Looking for Major Blackford

Eugene Blackford is a fascinating character and it’s easy to get drawn into his life. I’m currently publishing his wartime letters, but I’m not the only one who’s interested in him. Here’s someone else, Jared Fuoss, who followed him also, with an emphasis on Gettysburg where he is a seasonal ranger.

Studying at Gettysburg College in 2014 allowed me to devote the research time needed to uncover the story of Eugene and his sharpshooters at Gettysburg. I scoured primary source documents, official records, letters, and published works about Blackford and his detachment of sharpshooters. Compounding the difficulties of the monumental task, I quickly discovered that Blackford’s (Rodes Division) Sharpshooters did not exist as an official military unit. Composed of highly trained men from numerous regiments, Blackford’s sharpshooters emerged on an as needed basis to act as sharpshooters. As a result, tracing their history during the battle of Gettysburg became comparable to chasing a ghost. Bits and pieces of information lay scattered through 151 years of history. Driven to uncover the truth and establish a rock solid narrative my research produced an extensive paper detailing the movement of sharpshooters through Gettysburg and determined the positions of troops during the battle using primary sources to tell their story.

One of the mysteries was Blackford’s last resting place. I had an obituary but it turned out to be wrong about the location. Fuoss and another gentleman independently tracked down the proper cemetery for Blackford and his family. One of the ironies of Blackford’s life is that he, a devoted son of Virginia, ended up in Maryland.

Speaking of Blackford and Gettysburg, there is a short video re-enactment of his mission in the town with his sharpshooters. The barricade you see is one that the Confederates built across Baltimore Avenue to allow them to pass back and forth.

And as a reminder, you can still get the first volume of his letters for a discount.


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