Gettysburg – The Decisive Battle
The Battle of Gettysburg was fought on July3, 1863. This month 10,000 volunteers reenacted the historic battle, so popular they had to feature it for two weekends. I have mixed feelings about making this entertainment, and entertainment is what is has become with grandstands for the viewing audience's comfort.
Four of my second great grandfathers participated in the Civil War, one of them at Gettysburg. It was no picnic for John Wesley Daly, an Irishman in this country for less than 20 years. He lived in northern Virginia, a state sharply divided as to which side its citizens favored. The state was also devastated by numerous battles due to its border location.
Daly's sentiments were with the northern troops. He served as a wagon master under C. H. Tompkins, a Colonel in the Federal Army of the Potomac stationed at Washington, DC. Northern wagon masters played an integral part in keeping General Meade's troops well supplied with clothing, arms and food unlike General Lee's southern army, constantly short of supplies, including food, clothing and shoes.
Caught in crossfire at Gettysburg Daly feigned death lying in the vast wheat field until fighting subsided. When the battle ended, over 28,000 Confederates and 23,000 Federals were dead, wounded or missing. Many historians consider Gettysburg to be the turning point of America's Civil War.
My other Virginia ancestor, Ambrose Cornelius Gant did not fare as well. As he helped load supply wagons, northern troops captured him on 13 December, 1863. He was sent by train to Camp Chase, a prison camp near Columbus, Ohio where he died of pneumonia 10 days later. His family never knew why he didn't return home until another descendant and I found his name in northern prisoner records at the National Archives.
Meanwhile in Chautauqua County, New York, Daniel Brainard Thayer decided to enlist when New York announced a massive push for 100,000 enlistments and offered each man a bounty of $100. He enlisted in August 1862 and collected $25 with the rest to be paid at mustering out. Thayer was 37 years old and served as a drummer, meaning he didn't fight but accompanied the troops into battle to the beat of his drum.
His regiment was ordered to Folly Island, South Carolina to help in the siege of Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor and the bombardment of Fort Sumner. Due to fetid, swampy water in which they camped he became ill and was transferred to the hospital ship Cosmopolitan. Relocated to Fort Schuyler, New York, he died of pneumonia October 14, 1863.
Finally, in Huron County, Ohio 42 year old farmer Henry B. Belding enlisted as a private in Ohio's 12th Light Artillery Regiment along with his two sons, Jay and Charles on 19 February 1864. The regiment was stationed at Nashville, Tennessee until April when they served at the defense of Murfreesboro in December. They were mustered out on July 12, 1865, with only three enlisted men killed in action and 20 who succumbed to disease.
The Civil War, the most tragic of all America wars, was fought entirely on American soil only 75 years before my birth. While 618,222 deaths have commonly been attributed to the Civil War, more casualties than our nation had in all other wars from the Revolution through Vietnam, latest estimates are that as many as 750,000 Americans died. Actual numbers are elusive. While the northern toll relies heavily on Civil War pension files, there were no pensions for southern soldiers and other records are inadequate.
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22 July 2013