(The Civil Warís Costliest Battle)







By Keri Corona

5th Grade

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Author: Keri Corona


Title: The Civil Warís Costliest Battle


Historical Topic: The Battle of Gettysburg July 1, 2, 3, 1863 and President Lincolnís Gettysburg Address


Nevada Standards:


Nevada History Standard 6.5.21 Identify the Civil War and final outcome, including Union and Confederacy and Generals Grant and Lee.

Nevada Reading Standard 3.5.3 Identify historical events as portrayed in a variety of genres in literature.

Nevada Reading Standard 4.5.1 Use knowledge of text format, graphics, sequence, diagrams, illustrations, charts, and maps to comprehend text.

Nevada Writing Standard 6.5.6 Produce writing with a voice that shows awareness of an intended audience and purpose.

Nevada Listening and Speaking Standard 8.5.2 Identify the intent of persuasive speaking techniques, evaluate a speakers delivery using given criteria, and provide constructive feedback.



The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1,2,3 1863, on farm lands in southern Pennsylvania and was considered the turning point of the civil war. Up until that point, the Confederacy had the upper hand, and after that the Union gained the advantage. Some claim that the battle happened by accident while the soldiers were looking for shoes. General Robert E. Lee's Army Of Northern Virginia, consisting of 75,000 men, and the 97,000 men of the Union Army Of The Potomac under General George G. Meade met, by chance, when a Confederate brigade sent out for supplies observed a forward column of Meade's cavalry.


Gettysburg was the costliest of all of the Civil War battles. There were 51,000 soldiers who were killed, wounded, captured, or missing. Every home and church in Gettysburg was used as a hospital for the wounded and sick. Every yard had at least one grave of a dead soldier buried in it. A national cemetery for the Union soldiers was formed and dedicated on November 19, 1863. Abraham Lincoln was invited to speak. The brief speech known as the Gettysburg Address is the best remembered and most revered speech of the Civil War and may well be one of the greatest speeches of all time.


Activity 1: Primary Sources- Journals from the Battlefield


Learning Goal: In groups of 4 students will analyze 8 primary sources in the forms of journals and letters written by soldiers and accounts of eyewitnesses who were present during the Battle at Gettysburg. A series of 3 maps will be displayed depicting the 3 days of the battle and the changing positions of the Confederate and Union armies. Students will look for historical accuracy among the various writings.

Primary Sources: See attatched


Students will be evaluated by having each student add one important fact they gleaned from the readings to a teacher made chart in the front of the class.



Students will be given a list of civil war soldier vocabulary. Based on prior knowledge and/or good guesses they will define as many words as they can. After an allotted amount of time, teacher will give correct definitions that students will copy.

In groups of 10 students will illustrate the 50 vocabulary words and then will present these illustrations to the class.

At the end of the unit, a quiz will be given on the 50 vocabulary words using the original word list for the quiz template.

Activity 3: Literature Connection- The Gettysburg Address Abraham Lincoln. Boston:Houghton Mifflin, 1995. The text of the Gettysburg Address is illustrated with striking black and white drawings by Michael McCurdy.

After a teacher read aloud of the Gettysburg Address and a brief explanation of the reasons that prompted the writing of the Gettysburg Address, the students will get copies of both the Nicolay and Hay drafts. Students will compare and contrast the two drafts looking for similarities and differences and discuss the value of editing. They will share their findings with the class.



Activity 4: Technology Option 2- 12 Leaders of Gettysburg

Teacher will use a PowerPoint to teach students about the 12 most important leaders at Gettysburg.Click here for PowerPoint.

Students will separate each leader under the heading of Confederate or Union based on the information given and prior knowledge of the war.


Activity 5: Foldable- Gettysburg Address Word Play


Students will re-write the 3 paragraphs of the Gettysburg Address using kid friendly synonyms in place of unfamiliar words of the times.


Activity 6: Student Project-A Civil War Lunch or Traveling Trunk Activity

In groups of 5 students will be responsible for bringing in, and in some cases, cooking items from a specified list that would have been very close to what a soldier would eat during the Civil War. Recipes are attached for students to make these recipes ahead of time. Each student will be responsible for bringing in 2 items from the list.


The Traveling Trunk is a hands-on learning tool and is an excellent way for students to understand the Civil War era from a soldier's perspective. This activity will depend on the finances of the school and or teacher.







Activity 1: Primary Sources- Journals from the Battlefield

After reading the article The Battle of Gettysburg (attached) together as a whole class students will:

In groups of 4 students will analyze 8 primary sources in the forms of journals and letters written by soldiers and accounts of eyewitnesses who were present during the Battle at Gettysburg. A series of 3 maps will be displayed depicting the 3 days of the battle and the changing positions of the Confederate and Union armies. Students will look for historical accuracy among the various writings.

Primary Sources: See attatched


Students will be evaluated by having each student add one important fact they gleaned from the readings to a teacher made chart in the front of the class.


The Battle of Gettysburg
Gettysburg National Military Park Kidzpage

New York Times- June 16, 1863Fought during the first three days of July 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most critical battles of the Civil War. The battle was the centerpiece of the Gettysburg Campaign, which began in the middle of June 1863, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee marched his army, the Army of Northern Virginia, out of central Virginia and north toward the Potomac River with the objective of invading Maryland and Pennsylvania. Lee had several reasons for wanting to invade the Union. His army was in need of supplies and raw materials that could not be easily obtained in the Confederacy. Lee's men had suffered greatly for want of food during the winter and spring of 1863 and he hoped that food supplies could be obtained from northern farms and warehouses, giving farmers in Virginia a chance to plant and nurture their crops without armies tramping over them. General Lee also hoped to obtain a victory on northern soil to take attention away from a dismal situation at Vicksburg, Mississippi, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, where a Union army under General Ulysses S. Grant had surrounded the city and lay siege to it. It was also thought that a victory over the Union army on northern soil may cause Great Britain and France to recognize the Confederacy as an independent nation, and provide the growing peace movement in the North with enough reasons to press the Lincoln administration to sue for peace. All of these things could possibly end the Civil War.

Confederates crossing the Potomac RiverGeneral Lee's hungry Confederates crossed the Potomac River, the border between Virginia and Maryland, and marched into Pennsylvania. There they found food, supplies, and many frightened civilians. The Union army, called the Army of the Potomac, cautiously followed Lee, shielding the capitol of Washington, DC from the Confederate forces and stopped at Frederick, Maryland, while the army commander, General Joe Hooker, argued with his commanders in Washington for more troops. On June 29, the Union army set out from their camps with a new commander, General George Gordon Meade, to find Lee and put a stop to his invasion. By this time, Confederate forces were spread throughout southern Pennsylvania. On June 30, a group of Confederates were marching eastward from Cashtown, Pennsylvania, when they spied Union cavalrymen just ahead near the town of Gettysburg. Under orders not to start an battle, the southerners retreated to Cashtown where they told their commander, General A.P. Hill, what they had seen. General Hill decided to send a larger part of his command toward Gettysburg the next morning to find out who those blue-clad troopers really were. He did not know they were Union cavalry from the Army of the Potomac, commanded by General John Buford.

Fighting on July 1The Battle of Gettysburg began early on the morning of July 1, 1863, when General Buford's pickets three miles west of Gettysburg spotted the Confederate column sent by General Hill. A Union cavalry officer fired the first shot of the battle and the Confederates answered back with gun shots of their own. The cavalrymen knew they could not stop the southern infantry, so they slowly fell back toward Gettysburg until they reached the McPherson Farm. The cavalry was making one last, determined stand when Union infantry arrived just in time to throw back the Confederates. One of the first Union soldiers to fall was Major General John Fulton Reynolds, instantly killed while leading his troops into the fray.

Most of the fighting on July 1 was west and north of Gettysburg. The Union troops fought valiantly against overwhelming numbers of Confederates, directed toward Gettysburg by General Lee who arrived on the battlefield at the height of the fighting. The general was slightly frustrated that his officers started a battle without his permission, for he planned to concentrate his army west of Gettysburg and fight a battle in the mountains. The heavy fighting near Gettysburg upset his plan, so Lee and watched his victorious soldiers drive the Union troops through Gettysburg to the hills south of town. It was a great victory for Lee, but not a decisive one as the Union Army did not retreat from the hills but concentrated there. General Meade arrived that night and decided to fight the battle by defending the hills and letting Lee make the next move.

By the morning of July 2, the Union army had established strong positions in a giant U-shaped line from Culp's Hill to Cemetery Ridge. Satisfied with the line, General Meade decided to wait for Lee to make the next move while the remainder of the Army of the Potomac hurried to the battlefield. Early that morning, General Lee surveyed the strong Union line from his position on Seminary Ridge and realized that a weakness might be with the Union flanks. A simultaneous strike on both the right and left of Meade's position could roll up the Union line toward Cemetery Hill. Lee directed General James Longstreet to attack the Union left and General Richard S. Ewell to attack the Union right.

Little Round Top in 1863The fighting began that afternoon at 4 o'clock and quickly spread up and down the ridges. Union cannon posted on the ridge above Devil's Den roared to life. Fighting erupted on the slopes of Little Round Top, in the Wheatfield, and at the Peach Orchard as General Longstreet's Confederates attacked these positions. At Little Round Top, Union troops threw back repeated Confederate attacks and finally saved the hill from capture after several hours of combat. Fighting swept into Devil's Den and up the line to the Peach Orchard. The situation was desperate for the Union forces who fought valiantly but were slowly forced back. The line of General Daniel Sickles, a Union corps commander, collapsed under the relentless southern attacks, Sickles himself so severely wounded that his leg required amputation. A brisk counterattack of Union reserves drove the Confederates back. Darkness put a grateful end to the slaughter on the Union left, but the battle was just beginning at Culp's Hill. Night had fallen by the time Confederate infantrymen under General Edward Johnson splashed across Rock Creek and began the climb up the wooded slopes of Culp's Hill. Union troops quietly waited behind earthen defenses stretched southward from the summit of the hill to a small knoll above Spangler's Spring. Union musketry and confusion in the darkness made the Confederate commander believe that he was heavily outnumbered and he stopped the attack to wait for reinforcements.

Meanwhile, Confederate troops made a brilliant charge to the base of Cemetery Hill and overran Union troops stationed behind stone walls. Through the gap poured soldiers from Louisiana, called "Louisiana Tigers", who attacked Union artillery at the summit. Union reinforcements rushed to the scene and immediately attacked with rifles and bayonets, driving off the Confederates. Though General Meade's line had been heavily beaten on and almost broken, he was still able to hold his position on Cemetery Ridge.

Fighting at Culp's HillFighting erupted on Culp's Hill early on the morning of July 3 when Union troops attacked Confederates who had taken a portion of the hill the night before. The Confederates had been reinforced by other troops and tried to drive the Union troops off of the summit of the hill, but could not get beyond the Union earthworks because of the stubborn defense they put up. After six hours of intense fighting, the Union succeeded in driving off the southerners. General Lee decided to alter his strategy. Having already ordered his cavalry chief, J.E.B. Stuart, to ride around the Union army and attack the Union supply line, Lee decided to strike the weakened Union center. He issued orders for a bombardment of the center followed by an infantry assault to be commanded by his trusted corps commander, General James Longstreet. General Longstreet's assault, better known today as "Pickett's Charge", would be Lee's last gamble for victory at Gettysburg.

The Southern cannonade began at 1 o'clock and lasted for almost two hours. It was followed by the charge of 12,000 Confederates, half of them Virginia troops commanded by General George E. Pickett, and the other half commanded by Brig. General James J. Pettigrew. The Confederates succeeded in breaking the Union line at the angle near a copse of trees, but were thrown back with heavy losses. A down hearted General Lee saw the results of the charge and rode into the field to rally his soldiers.

The retreat to VirginiaThat evening, General Lee ordered his troops to prepare to retreat to the Potomac River where they would cross back into Virginia. General Meade, satisfied that his army held a superior position, waited for Lee's next move but then followed the Confederates as they marched away from Gettysburg and wound their way west to Williamsport, Maryland on the Potomac River. Swelled by heavy rains, the river could not be crossed and the Confederates were forced to build defenses in case of a Union attack. But Confederate engineers were able to place floating bridges across the river and the last troops of Lee's army stepped onto the Virginia side just as Meade's soldiers began to close in. The bloody Gettysburg Campaign was over.

Once back in Virginia, General Lee reported to President Jefferson Davis on what happened at Gettysburg and how is soldiers had done their best to win the battle. The general never criticised any of his commanders for mistakes that may have been made, nor did he write badly of his soldiers. He knew how hard they had fought and how many of them had been left behind, including many good officers. General Meade also reported to President Lincoln and though the president was disappointed that the Union army had not destroyed Lee's army, he thanked the general for doing such a good job. Congress also thanked General Meade for the victory at Gettysburg, but there were some Union officers who were not quite so pleasant to the general, including General Sickles. General Meade was forced to defend his actions for many years to come.

The cost of the battle was high- 51,000 casualties, which are all of the soldiers who were killed, wounded, captured, or missing. Every home and church in Gettysburg was a hospital, and every field and yard held the grave of a soldier, hastily dug and filled. To provide a proper burial for the Union dead, local citizens began a project for a national cemetery to be placed at Gettysburg. It was dedicated on November 19, 1863, and featured a short speech by President Lincoln. The president's Gettysburg Address is the best remembered and most revered speech of the Civil War. Confederate dead were later moved to cemeteries in southern states, the majority going to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.







Soldiers' Letters
Gettysburg National Military Park

Dear Mom & Dad

Dear Mother and Father,

I am still in the land of the living...

Soldiers wrote many letters during the war and we are lucky that so many of them have been preserved. When a historian reads those letters, he can get an idea of what the soldiers were like and what they thought of while they were away from home. Letter writing was the main form of communication with loved ones at home and letter writing helped to relieve boredom. Almost all soldiers begged for their parents, friends, wives and sweethearts to write back right away as there were few pleasures greater than receiving mail from home.Civil War soldiers missed many of the special things they took for granted while at home, especially home cooked food. Families packed boxes with a soldier's favorite food like pies and cakes that he could not get while in the army and it was a special day when such a package from home arrived in camp.

To write their letters home, soldiers purchased paper, envelopes, ink and pens from sutlers. Stationary makers printed many styles of patriotic stationary and envelopes with engravings of camp scenes or political humor and these were quite popular among soldiers.

Envelopes, also known as "covers", with elaborate printed patriotic scenes or political statements were some of the most popular to use. Some enterprising businessmen manufactured envelopes for specific regiments serving in the army, such this one to the 99th Pennsylvania Infantry, which lists all of the battles in which the regiment had participated during its service to 1864.

(Collection of Gettysburg NMP)

The Union Army had a post office near forts and camps, and a mail service that followed the armies for the men could purchase stamps and mail their letters. Later in the war, organizations such as the U.S. Christian Commission and U.S. Sanitary Commission gave out paper and envelopes to Union soldiers free of charge. In 1864, the U.S. Mail Service announced that Union soldiers could send their letters home for free as long as they wrote "Soldier's Letter" on the outside of the envelope. Confederate soldiers never had such a luxury. Shortages of paper, stamps, and even writing utensils in the South became acute as the war progressed and it was often left up to the soldiers to find writing paper, including stationary taken from Union prisoners.

Almost every soldier in service made an effort to write letters home to describe their experiences, give their opinions on local matters and politics, and to assure their families not to worry. But not all soldiers could write very well or spell words properly. Rural education in America was not like it is today and most Civil War soldiers only had an education up to the fourth grade level. Many young men from rural areas had never attended school and could neither read nor write so they asked comrades to write letters for them. Poor education led to many words being mispelled or sentences left incomplete. Soldiers sometimes spelled words as they heard them- "raison" for reason, "horspitle" for hospital, "rafel" for rifle. Here is a portion of a letter written by Francis Russell, a Union soldier from the 140th Pennsylvania Infantry, with some of these misspellings:

Washington City, D. C.
Sunday, Dec. 14th 1862

Dear Mother and family.
I will take the pensil to let you know we are all well. At present hoping this will find you in the same. we let White Hall Station on Thursday about 4 Clock in the afternoon and got into Washington about 4 oclock in the morning on Friday whitch maid about 12 hours on the way, we then stay ther untill yesterday when we had orders to march about 6.5 miles and when I heard this I went to the head doctor ast him what I would do for I know that I could not carry my knapsack, so he told me that I would have to stay hear and so all them that could not stand the march was sent to the hospitle. Ther was 10 out of our Companny and that was myself and a nother young man, we did not hear the name of the place that they wer going to, but both James and Bob said that they would wright as soon as they wer sitteled that is they would wright home to you, ther is abut 50 sick and wounded in the department that I am in, I think that I will not be in hear very long, for I will try and get eather home or get to my Regiment for I don't like this very well, it is not because I am not treated well for it is six times better than I expected but I canot be contented a way from my companny, my arm is about the same, I wright this mearley to let you know something about myselve for I canot say anything about the others now but I will have to stope so no more at present but reman your son and Brother.

Francis M. Russell

Address your letter to Stanton Hosepittle, Washington City. C.C.
I wish you would send me some postige stamps as we have not got paid yet, my money has run ashore and I want to wright some and so on.

Yours, F. M. R.

(Gregory A. Coco Collection, Gettysburg National Military Park)

Sometimes soldiers described battles, but more often they wrote about their daily existence and desire to be at home. Confederate soldier John Sweet of the 9th Tennessee Infantry wrote home to his parents in November 1863 from siege lines overlooking Union troops at Chattanooga, Tennessee:

We have just returned from a trip into East Tenn where we got big amounts of everything to eat and everything we eat is so good to me as I had been starved out so long on some bread & beef, all that we got while we were here besieging Chattanooga. up there we got sweet and Irish potatoes, chickens, molassas, wheat bread and everything that was good for a poor soldier. Oh, how I do wish that I could be at home now, for it is getting late in the evening and I have had nothing to eat since breakfast and no telling when we will get rations for our rations are out, since we left our ration wagons behind in coming here to this place, for I know you have all had a good & plentiful dinner. I know you will say poor John, but this is only a chapter in military service which we often read, but I am content and will be more so when we get rations. The independence of the bounty is what I want and I am I am willing to suffer for something to eat many, many days if it will only send me to my dear parents, a full and independent boy.
The enemy still holds their position in Chattanooga and our lines drawn up close around the place. We are now on the top of Lookout Mountain overlooking the town. We have a fine view of our entire line and also of theirs. It is said that we can see into five different states from our position. It is very cold up here, as cold as it is where you are in mid-winter. You must excuse this exceedingly bad letter as I have written in great haste. My love to you and all. Write when you can and a long letter as I am very anxious to hear from you.

John H. Sweet

(Gregory A. Coco Collection, Gettysburg National Military Park)


Soldiers in a camp writing lettersSoldiers in every war our nation has fought in have written home from the battle front. As you can see, soldiers wrote many letters throughout the Civil War, sometimes telling their friends and people at home information that the military wanted to be kept secret. It was soon after America's entry into World War I that soldiers' letters were censored by army officials who cut out parts of letters which may give away military secrets or, if the letters fell into the wrong hands, would provide pertinent information on troop locations. Censorship reached a new height during World War II. GI's could only write in generalities and not refer to their location or unit. Even the "XXXXX"'s for love and kisses would be cut out of the letter, as it might be mistaken for some sort of code! During the Vietnam conflict, soldier's letters were not as heavily censored and the soldiers wrote home about their experiences, their friends, and what they had seen.

Sgt. Stevenson, 9th Infantry writes home.
A soldier writes home from France in 1944.
(Courtesy 2nd Infantry Div.)

Civil War soldiers always looked forward to the arrival of packages from home usually filled with clothing items, candies, soap and writing paper. Fifty years later during World War I, preservatives allowed the home folks to ship baked goods and packaged food items to the doughboys in France. Speedy mail service improved and by World War II, a package containing fudge, pictures, toiletry items, cookies, and other favorite things could arrive in Europe from America within three weeks. It was during World War II that soldiers could send "V-Mail", an electronic telegram- very much the forerunner of today's e-mail. Mail service was even faster by the 1960's during the Vietnam Conflict when mail time had been reduced to only a few days. A soldier may receive a letter or package which would include magazines, photos, snacks and food items such as a package of cheese and crackers from "Hickory Farms". Some soldiers even received small plastic Christmas trees during the holidays to decorate their bunkers. During the Gulf War in 1991, US Soldiers in Saudi Arabia received packages from home. One soldier received a birthday cake sent from the United States within 28 hours of it being shipped! And instead of writing letters, most of the soldiers phoned home or sent e-mail messages. Our soldiers on duty in Afghanistan, Iraq and in other countries communicate with their homes by e-mail, the modern form of letter writing.

Question: What would you write to loved ones if you were in the army and far away from home?

Think about what you would write if you were a soldier. Would you write about guard duty? Army food? Camp life? The battles? What would you miss the most if you were far away from home? How about a favorite food like pizza? One may not be available if you are far away from home, maybe even in another country. It makes you appreciate the pizza shop near your home! Try and write a letter to a friend using some or all of the Civil War words and phrases listed here.

captain - camp - campaign - general - hard bread - rebels - yankees - musket - boots - picket duty - drill - pen - crops - miss - able servant - dress parade - engineer - trains - wagons - cavalry - Battle of Gettysburg - newspaper - volunteer - boots - pay - army beans - fit as a fiddle















The Battle of Gettysburg, 1863


Lee's second
invasion of
the North

On June 24, 1863, General Robert E. Lee led his Confederate Army across the Potomac River and headed towards Pennsylvania. In response to this threat President Lincoln replaced his army commander, General Joseph Hooker, with General George Mead. As Lee's troops poured into Pennsylvania, Mead led the Union Army north from Washington. Meade's effort was inadvertently helped by Lee's cavalry commander, Jeb Stuart, who, instead of reporting Union movements to Lee, had gone off on a raid deep in the Union rear. This action left Lee blind to the Union's position. When a scout reported the Union approach, Lee ordered his scattered troops to converge west of the small village of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Gettysburg at the time of the battle

On July 1, some Confederate infantry headed to Gettysburg to seize much-needed shoes and clashed west of town with Union cavalry. The Union commander, recognizing the importance of holding Gettysburg because a dozen roads converged there, fought desperately to hold off the Rebel advance. Other Union troops briefly stopped some Rebels north of town. During heavy fighting, the Confederates drove the Union troops through the streets of Gettysburg to Cemetery Hill south of the town. Lee ordered General Richard Ewell, now commander of the late Stonewall Jackson's old units, to attack this position "if practicable", a vague order that Jackson normally took to mean launch an all-out attack. Ewell was not Jackson. He decided not to attack once he saw the Union artillery atop the hill. Had he attacked and succeeded, it might have changed the course of the war.

The rest of the armies arrived that first night. The Union army established a defensive position resembling a fish hook, with Culp's Hill and the two Round Tops anchoring each end. Lee decided to attack both flanks the next day. On his right flank, Union troops mistakenly shifted out of position, leaving Little Round Top undefended. At the last moment, a Union general rushed troops in just ahead of the charging Confederates. After a long day of fighting, they barely held the position. The misplaced bluecoats were pushed back through The Peach Orchard, The Wheat Field, and Devil's Den. On the left, Ewell's assault failed due mainly to his poor leadership.

Thinking the Union center had weakened from these attacks, Lee decided the next day to hit it first with artillery, and then an infantry charge led by George Pickett's division. Stuart's late-arriving cavalry was to come in behind the Union center at the same time, but they were held off by Union cavalry led by a young General George Custer. After an hour's duel, Union artillery deceived the Confederates into thinking their guns were knocked out. Then 13,000 Rebels marched across the field in front of Cemetery Hill, only to have the Union artillery open up on them, followed by deadly Federal infantry firepower. Scarcely half made it back to their own lines. In all, Lee lost more than a third of his men before retreating to Virginia. Meade, a naturally cautious man, decided the loss of one-quarter of his men had been enough, and only feebly tried to pursue Lee, missing an opportunity to crush him.

Memories of a teenage girl.
Tillie Pierce was born in 1848 and when the battle began, had lived all her life in the village of Gettysburg. Her father made his living as a butcher and the family lived above his shop in the heart of town. Tillie witnessed the entire battle and published her observations twenty-six years after the event.

Tillie attended the "Young Ladies Seminary" a finishing school near her home. She was attending school on June 26 when the cry "the Rebels are coming!" reverberated through the town's sleepy streets:

"We were having our literary exercises on Friday afternoon, at our Seminary, when the cry reached our ears. Rushing to the door, and standing on the front portico we beheld in the direction of the Theological Seminary, a dark, dense mass, moving toward town. Our teacher, Mrs. Eyster, at once said:

'Children, run home as quickly as you can.'

"It did not require repeating. I am satisfied some of the girls did not reach their homes before the Rebels were in the streets.

"As for myself, I had scarcely reached the front door, when, on looking up the street, I saw some of the men on horseback. I scrambled in, slammed shut the door, and hastening to the sitting room, peeped out between the shutters.

Confederate prisoners
at Gettysburg

"What a horrible sight! There they were, human beings! Clad almost in rags, covered with dust, riding wildly, pell-mell down the hill toward our home! Shouting, yelling most unearthly, cursing, brandishing their revolvers, and firing right and left.

"I was fully persuaded that the Rebels had actually come at last. What they would do with us was a fearful question to my young mind.

"Soon the town was filled with infantry, and then the searching and ransacking began in earnest.

"They wanted horses, clothing, anything and almost everything they could conveniently carry away.

"Nor were they particular about asking. Whatever suited them they took. They did, however, make a formal demand of the town authorities, for a large supply of flour, meat, groceries, shoes, hats and (doubtless, not least in their estimations), ten barrels of whisky; or, in lieu of this five thousand dollars.

"But our merchants and bankers had too often heard of their coming, and had already shipped their wealth to places of safety. Thus it was, that a few days after, the citizens of York were compelled to make up our proportion of the Rebel requisition."

July 1: Escape to a Safe House and the first encounter with the tragedy of war

As the sounds of battle increase and the fighting nears her home, Tillie joins a neighbor as she and her children flee to her father's (Jacob Weikert) house three miles south of town near Round Top. Tillie's parents elect to stay in town:

"At last we reached Mr. Weikert's and were gladly welcomed to their home.

Tillie Pierce at the
time of the battle

"It was not long after our arrival, until Union artillery came hurrying by. It was indeed a thrilling sight. How the men impelled their horses! How the officers urged the men as they all flew past toward the sound of the battle! Now the road is getting all cut up; they take to the fields, and all is in anxious, eager hurry! Shouting, lashing the horses, cheering the men, they all rush madly on.

"Suddenly we behold an explosion; it is that of a caisson. We see a man thrown high in the air and come down in a wheat field close by. He is picked up and carried into the house. As they pass by I see his eyes are blown out and his whole person seems to be one black mass. The first words I hear him say are: 'Oh dear! I forgot to read my Bible to-day! What will my poor wife and children say'

"I saw the soldiers carry him up stairs; they laid him upon a bed and wrapped him in cotton. How I pitied that poor man! How terribly the scenes of war were being irresistibly portrayed before my vision."

July 2: Officer brutality

During the battle's second day fighting shifts to the area around Little Round Top. Tillie remains in the Weikert home carrying water to passing Union troops while others bake bread for the soldiers. Towards noon she witnesses an incident at the front of the house:

"This forenoon another incident occurred which I shall ever remember. While the infantry were passing, I noticed a poor, worn-out soldier crawling along on his hands and knees. An officer yelled at him, with cursing, to get up and march. The poor fellow said he could not, whereupon the officer, raising his sword, struck him down three or four times. The officer passed on. Little caring what he had done. Some of his comrades at once picked up the prostrate form and carried the unfortunate man into the house. After several hours of hard work the sufferer was brought back to consciousness. He seemed quite a young man, and was suffering from sunstroke received on the forced march. As they were carrying him in, some of the men who had witnessed this act of brutality remarked:

'We will mark that officer for this.'

"It is a pretty well established fact that many a brutal officer fell in the battle, from being shot other than by the enemy."

July 3: The surgeon's work

Lee aims his attack at the center of the Union line. The ferocity of the battle forces Tillie and the others to flee to a farm house farther from the fighting. Late in the day, as the battle subsides, the family decides to return to the Weikert farm:

"Toward the close of the afternoon it was noticed that the roar of the battle was subsiding, and after all had become quiet we started back to the Weikert home. As we drove along in the cool of the evening, we noticed that everywhere confusion prevailed. Fences were thrown down near and far; knapsacks, blankets and many other articles, lay scattered here and there. The whole country seemed filled with desolation.

Surgeons prepare to amputate
Gettysburg July 1863

"Upon reaching the place I fairly shrank back aghast at the awful sight presented. The approaches were crowded with wounded, dying and dead. The air was filled with moanings, and groanings. As we passed on toward the house, we were compelled to pick our steps in order that we might not tread on the prostrate bodies.

"When we entered the house we found it also completely filled with the wounded. We hardly knew what to do or where to go. They, however, removed most of the wounded, and thus after a while made room for the family.

"As soon as possible, we endeavored to make ourselves useful by rendering assistance in this heartrending state of affairs. I remember Mrs. Weikert went through the house, and after searching awhile, brought all the muslin and linen she could spare. This we tore into bandages and gave them to the surgeons, to bind up the poor soldier's wounds.

"By this time, amputating benches had been placed about the house. I must have become inured to seeing the terrors of battle, else I could hardly have gazed upon the scenes now presented. I was looking out of the windows facing the front yard. Near the basement door, and directly underneath the window I was at, stood one of these benches. I saw them lifting the poor men upon it, then the surgeons sawing and cutting off arms and legs, then again probing and picking bullets from the flesh.

"Some of the soldiers fairly begged to be taken next, so great was their suffering, and so anxious were they to obtain relief.

"I saw the surgeons hastily put a cattle horn over the mouths of the wounded ones, after they were placed upon the bench. At first I did not understand the meaning of this but upon inquiry, soon learned that that was their mode of administrating chloroform, in order to produce unconsciousness. But the effect in some instances were not produced; for I saw the wounded throwing themselves wildly about, and shrieking with pain while the operation was going on.

"To the south of the house, and just outside of the yard, I noticed a pile of limbs higher than the fence. It was a ghastly sight! Gazing upon these, too often the trophies of the amputating bench, I could have no other feeling, than that the whole scene was one of cruel butchery."

The battle's aftermath

Hearing that her family is safe in town, it is decided that Tillie should remain at the Weikert farm for a few days after the battle. On July 5, Tillie and some friends climb to the crest of Little Round Top and survey the battlefield below:

Bodies litter the battlefield as
soldiers attempt to identify the dead

"By this time the Union dead had been principally carried off the field, and those that remained were Confederates.

"As we stood upon those mighty boulders, and looked down into the chasms between, we beheld the dead lying there just as they had fallen during the struggle. From the summit of Little Round Top, surrounded by the wrecks of battle, we gazed upon the valley of death beneath. The view there spread out before us was terrible to contemplate! It was an awful spectacle! Dead soldiers, bloated horses, shattered cannon and caissons, thousands of small arms. In fact everything belonging to army equipments, was there in one confused and indescribable mass."

   Alleman, (Pierce) Tillie, At Gettysburg, or What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle (1888, reprinted 1994); Buel, Clarence, and Robert U. Johnson, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol.III (1888; reprint ed., 1982); Freeman, Douglas S. R. E. Lee: A Biography, Vol. III (1934-45); McPherson, James M. Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction (1982).






Courage to Face a Tragedy

"Gettysburg: Stories of Monumental Courage"
A Broadcast For Students and Teachers from Gettysburg National Military Park
Broadcast date: May 25, 2005


Christ Church on Chambersburg Street

The Christ Lutheran Church is one of the most stately public buildings in Gettysburg. Many of the first German settlers in Adams County were members of Lutheran churches, and between 1780 and 1800, an influx of German migrants from other Pennsylvania counties filled the county with members of that faith. By the early 1800's there were ten separate Lutheran churches in and around Gettysburg.

Christ Lutheran Church was established in the 1830's for the benefit of townspeople who wished to form a congregation for sermons in English. The foundation was set in 1835 and construction completed in 1836. It was graced with a multiple step entry into a great foyer at the main entry, with a large and spacious sanctuary. The strong brick walls supported a slate roof and large bell tower in which a bell from a Spanish monastery and dated 1787, was hung. Hailed at the time for its simple grandeur, the church was a gathering house for a substantial Lutheran congregation in Gettysburg. It was also known as the "College Church" as it served the students of Pennsylvania (later Gettysburg) college and the pastor was a college faculty member.

The church was one of the first buildings in Gettysburg to be used as a hospital by Union surgeons and rapidly filled with wounded men from the fighting west and north of Gettysburg on July 1. Over 100 men were crowded into the central portion of the church, stretched upon boards laid across the tops of the pews, with an additional forty or more packed into the lecture room in the basement. Chaplain Horatio Howell of the 90th Pennsylvania Infantry, was shot and killed by a Confederate soldier on the steps of the church after he refused to surrender his sword.

The church was unable to recoup its losses while being used as a hospital for six weeks after the battle, but the congregation pitched in to clean up the church and make repairs costing over $2,000, a small fortune for that time. Over the years, Christ Lutheran Church has undergone numerous repairs and expansions, but is still in operation on Chambersburg Street in Gettysburg today. A monument at the base of the church steps marks the location of Chaplain Howell's death.

The citizens of Gettysburg were hardly ready for a battle to occur on their doorsteps. This busy town had not seen such excitement as they did on June 30 when Union cavalry rode through the streets to establish a line west of town that evening. Everywhere the residents buzzed with news and rumors.

Sallie Myers
Sallie Myers
Adams Co. Historical Society

Salome "Sallie" Myers was a 21-year old school teacher who wrote, "It was early in June that we had the first reports that the rebels were coming. The suspense was dreadful. Day after day the people did little but stand along the streets in groups and talk." The next morning, July 1, she sat on her doorstep listening to the sounds of battle echoing from the west:

"At 10 o'clock that morning I saw the first blood. A horse was led past our house covered with blood. The sight sickened me. Then three men came up the street. The middle one could barely walk. His head had been hastily bandaged and blood was visible. I grew faint with horror. I had never been able to stand the sight of blood, but I was destined to become used to it."

Taking to the cellar of her home, she and her family listened to the sounds of battle above.
"We knelt, shivering, and prayed. The noise above our heads and from the distance, the rattle of musketry, the screeching of shells, and the unearthly cries, mingled with the sobbing of the children shook our hearts. Three soldiers crept down into the cellar... and we concealed and fed them. Before 6 o'clock the firing ceased and we came up from the cellar. They had begun bringing wounded and injured into town. The Catholic and Presbyterian churches, a few doors east of my father's home were taken possession of as hospitals. Dr. James Fulton (143rd Pennsylvania Volunteers) did splendid work getting things in shape. From that time on we had no rest for weeks. 'Girls,' Dr. Fulton said, ' you must come up to the churches and help us- the boys are suffering terribly!' I went to the Catholic church. On pews and floors men lay, the groans of the suffering and dying were heartrending. I knelt beside the first man near the door and asked what I could do. 'Nothing,' he replied, 'I am going to die.' I went outside the church and cried. I returned and spoke to the man- he was wounded in the lungs and spine, and there was not the slightest hope for him. The man was Sgt. Alexander Stewart of the 149th Pennsylvania Volunteers. I read a chapter of the Bible to him, it was the last chapter his father had read before he left home. The wounded man died on Monday, July 6."


Sallie Myers continued to care for patients at the church and those brought into her home until they could be removed to Camp Letterman, the large Union field hospital on the York Road east of Gettysburg. "These were bitter days," she recalled in 1909, "but memories of them are softened when one considers the friendships that were made."

Churches used as hospitals in GettysburgAs it turned out, all of Gettysburg's churches and many houses became hospitals when the fighting began in earnest on July 1. Christ Lutheran Church on Chambersburg Street was one of the first buildings opened for wounded and Union surgeons immediately set about by designating an operating area while assistants lay boards over the pews to accommodate the wounded. It was not long before the first wounded arrived, battered and bloody. Forty-one year old Mary McAllister, who lived with the John Scott family on Chambersburg Street and operated a small store across the street from Christ Lutheran Church, had just that morning handed out cups of water to Union soldiers as they raced down Chambersburg Street toward the battle. Now she saw many of these same men staggering back up the street toward the town. She had already assisted one wounded officer into the Scott house where she lived when a neighbor suggested they go over to the church to assist the growing number of wounded there. She was about to get the shock of her life:

"I gathered up sheets and water and Mrs. Weikert and I went to the church and we went to work. They carried the wounded in there as fast as they could. We took the cushions off the seats and some officers came in and said, 'Lay them in the aisles.' Then we did all we could for the wounded men. After a while they carried in an awfully wounded one. He was a fine officer. They did not know who he was. I never knew who he was but he died. Well, I went to doing what they told me to do, wetting cloths and putting them on the wounds and helping. Every pew was full; some sitting, some lying, some leaning on others. They cut off the legs and the arms and threw them out of the windows. Every morning the dead were laid on the platform in a sheet or blanket and carried away. There was a boy with seven of his fingers near off. He said, 'Lady, would you do something for me?' The surgeon came along and he said, 'What is the use doing anything for them?' and he just took his knife and cut off the fingers and they dropped. Well, I was so sorry.

"A man sat in a pew and he was young and white (pale from shock). He said, 'Lady, come here. Do you know if there is a Mason in town?' I said, 'Yes, there is one Harper, a printer, but he has left town and I know no other.'
"'Oh!' he said, 'If only I could get to him!' But I was too scared. The church was full and just then a shell hit the roof and they got scared, and I was scared. I wanted to go home. I looked around for Mrs. Weikert. They said, 'They are going to shell the church!' Well, they begged me not to go, but I went out and there the high church steps were full of wounded men and they begged me not to try to cross the street. Our men were retreating up the street. Many wounded ones who could walk carried the worst wounded ones on their backs. I said, 'Oh, I want to go home.' So they let me go at last. I struggled through the wounded and the dead and forgot the horror in the fright. I was as far up as Buehler's drug store before I got across the street and got home. When I came to the door it was standing open and the step was covered with blood. I could hardly get through for the dining room was full of soldiers, some lying, some standing. Some ran in to get out of the shooting. The rebels were sending grapeshot down the street and everyone who was on the street had to get into the houses or be killed and that is the way some of these Union men got into our house."

Mary McAllister at her store in 1884
Mary McAllister, seated at left- 1884.
Adams Co. Historical Society

As Mary McAllister administered to the wounded in her home, the attention of Union surgeons at the church remained to administer to their lot of wounded. The church steps were crowded with men who waited for attention while inside, the doctors continued their grisly task. Charles McCurdy, a Gettysburg resident who lived nearby, walked to the church and was shocked at what he saw. The church was filled with wounded- "Surgeons were at work under very crude conditions. The Church yard was strewn with arms and legs that had been amputated and thrown out of the windows." Victorious Confederates did not interrupt the surgeons, but a guard was placed at the entry while homes were searched for Union men desperately hiding to avoid capture.

By the evening of July 1, 1863, the town of Gettysburg had become one large hospital for hundreds of wounded soldiers, packed into churches, the school, and private homes. War and its grim horror had invaded the very homes of the residents of Gettysburg, as blood stained the floors and furniture and amputated limbs piled up outside of church operating rooms. It was a grim reality that would last for weeks to come and one that the citizens of the town would have to face for the rest of their lives. One can only imagine what kind of courage it took for these ordinary people to face a disaster of this magnitude.


Questions to consider!

  1. What kind of courage is exhibited in this story?
  2. Why didn't Sallie Myers go home after she first witnessed the horrible scene in the church?
  3. Can you compare any disaster you've experienced with that of the townspeople of Gettybsurg?





Courage at the Railroad Cut

"Gettysburg: Stories of Monumental Courage"
A Broadcast For Students and Teachers from Gettysburg National Military Park
Broadcast date: May 25, 2005


Colonel Rufus DawesRufus Dawes was a twenty-two year old college graduate who, in 1861, was immediately caught up in the patriotic fervor that swept the north after the firing upon of Fort Sumter, South Carolina. "What seemed to most concern our patriotic and ambitious young men was the fear that some one else would get ahead and crush the rebellion before they got there," Dawes wrote. Gathering support, he and several other young men raised a company of volunteers for state service, to which Dawes was elected captain.

Like many other volunteer officers in 1861, Dawes had no formal military training and "worked like a beaver" to get his new company, "The Lemonweir Minute Men", into shape and into state service. The organization was eventually assigned to the 6th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry as Company K. Dawes saw extensive service with the regiment at Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. He rose to the rank of major and lieutenant colonel to replace promoted officers. On July 1st, 1863, Lt. Colonel Dawes led his 6th Wisconsin Infantry of the famous "Iron Brigade" onto the field of Gettysburg.

His regiment saw very heavy fighting on July 1 and suffered very heavily in the contest at the railroad cut. Dawes spent the remainder of the battle dodging artillery shells and sharpshooters' bullets. He finally had a chance to write home on July 4, 1863:

"In line of battle before Gettysburg
"I am entirely safe through the first three of these terrible days of the bloody struggle. The fighting has been the most desperate I ever saw. On July 1st, our corps was thrown in front, unsupported and almost annihilated. My regiment was detached from the brigade and we charged upon and captured the second Mississippi rebel regiment. O, Mary, it is sad to look now at our shattered band of devoted men. I have no opportunity to say more now or write to any one else. Tell mother I am safe. God has been kind to me and I think he will spare me."

Dawes survived the Gettysburg Campaign and led his 6th Wisconsin during the 1864 Wilderness Campaign to the outskirts of Petersburg, Virginia. In late summer he was mustered out and sent home upon the expiration of his term of service.

Dawes had a bright post-war career in the lumber business, and then served several terms in the United States House of Representatives. In 1890, he published his private letters and reports in Service With The Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers from which this account is taken.

The Battle of Gettysburg began on the morning of July 1, 1863 when Union cavalry, stationed several miles west of town, spotted a column of Confederate soldiers marching in the direction of Gettysburg. The southerners pushed the cavalrymen back toward Gettysburg until 10:00 AM when Union infantry from the First Corps arrived on the field. By this time, the Confederates had forced the Union cavalry back to the McPherson Farm and ridge. One of the first units to march onto the field was the famous "Black Hat Brigade", more well known as the "Iron Brigade", composed of men from Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan. The 6th Wisconsin Infantry was one of those regiments and was ordered to remain near the Lutheran Seminary on Seminary Ridge while the remainder of the brigade marched into the fight at the McPherson Farm. The 6th Wisconsin was under the command of Colonel Rufus Dawes, who had served with the regiment since 1861.

North of the McPherson Farm and parallel with the Chambersburg Pike lay an excavated railroad bed that cut through McPherson's Ridge. As Dawes watched the fighting from his position, he saw a Union brigade north of the railroad cut forced back by Brig. General Joseph R. Davis' brigade of Mississippi and North Carolina regiments. Cutler's men fled toward Seminary Ridge as the victorious Southerners turned southward to attack the Union units around the McPherson Farm. Only the 6th Wisconsin Infantry blocked their way.

Colonel Dawes turned his regiment toward the Chambersburg (or "Cashtown") Pike where the soldiers halted at a solid rail fence:

"The regiment halted at the fence along the Cashtown Turnpike, and I gave the order to fire," Dawes later wrote. In the field, beyond the turnpike, a long line of yelling Confederates could be seen running forward and firing and our troops of Cutler's brigade were running back in disorder. The fire of our carefully aimed muskets, resting on the fence rails, striking their flank, soon checked the rebels in their headlong pursuit.The rebel line swayed and bent, and suddenly stopped firing and the men ran into the railroad cut. I ordered my men to climb over the turnpike fences and advance."

The 95th New York Infantry arrived next to the 6th Wisconsin as the men climbed over the fences. Colonel Dawes approached Major Edward Pye, commanding the New Yorkers: "I said, 'We must charge.' The gallant major replied, 'Charge it is.' 'Forward, charge!' was the order I gave, and Major Pye gave the same command. We were receiving a fearfully destructive fire from the hidden enemy. Men who had been shot were leaving the ranks in crowds. With the colors at the advance point, the regiment firmly and hurriedly moved forward."


The Union soldiers charged across 400 yards of open field toward the blazing railroad bed, packed with soldiers of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry. Colonel Dawes could only shout encouragement to his men, "The only commands I gave as we advanced were, 'Align on the colors! Close up on the colors! Close up on the colors!' The regiment was being so broken up that this order alone could hold the body together. The colors fell upon the ground several times but were raised again by the heroes of the color guard. Four hundred and twenty men started in the regiment from the turnpike fence, of whom about two hundred and forty reached the railroad cut."

The railroad cut
Charge of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry.
(Gettysburg NMP)

The charge could not be stopped. Many Confederates turned and ran into the deep portion of the cut through McPherson's Ridge while the majority of the 2nd Mississippi held their ground near their flag. Sergeant William B. Murphy, the flag bearer of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry, stood near the railroad bed: "A squad of soldiers made a rush for my colors and our men did their duty. They were all killed or wounded, but they still rushed for the colors with one of the most deadly struggles that was ever witnessed during any battle in the war. Then a large man made a rush for me and the flag. As I tore the flag from the staff he took hold of me and the color." (The large soldier was Corporal Francis A. Waller who would later receive a promotion to sergeant and the Medal of Honor for his actions here.)

Railroad cut surrender
Surrender of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry in the railroad cut, sketched soon after the battle.
(National Archives)

The railroad cut today
The rail road cut today.
(National Park Service)

Arriving at the rim of the railroad cut, Colonel Dawes heard his soldiers shout, "'Throw down your muskets! Down with your muskets!' Running forward through our line of men, I found myself face to face with hundreds of rebels, whom I looked upon in the railroad cut, which was, where I stood, four feet deep. I shouted, 'Where is the colonel of this regiment?' An officer in gray, with stars on his collar, who stood among the men in the cut said, 'Who are you?' I said, 'I command this regiment. Surrender, or I will fire.' The officer replied not a word, but promptly handed me his sword and his men, who still held them, threw down their muskets. The coolness, self-possession, and discipline which held back our men from pouring in a general volley saved a hundred lives of the enemy, and as my mind goes back to the fearful excitement of the moment, I marvel at it."

The crucial charge on the railroad cut prevented the loss of the McPherson Farm position that would play an important role in the Union defense that afternoon. Colonel Dawes and his 6th Wisconsin Infantry remained in the battle through the afternoon until forced to retire with the remainder of their army corps through Gettysburg and to Culp's Hill. Exhausted and drained, Colonel Dawes took a few precious minutes the next morning to write his sweetheart to let her know that he had been spared and that he was involved in a great battle. Several days later he sat down and wrote her again, accounting the terrible toll taken on his regiment:

On the march, July 6th, 2 P.M.

"We have stopped for a few moments near Emmitsburg. I am entirely well. I telegraphed to mother before yesterday. This has been a terrible ordeal. Our loss is 30 killed outright, 116 wounded, several of whom have died since, and 25 missing, all from 340 men taken into battle. My horse was shot from under me early in the fight, which perhaps saved my life. The experience of the past few days seem more like a horrible dream than the reality. May God save me and my men from any more such trials. I could tell a thousand stories of their heroism: One young man, Corporal James Kelly of company 'B', shot through the breast, came staggering up to me before he fell and opening his shirt to show the wound, said 'Colonel, won't you write to my folks that I died a soldier.' Every man of our color guard was shot and several volunteer color bearers. There was not a man of them but would die before the honor of the old Sixth should be tarnished."

Of all of the commanders on the battlefield that day, Colonel Rufus Dawes showed the type of courage it took to lead his men into the deadliest of battles and achieve victory. The soldiers of the 6th Wisconsin faced death and won a precious victory that morning.


Questions to consider!

  1. What kind of courage is exhibited in this story?
  2. Why didn't the Union soldiers shoot down the Confederates as they stood over them at the railroad cut?
  3. Was Rufus Dawes a good commander? Why or why not?





Courage to Persevere Despite the Odds

"Gettysburg: Stories of Monumental Courage"
A Broadcast For Students and Teachers from Gettysburg National Military Park
Broadcast date: May 25, 2005


Colonel William C. OatesColonel William Calvin Oates was born on November 30, 1833, in Pike County, Alabama, the son of poor farmers. At Gettysburg he would be in the fight of his life, but he was already accustomed to fights, military and otherwise. During his teen years Oates developed a reputation as a troublemaker. While traveling west before the war, there was an altercation where a man was severely beaten and a warrant was issued for Oates' arrest. He escaped capture and wound up in Texas. He eventually returned to Alabama where he settled in as a schoolteacher, and in 1858 he passed the bar exam. He and his brother John opened a law practice in Abbeville, Alabama on his 25th birthday.

In the years preceding the war, Oates bought a small newspaper company in Abbeville. These were turbulent times in the United States with the threat of war always looming. William's newspaper was openly opposed to secession by Southern states. Yet when the war erupted in 1861, he immediately raised a company of volunteers and was elected captain. He rose to the occasion with a natural ability to lead his new soldiers who were assigned to the 15th Alabama Infantry Regiment. When he and his men went off to the war, one father earnestly told Oates, "Captain Oates, take care of my boy." There was not a great deal that Oates could do for his men during the rigors Gettysburg Campaign and battle, but his leadership became an important element when the 15th Alabama was committed to battle on July 2 at Little Round Top.

After Gettysburg, Oates continued to command troops in the field. In 1864 he was severely wounded, and his arm required amputation. Out of the war for good, Oates returned to Alabama where he took up politics in the post-war era, severing in the state legislature and later in the U.S Congress as a representative from his home state. He left congress to run for governor of Alabama in 1894 and served a two-year term. At the outbreak of the Spanish American War, Oates secured a commission as a "Yankee General" and commanded troops in training camps. After this war ended he returned to practice law and became active in veteran's affairs and interest in the marking of lines of battle at Gettysburg National Military Park. He wrote extensively and authored a book, The War Between the Union and the Confederacy in which he recalled the many battles in which he participated.

Oates died on September 9, 1910, and was buried in Montgomery, Alabama with full military honors.

Little Round TopLittle Round Top is a rocky hill on the southern end of Cemetery Ridge, and a key feature of the battlefield. Unlike the thickly wooded Big Round Top, this smaller hill had been partially cleared of trees a year or more prior to the battle. Strewn with loose rocks and large boulders, it offered a natural position from which to defend this important end of the Union line. Yet, with the exception of a handful of Union soldiers, it remained largely unoccupied until late on the afternoon of July 2. Sent by General Meade to inspect the Union left, General Warren rode up to Little Round Top and quickly realized the hill's importance. Swiftly he moved a brigade of Union troops to the hill and they formed a line of battle on the south side of the hill. On the left side of this line was the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment commanded by Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, who's soldiers were about to meet the 15th Alabama Infantry commanded by Colonel William C. Oates.

The 15th Alabama Volunteer Infantry was raised from various parts of the state and by the time of Gettysburg, were veterans of many campaigns. Beginning on the morning of July 2, they began a march that was to last all day and carry them nearly 18 miles before they reached the base of Little Round Top. Just before the attack began, the men had given their empty canteens to a group of soldiers to fill at a nearby farm house, but the order to move arrived and the 15th started the attack without their water. Oates led his thirsty men under fire from artillery and sharpshooters through open farm fields and into the woods at the base of Big Round Top. Up the steep hill the men clambered. At the summit of Big Round Top, Colonel Oates decided to stop to give his men a rest and perhaps hold this hill. But a courier arrived and ordered Oates to continue their attack northward toward the smaller hill where the 20th Maine waited.

Soon joined by the 4th Alabama, the 15th marched down the hillside with rifles at the ready. Bursting out of the trees at the base of the hill, Colonel Oates saw a solid line of Union troops among the boulders and rocks of Little Round Top. The opponents immediately opened fire. The men forged ahead and the contest for Little Round Top had begun.

Oates' soldiers made several charges against the equally stubborn Maine regiment. All along the line rifles blazed fire and smoke, the lead bullets singing through the trees, smashing into boulders and men alike.


Attack on Little Round TopOates soon realized this was the most severe battle his regiment ever faced: "I ordered my regiment to change direction to the left, swing around, and drive the Federals from the ledge of rocks, for the purpose of enfilading their line (and) gain the enemy's rear, and drive him from the hill. My men obeyed and advanced about half way to the enemy's position, but the fire was so destructive that my line wavered like a man trying to walk against a strong wind, and then slowly, doggedly, gave back a little; then with no one upon the left or right of me, my regiment exposed, while the enemy was still under cover, to stand there and die was sheer folly; either to retreat or advance became a necessity. Captain (Henry C.) Brainard, one of the bravest and best officers in the regiment, in leading his company forward, fell, exclaiming, 'O God! that I could see my mother,' and instantly expired. Lieutenant John A. Oates, my dear brother, succeeded to the command of the company, but was pierced through by a number of bullets, and fell mortally wounded. Lieutenant (Barnett) Cody fell mortally wounded, Captain (William J.) Bethune and several other officers were seriously wounded, while the carnage in the ranks was appalling. I again ordered the advance, knowing the officers and men of that gallant old regiment, I felt sure that they would follow their commanding officer anywhere in the line of duty. I passed through the line waving my sword, shouting, 'Forward, men, to the ledge!' and promptly followed by the command in splendid style. We drove the Federals from their strong defensive position; five times they rallied and charged us, twice coming so near that some of my men had to use the bayonet, but in vain was their effort. It was our time now to deal death and destruction to a gallant foe, and the account was speedily settled. I led this charge and sprang upon the ledge of rock, using my pistol within musket length, when the rush of my men drove the Maine men from the ledge. About forty steps up the slope there is a large boulder about midway the Spur. The Maine regiment charged my line, coming right up in a hand-to-hand encounter. My regimental colors were just a step or two to the right of that boulder, and I was within ten feet. A Maine man reached to grasp the staff of the colors when Ensign (John G.) Archibald stepped back and Sergeant Pat O'Connor stove his bayonet through the head of the Yankee, who fell dead. There never were harder fighters than the Twentieth Maine men their gallant Colonel. His skill and persistency and the great bravery of his men saved Little Round Top and the Army of the Potomac from defeat."

The 15th AL versus the 20th ME
The 15th Alabama Infantry battles the 20th Maine Infantry at Little Round Top on July 2, 1863.
(War Between the Union & Confederacy)

"My dead and wounded were then nearly as great in number as those still on duty. They literally covered the ground. The blood stood in puddles in some places on the rocks; the ground was soaked with the blood of as brave men as ever fell on the red field of battle."

Realizing that to stay and fight further spot was useless, Oates ordered a retreat. At that very moment, the 20th Maine Infantry suddenly charged down the hill with bayonets leveled, catching the Alabamians completely by surprise. "We ran like a herd of wild cattle," Oates confessed in his later years. Many Confederates were captured as they attempted to flee. Others, including Oates, ran up the slope of Big Round Top and eluded the pursuing Union troops. Regrettably, Colonel Oates had to leave behind his younger brother John, who later died as a prisoner-of-war in a Union field hospital.

The Alabama Monument
The Alabama Monument
Gettysburg NMP

On the southern tip of Warfield Ridge stands the Alabama Monument, that state's tribute to the Alabamians who served at Gettysburg. It was from this location that General Law's brigade, including Colonel Oates' 15th Alabama Infantry, set out to attack Devil's Den and Little Round Top on the second day of the battle. A central female figure represents the state of Alabama and signifies pride in her native sons to who she points in the direction they must go. A wounded soldier passes his cartridge box to the figure of "Determination" who will continue into battle despite the odds. Set on a base of Vermont Granite and surrounded by a flagstone terrace and walk, the monument cost the state of Alabama $12,000 to erect. The design and sculpture is the work of artist Joseph W. Urner of Frederick, Maryland. It was dedicated by the Alabama Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy on November 12, 1933.

The Battle of Gettysburg was one of Colonel Oates's worst memories of his experiences during the Civil War, a nightmare he could never forget. He wrote extensively in the post-war period about the battle and the career of his regiment and, for the rest of his life, he mourned the loss of his brother John on the slopes of Little Round Top. But he also regretted the lost opportunity that the battle for the hill represented to Lee's army, the Confederate cause, and his own pride as an officer. If one more Confederate regiment had stormed the far left of the Army of the Potomac with the 15th Alabama, Oates later asserted, "We would have completely turned the flank and have won Little Round Top, which would have forced Meade's whole left wing to retire."

Despite his exhaustion and the uncertainty of what lay ahead, Oates had found the courage to continue to lead his men into the face of danger at Little Round Top and to persevere despite the obstacles that lay ahead.


Questions to consider!

  1. What kind of courage is exhibited in this story?
  2. How would you react after losing someone close to you in a battle?
  3. How honest do you think Colonel Oates is in describing the battle?






Reading 1: Three Days of Carnage at Gettysburg

(Refer to Map 2 as you read the description of the battle.)

Units of the Union and the Confederate armies met near Gettysburg on June 30, 1863, and each quickly requested reinforcements. The main battle opened on July 1, with early morning attacks by the Confederates on Union troops on McPherson Ridge, west of the town. Though outnumbered, the Union forces held their position. The fighting escalated throughout the day as more soldiers from each army reached the battle area. By 4 p.m., the Union troops were overpowered, and they retreated through the town, where many were quickly captured. The remnants of the Union force fell back to Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill, south of town. The Southerners failed to pursue their advantage, however, and the Northerners labored long into the night regrouping their men.

Throughout the night, both armies moved their men to Gettysburg and took up positions in preparation for the next day. By the morning of July 2, the main strength of both armies had arrived on the field. Battle lines were drawn up in sweeping arcs similar to a "J," or fishhook shape. The main portions of both armies were nearly a mile apart on parallel ridges: Union forces on Cemetery Ridge, Confederate forces on Seminary Ridge, to the west. General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate troops, ordered attacks against the Union left and right flanks (ends of the lines). Starting in late afternoon, Confederate General James Longstreet's attacks on the Union left made progress, but they were checked by Union reinforcements brought to the fighting from the Culp's Hill area and other uncontested parts of the Union battle line. To the north, at the bend and barb of the fishhook (the other flank), Confederate General Richard Ewell launched his attack in the evening as the fighting at the other end of the fishhook was subsiding. Ewell's men seized part of Culp's Hill, but elsewhere they were repulsed. The day's results were indecisive for both armies.

In the very early morning of July 3, the Union army forced out the Confederates who had successfully taken Culp's Hill the previous evening. Then General Lee, having attacked the ends of the Union line the previous day, decided to assail the Union. The attack was preceded by a two hour artillery bombardment of Cemetery Hill and Ridge. For a time, the massed guns of both armies were engaged in a thunderous duel for supremacy. The Union defensive position held. In a final attempt to gain the initiative and win the battle, Lee sent approximately 12,000 soldiers across the one mile of open fields that separated the two armies near the Union center. General George Meade, commander of the Union forces, anticipated such a move and had readied his army. The Union lines did not break. Only every other Southerner who participated in this action retired to safety. Despite great courage, the attack (sometimes called Pickett's Charge or Longstreet's assault) was repulsed with heavy losses. Crippled by extremely heavy casualties in the three days at Gettysburg, the Confederates could no longer continue the battle, and on July 4 they began to withdraw from Gettysburg.

1. Which army had the advantage after the first day of fighting? What were some reasons for their success? Could they have been even more successful?

2. What was the situation by the evening of July 2?

3. What evidence from the previous day's fighting brought General Lee to decide on the strategy for Pickett's Charge on July 3? What was the result of that assault?

4. Why did General Lee decide to withdraw from Gettysburg?









































Determining the Facts

Reading 2: Perspectives of Participants in the Battle

Part A: A Soldier's View of Gettysburg
Elisha Hunt Rhodes enlisted in 1861 as a private, and by the end of the war he had risen to the command of his regiment, the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry, U.S.A. His unit, a group within the VI Corps under General John Sedgwick in Eustis' brigade, marched 34 miles to arrive on the Gettysburg battlefield during the second day's action. The unit was present on July 2 and 3 but not seriously engaged. Rhodes survived the war, and the journal he kept during that period was compiled in 1885. He wrote:

Near Manchester, Md., July 1st 1863--It has rained for a week and the roads are muddy. After marching for twenty miles it is not pleasant to lie down at night in the wet without any cover. I am tired--in fact I never was so tired in my life. But Hurrah! 'It is all for the Union.'

We are quite near the Pennsylvania line, and it looks now as if we were to cross over. I am still in good health and spirits and have faith that God will guide us on the final victory. The Rebellion must be put down, and we are doing our best.

Middletown, Md., July 2nd 1863--On the night of July 1st we were camped near Manchester, Md. Rumors of fighting in Pennsylvania have been heard all the days, but the distance was so great to the battle [Gettysburg] that we knew little about it. The men were tired and hungry and lay down to rest early in the evening. At nine o'clock orders came for us to move and we in great haste packed up and started on the road towards Pennsylvania....We struggle on through the night, the men almost dead for lack of sleep and falling over in their own shadows. But we go on in the warm summer night....On the morning of July 2nd we heard firing in front and then we understood the reason for such great haste....The firing in our front grew loud and more distinct and soon we met the poor wounded fellows being carried to the rear....At about 2 o'clock P.M. we reached the Battlefield of Gettysburg, Penn. having made a march of thirty-four (34) miles without a halt. The men threw themselves upon the ground exhausted, but were soon ordered forward. We followed the road blocked with troops and trains until 4 P.M. when the field of battle with the long lines of struggling weary soldiers burst upon us. With loud cheers the old Sixth Corps took up the double quick and were soon in line of battle near the left of the main line held by the 5th Corps....when we were relieved and returned a short distance. The men threw themselves upon the ground, and oblivious to the dead and dying around us we slept the sleep of the weary.

July 3rd 1863--This morning the troops were under arms before light and ready for the great battle that we knew must be fought. The firing began, and our Brigade was hurried to the right of the line to reinforce it. While not in the front line yet we were constantly exposed to the fire of the Rebel Artillery, while bullets fell around us. We moved from point to point, wherever danger to be imminent until noon when we were ordered to report to the line held by Gen. Birney. Our Brigade marched down the road until we reached the house used by general Meade as Headquarters.... To our left was a hill on which we had many Batteries posted. Just as we reached Gen. Meade's Headquarters, a shell burst over our heads, and it was immediately followed by a shower of iron. More than two hundred guns were belching forth their thunder, and most of the shells that came over the hill struck in the road on which our Brigade was moving. Solid shot would strike the large rocks and split them as if exploded by gun powder. The flying iron and pieces of stone struck men down in every direction. It is said that this fire continued for about two hours, but I have no idea of the time. We could not see the enemy, and we could only cover ourselves the best we could behind rocks and trees. About 30 men of our Brigade were killed or wounded by this fire. Soon the Rebel yell was heard, and we found since that the Rebel General Pickett made a charge with his Division and was repulsed after reaching some of our batteries. Our lines of infantry in front of us rose up and poured in a terrible fire. As we were only a few yards in rear of our lines we saw all the fight. The firing gradually died away, and but for an occasional shot all was still. But what a scene it was. Oh the dead and the dying on this bloody field. The 2nd R.I. lost only one man killed and five wounded....Again night came upon us and again we slept amid the dead and the dying.

July 4th 1863--Was ever the Nation's Birthday celebrated in such a way before? This morning the 2nd R.I. was sent out to the front and found that during the night General Lee and his Rebel Army had fallen back. It was impossible to march across the field without stepping upon dead or wounded men, while horses and broken Artillery lay on every side. We advanced to a sunken road [Emmitsburg Road] where we deployed as skirmishers and lay down behind a bank of earth. Berdan's Sharpshooters joined us, and we passed the day in firing upon any Rebels that showed themselves.

July 5th 1863--Glorious news! We have won the victory, thank God, and the Rebel Army is fleeing to Virginia. We have the news that Vicksburg has fallen. We have thousands of prisoners, and they seem to be stupefied by the news. This morning our Corps (the 6th) started in pursuit of Lee's Army. We have had rain and the roads are bad, so we move slow. Every house we see is a hospital, and the road is covered with arms and equipment thrown away by the Rebels.

July 9th 1863--Again I thank God that the Army of the Potomac has at last gained a victory. I wonder what the South thinks of us Yankees now. I think Gettysburg will cure the Rebels of any desire to invade the north again.

Excerpted from Robert Hunt Rhodes, ed., All for the Union: The Civil War Diary and Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes (New York: Orion Books, 1991), 114-117. Copyright 1991 Robert Hunt Rhodes.


Part A: A Soldier's View of Gettysburg

1. What part did Elisha Hunt Rhodes play at Gettysburg?


2. How was he able to justify the suffering endured by the Union troops?


3. How did he respond to the Union victory?


















Part B: The Call to Duty
In 1861 Georgian Edward Porter Alexander was an officer in the U.S. Army stationed in Washington Territory. He commanded the 1st Corps, C.S.A. Reserve Artillery at Gettysburg, and later in his career took command of the entire First Corps' artillery. He was responsible for mounting the large bombardment preceding Longstreet's assault on July 3. Alexander rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the Confederate army and survived the war. He later wrote:

Of course as soon as the news of the secession of Georgia reached us at Fort Steilacoom, some three or four weeks after the event, I knew that I would finally have to resign from the U.S. Army. But I did not believe war inevitable & I felt sure I could get a place not inferior in a Southern army, & I really never realized the gravity of the situation. As soon as the right to secede was denied by the North I strongly approved of its assertion & maintenance by force if necessary. And being young & ambitious in my profession I was anxious to take my part in everything going on. As it soon became clear that our detachment would be ordered to return to the East...I waited for the orders to come & to get back to the East before resigning.

I did not feel any doubt about what I had to do under the circumstances. Georgia had seceded. All the seceded states had united & organized a Confederacy, & the Confederacy was raising an army. The only place for me was in that army. So in the course of a day or two I had a talk with [his Commanding Officer] McPherson, telling him that I felt bound to resign & go home, & asking that he would receive & forward my resignation & give me leave of absence that I might sail on same steamer taking it & not be required to wait in California to receive its acceptance, which would detain me about two months.

McPherson's reply was remarkable....He said: ' Aleck if you must go I will do all I can to facilitate your going. But don't go. These orders, sent by Pony Express to stop you here, are meant to say to you that if you wish to keep out of the war which is coming you can do so. You will not be required to go into the field against your own people, but will be kept out on this coast on fortification duty. Gen. Totten likes you & wants to keep you in the corps & that is what this order means'....His earnest talk impressed me deeply & made me realize that a crisis in my life was at hand....I could only answer this: ' Mac, My people are going to war, & war for their liberty. If I don't come & bear my part they will believe me a coward--and I will feel that I am occupying the position of one. I must go and stand my chances.' ...I told McPherson we were going to fight for our ' liberty.' That was the view the whole South took of it. It was not for slavery but the sovereignty of the states, which is practically the right to resume self government or to secede.

Reprinted from Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander. Edited by Gary W. Gallagher. Copyright 1989 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher.

Part B: The Call to Duty

1. How did Edward Porter Alexander feel about Georgia's secession?


2. What option did the U.S. Army provide Alexander to avoid becoming involved in the conflict?


3. How did he justify his choice?







Part C: Changes in Loyalty
Andrew Baker was a soldier in the 22nd North Carolina Infantry, C.S.A., Pettigrew's brigade. He participated in the brutal fighting that opened the battle on July 1 and in the culmination on July 3. He wrote about his experience on the final day of fighting for the magazine of a Confederate veterans' organization. The Capt. W. T. Magruder to whom he referred was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and fought for the Union as a captain in the 1st U.S. Cavalry until October 1, 1862. Magruder then joined the Confederate army, became a captain in the 26th North Carolina Infantry, and died at Gettysburg at the hands of his former comrades. Baker wrote about that action:

When we reached to within one hundred yards of the plank fence, which stood on the opposite side of the road passing the cemetery to that of the stone fence, the officers of the Eleventh Mississippi had been largely killed or wounded, and the officer who seemed to be in command was Capt. John V. Moore, of the University Grays. He was then in front of Company D, endeavoring to hold the regiment back in line with the troops on our right. I hallooed to him, saying: ' John, for heaven's sake give the command to charge.' He replied that he could not take the responsibility. I then, without authority, gave the command myself, which was promptly repeated and responded to, at which time a run was made for the fence and over it. Just after getting over the fence, and when about half way across the road, I was shot down. The balance of the command which had not been killed or wounded rushed on and jumped the stone fence, charging rapidly to the top of Cemetery Ridge, in line with the Twenty-sixth North Carolina on the right.

Just after I had fallen I looked to my right, where a little house stood, just against which the end of the stone fence rested on either side. Behind this house some ten or twelve of the Twenty-sixth North Carolina boys for a moment halted, with Capt. W. T. Magruder, who had been formerly a colonel of cavalry in the U.S. army, and who had resigned after the emancipation proclamation and had joined our army, said to them: ' Men, remember your mothers, wives, and sisters at home, and do not halt here.' All responded in a moment, and rushed on to rejoin the regiment, then going to the top of Cemetery Heights. Capt. Magruder himself leaped the stone fence on the western side of the house, and was shot down at once, either as he went over the fence or just after getting over it.

Excerpted from Andrew J. Baker, "Tribute to Capt. Magruder and Wife," Confederate Veteran Magazine (November 1898): 507.


Part C: Changes in Loyalty

1. Consider Andrew Baker's vivid descriptions of the valiant behavior exhibited in the chaos of battle. Describe the actions of Captain W. T. Magruder. Speculate on his motivations for fighting in both armies before his death at Gettysburg.


2. Why did Captain John Moore not give the order to charge? How might you have felt in his place?

All Parts

1. How does reading these personal accounts compare with reading summaries of Civil War battles in textbooks? Do they make you more aware of the personal suffering of the participants?


2. What are some disadvantages of relying on personal accounts of historical events?










Activity 2: Vocabulary- Civil War Soldier Vocabulary

Students will be given a list of 50 civil war soldier vocabulary. Based on prior knowledge and/or good guesses they will define as many words as they can. After an allotted amount of time, teacher will give correct definitions that students will copy.

In groups of 10 students will illustrate the 50 vocabulary words and then will present these illustrations to the class. They will be posted for the duration of the Unit for reinforcement.

At the end of the unit, a quiz will be given on the 50 vocabulary words using the original word list for the quiz template.

Civil War Slang

( How many do you know?)


1.     accoutrements-


2.     a beat-


3.     bombproof-


4.     bones-


5.     buck and gag-


6.     carriage-


7.     dogrobber-


8.     dog tent-


9.     first rate-


10.                        forage-


11.                        Fresh Fish-


12.                        greenbacks-


13.                        homespun-


14.                        housewife-


15.                        horse sense-


16.                        Johnny-


17.                        Jonah-


18.                        paper collar man-


19.                        picket-


20.                        sacred soil-


21.                        sawbones-


22.                        seeing the elephant-


23.                        shebang-


24.                        shirker-


25.                        smart like a fox-


26.                        top rail-


27.                        vittles-


28.                        Yank-


29.                        infantry-


30.                        cavalry-


31.                        artillery-


32.                        flank-


33.                        cartridge box-


34.                        cap box-


35.                        haversack-


36.                        gum blanket-


37.                        ration-


38.                        hard tack-


39.                        salt pork-


40.                        knapsack-


41.                        Minnie ball-


42.                        fife-


43.                        scabbard-


44.                        cap-


45.                        cartridge-


46.                        sharpshooter-


47.                        canteen-


48.                        sack coat-


49.                        kepi-


50.                        brogans-


Soldier Talk & Civil War Slang
Gettysburg National Military Park

A halt on the march by Charles Reed
(Hardtack & Coffee)

The military of today has a confusing and distinctive catalog of terms all its own and it was no different during the Civil War.

The Civil War soldier had a wide variety of names for different army items and many slang terms or nicknames for their equipment, experiences, and other soldiers. Many of these expressions were based on military terms, lighthearted humor, or biblical references and can still be found in our everyday language.

Here are some examples of Civil War expressions and nicknames:

1. accoutrements- A soldier's fighting equipments, made of leather.

2. a beat- A lazy soldier who dodges work.

3. bombproof- An underground shelter, used also to describe officers who never went to the front.

4. bones- Dice.

5. buck and gag- A form of punishment.

6. carriage- The wooden mount for artillery, also used to describe a lady's shape.

7. dogrobber- The soldier of a group who cooks for everyone else.

8. dog tent- A small, two-man tent.

9. first rate- Feeling well and very happy.

10. forage- To search for food from nearby farms.

11. Fresh Fish- New recruits.

12. greenbacks- Money or script.

13. homespun- A clothing item made of home-spun cloth.

14. housewife- A sewing kit.

15. horse sense- Smart or to use good sense.

16. Johnny- Union soldier's term for a Confederate soldier.

17. Jonah- A soldier who always brought misfortune and bad luck with him.

18. paper collar man- Someone who has money or is financially well off.

19. picket- A guard or guard duty.

20. sacred soil- Virginia mud.

21. sawbones- The surgeon of the regiment.

22. seeing the elephant- A man's first experience in combat.

23. shebang- A temporary shelter of poles & branches.

24. shirker- A soldier who would not do his duty on the battlefield.

25. smart like a fox- Slick and cunning.

26. top rail- The best place to be. Number One!

27. vittles- food or rations.

28. Yank- Confederate soldier's term for a Union soldier.

 29. Infantry- soldiers trained, armed, and equipped to fight by foot

30. Cavalry- soldiers trained, armed, and equipped to fight on horseback

31. Artillery- soldiers trained, armed, and equipped to fight using cannon

32. Flank- the right or left of a formation

33. Cartridge Box- box made of leather used to hold ammunition

34. Cap Box- small box attached to belt to hold caps which fire musket

35. Haversack- canvas sack used to carry soldier's food

36. Gum Blanket- made of rubber on one side and canvas on the other, used to sleep on

37. Ration- a fixed daily food allowance of one person

38. Hard Tack- very hard biscuit made of flour, water, and sometimes salt

39. Salt Pork- pork cured in salt or brine

40. Knapsack- pack carried on soldiers back, holding clothes and personal items

41. Minie Ball- rifle bullet having a cylindrical body

42. Fife- small flute with shrill tone used to accompany the drum

42. Scabbard- leather sheath in which the blade of a sword or bayonet is enclosed when not in use

43. Cap- small device used to ignite powder in musket barrel

44. Cartridge- paper tube which contained bullet and gun powder

45. Sharpshooter- person skilled in shooting

46. Canteen- tin or wooden container on a strap used to carry water

47. Foraging- roving the countryside in search of food, sometimes taking from farmers

48. Sack Coat- four-button woolen coat worn by Civil War Soldier

49. Kepi- cap or hat, part of uniform

50. Brogans- shoes made of leather and often scarce in the South



















Activity 3: Literature Connection-The Gettysburg Address

After a teacher read aloud of the Gettysburg Address and a brief explanation of the reasons that prompted the writing of the Gettysburg Address, the students will get copies of both the Nicolay and Hay drafts. Students will compare and contrast the two drafts looking for similarities and differences and discuss the value of editing. They will then share their findings with the class.










Preview this book


The Gettysburg Address

First Edition


Abraham Lincoln; Michael McCurdy (Illustrated by)


The words of President Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address are as relevant and meaningful today as they were in 1863. This magnificent book is a stunning exploration of some of the most powerful words ever spoken in American history.






The Gettysburg Address Drafts

Of the five known manuscript copies of the Gettysburg Address, the Library of Congress has two. President Lincoln gave one of these to each of his two private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. The copy on exhibit, which belonged to Nicolay, is often called the "first draft" because it is believed to be the earliest copy that exists.

Considerable scholarly debate continues about whether the Nicolay copy is the "reading" copy. In 1894 Nicolay wrote that Lincoln had brought with him the first part of the speech, written in ink on Executive Mansion stationery, and that he had written the second page in pencil on lined paper before the dedication on November 19, 1863. Matching folds are still evident on the two pages shown here, suggesting it could be the copy that eyewitnesses say Lincoln took from his coat pocket and read at the ceremony.

However, one of the arguments supporting the contrary theory that the delivery text has been lost is that some of the words and phrases of the Nicolay copy do not match contemporaneous accounts. The words "under God," for example, are missing from the phrase "that this nation [under God] shall have a new birth of freedom...." In order for the Nicolay draft to have been the reading copy, Lincoln uncharacteristically would have had to depart from his written text in several instances. This copy of the Gettysburg Address remained in John Nicolay's possession until his death in 1901, when it passed to his friend and colleague John Hay.

The "second draft," probably made by Lincoln shortly after his return to Washington from Gettysburg, was given to John Hay, whose descendants donated both it and the Nicolay copy to the Library of Congress in 1916. There are numerous variations in words and punctuation between these two drafts. Because these variations provide clues into Lincoln's thinking and because these two drafts are the most closely tied to November 19, they continue to be consulted by scholars of the period.

The other three copies of the Address were written by Lincoln for charitable purposes well after November 19. The copy for Edward Everett, the orator who spoke at Gettysburg for two hours prior to Lincoln, is at the Illinois State Historical Library at Springfield; the Bancroft copy, requested by historian George Bancroft, is at Cornell University; the Bliss copy was made for Colonel Alexander Bliss, Bancroft's stepson, and is now in the Lincoln Room of the White House.


















The Gettysburg Address

Transcript of the "Nicolay Draft"
of the Gettysburg Address

(Differences between the texts of the two drafts are indicated by emphasis type. Please note that the Nicolay and Hay versions of the Gettysburg Address differ somewhat from the generally printed Bliss version.)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that "all men are created equal"

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow, this ground -- The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.







The Gettysburg Address

Transcript of the "Hay Draft"
of the Gettysburg Address

(Differences between the texts of the two drafts are indicated by emphasis type. Please note that the Nicolay and Hay versions of the Gettysburg Address differ somewhat from the generally printed Bliss version.)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.





Activity 4: Technology Option 2- The Leaders of Gettysburg

Teacher will present a Power Point for students about the 12 most important leaders at Gettysburg.Click here for the PowerPoint.

Students will separate each leader under the heading of Confederate or Union based on the information given and prior knowledge of the war.






































Activity 5: Foldable-


Students will each be given a manila folder and a copy of the Gettysburg Address. The front cover will be divided into 3 sections width wise and then cut equally. The sections will be labeled 1st, 2nd, and 3rd paragraphs. On the inside flaps the students will cut the 3 paragraphs of the Gettysburg Address and paste them accordingly. Then on the opposite side of the foldable, they will use synonyms to re-word the Gettysburg address into more kid friendly language.


Students will read them aloud to a partner to see if they were accurate and made sense.


Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.







Activity 6: Student Project-A Civil War Lunch or Traveling Trunk

In groups of 5 students will be responsible for bringing in, and in some cases, cooking items from a specified list that would have been very close to what a soldier would eat during the Civil War. Recipes are attached for students to make these recipes ahead of time. Each student will be responsible for bringing in 2 items from the list.


The Traveling Trunk is a hands-on learning tool and is an excellent way for students to understand the Civil War era from a soldier's perspective. This activity will depend on the finances of the school and or teacher.


Civil War Food
Gettysburg National Military Park


Dinner at the campfire.
(Hardtack & Coffee)

Feeding the troops was the responsibility of the Commissary Department, and both the Union and Confederacy had one. The job of this organization was to purchase food for the armies, store it until it could be used, and then supply the soldiers. It was difficult to supply so many men in so many places and the North had a greater advantage in their commissary system was already established at the outbreak of the war, while the Confederacy struggled for many years to obtain food and then get it to their armies. Choices of what to give the troops was limited as they did not have the conveniences to preserve food like we have today. Meats were salted or smoked while other items such as fruits and vegetables were dried or canned. They did not understand proper nutrition so often there was a lack of certain foods necessary for good health. Each side did what they could to provide the basics for the soldiers to survive. Because it was so difficult to store for any length of time, the food soldiers received during the Civil War was not very fancy and they did not get a great variety of items.

Fifth Corps depot near Petersburg, VA in 1864

This photograph shows what a temporary Union commissary depot looked like during the war. Large wooden barrels containing salted meat, coffee beans, and sugar are stacked next to crates of hardtack. It took a lot of food to feed the army even for one day!
(photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The daily allowance of food issued to soldiers was called rations. Everything was given out uncooked so the soldiers were left up to their own ingenuity to prepare their meals. Small groups would often gather together to cook and share their rations and they called the group a "mess", referring to each other as "messmates". Others prided themselves in their individual taste and prepared their meals alone. If a march was imminent, the men would cook everything at once and store it in their haversack, a canvas bag made with a sling to hang over the shoulder. Haversacks had a inner cloth bag that could be removed and washed, though it did not prevent the bag from becoming a greasy, foul-smelling container after several weeks of use. The soldier's diet was very simple- meat, coffee, sugar, and a dried biscuit called hardtack. Of all the items soldiers received, it was this hard bread that they remembered and joked about the most.

"'Tis the song that is uttered in camp by night and day,
'Tis the wail that is mingled with each snore;
'Tis the sighing of the soul for spring chickens far away,
'Oh hard crackers, come again no more!'

'Tis the song of the soldier, weary, hungry and faint,
Hard crackers, hard crackers, come again no more;
Many days have I chewed you and uttered no complaint,
Hard crackers, hard crackers, come again no more!"

-from a soldiers' parable called "Hard Times"

Hardtack was a biscuit made of flour with other simple ingredients, and issued to Union soldiers throughout the war. Hardtack crackers made up a large portion of a soldier's daily ration. It was square or sometimes rectangular in shape with small holes baked into it, similar to a large soda cracker. Large factories in the north baked hundreds of hardtack crackers every day, packed them in wooden crates and shipped them out by wagon or rail. If the hardtack was received soon after leaving the factory, they were quite tasty and satisfying. Usually, the hardtack did not get to the soldiers until months after it had been made. By that time, they were very hard, so hard that soldiers called them "tooth dullers" and "sheet iron crackers". Sometimes they were infested with small bugs the soldiers called weevils, so they referred to the hardtack as "worm castles" because of the many holes bored through the crackers by these pests. The wooden crates were stacked outside of tents and warehouses until it was time to issue them. Soldiers were usually allowed six to eight crackers for a three-day ration. There were a number of ways to eat them- plain or prepared with other ration items. Soldiers would crumble them into coffee or soften them in water and fry the hardtack with some bacon grease. One favorite soldier dish was salted pork fried with hardtack crumbled into the mixture. Soldiers called this "skillygallee", and it was a common and easily prepared meal.

Would you like to try some hardtack? It's very easy to make and here's the recipe:

2 cups of flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon of Crisco or vegetable fat
6 pinches of salt

Mix the ingredients together into a stiff batter, knead several times, and spread the dough out flat to a thickness of 1/2 inch on a non-greased cookie sheet. Bake for one-half an hour at 400 degrees. Remove from oven, cut dough into 3-inch squares, and punch four rows of holes, four holes per row into the dough. Turn dough over, return to the oven and bake another one-half hour. Turn oven off and leave the door closed. Leave the hardtack in the oven until cool. Remove and enjoy! (And make sure your parents try some!)

Does your taste lean more to the southern side? Then try a "johnnie cake" that the Confederate soldiers enjoyed with their meals. The recipe is also very simple:

two cups of cornmeal
2/3 cup of milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Mix ingredients into a stiff batter and form eight biscuit-sized "dodgers". Bake on a lightly greased sheet at 350 degrees for twenty to twenty five minutes or until brown. Or spoon the batter into hot cooking oil in a frying pan over a low flame. Remove the corn dodgers and let cool on a paper towel, spread with a little butter or molasses, and you have a real southern treat!

Some of the other items that soldiers received were salt pork, fresh or salted beef, coffee, sugar, salt, vinegar, dried fruit and dried vegetables. If the meat was poorly preserved, the soldiers would refer to it as "salt horse". Sometimes they would receive fresh vegetables such as carrots, onions, turnips and potatoes. Confederate soldiers did not have as much variety in their rations as Union soldiers did. They usually received bacon and corn meal, tea, sugar or molasses, and fresh vegetables when they were available. While Union soldiers had their "skillygallee", Confederates had their own version of a quick dish on the march. Bacon was cooked in a frying pan with some water and corn meal added to make a thick, brown gravy similar in consistency to oatmeal. The soldiers called it "coosh" and though it does not sound too appetizing, it was a filling meal and easy to fix.

A happy soldier, drawn by Charles Reed
(Hardtack & Coffee)

Do you want to experience the same type of meal that Civil War soldiers had? Make yourself a soldier's lunch with some of the following items:

  1. hardtack or corn bread that you baked.
  2. dried beef
  3. salt pork or bacon (make sure it's well cooked!)
  4. rice
  5. sliced carrots
  6. jam
  7. water
  8. nuts
  9. apples or peaches
  10. dried fruit

Pack your soldier's picnic in a haversack (a paper bag will do) and have your feast in the backyard with friends- your messmates. Enjoy!


Commissary Department
"sheet iron crackers"



Bringing Gettysburg Into Your Classroom


Traveling Trunk Program
(Gettysburg NMP)

The Traveling Trunk Program delivers Civil War history right to the classroom! Our trunk includes Civil War clothing items, military accoutrements, pastime activities, photographs, literature, and music along with a teacher's guide and curriculum. This hands-on learning tool is an excellent way for students to understand the Civil War era from a soldier's perspective. There are still slots available for your school to receive a Civil War Traveling trunk!

WHEN: The trunks are available for two-week time slots throughout the school year, but ACT NOW. Once the slots are filled, you may be placed on a waiting list.

WHERE: The trunk is shipped directly to your school and your classroom. You may set up the six learning stations there, or use a common room so that the whole school can become involved.

WHO: Three of our trunks are targeted toward 5th graders, and one is targeted specifically toward 8th grade students. The trunks have been shipped and used successfully in Florida, Washington . . . even Hawaii!!

HOW: If you are interested in receiving a trunk, please leave your school fax number on the voicemail system of our Education Coordinator (717) 334-1124 extension 420. You will receive an application form and, if available, a trunk will be shipped to your school on a specified date. Your school will then submit a donation check covering the cost of the shipping expense of the trunk (average cost is $120.)