Gettysburg: the Second Day, as my ancestor saw it

When the men of the 11th Massachusetts awoke on July 2nd, they saw that the Confederates had occupied parts of the Emmitsburg Road, which the regiment and the rest of their division had used to march to the battlefield.  That morning was cloudy and threatened rain, but by noon the clouds had all disappeared.  At 3 PM that afternoon the entire Third Corps moved forward from its position on Cemetery Ridge to occupy the slightly higher ground in front of them.  The Second Division, under General Andrew A. Humphreys, was on the right, lined up along the Emmitsburg Road.  This included the 11th Massachusetts, which found itself on the farm belonging to an older couple named Peter and Susan Rogers.  The single-story log house and the barn provided some concealment, at least from the sun,  for some of the men of the 11th Massachusetts.  The Rogers’ granddaughter, a young woman named Josephine Miller, insisted on staying so she could bake bread for the Union troops, as well as serve them cold water and occasionally sell them a chicken.

Josephine MIller with stove
An older Josephine Miller, now married, was asked to come to Gettysburg to meet with some of the veterans when they put up their monuments. Here she poses with the original stove in which she baked bread, like the loaf she is holding. This photo was taken in the 1880s when the monument to the 1st Massachusetts (another regiment in the same brigade as the 11th) was dedicated.

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The Road to Gettysburg, as my Civil War ancestor saw it

Today is the 156th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

For the 11th Massachusetts Infantry, the pursuit of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during its invasion of the North began on June 11th, 1863.  The regiment had been making plans to celebrate the anniversary of its muster into Federal service on June 13th.  Early in the afternoon a large group of the 11th’s officers were playing a baseball game against the officers of the 26th Pennsylvania, one of the other regiments in the brigade, when marching orders were received.  By 1:30 the regiment was assembled with knapsacks and began marching.  The weather was already brutally hot.

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My Ancestor at the Battle of Spotsylvania

This week is the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, one of the bloodiest and most terrible battles of the Civil War.  This particular phase of Grant’s Overland Campaign began on May 7th and lasted until May 19th.  The battle is most famous for the Union assaults on a stretch of Confederate fortifications called the Mule Shoe because of its shape, and particularly for the violence that took place in an area known as the Bloody Angle.

1280px-Battle_of_Spottsylvania_by_Thure_de_Thulstrup

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A Walk Among the Stones

Today Geoff and I took a trip to South Weymouth, MA to visit Mount Hope Cemetery where his Civil War ancestor, Moses Beaulieu, is buried. Geoff has done a lot of research into Moses Beaulieu and recently discovered a photo of his headstone and rough location in the particular cemetery in South Weymouth.

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Some thoughts on Confederate Memorial Day

Today is the anniversary of the death of John Wilkes Booth, the man who murdered President Abraham Lincoln.  And it is also the anniversary of the surrender of the last large Confederate army in the field at Bennett Place, North Carolina.  I assume that for the latter reason (although I have known at least a few people who argued it was for the former), today is also Confederate Memorial Day in Alabama, the state where I was born.

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The “mutiny” in my ancestor’s Civil War regiment

I recently reread a book that I have not read in several years: The Mutiny at Brandy Station: The Last Battle of the Hooker Brigade : a Controversial Army Reorganization, Courts Martial, and the Bloody Days that Followed by Frederick B. Arner.  The book follows through events of early 1864 that led to the dissolution of my ancestor’s former unit, the 3rd Corps, and the assignment of his regiment to the 2nd Corps.  The author makes a compelling argument that one of the major reasons the former 3rd Corps units suffered so severely in the battles of Grant’s Overland Campaign is because the units’ morale had been shattered by the breaking up of the once-proud and distinguished 3rd Corps.

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Today in history, the last great battle before Appomattox

It’s funny that I have been a pretty serious student of the Civil War for almost 30 years, and yet I am still learning and discovering so many things that I really did not know much about. Lately a lot of that has been due at least partially to Private Moses Beaulieu. I have been trying to follow his (my Civil War ancestor’s) journey through the war. Most recently, I have been studying the last great campaigns of the war for his unit, the 11th Massachusetts Infantry, in the Army of the Potomac.

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