Gettysburg Battlefield Places and Stories
The Gettysburg Battlefield

Battlefield Places and Stories

Iverson's Pits

We provide tours of the Gettysburg Battlefield in 17-passenger Yellowstone Park buses. Here are a few stories we hope you'll find interesting. We add to or change this list every few days, so be sure to check in from time to time.
If you're looking for a particular story and don't see it here, make sure to check out Page Two of our Places and Stories Series.

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Gettysburg Battlefield Stories: Sallie The War Dog

Gettysburg Battlefield Stories: Sallie

Some people think that Sallie looks like a cat as she is depicted on the monument of the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment. She was their mascot. You can see her in the image at left and just imagine her sitting at the foot of one of her men after a hard day of fighting. Sallie was a Stafordshire Terrier and she is probably the most famous dog who was at the Battle of Gettysburg. On the first day of the battle, her regiment was pushed back from Oak Hill and began to retreat. Sallie became separated from her men as they scattered all through the streets on that chaotic afternoon of July 1, 1863. Lost and confused, she turned around and headed back toward the battlefield where she rejoined those of her unit who were unable to retreat ------- the dead and severely wounded. She stayed with them there for the next three days, with the men she knew so well and who knew and loved her. You can imagine how grateful those wounded men were that their beloved Sallie would stay with them.

When the battle was over and Union men came back to Oak Hill in search of lost comrades, there she was, guarding those who had gone beyond. What a reunion she had when she was brought back to the men of the 11th Pennsylvania.

Sallie was with her unit all through the war, right up until the closing months. She perished on the battlefield at Hatcher's Run, near Petersburg, Virginia, just two months before Appomattox. What a loyal, brave girl was she. Today, when you visit her monument, you often see dog bisquits that folks have left for her as many believe she still comes back to Oak Hill from time to time. Come see the Gettysburg Battlefield.

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gibbon

Gettysburg Battlefield People: Into the Valley of the Little Big Horn.....

The Gettysburg Battlefield

George Custer fought at the Battle of Gettysburg, but there is no monument to him at this battlefield. You can certainly argue that his deeds were monumental, but it takes more than that to get a monument here. So who is the General on the monument in the image at right? Well, he is General John Gibbon who commanded a division of infantry at Gettysburg but who also rode into the valley of the Little Big Horn on a fateful day in 1876. He is the man who arrived the day after Custer's last stand and it was General Gibbon and his men who discovered the massacred remains of Custer's 7th Cavalry on that hillside battlefield and laid them to their final rest in that solemn valley.

Gibbon was born in Philadelphia, but raised in North Carolina. He attended West Point and was serving in the U.S. Army when the Civil War began. He stayed in the U.S. Army, but four of his brothers joined the Confederate army. How's that for a little sibling rivalry?

It is hard to imagine a more distinguished military career than Gibbon's. Time does not permit any but the briefest description: He fought through the entire Civil War on the front lines of every major battlefield in the east and performed splendidly in every instance. It was John Gibbon who took command of a brigade of "Westerners" (from Wisconsin) and turned them into the fighting unit that became known as "The Iron Brigade".

At Gettysburg, his division occupied the center of the Union line on the third day of the battle and absorbed the direct blow administered as "Pickett's Charge". His war record was nearly incomparable and he stayed in the army after the war, eventually being posted in the real "West" (Montana) where he was the second-most famous man to ride "..........into the valley of the Little Big Horn". Boy, can you just imagine the stories this man could tell --- true stories.

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Harvard

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: Paul Revere at Gettysburg

The Gettysburg Battlefield

There are few, if any, names in American history that are more well known than Paul Revere. He is undoubtedly the most famous silversmith in our history, but he was also a family man and one of his sons was a family man, too. This man had a son he named for his famous father, Paul Revere. And this Paul Revere (the grandson of the famous silversmith) was the Colonel of the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg. This regiment was known as "The Harvard Regiment" because all of its officers and many of the men were graduates of the esteemed institution. There were quite a number of men who served in this regiment who went on to very considerable fame and fortune, most notably Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr., the only man we know of who spoke personally with America's two greatest war presidents --- Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt --- but that's a story for another day.

On July 3, 1863, the 20th Massachusetts found itself right in the crosshairs of Pickett's Charge. This position on the battlefield placed them right at "ground zero" in the great cannonade preceding the charge when more than 150 Confederate cannons poured thousands of rounds into the Union line to "soften up" the defenses along Cemetery Ridge. The artillery barrage did not fully accomplish its purpose, but it inflicted great damage to some Union gun batteries posted near the 20th Massachusetts, in at least once case, killing or wounding all the men attending some artillery pieces nearby. Some of the Massachusetts men then put down their muskets, took up the implements of the artillerists and operated the cannons as best they could. When the charge itself reached the line of the Harvard Regiment, the men absorbed a tremendous blow as they were almost at the very center of the Confederate assualt. The regiment lost more than 40 percent of its men on that day, one of whom was Colonel Paul Revere. His grandfather had survived his time in war, but this Paul Revere did not, dying the following day.

Years later, the surviving members of The Harvard Regiment put a monument on the Gettysburg Battlefield at the exact location where they had fought so bravely on that July day decades before. It's not a grand sculpture of some artist's imagination, it's a big rock --- the rock of Massachusetts. It was brought from Roxbury, Massachusetts, and was said to have come from a park where many of the men of the 20th Mass had played as young boys.

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Barlow

Gettysburg Battlefield People: The Boy General

The Gettysburg Battlefield

Francis C. Barlow was one extraordinary fellow. He graduated from Harvard University first his class and became a lawyer. When the Civil War broke out, he quit his job as an attorney and joined the 12th New York volunteer infantry. This occurred one day after his wedding to a woman ten years his senior. When the three-month enlistment of the 12th New York expired, he joined another unit and soon became it's lieutenant colonel.

He was by all accounts extremely smart, diligent, hard-working, determined......and baby-faced. He looked so young that one of General Meade's staff officers described him as looking like "a highly independent mounted newsboy". His youthful looks were heightened by his habit of dressing informally (a black and white checked flannel shirt with unbuttoned officer's coat) and without the military accoutrements of many officers.

A stickler for discipline, he carried a broad, heavy cavalry sword in place of the more common officers' sword (thinner and lighter) and he used the flat edge of the sword to "whack" stragglers on the back to encourage their greater progress on the march.

He was tough on his men, but he was tough on the battlefield, brave in all ways and posessed of a clear ability to lead men in battle. Unfortunately, at Gettysburg, he made a big mistake and lead his division unto the fields north of the town on the first day of the battle and positioned them in an exposed location vunerable to a flanking attack and that's exactly what happened. He was gravely wounded and thought to be soon deceased when his troops were forced to fall back. The young general was left on the field for dead. After this, the story gets a little less clear.

Various accounts say that Confederate General John B. Gordon, whose Rebels had thrashed Barlow's men, came upon the wounded Yankee with the boyish face and ordered that he be taken to a Confederate Field hospital and cared for as fully as possible. These accounts also claim that Gordon somehow became aware that Barlow's wife was with the Union army at Gettysburg and sent a courier --- under a flag of truce --- to inform her of Barlow's condition and allow her to come to her dying husband's side. Other accounts differ. No one now knows what happened on these points. We do, however, know that Barlow somehow survived his terrible wounds and made a full recovery, rejoining the army and resuming command of troops in the field.

Here's the best part of the story (maybe true, maybe not): It seems that both Barlow and Gordon were convinced that the other had been killed in the war. Years later, both men were invited to attend some kind of fancy reception in Washington, D.C. and were introduced to one another. The perfect Hollywood ending: "Sir, are you related to the General Barlow who has killed at Gettysburg?" "Indeed, sir, I am the man."

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Wilkeson

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: Lieutenant Wilkeson.....so young......so brave

The Gettysburg Battlefield

Lt. Bayard Wilkeson was just nineteen years old, but he found himself in charge of a six-gun artillery battery at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. His battery was part of the Union 11th Corps and was positioned north of Gettysburg on that day to confront the threat coming from the Confederates of General Richard Ewell's Corps who were headed toward the town. Ewell knew by this time that a major battle had started and he was racing to join the fight.

Wilkeson's Battery was postioned at the far right end of the Union line on a small rise of ground that is now known as "Barlow's Knoll". It was a very exposed and dangerous position, yet Wilkeson's men worked their guns to good effect and without hesitation or complaint. The young Lieutenant was astride his horse and highly visible to the men in both armies as he kept a watchful eye on the men of his command.

It didn't take the Confederates very long to assemble an array of their own artillery on a ridge just north of Barlow's Knoll and there they positioned 12 guns with which to pound the cannons of the boy Lieutenant. Suddenly, a shell burst in the air just above Wilkeson, killing his horse and nearly severing his leg. He remained conscious all the while and had the presence of mind to wrap a self-styled tourniquet around his thigh in an attempt to stop from bleeding to death on the spot.

Then he took his camp knife and finished amputating his own leg.

He was then carried to the "Alms House" (a refuge for the indigent or infirm that the County operated in 1863). The Alms House was located about 300 hundreds yards behind the Union line about where you can see the buildings in the background in the photo above at left. Wilkeson's battery was set up just to the left of the camera position for the photo. There were dozens of wounded men being cared for by the surgeons in the Alms House "field hospital". Someone was going from man to man offering a drink of water from a small bucket. The man offered Wilkeson a drink but just then the next man over cried out for something to drink and Wilkeson motioned to give him a drink first. So they did.

After he had finished, the man with the ladle turned back to Lieutenant Wilkeson ................... but he was gone.

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Trostle Farm

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: The Barn With The Bullet Hole

The Gettysburg Battlefield

You don't have to look too hard to see where a cannon ball hit this barn ----- the hole is right up there just below the diamond-shaped pattern in the brickwork. This barn was owned by the Trostle family at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg and their house sits just out of camera range to the right of the barn. For a certain generation of folks in Gettysburg, the barn has always been known as "The Barn With The Bullet Hole". Beginning about forty years ago, a lot offolks started moving to Gettysburg from nearby Maryland because taxes are so much higher there and they were not in on the local secret about what this barn is called. So they started referring to the barn as "The Trostle Barn". If you come to Gettysburg today and hear from some serious-minded person that this is "The Trostle Barn", you know that they haven't been in town very long. If someone else calls it "The Barn With The Bullet Hole", you know they were born here, probably before 1970.

A lot of historic and interesting events occurred near this barn during the battle, including the wounding of General Dan Sickles. He was sitting on his horse just to the left of the barn and a Confederate cannon ball came flying through the air and hit the gound about ten feet in front of him. It must have hit a big rock or something, because it bounced up and him hit squarely on the right leg, just above the knee. Sickles was carried from the field on a stretcher (it would have been called a "litter" at that time) and was taken to the surgeons who "cut through" the little bit of tissue that was still holding the bottom half of the General's leg on, thereby completing the amputation that the Confederate cannon ball had begun.

Sickles was very attached to his leg (although not literally any longer) and he ordered that the amputated leg be "preserved". He survived this whole experience and went on live for more several more decades. He is now gone, but his leg still survives and you can go see it at the U.S. Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C.

Seriously, you can. It's still there, mounted in a display case along with a cannon ball just like the one that removed the rest of General Sickles from what you can still see.

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Tammany

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: The Only Monument With a Belly Button

The Gettysburg Battlefield

The 42nd New York Regiment of Volunteers was recruited from New York City under the auspices of a famous (infamous?) organization known as Tammany Hall. The group was a notoriously corrupt political organization ("Boss" Tweed) that, decades earlier, had grown out of a cultural movement centered on a Native American Chief, Tammanend, of the Delaware Indians, who had expressed a philosophy of peace and unity between his people and "new" Americans settling the region to become known as Pennsylvania, under the leadership of William Penn, a Quaker. The Quakers, as you may know, hold a very clear belief in nonviolence and peace in all things.

The philosophy of Chief Tammanend got lost somewhere in the transition from the cultural group to the political group, but that didn't stop Tammany Hall from using his persona as their "mascot". The 42nd New York became known as "The Tammany Regiment". These men fought bravely and well throughout the Civil War and at Gettysburg and they are honored here with a monument featuring the image of Chief Tammanend.

This monument is often a source of confusion to Gettysburg visitors who begin to imagine American Indians as part of the Battle of Gettysburg. No, there were no such combatants at this battle, at least there were none who were attired in traditional Native American dress. And, so far as we know, no one fought here armed with a long bow.

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Woolson

Gettysburg Battlefield Stories: The Last Man

The Gettysburg Battlefield

Albert Woolson was the last man alive who had served in the Union army during the Civil War until his death in 1956 at age 109. Then, there were no more. He had been a drummer boy in the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery. His father had also served in the army and died from wounds sustained in the Battle of Shiloh.

This monument honors Woolson and all veterans of the Union Army.

In the years just after the war, Union veterans formed different associations to maintain their connections (and exercise political influence) and the largest of these was known as The Grand Army of the Republic, or G.A.R., for short. The odds are prettty good that somewhere in your hometown, there is still a building somewhere with a plaque on it that identifies it as "The G.A.R. Hall". This is where the veterans held their get-togethers. When the ranks of the The G.A.R. began to thin, their sons got together and formed "The Sons Of Union Veterans" and this group still exists today, althouth it's members are usually the great, great grandsons of the Union veterans. Stay posted for our Gettysburg Battle Story about the last surviving Confederate veteran.

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California

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: The "California" Regiment from Philadelphia

The Gettysburg Battlefield

When the Civil War began in 1861, few people expected that it would really last very long. A group of influential men from the State of California (yes, it became a state in 1850), wanted the state to be represented in the Union army but were afraid the war would be over before troops could be raised and transported the whole way across the country, so they recruited men from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvanians went into battle as "The California Regiment".

To make things more complicated, the key figure in all this was the United States Senator from Oregon. (Three states, you say, to form one regiment?) Senator Edward D. Baker was a fascinating man who had lived in Springfield, Illinois (sound familiar?) as a young man, then moved to California to operate a law practice in San Francisco, and later moved to Oregon when political opportunities presented themselves. Among other feats, Mr. Baker had defeated a very young Abraham Lincoln in a race for the United States House of Representatives in 1844. The two men became very close friends, however. Very close.

Baker wanted desperately to lead men in battle and got a chance when his connections with the President put him at the head of the California Regiment at a battlefield in Virginia called Ball's Bluff early in the war. He performed miserably, mismanaging his troops and losing his life in the battle. Lincoln was overcome with grief that his good friend had been killed and no doubt felt guilt at having some role in Baker's being in a position for which he was not qualified. Abraham Lincoln wept openly at Baker's funeral service.

Following this tragedy, the men of the regiment opted to change it's name to the 71st Pennsylvania Regiment and it was with this name that the regiment was positioned along the stone wall at "The Angle" and helped repulse Pickett's Charge. You can see the regiment's monument in the image above. It's the light gray colored memorial on the left side of the image near the large tree.

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General Pickett

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: Where Was General Pickett?

The Gettysburg Battlefield

Almost everyone has heard something about "Pickett's Charge". There have been whole books written about this one, singular part of the Battle of Gettysburg. Depending on which book you believe, there were anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 Confederates who made the charge. It occurred on the third day of the battle and marked the final effort by General Robert E. Lee to break the Union lines and send the Yankees packing in a humiliating defeat. Of course, that didn't happen. The charge was a complete and devastating failure.

The great charge took place in the fields just south of the town of Gettysburg with the Confederates emerging from the woodline of Seminary Ridge and moving across about a mile of open fields in full view and exposed to the unrelenting artillery fire of the Union army. The gray battleline was a mile wide from end to end and the whole event took about a hour to play out.

We know where General Lee was during this time. We know where Confederate General James Longstreet was during this time. We know where Union army Commander George Meade was during the charge.

The only really influential person associated with Pickett's Charge that we can't place at the time is.........General Pickett. His name is now one of the most recognizable of all the generals who fought at Gettysburg, but no one knows where he was during the charge that bears his name.

There are two leading theories: one says that he was watching from a position near the Codori barn (seen in the image above; this view looking toward the Confederate line); the other theory says that Pickett watched the charge from a position near "The Peach Orchard", nearly a half-mile further south. No one knows. Come the Gettysburg Battlefield and see for yourself.

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Abraham Brian

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: While We're On the Subject

The Gettysburg Battlefield

It has to be one of the great ironies of Gettysburg that the final push by the Confederates on the last day of the battle, Pickett's Charge, took place (in part) on a small farm owned by a free black man, Abraham Brian. That's his house you see in the image at left. At the time of the battle, he lived in this house --- a one-room house --- with his wife and nine children. This view is taken looking from the vantage point of the advancing troops from Mississippi who formed a part of the left flank of the Confederate line. Just behind the camera position is the Emmitsburg Road.

These Confederates took a tremendous pounding from artillery in their front and left front positioned on Cemetery Ridge and Hill and devastating musket volleys from Union infantry poised all along the area to the left and right of the Brian house.

The Brian family was not at home during the battle. Blacks who found themselves in the path of the Confederate army were well advised to escape from that path lest they be taken prisoner and sold into slavery once the Confederates returned to Virginia after the battle. After the southern army departed Gettysburg , Abraham Brian and his family returned to their home to find it shot full of holes but still standing. Nearly all their possessions were gone, however, and the farm was completely wrecked. He later submitted a claim of just over $1,000 to the U.S. Government for losses incurred and eventually received $15 in compensation.

Mr. Brian helped bury dozens of Union soldiers in the new "Soldiers' National Cemetery" after the battle.

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Ben Crippen

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: Standing Tall When It Counts

The Gettysburg Battlefield

Recruited from the coal regions of Pennsylvania, 143rd Regiment of Volunteers arrived on the battlefield at Gettysburg in the late morning on the battle's first day just after the death of General John Reynolds. They were assigned a position on the front line atop McPherson's Ridge near the famous "Railroad Cut". Here they stood ferociously against the reinforced attacks of Confederate General Henry Heth's Division that began to roll toward them about 2:30 that afternoon. This "Second Phase" of the battle on McPherson's Ridge was much longer and tougher than the first one. The Rebels just kept coming and coming.

Finally, the order came for the 143rd to fall back --- the entire Union line had been ordered to retreat back to Seminary Ridge. The coal crackers were a grudging bunch and were very reluctant to give ground. Color Sergeant Ben Crippen, Company E, seemed especially defiant in the face of advancing Confederates. He stood his ground as the regiment fell back, standing tall when it counted most, and shook his fist at the Rebels coming at him. Even Confederate Corps Commander A. P. Hill, who watched Crippen as he gloriously held his ground, remembered the event vividly and later said that he felt sorry when the gallant Yankee met his doom.

Crippen was struck down as he defied the advancing Rebels and one of his comrades in the 143rd raced back and recovered the colors that Crippen had been holding high. But Crippen could not be saved. He fell to the ground and there he remained. There is no record of his burial and it is assumed that he is one of "The Unknowns" who rests today in The Gettysburg National Cemetery. Come see the Gettysburg Battlefield.

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Triangular Field

The Gettysburg Battlefield

Gettysburg Battlefield Stories: The Hawaiian Navy

Some people have names like "Joe" or "Tom" or "Dave". Then, there are people who have names like: "Augustus van Horne Ellis". Now, there's a name. But you would expect such a grand moniker for the head of the Hawaiian Navy. What you would probably not expect is a connection between the Hawaiian Navy and the Battle of Gettysburg. Of course, the connection is Colonel A.V.H. Ellis of the 124th New York Regiment of Volunteers.

If he had a nickname, it has not come down through time, so we'll refer to him as "Colonel". Mr. Ellis was a New York City boy, born and raised. He attended Columbia University and became a lawyer. But with a name like "Augustus", you have to think that The Colonel had grander designs for his life. He headed west, to California where he secured a government job of some sort and was also a fireman and finally, a sea captain. His travels took him to Hawaii where he somehow became friendly with the King, Kamehameha III, who appointed him head of the Hawaiian Navy.

Ellis soon learned that the Hawaiian Navy had no ships, however, so he gave up the position and returned to California where he became a steamship captain. At some point, he returned to New York and was living there when the Civil War began. He signed up with the local New York State militia unit and was at the Battle of First Bull Run at the very outset of the war. He was known as an "ambitious" man who was "every inch the soldier" and, in 1862, became Colonel of the newly raised 124th Regiment, recruited largely from Orange County. The regiment took the unlikely nickname of "The Orange Blossoms"

On the afternoon of July 2, 1863, the 124th was posted near the left of Dan Sickles' unauthorized battleline atop a ridge just beyond Devil's Den. From this position, they looked out over "The Triangular Field" (See image) where they were poised to meet an attack by Texans and then Georgians who pounded the exposed Union line. At one point, the Orange Blossoms counterattacked through the Triangular Field with Colonel Ellis mounted and high above his men, sword waving in the air. Some of his officers pleaded with him to come down from his horse where he would be less a target, but A.V.H. Ellis, former head of Hawaiian Navy, refused. "No, the men must see us today", was his reply. He was soon too much the target, however, and fell to a Rebel's bullet. Come see the Gettysburg Battlefield and find The Triangular Field.

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Barksdale

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: "The Grandest Charge Ever Made....."

The Gettysburg Battlefield

William Barksdale was one of the original Confederate "Fire Eaters" who served in the United States House of Representatives in the years before the Civil War and fought relentlessly for "States' Rights". He was a lawyer by trade but later got into the newspaper business as an editor of the Columbus (Mississippi) Democrat. He rose quickly through the ranks in the Confederate army and was a Brigadier General as he arrived at Gettysburg on the late afternoon of the battle's second day.

His brigade was in the center of James Longstreet's long battleline on that day and would participate in the "attack en echelon" that was planned by Robert E. Lee. The Mississippians found themselves facing the salient of the Union line at the Peach Orchard and watched as two batteries of Yankee artillery pounded into the left flank of the South Carolina brigade that had moved out before them.

Barksdale was furious at the pounding taken by the South Carolinians and was chomping at the bit to unleash his attack and silence the Yankee gunners. General Longstreet had to restrain him from racing forward until the time was right. Once unleashed, Barksdale's Mississippi ripped out of the woods of Seminary Ridge and headed directly toward the Sherfy house (see image) and Peach Orchard. They smashed into the Union line there in what one Yankeed called "the grandest charge ever made by mortal men".

Barksdale pushed his men forward as he sat atop his horse waving his hat in the air. He was wounded three times, including once by artillery fire and was left on the field by his men who were soon driven back by Union reinforcements. The Yankees came upon the General and took him a field hospital where he lived the night, telling the doctors repeatedly how the Union army would be defeated soundly the following day. He died the next morning. Come see the Gettysburg Battlefield.

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The Wheatfield>

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: The Worst Place of All

The Gettysburg Battlefield

This field is just about 16 acres in size (the same size as the World Trade Center site in New York). When you include some woods along the borders of the field, you have a section of the Gettysburg Battlefield that is a total of about 26 acres. On the late afternoon of the second day of the battle, more than 18,000 soldiers fought back and forth across this 20 acres. The Wheatfield changed hands six times. When it was over, the bloody field was no-man's land and more than 5,000 men lay dead or wounded on this ground. It just might be the bloodiest single place in all of American history. It is certainly the bloodiest single place at Gettysburg. Most of the wounded had to lay in this field for many hours (there was no flag of truce to care for the wounded) and the evidence suggests that over the night of July 2, 1863, the men had to fend off wild animals at night who were drawn to the corpses.

This is the one place that you must see when you come to Gettysburg. It is surrounded by more famous places ----- Little Round Top, Devil's Den, The Peach Orchard ------ but none of them was the scene of such horrific loss as was this place.

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The Devil's Den

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: The Devil's Den

The Gettysburg Battlefield

It is said that long before the Civil War, farmers who worked the fields south of Gettysburg knew to watch out for the many snakes to be found among the rocks at the foot of Round Top, the tallest hill for miles around. There was one snake in particular that all were careful to avoid. He was the biggest snake of all and he was called, "The Devil". They tried and tried to catch The Devil, but they never did.

He was said to have his den way down in a pit beneath a jumble of huge boulders. The boulders are still there. The pit is still there. But nobody knows if The Devil is still there.

This place was known then as "The Devil's Den". It still is. We can only wonder where the Devil was on that second day of July, 1863, when the great battle of Gettysburg swept up, over and through Devil's Den, now one of the most famous landmarks on the Gettysburg Battlefield. Come see the Gettysburg Battlefield.

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Peach Orchard

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: The Peach Orchard

The Gettysburg Battlefield

Few people would expect that such a horrific battlefield would bear a name as idyllic as "The Peach Orchard", but Civil War buffs will stand to attention at the very mention of this famous place. It was the scene of brutal fighting on the second day at Gettysburg, and perhaps more important, it is at the center of the greatest controversy that still rages about the battle: the decision by Union General Dan Sickles to move away from a prominent hill called "Little Round Top". He directed his 11,000 men to move forward to a much lower position along a dusty country road (the Emmitsburg Road) where a small orchard of Peach trees stood at the very center of his repositioned Union line. Sickles was the only Union Corps Commander who had not attended West Point. Although possessed of great physical courage, many questioned his judgement as a military commander. But he sure did "have connections".

There were some merits to the position he preferred that day, but his move was in direct violation of the Army Commander's orders to Sickles, a fact of which he was well aware. Sickles was a professional politician and he was very, very good at many things. Unfortunately, following orders was not one of them. Any visit to the Gettysburg Battlefield will surely expose you to the complicated details of exactly why, when and how Sickles made this move.

In the meantime, consider that, despite having one leg shot off by a cannon ball at Gettysburg, he outlived nearly every other General, Union or Confederate, who fought in the battle and took advantage of every minute of that time to explain why he was the great hero of Gettysburg, not the disgraced villain. Come see the Gettysburg Battlefield.

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8th Ohio

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: "Hey, Where's Everybody Going?"

Gettysburg Battlefield Places

When the men of the 8th Ohio infantry regiment were ordered to move forward a few hundred yards out in front of the rest of their brigade on the second day of the battle, you can be sure it was with a mixture of trepidation and pride. They were moving toward the enemy and took pride in being selected for the task. The remainder of their brigade, "The Gibraltor Brigade", stayed back along the crest of Cemetery Ridge under the command of Colonel Samuel "Red" Carroll, a red-haired West Pointer who was said to have a voice that boomed out for half-a-mile even in the din of battle.

A short while later, the battle wound down on the Union left, but things were just starting to heat up on the other side of Cemetery Hill where the infamous Louisiana Tigers were assualting the Union 11th Corps lines. The situation there became desperate and help was needed. Who better than the Gibraltor Brigade to rush to the rescue. Colonel Carroll was ordered to pack up and move out in a big hurry, leaving the 8th Ohio all by themselves out along the Emmitsburg Road. After a tense night, the men welcomed the coming of dawn on July 3, 1863 only to engage in several hot exchanges of fire with the Rebels opposite them on Seminary Ridge. Everything changed at 1pm that day. A huge artillery bombardment signalled the beginning of the great "Pickett's Charge". Colonel Carroll had been ordered to remain a quarter mile away from the little Ohio regiment as the rest of his brigade was sorely needed there. This meant there was no one looking out for the Ohioans in their very exposed position. They had been ordered there by Carroll the prior day, and there they remained.

At 3pm the great charge unfolded and the 8th Ohio found itself with a front row seat as the 14,000 Confederates of Pickett's and Pettigrew's Divisions began to roll toward them. Way out in front of the Union line, they prepared for the shock of the assualt. They soon realized, however, that the main thrust of the Confederate attack was aiming south of the their postion and if the Rebels stayed along that line of advance, the Ohio regiment would find themselves on the side (the flank) of the long grey line. And that's exactly what happened. When the time was right, the little Ohio regiment wheeled left and formed up at a right angle to the advancing confederates, pouring a devasting fire into their left flank.

There is some controversy today about exactly where the regiment was on that day with some evidence suggesting that the monument marking their location is positioned a couple hundreds south of where it should be. No one knows for sure. Why not come yourself to this important place on the Gettysburg Battlefield and study the merits of the argument. We'll point out the locations under suspicion. Come see the Gettysburg Battlefield.

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North Carolina

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: The Tarheels at Gettysburg

Gettysburg Battlefield Places

Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia into the Battle of Gettysburg but nearly 20 percent of his troops were from North Carolina. Indeed, all the states of the southern Confederacy were represented in Lee's army. North Carolina men were heavily involved in all the battle actions at Gettysburg and took especially heavy casualties on the opening day of the battle and also in the great final thrust of the Rebel army at Gettysburg : Pickett's Charge.

The monument you see at left was dedicated in 1929 to honor the men of North Carolina who fought in the great battle. It is located along Seminary Ridge at the location that marks the far left end of the Confederate battleline when they moved out across the open fields toward Cemetery Ridge on that "charge that will live in infamy". This monument links the Gettysburg Battlefield with Mount Rushmore as the sculptor of both was Gutzon Borglum. Many consider the memorial to be the most dramatic and glorious of all those on the battlefield. Come see the Gettysburg Battlefield.

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Ninth Battery


Gettysburg Battlefield Places: In The Wrong Place All Alone

Gettysburg Battlefield Stories: Ninth Massachusetts Battery

When General Dan Sickles moved his 11,000 men away from the battleline of Cemetery Ridge, off Little Round Top and out to the Emmitsburg Road, he came to realize at some point that he really didn't have enough infantry to cover all the ground he needed to . He decided to cover a section of his line solely with artillery. This was against all the "best practices" of battlefield leadership. On one end of this artillery line was the Ninth Massachusetts Battery with six big smoothbore cannons, nearly a hundred horses and almost a hundred men. They set up their line along what is today known as Wheatfield Road, just east of The Peach Orchard.

As the Confederate attack of James Longstreet's Corps began to roll out of the woodline of Seminary Ridge late that afternoon, the guns of this battery, for a short while, enjoyed the "artillerist's dream" of being positioned on the flank (one end) of the enemy's battleline. This meant that they could send hordes of devasting cannister shot right down through the Confederate line barely having to aim, so easy was the shooting. They wreaked havoc during this time.

But as the Confederates continued to roll out from the ridgeline, and Sickles infantry line collapsed at The Peach Orchard, the Ninth Massachusetts Battery found itself in a completely different situation. Soon they became nearly surrounded by the Confederates who were closing in on them. The artillery had no infantry to protect them and were sitting ducks in the face of galling musket fire. They began to withdraw. The Rebels began shooting their horses, leaving the men with no option but to abandon their big guns or pull them back and away by hand. This they did. They "retired" slowly and deliberately in the face of devasting Confederate fire, withdrawing nearly two hundred yards through an open field until, at the the far end of the field near the Trostle Farmhouse (see image), they encountered a stone wall which trapped them in. They began to tear the wall down, taking losses every second.

When it was all over, the battery had lost four of its six guns, more than 80 horses and more than half the men who went into the fight. Horrific by any measure. But not a single man left his post under the most difficult circumstances. Incredibly, this was the first time these men had ever been in combat. What a way to start your career as a soldier. Today on the battlefield, there are monuments and markers indicating where this battery began the battle that day, and where they ended it. Come see the Gettysburg Battlefield.

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Iverson

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: Iverson's Pits

Gettysburg Battlefield Places

On the afternoon of July 1, 1863, the 1,400 men of Alfred Iverson's North Carolina Brigade arrived on the battlefield of Gettysburg at just the right time and in just the right place. They were part of General Robert Rodes' Division and were poised to flank the Union First Corps on the far north end of Seminary Ridge at a place called Oak Hill.

They were ordered to form into battleline and then moved crisply toward a woodline 300 yards away. On their left front was a low stone wall. They were sure they had out-maneuvered the Yankees and would slam into their flank when they swept through the woods up ahead . Onward they came, the 5th North Carolina Regiment, the 12th, the 20th, the 23rd, splendid Tarheels all. Suddenly the stone wall in front of them exploded with a gigantic, sweeping wall of flame -- a thunderous musket volley coming straight at them. Yankees had been hiding down a small ridge just beyond the low stone wall and had burst over the top and unleashed a devasting volley into the faces of the North Carolinians. They had no warning. Their commander, Alfred Iverson, had failed to deploy a line of advance skirmishers.

Hundreds fell in straight even lines, just as they had marched.

In the days after the battle, they were buried in an unmarked trench almost exactly where they fell. For years, the farmer who owned the ground claimed that the wheat always grew tallest in that part of field, the ground still known as "Iverson's Pits", one of the most special Gettysburg Battlefield places. Come see the Gettysburg Battlefield.

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Railroad Cut

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: The Last Man Found

Gettysburg Battlefield Places

As the Iron Brigade was driving the Confederates of James Archer's Brigade back toward Willoughby Run on the on one side of the Chambersburg Pike, the Mississippi Brigade of General Joseph Davis was getting the upper hand on the other side of the road. Union reinforcements were called up (the 6th Wisconsin Reg't.) and together with the survivors of two other Union regiments, they formed up along the Chambersburg Pike and charged toward the Mississippians who had taken cover in what looked like a large trench that had been dug for a rail line that had not been laid.

There was brutal hand-to-hand fighting at "The Railroad Cut" and the Yankees came out on top. Hundreds of Mississippi boys were trapped in the cut when they realized that the walls were too high and steep to escape. One soldier, a man whose name we will never know, was killed in this fight and buried alongside the cut. He remained there for more than 130 years.

In the Spring of 1996, a visitor was walking along the top of the cut and saw what looked like a bone sticking out of the earth. It was a bone. It was the soldier whose name we'll never know. These remains were exhumed and reburied in the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Come see the Gettysburg Battlefield.

The Railroad Cut is a very special Gettysburg Battlefield Place.

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John Burns

Gettysburg Battlefield Stories: Oldest Man On The Field

Gettysburg Battlefield Places

When the shooting started on that first day of the great battle, sixty-nine year-old John Burns is said to have come outside his house at the west end of Gettysburg with a quick step and a gleam in his eye.

Burns was a tough old codger and something of an odd bird, but some Confederates had passed through town a few days earlier and got his dander up.

He went inside his home and emerged a short while later wearing his best suit of clothes, including his powderblue swallow-tailed coat and a top hat made of silk. He also had his old flintlock musket from the War of 1812. He soon got his hands on a rifled Springfield that packed a lot more punch. Burns moved toward the battlefield and, after being discouraged several times by Union officers, he finally found a place on the battleline and fought bravely right alongside the infantrymen of the 150th Pennsylvania Regiment. He was wounded three times, but survived that day and somehow struggled from the battlefield and back to his home. The Confederates who came upon him could have executed him on the spot for fighting in civilian clothes -- a "bushwacker" -- but they didn't. He told them he'd just been out looking for his cows when the battle swept over him. Who knows if they believed him.

Four months later, Abraham Lincoln came to town and asked to meet the citizen-soldier. John Burns was then a hero and spent most of the rest of his time sitting on his front porch and signing autographs for money. He is certainly one of the greatest stories of the Gettysburg Battlefield. Come see the Gettysburg Battlefield.

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Howard's Statue

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: Cemetery Hill

Gettysburg Battlefield Places

The Yankees won the Battle of Gettysburg for a few reasons, but one of them is that they got hold of Cemetery Hill and never gave it up. It is the key position on the Gettysburg Battlefield. Everything revolved around Cemetery Hill.

You can see for miles in all directions from here. Nobody can sneak up on you. Your cannons can fire farther from the elevated hilltop and the top was flat and broad so you could put lots and lots of cannons up there. And, there were no trees to block your view or pose a danger from falling limbs if your opponent sent his artillery shells into the treetops. The only potential problem was that a sign was posted in the town cemetery that sat atop the hill: "It Is Illegal To Discharge Firearms In This Place". The Union Army decided to ignore the sign.

The image you see on the left is of the eastern crest of the hill, a view seen by only a small fraction of visitors to Gettysburg because it's so hard to get to. This is the steep side of the hill, the side that Confederates attacked on the night of July 2, captured and held for some time. They were under the impression that their colleagues from a different division were coming up the western side of the hill at about the same time and that they would all meet at the top. But that didn't happen. The Confederates over there decided that the western side of the hill was too formidably packed with Union artillery and they called off their attack. This left the Louisiana Tigers and a North Carolina Brigade commanded by Colonel Isaac Avery to fend for themselves on the eastern crest that you see in the image.

They held on for quite a while but were driven back down the hill by Union reinforcements. Colonel Avery was horribly wounded in the throat and was carried from the field by his men. He somehow communicated with them and was given a pencil and a scrap of paper on which he scrawled: "Tell my father I died with my face to enemy". And then he died.

There are many stories about Cemetery Hill, perhaps the Gettysburg Battlefield's most important and sacred place.

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Little Round Top

Gettysburg Battlefield Places

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: Little Round Top

If Cemetery Hill is the most important hill at Gettysburg, it is not incorrect to say that Little Round Top may be the most famous. Indeed, it is one of the most famous hills in all American history. It was here that many historians believe the battle was almost lost for the Union Army.

Located about two miles south of Cemetery Hill, Little Round Top provided an anchor at the south end of the Union battleline and artillery from its crest could command nearly the entire western side of the battlefield. So why did Union General Daniel Sickles abandon it on the early afternoon of the battle's second day and move his troops onto lower ground along the Emmitsburg Road, the Peach Orchard and The Wheatfield.
Well, that's quite a long story, but the bottom line is that he did abandon Little Round Top.

Thanks only to the quick thinking of Union General G. K. Warren, the willingness of Colonel Strong Vincent to disobey a direct order, and the selfless courage of hundreds of Yankees who rushed to the hill at the very last minute, General Sickles' boneheaded mistake could have spelled disaster for the Republic. This is where the 20th Maine Regiment under the command of a thirty-four year-old college professor who spoke four languages and taught courses in rhetoric, philosophy and religion held off five charges from the tenacious 15th Alabama Regiment to hold the Union left flank. The Alabamians had just marched 24 miles in 88 degree temperatures to arrive at Gettysburg when they were called upon to attack Little Round Top. You can just imagine how many stories there are about this hill, these men and hundreds of others. Come see the Gettysburg Battlefield.

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Calef's Guns

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: The Original 'First Shot' Cannon Barrel

The Gettysburg Battlefield

When General John Buford decided to 'draw a line in the sand' beyond which he would not allow the Confederates to advance without a fight on that first day of the battle, he was outnumbered by more than two-to-one and outgunned by an even wider margin. But he was not without resources. Indeed he had the splendid assistance of a battery of artillery (six cannons) under the command of Lieutenant John H. Calef, (Battery A, 2nd United States Artillery). Lt. Calef must have been on his "A-game" that day. General Buford says in his official report on the battle: 'The battery fought on this occasion as is seldom witnessed. At one time, the enemy had a concentric fire upon this battery from twelve guns, all at short range. Calef held his own gloriously .......with wonderful effect upon the enemy.'

Four of Calef's cannons were positioned across the Chambersburg Pike where the cavalry fought so tenaciously. And they are still there. Surrounding the base of the monument honoring General John Buford are the four original gun barrels from these cannons, including the one that fired the first artillery shot in the Battle of Gettysburg (see the image at right). If you ever get a chance, be sure to find it and look over the bronze plaque that identifies this splendid and original Gettysburg Battlefield hero. Come see the Gettysburg Battlefield.

Bottom Line

More Battlefield Places and Stories

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