Sunday, June 30, 2013

THE TRAGIC STORY OF THREE FRIENDS

Culp's Hill
  On the 1st of July 1863 the remnants of the Union 1st and 11th Corps retreated through Gettysburg to Culp's and Cemetery Hill. The union line from Culp's Hill to Big Round Top looked like a fish hook with Culp's Hill being the barb. Culp's Hill was the extreme right of the Union line. On the night of the 1st Confederate General James S. Ewell, who is buried in Nashville's City Cemetery, was given discretionary orders by Lee to take Culp's Hill. Take it if possible but not to bring on a general engagement. Ewell sent a Division under Major General Edward Johnson to take the Hill. He sent out a small party to reconnoiter and they ran into the 7th Indiana Infantry of the 1st Corps. As a result Johnson failed to attack. This was a critical mistake of the battle. Had the Confederates taken Culp's Hill it would have made the rest of the Union line untenable. By the next day there were too many Union troops on Culp's Hill. The Confederates sacrificed hundreds of men trying to take it on July 2nd and 3rd when it had been there for the taking on July 1st. This is why Stonewall Jackson's death was such a loss to the South because Ewell commanded Jackson's 2nd Corps. Many historians believe that Jackson would have taken the hill. 

  One of the Confederates killed on Culp's Hill was John Wesley Culp. He was born and raised in Gettysburg. Culp played on his Uncle Henry's farm on Culp's Hill growing up. The Culp name is very prominent in Gettysburg and when I visited Gettysburg's Evergreen Cemetery on Cemetery Hill there were many Culp's buried there. Wesley Culp became a harness maker for a company that made carriages. In 1858 the owner decided to move the company to Shepherdstown Virginia and Wesley decided to go with the company. He made many new friends although he stayed in contact with his friends and family in Gettysburg. When the war started Culp decided to enlist in the Confederate Army so he could be with his Shepherdstown friends. Wesley's brother William enlisted in the Union Army but they never faced each other in battle. Before the Confederate Army headed north Wesley ran across an old Gettysburg friend that had been mortally wounded and captured at the 2nd battle of Winchester on June 15, 1863. His name was Corporal Jack Skelly, a Union soldier who was engaged to be married to another friend and Gettysburg resident Virginia "Jennie" Wade. Jack gave Wesley a letter and asked him to deliver it to Jennie if he came close enough to Gettysburg. Wesley never got to deliver the letter because he was killed fighting on Culp's Hill on July 3rd.
 
  Jennie Wade was a twenty year old seamstress and along with her family was forced to leave her home in Gettysburg because of the fighting on July 1st and move in with her sister Georgia and her newborn son. Georgia had a difficult delivery and was bedridden. Jennie took care of her sister and distributed bread and water to the Union soldiers that came near the house. On July 2nd Jennie ran out of bread and she and her mother prepared more. They allowed the yeast to rise until the next morning. On the morning of the 3rd Confederate sharpshooters were firing bullets into the north side of the the house. About 8:30 AM, while Jennie was kneading bread, a bullet crashed through two doors and struck her in the back, killing her instantly. When we visited the Jennie Wade house in 2005 the tour guide showed us where she was shot and where her sister lay in bed in the next room. It was decided to move the family to the other side of the house so they would be safer. They walked upstairs and crossed through a hole created by an artillery shell and then walked down into the basement where they stayed until the end of the battle. 

  There is a bed in the corner of the basement with what looks like a woman's body covered with a blanket. The house today is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in America if you believe in the paranormal. Jennie was buried in the yard for six months. Her body was moved to a church yard until 1865 when it was moved to it's third and final resting place in Evergreen cemetery. An executive order was signed making it possible to fly the American flag over her grave twenty four hours a day. The only other woman to have that honor is Betsy Ross. Jack Skelly would die of his wounds on July 12th 1863 and was buried near his sweetheart Jennie Wade. Wesley Culp's body was believed buried on the battlefield but his grave has never been located.
Culp's Hill
   
Wesley Culp





Jennie Wade death house



Table that Jennie was kneading bread on when she died.

Bullet hole


Stairway leading to attic where family escaped to the basement / Supposed apparition 


Basement


Evergreen Cemetery

Jennie Wade Grave / Evergreen Cemetery

Grave of Jack Skelly / Evergreen Cemetery


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

BRIGADIER GENERAL ALEXANDER SCHIMMELFENNIG


  Brigadier General Alexander Schimmelfennig had been a Ensign in the Prussian Army prior to the Civil War. He had been wounded in battle twice during the Revolution of 1848. The revolution failed and he was able to escape to Switzerland where he was sentenced to death in abstentia. He was a Communist, although he belonged to the same faction led by August Willich. who was opposed to Karl Marx. Willich would migrate to the United States and would join the Union Army. Willich was promoted to command of a Division at Stones River where he was captured and sent to Libby Prison. As the the Union Army fled through Gettysburg Schimmelfennig made a wrong turn down a blind alley behind the Henry Garlach house at 323 Baltimore Street and hid between a barrel and a woodshed. He was forced to hide out for three days while the Confederates held the town. Schimmelfennig belonged to the Union 11th Corps which was made up primarily of German immigrants. They were the Corps that was rolled up by Stonewall Jackson's surprise attack at Chancellorsville and the Corps reputation had been tarnished. Gettysburg did nothing to help that reputation because now they were on the run again. When the press found out what happened Shimmelfennig was branded a coward. Schimmelfennig later served in Charleston and contracted an aggressive form of tuberculosis. He would die late in 1865.

A GUN BATTLE AT THE TENNESSEE STATE FAIR

  This was from the Nashville Tennessean on Sunday September 25, 1966. Two men got into a gun battle on the crowded Midway of the State Fair the previous night because one of the men popped a balloon belonging to a child with a cigarette. There were several people wounded, including an eight year old girl. One of the men had to be protected from the crowd at gunpoint by a Metro Policeman because they were enraged over the wounding of the little girl. The other man escaped but was believed to have been wounded. My brother Mark was nearby but luckily he was not shot. Nobody died in the incident.

A CRAZY YEAR

Khe Sanh
  Nineteen sixty eight was a wild year. It started out with the siege of Khe Sanh in January followed by the Tet Offensive in February. Because of Walter Cronkite and the media espousing the lie that Tet was a defeat for the U.S. Johnson in March declared that he would not seek re-election in November. Martin Luther King was killed on April 4 and massive rioting broke out everywhere. Robert Kennedy was killed on June 6. Debbie and I were married on June 21. My grandfather died in July. I went into the Air Force in August and found out I was going to be a father. Riots broke out in Chicago at the Democratic Convention that were organized by the gang of radicals that eventually came to control the Democratic Party. There was the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and last but not least Richard Nixon was elected President.
The Tet Offensive



Washington D.C. Riots




Chicago Riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention
Riots At The Democratic National Convention / 1968

Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia / 1968

Monday, June 24, 2013

THE ETERNAL PEACE MONUMENT AT GETTYSBURG

Dedication of the Eternal Peace Monument at Gettysburg / 1938

  On July 3, 1938, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the Eternal Peace monument on McPherson's Ridge. It was covered by a fifty foot American flag that was removed by a Union and Confederate veteran of the battle who were both ninety-one years old. There is an eternal flame on top that burns twenty four hours a day. The flame was reduced to a pilot light during World War II and during the oil shortage of the early 1970's it was replaced by a light bulb. The flame was restored in the 1980's and still burns to this day. Jacqueline Kennedy saw the eternal flame on a visit which is where she got the idea for an eternal flame on the grave of her husband John Kennedy at Arlington. There were 1800 surviving veterans, both Union and Confederate, that were housed in an elaborate tent city that was on the site of the motel where we stayed in 2005. Most of these veterans were in their nineties and they were assisted by the Boy Scouts. The oldest veteran at the Eternal Peace Monument dedication was a black man who was 112 years old. Two hundred and fifty thousand people attended the dedication and another 100,000 people were stuck on roads leading into Gettysburg in a massive traffic jam.




1938 Gettysburg Reunion

Getysburg Reunion 1938

Confederate Veterans re-enacting Pickets Charge

Sunday, June 23, 2013

THE BADASS OF GETTYSBURG

John L. Burns
  John L. Burns was born on September 5, 1793. He was a veteran of the War of 1812, fighting in numerous battles. Burns tried to enlist during the Mexican War and the Civil War but was rejected because of his age. He did serve as a teamster for the Union Army but was sent home against his will. Burns was then appointed constable of Gettysburg. When Confederate General Jubal Early briefly occupied Gettysburg before the battle, Burns stoutly resisted Early's authority and was jailed. Early evacuated Gettysburg and Burns was released. As constable Burns arrested all the Confederate stragglers he could find. On the first day of the battle of Gettysburg he grabbed his flintlock rifle. On his way to join the fighting he encountered a wounded Union soldier and asked if he could use the soldiers more modern weapon. The soldier handed his musket over to Burns. 

  Burns approached Major Thomas Chamberlain of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry and asked permission to fall into line of battle. He fought alongside the Iron Brigade as a sharpshooter and in one case he shot a charging Confederate officer off of his horse. As the Union Army retreated he was shot in the arm, the leg, and received several minor wounds in his chest. Union soldiers were forced to leave him behind but he crawled away leaving his weapon and burying his ammunition. When the Confederates found him he was able to convince them that he was a civilian noncombatant that was wounded while trying to get help for his invalid wife. Confederate surgeons dressed his wounds. Under the rules of war he could have been hung as a bushwhacker if his true identity had been discovered. He was able to crawl to the cellar of a nearby house and was later taken to his home. After the battle Burns became a national hero and was photographed by Timothy O'Sullivan, a Matthew Brady photographer. Lincoln insisted on meeting him before giving the Gettysburg Address. In the last two years of his life his mind began to fail and he wandered the country. In the winter of 1871 he was found destitute and dying of pneumonia in New York City. He died on February 4, 1872.


Friday, June 21, 2013

GETTYSBURG'S HAUNTED BRIDGE


This is the Sach's bridge at Gettysburg. It was built in 1854 and during the battle was called the Sauches bridge. Union troops crossed this bridge on the way to reinforce General John Buford fighting on McPherson's Ridge July 1, 1863. Most of the Confederate Army retreated across the bridge after the battle. The bridge was made into a pedestrian bridge in 1968. It is supposedly haunted and has been featured on programs about the paranormal.