July 2 Gettysburg Campaign: Everything On the LIne

Yesterday Franklin Horner and the 12th Pennsylvania Reserves marched until 1:00 a.m., some twenty-five miles. Today they began marching at 6:00 a.m. He writes that they have halted within sight of the rebels and are expecting to march onto the battlefield soon. Suddenly, his writing changes to present tense, the immediacy so great he forgets punctuation: “ evening we are on the battlefield and in line of battle the boys are determined to drive the rebels out of the state the battle is rageing [sic} fiercely now we will soon be in.”

From Thomas Ware’s diary on this Thursday we learn that he marches through Cashtown and came in sight of Gettysburg. They rested in an “old field” until 2:00 p.m. “…at which time we left to Attack the Enemy. After passing through a very heavy shelling for 20 minutes we rested and then formed a line of battle. Here at the foot of the mountain the engagement became general & fierce…”

Franklin Horner, exhausted from marching, lack of sleep, little food and the sheer nervousness of not knowing whether, in ten minutes, he would be alive or dead, ends up on the boulder-strewn west slope of a small hill south of Gettysburg, which would later come to be known as Little Round Top. It is from there he writes his entry in his diary.

Thomas Ware, his brother Robert, and the rest of the men of the 15th Georgia have marched hours with but little rest to finally end up at the lower end of an oddly-shaped triangular field near a jumble of huge boulders the locals call the Devils Den. Just beyond Ware in the Triangular Field, within musket-range in fact, is the upper slope of Little Round Top where Horner stands, two American enemies, after 35 days of campaigning, finally on the same part of the battlefield at Gettysburg.

It is here where I must end my narrative. I do not want to spoil the ending of the book for those interested in reading it. A hint as to how it ends: one soldier lives, the other dies.

I will share an interesting story, a “perk” so to speak, associated with the writing of the book. Several years after it was published, I received a letter from a resident of Washington, Georgia, asking if I would like to speak to the descendents of Thomas Ware. That was a particularly busy year for me so I deferred, suggesting perhaps a later time. I honestly never expected to hear from him again. But Gary Norman was persistent, and the next year my wife Carol and I flew to Atlanta and drove our rental car through a night-time thunderstorm to Washington. We were put up in a delightfully restored building owned by the president of the local historical society. The next day we were treated to lunch with over 25 Wares, Normans, and Remsens, names which appear in the roster of Company G, 15th Georgia Infantry.

One person I was particularly interested in meeting was Mary Lucy (Ware) Probst, Thomas Ware’s grand-niece, whose name had been given to me by family member Ken Norman early in my research. Every family should be lucky enough to have someone like Mary Lucy in it, for if they did their heritage would never be lost. I spoke with and wrote to her numerous times during the development of the book. It was only fitting that I should present to her, on behalf of the family, the microfilmed copy of Thomas Ware’s entire diary, which I had purchased from the University of North Carolina, Southern Historical Collection for my research. Now, anyone in the family can read first hand of their relative’s heroic, harrowing journeys.

I spoke that afternoon to some thirty heirs to the legacy of the one Confederate soldier, out of several hundred thousand, whom I had chosen to represent all the rest. For me it was emotional to have gotten to know their ancestor so well, and to pass that information on to them. I spoke about observations he had made of the land through which he was marching and how many of those landmarks remain. I talked about how astounded I was that throughout his entire diary, there were no references to slavery for this Southerner. The only “N” word Thomas ever used was “Negro” speaking of someone named Steve who sent him some food from home. I told them of the admiration I had for their kin, who endured more, physically and emotionally, than anyone should have to protect his family back in Georgia. I told them how honored I was that they should invite me to speak to them.

Gary Norman’s wife Suzanne is a Ware. They sponsored a reception at their house after my speech to the family. Speaking to Suzanne about the research and miles traveled to produce the book, I told of my one disappointment. In all the volumes of books and papers I perused and the archives I visited, I never found a photo of Thomas Ware. I had no idea what this young man, whose life I had chronicled, whose most intimate hopes and fears I was privy to,  looked like.

“Oh,” Suzanne said. “I have his photo hanging on my wall.” She walked me into the house and handed me a small picture of the young man whose life took up so much of my life for the past several years. I felt a well of emotion as I looked into his face. Two words, probably sounding strange to the rest of the Ware family who had gathered around, but summing up all that he and I had been through over the several years it took to research and write his book came out of my mouth:

“Hello, Thomas.”

Thomas Ware

Thomas Ware

July 1 Gettysburg Campaign: “None in the world”

Franklin Horner begins his day at 5:00 a.m. They marched nearly the whole day putting in fifteen miles and crossing the Maryland-Pennsylvania line into York County. Somewhere he hears they are within five or six miles of the rebels and they expect to get into a fight tomorrow. He records that he hears some firing in their front, that the wagons are all being sent to the rear and a night march is expected.

Thomas Ware begins his march at 4:00 p.m., and marches through the night. They stop and rest somewhere east of Fayetteville and west of Cashtown on the Chambersburg Pike.

The firing Horner hears is coming from the fields to the west and north of Gettysburg, PA, a town of about 2,400 souls at the intersection of several roads.

The night before, on June 30, General John Buford’s Union cavalry trotted through the town from the south and spread out to the west. As was standard practice for the cavalry, they sent out videttes—single horsemen ahead of groups of horsemen—to locate any enemy that might be near. No doubt they saw or heard Confederates to the west. Confederate general Johnston Pettigrew reported back to his corps commander at Cashtown that night that on his scout toward Gettysburg he had run into Federal cavalry and had heard drums behind them, indicating there might be infantry backing them up. General Lee had let it be known that he did not want to bring on a general engagement since his army was not concentrated yet, so Pettigrew backed off.

Pettigrew’s report to corps commander A. P. Hill took place at the Cashtown Inn and was overheard by one of Hill’s division commanders, General Henry Heth. Hill didn’t believe that there could be infantry in Gettysburg; his reports all said that the Army of the Potomac was still in Maryland. Pettigrew listened while Hill threw away fresh intelligence about the enemy for stale. Heth asked if Hill had any objections if he went into Gettysburg the next morning and procured supplies—especially shoes—for his command. “None in the world,” Hill said. Those four words would bring on what some historians think was the watershed battle of the American Civil War.

The morning of July 1, Heth’s men drew fire from Buford’s videttes, but pressed on until they struck the main cavalry line. They were held up by Buford’s men, who had sent couriers back through the town of Gettysburg to inform the nearest infantry that the fight was on. They found the Union Army First Corps, under the command of Major General John F. Reynolds (whose home was Lancaster, PA) on the road the Confederates would march to Philadelphia, if they were successful in driving back his troops. With a will only a man fighting to defend his own home and family could summon, Reynolds rode ahead of his troops, through the Seminary to the ridges and swales to the west. He had turned in his saddle to watch his troops march toward him when a minie ball struck him high in the back of the neck. He had been on the battlefield just a few minutes.

The fighting would rage with Confederates assaulting the Union lines along McPherson’s Ridge from the west. As more Union troops came through the town, they attempted to gain the high ground to the north on Oak Hill. Just as they approached the hill, Confederates arriving from the north as part of the rebel army’s concentration planted themselves on it. The Union troops “refused” their line, or bent it back, to receive any attack.

As in any battle there were moments of serious hard fighting as well as lulls. As more Union troops arrived on the field they took up position north of the town, straddling the approach routes there, and holding off Confederate assaults as best they could from behind the only protection they could find—some post and rail fences. The Federal line formed a rough, sideways “L” blocking Confederates first coming from the west in the morning, then from the north in the afternoon. Fighting continued through the afternoon until Confederate forces finally arrived from the east and attacked the Union flank on Barlow’s knoll. It crumpled and the entire Federal line imploded, moving rapidly through the town.

It seemed a complete Confederate victory on the first day. Lee, who had not wanted to bring on a general engagement, observed the rout as he arrived on the battlefield from Cashtown and must have been pleased at what he saw. Was it this vision that changed his strategy from avoiding an engagement to, “The enemy is there, and I am going to strike him”?

And while the Federals where whipped on the first day, they fell back to the high ground south of the town and began to form, as the rest of the army came up from the south, one of the strongest positions they could have found; One that most military men credit with the eventual Union victory.

Yet, for all the momentous, history-changing events that are occurring just a few miles from them and toward which they are inexorably being drawn, neither Franklin Horner nor Thomas Ware mentions the name Gettysburg.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

June 30 Gettysburg Campaign: Pay Day

This Tuesday, the last day of June, was the day Franklin Horner and his fellow Union soldiers mustered for pay. They took up the line of march at 7:00 a.m. and marched until 7:00 p.m. covering some 20 miles. As they passed through several towns they uncased the colors—their flags—and had their bands play martial music.

Thomas Ware began their march about 9:00 a.m. It was a short day ending at 1:00 p.m. stopping to camp in the town of Fayetteville. His comrades gathered a large amount of cherries, which were in season in Pennsylvania and, as he put it, “We made fences fly…” for firewood, of course. He has some time to write a letter home.

Horner casually mentions that they marched twenty miles this day, but it was probably one of the hardest marches he’s had to make. They are on the move for twelve hours, which means a lot of it was stop and go before they could go into camp and take a long rest.

Since it is the end of the month, there are some administrative duties each company has to take care of. They determine how many men are present and accounted for so that they can requisition money from the government to pay them for their service. In the Union army, pay was $13 per month.

The end-of-the-month muster also gives us a general—but not specific—idea of the troop strengths at the time. When historians analyzed the muster records, they felt confident in determining the number of soldiers present on July 1, the opening of the Battle of Gettysburg. But there are variables: men get sick overnight, or drop out of the ranks marching the next day. In addition, the muster rolls give only an approximate number of combat troops. There were thousands more non-combatants, from teamsters to farriers to personal servants to “camp followers” who accompanied the armies and remained behind the lines during combat. The total number of human beings being drawn to this part of Pennsylvania as if caught in a whirlpool may never be known; but it certainly was more that the 97,000 Union and 75.000 Confederate combat troop figures we used in the National Park Service.

Once again, the Federals are marching an inside arc to the Confederates’ sweep northward and eastward. The rebels had been reported in York and so Horner’s unit is sent toward the east, always trying to be the buffer between the enemy and their capital. Music playing and flags flying while marching through northern towns were more for the civilians’ benefit than the soldiers. Horner, who had lived through the bloodiest single day in all of American History at the Battle of Antietam, knows he is headed toward yet another, and potentially bloodier battle with one of the finest and most deadly armies on the face of the planet; one that had already whipped his army more than once before. The cheering civilian residents of the towns may not have exactly inculcated Horner and his fellow veterans with confidence.

Perhaps because of the extra free time he has thanks to a short march, Ware’s thoughts turn homeward and he records in a sort of code that he has been using, that he wrote a letter to “J. B. F.” Throughout his diary, Thomas Ware uses his alphabet code to record letters he sends to someone at home. Could it be that he has a sweetheart in Washington, Georgia?

This night, Ware and Horner are only thirty-seven miles apart, a day’s march for each of these American enemies to a collision-point.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

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