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Faces of Gettysburg

Gettysburg is a soldier’s story.

On one side marched an army of Northern men burdened by the weight of losses in the recent engagements of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.

Opposing them, an army of sons of the South, flush with victory and brimming with esprit de corps after decisive wins on these same battlegrounds.

In July 1863, the two forces clashed again at a crossroads community in southeastern Pennsylvania. For three days, they grappled with musket and cannon and saber and fist to determine the fate of a divided nation and the future of representative democracy.

Portraits of these men, the first generation to grow up with photography, chronicle the independent American soldier. The individualism and patriotic spirit revealed in these photographs are reflected on the faces of the doughboys and GIs who followed in the next century, fighting in two world wars waged to defend freedom and liberty.

The personal narratives of these soldiers are as unique as their portraits.

Witness the Pennsylvania lieutenant who braved enemy fire to rescue his captain.

Witness the Michigan officer who maintained his line in the face of death and destruction.

Witness the Virginia private wounded in Pickett’s Charge, who would not live to see the birth of his baby daughter.

Representative portraits and accounts of Gettysburg casualties are pictured here, many for the first time. Through words and pictures, they become men again, if only for a fleeting moment.

Saving Dan McMahon

Albumen photograph by Wolff of Alexandria, Va. Seward Osborne Collection.
Albumen photograph by Wolff of Alexandria, Va. Seward Osborne Collection.

Union troops put up a stiff resistance as they retreated towards Seminary Ridge on July 1. In the ranks of the 20th New York State Militia, the men rallied time and again against the enemy. At one point, an officer on the edge of the ground of the Theological Seminary turned and saw the regimental colors falling back. As he hurried to join the colors, he approached the distinctive Seminary building. “I found there on the ground Captain Dan McMahon, one of our best and bravest officers, with a shattered thigh, and beside him a man of his company, who was unwilling to leave him. The captain entreated me to help him away and I could not resist his appeal.”

McMahon, an English-born veteran of the Crimean War, had suffered a gunshot wound that fractured his left leg and another wound in the right thigh. “His soldier took off a belt and with it bound his legs together, then taking him by the legs, I took one shoulder and a man of my company, who had clung to me like a shadow, took the other, and we carried the captain around the building and started down the walk that sloped from its front across the lawn,” recalled the officer. Struggling to get McMahon to safety, they had no choice but to abandon him to his fate. They hastily arranged him in a ditch, said their goodbyes and left.

Union forces eventually recovered McMahon, and his shattered leg was amputated close to the body. He posed for his portrait with a fellow officer, Lt. Nicholas Hoysradt.

McMahon made a full recovery and left the army in 1864. He went on to become the regiment’s sutler, and after the war settled in Washington, D.C. He died in 1888.

The Gallantry of a Michigander in the Iron Brigade

Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. John Fuller Collection.
Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. John Fuller Collection.

As heavy fighting swirled around the Iron Brigade on July 1, a musket ball stunned a sergeant in the 24th Michigan Infantry. By the time he regained his senses, the regiment had fallen back a few yards. He stumbled over several men and made his way back to Company I, where he observed his captain, George C. Gordon, in action. The sergeant recalled, “Captain Gordon was using great energy in keeping his men in line. I never saw a man stand with such determined energy as he did. I was told afterwards by the commanding officer of the next company that our captain kept one of the best lines in the regiment. All who saw his conduct speak in the highest praise of his gallantry.”

Gordon paid a heavy price for his gallantry. A Canadian-born lawyer who had settled in Michigan as a boy, he fell into enemy hands. Gordon spent the next 20 months as a prisoner of war in Richmond, Macon, Ga., and Columbia, S.C.

On Feb. 14, 1865, he and three fellow prisoners escaped from Columbia while being transported by train to what he supposed was another prison—but was actually an exchange. He spent the next three weeks sick, shoeless and half-naked in the wilds of South Carolina making his way to freedom inside Union lines.

Gordon eventually returned to his company. The sergeant who noted his commanding presence at Gettysburg was not there—Eugene Narden was captured in Virginia in 1864 and sent to the prison camp at Salisbury, N.C., where he died.

Gordon ended the war with a brevet rank of major. He died on Aug. 27, 1878. His funeral was held two days later, on the 16th anniversary of the day he marched off with the 24th to war.

Wounded Near the Codori Farm

Carte de visite by J.J.Boynton of Clinton, Mass. Mark Savolis Collection.
Carte de visite by J.J.Boynton of Clinton, Mass. Mark Savolis Collection.

The 15th Massachusetts Infantry suffered heavy losses in the fighting in and about the Codori Farm on the afternoon of July 2. The casualty list included Pvt. Rufus K. Cooper of Company C, struck in the chest by a 12-pound artillery shell. According to one report, the round may have been friendly fire. Wherever the source, the hit took Cooper out of action. He was sent to Philadelphia for treatment.

One month later, on Aug. 6, a physician described the nature and effects of the injury, “The shell struck the left chest, fractured the seventh and eight ribs and seriously injured the whole side. He spits blood every day and is troubled about breathing. He is barely able to walk and very much needs a few weeks of rest.”

About this time, Cooper departed the hospital without permission and returned to his home in Massachusetts. His exact motivations for leaving are not known. But the full restoration of his health was an open question.

Military authorities caught up with him on Sept. 15, 1863. They arrested Cooper as a deserter, but later dropped the charge. Cooper returned to his regiment in April 1864, and mustered out in July upon the expiration of the regiment’s three-year term of enlistment.

Cooper lived until 1905, dying at age 66 after he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. His wife, Mary, whom he had married in 1862, survived him.

Homecoming After Pickett’s Charge

Half-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Dave Batalo Collection.
Half-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Dave Batalo Collection.

James Francis “Frank” Crocker marveled at the steadfastness of his fellow Virginians as they advanced with the rest of Gen. Lewis A. Armistead’s Brigade on July 3. “Men fell like ten-pins in a ten-strike. Without a pause and without losing step, the survivors dressed themselves to their line and our regiment to the diminished regiment, and all went on as serenely and as unfalteringly as before. My God! It was magnificent—this march of men.”

At some point during the action that followed, Crocker, a first lieutenant and adjutant of the 9th Virginia Infantry, was wounded in the right leg—his second injury of the war. A year earlier, he had been wounded in the throat, shoulder and arm at Malvern Hill. He soon recovered. But at Gettysburg, he was left behind on the battlefield with Armistead and others after Union forces repulsed the charge.

Captured and taken to a field hospital at the George Bushman Farm, Crocker happened upon professor Martin L. Stoever of Gettysburg College. They instantly recognized each other, for Crocker was valedictorian of the Class of 1850. Like many young Virginians who hailed from prosperous families, he had been sent from his home in Isle of Wight County to the North for an education.

Crocker and Stoever talked of old times. Before long, Crocker was given liberty to roam about town—his leg injury, it turned out, was minor. He caught up with many of his former professors and reminisced.

The good times soon ended though. Sent to the prison camp at Johnson’s Island in Ohio, Crocker sat out the rest of the war in captivity. After the end of hostilities, he resumed his career as an attorney, and went on to become a judge and board member at William and Mary College. He lived until 1917.

Rescued From an Uncertain Fate

Carte de visite by O.H. Willard of Philadelphia, Pa. Faye and Ed Max Collection.
Carte de visite by O.H. Willard of Philadelphia, Pa. Faye and Ed Max Collection.

The first bullet that wounded Charles L. Atlee struck him during the action on the extreme left of the Union line early on the afternoon of July 1. A sergeant in the 121st Pennsylvania Infantry, Atlee shrugged off the injury and resumed the fight. Then, a second bullet ripped into his right leg below the knee. Forced back, he staggered into town to a house, where some ladies helped him dress his wounds. He remained there for the balance of the day as Confederates drove the federals through Gettysburg.

Atlee recalled, “At last the rebels came through and halted there for the night. Towards evening a rebel captain came to me and asked me if I was wounded, I told him I was. He told me to get to the Hospital as soon as possible so about seven in the evening I did so.”

At the conclusion of the battle, Atlee and other prisoners were attached to a Confederate column and carried off towards an uncertain future. They did not get far before Union cavalry attacked the column and rescued a number of the prisoners, including Atlee.

Atlee stood with the aid of crutches for this portrait at some point soon afterwards. Charles E. Smith, a corporal in Atlee’s Company C who had been captured and paroled, posed beside him.

Atlee recovered and went on to become captain and company commander. He survived the war and lived until 1904. Smith also survived and outlived Atlee, dying in 1910.

“Sit Vibi Verra Levis”

Carte de visite by Van Doorn of Brooklyn, N.Y. Paul Loane Collection.
Carte de visite by Van Doorn of Brooklyn, N.Y. Paul Loane Collection.

The 14th Brooklyn Infantry had earned its nom de guerre “Red Legged Devils” for its chasseur-inspired uniforms and battlefield bravery in 1861. The regiment paid a heavy price for success in casualties and deaths from disease, and turned to recruits to fill the decimated ranks. Their number included Albert M. Chapin, a Brooklyn clerk who joined the 14th in September 1862.

Ten months later at Gettysburg, he was killed in action during the first day’s fight. His remains were buried on the battlefield. But the exact location is unknown.

Inscribed on the back of his portrait is “Sit vibi verra levis,” or “May the earth rest lightly on you.” The Latin phrase is found on funerary items that date to the ancient Romans.

The Color Guard That Literally Melted Away

Sixth-plate tintype by an anonymous photographer. Jeff Kowalis Collection.
Sixth-plate tintype by an anonymous photographer. Jeff Kowalis Collection.

The 3rd Maine Infantry found itself in dire straights in the Peach Orchard on the Second Day. Pressed by Confederates from the front, and menaced by enemy troops advancing from the rear, the regiment faced destruction. Col. Moses B. Lakeman immediately ordered his men to shift position to meet the attackers. The color guard advanced to aid the regiment in reforming its line and was struck by a volley of enfilading musket fire. “It literally melted away. Every man of the color-guard was killed or wounded,” noted one regimental sketch.

One of the men hit was Cpl. Danforth Milton Maxcy. Known as Dan to his comrades, he was one of the best soldiers in the 3rd. He had participated in 16 engagements, and was one of three men in the regiment awarded the Kearny Cross for valor.

Two minié bullets struck his lower right leg, one of which shattered his knee. His leg seemed to heal properly, but gangrene set in. A subsequent amputation was performed, but to no avail. He succumbed to his wounds at his family home in Gardiner, Maine, on Aug. 14, 1863, at 11 a.m. He was 21.

He Helped His Colonel to Safety

Quarter-plate ruby ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Charles Joyce Collection.
Quarter-plate ruby ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Charles Joyce Collection.

Sgt. Maj. Samuel Rutter and his comrades in the 53rd Pennsylvania Infantry scored an initial success in the Wheatfield and Rose Woods during the afternoon of July 2. The Pennsylvanians and their undersized brigade drove back Confederate attackers in this sector of the battlefield. But the brigade was not properly supported. Flanked by the rebels, it was hit hard on both flanks and forced to retreat.

As Rutter made his way back through the Wheatfield, a gunshot struck him in the left leg just below his knee. About this time he encountered his commanding colonel, John R. Brooke. The two men helped each other to safety off the field.

A surgeon is the 2nd Delaware Infantry, also part of Brooke’s Brigade, extracted the ball from Rutter’s leg and may have saved him from an amputation. He completed his recovery in Philadelphia and returned to the 53rd before the end of 1863.

Rutter eventually rose in rank to first lieutenant and regimental adjutant. He mustered out with his surviving comrades in June 1865. But the war had broken his health. He died after suffering an epileptic convulsion on June 15, 1879. He was not yet 35 years old.

A U.S. Regular Caught in a Crossfire

Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. Seward Osborne Collection.
Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. Seward Osborne Collection.

Pvt. Adelbert Clinton Sherman and his comrades in the 11th U.S. Infantry found themselves in serious trouble on the afternoon of July 2. Ordered from the vicinity of Little Round Top and Houck’s Ridge to a position near the Wheatfield, they ran into stiff Confederate resistance. At first, the 11th fell back in good order. But when the enemy turned their right flank and hit them with a crossfire the effect was deadly. In minutes nearly half the regiment became casualties.

The injured list included Sherman. A bullet struck him below the right collarbone, tore through his right lung and exited his back near the base of his shoulder blade.

A resident of Roxbury, Mass., 22-year-old Sherman had enlisted about a year earlier. Surgeons dressed the wound and made him as comfortable as possible at a field hospital established at White Church on the Baltimore Pike. Sherman remained there for the next three weeks, and then moved to Harrisburg, Pa., where he completed his recovery.

Sherman returned to the army as a first lieutenant with the 28th U.S. Colored Infantry. He advanced to captain but never formally mustered at this rank. While in command of Company G at the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864, he suffered his second war wound when a bullet struck him in the lower right leg, halfway between the knee and ankle. He made a full recovery and remained with the 28th until it disbanded in November 1865.

Sherman would go on to marry four times, father several children and settle in Maine, where he lived until 1923.

A Hoosier Officer Robbed by Rebels

Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. Bill Rodio Collection.
Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. Bill Rodio Collection.

In peacetime, Samuel B. Schlagle was a kind-hearted brick-maker who could be generous to a fault. As an officer in the 19th Indiana Infantry, he proved a patriot who fought to preserve the Union with notable bravery. Such was the case at Gettysburg, where his Company B formed the skirmish line ahead of the regiment during the early fighting on the first day.

He was wounded at some point. According to Alan D. Gaff in On Many a Bloody Field: Four Years in the Iron Brigade, Schlagle “had been shot through both thighs and lay on the field for four days, during which time the rebels stripped him of his blanket, shoes and hat.” He was found by friendly troops.

Initial reports of the battle listed him as mortally wounded. They were false. Transported to a Philadelphia hospital, he was eventually released and returned to his home in Wayne County, Ind., to recover. His wounds crippled him for life and he resigned his commission on Nov. 23, 1863, just a few days after President Abraham Lincoln delivered his comments at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg.

A few months later he became the Clerk of the Courts for Wayne County. He held the office for barely two years before succumbing to consumption contracted during the war. He was 29.

“Well George, It Was a Close Thing”

Carte de visite by J.H. Abbott of Albany, N.Y. Scott Valentine Collection.
Carte de visite by J.H. Abbott of Albany, N.Y. Scott Valentine Collection.

Among the Union troops forced back by the Confederate juggernaut during the first day of fighting was the 94th New York Infantry. The regiment, 445 strong, included 1st Sgt. George Washington Mather of Company F. He and his comrades happened to be furthest in advance of their brigade, and therefore had the farthest distance to retreat. More than half of the New Yorkers, 245 men, became casualties.

Mather was one of the lucky ones to escape unharmed. He later recalled a friend in his Company F speak of the events of the day, “Well George, it was a close thing.”

Mather was less fortunate two days later. During the afternoon of July 3, while in support of troops engaged in Pickett’s Charge, he suffered a wound. Though the nature of his injury was not reported, it was serious enough to require a two-month hospital stay.

He made a full recovery, returned to the 94th and advanced to lieutenant. A year later, on Aug. 19, 1864, he was captured in the fighting near the Weldon Railroad, and survived a six-month stint as a prisoner. After the war, he returned to his family in New York and worked as a miller. He lived until 1911.

Separated From His Command and Captured

Carte de visite by Webster of Binghamton, N.Y. Charles Joyce Collection.
Carte de visite by Webster of Binghamton, N.Y. Charles Joyce Collection.

Blanketed by darkness and a heavy pall of black powder smoke, turmoil and confusion reigned on the lower slope of Culp’s Hill, as the battle raged on the evening of July 2. Along the line occupied by the 137th New York Infantry, 1st Sgt. James E. Glezen of Company E somehow became separated and captured.

Glezen remained in Confederate hands through the battle, and was marched off with other prisoners and confined in Richmond. Paroled two months later, he was transported across Union lines to Annapolis, Md., and formally exchanged in early 1864. He rejoined his regiment in time to participate in the successful campaigns against Atlanta, Savannah and the Carolinas.

Glezen ended the war as a second lieutenant and mustered out when the regiment disbanded in June 1865. He married in 1867 and settled in Ohio, where he died in 1908. His wife and a daughter survived him.

Carrying Dispatches for Kilpatrick

Carte de visite by Partridge of Wheeling, W. Va. Karl Sundstrom Collection.
Carte de visite by Partridge of Wheeling, W. Va. Karl Sundstrom Collection.

Aides de camp often found themselves in hot places during combat. Such was the case for 1st Lt. George Washington Chandler on July 2.

While acting as an aide to Brig. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, he was nabbed by Confederates while carrying dispatches. Though details of his capture are unclear, it is a good bet that he fell into enemy hands in the vicinity of Hunterstown. Here, about five miles northeast of Gettysburg, Kilpatrick’s Division skirmished with Confederate horsemen commanded by Gen. Wade Hampton.

Chandler, who had worked his way from a private in the 8th Ohio Infantry to an officer in the 1st West Virginia Cavalry prior to his tenure with Kilpatrick, spent the next 20 months as a prisoner of war. His odyssey included stints in Richmond and Danville, Va., Macon, Ga., and Columbia, S.C. At a prison camp in the latter place, he played first violin in a string band formed by the inmates. The music touched both prisoners and guards. It was said that the band was fed well by their captors, who did not want to lose their services. But Chandler’s talents did not prevent Confederate authorities from removing him to nearby Charleston, where he and other prisoners served as human shields to prevent Union forces from bombarding the city. Chandler survived physically unharmed, and was paroled on March 1, 1865. He returned to his regiment two months later, and mustered out a short time afterwards.

He went on to live in his native Ohio and Kansas City, Mo., where he worked in real estate and pharmaceuticals. He died in 1902. His wife, Mary, survived him.

In the Ranks of the 24th Michigan

Carte de visite by Higgins & Turill of Jackson, Mich., and Elyria, Ohio. John Fuller Collection.
Carte de visite by Higgins & Turill of Jackson, Mich., and Elyria, Ohio. John Fuller Collection.

The 24th Michigan Infantry marched into Gettysburg with 496 men and officers. The ranks included one of the regiment’s youngest, Pvt. Samuel R. Kingsley Jr. A Romulus, Mich., farmer born in Ohio, he was days away from celebrating his 20th birthday.

On July 1, Kingsley and his comrades fought alongside the Wisconsin and Indiana men in their Iron Brigade, and distinguished themselves in heavy fighting that decimated the ranks. Kingsley suffered an injury to one of his feet. Though he recovered from the wound, his health was compromised and he transferred to the 2nd Veteran Reserve Corps before the end of the year. Kingsley and his new regiment spent the remainder of the war defending Detroit and on patrol along the Canadian border.

After the end of hostilities, Kingsley became active in local government and later served a stint as Detroit’s Register of Deeds. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1917. Kingsley outlived his only son, who had died in 1872. His wife, Clarissa, who he had married after the war, survived him.

One of the Last Artillery Shots

Carte de visite by Frederick Gutekunst of Philadelphia, Pa. Paul Loane Collection.
Carte de visite by Frederick Gutekunst of Philadelphia, Pa. Paul Loane Collection.

As Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead and his nucleus of Confederates reached the furthest advance of Pickett’s Charge, a minor action occurred behind Union lines. A blue brigade located on the federal right hustled to a newly assigned position to the left and center of the line, near the point where Armistead struggled forward.

Among the regiments in the brigade was the 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry, its ranks, filled by men attired in natty Zouave-inspired uniforms. Also present was one of the regiment’s most promising officers, Joshua Simister Garsed. An aspiring attorney from Philadelphia, he began his service in 1861 as a corporal in Company B, and steadily advanced in rank to first lieutenant.

Garsed and his fellow Pennsylvanians took up their new position and readied for new orders. Meanwhile, Pickett’s Charge was repulsed. As the Confederate survivors fell back, their artillery continued firing. “The rebel batteries kept up a tantalizing, but irregular fire,” noted the historian of the 23rd. One of the last shots, a shell from a Whitworth gun, struck Garsed between the right shoulder and neck. The projectile literally tore him to pieces and killed him instantly.

His remains were sent home to Philadelphia and buried with honors. A comrade noted that Garsed “became distinguished for his coolness, bravery, and moral worth. He was beloved by all. His blood now consecrates Pennsylvania soil, another martyr to the Union.”

Grace and Strength

Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. Paul Brzozowski Collection.
Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. Paul Brzozowski Collection.

On July 10, 1863, from his room in a private home in Gettysburg, Rush Palmer Cady struggled to write a letter home.

“This is the first time I have attempted to write you a word, since I was wounded. It is hard lying here so, hardly able to move around in bed. I am writing with my wounded arm—can you see the difference?”

A second lieutenant in the 97th New York Infantry, Cady had cheered on his men in Company K during the close of the first day’s fight when a bullet struck him. The ball tore through his right arm and into his body, where it lodged in his lung. A surgeon determined that the lead slug could not be removed, and Cady was made as comfortable as possible for what was sure to be his final days. “I am keeping up good courage—I am in a good place, where my wants are well attended to,” he wrote to his family. “How I would like to be received to your arms. O pray for me Mother, that I may have grace & strength to endure my sufferings patiently.”

His mother, Fidelia, soon arrived from the family home in Rome, N.Y. She remained with him night and day, always hopeful as she watched him sink. “Oh my husband,” she wrote on July 23, “can we part with our dear brave boy—May God give us grace to bear all we may be called upon to do—Pray for me & him too, husband mother & child—but he may live we have great hopes yet.”

Cady died the next day at 2 p.m. He was 24.

He Saved His Wounded Captain

Quarter-plate tintype by an anonymous photographer. Charles Joyce Collection.
Quarter-plate tintype by an anonymous photographer. Charles Joyce Collection.

The 149th Pennsylvania Infantry, also known as the 2nd Bucktail Regiment, experienced its first battlefield encounter on July 1. Positioned in the center of the Union line at McPherson Farm, the green Bucktails defended repeated attacks by a brigade of Tar Heels commanded by Junius Daniels. Then, they went on the offense and counterattacked to the unfinished Railroad Cut, before falling back to their original line.

During the retrograde movement, 2nd Lt. John George Batdorff of Company C looked back and observed his captain in trouble. Capt. John H. Bassler had fallen with a gunshot wound to the hip and thigh, and lay helpless on the ground. Batdorff acted quickly. He hoisted Bassler on to his back as enemy bullets whistled around them, and carried him to the relative safety of the McPherson Barn.

About this time, Confederates attacked and drove the Bucktails off the McPherson Farm ridgeline. In this action, a bullet hit the plate of Batdorff’s sword belt and caused a painful contusion that knocked him down. Unable to retreat, he and Capt. Bassler fell into enemy hands. Both men gained their release before the end of the battle.

Capt. Bassler was discharged for his wounds before the end of the year. On New Year’s Day 1864, he presented a pocket diary to Batdorff, who carried it through the Overland Campaign in Virginia, which began a few months later. Batdorff survived the brutal fighting around Petersburg, and mustered out with the survivors of the regiment in June 1865.

Batdorff died at age 66 in 1905, without recognition for his act of heroism. But Bassler, who served as a pallbearer at the funeral of his comrade, told the story in Batdorff’s obituary. His “act of warm-hearted friendship no doubt saved [my] life.”

The Brave May Fall …

Carte de visite by J.J.Boynton of Clinton, Mass. Mark Savolis Collection.
Carte de visite by J.J.Boynton of Clinton, Mass. Mark Savolis Collection.

The last order that Union Cpl. James Parkman Chenery likely ever heard occurred during the culmination of Pickett’s Charge. “Up, boys, they are coming!” shouted a general’s aide. Chenery and his comrades in the 15th Massachusetts Infantry, who had laid in wait under the sweltering sun, rose to their feet—as much by instinct than any order due to the intolerable heat and an impulse to stop the wave of Confederates descending on them.

Here, at some point during the climax of the attack, Chenery met his fate. According to his sergeant, William J. Coulter, “It was during the fight (at the stone-wall) that my tent-mate, James P. Chenery, was killed. He was shot through the neck and died immediately. He was buried right where he fell, and a board with his name written on it marks the spot.”

The massive losses in the regiment during the charge, as well as the day before, proved a challenge for those who survived to record their losses. Chenery, a newspaper printer, was reported as killed in action on July 2 and July 3, and buried in different places.

A stone cenotaph at a cemetery in his hometown of Medford, Mass., is engraved with his name and that of his older brother, Frank, who served in the 36th Massachusetts Infantry and died 11 months later in the Battle of Cold Harbor. An inscription arched along the top of the stone is a tribute to their sacrifice: “The Brave May Fall But Cannot Yield.”

Magic Mail

Carte de visite by Cushing of Woodstock, Vt. Francis Guber Collection.
Carte de visite by Cushing of Woodstock, Vt. Francis Guber Collection.

Cavalrymen on both sides of the war were known for ornate dress. Oliver Tucker Cushman was no exception. At Gettysburg, the handsome captain in the 1st Vermont dressed in a flashy uniform that rivaled any owned by Gen. George A. Custer. According to historian John Scales, Cushman “wore a white duck ‘fighting jacket’ trimmed with yellow braid. A fellow officer suggested that he was dressed too conspicuously for a mark for the enemy; he answered, ‘A lady sent this to me, and said it was made with her own hands, and no rebel bullet could pierce it. It may be a good day to try magic mail.’”

On July 3, Cushman pinned a silk handkerchief to his cap and rode off with Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth into an ill-conceived charge. It ended in a failure that cost Farnsworth his life. Rebel lead did not perforate Cushman’s precious mail. But he was unhorsed after he suffered a gruesome wound in his face. He “fought with his revolver until he fainted,” noted Scales, who added that, “the Confederates mistook him for the Commanding General.”

Cushman recovered and returned to his duties. “Captain Cushman was perfectly fearless, and, in fact, seemed to court death on the battlefield, not caring to survive the war with such a disfigured face as he had,” Scales reported.

Cushman was killed near Cold Harbor, Va., on June 3, 1864. His body was brought home to Hartland, Vt., and buried. Family, friends, and college buddies from Dartmouth mourned his loss.

Blind Instinct

Carte de visite by R.H. Dewey of Pittsfield, Mass. Rick Carlile Collection.
Carte de visite by R.H. Dewey of Pittsfield, Mass. Rick Carlile Collection.

Union defenders fought with blind instinct as thick battle smoke obscured visibility during Pickett’s Charge. Such was the case for 2nd Lt. Lansing E. Hibbard and his comrades in the 20th Massachusetts Infantry. “The noise and turmoil were such that commands could not be heard, and every one fought in his own way,” noted the regimental historian.

As the lines of the 20th broke apart, the men fought in small bands, screaming, shooting and beating back the foe with whatever they could.

A storm of lead rained down on both sides, and a minié bullet struck Hibbard. The shot passed entirely through his left forearm, and took him out of action.

Hibbard, a carpenter from Pittsfield, Mass., was no stranger to battle injuries. He had suffered a minor neck wound during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign.

At Pickett’s Charge, Hibbard was among 127 casualties from the regiment—more than half of the 243 men and officers engaged. He eventually recovered and returned to the regiment. Less than a year later, on May 10, 1864, he suffered his third wound during the fighting at Spotsylvania, Va., when a bullet struck him in the right thigh. He succumbed five days later, only weeks before his 24th birthday.

Spared to Fight Another Day

Sixth-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Ben Pauley Collection.
Sixth-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Ben Pauley Collection.

In its baptism under fire on July 1, the 55th North Carolina Infantry suffered heavy losses against elements of the Iron Brigade at the Railroad Cut. Among the Tar Heels who fought that day was William Henry Graham Webb Jr. of Company K. A Virginia-born farmer from Granville County, he had started the war in 1861 as a private in the state’s 12th Infantry, and he is pictured here during his service in this regiment. In early 1862, he transferred to the 55th as a lieutenant.

Webb survived the fighting at the Railroad Cut, but was not as fortunate two days later at Pickett’s Charge. At some point during the assault, he suffered a wound in the leg and fell into enemy hands. His captors moved him to a general hospital in Chester, Pa., to recuperate. In a case all too common among the injured, his wound became infected and he died of pyemia, or blood poisoning, on Sept. 21, 1863. Buried in the Philadelphia National Cemetery, his name is listed on the Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument.

Missing in Action

Sixth-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Paul Russinoff Collection.
Sixth-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Paul Russinoff Collection.

Confederates moved quickly to exploit a wide gap in the main Union line created by Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles, when he advanced his entire Third Corps on the afternoon of July 2. Rebel forces struck exposed federals with terrible ferocity. One hard-hit blue regiment was the 1st Massachusetts Infantry. It successfully defended its position, but at a high cost in casualties. The ground was littered with broken and lifeless bodies of officers and men. Some soldiers had simply gone missing, including Pvt. Richard Baxter Smart of Company G.

A carpenter from Brighton, Mass., Smart was captured at some point during the action. Carried off to Virginia at the end of the battle, he was confined at Richmond on July 21. Unlike so many soldiers who wasted away in Southern prison camps, Smart was lucky. A month later, on Aug. 29, he was paroled at City Point, Va. He then reported to Camp Parole in Maryland to await a formal exchange, which occurred on Oct. 6, 1863.

Smart returned to his comrades and remained with them until his three-year term of enlistment expired in May 1864. He elected not to reenlist, and returned to his home in Massachusetts. He married in 1865, started a family that grew to three children and lived until 1915.

“No Wonder You Men Are Called the ‘Iron Brigade’”

Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. Thomas Harris Collection.
Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. Thomas Harris Collection.

Second Lt. Lloyd Grayson Harris loved music. On June 30, 1863, as he and his comrades in the 6th Wisconsin Infantry marched through Frederick, Md., with the rest of the Iron Brigade, he noticed a music store. “I was excused from duty long enough to rush into the place and purchase a brand new harmonica—vulgarly called a mouth organ. A simple affair, yet if well played makes enjoyable music,” he later recalled.

The following day at Gettysburg, Harris found himself in the thick of a hot engagement for possession of the Confederate-occupied Railroad Cut that paralleled Chambersburg Pike. In a final charge that compelled the surrender of the hard fighting 2nd Mississippi Infantry, a buckshot blast caught him in the neck.

Harris made his way to a makeshift hospital in town for treatment. “As a surgeon was about to probe for buckshot in the fleshy part of my neck a good old lady, a volunteer nurse, who had been assisting me, declared that her nerves would not allow her to witness such a sight. Here was my chance. Taking the harmonica from my pocket I said, ‘Madam, the surgeon will be so gentle that while he is operating I will play on this little musical affair.’ So while he in no delicate manner probed about with his torturing instrument, recklessly played ‘Tramp, Tramp the Boys are Marching,’ until he had finished, when the old lady with uplifted hands, exclaimed, ‘no wonder you men are called the ‘Iron Brigade.’”

Harris survived Gettysburg, and, after mustering out of the 6th in the summer of 1864, went on to serve a stint in the Marine Corps. Active in veteran’s affairs, he recounted his war experiences in numerous writings. He lived until 1918.

Remember for Whom You Fight

Sixth-plate tintype by an anonymous photographer. Faye and Ed Max Collection.
Sixth-plate tintype by an anonymous photographer. Faye and Ed Max Collection.

According to a participant in Pickett’s Charge, Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead shouted his customary rallying cry as he and his men advanced towards the Union defenses: “Men, remember your wives, your mothers, your sisters and your sweethearts.”

These words likely inspired anyone within earshot of the general. For one private in the ranks of the 14th Virginia Infantry, the rallying cry proved especially timely. Charles H. Womack had recently returned to the 14th after leaving without authority to visit his home in Pittsylvania County, Va. While there, he spent time with his young children. They were under the care of his in-laws, who looked after them following the death of his wife. During the visit, he asked his father-in-law for permission to marry his late wife’s youngest sister, Martha. The father refused. Womack and Martha eloped across the county border into North Carolina and wed. After the briefest of honeymoons, he returned to the regiment.

A week later, Womack suffered a wound in the side and a fractured left thigh during Pickett’s Charge. He succumbed to his injuries at Camp Letterman General Hospital on Aug. 16, 1863. Buried on the hospital grounds, his remains were later removed to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.

In February 1864, Martha gave birth to their daughter, Mary.

Precarious Position

Carte de visite by Whipple of Boston, Mass. The Medford Historical Society Photograph Collection, the Medford Historical Society & Museum.
Carte de visite by Whipple of Boston, Mass. The Medford Historical Society Photograph Collection, the Medford Historical Society & Museum.

Exactly where Capt. Charles Robinson Johnson received his wounds at Gettysburg remains a mystery. But the circumstances are all too well known. His regiment, the 16th Massachusetts Infantry, was part of Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles’ ill-timed advance of his Third Corps on the afternoon of July 2. The 16th was positioned along the Emmitsburg Road with other exposed federals when the Confederate onslaught struck.

At some point during the chaos and confusion, Johnson was wounded in the head and knocked out. He regained consciousness moments later, and found himself in a precarious position between dueling batteries firing grape and canister. As he raised himself to get away, a bullet struck him in the thigh, and he again fell to the ground. He tied a handkerchief around the wound and began to limp away from the scene, when he encountered a passing artilleryman. Johnson asked if he could be laid on the limber of the cannon, but the anxious gunner refused. Still trapped in the line of fire, Johnson successfully waved off other Union artillerymen who had targeted his position.

Johnson limped three-quarters of a mile to the rear, and passed an agonizing night on damp, dew-covered ground without care. He was discovered the next morning and carried to a makeshift field hospital, where his wounds were dressed. He spent the next three days lying on a straw spread over ankle deep mud, subsisting on hard tack and bathing his wounds in a current of water that streamed near the fly tent he occupied.

He made it out of the hospital, and, on July 10, arrived home in Boston to his wife, Nellie, and son. Johnson had three good days before his condition suddenly turned worse. He succumbed to his wounds after four days of intense suffering. He was 27.

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