A Visit to Gettysburg

Provoked by the foregoing research, I went to Gettysburg to look for the place, the actual place, where Colonel Mudge was killed: Spangler’s Spring, located near the foot of Culp’s Hill, at the tip of the Union “fish hook. ”

Google Map (GPS coordinates: 39.813324° N, 77.215871° W):

 

If you are reading this at Gettysburg, and currently searching a paper map, it is stop number 13 on the auto tour.]

 

Coming out of the woods on to a straight part of the road, with a large meadow on the right and a smaller one farther down on the left, your eye moves up across a long hill to a wall of woods. Just off to the left, and easy to miss, is a smallish rectangular stone monument fitted with a bronze plaque. It rests on a large slab of granite that was probably dumped as glacial till.

ma2_0824

This is the memorial to the 2nd Mass. Volunteers, and, dedicated in 1879 by the survivors, it was the first such memorial to be placed on the battlefield at Gettysburg. The two faces of the plaque appear as follows:

2ma-tablet-4c_7778f

“From the hill behind this monument on the morning of July Third 1863 the Second Massachusetts Infantry made an assault upon the Confederate troops in the works at the base of Culp’s Hill opposite. The regiment carried to the charge 22 officers and 294 enlisted men. It lost 4 officers and 41 enlisted  men killed and mortally wounded and 6  officers and 84 enlisted men wounded. To perpetuate the honored memories of  that hour the survivors of the Regiment  have raised this stone. 1879.”

2ma-tablet-rear-cu-4c_7775

“Lieut. Col. Charles R. Mudge                    Captain Thomas B. Robeson
Captain Thomas B. Fox                         Lieut. Henry V.D. Stone
—-
Color bearers – Leavitt C. Durgin, Rupert J. Sadler, Stephen Cody
First Sergeant Alonzo J. Babcock, Sergeant William H. Blunt.
–Corporals–
Charles Burdett, Theodore S. Butters, Jeremiah S. Hall, Patrick Heoy, Ruel Whittier, Gordon S. Wilson.
–Privates–
Samuel T. Alton  James T. Edmunds  Charles Kiernan
George M. Baily  William H. Ela  William Marshall
Henry C. Ball  John E. Farrington  Frederick Maynard
Wallace Bascom  Silas P. Foster  Andrew Nelson
John Briggs, Jr.  Willard Foster  Rufus A. Parker
David B. Brown  Joseph Furber  Philo H. Peck
William T. Bullard  Fritz Goetz  Sidney S. Prouty
James A. Chase  Daniel A. Hatch  Richard Seavers
Peter Conlan  John J. Jewett  Charles Trayner
John Derr  John Joy  David L. Wade”

Above: the front and back of the monument to the 2nd. Mass Volunteers, and their respective inscriptions.

Just in front of the stone, you see a gray, withered tree stump, maybe a foot-and-a-half across and coated in dust from the road. It stands up from the base of the huge boulder, almost pointing towards the hill. Its brush with the saw occurred long ago, but somehow it has held on.

 

In the distance, part way up the slope and starting into the trees is a parking area with a plastic-coated illustrated essay explaining the area and its significance. It is entitled “Slaughter at Spangler’s Spring.” There are pictures of two men. Col. Mudge is one. The opposing Confederate commander, Ewell, is the other.

sign-at-spanglers-spring-gettysburg-pa-alt1

A quotation at the upper left reads “It is murder, but it’s the order. Up men; over the works. Forward, double quick.” It is attributed to Col. Mudge, and these words were presumably among the last he spoke.

If for no other reason, it is worth coming here to look out over the landscape, first from the flat area to the hill, then from the hill to the flat area, and to start, to begin to understand the courage these men showed.

Before the war, this place was a favorite picnic spot. I went there in the spring, and I have to admit it looked more like a place to spread a blanket and take out a sandwich than a place to die. The sun was bright, the woods were green, and in the distance a wedding party was having their picture taken.

Squarely in the middle of the plastic covered board is a reproduction of another group portrait, the official photograph taken at the 1879 reunion of the 2nd Massachusetts, when the survivors gathered at Gettysburg— sixteen years after the fact— to dedicate that stone and bronze monument to their fallen. I imagine it was a day not unlike the one on which I was there.

reunion-photo-on-sign-at-spanglers-spring-gettysburg-pa-alt1

The men are shown standing on the huge granite boulder. As a group, they surround and almost protect the new monument. They are middle-aged, with handlebar mustaches and civilian clothes, blessed with the opportunity to know a little bit more of life. Their happiness at seeing one another again shows on their faces.

If you continue to scan the photograph, you notice that in front and just to the right of the granite slab, rising up from the rows of reuning veterans and arching towards sunlight at the top of the frame, is a young sapling. I could be wrong, but it looks like it’s rooted in the same spot as that old, gray stump.

SaveSave

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s