This book is built around actual people who lived in Gettysburg, and who experienced the horrors of this battle. It is told through two different sets of characters, the primary characters and the secondary characters. The primary characters:
John Charles Will, Virginia (Ginnie) Wade, Tillie Pierce, Fannie Buehler, John L. Burns, Barbara Burns, Martha Gilbert, Elizabeth Butler, Samuel Butler, Elizabeth Salome (Sallie) Myers, Annie (Culp) Myers, Reverend Joseph Sherfy, John Wentz, Sallie Broadhead, Joseph Broadhead, and Professor Michael Jacobs.
The secondary characters, who compliment the primary characters:
Charles Will, Mary Wade, Samuel Wade, Daniel Skelly, James Pierce, Elizabeth and Jacob Gilbert, Francis Ogden, John Rose, John L. Tate, Mary Broadhead, and Henry Jacobs.
It also includes several soldiers, who were from Gettysburg, primarily John Wesley Culp, who enlisted in the Confederate Army and fought with the 2nd Virginia Infantry Regiment, part of the Stonewall Brigade; and Johnston (Jack) Hastings Skelly, Jr., who mustered into the 2nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Culp and Skelly were boyhood friends and shared many of the same friends while growing up in Gettysburg. Their exploits during the time covered by this book were intertwined.
The author has introduced several fictional characters to assist in the telling of this story. It should be understood that any similarities of these fictional characters to any real person is purely by coincidence.
The story is mainly told by the words and expressions of these characters. This is made possible by the imagination of the author, strengthened by the author’s research into each of them from the vast amount of information available concerning the battle and the people who lived it.
Many of the buildings and residences referenced in this book are well preserved. These places are available for viewing if the reader plans a visit to Gettysburg in the near, or distant, future.
John L. Burns
John L. Burns was 69 years old at the time of the battle, was a couple of inches over five feet tall, clean shaven, graying hair, thinning in the front and longer in the back. He commonly dressed in a white collared shirt, waist coat, and a brown coat, matching pants, and brown leather boots, with a distinctive top hat. Pictured at left in the fall of 1863, after the battle, he was recovering from three wounds he received while fighting with the Union forces on July 1, 1863. He became known as “The Hero of Gettysburg”, and gained such popularity that he accompanied President Abraham Lincoln, arm in arm, to church services the night before Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address.
Here is an excerpt from the book concerning Mr. Burns:
““Sir, this is Mr. John Burns. He wants to fight with us today. I have outfitted him with a rifle, cartridges, and given him an oath. He is ready.”
“Can he shoot?”
“Not sure. Let’s find out. Mr. Burns, you see that Reb riding yonder mounted on a gray horse? Looks like he is having trouble with it and it is bringing him within range. See if you can hit him.”
Burns aimed the rifle and then shot at the Rebel, who was bounced from the saddle. The horse continued and rode through the Union lines rider less. The men cheered.
“Well, Mr. Burns, it seems as you can shoot after all. Welcome to the Iron Brigade. Now, take a position and get ready as the Rebels will be coming.”
About a minute later, Rood yelled:
“Alright, steady boys. Here they come!””
John Wesley (Wes) Culp
John Wesley (Wes) Culp was a private in the Army of Northern Virginia. He enlisted into the 2nd Virginia Regiment in April of 1861 along with his two best friends, William Arthur and Benjamin S. (B.S.) Pendleton, in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. The 2nd was attached to the famous Stonewall Brigade. Culp was a short man, standing just over five feet, was 24 years old at the time of the battle, had brown hair, relatively long as it covered his ears, a long beard that hugged his jaw line, and brown eyes. He had a big smile, was confident in himself, and was an individualist, as he showed by enlisting in the Confederate Army, yet his birthplace and his home until five years ago was Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Here is an excerpt from the book concerning Mr. Culp:
“The Confederates attacked around noon with a full measure of the Rebel Yell. Culp advanced and began firing his rifle at the Yankee forces, and while doing so, strained to see his targets before discharging his rifle. From this range, it was hard to make out any of the faces of the enemy, and the field had begun to fill with smoke from the shots. The Rebel’s shot was fairly deadly, punching holes in the Federal line, and then the Yankees began to give ground. Culp raised his rifle to fire his next shot and then he looked harder at his next target, an officer giving orders, which stirred a familiar memory. He could see a familiar face, or what he thought was familiar. His vision was always good from a long distance. He thought: “Could it be brother William?”
His finger began to squeeze the trigger, but the emotions of the moment overtook him. His vision blurred and the surroundings began to spin. He lowered his rifle, focused his eyesight on the ground, and wiped his brow with his sleeve. He then raised his rifle again. He focused on the officer again, and saw William again, who was firing his pistol at his general area. He hesitated, and then looked closer after the smoke had risen and broken up enough for him to see the Federals more clearly. It was William alright, but now William was looking at him. At that moment, the recognition of the brothers was complete. William looked at him with a soft look of an older brother. But, that expression quickly changed to a look of rage. William loaded his pistol and then fired right at him. The bullet missed high, Culp judged. He raised his rifle, but hesitated again. He lowered his rifle, and looked over at William. Just then the Yankees gave ground and William looked as if he was ordering his men to retreat. He then turned around with a scowl and then made off with the Federals. Culp raised his rifle and fired in a different direction, not that which William had occupied or where he was going. Culp was relieved the moment passed, but was stunned by the fact that William was actually over there. And, William clearly didn’t have any reservations about killing him. This was not going to go away, not during this battle. The sins of joining the Rebel army were coming around, right at him in the form of his brother. And, payment for those sins maybe dying at the hands of his brother, or even worse, having to kill him.
“My God, what have I done?” he thought.
Mary Virginia (Ginnie) Wade
Ginnie Wade was 20 years old at the time of the battle. She was of average height, with brown hair, parted in the middle with the back of her hair braided and pinned up to the back of her head. She routinely dressed in a flat skirt, looped for walking, and a high neckline shirt with a white collar, tightly pinned at the neck with a large brooch. Her life was cut short by the battle as she was the only civilian to die in the Battle of Gettysburg. She gained much popularity after her death as a martyr and became known as “The Angel of Gettysburg”. It is thought by many that she was to be engaged to Johnston (Jack) Skelly, as Skelly penned a letter of proposal to her, and gave this letter to Wes Culp to deliver to Ginnie. The letter was never delivered.
Here is an excerpt from the book concerning Ms. Wade:
“Ginnie was offering a cup of water to a soldier and he was reaching for it when she heard a thump and then she felt the cup fly out of her hand with a sting. She was startled and then she saw the soldier fall right at her feet. She put her hands up to her face and screamed. This was heard by a group of soldiers, who at once came over to her.
“What’s wrong Miss?”
By now she was crying, and she said pointing at the man who was shot:
“He was shot right in front of me, and they, they shot my cup out of my hand.”
“What? They shot the cup from your hand?”
“Yes, it was awful.”
“Miss, we need to get you inside. Can you walk over to the door with us please?”
They surrounded here to shield her from the shooters and then walked her to the door. One of them knocked and when the door was opened by Mary Wade, said:
“Ma’am, please don’t let her outside again until this is decided. Please keep her safe, as she is a very brave and she is very important to us for what she, and you, have done. I am Sergeant Laurence Cook of the 94th New York Infantry. Please remember me. And, you are?”
“I am Mary Wade, Sergeant and this is my daughter, Miss Ginnie Wade.”
“Miss Wade, you and your daughter have done a tremendous kindness to us and the only thing we can do to repay you is to get them Rebs who shot at her. This we will do. Now, please close the door and stay safe inside. We will be outside protecting the house.””
Johnston (Jack Skelly)
Jack Skelly was 22 years old at the time of the battle, was average height, about five feet six inches tall, medium build, had light brown hair, usually parted on the right side of his head, which was trimmed just above his ears, light brown eyes, and a thin mustache extending just to the corners of his mouth. He had enlisted, just after the beginning of hostilities with the Southern states at Fort Sumter, in April, 1861. He and his close friends Billy Holtzworth and William T. Ziegler enlisted together. They were originally assigned to the 2nd Pennsylvania with whom they fought in the first battle of Bull Run in July 1861. Later, many men in the 2nd Pennsylvania enlisted in a new regiment, which became the 87th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and so when their enlistment expired, Skelly and his friends decided to re-enlist into the 87th.
As mentioned about Ginnie Wade, it is thought by many that she was to be engaged to Jack Skelly, as Skelly penned a letter of proposal to her, and gave this letter to Wes Culp to deliver to Ginnie.
Here is an excerpt from the book about Skelly:
“Skelly went to the window, moved the curtain, looked outside, and saw that the sky was clear and the sun was beginning to make its presence known.
“The rain has stopped and it looks like it is going to be a warm day”, Skelly said.
“I need to find Lieutenant Culp, to see what our orders are. And, to get some coffee. Stay here until I return”, Holtzworth said.
He moved toward the door, opened it and left the store. It wasn’t more than a couple of seconds, when Skelly and Ziegler heard a rifle shot. They rushed to the door and saw Holtzworth running back to the door, holding his hat to his head as he ran. They quickly opened the door and Holtzworth rushed in, slamming the door behind him.
“They have positioned sharpshooters at the buildings on the south edge of town. I was lucky they missed. I was on my way over to the Taylor Hotel, when the first shot was fired. It hit one of our men right on the steps of the hotel. He might be dead. I made it back here as fast as I could.”
Holtzworth was breathing heavily and then ordered:
“Men, we need to flush ’em out or we won’t be able to repel the attack on the town. Load your weapons, and let’s go get them Rebs.”
The men loaded their rifles and all of them nodded they were ready. Holtzworth ordered:
“They’re on the upper floors on both sides of the street. Open the door slowly, then quickly go out and form a line. Once there, give it to ’em. Corporal Skelly, pick six men to go out first. Three of you fire at the buildings on the other side of the street and three on this side.”
“I want five volunteers”, Skelly said.
“Corporal, I said six”, Holtzworth reminded.
“I’m going too.”
Once the five volunteers came forward, Skelly went over to the door, turned the knob and pushed it open slowly. Once it was all the way open, Skelly said:
“Men, let’s go, now.”
They rushed out into the street, formed a line and aimed their rifles. Single shots came at them from each side of the road. The shots all missed the six. Knowing where the shots came from, they aimed their rifles and all shot in unison. Skelly hesitated as the other shots were fired. He did this purposely while waiting for his target to show. He saw a ruffle of the curtain on the window and then a shadow. He fired.”
Sarah (Sallie) M. Broadhead was about thirty at the time of the battle, was routinely dressed elegantly, wearing a narrow, flat skirt, looped for walking, and a high neckline shirt with a white collar, tightly pinned at the neck with a large brooch. Sallie gained much notoriety by keeping a journal before, during, and after the battle. She and her husband Joseph had a daughter named Mary, who was four years old when the battle occurred. Mary was the joy of both Sallie and her husband.
Here is an excerpt from the book about Ms. Broadhead and her family:
“SARAH (SALLIE) M. BROADHEAD awoke early as her four year old daughter Mary came into her room she shared with her husband Joseph. Mary climbed into bed and snuggled up next to her. Sallie marveled at the girl as she loved her with all her heart. She said:
“My, you are certainly up early this morning, little one. Are you feeling well?”
“Yes, Mama. I had a bad dream and it scared me.”
“What scared my precious little Mary?”
“Mama, I dreamed that dirty, bad men had come to our town, a whole lot of them. And, they were coming into our house.”
“Oh, my sweet little Mary, now don’t you fret. We are safe here in this house, and no one is here but your Papa and me.”
Joseph was slowly waking up, but when he heard about Mary’s dream, he was now at attention, and chimed in:
“Your Mama’s right, little one. We won’t let anyone come into our house and we sure won’t let anyone scare our Mary. You will always be safe with us.”
“Morning, Papa. I hope I didn’t wake you. You need your rest for work.”
“Morning, my little love. No, I need to rise now, so I am glad you were here to wake me. Do you feel better now about that dream?”
Mary smiled brightly at both her parents, saying:
Elizabeth Salome (Sallie) Myers
Elizabeth Salome Myers was 21 years old during the time of the battle, had dark hair and brown eyes. She was a little over five feet tall, slender, and she routinely dressed in a flat skirt, looped for walking, and a high neckline shirt with a white collar, tightly pinned at the neck with a large brooch. Sallie began the battle as a normal young lady living in Gettysburg and ended, after the infamous three days, as a fearless, tireless, and very comforting care giver.
She continued this care giving long after the battle, and instilled this into her only son, who became a very important doctor in Gettysburg in the latter part of the 19th Century.
Here is an excerpt from the book about Ms. Myers:
““Sallie, I sure appreciate the work you and your family are doing. I really do, but it is not enough. I need you to come to the church and tend to the men.”
“Doctor, what so ever do you mean tend to the men?”
“You know what I mean. You have taken care of a sick person before, comforted them, gotten them nourishment, or whatever their needs were. There are just too many of them and I need all the help I can get.”
Sallie, in the worst way, was afraid of this request. She couldn’t spend much time in the church before as it was full of wounded men and she was not able to handle the sight of blood, and now she was being asked to spend a lot of time there. A chill went up her spine and her face became pale. This was noticed by the doctor, who put his arm around her and said:
“Sallie, I know you are scared, but they are more so, after all they are fighting to stay alive. Whatever comfort you can give them will be enough. I am desperate.”
She thought about saying no, but the word wouldn’t come out. God wouldn’t let her. Instead, she found herself saying she would go and do what she could.
“That’s the spirit. Now you go in and tell your family you will be helping us at the church and then come as soon as you can. I mean as soon as you can”, he said emphasizing soon.
Sallie went into her house and told Annie her sister-in-law, who was visiting, what she was doing. Annie said:
“You are the bravest, Sallie, and you can do this. If not, God would not be asking you to.”
Within ten minutes, Sallie left her house and walked to the church knowing she was doing something that frightened her. It was not just facing the suffering men, but it was the fact she had no idea what to do once she got there. She had no training in nursing, so what could she to do? As she walked, she asked God for courage, and for wisdom, and upon finishing this prayer, she climbed the steps and entered the church. She had done this several times already this morning bringing fresh bandages, and avoided looking at the men, but now she had to look. And, the view was even more terrifying. She wasn’t more than five feet inside the church when she saw a young soldier by himself. He looked pale and had bloody cloths wrapped around his upper chest. He was struggling to breathe and what breath he could garner was in very short and unsteady intervals. She decided he would be the first soldier she would help. She cautiously walked over to him and then bent down to get closer to him. He noticed her, turned his head, and then looked deep into her eyes. This startled her, and so all she could muster was:
“What can I do for you?”
He took a deep breath and said with as much energy as he could afford:
“Nothing, ma’am, I am going to die.””
Matilda (Tillie) Pierce was 16 years old at the time of the battle. She gained notoriety by penning a book about her experiences during the battle, which included care giving to wounded soldiers on her neighbor’s father’s farm, the Weikert’s, s located just east of Little Round Top. The farm was used as a field hospital and received many wounded Union soldiers, mainly on the first two days of the conflict.
Here is an excerpt from the book about Ms. Pierce:
“Tillie dove right in and made quick work of slicing bread and bringing it the soldiers. She took some slices down to the basement and passed them out. It was then that a soldier sitting in the corner of the room holding a candle called out to her:
“Young lady, could I have a bite of bread for myself and my friend here?”
Tillie walked over to him and knelt down, saying she passed out the last of the slices right before he beckoned her:
“Why, I would be glad to get you some. Please wait whilst I fetch it.”
She went up the stairs and into the kitchen, got two slices of bread, and then hurried back into the basement. She found the soldier waiting. She gave a piece to him. He took it and he thanked her, eating it hungrily.
“Have you brought some for my friend, here?”
Tillie handed the bread to the other soldier without a word.
The first soldier said:
“You are a very kind and generous young lady. Could I ask you for a favor?”
“Yes, anything I can do to help.”
“Will you watch my friend for a spell, whilst I look in on another of our unit, who is upstairs?”
“I would be glad to.”
The first soldier got up, gave her his candle, then left, and so Tillie settled onto the floor he vacated. She looked over at the soldier, who hadn’t spoken yet.
“May I get you some water?”
“Yes, that would be fine, iffen it’s not too much trouble for you?”
“No trouble a’tall. Be right back.”
She returned a moment later and gave the soldier a drink from a cup. He drank what he could and then laid his head back down.
“Are you hurt bad?” she asked.
“I am afraid I am, and I don’t know if I will live.”
“Nonsense, you will live. You mustn’t lose hope on that.”
“What is your name, deary?”
“Matilda, well Tillie, Pierce. What is yours?”
“Weed, I am from New York.”
“I am pleased to meet you Mr. Weed. Can I get you anything to make you more comfortable?”
“Tillie could you wipe my forehead and get me a blanket? I am so cold.””
Professor Michael Jacobs
Professor Michael Jacobs was the professor of Mathematics, Chemistry, and Natural Philosophy at Pennsylvania College, in Gettysburg. He was 55 years old at the time of the battle, was average height, with light brown hair and light brown eyes. His hairline was receding, and his hair was cut just above his ears, which he parted it on the left side of his head. He had ears that stuck out from his head more than average, a strong nose, and a beard on his cheeks, but was clean shaven above his mouth and his chin. He routinely wore a warm smile.
He gained notoriety by writing a book, based upon the notes he took of his observations during the three day conflict. Professor Jacobs claimed he was able to watch the battle from his attic of his house, thereby giving him a birds-eye view of the fight.
Proceeding Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Mr. Edward Everett gave a speech at the dedication of the National Cemetery where Mr. Everett referred to Jacobs’ work as important for him in writing his oratory.
Here is an excerpt from the book about Professor Jacobs:
“Jacobs was on the telescope as the troops began to arrive and were sent to the lines for reinforcement. He noticed Reynolds and his staff directing the movement of the men to the battle line. Then, he saw Reynolds separate from his staff and ride to the Seminary. Burns was not far behind.
Several minutes later, he saw Reynolds return from the Seminary and then ride with the men being deployed on the Union left flank this side of the trees making up McPherson’s Woods. Jacobs was intrigued by Reynolds, and judged him as a perfect example of an officer, tall in the saddle and very much in command. He watched him for awhile, giving orders to set his men in place to strengthen the Union left.
“Henry, General Reynolds sure makes a magnificent site. He is very calm, yet in control.”
As he was watching him, marveling at the very presence he was displaying in the midst of the chaos of the battle, Reynolds was knocked off his horse. Jacobs suddenly couldn’t breathe.
“My God, no,” he said in a barely audible voice. He continued:
“Father, what’s wrong?”
“They shot General Reynolds. He’s gone.”
“Are you sure he’s dead.”
“It looks so. His staff is around him now, but he doesn’t seem to be moving at all.”
“Maybe, they aren’t moving him until his surgeon arrives?”
“Henry, he is gone…”
Jacobs stopped looking through the telescope and sat down on one of the chairs he brought up to the attic. For several minutes, the two men didn’t speak. Henry broke the silence:
“Father, is there anything I can do for you?”
“No, son. We are up here, safe in our attic, whilst those brave men are dying out there to protect us and our town. You must remember what you see today, but mostly remember those boys out there who will die today. Say a prayer for them…”, he said as his voice trailed off.””