What Happened To Them After Gettysburg?

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On Saturday, May 20, 2015, Ranger John Hoptak led a wonderful ranger hike along Cemetery Ridge talking about what happened to some of the men after Gettysburg.  We look at Gettysburg today as the great battle it was, but for these men, it was one of a number of battles they fought.  To many, it was just another battle, and those who survived the battle went on.  Some survived the war, some didn’t.

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We first stopped in Ziegler’s Grove and talked about John Cleveland Robinson, a division commander in the I Corps of the Army of the Potomac.  Born in 1817, Robinson went to West Point but was dismissed in 1837 for violating the rules.  He was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1839, joining the 5th US Infantry.  He served in the Mexican War, and at the start of the Civil War he was in command of Fort McHenry in Baltimore.  He became the colonel of the 1st Michigan and eventually rose to division command.  At Spotsylvania in 1864, he led an attack on Laurel Hill, for which he would be awarded the Medal of Honor, and was shot in the left knee, resulting in amputation of his left leg.  This ended his field command days, and he served in various functions until the end of the war, when he led the Freedman’s Bureau in North Carolina.  He retired in 1869 after 30 years in the army and later served as lieutenant governor of New York State.  Late in life he lost his eyesight completely and died in 1897 in his hometown of Binghamton, New York.

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Alexander Hays was a Pennsylvanian by birth, being born in 1819.  He graduated from West Point in the Class of 1844 and was a close friend of Ulysses S. Grant.  He resigned from the army in 1848 and went to California to try to find gold.  Unsuccessful, he returned east and became the City Engineer for Pittsburgh.  When the war started he came back into uniform as the colonel of the 63rd Pennsylvania and eventually rose to be a division commander under his West Point classmate, Winfield Scott Hancock.  With the reorganization of the Army of the Potomac in 1864 he was reduced to brigade command, but he accepted this because his friend U.S. Grant was now the commanding general of US armies.  Hays was killed on May 5, 1864, in the Battle of the Wilderness and is buried in Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh.  While Grant was running for President he visited the cemetery and his friend’s grave, where it’s said he wept openly.

First Lieutenant George A. Woodruff commanded Battery I, First US Artillery in Ziegler’s Grove.

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During Pickett’s Charge, Woodruff moved his battery out, wheeled, and fired into the flank of the attacking rebels.  Graduating from West Point in 1861, Woodruff was notable for his size.  He was only 4’9″ or 4’10” tall, but he earned the respect of the men in his battery, who called him “Little Dad” due to his diminutive size and the respect they had for him.  He was mortally wounded during Pickett’s Charge on July 3, and command fell to Lieutenant Tully McCrae.

Tully McCrae was born in Natchez, Mississippi in 1839 and graduated from West Point in the Class of 1862, appointed to the Academy from the State of Ohio.  His first battle was Antietam, and he left a vivid account of Pickett’s Charge [which you can view here].  After the Battle of Gettysburg, McCrae remained in the army for the next thirty-nine years, retiring in 1902.  He was wounded at the Battle of Olustee in 1864 and was assigned to West Point as an instructor for the next eight years.  He would later serve in Washington, DC, St. Augustine, Florida, Fort Sill, and the Presidio.  He also served in Manila during the Spanish-American War.  He died in 1918 and is buried at West Point.

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We made a short stop at the 12th New Jersey monument to talk about the burning of the Bliss Barn on July 3.  The Bliss family never rebuilt their farm, instead they sold the land to Nicholas Cordori and left the area.  Cordori would be using a new mowing machine on the former Bliss land in 1878, and his horse bolted, knocking him into the machinery and killing him.

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At our next stop, John told us about 30% of the Union army was made up of immigrants, and emblematic of that immigrant presence was the 39th New York, the “Garibaldi Guard.”  The regiment was so diverse its members spoke eleven different languages.

One of those immigrants in the Army of the Potomac was Thomas Alfred Smyth, a brigade commander under Alexander Hays [Samuel Carroll and George Willard were the other two brigade commanders].  Smyth’s brigade consisted of the 14th Connecticut, the 1st Delaware, the 12th New Jersey, the 10th New York, and the 108th New York.  Smyth was a native of Ireland, born in Ballyhooley, county Cork, on Christmas Day, 1832.  He emigrated to the US in 1854 and worked as a carriage maker.  He moved to Delaware, and when the war began he became the major of the 1st Delaware.  After Gettysburg he retained command of his brigade and has the tragic distinction of being the last Union general to die in the war.  He was shot on April 7, 1865 near Farmville, Virginia.  He was shot through the mouth while he was giving an order.  He died on April 9, the day of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant.  He’s buried in Brandywine Cemetery in Wilmington, Delaware.

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John next pointed out the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry monument and mentioned the likeness used for that monument is that of Charles Lindenmuth.

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Alexander Stewart Webb was born in 1835.  His grandfather had been on George Washington’s staff during the American Revolution.  Webb graduated from West Point in 1855, ranking 13th out of a class of 34.  He acceded to command of the Philadelphia Brigade on June 28, 1863, the same day George Meade took over command of the Army of the Potomac.  This brigade consisted of the 69th Pennsylvania, the 71st Pennsylvania, the 72nd Pennsylvania, and the 106th Pennsylvania.  During Pickett’s Charge he had a hard time rallying his men because he was so new to the brigade very few knew who he was.  He would receive a Medal of Honor for his actions that day, though.  In the spring of 1864, at Spotsylvania, he was shot in the head, but he survived and eventually became the Chief of Staff of the Army of the Potomac in January of 1865.  He resigned from the army in 1870 and served as president of the City University of New York for 33 years.  He died in 1911 and is buried at West Point.

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Norman Jonathan Hall was another brigade commander in the II Corps.  Hall’s brigade was part of John Gibbon’s brigade and consisted of the 19th Massachusetts, the 20th Massachusetts, the 7th Michigan, the 42nd New York, and the 59th New York [You can see his Gettysburg Report here].  Born in New York in 1837 and appointed from Michigan, Hall graduated from West Point in 1859.  He had been appointed to the Academy by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis.  In 1861 he was part of the garrison at Fort Sumter.  During the bombardment on Fort Sumter, the American flag was knocked down.  Hall went out and put the flag back up.  While he was doing so, a shell burst near him and singed his eyebrows off.  After Fort Sumter he became the commander of the 7th Michigan.  He fought at Antietam, and at Fredericksburg he volunteered himself and his regiment to go across the Rappahannock River.  His Lieutenant Colonel, Henry Baxter, another officer who would command a brigade at Gettysburg, led the regiment across in pontoon boats to drive Barksdale’s men out of the town.  His brigade helped turn back Ambrose Wright’s attack on July 2 and played a role in repulsing Pickett’s Charge on July 3.  He resigned from the Volunteer Service in 1864 due to sickness, and in 1865 he retired from the Regular Service “for disability resulting from long and faithful service and disease contracted in the line of duty.”  He died in 1867 at the age of 30, and he’s buried at West Point.

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William Harrow was another brigade commander under John Gibbon [see his Gettysburg Report here].  His brigade consisted of the 19th Maine, the 15th Massachusetts, the 1st Minnesota, and the 82nd New York.  Born in Winchester, Kentucky in 1822, Harrow eventually moved to Indiana and became a lawyer traveling on the 8th Circuit, and there he made the acquaintance of another lawyer, Abraham Lincoln.  At the beginning of the war he became the captain of the 14th Indiana.  He fought at Antietam and Fredericksburg.  He left the army temporarily in 1862 due to accusations of drunkenness, but in April of 1863 he was made a brigadier general of volunteers.  Harrow didn’t get along with his superiors, and Gettysburg would be his last battle with the Army of the Potomac.  Lincoln was able to get him a division command under Sherman in the West, but by September of 1864 he was removed entirely from the service due to his inability to get along with his superiors.  He returned to Indiana and resumed his law practice.  In 1872 he was campaigning to support Horace Greeley for President against Ulysses S. Grant and he was killed in a train accident a few days shy of his 50th birthday.

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Gulian Verplanck Weir was born in 1837 at West Point, New York.  His father was an art and drawing teacher at the US Military Academy.  Gulian Weir didn’t attend the Academy, but he did join the 7th New York State Militia.  When the war started he became a lieutenant in the 5th US Artillery, and at Gettysburg he commanded Battery C.  On July 2 he was ordered forward toward the Emmittsburg Road.  He had six guns in his battery.  When he saw his guns were about to be overrun, he ordered a retreat, but not before three of the guns were taken.  There were accusations of his abandoning his post due to cowardice, since he had not been ordered to retreat.  The guns were recaptured by the 106th Pennsylvania, but Weir never lived this incident down and it haunted him the rest of his life.  After the war he returned to New York, married, and raised six children.  In 1885 he returned to Gettysburg and stood on Cemetery Ridge reliving July 2 in his mind.  He returned to New York a broken man.  On July 18, 1885, after dinner, he went upstairs and committed suicide.

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The monument of the 13th Vermont has a bronze statue of Lt. Stephen F. Brown on it.  At Brown’s foot is a hatchet.  It looks as though he’s dropped the hatchet and is carrying a sword in his left hand.  That statue is not historically accurate.  Brown had been placed under arrest for allowing his men to straggle on the march and fill their canteens.  His sword had been taken away from him.  He went into battle carrying a hatchet.  After Pickett’s Charge he was given a captured confederate officer’s belt and sword and carried them.  He lost his right arm after being wounded at the Wilderness and died in 1903.

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The commander of the Vermont Brigade of the I Corps was George J. Stannard.  His brigade consisted of the 13th Vermont, the 14th Vermont, and the 16th Vermont.  His statue on top of the Vermont Monument has no right arm.  This is also not historically accurate.  At Gettysburg, Stannard still had his right arm.  He lost his right arm in 1864.  He has the distinction of being known as the first Vermonter to enlist in the war.  He was not West Point trained, but he became commander of the 9th Vermont.  He was captured at Harper’s Ferry in 1862 and after being exchanged was made the commander of the 2nd Vermont Brigade.  He was wounded in the left thigh at Gettysburg.  Wounded at Cold Harbor, he lost his right arm after being wounded again at Fort Harrison.  After the war he served with the Freedman’s Bureau, became a customs collector in Vermont, and then in 1881 he became the doorkeeper of the US House of Representatives.  On June 1, 1886 he died “in consequence of wounds he received in the line of duty.”

Freeman McGilvery, the former ship’s captain, put together a line of artillery that helped save the Union line on July 2.  He was wounded at Petersburg in 1864 in the right index finger.  The surgeon examined the wound and decided the bone had been shattered and amputation was necessary.  Unfortunately, he gave McGilvery too much chloroform when performing the amputation and McGilvery never woke up from the operation.

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The Pennsylvania Memorial contains eight bronze statues, only four of which depict men born in Pennsylvania.  Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, George G. Meade was born in Cadiz, Spain, David Bell Birney was born in Alabama, and Alfred Pleasonton was born in Washington, DC.

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Winfield Scott Hancock, born in Montgomery Square, PA in 1824, was wounded on July 3.  The bullet remained in him for a year before a surgeon was able to find it and remove it.  His health was never the same, and he eventually developed diabetes.  He was a candidate for President in 1880, losing narrowly to James A. Garfield, and he died in 1886.

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David Bell Birney was born in Huntsville, Alabama in 1825.  Outside Petersburg in 1864 he developed malaria and died in October of that year.  He’s buried in Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia.

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Alfred Pleasonton was born in Washington, DC in 1824.  His father, Stephen Pleasonton, was a clerk in the District of Columbia during the War of 1812.  After the British victory at the Battle of Bladensburg, Stephen Pleasonton personally saved the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  It’s a bit of a mystery why Pleasonton is on the Pennsylvania Memorial, but that can be explained by his brother, Augustus Pleasonton, a member of the Pennsylvania Militia.  John suggested that perhaps the statue on the Pennsylvania Memorial actually depicts Augustus Pleasonton.

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I think it’s Alfred.

This was an outstanding hike, filled with interesting information that most of us never get into.

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3 comments

  1. Ryan Rosenthal · · Reply

    An excellent followup on the ranger walk! I love your website!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Ryan.

      1. I did not know how McGilvery died—that is simply awful!

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