Posts Tagged ‘gettysburg national military park’

There aren’t a lot of crosses in Gettysburg National Military Park. The 142nd Pennsylvania has this rough-hewn, rugged cross.

142nd Pennsylvania Infantry

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Pennsylvania Women Plaque

This is something a little different – this plaque is inside the Pennsylvania state monument at Gettysburg. I am not aware that there is anything else like this on the battlefield proper (but I’ve been wrong before). What it made me think about was that here is a plaque with no names, just dedicated to the loyal women of the commonwealth, and yet it probably contains more information than most of their tombstones did.

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Sometimes, I think about completely random things when I look at a piece of statuary. I’ll be walking around the cemetery, photographing things and considering what I might want to write about and – WHAM – out of nowhere, my train of thought will derail completely. I was reviewing my photos from Gettysburg, thinking deep weighty thoughts about bloody battles, when I suddenly realized what fabulous mustaches many of the statues had. I need help. But so do all of you, because you’re still reading. Anyway, since you’ve come this far, check it out and I think you’ll agree with me.

West Virginia (2)

84th New York Infantry (2)

74th Pennsylvania Infantry (2)

1st Pennsylvania Cavalry

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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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John Reynolds

General John Fulton Reynolds could have easily become famous for a number of things. The Pennsylvanian was an 1841 West Point graduate and career military officer. He received decorations for gallantry in the Mexican-American War, completing the war at the rank of Major, and then returned to his alma mater to teach in between military deployments and even serve as Commandant of Cadets in 1860. During the early days of the Civil War, Reynolds advanced quickly, from Lieutenant Colonel to Brigadier General to Major General, even though he was briefly captured in 1862 and returned to command after a prisoner exchange. At special request of Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtain, Reynolds organized the state militia in response to Robert E. Lee’s Maryland campaign and then returned to his previous command. Most scholars believe that Reynolds was offered command of the Army of the Potomac just before the Battle of Gettysburg, but he declined because he did not wish to deal with the politics. But for all that, Reynolds is probably best known because he was the highest ranking officer to die at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Major General John Reynolds

Reynolds was not on the battlefield long. He arrived in Gettysburg on July 1 to with his First Corps to relieve John Burford’s Cavalry Division. While organizing his Corps on the battlefield, he fell with a Confederate bullet through his neck onto his native Pennsylvania soil.

Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds

Although most visitors would not realize it, the monuments to Reynolds at Gettysburg are all cenotaphs, even this one in the National Cemetery. After being removed from the field, Reynolds’ body was moved as quickly as possible to his nearby hometown of Lancaster and interred there.

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