Victory in History

    By on November 18, 2015
    • Beverly Coleman Sayles

    • Professor John Lamphere of Cayuga Community College discussing the Friend to Friend Monument in Gettysburg National Cemetery.

    Beverly Coleman Sayles is the Victory Town Historian, a NYS Registered Historian, and may be reached at 315-730-3183 or beverlycs65@gmail.com

    Unseen Gettysburg

    Around forty travelers enjoyed the Cayuga Community College’s “Unseen Gettysburg” trip in early October escorted by Professor John Lamphere. This “advanced course” on the Battle of Gettysburg brought us to places/sites we had never seen on the “regular” trip.

    We climbed the winding stairs of the Pennsylvania Monument to the top – what a view of the battlefield! On the bronze plate of this monument are the names of every Pennsylvania soldier who fought in the war. Standing on top of the rocks at Devil’s Den, we took a group picture and visited the sniper’s pen. This area was originally held by New York Infantry and artillery regiments. Later on in the war, Texas snipers used 30 pound British made Whitworth sniper rifles here and picked off Union troops on Little Round Top. The white oak on top of the Devil’s Den is one of the “Witness Trees” still on the field from the time of the battle. Over the years many of us have grown our own oak trees from the acorns we have picked up.

    We learned about Confederate Brigadier General William Barksdale, who led a charge that almost won the war on July 2, 1863 near the Trostle Farm, however, his men stopped fighting due to extreme thirst. It was a natural reaction from the conditions of the battle, from being scared, and from tearing cartridges with your teeth to load your musket. This gave Union Generals time to thwart his mission. The Lydia Leister Farmhouse became the headquarters of Union General George Meade. Not far from here was where Assistant Regimental Surgeon, James Dana Benton (Cato native) of the 111th NY, performed more than 300 amputations at the Second Corp hospital at Rock Creek following the battle. Around 27,000 wounded were treated at field hospitals set up in area houses and barns.

    North Cemetery Ridge holds the monument to the 111th NY Volunteers called “The Picket”. The volunteers included 461 men from Wayne County and 539 from Cayuga County and had been with the Second Corp for only five days under the command of Colonel Clinton MacDugall from Auburn, N.Y. (originally from Scotland) when the battle started. This unit suffered the second highest casualty percentage for wounded, and the highest for killed of any Union regiment during the battle, including four color bearers. Fifty-five men from Cayuga County were killed in this area by the Bryan barn including nineteen from Genoa and three sets of brothers.

    We had a walking tour of Evergreen Cemetery, a town cemetery created in 1853. Caretakers were Peter and Elizabeth Thorn, however with her husband fighting with the 138th Pennsylvania in another area, a pregnant Elizabeth nearly by herself buried 105 Union soldiers here. There is a statue of Elizabeth, The Civil War Women’s Memorial dedicated in 2002, showing her leaning on a shovel, tired, expecting a baby, standing on a pick, and with a minie ball just off the pick point.

    The Friend to Friend Monument in the picture shows Confederate General Lewis A. Armistead talking to Captain Henry H. Bingham, a staff officer to Union General Winfield Scott Hancock. It is reported that he said, “Tell General Hancock for me that I have done him and you all an injury which I shall regret….the longest day I live.” Leading his men over the stone wall at the Angle, General Armistead was shot and mortally wounded. Falling, he gave the Masonic sign for distress. As he was being carried back to a Union field hospital, Bingham, also a Mason, stopped the stretcher upon which Armistead was being carried and offered his assistance. Armistead gave him his personal effects, which Bingham delivered to General Hancock, Armistead’s old friend. Armistead died at the Spangler Farm on July 5, 1863.

    Again, we were active participants, not spectators, on the battlefield. We walked the distance from the Virginia Monument on Seminary Ridge across the field and across the Emmitsburg Road into another field near the red Cordori barns to the Union positions facing us from the Clump of Trees down to the Bryan barn on Cemetery Ridge. This was the Confederate Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge toward the Union Forces on July 3, 1863. Except for a small dip in the first field, we would have been entirely exposed to Union cannon fire at any time. Death and destruction surrounded the whole area. There was no cover, just the person (soldier) in front of you – can you imagine!

    This is just a short synopsis of our trip; we visited many more sites and heard countless perspectives. There is a lot more to the Gettysburg story – those who fought and those who lived here. Thank you, John!

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