Defending Bliss Barn

Henry Franklin ChewOn July 2, 1863, Capt. Harry Chew and the rest of his company, part of the Twelfth New Jersey Infantry, fought for possession of Bliss Barn at Gettysburg. The outcome of the engagement, and the rest of Chew’s story, is part of the larger narrative of the three-day battle. I originally wrote about Chew at Gettysburg in 2009 for Faces of War, my regular column in the Civil War News. The profile is now available for the first time online.

An excerpt:

Beneath a scorching sun in the afternoon of July 2, 1863, on the battlefield of Gettysburg, Capt. Harry Chew and his company of about sixty muskets from the Twelfth New Jersey scaled the wall of stone that protected their regiment. They thrashed through tall grass for a stretch, angled right, and crossed the Emmitsburg Road. Then they made a dash for the barn belonging to William and Adelina Bliss, a fortress-like structure with a stone first floor and a second story walled in solid oak, its narrow windows perfect for sharpshooters.

The Jerseymen, in support of the First Delaware, moved in and occupied the property. Chew’s company and the Delaware troops fanned out in a skirmish line and brushed back a band of Confederates. Chew and his orderly sergeant took up a new position along a fence at the Bliss house, adjacent to the barn. They watched as distant Confederate cannon fired in their direction, the shot and shell falling short of where they stood. The orderly sergeant suggested that they move out of harm’s way. Chew replied, “We are as safe here as any where, you can’t run away from them things.” At that moment a solid shot crashed into and knocked a picket out of the fence against which the orderly sergeant had been leaning. Chew shouted, “Get out of here,” and the pair ran to the barn.

Read the rest of the story.