Living History at Gettysburg- 1997

(c) 1997 by Rick Walton

Lt. Col. Jeff Stepp, commanding the 26th Reg’t N.C.T. , invited members of the 6th N.C.S.T. to join them at Gettysburg on Aug 15-17 1997 for the second annual National Park Service invitational Living history, march and musket firing demonstation in conjunction with the 24th Michigan infantry. Wes Jones and myself were the only two members of the 6th NCST to make this memorable Journey. Here is my recollection as reported in the newsletter following the event: 

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If your idea of a living history event is sitting around in the shade while occasionally explaining the contents of your knapsack to curious spectators, then be glad you didn’t come with us on the weekend of August 15, 16 and 17. The weekend was an opportunity to truly “live” history, but it came at a sweaty, tiring cost. My thanks to the 26th for letting us fall in with them as “Volunteer Park Rangers”.

How many re-enactors can claim that they camped on the actual battlefield at Gettysburg?

How many re-enactors can claim that they camped on the actual battlefield at Gettysburg? Or recreate the Pickett-Pettigrew charge across the very terrain that Lee’s Confederates traversed on July 3, 1863? With our flags flying and under arms! Private Wes Jones, Rick Walton and the nearly 100 other North Carolinians who made the long trip to Gettysburg for this event can. The weekend was fun, hot, exciting, hot and busy. And hot. Walking in the shadow of our ancestors made it particularly special. I heard it described as an emotional roller coaster. We each have our own reasons for reenacting (which we had to reevaluate often when the 101 degree heat index zapped our energy and parched our throats) but when we stood on the same killing ground that our ancestors fought upon, we realized precisely why we do this. Dealing with emotions is tough business for manly men like us, so imagine how hard it was to keep your pards from seeing that tear in your eye. But dry eye’s were often the exception, not the rule this weekend. Each person faced their emotions in their own private way, but everyone who attended will forevermore remember the sacrifices that were made by our forefathers on this faraway battlefield.

We arrived at the camping grounds in Pitzer’s woods late Friday afternoon. We dropped off our gear and headed in to Gettysburg to walk the quiet streets, pausing to visit suttlers, bookstores and relic shops. We even squeezed in a little battlefield sightseeing. We bypassed the multitude of tourist shops selling T-shirts and plastic battle flags and began to concentrate on finding an eating establishment that would ease the hunger pains. We were anxious to quench our thirst and knowing that the National Park Service took a dim view of imbibing on park property, we knew that this would have to last us all weekend. We were pleased to find a place with pitchers of our favorite beverage on special. As we studied the menu, or waitress asked us if we were here for the “reenactment”, advertised on a poster in their front window. Wes quickly replied “Why, do we stink already?” As we raised the frosty beverage to our parched mouths we thought that we had never experienced such relief. Little did we know the test of endurance that awaited us during the next two days, when an single drop of water would become a priceless commodity.

After dinner we returned to camp to participate in an event called “moving 50 cars to a parking lot 2 miles away and getting everyone back to camp before daybreak”. We played follow the leader as a long caravan of North Carolina tags snaked it way thought the moonlit battlefield lanes. We got a lift back in a shuttle, but several of our comrades took a wrong turn and weren’t seen for hours.

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When we got back to camp, we strolled over to the artillery section where we were welcomed and offered a treat. A small barrel shaped container held something sloshing around in a liquid. Encouraged to try one, I cautiously withdrew a floating sphere and discovered that it was a Cherry that had been bathing in a solution, somewhat stronger than water, for several days. Wes immediately christened them “Canister”, because they look like grapeshot and if you eat enough of them they’ll kill you..

Saturday Morning

We awoke to the smells of sizzling bacon. Since there was no commissary, we were forced to rely on the cooking skills we had developed recently at Manassas. After Breakfast, the troops were mustered and the orders of the day were read. Any hope of a relaxing, low impact event were quickly abandoned. We started with drill, then had some drill followed by more drill. But this was the easy part, conducted in the coolness of the morning (barely reaching 90 degrees). It didn’t get hard until after lunch, in the heat of the day, when we went on the “death march”.

Joining the 26th for this event were representatives from the 6th NCST, 21st NCT, 25th NCT, and 38th NCT as well as the 1st NC Artillery and their horse drawn battery. The morning report showed 105 men present for duty. We were also joined by a rag tag collection of about 15 Marylanders portraying the 1st and 14th Tennessee Volunteers, but the heat “prevented them” from participating in anything but a firing demonstration on Saturday.

Coming down from the Detroit area, were the 24th Michigan, who historically clashed with the 26th in McPherson’s woods. This weekend, the 24th encamped near the Pennsylvania Monument to provide a living history from a Yankee perspective.

After lunch the North Carolinians galvanized and began the 2 mile “death march” to the Pennsylvania monument to join the 24th for a joint firing demonstration. We left camp with banners flying , to the beat of the brigade band. Rather than take the “long way” via the park roads, the rangers “allowed” us to go cross country through the fields. At first this made sense , until we got halfway across and ran into a cornfield. We went from column of four to column of two to single file and zig zagged our way through some poor farmers struggling corn crop. (It was rumored, by some of our comrades who also reenact WWII, that this was evasive maneuvers to prevent Nazi U-boats from stalking us).

Finally reaching the other side, we reformed and marched down the farmers driveway to the highway only to discover that stone walls and fences prevented us from crossing the road. The head of the column executed a “counter march by files right” and before the end of the column knew what was going on, we were passing them on the way back to where we just came from. We tramped across the farmers back yard to a farm lane, following it until a crossing point was found. We entered the welcome shade of another farm yard and took a few minutes rest. By now the canteens were starting to get dry and the Pennsylvania monument was still a shimmering point on the hazy horizon.

Forming up again we proceeded our march down park roads, farm lanes and across still more fields. Women from the 26th NC Soldiers Benevolent Society had driven over from the camp with cold water and ice cubes and were waiting for us under a huge shade tree a couple of hundred yards from the monument. These ladies were indeed angels of mercy. The men fell out to refill canteens and quench powerful thirsts. After a short and welcome rest, we resumed our march and finally joined the 24th Michigan. The large, waiting crowd appreciated the live firing demonstration. Dreading the long march back , we were relieved when air conditionedshuttle vans appeared. When I got to camp I collapsed in a tired, sweaty heat. Who say’s living histories aren’t as tiring as battle reenactments? I could have stayed there all night but the day was not yet over. We had to change back to gray and get ready for a monument ceremony at 6:00.

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Still exhausted from the death march, we were thankful to be loaded onto the artillery trailers for the trip up to McPherson’s ridge. Hidden just beyond busy Rt. 30, down a quite park lane, are two monuments, one to the 26th North Carolina and opposite that, another to the 24th Michigan. It is on this site that the two regiments met in battle and did their best to obliterate each other.


We marched the short distance, under thegreen canopy of shady trees, to the monuments. A small group of spectators trailed at a respectful distance. Upon reaching the monuments, the brigade divided. The 24th Michigan fronted, backs to their monument, while the 26th NC did the same in front of the North Carolina monument. As the last echoes of the fife and drums dissolved into the still evening air, the two regiments stood facing each other, on opposite sides of the road, exactly as their ancestors had done in combat 134 years earlier. But this evening it was a mutual respect that brought the forces together.



1st Sgt. Jim Taylor, of the 26th Regt N. C. T., stepped forward with his guitar to begin the program, singing a 19th century version of “Auld Lang Syne”. Next Colonel Stepp spoke eloquently about the sacrifices made by the 26th on this spot. He recalled the succession of brave flag bearers, including Colonel Henry K. Burgwyn, who died urging their comrades forward. As the bloody and tattered flag fell for the thirteenth time, Lt. Col. John Randolph Lane grabbed the splintered flag pole exclaiming “No man can take these colors and live! It is my turn to take them forward”. Determined to drive the enemy back, he shouted “26th North Carolina, Follow me!” The 24th Michigan momentarily ebbed from the onrushing Confederates, but stubbornly reformed. Lane fell horribly wounded, “the last to discharge his deadly duty that day.” Within 20 to 30 minutes, 679 Carolinians fell following the colors in the short and vicious fight. Colonel Stepp reminded us, as Colonel Lane reminded his surviving comrades many years earlier at this same spot, about the importance of the regiment as an extended family. How the loss of a comrade was felt as severely as the loss of any family member. He also talked about remembering and honoring those that came before us. As we stood in the dimming light, our thoughts turned to the sacrifices made on this ground and the human tragedy that awaited the families of the slain back in North Carolina, so far away. The Commander of the 24th Michigan delivered similar remarks, recounting the sacrifices made by the Iron brigade who had an equally high loss. At the conclusion of the remarks, soil from all 100 counties in North Carolina was spread around the base of the N. C. monument consecrating the ground

Portrait of three Cnofederate colonels: Harry K. Burgwyn, John R. Lane, and Zebulon Vance, by William George Randall, 1904. Item H. 1914.290.1. from the collections of the North Carolina Museum of History.  Courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

THE THREE COLONELS OF THE 26TH N.C.T.Col. John R. Lane, Col. Henry K. Burgwyn, Col. Zebulon B. Vance. Painted in 1904 by William George Randall. Painting currently hangs in the North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh, NC

We marched back to the waiting trailers and piled on. Because of the one way streets, we had to shuttle through Gettysburg on the way back to camp. Can you imagine how many laws we broke? Nearly 100 dirty, sweaty men, dressed in Confederate uniform, no seat belts, Guns pointing every which way. What a site we must have been.

I was exhausted when I got back to camp! I stripped off my hot jacket and poured water over my head. The smells of supper cooking tempted my tired body, but it was no use. The corn, potatoes and canned meat stayed in my knapsack. I was too tired to attempt anything so dramatic and was content to open a cold can of beans for supper. Now I understand how solders could sleep on the march or on a pile of rocks, like we read about in their diaries.


As the shadows lengthened, I noticed groups of people drifting over to the nearby Amphitheater. The National Park service was about to put on a program about battle flags. Fortified by a tin cup of something thankfully stronger than water, Wes and I wandered over with some of our comrades and settled in for the evenings program.
Anticipating the Ranger would bow to the dictates of political correctness, our expectations were understandably low. We were pleasantly surprised when he went into a scholarly presentation which more than adequately explained the meaning and importance of the Confederate flag. References to North Carolina’s contributions were frequent. We were very impressed.

Sunday morning

Sunday morning came too quickly, as we rustled our weary bones. A brief shower during the early morning hours, accompanied by a stiff northerly breeze, served to cool things down considerably and I found myself wrapped tightly in my blanket to keep warm. The air was actually pleasant, a big change from the stifling heat of the day before. Shortly after breakfast the company streets reverberated with Sergeants echoing first call. We quickly coutered up and assembled on the parade ground. Roll call, size march, count off 1-2-1-2 and we were ready for another busy day. The regimental band struck up a stirring anthem and we began the mile long march toward the North Carolina Monument . The heel plates clicked on the pavement in loud synchronization with the down beat of the regimental drum causing every breast to swell with pride to be part of this grand spectacle. The cool morning air gave way to the approaching warmth as the stillness began erupting with the sound of peepers singing their peculiar tribute to the swelling heat. Faces glistened in the early morning sun, as streams of sweat began its journey from beneath 100 hat bands. The officers brought us from shoulder arms to right shoulder shift to support arms and back again at just the right moments to give our weary arms a rest. Tourists, taking an early morning drive down Confederate avenue, were surprised to see genuine Confederate soldiers on the march.


As we approached a shade covered stretch of road, the music echoed from the trees. Looking into the shady glen, I could almost visualize a phantom army of our forefathers dropping their various camp duties to rush to the roadside and approvingly cheer us on. A loud and spontaneous Rebel yell reverberated through the surrounding forest in response to the band’s opening chords of Dixie. The battle flag snapped in the breeze as the men, heads held high, executed a sharp turn at the monument to the applause of the approving crowd gathered there. The pounding of my heart competed with the drum as I stood at attention waiting for the ceremony to begin. Colonel Stepp stood in front of the North Carolina monument facing the brigade. His inspiring remarks caused us to once again reflect on the men we were honoring and the pride we felt as North Carolinians. He called forward representatives to tell what each of their regiments did at Gettysburg.

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Colonel Stepp dismissed us to spend a private moment honoring our ancestors. I saw a soldier directly in front of the monument, on bended knee, hat over his heart and head bowed, honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice by crossing the field behind us. Just then a gentle rain began falling from the overcast skies and lonely bugle call could be heard from a nearby boy scout camp. Someone later recalled that it seemed as if God himself shared our pride and grief while letting his tear drops fall gently to the earth. The brigade posed for a group photo and then formed up to returned to camp, but before departing we were treated to an interesting history lesson about the North Carolina monument. It was Sculpted by Gutzon Borglum, creator of Mount Rushmore, and unveiled in 1929. In 1982, while members of the 26th participated in programs at Gettysburg, it was resolved to restore the sadly deteriorated monument suffering from the ravages of man and time. After struggling with government red tape for three years, this grass roots effort caused our state legislature to delegate $9,800 for cleaning & preservation. Other states soon followed and today all the Statues along Confederate avenue stand proudly shining in the sun.

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We returned in time for church services, followed by a regimental meeting. Nearly 100 of us sat in a huge circle and over the course of more than an hour, each person had a chance to speak their minds. Themes about the regiment being like family, the camaraderie, brotherhood and shared devotion to a common cause were repeated by many. The pride of our heritage, association with the 26th and life long memories were also referred to. We discussed the assault on Southern heritage so popular in the politically correct climate of today. Emotions were stretched, racing from moments of tearful sadness and pride, to roaring laughter. Spectators wandering through the camp were drawn to the circle and couldn’t tear themselves away from the heartfelt stories. They stood a respectful distance behind us, occaisionaly dabbing their eyes or joining the laughter. They shared a unique look into the culture of American Civil war re-enacters.

After a quick Lunch, we assembled for the final time and marched across the street for a firing demonstration. Curiously, we fumbled through the motions we were so proficient at earlier in the weekend like raw recruits. Was the heat starting to get to us or were our minds on the long awaited event about to commence?

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We marched out of the field to the applause and appreciation of the spectators and began the march down the now familiar Confederate avenue toward our destination at the Virginia Monument. Waves of heat shimmered of f the surface of the road in the 95 degree heat. Looking down at the pavement, we could see the imprints of our horseshoe shaped heel plates marking our progress on the softening tar giving a new meaning to the term “tar-heel”. Our column turned into parking area of the monument and fell out in the cool shade to refill our canteens. We reformed and were positioned in a line of battle overlooking the field we were about to cross. Behind the stone walls, over a mile away, waited the blue coated 24th Michigan.

Jim Taylor stepped forward and sang a poignant song about two comrades about to go into battle. They each promised contact loved ones should either fall in the coming battle. When the smoke cleared, both lie slain on the field of honor with no one to tell their loved ones anything. As we gazed across the hazy field, we wondered how many times this scenario had been repeated on that tragic July day 134 years ago.


Our wandering minds were abruptly snapped back to the present as the Colonels orders rang out. The dream of every reenacter was about to be realized as our 100 man brigade entered the field under arms, with flags flying. To our rear, General Lee’s calm and approving gaze watched our progress from his post atop the Virginia Monument. Our Sergeants implored us to dress the line as me marched forward in careful synchronization. Someone began calling out the landmarks, reminding us that it was here that artillery would begin disrupting the line and , latter, the point that musketry would find its deadly target. Crossing the Emmitsburg pike, we reformed for the final charge. The muzzles of cannon pointed menacingly toward our line. The huge Federal flag could be seen waving behind the silhouettes of the blue coated defenders as the sun glinted off the polished barrels of dozens of muskets secure behind the rugged stone wall.

Emotions were once again racing as the rebel yell exploded throughout our line. The brigade surged forward and was about to charge over the last few yards in a exuberant rush, but the officers and NCOs quickly restored order and we marched to the base of the bloody angle in a well dressed line. A friendly Michiganer gave me his hand to help me across and greeted me, but the lump in my throat prevented me from responding with anything more than a nod. I am confident that many of my comrades shared my plight. The surrounding crowd burst into cheers having just witnessed a stirring and emotional event. If I hadn’t been participating, I would have wanted to be a spectator that afternoon. We reformed on the road behind the angle and marched to the Pennsylvania monument for a final joint firing demonstration. On the open field, under the blazing mid-day sun, the excitement of the crossing began to wear off to be replaced by the effects of the heat. It was time to end a great weekend . Camera Crews shadowed us throughout the event and I understand a film will be available next year, but watching the video can not replace the experience of being part of a weekend like this. If the opportunity presents itself in the future, do yourself a favor and make the trip to Gettysburg to participate. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

ALMOST A Fine View of Avery’s Charge at Gettysburg

by Frederick Walton, Historian of the 6th NCST (C) 2016

Recently a friend of mine, Bruce Zigler, posted s a famous picture taken from East Cemetery Hill, in Gettysburg looking toward Benner’s Hill, and the area that Hays’ Louisianans and Avery’s North Carolinians came across the fields to attack East Cemetery Hill on July 2nd, 1863. Actually Hoke’s brigade technically was just SLIGHTLY out of frame to the right.

The photo in entitled: “Battle-field of Gettysburg. Scene of the charge of the Louisiana Tigers” and is available from the Library of Congress. It may be downloaded at a very high resolution if you wish to zoom in  and be a historical time traveler:

downloaded from the Library of Congress at

LOC Photo 1-“Battle-field of Gettysburg. Scene of the charge of the Louisiana Tigers”

Questions rose about the buildings in the background and the orientation of the view. The description accompanying the photo in the Library of Congress is: “The foreground of the picture is the crest of Cemetery Hill at the point when the assault struck. Hoke’s brigade formed behind the rising ground in centre of picture. Hays’ brigade formed in the streets of the town and moved out by the left flank until it reached Hoke’s line. Both brigades then swept forward in the charge, led by the Louisiana Tigers.”

When you download the Tiff file and zoom in you will see some remarkable details. On the far right in the middle of the photo is the Culp House and Barn, still visible today on East Confederate Avenue. I have zoomed in and cropped out this view for you to see below (LOC Photo 1R). From this angle, the trees, which line Winebrenner’s run, appear to be in front of the Culp house, although if you were standing directly in front of the house, the stream would be perpendicular on the right side. It was in this area that the 6th North Carolina State Troops and Hoke’s Brigade took shelter during the day of July 2nd, 1863.

Closeup view of the Culp House and Barn

LOC Photo 1R- High Resolution closeup view of the Culp House and Barn on the right side of the view “Battle-field of Gettysburg. Scene of the charge of the Louisiana Tigers”

Closeup east of Gettysburg

LOC Photo 1L- High Resolution closeup view of the Gettysburg Building on the left side of the view “Battle-field of Gettysburg. Scene of the charge of the Louisiana Tigers”

As you scroll to the left you will observe some cows peacefully grazing in the fields in the middle of the photo. Behind them, on the eastern edge of Gettysburg, houses start to appear and at the very far right is a tall structure. I have zoomed in and cropped out this view for you to see above (LOC Photo 1L). In this Library of Congress print, it appears that someone penciled in the tower to to make it more clear. This would be located around the corner of High Street and Stratton street. My first thought is that it was the German Reformed church but on closer inspection I changed my mind.

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Rick, Dan and William Fassanito in Gettysburg after a Center of Civil War Photography “Dream Day” seminar.

Rather than guess, I should have immediately turned to the father of Gettysburg battlefield photography analysis, William Frassanito. The answer is right there on page 100 in “Gettysburg: A Journey in Time“. In fact he took two plates (one from the Library of Congress and one from the National Archives and placed them together to form a Panoramic view of the “Scene of the charge of the Louisiana Tigers” in his book.

Remember, he published his book in 1975 which meant traveling to Washington, D.C. to look through scores of photographs and having the ability and knowledge of Gettysburg to link these two photos. Want to Zoom in, in 1975? Grab a powerful magnifying glass!

Below is the second related photograph he found.Like the first picture, it too may be downloaded at a very high resolution if you wish to zoom in  and continue your historical time traveling:

Scene of the charge of the Louisiana Tigers. View taken from Cemetery Hill at about position of right gun of Wiedrich's (i. e. Weidrich's) Battery.

LOC Photo 2- Scene of the charge of the Louisiana Tigers. View taken from Cemetery Hill at about position of right gun of Wiedrich’s (i. e. Weidrich’s) Battery.

Now you can do something Mr. Frassanito could not. Open the two LOC photos, each in its own browser window and place them side by side, manually adjusting the size until they match. Photo 2 is the left half and Photo 1 is the right half. You are now seeing a scrollable Panorama of the field in front of East Cemetery Hill.

Or you could look at the quick merge I made in Photoshop.


2 plate panoramic view of fields in front of East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg. (merged in Photoshop by Rick Walton 2016)

In his book, Mr. Frassanito calls this two-plate panorama “one of the finest documentary scenes taken at Gettysburg.” He believes this was probably taken within a month of the battle, as evidenced by the two Federal soldiers seated in the foreground. He also identifies smoke, supplies and horses on the extreme left. Evidence of a Federal Militia camp. Just imagine what you re looking at! this is the very ground where Louisiana and North Carolina troops faced a deadly and destructive fire from Yankee Artillery dug into East Cemetery Hill. And after laying under this fire all day on July 2nd, 1863, they STILL got up and charged those positions, nearly capturing the hill and turning the tide of the battle.

Imagine being a Yankee watching from this hill as the Confederates began their charge. Hay’s Louisianan’s stretched from the German Reforned Church behind the tall tree (photo 2)  to a point directly in front of the Culp farm (far left of Photo 1). That is why this is correctly called “Scene of the charge of the Louisiana Tigers”. Hoke’s Brigade would have joined to the left of Hay’s, in front of the Culp farm and stretched beyond the right of this panorama. too bad the unknown photographer didn’t pan his camera to the right…or maybe he did and there is a third undiscovered view that could be added someday.

Since the German Reformed Church is clearly visible in Photo 2, what is that tall building on the left edge of Photo 1? Lets look at the glass plate negative in the National Archives to help clarify the answer to that.

You can download a hi resolution copy at:

Simply titled "view of town" this is the glass Plate negative in the National Archives

NA Photo 1- Simply titled “view of town” this is the glass Plate negative in the National Archives

We are focusing on the buildings on the far right edge. I blew up that portion and added a cropped view below.

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Cropped portion of Hi resolution printout the National Archives called “View of Town”

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scan from William Frassanito’s book “Early Photography at Gettysburg”

In this closeup, at the far right edge, you can make it out a little more clearly without the penciled in highlighting in Photo 1R. I believe this is the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church on Stratton Street, one block from High Street.

I once again turned to the master and found the answer in William Frassanito’s “Early Photography at Gettysburg. On Page 73 he explored the Tyson Brother’s panorama of Gettysburg. View 22e shows both the German Reformed Church (32 in diagram) and St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church (33 in Diagram).

You can even identify the square tower that rises between these two. In case you missed it, go back to NA Photo 1 and zoom in. Hint- it is to the right of the German reformed Church, partially hidden by a tree. It’s the steeple of the Gettysburg Public School. I’ll leave finding that an an exercise for you to work on in your spare time!

Notice anything else of interest or have a question about an object in the Photos. Photo Detective Rick Walton would be happy to hear from you in the comments section.


Resources available at Amazon:

Gettysburg: a Journey in time

Early Photography at Gettysburg



Walking in their Footsteps: Hoke’s Brigade attack on East Cemetery Hill (part 2)

By Rick Walton Copyright (C) 2015

continued from previous blog…

In “Walking in their Footsteps: Hoke’s Brigade attack on East Cemetery Hill (part 1)”  I started my Photo journey at the head of East Confederate Avenue, visited the ravine where Hoke’s brigade sheltered, paused to read the memorial tablet and concluded at the southern branch of the Winebrenner/Culp run.

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Author Rick Walton following the footsteps of the 6th North Carolina State Troops in Gettysburg on July 2, 2015. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography

Stop 3-Crossing Culp’s Meadow 

Photo 8 is the vicinity where Hoke’s NC Brigade would have begun it’s right wheel , which would face it toward the Federal battle line entrenched on East Cemetery Hill. Canons on the hillside above them, safely tucked behind earthen lunettes waited for the Confederates to come into range. The 6th North Carolina State troops, on the right of the brigade, would have been near or to the right of East Confederate Avenue, depicted as a fence line on period maps.

At this point, East Cemetery Hill is hidden by trees that would not have been there in 1863. Artillery on both Steven’s knoll and East Cemetery Hill would have had  a clear view of their wheeling enemy, subjecting them to a punishing cannon fire. Lieutenant Whittier, with Steven’s Maine battery, watched, from his position on Culps hill as Hoke’s North Carolinians began their wheel, admiring their skill and recalling later that it was

“a movement which none but the steadiest veterans could execute under such circumstances” [1]

a high compliment indeed.

Photo 8- View from “low bottom” around southern branch of Winebrenner/Culp run looking south. Culp’s Hill is to front and ECH is to the right beyond tree line. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

Colonel A. Godwin commanding the 57th NCT of the left and later becoming the brigade commander wrote:

Colonel A. Godwin“We continued to advance, however, under a terrific fire, climbed a rail fence, and still farther beyond descended into a low bottom, and dislodged a heavy line of infantry from a stone wall running parallel with our front.”  [2]

This description corresponds to map 23.2 in Bradley M. Gottfried’s highly acclaimed book “The Maps of Gettysburg”.  I have drawn in the red arrows to illustrate this better. The fence line where the 41st NY and 33rd  Mass. are shown is approximately where East Confederate Avenue is today. Having previously given several tours for my friends and fellow reenactors  in the 6th NCS,  we share the satisfaction of knowing we have been walking where the 6th NCST walked in 1863 when we traversed this road.

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Map 23.1 from Bradley M. Gottfried’s “The Maps of Gettysburg”. Used with permission from publisher, click map for more info.

While I am certainly in a “low bottom” standing just above the creek, it is probably not the place that Colonel A. Godwin described in the O.R.’s, since at this point he would have been leading the 57th NCT at the far left of the line. Author John Archer depicts this “low bottom” on a map in his book “The Hour was one of Horror” (page 79) as being in the adjoining field to my left, near where it says Menchley’s Springs on Gottfried’s map 23.1.

Consider the overall length of Hoke’s brigade’s wheeling line. Three regiments. One thousand soldiers. The 6th NCST, at the pivot, has a much shorter distance to travel than the 57th NCT at the left end.  They have to make a wide arc to swing around and face the  entrenched Federals behind the stone wall at the base of East Cemetery Hill. The temptation to take cover behind the stone walls they had  to cross, or the hollows in the field must have been great, yet they moved on, as veteran soldiers facing unchecked rifle and cannon fire.

Still on the road, I climbed a slight incline rising from the Winebrenner/Culp Run. When I had reached the summit just beyond the tree (picture 8) I found that some of the rails had been removed from the fence, making my entrance into the meadow at this point an easy decision. Keep in mind what Godwin wrote…”we…climbed a rail fence.” These are sturdy farm fences meant to keep livestock out of the crops. The top rail was almost shoulder height. Having climbed similar fences during reenactments, I can tell you that it wasn’t easy getting my wool covered butt, up and over. The heavy leathers, canteen and haversack hang off your neck like an anchor, your loaded weapon is cumbersome and hazardous and your smooth bottomed, leather brogans are slippery and non flexible, a poor combination for fence climbing. Any reenactor reading this will be smiling and shaking their head in agreement. Been there…done that!


Photo 9- View from place I entered the field looking north toward Winebrenner Run along the tree-line. (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

It was now a little after 6 pm, but overcast and gray. Though the temperature was only in the mid 70’s, it was warm, still, and muggy. Even wearing light cotton pants and a short sleeve shirt, I was quite sweaty and hot. As a reenactor, I could easily imagine, from personal experience, the sweat drenched layers of cotton and wool worn by the soldiers in 1863.

Thanks to a 19th century, local Gettysburg man, Rev. Dr. Michael Jacobs, who taught at Pennsylvania (now Gettysburg) College as a Professor of Mathematics and Science, we have a record of the weather in 1863. Jacobs took weather observations three times a day, even as the fighting raged on around him. On July 2nd, 1863, he recorded  cumulo-stratus clouds covering 70% of the sky, a light southern breeze and temperatures in the mid to high 70’s peaking about 81 degrees about 2 p.m. This was similar to the weather I was experiencing. Perhaps slightly warmer then, but with almost total cloud coverage and no breeze during my tour, it was quite warm and muggy.

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Photo 10- View from field near East Confederate Ave looking South west toward Baltimore Road. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

I entered a Culp’s Meadow, a large field, knee high is grass. Walking through the tall grass took some effort to keep from tripping. Deer trails criss-crossed the field and several flattened areas suggested that they had served as isolated and hidden sleeping areas for them. I didn’t see any deer, or any wildlife for that matter, although I was using my folded tripod to clear my path and make enough noise to warn s-n-a-k-e-s of my approach. I didn’t see any, and didn’t want too! My bigger worry was deer ticks, but I am happy to report that I didn’t notice any on me after my adventure.

I paused to take a picture of the meadow (photo 10). Directly in front of me, hidden by the tree-line, is East Cemetery Hill. The trees would not have been there in 1863. My path (red arrows) followed some deer trails, or another intrepid adventurer before me, around the trees. This part of the meadow was fairly flat. Looking at contour maps after the fact, I may have inadvertently been following a slight ridge that crosses the field. In fact, it’s visible in photo 10 if you look carefully. To my right the ground fell ever so slightly away toward the boggy edges of the Winebrenner Run. To my left the ground also falls slightly before rising again toward Culp’s hill and Steven’s Knoll.


Photo 11- View from about 1/3 of the way across the field looking South west toward Stevens Knoll and Baltimore Pike. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

Picking my way across the  meadow, I stopped again to record what I was seeing. Directly behind me in Photo 11 is Stevens Knoll on a saddle between Culp’s Hill to the left and East Cemetery Hill, still hidden from my view by the trees in the direction I am pointing. I am holding a copy of Licensed Battlefield Guide, John Archer’s book, “The Hour was one of Horror, [A tour guide to] East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg”. I found the maps and descriptions very helpful in planning my walk. It was also small and light enough for my haversack,  and easy to refer to making sure I stayed on the approximate path of the 6th North Carolina.  In the distance you can see the trees lining the Baltimore pike, on the horizon, which passes at the top of East Cemetery Hill and the iconic Cemetery Gatehouse which will be visible when I pass the next group of trees.


Photo 12- View from about 1/3 of the way across the field looking back from starting point, north east, toward Culp House and East Confederate Avenue. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

I also took a moment to look behind me (Photo 12) toward the rail fence lining East Confederate Avenue and my path though the tall grass. Just out of site, on the right horizon, would be Benner’s Knoll, where General Early’s Confederate artillery was deployed. Unfortunately their position was inferior to the Federal’s ahead of me on East Cemetery hill. Hoke’s Brigade started their march in the ravine to the left, just below the crest of the hill beyond the rail fence and behind the tress which generally follow the line of the stream.

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Photo 13- View from about 1/2 of the way across the field looking South west toward Stevens Knoll and Baltimore Pike. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

I advanced the rest of the way across the field to the tree line (absent in 1863).  My route was funneled by the modern wire fence line to this open gap, close to the trees. I noticed the ground was a little boggy and chopped up. The James McKnight house, present during the battle, may be seen In the distance. It is located on Slocum Ave which connects Wainwright Avenue to The Baltimore Pike. The large tree to the right of the house  is probably near Menchey’s Spring along Brickyard lane/ Wainwright avenue. This is where the 41st NY and 33rd Mass took their place on the far right of the Federal line as seen on Map 23.3. This would be the objective of the left of Colonel Avery’s line.

map 23.3

Map 23.3 from Bradley M. Gottfried’s “The Maps of Gettysburg”. Used with permission from publisher, click map for more info.

Coming through the gate and moving back toward my original track, I stopped ( Photo 14) to finally observe my objective, unhidden by trees. Photo 14 is labeled with several things I observed. First of all, this is not a flat field, As I advanced over it , I found myself walking along a slope, quite high in some spots (photo 16). At the top of the hill directly in front of me lies the iconic Cemetery Gate. In front of that, across the Baltimore turnpike and on the crest of East Cemetery Hill are the guns of Rickett’s Battery, well protected by earthwork lunettes.

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Photo 14- View from about 2/3 of the way across the field looking South west toward Stevens Knoll and Baltimore Pike. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

The large tree and the stone wall vertically rising up the hill behind it are depicted on the map near the center of the 153rd PA. I set this as my destination and, as you can see, had an uphill climb. It  was nearly 6:30. I was glad I brought a canteen. Even after a large gulp of water, sweat dripped down my brow and my damp clothes were sticking in all the wrong places.  My eyeglasses were either sweaty or foggy or both. I’m not complaining, just getting annoyed by the terrible light (a photographers worst enemy) and my reduced ability to see my camera focus with my foggy glasses. I could see the end in sight and started to think cold shower and cold beer, but I had to resist the temptation to rush through the last and most important part of the attack. At least I wasn’t fumbling forward in the darkening twilight with cannons roaring and minnies zipping past my head!

Turning around once again I looked back. (Photo 15) It had taken me nearly half an hour to come this far across the field (including camera time). If you enlarge the photo, you should be able to see a blue water tower just above the 3rd arrowhead from the left. This, I have been told, is a good visual reference for the Confederate Artillery at Benner’s Knoll.

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Photo 15- View from about 2/3 of the way across the field looking back toward starting point, east, toward East Confederate Avenue. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

The slope of the hill is not as obvious in Photo 14, but as I continued  forward, the ground rose on my left, at one point, enough to block my view of Steven’s knoll, and thankfully, if I was attacking with the 6th North Carolina, the artillery’s view of me! Although I didn’t make the climb up and over this rise, it descends to the “low bottom”, mentioned by Godwin. The treetops peeking above the ridge would be where the field rises up out of the bottom toward Culp’s Hill and Steven’s Knoll.


Photo 16- View from about 3/4 of the way across the field looking South west toward Stevens Knoll and Baltimore Pike. Notice the rising ground hides Stevens Knoll from our view and vice-versa. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photograph

Photo 16B, (taken by me in June 2014) is a Panoramic view from Steven’s Knoll of the other side of the rise shown in Photo 16. It gives you a perspective of the undulating ground that had to traversed by the 21st NC and the 57th NC on the left of the line. (Click to enlarge the Panorama and scroll back and forth.)

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Photo 16b- Panoramic view, composed from 2 pictures, from Stevens Knoll looking North. Notice the undulating ground over Which Hoke’s Brigade charged. Copyright (C) 2014 Frederick Walton Photograph. Click to enlarge.

Photo 16C is a familiar period drawing, preserved on a plaque at the top of East Cemetery hill, from a similar vantage point of the Panorama in 16B. Notice the fields are bare of trees at the time of the battle because this was actively be farmed.

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Photo 16c- Sign on top of Cemetery Hill near Rickett’s Battery. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photograph

Stop 4- The Stone Wall at Brick Yard Lane

I veered toward the tree shading the marker for the 153rd Pennsylvania. Briars and other prickly weeds in this section of the field made walking a bit hazardous. I was still walking uphill, and frankly, getting tired! Wainwright Avenue towers several feet above the edge of the field, raised by an old retaining wall and separated by a very overgrown and tumbling down stone wall topped by a haphazard snake rail fence.

This is where the first contact with the enemy was made.

“The enemies batteries kept up a terrific fire, but most of the shells and grape passed over our heads,”

wrote 28 year old Pvt. Thomas Causby of the 6th North Carolina, Company D.

“Our brigade charged in good order it until we were within a short distance of the stone fence, which did not extend all the way across the face of the hill. Here the brigade spread out across the face of the hill, part of the men making for the end of the fence, as I recollect. About 75 of our brigade, led by Col. Tate and Capt. Neill Ray, charged directly on the Stone fence, which we crossed and then bayoneted Yankee gunners and drove them back after a hard fight.”  [3]


Photo 17- View across Brickyard road at the base of East Cemetery Hill and final charge to Rickett’s battery on top of the hill. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

I selected a fairly stable looking place to cross over and found myself on a quiet, deserted, paved Wainwright Avenue.  Oddly quiet, considering this was the anniversary day of this battle. In 1863 Federal troops would have made crossing this stone wall very difficult!

“In the evening we charged some batteries on the side of a mountain. Our brigade [Hoke’s] and the Louisiana brigade we move[d] steadily on them under the most terrific fire I ever saw. We came in contact with a line of infantry behind a stone fence. They stood their ground until our men got to the fence and actually [had to] club them over their heads with the butts of their guns yet we moved on to the heights, But they were so strongly supported, we were repulsed. In all the battles I have ever been in that was the hardest. The batteries were placed one above another on the hill so as to shoot over one another and every one a line of infantry all around the mountain. It was impossible to drive them off. ” [4]

Photo 19- Wainwright Avenue looking North- Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

Photo 18- Wainwright Avenue looking North- Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

“As we approached the hill the guns on Battery Hill [Stevens Knoll] , over towards Culp’s Hill, had an enfilading fire on us. Still our men rushed forward, crawled over the stone wall near the base of the hill, drove from behind it a strong line of infantry, and went still forward to the top of the hill, and silenced the numerous pieces of artillery that had been so advantageously post
ed. We had full possession of East Cemetery Hill, the key to General Meade’s position, and we held it for several minutes.” [5]

Rickett's battery at ECH

Part of the mural at the Lincoln Library in SpringField, Illinois -The fight for East Cemetery Hill. Copyright (C) 2015 Bruce Zigler

“We turned some of the guns on the enemy and tried to fire them, but most of them had been spiked by the Yankees. By this time it was getting dark, and the enemy we had driven back had been heavily re-enforced, and after remaining beyond the fence some fifteen or twenty minutes we withdrew and rejoined our brigade.” [6]

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Photo 19. View from Rickett’s Battery on top of East Cemetery Hill. 153rd Pa. Marker near tree on right. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography

Almost in front of the place I crossed the stone wall, was a marker for the 11th Corp, 1st Div., First Brigade of Colonel Leopold Von Gilsa who where assigned to defend this sector. The weary Yankee’s, who had taken a beating from Hokes Brigade the previous day, now desperately tried to prevent the Confederates from overrunning their position.


Photo 20- XI Corp Marker on Brickyard road at the base of East Cemetery Hill near where the 6th North Carolina State Troops over ran the defenders. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

“The Confederates… charged from the darkness with a yell and with bayonets fixed. The attack on the two weak New York regiments in the center of the line was of great violence. The New Yorkers had been struck at Chancellorsville and again the day before at Gettysburg and were probably shaky- if so with good reason.The Tarheels shot and killed Sgt Heinrich Michel, color bearer of the 54th [NY], almost immediately and  wounded his two successors severely. Soon the surviving members of the 68th [NY] and the 54th [NY] regiments retreated up the hill, probably  the first troops on von Gilsa’s line to go.”  [7]

These troops, posted to the left of the 153rd Pennsylvania opened a gap which Major Samuel McDowell Tate, leading members of the 6th North Carolina and Louisianna Tigers to his right, would exploit to climb the hill and attack Rickett’s Battery.

Just as I had set my sights on their marker, so did members of the 6th NCST who  hit the 153rd Pennsylvania head-on. Lieutenant Miller of the 153rd Pa. recalled:

“The fight was on in all its fierceness, muskets being handled as clubs; rocks torn from the wall in front and thrown, fist and bayonets used, so close was the fighting” [8]


Photo 21- 153rd PA. Marker on Brickyard road at the base of East Cemetery Hill near where the 6th North Carolina State Troops over ran the defenders. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

Author with Battle flag of the 6th North Carolina at Gettysburg museum. Copyright (C) 2014 Frederick Walton Photography

Harry W. Pfanz  in “Gettysburg, Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill” recounts the story of the Confederate flag. “A rebel color bearer, rifle in one hand and flag in the other, jumped on the wall and shouted, “Surrender you Yankees”, and in an instant a Pennsylvanian jammed him with his bayonet and fired his rifle into him at the same time. Lieut. Miller remembered  long after how the ball tore shreds from the back of the color-bearers blouse. The man fell backward, holding both of his rifle and the colors. The flagstaff rested briefly across the wall. A Union soldier grabbed for it, and a Confederate grasped it’s other end. There was a tug-of- war, and  the Confederate won.” Could this have been either the battle flag of the 6th NCST, now hanging in the Gettysburg Museum or the “Fisher flag” displayed in the Museum of History in Raleigh?


Photo 22- 41st NY Marker on Brickyard road at the base of East Cemetery Hill near where the 6th North Carolina State Troops over ran the defenders. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

Next in line, The 41st New York had fallen back with the 33rd Massachusetts from skirmish duty in Culp’s meadow. The 33rd anchored the far right of the Federal line. The right wing of the 41st NY held firm with the 33rd Massachusetts against the 57th NCT, but the left, unable to withstand the onslaught of Tar heels, was swept away, New Yorkers fleeing up the dark hill behind them.

“The hour was one of horror. Amid the incessant roar of the canon, the roar of musketry, and the glare of bursting shells making the darkness intermittent-adding awfulness to the scene- the hoarse shouts of the friend and foe, piteous cries of the wounded and dying, one could well imagine…that “war is hell”. [9]

Too tired to walk all the way down to this monument, I found this great photo on the web. The 33rd Massachusetts Infantry monument is located at the intersection of Slocum and Wainwright Avenues near Steven’s Knoll. It was placed in 1885.The 33rd Mass refused their line to meet the attacking Confederates.

“The enemy came on gallantly, unchecked by our artillery fire, and my regiment opened a severe musketry fire on them, which caused gaps in the line and made it stagger back a little, It soon rallied and bravely came within a few feet of our wall, though my men clung unflinchingly to it and steadily poured in their fire. I ordered them to fix Bayonets to be ready for the enemy, but  at this time Stevens [Maine] Battery, then under command of Lieutenant Whittier, to my right, opened on them at point blank range, and this fire and the continued fire of my regiment the enemy’s line, said to be Hoke’s Brigade of North Carolinians [more specifically, the 57th NCT in this sector] which was almost on to us, their colors nearly within reach, was broken and finally driven back, leaving great heaps of dead and wounded just in front of us.” [10]


Photo 24- Rickett’s battery position from base of East Cemetery Hill. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography. This is the stone wall Major Tate ordered the North Carolinians to take cover behind.

On top of east Cemetery hill, the North Carolinians had actually taken the guns! In the confusion and darkness of the moment there was a momentary lull in the fight while they awaited reinforcements that never came…forcing them to retreat behind the stone wall in Photo 24 and eventually back to where they started.

 “75 North Carolinians of the Sixth Regiment and 12 Louisianians of Hay’s brigade scaled the walls, and planted the colors of the Sixth North Carolina and Ninth Louisiana on the guns.


Samuel McDowell Tate

It was now fully dark. The enemy stood with a tenacity never before displayed by them, but with bayonet, clubbed musket, sword, and pistol, and rocks from the wall, we cleared the heights and silenced the guns.

In vain did I send to the rear for support. It was manifest that I could not hold the place without aid, for the enemy was massed in all the ravines and adjoining heights, and we were then fully a half mile from our lines.

Col. Samuel McDowell Tate

Photo 25- Col. Samuel McDowell Tate Visiting Rickett’s Battery in 1894

Finding the enemy were moving up a line, I ordered the small band of heroes to fall back down the crest to a stone wall on the side of the hill [photo 24], where we awaited their coming. Soon they came over the hill in pursuit, when we again opened fire on them, and cleared the hill a second time.

Very soon I found they were very numerous in the flats in my rear, and now became the question of surrender or an effort to retreat. There was a calm and determined resolve never to surrender (one of our North Carolina regiments had done so the day before) and, under cover of the darkness, I ordered the men to break and to risk the fire. We did so, and lost not a man in getting out.” [11]

Other members of the 6th North Carolina who fought there told the same story in their own words:

“We charged the Yankees where they were on a hill & in their breastworks[.] we took them but we couldn’t hold them and was compelled to fall back [.] I thought I had been where grape and canister and minnies flew, but I never was in a place like this[.] our loss was heavier and it ever was[.]”  [12]

and repeated by another:

Captain Neill W Ray

Captain Neill W Ray

“It was then after daylight had gone down, the smoke was very dense, and, although the moon was rising, we could not see what the enemy was doing, but we could hear him attempting to rally his men, and more than once he rallied close up to us. But our men had formed behind a rock wall [Photo 24], and as he approached we fired a volley into him, which drove him back.  This occurred at least twice. No one who has never been in a similar position can understand how anxiously we looked for re-inforcements. None came, however, and before long orders came for us to fall back to our original position.” [13]

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Photo 26. View of Rickett’s Battery on top of East Cemetery Hill on July 3, 2015. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography

Above and behind him shots coming into his rear caused Col. Underwood of the 33rd Mass to send his adjutant to see what was going on:

“He soon reported that the enemy was there, having captured some of our artillery. One part of the line seem to be in a precarious position, But not long after it was ascertained that the enemy were driven out.”  [14]

This was confirmed by the oft quoted diarist from the Old North State, Barlett Yancy Malone , 6th North Carolina, Co. H., who recorded:


Bartlett Yancey Malone

“We charged and succeeded in driving the infantry from behind two stone fences and got part of the batteries but it was soon so dark and so much smoke that we couldn’t see what we was a doing. The enemy got together again and we had no reinforcement and had to fall back to our old position.”  [15]

How bittersweet their victory. It was a place of strategic importance to the federal line, and yet it couldn’t be held. When Placing his battery, Captain Rickett’s was informed by his superiors:

“Captain, This is the key to our position on Cemetery Hill, and must be held…[at all hazards]” [16]


Photo 27- Rickett’s battery position from base of East Cemetery Hill. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

Captain Neill W. Ray, an officer of the 6th NCST recalled this bitterly when writing the history of the 6th NCST many years later.

” By not supporting Hoke’s Brigade of North Carolina and Hays’ Brigade of Louisiana in the storming and capturing of Cemetery Hill the battle of Gettysburg was lost. I do not know whose fault it was, but I feel assured in saying that it was not the fault of the storming column. It did its whole duty and fell back only when orders came for it to do so.

Much has been written about the battle of Gettysburg, and what was accomplished by the different commands and the troops from the different States. But, at the risk of being charged with immodesty, I venture to claim that the storming and capturing of Cemetery Hill on the evening of the second day was not surpassed by anything that was done during the three days’ fight. The facts on which the claim is based will appear to any one who will go to the spot. He will there see the positions of the contending armies and the strength of the hill. The breastworks and embankments protecting the enemy’s guns are still plainly visible. Its defenses and the lines of the positions of its defenders are all marked by durable monuments. And on the topmost summit he will find a cluster of monuments, the inscriptions  on which recite the desperate assault made by Hoke’s and Hays’ Brigades on the 2d of July, 1863, and especially mention the hand-to-hand conflict, after the last round of ammunition had been fired and the capture and spiking of the enemy’s guns by the Confederates.” [17]

As I stood on Wainwright avenue, in the gathering dusk, having completed my tour and taken my last photo, I was hot, tired and thirsty, It occurred to me that it was only 7 pm now, still two hours until the Confederate’s would have begun their charge in 1863. What spirits might I have encountered if I had waited?


Photo 28- Saluting the troops. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

This, then is my salute to the brave young men, of both armies, that fought on these slopes. But especially to the men of the 6th North Carolina State troops who I have come to respect and honor after studying their deeds for the last two decades.

Too hot and tired to walk up the slope to “re-capture” Rickett’s battery, I headed down the level, paved avenue in front of me, back toward the Winebrenner house. Back to my B&B. Back to a nice cool shower… and a nice cold beer.


1) Pfanz, Harry, “Gettysburg, Culps Hill and Cemetery Hill”, Chapel Hill, UNC Press, 1993, Pg 255

2) The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 – Volume 27 (Part II);No. 473.; Report of Col. Archibald C. Godwin, Fifty-seventh North Carolina Infantry, commanding Hokes brigade.

3) Causby, “Storming the Stone fence at Gettysburg.” from the Charlotte Observer, March 11, 1901.Republished in Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 29.

4)  Carrington, Sim, “I heard the Yankee drums beating, PP 186-189

5) Ray, Neill W., “The Sixth Regiment”in  “Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-1865”, edited by Walter Clark and published by the state of N. C.  in 1901.

6)  Causby, “Storming the Stone fence at Gettysburg. from the Charlotte Observer, March 11, 1901.

7) Pfanz, Harry, “Gettysburg, Culps Hill and Cemetery Hill”,  Pg 261

8) Gottfried, Bradley M., “The Maps of Gettysburg”, El Dorado Hills, Ca., Savas Beatie, 2007, pg 220

9) Archer, John, “The Hour was one of Horror” , Gettysburg, pa,, Thomas, 1997, P. 64

10) Report of Col. A.B. Underwood, 33rd Mass., 12/9/1881, in Authors collection from GNMP files.

11) Report of Samuel McDowell Tate to Governor Vance, N. C. Archives

12) J. J. English, Co. E, July 9, 1863 Letter to his Aunt and Uncle, courtesy of Ernie Dollar.

13)  Ray, Neill W., “The Sixth Regiment” in  “Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-1865”, edited by Walter Clark and published by the state of N. C.  in 1901.

14) Report of Col. A.B. Underwood, 33rd Mass., 12/9/1881, in Authors collection from GNMP files.

15) Malone, B. Y., ” Whipt ’em Every time”

16) Pfanz, Harry, “Gettysburg, Culps Hill and Cemetery Hill”,  Pg 253

17) Ray, Neill W., “The Sixth Regiment” in  “Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-1865”, edited by Walter Clark and published by the state of N. C.  in 1901.

Walking in their Footsteps: Hoke’s Brigade attack on East Cemetery Hill (part 1)

By Rick Walton Copyright (C) 2015


Author Rick Walton following the footsteps of the 6th North Carolina State Troops in Gettysburg on July 2, 2015. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography

When I found I would be in Gettysburg on July 2nd, 2015, I realized I had the rare opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the 6th North Carolina State troops on the exact date and time of their attack on East Cemetery Hill, 152 years earlier.

General Harry T. Hays, commander of the famed Louisiana Tigers wrote of the attack:

Gen Harry T Hays

“A little before 8p.m. I was ordered [by Major-General Early] to advance with my own and Hoke’s brigade on my left, which had been placed for the time under my command.”1

As the anniversary day wore on, it was overcast and gray, as can be seen in the following pictures. By late afternoon on July 2nd, 2015, the sky was already dark and overcast and looked threatening enough that I packed plastic bags to protect my camera in case of rain.

Considering modern daylight savings time, 8 pm their time would be  9 pm in 2015, which is near the end of twilight and the beginning of dark! I decided not to wait. I set off at about 5:15 pm from “A Sentimental Journey B&B” on Baltimore street were my wife and I were staying. In 1863 (see Map) this area would have been on the edge of town and not far from Hay’s and Hoke’s line, which stretched eastward between Baltimore street and the Culp house orchard nearly half a mile away.

I set off the try to literally, however much possible, “walk in their footsteps”! I invite you to join me on this Photo Tour of my journey. Click on any photo to see a full screen view.

Bachelder Map of Gettysburg

Annotated portion of Map of the battle field of Gettysburg. July 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 1863 (2nd Day Battle), John Bachelor, 1876, Library of Congress ID: glva01 lva00067b

Stop 1- Position of Hoke’s Brigade on the afternoon of July 2, 1863

It took me about 10 or 15 minutes to reach the head of East Confederate Avenue where I photographed the marker for Early’s Division which briefly describes the action here. Note the brick Culp house to the right rear. Click on the photo for a full screen view to read the tablet. (Text also transcribed below)


Photo 1- Marker for Early’s Division on East Confederate Avenue in Gettysburg.
Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography

C. S. A.
Army of Northern Virginia
Second Army Corps
Early’s Division
Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early

Hays’ Brigade Brig. Gen. Harry T. Hays
Smith’s Brigade Brig. Gen. William Smith
Hoke’s Brigade Col. Isaac E. Avery
Col. A. C. Godwin
Gordon’s Brigade Brig. John B. Gordon
Artillery Battalion Four Batteries Col. H. P. Jones


July 1. The Division arrived about noon within two miles of Gettysburg by Harrisburg Road. Formed line across road north of Rock Creek. Gordon’s Brigade ordered to support of a brigade of Rodes’ Division engaged with a division of the Eleventh Corps which had advanced to a wooded hill in front of town. The remainder of the Division was ordered forward as Gordon’s Brigade was engaged. After a short and severe contest the Union troops were forced through the town losing many prisoners. Later in the day Gordon’s Brigade ordered to the York Road in support of Smith’s Brigade. Hays’ and Hoke’s Brigades occupied the town.


July 2. In the early morning Hays’ and Hoke’sBrigades took position to front and left of town.Gordon’s Brigade in reserve moved to the rear of the brigades. Smith’s Brigade remained in this position until nearly dusk when Hays’ and Hoke’s Brigades advanced on Cemetery Hill. The brigades reached the crest of hill but not being supported on the right were forced to retire. Gordon’s Brigade advanced to support the attack.


July 3. At daylight Smith’s Brigade was ordered to support of Johnson’s Division on the left. Hays’ and Hoke’s Brigades formed line in town holding the position of previous day. Gordon’s Brigade held the line of the day before. The Division not further engaged.


July 4. In the morning the Division was withdrawn to Cashtown Road to west of town.


Casualties Killed 156 Wounded 806 Missing 226 Total 1188


Walking down East Confederate Avenue, I paused to take a picture of the undulating fields, the tiny valleys formed by the Winebrenner/Culp run and the gentle rise ahead. To the right, up a small berm is the Gettysburg Middle school and diagonally behind that, and out of sight, rises East Cemetery Hill.

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Photo 2- View of East Confederate Avenue in Gettysburg looking South East towards Culp’s Hill. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography

As I stood here, a number of important clues became evident. I have identified  some of the landmarks on Photo 2 to make this starting position clear. Click on the photo for a larger view and to help you orient yourself in relation to East Cemetery hill.

Based on period maps and historical analysis, Hoke’s Brigade was  posted to the left of the road, in an orchard along the banks of the stream. The left of the 57th NCT was anchored near the (no longer existing) farm lane known as Culps lane. The 6th NCST was on the right, probably along the present East Confederate Avenue.

This ravine, along the Winebrenner/Culp run, was the approximate position where Hoke’s Brigade was pinned down throughout the day of July 2nd. Hay’s Louisianna Brigade was to their right. In Photo 2, note how the road and fields rise from the creek bed, providing cover from the distant Culp’s Hill and East Cemetery Hill.

Private Thomas E. Causby, 6th North Carolina State Troops, Co. D,  recalled years later that after fighting the Yankee’s through the town on July 1st, 1863, they:

struck camp in a deep ravine, where we remained until late in the afternoon of the second day’s battle.3 

Parts of his ravine could be seen in front of me, along the Winebrenner/Culp run, still clearly visible today, passing beneath East Confederate Avenue.

By this time of day in 1863, East Cemetery Hill was bristling with artillery and Federal soldiers who had spent the previous evening digging in. North Carolinian, Captain John A. McPherson, of Colonel Avery’s old company E, wrote the following description in a letter to Avery’s father shortly after the battle.


John  McPherson

“That night the Colonel and myself slept under an apple tree. The sharpshooters kept up a brisk fire all day, so that a man could not show himself along the line without being shot at. The Colonel [Avery], Capt. Adams [Hoke’s Adjutant], and myself were lying down on the side of the hill. The enemy sharpshooters kept us uneasy all the time, balls hissing all around us. The Colonel began to laugh and said that place was getting most too warm for us, and that we had better move. It was always the Colonels wish if he should be so unfortunate as to fall that it would be in a great battle.”2

Some members of the 6th NC regiment perished before the battle started. Bartlett Yancy Malone, of Company H wrote about one such death in his diary:


Bartlett Yancy Malone

“We laid in a line of battle at the same place [at the foot of East Cemetery Hill. ] The enemies picket’s were firing on us all day. Thomas Miles was killed while on picket duty, shot in the head.”

Hoke’s Brigade numbered between 900- 1,200 men depending on whose figures you use.  (6th NCST- 509, 21st NCT- 436, 57th NCT- 297).4


Pvt Arthur “Sim” Carrington

Private Sim Carrington of the 6th North Carolina Co. B mentioned the regiments size In a letter to his brother dated July 9th, 1863. At full strength a regiment should number 1,000 men.

“We went into the battle with 499 men and lost half of them. 235 are absent from wounds and killed and missing…our brigade has about 500”

In a letter to his Aunt and Uncle dated July 9th, 1863, John J. English of the 6th North Carolina, Co. E, Isaac Avery’s old company, mentions his company size. At full strength a company should measure 100 men.

“We went into the fight with 56 men in our co. and when we came out we had 24. Our Captain [James H. Burns , age 23] was killed.”

Stop 2- Hoke’s Brigade Marker on East Confederate Avenue

If you refer to the map, you’ll  notice that the Winebrenner /Culp run is a stream branching off Rock Creek. It splits into two branches near the Culp House, each branch eventually crossing under East Confederate Avenue.  I continued walking down the road and came to the Hoke Brigade Marker at a spot about halfway between the two creek branches.


Photo 3- View of Hoke’s Brigade Marker in Gettysburg looking north east toward the Culp house. Click on Photo to read the tablet. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography

C. S. A.
Army of Northern Virginia
Ewell’s Corps Early’s Division
Hoke’s Brigade
6th 21st 57th North Carolina Infantry


July 1. Advanced at 3 P. M. with Hays’ Brigade flanked Eleventh Corps aided in taking two guns repulsed First Brigade Second Division and captured many prisoners. Late in evening took position here.


July 2. Skirmished all day at 8 P. M. with Hays’ Brigade charged East Cemetery Hill. Severely enfiladed on the left by artillery and musketry it pushed on over infantry line in front scaled the hill planted its colors on the lunettes and captured several guns. But assailed by fresh forces and having no supports it was soon compelled to relinquish what it had gained and withdraw. Its commander Col. Isaac E. Avery was mortally wounded leading the charge.


July 3. Ordered to railroad cut in rear and later to High Street in town.


July 4. At 2 A. M. moved to Seminary Ridge. After midnight began the march to Hagerstown.


Present about 900

Killed 35 Wounded 216 Missing 94  Total 345


Photo 3 is looking toward the Culp house, barely visible behind the trees. This shows the position of the 6th North Carolina State Troops, with the 21st NCT  and 57th NCT stretching to the horizon on the right. The “steep ravine”, mentioned by Causby would be along the trees that line the creek bed behind the roadside marker. I wasn’t able to look close enough to determine if these trees are part of the old apple orchard mentioned by Captain McPherson, but this is approximately where it would have been located. Notice how the ground slopes upwards from the creek, helping to provide cover from the guns on East Cemetery Hill.

Neill W. Ray, Captain of Co. D of the 6th North Carolina regiment recalled their situation:

Captain Neill W Ray

Captain Neill W. Ray

Our men were anxious to proceed and take possession of Cemetery Hill [on the evening of July 1, which was rapidly being occupied by the enemy], And it was only by positive orders that a halt was made. The line was soon reformed along a little rivulet [Winebrenner/Culp run] that runs north easterly from Cemetery Hill in between the town and Culps Hill. But we had no orders for any further advance.  As soon as it began to grow dark we could hear sounds of what might have been thousands of axes cutting down the timber on Culp’s Hill. He made breastworks and lined the [East] Cemetery Hill with artillery, and placed a battery [Steven’s 5th Maine Battery] on a small hill between Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill, and his guns were also protected by earthworks which he threw up during the night.”

“By the morning of the 2d [July 2, 1863] all these places were full of infantry, and his artillery was so posted as to be able to fire over the heads of his infantry, whilst a strong line of skirmishers was in front of all, which was frequently relieved. He kept up a galling fire on us all day there was a terrific cannonade between the enemy’s guns and ours, which were posted on the north and east of the town. This was not very destructors to our infantry line, because, being in the valley, the shots passed over us.”5

The official report, submitted after the battle by Colonel A. Godwin, who took command of the brigade upon Avery’s death, described this same position:


Col. A. Godwin

“The enemy had now succeeded in planting a battery upon a high, sloping spur on the mountain side immediately in our front. [on July 1st] Under cover of the railroad cut [north of York street], we were moved by the left flank about 400 yards to the left, and again moved forward. The shells from the enemy proving very effective, we were soon after halted in a depression on the hillside, and the men ordered to lie down. Skirmishers were thrown forward, and this position held through the night and until 8 p. m. on the next day, July 2., when the brigade moved forward to the attack” 6

As I made my way down East Confederate Avenue, I paused to read the marker to Hoke’s Bridgade and take a few Pictures.


Photo 4- View of Hoke’s Brigade Marker in Gettysburg looking north east. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

It was close to 6 PM (5 pm in 1863 time), when I reached this point. Historical accounts show Hoke’s brigade advancing in a southerly direction, as I have been doing along the road, to clear the distance required for Hay’s Louisiana brigade to wheel along the base of East Cemetery Hill. But apparently the exact location of their objective was not discovered until the brigade was already in motion.

“As soon as the summit of the hill was gained, it was discovered that the batteries which we had been ordered to take were in front of Hays brigade, and considerably to the right of our right flank. We continued to advance, however, under a terrific fire, climbed a rail fence, and still farther beyond descended into a low bottom, and dislodged a heavy line of infantry from a stone wall running parallel with our front. The enemys batteries now enfiladed us, and a destructive fire was poured into our ranks from a line of infantry formed in rear of a stone wall running at a right angle with our line of battle and immediately below the batteries. Colonel Avery now ordered a change of front, and succeeded in wheeling the brigade to the right, a movement which none but the steadiest veterans could have executed under such circumstances. In swinging around, three stone walls had to be surmounted. The ground was rocky and uneven, and these obstacles prevented that rapidity of movement and unity of action which might have insured success.”7

From here the ground rises gently to a ridge before descending to the south fork of the Winebrenner/Culp run. This rising hill in photo 5, which becomes the crest, hides a “low bottom” on the other side and any enemy skirmishers.


Photo 5- Position of Hoke’s Brigade marker (circled) relative to the crest. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography. Click to enlarge

East Cemetery Hill is still hidden from my view to the right, beyond the rising ground and trees visible in photo 6 to the right of the road. Culps hill is the prominence directly ahead. If you can imagine a 45 degree angle (red arrow) from the road at the point of the run, that line would point toward the distant location of Steven’s Battery,  which will play havoc with the left of Hoke’s Brigade as complete their right wheel to face the base of East Cemetery Hill.

Photo 6- Color view from crest near Hoke’s Brigade marker in Gettysburg looking south east. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography. Click to enlarge.

As described by Colonel Godwin and depicted on most historical maps, this is the vicinity where the Brigade began its right wheel. The right most bridgade was the 6th North Carolina. It was likely on and  to the right of the present day road. Colonel Avery was riding the absent General Hoke’s White charger in front of and to the right of the 6th North Carolina, in the gap between the two brigades when he ordered “Right Wheel!” swinging the line in a 90 degree arc until it lined up with the base of the heavily fortified East Cemetery Hill. Having ordered his field officers to dismount, Avery rode forward alone, exposing himself to the galling fire. A ball pierced his neck. In the darkness, no one saw him fall and the attack continued without him.


Photo 7- Knee High by the 4th of July- View of “low bottom” around southern branch of Winebrenner/Culp run looking north west. ECH on horizon to left- out of picture. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

Consult the period map again and you will notice the land below East Cemetery Hill is cut up in a patchwork of small fields. You will notice the numerous fences and stone walls that had to be surmounted, which would have greatly broken up a regiments order. I was told by a local guide that these fields were owned or leased by townspeople as an allotment where they could grow crops while still living in the town. The field would have been filled with Corn and Wheat, “knee high by the 4th of July” as the old saying goes. These pictures show, it was more than knee high in 2015, partly due to an abundance of late spring rains., but in 1863 this would have been just another obstacle breaking up regimental order, not to mention the darkness of night, unfamiliarity with the ground and the fact that skirmishers, entrenched troops and cannons were all firing missiles of death and destruction their way.

I believe the area shown in Photo 8 and 9 would have been where the 6th North Carolina would have been making their wheel. Keep in mind the length of the line formed by 1,000 men in three regiments. I am standing above the creek, this is certainly a low bottom, but perhaps not the one mentioned by Godwin who would have still been with his regiment on the left.

IMG_9830 copy

Photo 8a- View from “low bottom” around southern branch of Winebrenner/Culp run looking SOUTH. Culp’s Hill is to front and ECH is to the right beyond tree line. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

A portion of Hoke’s brigade, the 21st NCT and Godwin’s 57th NCT would have treked up and over the ridge, rising in Photo 9, during their wheeling movement. Looking at the map, there are the “low bottoms” more directly in their path, across the road, to the right and closer to East Cemetery Hill.


Photo 8b- View from “low bottom” around southern branch of Winebrenner/Culp run looking SOUTH. Notice how the road at right is rising.  Culp’s hill is hidden by the crest. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

I think even this low section by the stream would have been exposed to enemy fire in 1863, although the tree’s hide East Cemetery Hill today:

“Every man in the line knew what was before him. We had seen the enemy gathering on Cemetery Hill; we had laid under the fire of his numerous guns; we knew the preparations he had made for us. Yet, promptly at the command, the line moved forward, and in a few minutes we were in full view of the enemy’s batteries and his lines of infantry. His sharp-shooters emptied their rifles at us and fell back to their main line at once, and every gun was brought to bear upon us. The fire was terrific, but our men moved forward very rapidly, bearing to the right, having the batteries on Cemetery Hill as their objective point.”8

An officer in the 153rd Pennsylvania, on the skirmish line in Culp’s meadow, ordered his men to fall back before the advancing Confederates, stopping to fire 3 times before making a run for the safety of the stone wall at the base of East Cemetery hill. This could be the “sharp-shooters” mentioned by Captain Ray.


Photo 9- View of   southern branch of Winebrenner/Culp run looking north. Notice how the road at right beyond the branch is rising. The Culp house is hidden by the crest. Copyright (C) 2015 Frederick Walton Photography.

I believe at least a portion of the 6th North Carolina  would have swung through the lower part of this field during their wheel alignment but I decided that I would let my eyes trace their footsteps here. To keep my feet dry, I moved ahead to higher and dryer ground, constantly looking down toward where the stream flowed and imagined the North Carolinians picking their way through the swampy fields as they headed toward their destiny.

I entered the field further up, by the lone tree on the left in photo 8a. The heavy  tree line seen in photo 8a on the opposite side of the field and parallel to East Confederate Avenue, would have been open fields at the time of the battle. While they hide my view of East Cemetery hill, the wheeling troops would have had a clear view of the cannons they would be facing. The Federal troops above, were watching their advancing foe:


Lt. Edward Whittier

“When the enemy started on this movement their lines nearly faced our position, [Stevens 5th Maine Battery on Stevens Knoll] but as they advanced they obeyed the order given at the onset, and, pivoting on their right which rested on and moved along the outskirts of the town, they… changed direction by an almost right half wheel of their whole force…”9

Continued  in next post….


1) The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 – Volume 27 (Part II), page 480

2) August 3, 1863 letter of John A. McPherson to Colonel I. T. Avery; From the Alfonso Calhoun Avery papers, Southern historical collection, University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

3)  Causby, Thomas E., ” Storming the Stone fence at Gettysburg “, Charlotte (N. C.) observer, March 11, 1901. ,Republished in Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 29.

4) Archer, John- author and Licensed Battlefield guide stated these figures during a 2012 online tour of East Cemetery hill (; “The Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and Losses: Synopses, Orders of Battle, Strengths, Casualties, and Maps, June 9-July 14, 1863.” By J. David Petruzzi and Steven A. Stanley. p126, 2013, Savas Beatie,

5) Ray, Neill W., “The Sixth Regiment” in  “Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-1865”, edited by Walter Clark and published by the state of N. C.  in 1901.

6) The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 – Volume 27 (Part II);No. 473.; Report of CoL. Archibald C. Godwin, Fifty-seventh North Carolina Infantry, commanding Hokes brigade.

7) Ibid

8) Ray, Neill W., “The Sixth Regiment” in  “Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-1865”, edited by Walter Clark and published by the state of N. C.  in 1901.

9) Archer, John M., “The Hour was one of Horror”, 1997, Thomas , Gettysburg, Pa, pg. 40  re: Federal officer Lt. Whittier’s description in “Maine at Gettysburg”

Who was William G. Ray?

Copyright (C) 2013 by Frederick Walton


As we begin the Labor day weekend, the Sesequntinial anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg has already been relegated to the far recesses of our minds. Only two short months ago the climax of years of planning and anticipation exploded in, not one, but two reenactments that received national attention for two weeks around the July 1-3 anniversary. But that is ancient history now.  And yet, 150 years ago, the battle was far from over in late August and early September. It wasn’t until July 22, 1863 that the first casualty reports for the 6th North Carolina were published in the “Raleigh State Journal”(1). Can you imagine being a worried parent, spouse or sibling, waiting to hear if your loved one was killed or wounded, or worse yet, captured, during the horrible battles that took place in far off Pennsylvania?

Among the 178 names listed (k-20, W-128, M-30) for the 6th North Carolina regiment we find the following: “Company B. Killed–Sergt W G Ray”. Perhaps this was how his mother first received this sad news. Perhaps a friend or relative read it and conveyed it to her while offering sympathy. Perhaps a comrade of her son sent a letter home. However she heard about it, it must have been heartbreaking news.

Of the 20 names listed as killed, you may wonder why I singled out Serg’t Ray? Simple, I found his obituary in the August 26, 1863 edition of the “Hillsboro Recorder”. Having searched through hundreds of newspapers and seeing thousands of North Carolina casualties listed on page after page, it is very unusual to find an obituary for a specific soldier. Sometimes tributes are written for famous officers, but rarely is one written for an “ordinary soldier”. Here is what his said:


Was killed in battle at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863,

Sergeant WILLIAM G. RAY, of Company B, 6th N. C. 

Troops. Aged about 23 years. Thus has a noble 

youth fallen in defense of his country. At the com-

mencement of hostilities he volunteered his service 

and soon earned distinction as a brave and generous 

hearted soldier. At the first Manassas battle, com-

manded by and at the fall of the lamented fighter, he 

was slightly wounded (2). This wound detained him 

from service but a short time. At the battles before 

Richmond he was again wounded on a [xx xxx] from a

charge from the enemy’s breastworks (3) . from the ef-

fects of this wound he lingered at home some months,

 but inspired by patriotism and a love for his comrades 

in arms, he returned to his command before he was 

entirely recovered. He was in all the battles up to 

the time of his fall, fought by the memorable Sixth 

N. C. Regiment. He fought with firmness, bravery 

and determination, never faltering from duty, in camp, 

on a march or the battle field ever ready to bear his 

portion of the burdens of warfare. He was a gentle-

man, a good soldier, and a devoted Christian. Always 

modest and unassuming, he seldom passed for his true 

worth only with those with whom he was intimately 

acquainted. He was a consistent member of the Pres-

byterian church at Little River. The church has lost 

a devoted member, the army a good soldier, and his 

mother a humble and submissive son.He leaves 

an aged and afflicted mother (4), five brothers (three of 

whom are in Illinois and two in Confederate ser-

vice) and five sisters (two of whom are in Illinois 

and three in North Carolina) (5) too mourn their irre-

placeable loss but they mourn not as those that have no 

hope, for their loss is his eternal game.

                                                                                J. W. M.

My curiosity aroused, I searched out William G. Rays record in the roster of both the “Bloody Sixth”, the regimental history, and “North Carolina Troops 1861-1865 a Roster”. In both cases the soldiers record were somewhat less detailed than I would normally expect to see:

 RAY, WILLIAM G., Sergeant

Resided in Orange County where he enlisted at age 19, May 25, 1861, for the war. Mustered in as Private and promoted to Corporal on September 28, 1861. Promoted to Sergeant on January 1, 1863. Killed at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1, 1863. (6)

 This led me to research his slim compiled service record, which contained a few muster roll records, his roll of honor commemoration and his mother’s name, Emily, on a register of claims made after he was deceased.

So, who was William G. Ray? Turning back to the obituary raised more questions than it answered. It mentioned he was twice wounded, yet neither wound is mentioned in his Compiled service record or his roster entry. Searching a little further I found his name mentioned in newspaper casualty records and was able to confirm those wounds. This tells me that you can’t always trust Compiled service records to be complete records.

Going further back, I looked him up in the 1850 Census. He was a member of a large family. His parents were farmers, yet he lists his occupation in the 1860 census as laborer. His father was deceased by 1860 but his mother is still listed as farmer. Could this mean he is working elsewhere, perhaps for Charles Frederick Fisher’s North Carolina Railroad? If so, this may explain how he came to be a member of the 6th North Carolina.

I wondered who was the author of the obituary? It wasn’t his mother Emily or any of his siblings because their names do not match the initials. It’s probably not a comrade either, since there is no J.W.M. in Company B or in officer roles in the 6th NCST. The author would appear to be someone close to him, with intimate knowledge of his siblings and church membership. Perhaps a cousin or member of his church, although no obvious name popped out during my brief investigation 150 years after it was written.

Whoever J. W. M. was, he thought enough of Sergeant Ray to have a nicely written obituary written and placed in a widely read public newspaper. If we know nothing else about Ray, we have been assured by J. W. M. that he was a brave and committed soldier (his record confirms that) and that he was a devoted Christian and loving son. I don’t doubt the later, but have no way to confirm it.  Wouldn’t J. W. M. be amazed to know his tribute has now been immortalized on the world wide web!

My last bit of research was to identify William G, Ray’s grave. I have a list of places he is Not buried, but in the end I was unable to locate where his remains lie. If he was buried on the battlefield he may never be found. In 1871 the Wake County Ladies Memorial Association arranged for the remains of North Carolina’s Gettysburg dead to be returned and buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. 137 remains were returned (7). Sergeant Ray was not listed among them, although 14 are unknown. He may rest close by, but wherever he is buried, may he rest in Peace.


1 C. Mebane, Adj’t 6th N. C. Regiment, “Sixth Regiment”, Raleigh State Journal, Raleigh, N. C., July 22, 1863, RaSTJw-1 microfilm at the North Carolina State Archives researched on June 14, 2008 by Rick Walton.

2 “Lamented Fighter” refers to Colonel Frederick Charles Fisher who fell leading the 6th NC troops in their first battle, Ray is listed in the August 1, 1861 “Richmond Daily Dispatch” list of casualties in “Col. Fisher’s regiment” (6th NCST) as “slightly wounded”. Not mentioned in his Compiled Service records.

3 Listed in June 18, 1862 North Carolina Standard as “Slight” wound under 6th NCT casualties from the May 31st battle of Seven Pines. Not mentioned in his Compiled Service records.

4 The name “Emily Ray, Mo” [mother] appears in his compiled service record on a register of claims of deceased soldiers from NC which were filed for settlement in the office of the Confederate states auditor for the war department.

5 1850 census (11/22/1850) for first district in the county of Orange, NC list the following: William D Ray, 53, farmer, Emily 48, Eliza 23, Peter 21, Isaac 19, George 16, Hugh 14, Margaret 11, William 9, Henry 7, Emily 4. All born in NC. William SR., Peter, Isaac and George list their occupation as Farmer. Isaac and everyone younger except emily is listed as having attended school in the last year.

The 1860 (8/26/1860) census lists the following: Emily Ray 57 farmer with personal estate worth $1300, Eliza 25 (should be 33), Margaret 21, William 18 laborer, Emily 13. They live in the Veasey Household

6 Jordon Jr., Weymouth T., “North Carolina Troops 1861-1865 A Roster”, Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC, 1973, Pg 290, second column.

7 Purser, Charles E., “A Story Behind Every Stone”, Scuppernog Press, Wake Forest, NC 27588, 2005, Pg 19-21.