Vol. 23, Issue 1
|Into the Mouth of Hell: Farnsworth’s Charge Revisited by Andie Custer|
|Licensed Battlefield Guide Andie Custer sets out to revise the commonly held views of Farnsworth’s Charge late on July 3, 1863, during the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. She has a problem with several issues. First, she believes that Third Cavalry Division commander Judson Kilpatrick and brigade commander Elon Farnsworth did not have the famous exchange where Kill-Cavalry questioned the new Brigadier’s courage. Instead, the author says that the two men were nothing but cordial to each other all day. She also says that Farnsworth didn’t believe the charge would succeed, but that he didn’t hesitate to do his duty. Second, Ms. Custer relates that Farnsworth died very early in the charge, rather than much later when trying to cut his way back out of the Confederate ring of troops. Third, the author says that the Union cavalry charge never crossed east of Plum Run as was previously believed. Fourth, Ms. Custer believes that the monument of the 1st Vermont in the “D-shaped field” in Slyder’s Upper Meadow is misplaced. And lastly, the author describes why she thinks that Law, Oates, and other Confederates mistook Captain Oliver T. Cushman for Farnsworth. The author presents these beliefs in a well-argued way, so I went over to the Civil War Discussion Group to see what noted Cavalry experts Eric Wittenberg and J.D. Petruzzi thought. It turns out that Eric and J.D., as well as others, in this thread, are not at all impressed with this interpretation of Farnsworth’s Charge, so you might want to take this particular article (and some of the others in this issue by the same author) with a grain of salt, and possibly take a look at the footnoted sources from the article to see for yourself. The most interesting piece of evidence contradicting Custer is the lack of outrage from members of the 1st Vermont Cavalry after the war. If their monument had been “misplaced”, why would they remain silent without attempting to rectify this “wrong”?|
|Captain Parsons’ Battles and Leaders Account by Andie Custer|
|In this sidebar article, Ms. Custer discusses why she believes the account of Farnsworth’s Charge by Captain Henry C. Parsons’ (of the 1st Vermont Cavalry) that appeared in Battles & Leaders is suspect. She points to the fact that Parsons was wounded early in the charge and did not witness most of the action for himself as a major reason for her suspicions. But the thing I found odd was that Custer so readily dismissed the work of John Bachelder and his information-gatherers, the people on whom Parsons DID rely. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Parsons did publish the account as a first-person work even though he was not himself present for most of the charge. In a postscript, Custer discusses the strange and violent death of Parsons years later at the hands of a railroad conductor who he had accused of “improper and immoral conduct on the job.”|
|Skirmish at Fountaindale, Sunday, June 28, 1863 by Timothy H. Smith|
|Timothy H. Smith, a Licensed Battlefield Guide (LBG) at Gettysburg, describes the short skirmish ar Fountaindale, Pennsylvania, near the border with Maryland on June 28, 1863. Members of Maj. William W. Pegram’s Artillery Battalion had set out on a mission to procure fresh horses, which were in need due to the lack of horseshoes and the limestone pikes of the state. Lt. John H. Chamberlayne of the Crenshaw (VA) Battery was placed in charge of the expedition. While on this mission, the men were forced to take the “pets” of many women and children along the way, but Smith notes that the Confederates were careful to leave receipts for the horses, to be repaid at the end of the war. The author also relates the meeting of the Confederates with two students of the Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary, who they at first thought had shot at them. After that misunderstanding, the two men were allowed to leave peacefully. Unbeknownst to the Confederates, they would soon face Union troopers, a squad of men from the Maryland Potomac Brigade Cavalry under Lt. William Alexander Horner. From a vantage point at Monterey Springs, Horner saw the Confederates coming and set an ambush for them near a schoolhouse at Fountaindale. In the ensuing melee, it appears that many of the horses and eleven Confederates were captured. It was a small event, but one that was interesting in its own right.|
|Books reviewed in this issue:
1. Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
|The Bullets Came Thick and Close: The 137th New York Infantry on Culp’s Hill by John Archer|
|The 137th New York might not be nearly as famous as the 20th Maine, but its role on the right flank of the Army of the Potomac was just as important as Chamberlain’s regiment on the left. John Archer gives us a mini-history of the regiment. Raised during the dark days of Autumn 1862, the 137th was assigned to Geary’s Second Division, Greene’s Brigade of the XII Corps. The unit managed to miss Fredericksburg, and although it had seen no major combat, the beginning strength of 1008 had been nearly halved to 563 men by the regiment’s baptism of fire at Chancellorsville, where it lost another 55 men. The regiment then moved to Gettysburg with its parent unit. By June 28, the regiment was down to 456 hardened men. The XII Corps approached Gettysburg from the east-southeast in the late afternoon of July 1, too late to participate in the fighting northwest of town. Initially Geary’s Division of the XII Corps was sent to the Union left flank along Cemetery Ridge. This did not last long, as the XII Corps was ordered to the Union Right flank on Culp’s Hill around 5 A.M. on July 2. When there, the men were ordered to build breastworks. In the early evening, Confederate General Edward “Allegheny” Johnson threw his division, minus the Stonewall Brigade, against the eastern slope of Culp’s Hill. He picked a good time to attack, because the entire XII Corps minus Greene’s Brigade had gone west and southwest to shore up the rest of the Union line. The 137th was on the far right flank of the brigade line, and by extension the line of the entire army. The Rebels outnumbered Greene’s Brigade 4:1, but the strength of the Union line produced a temporary stalemate. Some Virginia regiments of Steuart’s Brigade, however, managed to get around the right flank of the 137th. Colonel David Ireland refused the flank with his rightmost company, and soon received some help in the form of the 71st Pennsylvania, and later the 6th Wisconsin and 84th New York. However, the 71st soon retreated, again leaving the 137th New York to its own devices. The regiment was forced to retreat to a traverse that had been built perpendicular to the main Union line. From there, another stalemate developed, and the attacks paused around 10 P.M. The 137th New York was then replaced by the 84th New York, and they pulled back behind the lines to get some rest. That did not last long. Johnson renewed the Confederate attacks at 3:45 A.M. on July 3 with an even larger force, and the Union regiments rotated in and out of the firing line, including the 137th New York. After hours of constant fighting, the Southerners finally called off the attacks at 10:30 A.M. The heavy fighting had ended for the regiment at Gettysburg. Later in 1863, they transferred to the west with the rest of the XI and XII Corps, eventually becoming a part of the XX Corps, formed from the other two units. The 137th fought in the Atlanta Campaign, suffering heavy losses there. The unit was still in the fight through the end of the war. Interestingly, the 137th’s battlefield monument is not located at the site of its hardest fighting on the southern portion of Culp’s Hill, but rather along the brigade line farther north. Archer notes that the 137th New York lost 32% of its men in the fighting, the same percent loss as the 20th Maine, guarding the other Union flank. Colonel Ireland died during the war, and the 137th is largely forgotten today, unlike their more famous counterparts in the 20th Maine.|
|B&G Back Issues|
|Driving Tour – Farnsworth’s Charge, Colonel Ireland Saves the Union Right, and the Skirmish at Fountaindale|
|by Dave Roth, with Andie Custer, Tim Smith, John Archer and Gary Kross|
|The Driving Tour features the places discussed in this issue, including the area of Farnsworth’s Charge near Round Top and Bushman Hill, the area around Fountaindale, and Culp’s Hill.|
|The Wells Monument: Bas Relief of Farnsworth’s Charge by Andie Custer|
|The William Wells monument, dedicated on July 13, 1913, was unique in that Wells “holds the distinction of being the lowest ranking officer at Gettysburg portrayed on the battlefield by a dedicated bronze portrait statue not on a regimental monument.” The statue also contains an interesting bas relief of some of the key members of the 1st Vermont Cavalry who participated in Farnsworth’s charge, including Maj. William Wells, Brig. Gen. Elon Farnsworth, Capt. Henry C. Parsons, First Sgt. F. Stewart Stranahan, Cpl. Gilbert C. Buckman, Pvt. Edgar J. Wolcott, First Lt. Hiram H. Hall, Lt. Alexander G. Watson, Sgt. William L. Greenleaf, Sgt. Willard Farrington, Lt. Col. Addison W. Preston, Sgt. George H. Duncan, Alphonzo Barrows, Cpl. George L. McBride, Capt. Oliver Tucker Cushman, Lt. Perley C.J. Cheney, Cpl. Ira E. Sperry, Sgt. Seymour H. Wood, and Edwin E. Jones.|
|Monuments Revise History by Andie Custer|
|Custer contends that the existing monuments for Farnsworth’s Brigade are in the wrong location on the Gettysburg Battlefield, and she proposes to move them based on her interpretation of Farnsworth’s Charge.|
***Check out the Siege of Petersburg Online for daily posts on battle accounts in newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and more!
What are your Top 10 Gettysburg Books? See what a panel of bloggers said recently.
Want to read some interesting Civil War content from amateurs and pros alike? Check out the Top 10 Civil War Blogs and Top 10 Civil War Blogs: 11-20.