Member of the Year
- Jan 16, 2015
A little over three decades ago, during a visit to the Ontario County Historical Society in Canandaigua, New York, I came across a hand-drawn map in the C. A. Richardson Papers. It had been prepared by John W. C. O’Neal, a physician who worked at the Adams County Almshouse, to mark the supposed precise spot where Brig. Gen. William Barksdale was fatally wounded on July 2. Charles A. Richardson had served as Captain of Company D, 126th New York during the battle. Richardson’s regiment was part of Col. George Willard’s brigade, which took credit for having mortally wounded Barksdale during their counter-charge. In fact, Corporal Menah C. Van Liew of Company C, 126th New York claimed specific credit, although how one individual could do so where much lead was flying around on a chaotic battlefield obscured with smoke is difficult to accept. In any case, Barksdale remained out on the battlefield until after dark, when C. E. Livingston, an Acting Inspector General of the First Corps, encountered him while he and an orderly were taking canteens of water to fallen wounded in the vicinity. Returning with a stretcher, he found a detail from Stannard’s Vermont brigade carrying Barksdale off in another stretcher to a field hospital established at the Jacob Hummelbaugh buildings on the Taneytown road. The time was about 11 p.m.
Explaining his map, J. W. C. O’Neal wrote (on August 9, 1886) … “spot marked in red circle … locality where Barksdale fatally wounded … location of circle is near spring or swale originating from Plum Run in front of and to right of Peter Rogers house on Emmitsburg Rd.”
O’Neal followed with another note, “Since writing above … have seen Gettysburg … the battlefield guide says Barksdale was killed in front of Willard’s Brigade … Barksdale was first wounded near blacksmith shop or between it and the Peach Orchard … then he passed in front of the Trostle barn … was met by Willard’s brigade near head of Plum Run and was there mortally wounded and carried to Hummelbaugh house and there buried.”
Based on O’Neal’s map and description, the red circle on my attached draft map shows the approximate position where Barksdale fell. It lies on or near a branch offshoot of Plum Run (O’Neal’s “swale”?) that extends toward the Rogers house. The estimated position (previously calculated) of the 16th Vermont on the night of July 2 is shown with three companies deployed in front as skirmishers. Barksdale would be just beyond the skirmish line. I figure that ground was contested earlier in the day by Willard’s 111th New York, with the 126th New York just to the south (off the bottom edge of this map). I mention it as a possibility that Barksdale fell up to 150 yards further south, although I don’t think Stannard’s skirmishers extended much further south, nor would it accord as well with O’Neal’s description of a swale in connection with the Rogers house and Plum Run. Earlier, at sunset on July 2, men of Baxter’s brigade of the First Corps occupied that same ground, which explains why Livingston was there.
The place is rather isolated and cannot easily be accessed on foot. The nearest battlefield monument is probably the stone marking the spot where Willard fell during the retreat of his brigade toward the northeast. I have added Sickles Avenue as a reference to help locate the position.
-C. A. Richardson Papers, Ontario County Historical County, Canandaigua, New York.
-The National Tribune, September 24, 1908, p. 7.
-C. E. Livingston, The Barksdale Episode, Gettysburg Star and Sentinel, July 27, 1886, Misc. Army Correspondence, 126 NY, box 2, Ontario County Historical County, Canandaigua, New York.
-Letter from David Parker (C/14 VT) to Mr. Barksdale [presumably his brother, Ethelbert Barksdale], 22 March 1882, Brake Collection, U.S. Army Military Heritage Center, Carlisle, PA
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