One Month of Post-Battle Observations by Chaplain Peter Tinsley of the 28th Virginia

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Jan 16, 2015

photo: @Field Master

Part I (July 3-14)

Peter Tinsley, the Episcopalian chaplain of the 28th Virginia Infantry in Garnett’s brigade, left a detailed journal of his experiences during and after the battle. Late in the day on July 3, he proceeded to Pickett’s division hospital at Bream’s mill on Marsh Run, where he would spend much of his time over the next few weeks looking after the wounded. He often visited Bream’s (Black Horse) tavern nearby and occasionally other field hospitals in the area. I thought it might be of general interest to extract and summarize his encounters and pertinent observations of patients, surgeons, civilians and events. I have taken the liberty of adding the full name and rank the first time an individual is mentioned, with other notes added in brackets. Tinsley’s journal was found online from Wheaton College’s Archives and Special Collections.

July 3. Tinsley proceeded to Bream’s mill, escorting the body of Major Nathaniel C. Wilson of the 28th Virginia. There he found Brigadier General James L. Kemper, badly wounded; Colonel Henry Gantt of the 19th Virginia, shot in the face and mutilated but not mortally wounded; Adjutant McIntire [presumably James Davis McIntire of the 19th Virginia]; and Col. William Dabney Stuart of the 56th Virginia. Tinsley stayed at the house of local farmer John F. Currens, adjacent to the mill. [The mill was identified as Mineral Mills on the 1858 map of Adams County. At some point Kemper was moved to a room in Currens’ house.]

July 4. Lieutenant Colonel John Thomas Ellis of the 19th Virginia died in the morning, never having regained consciousness. He was buried in his overcoat and blanket by his brother-in-law, 2nd Lieutenant David S. Garland of Company H, 19th Virginia, under an apple tree in Currens’ orchard; Rev. Perkins [?] performed the service. In the afternoon, Tinsley oversaw the burial of Maj. Wilson, wrapped in a blanket with his sword beside him, under a walnut tree on the slope of a hill fronting Currens’ house, just as a pelting rain commenced. 1st Sergeant Lucien S. Jones of Company F, 19th Virginia died from a wound in the bowels. Surgeon Edward Rives, 28th Virginia, was left in charge of the division hospital, joined by Surg. Alexander S. Grigsby, 1st Virginia; Surg. T. P. Mayo, 3rd Virginia; and Assistant Surg. William S. Nowlin, 38th Virginia. Tinsley and the surgeons pitched their tents in Currens’ yard and took their meals in his house with food they had supplied. A servant girl named Mary prepared the meals; Mrs. Currens was absent.

July 5. Lieutenant Charles B. Griffin of the Salem Artillery visited the hospital, which then held 250 patients. Tinsley attempted to visit his brother [in the Second Corps], but the latter was occupied on the skirmish line. He saw Maj. Gen. Jubal Early and his aide, Lt. A. L. Pitzer, who returned with Tinsley to visit Gen. Kemper. [Pitzer had assisted Union Maj. Gen. Barlow on July 1.] Kemper also received a visit by his brigade surgeon, Charles B. Morton. Kemper expected to die – a coffin had been sent by a quartermaster and his valuables (except his watch) already given to others. [Kemper lived until 1885.] About 1 p.m., a Federal battery opened up a half mile from the hospital, firing at Confederate pickets approximately a half mile west of the hospital. An hour later New Jersey soldiers [Torbert’s brigade] of the Union Sixth Corps arrived; they were “very polite and kind.” Corps commander Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick visited Gen. Kemper. Tinsley also saw Brig. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren, Chief of Engineers. Both generals promised to send medical supplies immediately.

July 6. Tinsley accompanied Surg. Grigsby into town to obtain supplies. Federal Chief Surgeon Henry Janes told them to draw on him for all commissary and medical supplies. [Janes had overall charge of hospitals in and around Gettysburg once Jonathan Letterman departed with the army, and he stayed until the early winter.] Tinsley and Grigsby also met a Russian captain assigned to Gen. Meade’s staff.

July 7. Tinsley walked over the battlefield with Asst. Surg. B. C. Hamilton, 24th Virginia, and found the dead nearly all buried. Afterwards, Tinsley called on Gen. Kemper.

July 8. Tinsley buried Private Cleophas A. Loving of Company C, 8th Virginia, who died of a wound in the bowels. Surg. Mayo and others went into town.

July 9. Tinsley accompanied Surg. Rives into town for supplies. They met Captain Rankin, post quartermaster, who forwarded an abundant supply of bacon, crackers, tea, coffee, sugar, rice, brandy, etc.

July 10. Tinsley joined Surg. Mayo and Asst. Surg. Nowlin, accompanied by ten male nurses, to visit Pickett’s wounded in Federal field hospitals. They met female doctors [?] from the North, of whom Tinsley wrote disapprovingly for their alleged lack of modesty, contrasting them unfavorably with the “Maryland ladies” who visited their hospital [see also]

July 11. Tinsley accompanied Asst. Surg. B. C. Harrison, 56th Virginia, on a visit to a field hospital and returned to find Mr. Spalding (“brother of the Yankee major”) with Dr. Laird, their family physician. [Major Israel Putnam Spalding of the 141st Pennsylvania was wounded in the Peach Orchard and subsequently taken to a Confederate field hospital. He died on July 28, with his brother Hanson Spalding by his side.] Private Joseph Huffman of Company C, 28th Virginia, cooked for Tinsley and the surgeons. Coffee was supplied to their hospital by the Christian Mission and the Sanitary Commission.

June 12, Sunday. Tinsley held a short service at the mill for Armistead’s brigade, and in the afternoon in the orchard for the other brigades. A Pennsylvania militia captain visited the hospital to identify patients for removal. Gen. Kemper was annoyed by curious civilians who came to gawk at the Confederate wounded.

July 13. Tinsley baptized Private John James Fore, Company H, 18th Virginia, and in the evening sat with Gen. Kemper, who seemed to be improving. [Fore survived the war.]

July 14. Mrs. [illegible] of Baltimore visited the Breams mill hospital. She arrived in a buggy driven by a “she doctor” who said she practiced medicine near Chambersburg.
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Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Jan 16, 2015
Part II, conclusion (July 15-August 3)

July 15. Tinsley accompanied Asst. Surg. Harrison into town, where the Federal provost marshal declined to give Tinsley a pass to visit the area hospitals, claiming it disturbed the patients. Some supplies arrived from Baltimore residents. Tinsley and the other surgeons ended their association with John F. Currens.

July 16. Tinsley held a service at the mill.

July 17. Tinsley accompanied Asst. Surg. Nowlin, “Mr. W. H. Ryan and [Mmes.] Brown and Rayburn” on a visit to several wounded patients in other locations. While they were away, Private Samuel E. Moorman of Company B, 11th Virginia died at Bream’s mill. [I cannot identify Mr. Ryan, Mrs. Brown or Mrs. Rayburn – they may be visitors from Baltimore or members of the Christian Commission or another relief organization.]

July 18. Tinsley remained at the mill and visited Private Elisha Murray, Company F, 3rd Virginia, who had tetanus. Private E. J. Griffin, Company I, 1st Virginia died of tetanus.

July 19. Tinsley held a service at the mill, and another service in the afternoon in the orchard. He visited Privates Murray and John A. F. Dunderdale, Company K, 9th Virginia.

July 20. Tinsley visited Privates Murray, Dunderdale and Robert B. Drake of Company A, 57th Virginia. [Drake reportedly died on July 8, but that was obviously not the case. Murray and Dunderdale both died on July 21.]

July 21. Tinsley visited Kershaw’s brigade hospital at Bream’s tavern and met Asst. Surg. Simon Baruch of the 3rd South Carolina Battalion. Edward Rives, Sr., father of Surg. Rives, arrived for a visit and departed the next day. John F. Currens and his wife wanted to reclaim the room still occupied by Gen. Kemper, who was considered too ill to be removed.

July 22. During the day 60 to 70 patients were sent from Bream’s mill in an ambulance arranged by a Federal officer. They also wanted to take Gen. Kemper to the Seminary hospital, but the Federal provost martial, Col. Alleman, was persuaded to let him remain at the Currens’ home. [Many of the patients were taken to the Camp Letterman General Hospital east of town, although some may have gone to the railroad depot for onward transport to Northern hospitals or prisons.]

July 23. An additional 20 to 25 patients were sent from Bream’s mill. Several gentlemen from Baltimore visited, along with a Miss Summer.

July 24. Federal Surgeon Tate, accompanied by a sergeant and a civilian doctor from Pittsburgh, visited Bream’s mill to identify patients judged sufficiently recovered to be transported the next day. Tinsley baptized Private Robert B. McDowell, Company K, 38th Virginia. [McDowell was reported to have died on July 22, but he actually died on the night of July 24 or the early hours of July 25. Tate may be Assistant Surgeon T. T. Tate of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry, who was a native of Gettysburg. A number of contract physicians from Pittsburgh arrived in town on or about July 8.]

July 25. Tinsley presided over the burial of Private McDowell and 1st Corporal Richard W. Ives of Company H, 14th Virginia, placed side-by-side in the same grave. Another 80 patients were taken from the Bream’s mill hospital.

July 26, Sunday. Every Sunday brought many visitors; on this day some visited Maj. Spalding, while others came to view Gen. Kemper and the other Confederates.

July 27. Dr. Goodrich, formerly of New Orleans, visited the hospital and stayed overnight.

July 28. Miss Linnie, a female acquaintance of Tinsley, was brought to the mill by Surg. Baruch, where they had supper together.

July 29. Tinsley saw Linnie and a Miss Nannie H. at the tavern.

July 30. 1st Corporal John P. Daniel of Company H, 11th Virginia died during the night. Tinsley received a visit from a Rev. C. M. Callaway and a Miss Jones, and he visited Linnie at the tavern.

July 31. Linnie departed early in the day. Tinsley visited Camp Letterman and saw many officers and enlisted men of Garnett’s brigade, including 2nd Lt. Elisha S. Wildman of Company G, 28th Virginia – many having been sent there from Bream’s mill. During the day Gen. Kemper was moved to the hospital at the Lutheran Seminary.

August 1. Two patients remained at Bream’s mill, Private William H. Agnew of Company G, 11th Virginia, and Miller, who was confirmed with tetanus. Drs. Grigsby, Nowlin and Harrison had departed. [The three doctors were bound for Fort McHenry, where they would arrive by August 10. Private Agnew died. Miller was probably 1st Corporal William T. Miller, Company G, 1st Virginia, who died of tetanus and was buried near Currens’ house.]

August 2, Sunday. Tinsley held service at Bream’s tavern, which was also attended by ladies, including Nannie H. Private James T. Wilcher of Company K, 11th Virginia, caught frogs for the staff’s supper. [Wilcher was left as nurse for the wounded and was soon sent to Point Lookout prison camp.] Tinsley and Surg. Mayo also dined on a turtle caught earlier in the day.

August 3. Tinsley accompanied Surg. Rives to Camp Letterman, where they learned that Private John T. Denton of Company D, 56th Virginia had died. They stopped to check on Gen. Kemper at the Seminary hospital, who was closely guarded by Pennsylvania militiamen. While there they also saw Col. Robert M. Powell of the 5th Texas.
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