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The Gettysburg Battlefield

Page Two: Battlefield Places and Stories

Iverson's Pits

We provide tours of the Gettysburg Battlefield in classic 17-passenger Park buses. Our tours are about two-and-a-half hours long. Here are a few examples of Gettysburg Battlefield Places and Stories.

This is Page Two of our Battlefield Places and Stories Series. If you've just joined us, you may want to start at Page One

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Gettysburg Battlefield Stories: A Miraculous Man From Maine

The Gettysburg Battlefield

Some stories seem unbelievable and this is one of them. Bit it's true, every word of it.

The 5th Maine Battery was positioned on a prominent rise of ground between Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill and took part in the defense of both hills as their guns commanded the approaches to the hills from the north and east. Private John Chase of Augusta, Maine, was serving in this battery on July 2, 1863. He was already a hero of genuine proportion, having stayed at his post two months earlier at the Battle of Chancellorsville with one other man when all others had been killed or wounded. Chase and his comrade continued to work their gun and were able to pull it off the field by hand to avoid it's capture, all the horses having been killed or wounded.

At Gettysburg, Chase was once again at his post when a Confederate shell, fired from Benner's Hill -- more than half-a-mile away -- hit it's mark with complete accuracy and exploded less than four feet from him. The explosive shell tore his right arm off, put out his left eye, pierced both lungs and broke several ribs.

In all, he had forty-eight wounds across his entire body, so horribly wounded that he was assumed dead and lay unattended on the field for two days. He was then gathered up by a burial detail and placed on a cart to be carried to a newly dug grave. At about this time, he regained some slight consciouness and was heard to ask, "Did we win?" The burial detail, stunned, removed him from the cart and he was taken to a nearby field hospital where, assumed to be beyond help, he lay unattended in a barn for another three days. Private Chase just refused to die. Finally, he was taken to a more appropriate setting and began to recover.

He is believed to hold the record for being the most wounded soldier to survive the Civil War.

Private Chase became one of the first men to provide tours of the Gettysburg Battlefield. Now that had to be an unforgettable tour.

First Minnesota

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: The 1st Minnesota

The Gettysburg Battlefield

Late on the second day of July, 1863, General Winfield Scott Hancock looked down the Union battle line and saw a gaping hole in the line that had occurred when troops were pulled from that position to reinforce another area that was in serious jeopardy. Headed straight for the gaping hole was an entire brigade of Confederates -- 1,400 strong -- in magnificent alignment with flashing eyes and gleaming bayonets. In just a few minutes they would be upon the Yankees and race through the gap in the line, an event that would doom the Union position in all probability.

Hancock looked to his left and saw one small Union regiment, the 1st Minnesota, standing in order well behind the as a reserve. There were 262 men in this regiment. We can only wonder what went through General Hancock's mind. Whatever it was, it went through quickly because Hancock personally rode up to Colonel William Colvill of the 1st Minnesota and ordered him to charge the advancing Confederates. Colvill, without hesitation, immediately turned to his men and ordered them to move forward -- 262 men in blue against 1,400 men in gray. In the words of one Minnesotan who was there that day, "Every man knew what that order meant.......death or wounds to us all".

The 1st Minnesota charged down a small slope and straight at the Confederate tidal wave rolling toward them. The Rebels must have been stunned to see the little unit coming at them. And indeed, the shock of the charge seemed to bring the Rebel advance to a halt -- just for a few minutes. But that was the enough time for General Hancock to secure more reserves from areas further in the rear and move them into the gap, effectively plugging the hole that the Confedertes were headed for.

Of the 262 men of the Minnesota Regiment that went forward, only 47 came back. More than 82 percent of the regiment was struck down in the charge. This was the greatest percentage loss of any regiment, North or South, on the Gettysburg Battlefield. Not a single man shirked from his duty on that day.

Ride along on one of our Gettysburg Battlefield Tours: The Historic Tour Company of Gettysburg - 717-334-8000

Mass Meadow

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: "Well, it's murder......but it's the order"

The Gettysburg Battlefield

The Yankees were dug in on Culp's Hill. They had lots of time to do the digging and lots of trees around to build log barriers to repel an attack. And after they had finished, an order came for them to move out -- to abandon their well built defenses -- and move toward the other end of the entire Union line near a place called "The Wheatfield". Help was needed over there.

When other reinforcements arrived to handle things over there, late on the night of the battle's second day, they were sent back to Culp's Hill, only to find that Confederates had moved into their entrenchments while they were gone.

It was late, it was dark and it was confusing, so they stopped on the south side of small marshy meadow near a spring called "Spangler's" to wait for further orders in the morning.

A few hours later, the fighting was renewed on the eastern slopes of Culp's Hill and the the men of the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment waited patiently for orders to come for their unit. At about 10am, the orders came. The regiment was to advance across the open marshy meadow and retake the entrenchments on the lower slope of Culp's Hill that were now packed with Rebels. Union brigade commander, Silas Colgrove, anxious to join the great battle, was perhaps too anxious and failed to get clarification about whether an entire brigade was to advance or just the two regiments that were best positioned for such an attack. He decided on his own: two regiments.

The order was then delivered to Colonel Charles Mudge, of the 2nd Massachusetts, who was heard to say, "Well, it's murder......but it's the order". He then lead his men forward into the open, marshy meadow that you can see in the image above, headed straight toward the Confederate line that was set up along the edge of the treeline that you can see in the image. Just to their right, the Yankees were joined by the 27th Indiana Regiment and the two small units immediately took a horrendous pounding from the Rebels were firing from behind defenses and could take careful aim.

The losses were staggering. Before they got half way across the field, the Indiana regiment had lost a third of its men and been forced back. The 2nd Massachusetts forged ahead against a pounding Confederate wall of fire and somehow reached the far end of the meadow and even pushed back a portion of the Rebel line. But this position could not long be held. Having lost nearly half its men, the regiment was shortly ordered to fall back across the meadow. Colonel Mudge did not fall back with them. He was dead from a wound to the throat.

In the image above, you can seen the monument to the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment that was placed on the large boulder about where their charge had begun on that day. This was the first regimental monument to be placed on the battlefield at Gettysburg (in 1879).

Shortly following the Battle of Gettysburg, this regiment was sent to New York City to quell riots resulting from the newly enacted draft laws.

Custer on the Battlefield

Gettysburg Battlefield Places: "Come on you Wolverines"

The Gettysburg Battlefield

This is hard to believe, but you have to search long and hard on the Gettysburg Battlefield to see anything about a man whose name is perhaps as well known as any soldier in American in history -- George Armstrong Custer. But he was here. Big time. It's just that the Battle of Gettysburg involved events of such huge scale and impact that even the deeds of George Custer are overshadowed in the story. It's well worth the effort, however, to discover Custer's story at this battle.

He was just 23 years old and already holding the "brevet" rank (temporary rank) of Brigadier General, having been promoted just three days before the battle. When he received this promotion, he immediately outfitted himself in a new custom-made uniform ensemble that included a sailor's shirt with large silver stars on the collar points, a black velveteen jacket with lace up the sleeves, a red scarf, green corduroy trousers and a huge brown felt hat. This was not the standard officer's look.

Custer was in command of a brigade of cavalry, more than 2,000 troopers, all from Michigan. This was the first time in his career that he had command of more than just a small number of men, and his men didn't know what to think when he showed up that first day in his self-styled "uniform". It was anything but uniform, but in just a few days, they would all want to wear red scarves in the fashion of their new leader.

Stay tuned to our Battlefield Places and Stories Series for more on this story.......

Ride along on one of our Gettysburg Battlefield Tours: The Historic Tour Company of Gettysburg - 717-334-8000

If you've just joined us, you may want to start at Page One of our Battlefield Places and People Series