It was a warm weekend for the boys at Gettysburg National Military Park August 5-7, 2005, when the 53rd Pennsylvania was joined by other units from the National Regiment for a battalion-size encampment. Tom Downes and Jack Kraft of the 8th Ohio Volunteers commanded the battalion made up of four companies including the 8th Ohio Infantry, 14th Connecticut Infantry, 6th New Hampshire Infantry, 116th Pennsylvania Infantry, 1st PA Reserves, and approximately ten members of Company C, 53rd PVI. We were also joined by a few individuals from other units to experience the weekend encampment and demonstrations, which were held for a very enthusiastic public.
On Saturday afternoon, the battalion retraced the route of the First Division of the Second Corps from Cemetery Ridge to the Wheatfield, where the division saw heavy fighting on July 2, 1863. General John C. Caldwell was ordered to take his four brigades south to support the embattled Third Corps units posted through the George Rose Farm, and found themselves engaged in the “whirlpool” between 5 and 6:30 PM. The battalion passed the monument to Father WIlliam Corby who gave absolution to the “Irish Brigade” (Kelly’s) before moving along the road trace to the J. Weikert Farm site where the battalion deployed into battleline and made its way to the northern side of Wheatfield Road. From that point, we followed the route of Brooke’s Fourth Brigade through the field and into Rose Grove where the climactic confrontation with General Paul Semmes’ Georgia Brigade took place. With canteens running low and aching feet, the battalion returned to camp for a near perfect evening of cool temperatures and quiet on the battlefield.
Sunday was much more low key with a slower visitor turnout. Many of those who had traveled from Connecticut, New York and Ohio decided to pack out at noon while the 53rd and some of the 8th Ohio remained until 2:30, when we too, packed up the dog tents and marched for home. Over all it was a great weekend and Company C, 53rd PVI is grateful to all of the members of those units who attended this special weekend and to Tom Holbrook of the National Park Service, who helped with the arrangements for the camp and march. Three cheers!
The battalion moves into line where Caldwell’s Division formed on the afternoon of July 2, 1863, on the J. Weikert Farm prior to entering the wheatfield. We were followed by a small army of interested park visitors!
Marching through the high grass and weeds was a chore. The historic Trostle Farm in the background was General Sickles’ headquarters, whose troops were being supported by Caldwell’s Division on July 2.
The battalion moves to the Wheatfield Road through brush and high grass. The day was warm, but the boys stuck together, led to the front by guide Marc Benedict!
Some of the boys in the ranks. Many had never had the opportunity to follow this route into the Wheatfield, so it was quite an experience.
Forming and dressing the ranks in the edge of the Wheatfield. The Fourth Brigade (Brooke’s) went into the fighting in reverse order, the rear rank facing to the front, but still fought with efficiency.
Members of the 8th Ohio Volunteers and 116th Pennsylvania Infantry catch a breather before moving into the field. Out of camera view are the 50+ visitors who followed the battalion that afternoon.
With ranks dressed, the call to move forward begins. The Fourth Brigade was the last of the Second Corps units into the Wheatfield, bypassing the First (Cross) and Second (“Irish”) into the center.
“Forward- guide center, march!”
The battalion briefly halts in the wheatfield where the Fourth Brigade delivered its first volleys.
At charge bayonet, Major Downes leads the battalion down the slope and into the southern portion of the field.
Still moving, the ranks separated by boulders, thorns and brush.
Re-dressed ranks and looking sharp!
A brief halt in the lower part of the Wheatfield before ascending the heights of Rose Grove, where the Fourth Brigade had driven Semmes’ Georgia Brigade.
Passing by the historic George Weikert farm house while returning to camp.
The march back to the battalion encampment at the Pennsylvania Monument, footsore but satisfied!
Another view taken from atop the Pennsylvania Monument.
Our unit camped near the same location where the First Division, Second Corps formed on the morning of July 2, in the center of Cemetery Ridge.
A special thanks and tip of the forage cap to Bill Fabus (at left) and John Mayer for supplying the 53rd PVI with these great photos! Also, a big thank you to all of the groups and individuals who made this weekend a great one!