Friday 25 October 2013

Gettysburg: It All Started Over a Pair of Shoes

The sleepy town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania would be awakened by the biggest and bloodiest battle of the American Civil War on July 1, 1863.  Here are ten facts you may not know about this historic conflict.

1.  The Battle of Gettysburg started over shoes.  The Confederate Army was low on shoes as all the shoe factories were in the north.  They travelled to Gettysburg intent on raiding its shoe factory.


Shoes courtesy

2.  The oldest soldier to ever fight in the Civil War was Gettysburg resident John L. Burns, a former soldier who heard the rumble of war and decided to volunteer.  He grabbed his 18th Century flintock rifle, which he later traded for a more modern type, and ran into battle.  Wounded, he was left by the retreating Northern troops.  When the Confederate soldiers found him, he lied saying that he was a civilian and they let him go.


John L. Burns courtesy

3.  Confederate leader Robert E. Lee had a heart attack the night before the battle.  Historians explain that his ill health might have been the reason for his decision to execute "Pickett's Charge", a suicidal battle which led to the South's defeat.

Robert E. Lee courtesy

4.  George Custer intercepted a Confederate Unit that was intent on sneaking behind the northern supply line.  He would go down in history as a hero.


George Custer courtesy

5.  More horses (3000) were killed in the Battle of Gettysburg than there were residents of the town (2000).  A huge bonfire was lit to destroy their corpses and the stench made the townspeople violently ill.

Horses felled on Gettysburg battlefield courtesy

6.  President Abraham Lincoln was sick with smallpox during his historic Gettysburg Address.

Gettysburg Address

President Lincoln courtesy

7.  The Chicago Times called Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address ("Four score and seven years ago...") a bunch of "silly dishwatery utterances".  At only 247 words, many seemed to agree.  However, it wasn't the quantity of words that mattered but the quality.  History has been kind to Lincoln's speech.

Gettysburg Address courtesy

8.  The Battle of Gettysburg was the largest battle of the Civil War with 85000 Union troops and 75000 Confederate troops.

Gettysburg Battle courtesy

9.  The Confederate wagon of the wounded was 17 miles long.  While travelling back to Virginia, the wagon was stopped by the flooded waters of the Potomac.  Another battle ensued with Northern Troops called "The Wagoners' Fight".  

Plaque dedicated to Wagoners' Fight courtesy

10.  Gettysburg was littered with lead by the end of the three-day conflict.  Of the 37,500 rifles recovered, 24,000 were still loaded.  Civilians were promised 13 cents a pound for any lead that they could gather and return to the Army.  One young boy was killed when he tried to open an unexploded shell; from then on, the monetary reward was only offered to Americans 18 and over.


Petersburg, Virginia Row of Stacked Federal Rifles
After the Battle of Gettysburg, the discarded rifles were collected and sent to Washington to be inspected and reissued.
 Of the 37,574 rifles recovered, approximately 24,000 were still loaded; 6,000 had one round in the barrel; 12,000 had two rounds in the barrel; 6,000 had three to ten rounds in the barrel. One rifle, the most remarkable of all, had been stuffed to the top with twenty-three rounds in the barrel.

Civil War rifles courtesy


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