Archive for July 2nd, 2010

Irish Brigade Monument

Today’s usual Friday cross blogging is going to be a twist. As the historically-inclined among us are aware, this year marks the 147th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg of the U.S. Civil War, which took place July 1-3, 1863. Yesterday I wrote about Union General John F. Reynolds, the highest ranking officer from either side to die in the battle, but I confessed that I only had photographs of cenotaphs and not Reynolds’ actual gravesite in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. And I think that still fits with the theme of this blog.

Irish Brigade Monument

Gettysburg, like many battlefields, was at one time an impromptu graveyard. The battle took place in sweltering July heat, and the survivors (both soldiers and citizens) had good reason to want to inter those decomposing corpses in a hurry. So a lot of dead ended up in hastily dug pits. In theory, those burials have been excavated and the mortal remains of soldiers placed in cemeteries, but it’s not too hard to imagine that a few bits and pieces have been left behind. For some of those men, their identities obliterated by their wounds or decomposition, a unit marker close to where they fell may be the most specific memorial they have, more personal than resting somewhere under a stone that reads “unknown.” The battlefield, dedicated to preserving the memory of their struggles, inspires a kind of sacred respect in many that resembles our attitudes toward graveyards and places of worship.

And that is my extra-long justification for posting photographs of the Irish Brigade monument at Gettysburg.

Irish Brigade Monument at sunset

The Irish Brigade, so nicknamed for the high percentage of Irish immigrants in its ranks, was originally composed of the 63rd, 69th and 88th New York Infantry regiments. You can see those numbers on the cross. The 116th Pennsylvania Infantry and 28th Massachusetts Infantry were added to the brigade, and the mostly non-Irish 29th Massachusetts joined them briefly while the 28th Massachusetts was still being organized. The Brigade established a reputation for bravery and ferocity in battle, but suffered from heavy casualties throughout the war.

Irish Brigade Monument at Gettysburg

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