Monday, December 31, 2007

Colonel Sigfried's New Years' Letter: 1863

Colonel Joshua K. Sigfried
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The son of a wheelwright, Joshua K. Sigfried was born in Orwigsburg, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, on Independence Day, 1832. He went to school in Pottsville, then found work as a coal shipper in Port Carbon. As a member of Port Carbon's Marion Rifles, Sigfried entered Civil War service as a captain in the 6th Pennsylvania, a three-month regiment recruited largely out of Schuylkill County. Commanding the 6th was Colonel James Nagle, and upon the expiration of the regiment's term of service, Nagle asked Sigfried to help him raise and recruit a three-years-or-the-war regiment, which ultimately became the 48th Pennsylvania. Sigfried was mustered into service as the Major of the 48th, but was quickly promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel following the November 1861 resignation of David A. Smith. And when Nagle was elevated to brigade command, Sigfried rose to regimental command, leading the 48th from April 1862 until April 1864, when he resigned to accept a commission as a brigade commander in Edward Ferrero's 4th Division, 9th Corps, U.S.C.T.

On New Years' Day, 1863, from the headquarters of the 48th Pennsylvania, Lt.Col. Sigfried wrote a lengthy letter to the Miners' Journal in Pottsville, which essentially recapped the regiment's first full year in service. This letter is quite lengthy, but follows in its entirety:

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Headquarters 48th Regiment P.V.

Near Fredericksburg, Va., Jan. 1, 1863

Editors Miners' Journal: This being the first day of the new year, I concluded to write a communication to the Journal. . . .The old year is numbered with the past. To us as a nation, it has been indeed an eventful one. Thousands of our brave sons and comrades in arms have yielded up their lives as willing sacrifices that the nation might be preserved.

We enter today upon the new year 1863. What shall be its history? May we hope ere its close to see peace restored to our now distracted country--a peace founded in justice, righteousness and universal liberty. May all the benign influences of good government enfold our nationality, and all the horrors cease. This day one year ago we were stationed on the isle of Hatteras, N.C. We then numbered in this regiment about eight hundred and fifty officers and soldiers. Today not half remain fit for duty. We were engaged in the following memorable battles, viz: Bull Run No. 2, Chantilly, South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. It is due to both officers and men who remain, as well as to the memory of those who have fallen in battle and by disease, that I should state, I have been with the regiment upon all marched as well as in the different battles. In August last we arrived here from Newport News, remained a short time, then left for Bealton Station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. We left here in the evening at dusk, marched all that night until about three o'clock a.m. At daylight we started again, marched all the day until dark, when we encamped for the night. Next morning we took up the march again, arrived at the station at eleven o'clock a.m., remained there several hours, when we took the cars for Culpeper. On arriving there, we were ordered to march south of the town (about two miles), where we encamped for that night and the next day. Thence we marched to Cedar Mountain, near the Rapidan River, where we remained for another day, but on the following day we received orders to move that evening at eleven o'clock. We took up the march at the hour named, marched all that night and next day until five o'clock in the afternoon without halting over an hour at any one time. We crossed the Rappahannock River at Kelly's Ford where we remained two days, after we which we left for Rappahannock Station again--thence along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad to Manassas Junction, thence to Bull Run, and after the battle, on the night of 30th August, we left for Centreville, then to Chantilly, where we had the second engagement. Left there about two o'clock at night for Alexandria, where we encamped and remained for some four days when we went a short distance beyond Washington, on the Maryland side of the Potomac, a distance of some sixteen miles, where we again encamped and remained for several days. We started from here toward Frederick City, Md., South Mountain. Here the regiment was under fire from about ten o'clock a.m. until about the same hour in the evening. At nine o'clock the next morning we left for Antietam, where we arrived about the same hour that evening. Next day, September 16th, we remained in camp until two o'clock p.m., the shells of the enemy constantly passing over our heads, so you may judge the men did not rest much. Then we marched further to the left. Upon the 17th came the battle.

I have given you a random sketch of the marches, battles, etc, for a period of about six weeks. During the whole of this time we were on the march with the exception of about eight days, plodding through rain as well as sunshine, roads often very muddy, and it so happened that when the roads were in their worst conditions, we were often not only compelled to march by day, but all night. The greater portion of the time (we being constantly on the advance) we were short of rations, very seldom any meat, and if we did get it, had but scant time to cook it. We were often out of bread for nearly a whole day and sometimes longer. In justice to Lt. Keys, acting brigade commissary of subsistence, I must say, that he made every effort possible to have the men fully supplied; but it was impossible for him to succeed in doing so, owing to the long and rapid marches, and our advanced position, the supply train being in the rear. Water very often being very scarce. Repeatedly did I see men drink water from mud-puddles and stagnant pools by the side of the road. At the battle of Bull Run they lost their blankets and all their clothing except what they had on. Their shoes being worn out, some the men walked literally barefooted from Bull Run to Washington.

Yet with all the severe marching, lying out without tents, short rations, want of clothing and bad roads, I am proud to say we had scarcely any stragglers. I have repeatedly seen both officers and soldiers really staggering from sheer exhaustion, yet they would keep up their companies, determined not to stay behind as long as it was possible for them to keep up. They were cheerful and ever ready to do their duties, and in the several engagements I must say, that they behaved most gallantly. At South Mountain, Antietam and Fredericksburg, while advancing in line of battle from a quarter to a half mile under the most terrific fire of the enemy, I did not observe a single one that did not march steadily to the front, obey every command, fire deliberately when engaged, and when the ammunition was exhausted (which was in each case sixty rounds per man) and I was relieved, they retired in perfect order under the most severe fire from the enemy, when I could scarcely have expected them not to break. A large number who were not severely wounded, instead of going to and remaining in the hospitals, had their wounds dressed and at once entered the ranks again by the side of their comrades--I must say (and I do it not to flatter) I am proud that I have command of such soldiers; men who will not flinch in the hour of trial and danger.

H. Hardell, hospital steward, deserves great praise for his attention to his responsible duties. He is courteous, and always ready to attend to the wants of the suffering, and his long experience as hospital steward has made him very useful, indeed. Many in the regiment are willing to be treated by him when sick, having not only confidence in him as a steward, but as a surgeon. Dr. Morrison, our assistant surgeon, has not been with us for any length of time yet, but I think he will prove himself what I much hope for in the regiment--a good and efficient surgeon.

Quartermaster Sergeant J. Wagner and Commissary Sergeant Charles Schnerr both deserve great credit for their strict attention to their duties.

Quartermaster J. Ellis, having been sick for a long time, resigned, not wishing to occupy the office when he was unable to discharge the duties of the same. I was very loath to have him leave, but could not advise him to stay when I believed that for him to remain in the service would result in permanent disability.

Many thanks are due to Lieut.Col. H. Pleasants, Major James Wren and Lieut. D.D. McGinnis, adjutant, for their assistance upon the march and in camp, and for their noble conduct in the engagement at Fredericksburg. As to my line officers I cannot particularize, for all who have been in the various engagements have behaved bravely and with great credit, proving themselves fit and competent for the positions they occupy.

In conclusion, I would add that I should like to see some plan adopted by which all the old decimated regiments could be filled up. I would not be able, today, to take more than 300 men into an engagement. Other regiments are the same. It would take three of the old regiments now to make one. If they cannot be filled by new recruits, it strikes me that it would be a good plan to consolidate them. It would certainly be a great saving to the Government, and at the same time would prove more efficient.

I must not close without naming the fact that we have not been paid since the 30th of June, a period of six months. I am satisfied that many of the families at home are suffering in consequence. This should not be. It should be enough, when men are willing to sacrifice their business, leave their homes, families and friends, and, if need be, sacrifice their lives for their country's good, without having their families suffer by delay in payment.

To the friends of those who have died, or fallen in battle, I would say, you have my dearest condolence, and to those who have been wounded, or are sick, you have my sympathies in this, the hour of your suffering.

Entering upon the new year, as we do today, I wish you, and the many readers of the Journal, all a hearty and happy New Year.

I remain yours, with respect,

J.K. Sigfried, Col. commanding Regt.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A look at. . .Brigadier General Thomas Welsh

It is really no big secret that I have an especially strong interest in the 9th Corps. And it's not just because the 48th Pennsylvania served in the corps from start to finish. The 9th Corps was seemingly everywhere throughout the war. . .from the shores of the Carolinas, to Virginia, to Maryland, to Kentucky, to Tennessee, Mississippi, and back to Virginia. Everywhere that is, except Gettysburg. It is remembered by many as the "wandering corps," and its' soldiers took pride in the fact that the dead of the 9th Corps lay buried in no less than seven states. I also enjoy studying the 9th Corps because I am a fan of the underdog. It seems as if the 9th Corps gets little respect in popular memory, its image tarnished because of its association with Ambrose Burnside. . .and because the corps did not fight at Gettysburg, it seems as if it is not as highly regarded as, say, the 2nd Corps, the "glory" boys of the Army of the Potomac who could do no wrong.

Oh, and the 9th Corps had the coolest of all corps badges:

9th Corps Badge


I also enjoy studying the lives of the Civil War's lesser-known figures, so today I thought I would combine the two and upload a brief biographical sketch of Brigadier General Thomas Welsh, an overlooked soldier in an overlooked/underappreciated corps. . .Special emphasis is placed on Welsh's role at Antietam.

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Brigadier General Thomas Welsh


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A leading citizen of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Thomas Welsh twice left civilian life behind to tender his services to the United States in its times of need, first in its war with Mexico, and then in its war with itself. Personally brave, Welsh proved himself to be a hard fighter and competent officer in both of these wars, who survived a grievous wound at the 1847 battle of Buena Vista only to succumb to malaria during the Civil War. Born and raised in Columbia, Welsh found work as a canal boat operator and then entered the lumber business before volunteering as a private in the 2nd Kentucky Infantry upon the outbreak of war with Mexico. Quickly promoted to the rank of sergeant, Welsh survived his wound at Buena Vista and was later commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the 11th United States Infantry. After being mustered out of the service in August 1848, Welsh returned to Columbia where he entered upon a lucrative career as a merchant. In the years before the Civil War, he also served his community as a justice of the peace.
When civil war erupted with the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, Welsh quickly organized a company of three-month volunteers. Entering the service as captain of this company, which was attached to the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Welsh was made lieutenant-colonel of the regiment, no doubt owing to his service in the war with Mexico and his standing in the community. After the expiration of his three-month term of service, during which time he had served under General Robert Patterson in that officer’s ill-fated campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, Welsh helped raise the 45th Pennsylvania, a three-year regiment. Reentering service as colonel of this regiment in October 1861, Welsh and his men were initially attached to Horatio Wright’s division and assigned to duty along the South Carolina coast before being transferred to Virginia in the summer of 1862. On August 3, Colonel Welsh was made commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 9th Corps’s First Division, commanded during the Maryland Campaign by Orlando Willcox.
During the late morning hours of September 17, 1862, while Sam Sturgis’s brigades battled their way across the Lower Bridge, Welsh and his men were held in reserve. After the bridge was finally carried, Welsh’s Brigade—consisting of the 45th & 100th Pennsylvania, the 8th Michigan, and the 46th New York—crossed the Antietam with Willcox’s other brigade under the command of Benjamin Christ. Welsh’s Brigade formed into line on the left of Christ’s Brigade, with its own left loosely aligned with the right flank of Harrison Fairchild’s Brigade of Rodman’s Division. Some two hours passed before the Ninth Corps line, stretching one mile in length, was finally ready to advance. Welsh’s men pushed slowly but steadily forward, over undulating ground and in the face of Confederate sharpshooters positioned behind haystacks and the outbuildings on the Otto Farm. Heavy cannon fire, raking Welsh’s men from the heights to their front and left, also hindered their advance. Citing lack of support of both his flanks, Welsh ordered his men to halt. Confederate troops to Welsh’s front were by this time streaming through the streets of Sharpsburg. For a few moments it seemed as if one more united and determined push by Willcox’s Division might break the tenuous Confederate line and block Lee’s only line of retreat. A.P. Hill’s attack against Rodman’s exposed left flank, however, put an end to any possibility of such an attack. With the collapse of Ninth Corps’s left, Welsh and his men were ordered to fall back to a position near the bridge, and here they stayed until relieved the following morning by George Morell’s Fifth Corps troops. For their efforts, Welsh’s Brigade lost 94 men killed, wounded, or missing.
Two and a half months after the battle of Antietam, on November 29, 1862, Welsh was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers. With the reorganization of the Army of the Potomac before the Fredericksburg Campaign, however, Welsh found himself back in command of the 45th Pennsylvania, his rank notwithstanding. Following the Union debacle at Fredericksburg, Welsh was transferred west with General Burnside and was again placed in brigade command. Just a few weeks later, Welsh assumed command of the Ninth Corps’s First Division, which he led during the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Sadly, Welsh did not have long to live after the surrender of that city. On August 6, 1863, he fell seriously ill with chills and a high fever. Taken by steamer to Cairo, Illinois, Welsh remained on board until a suitable railroad car could be found to transfer him to Cincinnati. Finally arriving there some eight days later, Welsh was taken to a private residence where he died the same day. The thirty-nine-year-old citizen-soldier was the victim of malarial fever. Disease, the number one killer of Civil War soldiers, knew no rank. Welsh’s remains were transported back to his hometown of Columbia, Pennsylvania, for burial in the Mount Bethel Cemetery.

Monday, December 3, 2007

"The Last Sad Honors:" The Funeral of General James Nagle

Brigadier General James Nagle

James Nagle was a remarkable man. He organized a milita company at the age of 18, fought in the Mexican-American War as a captain of infantry, and, during the Civil War, raised, organized, and commanded no less than four regiments of Pennsylvania volunteers. A brigadier general, he also led a brigade at the battles of 2nd Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Had it not been for the heart disease that forced his resignation from the army in May 1863, he no doubt would have risen to division command, and, perhaps to major general.

He never attended West Point, or received any type of formal military training, but in camp and on the battlefield, he was, nontheless, a more than competent officer.

But the military was not his whole story. He was also a faithful husband and the devoted father of seven. When not in the army, he worked for his housepainting and wallpaper-hanging business, and served a term as sheriff of Schuylkill County. He was also on the Pottsville School Board, and was a member and then president of the borough council.

Despite all of this, Nagle remains a forgotten figure. For all the tens of thousands of books published on the American Civil War, it seems strange that there are those who still dwell in the vast halls of historical obscurity. And James Nagle, regrettably, is one of them.

During his short life, he was able to accomplish much, and in Schuylkill County he was an esteemed and respected figure. Testament to the high regard in which he was held was his funeral, held on Saturday, August 25, 1866. He died the previous Wednesday, August 22, at 4:00 a.m., in his Pottsville home, surrounded by his family. He was only 44 years old when he died.

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The Miners' Journal, Schuylkill County's leading newspaper, described at length the funeral of Brigadier General James Nagle. It is reprinted below:

General James Nagle.-Sincere sorrow pervaded this community on Wednesday morning last, when the fact of Gen. Nagle’s death became known. The sad event was not unexpected, for he had suffered for years from disease of the heart and liver, and during the past few weeks it was evident to his friends that he was succumbing to the attacks of adversaries too powerful for medicine to combat successfully. He died on Wednesday morning at 4 o’clock at his residence in this Borough. A brave soldier of two wars; a good citizen; an estimable man, has passed away. While the memory of his worth will remain green in the memories of this community in which so many years of his useful life were spent, his name will be inscribed with honor on the pages of his country’s history.

The Funeral of Gen. James Nagle. The remains of Gen. Nagle were interred in the Presbyterian Cemetery on Saturday afternoon last with military honors.
During the morning the Ringgold Band of Reading, which had volunteered to play on the occasion, the Ashland Veterans, Capt. McLaughlin, and the Cumbola Nagle Guards reached the borough to attend the funeral. At noon Capt. Binder of Philadelphia, a companion-in-arms of Gen. Nagle in the Mexican War, having been in the same Regiment, Gen. Albright of Carbon County, and Major Bertolette of Reading, also arrived to assist in playing the last sad honors to the remains of the dead soldier.
The body was viewed by hundreds before the hour of moving from the late residence of the deceased General. The corpse was attired in citizens’ dress, and rested in a coffin furnished by Mr. John Kalbach, Centre Street opposite the Union Hotel. It was made of walnut covered with black cloth, and the ornamentation was faultless, reflecting great credit on the taste of the maker. A silver plate on the lid bore the General’s name and age. The entire workmanship was the subject of much and just commendation. When the coffin was placed in the hearse it was covered with a silk national flag with a black rosette in each corner. On the top rested the sword which was presented to Gen. Nagle by the citizens of Schuylkill County, after his return from Mexico.
About 3 o’clock the cortege moved from the house in the following order, left in front:

Hydranlian Fire Company
American Hose Company
Humane Hose Company
Good Intent Fire Engine Company
Cumbola Nagle Guards
Washington Artillery Company
Ashland Veterans
Grant Zouaves, Pottsville
Ringgold Band, Reading
Soldiers Central League, Pottsville
Detachment of Soldiers in Mexican War
Who were in Gen. Nagle’s Company, bear-
Ing the old Company flag.
Officiating Clergy
Pall Bearers—Gen. Wm. W. Duffield, Gen. Geo. C.
Wynkoop, gen. H. Pleasants, Gen. Albright,
Gen. J.A. Hennessy, Col. J.M. Wetherill
Horse and Groom
Mounted Officers in Uniform
Gen. J.K. Sigfried and Staff

The cortege which contained about six hundred persons, moved over the following route: From house to Market Street; down market to Centre; down Centre to Mahantango; up Mahantango to Clay; down Clay to Howard Avenue; down Howard Avenue to the Cemetery.
All places of business were closed during the passage of the funeral train, and many houses along the route were clothed in mourning while flags were suspended at half mast and craped. The streets were filled with silent and mournful spectators. Minute guns were fired from Lawton’s Hill until the cortege reached the Cemetery.
The religious services at the grave were conducted by Rev. Mr. McCool, rev. Mr. Cook and Rev. Mr. Billheimer. Mr. McCool delivered an impressive discourse, in which he dwelt at length upon the life, character, and services of Gen. Nagle. It was listened to attentively by the large concourse of persons present, which must have numbered between two and three thousand.
The last military honors were paid by the Grant Zouaves who fired three vollies over the grave.
The military then returned to Centre Street, where the line was dismissed.
It was one of the largest and most imposing funerals ever seen here, the entire community evincing sincere sorrow at the loss of an estimable citizen, a brave soldier, a patriot, whose career will ever be referred to with pride by our citizens, and whose memory will be cherished while our hills endure.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Soldiers of the 48th: Lieutenant M.M. Kistler, Co. I, And His "Remarkable Tenacity of Life."

Michael M. Kistler was 32 years old when he was mustered into service as a lieutenant in Company I, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, on August 15, 1861. At 5'11", he was among the tallest soldiers in the regiment, and before the war, he labored as a farmer in the small Schuylkill County village of Ringtown. Surviving the battles that comprised Ambrose Burnside's North Carolina Expedition throughout the winter of 1861-1862 as welll as 2nd Bull Run, Chantilly, and South Mountain unscathed, Kistler fell with a grievous wound on September 17, 1862.
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While googling the 48th Pennsylvania several years ago, I came across this interesting article that appeared in the March 16, 1864, supplement of the Boston Herald.
"Remarkable Tenacity of Life: Lieut. M.M. Kistler, formerly of the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteers, who still survives, and is commanding a company in the Invalid Corps, was pronounced by the surgeons who examined him after the battle [of Antietam], as he lay among the dead--himself almost as dead apparently as they--mortally wounded, and he was passed by at the time, and the attention of the surgeons was devoted to others, for whom it was thought there might be a chance of recovery. The fortunes of the day seemed to vacillate in the balance as the massive columns surged back and forth, and for a time the field was in possession of the rebels; again our brave fellows drove back the rebel columns, and took the ground where our wounded were lying, weltering in their gore, and in the evening the brave and undaunted Lieutenant was carried from the field by our own men, and laid down in an old barn without blanket or overcoat. His clothes on his right side, from his shoulder down to his boot, being saturated with blood from his wound, were cold and stiff. It was at Antietam he was wounded, by a ball entering his right shoulder in a way to carry his epaulatte into the wound, and part of it with the ball entered the right lobe of the lungs. The wound was probed by no less than eight or nine surgeons, three or four at a time. They exceeded in extracting from the wound the wire, four or five inches in lenght, belonging to the shoulder strap, and all agreed there were fractured pieces of bone necessary to be extracted, but they neither removed them nor dressed the wound, considering the case a hopeless one. The Lieutenant alone believed his recovery a possible case. Thus he laid suffering in his gore until the sixth day when he received a change of clothing, and on the seventh day, with the assistance of his servant, he started, both feeble and faint, and reached his home. On the thirteenth day after receiving the wound, it was for the first time thoroughly dressed, by Dr. J.C. Schirner, of Tamaqua, Penn. Suppuration had by this time taken place, and he spit up a portion of the shoulder strap with the body matter. The ball still remains in the lungs too heavy to be raised by the efforts made in coughing, where an abscess is formed by the wound in the lung, and suppuration takes place, as it frequently does. He now usually enjoys a reasonable degree of health, with the exception of a few days each time that these inward gatherings take place.
This we regard as one of the most remarkable cases of recovery, from what would be regarded by all surgeons as a hopeless case, on record. When we contemplate a man with such a wound, lying for thirteen days without any efficient surgical or medical aid, and without any change of clothing for six days, and in the main cold and damp, without food or attention, we cannot but be struck with amazement at the wonderful recuperative powers of the system, in the case of the indomitable Lieut. Kistler. We would naturally suppose he must have suffered untold misery during those thirteen days, but he says he suffered but little, comparatively speaking. His sensibilities must have been instantly stunned. He is a living miracle to all who know his case. While a slight wound hurries many a strong man to an untimely grave, a strong constitution, a determined and indomitable spirit, and, may we not add, a kind Providence had lengthened out his days for further service in the cause of his country."
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Following his wound at Antietam, Kistler was naturally discharged from the 48th Pennsylvania, but following his recovery, returned to the army as an officer in the Veteran's Reserve Corps. Regrettably, I have not been able to find anything on Kistler's post-war life. . .but I'll keep looking.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thanks. . .

On this Veteran's Day, I would like to take the opportunity to thank two American soldiers for their service: my grandfather, Nicholas Mitsock, and my dad, David W. Hoptak.
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Private First Class Nicholas Mitsock
US Army
My grandfather, Nicholas Mitsock, was a first-generation American. He was born on April 7, 1927, in the small coal mining community of Llewellyn in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. He entered the army on December 10, 1945, at the age of 18, and was mustered in as a private in the Headquarters Company, 30th US Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division. He was sent to Europe, and was detailed as a truck driver and truck mechanic. He remained stationed at Stuttgart, Germany, until his discharge in April 1947. He returned to Schuylkill County, found work as a coal miner, married my grandmother, and fathered five children; my mother, Colleen, being born in 1951.
In 1957, my grandfather was killed in a mine collapse.
My grandfather's discharge paper. . .
Nick Mitsock, playin' ball for the Branch Township team. . .
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Sergeant David W. Hoptak
US Army
My dad, David Hoptak, was born on July 30, 1946. He graduated high school in 1965, turned 19, and was promptly drafted into the US Army. He did his basic training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and trained with the M42 tank at Fort Bliss, Texas. In late 1966, he was sent to Vietnam as a soldier in the 1st Battalion, 44th Artillery. He spent the next year stationed at Con Thien, immediately south of the DMZ. He rose to the rank of sergeant, and commanded an M-42 Twin Duster tank. While stationed at Con Thien, his tank battalion was supported by the 3rd US Marine Division, and saw significant combat. The 1st/44th was one of the most highly decorated units in the Vietnam War. In December 1967, my dad was discharged from the army. He boarded the plane at Dong Ha, and began the long journey home.
My dad at Con Thien. . .
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Happy Veteran's Day. And to all our current and former members of the armed services, thank you.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Monument no match for lightning. . .

A month ago, on October 9, the monument to the 6th New York Cavalry here in Gettysburg was (severely) damaged by what must have been a tremendous bolt of lightning. You can read the full story here:

I was out on the battlefield yesterday, and snapped a few photos of the damage. I'm just glad this lightning bolt didn't strike me!

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Front view of monument (fronting Buford Avenue)
. . .the damage here is significant, but wait until you see. . .
the back!
Apparently one of the turrets was blown to smithereens. . .

From the front, again. . .

Monday, November 5, 2007

Poor Bill Christian. . .

I guess not everyone is cut out to be a soldier. Take Colonel William Christian for example. Now, I feel somewhat bad for poor Bill. A leading member of his community, he sought more prominence by serving in the military. He had militia experience, and was a veteran of the Mexican-American War, although he saw no combat. Back in the army as an officer in the Civil War, Christian proved that, yes, even officers were human. He simply ran away from battle at Antietam, and suffered for it throughout the rest of his life. He was a human being, and he got scared. . .thousands of soldiers did, and thousands showed the white feather in battle. But it just wasn't expected of officers.
Below is a short biography of Colonel William Christian I wrote initially for my colleagues at Antietam. . . .His is truly a sad story.
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Colonel William Christian
A strict disciplinarian who served during the Mexican-American War and as drillmaster for the Utica, New York, city militia, William Henry Christian certainly had the credentials of an officer. A surveyor and engineer by trade, Christian sought to make his mark in the military and got off to a promising start. As events proved, however, Christian was never cut out for battlefield command. As colonel of the 26th New York Infantry, he stayed out of the action at Second Bull Run, claiming illness. Then as a brigade commander at the battle of Antietam, he became unnerved and fled in the face of the enemy. He grew increasingly despondent afterwards and ultimately slipped into a state of insanity, dying an inmate of a New York asylum. His story is truly a sad one.
William Henry Christian was born on April 9, 1825, in Utica, New York. Little about his childhood remains known, but with the outbreak of war with Mexico in 1846, twenty-one-year-old Christian enlisted as a private in Company K, 1st New York Volunteers. He spent the first two months of his enlistment on Governor’s Island being trained in the ways of the soldier and then sailed for San Francisco where his regiment remained for the duration of the Mexican-American War. Although Christian saw no battles, he must have impressed his superiors with his mastery of drill, for, in a very short time, he was promoted through the ranks until he was mustered out of service as his company’s first sergeant.
Following the war with Mexico, Christian, instead of returning to his native New York, stayed in California, being swept up, perhaps, with “gold fever.” For the next seven years, Christian made his home in San Francisco where he found work as a school teacher. He also took up the study of engineering, and when he finally made his way back to Utica in 1854 was appointed as the city’s surveyor. While pursuing this career, Christian played an active role in Utica’s militia, serving as drillmaster during the years immediately preceding the outbreak of civil war.
Soon after the surrender of Fort Sumter, thirty-six-year-old William Christian traveled to Albany where he personally asked Governor Edwin Morgan for permission to raise a regiment of volunteers. With his Mexican-American War experience, limited though it was, coupled with his standing in the Utica militia, Christian was granted his request and he returned to his hometown to establish a recruiting station. With his regiment—the 26th New York Volunteer Infantry—organized within weeks, Colonel Christian immediately went to work drilling his new command. On the training field and on the parade ground, Christian excelled as an officer. A strict disciplinarian, Christian was also a very virtuous man. He forbade, for example, the consumption of alcohol in his regiment, and even requested that his line officers sign a pledge of temperance. Sadly, although Christian looked and certainly acted the part of a capable military man, his battlefield performance proved otherwise.
Marched off to war, the 26th New York helped cover the retreat of the Union forces at Bull Run in late July 1861, and Colonel Christian even received the praise of Abraham Lincoln for the handling of his men here. With the organization of the Army of the Potomac later that summer, the 26th New York was assigned to General Henry Slocum’s Brigade. On October 3, 1861, Slocum selected Colonel Christian to lead an expedition of some 350 men to march on and capture a detachment of Confederate cavalry encamped near Pohick Church, some twelve miles from where Slocum’s Brigade was stationed at Alexandria. The entire operation was a disaster; not only did the Confederate cavalrymen escape intact, but Christian’s men proceeded to pillage the Virginia countryside on their way back to Alexandria. What is more, one of Christian’s men accidentally killed another. Furious with Christian, Slocum demanded a court of inquiry, which was granted, but the matter was apparently dropped before the court convened. Slocum was able, however, to get Christian and the 26th New York transferred out of his command. Less than one month after the Pohick Church fiasco, the 26th was sent to Fort Lyon—one of Washington’s many defensive works—where William Christian, being the senior commander stationed there, assumed command of the post.
For more than five months, the 26th New York remained stationed at Fort Lyon. During this time, Colonel Christian continued to drill his command and did so with his newlywed wife by his side. On November 6, 1861, William Christian and Mary Timmerman were married and the two took up residence at Fort Lyon until marching orders arrived in late May 1862. Assigned to General Irvin McDowell’s corps, Christian and his men spent the following months stationed near Falmouth and Manassas and would not see any action until late August at the Second Battle of Bull Run. On August 30, 1862, the 26th New York lost nearly two hundred men in its baptism by fire; they had performed well, but did so without their leader. As the regiment was marching into battle, Christian was seen laying in the shade of a tree, wrapped in a blanket. A physician by his side, Christian watched as his men paraded past. He claimed that he was suffering from heatstroke as well as from a severe case of poison ivy on his hands. However, late that same night, with the battle over, Christian rode his horse into the ranks of his regiment, which was then falling back toward Centreville, waving the brigade flag and offering words of encouragement to the troops. The men were unimpressed and just a little suspicious about Christian’s rapid recovery from whatever ailed him that morning. Then, after discovering that Christian, being the senior colonel, assumed brigade command following the wounding of General Zealous Tower earlier in the day, the officers of the 26th were concerned. They held a secret meeting that night and debated whether they should petition their division commander, General James Ricketts, to remove Christian from brigade command. They ultimately decided against such a drastic measure.
Christian turned in competent performances at Chantilly on September 1, 1862, and at South Mountain two weeks later, but his brigade was only lightly engaged at each of these battles. They would be heavily engaged, however, at Antietam, and it was here that Christian completely fell apart. Crossing the Antietam Creek on the afternoon of September 16, Christian’s Brigade went into position near the Samuel Poffenberger Farm, on the left of the First Corps line. Early the next morning, Christian’s men formed into line of battle and readied themselves for the battle ahead. Joseph Hooker, commanding the First Corps, planned for the divisions Doubleday and Ricketts to move forward simultaneously at dawn, but when the orders arrived things went bad. Ricketts fell with a severe wound, as did General George Hartsuff, commanding one of Ricketts’s Brigades. Christian’s men moved forward but when they cleared the North Woods they came under a murderous fire from Confederate artillery posted to their front and right. Christian halted his men and then did what he knew best—ordered his men to make a series of parade-ground maneuvers in the face of the Confederate shot and shell. Moving forward and then by flank across some four hundred yards of open ground, Christian’s men finally arrived in the East Woods, where their commander finally became unhinged. Upon arriving in the woodlot, Christian dismounted and then ran back towards the North Woods, supposedly ducking and dodging his head with each cannon shot, exclaiming that all was lost and that the army was in full retreat. Meanwhile, his men were simply astonished and, worse, did not what to do next. Ricketts demanded to know why Christian’s men came to a stop and upon discovering the situation ordered General Truman Seymour, of George Meade’s Third Division, First Corps, to take command of the leaderless brigade. Seymour quickly sorted out the problem and got Christian’s men moving forward once again.
Late on the evening of September 17, General James Ricketts summoned Christian to his tent and delivered an ultimatum to the humiliated New Yorker: either resign his commission or be brought up on charges of cowardice in the face of the enemy. Christian chose the former course, and two days later tendered his resignation from the army claiming that “Business of importance” required his presence with his family. With his resignation approved, Christian returned to Utica, New York, claiming that his departure from the army was caused by intrigue among some of his fellow officers.
Christian fell into a state of despondency following his return to Utica. He actively sought other commands, and even offered to serve with no pay, but every one of his requests was turned down. He became more and more unraveled as the years passed by. With the war winding to a close in March 1865, Christian, although he fled from the field of battle at Antietam, managed to receive a brevet promotion to the rank of brigadier general of volunteers. But this gesture did not assuage his guilt and his depression. He became more despondent and was even unable to perform his work as a surveyor and civil engineer. Madness finally set in. He was once seen placing a saddle over the banister of his front porch, and then, after mounting it, delivered orders to an imaginary group of soldiers. Still, throughout the post-war years, the veterans of the 26th New York continued to invite their first commander to all of their reunions. At some of these gatherings, Christian erupted into fits of laughter. Finally, in early 1886, Mary Christian committed her husband to the state insane asylum in Utica. He died there on May 8, 1887, at the age of sixty-two. The cause of death was officially pronounced as dementia, but the local papers claimed that the old soldier succumbed to the effects of the heatstroke he suffered at Bull Run in August 1862.
After the death of her husband, Mary Christian applied for a pension, claiming that her husband’s demise was caused by his supposed wartime heatstroke. Veterans of the 26th New York rallied by her side and supported her efforts. Her claim, however, was denied.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Up Close With Some of Gettysburg's Granite and Bronze Soldiers

It was a beautiful Fall day here in Gettysburg, so I headed out to the battlefield armed with my Traveller Digital Camera and snapped a few up close shots of some of the battlefield's granite and bronze soldiers. . .
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Two views of the 40th New York ("Mozart Regiment") Monument in the Plum Run Valley. I always liked this monument as it is somewhat "hidden" from plain view. . .
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Hampton's Battery. . .in the Peach Orchard
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The 118th Pennsylvania ("Corn Exchange") Monument near Stony Hill. . .
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This monument to the 140th Pennsylvania is among the most unique at Gettysburg, or at any National Battlefield for that matter. . .it depicts a young soldier killed in action.
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Massachusetts Sharpshooters' Monument
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This soldier of the 23rd Pennsylvania ("Birney's Zoauves") is ready for action. . .
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The recently dedicated monument of General John White Geary on Culp's Hill
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Two shots of the 78th/102nd New York Monument on Culp's Hill. . .

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The 13th New Jersey Infantry Monument
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And, of course, I couldn't leave the battlefield today without first visiting the monument dedicated to the 96th PA Infantry, from my native Schuylkill County. . .

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Soldiers of the 48th: Private Daniel Barnett, Co. E

Private Daniel D. Barnett
Company E, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry
[Hoptak Collection] 

Daniel Barnett was only fourteen years old when, in April 1861, America went to war with itself. Like many his age, Barnett was eager to enlist but was much too young to shoulder a musket. For Barnett, the prevailing thought that the war would be a short affair, decided after one strong show of force, may have been just a little frustrating. If this would indeed be the case, then he would miss out on the great adventure of soldiering and on the honor of having served his country in its time of need.
But as events proved, the war would certainly not be a short-lived conflict. It would drag on and on, through many long months and through many savage battle and certain by 1864, the notion that this war would be a glorious affair was wiped clean from most minds. Having been reduced in number from 1,000 in September 1861 to just over 300 in February 1864, the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry was actively seeking new recruits to fill its depleted ranks.  In New Philadelphia, young Daniel Barnett, by now seventeen years of age, finally got his chance to volunteer. Outfitted with the Union blue and given the accouterments and weapons of war, Barnett made his way the short distance to Pottsville and proudly posed for a photographer, doing his best to look somehow older than his seventeen years.

According to his mustering information, Barnett was a laborer from New Philadelphia, PA, who stood just 5'4" in height. He would survive the horrific combat at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and at Cold Harbor. He also made it unscathed through the opening attacks at Petersburg, and survived Pegram's Farm. By the beginning of 1865, Barnett was a veteran of at least a half dozen major battles. But for the soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania, there would be but one more major battle before the war finally came to a close.

On April 2, General Ulysses Grant ordered an all-out, frontal assault on the thinly-manned  but still formidable Confederate lines surrounding Petersburg. All along the lines it was a savage, and in places chaotic and hectic affair, with the veterans of so many hard-fought battles rushing forward, bayonets glistening, and their proud banners, torn by shot and shell, flying high above their heads. But for all this romanticism, this was still war, with all its terrible and horrific realities. Hundreds were killed, thousands more received ghastly, disfiguring wounds.

The loss of life in the 48th Pennsylvania was high. The regiment's commander, Colonel George Washington Gowen, was killed instantly when an artillery shell tore away half his head. The regimental flag was splattered by his blood and brains. Included among the killed, too, was Private Daniel Barnett. Sometime during the charge, the eager young soldier was shot through the temple and, in that instant, his life came to an end.

Exactly one week later, hostilities in Virginia ceased when General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia. There would be celebrations throughout the army and throughout the North, but it is impossible imagine anything in the way of celebration among the members of Daniel Barnett's family. Instead, there would be mourning and a funeral to plan. Even as the armies settled in and around Appomattox Court House, Daniel Barnett's father made the long, melancholy journey to Petersburg to retrieve the mortal remains of his young son.

On April 22, 1865, the Miners' Journal reported and the death of Barnett and of the arrangements for his funeral and burial services:

Death of Another Brave Soldier.--Daniel D. Barnett, son of Mr. Daniel G. Barnett of New Philadelphia, this County, a private of Co. E, 48th Regiment, P.V.V., was instantly killed by a rebel bullet at the battle before Petersburg, Va., on the 2nd of April, inst. Young Barnett was only eighteen years and five days old. He joined the 48th Regiment on the 24th of February, 1864, and on all occasions fought gallantly for his country. His remains were brought home by his father on Tuesday last, and will be interred with military honors to-morrow (Sunday) afternoon, in the Odd Fellows' Cemetery, Pottsville. A special train on the Schuylkill Valley Railroad will leave Pottsville for New Philadelphia and Middleport at twelve o'clock, noon. Funeral services will be held at the residence of his father at one o'clock. The train will arrive at Pottsville at half past two o'clock and return to New Philadelphia and Middleport at half-past four o'clock, P.M.

            Returned soldiers and citizens are respectfully invited to attend the funeral. 

Daniel Barnett's Mother, Elizabeth Barnett
[Hoptak Collection]

Daniel Barnett's Sister Olympia Barnett
[Hoptak Collection]

Daniel Barnett's Sister Annie Barnett
[Hoptak Collection]
The Barnett Family Plot in the Odd Fellows' Cemetery, Pottsville, PA
Daniel Barnett, Sr., and Elizabeth Barnett on left and Daughter Annie Barnett is on right, with cross
It is possible that Daniel Barnett is buried between his mother and sister Annie

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Soldiers of the 48th: Private William A. Miller, Co. A: The 48th's First Death

Joseph Gould, in his regimental history published in 1908, recorded that during the four years of the Civil War, 236 men of the 48th Pennsylvania died while in service. He took this number (and the lists of the dead by company) directly from an 1865 publication titled The Patriotism of Schuylkill County, edited by Francis Wallace. Published shortly after the guns fell silent, Wallace's work was rushed to print before the true casualties figures from the war surfaced. Indeed, the number of men who died in the 48th was significantly higher. Scores of men remained unaccounted for, either missing in action, or simply listed as "Not On Muster Out Roll." It is not a stretch to say that the number of fatalities in the regiment far exceeded 300 men. The causes of deaths in the regiment were nearly evenly divided between battlefield casualties and those who succumbed to disease.
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It was disease that claimed the life of the 48th's first wartime death: Private William Miller, of Company A. When the call went out for volunteers in the summer of 1861, Miller, a nineteen-year-old yeoman from Port Clinton, was quick to enlist his services. Mustered into service on September 17, 1861, Miller was dead just two months later, passing away on November 21, while the regiment was stationed on Hatteras Island, North Carolina.
The body of the young private was sent home to Schuylkill County for burial, being interred in my own hometown of Orwigsburg. I was in Orwigsburg last week and snapped this photograph of Private Miller's grave:
Miller was, sadly, the first of hundreds of soldiers in the 48th Pennsylvania who sacrificed their lives fighting for the Union.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Fog of War?

Mornings lately have found the Antietam Battlefield enshrouded in a heavy, heavy fog. Today's fog was particularly thick, and it did not lift until well after 10:00 A.M. Visibility was, of course, limited. I took a few photographs of the area just immediately outside the Visitor Center.
From the cannon representing S.D. Lee's Battalion, opposite the Dunker Church, the fog made it impossible to see even the Maryland Monument, which is just a hundred or so yards away. . . The New York State Monument slowly came into view. . .

The 1st Rhode Island Artillery Battery, Captain Tompkins's guns, was all one could see this morning from the southern side of the Visitor Center. . .

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Of course, the fog played a role during the battle of Antietam itself, and every foggy morning we have, well, I naturally think about this role. . .and how it may have saved Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. Indeed, during his invasion north, in which everything seemingly went wrong for Lee, the fog...well, the fog was just about the only thing that played in his favor.
When Lee crossed the Potomac in early September, launching his first invasion north, he was fully expecting that all of the success he had enjoyed during his first three months in army command would certainly continue on U.S. soil. But whereas everything went right for Lee before the campaign began, as soon as his men set foot on Maryland soil, everything now started to go wrong. Straggling was at one of its all-time highs in the history of the Army of Northern Virginia, as Lee's men were simply exhausted from what was ten continuous weeks of fatiguing marches and terrible combat. The reception Lee's men were given in Maryland was also a big disappointment for the Confederate Army commander. He was expecting an ovation, that he and his men would be welcomed as heroes and as liberators to an oppressed people. Instead, he was given a cool and sometimes hostile reception from the people of Maryland. Add to these setbacks the fact that the Union garrison at Harper's Ferry did not evacuate their post, as Lee fully expected. This forced him to split his army into many parts to, at the same time, continue his movement north and to deal with those stubborn Yankees at Harper's Ferry. If things couldn't get worse, his plans--Special Orders No. 191--fall directly into the hands of his opponent, General George B. McClellan, who will push his Army of the Potomac west from Frederick in order to cross South Mountain, and, hopefully, cut Lee's army in two and "beat him in detail." Lee, who was on the offensive for ten days, was now forced to assume a defensive stance. His men under D.H. Hill and Longstreet put up a heroic stand at South Mountain on September 14, but by nightfall, McClellan's men had gained a strong foothold on the mountain, and with more and more Union soldiers arriving, Lee decided in was time to head home. . .his campaign of invasion over. But retreating from South Mountain, Lee would learn of the imminent surrender of Harper's Ferry, and he saw that the ground surrounding the town of Sharpsburg, along the Antietam Creek, was ideally suited for defense. Plus, he came north looking to fight a battle--and gain a victory--on U.S. soil. He would have preferred to have fought that battle much further north, but, still, the banks of the Antietam was as good a place as any to make a stand. D.H. Hill's and Longstreet's men are put into position, and Lee anxiously awaits the surrender of Harper's Ferry and the arrival of Stonewall Jackson's men. But would they arrive before the Union army attacked again? George McClellan was certainly planning to attack, but on September 15, his men would not arrive on the eastern side of the creek until late in the day, too late, in fact, to launch an assault of Lee's new line. So McClellan planned to attack early on September 16.
But when Tuesday, September 16, dawned, a heavy fog enshrouded the area making it impossible for McClellan to see Lee's lines and to determine the size of the Confederate force along the Antietam. As the hours passed with the fog remaining heavy, Jackson's men tramped their way northward. All but one of his divisions would be on the field by early the next morning.
For Lee, with everything going wrong thus far in the campaign, something had finally gone right: the fog of war, literally, worked to his advantage, giving Jackson time to get his men to Antietam, and preventing McClellan from launching his attack on the morning of September 16.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Letters Home: Private Jesse Springer, Co. A, 10/5/1862

The following, heartbreaking letter was written by Private Jesse Springer, of Company A, 48th Pennsylvania, on October 5, 1862. A year and a half earlier, on September 17, 1861, Jesse and his older brother, John, were both mustered into service as privates in Company A. John was 24 years old at the time of his enlistment, and his brother Jesse was 20. Both were farm laborers from Hecla, a small community in southern Schuylkill County. At the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, John was struck down, mortally wounded. He died on October 3. Jesse wrote the following letter to his father two days later.
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Mouth of the Antietam
October 5th 1862

Dear Father
This I am happy to state leaves me well, but I am grieved beyond descritpion to announce the death of my dear brother John. He departed this life on the 3rd in Georgetown of disease. His disease I could not tell you as the the Official Notice gave it in Latin. Lieut Henry Boyer received Official notice from the Doctor today. I am very sorry I could not attend to him in his last hours but this was impossible He died a patriotic Soldier.
Dear parents he was a brave soldier and done his whole duty That consulation you have and I hope you will make up your mind that the loss of your son and my brother the country has lost one that endured the battlefield boldly and fearlessly; not in anngry passion, but cooly and reservedly, to put rebellion down. Dear Parents, think of me and pray for me so if I fall, my soul may enter the kingdom of heaven Although brother is no more with us in person he is in spirit. If I am killed my spirit will guide them on to victory and glory. . . .
I don't think we will enter Virginia this fall, as it is getting cold and we will have to prepare for winter. . . .Lieut [Abiel H.] Jackson commanding our company resigned and went home last Wednesday. We have been lying here very near three weeks and there is no intimation of a forward [inellegible]. . . . As I have nothing more to day I will close hoping to hear from you soon my love to all

Your aff Son
Jesse Springer
Company A 48th Regiment P.V. 1st Brigade 2nd Division Burnside's Army
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Jesse Springer remained in the army, and reenlisted in the early spring of 1864. He survived the battlefields of Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, and on July 17, 1865, he was mustered out of service, still a private, but proudly as a "veteran." He returned to Hecla. . .

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Manassas Visit. . .

The Jackson Monument at Manassas

Ranger Mannie and I shared our mutual day off from work on Wednesday with a visit to the Manassas Battlefield. We planned this little soiree several weeks back, figuring that we would need a little get-away after the busyness of Antietam’s Anniversary Weekend. Last year we journeyed to Fort Washington & Fort Foote, south of D.C., and stopped by Monocacy on our way home. This past spring, Mannie met me here in Gettysburg, and together we hiked Longstreet’s July 2, 1863, assault on the southern part of the field. So this was our third little Civil War excursion. . .
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We met in Frederick early in the morning, and by 9:45 A.M. had arrived at the Manassas Visitor Center. Paying the $3.00 entrance fee, we next enjoyed a fiber-optic map demonstration which briefly, but very clearly, explained the First Battle of Bull Run. The adjacent museum was top-notch.

Heading out to the battlefield. . .Our first stop was the Superman Statue—uhh, I mean Jackson Statue behind the visitor center. Keith Snyder, our colleague at Antietam, told us a few days back all about the statue being struck by lightning when he worked at Manassas. We were initially skeptical, but, wouldn’t you know it. . .
Check out Mannie’s blog (link at the bottom of this page) for photographic proof.
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It was a gloriously beautiful day, so, armed with our cameras and good pairs of hiking shoes, we set out on what proved to be a six, maybe seven, mile-long hike that took us from the Visitor Center to Jackson’s Line, to the Warrenton Turnpike, back to Jackson’s Line, over Young’s Branch, back across the Warrenton Turnpike, and then east we journeyed, finally arriving at the famous Stone Bridge over Bull Run.

The modern bridge just a few yards away detracted a bit from the historical ambiance of this battlefield landmark. . .but it was still pretty cool to be there.

Here's Mannie in the Bull Run, giving the old thumbs-up. . .

I think Mannie was standing exactly where this soldier allowed his horse to grab a much-needed drink.
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We followed the creek north to the ford where Sherman’s men crossed, then through the woods to the Carter Cemetery, and to Matthews Hill beyond, where the major action began on that Sunday, July 21, 1861. We learned of Burnside’s advance and of Evans’s noble stand. . .and we were impressed with tree-clearing activities that opened a large vista from Matthews Hill, south toward the Visitor Center on Henry House Hill.

Cannon on Matthews Hill

Mannie points to the high ground of Henry House Hill beyond

Wartime sketch of Ambrose Burnside leading his brigade on Matthews Hill

Here we see Mannie taking a close-up shot of one of these cannon. . .

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Making our way down the southern slope of Matthews Hill and toward the Warrenton Turnpike once again, we both snapped several shots of the famous Stone House, which, as a wayside panel informed us, was seen by tens of thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers and which survived not one but two major battles.

Wartime Photograph of the famous Stone House. . .

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Now feeling the effects of the many-miles’ long journey, we slowly tramped our way back up Henry House Hill, and saw the Judith Henry home, which did not fare as well as the Stone House during the battle.

The Henry House. . .home to the 85-year-old Judith Henry who became one of the war's first civilian casualties.

This monuments was dedicated in June 1865, just months after the guns fell silent, and even before most of the volunteers were mustered out of service. . .

The Monument's Dedication
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More photographs were taken here, followed by a brief pit stop at the Visitor Center. We had a notion when the day began to focus on the Second Battle of Bull Run, but we focused, instead, on the war’s first major land battle. Never had the battle made more sense; everything just fell into place.
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My ’94 Oldsmobile led us toward the scene of much of the Second Battle. Along the way, I showed Mannie, ad neauseum, where Nagle’s Brigade and the men of the 48th attacked Jackson’s line. . .

We made a brief stop at the Confederate Cemetery at Groveton, then checked out the new Stuart’s Hill interpretative center. . .It was pretty cool, and we both agreed we would have to come back to hike the Second Battle’s trails. . .

266 Confederate soldiers were buried here; only 2 are identified. . .

A view from Stuart's Hill. . .if you squint, you can see the Brawner Farm in the distance

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Before heading out for the day, we swung by the Unfinished Railroad Cut. Now, earlier in the day, when we first arrived, we were told about tree-removing going on at the Deep Cut, and boy, they weren’t kidding. Again, check out Mannie’s post for photos of this and for more particulars about their efforts.

The men of Nagle's Brigade--including the 48th PA--broke through the Confederate line here, along this unfinished railroad cut. . .We couldn't do much hiking here even if we wanted to, for it was closed due to the tree removal. . .

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A few more stops, including the spot where the 5th &10th New York Zouave regiments met with slaughter, and then to Chinn Ridge, where I cautioned many a deer to be careful on the park’s roads.

The Monument to the 5th New York (Duryee's Zouaves)
The Monument to the 10th New York

I told these guys they had best be careful. . .
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We headed back to Frederick in the afternoon, arriving there by 4:15 P.M. I was back home in Gettysburg an hour later; Mannie, no doubt, making it back to his place much sooner.

In all, it was a great trip, and we learned a great deal. I told Mannie throughout that my impression of Manassas had changed almost from the minute we arrived. I have only been there a half dozen times or so growing up; the last time was maybe six or seven years ago. In my mind, I remembered it as a battlefield surrounded by sprawl and development, but this, to me, no longer seems to be the case. They really got a great place down there, and there is a lot of the battlefield that still remains protected.

Before parting ways, we agreed that our next little excursion would be to tramp the gaps at South Mountain. . .Turner’s, Fox’s, and Crampton’s. We set a tentative date for sometime in October.

Click here to read Mannie’s report on our Manassas Visit: