Dr. J.W.C. O'Neal, Gettysburg's Virginian

JPK Huson 1863

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elliot map peach orchard.JPG

When S.G. Elliot et al created what we know now as ' The Elliot Map ', the team did not merely wander the battlefield haphazardly bumping into graves. Talk about futile. They had help from sources who knew where to find them. A local doctor had already marked 600 Confederate graves. What looks like rows of corn in this Peach Orchard section? Graves.

There will be a lack of information in this thread, so sorry! It's tough finding good information or at least pick through conflicting. Better lacking than misinformation. Including what seems most accurate over 2 days. It's a longish kind of story.

" The Gettysburg Dead " has a thread here, how men were brought home to the South after years spent buried on the battlefield. Spent a lot of time picking through accounts- The Weavers, father and son did wonderful work both marking Confederate graves and ( Weaver, junior ) exhuming them. Seems crazy not to have run into Dr. O'Neal.
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/th...-widows-and-orphans-1872.124777/#post-1336480

doc pic.jpg

Dr. O'Neal, judging by clothing around the time of the war, from yet another archived book. How many civilians rode a distance with Pettigrew? At least one.

In 1905 a Gettysburg paper printed an account by Dr. J.W.C. O'Neal of his battle. He'd come to Gettysburg in April, 1863, an unfortunate time to take up residence in Gettysburg, PA. He makes a statement about not being very popular but since he was the doctor for prisoners and almshouse residents, wrote this off as someone who was perhaps considered a curmudgeon. Kind people attend the unfortunate. His 1905 account does seem to soften the edges, where loyalty was concerned.

Talk about a bag of worms. Gee whiz. Transpires Dr. J.W.C. O'Neal was an unabashed Southern sympathizer who made no secret of supporting his home state, Virginia and the ' cause '. Can't tell if he was pro-slavery, seems likely. Stories vary in 2018. His story of the battle included meeting Pettigrew ( and a good chunk of the army ) while out seeing a patient, riding under their protection, being questioned and released as a member of the medical profession. His personal account names no one, others did. There seems to be a suspicion he willingly er, helped show them a few things.

Since John William Crapster O’Neal practiced in town until his death in 1913, that was a long time to be unpopular. The thing is, he attended wounded from both sides then was considered disloyal for marking 600 Confederate graves. IMO, after death a soldier is someone's son, brother, father or husband. Also IMO, seems pretty normal someone born in Virginia would be likely to take an interest in Southern soldiers as men- not enemies. You can find articles now insisting O'Neal had a part in ' The Gettysburg Dead ' only because he was pro-South. Not sure that fits. 600 Confederate graves does not a traitor make. I'm a little soft on the subject though. The human side of the war gets to me, families missing men North and South part of that. Four Union men in our family are buried hundreds of miles from home, as Unknowns or in unmarked graves. Pretty sure asphalt is over one. Family mourned them.

conf dead gb va1.JPG

From O'Neal's home state, composed for the ceremony dedicated to men Weaver and O'Neal helped send home. It got political, but the ceremony was a tragic homecoming to families.

Samuel and Rufus Weaver escaped the accusation, marking and exhuming Southern men. Yes, Dr. Rufus was paid albeit not much. Money wasn't there. Will have to include information over days because O'Neal was an interesting guy. Unpaid, he receives no kudos for compassion- it's always tough discovering someone was not all bad or allll good. Most of us are a good mix, hopefully able to balance the scales before it's over.

June 1866, O’Neal published names and burial locations of 600 Confederates in the Gettysburg Compiler,. It was the impetus for relief groups in the South to begin raising money to bring men home. It's part of the story of T'he Gettysburg Dead', and an important part. This isn't pro-anything on my part- have always been irked by men motivated by tourist dollars ignoring Confederate graves. Hotels were built, reunions planned, relics sold while tourist unknowingly were escorted over unfinished tragedy.

More, later. These long stories can be convoluted, little hard to relate without making a confusing mess.
 

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JPK Huson 1863

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O'Neal has been accused of marking Confederate graves only because he was a Virginian. Seems a stretch. There were other civilians who were concerned Confederate dead were neglected, not because they were Southern sympathizers. Gettysburg civilians lived inside an unspeakable, bloody shambles composed of blasted, wounded men. Have yet to read where one looked on wounded as the enemy ( a nurse here and there was snarky ). Tom Elmore's recent thread is an excellent snapshot of how accepted was the Confederate precence and heck, the Baylye family adopted their young Confederate ' son ' who showed up asking to please come in out of the war. The town was also rapidly ' taken away ' from those who lived there and endured the battle- projects for a Confederate cemetery were ignored . That wasn't really as patriotically Union as it was pro-tourism.


“.....a place to be set apart for the burial of the Confederate dead who are now buried promiscuously over the battlefield.” “Common humanity” should dictate that a place be set aside “where Southern friends may, when the rebellion is crushed…make their pilgrimage here.” 1864 Adams County newspaper


Dr. O'Neal ( is said to have ) marked Confederate graves as he made rounds, listing regiments, names, etc. when found. He'd spent July 2nd and 3rd working at the usual hospital set up at the Almshouse, like all buildings in town filled with wounded of both armies. Like most civilians, he scoured the battlefield for wounded. He may have been a new resident but as a Pennsylvania College grad knew it as well as anyone.

His account of the battle, years later can be baffling. He seems to have been horseback on Mummasburg Road seeing a patient, as early as June 30th ( an " over marched Confederate " on the Shriver farm ) when Pettigrew and his men captured him- or not. Leaving Shriver's O'Neal passed through ( probably ) pickets , encountered Pettigrew on Chambersburg Pike somewhere near Herr's Tavern, was questioned and released. Pettigrew changed his mind before the doc had gone ' 200 yards ', sending an orderly to bring him back. He states he declined to answer questions- he said he was a doc, not an informant. ( A soldier from the 47th North Carolina later wrote a that citizen on a farm horse warned Pettigrew of an ambush. )

Pettigrew again released him, if he went back to through lines, so O'Neal did-with the Confederates. While with Pettigrew when Federal cavalry were spotted, as the Confederates went through the toll gate ( " half a dozen mounted men where the Buford statue now stands " ) O'Neal explains staying with the Confederates, saying it was better than being captured all over again by someone else.

toll house new.JPG

The Toll House, kept by the Johns girls



.
 
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Jimklag

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The map, and the linked article provided by 67th Tigers, are both extremely thought provoking. I really never knew anything about O'Neal. This thread will be one to watch, and it has already left me feeling somewhat gob-smacked.

I've thought many times about what it would have been like to have WAR come to one's home town. In fact, I live in a house and a town that witnessed the Civil War (but not on this scale in so few days.) Imagine coming out from one's place of refuge to find your house or barn in shambles, your fences destroyed or perhaps even missing, and your crops trampled and destroyed. If your house still had a roof, imagine it having been commandeered for a hospital--blood in your rugs, floor boards, furniture, etc.--moaning or screaming wounded soldiers everywhere. Imagine finding your livestock dead, or dead army horses in your yard.

I had even imagined what it would be like to find an occasional shallow grave, months or years after the event, because I knew some dead soldiers had been buried on the land where I grew up, and I would not have been completely shocked to find a bone or two along my camping trail after a heavy rain.

But I had NEVER really stopped to ponder the total disruption of having hundreds or perhaps thousands of graves placed on one's land and the land of one's neighbors. It is mind boggling to think of that. The accuracy of the numbers of graves shown on the map hardly matters to me. It is an overwhelming sight.

I don't know how the residents ever managed to recover.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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But I had NEVER really stopped to ponder the total disruption of having hundreds or perhaps thousands of graves placed on one's land and the land of one's neighbors. It is mind boggling to think of that. The accuracy of the numbers of graves shown on the map hardly matters to me. It is an overwhelming sight.

I don't know how the residents ever managed to recover.

Yes, there are sure inaccuracies on Elliot's map but the numbers probably are low- crazy thought. Gettysburg post battle was something most people could not conjure up in a nightmare- nothing to compare. Good idea of every day life would be articles posted in the 2 local papers- you can see where O'Neal felt it imperative to record graves. Help poured into town, citizens worked themselves to death ( literally ) but the against overwhelming tragedy.

July 12th, Indiana officer writing- land is always someone's.
dead on july 12.jpg

Fallen men were unburied sometimes for weeks- not through neglect, too many for those who had the job.

Elizabeth Thorn's most famous ( ' most ' because riding with Howard was kinda awesome ) deed, burying over 100 men? Took her until November. Unburied until November. AND- when she came home July 3rd ( moved back in the 5th ), dead men were piled so thickly around the gatehouse, she couldn't get in without climbing over them. Quite a few she buried were burned to death and lay by her pump, in her yard.

dead gettysbg coffin 1 july 21.jpg

There just were not enough- men were buried in their blankets, if possible, or just buried.

dead on field notice dec 1863.JPG

DECEMBER!!! And Wills asks for Union graves- again, O'Neal's records seem to have been badly needed.

It's funny. We don't hear much on physical damage to the town, much less houses. You read civilian accounts and accounts by men who fought and whew, it was extensive. We know of Bliss barn lost as part of the battle, for instance, Power's house torched. It was someone's barn, and home, for Heaven's sake. Churches lost a huge amount just post battle, interiors a blood soaked ruin from hospital use, civilians who fled pre-battle, looted, crops gone, trees farmers used as capital, shredded- wells dry and then polluted by the dead, not to mention piles of horses and mules. ( Getting losses covered was a joke- government failed badly. 500 bucks to share among alllll the churches, for instance )

Rats- which civilian was it- Tillie? Her father brought home a human hand he found- it was such an abnormal life post battle, family sat around the table discussing whose it was. Shock does weird things to you.

I could go on- like Sophronia Bucklin seeing a man blasted into a rock, another in pieces in a tree, in August 1863, another dead, armless man astride a rock and how the smell of rotting flesh, horses and human reached miles and made civilians ill. Men killed at Devil's Den, fallen too deeply in crevices to remove, buried by dirt being poured over them. Disease was a problem. Yes, agreed, what if that was your town?
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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GDG has an article about why that bit of the map can't be correct:

http://www.gdg.org/research/BattlefieldHistories/elliot.htm

No, it probably isn't but goodness, think we can give them some room? Those who love maps very understandably are driven crazy by inaccuracies- almost a shame to call Elliot's work a map because it becomes a topic for contention. Really, the team did an astonishing job given what took place over that time span, the number of sources gathered, ground covered, men buried then sent elsewhere, graves undiscovered at the time and how difficult parts of Gettysburg were to navigate at all.

So, GDG compared OR reports to reports from people who actually saw the dead and registered their locations and chose to go with the OR. Why? Confederate sources for casualties are universally known to be unreliable, but the almighty GDG considers them to be gospel. Sigh.

I'm not ignoring your post, honest, just do not have any idea why Confederate accounts are considered inaccurate. No argument here, only a blank!
 
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Interesting post, Annie. I never heard of Dr. O'Neal.
Annie, I forgot that I had recently read a book entitled: "Days of Darkness Gettysburg Civilians" by William G. Williams where he mentions Dr. O'Neal. Apparently he was caught behind the Confederate lines while visiting patients in Gettysburg and spent all day trying to get back home. The information you posted about Dr. O'Neal is new to me. Thanks.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Annie, I forgot that I had recently read a book entitled: "Days of Darkness Gettysburg Civilians" by William G. Williams where he mentions Dr. O'Neal. Apparently he was caught behind the Confederate lines while visiting patients in Gettysburg and spent all day trying to get back home. The information you posted about Dr. O'Neal is new to me. Thanks.

Yes, there seems to be a few takes on what he was doing and with whom? It's really hard, picking through accounts, trying to ascertain which would be closest? Unlike a lot of civilian accounts, O'Neal's may be a little carefully written. I'd have to believe he stayed with the Confederates as long as he did for exactly the reason stated- - why leave when he could have been captured all over again?

You know, one reason he seems to have been suspected of nefarious doings is because the patient he was out seeing was an exhausted Confederate soldier. Can't figure this out- docs were docs. Called to a patient, you don't see one refusing to treat a sick man.

Civilians were captured, not to get home until 1865. One perished, another died almost immediately after he got home. O'Neal couldn't know this at time and it sounds like he wasn't suspected as a spy ( why the others were taken although stories vary, none were spies ) because he was a doctor, not because he was a native Virginian.
 

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Below is an expanded region of the map. In the upper right corner is the southern edge of the stony hill. To the west is the Rose home and barn. There is a gap to the south then the Rose woods. Bodies in between.
IMG_20180826_132328.jpg

Below is the 22nd Mass. of Tilton's brigade. They are on the stony hill firing across that gap into the Rose woods. The Rose farm in back right.
gettysburg.jpg

They and the brigade will be withdrawn across the road to the west end of the Trostle woods seen below.
TrostleFarmTreeClearing082010_01.jpg

If the camera were turned to the left one would see this.
trostlehouse372x238.jpg

Represented below on map.
IMG_20180826_134817.jpg

Tip of woods in bottom right corner is trostle woods. Farm to the North, Peach orchard to west. Shows dead horses and abandoned artillery. Devoid of bodies because they are all buried here.
IMG_20180826_135157.jpg

Tilton's brigade went from one hot spot to another. After the collapse of the Third Corps at the Peach Orchard they were flanked out of the stony hill. Barnes put Tilton's brigade across the road into Trostle woods stalling Barksdale. Caldwell's Division of the 2nd Corps swept behind them into the stony hill, retaking it, the wheat field, and a good part of the Rose woods.
It's a good bit of fighting on all sides and I really don't get the criticism Barnes receives except on one level. He moved without orders. It's the correct move on the front but a breach of orders non the less.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Tilton's brigade went from one hot spot to another. After the collapse of the Third Corps at the Peach Orchard they were flanked out of the stony hill. Barnes put Tilton's brigade across the road into Trostle woods stalling Barksdale. Caldwell's Division of the 2nd Corps swept behind them into the stony hill, retaking it, the wheat field, and a good part of the Rose woods.
It's a good bit of fighting on all sides and I really don't get the criticism Barnes receives except on one level. He moved without orders. It's the correct move on the front but a breach of orders non the less

Excellent post, ( the entire thing ), thank you very much! Never had anyone give the ' street view ' with the ' satellite '- you'd think the Elliot map could not be more chilling. It is now, with an overlay of the battle, men beneath those pen strokes and how they became pen strokes on a map.
 

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Yes ma'am. I hesitated posting it because I didn't want to hijack the thread.
I thought the pen strokes look heavy to. Compare body hight to Rose farm house to get a scale. Having said that they were burying the dead like this:
CW-GettysburgDead.jpg

So maybe the map represents where the bodies were stacked before they were buried. The horses aren't burnt. and the guns still sit there? Maybe it's debris from the guns...
As it were we focus on Tilton an forget that Anderson's division got butchered thru here.
IMG_20180827_064857.jpg

Anderson division came in aligned with the creek. It's left dragged the gap aforementioned and it's right hit Houk's ridge. Regiments of Ward, Swietzer, and Tilton have them in a crossfire. Anderson never accomplishes his assigned objective it takes a few more Confederate brigades to clear these woods.
 

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O'Neal's office was located on the northeast corner of Baltimore and High Streets. He received a M.D. degree from the University of Maryland in 1844, and came to Gettysburg in 1863 from Baltimore. He was born April 21, 1821 in Fairfax County, Virginia. His biography appears in, The Physicians and Surgeons of the United States, p. 238; also History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, Penn., pp. 367-368.

His map is so unique and impressive, although we have to overlook some inaccuracies like the number of Confederate dead around Rose woods. I especially like the recorded identities of several specific Confederate soldiers who appear on his map.

We can thank O'Neal for another big reason. He gathered and saved documentation on many Confederates recorded in local hospitals after the battle. For instance, the War Department filed a list of wounded Confederates from Daniel's brigade that O'Neal had obtained "from a chaplain of the Confederate service on duty at General Hospital northeast of Gettysburg" (Camp Letterman). (U.S. Adjutant General's Office, Confederate wounded in hospital at Gettysburg, Misc. Reel 1034, Library of Virginia, Richmond)
 

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