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Iconic Rebel Sharpshooter Possibly Identified?

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by lelliott19, Feb 4, 2018.

  1. lelliott19

    lelliott19 1st Lieutenant Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    In the latest post on the Blog of the Gettysburg National Military Park (Feb 1, 2018) entitled Another Look at the Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, John Heiser, Historian at GNMP, says that it is possible that researcher Scott Fink may have identified the Rebel Sharpshooter as John Rutherford Ash, Co A, 2nd Georgia Infantry, Benning's brigade. Interesting information and photo comparisons.

    https://npsgnmp.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/another-look-at-the-home-of-a-rebel-sharpshooter/
     

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  3. JOHN42768

    JOHN42768 Captain Trivia Game Winner

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    Thanks. Interesting detective search
     
  4. east tennessee roots

    east tennessee roots Captain

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    Gettysburg after battle report:

    Report of Lieut. Col. William S. Shepherd, Second Georgia Infantry.

    July 27, 1863.
    Sir: I have the honor to make the following report of the conduct
    of the Second Georgia Regt., commanded by Lieut. Col.
    William T. Harris, during the sanguinary battle near Gettysburg, Pa.:

    After a most tiresome march through the mountains, this regiment,
    belonging to Benning's brigade, arrived at 12 p. m. in the neighborhood
    of the scene of an engagement which took place on the 1st
    instant, where it was permitted to bivouac for a few hours. At 3
    a. m. it resumed the march, and again halted, after proceeding some
    3 miles. At 1 p. m. it again took up the line of march, moving by a
    circuitous route to the right.

    Notwithstanding the extreme heat and the fatiguing march, the
    officers and men of this regiment moved forward with great cheerfulness,
    seeming anxious to meet the enemy. Just before reaching
    its position in line, the regiment advanced by the right flank through
    an open field, under a heavy fire from the enemy's artillery, which
    was posted on a commanding position.

    It gives me great pleasure to state that the officers and men of this
    command acted very coolly and moved forward in good order. Here
    Lieut. J. C. Sapp was slightly wounded, but continued with his company.

    Before advancing in line of battle, the command was permitted to
    rest a few moments. The Second Georgia composed the right, and,
    with the Seventeenth Georgia, the right wing of Benning's brigade.
    Soon the order to advance was given, when the entire regiment
    moved forward in splendid order until it came to a deep gorge, where
    the nature of the ground was such that it was impossible to preserve
    an alignment; but, notwithstanding the rocks, undergrowth, and
    the deadly fire of the enemy, the officers and men of this regiment
    moved forward with dauntless courage, driving the enemy before
    them, and did not halt until they saw they were some distance in advance
    of their line, and beyond a rocky eminence on the left, which
    had been previously held by the enemy.

    Here the regiment made a stand, and fought as gallantly as men
    could fight, and did not yield an inch of ground, but repulsed several
    charges made by the enemy, who were protected by a battery and a
    hill lined with sharpshooters. It was shortly after the regiment
    halted that Lieut. Col. William T. Harris fell, pierced through the
    heart by a Minie ball. He behaved gallantly and coolly while advancing,
    and was in the act of cheering on his command when he
    received the fatal shot. The command then devolved upon the undersigned,
    who was major of the regiment. We held our position
    until night closed the bloody drama.

    We have to deplore the loss of many gallant officers and men, a list
    of whom has been previously forwarded.

    I take great pleasure in testifying to the gallantry displayed both
    by officers and men, and, in my humble judgment, men never fought
    with more determination and bravery. We captured quite a number
    of prisoners, of whom previous mention has been made. It is
    impossible to individualize where all acted so nobly and courageously.

    I would respectfully call your attention to Forage-Master
    R. W. Scrogin, of Company I, Second Georgia Regt., who went
    into the battle voluntarily and fought bravely until wounded.

    The Second Georgia and a portion of the Seventeenth Georgia
    being a short distance in advance, I received orders from headquarters,
    about 3 a. m. on the 3d instant, to fall back and connect with the
    main line, which command was executed in good order, and not until
    all our wounded had been removed to the rear.

    All of which is respectfully submitted.

    WM. S. SHEPHERD,
    Lieut. Col., Comdg. Second Georgia Regt.

    Lieut. H. H. Perry,
    Acting Assistant Adjutant-Gen.

    Source: Official Records: Series I. Vol. 27. Part II. Reports. Serial No. 44
     
  5. Burning Billy

    Burning Billy Sergeant

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    Interesting thread.

    I would have thought it would be impossible to identify that soldier a century and a half later, but he certainly makes a compelling case for the fallen soldier being John Rutherford Ash. I was shocked by how closely the pre-war portrait resembled the fallen man.
     
  6. christian soldier

    christian soldier First Sergeant

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    Thanks for posting this very interesting and compelling thread and article about the rebel sharpshooter in Devil's Den. Great detective work. David.
     
  7. ucvrelics.com

    ucvrelics.com 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

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    Great Post. The portrait does bear a striking resemblance.
     
  8. mofederal

    mofederal Captain

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    A very interesting story. I would say that is the man, but it is hard to say for sure. It does peak one's interests though. Great post @lelliott19. A very compelling case worth the study.
     
  9. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    Gave me chills! After so long looking around this stuff, am hardly credulous but this is more than probable. It isn't merely the hairline- his chin is clear. It's distinctive, not as well defined in his photo, alive and well but there. Goodness. And I'm with the author on gawking at the dead- it's why post mortems are not cool. At least this soldier may go home, as it were. Thanks to this amazing work.

    What a great find to bring here, thanks so much lelliot!
     
  10. Scott F

    Scott F Private

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    Thanks for your interest in my research and John Heiser's article. It was actually a member here, Tom Elmore, who provided the source that ultimately led me to John Ash the next day. When I saw the early photograph of Ash for the first time, the resemblance was erie and actually made the hair on my arms stand on end. The more information I gather, the more likely it seems. Thanks to John Heiser, Tom Elmore, and many others, the book I have been working on for the last four years is almost complete. I should be submitting it to publishers this summer. AshMemorial.jpg
     
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  11. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    This could at least explain why the body was in still relatively "fresh" condition when it was being manhandled by Gardner and his associates.
     
  12. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore Sergeant Major

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    Great work, Scott. I believe you have solved this long enduring mystery.

    When the 2nd Georgia passed near this location around 6 p.m. on July 2, they were contending at close range with some soldiers who had previously been detached from the 4th Maine to act as skirmishers in the southern end of the Den, and were joined there by a few U.S. Sharpshooters (likely Company D, 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters), who fell back after annoying Hood's advance. These Federals were pestering the exposed right flank of the 1st Texas (plus Company I/4th Texas), but were then literally caught between a rock and a hard place when Benning's Georgians arrived and cut their escape route off, leading to their capture. I think it more likely that Private Ash received his mortal wound on this date, although he might not have succumbed immediately, in which case he was overlooked by his comrades, who held the ground until the late afternoon the following day, July 3. (What irony if the misidentified Confederate "sharpshooter" was actually felled by a U.S. Sharpshooter.)

    Alternatively, if Ash was mortally wounded on July 3, the fatal shot could have come from the Pennsylvania Reserves in McCandless' brigade, specifically the 11th Pennsylvania Reserves, who had moved south through the Rose woods in the late afternoon, and having routed the 15th Georgia, caught the rest of Benning's brigade by surprise as they were about to pull back from the Den.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2018
  13. John Winn

    John Winn Captain Member of the Month

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    I'm just curious if you've used facial recognition software and, if so, what the results were. Do you know @Tom Elmore ?

    Fascinating find and my compliments, sirs.
     
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  14. Scott F

    Scott F Private

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    Hey Tom, Thanks again for your help. I have another hypothesis of how and when John Ash was killed that looks very promising. John Heiser helped me piece together the battle history for that day, July 3rd in Devil's Den, and I discovered some stunning revelations lost in history. It seems by all accounts that Benning's Brigade (the three regiments other than the 15th Ga.) were about to be surrounded on both sides by McCandless on their left and Berdan's Sharpshooters on their right, when they were left without supports on both sides. After receiving the correct order after he had sent the 15th Ga into the woods "some time had passed" about 6:30-7Pm to be exact. Benning most likely waited as long as he did out of concern for his lost regiment until he found himself in deep trouble about to be cut off. By "piking out" as he did, he certainly saved the rest of his brigade from being devastated and they got out with slight loss, about 20 men. The 20th Ga lost 17 captured and some wounded, the 2nd about five captured, two officers wounded (Lt. Franklin was one of them) and only one killed. John Bowden had mentioned that the soldier was killed crossing the "danger point" during their retreat. An unpublished letter from another soldier from the 2nd brought to my attention confirmed that one soldier from the regiment was killed during the withdraw from Devil's Den. It maybe that Robert Krick was right when he listed John Ash being KIA on July 3rd. Bowden was from company B while Ash was from Co. A and Bowden had mistaken the date as July 4th and not July 3rd. Back in Georgia Ash's memorial marker (his body was never recovered from Gettysburg) has the date of July 4th. It would be reasonable to believe that the information to the family would of came from a comrade who was present when Ash was killed, as Ash appeared on no lists as being wounded treated in a hospital or any burial records of any kind on the battlefield. It also seems that the US sharpshooters captured 20 men in the "cave of rocks" from Bennings brigade (20th and 2nd Ga) and not the 3rd Arkansas. I could find no record of any from that regiment being captured on July 3rd. The sharpshooters had raided DD about 6:30Pm and the 3rd Arkansas had been withdrawn at 4:30Pm. Col Manning also claimed that the sharpshooters had captured his men but he was wounded and taken from the field on July 2nd. His second in command did draft an after action report for July3rd but it is missing from the records but with absence of any kind of proof it seems more likely that the men captured were Benning's men.
     
  15. Scott F

    Scott F Private

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    I used a simple program that did ID Ash as the sharpshooter, but the same program had IDed Andrew Hoge from the 4th Va. as well. Hoge even has the slight widow's peak also and him and John Ash could pass as brothers. Therefore the results were inconclusive.
     
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  16. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore Sergeant Major

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    I suspect it was only McCandless' brigade that surprised the Georgians on their left rear and sent them running in the direction of the Slyder place. Benning did not realize that the shooting on his left was his own 15th Georgia being overwhelmed by the Pennsylvania Reserves in the Rose woods. By then, his three other regiments must have been largely pulled back to near Rose Run, but apparently he had left behind a few men as pickets to keep an eye on the Federals on Little Round Top and cover his withdrawal, and had no time to warn them of the danger in their left rear.

    I know of only two companies of Berdan Sharpshooters sent to Little Round Top on July 3, and thus they were not strong enough to threaten the three (albeit reduced) remaining regiments of Benning on his right flank. Besides, my research indicates the 3rd Arkansas remained in place on the other (south) side of the Den in the woods (along with 4/5 TX and 44/48/47/15 AL) until descending darkness (about 8 p.m.) covered their retreat. Meanwhile, McCandless was content to stop and hold the southwest corner of Rose woods, but had he continued toward the southeast, he might have likewise surprised and dislodged the above regiments of Robertson and Law (then commanded by Sheffield) from in front of Big Round Top.

    However, as you note, the main point is that Ash could well have been mortally wounded late on July 3, in what was essentially no-man's land, although Federal details briefly advanced into the area late on July 3 and again on July 4.

    James Finnegan of Company D, 155th Pennsylvania went out alone, unarmed, to Devil's Den (I suspect to scavenge), perhaps late on July 3, and returned to the summit of Little Round Top with four Georgia prisoners, who had been inadvertently left behind. When Adjutant Montooth asked how he came to capture so many Confederates, Finnegan replied, "Be gorra, I surrounded 'em." (Under the Maltese Cross, p. 181). I was not aware U.S. Sharpshooters had advanced into the Den around the same time, but it's not surprising. As I recall, a detail from the 44th New York also went as far as the Den late on July 3.

    By the way, some Confederate non-combatants were also taken by surprise when McCandless appeared - it seems a group of butchers were at work skinning beeves. It was not uncommon for regimental commissary personnel to butcher cattle close behind the front lines to issue to their men.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2018
  17. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore Sergeant Major

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    Attached is my draft map, which would be close to the precise moment when Private Ash might have been struck.
     

    Attached Files:

  18. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

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    Interesting article! Thanks for sharing!
     
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  19. Ole Miss

    Ole Miss Sergeant

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    Wow! Not only is the scholarship first rate but I am so impressed with the professional cooperation of the three gentlemen involved in unraveling this mystery. Having worked in a university environment for over 27 years, I am far too familiar with professional jealousy and refusal to share any information and always amazed with adults behaving well.
    My compliments and thanks to y'all for a fascinating story and possible identification of this poor unfortunate young man who died far from home and family.
    Regards
    David
     
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  20. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    Thanks so much, sincerely, for including all your back-and-forths in posts- it's more than fascinating and I know you all could have simply PM'd or emailed. Crazy, watching 150 years dissolve.

    Christian Commission staff first on the scene gave a bald account on as yet unburied, Confederate soldiers among rocks, in crevices between boulders and out in the open, all of 3 weeks post battle. He said they were forced to ' bury ' some by putting dirt between boulders because they could not recover them, draws one of the appalling pictures post battle. Makes you more annoyed Private Ash was moved, much less used.

    Have spent a fair amount of time looking into Southern families and their futile attempts to get anyone to respond to requests to have their soldiers brought home. 1870's- a long time, the whole ' Gettysburg Dead ' project transpired. Seeing Ash identified seems one, more, in a way. Well, Union men unidentified in the cemetery, also- our family has two. Just something satisfying, being able to give this soldier, his name back. Thank you!
     
  21. Scott F

    Scott F Private

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    Tom, excellent map and great information! I just checked my notes again and you are correct. The sharpshooters made their way to the base of BRT (or LRT info is not clear to which hill was referred to) where they skirmished with the Confederates after which a group of 20 raided Devil's Den. This is most likely after the rest of Benning's regiments withdrew. They crossed the marshy ground and captured about 20 in the "Cave of Rocks" either the real Devil's Den or the cave below Table Rock, it really depends on what hill they were talking about. After Pickett's Charge the 4/5th TX were pulled back to the other side of BRT to check the cavalry charge. The 3rd Arkansas was then moved right to fill in the gap. I may be wrong here but this is what I have in my notes. After the cavalry charge when the Confederates received the orders to withdraw back to Warfield Ridge the rest of Robertson's Brigade was pulled back to the location of 4/5th Tx to guard the right. I have disagree with you about McCandless capturing some of them. After scattering and capturing the 15th Ga at the stone fence they continued their pursuit till they reached the edge of the woods when they saw the rest of Benning's Brigade drawn up around 300 yards distant, but to their surprise they marched off at a double quick with their banners at the trail (to Warfield Ridge the place assigned to them). They then never ventured further but collected their wounded and prisoners and withdrew back to the Weatfield. I am fairly certain of this because I have read several accounts saying the same thing. As for your suspicion that McCandless' men engaged with the 20th Georgia, I think you are spot on. Here is a soldier's account that confirms this and also is consistent with Col. Wadell's report. "At daybreak on the 3rd our wounded had all been conveyed from the reach of the enemies bullets, .......During the night, our Brigade and the line confronting the slaughter pen, had availed themselves of the darkness to change their position slightly and securing themselves behind rocks, from which they exchanged shots with the enemy throughout the day (the 2nd Ga skirmished with the Bucktails for most of the day) if a head was visible in either line it was not long.. the withdraw was seen by the enemy from his lofty eyre and advancing his line to the vacant space was about flanking our Brigade, compelling it to fall back the fighting was principally with the 20th and 15th... We were exposed to a furious enfilading fire as we retreated, but fortunately, as far as is now known, there was only one man killed in the 2nd and two lieutenants wounded- some five or six taken prisoners. Our line was speedily reformed, but slightly retrenched."
     

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