Sunday, June 30, 2013

Culp's Hill And 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 


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.

Gun Battle Erupts At The 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.

Battle Damaged Houses At Gettysburg

  Because of the heavy fighting among the streets of Gettysburg there are still many buildings with battle damage and bullet holes. The first two houses have unexploded artillery rounds still sticking out of their outer walls and the third is saturated with bullet holes.

Coster Avenue Mural

This is the Coster Avenue mural. The Union Army dissolved into chaos as it retreated through town. Colonel Charles R. Coster's brigade made a stand. The 154th New York Infantry fought stubbornly before retreating. The second picture is of me, Courtney Segroves and Laura Dawson getting a personal tour in 2005.

Driving The Yankees On The 1st Day / Gettysburg

Reynolds Corps collapsed on Seminary Ridge and was driven by the Confederates through the outskirts of Gettysburg. This is a good picture of this phase of the battle. You can see the range of hills off in the distance that would eventually turn the tide of battle in favor of the Union. Culps and Cemetery Hill, Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top and Big Round Top can be seen. The Union Army was driven through town and the battle turned into house to house fighting.

Debbie And Greg / 1968

These two pictures were taken the same day at my Aunt Tincy and Uncle Jim's house in Donelson. I was fresh out of basic training on leave before going to Kingsley Field Oregon. Roy had been in the Air Force a little over a year.

The George George House / Gettysburg

During the first day's fighting on McPherson Ridge Union Major General John Reynolds commanding the 1st Corps was shot and killed about 9:30 AM. His body was brought to the George George House in Gettysburg. When we were there in 2005 it was a photography studio where you could dress up in period costumes and have your picture taken.

Slums Below The Tennessee State Capital / The 1950's

In the early 1950's before urban renewal there were shacks just below capital hill and no indoor plumbing. I remember this area as a child and similar neighborhoods around my fathers drugstore at 17th and Charlotte, just a few blocks away.

1968 / 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