June 17 Gettysburg Campaign: The Quick and the Dead.

Again today (Wednesday) Franklin Horner writes about the rebels in Pennsylvania and that the people “are preparing to meet them as they deserve.” He also mentions that Hooker’s army is on the move. Since before the Battle of Chancellorsville in May, Major General Joseph Hooker has commanded the Union Army of the Potomac, the largest northern army in the eastern theater of the war. During the Confederate’s movement north, the Union army’s specific assignment is to stay between them and Washington.

Yet another brutal day of hard marching for Thomas Ware, but this day his unit, the 15th Georgia, is at the front of their brigade (Benning’s). They followed the railroad for a while and took a rough road between the mountains. One good thing this day is that water is plentiful. He comments on the beautiful farms—many not in cultivation—and thinks this must have been the most beautiful section of Virginia—“before the war.”

In one of the longest entries in his diary Ware details his route. One place he mentions is Piedmont Station on the railroad, noted because it is where Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston loaded his troops upon a train so that they could ride to the Battle of First Manassas in July 1861. It was the first time this innovative strategy was used in warfare. His men got to the battlefield quickly and fairly fresh as opposed to if they had marched the distance. Apparently it was considered historic just two years later since Ware mentions it in his diary.

Again, nearly 100 men are lost from the ranks of the 15th Georgia because of the heat. Ware has never seen the men so fatigued and called it the hottest march they had ever done. They finally reach Upperville, VA, at 4:00 p.m. and rested. Called into line at sunset, they marched another half-mile and camped.

He hears of a cavalry battle in Middleburg, 6 miles down the mountain from where they encamp; it is Jeb Stuart blocking one of the passes into the Shenandoah Valley to keep Lee’s advance from prying Yankee cavalry.

The road Ware took from Piedmont (now Delaplane) to Upperville corresponds to modern Route 712, and seems to remain much as he described it: lovely old farmhouses and undulating rock fences climbing the hills that were so tiring to the men marching them.

While researching the route through Upperville, just where it strikes the road through the town, I found a small country church with a graveyard. Some of the headstones pre-date the Civil War and I imagined Thomas Ware and his fellow soldiers gazing at these markers to the dead and pondering, on what has obviously become an active military campaign, their own fates. Perhaps some quickly pushed the thoughts of death, in spite of men dying around them from heatstroke, from their minds. They have no idea, of course, that they are marching toward the bloodiest battle history records on the North American Continent.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote


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