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 18 Gettysburg Campaign: The Past at our Fingertips.

Franklin Horner writes about the rebels leaving Pennsylvania. Again, his rumor mill is inefficient. Perhaps the most telling thing about his entries is that he is remaining healthy, something he repeats each day for the last several.

Horner had been captured almost a year earlier on June 27, 1862, at Cold Harbor, VA, after the Battle of Gaines Mill, and sent to Belle Isle Prison in Richmond. He spent five weeks as a prisoner. He was exchanged and returned to his regiment on August 6, 1862. His military records show that he was wounded at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862, although he doesn’t mention it in his diary entries of that period. His wounding may be the reason why, in the summer of 1863, he was not with Hooker’s army, but outside of Washington working on the defensive forts and rifle pits. His time at Belle Isle and his incapacitation after Antietam may be why he dwells upon his health in his diary.

Horner had been born in Cameron County, Pennsylvania, in 1836 (or 1837—records differ) and had become a carpenter. According to his enlistment papers, he stood five feet eight inches tall with a fair complexion, blue eyes and light hair. Three and a half months after Fort Sumter fell, he enlisted in Company H, 12th Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Infantry. Unbeknownst to him, on July 21, 1861, the day he was signing his enlistment papers, the first major battle of the war was taking place at Manassas, VA. On August 3, 1861, he was promoted from corporal to first sergeant.

Thomas Ware, after the grueling marches of the past few days has a relatively easy day—only eight miles. They crossed through Ashby’s Gap and he writes about the beautiful view from there, a view that can be observed to this day. From the gap they descended to the Shenandoah River and crossed it at an area where it was about 200 yards wide and waist deep. He mentions that there was a limestone spring on the other side with enough pressure to turn a mill. It was here the ambulances had brought the sick, and where the cooking detail for the division had set up camp and were preparing rations. They march another mile beyond the river and set up camp. Overnight they were besieged by heavy rain, thunder and lightning.

During my field research I was delighted to find the very spring Ware wrote about just after modern Route 50 crosses the river on a road to the right that goes under the bridge. There is a concrete springhouse built around it now. The spring he saw, which supplied the division with cool, fresh water, still pours into the Shenandoah River, a flowing landmark that reminds us that the past is not always that long ago.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

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