June 16 Gettysburg Campaign: The more things change the more they stay the same.

Franklin Horner, perhaps because he is a concerned native Pennsylvanian, records on this Tuesday the rumor that the Confederates are moving into his state “as fast as they can.” The rumor is premature. He also writes that this latest invasion is likely “the last or death struggle [sic] of the rebels.” In his next sentence he talks about the boys having a mess of cherries from a nearby orchard.

Other than wishful thinking, it’s hard to understand why Horner would think that this invasion was part of the “death struggle” for the Confederacy. Up to this point, they had won several major battles, including the most recent at Chancellorsville in May. Morale in the Confederate ranks had never been higher. Some in the Confederate government thought that they were still on the verge of being recognized as an independent government by Great Britain and other European powers. All these factors and more led to the Confederates’ decision to launch a summer campaign into the north.

In one of his longer entries, Thomas Ware records in detail much of his experience on the march this day. He sees General James Longstreet, his corps commander, and his staff passing by. He observes that the countryside is mostly poor and many of the farms abandoned. He records obscure place names that can be found only on the maps made during the war. (I included in the book the two soldiers’ march routes superimposed upon the maps from the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, so the reader can follow their progress.) Once again, it is a killing pace the men are forced into marching, again with men falling out and dying on the roadside; Ware records that 100 men of the regiment were left behind. He watches Colonel Thomas Rosser’s 5th Virginia Cavalry ride by, no doubt with a twinge of jealousy. That might be assuaged if he knew they were headed for some severe fighting for Ashby’s Gap. He hears of rumors of a battle near Winchester, VA, which turn out to be true. He describes marching into “Fauguier” (Fauquier) County, VA, past unique (apparently to him) rock fences. This night they camp at “Marcum” (Markham) Station on the Manassas Gap Railroad (now the Southern Railroad), having marched 17 miles this day.

I managed to identify most of Ware’s route along modern highways. During my research for the book, I copied a modern road map onto transparent mylar, then placed it over the original map of the area in the Atlas to the Official Records. With the exception of the roads being straightened out for high-speed traffic, they follow the same footprint.  I drove the routes of both men so often that I convinced my editors at Stackpole Books to print the directions to their march routes on modern highways in an appendix so that readers can follow the soldiers’ journeys. As fascinating as it is to see how much of the countryside has changed, it is more interesting to see how much has remained the same.

As well, some of the very features Thomas Ware writes about are still visible.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

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