advanced north-to-south, or right-to-left on this picture.
The Monument of the 74th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Schimmelfennig's brigade, 11th Corps.

Young but incredibly brave, Francis Barlow (who commanded a New York regiment in the 2nd Corps at Antietam) fell seriously wounded at Gettysburg while in command of a division in the 11th Corps. Despite the story and its appearance on the NPS wayside at Barlow's Knoll, Barlow most likely did not converse with Confederate General John B. Gordon after falling wounded and falling into Confederate hands.

A close-up on Barlow's statue has him clutching his kepi as he surveys the ground. . .and Jubal Early's advancing Rebs.

An eagle, with clipped wing, precariously situated atop the small monument to the 27th Pennsylvania along Coster Avenue in town. . .

The 153rd Pennsylvania, recruited from the Lehigh Valley

I could not have asked for a better morning. . .spending two hours on the Gettysburg battlefield on my off-day from work at Antietam.


John said...

Hi John,

I had the day off also but I was back on Gettysburg following Wilcox and Lang along Plum Run and the 21st Mississippi in the Peach Orchard and Trostle Farm. Sorry I missed you.

John C. Nicholas

Minnesota Joe said...

I am relieved to hear that even the experts have trouble recalling the details of the battle if they spend too long away from its study. I am continually surprised -- disheartened, really -- by how much I can forget.

~ Lindy ~ said...

like the first photo of the ones posted! what a thrill you must have had....such 'hallow' ground.
glad you had the opportunity to tramp the grounds today!

Anonymous said...

Very nice post and great photographs! These types of posts are by far my favorite! Thank you. What of the "witness tree" on Cemetery Hill?