Rochester Union and Advertiser, July 13, 1863.
A Visit to the Gettysburg Battle Field.
Gettysburg, Pa., July 7th, 1863
Editors Union: Presuming an account direct from the field of the late dreadful and sanguinary struggle at this place, may prove of interest to the friends of our brave Rochester boys who participated in its glorious results, I pen you a few observations of my experience during the past twenty-four hours.
Through the persistent efforts of an influential citizen, I obtained a pass from Gen. Schenck to leave Baltimore and proceed to the battlefield, and left with a party of friends in a carriage on the eve of the fifth, it being impossible for any civilian to go by railroad. On arriving at Westminister we met Sedwick's baggage trains, and were obliged to remain over night, though we could find no food for man or beast, as all the towns, and most of the residents on the Gettysburg "Pike" were completely cleared out last week by the rebels.
We proceeded early in the morning, and ere long we had plenty of indications of the late struggle, in the ambulance wagons filled with wounded, and others on foot, plodding wearily along, most all of the men exhibiting wounds of some kind. When within six miles of Gettysburg the signs of desolation were striking, in the destruction of all fences and crops within sight. As we approached nearer, dead horses in the road and adjoining fields became plentiful, causing a stench quite sickening. We finally left the road and turned into the cemetery, and soon found ourselves on the now celebrated "Cemetery Hill" for a time, during the most critical period of the engagement, the headquarters of General Meade. At this elevated point we had a fine and comprehensive view of the field, it being the centre itself. The sight here was appalling indeed, the beautiful repose of the dead being one mass of ruins-the imposing arched entrance gate being sadly disfigured by shot and shell-the fences, the ornamental iron railings being felled and scattered in all directions, the chaste and beautiful marble shafts, monuments and tablets lay broken and dismantled, the ground strewn with soldiers' accoutrements, muskets and dead horses, whilst cannon balls, fragments of shell, grape, cannister and cartridges lay thickly strewn about; also some few champagne bottles which I noticed on the graves near where Meade's headquarters were. Off to the right and left could be seen thousands of new made graves, with their pine head boards. On an elevation, alone among the graves stood a wounded horse.
We left this heart sickening scene to pursue our observations on the left, reading many of the inscriptions on the graves, eager to see if any belonged to the Rochester regiments. We pursued, in the course of the tide of devastation, our way some two miles through the thick made graves and dead horses, which latter were now as plenty as stumps in a new settlement. Some you could observe no wounds upon, while others were mangled horribly, and some, from their position, holding their heads up, you could not believe were dead until you approached closely. The ground, all the way, was literally covered with muskets, broken artillery, wagons and wheels, caps, coats, blankets, haversacks, accoutrements of all kinds, playing cards, letters, books, &c., &c., for miles. Whole boxes of ammunition, now broken, were also seen. By most of the solitary graves lay the occupant's out-fit complete, and the food he had with him at the time.
We now proceeded through the first woods on the left, northwest of the cemetery. The trees were completely riddled by shot and shell, while missiles of all kinds were as thick as berries. After passing on through the woods into the fields beyond we first saw the dead rebels who had not, as yet, been interred. This sight was disgusting in the extreme. They lay in all positions, the faces being black from decomposition. The frequency of the sight seemed, however, to harden us to it; so after cutting a few buttons off of them, we left them with a requiescat in pace.
We now cut off to a neat looking farm house, with large barns attached which we thought outside of the line of battle, but on a nearer approach we saw that the premises were within the devastating fire which had swept by it as with the besom of destruction. But all was lonely and silent now, the doors were open, the plates and some food on the table, the house ransacked from cellar to garret, everything broken and strewn about as if by malice. A carnival of demons would not have left a blacker picture of ruin and riot. A shell had entered one side of the house and burst among the bed clothes, where we found fragments of it; the clock ticked solemnly on, and was within three minutes of my watch. In the front yard were four new graves, while within a stones throw were from twenty to thirty dead horses. On going to the barn, which was riddled with bullets, we found a dead horse in a stall.
We put our horse in the barn and pushed on further to the left, and to the first range of hills or mountains went of the village. Here were evidences of a dreadful conflict and carnage, and the rebels lay thick on the ground, and were also buried by hundreds in large pits; some containing as many as five hundred bodies. The stench here was so intolerable that we were obliged to hold large bunches of pennyroyal to our noses, and breathe through the herbs. On going up the steep and rocky mountain side, we came to an impromptu stone wall fortification, which , on entering, what was my surprise to see a torn and dirty copy of the "Union and Advertiser," also a scrap of "Moore's Rural New Yorker." I knew well then that some of our boys had occupied the very spot, and the post of danger was well defended, for within a hundred yards of that stone wall I saw a hundred rebels laying stiff in their gore. Horrible and ghastly indeed was the tale thus told.
I finally came across three privates of the 140th Reg't, who said that their regiment had occupied the place, and had lost their brave Colonel. They were doing hospital duty to the wounded left a few miles further on. One of them named Campbell, who lived at Lyell Bridge, said their loss was 131, killed, wounded and missing. They showed me some fresh made graves from which I copied the following names: S.O. Webb, Co.. G; Chas. Speisberger, Co. D; Justice Eisenberger, Co. D; Ph. Bechner, Co. D; John Zubler, Co. B; Rob't Shields, Co. C; John Allen, Co. C; John Hindel, Co. C; Rob't Blair, Co. D; Corp.. John Evans, Co. D. I was told that Col. O'Rorke was temporarily interred at their camp hospital about 5 miles northwest of Gettysburg, as no one could be spared in the emergency to convey his remains home. Among the officers in the field hospital are Capt. Starks, wounded in hand, Capt. Speiss, badly, in breast and leg; Capt. Sibley, in thighs; Lieut. Klein, leg and side; McGraw, leg off; and Smith, the "Razor Strop man." wounded leg. All are in care of Brockport surgeon, who belongs to the 140th Reg't.
Every effort is being made to get the wounded into the regular hospitals, but there are thousands of them and it will take time. Thousands are flocking here to aid the sufferers, and here is the place for the Relief Associations to send their "aids and comforts." Meade's army is hard after the fleeing pillagers. From conversations I heard between Union and Rebel officers, they all agree, while mutually complimenting each other's bravery, that this was the most severe and desperately contested engagement of the war. From its track of desolation and ravages, anything worse is beyond imagination.
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