In the last 10 to 15 years, new topics and areas of interest have arisen --- here are just a few of them:
One of the often overlooked and less studied phases of the Gettysburg Campaign has been the Confederate Army's retreat to Virginia after the 3-day battle and the ensuing pursuit by the Union Army. Fortunately, that began to change after the publishing in April of 2005 of Kent Masterson Brown's comprehensive and distinguished book, "Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign" (see my "Books Worth Reading" page).
I am pleased to report that another excellent book on this topic was published and is entitled "One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863". Written by Eric J. Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent, the book is, in my opinion, a "must read" and a classic along the lines of Kent Masterson Brown's work.
Also, there is now a specific website dealing with one of the larger military actions that occurred during the retreat and pursuit, the Battle of Monterey Pass. Created by Emmitsburg area Civil War historian John H. Miller, this new and highly informative website is definitely worth a visit and can be found at http://www.montereypassbattlefield.org. It is my understanding that personal tours can also be arranged.
Prisoners and prisons
There were approximately 5,000 Union soldiers and a similar number of Confederate soldiers who were taken prisoner during and after the battle. Sadly, many of them did not survive their captivity --- according to the book, "The History Buff's Guide to Gettysburg" (see my "Books Worth Reading" page), that total may have been as high as 900. Many of these Union prisoners did end up at Libby Prison in Richmond or later at Camp Sumter in Georgia, otherwise known as the infamous Andersonville Prison. The Confederate prisoners often did not fare much better, with many of them ending up at Point Lookout, Maryland or Elmira (nicknamed "Hellmira"), New York. As high as that number of 900 may seem, it is not unusual when you realize that the official estimates put the total number of prisoners for the entire war who perished at the more than 150 internment locations (forts, actual prisons, converted buildings, open stockades, etc.) at around 56,000 !!!
I had the opportunity to visit one of the better Union prisons, Fort Warren, which is located on Georges Island approximately 2 miles out in the Boston Harbor. This 5-sided fort could house up to 2,500 prisoners, with the average room about 27 feet by 40 feet holding 40 to 80 prisoners (the same size room in the fort would accommodate about 20 Union soldiers). Here are some of the photos I took of the fort/prison:
(view of the entrance wall --- entrance on the left)
(interior view of the entrance to the fort)
(view of the parade ground and the wall containing the typical prisoners' rooms)
(exterior view of a typical prisoners' room)
(interior view of a typical prisoners' room)
(political prisoners were also temporarily held at Fort Warren, including Confederate Vice President Stephens)
(Confederate officers, as was normally the case, were often given better quarters and privileges)
(interior view of the prison infirmary/hospital)
(memorial plaque honoring the 13 Confederate prisoners who died at Fort Warren)
For more information on all the major Civil War prisons and a brief history of the paroling and exchanging of prisoners and how and why those practices were stopped, resulting in the truly sad and often horrific tale of prisons like Andersonville and Elmira, I would highly recommend going to the webpage at http://www.civilwarhome.com/civilwarprisons.htm and the related webpage which can be found at http://www.civilwarhome.com/prisoners.htm.
The civilian experience
During the time of the battle, Gettysburg was a town of roughly 2,400 people, many of whom suffered innumerable and extreme hardships even long after the last soldier departed. Within recent years, public interest has increased in learning about the "civilian experience" with the publication of books like "Days of Uncertainty and Dread: The Ordeal Endured by the Citizens at Gettysburg" and "Days of Darkness: the Gettysburg Civilians" (see my "Books Worth Reading" page). In addition, the number of tour programs devoted to this particular aspect of the battle have also grown.
Since 1999, American Stories Historic Walking Tours has been bringing Gettysburg's Civil War history to life through walking tours and interactive programs, all conducted by knowledgeable guides. Guides dressed in 1860's attire lead visitors through the Gettysburg Historic District; evening tours are available and conducted by candlelight. Tours last approximately 75 minutes and cover 6 to 8 blocks through the Gettysburg Historic District. For more information on all the American Stories Historic Walking Tours and other programs, call (717) 624-8154 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gettysburg Licensed Town Historians, located at 33 York Street in downtown Gettysburg, also offer guided walking tours approximately 90 minutes long. For more information, go to http://www.gblth.com.
(an official certificate acknowledging receipt of a claim for damages)
The African American experience
Most Gettysburg buffs know or learn about Abraham Brian (some accounts and records have it spelled as Bryan or Brien), a free black man whose 12-acre farmstead on Cemetery Ridge was severely damaged during Pickett's Charge on July 3. However, I would bet that very few people know about, let alone visit, Lincoln Cemetery, the small cemetery established in 1867 where he and approximately 30 veterans of the United Stated Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.) from the Civil War are buried. I visited Gettysburg during the 2007 "Remembrance Week" and was very fortunate to be there for the annual ceremonies:
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Lincoln Cemetery, located along Lincoln Lane and Long Lane, is only a few blocks southwest of the square.
Including Abraham Brian, there were approximately 185 blacks who resided in Gettysburg and the surrounding area as listed in the 1860 census. Many were former slaves who had escaped to the North through the Underground Railroad, and some of them (some reports indicate as many as 50) were captured by Confederate troops and taken back to Virginia. Many blacks did flee to other towns and cities, including Harrisburg and Philadelphia, but some were unable to do so for one reason or the other, especially those who were physically unable to do so. To read more about the African American community in Gettysburg and Adams County and many individual experiences during this time period, I can heartily recommend a superb study by Peter C. Vermilyea, a history teacher and also a graduate of Gettysburg College, at http://www.gdg.org/Gettysburg%20Magazine/gburgafrican.html. There is also a book available (which I have not yet read) that came out in 2005 and which is entitled "African Americans and the Gettysburg Campaign," written by James M. Paradis and published by Scarecrow Press.
There is an Underground Railroad tour of Adams County which lasts roughly 3 hours, and a portion of the proceeds from the tours are donated to historic preservation. For more information on this tour, go to http://www.gettysburghistories.com or call (717) 528-8553.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention at least one newspaper account (the New York Herald on July 11, 1863) reported that seven fully armed black soldiers were among the thousands of Confederates who were captured at Gettysburg. Interesting, wouldn't you say ???
The African American "John Burns" of the Battle of Gettysburg
In addition to John Burns, the well-known "citizen soldier" of the Battle of Gettysburg who fought alongside Union troops on McPherson's Ridge on July 1, there are accounts of an African-American civilian from the Gettysburg area who fought alongside Union troops on Culp's Hill. I came across one such account while conducting research on Major Joshua Palmer of the 66th Ohio Infantry Regiment (see the "Lesser known and visited monuments and small markers" section on my "Off the Usual Path" page). In Richard Baumgartner's book, "Buckeye Blood: Ohio at Gettysburg", an account is given by Sergeant Peter Cozine of the 5th Ohio Infantry Regiment:
"On the left of our regiment an American citizen of African descent had taken position, and with a gun and a cartridge box, which he took from one of our dead men, was more than piling hot lead into the Graybacks. His coolness and bravery was noticed and commented upon by all who saw him. If the negro regiments fight like he did, I don't wonder that the Rebs and Copperheads hate them so."
During a conversation with Licensed Town Guide Bob Alcorn in early 2011 about all the untold stories about the Battle of Gettysburg, he brought up this very intriguing story that I had read about. Bob informed me that he and Licensed Battlefield Guide Rich Kohr continue to research this topic, and that in addition to finding four separate similar accounts, two local residents, (Mary McCleary, daughter of a milliner in town, and Willie Wolf /Wolfe, the sheriff's son) living near the site of the incident, also mentioned in oblique references that the individual involved was a local black man whom they both knew.
As a result, Bob and Rich feel they have been able to identify this African-American hero with a fair degree of certainty as 22-year-old Randolph Johns(t)on. Johns(t)on had organized a local company of black militia and offered their services (about 50-60 men) to Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin to help repel the Confederate invasion of 1863 but was turned down. Johns(t)on eventually enlisted in Company B of the 24th United States Colored Troops in early 1865. In 1867, he and his wife left Gettysburg and moved to Maryland where he taught school. Randolph Johns(t)on died suddenly in Baltimore in 1901 as the result of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 61 years old.
Beginning in 1991, when former Park Ranger Mark Nesbitt published his first book about ghost stories and haunted places of Gettysburg and the battlefield, there has been a dramatic increase in public interest and fascination about this "spooky" topic. In fact, Mr. Nesbitt has written a series of six books on this subject and has operated the "The Ghosts of Gettysburg Candlelight Walking Tours" since 1994, which was the first such walking tour in Gettysburg --- today, I think there are no less than ten such "walking tours" in operation !!! I have met Mr. Nesbitt, who claims to be a true skeptic, and have read all six of his books, which are well written, thought provoking and entertaining all at the same time. I have also taken one of his tours, so if ghosts are your thing, you may want to visit his website at http://www.ghostsofgettysburg.com.
The new visitor center
The new official visitor center, which is a joint public-private partnership between the National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation, opened on April 14, 2008:
Located near Hunt Avenue between the Baltimore Pike and the Taneytown Road, the new visitor center also houses the famous "Cyclorama" painting depicting Pickett's Charge by the French artist Paul Philippoteaux. The former visitor center and the Cyclorama building in Ziegler’s Grove was removed in the early part of 2013 as a part of the ongoing effort by the National Park Service to restore the battlefield as much as possible to its 1863 appearance:
To learn more about the new visitor center and museum and the restoration of the "Cyclorama" painting, visit the website which is located at http://www.gettysburgfoundation.org.
(Images courtesy of the GNMP)
Shown below is a photograph of the building on Baltimore Street which originally housed the Cyclorama painting beginning in 1913 (just in time for the 50th Anniversary Reunion):
(Photo courtesy of the GNMP)
As mentioned on my "Off the Usual Path" page, the National Park Service has been attempting over the last several years to return many of the critical areas and landscape features of the battlefield as much as possible to what they looked like in 1863 in order to allow the average visitor and the historian alike a better understanding and appreciation of the battle.
Beginning in July of 2001, trees, thickets, orchards and hedgerows are being replanted or removed, and fences and farm lanes are being rebuilt or removed as well. This long-term project is far from completion, but significant progress has already been made as evidenced in the chart below (courtesy of Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant at the Gettysburg National Military Park):
Plans to rehabilitate Ziegler's Grove on Cemetery Hill began in 2010:
For a more detailed and highly informative report on the entire battlefield rehabilitation process, go to http://www.nps.gov/gett/parknews/gett-battlefield-rehab.htm. (The above Treatment Plan map is also courtesy of the GNMP.)
After trying for over 20 years, in March of 2011 the National Park Service was finally able to acquire 95 acres of the former Gettysburg Country Club property just west of McPherson’s Ridge to preserve the site of the Emanuel Harman farm, where major fighting occurred on the first day of battle on July 1, 1863. The land will be returned as much as possible to what it appeared like in 1863, although the developer who had acquired the land from the Gettysburg Country Club in March of 2010 will retain ownership of approximately 14 other acres that contain two clubhouses, tennis courts, parking lots, and two swimming pools. Visitors who wish to explore the newly acquired battlefield acreage should not trespass on those grounds, and should park on McPherson Ridge at Auto Stop # 1 and walk down to Willoughby Run to cross over to this historic ground.
Shown below is a National Park Service map courtesy of Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant at the Gettysburg National Military Park (thank you very much, Katie !!!):
Ranger Programs and "Battle Walks"
Speaking of the National Park Service, there are basic Park Ranger programs for the first-time visitor (and others for the returning visitor) that focus on major phases or aspects of the battle and which are offered on a daily (or at least weekly) basis from mid-June through at least mid-September. For those buffs who would like something more, there are daily "Battle Walks" that last 2 to 3 hours and are devoted to a more in-depth look at a particular phase of the battle or a specific or often overlooked area of the battlefield. I have been lucky to have gone on several of these "Battle Walks" (or as I jokingly refer to them with the Park Rangers, "forced marches"), including the one to the "Lost Avenue" (see my "Off the Usual Path" page). For more information, go to the webpage found at http://www.nps.gov/gett/planyourvisit/index.htm.
One note: the schedule of the "Battle Walks" will probably not be available until mid-June, so you will have to keep checking the website above.
Beginning in 1996, the Pennsylvania Cable Network has been filming many of the "Battle Walks", and also telecasts the special "Battle Walks" that only take place each year on the anniversary of the battle. DVD or videotape copies of many of the "Battle Walks" can also be purchased online at the webpage http://www.pcnstore.com.
Civil War art
While Civil War art, particularly paintings and sculpture, began to make an impact during the late 1970's and through the mid 1980's, interest in this genre has continued to grow and grow during the last 10 to 15 years. Among the better known artists and sculptors (and my favorites - in alphabetical order) are Bruce Everly, Dale Gallon, Mort Kunstler, Keith Rocco, John Paul Strain, and Don Troiani; rather than try to describe their style and caliber (no military pun intended) of work, I will simply refer you to some websites:
Bruce Everly http://www.everlysculpture.com
Dale Gallon http://www.gallon.com
Mort Kunstler http://www.mortkunstler.com
Keith Rocco http://www.keithrocco.com
John Paul Strain http://www.johnpaulstrain.com Don Troiani http://www.dontroiani.com
Two other artists of interest are Ron Lesser (see http://www.pathsofthecivilwar.com) and Bradley Schmehl (see http://www.somersetfineart.com/s-1131-schmehl-bradley.aspx). One of the newer artists is Dennis Morris, who creates representations of the battle that he calls "diographs", where he uses miniatures on a 250 square-foot diorama that are combined with actual photographs of the battlefield to blend in the distant scenery and horizon. For more information on this interesting new art and artist, go to his website at https://diographics.com.
Another new artist worth considering is Jeff Trexler, who began “coming into his own” in 2013. For more information on this young artist and his art, go to http://www.trexlerhistoricalart.com.