Soldier Letter from Batchelor’s Creek

John Walker to Mother letter dated February 7, 1864
Walker Papers,Duke University Archives
Copyright (C) 2016 Transcribed by Frederick E. Walton February 17, 2016

18640207 letter John Walker to mother-1
Camp near Kinston, N. C. [1]
February the 7th [1864]
Dear Mother,
I seat myself this morning to let you know where I am and where how I am. I am well with the exception of a bad cold and in camp near Kinston, N. C. but how long we will stay here I don’t know. We just got back from Newbern [2] Thursday. We left the Rapidan Va. the 20th Jan and have been marching and roaming about ever since. We left here Saturday the 30th of Jan and marched on Newbern for the purpose of attacking it and taking it by storm. but for some cause or other for not taking the place I don’t know. Our Brigade had a fierce engagement at Jumping River [4], but succeeded in routing them and driving them on into town. Capturing most of them. but lost but two men[5] in our Regt mortally wounded. Our Brigade done all the fighting that was done. It has been reported in camp ever since we left Va.that our Brigade was going to Salisbury. but I think it doubtful myself but we have orders to leave tomorrow. Some say to go up the Road I dont know, whether it is or not, I hope so. We captured on this raid the rise of 400 prisoners 2 pieces of Artillary 40 horses 300 small arms and equipments some few negros an amount of commisary and quartermaster stores clothing &c. [6] I am going to send some things to Mebanesville by Mr. Wilson and you must send after them. don’t send me anything more until I write for them. I will send my coat and pants back because they dont fit at all. I shall write no more this time J. K. W.

Transcribers comment: This note is written on both sides of a scrap of paper. It is written in ink, in a fairly neat and legible hand, although the ink bleeds through the paper. Walker says “I seat myself this morning…” Because of the steady hand and flourishes in the letters, I picture the writer sitting at a table somewhere with the ease to leisurely write, vs sitting around a campfire with a board balanced on his knee.


Footnotes:

1)  John K. Walker was a member of Co. K, 6th North Carolina State Troops, who were members of Hoke’s Brigade. The Compiled Service records show their movements as Follow: “Marched from Raccoon ford to Gordonsville Virginia January 21, 1864. Took the cars at that place January 22 arrived at Garysburg, N. C. January 24 and remained there about six days. Took the cars at that point for Kinston. Marched to Newbern. Participated in the engagement of Bachelors Creek 1st February 1864. returned to Kinston February 4, 1864. Whole distance traveled about 300 miles.”

2) New Bern, North Carolina. The Colonial Capitol of North Carolina that had been under Federal Occupation since the March 1862 Battle of New Bern. The reason Walker was here in 1864 was to recapture this Carolina Port and it’s supplies to support the Army of Northern Va in the upcoming Campaign.

3) Thursday, February 4, 1864

4)  Jumping Run branches off of Bachelors creek and crosses the Neuse road about 2 miles north of the place where Bachelors creek crosses the road. This is approximately where the Federal Outpost would have been located in advance of the Blockhouse protecting the Batchelor’s creek crossing.

5) A search of the 6th North Carolina Roster has been unsuccessful in identifying two mortally wounded soldiers at the time of this battle.

6) General Pickett reported the following in his official report of the incident: “The result may be summed up as follows, viz.: Killed and wounded, about one hundred; captured thirteen officers, two hundred and eighty-four privates, fourteen negroes, two rifle pieces and caissons, three hundred stand of small arms, four ambulances, three wagons, one hundred and three animals, a quantity of clothing and garrison equipage, and two flags.”

 

 

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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: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/cwp/item/2012647703/

downloaded from the Library of Congress at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/cwp/item/2012647703/

LOC Photo 1-“Battle-field of Gettysburg. Scene of the charge of the Louisiana Tigers” http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/cwp/item/2012647703/

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.

Rick, Dan and William Fassanito

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:

http://www.loc.gov/item/2012647712/

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. http://www.loc.gov/item/2012647712/

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. http://www.loc.gov/item/2012647712/

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.

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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: https://arcweb.archives.gov/id/529223?q=gettysburg%20cemetery%20hill

Simply titled "view of town" this is the glass Plate negative in the National Archives https://arcweb.archives.gov/id/529223?q=gettysburg%20cemetery%20hill

NA Photo 1- Simply titled “view of town” this is the glass Plate negative in the National Archives https://arcweb.archives.gov/id/529223?q=gettysburg%20cemetery%20hill

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

2014 Stevens Knoll Pan copy

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]

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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.

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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]

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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?

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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]

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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.

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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:

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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]

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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?

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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.

Footnotes:

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

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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

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 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.ndlpcoop/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.

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

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.

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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:

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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

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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.

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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

Photo 3 is looking toward the Culp house, barely visible behind the trees. This shows the position of the 6th North Carolina, 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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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….


Footnotes:

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 (http://www.gettysburgdaily.com/licensed-battlefield-guide-john-archer-east-cemetery-hill-part-7-battle-walk/); “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, http://www.savasbeatie.com

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”

Walking Home

Wednesday, May 20, 2015– “How far have you ever walked?” asked Philip Brown while answering questions from school children visiting the historic 1840 North Carolina State Capitol. Philip had spent the last 9 days walking. IMG_3836 He has walked through rain and steamy heat. He told me that one of the most difficult walks was along a road side trench where he felt like one leg grew longer to compensate for the slope. My back hurts just thinking about it!  He has slept under the stars, in churches and hotels. His meals are from the kindness of strangers. People have read about him in the newspapers and pulled their cars over to chat. He walks all day long taking only a 30-45 minute break for lunch and a rest. He started in New Berne, N. C. and has clocked about 130 miles. He showed me the blisters on his feet that he earned for his trouble.

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Philip was inspired by Washington Duke, who walked home after the Civil War ended. Brown is not portraying Duke specifically, but is representing all the Confederate soldiers who walked long distances to return to their often war torn homes after fighting in the war. He also hopes this will help people remember all the veterans who didn’t alway receive the hero’s welcome they deserved when they came home.

Memorial Day is a good time to ignore the SALES at the mall and think about the sacrifices that have given us our freedom. When is the last time you took your kids to a Veterans Memorial Day program?

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He told me about Vietnam veterans he had met along his journey, many who had spent more than a year patrolling far-away jungles that were not only hostile because of enemy combatants, but often because of mother nature herself. He downplayed his tiring journey saying that this is a two week commitment, but those guys were in the jungles for over a year, and often came home to be spat upon by protesters.

Sadly, those protesters had ignored the fact that the young men of that generation had simply answered their government’s call to service, just like the young men of North Carolina answered their state’s call a century before. It’s doubtful these boys were anxious to sacrifice their lives, but they had a thing called HONOR that compelled them to serve.

Today too many North Carolinians have turned their backs on the men who answered  their states call to serve in 1861. They disrespect them reasoning that they fought for slavery,  just like the protesters of the 1960’s disrespected their peers who fought, calling them baby killers. Both are gross mischaracterizations that dishonor the memory of young men that bravely fought after being called to serve.

I was at the Capitol with my pal Woody to welcome Philip and talk to school groups about the Civil War and it’s impact on Raleigh. We portrayed Federal troops. If Washington Duke passed through Raleigh on his way home to Durham, this is who he would have encountered. Some 80,000 Federal troops camped around Raleigh, while surrender negotiations were taking place up the road at Bennett Place.

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We had the opportunity to talk to several school groups, but they were often more interested in my bayonet than Phillip’s blistered feet. “Why didn’t you just take the bus?” asked one astonished 4th grader. Philip smiled and explained how walking gave him an opportunity to honor those veterans and draw some attention to them this memorial day.  I’m not sure the youngsters understood the symbolism, because they asked again and again “…but why didn’t you just take a bus?”

As the crowds died down, Philip borrowed my knife to sharpen a pencil and added this days events to his journal. “What are you writing?” asked one visitor. “Memories” replied Philip. I’m sure walking 130 miles has generated many. I hope his visit to the Capitol was a pleasant one.

Philips journey will end at the Duke Homestead, having traveled a total distance of about 166 miles,  on Saturday, May 23rd with a day long event that is open to the public.

The Bloodiest Day

September 17, 1862The Battle of Sharpsburg- known as The single bloodiest day in the Civil War. The 6th North Carolina was there!

Author at Dunker church in 2007

The 6th North Carolina State Troops arrived in Sharpsburg on September 15, tired and hungry, after spending the previous day fighting to block the Federal army from passing through Boonesborough Gap, and then acting as a rear guard as the Confederates consolidated at Sharpsburg.  Law’s brigade was posted on the Hagarstown Pike with their right posted at the Dunker Church and the line extended along the turnpike. The other regiments in Law’s 1474 man brigade were the 4th Alabama, the 2nd Mississippi and the 11th Mississippi.1 Regimental strengths for the Sixth NC at this battle are not easily found, but in discussing this with my colleague and fellow researcher, Randall Garrison, we guesstimate their strength to be around 400.

They crossed the high wooden fences bordering the Hagarstown pike and entered a field adjacent to Miller’s cornfield. This is where they fought….and died. By mid morning it was over. They were recalled to the woods around the Dunker church and waited in readiness under a heavy bombardment of cannon fire for a call to action that never came.

Various casualty records can be found, all with slightly different numbers but they are all in the same ballpark. Iobst, in “The Bloody Sixth“, referred to a casualty report in the October 8, 1862 “Hillsborough Reporter” of  8 Killed and 105 Wounded for a total of 113 Casualties. Contrast this with John Micheal Priest’s figures from the Official Records of 6 Killed and 94 wounded, although  Col. Laws report2 in the O.R.’s states 8 killed and 117 wounded. I found a casualty list for the 6th North Carolina in the Wednesday, Oct. 1, 1862 “North Carolina Standard” that I used as the basis for my research, which agrees with Iobst’s figures of 8 Killed and 105 Wounded, but after going through the rosters I found that even these figures don’t  match. My research has identified 12 killed.

Of the nearly 4,000 deaths resulting from that horrific battle, at least 12 men from the 6th North Carolina State troops (“The Bloody Sixth”) made the ultimate Sacrifice that day 150 years ago.

They have not been forgotten:


6th NCST Roster of  Killed from the battle of Sharpsburg, Maryland

as reported in the 7-31-1861 North Carolina standard and verified against North Carolina Troops Roster (Jordon), Bloody Sixth Roster (Manarin), The O.R’s and Compiled Service Records and transcribed by Historian Rick Walton, I am including the 12 members of the 6th Killed in action below. (use scroll at bottom to see entire table)

Co Rank Name in Newspaper Name on roster County enlisted Age enlisted Date enlisted Occupation Resided
C Captain Capt Lowrie Lowrie, Houston B. unknown 22 5/16/1861 unknown unknown
C Sergeant Serg’t. M Markham Markham, Matthew Orange 25 5/1/1861 unknown Orange
D Corporal Corp’l A L Poteet Poteet, Alburto L. Mecklenburg 41 5/28/1861 unknown Burke
D Private G Stanford Stanford, John J. Alamance 33 6/27/1861 Farmer Burke
D Private Henry Roseman Roseman, Henry Alamance 25 6/15/1861 unknown unknown
D Private L L Hank Houk, Lawson L. Mecklenburg 19 5/281861 unknown unknown
D Private <not listed> Branch, Martin J. Alamance 22 6/27/1861 unknown Burke
E Sergeant Serg’t P A Erwin Erwin, Isaac Mecklenburg 30 5/28/1861 Farmer Yancey
G Private Thos Cress Cress, Thomas Mecklenburg 25 5/29/1861 Farmer Rowan
H Corporal Corp’l J B Walker Walker, James B. Caswell 21 6/6/1861 Farmer Caswell
H Private J T Wren Wren, John T. Caswell 24 6/10/1861 unknown unknown
K Private David Hatchell Hatchell, David Wake ? 9/1/1861 Unknown Unknown

Notes:
1. Priest, John Michael, Antietam: The Soldiers Battle, White Maine Publishing Company, Shippensburg, PA, Pg 323.

2 O. R., Series 1, Volume XIX/1, Pg. 811

Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Sharpsburg

Is it the Battle of Antietam or The Battle of Sharpsburg? They refer to the same terrible battle fought on September 17, 1862 and often referred to as the the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. How you refer to this battle may indicate your loyalties. Southerners refer to it as Sharpsburg, after the town near where it was fought. Northerners  refer to it as the battle of Antietam after the creek that separated the armies at the center of the battlefield. Since the Yankee’s won the war, lots of history books refer to it that way too. (To the victor goes the spoils). With about 23,000 casualties between the two armies, there was no victor on this battlefield. Historians generally consider the battle a draw, although many arguments exist that McClellan lost his opportunity to wipe out the Confederate army and end the war. On the other hand, General Lee, with a smaller force, used gutsy tactics and aggressive action to save his army from annihilation. No matter what you call it, I’m glad that you are commemorating the 150th anniversary of this seminal battle and mourn the flower of youth that perished from both sides of the conflict.

The 6th North Carolina State Troops at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Sharpsburg

Members of the 6th North Carolina state troops traveled to the reenactment battlefield near Boonesoro, Maryland from across eastern North Carolina and Virginia. The 350 mile journey took us a little more than 7 hours to drive. Crawling the last 50 miles or so through rush hour Washington traffic on the interstate reminded me of the resistance provided by Confederates troops blocking the mountain passes prior to the main battle. This must be how the Federal army felt…knowing they had someplace to be, but obsticles in your path are slowing you down. Finally clear of traffic, we hurried along the narrow, winding mountain roads for the final 20 miles or so. We watched the late summer sun sink behind the horizon, as our spirits also sank, knowing we had missed dinner with our comrades and would be forced to set up camp in the dark, never a fun experience.

We easily found the battle field thanks to “Penney”, Matt Holder’s British accented Garmin navigator, and quickly got registered. I am grateful to Matt for driving me and William to the event and back home, even after working all morning before we left.

We drove into camp to unload our minimal gear with our headlights supplementing the fading twilight and were directed to General Stepps HQ camp. Parking the truck close by we got out and stretched our cramped legs before plunging into the dark shadows under the forested glens to look for our camp. The first fire we approached was no one we recognized and they didn’t know where the 6th NCST was either. “Try over there” replied three or four lounging Confederates, their arms pointing in every direction of the compass.

Pushing through the underbrush we stumbled into a small clearing full of glistening white A-frames set up in orderly rows filling the space in every direction. So much for “campaign style” camping! There were more A-frames in any one of the rows than exist amongst the entire Carolina legion, so we knew this was not the right place. Walking along the rough logging road we soon saw our truck in the distance, having circumnavigated the woods but still not seeing anyone we knew. We had just about given up hope when we spied Colonel Roberts in the deepening shadows and he was kind enough to direct us to our nearby camp. We had nearly parked in front of it and had passed it by without noticing the naturally camouflaged entrance.

The camp was well hidden, close to the water buffaloes and latrines, nicely groomed by the labor of our earlier arriving  comrades and fully populated with their dog tents and shebangs. Most of our company had gone to eat supper. A few souls had stayed behind and gave us a cheerful greeting and hearty welcome. There were not many spots available so we choose a large empty area in the center of camp. It was too late to do more than throw down our knapsacks. We would hang our fly tomorrow in the light. The weather forecast was  favorable and the still air inside the sheltering woods was a little warm and humid, but a breath of air occasionally waved the leaves, promising a cooler respite during the night.

There was no Campfire so we ate an unplanned for cold supper by flickering lantern light. I had eaten a late lunch and made a supper out of the crackers I had brought for snacks. Just as I was laying out my wool blanket on top of my poncho, the rest of the company started filtering in and the next 30 minutes were spent greeting old comrades. Without a central campfire to draw us together, everyone drifted off either to an early sleep or to sit in the shadows in little knots visiting amongst themselves. The long ride to Maryland and the long walk back to camp from the parking lot was enough to wear me out and I soon found myself half listening to the comrades who were gathered around our lantern before dozing off to a sound sleep.

Coming Next- Saturdays Battle.