One Young Man's View of the
Battle of Gettsyburg
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by Frank Shortt
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On June 30, 1863, Gen. John Buford of the U.S. Army rode into the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
with Capt. Myles Keogh by his side. Very soon, Gen. Buford realized that he was facing a huge contingent of Rebel Forces to his front
and he began preparing a defense against the Confederatesí advance. He was very aware of the importance of holding the tactically
positioned high ground about Gettysburg, and so he did. This began one of the most decisive battles in American Military history.
His very well-planned intelligent defensive troop alignment coupled with the bravery of his men, all dismounted cavalry, allowed the
First Corps, under Gen. John F. Reynolds, time to advance and help hold the strategic position that Buford had held. In Spite of Leeís
heavy barrage with 140 cannons, and a huge infantry attack on the third day of fighting, the Union army won a very significant victory.
John Buford was not a grandstander, so he did not receive the credit he deserved for his strategies and foresight in this important
battle. Myles Keogh was promoted to Major and was later killed at the battle of the Little Big Horn! John Buford died, of possible
typhoid, at 2p.m. Dec. 16, 1863 in the arms of Myles Keogh, his aide. Buford was only 37 years of age.
27, 1863: My name is Andrew Siegler, only one member of Bufordís Cavalry Corp., First Division. We have followed an army from Blue
Ridge since this morning. I know fur shure that it is Confederate. Everything is looking good. I enjoy the scenery!
Thus begins the diary of a young man dealing with the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. This blank diary was given
to the young man by his mother and father and the heading reads: ďTo Andrew, for your journey through the war, so we can read about
it.Ē-Ma and Pa, 1863.
June 28, 1863: We were almost spotted by the (other) army today. I think
that Lee is leading that army. It is a very pretty day today but there is talk of a battle happening soon! Iím worried!
June 31, 1863: Iíve been so busy the past two days that I havenít had enuff time to write in my diary. We had orders today to go straight
to Gettysburg. On the way there the Confederates saw us and stopped ded in their tracks! We are going to wait here at Gettysburg until
the South attack us. As soon as we got to Gettysburg, we had to run off and fire at an approaching brigade! They fled and we reported
back to our division. Itís very hot today. I have to go set up camp now.
July 1, 1863: I woke
up to a big BANG! this morning! All hell was breaking loose (spelled lose) around me. Our whole division was running to McPherson
Ridge to fight the Confederates! We did not have any aid, so far, and we almost go blown to smitherines. (His spelling) My friend
Joe got shot and killed today at the battle when two brigades came and charged down the hill at us. But we stood our ground, firing
quickly, knocking down those rebels like they were target practice. Late in the morning we were relieved by a Federal Infantry, but
as soon as ? (probably one) got close to the front line, he was shot and killed. But then one of our brigades captured Archer, a Rebel
brigade leader. We also captured more than 300 men this morning. Archer is the first General the Union has taken since Lee took command
of the South. By mid-afternoon we had to scramble to Cemetery Hill because we could not fight off the mass of men coming at us on
McPherson Ridge! Rumor has it that we have lost more than one-half of our men in the first day of battle. Late this afternoon, I took
a shot at one of the Southern leaders, Ewell. Alas, I hit him in his wooden leg.
Now, we have
huge reinforcements on the hills around us so the outlook is good. Yesterdayís beautiful scenery has started to become wasteland due
to the battling. I thought of Rosie today. I canít wait to get home so I can ask her hand in marriage. I feel down for her sister
Mary because she was to marry my friend who was shot earlier this morning!
July 2, 1863: On Benners
Hill, a group of Confederates fired at us, but we picked them off, most of them, and also their leader. At the same time, Ewell had
his men charge at us but they were only partly successful. Then, a huge mass of men charged at us where we were stationed. They were
so close to us that I only had time to fire 3 shots. Most of the time, I was throwing rocks, and hitting Rebels with the handle of
my rifle. I captured one man, heís sleeping right now. There was another man. I clubbed him in the face right before he died. He had
this look of complete fear, as he had every right to be afraid! The question to ask is, did I have the right to take his life along
with several otherís lives? Iím tired! Iíve fought from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. I think Iíll feed the raccoon by my tent!
July 3, 1863:
We have been given orders to go to the southern tip of Cemetery Ridge! When we got there 15,000 Rebels were charging at us. We were
firing up a frenzy! The Confederates started to diminish but they kept on coming! When they got close they started falling like flies.
They had four leaders, one dead, one down, one advancing, and one retreating. The advancing one had about 200 men with him and he
was at the wall. He yelled out some command but I couldnít make it out. He started climbing the wall and I picked him off right in
the face. Guns were going off like crazy! It was confusing!
July 4, 1863: We are celebrating
two things. One, the fighting is over. We won! The other, is that it is the 4th of July! Weíve been taking the extra gunpowder and
weíll have fireworks tonight!
The Battle was over and with it, almost 8000 casualties, north
and south. This does not account for those who died of other causes or later on from wounds incurred in the decisive battle.