From Emmitsburg's Past
Battle of Gettysburg seen from Indian Look -
Sixty People with telescopes watch the this day’s fight
Published in the Emmitsburg Chronicle
March 25, 1976
My very dear friend:
I scarce feel this vacation passing by. It
seems to pass very quickly. However, this is owing perhaps to the
fact that we are kept in almost constant excitement: but the
immediate neighborhood is at present in a comparatively quiet
state. Occasionally we see a few troopers pass by, but this no
longer attracts any attention, except on one occasion when
Stuart’s Confederate Cavalry passed. The Army of the Potomac in
motion was truly a most beautiful sight. I believe it was even
grander than that presented by the "Blairsville Blues" and "Blacklic
Greys" in days gone by.
The Army came from Frederick City by the
Turnpike and Frederick Mudroads. On the latter most of the wagons,
ambulances, cannon etc came which by the way, were coming in from
early-dawn till night fall, and I do not know by what time of
night they all got in. They encamped around about Emmitsburg.
Their campfires as viewed from the college windows almost led one
to imagine that this section of country for miles around had
received in one shower all the stars of heavens.
We were visited here by single soldiers,
officers, groups etc to the amount of some thousands, some for the
purpose of seeing old friends and companions, as for example, Mr.
O’Leary, Maj. Anderson an old graduate of Mt. St. Mary’s and many
old students of this place whom, by the way all hold honorable
positions in the army. But most of the privates and many of the
officers visited the place to try of Miss Leo’s bread, butter, and
milk. Which I am pleased to say were dealt with a liberal hand.
I heard that the 11th Regulars in which I
believe the Blairsville Boys are passed, but it was to late that
evening to try to hunt up any of our old acquaintances. So the
next morning I put off to the camp through a heavy rain, and mud
half knee-deep, but before I reached the place they were parading,
making ready to march to Gettysburg, so I did not see any of our
old friends 0f Blairsville.
Whilst parading and marching out they
seemed to present one solid mass of human beings. Interrupted only
by Regiments and Brigades of horsemen. Whilst passing here on
their way to Gettysburg. French Bugles made our beautiful valley
resound with martial music. The country round here sustained
little or no damage from their marching through it. Except when
the owner was reported to be a rebel, and then pity that place!
Unfortunately, Mr. Jno Elder was reported such by some of his
malicious neighbors in consequence of which his place, he told me,
was almost destroyed. But perhaps you will say what I have already
said is of minor importance, and that I should spare some of that
talk for describing the battle of Gettysburg as seen by us from
Truly we are at that place (Indian
Lookout) almost the whole time during the three days battle. We
had plenty of glasses viz telescopes, spy, and opera glasses. We
had a clear view of the field and could see so as to make the men
in their lines, attending cannon, the cannon themselves, making
charges, officers riding along about their lines, and in a word
the whole scene was spread out to our view.
We could distinctly observe the changes in
the position of the armies: sometimes one army would slowly give
way, but seeming to dispute every inch of ground with as much
energy and determination as if the fate of the Nation depended on
its holding or yielding its position again rallying and driving
the foe headlong before it for some distance. When the retreating
body either reinforced some fresh troops or perhaps reinforced
with courage, the battle would become terrific.
On Friday, the 3rd day of battle the hours
of 2 o’clock and 5 p.m. it is said it was the hardest contest
witnessed during whole war. During that I watched it with intense
interest: but I need not to say I for there were 50 or 60 persons
present at Indian Lookout for which body all the members of the
college, except Fathers John McClosky and Xopie constituted a part
during which hours, some of the officers said afterwards they
never before witnessed such heavy cannonading.
Flames of fire and volumes of smoke
obstructed our view considerably. We have not gone to the
battlefield vet, but persons who have been there since the battle
say that it presents a most horrible spectacle. They say that some
two or three days after the fight dead bodies and the bodies of
wounded and dying were to be seen scattered over the field in
every direction, and that the stench for miles around is most
intolerable. The graves of some thousand are to be seen on the
field where they fell.
I am told that where they were not very
thickly spread on the ground they were pretty well buried. i.e..
There was enough of earth put on them to cover the entire bodies,
but where they fell four or five deep (as in many cases they did
before the batteries) the appearance of their graves inspired the
beholder with pity.
There are thousands of dollars worth of
guns. Wagons, ammunition, and equipage in general, daily carried
off by visitors to the field. This is allowed because whenever
such things are in the least injured they are rejected (e.g. the
guns injured by rust) by the Government. I suppose when you are
that far on your road back you will be sighting" ‘round to get
hold of something as a relic of the Great Federal victory gained
at Gettysburg, Pa. July 1863.
I think it would perhaps be prudent to
bring these few lines to a close, but before doing so, I will ask
you once more to write to me tell Mr. Kerr to do the same.
If you chance to see him there are
thirteen seminarians here yet of whom four expect to go out to
vacation soon and about twenty boys.
So then, wishing you all heavens choicest
graces and blessings, peace, health and happiness. I remain Dear
John, your friend till death.
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