Tuesday, March 31, 2009

And The Walls. . .

. . .come tumbling down.


Demolition has begun on the old Gettysburg Visitor's Center. I snapped a few pictures of the tear-down while on a pleasant stroll around town this afternoon. . .and I wasn't the only one. There must have more than half a dozen folks taking pictures. I could only imagine what the demolition crew was thinking. . .
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Meanwhile, across the parking lot, the Cyclorama still stands. Indeed, the day before yesterday a Federal judge commuted the death sentence (temporarily at least) of this building. Read all about it here.
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On a sadder note. . .
While walking through the National Cemetery on my way back home, I noticed that one of the largest (and oldest) trees had fallen over. . . must have happened two days ago during a powerful late afternoon storm that crashed through the area.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Day DC Scenes. . .

This past Sunday, my wife, Laura, and I took a day trip down to our nation's capital. We tramped many a mile on our little sightseeing soiree, no doubt shedding a few pounds along the way. It was a beautiful spring day. . .
Here are just a few of the sights we saw along the way.

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Ford's Theater. . .where our Sixteenth President spoke his final words:
"They won't think nothing of it."
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The Peterson Home. . .where Lincoln spent his final hours. Schuylkill County native, and First Defender John Weaver was one of the six soldiers who carried Lincoln across the street from Ford's to the Peterson Home.
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A sprightly young Alexander Hamilton saunters his way out of the Treasury Building. . .
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The Lee & Blair Houses. . .
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Monuments to Heroes of the American Revolution surround Lafayette Park. . .
where Dan Sickles shot down young Philip Barton Key.
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Old Hickory
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The Daniel Webster Monument on Massachusetts Avenue. . .one of the coolest monuments in the city.
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Old Fuss-n-Feathers Winfield Scott
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General James Birdseye McPherson
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General George Thomas
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Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring



Spring arrived this morning. . .officially at 7:44 a.m. . .and I am thankful for it. Maybe I'm just getting older; in my younger days I enjoyed a good snowfall, even looked forward to them, and I did not mind the cold nearly as much. But this winter was a long, oftentimes dreary one. We had some bitterly cold days, with wicked winter winds, and although we did not get much snow, at least here in Gettysburg, we had our fair share of ice, sleet, and freezing rain.

I was at Antietam early this morning and was able to capture a few images of the park just moments after winter turned to spring. It was cold, but I did not mind. I was there not as a ranger, but instead as a private tour guide, leading a four-hour-long hike of the Ninth Corps's final assault: from the bridge and across the Sherrick and Otto Farms, through farmer Otto's 40-Acre cornfield, and toward the Harpers Ferry Road. It was quite the trek, and I am sure I am now a few pounds lighter. In the end, despite the cold and despite the miles tramped, it was a good morning; it's been too long since I last did some actual battlefield wanderings. With spring now upon us, I can look forward to more tours and more pleasant days at the park. My hours will soon pick up and before long, we'll be back conducting our daily battlefield tours.

Antietam's 2009 schedule of events has recently been posted on the park's website. With brighter and warmer days ahead, please do take the time to come on down and visit America's best preserved Civil War battlefield.

Monday, March 16, 2009

PROFILES: Private Samuel Fryberger, Co. H

One of the greatest things I've discovered after launching this blog in 2006 is how much I have learned about the 48th Pennsylvania. Over the past two-and-a-half years, I have received countless messages from descendants of soldiers who served in the regiment, and each have been more than generous in sending along information about their ancestors; in several cases, they have also sent along photographs that have never before been released or published, and have spent the spent the past century and a half (almost) in family collections.

Several months ago, I received a great deal of information about Private Samuel Fryberger, of Company H, 48th P.V.V.I., from one of his descendants, Ms. Heather Makal, and since it has been a long, long time since I last wrote a Profiles piece, I decided to focus this post on the life of Private Fryberger, one of, if not the youngest soldier who fought in the 48th Pennsylvania.
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Private Samuel Fryberger

Samuel Fryberger was born on October 28, 1846, in Fountain Springs, but spent much of his childhood in the town of Gordon Plains, where he attended school and where his parents opened a general store. He went to work in the coal mines at a young age, but with the outbreak of civil war in the spring of 1861, young Samuel, at just fourteen years of age, volunteered his services. He enlisted as a private in Company H, organized under the direction of Captain Joseph Gilmour, on August 2, and was formally mustered into service on September 19. Since the age given on the muster roll is 18, it is quite obvious that young Samuel lied about his age in order to enter service. He stood 5'5 1/2" in height, had a Light Complexion, Gray Eyes, and Brown Hair.

Private Fryberger survived the action along the North Carolina coastline in the spring of 1862 as well as the bloodletting at 2nd Bull Run in late August. However, at Antietam, he fell with a grievous gunshot wound to the hip. After recovering from this wound, Fryberger was discharged from the regiment. He returned home in February 1863, and for the next year found work as a shoemaker. By the early spring of 1864, Fryberger returned to the regiment, only to be wounded again at the Wilderness on May 5, 1864. There, a bullet tore into his chest and lodged in his lung. This bullet would remain in his body until his untimely death thirty years later.

Following a lengthy recovery from his Wilderness wound, Fryberger one more volunteered his services, being mustered in as a private in the Veterans' Reserve Corps on January 10, 1865. Seven months later, and with the end of hostilities, he was mustered out of service for the final time. After the war, Samuel Fryberger, not yet twenty years old, but carrying with him two painful wounds, went to work as a conductor on the Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad. He worked his way up to the position of engineer before being transferred to the Shamokin Division of the Reading Railroad. He married in 1868 and soon began a family.

In 1893, Fryberger's health took a turn for the worse. He fell ill with ailments associated with his May 1864 gunshot wound to the lung. He died on June 6, 1896, at the age of 49, leaving behind his wife Margaret and several young children. As Fryberger was, perhaps, the youngest member of the 48th Pennsylvania, he also may very well have been the last in the regiment to die of a war-related injury.


Private Fryberger was laid to rest in the "Soldier's Circle" in the Shamokin Cemetery. Buried nearby is Lieutenant Henry "Snapper" Reese, hero of the Petersburg Mine.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Must-See Exhibit

This past Wednesday, March 4--the 148th and 144th anniversaries of Lincoln's presidential inaugurations--I, along with Rangers Gentile and Baracz, traveled to DC to attend a symposium on our sixteenth president at the Library of Congress. After listening to a number of excellent lectures delivered by Harold Holzer, James McPherson, and William Lee Miller, we journeyed up to the second floor to see "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition."
To say that this is an incredible exhibit would be an understatement. Indeed, it is quite remarkable. As explained by the Library of Congress, "this exhibition reveals Lincoln the man, whose thoughts, words, and actions were deeply affected by personal experiences and pivotal historic events. Through documents and books, broadsides and newspapers, prints and photographs, artifacts and maps, the exhibition charts Lincoln’s growth from prairie politician to preeminent statesman. It provides a window into the Lincoln presidency, his struggle to keep the Union intact, and his attempts to heal the nation’s wounds. Filmed commentaries from distinguished Americans appear throughout the exhibition, forging a personal connection to the documents Lincoln wrote. Interactive programs trace the president-elect’s celebratory rail trip from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington and the return of his funeral train to Springfield as the nation mourned."
Some of those items on display that I found to be most interesting and profound are Lincoln's First and Second Inaugural Address, the John Hay copy of the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the contents of Lincoln's pockets on the night he was murdered. There, too, one can view the Bible Lincoln used during his first swearing-in; the same one recently used by President Obama. As one fascinated by the politics of the 1850s, I also found a letter written by President Franklin Pierce, in which he expressed his unqualified support for the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and even a life mask of that champion of Popular Sovereignty, Stephen Douglass, to be of great interest. Yet, of all these remarkable pieces of history, I was particularly struck by Lee's Lost Order, Special Orders No. 191. The very one found by Corporal Mitchell and Sergeant Bloss in that field south of Frederick, addressed to Gen. D.H. Hill, and rushed up the chain of command until it fell into George McClellan's hands. Rising from his camp chair, Little Mac exclaimed, "Now I know what to do!"
Well now, I am telling you what you must do: Go see this most remarkable exhibit before it ends on May 9, 2009.
For more on this exhibit, click here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Some Grave Images From Baltimore's Green Mount Cemetery

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Baltimore's Green Mount Cemetery has long been on my list of must-see places. So when, about a month and a half ago, I discovered that my wife was to have a basket show on the outskirts of the Charm City, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to do some cemetery tramping, and cross one more thing off my life's to-do list. As if I needed further convincing, the March 2009 issue of America's Civil War arrived in the mail a few days later, in which Kim O'Connell has a great little piece on Green Mount. Coincidence?
Armed with the magazine, as well as a cemetery map and tour book kindly provided to me by Justin McIntyre, a generous intern at Antietam, I set out to see some history.
My wife's basket show did not begin until late in the afternoon yesterday, which meant I did not arrive at Green Mount until 2:30. The day was cloudy and overcast, threatening rain, and the cemetery closes its gates at 4:00. I had but 90 minutes to navigate my way around this massive city of the dead. Truly, the cemetery is enormous, with over 65,000 burials on more than sixty acres. But what an incredible and fascinating place! Green Mount, dedicated in 1839, was one of nation's first rural, or garden cemeteries, a vast park with incredible statuary and monuments. It is the final resting place of hundreds of notable and some infamous Americans, and I regret that I had so short a time to do some exploring. It would take more than a full day to do this place any justice, which means I will no doubt have to return, when I have more time. With only an hour and a half yesterday, I quickly made my way around, following the map, and trying to locate some of the cemetery's most famous residents.

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Green Mount is the final resting place of hundreds, nay, thousands, of Civil War soldiers, including a host of high ranking officers. Perhaps most notable among these is Confederate general Joseph Eggelston Johnston.



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General Isaac Ridgeway Trimble is also buried in Green Mount, just a hundred or so yards from Johnston.



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Other Confederate generals buried in Green Mount include, George Hume "Maryland" Steuart, one-time cavalry commander under Stonewall Jackson and later infantry commander in the Army of Northern Virginia's Second Corps, captured at the Mule Shoe during the battle of Spotsylvania.




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The remains of General Arnold Elzey, a career army officer with a distinguished combat record in the Mexican-American War, also rest in Green Mount. Elzey served under Jackson in the Shenandoah, was wounded at Port Republic and shot through the head and seriously wounded at the battle of Gaines's Mill. He survived this terrible wound, and was later named as Chief of Artillery for the Army of Tennessee.



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Just north of Elzey's grave is the final resting place of Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Henry Little. Little served in Mexico as a lieutenant in the 5th U.S. Infantry and was brevetted a captain for gallantry at Monterrey. Promoted to captain shortly after the war, Little resigned from the U.S. army on May 7, 1861, and rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate army. He served under General Sterling Price in the war's Western Theatre. At the battle of Iuka, during which Little served as a divisional commander, he was shot in the head and instantly killed while sitting on his horse, conversing with Price.




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In addition to the scores of Confederates buried in Green Mount, there are also many Union officers. Among these are General Erastus Bernard Tyler, the fur merchant from Ohio, who was seriously wounded leading his Fifth Corps brigade at Fredericksburg. The cemetery map had his grave nearby Johnston's, but I was unable to locate it. I did, however, find the grave of Union brevet brigadier general Henry C. Bankhead. Bankhead served as an officer on the staff of Major General Don Carlos Buell.



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While it was a thrill for me to see the graves of so many notable Civil War figures, what I found most incredible was the grave almost immediately behind General Johnston's. There, a tall, ornate stone marks the final resting place of Colonel Thomas Marcus Hulings. Hulings is by no means as famous nor as recognizable as a Johnston, Trimble, or Steuart, but what made the discovery of this grave so incredible to me was that Hulings was a First Defender. As a member of the Logan Rifles from Lewistown, PA, Hulings's company along with the Allen Infantry from Allentown, Ringgold Light Artillery from Reading, and the Washington Artillerists and National Light Infantry from Pottsville, were the first Northern volunteers to arrive in Washington following the outbreak of civil war. In my book on the First Defenders, I made special note of Hulings, who, after his three-month term of service with the Logan Rifles, went on to serve as an officer in the 49th Pennsylvania. As colonel of the 49th, Hulings was killed in action at the battle of the Wilderness.



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I would venture to guess that the most visited graves in Green Mount are those of the Lincoln Assassination conspirators. I was unable to locate Michael O'Laughlen's grave, but did find that of Samuel Arnold, buried near Generals Elzey and Little. Arnold was not directly involved in the conspiracy to kill Lincoln, but he, along with Booth and his other cohorts, did plan the kidnapping of the president. After that failed, he and O'Laughlen broke off their connection with Booth. However, after the president was killed, Arnold was arrested as being complicit in the larger conspiracy. Sentenced to life along with O'Laughlen, Dr. Samuel Mudd, and Edmund Spangler at Fort Jefferson, Arnold was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1869. He died in September 1906.


Arnold's grave is in the foreground, a simple granite stone on top of which someone placed. . .

. . .a Lincoln penny.

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And, finally, buried within the impressive stone walls of Green Mount is the body of famed actor Junius Booth. Booth was famous for his portrayals of Shakespearean characters in England before he settled in America, the founder of a legendary acting family which included his sons Junius, Jr., Edwin, and, yes, John Wilkes.

Junius Booth

The Booth family obelisk. . .

It is believed by most, and denied by some, that the remains of John Wilkes Booth, who, shortly before dying summed up his life by declaring "useless, useless," lie buried in the Booth family plot, his grave identified by a small unmarked stone.


Three Lincoln pennies decorate the supposed headstone of John Wilkes Booth.

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Well, at five minutes to 4:00, I left Green Mount after an incredible (though short) visit to this, a most remarkable place. I will return, hopefully someday soon, when I will have more to time to wander the silent grounds. . .
For more information on Green Mount Cemetery, click here.