Gettysburg Artifacts “If These Things Could Talk”: Gettysburg Winter Lecture 2015

Here’s Ranger Tom Holbrook showing us some artifacts from the GNMP museum collection and giving some interesting details behind them.  He does get confused in some points.  For example, he seems to think that John C. Robinson’s division was part of the XI Corps when in fact it was part of the I Corps.  But overall it’s pretty good.



  1. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    A question and a comment, Al. Am I correct in thinking that Robinson’s division of the I Corps was shifted to the north by Howard after Reynolds was killed? That would explain why Robinson’s statue is located on Oak Hill rather than on McPherson’s Ridge. It might also explain why Holbrook has Robinson in the XI Corps. Coddington notes, BTW, that “Robinson handled his two brigades masterfully.”

    I was a bit disappointed in the artifacts Holbrook had for his “show and tell.” A Spencer carbine, a great coat and a canteen are interesting but hardly overwhelming. But having been involved in some “dog and pony shows” for the Grand Rapids Public Museum over my ten years there, I know that the really “good” stuff is never included. When we did some presentations for school groups and the like in 2011, the first year of the sesquicentennial and opened our Civil War room, the really “good” stuff such as Stephen Champlin’s dress uniform/sword and Robert E. Lee’s sash (supposedly captured at Sayler’s Creek) remained under glass.

    1. Robinson’s Division was at first held in reserve in front of the Seminary, where Baxter’s boys began building some breastworks. They were ordered to move out to Oak Ridge to occupy Oak Hill and connect with the XI Corps north of Gettysburg. Rodes’ Division appeared on Oak Hill as they were marching out toward it, so they had to content themselves with Oak Ridge.

      1. Bob Nelson · · Reply

        And as they fell back toward the town and the heights beyond, they were assailed by Confederates from the west and from the north and lost something on the order of 3,500 captured.

        1. Baxter’s men ran low on ammunition and were replaced by Paul’s Brigade, also of Robinson’s Division. The 90th PA was part of Baxter’s Brigade, and you can see their story here.

  2. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    If I may put in a book plug here in connection with Gettysburg, I would highly recommend Martin Johnson’s “Writing the Gettysburg Address” (University Press of Kansas, 2013). It was on my “wish list” for Christmas. It’s not the easiest read. For one thing, his paragraphs are really, really long. He argues, among other things, that Lincoln wrote the entire address on Executive Mansion paper before he went to GB and that he tore or cut it in half (to create thereby the first page of the Nicolay Draft on Executive Mansion paper) and rewrote the second part on plain paper on the evening of November 18. He further notes that Lincoln went to see Seward late in the evening (Seward was staying at a nearby house because Wills’ home was full) to show it to him and further edited it later that night. Finally on the morning of November 19, after riding over parts of the battlefield with Seward and others (most notably Seminary Ridge and the spot where Reynolds was killed) that he spent an hour between 9 and 10 a.m. rewriting the second page again. He further opines that the Hay Draft was written either on the afternoon of November 19 or the next day in Washington. He has no doubts, as he puts it, that Lincoln read from the Nicolay Draft during the ceremony. He largely dismisses the Hay Draft as nothing more than a copy. It’s a good book, well worth a read.

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