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. . .