Union and West End Cemetery

The Union and West End Cemetery is located in center city Allentown. The main entrance is on 10th Street at 10th and Chew Streets. The cemetery is mantained by a dedicated group of volunteers. Ten board members (also volunteers) serve the cemetery association and manage the finances, make application for grants, solicit donations and participate in the maintenance of the cemetery.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Abraham Lincoln

This being February, it seems appropriate to include some information on the 16th President of the United States.

The above photograph of Abraham Lincoln was taken a year before Lincoln was to become President. It became known as the Cooper Union photograph and was taken by the famous photographer, Mathew Brady.

On February 22, 1860, (Washington's birthday) Candidate Lincoln quitely boarded a train in Springfield, Illinois to begin the long trip to New York. On that very morning, the Springfield Democratic newspaper, The Illinois State Register, both acknowledged and mocked Lincoln's ambitions by publishing a notice:

'SIGNIFICANT—The Honorable Abraham Lincoln departs today for Brooklyn under an engagement to deliver a lecture before the Young Men's Association of that city, in Beecher's Church. Subject not known. Consideration, $200 and expenses. Object, presidential capital. Effect, disappointment."

Of course, we know that this is not exactly what happened. The trip would increase Lincoln's presidential capital immeasurably.

The newspaper was incorrect in stating that Lincoln would speak before the Young Men's Association, but rather for New York's Young Men's Central Republican Union. And although Lincoln was scheduled to speak at Beecher's Church in Brooklyn his speach was delivered at Cooper Union in New York. This change was brought about by the fact that Lincoln had delayed his trip for so long that the church lecture series to which he had been invited had ended.

On the day that Lincoln was to deliver his first speech in the media center of the country, he went to Mathew Brady's studio to have the portrait shown above taken. As noted above, the image came to be known as the "Cooper Union Photograph."

The speech electrified Lincoln's hearers and gained him important political support in Seward's home territory. Said a New York writer, "No man ever before made such an impression on his first appeal to a New York audience." After being printed by New York newspapers, the speech was widely circulated as campaign literature.

Standing before the crowd that night was an ungainly giant, at six feet, four inches dwarfing the other dignitaries on the stage, clad in a wrinkled black suit that ballooned out in the back. “At first sight there was nothing impressive or imposing about him,” recalled one eyewitness. The speaker appeared decidedly “ill at ease.” Yet, the power of his words and the earnestness of his delivery quickly converted doubters in the crowd, at the high watermark of a vanished era in which one major speech could make or break a rising leader. When Lincoln finished his carefully prepared address, the audience rose and cheered wildly. Abraham Lincoln came to New York an untested presidential aspirant. He left a potential White House nominee.

The last paragraph of that speech is shown below:

"Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States? If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored - contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man - such as a policy of "don't care" on a question about which all true men do care - such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance - such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves.LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT."

The entire text of the speech can be found by clicking on the link below:

Lincoln's Cooper Union Address


Battle Above The Clouds

Lehigh men of the 147th experienced the exhilaration of the "Battle Above the Clouds" on Lookout Mountain, Tennessee and the pursuit of the Confederates into Ross Gap before going into winter quarters.

"Battle Above the Clouds"

Lookout Mountain rises over the Tennessee Valley like a monolith, it steep sides protruding to the sky. The mountain, more than 1200 feet above the valley floor beneath it is surrounded on three sides by a near vertical rock wall that has afforded protection to the occupants of the top for hundreds of years.

The mountain is known for a unique weather phenomenon. Sometimes, after a clear dawn, a layer of fog descends toward the valley below, stopping about halfway down the peak. This inverted fog has been written about since the first whites visited the area sometime before 1735. It was on a fateful day, November 24, 1863, that this weather anomaly set in, creating the most poetic name for any battle in the American Civil War, The Battle Above the Clouds.

At 8:30 a.m. men under Brigadier General John Geary bridged Lookout Creek near an old dam and began their work. They moved up the mountainside capturing unprepared Rebel pickets. As Lookout Mountain rises its slope becomes steeper and about 300 feet below the top the slope is near-vertical and strewn with large boulders. Not only did the Rebel commanders feel this was an impregnable fortress, so did Joe Hooker.

Once Geary's men reached about two-thirds of the way up the slope they stopped climbing and began to move in a line parallel to the top of the mountain. The Confederates were prepared for a force coming up the hill, not at them from the side. The Confederates pulled back under fire, giving ground up slowly but steadily. Brigadier General Edward Walthall, whose Mississippians were guarding the slopes, tried to coordinate a defense but failed. By noon Geary's men were approaching the front of the mountain.

A fog began to cover much of the top half of the mountain at 10:00am that morning, obscuring the view of the participants of the battle and the men in the Chattanooga Valley. It was this meteorological phenomena that gave the fighting on Lookout Mountain its nickname, "The Battle Above the Clouds." Through the fog Confederate artillery shells and canister would pass over the heads of the advancing soldiers. Occasionally the fog would lift briefly so that the Union Army in the Chattanooga Valley could see the action.

Halfway up on the northern slope of Lookout Mountain a plateau holds the home of Robert Cravens, a wealthy industrialist who played an important role during the first 50 years of Chattanooga's history. Cravems' House had been covered with fog for most of the morning. As Union troops approached the level ground the fog lifted. Not only could the men on Lookout Mountain see each other, but the men in the valley below could see the action as well. With a sudden burst, the Union soldiers appeared and captured the plateau from unprepared Rebel defenders. Then the Confederates battled back, trying to buy time for their fellow soldiers to establish a line east of the home. The fog then returned.

Relentlessly, Hooker's juggernaut marched on. It seemed as if nothing would prevent the Union Army from surrounding Lookout Mountain and trapping the artillery on the top. Then the Confederates got a series of unexpected breaks. Geary halted the forward advance of the Union line to regroup. While Geary was regrouping General Hooker ordered Geary to maintain his position, however, all was not stagnant on the Rebel lines.

Brigadier General Edmund Pettis moved his men into position to support Walthall and at 2:30 the Rebel line began to advance, although still greatly outnumbered. The advance was short-lived. The Battle Above the Clouds ended abruptly at 4:00pm when Stevenson received orders to withdraw from his position on Lookout Mountain and joined Bragg on Missionary Ridge.

This was the prelude for the Battle of Chattanooga which ended in a Union victory and opened Georgia up to "Sherman's March to the Sea".

Friday, February 23, 2007


Cemetery - February

It is February and the cemetery is blanketed with fresh fallen snow. As it should be, every thing is quite, serene and undisturbed.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Military Order of the Purple Heart

At his headquarters in Newburgh, New York, on August 7, 1782, General George Washington devised two new badges of distinction for enlisted men and noncommissioned officers. To signify loyal military service, he ordered a chevron to be worn on the left sleeve of the uniform coat for the rank and file who had completed three years of duty "with bravery, fidelity, and good conduct"; two chevrons signified six years of service. The second badge, for "any singularly meritorious Action," was the "Figure of a Heart in Purple Cloth or Silk edged with narrow Lace or Binding." This device, the Badge of Military Merit, was affixed to the uniform coat above the left breast and permitted its wearer to pass guards and sentinels without challenge and to have his name and regiment inscribed in a Book of Merit. The Badge specifically honored the lower ranks, where decorations were unknown in contemporary European Armies. As Washington intended, the road to glory in a patriot army is thus open to all."

Three badges were awarded in the waning days of the Revolutionary War, all to volunteers from Connecticut. On May 3, 1783, Sergeants Elijah Churchill and William Brown received badges and certificates from Washington’s hand at the Newburgh headquarters. Sergeant Daniel Bissell, Jr., received the award on June 10, 1783.

The award fell into disuse following the Revolution. The award was not in use during the Civil War and was not proposed again officially until after World War I. On October 10, 1927, Army Chief of Staff General Charles P. Summerall directed that a draft bill be sent to Congress "to revive the Badge of Military Merit."

For reasons unclear, the bill was withdrawn and action on the case ceased on January 3, 1928, but the Office of The Adjutant General was instructed to file all materials collected for possible future use.

The rough sketch accompanying this proposal showed a circular disc medal with a concave center in which a relief heart appeared. The reverse carried the legend: For Military Merit.

On January 7, 1931, Summerall’s successor, General Douglas MacArthur, confidentially reopened work on a new design, involved the Washington Commission of Fine Arts. His object was medal issued on the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth.

Miss Elizabeth Will, an Army heraldic specialist in the Office of the Quartermaster General, was named to redesign the newly revived medal, which became known as the Purple Heart. Using general specifications provided to her, Ms. Will created the design sketch for the present medal of the Purple Heart.

As described in Army Regulations 600-35 of November 10, 1941, the design consisted of a purple enameled heart within a bronze quarter-inch border showing a relief profile of George Washington in Continental uniform.

Surmounting the enameled shield is Washington’s family coat of arms, the same used by the heart shape and the coat of arms of the obverse is repeated without enamel; within the heart lies the inscription, For Military Merit, with space beneath for the engraved name of the recipient. The device is 1-11/16 inches in length and 1-3/8 inches in width, and is suspended by a rounded rectangular length displaying a vertical purple band with quarter-inch white borders.

The War Department announced the new award in General Order No. 3, February 22, 1932:

By order of the President of the United States, the Purple Heart established by General George Washington at Newburgh, August 7, 1782, during the War of the Revolution, is hereby revived out of respect to his memory and military achievements.

By Order of the Secretary War:

Douglas MacArthur,
Chief of Staff

The association of the Purple Heart with wounds or fatality suffered in the line of meritorious service also stems from this time. Eligibility for the new award was defined to include:

Those in possession of a Meritorious Service Citation Certificate issued by the Commander-in Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. The Certificates had to be exchanged for the Purple Heat or the award and Oak Leaf Clusters as appropriate. This preserved the ideal of presenting the award for military merit and loyal service.

Those authorized by Army Regulations 600-95 to wear wound chevrons. These men also had to apply for the new award.

Those not authorized wound chevrons prior to February 22, 1931, but who would otherwise be authorized them under stipulations of Army Regulations 600-95.
Revisions to AR 600-45 at the time, defining conditions of the award, elaborated upon the "singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity service" required. "A wound which necessitates treatment by a medical officer and which is received in action with an enemy, may, in the judgment of the commander authorized to make the award, be construed as resulting from a singularly meritorious act of essential service."

The Purple Heart is ranked immediately behind the bronze star in order of precedence among the personal awards; however, it is generally acknowledged to be among the most aesthetically pleasing of American awards and decorations.

Military Order of the Purple Heart

Chapter 190
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Celebrating the 225th Anniversary
of the Creation of the Purple Heart.

March 3, 2007
Fullerton Fire Company #1,
851 Second Street,
Whitehall, PA.

The social hour will begin at 11:00 a.m. with a cash bar. A family style dinner of ham and roast chicken will be served at 12:30 p.m. followed by the program. Cost is $18 per person.

Reservations for this event must be made no later than February 23, 2007. To make reservations, please mail your check to Henry Lesher, 1000 Seneca Street, Pottsville, PA 179011-1539. Please include your name and address along with the names of any guest that will accompany you. Checks should be made payable to "L.V. Chapter 190 MOPH".

Details can be found on the MOPH web site:

MOPH Chapter 190

While your visiting the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 190 web site, please check the seciton entitled "Special Events" which covers the visitations to military veterans in the area nursing homes by members of the chapter.

"In Honor of Those Who Served or Who are Serving"

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Union and West End Cemetery Association

At a meeting of the Union and West End Cemetery Association held on February 11, 2007, the board recognized the following individuals as Honorary Directors of the Union and West End Cemetery Association:

Alvin Albright
Hon. Jennifer Mann, Pennsylvania, State Rep.
Ardath Rodale, Chairman of the Board, Rodale, Inc.

Each of these individuals have made a significant contribution to the Union and West End Cemetery Association and are considered "Dear Friends" of the cemetery.

Additionally, the following organizations were recognized as 'Benifactors' of the Union and West End Cemetery Association:

The Allentown Community Corrections Center
Jordan-Martin Lodge No. 673, F&AM
The Trexler Trust

The cemetery association is greatly and truly indebted to these individuals and organizations for their continued and ongoing support of the Union and West End Cemetery.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Corporal J. Franklin Weiss

Allentown, Pennsylvania, May 1863.
Corporal J. Franklin S. Weiss of the 54th (Co. K), died at Mechanicsburg Gap, Virginia, first week of typhoid fever. Deceased had been on a visit home to his family at this place only a few weeks previous. His remains were brought home for interment.
Allentown, PA
May 27, 1863

The history of the 54th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment is the subject of an earlier post, dated January 25, 2007.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Officers / Directors Elected

On January 22, 2007, the Union and West End Cemetery Association hosted the "Annual Lot Owners Meeting" in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The purpose of the meeting was to vote on several amendments to the By-laws that had been presented to the Lot Owners and others entitled to cast a ballot for or against the matters before the Lot Owners. Additionally, officers and directors are voted on for the new year. Lot Owners, for the most part, cast their ballot by proxy.

At this meeting, the following officers and directors were elected for the year 2007:

Charles S. Canning, President
Everette H. Carr, First Vice President
Janet Hagenauer, Second Vice President
Nicolette Clark, Secretary
William R. Mac Hose, Treasurer

Gerald R. Haas, Director
Donald J. Hagenauer, Director
Donald W. Leitzel, Director
Barbara Miller, Director
Donald L. Solt, Director
Barry Moser, Associate Director

Friday, February 09, 2007


Historical Cemetery

There is no doubt that anyone familiar with the Union & West End Cemetery would immediately think of it as a historical site. After all, it was originally established in 1854, more than 150 years ago. The cemetery contains the remains of five Revolutionary War soldiers, a number of veterans of the War of 1812, 715 Civil War Veterans, veterans from WWI, WWII, the Korean War and Viet Nam. Not to mention a number of celebrated politicians, prominent personages and 20,000 dear souls that led ordinary lives.

The cemetery is also the final resting place of Ignatz Gresser, a Civil War Veteran that was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Historical, well it would certainly seem so. But, unfortunately, the State of Pennsylvania does not agree. The Pennsylvania Legislature passed an act in 1994, known as the Historic Burial Places Preservation Act, that outlines the requirements to be officially considered a Historical Burial Place.

Rather than bore you with the official language and the legalize, I will paraphrase the essential elements of the law; a burial ground that has been in existence for more than 100 years wherein there have been no burials for at least 50 years.

Unless a cemetery can qualify as a historical burial place in the State of Pennsylvania, the Federal Preservation Commission will not even consider the application of a cemetery seeking Federal recognition as a Historical Site.

Being a Federal Historical Site would provide the cemetery will additional sources of revenue, not available without the designation. Additionally, the cemetery would enjoy protections that are not available because the cemetery cannot qualify under existing Pennsylvania legislature. (Act of Apr. 29, 1994, P. 141, No. 22) See also, Burial Grounds (Title 9) Unconsolidated Pennsylvania Statutes.

Many of you that read this blog regularly may not be aware of the fact that the Union & West End Cemetery is an active cemetery. Yes, it was abandoned for several years back in the late 1990's and it became a waste land for all intents and purposes, but it has never ceased to be an active cemetery. Now that the cemetery is under caring, active management and is cared for to the best of the ability of the few volunteers that are active in the cemetery every spring and summer, it is not unusual to have a number of burials each year. In 2005, there were six burials in the cemetery. In 2006, there were four burials, two of which were burials of cremated remains. So, yes! the cemetery is an active cemetery. If we were to cease all burials at the end of 2006, it would be 2056 before the cemetery would qualify as a Historical Burial Ground under current Pennsylvania law. Amazing, Huh?

But of course, the Union & West End Cemetery can not stop burials from taking place. The cemetery is owned by the "Lot Owners". The Union and West End Cemetery Association is simply the care-taker; the cemetery is maintained, preserved, and managed by a small, dedicated group of individuals that believe that the 20,000 plus souls buried in the cemetery deserve respect and consideration. The cemetery is not just a graveyard for forgotten souls; it is the final resting place of many of Allentown's earliest citizens. Citizens that had a right to expect that their final resting place would be maintained, honored and respected by those that followed. Certainly the descendants of these honored and beloved citizens have a right to expect that the cemetery will be maintained as a quite, pleasant and well maintained community resource. We owe it to them!

So, while the cemetery is referred to as a great historical site, located in downtown Allentown, it is historical only in the literal meaning of the word; but not, unfortunately, in the legal sense.

Such a shame! Such an injustice!

Monday, February 05, 2007


Battle of Gettysburg

Only two units containing any substantial quantity of men from Lehigh County were present at Gettysburg. Company H of the 147th was raised in Lehigh County and the 153rd contained men from Lehigh County. The history of these units and their exploits at Gettysburg have already been posted. What follows is a brief overview of the Battle of Gettysburg:

Battle of Gettysburg

Emboldened by the victory at Chancellorsville, General Robert E. Lee thought the time was right to take the conflict onto Northern soil where his army could threaten Harrisburg, Philadelphia or Washington.

Although, for the most part, in the east, the Civil War was fought in Virginia, the Northern states were always under threat of attack from General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. On March 30, the Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac River and marched into Pennsylvania. The people of the cities, towns and villages in Pennsylvania were in a panic. Many citizens of Harrisburg began to pack their belongings onto wagons to flee the oncoming rebel troops. Emergency Militia units were raised in a matter of hours, rather than days, all across the state to meet the enemy and to protect their home lands. As it turned out, all of the Emergency Melita units were held in defensive positions and none saw any action. For the most part, all of the volunteers that populated these emergency units were back home within twelve days.

Confederate forces heading north

General Joe Hooker, the Federal Commander, received regular reports of the movements of the Confederate Army and had at least two days notice that Lee's Army was moving northward, but he was slow to react. At the time, Hooker was bickering with his superiors in Washington and in a heated discussion, offered his resignation, which, much to his surprise, was accepted. On June 28th, Gen. George G. Meade was awakened in his tent and informed that he had been appointed the Commander of the Army of the Potomac. Meade accepted the new post reluctantly. Unlike Hooker, Meade was generally mild mannered, although occasional outburst earned him the nickname "Old Snapping Turtle." Meade immediately ordered his army to proceed in the general north-westerly direction. The armies would invariably meet at the highway hub called Gettysburg.

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought over three hot summer days to the south of the small market town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It began as a skirmish but by its end involved 160,000 Americans.

General George Meade

The Union Army of the Potomac under its very new and untried commander, General George G. Meade, marched to intercept Lee. On Tuesday morning, June 30, an infantry brigade of Confederate soldiers searching for shoes headed toward Gettysburg (population 2,400). The Confederate commander looked through his field glasses and spotted a long column of Federal cavalry heading toward the town. He withdrew his brigade and informed his superior, Gen. Henry Heth.

Federal Cavalry

Wednesday morning, July 1, two divisions of Confederate troops headed back toward Gettysburg. They ran into Federal cavalry west of the town at Willoughby Run and the skirmish began. Events would quickly escalate. Lee rushed 25,000 men to the scene. The Union Army, at this time, had less than 20,000 seasoned troops on hand.

The fighting was fierce with heavy casualties on both sides. The Federal Army was pushed back through the town of Gettysburg and regrouped south of the town along the high ground near the cemetery. Lee ordered Confederate General R.S. Ewell to seize the high ground from the battle weary Federals, "if practicable." Gen. Ewell hesitated to attack thereby giving the Union troops a chance to dig in along Cemetery Ridge and bring in reinforcements with artillery. By the time Lee realized Ewell had failed to initiate an attacked, the opportunity had vanished.

Meade arrived at the scene and determined that this could be an ideal place to do battle with Lee's Army. Meade anticipated reinforcements of upwards of 100,000 men to arrive and strengthen his defensive position. Meade redeployed his army along a strongly fortified line backed by well-placed field artillery. The Federal line was laid out on a stretch of high ground known as Cemetery Ridge, which extended southward for more than a mile from a cemetery at the edge of town to a high wooded hill called Little Round Top. The Union troops piled up stones and fence rails for breastworks and waited for the inevitable Confederate attack.

Confederate General James Longstreet saw the Union position as nearly impregnable and told Lee it should be left alone. He argued that Lee's Army should instead move east between the Union Army and Washington and build a defensive position thus forcing the Federals to attack them instead.

General Lee and his staff

However, Lee believed his own army was invincible and he was also without his much needed cavalry which served as his eyes and ears during troop movements. Cavalry leader Jeb Stuart had gone off with his troops to harass the Federals. Stuart's expedition would turn out to be, for the most part, a wild goose chase which left Lee at a disadvantage until he returned.

Lee determined that an attack on the Union Army's defensive position at the southern end of Cemetery Ridge would be his best hope as he thought it was less well defended.

About 10 a.m. the next morning, Thursday, July 2, Gen. Lee ordered Gen. Longstreet to attack, but Longstreet was quite slow in getting his troops into position and didn't attack until 4 p.m. that afternoon thus giving the Union Army even more time to strengthen its position.

Devil's Den

When Longstreet did attack the Union position, some of the most bitter fighting of the Civil War erupted at places such as Little Round Top, Devil's Den, the Wheat Field and the Peach Orchard. Longstreet successfully took the Peach Orchard but was driven back at Little Round Top.

The Wheat field

About 6:30 p.m. Gen. Ewell attacked the Union line from the north and east at Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill. The attack lasted into darkness but was finally unsuccessful at Cemetery Hill, although the Rebels seized some trenches on Culp's Hill.

The fighting came to an end about 10:30 p.m. The Union Army had lost some ground during the Confederate onslaught but still held the strong defensive position along Cemetery Ridge. Both sides regrouped and counted their causalities.

Generals from each side gathered in war councils to plan for the coming day. Union commander Meade decided his army would remain in place and wait for Lee to attack. On the Confederate side, Longstreet once again tried to talk Lee out of attacking such a strong position. But Lee thought the battered Union soldiers were nearly beaten and would collapse under one final push.

"Cemetery Hill" Art by © Mort Kunstler

Lee thought that by attacking the center of the Union line along Cemetery Ridge where it would be least expected that he could break the Union line. To do this he would send in the fresh troops of Gen. George Pickett. At the same time, Gen. Ewell would renew the assault on Culp's hill.

But as dawn broke on Friday, July 3, about 4:30 a.m., Lee's timetable was undermined as Union cannons pounded the Rebels on Culp's Hill to drive them from the trenches. The Rebels did not withdraw, but instead launched an attack against the Federals. Thus began a vicious three hour struggle with the Rebels charging time after time up the hill only to be beaten back. The Federals finally counter attacked and drove the Rebels off the hill and east across Rock Creek. Around 11 a.m. the fighting on Culp's Hill stopped and an eerie quiet settled over the battlefield.

Once again Lee encountered opposition to his battle plan from Longstreet. Lee estimated about 15,000 men would participate in the Rebel charge on Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet responded, "It is my opinion that no 15,000 men ever arrayed for battle can take that position." But Lee was unmoved. The plan would go on as ordered.

Throughout the morning and into the afternoon amid 90° heat and stifling humidity the Rebels moved into position in the woods opposite Cemetery Ridge for the coming charge. Interestingly, some Union troops were moved away from Cemetery Ridge on Meade's orders because he thought Lee would attack again to the south. Several hours before, Meade had correctly predicted Lee would attack the center, but now thought otherwise. He left only 5,750 infantrymen stretched out along the half-mile front to initially face the 13,000 man Rebel charge.

General Lee and General Longstreet, the third day

Lee sent Jeb Stuart's recently returned cavalry to go behind the Union position in order to divert Federal forces from the main battle area. Around noon, Union and Confederate cavalry troops clashed three miles east of Gettysburg but Stuart was eventually repulsed by punishing cannon fire and the Union cavalry led in by 23 year old Gen. George Custer. The diversion attempt failed.

Back at the main battle site, just after 1 p.m. about 170 Confederate cannons opened fire on the Union position on Cemetery Ridge to pave the way for the Rebel charge. This was the heaviest artillery barrage of the war but many of the Rebel shells missed their targets and flew harmlessly overhead.

The Federals returned heavy cannon fire and soon big clouds of blinding smoke and dust hung over the battlefield. Around 2:30 p.m. the Federals slowed their rate of fire, then ceased, to conserve ammunition and to fool the Rebels into thinking the cannons were knocked out - which is exactly what the Rebels did think.

General George Pickett

Pickett went to see Longstreet and asked, "General, shall I advance?" Longstreet, now overwhelmed with emotion, did not respond, but simply bowed his head and raised his hand. Thus the order was given.

Pickett's Charge

"Charge the enemy and remember old Virginia!" yelled Pickett as 13,000 Rebels formed an orderly line that stretched a mile from flank to flank. In deliberate silence and with military pageantry from days gone by, they slowly headed toward the Union Army a mile away on Cemetery Ridge. "I had often read of battles and charges; had been in a few myself," a Federal officer on Cemetery Ridge later recalled, "but until this moment I had not gazed upon so grand a sight as was presented by that beautiful mass of gray, with its small square colors, as it came on in serried array..."

General Garrett urging the Rebels forward at Pickett's Charge

But as the Rebels got within range, Federal cannons using grapeshot and deadly accurate rifle volleys ripped into the Rebels killing many and tearing holes in the advancing line. What had been, just moments before, a majestic line of Rebel infantry, quickly became a horrible mess of dismembered bodies and dying wounded soldiers. But the Rebels continued on.

As they got very close, the Rebels stopped and fired their rifles once at the Federals then lowered their bayonets and commenced a running charge while screaming the Rebel yell.

A fierce battle raged for an hour with much brutal hand to hand fighting. For a brief moment, the Rebels nearly had their chosen objective, a small clump of oak trees atop Cemetery Ridge. But Union reinforcements and regrouped infantry units swarmed in and opened fire on the Rebel ranks. The battered, outnumbered Rebels finally began to give way and this great human wave that had been Pickett's Charge began to recede as the men drifted back down the slope. The supreme effort of Lee's army had been beaten back, leaving 7,500 of his men lying on the field of battle.

Lee rode out and met the survivors, telling them, "It is all my fault." And to Pickett he said, "Upon my shoulders rests the blame."

General Lee: "It's all my fault!"

Confederate causalities in dead, wounded and missing were 28,000 out of 75,000. Union casualties were 23,000 out of 88,000.

Today Pickett's Charge is one of the most celebrated of all American military encounters, ranking with the actions of the minuteman at Lexington and Concord, the incident at Little Big Horn. It has come down to us through poetry, painting and historical studies as a riveting moment in time. Indeed, it may well be the most mythic of all American military events: the gallant soldiers of the South, the golden-haired Pickett at their head, bravely walking through shot and shell, led over the wall by the valiant Armistead, only to be beaten back by the stalwart sons of the Union.

That night and into the next day, Saturday, July 4, Confederate wounded were loaded aboard wagons that began the journey back toward the South. Lee was forced to abandon his dead and begin a long slow withdrawal of his army back to Virginia. Union commander Meade, out of fatigue and caution, did not immediately pursue Lee.

The great assault collapsed against the might of the Northern army. The wars greatest battle resulted in a staggering Confederate defeat. Lee's losses were devastating. Never again would the South come so close to winning its independence. The Battle of Gettysburg would prove to be the turning point of the American Civil War.

The Union Conquers Vicksburg

On this same day, July 4, 1863, Vicksburg, Mississippi fell to Gen. U. S. Grant. The siege of Vicksburg had begun on May 18, 1863 and ended with the fall of Vicksburg on July 4, thus freeing Gen. Grant from his assignment in the west.

A little more than four months later, on November 19, President Abraham Lincoln was invited to the Gettysburg battlefield to make a few appropriate remarks at the dedication ceremonies creating the first National Cemetery. The principle speaker on that occasion was Edward Everett of Massachusetts. He delivered an eloquent two hour recitation. Then President Lincoln stood at the podium. He spoke in his high, penetrating voice and in a little over two minutes delivered his Gettysburg Address. Many in the audience were surprised by its brevity and generally, the newspapers ridiculed the presidents remarks. Edward Everett, however, commented that what had taken him two hours to portray, Lincoln had captured the spirit and the importance of the occasion in a just a few words. History and time would prove the power of Lincoln's well chosen words.

Abraham Lincoln

Although in his speech, Lincoln did not make a distinction between the combatants, it should be noted that only Union soldiers were disinterred from their battlefield graves to be interred in the new Gettysburg National Cemetery. Confederate combatants were left in mass graves on the field of battle.

Gettysburg National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington Virginia, buried it's first military service man, Pvt. William Henry Christman, 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, who was interred on May 13, 1864. Although Arlington National Cemetery has become the largest and best known of all National cemeteries, because of its close proximity to Washington, The new National Cemetery at Gettysburg was the first cemetery to be designated a National Cemetery.

Outside of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, the Union and West End Cemetery in Allentown, Lehigh County, has more Union Civil War Veterans buried within the grounds than any other cemetery in Pennsylvania.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Slavery in America 1619-1865

'Inalienable rights.'. . 'Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'. . . 'We hold these truths to be self-evident.'. . .

But of course the Declaration of Independence did not apply to all.

Jamestown was settled in Virginia in 1607. The first African slave came in 1619. All slaves were freed by 1865 during the American Civil War, chiefly by the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. From 1619 until 1865, people of African descent were legally enslaved within the boundaries of the United States by whites; some were enslaved by Indians and free blacks. The economy of the country was enhanced by the labor afforded by slavery. Over half a million Africans were brought over from Africa during the slave trade, but because laws made the offspring of slaves as slaves, the slave population in the United States grew to 4 million by the 1860.

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