Cushing finally gets his Medal of Honor

Lt. Alonzo Cushing of Delafield, Wisconsin, commander of Battery A, 4th US Artillery, will receive a long overdue Medal of Honor in a September ceremony at the White House.

Cushing’s heroic stand at the Gettysburg ‘High Water Mark’ during Pickett’s Charge is the stuff of legends.  Cushing, wounded several times, remained at his guns assisting the loading of them, was killed with a final wound while ordering the gun to fire.

Our masthead image is of four guns of Cushing’s Battery today near the ‘inner angle’ of the stone wall that was the defensive line of the Army of the Potomac on  July 3rd 1863.

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Geometry of Combat 3: The Devil’s Den Sharpshooter

We have calculated the distance of the shots made by the Confederate sharpshooter in Devil’s Den that killed Captain Charles E. Hazlett, Commanding Battery D, 5th United States Artillery, in the Fifth Corps Artillery Brigade; and Brigadier General Stephen H. Weed, Commanding Third Brigade, Second Division, Fifth Army Corps on Little Round Top, July 2, 1863 late afternoon.

Please click on the link below to  open the Adobe Portable Document Format file [.pdf].

The Sharpshooter

If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat Reader, click here to get a free version for download and install.

Gardner-OSullivan Sharpshooter on hillGardner-OSullivan Sharpshooter in position

Alexander Gardner/Timothy O’Sullivan’s images before and after moving the body to the Sharpshooter’s Position [courtesy of the Library of Congress].


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Congratulations to Professor Guelzo

Our heartiest congratulations to Professor Allen C. Guelzo, on his award of the 2014 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize for his book, Gettysburg: The Last Invasion [see review here]. Professor Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, and the author of several books on Abraham Lincoln.

Professor Guelzo shares this year’s prize with Martin Johnson, of Miami University – Hamilton, Hamilton, Ohio, for his book, Writing the Gettysburg Address.

The Awards will be presented in New York City on April 24th.  Also being honored at that time will be Director Steven Spielberg with a first-time Special Achievement Award for his film Lincoln.

If you have not read Gettysburg: The Last Invasion yet, you are depriving yourself of one of the finest histories of the Battle of Gettysburg ever written.  The book was published in 2013 by Alfred A. Knopf [ISBN 978-0-307-59408-2].

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The Geometry of Combat, Part 2: The Triangular Field

Fields of view are important to military operations.  They will expose to the commander avenues of approach, fields of fire, ambush positions, naturally favorable ground, and conversely, naturally unfavorable ground.  Sometimes a field of view can be deceptive, hiding certain features that might be used against the commander’s forces, or even deceiving him in thinking some ground is favorable when it is not.

Here is an image of the ‘Triangular Field  on the west slope of Houck’s Ridge [Devils Den is on the east slope].

Triangular Field Google ExpandedNote the apex of the triangle is at the top of the ridge, and the base at the bottom.  The stone wall is where the 124th New York [Colonel A. van Horne Ellis’ Orange Blossoms from Orange County, New York] formed.   The 99th Pennsylvania formed behind and to the left [south] of the “Orange Blossoms”.

Below is an image of the Slyder Farm from South Confederate Avenue.  Note the rising stone wall of the Triangular Field on the left side of the image, and the small white object on top of the ridge is the 124th New York Monument.

IMG_0028 (Large)Below is another view of the Triangular Field shot from above the Bushman Farm on South Confederate Avenue.

IMG_0026 (Large)Note the automobiles on the right winding their way up from Devils Den to the top of Houck’s Ridge.

Below is an image of Little Round Top from Emmitsburg Road north of the intersection with Confederate Avenue.  This would be approximately where the right of General G. T. Anderson’s Georgia Brigade would be overlapped by the left of General Jerome Robertson Texas Brigade [with the 3rd Arkansas].

IMG_0004 (Large)Note that you can clearly see the stone wall of the Triangular Field on the right of the image.

The view of Little Round Top from this area would be deceptive.  It actually strikes the eye as one slope, gradually rising from the Triangular Field to the crest of Little Round Top.  It show no sign of the Plum Run Valley, or of Devils Den, or, for that matter, anything else between the Triangular Field and the top of Little Round Top.

Confederate General William N. Pendleton wandered down this way, but perhaps a half mile north of here on the morning of July 2nd, and General Lee came down to a point about a quarter-mile north of here on the afternoon of July 2nd.  Neither would have been able to see this view, but the solders in Hood’s Division could clearly see it.   And at least for a while, they probably were fooled by it.

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The Geometry of Combat, Part 1: Little Round Top

One of the ways to look at the ebb and flow of isolated actions at Gettysburg is by using geometry.  Some of it is fairly obvious, some is deceptive, but it all involves angles.  Angles as we are discussing mean terrain angles, firing angles, and line of sight angles, and we can draw conclusions from these analyses that can help explain what the outcomes were of combat over that terrain, and why those outcomes occurred.  Using a series of recent photos, we have discovered that there seems to be an angle for every situation.

Remember, you can click on these images for a larger view.

We’ll start with one of our favorites, the position of the 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment on the south slope of Little Round Top.  Here you can see an enlarged view showing both flank markers of the 83rd Pennsylvania and the extreme slope located just behind [to the right of] their right flank where the 16th Michigan was posted, both of which protected the 83rd from attack on their right flank.  Angles.

83rd & 16th Captioned croppedHere is a wider version of  the same view.

83rd & 16th Captioned fullThe 44th New York was just out of view to the right near the top of the image, and directly behind and above the 83rd Pennsylvania.  The 20th Maine position is directly behind the photographer.

Below is a view of the upward path to the 16th Michigan’s position [note their monument on the boulder at the right side of the image].  On top, and much higher than the 16th’s position, is the 44th New York Monument.  This is the route the 4th and 5th Texas took in their assault on the 16th Michigan.

IMG_0019 (Medium)In places, this is almost a sheer climb.  Isn’t it amazing how those Texans got up there with their rifles while under fire!?!?!

 Here is the right flank marker under the pine tree.

IMG_0021 (Medium)Note the steep angle to the right, heading up to where the 16th Michigan was located.

Below is a look at the Strong Vincent statue on top of the 83rd Pennsylvania Monument.  Note how close the left flank marker is to the monument.  A legitimate question might be, “Was the left flank marker moved west away from the lines of the 20th Maine to make way for Sedgwick Avenue?”  Normally the monument is located in the center of the two flank markers.

IMG_0022 (Medium)A final look at the 83rd Pennsylvania’s flank markers:

IMG_0023 (Medium)The left flank marker is easily seen at the left, with upper Warren Avenue at the pull-offs near the top visible in the background.  Photo was taken from the west side of Sedgwick Avenue.  The right flank marker is harder to see, but can be located under and to the left of the pine tree at the extreme right of the image.

Analysis: We should note here that the definition of the “military crest” of any elevation is a line along which a soldier can stand and NOT be silhouetted against the sky when seen from below.  It is also a line where the terrain below can be readily observed…and taken under fire.  It is NOT necessarily a physical feature which could be construed as a crest per se, but simply a line along which the soldiers take up positions. There is that angle thing again.

In Strong Vincent’s Brigade, the colonels were obviously well schooled in that concept and three of the four of the regiments took positions on Little Round Top along the military crest line.

The 44th New York has no flank markers to note its position.  Nevertheless, there are enough features to mark their position as being up in the center of the brigade line, but below the actual crest of the hill, along the line of the military crest.  On their right was the 16th Michigan, on a small plateau, also along the line of the military crest, and wrapped around the curve of the hill to the west.   On the left of the 44th, but extending forward along the side of a spur jutting to slightly east of south was the 20th Maine, and their first line is marked by the remains of the low stone walls just a few feet above the right side Sedgwick Avenue on the south slope of Little Round top…those walls would be on the military crest line.  Later, the 20th would draw their lines up to the crest of the spur in order to shorten their line and refuse it to the left as the 15th Alabama began to maneuver to threaten the left of the regiment.  This then accounts for the line of stone wall along the crest of the spur.

Directly in front of the 44th New York, but much lower on the south slope of Little Round Top [perhaps half-way between the 44th New York and what is now Warren Avenue coming up from the Plum Run Valley] is the line of the 83rd Pennsylvania.  It was well below the military crest.  It was also below the fire of the 44th New York.

As the 83rd Pennsylvania was advanced into some rather large boulders in front of the rest of the brigade, we need to note that their left was covered by the angle taken by the terrain of what is now known as Vincent’s Spur, along which the 20th Maine was formed, and their right was up against the base of a small cliff above which was the left flank of the 16th Michigan, 30 feet higher.

Thus we have a defense in depth, with sophisticated positions providing covering angles of fire, and inviting gaps that became killing grounds when the Rebels entered them.  The Brigade fought with valor from this strong position, and repulsed the assault by Law’s Brigade.

Strong Vincent had no more than 5 or ten minutes to survey the ground he was given to defend, and come up with a formation that provided maximum fire along the brigade line and protection for the flanks of the advance regiment [83rd Pennsylvania].  The angles of fire, both up and down, and right and left, were maximized, and all the likely approaches to the brigade position were covered.

Not bad for a Harvard-trained lawyer from Erie Pennsylvania.  He certainly did not learn those angles at Harvard Law!

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Farewell, Scott Hartwig, and Thank You!

On a personal note, we would like to congratulate D. Scott Hartwig on his retirement from his position as Supervisory Ranger Historian at Gettysburg National Military Park. And we would add a huge Thank You for a job well done.

On several occasions we visited the research library where Scott’s office was located in the old Cyclorama Building.  Every time he was extremely helpful [as was John Heiser], always courteous, and eager to make the research path easier. In his presentations at Seminars, he would go out of his way to provide information about his sources, not because we were checking his veracity, but because we had not heard of those statistics, or that written document, or this book, and were eager to explore them to gain more familiarity with them. Scott would gladly provide that information.

Always a gentleman, always well prepared, always presenting himself professionally, Scott shared his knowledge and insights willingly. This is the mark of someone who has embraced his work.

Scott Hartwig, Ranger Historian, soon to be Historian, will be missed. We wish him well, and much success in the next phase of his life. If it is anything like the phase he is ending, he will be extremely successful.

Farewell, and thank you Scott Hartwig!


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He Came to Gettysburg

He came to Gettysburg on the train, arriving in the afternoon of November 18th.  Greeted by local attorney David Wills, he walked the one block uphill to Wills’ home on the southeast corner of The Diamond, as the town square was called.  Stuffed in his stove-pipe hat was the working copy of the speech he planned to give at the ceremony the next day.

After dinner at the Wills House with some of Wills friends, he retired to his bedroom on the second floor.  Later in the evening a crowd gathered on the Diamond, and it began to sing, serenading him with popular patriotic songs.  He threw open the window and waved to the group.  They broke into cheers and calls for a speech.  He thanked them for their warmth and hospitality, said a few words, and bid them good night.

The next day, the parade formed on the Diamond, and he joined other dignitaries, including, Wills, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin, and the main speaker, famed orator Edward Everett. In the march to the new National Cemetery.  At the Cemetery, The Reverend Dr. Stockton delivered the opening prayer, followed by music performed by the United States Marine Corps Band.

The principle speaker of the day, Edward Everett, then stood and spoke for two hours or so.   He spoke of the Battle, and war, other wars, as well as the one that brought its fight to Gettysburg.  Everett was followed by the Baltimore Glee Club, which sang an ode  written by Benjamin Brown French, the  Commissioner of Public Buildings in Washington, DC.

The tall man in the stove pipe hat then rose and began to speak.  This is what he said…

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

 The ceremony continued after his two minute speech.  A dirge was sung, and the final benediction was presented by the Reverend Dr. H. L. Baugher.

 After the ceremony at the National Cemetery, he went to the Presbyterian Church, accompanying local resident John Burns to the ceremony there.  Burns was wounded on the first day of the Battle while fighting with a Pennsylvania Regiment.  He was the only civilian to have joined the Union ranks against the Confederates during the battle.   Gettysburg Address MonumentHe left by railroad shortly after that ceremony.

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