17 March 2010

The Irish

Predominantly made up of emigrants from Ireland the 63rd, 69th, and 88th New York Infantry were part of the Irish Brigade. Fighting on July 2nd to hold onto the Wheatfield and Stony Hill they would loose 76 of their meager 313 men.

The three New York regiments of the Irish Brigade were raised in Albany County NY and the New York City area. They were made up mostly of men who had immigrated to America in the 1850’s to escape the poverty of Ireland. At the beginning of their enlistment the 63rd, 69th and 88th contained 2,500 men, but by the Gettysburg campaign they could only field 313 of these soldiers. The Irish Brigade also included the 28th Massachusetts and the 116th Pennsylvania.

On the 29th of June the Irish Brigade which part of the Second Corps began a 34 mile march towards Gettysburg. They would march past the wagon carrying the body General John F Reynolds on the first of July, final halting about 10pm still three miles short of Gettysburg. On the morning of the second of July around 4:30 the Brigade marched to the Tanneytown RD and finally went into position along Cemetery Ridge.

As the fighting on the left of the Union line raged on, the Irish Brigade knew it was only matter of time before they would called upon. As the time drew near Reverend William Corby climb onto a rock to grant the men in front if him, must of whom were Catholic a general absolution. The Irish went out across the battle field, crossed the Wheatfield and took a line along the north end of the Wheatfield and Stony Hill. Here they came up against the 3rd and 7th South Carolina known as the Kershaw Brigade. Firing into each other as close range, the Irish Brigade was able to halt the forward moment of the Confederates, until they were flanked by more reinforcements pouring in from the Peach Orchard. Men who survived the fight in the Wheatfield would remember it as “a whirlpool of death”.

Veterans of the Irish Brigade would return to Gettysburg in 1888 to dedicate a monument. Located in the saddle between the Wheatfield and Stony Hill, it was sculpted by Rudolph O’Donovan. The monument is the Celtic cross on top of green granite with an Irish Wolf Hound at the base.

06 March 2010

Not So Blissful Farm

The fighting on July 2nd shifted to the area in front Cemetery Ridge, and placed the Bliss farm in the middle of the battle field. The farm owned by William Bliss consisted of 60 acres, with a house and barn. The area changed hands many times over the next two days. Finally ending with the buildings getting burned down just before the Pickett - Petigrew - Trimble Charge.

William Bliss and his wife Adeline moved to Gettysburg from upstate New York in 1857. They had lost three of their five children and moved to the Pennsylvania area looking for better weather and farming. William was in his early sixties at the time. The original farm bought in 1857 from Alexander Cobean included 53 acres, William added another seven the next year. The Bliss family had a small house, bank style barn and an orchard. On the morning of the battle William, his wife and two daughters; Frances and Sara left the house quickly, leaving the “doors open, the table set, the beds were made” taking nothing with them.

On the morning of the 2nd of July the 1st Delaware Infantry was sent forward as part of a skirmish line set up around the Bliss Farm, with Colonel Andrew L Harris using it as his headquarters. The farm was about a half mile from the Union front line. Colonel Harris had to pull his troops back after a fight with Confederate General Carnot Posey’s brigade, as his men used up their ammo. The 12th New Jersey took the buildings along with about 80 prisoners, but they were also driven out. As the attack by the Confederates continued on the July 2nd the Bliss Farm compressed the Confederate line and this with the 8th Ohio’s flanking fire near the Emmitisburg Road stalled out the movement. Ending the fighting with the Confederates’ holding the ground on the Bliss Farm.

On the morning of the 3rd of July the 14th Connecticut and the 12th New Jersey were sent out to take the buildings in their front. The 14th which was able to occupied the Bliss house found themselves out flanked, and made a run for the barn which was then being held by the 12th New Jersey. As it became clearer to the Union commanders that these building would hard to hold onto, and that there was an action coming, Union Brigadier General Alexander Hays ordered, “the house and barn in our front, which interrupted the fire of our artillery, to be burned.”

William Bliss came back to find nothing left of his farm. He filed a claim for damages of $1,256.00. As the Government dragged its feet in paying on any claims, Mr. Bliss sold his holdings to Nicholas Codori in October 1865 for $1,000. The family moved to Jamestown, New York, were Mr. Bliss died in 1888, and his wife followed him in 1889. The United States government finally granted the family’s claim in 1902. There is a story that when William Bliss sold his farm to Mr. Codori he said, “Let it go. I would give twenty farms for such a victory.”