4.12.09

The 1938 Gettysburg Reunion.

Being retired from the Marine Corps for almost 15 years, I have a great deal in common with not only my fellow veterans but those on the other side, both allies and foes. Where once we trained to fight the other, we now share memories, and remember our common hardships.

In 1938, during the anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, the last few survivors of that conflict, came together in a place only they could remember from experiences.
As in 1863 the veterans in 1938 slept in tents and ate communially. One confedaerate veteran at a communial meal remarked "it was not a meal, it was a sacrement...".

This reunion was not the first by the veterans, but it was the last. The "War between the States" would fall into historical anecdote, while events in Europe and Asia would overshadow that war.

The following is a short but poignant film from that reunion.

In the last scene is the Peace memorial unveiled by President Franklin Roosevelt that day. In the field before it seen below...

It was on this field that my wife's great-uncle was captured. He was a private soldier of the 23d North Carolina Troops. Greg Mast, historian relates... "...Brigadier General Alfred Iverson's* Brigade, attached to Major General Robert E. Rodes's Division, arrived on a northern extension of Oak Ridge, north of Gettysburg, in the late morning of July 1. General Rodes seemingly was presented with an excellent opportunity to strike the Federals on McPherson's Ridge squarely in their unprotected flank. Iverson's advance was doomed by a display of extraordinary incompetence (or cowardice) on the part of the general himself. After ordering the advance and exhorting his troops to “give them hell,” Iverson did not go forward with his brigade but, according to Major Charles C. Blacknall of the 23rd North Carolina, took shelter behind a big chestnut log [that] intervened between him and the battle and . . . more than once reminded his staff that for more than one at a time to look over was an unnecessary exposure of person.” The four Tar Heel regiments advanced over an open field on Oak Ridge in the following order, left to right: 5th N.C. State Troops, 20th N.C. Troops, 23rd N.C. Troops, and 12th N.C. Troops. Had a competent brigade commander (Iverson or otherwise) been with them to provide guidance, the North Carolinians could probably have smashed into the Federals' right flank and rolled up their line. Instead, the brigade drifted to the right, presenting its left flank to a stone wall, unaware that five enemy regiments huddled behind it. Furthermore, by neglecting to deploy skirmishers in advance of his line, General Iverson ensured that the Federals waiting in ambush would remain undiscovered. The watchful enemy was impressed with the magnificent order” with which the North Carolinians advanced: perfect alignment, guns at right shoulder and colors to the front.” When the command was given, the Federals rose and delivered a short-range volley of shocking violence. Hundreds of men in the 5th, 20th, and 23rd Regiments dropped; survivors either drifted to the rear or sought meager shelter in a shallow swale in front of the wall. Incredibly, upon seeing some of his men pinned closest to the wall begin to wave handkerchiefs in token of surrender, the panic-stricken Iverson informed Rodes that one his regiments had gone over to the enemy!” The Tar Heels, taking casualties by the minute and sporadically returning fire, endured the carnage. "I believe every man who stood up was either killed or wounded," Lieutenant Oliver Williams of the 20th North Carolina remembered; Lieutenant George Burns Bullock of the 23rd North Carolina said it was the only battle "where the blood ran like a branch. And that too, on the hot, parched ground." A subsequent advance by the Federals gathered in hundreds of prisoners. Survivors hugged the ground until renewed attacks by General Stephen D. Ramseur's Brigade, the 12th North Carolina, and elements of General Junius Daniel's Brigade overwhelmed the enemy. Next day a Virginia artilleryman, visiting the sight of Iverson's attack, recorded a "perfectly sickening and heart-rending" sight: "There were . . . seventy-nine North Carolinians laying dead in a straight line. I stood on their right and looked down their line. It was perfectly dressed. Three had fallen to the front, the rest had fallen backward; yet the feet of all these dead men were in a perfectly straight line..." more... Greg Mast is the Author of State Troops and Volunteers: A Photographic Record of North Carolina's Civil War Soldiers, which is probably the most comprehensive pictorial history, devoted exclusively to North Carolina which contains 603 rare and striking photographs, most of which have never before published, of not only the soldiers who fought in that war, but many of their wives as well. Below: Veterans on the 23rd NC Troops, Company D, "Pee Dee Guards"**, about 1910.

Below: The regimental colour (battle flag) of the 23d NCT, cotton bunting, 44 inches square. I do not know when it was captured, but I have seen and touched this colour when it was housed in the old NC Department of Archives and History, it is not currently on display.

For more information go here..., the author, John Heiser was a fellow reeinactor in my unit 1st NC volunteer regt. The National Park web site is here... if you go to Gettysburg you shoul take at least 3 days. It is impossible to see everything in one day. Dieu le Roy, Brantigny *Iverson was not a Carolinian, he was from Georgia... **Each Company of 100 men who volunteered for the war was assembled and chose a name for that company. After training at one of the state training camps through out the state (the 23rd NCT trained at Camp Magnum, which at the time was outside of Raleigh) 10 companies were formed into a regiment, elected their officers, and non commissioned officers, mustered out of NC service and into the Confederate Army. It was the same in every state north and south. Some names of company names were... Granville Grey Rifles Co G, 23rd NCT, (my wifes great-uncle's company) Spartan Band Co A, 38th NCT, Sampson Farmers Co C, 38th NCT, Sampson Plowboys, Co D, 38th NCT, Granville Regulators, Co A 44th NCT,( my wifes great-grandfather Absolom Norwood was a corporal in this regiment.

1 comment:

poetbdk said...

Richard-

Enjoyed this post about your proud confederate heritage. It was a pleasant suprise as I usually stop by to see your latest on French history. The link below is to a video containing the "Rebel Yell" perfomed by vets at a reunion in 1936 that I thougt you might enjoy:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssLMroT2euQ&NR=1

Here is another good link to an article explaining the truth about the confederate battle flag:
http://www.politicalpoet.com/confederate_flag.asp

Deo Vindice,

Ben