June 13 Gettysburg Campaign: Numbers in the Civil War

Franklin Horner has been ordered to dress parade at 5:00 p.m. on this Saturday, so he must polish arms and buttons and dust off whatever parts of his dress uniform he hasn’t disposed of for expediency’s sake. It was common for Union soldiers to be issued cold weather overcoats and extra clothing for the winter. As soon as the spring campaign season of marching began, the heavy items would be “lost” along the march route.

Some of Thomas Ware’s comrades are caught washing up in a local pond when the orders come at 11:00 a.m. to march immediately. The orders came so suddenly that Ware thinks the enemy might be near, but it was just a change of camps. It was a short march, apparently only about 3 miles, but it turned out to be a very warm day and the road is dusty. “We suffered for water,” was one of his comments, and the dust on the march was one of the most aggravating things to a soldier: sifting down collars and trousers, it was like marching with sandpaper underwear. They stopped to camp near Cedar Run, the site of a battle in August 1862, which Ware had written about earlier in his diary.

The Battle of Cedar Run (called variously the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Slaughter Mountain or Cedar Run Mountain) on August 9,1862, pitted Nathaniel Banks’ Corps of about 8,000 men against “Stonewall” Jackson’s force of about 17,000.

Those are the figures I used based on reliable sources in 1991; current internet sources, such as the National Park Service, place the figures at 12,000 and 22,000 respectively. It has been my experience that figures from Civil War battles are constantly changing. During my tenure as a Ranger/Historian at Gettysburg, we used the figure for overall deaths in the Civil War as 620,000. A re-evaluation of census records by one historian recently placed the figure closer to 850,000. The point is, no one is absolutely correct on the figures, probably because soldiers would fall out of ranks marching to a battle, or fall ill on the first of the month when company rosters were due on the last day of the previous month. When I was researching primary sources for the battle at East Cavalry Field in Saber and Scapegoat, the officers repeatedly wrote about how depleted their ranks were, with some companies reporting only 20 or 30 cavalrymen ready for duty after the brutal month-long campaign leading up to the battle on July 3, 1863.

Nevertheless, it seems from what Thomas Ware writes, for a short time he became a tourist, studying some of the historic sites from the battle “Stonewall” Jackson called “the most successful of his exploits.”

The National Park Service website on the Battle of Cedar Run provides a tour of the battlefield. If you follow Ware’s route from my book, you may want to take the tour.

Also—and this won’t be the last time I’ll remind you—if you are thinking about coming to Gettysburg over the 150th Anniversary of the battle, including the weekends before and after, and want to take a Ghost Tour with Ghosts of Gettysburg (my company!), please, PLEASE call ahead or e-mail a reservation. It’s going to be that busy!

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

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4 comments on “June 13 Gettysburg Campaign: Numbers in the Civil War

  1. I would give a hen’s tooth for the chance but I”‘m dealing with roof issues. We only did the cyclotron and drive tour,still much to see like the Wade house and the funeral train

    • Had roof issues a year ago, so I can definitely relate! I’d add the Shriver House, the Wax Museum, the new visitors center, dinner at the Cashtown Inn…I could provide a lengthy list, but the most interesting would, of course, be one of my ghost tours! Our stories include a bit of history, just to prove that learning history can be fun after all!

  2. we’ll definitely get a room somewhere this time.We drove over from my brother’s house in Glenside (Philly) so we didn’t get there till almost noon.I went on a ghost hunt at Fort Ontario last fall,quite fun. I took a picture at the base of little round top that my camera thought could see a face in.

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