Skip to comments.VANITY: Gettysburg - In harm's way? (advice requested)
Posted on 07/20/2013 7:54:05 PM PDT by llevrok
I am watching a documentary on Gettysburg and the point was made that the town was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I know there are countless military reasons/theories why 160,000 forces met there.
But the point about wrong place... got me to wondering - Do FReepers know of any books on what it must have been like to be a resident of Gettysburg, knowing that all hell was about to decend upon your town?
I think, at least, that would make a great fictional story. Darn near like a Hitchcock movie with tons of building tension
Here they are marching towards you and you, say a simple store keeper, can not do a darn thing about it.
There was a book maybe 15 years back about the town people. Written by a doctor. I’m sorry, I don’t recall the title.
Most residents of Gettysburg left the area.
There was only one civilian fatality in the whole battle.
Gettysburg was the center of a the road network for south central PA in 1863.
It made very logical sense that the battle occurred there.
There is the Matilda Alleman memoir.
There are many. One is At: Gettysburg what a girl saw and heard of the battle by Tillie Pierce Alleman
I seem to recall one side was foraging for shoes, maybe the boys in gray. Scouts clashed, things escalated. Surely someone can put flesh on these poor bones.
Mary Virginia "Jennie" Wade was a 20-year-old resident of Gettysburg engaged to be married to Corp. Johnston H. Skelly of the 87th Pennsylvania. She worked as a seamstress with her mother in their home on Breckenridge Street. To make ends meet, they also took care of a 6-year-old boarder named Isaac.
For safety during the first day's battle, Jennie and her family moved to the home of Jennie's sister, Georgia Wade McClellan on Baltimore Street. Her sister had given birth with great difficulty around 2:15 P.M., one hour before the Confederates rode into Gettysburg, and Jennie was caring for her.
The McClellan side of the house on Baltimore Street, less than 50 yards north of Cemetery Hill, thus housed Mrs. Wade, Jennie, her brother Harry, her young boarder Isaac, her sister Georgia, and the newborn son.
There was no heavy fighting in the area but a Federal picket line did run behind the little brick house, there was intermittent skirmishing between it and Confederate outposts in the Town proper. Protected by the sturdy brick walls of the house, they lived for three days in the midst of the greatest battle ever seen in this hemisphere.
Jennie spent most of July 1 distributing bread to Union soldiers and filling their canteens with water. By late afternoon on July 2, the diminishing supply of bread made it apparent that more bread would be needed the next day. Jennie and her mother left the yeast to rise until the morning of the 3rd.
At about 7 A.M. on the morning of July 3, the Confederate sharpshooters began firing at the north windows of the house. The prep work to bake biscuits was begun at 8 A.M. At about 8:30 A.M. while Jennie stood in the kitchen kneading dough, a Confederate musket ball smashed through a door on the north side of the house, pierced another into the kitchen, and struck Jennie in the back beneath her left shoulder blade embedding itself in her corset, killing her instantly.
The cries of her sister and mother attracted Federal soldiers who carried her body to the cellar. Later she was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in a coffin some Confederate soldiers had fashioned for an officer. In the early afternoon of July 4, Jennie's mother baked 15 loaves of bread from the dough which Jennie had kneaded.
Jennie Wade was the only civilian casualty of the battle of Gettysburg. Nor was the tragedy complete, for unbeknownst to Jennie, her fiance` Corp. Skelly had been wounded and taken prisoner at Winchester on May 13. Transferred to Virginia, he died in a hospital on July 12. News that he had died in Confederate hands came several days after the Southern Army had withdrawn from Gettysburg.
Gettysburg was just a convenient road junction near Lee's center of gravity at the point in time at which he discovered that the Yankees were coming. It was also on the Union approach route. In retrospect, the Confederates might have done better to concentrate on Chambersburg instead, and put a mountain between themselves and the Army of the Potomac, but Dick Ewell got drawn into a meeting engagement. The first day went well for the South, so Lee elected to follow up the initial success. (Among other things, to maneuver after a substantial fight when deep in enemy territory and without rail evacuation would have made it next to impossible to protect his wounded.) The rest is history.
As to the civilians, they hitched up their buggies and left, or headed to the cellars. Civil War armies were remarkably civilized, and civilians that behaved themselves were generally pretty safe, with the sometimes exception of those regions plagued by guerilla warfare. But that's another story.
Walter Reed gave her a musket ..... I had to go check my history .... Were he of the same fame he would have been 12 years old at the battle of Gettysburg ..... Albeit this Walter S Reed that gave her the rifle was a nurse corpsman ..... Amazing first hand report from little Tillie Pierce.
Thanks for the link...
Dad was born in 1901 and always read everything he could on the war, it was personal to his family. They lived in Michigan. Of course fought for the north.
I have seen lot of photographs taken of the battlefield with bloated bodies laying all over...the only thing that came to me later, when growing up was the stench much have been so bad, the residence had to stay at other places until the bodies were buried. Some pictures would have dozens of bodies on the ground...My older brother was named after that uncle.
Funny, i was just at Gettysburg Today. The visitor center has a great book collection and i remember seeing a number of books about the war from the towns’ point of view, though i can’t remember the titles. I do remember one od the tour guides i passes while our family was driving around all the memorial markers say that just about every home in the area was used for a hospital and they treat union and confederate alike.
I suggest calling the visitor center and speak to one of the rangers to give you the titles of the books on the subject.
Wrote Freemantle on the early morning of July 4:
At 10 A. M. Lawley returned from headquarters, bringing the news that the army is to commence moving in the direction of Virginia this evening. This step is imperative from want of ammunition. But it was hoped that the enemy might attack during the day, especially as this is the 4th of July, and it was calculated that there was still ammunition for one day's fighting. The ordnance train had already commenced moving back towards Cashtown, and Ewell's immense train of plunder had been proceeding towards Hagerstown by the Fairfield road ever since an early hour this morning.
According to many, many books and articles on the battle, that is partly true.
When Lee invaded the North, his Army marched, the whole way.
And invade the North they did. Lee's invasion caught Washington DC by surprise and sent panic into the North (up until this time almost all of the major Civil War battles had been fought in the South).
They needed more than shoes also, they needed supplies of every kind.
They also needed other clothing, food, water, and other supplies (strategy is fun in the map room, but Logistics wins battles).
Shoes wear out when you march hundreds and hundreds of miles in them across rough terrain:
There was not a shoe factory in Gettysburg though. It was probably the road system that brought the armies into Gettysburg.
Look at this from an eyewitness account:
There are a number of excellent books on the Civil War, including the battles at Gettysburg available through Christian Home Schooling associations. I will ask my wife if she remembers any of the names.
I went in the '90s, and we bought a cassette tape which did the same thing. I guess all the old men of the 40s had died. You would play the tape at each stopping point, and then it would tell you where to go next. I don't know how CDs would work. They don't stop and restart as easily. The "old men" would probably be more interesting, but probably not as accurate.
I doubt if many residents would have had any idea what was coming their way until the battle started. Both armies were largely ignorant of the other’s movements and civilians would not have had broader tactical knowledge than the armies had.
The newspapers of the time would have given some basic and very outdated information on the movements of both armies prior to the battle but nothing that would have indicated Gettysburg as being a potential epicenter of subsequent events. Locals would have been aware of a Confederate Army presence in the Adams County region but little else.
Very few residents who remained in or around town would have seen much of the battle itself. They were sheltered in place in basements etc. for protection and only would have ventured out for very short periods during lulls to get water or other neccesary items.
Most of the detailed civilian accounts deal with the period on July 1 when the fighting moved through the town or immediately after the battle when it was safer to leave their homes and view the carnage.
On the Bloodstained Field 1 & 2 are excellent non fiction booklets that have a number of military and civilian anecdotes from the battle and aftermath.
“Jennie Wade was the only civilian casualty of the battle of Gettysburg.”
Jennie Wade was the only civilian “fatality” of the battle. There were several civilians wounded, the most famous being John Burns.
There was no long warning, other than a couple of days before June 30th, Confederates marched through Gettysburg enroute to Harrisburg, PA. BG John Buford’s 1st Cavalry division arrived mid-day on June 30th and established control of Seminary Ridge and the routes from the west that the remainder of Lee’s Army was marching toward Harrisburg, PA. The battle began on the morning of July 1st. Many townspeople fled that day, but there was no real warning of a battle to be fought there.
The entire battle of Gettysburg was not planned by either side for that location, but was the result of a “meeting engagement” where two enemy forces suddenly run into each other and a fight begins, grows and ends with one side losing and the other winning.
As Buford said “it is good ground, very good ground” and the Union got hold of it first and let Lee do the attacking against Union troops on a good defensive position. But it was the 2 brigades of Buford’s cavalry division that found and seized that ground on June 30, 1863
There are still licensed battlefield guides for the Gettysburg. I believe they can be hired through the city travel center, and/or at the National Park Center Museum. We had a licensed guide when we went there in 1962. They are still there and for hire.