'A Field Made Glorious'
Cemetery Hill: From Battlefield To Sacred Ground
Eric A. Campbell
Gettysburg National Military Park
No person can stand on Cemetery Hill, and from its
commanding summit survey the field on which the Army of the Potomac and
the Army of Northern Virginia met to decide the fate of human liberty,
without being impressed with the remarkable beauty of the land-scape
view, and its peculiar fitness for a great battle-field. The whole scene
is grand and imposing. Broad fields, stretching away in the distance;
diversified by gentle undulations, and flanked by commanding heights,
with contiguous valleys, affording a natural covered way for the
movement of troops; deep forests, and sheltering groves, with streams of
water; and beyond all, towering in the distance, clothed in azure blue,
a picturesque mountain range completes a landscape of rare beauty and
magnificent proportions. . . . its hills, towering in stately majesty,
its forests, enameled with verdure, its quaint old town, like a
miniature city, nestled amid fields sparkling in the sunlight of heaven,
give to it, aside from its historical associations, a halo of sublime
grandeur. If the visitor to Gettysburg has but one hour at his command,
Cemetery Hill would unquestionably be the place to spend it. 
So wrote John B. Bachelder, the first historian of
the battle, in his 1873 guide book. Though many modern visitors might
disagree with this statement, an agreement can be made that Bachelder
was, and still is, correct. This is especially true when a thorough
examination of Cemetery Hill and its relationship to the history of
Gettysburg National Military Park is made. The events that transpired
upon its slopes during the battle and the subsequent development of the
field closely paralleled, and in many ways dramatically shaped the park
as we know it.
This paper will discuss the history of Cemetery Hill
by concentrating on the three major events that occurred upon this
important elevation; its role during and its effect upon the final
outcome of the battle, being chosen as a scared burial ground for
American war veterans, and finally as the site of the most famous speech
in American history. By examining these events and Cemetery Hill's
influence upon them, we can more fully understand our perception of this
ground as being one of the most sacred in the country. Those perceptions
in turn, begin to tell us a lot about ourselves and our values as a
Beautiful as that landscape is in the eye of the
tourist, it was, that afternoon, a scene of terror, strewn with the dead
and dying and the wreck of battle. Even more painful for a soldier to
witness, were the disordered groups of fugitives hurrying from the field
or skulking behind cover. Down the Baltimore road, to the rear, poured a
broad tumultuous stream of panic-stricken men, mingled with caissons,
led horses, ammunition wagons, and ambulances loaded with the wounded.
Here and there, in small groups, the men of sterner stuff... clung
sullenly to their colors, and gazed downward upon the serried masses of
the Confederates, who, occupying the field of the recent battle, were
threatening a fresh advance. 
Adjutant Francis Walker recalled vividly the
afternoon of July 1, 1863. The Battle of Gettysburg, which had started
as an accidental clash between the lead elements of widely scattered
Union and Confederate armies, had steadily grown into a full scale
engagement. By 3:30 p.m. the conflict had raged for over eight hours and
the two Union corps on the field, First and Eleventh, who had been
fighting west, northwest and north of the town, were overwhelmed and
driven in full retreat back into Gettysburg. The situation in narrow
streets rapidly deteriorated into total confusion as one Confederate
The Union troops driven into the town from different
directions were wedged and jammed in the streets, and soon became a
disorganized mass. Artillery and ambulances struggling to get through
the tangled crowd added to the confusion. 
As a result, over 3,500 Union soldiers would be taken
prisoner by the advancing Confederates. 
Indeed, it seemed as if the Army of Potomac faced
imminent disaster. A Northern officer on Cemetery Hill viewed the Union
collapse with dread: "Wreak, disaster, disorder, almost the panic that
precedes disorganization, defeat and retreat, were everywhere." To the
victorious Southern troops, another Confederate victory seemed in the
making. A North Carolinian recalled: "There was not an officer, not even
a made, that did not expect that the war would be closed upon the hill
that evening...." 
The "hill" he referred to, of course, was Cemetery
Hill. Located at the southern edge of town, it rose prominently to a 100
foot elevation. Named for the local Evergreen Cemetery, established in
1853 and located on its southern slopes, the hill was practically void
of vegetation and dominated the immediate landscape near the town. Its
most prominent landmark was the brick Evergreen Cemetery gate house
located along the Baltimore Pike, which ran across the hills northeast
slope. From a military stand point, it was at this moment in the battle
that Cemetery Hill became enormously significant. 
Maj. Gen. Otis O. Howard, commander of the Eleventh
Corps and ranking officer on the field, realized this fact, as he later
recorded that the hill was "the only tenable position" for the defeated
Union forces. Watching the chaos below him, he knew the elevation would
serve as natural rallying point, which could hopefully buy the time
needed to allow other elements of the Union army to reach the field.
Reacting quickly, he began to reorganize the surviving portions of the
retreating troops into a new battle line across the hill's northern
Soon after, Second Corps commander, Maj. Gen.
Winfield S. Hancock, arrived on the field. Under direct orders from Maj.
Gen. George Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, Hancock had
preceded to Gettysburg to take command of the Northern forces there, and
assess the overall situation. Based upon Hancock's information, Meade
could then decide if Gettysburg was indeed the place to offer battle.
Armed with this authority, Hancock performed his
assignment superbly. Arriving at such a critical time, he rapidly took
measures that soon reversed the overall Union prospects.
Assistant-Adjutant Francis A. Walker, on Hancock's staff, later
described this change of fortune:
Upon this field of wreck and disorder now appeared
Hancock. . . . At once the doubtful halt on Cemetery Hill was
transformed into the confident assumption of a new line of battle; the
fearful stream down the Baltimore road was peremptorily stopped.
Shattered regiments as they reached the hills were halted and re-formed.
On every hand men began to seek their regiments with alacrity;
commanders rectified their lines and prepared for whatever might happen;
ammunition was brought up... at all points, commanding positions were
occupied with the bravest show of force that could be made, with a view
to deterring the enemy from attacking until the reinforcements, now
rapidly approaching the field, should arrive. 
Hancock, like Howard before him, had obviously
realized importance of Cemetery Hill as soon as he and his staff reached
its crest and "the panorama of Gettysburg lay unrolled before them."
Both men, working in conjunction, had taken advantage of the hill's
superior terrain features to rally the fugitives and establish a new
line of battle, which gave the Army of the Potomac renewed confidence
and hope of ultimate success. 
Along with these improvements, roads leading to the
rear were also cleared for the approach of reinforcements, and other key
positions, such as nearby Culp's Hill and Steven's Knoll, and even
Little Round Top were occupied. Most importantly, however, the Union
high command took advantage of one of Cemetery Hill's more critical
military advantages: the elevation was a natural artillery platform. A
Union artillery officer remembered:
From this high ground which dominated the town and
the fields, in all directions...there was an unobstructed view of
rolling country open and accessible to the fire of our guns. 
These guns immediately opened fire on the recently
victorious Southern troops below. 
All of these swiftly transpiring events were obvious
to the Confederates, both officers and enlisted men alike. Lieut. J.
Warren, in the 8th Louisiana Infantry, wrote "the enemy was posted on
Cemetery Hill. . . & had command of every place near town or around
it - our position was a poor one and as we deployed we were subjected to
a galling fire...." Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, commander of the Second
Corps that was heavily responsible for the Southern victory that
afternoon, from a safer distance scanned this newly formed Union line
and was able to give this more analytical assessment: "The enemy had
fallen back to a commanding position known as Cemetery Hill, south of
Gettysburg and quickly showed a formidable front there." Gen. Robert E.
Lee, commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, had by this time reached
the field. From near the Lutheran Theological Seminary just west of
town, he viewed this new Union line for the first time and described it
in his report as "a high range of hills," and later as "a strong
position . . . upon two commanding elevations adjacent to each
other, one... known as Cemetery Hill, immediately south of the town. . .
."  For these reasons, and others, the Confederate
attack that day was not renewed. The crisis for the Army of the Potomac
had passed. 
The Union high command's assessment of their
situation agreed with Lee's observations. Hancock, in keeping Meade well
informed as ordered, described the position at Gettysburg as "a very
strong one." With this and other information, the commanding general
ordered the entire Union army to concentrate there. Meade would offer
battle at Gettysburg. 
This critical decision was in large part effected by
the role Cemetery Hill had assumed. It had attracted the attention of
the Union high command, it had served as a rallying point and its
formidable appearance had assisted in dissuading the Confederates from
pushing their advance. Hancock and other Union officers, however, also
saw the hill's more important role in a continued struggle at
Gettysburg. It would no longer just be a rallying point, but now became
a critical section of the new battle line for the Union army. 
Formed on the night of July 1 and morning of July 2,
the Union battle line, when completed was approximately 3-1/2 miles in
length and resembled the shape of a giant fishhook. The bend of the hook
was formed by Cemetery Hill. Therefore, Cemetery Hill became a crucial
section, the apex, of the line. It was a commanding eminence, an
excellent artillery platform, and along with the rest of the line, made
an excellent defensive position. Gen. Howard called it "a remarkable
position which...contributed to the grand results of July 2 and 3."
However, if the hill fell to Confederate assault, so to would the rest
of the Union line. 
Robert E. Lee realized this and planned accordingly
for July 2. Feeling that Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill were too strong
to assault frontally, Lee turned his attention to directing his primary
effort against the Union left. Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's First Corps
would execute this attack whose main purpose, according to Lee, was to
"drive in" the Union left, take "the more elevated ground beyond, and
thus enable us to reach the crest of the ridge." Against the Union
right, Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill, Lee ordered "a simultaneous
demonstration...to be converted into a real attack should the
opportunity offer." Thus, if successful, the capture of Cemetery Hill
could be accomplished either from the rear, by direct assault or by a
These latter discretionary orders were directed at
Lt. Gen. Ewell, positioned opposite those two heights. As was expected,
Ewell began to devise a strategy to attack the Union right in case an
opening presented itself. Though Ewell's official report is vague, his
basic plan can be ascertained. With the three divisions at his disposal,
he assigned one, Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson's, to move against Culp's
Hill, while the other two were ordered against Cemetery Hill. Maj. Gen.
Jubal Early's Division would assault East Cemetery Hill, or the
northeast slope, while Maj. Gen. Robert Rodes' Division struck the
western face of the hill, thus crushing the Union defenders between the
two divisions. 
If successful, the possible consequences would have
been devastating to the Union army. First, the Baltimore Pike, a major
supply line, communication route and main the line of retreat for the
Army of the Potomac would be severed. More importantly, by capturing
Cemetery Hill, Ewell's troops would have taken the apex to the entire
Union defensive line, thus cutting the Army of the Potomac in two. At
the least, Meade would be forced to abandon the field, a highly risky
maneuver in the face of the enemy. Even worse, if Lee aggressively
followed up such a victory, he might have the opportunity he was
seeking; to crush his enemy in one massive stroke.
Obviously, therefore, Cemetery Hill had to remain in
Union hands. That responsibility rested upon elements of the battered
and badly abused Eleventh Corps. Two brigades of Brig. Gen. Adelbert
Ames' division, approximately 1,200 officers and men, along with five
batteries of artillery, totaling twenty-three guns, were positioned on
or near East Cemetery Hill.  Located on the
western face of the hill were the Eleventh Corps divisions of Brig. Gen.
Adolp von Steinwehr and Maj. Gen. Carl Schurz, with a combined strength
of approximately 4,300. They were supported by over thirty guns from
seven batteries.  Despite their recent setback of
July 1, these men realized the importance of their position and of the
outcome of the battle itself. Lt. George Beck, Batteries E & L, 1st
New York, wrote that morning and touched upon these thoughts:
We were completely overwhelmed yesterday by
superiority of numbers. Our army is now concentrating here, and I think
the great battle, if not the decisive [sic] battle of the war, will be
fought here. We are pretty tired, as you can imagine. But I presume we
shall be kept engaged, till the battle is decided, one way or the other.
Appearances look as if the issue of the war, the success or downfall of
the rebellion, would be determined in this state. 
Accordingly, preparations were taken as the men
fortified their positions throughout the night of July 1 and into July
2. The freshly turned earth and lunettes ringing the artillery were
readily apparent the next morning to the closest Confederates, one
noting the Union soldiers "had done wonders in fortifying." Another
noted the hill was "crowned with strongly built fortifications, and
bristling with a most formidable array of cannon." They realized that to
take the hill now would be extremely difficult. 
The Southern soldiers settled down to wait, knowing
the timing of their movement depended upon the principal Confederate
effort against the Union left. Little could they realize what a long,
uncomfortable and frustrating wait it would be, as morning passed into
afternoon, and the men lay exposed to the hot, humid and sultry summer
conditions. Longstreet's attack, having run afoul of both avoidable and
unavoidable delays, would not be launched until approximately 3:30 p.m.
 Shortly after, Ewell ordered his "diversion" to
begin. Lt. James Gardner, Battery B, 1st Pennsylvania Artillery,
remembered, "At 4 p.m. the terrible crash of the enemy's artillery
Ewell's planned an intense artillery bombardment
against both Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill as his diversion. His
artillery, totalling thirty-two guns, opened on Cemetery Hill from the
east and northwest. At first this fire was very effective. Lt. Gardner
The shots of the enemy came thick and fast, bursting,
crushing and ploughing, a mighty storm of iron ball, a most determined
and terrible effort of the enemy to cripple and destroy the guns upon
the hill. Situated as we were in the center of this artillery line, our
battery received the full force of the enemy's front, oblique and flank
A war correspondent near the Evergreen Cemetery
described the destructiveness of the Confederate fire:
Then came a storm of shot and shell; marble slabs
were broken, iron fences shattered, horses disemboweled. The air was
full of wild, hideous noises - the low buzz of round shot, the whizzing
of elongated balls and the stunning explosion of shells overhead and all
The Union artillery soon replied in a raging duel for
supremacy. With over fifty guns, which were placed in better positions,
the Union batteries slowly gained an advantage. This cannonade continued
for nearly two hours, and by approximately 6:00 p.m. the Confederate
artillery had been smothered and forced to retire. 
All this time, of course, Longstreet's First Corps
was smashing into the Union left flank, engulfing Little Round Top,
Devil's Den, the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard. Gen. Meade, rightly
concerned about his left sought any means to bolster it. He had directed
the entire Fifth Corps, his only reserve, and elements of the other
corps, to move in that direction. Sometime near 6:00 p.m. most of the
Twelfth Corps, holding Culp's Hill, was also ordered to reinforce the
left, leaving that vital terrain lightly defended. 
At this juncture, Richard Ewell faced a critical
decision; should he convert his "diversion" into a full fledged assault?
Despite the fact that his bombardment had obviously failed and that,
apparently, the Union line was still strong, he ordered his divisions
forward around 7:15 p.m. 
His basic plan was simple. Once Johnson's Division
engaged the Union troops on Culp's Hill, the next two divisions in line,
Early and Rodes, would then advance in secession against Cemetery Hill.
Thus the timing of the advance of Early and Rodes divisions depended
upon when Johnson engaged the enemy. This lead to a major problem for
the last two divisions, especially Early's troops. Because Johnson's men
faced numerous and unexpected physical obstacles in their advance, they
did not strike the Union defenders on Culp's until nearly 8:00 p.m. Thus
is was already dusk when Early's Division finally started forward. This
critical lack of daylight, along with the obvious obstacles, such as the
natural strength of hill and the Union defensive line positioned upon
it, made a successful assault on East Cemetery Hill seem nearly
impossible. Lt. Jackson wrote: "I felt as if my doom was sealed, and it
was with great reluctance that I started. . .forward." 
Early advanced with two of his four brigades, Brig.
Gen. Harry Hays' "Louisiana Tigers," and Col. Issac Avery's North
Carolina Brigade, totalling approximately 2,550 officers and men. Early
held Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon's Georgia Brigade in reserve, to be used
to exploit any breakthrough. 
Tension had naturally mounted in their ranks
throughout the long and anxious wait that afternoon. Suddenly, they
realized that waiting was about to end as "couriers and aides were seen
riding rapidly from one commanding officer to another...." Capt. Neill
Ray later wrote: "We knew what that meant.... Never can that time be
forgotten. Every man in the line knew what was before him." Despite
this, another officer remembered on "every face was most legibly written
the firm determination to do or die." 
Early's assaulting brigades, Hays on the right and
Avery on the left, were positioned on the southern outskirts of town
under cover of a small ravine created by Winebrenner's Run. Their lined
covered a front of about 750 yards. Capt. William Seymour recalled the
beginning of the advance:
At the word, up spring our men, and away they rush
over the little ridge behind which they has so long laid, and down into
the Valley which separated it from the dreaded "Cemetery Hill." 
Both brigades initially moved straight ahead,
crossing over the ridge and into the open. Almost immediately, Union
troops spotted this movement and rapidly responded. The 5th Maine
Battery on McKnight's Knoll opened first, as Lt. Edward Whittier
. . . at once there was the flash and roar of our six
guns, the rush of the projectiles, and along the front of the enemy's
charging line every case shot. . .burst as if on measured ground, at the
right time and in the right place above and in front of their advance.
The Union batteries on the crest of East Cemetery
Hill, now alerted, also opened. Lt. Whittier later wrote that these
batteries "made the ground tremble with their volleys" as their shot and
shell were "plowing through the lines of the enemy...." 
Along the Confederate line this fire was instantly
felt, as Brig. Gen. Hays reported:
I...had gone but a short distance when my whole line
became exposed to a most terrific fire from the enemy's batteries from
the entire range of hills in front, and to the right and left...." 
Despite this fire Hays' and Avery's brigades
continued their advance. A Louisiana soldier wrote, "Hays shouted
'forward' and on we went, over fences, ditches, thru marshy fields...."
The determination of the common Confederate soldier
was easily evident in this assault. Despite the heavy damage inflicted
upon them and the many obstacles which impeded their advance, the
Southern line not only maintained its steady advance, but also completed
a complicated maneuver in the process. In order to strike East Cemetery
Hill from their jumping off point, the Confederate line made a change of
front, or "right wheel" during its advance. This was especially true for
Avery's brigade, being on the far left and having the greatest distance
to travel. Overcoming all the difficulties they encountered, the line
completed the maneuver flawlessly. It was "a movement which none but the
steadiest veterans could have executed," claimed a North Carolina
This maneuver, while successful, also exposed Avery's
left flank to a devastating flanking fire from the 5th Maine Battery.
Lt. Whittier later wrote about this critical moment:
. . . with double canister, pouring a most
destructive, enfilading, demoralizing, fire into a confused mass of the
enemy, struggling in the uncertain shadows at the base of the hill. 
By this time the situation was one of wild confusion
with the Confederate line valiantly struggling onward. Col. Adin
Underwood, 33rd Massachusetts, positioned at the base of the hill,
The darkness is lighted up with the flames from the
cannons' mouths, that seem to pour down in streams onto them. The roar
and shriek of the shot and shell that plough through and through their
ranks, is appalling. The gaps bravely close up and still they advance.
Canister cannot check them. 
The situation rapidly deteriorated as Union musketry
fire opened upon the Southern ranks. Underwood later wrote:
They near fifty yards, when a rapid and awful fire is
poured into them...until there are almost as many upon the ground as in
their lines. 
Somehow Hays' and Avery's men rallied from this
onslaught and continued their assault. Though they faced many
disadvantages, Early's brigades were able to use several factors to
their advantage. These factors, along with the determination and bravery
of the Confederate soldier, led to a partial collapse of the Union line.
The first of these advantages was the sheer steepness of East Cemetery
Hill. Though seemingly a tremendous obstacle, the hill proved to be
weakness for the Union batteries at its crest, for the sharp slope
prevented them from firing into the area directly in their front. Upon
reaching the base of the hill, the Confederate ranks were literally
under the muzzles of the Union artillery. 
Ironically, the growing darkness also assisted
Early's men. Hays reported:
. . . Owing to the darkness of the evening, now
verging into night, and the deep obscurity afforded by the smoke of the
firing, our exact locality could not be discovered by the enemy's
gunners, and we thus escaped what in full light of day could have been
nothing else than horrible slaughter. 
Lastly, this confusion, created by the darkness,
thick smoke and heavy fire, unnerved some the 11th Corps troops steeling
themselves for this attack when, seemingly out of nowhere, Hays' and
Avery's brigades struck hard. Col. Andrew Harris, commanding the 11th
Corps brigade holding the north face of the hill, recalled the violent
It was a complete surprise to us. We did not expect
this assault as bravely and rapidly made. In fact, we did not expect any
assault. We would not have been much more surprised if the moving column
had raised up out of the ground amid the waving timothy grass of the
Hays' Louisianians struck hard, followed shortly
after by Avery's North Carolinians. Sections of the 11th Corps line
fought hard. Col. Harris wrote, "...all along my whole line the fighting
was obstinate and bloodily. The bayonet, club musket, and anything in
fact that could be made available was used." During this melee part of
Hays' line surged through a critical gap in the Union line created by
the last minute movement of troops.  At this point
the Union line was doomed. Though pockets of resistance clung to the
base of the hill, most of the 11th Corps regiments retreated, some in
disorder, up the hill. Following close on their heels, Hays' "Louisiana
Tigers" and parts of Avery's brigade charged up the steep slope "with
heroic determination." 
Their objective was the now exposed batteries at the
crest. The situation for these artillerymen was probably alarming. Along
with the deepening darkness and tremendous din of battle, the smoke was
"so thick you could not see ten yards ahead." Then suddenly 11th Corps
infantry "commenced running in the greatest confusion to the rear," in
many cases passing between the guns. Captain Bruce Ricketts, commanding
Batteries F and G, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery, later claimed that
these men were "so panic stricken...that several ran into the canister
fire of my guns." 
Rushing to the crest, Hays' men reached Battery I,
1st New York Artillery, commanded by Capt. Michael Weidrich. The New
Yorkers stood to their guns, as one officer described the melee that
. . . the officers and men instantly began to fight
to save their guns, using everything that they could lay their hand
upon. They could no longer fire their guns as the enemy was in the
battery. They seized the rammers, handspikes, fence rails, threw
shot...and the officers used their sabres and pistols with remarkable
activity and energy. 
While the struggle for Weidrich's guns continued the
fighting spread to Captain Ricketts' battery, just to the right. As both
Louisiana and North Carolina troops reached the battery a similar
hand-to-hand conflict with "handspikes, rammers, stones and pistols"
ensued. Rickett later claimed: "My men behaved splendidly in this great
emergency." Major Samuel Tate, of the 6th North Carolina, reported: "The
enemy stood with a tenacity never before displayed by them." Lt. Charles
Brockway, of the battery, best described this desperate conflict:
The scene was now one of the wildest confusion.
Friends and foes were indiscriminately mixed, and our brave men, though
outnumbered and without arms, by means of hand spikes, rammers, stones,
etc., made a sturdy resistance, animating each other with shouts and
cries, "to conquer on the soil of our native State, or perish." 
Major James Beall, 21st North Carolina, summed up the
struggle by writing:
The hour was one of horror. Amid the incessant roar
of cannon, the din of musketry, and the glare of bursting shells making
the darkness intermittent adding awfulness to the scene-the hoarse
shouts of friend and foe, the piteous cries of wounded and dying, one
could well imagine. . .that "war is hell." 
At this point, portions of the crest of East Cemetery
Hill were now in Confederate hands. "We supposed that we had won the
battle," claimed Captain Neill Ray of the 6th North Carolina, feeling
they had "possession of...the key to General Meade's position." To
secure their hard won gains, they also expected reinforcements from both
Rodes' Division, to their right, and Gordon's Brigade from their rear.
Ray recalled: "No one who has never been in a similar position can
understand how anxiously we looked for re-inforcements." 
Unknown to them, however, was the fact that no
reinforcements were coming. Rodes' attack against the northwest and west
face of Cemetery Hill had broken down almost as soon as it started and,
as a result, Early had held back Gordon's Brigade.  Hays' and Avery's brigades were alone.
At this same time the Union high command had acted
swiftly to repair the breakthrough. Both Second Corps and Eleventh Corps
troops from the other side of Cemetery Hill rushed to the threatened
area and launched counterattacks. Within a short time, the batteries
were recaptured and Early's infantry had been forced off the hill. The
struggle for East Cemetery Hill had ended, and so to had a crisis for
the Union army. 
Though they could take satisfaction in having held
the vital terrain of Cemetery Hill, the Union soldiers defending its
slopes realized the battle was far from over. Their overall attitude was
probably summed up best by Lt. Whittier of the 5th Maine Battery. He
The fall of night found the Potomac army in a
situation that demanded the most grave and serious consideration. We had
repulsed the last assaults, but nearly twelve thousand men had fallen in
the desperate battle. . . . It was indeed a gloomy hour. . . . Men took
position in silence, for the exultation of victory was not felt to cause
them to forget fatigue, hunger, suffering comrades, or the chance of
death on the coming day. . . .
The twilight shrouded a field hard fought, dearly
won, barely held, drenched with blood; and upon tokens presaging evil to
the Potomac Army. 
Whittier had reason to feel gloomy, as he and his men
realized the battle was far from over. Not surprisingly, Cemetery Hill,
which had so heavily influenced the first two days, would also determine
the result of the fighting on the last day, and ultimately the battle
Robert E. Lee, determined to continue the battle and
seeking a crushing victory over the Army of the Potomac, decided the
next morning to launch what is popularly known as "Pickett's Charge."
Stated simply, the plan called for a devastating artillery bombardment
to strike the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, followed by a
massed infantry assault. Though the most famous combat of the assault
occurred at the "High Water Mark" area, essentially most of the Union
line was involved, including Cemetery Hill. The hill's main impact on
July 3 was as an artillery platform for the Union batteries placed on
its western slopes. Though this side of the hill was not as physically
imposing as East Cemetery Hill, the unobstructed view afforded from this
location made it an excellent artillery platform.
Major Thomas Osborn, commander of the Eleventh Corps
artillery, later wrote that his batteries:
. . . faced to the west, commanding the plain and the
low hills beyond. . . . we commanded the plain perfectly, with no timber
intervening, over which [any of] the enemy's infantry must advance to
the charge. 
Altogether, Osborn had eight full or partial
batteries, totalling thirty-six guns, positioned along the hill's west
or northwestern faces. 
The importance of the hill did not escape the
Confederate high command as they made their preparations for their grand
cannonade. Osborn noticed these Confederate batteries and realized the
vulnerability of his own guns, located as they were along Cemetery
Hill's exposed crest:
We were in plain view of the batteries of the enemy
on at least a mile and a half of his line. The slope of the hill in our
rear was too steep to use as a cover for the guns or even the caissons.
The distance of the enemy's guns from us was from three-fourths of a
mile to a mile and a half. An excellent range, the country all open, no
woods intervening between the line or between the enemy's batteries and
Cemetery Hill. We made the best target for artillery practice the enemy
had during the war. 
Not only was the lack of cover a concern, but also
the shape of the Confederate line gave them the advantage of converging
fire, allowing them to concentrate their fire "upon a single point."
Though most of the Confederate artillery fire would be aimed at the
center of the Union line, over fifty Southern guns were assigned to
silence the Union batteries on Cemetery Hill. Despite these obvious
disadvantages, Osborn prepared his batteries accordingly and the men
then settled down to wait. 
Shortly after 1:00 p.m. the Confederate artillery
opened. Gen. Howard later described the beginning of this immense
The signal guns were fired by the enemy, and from the
southwest, west, north and northeast, his batteries opened, hurling into
the Cemetery grounds, missiles of every description. Shells burst in the
air, on the ground, at our right and left, and in front, killing men and
horses, exploding caissons, over turning tombstones and smashing fences.
Colonel James Biddle, on Gen. Meade's staff, recalled
the fury of this fire:
This artillery duel, which lasted an hour and a half,
was the most severe of any experienced anywhere during the war. The air
was filled with bursting shell and solid shot, and the very earth shook
with resounding cannon. 
Osborn's batteries faced a tremendous amount of this
fire which he related:
Nothing which can be written will convey to the
non-military man the slightest idea of the fire concentrated on Cemetery
Hill during the hour and a half it continued. The shells must have
reached us at the rate of one hundred and upwards a minute at the
least.... The enemy turned their attention exclusively to the batteries
on the crest of the hill.... The officers, men and horses were killed
and wounded rapidly. A caisson was blown up every few minutes, and now
and then an artillery carriage was struck and knocked to pieces.
He concisely summed up the situation by writing, "The
enemy was now doing us a good deal of damage...." 
The Union high command, still realizing the
importance of the hill, grew concerned. Osborn recalled:
While the fire was at its greatest severity General
Meade, accompanied by a staff officer, came on the hill and asked me if
we could stay. I assured him we would do so. He said the result of the
fight depended on our holding the hill. I replied that the enemy also
seemed to have the same idea....
Yet, Osborn could later proudly claim, "The men
showed no signs of demoralization."  In his
official report, the Eleventh Corps officer went even further,
Our artillery endured this fire with. . .coolness and
determination. No battery even showed a disposition to retire. . . . Our
guns were worked with great coolness, energy, and judgement...." 
After nearly two hours, the cannonade slackened and
"a singularly depressing quiet covered the entire field." "The wait for
Confederate activity was a short one, for in just a few moments," Osborn
remembered, "the infantry of the enemy broke over the crest" of Seminary
Ridge. Three Southern divisions, numbering approximately 12,000 to
13,000 men, appeared from the Confederate positions and formed for this
grand assault. Gen. Howard called it "an extensive parade; the flags
were flying and the lines steadily advancing...." 
The advantages the Union batteries on Cemetery Hill
held were obvious. Osborn stated: "The enemy's lines of battle were now
in plain view, no trees or other obstructions intervening." He was quick
to open on the Confederate ranks. "So soon as the enemy's first line of
battle had fully developed...over the ridge," he wrote, "I ordered all
the batteries...to open on it...." The results were devastating:
Each solid shot...which struck either line cut out
two men, but when a shell exploded immediately in front of either line
it cut out four, six, eight or even more men, making a wide open gap in
their line. These gaps and the width of them could be as distinctly seen
from the hill as if we had been close to them. 
Most of the Union batteries on Cemetery Hill
concentrated their fire on the left flank of the Confederate column, the
divisions of Brig. Gen. Joseph Pettigrew and Maj. Gen. Isaac Trimble.
Brig. Gen. James H. Lane, of Trimble's Division, called the artillery
fire "murderous," while Brig. Gen. Joseph Davis under Pettigrew's
command reported the artillery fire "told sadly upon our ranks." A North
Carolina best described scene:
Solid shot ploughed through their ranks, spherical
case rattled in their mists and... swept them by hundreds from the
field. . . . It was an awful experience to pass nearly a mile across a
plain subjected to such a terrible fire, with no hope of protection and
without power to resist. 
Osborn reported "the havoc produced upon their ranks
was truly surprising." The severe damage inflicted by the artillery upon
Col. J.M. Brockenbrough's Brigade, positioned on the left of the
assaulting Confederate column, actually caused that unit to break before
it reached the Emmitsburg Road. 
As the Confederate advance continued, it eventually
reached and crossed the Emmittsburg Road. Here, Osborn remembered, the
Confederate ranks were "covered by the intervening ground from the guns
on Cemetery Hill." The Union batteries on the hill fell silent as the
final assault was made and repulsed at the "High Water Mark" area. With
the failure of the "Pickett-Pettigrew Charge" the battle ended.
Rightfully proud of his men, Osborn in his official report stated: "I am
convinced that the fire from the hill was one of the main auxiliaries in
breaking the force of this grand charge." 
At Gettysburg the Army of the Potomac had achieved a
great victory. This victory, it can be argued, resulted in large part
because of Cemetery Hill. The hill had played a significant role during
all three days of the battle. On July 1 it served as a rallying point
for the defeated First and Eleventh Corps and it became a determining
factor in choosing Gettysburg as the battlefield. On July 2 and 3 the
hill became a vital terrain feature in the Union army's defensive line,
the apex of the "fishook" line which protected the Baltimore Pike and
provided the Union army with an excellent artillery platform. In turn,
Cemetery Hill greatly influenced the fighting that followed, not only by
influencing the Confederate battle strategy but also by being
instrumental in repelling Confederate assaults on both July 2 and July
3. Brig. Gen. Adolph Von Steinwher, who commanded an Eleventh Corps
division stated as such in his official report:
Cemetery Hill is the commanding point of the whole
position, and its occupation by our troops had a decisive influence upon
the further progress and the final result of the battle. 
Though the battle had been won and the Union saved,
the cost had been extremely high. Not only were casualties enormous,
being nearly 51,000 killed, wounded or missing, but also in the amount
of physical damage as well. The Adams County countryside, to say nothing
of the lives of the civilians who resided there, lay shattered. Cemetery
Hill itself was a perfect example, as one eyewitness recalled the
condition of the Evergreen Cemetery:
The cemetery was all shot to pieces. Monuments,
gravestones and the iron fence that had surrounded it all lay in
fragments and were jumbled together. 
The rebuilding and recovery efforts would be slow and
painful. Once again, Cemetery Hill would play a pivotal role during this
SITE OF THE SOLDIERS' NATIONAL CEMETERY
The immediate concern of the survivors were the over
7,000 dead and approximately 30,000 wounded. The disaster was
overwhelming and the obstacles were seemingly endless. Many of the
solutions, therefore, were short termed. The dead were initially buried
in crude, shallow graves directly on the battlefield. The wounded were
crowded into "field hospitals" located in both private and public
buildings across the county. Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin visited
the area about one week after the fighting. His principal concern was
for the local community and wounded Pennsylvania soldiers. During his
visit, however, he was confronted by the deteriorating battlefield
graves of the Northern dead, which one eyewitness described:
Our dead are lying on the fields unburied... with
small portions of earth dug up alongside of the body and thrown over it.
In many instances arms and legs and sometimes heads protrude and my
attention has been directed to several places where the hogs were
actually rooting out the bodies and devouring them. . . . Humanity calls
on us to take measures to remedy this. 
Curtin's first solution was to have the remains of
the Pennsylvania dead located and shipped to their respective homes. To
assist this undertaking Curtin decided the Pennsylvania government would
pay the travel and shipping expenses, the only state to do so. To
facilitate this effort the governor appointed Gettysburg attorney David
Wills as his state agent. 
The graves were deteriorating too rapidly, however,
for this solution to be successful. Curtin's plan also only properly
disposed of the Pennsylvania dead, leaving the other Northern states to
fend for themselves. Accordingly, on July 23 or 24, Wills called a
meeting of all the Northern state agents to discuss the various options
concerning this problem. The idea for the Soldiers' National Cemetery
emerged from this meeting. A separate cemetery for all the Union dead,
created and financed by the Northern states, would be established. 
It was also decided that David Wills would head the
project, his duties including making all the financial arrangements,
determining the reburial methods, creating a permanent committee for
perpetual care of the cemetery, hiring a surveyor and landscape
architect and, most importantly, purchasing the land for the cemetery
grounds. In a July 24 letter to Gov. Curtin, Wills described what he
envisioned as the best location for this common burial ground:
There is one spot very desirable for this purpose. It
is the elevated piece of ground on the Baltimore Turnpike opposite the
Cemetery. It is the place where our army had about 40 pieces of
artillery in action all Thursday & Friday and for their protection
had thrown up a large number of earthworks for the artillerists. It is
the point on which the desperate attack was made by the Louisiana
Brigades on Thursday evening when they succeeded in reaching the guns,
taking possession of them and were finally driven back by the infantry
assisted by the artillery men with their handspikes and rammers. It was
the key to the whole line of our defenses,the apex of the
triangular line of battle. It is the spot, above all others, for the
honorable burial of the dead who have fallen on these fields. 
The ground Wills was referring to was eight acres
located on East Cemetery Hill. Once again the hill would be a focal
point of attention.
Surprisingly, Wills was not the only Gettysburg
citizen who had this very same idea. Shortly after the arrival of Wills'
letter, the governor received another letter from David McConaughy,
Gettysburg lawyer and president of the Evergreen Cemetery Association.
The letter's contents were probably shocking:
I have purchased & now hold all the land upon
Cemetery Hill which encircles the Evergreen Cemetery Grounds, &
which was occupied by the Artillery and forces on the centre of our line
of battle, on the ever memorable 1st 2d & 3d of July inst.
Not only had McConaughy purchased the land Wills
wanted, he also stated that he had already buried the remains of nearly
one hundred Union dead in the Evergreen Cemetery.
When Wills found out, he accused McConaughy of being
a "speculator," for he felt his rival attorney had overstepped his
authority. Wills also realized that McConaughy's plan would change the
very nature of the project to one of local influence, instead of a
cemetery of national character as he and his fellow state agents had
envisioned. This situation obviously presented a problem if the
Soldiers' National Cemetery was to become a reality. 
David McConaughy's plan, however, was more than just
an attempt to increase the importance of the Evergreen Cemetery. Besides
purchasing the acreage on Cemetery Hill, he had also secured land on
Culp's Hill, Steven's Knoll and Little Round Top. All of this was done
at his own expense. On a August 19, publicly McConaughy laid out his
ultimate objective, which was both revolutionary and visionary:
Immediately after the battle of Gettysburg, the
thought occurred to me that there could be no more fitting and
expressive memorial of the heroic valor and signal triumphs of our army,
on the first, second and third days of July, 1863, than the
battlefield itself, with its natural and artificial defenses,
preserved and perpetuated in the exact form and condition they presented
during the battle. 
His idea of preserving the battlefield itself as a
memorial was unheard of at that time. Amazingly, he had initiated this
task less than a month after the battle.
These actions would lead to the establishment of the
Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association in 1864 and eventually to
Gettysburg National Military Park itself. Once again, Cemetery Hill was
at the fore front of this innovative movement, for the first acreage
McConaughy purchased to implement his plan was on part of that hill.
Though hindsight reveals to the modern reader how incredible
McConaughy's actions were, to David Wills they were a major setback in
establishing a cemetery of "National character." 
After three more weeks of negotiations and political
maneuvering, Wills was finally able to purchase seventeen acres of land
on Cemetery Hill from the Evergreen Cemetery Association, thus being
able to avoid dealing directly with McConaughy. It was not the ground
Wills had originally intended to buy on East Cemetery Hill, but rather
land located on the north and west slopes of the hill. 
Despite the many difficulties, the project had
already taken on a higher meaning for those parties involved. Wills
referred to the undertaking as a "sacred project," a "noble project,"
"sacred work," and a "sacred purpose." The Evergreen Cemetery Board
called it a "noble enterprise" and "a grand national enterprise." Thus,
the perception of the very ground also took on special significance.
Gov. Curtin referred to the area as "sacred grounds." Within two months,
the meaning of Cemetery Hill, which had been so pivotal in the battle,
had grown tremendously. 
With the purchase of the actual land, the plans for
the Soldiers' National Cemetery moved ahead. Wills was able to hire
William Saunders to landscape the grounds, the surveying was completed,
a contract for the reburial of the remains was awarded and the
arrangements of the graves was finalized. It was decided that the dead
would be reburied by state, each being assigned a separate lot. The size
of the lots was determined by the number of troops each state lost. This
plan, when completed, would represent one of the central messages the
cemetery attempted to convey; the idea of equality.
As during the battle, the topography of Cemetery Hill
would heavily influence the creation and meaning of the Soldiers'
National Cemetery. William Saunders explained:
The surface (of the grounds) was somewhat undulating,
some high...but others low and inferior in comparison, so that in
distributing the interments by States some would, of necessity, be
placed in the lower portions and thus an apparently unjust
discrimination might be inferred. 
Saunders solved this problem by laying out the state
sections in a semi-circular arrangement. At the central point, located
upon the highest ground in the cemetery, would be a central monument.
Thus, Saunders stated, "...the position of each lot, and indeed of each
interment, is relatively of equal importance." Further stressing the
equality theme was the determination to bury the officers and enlisted
men side by side, a uncommon practice in the 19th century. 
At this same time, Wills and the committee turned
their attention to planning the "proper consecration of the grounds."
Because the entire project had been planned and financed by the states,
the dedication ceremony would naturally be controlled by, and emphasize,
their role. The date of the ceremony was set for November 19, 1863.
Edward Everett of Massachusetts, one of the greatest orators of that
time, was invited to present the principal dedication oration. 
President Abraham Lincoln, though he did not receive
an official invitation until November 2, was requested by Wills to
"participate in these ceremonies. . . ." The Pennsylvania state agent
It is the desire that, after the Oration, You as
Chief Executive of the Nation formally set apart these grounds to their
Sacred use by a few appropriate remarks. 
The lateness of the invitation, far from being an
afterthought or snub to Lincoln, stresses instead the secondary role of
the Federal government in the entire project.
Having shaped the Battle of Gettysburg and being
chosen as the site for a burial ground for the war dead, Cemetery Hill
would shortly after take on a even more significant aspect. During the
dedication ceremonies for the Soldiers' National Cemetery, one of the
most famous speeches in American, if not world history would be given on
its very slopes.
SITE OF THE DELIVERANCE OF "THE GETTYSBURG
An in-depth discussion of "The Gettysburg Address,"
and its far ranging impacts, could and has filled volumes. Obviously,
the speech is a masterpiece of both language and substance.
Lincoln was able to convey an incredible amount of
information with his relatively short address. Briefly, these multiple
1) The speech as a rededication. Far from being
simply a dedication speech, Lincoln saw the ceremony at Gettysburg as an
opportunity to rededicate the Nation to finishing the war.
2) The "Address" gave meaning to the deaths of the
soldiers, not only in helping to save the Union, as also to hopefully
make the country even better, or what Lincoln called...
3) A "new birth of freedom." The war would not only
affirm the Constitution, but also improve it by guaranteeing equality to
4) The speech put the country and the conflict on a
world scale, for Lincoln saw the Civil War as a test of Democracy. He
reminded his audience "our fathers" had created a "new nation, conceived
in Liberty. Now, a "great civil war" was "testing whether that nation,
or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure." He
realized, and alluded to the fact that other countries were closely
monitoring the outcome of the struggle. He said: "The world will
little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget
what they did here." 
5) Most importantly, Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address"
was a Nationally defining moment, for it changed how the country
perceived itself. Gary Wills book, Lincoln at Gettysburg,
probably best states this idea:
Lincoln is here not only to sweeten the air of
Gettysburg, but to clear the infected atmosphere of American history
itself, tainted with official sins and inherited guilt. He would cleanse
the Constitution. . . . He altered the document from within, by appeal
from its letter to the spirit.... By implicitly doing this, he performed
one one of the most daring acts of open-air sleight-of-hand ever
witnessed by the unsuspecting. 
Lincoln changed the very meaning of the Nation as
defined by the Constitution, which established a system of government,
to a Nation defined by the Declaration of Independence, a document
founded on the base principal of equality. Amazingly, Lincoln
accomplished this with the first sentence of his "Address:"
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.
Gary Wills claims Lincoln did even more:
The Gettysburg Address has become an authoritative
expression of the American spirit-as authoritative as the Declaration
itself, and perhaps even more influential, since it determines how we
read the Declaration. For most people now, the Declaration means what
Lincoln told us it means, as a way of correcting the Constitution itself
without overthrowing it. It is this correction of spirit, this
intellectual revolution, that makes attempts to go back beyond Lincoln
to some earlier version so feckless.... By accepting the Gettysburg
Address, its concept of a single people dedicated to a proposition, we
have been changed. Because of it, we live in a different America. 
These multiple meanings are what give the "Gettysburg
Address" it power and make the site of its deliverance so scared.
Though dedicated, the Soldiers' National Cemetery
itself would not be completed until March, 1864 when the last of the
3,512 Union dead were reburied. Further improvements continued
throughout the war, including the construction of enclosures, the
carving of proper headstones and the completion of William Saunders'
landscaping plan. The November 7, 1865 Adams Sentinel reported a
heavy force of workmen were
. . . still employed at the National Cemetery.... The
various Avenues are all laid out, and the work of macademization on some
parts of them is completed. The trees and shrubbery are being planted as
fast as the progress of the work will admit. The headstones are all laid
out in those sections where the bodies are buried. The balance...will be
done in a short time to carry out the full design. The grounds are
beginning to present a most handsome appearance, and in the course of a
few years will be unsurpassed in beauty by any other spot in the world.
This great work has given employment to a great number of laborers,
among whom we are pleased to notice a large number of returned soldiers.
Probably some fought upon the very ground which they are now helping to
Within two years of the battle, Cemetery Hill and the
Soldiers' National Cemetery located near its crest, had taken on a huge
significance for these men.
That perception was soon displayed by the nation as a
whole. As an example, in 1868 the tradition of holding special Memorial
Day ceremonies in the cemetery had begun. These ceremonies usually
included a parade through town, the laying of flowers or small flags on
all the headstones by the local children, followed by a formal speech.
By the late 1870s, some of the speakers were of national prominence,
including four presidents and two vice-presidents.  These same ceremonies continue today, over 125 years
The 1869 dedication of the Soldiers' National
Monument, located at the center of the semi-circle of graves, also
marked, and encouraged a significant national trend. Maj. Gen. George
Gordon Meade, the victor of the battle, in delivering his dedicatory
remarks used the site and hill as a national platform to encourage
When I contemplate this field, I see here and there
the marks of hastily dug trenches in which repose the dead against whom
we fought.... Above them a bit of plank indicates simply that these
remains of the fallen were hurriedly laid there by soldiers who met them
in battle. Why should we not collect them in some suitable place? . .
. In all civilized countries it is the usage to bury the dead with
decency and respect, and even to fallen enemies respectful burial is
accorded in death. I earnestly hope that this suggestion may have some
influence throughout our broad land, for this is only one of a hundred
crowded battle fields. 
Throughout the years Cemetery Hill continued to be
involved in the every changing shape of the battlefield. Though already
nationally significant, the Soldiers' National Cemetery officially
became national in 1872, with the transfer of control to the United
States War Department. Thus, the first federal presence at Gettysburg
involved the hill. The first veterans reunions, in the late 1870s and
throughout the 1880s, including encampments and accompanying ceremonies
were held on East Cemetery Hill. The first official monument, a flower
urn dedicated to the dead of the 1st Minnesota Infantry, was located on
the hill in the Soldiers's National Cemetery. 
The cemetery itself took on a more important physical
role as burials from other wars, including the Spanish-American War
(1898), World War I (1917-1918), and World War II (1941-1945), filled
its grounds. So many new graves were added in fact, that additional land
was purchased to create a National Cemetery Annex in 1948.  With the further addition of the Korea and Vietnam
dead, the remains of over 7,000 Americans rest today within the cemetery
boundaries, completing the national significance of the hill. 
Today, over 130 years after the great events enacted
upon its slopes, Cemetery Hill has not only retained its original
significance, but has also taken on a higher meaning, both for the
nation and the world. The site continues to serve as a national
platform. For example, on November 19, 1990, during the annual
Dedication Day ceremonies held in the Soldiers' National Cemetery, the
principal speaker, Secretary of HUD Jack Kemp, touched upon the global
significance of Gettysburg:
It is with special purpose that we return to this
scared site.... A hymn of freedom is now resounding in an ever-rising
chorus from around the globe. On the eve of a new century and a new
millennium, people all over the world bear witness to the revelation of
this battlefield.... 
Gettysburg and Cemetery Hill also has, and will
continue to be, a focal point of national definition. During the 1989
Dedication Day ceremonies, New York Governor Mario Cuomo, used the hill,
as Lincoln did in 1863, as a site for national rededication:
The fact that we are returning here to this hallowed
groundreminding ourselves of the awful consequences of division,
and the limitless possibility of ideasis "altogether fitting and
proper." It is useful too. . . . this shrine can offer us the
inspiration we need to bring to our own stumbling efforts a sharper
vision, a deeper compassion, a greater strength. . . And because we
understand today, just as Lincoln understood then, that the task of
realizing this dream is stillas he expressed it. . .
"unfinished work." A grand work not finished by war, or the peace that
followed, or the century and a quarter of incredible progress since. "It
is us, the living," Lincoln said, "to [be here dedicated to the] great
task remaining before us." That task remains for us still. 
Cemetery Hill has played a influential role in the
long and constantly changing history of Gettysburg National Military
Park. From a vital terrain feature which greatly shaped the tide of
fighting and the final outcome of the bloodiest battle waged in the
Western Hemisphere, to a scared burial ground to honor the sacrifice of
all American service men and women throughout the nation's many
conflicts, to the site of the deliverance of the "Gettysburg Address,"
most famous speech in American, if not world history.
It is easy to understand therefore, why this
"hallowed ground" rapidly became so important to the nation's
conscience. That fact was made clear in the first official history of
the Soldiers' National Cemetery. Published in 1865, just two years after
the battle and within months of the end of the war, it is obvious that
the cemetery, and the hill itself, had already gained respect as an
honored and scared place. In part this history reads:
Such was the origin of this final resting place for
the remains of our departed heroes, who nobly laid down their lives a
sacrifice on their country's alter...the place where they now lie will
be honored, protected, and preserved....
1 Bachelder, John Gettysburg: What
to See, and How to See It, (Lee, Shepard, & Dillingham, New
York, 1873), pp. 44-45.
2 Francis A. Walker, History of
Second Army Corps in the Army of the Potomac, (Charles Scribner's
Sons, New York, 1887), p. 266.
3 David Gregg McIntosh, "Review of
the Gettysburg Campaign," Southern Historical Society Papers,
Vol. XXXVII, (Published by the Society, Richmond, VA, 1909), p. 117.
4 United States War Department,
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of
the Union and Confederate Armies, 70 vols. in 128 parts (Washington,
D.C., Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), series 1, vol. 27, Pt. 1,
pp. 174, 183. Hereafter cited as OR. All subsequent citations are
from series I, vol. 27.
5 "Ceremonies at the Unveiling of
Equestrian Statue in Honor of Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, June
5, 1896," Pennsylvania at Gettysburg, Vol. II, (William Stanley
Ray, State Printer, Harrisburg, PA, 1904), p. 1076; Walter Clark,
North Carolina Regiments, 1861-'65, (Nash Brothers, Book and Job
Printers, Goldsboro, NC, 1901), p. 414.
6 Gettysburg National Park
Commission, Map of the Battlefield at Gettysburg, Gettysburg,
Pennsylvania, 1901. Evergreen Cemetery plaque, Baltimore Pike, East
Cemetery Hill, Gettysburg.
7 OR, pt. 1, pp. 702, 704.
8 OR, pt. 1, pp. 367, 368.
Hancock reported that he arrived on the field at 3:00 p.m. This time
seems much too early, as the 11th Corps had not even retreated yet.
Howard put Hancock's arrival time at 4:30 p.m., which seems too late.
More than likely he arrived around 4:00 p.m.. There was a slight
controversy between Hancock and Howard concerning who commanded the
field. By seniority, Howard outranked Hancock, however Meade's order
superseded such contingencies. Apparently, this situation was resolved,
as the two generals apparently worked together to restore the Union
9 Ibid., p. 368; Walker, History
of Second Army Corps, p. 267.
10 Ibid., p. 266.
11 OR, pt. 1, pp. 368, 704,
705; Bvt. Captain Edward Whittier, "The Left Flank (Ewell's) at
Gettysburg," Civil War Papers, Read Before the Commandery of the
State of Massachusetts, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United
States, Vol. 1, (Boston, 1900), p. 75. Unfortunately, the modern
view shed from Cemetery Hill is greatly obstructed by commercial
development and excessive visitation.
12 OR, pt. 1, p. 704. Capt.
Michael Weidrich's Battery I, 1st New York Artillery, placed on East
Cemetery Hill for just such an emergency, was the first to open fire.
Other First and Eleventh Corps batteries retreating through Gettysburg
soon after took position on the hill.
13 J. Warren Jackson to brother R.
Start Jackson letter, July 20, 1863, David Boyd Papers, Louisiana and
Lower Mississippi Valley Collection, Louisiana State University
Libraries, LSU, transcript copy in Gettysburg National Military Park
Library, OR, Pt. 2, pp. 307, 318, 445. Underlining by the author
for added emphasis.
14 A controversy grew out of the
failure of the Confederate forces to continue to push their attacks
forward against the Union line on Cemetery Hill. This is one of many
great "What ifs" of Gettysburg. Ultimately, the responsibility rested
with General Lee, who had given a discretionary order to Ewell to attack
the hill if he thought it "practicable." (For a thorough discussion of
this controversy see, Edwin Coddington, The Gettysburg Campaign, A
Study in Command, pp. 315-321.)
15 OR, pt. 1, pp. 115,
16 OR, pt. 1, p. 721.
17 Edwin B. Coddington, The
Gettysburg Campaign, A Study in Command, (Charles Scribner's Sons,
New York, 1968), pp. 330-332; OR, pt 1, p. 705.
18 OR, pt. 2, pp. 308,
19 OR, pt. 2, pp.
319, 446, 447, 470.
20 Dr. Harry W. Pfanz,
Gettysburg, Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill, (University of North
Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1993), pp. 170-172, 242. The batteries were
Lt. James Stewart's B, 4th United States, Capt. Michael Weidrich's I,
1st New York, Capt. James Cooper's B, 1st Pennsylvania, Capt. Gilbert
Reynolds' E&L, 1st New York (commanded by Lt. George Breck), and
Capt. Greenleaf Steven's 2nd Maine.
21 Ibid., pp. 171-174, 240-241.
OR, pt. 1, p. 153. The batteries were: Capt. Hubert Dilger's I,
1st Ohio, Lt. Bayard Wilkeson's G, 4th United States (commanded by Lt.
Eugene A. Bancroft), Lt. Chandler Eakin's H, 1st United States, Lt.
William Wheeler's 13th New York, Capt. Wallace Hill's C, 1st West
Virginia, Capt. Hall's 2nd Maine, Capt. Frederick Edgell's 1st Hew
Hampshire and Lt. Christopher Schmidt's section of Capt. Weidrich's
battery (I, 1st New York). Hall's battery was relieved by Edgell's
battery that morning.
22 Letter from George Beck to Ellen,
July 2, 1863, typewritten transcript in GNMP Library. Battery L, 1st New
York was in the First Corps.
23 OR, pt. 1, p. 357; Clark,
North Carolina Regiments, 1861-1865, Vol. II, p. 414, Terry L.
Jones, ed., The Civil War Memories of Captain William J. Seymour,
Reminiscences of a Louisiana Tiger, (Louisiana State University
Press, Baton Rouge, 1991), p. 73.
24 OR, pt. 2, p. 358. This
delay lead to another controversy's surrounding the battle. Among
others, Longstreet's delays stemmed from the late arrival of troops and
a counter march forced upon him by necessity of keeping his units under
cover during their approach march.
25 Pennsylvania at
Gettysburg, Vol. II, p. 881. (Cooper's battery). Battery B was
posted on East Cemetery Hill.
26 Pfanz, Culp's Hill and
Cemetery Hill, pp. 168-170, 172, 176-178; Pennsylvania at
Gettysburg, Vol. II, p. 901. Ewell's artillery was from Maj. J.W.
Latimer's battalion and Capt. Willis J. Dance's battalion.
27 Coffin, Charles C., as quoted in
The Eleventh Corps Artillery at Gettysburg, The Papers of Major
Thomas War Osborn, Chief of Artillery, edited by Herb S. Crumb,
(Edmonston Publishing, Inc., Hamilton, New York, 1991), p. 66. Coffin
was a correspondent for the Boston Journal.
28 Pfanz, Culp's Hill and
Cemetery Hill, pp. 170-189; Crumb, Eleventh Corps Artillery at
Gettysburg, p. 67. A major disadvantage for the Confederates was a
lack of suitable terrain for the placement of artillery. Only Benner's
Hill, less than a mile to the east of Cemetery Hill, provided ideal
locations. This critical problem limited Ewell to the use of 32 out his
80 guns. The length of the cannonade is debatable, though most sources
state it lasted nearly two hours, though at times it was
29 OR, pt. 2, pp. 358-359,
pt. 1, pp. 116-117, 759, 778.
30 OR, pt. 2, p. 447. Ewell
reported that his first division, Edward Johnson's, was ordered forward
"just before sundown." Sunset was at 7:29 p.m. Yet another controversy
of the battle concerns Ewell's delay in ordering his attack forward.
Apparently, he waited more than an hour after his cannonade before he
gave the order to advance. This left his troops with a critical lack of
31 OR, pt. 2, pp. 447, 470,
556, source on Johnson obstacles that delayed him, source on time of
Johnson striking Union line, J. Warren Jackson to R. Jackson, July 20,
32 OR, pt. 2, p. 470, John
Busey and David Martin, Regimental Strengths and Losses at
Gettysburg, (Gateway Press, Baltimore, MD, 1982), pp. 159, 160. One
of Early's other two brigades, Brig. Gen. William Smith's was stationed
along the York Road east of Gettysburg. The other Brig. Gen. John B.
Gordon's, was stationed in reserve at the south edge of town. Col. Avery
was in temporary command of the North Carolina brigade in place of Brig.
Gen. Robert Hoke who had been wounded at Chancellorsville.
33 Clark, North Carolina
Regiments. 1861-'65, Vol. I, p. 313; Jones, ed., The Civil War
Memoirs of Captain William J Seymour, p. 75.
34 Pfanz, Culp's Hill and
Cemetery Hill, p. 237; Jones, ed., Memoirs of Captain William J.
Seymour, p. 75. The brigades frontage extended from near Baltimore
Street on Hays' right to the Henry Culp farm on Avery's left, a total
distance of approximately 750 yards.
35 Executive Committee, Maine
Commissioners, Maine at Gettysburg, (Lakeside Press, Portland,
1893), p. 95. Whittier had taken over for Capt. Stevens who had been
wounded that afternoon by a sharpshooter.
37 OR, pt. 2, p. 480.
38 Warren to Jackson, July 20, 1863
39 OR, pt. 2, p 484. footnote
on Avery's wounding.
40 Whittier, "The Left Attack,"
Civil War Papers, pp. 88-89.
41 Adin B. Underwood, The Three
Years Service of the Thirty-Third Mass., (A. Williams and Company,
Publishers, Boston, 1881), p. 129.
43 Whittier, "The Left Attack,"
Civil War Papers, p. 85. Whittier described this: "These
batteries had absolutely no point blank fire, and were prevented by the
sharp descent of the eastern face of the hill, from exerting any control
over the portion of his front which an artillerist holds as his dearest
44 OR, pt. 2, p. 480.
45 Andrew Harris to John Bachelder,
March 14, 1881, BP.
46 Ibid., OR, pt. 1, p. 715.
The 17th Connecticut was ordered to shift to the right just before
Early's assault began, thus leaving a gap at its first position.
47 OR, pt. 1, p. 718, pt. 2,
p. 484; Underwood, Thirty-third Massachusetts, p. 129, Allan
Nevins, ed., A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel
Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865, (Stan Clark Military Books,
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1962), p. 245. Though many Union officers
claimed Ames' entire force retreated in confusion, there is strong
evidence that many regiments, or parts of regiments held their positions
at the base of the hill during the entire assault.
48 Nevins, ed., A Diary of
Battle, p. 245; Bruce Ricketts to John Bachelder, March 2, 1866, BP.
Rickett's battery had relieved Cooper's battery just before the
Confederate attack began.
49 Crumb, ed., The Eleventh Corps
Artillery at Gettysburg, p. 27.
50 Pennsylvania at
Gettysburg, Vol. II, p. 921; OR, pt. 2, p. 486; Charles
Brockway to David McConaughy, March 5, 1864, transcription in GNMP
51 Clark, ed., North Carolina
Regiments, 1861-'65, p. 137.
52 Clark, North Carolina
Regiments, 1861-'65, Vol. I, pp. 313, 313, 607; OR, pt. 2, pp.
53 OR, pt. 2, pp. 447, 470,
556. Rodes apparently had made no preparations for his division to move
until the attack was underway. By the time his brigades extracted
themselves from the streets of town, Early's attack was almost over.
Upon being informed of Rodes' halt, Early held back Gordon to avoid a
"useless sacrifice" of his men's lives.
54 OR, pt. 1, pp. 372, 706,
pt. 2, pp. 447, 470, 481, 485, 486. The Second Corps's troops were a
brigade commanded by Col. Samuel Carroll. It consisted of three
regiments numbering approximately 725 officers and men. The Eleventh
Corps troops were from the brigades of Col. Orland Smith, Col. Charles
R. Coster and Col. W. Krzyzanoski.
55 Whittier, "The Left Attack,"
Civil War Papers, pp. 97, 98.
56 OR Pt. 2, pp. 308, 320;
Crumb, ed., Eleventh Corps Artillery at Gettysburg, p. 70.
Unfortunately, the modern view shed to the west of Cemetery Hill is
obstructed by the park's Visitor Center, vegetation and commercial
57 Pfanz, Culp's Hill and
Cemetery Hill, pp. 358-359. [name batteries]
58 Crumb, ed., Eleventh Corps
Artillery at Gettysburg, p. 70.
59 Ibid.; Pfanz, Culp's Hill and
Cemetery Hill, pp. 172, 177-178, 359.
60 Crumb, ed., Eleventh Corps
Artillery at Gettysburg, p. 74.
61 James C. Biddle, "General Meade
at Gettysburg," Annals of War,...Originally Published in the
Philadelphia Weekly Times, (Morningside Press, Dayton, OH, 1988),
62 Crumb, ed., Eleventh Corps
Artillery at Gettysburg, pp. 71, 73.
63 Ibid., pp. 72, 74.
64 OR, pt. 1, p. 750.
65 Crumb, ed., Eleventh Corps
Artillery at Gettysburg, p. 76, 78; OR, pt. 1, p. 750.
66 Osborn, "Eleventh Corps Artillery
at Gettysburg," pp. 76, 77.
67 OR, pt. 2, pp. 651, 666;
Capt. S.A. Ashe, "The Pickeett-Pettigrew Charge," North Carolina
Regiments, 1861-'65, Vol. V, pp. 143-144.
68 OR, pt. 1, p. 750;
Coddington, The Gettysburg Campaign, p. 506.
69 Crumb, ed., Eleventh Corps
Artillery at Gettysburg, p. 77; OR, pt. 1, p. 750.
70 OR, pt. 1, p. 721.
71 "William Helffrich?. . .Horse and
Buggy Preacher," translated by Manfred Zitzman, Historical Review of
Berks County, Fall 1982, photocopy in GNMP Library, p. 218.
72 Robert K. Krick, comp., The
Gettysburg Death Roster: The Confederate Dead at Gettysburg,
(Morningside Press, Dayton, OH, 1981); John W. Busey, These Honored
Dead: The Union Casualties at Gettysburg, (Longstreet House,
Hightstown, NJ, 1988); Gregory A. Coco, Wasted Valor: The Confederate
Dead at Gettysburg, (Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, PA, 1990), p.
17; OR, pt. 1, p. 187, pt. 2, p. 346; Gregory A. Coco, A Vast Sea of
Misery: A History and Guide to the Union and Confederate Field Hospitals
at Gettysburg. July 1-November 20, 1863, (Thomas Publications,
Gettysburg, PA, 1988), p. xv; Kathleen R. Georg, "This Grand National
Enterprise: The Origins of Gettysburg's Soldiers' National Cemetery and
Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association," unpublished manuscript,
May, 1982, photocopy in GNMP Library, p. 13; David Wills to Gov. Curtin,
July 24, 1864, photocopy of transcribed letter in GNMP Library.
73 Georg, "This Grand National
Enterprise," pp. 14-15.
74 Ibid., pp. 7-8. There is some
controversy concerning who should be created with the original idea of
creating a soldier's cemetery. Traditional history has given David Wills
the credit, however, some sources indicate that Dr. Theodore Dimon,
assistant to the New York state agent, might have actually been the
first person to present the idea.
75 Revised Report of the Select
Committee Relative to the Soldiers' National Cemetery..., (Singerly
and Myers, State Printers, Harrisburg, PA, 1865), pp. 3, 7-9; David
Wills to Gov. Curtin, July 24, 1863 letter,
76 David McConaughy to Andrew
Curtin, July 25, 1863, photocopy transcription in GNMP Library.
77 David Wills to Andrew Curtin,
July 24, 1863 letter; Revised Report...Soldiers' National
Cemetery, p. 7. Adding to the existing problem was the fact that
Wills and McConaughy disliked each other and refused to discuss the
situation face to face.
78 Adams Sentinel, August 19,
79 Harlen D. Unrau, Gettysburg
National Military Park and Gettysburg National Cemetery: Administrative
History, (United States Department of the Interior, National Park
Service, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991), pp. 41, 78; Revised
Report...Soldiers' National Cemetery, p. 7.
80 Georg, "This Grand National
Enterprise," pp. 18, 20-23, 25-35.
81 Revised Report...Soldiers'
National Cemetery, pp. 9, 166, 167; Georg, "This Grand National
Enterprise," pp. 29, 40.
82 Ibid., pp. 7-10, 14-15, 153, 163;
Williams Saunders account, as quoted in "National Soldiers' Cemetery at
Gettysburg, Extension of Remarks of Hon. Franklin Menges of
Pennsylvania, in the House of Representatives, Tuesday, February 12,
1929," Congressional Record-Appendix, Feburary 12, 1929,
photocopy in GNMP Library. Saunders was considered one of the best
landscape architects in the country. He was employed by the Department
83 Ibid., Revised
Report...Soldiers' National Cemetery, p. 147; Georg, "This Grand
National Enterprise," p. 45.
84 Andrew Curtin to David Wills,
August 31, 1863, transcription of photocopy in GNMP Library; Revised
Report...Soldiers' National Cemetery, pp. 167-168. Everett was a
prominent individual of the time period, being Secretary of State,
Senator from Massachusetts, minister to Great Britain, Vice-Presidential
candidate and president of Harvard College. The original date set for
the dedication was October 23, but was moved back to November because
Everett was not available.
85 Louis A. Warren, Lincoln's
Gettysburg Declaration: "A New Birth of Freedom", (Lincoln National
Life Foundation, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1964), p. 45.
86 (source on Lincoln's multiple
meanings - maybe Gary Wills book); The Gettysburg Address, 4th copy, as
quoted in Wills' book. (underlining added by the author.)
87 Gary Wills, Lincoln at
Gettysburg, The Words That Remade America, (Simon and Schuster, New
York, 1992), p. 38
88 Ibid., pp. 146-147.
88 Ibid., pp. 146-147.
89 Revised Report...Soldiers
National Cemetery, p. 149; Unrau, Administrative History, pp.
17-22; Adams Sentinel, November 7, 1865.
90 Unrau, Administrative
History, p. 23. The four presidents were: Theodore Roosevelt (1904),
Calvin Coolidge (1928), Herbert Hoover (1930), Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1934). The vice-presidents were: Lyndon B. Johnson (1963), and Hubert
H. Humphreys (1968).
91 John Russell Barlett, Secretary
of the Board of Commissioners, "Address of Major General George G.
Meade," The Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg. With the
Proceedings at its Consecrations: at the Laying of the Corner-Stone
of the Monument, and at its Dedication, (Providence Press Company
for the Board of Commissioners of the Soldiers' National Cemetery,
Providence, 1874), p. 86.
9292 Unrau, Administrative
History, pp. 27-28, 46; James Cole and Rev. Roy E. Frampton, The
Gettysburg National Cemetery, A History and Guide, (Sherdian Press,
Hanover, PA, 1988), p. 21.
9393 Unrau, Administrative
History, pp. 249-251, 344. The Cemetery Annex is located on Cemetery
Hill, along the north and northwest boundary of the Soldiers' National
94 Ibid., p. 344.
95 Hon. Jack Kemp, Secretary of HUD,
Dedication Day speech, November 19, 1990, copy in GNMP Library.
96 Gov. Mario Cuomo, Dedication Day
speech, November 19, 1989, photocopy in GNMP Library.
Truly therefore, just as that same history stated,
Cemetery Hill had become and will always be "a field made glorious. . .
97 Revised Report...Soldiers'
National Cemetery, pp. 161, 162.