Friday, July 2, 2010
It is rare we leave New England for purposes of this blog, but today we take a moment to remember the New Englanders who left a bit of themselves, either in the form of memories, monuments, or graves, on the battlefield of Gettysburg.
The Battle of Gettysburg, one of the most important events of the American Civil War, began July 1, 1863, and lasted for three days. The war did not end until almost two years later, so there was still plenty of fighting to be done, but this battle was the turning point.
There were a few odd elements to this battle which have intrigued historians for generations. First, the two armies, the Army of Northern Virginia, about 75,000 men under Confederate General Robert E. Lee and the Army of the Potomac, about 97,000 men under Union General George G. Meade ran into each other by accident. General Lee had wanted to take the war into the North, and so entered Pennsylvania with the hope of eventually taking Philadelphia, or Washington, D.C., or Baltimore, forcing the United States to bargain for peace.
One Confederate brigade, foraging for supplies in the countryside, stumbled into one column of Meade’s cavalry. The great battle erupted by chance. Another ironic twist is that, because of where the two armies were positioned around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the South came down from the north, and the North came up from the south.
The battlefield is a National Park today, and there are monuments to the individual fighting units placed all around at the approximate locations of where these regiments were placed during the battle. For more on the Battlefield, have a look at this website.
Here are a few regimental monuments from Massachusetts regiments:
The 37th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was erected in 1886. There are also smaller markers for the flank positions of many of these regiments. This regiment was made of mainly of men from the western Mass. towns of Pittsfield, Springfield, Chicopee, etc. This is where they were, near present day Sedgewick Avenue, on the 2nd day of battle.
Here is the 11th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, made up mainly of Boston boys. They stood here on July 2nd, 26 were killed, 93 wounded, and 11 missing. The monument was dedicated in 1885, and there used to be a sword in that arm atop the monument, but it’s missing now. There is evidence of occasional vandalism even here.
Here is the 7th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, on Sedgewick Avenue, north of Little Round Top. Erected 1885.
As you can see, just a few steps away is where the First Massachusetts Calvary were placed. They seem almost like chess pieces, don’t they? The pawn and the knight.
Here is the 1st Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment on Emmitsburg Road, across from Sickles Avenue, erected in 1886. Mostly Boston boys, as you can see as etched in the marker, 18 were killed here, 3 later died of wounds, 80 were wounded, and 15 taken prisoner. A front view of this marker leads the post above.
Here is a monument of the Second Brigade of the Army of the Potomac, comprised here of the 7th, 10th, and 37 Massachusetts regiments, and the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry.
Here is the monument for the 10th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, also on Sedgewick Avenue. Four men from this unit were wounded at Gettysburg, and five missing. They were western Mass. boys, mainly from Holyoke, Northampton, Chicopee, Springfield. Bronze founder and sculptor Melzar H. Mosman cast the bronze work for this sculpture. More about Mosman in this previous post, and also in this previous post on the Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee, Mass.
This is another moment that has been damaged by vandals (after this photo was taken). The current re-enactors unit of the 10th Mass. Regiment is raising funds for its restoration. See this site for more information on how you can help.
And here, in the adjoining cemetery, is how many soldiers from the Civil War are memorialized. This was the marred countryside where President Abraham Lincoln five months later at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg delivered perhaps his most memorable speech, encouraged a traumatized nation, and redefined its purpose.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.