Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gettysburg: This Consecrated Ground

From: NPS.gov
After the battle, the Gettysburg area was a tragic place. Dead horses, the bodies of soldiers, and the debris of battle littered its trampled fields. Many of its buildings were damaged, its fences gone, and its air polluted with the odor of rotting flesh. Nearly 20,000 wounded and dying soldiers occupied its public buildings and many of its houses; Union and Confederate hospitals clustered at many of its farms. Medical authorities transferred the wounded to general hospitals in nearby cities as soon as practicable. Dr. Henry Janes, the surgeon in charge of medical activities at Gettysburg, established a general hospital along the York Pike a mile east of the town in mid-July. The last of the wounded did not leave Gettysburg until November 23—over four months after the battle.
Although the armies had hurried many of their dead before marching away, many bodies remained above ground, and heavy rains that began on July 4 washed open the shallow graves of others. Many Union dead were embalmed and sent to their homes, and survivors of a few purchased lots for them in Evergreen Cemetery. Confederate dead were buried as individuals or in mass graves near the places of their deaths. After the war, the bodies of some of the known Confederate dead were exhumed and taken to home cemeteries.
Most, however, remained at Gettysburg until the early 1870s, when southern Ladies Memorial Associations had the remains of 3,320 Confederate soldiers exhumed and taken south. They reburied 2,935 of them in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. Virginia.
Northern states with units in the battle sent agents to Gettysburg to look after their dead and wounded soldiers. Governor Andrew G. Curtin of Pennsylvania visited Gettysburg soon after the battle, saw its problems, and named David Wills, a Gettysburg attorney, as Pennsylvania's agent. Soon Wills and other agents decided that a cemetery should be established for the Union dead. With Curtin's permission, Wills soon purchased seventeen acres on the northwest slope of Cemetery Hill for a cemetery and hired the noted landscape architect William Saunders to create a cemetery plan.


Post a Comment


Facebook Twitter Delicious Stumbleupon Favorites