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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Post-150th Commemoration Review

One more from our friend at GettysBLOG:

From the Fields of Gettysburg, the excellent blog put out by the Interpretive Rangers at the Gettysburg National Military Park has a post-Commemoration post up now.

Here is the Link:  



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The Cleansing, July 4-5

Another entry compliments of GettysBLOG:

The Cleansing, July 4-5

After the fighting ended on that 3rd day of July, 1863, and after the smoke had cleared, some 125,000 men stared blankly across the slope separating Seminary Ridge from Cemetery Ridge, and wondered what version of Hell would next present itself. A small group of soldiers ventured out from Union lines on Cemetery Ridge, in front of the artillery pieces that were now cooling and silent. They went forward and worked to put out the blaze in front of those guns, where grass, and clothing and bodies themselves had caught fire from the intense heat of the furious blasts.

If you had not been present for the battle, but had happened on it just at this time, you would have heard the moaning, and screams of thousands of wounded and dying who were laying on that slope, and around those guns. Those that had partaken of the battle, who had fired their guns in as rapid a fashion as they could, and had defended those cannons from the enemy, heard only the ringing in their ears. In some cases it would be days before they could hear normally, in other cases, they never would.

Ambulance attendants, hospital orderlies, and work crews from all the regiments that were able to muster them, on both ridges, began to move forward to collect, first the wounded, then later, the dead. As they had the night before, the bands of all the regiments, brigades, divisions and corps, began to play along Taneytown Road, to mask the sounds coming from the hospitals in the rear. Down the western slope of Seminary Ridge, the Confederate bands played. Because of that gun-deafness, few who were in the front lines could hear the bands. It was a good thing, perhaps, for it meant they were the lucky few who could not hear the screaming and the low, steady moaning sound that came from the hospitals, not quite hidden by the music.

Officers busied themselves scurrying along the regimental and company fronts, straightening their lines, checking their men, making sure they had all gotten fresh ammunition, and water. The sergeants would be along later with some food, hardtack most likely, and perhaps some salt beef from a commissary barrel someone was actually able to locate.

Out on the slope, frequent shots rang out as a wounded horse or mule was found and its misery ended.

As the twilight deepened into full night, one could look across the slope between the ridges and see lanterns moving about on the field, as the removal process continued. For once, neither side had the stomach to take the other under fire. For once exhaustion and a surfeit of bloodletting forced humanity upon them.

Lee had his troops dig in along Seminary and Oak Rdiges during the night and early morning, expecting a counter attack from Meade. But none came. A late afternoon probe by Meade turned up little.

After a hazy dawn, a prisoner exchange was requested by General Robert E. Lee, and declined by Major General George G. Meade. It was Union policy that prisoner exchanges cease, because the Confederacy refused to treat captured United States Colored Troops, and their white officers the same as white troops, and their white officers; and because the United States was winning a war of attrition against the Confederacy, and the return of Confederate prisoners who would fight again after parole, would only help prolong the war.

Sometime in the early afternoon hours of July 4th, 1863, it began to rain. All day in the fog and the rain, the recovery continued. Some wounded would lay there for days before being discovered and taken to hospitals. Many who searched for Confederate dead and wounded were their slaves, looking for their masters. As many as 10,000 had accompanied the Army of Northern Virginia on the campaign. Now, as it became obvious that the Rebels has suffered a setback, many of the slaves were running from the army, and into the freedom of the Pennsylvania countryside – behind Union lines.

Lee ordered a few units to build rather large fires along Seminary Ridge after nightfall on the 4th to cover for the departing units. Indeed, he had sent his main supply train, some twenty miles in length, back toward the Potomac River earlier in the day, complete with the wounded, and the prisoners Meade refused to exchange. They went west, initially toward Chambersburg, but only to turn south once over the crest of South Mountain. Now it was time for the Army to go. They headed southwest toward Hagerstown by way of Fairfield, and Waynesboro.

By evening the rain had increased its intensity. Cavalry troopers pursuing the retreating Confederates over South Mountain near the village of Monterey on the evening of the 4th, slogged up the steep mountain road, fighting not only the mud and the Confederates, but the driving rain, and the rushing torrents that drained down from the crest of the mountain. The terrain on either side of the road was so treacherous that the Confederates needed to place only one artillery piece in the road, aiming it down at the men of Brigadier General George A. Custer’s Michigan Cavalry Brigade. Custer’s men knew they were close and eventually carved out a five mile long section of Major General Richard S. Ewell’s Corps supply train, which was approximately 17 miles long. The Battle of Monterey Pass could be heard, and the gun flashes seen miles to the west in Waynesboro.

Back at the battlefield, the teeming rains continued to wash the blood from the ground, and rocks. The rains kept up for days, and why not? Had there not been so much blood spilled that the rains would need time to do the cleansing? During this time, a few militia troops, and many civilian volunteers once again scoured the battlefield for wounded, and buried the dead upon which they stumbled.

To see the weather, one need only look at the photographer’s images, those in particular of Alexander Gardner, the Scotsman hired by Matthew Brady to come to America in 1857, or Timothy O’Sullivan, both of whom were part of a group of about 20 that Brady sent out across the country to photograph the Civil War. Anything in the distance in any of the views is shrouded in fog and mist.

They arrived sometime on July 5th. They started taking pictures immediately, trying to capture the dead, and get an image of the numbers of the dead. It had been the dead of the September, 1862, Battle of Antietam, that had both repulsed and enthralled the visitors to Brady’s New York gallery. It brought the human price of the war home to all who viewed those images.

By the time Gardner and O’Sullivan arrived, most of the Union dead had been removed from the fields. What we are left with is the view of row upon row of Confederate dead, and soldier after soldier, now a cold photographic subject that was once a warm and breathing human being. Pictures of the dead made money, so pictures of the dead is what Brady got from his photographers.

 Harvest of Death 1

Two of the most famous photos, The Harvest of Death (above), and its opposite view (below), which purport to be the only photographs showing Union dead on the Battlefield, are, to this day, still a mystery as to the location on the Gettysburg Battlefield where they were taken. We favor the theory that these men are the dead of the 5th New Jersey, killed by Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade on July 2nd while on picket duty stretched between the Spangler Farm and the Sherfy Farm.

 Harvest of Death 2

One can see the weather when the photographs were taken.

It rained, it poured, for days. Some have ventured to guess that a hurricane slowly moved through the area, dumping tropical rains on the Pennsylvania countryside. 

The three days of killing on the fields surrounding the town of Gettysburg had made for very hot work. By day, the sun burned through the hazy humidity warming the air into the mid to upper 80s, and by night, it likely never went below the upper 60s. And coming a mere ten days after the summer solstice, those hot days allowed for maximum daylight hours – hours that could be used for the butchery of battle. It was rarely wasted, with most fights going from the afternoon, into the evening, and sometimes continuing all night long. It was hot, all three days…hot and dry.

Now, though, the great cleansing had begun. The armies had moved off, and Nature was doing its best to cleanse itself from this great killing that occurred over these beautiful rocky fields, and through these woods and orchards. It was as if it was eager to remove the scars of an insult, but even for Nature it was too late. The ground had been hallowed by blood, and by blood its hallowing would remain. And nothing, ever, would sully that hallowing.


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