How to Explore Gettysburg's Secret Stories
When 93rd Pennsylvania veterans put up their monument in October 1888 along the John T. Weikert farm lane, masons leveled a boulder previously used for the 93rd’s smaller 1884 monument. The rubble from that renovation is nearby, complete with remnants of carving. (Photo by Melissa A. Winn)

How to Explore Gettysburg’s Secret Stories

October 2019 • Civil War Times

Get off the tourist path and appreciate hidden spots that illuminate America’s most significant battle

Thousands of visitors
flock to Gettysburg National Military Park
every year, drawn to the rolling fields and rocky hillsides where the harrowing three-day Battle of Gettysburg transpired July 1-3, 1863. Naturally, travelers feel compelled to visit many of the dozens of iconic structures, monuments, and battlefield positions made recognizable in popular retellings of the engagement, such as the movie Gettysburg or Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels. Crowds are always present at Little Round Top, the High-Water Mark, and Devil’s Den. But for every 20th Maine monument or Virginia Memorial, there are myriad overlooked hidden gems on the battlefield, representing neglected stories of heroism or quirky tales of lesser-known history—such as the Vermont officer who barreled into Pickett’s Charge with a camp ax. Ever pay your respects to the John Page Nicholson monument? Where did the Iron Brigade end up after its bloodbath on July 1? Also, dinosaurs once roamed central Pennsylvania, and there is evidence of them on the battlefield if you know where to look. You can also leave the battlefield proper and see a picturesque covered bridge that both armies used. So, if dense crowds and diesel fumes are disturbing your time on Little Round Top, here are some other options. Not every hidden or overlooked spot on the battlefield is listed, but the locations that follow are worth your time to seek out, whether it’s your first, second, or third day to visit. –Dana B. Shoaf

The 9th Massachusetts Battery nicknamed its cannons after some of the wives left behind at home. A vestige of that practice remains on one of the Napoleon cannons at the battery’s Trostle Farm monument. Go behind the guns, and you’ll find the name “Cora” in weathered paint on a breech. (Photo by Melissa A. Winn)

Iron Brigade monument at Culp’s Hill. (Photo by Melissa A Winn)

Bent Iron

The famous Iron Brigade suffered a staggering 1,153 casualties during fighting on July 1. The Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan regiments

were later moved to a “quiet” area on Culp’s Hill, where small monuments and restored earthworks mark their line. From that location, battered but not broken, they fired at Confederates attacking Cemetery Hill on the evening of July 2. “Dident we give them hell,” wrote Captain Henry Young of the 7th Wisconsin.

Tribute to Sallie the pit bull terrier, mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania. (Photo by Melissa A. Winn.

Loyal Pittie

Regimental mascot Sallie the Dog forever rests on the 11th Pennsylvania monument along Doubleday Avenue on Oak Hill, facing the fields over which Confederates attacked her regiment. The pit bull terrier reportedly barked ferociously during the fight. She died during an 1864 battle.

Ax Man

Lieutenant Stephen Brown and his ax. (Photo by Melissa A Winn)

 

Lieutenant Stephen Brown of the 13th Vermont had to turn in his sidearms before the battle when he was disciplined for disobeying orders. He carried a camp ax during Pickett’s Charge, and the unusual weapon can be seen lying at his feet on his bronze monument along Hancock Avenue on Cemetery Ridge.

Calling Card

A cannonball remains in the Schmucker House on the grounds of the Lutheran Theological Seminary on Seminary Ridge. Look under the porch roof on the south side of the house. A Confederate battery blasted the shot that hit the home on July 1.

Park at the pink granite 43rd North Carolina monument along East Confederate Avenue at the base of Culp’s Hill, and walk through the woods back to Rock Creek. You’ll find the remnants of an old park boundary fence and a bucolic scene at the location where troops of Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson’s Division crossed during their attacks on Culp’s Hill. (Photo by Melissa A. Winn)

Dinosaur tracks can be found on the capstone of the Plum Run branch bridge on South Confederate Avenue. On the south side, they are on the sixth stone from right as you face south, and on the north side, they are on the fifth stone from the right as you face that direction. (Photo by Melissa A. Winn

Veteran in Charge

John Page Nicholson fought on Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg as a lieutenant in the 28th Pennsylvania. After the war, he became active in veterans’ affairs and later served as the chairman of Gettysburg National Military Park from 1893-1922, overseeing increases in battlefield acreage and monumentation. He is also responsible for the Pennsylvania at Gettysburg series of books familiar to many researchers. Stop by and pay your respects to him at his monument along Hancock Avenue near Ziegler’s Grove. 

Comments are closed.