June 29 Gettysburg Campaign: Confederate Army in Scotland

Franklin Horner had orders to march at daylight, but because of the Union troops concentrating in the Frederick, MD, area, his unit did not get started until 1:00 p.m. They marched about 10 miles and went into camp at 11:00 p.m.

Thomas Ware’s regiment, along with the 17th Georgia and other from the division were sent to destroy four miles of railroad north of Chambersburg, a place called Scotland Station. They tore up all the rails and burned the ties and a substantial bridge along the way, then returned to their camps. He writes of the “Q Masters” (Quartermasters) continuing to gather up all the horses and beef cattle they can find. Some of his comrades see the finer horses in the area tied up in the woods in an attempt to hide them from the round up.

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday: When Horner and the men of the 12th Pennsylvania Reserves are attached to the Fifth Corps, they also find that they have a new commanding general for the entire army. Major General George G. Meade, formerly commander of the Fifth Corps, was ordered to replace Major General Joseph Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac.

For Meade it is a dubious distinction. To go from commanding a corps to an entire army in the midst of an active campaign and the invasion of the north by the enemy threatening to capture his home state’s capital is a lot to put on any commander’s plate. Overnight he goes from commanding one corps to commanding eight times that many men, all needing to be fed, supplied with enough ammunition and supplies in case a battle looms, and ordered where to march without impeding one another to intercept the greatest threat to the nation’s security in its history. Interestingly, either Horner hasn’t heard or he’s more concerned with his own sore feet, or where he’s going to get his next meal, but he doesn’t even mention the change in high command in his diary entries.

Though Horner only marches 10 miles this day, it takes 10 hours to do so. It was stop and go, apparently because of the concentration of Federal troops attempting to stay between the invading Confederates and Washington. The good news is that the Union army is taking the “inside route” while the Confederates swing wide to the north and east and must march farther.

(Taking a short break to speak and sign at the Adams County Winery’s 150th Anniversary Commemoration day. I’ll be right back!)

(Did you miss me? What a great day. Gorgeous weather in the beautiful mountains near Cashtown. Spoke to a BUNCH of interesting people. Saw some old friends from the Licensed Battlefield Guides. Thanks, Rob, for a well-done event. Okay. Back to the blog….)

Railroads are historically protective of their right-of-ways, some of which were established in the early 19th Century, so it’s easy to find some of the places Ware mentions along the railroad north out of Chambersburg, since they haven’t changed much in 150 years.

The railroad bridge at Scotland, PA, is made of stone and concrete now, but does rise some fifty feet above the river, as Ware records about the old wooden bridge.

In an interesting sidelight, Scotland, PA, is the ancestral home of my wife Carol. It wasn’t until her mother Phyllis told me that the Chambersburg Country Club property included the building that had been her ancestor’s home that we made the connection between Thomas Ware, a soldier I chose somewhat randomly to write about and our relationship by marriage. The subject of my book on this day marched past the farm of my future wife’s ancestors 150 years before.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote


June 28. Gettysburg Campaign: Marching to Stop the Rebels

For Franklin Horner, the campaign has begun in earnest. Starting at 6:00 a.m. they march until 1:00 p.m. and encamp near Buckeystown, MD. Horner writes that they have joined up with the Army of the Potomac’s Fifth Corps.

For Thomas Ware, just north of Chambersburg, PA, it is a welcomed day of rest. He writes about the “soldiers taking evry [sic] thing. Camps full of chickens, butter & milk. Our mess had a chicken stew, cherries in great abundance…can get almost any thing at your own price.” He records what a rich country it is north of the Mason-Dixon line and how thickly settled it is. “People all Dutch…Our army living all-together on what we capture. Our advance infantry at or near ‘Harrisburg.’”

The last two days for Ware have been eye-openers. His comments yesterday concerning how many young men in Chambersburg are not in the army must make him realize that there is an abundance of manpower in the north. Even during this huge Confederate invasion, they haven’t been called upon to serve. As well, today’s observations about the agricultural riches in the area must be a harbinger of the importance of making this a successful campaign and a short war, since it appears that the north’s resources are vast.

His comments about the people all being “Dutch” refers to the fact that this part of Pennsylvania was settled by German (“Deutsch”) immigrants. This area and the area to the east are still populated with Hollabaughs, Weikerts, Trostles, Spanglers, Culps (and Kulps) and even a Stoltzfus or two.

My narrative in 35 Days to Gettysburg for this day covers the organization Horner and the men of the 12th Pennsylvania Reserves just joined. It is a template for the way both armies are organized. The 12th Pennsylvania Reserves is a regiment that joins four other Pennsylvania Reserve regiments to form Fisher’s Third Brigade. Two brigades (the First and Fisher’s Third) made up General Crawford’s Third Division. Three Divisions made up the Fifth Army Corps. Finally, the Fifth Corps (pronounced “core”) was one of seven army corps (plus a cavalry corps) that made up the 97,000 man Army of the Potomac.

The same regiment-brigade-division-corps-army organization was employed in the 75,000 man Confederate Army with a few minor differences.

I use all figures guardedly. These are the figures we used when I worked for the National Park Service, and I’ve heard different ones from historians since. The point is, nobody knows for certain.

We used the figure 620,000 men dead from both sides after the four years of Civil War. We used to say that more Americans died in the Civil War than in the Spanish-American War, WW I, WW II, Korea, and Vietnam all added together. We’ve had some wars since, but as if to make the Civil War our most horrible conflict in perpetuity, a historian re-analyzed the census figures and upped the death figure to 850,000.

To make that more relevant to modern times, recall that the country was about one-tenth the size it is today, so you must multiply either of those figure by ten to accommodate for the century-and-a-half of growth. Imagine if one of our four-year wars today cost eight MILLION five hundred thousand American lives. Figures that large are almost too big to wrap your head around. But if you boil is all down to individuals, the tragedy on a family-to-family basis is incalculable.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

June 27 Gettysburg Campaign: Sightseeing in Enemy Territory

Franklin Horner began his march at 6:00 a.m. They crossed the Potomac into Maryland at Edwards Ferry and camped at the mouth of the Monocacy River. They halt at 4:00 p.m. with plenty of daylight left after putting in 15 miles this Saturday.

Thomas Ware and the boys get a little break and don’t leave their camps until 8:00 a.m., marching in the rear of the column. He writes about stopping for 2 hours while the Quartermasters (to collect supplies and pay for them), Sergeants, who are armed, and pioneers (engineers) go forward, probably to clear the way of any possible ambushes by guerilla forces or militia, now that they are officially in enemy territory.

They reach Greencastle, PA, and Ware notices how “mad & sullen” the townspeople look as they pass. He writes that the town is larger than Washington, GA, the largest settlement near the Ware homestead. The stores are all closed and the hotels are crowded with young men. Again he notices “some nice looking girls dressed very fine as evry [sic] thing is cheap.” Some of the girls wore Federal flags in their bonnets. The Confederates burn the railroad depot on the north side of town and destroy some track.

After leaving town they marched through fields of wheat and corn. In spite of General Lee’s orders, the men begin to loot bee hives and poultry yards. Officially the army gathered up all the horses and beef cattle.

Another 12 miles brought them to Chambersburg, PA, and Ware likens its size to Atlanta in his home state. He notices again all the young men not in the military, and, “I saw more girls than I have seen at any one time before, some very good looking ones.” The town had been placed under martial law with guards posted at every corner, so they couldn’t pilfer a chicken or pig for their dinner. After marching 17 miles this day they encamp around three miles from Chambersburg.

This day sees Franklin Horner and his comrades cross the Potomac River about fifty-five miles south of where Thomas Ware crossed it yesterday. While Edwards Ferry can be found today, it no longer has an active ferry boat. Ruins from the landing and support buildings could still be see when I researched the site in the early 1990s.

I arranged the book so that the reader could follow in the footsteps of the two soldiers along modern highways. Ware and Horner are marching through some towns that are accessible to a visitor to Gettysburg. Chambersburg is only 30 miles from Gettysburg; Greencastle just a little farther. Edwards Ferry and Leesburg are a little over an hour’s drive. If you are one of the many visitors to Gettysburg, you may want to visit these places, using 35 Day to Gettysburg as a guide.

Reading his entire diary, I was amused at how many times Ware mentions the pretty girls on the march. One gets the impression, by the amount of detail Ware puts into his diary, savoring the local names of the places he passes through and the roads he marches, that he considers this to be the great adventure of his life. Being a young, single man on this great adventure, the maidens of this strange land he comes into as an invader attract his attention.

Apparently, the raiding of beehives and stealing of chickens was widespread enough to be brought to the attention of the commanding general. On June 27, Lee issues General Orders No. 73 from his headquarters in Chambersburg, PA. He sounds like a father gently scolding a spirited child he needs to punish but not break, pleased with the conduct of his troops so far, but realizing that, “There have, however, been instances of forgetfulness on the part of some…”

One thing I forgot to mention earlier. Thomas Ware has a special companion marching along with him in the 15th Georgia. In December 1862, his younger brother Robert transferred from Company B, 6th Alabama Infantry, presumably to be with his older brother and the other Georgians in the regiment. So for six or seven months now, Thomas has had the comfort and support of kin during his ordeals.

It was not unusual, especially in the south, for brothers and cousins to fight in the same unit. Many companies in the Civil War were recruited parochially. Young relatives and friends often enlisted en masse. In an appendix to the book, I list the numerous families who sent two or more sons to serve in company G, 15th Georgia Infantry. The attrition to the families is appalling.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

June 26: Don’t call it The Gettysburg Campaign.

Franklin Horner and his fellow Union soldiers begin their march to join the rest of the Federal army at 5:30 a.m. this Friday. They marched through Dranesville, VA, passed the Union Army’s Sixth Corps, and camped at 4:00 p.m. He wrote that the men were getting too tired to march much more. It rained a little this night, and they get orders to be ready to march at 5 the next morning.

Thomas Ware talks about the rainy morning he experiences. Being to the west of Horner, it’s probably the same shower that dampened him that evening. Once again, Ware records in detail his march route and the towns he passed through. After the first four miles, they ford the Potomac River (only a little over knee deep). They also cross the Chesapeake &Ohio Canal, which parallels the Potomac. It was still raining, so the boys were issued “a dram…Several of the boys got quite drunk & we had a jolly set.” Several more miles brought them to the Maryland and Pennsylvania line. After 16 miles of marching, they encamped, found that it was cherry season in Pennsylvania, supplied themselves and were “…living finely.”

I found it interesting that the Confederate troops were issued a “dram” of whiskey, apparently to warm them up after marching in the rain and wading the Potomac. Thought to be a stimulant during the Civil War, according to Ware it made a few of the men “jolly,” and a few more belligerent, mentioning that a few fights broke out along the march.

For Thomas Ware, this is a momentous day: He has been in three states, is probably farther north than he has ever been in his life, and officially becomes an invader of a northern state.

Like a giant ship passing by, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia begins drawing Union troops toward it. Horner and his comrades, after digging entrenchments outside of Washington, now must call on a new set of muscles to catch up with Lee’s invaders. His route takes Horner from Ball’s Crossroads toward Leesburg (modern route 7). They march beyond Leesburg and, too tired to go any farther after fifteen miles, encamp outside of town.

The Chesapeake & Ohio (C & O) Canal was created in the early 1800s to open commerce to the west from Washington and the east along its 184.5-mile length. But shortly after its completion, the railroads began their expansion westward. Where the Canal could transport cargo and passengers at the speed of a mule towing a barge, the railroads could do the same at an astounding thirty or forty miles per hour. The Canal eventually fell into financial ruin, but the towpath continued to be used by the military as a road. Today it is a wonderful recreational area for hikers and bikers along the scenic Potomac.

By now Confederate troops were fanning out toward Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, and York, PA, on the road to Philadelphia. In fact, this very day, Confederate general Jubal Early’s men pass through one of the number of small Pennsylvania towns they will capture during the invasion. As in every other town, they request supplies: 60 barrels of flour, 7,000 pounds of bacon, 1,200 pounds of sugar, 600 pounds of coffee, 1,000 pounds of salt, 40 bushels of onions, 1,000 pairs of shoes and 500 hats. The mayor of the town is worried and writes to Early, “The quantities required are far beyond that in our possession.” Early’s men take what they can and move on, never realizing that they will be returning in less than a week, albeit under more difficult circumstances, to the town of Gettysburg.

At this point, the Confederate movement into the north has no name, since no one knows where—or if—it will end. Their goals are to draw the northern hosts out of the south for a growing season and bring relief to the farmers there. Perhaps this invasion will garner worldwide recognition to their cause of independence and give more credence to the arguments of the Peace Party in the north. Most of all, the Confederate leaders wish to force the north into some sort of negotiations toward the Confederacy’s independence. Nowhere do you see this invasion called “The Gettysburg Campaign” because there is no reason to connect Gettysburg to it. One day hundreds of books and millions of words will be written about it, but for Horner and Ware, it draws but a few lines in their diaries.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

June 25 Gettysburg Campaign: The Great Confederate Raid of 1863

This Thursday Franklin Horner finally gets his marching orders. He comments that he thinks they are headed to join the Army of the Potomac, the Union’s largest army in the field, to counter Lee’s invasion.

Thomas Ware writes that it is a cloudy day, “a splendid day to march,” and once again records the details of his march route over 21 miles to near Martinsburg.

Horner’s intuition is correct: they are marching to join the army whose job it is to counter Lee’s invasion of the north. Where they will finally meet up is a mystery. Though he marches less than two miles, the tension is broken and they are part of the active campaign.

Ware puts in a long and tiring day. The part of the country they are passing through used to be Virginia, but as of June 20, by presidential proclamation, it became the new state of West Virginia. Apparently, it was acceptable for a section of the state to “secede” from the secession.

Part of Ware’s route takes him near the Old Valley Turnpike (now route 11) a major thoroughfare for both armies marching up and down the Valley. (By the way, going “up” the Shenandoah Valley means traveling south and upward in altitude; going “down” the Valley means heading north.) Ware’s infantry comrades do not get the luxury of marching on the smooth Valley Turnpike—that’s for the wheeled artillery and supply wagons. We temporarily lose his line of march, but the Atlas to the Official Records shows a road that roughly parallels the Turnpike that perhaps was used by the infantry. He mentions that some of the work that day involved tearing up railroad tracks and burning a Baltimore & Ohio depot in Martinsburg. Heavy work after a hard day’s march. They will tear up more tracks in the near future.

One of the things I noticed while researching my book Saber and Scapegoat: Jeb Stuart and the Gettysburg Controversy was how often Lee mentioned gathering supplies to send back to the Shenandoah Valley in his official correspondence to his officers on the invasion. In one piece he actually says that the campaign depends upon the successful gathering of supplies to end up in Virginia. This led me to theorize that the 1863 summer campaign could be considered a gigantic raid into the north to procure goods for the Confederacy. Add to that his well-known order not to bring on a general engagement, it seems that if Lee could have successfully gotten out of Pennsylvania and back into the Valley without a fight, he would have.  General A. P. Hill’s decision at Cashtown, PA, on the night of June 30 to allow General Henry Heth to march his men into Gettysburg the next morning, and Heth’s decision to respond to being fired upon by the Union cavalry stationed there looms large. More on that later.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

June 24 Gettysburg Campaign: Washington vs Lee

Franklin Horner reports that the clothing he packed up is being sent away to Washington by the quartermaster, another sign that his unit is about to begin some serious marching.

Thomas Ware, after resting yesterday, begins his day at 2:00 a.m. Their march starts at Millwood, and with typical detail, Ware names almost every road on their route. After six miles they arrive outside of Berryville and rest in the rear of breastworks thrown up by Union soldiers. He is fortunate to have breakfast provided by a private citizen. Twice during this entry he mentions the large number of girls that come out to the road to watch them pass, some waving handkerchiefs, making Ware and his comrades no doubt feel like heroes. They end up marching 18 miles this day, passing through a part of the country they crossed on their first invasion of the north, which ended at the Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg as it was known in the southern ranks.) Ware’s day ends about 11:00 p.m.

The details of his march route are so precise, it is almost as if Thomas Ware writes in his diary at every halt in the march. He noted the destruction left by the Union army after it camped near Berryville. He may have remembered the devastation wrought by the Union army on Fredericksburg, VA, as well, after the town was shelled then occupied and looted. He and the rest of his comrades may have felt some helpless anger, especially in light of Lee’s General Orders number 72 prohibiting them from inflicting the same devastation on the enemy’s civilians.

And so it would go during the war. The south would become the part of the country that was invaded. Many in the south thought it should be a purely defensive war and, in fact, were angered when Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis decided to invade the north twice. But the difficulties with waging a defensive war would soon make themselves apparent upon the civilian population, which would have to supply their own and an invading army, however reluctantly.

I still wonder, after studying it for so many years, why Lee didn’t embrace the strategy of his hero (and kinsman by marriage) George Washington during the Revolutionary War. He certainly had to be familiar with it. The goals, to me, had been similar: The Confederacy wanted to merely separate from the rest of the country, like the colonies did from England. Washington used a strategy of attrition—keep the British fighting and losing men for years until the British population and politicians got tired of it. It resulted in a longer war, but with the desired goal of independence achieved.

Eventually, with both armies fighting and subsisting on the south’s resources, the term “scorched earth” may have been coined during this war instead of a later one. The south, after eight or more years, may have won, but at what cost?

One thing I am glad of: That Lee did not, per the suggestion of some of his officers at Appomattox, disband the Army of Northern Virginia to fight a guerilla-style war. We might still be fighting 150 years later and travel across the border from Maryland to Virginia would be at your own peril. I think Lee foresaw the tragedy that would unfold should that course have been taken.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

June 23 Gettysburg Campaign: Hurry Up and Wait.

Franklin Horner and his comrades get the order to be ready to march at a moment’s notice and to have three days’ rations in their haversacks. Coats and other superfluous equipment are packed in boxes for storage. Camp rumor doesn’t agree on where they are going, just that they are to be ready.

Thomas Ware and the men get up early expecting another hard day’s march. At 10:00 a.m. they get the order to wash, clean up and rest this day, which brought “considerable rejoicing in the Brig. [Brigade].” That night they were read orders from commanding general Robert E. Lee himself. General Orders No. 72 instructed the men to respect private property and civilians; that only appointed certain officers to requisition supplies from locals and to pay market price for them; and gave general guidelines on how to handle civilians who refused payment or concealed supplies from the Confederates. Ware and his men know that these orders would only be issued if they were leaving Virginia and heading into Maryland.

A review of his records shows that Franklin Horner was what one would call a seasoned combat veteran. On June 26, 1862, he came under hostile fire for the first time: “…three O p.m. heard musketry got into rifle pits…O the firing becomes general Shot are flying thick along our heads.” It appears from his use of the present tense that he is writing these words while under fire. The next day “…about four O clock, our men fired first then they gave us a volley and we returned it….” Sometime this day, he was captured and sent to Belle Isle in Richmond.

Early in the war there was a prisoner exchange system that allowed soldiers to be “traded” for prisoners of the enemy. Exchanged prisoners signed paroles saying they would not take up arms again—a pledge that was impossible to enforce and rarely adhered to.  Horner was exchanged and, within three weeks found himself in the Battle of Second Manassas where, on August 28, 1862 they “…got into line…marched about five mile when our advance was fired into and three men wounded and one killed.”

The Battle of Antietam, for Horner, started with the heavy fighting through the South Mountains of Maryland on September 14, 1862: the Division “stormed the mountain.” Then, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and a creek named Antietam, he was part of the opening fight through the infamous bloody cornfield on the morning of September 17, 1862.

The most costly battle for Horner’s company was Fredericksburg, VA, December 13, 1862. They lost their Captain Andrew Bolar and eight enlisted men killed or wounded.

In his records he is listed as wounded at Antietam, yet he never mentions it in his diary. On September 19, 1862, his unit is marched through the battlefield. They witness the decomposing dead as they camp in a field nearby. He states, “I am not well.” September 21: “I can scrsely[sic] walk” and reports as not being fit for duty. September 23 he writes that his health is good, but on September 30, his handwriting is obviously wavy: “I am not very well to day make out my monthly returns have some trouble getting it right.” This all leads me to believe that Horner’s wound at Antietam may have been what he considered minor, and visiting a field hospital, with its groaning, screaming, bleeding, cursing clientele and waiting in line seemed too much. He may have dressed it himself, and come down with blood poisoning, or some other disease from being near the decomposing bodies. He was lucky to have survived.

Antiseptics were virtually unknown during the time of the American Civil War. Pasteur and Lister didn’t do their work until the late 1860s. A typical scene at a field hospital would go something like this: A surgeon, who had been amputating arms and legs for 24 hours straight, would have a young man with a gut wound placed on his table. He’d explore the man’s gut with his bare hand (and we all know what we have in our guts!) and, having neither the time, nor the expertise to perform internal surgery he would proclaim he could do nothing for the soldier and have the orderlies carry him to a corner of the barn. The next young soldier would show the surgeon a flesh wound in his arm. The surgeon would wipe off his hands on his stained apron, poke around in the man’s arm with his fingers, wrap a quick cloth bandage that had fallen on the straw and manure covered barn floor around the young man’s arm, and tell him he’ll be better in a week. What happens: The soldier with the gut wound, with a little luck, survives because the surgeon didn’t do much; the soldier with the flesh wound suddenly feels his temperature skyrocket two weeks later and is dead of blood poisoning within a day.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

June 22 Gettysburg Campaign: Tactics vs. Technology

Franklin Horner and his mates make the best of living in camp and put a floor in their tent, probably out of some scrap wood they may have scavenged.  For the time being they can be comfortable.

Thomas Ware’s unit is sent marching again, ending up in a small village called Millwood, near Carter Hall, “Stonewall” Jackson’s headquarters for a few days in November 1862. Ware and his friends were up late cooking, but he complained of not having lard, salt or soda, and the water being some distance away.

Back to the rifle musket.

At the beginning of the war, the Union had the technological advantage in shoulder arms. With armories producing weapons for the small regular U. S. Army, they had stores of weapons and ammunition from the start. The problem was, many of the armories were in the south and when the southern states seceded, the armories went with them.

Distribution in the south was a problem. If a soldier or militia unit didn’t live near an armory, they had to supply their own weapons, many of which were antiquated fowling pieces, smoothbores and flintlocks.

Eventually, Confederates began to produce their own weapons. Some were run through the blockade from Great Britain and other foreign powers. Captures after early victories, as well put the more advanced rifle musket in the hands of rebel troops.

The weapon was called a “rifle” musket because of a series of twisting grooves (rifling) cut into the bore of the weapon. This innovation was not new, but became more widespread during the Civil War. Rifling put a spin on the projectile which made it fly farther and more accurately. A percussion cap, rather than flint and powder, became the standard, more rapid way of igniting the weapon.

But the innovation that truly made the rifle musket a long-distance killer was a small indentation in the base of the bullet.  In 1849, Captain Claude E. Minié of the French Army modified the bullet and loaned his name to the “minie ball.” This minor change would cost hundreds of thousands more casualties in the American Civil War and lead, eventually, to major changes in tactics.

Smoothbore shoulder arms, in use for centuries before,  were accurate to about 75 yards and, being muzzle-loaders and often flintlocks, sometimes took a minute to load and fire. Tactics were therefore designed to concentrate fire by lining soldiers up shoulder-to-shoulder and have them all fire at once. They would then sprint towards the enemy and finish the fight using the bayonet, tactics which served the British Army so well. Captain Minié’s indentation changed all that.

When the rifle musket was fired using a minie ball, the hot gases produced by the burning powder, softened the lead bullet, filled the indentation and expanded the lead into the rifling grooves. Now, instead of 75 yards, the projectile, with a spin like a football pass, would travel accurately 350 yards. Soldiers cannot fire a volley, sprint three football fields, and be expected to fight after so exhausting a run. Thus, they continued to march in packed ranks taking numerous volleys from the defenders until they reached sprinting distance. The field behind them was littered with dead and dying.

Because of the extreme accuracy and range of the rifle musket, tactics had to change. Defenders entrenched rather than standing up in an open field awaiting their assailants. Attackers began to use new formations, such as advancing in column, giving the enemy less of a front at which to fire.

However, the change in tactics came too late for a huge number of young men during the Civil War. Even halfway through the war, at Gettysburg, soldiers were still attacking in linear fashion, as in Longstreet’s Assault, popularly known as “Pickett’s Charge,” on July 3, 1863. Tactics lagging behind technology made mourners of a whole generation of mothers, fathers, sisters and children.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

June 21 Gettysburg Campaign: What They Carried.

It was a cloudy, cool Sunday as Franklin Horner and Thomas Ware sat in their camps.

Horner heard some firing “towards Leesburg” to the west which would have been the cavalry battle around Upperville—Jeb Stuart’s men holding off the prying Yankees desperate for information on the Confederate main column—the same Upperville Thomas Ware visited a few days before.

Ware gets orders to prepare for dress parade and to be on the march immediately. The movement never happened.

Since both soldiers were relatively inactive, I took this point in the book to reach back to my own research as a “living history interpreter” ranger/historian at GNMP and explain just what the common soldier wore and carried during an active campaign.

According to his earlier diary entries, Ware complained in the spring of 1862 that his pack weighed about 25 pounds. By the summer of 1863, his burden was considerably lighter.

The pack probably would have been tossed. His extra clothing (perhaps a shirt, a change of underwear, and extra socks) was rolled up flat inside his wool blanket; the blanket would have been rolled inside of his “gum” (rubber) poncho, which also doubled as a shelter half. He tied the ends together then slipped the light, flexible roll over his head hanging from shoulder to hip.

Underneath the rolled blanket he carried his haversack. The Yankees had a tar-covered, waterproof haversack, but the Confederates (if they hadn’t “liberated” a tar haversack from a dead Yankee) slung a cloth bag from right shoulder to left hip. In it he carried personal items: bits of food and coffee, sugar, writing paper, letter from home, pencil or pen, tin plate and eating utensils, money, pocketknife, gun cleaning tools, and, most likely, a “twist” of tobacco.

Underneath his haversack to keep it in the shade, was his canteen—tin or possibly a wooden one, like a flat barrel, in the Southern armies. Going into battle the men would strip themselves of much of this equipment, some even emptying cartridge boxes into pockets. But one thing they always carried was their canteen. If wounded, they knew water was often the difference between life and death. Rudyard Kipling, writing a few years later about the British army in India, summed it up in verse:

“You may talk o’ gin an’ beer/When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere/ An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’Aldershot it;/But if it comes to slaughter/You will do your work on water/An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im that’s got it…”

Attached loosely to the canteen was the ubiquitous tin cup, probably the most versatile piece of equipment in either army. Coffee could be cooked rapidly with just a small fire during a break on the march. Water could be scooped quickly from a stream. A brief halt on the march next to a huckleberry patch and the cup would be filled. The tin cup also gave a sort of music to the march with its rhythmic clinking, hundreds of times over, against the canteen or a bayonet socket.

On his right hip Ware (or Horner) carried his cartridge box with 40 rounds when battle loomed. Strapped to the waist-belt was his cap pouch, filled with the copper, top-hat-shaped percussion caps, the next generation improvement over flint and pan, which ignited the powder in the barrel of his rifle musket.

Ware may have carried the particularly savage-looking triangular bayonet, probably used more for cooking than combat. Since he was a non-commissioned officer he may have been issued a sword which, on active campaign, likely ended up in a supply wagon somewhere. His real weapon, and the true killer of the Civil War, was the rifle musket. More on that tomorrow.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

June 20 Gettysburg Campaign: Fences, Again

Franklin Horner gets some interesting news this day: all furloughs are stopped. It means that no one can leave camp, a sign that they may be called up for active duty.

Horner’s assignment since he was wounded at Antietam was to work on the defensive lines around the capital. It was physically less stressful than active campaigning and gave the men time to recuperate from illness or minor wounds while remaining in the army. It was called the “Invalid Corps.” But as emergencies arose, like when the Confederates are looking like they are on a full-scale incursion across the Mason-Dixon Line, the “Invalid Corps,” after months of relative inactivity, would be ordered on the same strenuous marches their counterparts had endured.

Though the weather was still rainy, Thomas Ware’s unit could finally build fires using fences for firewood. They bought butter from local farmers at “50c.” At 9:00 a.m. they received marching orders to return up the mountain to the Gap. There, probably just down the slope (or “military crest” of the hill), each company built rock breastworks 3 feet high and cut fields of fire in front of them. He was convinced the position could be defended against 10 times their number. They finished their entrenching, built fires and relaxed, cooking rations. But after all that work, at 3:00 p.m., they were ordered to abandon their prepared position. They re-crossed the river carrying the half-cooked beef in their hands.

Ware mentions that Pickett’s Division was marching in front of them—the same Pickett’s Division that was to make the ill-fated charge just two weeks hence.

They were ordered not to take off their clothes for the crossing: “few obeyed it.” They marched another mile and, at 6:00 p.m. encamped in a grove. They began to tear down local fences but were ordered to stop. They worked out a payment system with the farmer and finished cooking the rations late into the night.

The problem with burning fences was not confined to the Union army. Officers on both sides tried in vain to protect civilian property. One notable order came down from headquarters saying that only the top rail may be used for firewood. As each succeeding unit passed the fences, the men took what they perceived as the “top” rail until the fence had completely disappeared.

The nature of the war was changing. At the beginning, using “Napoleonic Tactics” in which the officers were schooled at the various military academies in both sections of the country, the warfare was strictly “linear.” The assaulting soldiers lined up shoulder-to-shoulder to attack another line of the enemy. But after a number of brutal stand-up, volley-for-volley fights, some of the officers realized that method was too costly. As a field commander, Robert E. Lee was given by his men the nickname “The King of Spades” since he ordered his men to dig in nearly every time they halted. It was hard work but it saved lives. By the time the two sides were at Petersburg, VA, in June 1864, the men created full-scale trenches, foreshadowing the trench warfare of the next century.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote