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The Gettysburg National Military Park 6/04/2023

by Chris Guenzler

The two travellers arose and following our morning preparations, went to Bob Evans for an excellent breakfast then checked out and found the depot here in Chambersburg.

Cumberland Valley Chambersburg station built in 1906. The Cumberland Valley Railroad was originally chartered in 1831 to connect with Pennsylvania's Main Line of Public Works. Freight and passenger service in the Cumberland Valley in south central Pennsylvania from near Harrisburg to Chambersburg began in 1837, with service later extended to Hagerstown, Maryland and then extending into the Shenandoah Valley to Winchester, Virginia. During the American Civil War, the line had strategic importance in supplying Union troops in the Shenandoah Valley. It also ran the first passenger sleeping car in the United States on the Chambersburg-Harrisburg route in 1839. The Pennsylvania Railroad gained control of the CVRR as early as 1859, and officially purchased it on June 2, 1919. The PRR's successor, the Penn Central, closed all railway facilities in Chambersburg in 1972 and its successor, Conrail, abandoned major pieces of the line in 1981.

On the corner of the building are these signs. We left Chambersburg but east of there, stopped when we saw railroad exhibits at Norlo Park in Fayetteville.

Pennsylvania Railroad caboose 447951 built by the railroad in 1942.

Pennsylvania Railroad caboose 477045 built by the railroad in 1916.

Pennsylvania Railroad flat car 469745 built by the railroad/General Steel in 1956.

National Fruit Products Company wooden tanked vinegar car 22. Constructed in 1929 as a flatcar, the tank was added on ten years later by owner National Fruit Products. The car operated in revenue service until 1972, its main job being to haul vinegar to its owner's bottling plant in Winchester, Virginia.

Mont Alto Railroad Quincy station. This station has been moved at least three times and was bought by Bill Putch, Producing Director of Totem Pole Playhouse and husband of actress Jean Stapleton, who moved to his Caledonia Station Restaurant on US 30 in 1982. It was purchased by James Fouchard in 1987 and later moved to another site on US 30. It was acquired by Guilford Township in 2008 and was moved to Norlo Park and restored to Cumberland Valley/Pennsylvania Railroad color scheme from information provided by Mr. Fouchard. It now serves as a museum.

Mont Alta Railroad Quincy station plaque.

On Saturdays throughout the summer months, the Cumberland Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society operates small scale train rides around Norlo Park. Since we were here on a Sunday, they were not operating. From here I drove us to McKnightstown.

Western Maryland McKnightstown station which has been converted into a residence. We made our way to Gettysburg for the city's stations before visiting the famous battlesite.

Western Maryland, formerly Hanover Junction Railroad, Gettyburg Railroad station built in 1859. In 1838, the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad constructed a line from Baltimore, Maryland north to York, Pennsylvania. In 1851 the Hanover Branch Railroad began construction of a line westward to Hanover from the Baltimore and Susquehanna main line. It opened in 1852, and the point where it connected with the Baltimore and Susquehanna was named Hanover Junction. It is located approximately 46 miles north of Baltimore and 11 miles south of York. It is 13 miles from Hanover and 29 miles from Gettysburg.

During the Civil War, the station was raided by Confederate Lieutenant Colonel E.V. White and the 35th Battalion of Virginia Cavalry on June 27, 1863, several days before the Battle of Gettysburg. The telegraph wires were cut and railroad bridges over the Codorus Creek were burned. The railroad station was left intact. President Abraham Lincoln visited the station on November 18 and 19, 1863, on his was to Gettysburg to give the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers Cemetery. On April 21, 1865, President Lincoln's funeral train passed through Hanover Junction.

The station served as both a hospital during the battle and hub for outgoing wounded soldiers and incoming resources and supplies following the end of the war. In 2015, following several years of delays, the station, which was originally owned by the Borough of Gettysburg but was bought by the Gettysburg Foundation, the non-profit partner to the National Park Service, was placed under the purview of the National Park Service.

Reading Railroad Gettysburg station built in 1884.

Gettysburg and Harrisburg Railroad display board. We then drove to the Gettyburg Visitors Center and received a national park guide.

A New Birth of Freedom

The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War, the Union victory that ended General Robert E. Lee's second and most ambitious invasion of the North. Often referred to as the "High Water Mark of the Rebellion", Gettysburg was the Civil War's bloodiest battle and was also the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln's immortal "Gettysburg Address".

Battle of Gettysburg, (July 1–3, 1863), major engagement in the American Civil War, fought 35 miles southwest of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that was a crushing Southern defeat. It is generally regarded as the turning point of the war and has probably been more intensively studied and analyzed than any other battle in U.S. history.

After defeating the Union forces of Gen. Joseph Hooker at Chancellorsville, Virginia, in May, Confederate General Robert E. Lee decided to invade the North in hopes of further discouraging the enemy and possibly inducing European countries to recognize the Confederacy. Confederate morale was high while defeatist sentiment was spreading in the North, and Lee's army numbered more than 71,000 troops.

In preparation for his invasion, Lee reorganized his army into three corps under General A.P. Hill, General James Longstreet, and General Richard S. Ewell. The cavalry was led by Gen. Jeb Stuart. During the last week in June 1863, Stuart made a bold and possibly ill-advised cavalry sweep completely around the Federal forces, passing between them and Washington, D.C. On June 28, when his Army of Northern Virginia was extended deep into Pennsylvania, Lee was out of touch with his cavalry under Stuart, which should have served as the eyes of the army.

Through a spy, Lee received a report that Hooker's Army of the Potomac was at Frederick, Maryland, under a new commander, Gen. George G. Meade, who had just replaced Hooker. Lee took immediate steps to meet this unexpected threat. Ewell, whose corps had been preparing to carry the offensive across the Susquehanna from positions at Carlisle and York, was ordered to move either to Cashtown or Gettysburg. Longstreet’s corps at Chambersburg and Hill’s corps at Greenwood, both of which had been preparing to move north, were to march east to Cashtown. This concentration east of South Mountain would put Lee in an excellent strategic position to defend or attack.

Early on June 29 Meade started north with Gen. John Buford’s two cavalry brigades scouting ahead of the army. While maneuvering to keep between Lee and the Federal capital, Meade intended to make Lee turn and fight before he could cross the Susquehanna. On June 30 Buford’s troopers met and drove back a Confederate brigade from Hill’s corps that was approaching Gettysburg. Hill then authorized Gen. Henry Heth to lead his division into Gettysburg the next day. Buford, meanwhile, had immediately recognized the strategic importance of Gettysburg as a crossroads and prepared to hold the town until reinforcements arrived.

On July 1 one of Buford’s brigades, armed with the newly issued Spencer repeating carbines, delayed Heth’s division until Gen. John F. Reynolds’s I Corps began to arrive at about 11:00 am. A vigorous counterattack drove Heth's two leading brigades back with heavy losses on both sides. Reynolds was mortally wounded in the engagement; he would be the highest-ranking officer to die at Gettysburg and one of the most senior commanders to be killed in action during the war.

By 1:00 pm all three divisions of the I Corps were deployed along Seminary Ridge, and two divisions of Gen. Oliver O. Howard’s XI Corps had arrived to defend the northern approaches to the town. A third division of the XI Corps was posted on Cemetery Hill. Howard reached the field about noon, turning his XI Corps over to Gen. Carl Schurz and succeeding Gen. Abner Doubleday in overall command of the battlefield. The Federals resisted on both fronts until about 2:30, but an attack by Gen. Jubal Early’s division against the northeast flank of the XI Corps led to collapse of their entire position. The XI Corps was routed, exposing the flank of the I Corps and forcing it to retreat. Before the defenders could rally on Cemetery Hill, the two Union corps had sustained more than 50 percent casualties. Lee now had superior strength available, but, being in the dark as to the enemy’s true dispositions, he did not want to bring on a general engagement until Longstreet's corps arrived.

About 4:00 pm Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock arrived to examine the situation for Meade and decide whether to drop back to previously prepared positions along Pipe Creek, some 15 miles southeast. After recognizing the importance of Culp’s Hill and ordering that it be occupied, Hancock studied the terrain and reported that Gettysburg was the place to fight. Having reached the same conclusion, Meade had already ordered the III Corps (under General Daniel Sickles) and the XII Corps (under Gen. Henry Slocum) forward. Lee told Ewell to attack Cemetery Hill "if possible," but Ewell did not elect to take the risk. By the end of the first day, total casualties already amounted to some 15,500 killed, wounded, captured, or missing.

The second day (July 2)

By dawn Meade’s troops had occupied a line along Culp's Hill, Cemetery Hill, and Cemetery Ridge. Both opposing commanders recognized that a Confederate success on the Federal right would jeopardize Meade's position by threatening his line of communication along the Baltimore Pike. Lee wanted to exploit this strategic weakness, but Ewell argued that Longstreet should make the main attack on the opposite flank. Longstreet, on the other hand, contended that Lee should make Meade attack.

Delayed by the opposition of his corps commanders, Lee did not issue his orders until 11:00 am. Longstreet was to envelop the Federal south flank and attack north along the Emmitsburg Pike, where Lee erroneously believed Meade's main line to be. Hill and Ewell were to make secondary attacks. When Longstreet's artillery started preparatory firing at 3:00 pm, Meade rushed to the heretofore neglected south flank and found that Sickles had not positioned his III Corps along Cemetery Ridge as directed but had moved forward to higher ground. This created a dangerous salient and weakened the south flank, but it was too late to pull him back. General John Bell Hood's division of Longstreet's corps attacked the Union left at 4:00 pm.

About this time General Gouverneur K. Warren, Meade's chief engineer, had reached Little Round Top and found it undefended. Before the 500 Alabama troops who had scaled Big Round Top could continue their attack from that hill, Warren had diverted sufficient Federal reserves to defend Little Round Top. While Warren’s action secured the main battle position, the Federal III Corps was driven from "Sickles's salient" with crippling losses. There was desperate fighting at Little Round Top, Devil's Den, the Wheat Field, and the Peach Orchard. Both Hood and Sickles were seriously wounded. Confederate secondary attacks were so poorly timed, however, that Meade could shift strength from quiet parts of his line and move reserves to meet each new threat. Hill attacked too late to achieve significant results, and not until 6:00 pm did Ewell launch the assault that should have begun hours earlier to coincide with Longstreet's. Some of Ewell’s troops reached Cemetery Hill but were driven off, while others were stopped on the southeast slopes of Culp's Hill. Casualties on the second day numbered some 20,000 killed, captured, wounded, or missing; taken by itself, the second day of Gettysburg ranks as the 10th bloodiest battle of the entire war.

The third day and Pickett's Charge (July 3)

In spite of Longstreet's objections, Lee was determined to attack again on the third day. Meade, on the other hand, was less confident, and it was only after a formal council of war that he decided to stay and fight. While Ewell made a secondary attack against Culp’s Hill, Lee planned to hit the Federal centre with 10 brigades, three of which were the fresh troops of Gen. George Pickett’s division. Although this attack has been immortalized as "Pickett’s Charge", that general's only overall responsibility was to form the divisions of Brig. General James Johnston Pettigrew (who had assumed command of Heth’s division after Heth was wounded on July 1) and General Isaac Trimble (who had taken over General Dorsey Pender's division after Pender was mortally wounded on July 2) as they reached their attack positions on his left. Longstreet, not Pickett, was in command of the operation. Shortly after 1:00 pm the Confederates started a tremendous artillery bombardment, which was answered immediately by Federal counterfire.

At 3:00 pm the infantry moved out of the woods in parade ground order and started across the 1,400 yards of open fields toward Cemetery Ridge. The Federals watched in awed silence as some 15,000 Confederate troops moved toward them. Then the Federal artillery, which had ceased fire an hour earlier to save ammunition, went back into action with devastating effect at a range of about 700 yards. Almost unscathed by the Confederate artillery preparation, most of which had gone over their heads, the roughly10,000 Federal infantry against whom the attack was directed waited coolly behind stone walls and held their fire until the Confederates were within effective range. The southern spearhead broke through and penetrated onto Cemetery Ridge, but there it could do no more. Critically weakened by artillery during their approach, formations hopelessly tangled, lacking reinforcement, and under savage attack from three sides, they marked "the high tide of the Confederacy" with the bodies of their dead and wounded. Leaving 19 battle flags and hundreds of prisoners, the Confederates retreated, demoralized but without panic. Part of one Union brigade advanced to hasten their retreat, but the Army of the Potomac had been too roughly handled to mount a counterattack.

Early in the day, Ewell had attacked Culp's Hill without success. Stuart, whose bone-tired brigades had arrived the previous evening, was driven back by three Federal cavalry brigades when he tried to envelop Meade's strategic north flank. At the other end of the lines, Federal cavalry was foolishly employed in futile and costly charges across rough terrain against Hood's infantry.

Lee waited during July 4 to meet an attack on Seminary Ridge that never came. That night, taking advantage of a heavy rain, he started retreating to Virginia through the South Mountain passes. Lee was held up at Williamsport for a week waiting for the Potomac River to run down, but on the night of July 13 he withdrew his army and trains into the Shenandoah Valley before Meade, who had appeared on his front the day before, could launch an attack.

Significance, legacy, and casualties

After the war, when Gettysburg was recognized as the turning point, Southern sentiment charged Longstreet with "losing the war" by not properly cooperating with his commander on July 2 and 3. Longstreet was unenthusiastic about the invasion of Pennsylvania and advocated forcing the Federal army to attack. Confederate successes at First and Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg had convinced him that the war could be won by adopting a tactical defensive posture while conducting strategic offensive operations. However, according to Lee's biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman, "Lee never gave any intimation that he considered Longstreet's failure at Gettysburg more than the error of a good soldier. To Longstreet’s credit was the belief that Cemetery Ridge, on July 2–3, was too strong to be stormed successfully. If, when the balance of Longstreet’s account is struck, it still is adverse to him, it does not warrant the traditional accusation that he was the villain of the piece".

Lee's defeat stemmed from overconfidence in his troops, Ewell’s inability to fill the boots of General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, and faulty reconnaissance. The last cannot be attributed entirely to Stuart's unfortunate raid. Lee was so dependent on Stuart personally that he failed to properly employ the four cavalry brigades left at his disposal. Meade has been criticized for not destroying the Army of Northern Virginia by a vigorous pursuit. However, it must be said to his credit that only five days after taking command, Meade had stopped the Confederate invasion and won a three-day battle. Coming the day before Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's triumph at Vicksburg, Meade's victory meant that destruction of the Confederacy was only a matter of time.

Losses were among the war's heaviest: of about 94,000 Northern troops, casualties numbered about 23,000 (with more than 3,100 killed) of more than 71,000 Southerners, there were about 28,000 casualties (with some 3,900 killed). Dedication of the National Cemetery at the site in November 1863 was the occasion of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The battlefield became a national military park in 1895 and jurisdiction passed to the National Park Service in 1933.

Our Visit

Outside the visitor center we found an interesting statue.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America.

The words of his Gettysburg Address. We drove from the visitors center to Cemetery Ridge via the auto tour.

A Leister Farms old barn was found here.

Pennsylvania Cavalry statue.

A view looking to the Pennsylvania Mermorial.

Cannons and a memorial plaque.

Major General George Gordon Meade, Commander of the Army of the Potomac 12/31/1815 to 11/6/1872.

Cannons on Cemetery Ridge.

Three views of Cemetery Ridge. We drove into Gettysburg and spotted a caboose.

Pittsburgh and Lake Erie wooden bobber caboose 114 later Maryland and Pennsylania 2005, built in 1890. It was in service until 1925. We then returned to the park.

The Pennsylvania Memorial. I drove us to the High Water Mark.

This memorial was erected by the Congress to commemorate the services of that portion of the Army of the Potomac composed of cavalry, artillery, infantry and engineers of the Regular Army of the United States in the Gettysburg Campaign June - July 1863. We went out of the park then came back into the park to the North Carolina Memorial.

North Carolina Memorial. The North Carolina Monument, dedicated in 1929, represents the North Carolina soldiers at Gettysburg. Early in the day, the Confederate army positioned itself on high ground here along Seminary Ridge, through town, and north of Cemetery and Culp’s hills. Union forces occupied Culp's and Cemetery hills and along Cemetery Ridge south to the Round Tops. The lines of both armies formed two parallel "fishhooks".

The views between and along Seminary Ridge.

North Carolina Moneument. The North Carolina monument is southwest of Gettysburg on West Confederate Avenue. It was dedicated on July 3, 1929. North Carolina provided 14,147 men to the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg, the second largest state contingent after Virginia. It lost over 6,000 casualties, more than 40% of the men engaged. It is the largest number of casualties at Gettysburg from any Confederate state and represents over one fourth of all Confederate casualties in the battle. North Carolina is also represented by monuments to the 26th North Carolina and 43rd North Carolina Infantry Regiments.

Cannons near the North Carolina Monument.

The Virginia Memorial. The State of Virginia monument is southwest of Gettysburg on West Confederate Avenue. The monument was the first of the Confederate State monuments at Gettysburg. It was dedicated on June 8, 1917 and unveiled by Miss Virginia Carter, a niece of Robert E. Lee. Virginia contributed over 19,000 men to the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg, the largest contingent from the twelve Confederate states. Almost 4,500 of these – almost 1 out of 4 – became casualties, the second highest state total.

Posey's Brigade 12th. 16th. 19th. 48th. of the Mississippi Infantry. July 2 Arrived and took position here in the morning. Through some misunderstanding of orders instead of the Brigade advancing in compact ranks in support of the troops on its right in their assault on the Union lines, the regiments were ordered forward at different times. Deployed as skirmishers and fighting in detachments they pushed back the Union outposts and drove some artillerists for a while from their guns but did not join in the attack upon the Union position on Cemetery Ridge. July 3 Was held in reserve here supporting Artillery in its front. July 4 In line here all day. At dark began the march to Hagerstown. Present 1150. Killed 12. Wounded 71. Total 83.

Army of Northern Virginia. The Gettysburg campaign was a military invasion of Pennsylvania by the main Confederate army under General Robert E. Lee in summer 1863. It was the first time during the war the Confederate Army attempted a full scale invasion of a free state. The Union won a decisive victory at Gettysburg, July 1–3, with heavy casualties on both sides. Lee managed to escape back to Virginia with most of his army. It was a turning point in the American Civil War, with Lee increasingly pushed back toward Richmond until his surrender in April 1865. The Union Army of the Potomac was commanded by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker and then (from June 28) by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade. After his victory in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia moved north for a massive raid designed to obtain desperately needed supplies, to undermine civilian morale in the North, and to encourage anti-war elements. Lee's army slipped away from Federal contact at Fredericksburg, Virginia, on June 3, 1863. The largest predominantly cavalry battle of the war was fought at Brandy Station on June 9. The Confederates crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains and moved north through the Shenandoah Valley, capturing the Union garrison at Winchester, in the Second Battle of Winchester, June 13–15. Crossing the Potomac River, Lee's Second Corps advanced through Maryland and Pennsylvania, reaching the Susquehanna River and threatening the state capital of Harrisburg. However, the Army of the Potomac was in pursuit and had reached Frederick, Maryland, before Lee realized his opponent had crossed the Potomac. Lee moved swiftly to concentrate his army around the crossroads town of Gettysburg.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the deadliest of the war. Starting as a chance meeting engagement on July 1, the Confederates were initially successful in driving Union cavalry and two infantry corps from their defensive positions, through the town, and onto Cemetery Hill. On July 2, with most of both armies now present, Lee launched fierce assaults on both flanks of the Union defensive line, which were repulsed with heavy losses on both sides. On July 3, Lee focused his attention on the Union center. The defeat of his massive infantry assault, Pickett's Charge, caused Lee to order a retreat that began the evening of July 4.

The Confederate retreat to Virginia was plagued by bad weather, difficult roads, and numerous skirmishes with Union cavalry. However, Meade's army did not maneuver aggressively enough to prevent Lee from crossing the Potomac to safety on the night of July 13–14.

Barksdale's Charge. The monument to Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade is southwest of Gettysburg on West Confederate Avenue. There is also a position marker on Emmitsburg Road. Barksdale's Brigade was part of Longstreet's attack on July 2nd. Leaving the woods near the location of the monument, it surged into the Peach Orchard with Barksdale leading them on horseback, hat off and white hair flying. The charge smashed through Union lines for a mile until it met a counterattack by a Union Second Corps brigade under Colonel George Willard – troops that Barksdale's Brigade had helped to capture at Harper's Ferry in 1862. The Union counterattack stopped Barksdale’s advance. He was wounded three times, the last a mortal wound to the chest, and his men were forced to leave him on the field as they pulled back. Barksdale was taken to a field hospital at the Hummelbaugh farmhouse where he died on July 3rd.

Mississippi Memorial. The State of Mississippi monument at Gettysburg is southwest of town on West Confederate Avenue. A small presentation tablet is near the walkway to the monument. The statue was sculpted by Donald DeLue, who also created the nearby State of Louisiana monument and the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument. it was dedicated on October 19, 1973. Mississippi sent over 4,900 men to Gettysburg, with almost 1,500 becoming casualties. It was the fifth largest contingent from the twelve Confederate State at Gettysburg and the fifth highest casualty total.

Longstreet Tower views display boards.

Culp's Hill Observation Tower. From the top of the Culp's Hill Observation Tower you can view most of the battlefield. To the north and west, across from town, is the First Day's Battlefield. To the west and south is the United States position, from the Round Tops, up Cemetery Ridge, to Cemetery Hill and the Gettysburg National Cemetery, and into town. Across the field from Cemetery Ridge is the Confederate position at Seminary Ridge. The Gettysburg Battlefield Commission completed the Culp's Hill Observation Tower in 1896. Since that time, is has been a primary location which people can view and study the terrain of the battlefield. The Culp's Hill Observation Tower is a 60-foot tall metal tower with a roofed platform at the top and can only be accessed by climbing seen flights of stairs.

Views from the tower.

Freedom Threatened.

The Samuel Pitzer house and its history and role in the Battle of Gettysburg, including the now defunct schoolhouse which was the headquarters of General James Longstreet.

More cannons standing silent. We proceeded to the Peach Orchard.

15th New York Battery. The monument to the 15th New York Independent Battery is south of Gettysburg on Wheatfield Road across from the Peach Orchard. It was dedicated by the State of New York in 1888. A marker is also on South Hancock Avenue. The battery was commanded at the Battle of Gettysburg by Captain Patrick Hart. He was wounded on July 3rd, and Lieutenant Edward M. Knox then took command of the battery. It brought 99 men to the field.

The regiment was attached to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, III Corps at the time of the Gettysburg battle. Captain J.C.M. Hamilton's diary details the unit's movements that summer, from June 30th when they were in a clover field, not far from a village called Woodstock, then passed through Tarrytown and joined the brigade at Emmittsburg. At 2:00 am, DeTrobriand received orders to get to Gettysburg, they were on their way by 4:00 am.

Piercing the Union Lines.

Cannon laying silent.

The State of New York in Recognition Memorial. The main wall of the curved granite monument is completely covered with the names of New York officers who commanded brigades, divisions and army corps at the Battle of Gettysburg, as well as a listing of all New York regiments and batteries and their commanders. A pedastal at the center of the monument is faced by the Seal of the State of New York and capped with an American Eagle, the tip of whose outstretched wings stands 21 feet above the granite walkway. A bench seat runs along the base of the wall. The monument was dedicated on September 9, 1925.

After making our way around most of the self-guided auto tour, we came to the conclusion that we should have invested in a guided tour of the battlefield and will do so in the future.

We departed Gettysburg and I drove US 30 to Interstate 76, the Pennsylvania Tollway to Interstate 79 to a truck stop where Elizabeth drove us to Meadville. We ate dinner at Perkins Restaurant then checked into the Quality Inn for the night.