He Saved the Union

If you believe that the fighting at Little Round Top on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg prevented the Union army from being destroyed by the Confederates, and that this act set up Pickett’s Charge on the third and final day of the engagement, then you might reasonably argue that you live under the Stars and Stripes today in part because of this man.

Pvt. Peter L. Quant of the “People’s Ellsworth Regiment,” also known as the 44th New York Infantry, hustled into position along the crest of Little Round Top on the afternoon of July 2, 1863. He and his comrades in Company K and the rest of the regiment, along with other hastily organized Union troops, stopped the Confederate juggernaut in its tracks.
A 29-year-old farmer from Montgomery, N.Y., when he enlisted during the summer of 1861, Quant survived numerous engagements with the 44th, including the Seven Days’ Battles, Second Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. He also made it through Gettysburg without injury.

His luck ran out the following year. On July 7, 1864, along the front lines of Petersburg, a Confederate bullet found its mark. Critically injured, Quant languished in a hospital at City Point, Va., until he succumbed to his wounds on July 24.

Quant did not live to see the States reunited.

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
He Saved the Union

Participated in the “Powder Boat” Affair

Iowa-born and Oregon raised Roswell Hawks Lamson (1838-1903) graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1862. He was promoted to lieutenant, and commanded the gunboats Mount Washington, Gettysburg and Wilderness. In the latter vessel, he participated in the December 1864 attempt to destroy Fort Fisher using a boat loaded with 215 tons of gunpowder. The “powder boat” exploded, but did not damage the fort.

Lamson sat for this carte de visite in the Napoli, Italy, studio of Fratelli Alinar of Napoli. He resigned from the navy in 1866, and returned to Oregon.

This image is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.

Lieutenant Rogers Recovers Captured Guns at Gettysburg

rogers-groupThe exploits of Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his Twentieth Maine Infantry at Gettysburg are well known among those with an active interest in the Civil War. Far less known however is the story of another Maine unit, the Sixth Battery, First Light Artillery, and its role in stopping the Confederate juggernaut in the vicinity of the Peach Orchard about the same time Chamberlain and his troops were fighting nearby on Little Round Top.

The story of Lt. William H. Rogers and the rest of his battery at Gettysburg is the subject of my latest “Faces of War” column in the Civil War News.

An excerpt:

The fighting in the vicinity of the Peach Orchard during the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg was a Union artilleryman’s nightmare. Advancing Confederates had torn into the poorly positioned Union Third Corps and ripped it to shreds. The destruction of the federal line at this critical point uncovered a wide a dangerous gap in their front. Onrushing rebels plunged into the void and drove shattered ranks of federal infantry back, leaving artillery batteries unsupported and exposed.

Read the full story.

A Jewish Corporal and Bugler in the Pennsylvania Militia

Max Silberman served a 60-day term of enlistment as a corporal with Company A of the Fifty-first Pennsylvania Militia Infantry. The regiment was organized at Philadelphia on July 3, 1863, for the protection of Pennsylvania during Lee’s invasion. It mustered out on September 2, 1863. The back of the mount of the image notes that he was a bugler. Born in Bavaria, Germany, Silberman died in Philadelphia in 1914 and is buried in Adath Jeshurun Cemetery, Section J 529.

Estimates of the participation of Jewish Americans in the Union and Confederate military range from 7,200-10,000.

This image is new to my collection, and is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
A Jewish Corporal and Bugler in the Pennsylvania Militia

A Pennsylvanian Who Answered the Emergency Call in 1863

This carte de visite of Thomas J. Martin was taken by photographer H. Bishop in Chambersburg, Pa., at some point during the summer of 1863. Martin served a 60-day term of enlistment with Company A of the Fifty-first Pennsylvania Militia Infantry. The regiment was organized at Philadelphia on July 3, 1863, for the protection of Pennsylvania during Lee’s invasion. It mustered out on September 2, 1863.

The back of the mount of the image includes Martin’s address, 3000 Richmond St., Philadelphia.

This carte de visite is new to my collection, and is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
A Corporal in the Pennsylvania Militia Infantry

Ed Bearss and “Faces of Gettysburg”

bearssI had the pleasure of speaking to a group gathered yesterday in Greencastle, Pa., for “1863—The Decisive Year of the Civil War.” The two-day event sponsored by the Allison-Antrim Museum and the Franklin County Visitors Bureau was coordinated by Ted Alexander, Chief Park Historian at the Antietam National Battlefield. My talk, “Faces of Gettysburg,” included a brief history of photography and capsule bios of 25 federals whose lives and military service intersected with the three-day Pennsylvania battle.

I arrived at the Green Grove Gardens Event Center about 3 p.m., and upon entering the building heard the distinctive booming voice of Ed Bearss, the Chief Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service perhaps best known for his appearance on the Ken Burns Civil War series. Bearss, who reviewed all three of my books, and I are pictured here soon after he finished his talk about Ulysses S. Grant.

Thanks to Ted for the invitation, and for the opportunity to share soldier stories and images.

My Interview with the Grand Niece of a Gettysburg Veteran

Betty C. SchacherI met Betty C. Schacher, 85, this weekend in Windham, N.Y., and we found a quiet place to talk about her great uncle Simon Pincus. “Uncle Sime,” as she knew him as a little girl, was a kindly elderly gent who was confined to a wheelchair. I captured audio of Betty’s reminiscences of Uncle Sime, who died when she was six. One of her memories was a story he told about his Gettysburg experience. At the time he was a sergeant in Company C of the Sixty-sixth New York Infantry. From the transcript of the audio recording:

He was at the Wheatfield, and, um, I remember thinking, I didn’t know they grew wheat in Pennsylvania (laughter). When we saw pictures of wheat, you know, what was I five years old I was in kindergarten, it was out in Kansas, out in the Midwest somewhere, which to me was a foreign territory.

He told us about this, it was after the battle had quieted down. It was very quiet. I asked him, did the noise frighten him. And he said the silence was worse.

He told us, all of a sudden he saw something move, and it was a Confederate soldier trying to get back to his outfit and he had lost his rifle. And Uncle Sime told him, he better move quick to beat his trigger finger. And Uncle Sime did not shoot him. He let him go back to the unit. And, at first I asked him why, because I was told the Southerners were the enemy. And he said to me, well he was an American, too, and he was unarmed. That’s what he said.

Here’s Betty in the Windham Library. A retired librarian, the setting was most appropriate for our conversation. Uncle Sime survived the war, and mustered out as a second lieutenant. He became a cigar maker in Brooklyn. Lt. Pincus died in 1934.

New on Disunion: An Orange Blossom in the Devil’s Den

DisunionMy latest contribution is now available. The source of the story and the photo is Sean R. Otis, who made contact with me on my Facebook page. I am much obliged to Sean for his efforts.

An excerpt from the story of Capt. Isaac Nicoll:

Nancy and George Hoover looked on as rebels traipsed through the couple’s modest Pennsylvania farm during the days immediately following the Battle of Gettysburg. The disappointed, yet still defiant, Confederates camped in the fields around the Hoover homestead near Waynesboro, about 20 miles west of the battlefield.

On Monday, July 6, 1863, a band of officers entered the Hoover house and made themselves comfortable. Mrs. Hoover later told a local historian that they “were seated at Mr. Hoover’s table partaking of his hospitality, and discussing the great battle and pointing out the causes of their defeat and mistakes they made.”

At one point during the impromptu debate, Lt. Ransom W. Wood of the 20th Georgia Infantry reached into his coat and pulled out a Bible. He had picked the Testament from the pocket of a dead Yankee captain on the battlefield.

Read the full story.

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.

New on Disunion: A Regiment is Sacrificed at Gettysburg

BrownleeMy latest contribution to Disunion is now available. Corp. James Brownlee of the 134th New York Infantry suffered multiple wounds during the first day’s fight at Gettysburg. An excerpt:

Union forces along the northern edge of Gettysburg, Pa., occupied a precarious position on July 1, 1863. Advancing Confederates poured deadly volleys into the rapidly thinning blue ranks as a steady stream of wounded trickled into the normally peaceful Pennsylvania town.

A federal division commander in the thick of the fray, Gen. Carl Schurz, was running out of options. A former German revolutionary who became an influential voice among fellow political refugees, he sent his aides in search of reinforcements. While he waited for help, he received reports that Union troops on his right and left had buckled under the intense pressure of the Confederate juggernaut.

A mile south, Cpl. James Brownlee watched and listened to the raging battle from the heights of Cemetery Hill. A farmhand who had emigrated from Ireland with his family when he was a boy, Brownlee and his comrades in the 134th New York Infantry could clearly see the fighting where Schurz was hotly engaged.

Read the full profile.