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Henry Wentz role- tantalizing mystery of Gettysburg?

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by Wallyfish, Dec 9, 2016.

  1. Wallyfish

    Wallyfish Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    I am reading Gettysburg The Second Day by Harry Pfanz. He writes about Edward Porter Alexander observation duties somewhere near the Fairfield road before the major attacks on the southern battlefield. Alexander gave instructions to Henry's and Cabell's batallions and then rode west to bring up his own battalion.

    Alexander then easily led his batallion to the Pitzer Schoolhouse area. Nearby Alexander ran into an ordnance sergeant from Taylor's Virginia Battery named Henry Wentz. Wentz was a native of Gettysburg and formerly lived in his fathers house just north of The Peach Orchard.

    Pfanz goes on to write that despite having an intimate knowledge of the Gettysburg terrain, there is no documentation that Wentz assisted either Alexander or Longstreet in Gettysburg's geography. Pfanz then assumes that Wentz spent the day with his Battery. Pfanz then writes "If so, this ranks as one of the Confederates' most peculiar oversights, and Wentz's role must remain as one of the tantalizing mysteries of Gettysburg".

    I do not recall reading this before. It is surprising to me that despite Confederate troop movement through Gettysburg in late June and at least two soldiers with Gettysburg roots (Culp and Wentz), that they did not take advantage of this geographic intelligence.

    Does anyone have further information on this Wentz mystery?

    From the Gettysburg Stone Sentinel site, the following is written on the Wentz property.

    Just north of the Wheatfield Road on the east side of Emmitsburg Road is the foundation of the log farmhouse of John and Mary Wentz and their daughter Susan. (39.801913° N , 77.249739° W; Google map; Tour map: Peach Orchard)

    The older Wentzes were in their seventies at the time of the battle, which raged around their farm on July 2nd as John rode out the fighting in the cellar. Their son, Henry, had moved to Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia) before the war, and returned to Gettysburg with Lieutenant Osmand B. Taylor’s Confederate artillery battery.(*) There is a legend that Henry commanded a battery that shelled the farm and that he was killed and buried there. But in reality he was only a sergeant, and he survived the war. Taylor’s battery did fire on the nearby Peach Orchard and did deploy along Emmitsburg Road a short distance north from Henry’s boyhood home. After the fighting died down Henry found his father sleeping in the cellar of the relatively unscathed house.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2016

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  3. Bee

    Bee 1st Lieutenant

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    @Wallyfish What page is this passage from? I have the book sitting here on the table, and I would be interested to read what you have read.
     
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  4. Wallyfish

    Wallyfish Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    It starts on page 117 paperback. Confederate Preperations chapter.
     
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  5. Warren

    Warren Private

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    I think I read a story somewhere about Henry Wentz visiting his family home during a lull in the fighting and found his father asleep in the cellar. Not wishing to wake him, he left a note saying he had been there. His father was an ardent Union man and when he awoke and found the message he wasn't impressed and had nothing good to say since his son had joined the Confederacy.
     
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  6. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    Wentz and his second wife fed silkworms in the attic of their 1 ½ story log building. They had disowned their son and would have nothing to do with the body if he was killed. Now that's the harsh reality of a civil war.
     
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  7. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    A war between family or not it seems so, so extreme to disown one's son. Feelings ran very high certainly and it'd be incredibly painful, finding your child with an entire war sized cavernous gap separating you. But. Wow.
     
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  8. Wallyfish

    Wallyfish Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    The Wentz family saga is an interesting tale in itself.

    However Alexander went on to meet McClaws division as they were attempting to march into position for Longstreet's attack. Their march and countermarch delayed Longstreet's attack. Utilizing Wentz as a guide on that fateful day could of saved time and possibly changed the outcome of the actions on the southern portion of the battlefield.

    With the confederates attempting to stay hidden during their march, one would think that the knowledge that a person like Wentz had on Gettysburg's geography would of been a valuable asset. I can see Pfanz point of view on the peculiar oversight and tantalizing mystery comments on Henry Wentz. I found this to be a very interesting point that I have never thought of previously.
     
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  9. MRB1863

    MRB1863 Captain Forum Host

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    I have the same thick, fascinating book on my coffee table! First Day is on the bookshelf.
     
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  10. Bee

    Bee 1st Lieutenant

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    I have the third one, too, that deals specifically with Culp's and Cemetery Hills. :smile:
     
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  11. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    I've already commented in a previous recent thread on this very subject that there's absolutely NO reason the Lt. Col. commanding the artillery battalion would even know of the existence of these locals in the ranks; and WHERE else should a private cannoneer be, but "with his battery"? It's naturally possible Wentz' captain commanding the battery might've known, but it's unlikely he would've known anything about plans for the attack to cause him to speak up, "Oh, by the way, one of my men..." Of course Culp was nowhere near, since he was an infantryman in Edward Johnson's Division on the opposite end of the Confederate line a couple of miles away and totally uninvolved in Longstreet's flanking move!
     
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  12. Bee

    Bee 1st Lieutenant

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    Do you know the link to the thread?

    Found it below under Henry Wentz Mystery thread
     
  13. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Good, because I couldn't remember myself. I just think it's silly to expect such a level of coordination in an army consisting of some 75,000 members, almost none of whom (as I'm sure we can all here agree) knew anything about what was going on or expected. This battle was an unplanned meeting engagement was it not?
     
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  14. Wallyfish

    Wallyfish Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    Pfanz writes that it is likely that Alexander would of been aware of Wentz's Gettysburg connection. I don't know if that is based on fact or conjecture. That is one of my reasons for asking the question on Wentz.

    My reference to Culp and prior Confederate advances through Gettysburg was not specific to Longstreet's day 2 attack. If I am in unfamiliar territory, I would ask if anyone is from there to gain intelligence.
     
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  15. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    How many of their private soldiers would it be likely that the battalion commander would know personally? I'm not being critical of you, just the idea involved.
     
  16. Wallyfish

    Wallyfish Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    James N, I like lively conversation here. My goal was not to be controversial and I fully understand and appreciate your comments. Harry Pfanz who has undertaken more research than I will ever do spefically brought this subject up in his book. Those are his words, not mine.

    I did a Wentz search before I posted this thread and I could not find anything similar. However I did find down in the similar posts a thread from 2015 which I didn't recall or see (thanks to Bee for her guidance on it).

    Eric Wittenberg had a post in that 2015 thread that said:

    Interesting that you should raise this issue. My friend Tom McMillan is working on a book on the four Gettysburg residents who fought for the Confederacy during the Battle of Gettysburg. While Wesley Culp is the most obvious of the four, Wentz plays a significant role in the story. Tom has not found anything to suggest that Wentz hid the fact that he was a Gettysburg native, and, in fact, is surprised that he was not used as a guide by Longstreet on this way to the battlefield.


    Sorry for posting a duplicate Wentz mystery thread but I thought it was worthy of discussion. Hopefully Tom McMillan publishes his book in hope of further defining the topic.

    Older post on same subject.
    http://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-henry-wentz-mystery.119362/
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2016
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  17. Wallyfish

    Wallyfish Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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  18. Bee

    Bee 1st Lieutenant

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    Tons of "Secession" & "Slavery" duplicates. You revived the topic, found out about the book...and let us all know. This is a good thing :smile:
     
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  19. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    Unless Henry Wentz was unusually savvy when it came to understanding the topography of the surrounding area, I doubt whether he would be of much help in identifying a route for Longstreet's two divisions to avoid detection from the enemy on the summit of Little Round Top. But since Alexander, acting as Longstreet's principle artilleryman, found a way on his own, I think a more pertinent question to be posed would involve his communicating that information to Longstreet.

    By the way, there were a few Confederates at the battle who had attended colleges in Maryland and Pennsylvania before the war, including in Gettysburg, Carlisle and Baltimore. If military intelligence as a special entity had been more evolved at the time, perhaps such resources could have been used to advantage. I am reminded of a captured Federal soldier, in 1862, who was taken near Stonewall Jackson's headquarters, and observed a large number of army clerks sifting through the personal letters found in abandoned Federal knapsacks. It seems to have been an initiative of an individual (and gifted) commander. Similarly, an 1858 Adams County map was taken from a wall in a tavern by Maj. Gen. Early himself on June 26. Such ad-hoc intelligence gathering, lacking broad dissemination, would not be a game changer. Unfortunately, the lead intelligence gatherer in the army, J.E.B. Stuart, was absent.
     
  20. Eric Wittenberg

    Eric Wittenberg 2nd Lieutenant

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    The manuscript is finished. I've read every word of it. To the extent that answers exist--and not all do--your questions will be answered in the book. I expect the book to be published some time next year. And it's quite good indeed.
     
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  21. pauleyrpt

    pauleyrpt Cadet

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