I recently returned from a trip to Pennsylvania and on my way back I stopped by both the Gettysburg and Antietam battlefields. I’ll share more about my Antietam visit in a later post; it’s unrelated to the 11th Corps, but still makes for an interesting Civil War post or two. My Gettysburg visit has provided blog fodder to last a few posts.
Today’s post is about Gettysburg and the 41st New York Infantry. I’ve blogged about the 41st New York already, but it’s good to turn away from history texts and official records and survey the actual fields of battle when one gets a chance to do so.
One of my goals during this visit was to walk a part of the Gettysburg battlefield I had never walked before – Wainwright Avenue, which is at the eastern edge of East Cemetery Hill and just off (but not part of) the auto tour route. The best place to park was at the gravel pull-out for Auto Stop 14, which is designated East Cemetery Hill. Actually, one is parking at Stevens Knoll but I doubt that most tourists would notice that minor discrepancy. In any case, there is a good view of East Cemetery Hill and the fields the Confederates had to cross to reach the 11th Corps Federal positions along Brickyard Lane. Wainwright Avenue closely parallels the original Brickyard Lane.
I have included a few photographs of the geography in this area. Seeing a battlefield adds quite a bit to one’s understanding of what happened so long ago. Here is a view from Auto Stop 14 on Stevens Knoll looking towards East Cemetery Hill. The auto tour road is on the left going to the center of the photograph; Wainwright Avenue goes from the center to the right.
Here is a view from Auto Stop 14 looking north towards Gettysburg. This is the field crossed by Avery’s Confederates as they advanced on the 11th Corps at Brickyard Lane.
Here is a view of East Cemetery Hill and part of the field. The Evergreen Cemetery gate is at the top left. Wainwright Avenue is in the left center with East Cemetery Hill rising behind it. Looking at the field on the right, one can notice that it is definitely not flat. I think the best description would be “swales”. This must have been difficult land on which to keep the Confederate lines in any order to ensure success.
Here is the monument to the 41st New York Infantry. It is located on Wainwright Avenue at the base of East Cemetery Hill. The cemetery gatehouse is visible in the background and one gets a sense of the rising land that was behind the Federal lines.
Finally, here is a view looking east from the 41st New York’s monument toward the Confederate advance. Again notice the swales of land. I think that the photographs do not do justice to the geography and one must see these swales to appreciate what the Confederates faced during their advance.
In my previous post I briefly described the action that took place here on the evening of July 2, 1863, from the viewpoint of the 41st New York. For additional information, I recommend Coddington’s The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command for a brief description that focuses on the fight for the artillery batteries (which I will cover in a later post) as well as Harry Pfanz’s book on East Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill for many details on this area of the battlefield. Coddington paints General Howard as extremely cautious after this fight (which is a fair statement) and provides brief but complete analysis on why the fight ended as it did with the Confederates withdrawing. It’s been years since I read Pfanz and I remember being not too satisfied with the maps while the text was good. I came away from Pfanz believing that the battle was won (or lost, depending on one’s point of view) on the slopes of both Culp’s Hill and East Cemetery Hill.
I’d also recommend for quick reading John Archer’s East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg for excellent analysis, a driving/walking tour, as well as good maps and photographs. This is a Thomas Publications book and I’ve been happy with every one of their books that I have purchased.