The Devils Den Sharpshooter

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Ethan S.

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lelliott19

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Ethan - Here's a thread from a while back. The author of the article is one of our members @Scott F He posted some comments and images in the thread. Good stuff!
 
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connecticut yankee

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Theories, theories, theories. Yet another one. I have been aware of this sharpshooter photo and the many theories surrounding it for literally 50 years and the only one I believe is Frassanito's detailed study and explaination that the body was moved from a downhill location to the sharpshooter wall for photographic purposes. In my opinion all other "theories" are just that---with little science behind them I might add.
 

Ethan S.

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Theories, theories, theories. Yet another one. I have been aware of this sharpshooter photo and the many theories surrounding it for literally 50 years and the only one I believe is Frassanito's detailed study and explaination that the body was moved from a downhill location to the sharpshooter wall for photographic purposes. In my opinion all other "theories" are just that---with little science behind them I might add.

I'm skeptical about this one too, I just thought it was an interesting read. There are a ton of theories that I don't believe hold water.
 

lelliott19

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Makes you wonder who and how somebody identified him as being from 4th Virginia at some point, unless he was really lost. The 4th should have been on the far left around Culps Hill
Scott ID'd the sharpshooter as John Rutherford Ash, Co A, 2nd Georgia Infantry, Benning's brigade. The thread I posted along with the article from GNMP is pretty compelling. Have a look and let us know what you think.
Here's a snip from @Scott F "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...."
Spoiler alert: there's an image of John R Ash in the thread.
 
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eeric

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Scott ID'd the sharpshooter as John Rutherford Ash, Co A, 2nd Georgia Infantry, Benning's brigade. The thread I posted along with the article from GNMP is pretty compelling. Have a look and let us know what you think.
Here's a snip from @Scott F "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...."
Spoiler alert: there's an image of John R Ash in the thread.
I thought is was fairly compelling as well, and yes I did read the entire thing, and apart from that, why drag a dead guy uphill? Seems like alot of work, 70 yards away uphill?
 

Stone in the wall

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Scott ID'd the sharpshooter as John Rutherford Ash, Co A, 2nd Georgia Infantry, Benning's brigade. The thread I posted along with the article from GNMP is pretty compelling. Have a look and let us know what you think.
Here's a snip from @Scott F "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...."
Spoiler alert: there's an image of John R Ash in the thread.
Scott had said his program also IDed the sharpshooter as Andrew Hope, 4th Virginia. I was pointing out the 4th Virginia was with Edward Johnsons division on the left end of the Confederate line, and slim chance he was in Devils Den.
 

Scott F

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Scott had said his program also IDed the sharpshooter as Andrew Hope, 4th Virginia. I was pointing out the 4th Virginia was with Edward Johnsons division on the left end of the Confederate line, and slim chance he was in Devils Den.
No, no, no... Not me. That ID was made by a member of the Hodge family in the early 1900s. A descendant of the family actually contacted me after my article was published because she grew up thinking it was Andrew Hodge. I came across that theory early in my research and quickly dismissed it. The story about his death, from his cousin that was with him when he died, was very compelling but that stone wall he was behind was on/near Culp's Hill and not Devil's Den. His picture in which I found was similar and I can see why all those years later they thought that was him but I confirmed with certainty that they were in the vicinity of Culp's Hill when he died that day, contrary to what the article in a veterans magazine said in like 1903 (maybe) that they left their regiment for the safety of Devil's Den or something to that effect. Her letter and my response was published in the Dec (?) issue 2018 of CWT magazine. However, I don't recall if they published the picture of Andrew Hodge that I found, I would have to go through my stack to find it though. As for John Ash, my detailed research is covered in my upcoming book on Gettysburg Photographs. It is at the publisher now (Savas Beatie); there is only so much you can cover in 3000 word article. Also I have gained more information on John Ash since the article was published that leads me more and more to the conclusion that it is him.
 
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Scott F

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Theories, theories, theories. Yet another one. I have been aware of this sharpshooter photo and the many theories surrounding it for literally 50 years and the only one I believe is Frassanito's detailed study and explaination that the body was moved from a downhill location to the sharpshooter wall for photographic purposes. In my opinion all other "theories" are just that---with little science behind them I might add.
I totally agree with you and Bill Frassanto, I have discussed it with him several times. If my ID is correct it would prove that to be the way of it. Another interesting thing is that Gardner's narrative in his sketchbook may also be true, that he found his skeleton in Nov. when he came back to Gettysburg. It seems (through several sources) that instead of burying him, they threw the rocks from the wall on top of him and that the grizzly spectacle was witnessed by several Gettysburg citizens months after the battle. As unlikely as it sounds, Gardner may have been telling the truth, and may also prove that he was left at the wall and not dragged down the hill for additional photos.
 

connecticut yankee

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I totally agree with you and Bill Frassanto, I have discussed it with him several times. If my ID is correct it would prove that to be the way of it. Another interesting thing is that Gardner's narrative in his sketchbook may also be true, that he found his skeleton in Nov. when he came back to Gettysburg. It seems (through several sources) that instead of burying him, they threw the rocks from the wall on top of him and that the grizzly spectacle was witnessed by several Gettysburg citizens months after the battle. As unlikely as it sounds, Gardner may have been telling the truth, and may also prove that he was left at the wall and not dragged down the hill for additional photos.
In no way do I intend any of my comments to detract from the obviously extensive research you have done in trying to determine the name of the dead soldier. You have a working theory that no one can really dispute. All someone can do is come up with additional evidence that proves the identity, therein supporting or disproving the case for John Rutherford Ash being the soldier. Your work thus far is quite interesting and certainly has advanced a Gettysburg question that has intrigued historians for over 150 years.
 

Scott F

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In no way do I intend any of my comments to detract from the obviously extensive research you have done in trying to determine the name of the dead soldier. You have a working theory that no one can really dispute. All someone can do is come up with additional evidence that proves the identity, therein supporting or disproving the case for John Rutherford Ash being the soldier. Your work thus far is quite interesting and certainly has advanced a Gettysburg question that has intrigued historians for over 150 years.
Thank you for the kind words. I never thought your comment was disparaging and trust me I have had many that were, mostly from people that attached themselves to a different theory. Some had no clue what they were talking about and I could tell that they never read the article. Also one historian whose basis for his argument was "Because I said it was not him". However, everyone on this forum has been great, even if they don't agree they bring up valid points, most of which I have contemplated and researched already but was not able to put in my article. The editor of the magazine contacted me and wanted it for the featured article so I had literally 2 days to write it, when normally the authors get 4 weeks to write their articles. I pulled an all nighter the first day and the second day was spent editing so I skipped over a lot of material and may not of articulated myself too well. Live and learn I guess, hopefully people will read my book where I spend 30 pages on the Devil's Den Sharpshooter and delve into all aspects of the photo and the battle history.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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I totally agree with you and Bill Frassanto, I have discussed it with him several times. If my ID is correct it would prove that to be the way of it. Another interesting thing is that Gardner's narrative in his sketchbook may also be true, that he found his skeleton in Nov. when he came back to Gettysburg. It seems (through several sources) that instead of burying him, they threw the rocks from the wall on top of him and that the grizzly spectacle was witnessed by several Gettysburg citizens months after the battle. As unlikely as it sounds, Gardner may have been telling the truth, and may also prove that he was left at the wall and not dragged down the hill for additional photos.

Hadn't heard that although ( wish I could remember who wrote of it at the time ) one civilian wrote that some men were so wedged down into cracks between boulders at Devil's Den the only way to bury them was to shovel dirt over them. It's too graphic to get into, bodies in that heat became what we'd imagine- pulling and tugging one wasn't possible. Poor guys.

Does anyone know if Ash's remains were part of The Gettysburg Dead story, please? Was he one of the men finally taken home for reburial?
 

Stone in the wall

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No, no, no... Not me. That ID was made by a member of the Hodge family in the early 1900s. A descendant of the family actually contacted me after my article was published because she grew up thinking it was Andrew Hodge. I came across that theory early in my research and quickly dismissed it. The story about his death, from his cousin that was with him when he died, was very compelling but that stone wall he was behind was on/near Culp's Hill and not Devil's Den. His picture in which I found was similar and I can see why all those years later they thought that was him but I confirmed with certainty that they were in the vicinity of Culp's Hill when he died that day, contrary to what the article in a veterans magazine said in like 1903 (maybe) that they left their regiment for the safety of Devil's Den or something to that effect. Her letter and my response was published in the Dec (?) issue 2018 of CWT magazine. However, I don't recall if they published the picture of Andrew Hodge that I found, I would have to go through my stack to find it though. As for John Ash, my detailed research is covered in my upcoming book on Gettysburg Photographs. It is at the publisher now (Savas Beatie); there is only so much you can cover in 3000 word article. Also I have gained more information on John Ash since the article was published that leads me more and more to the conclusion that it is him.
My mistake, I shouldn't read stuff so fast.
 

Scott F

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Hadn't heard that although ( wish I could remember who wrote of it at the time ) one civilian wrote that some men were so wedged down into cracks between boulders at Devil's Den the only way to bury them was to shovel dirt over them. It's too graphic to get into, bodies in that heat became what we'd imagine- pulling and tugging one wasn't possible. Poor guys.

Does anyone know if Ash's remains were part of The Gettysburg Dead story, please? Was he one of the men finally taken home for reburial?
His remains were never recovered. Ash's brother who was Lieutenant in his company until 1862, erected a memorial stone for him in the family cemetery in the early 1880s. The date of death on the memorial was July 4, 1863. As a researcher this is very problematic, you should never try to explain away (without more info) or try to conform the evidence to fit your narrative. Nor should you automatically dismiss your suspicions without further investigation, so I continued my research, abate with a lot more skepticism that I had when I first found his picture. As it turns out the DOD on the stone was a very important Clue. Let me back tract a little bit. The whole foundation of my theory is based on the notion that the soldier in the photograph was killed on July 3rd. Frassanito had consulted a forensic expert who was of the opinion that the body photographed was no more than two days old and thought it highly unlikely that the soldier was killed on the afternoon of July 2nd after seeing the other bodies photographed under the same conditions who were actually killed on July 2nd. Also John Heiser's article that concluded that Benning's brigade occupied that entire area until the evening of July 3rd and would not leave a soldier killed on July 2nd in that relatively safe area unburied in the middle of their camp no matter what unit they were from. They even buried Union soldiers in the Triangular Field not more than 30 yards away from that location. Anyway that is my premiss, and that's where I started. Long story short, I must of investigated close to every soldier in that area that day but mainly focused on the 15th Georgia because of their high casualty rate. But despite that they only had three soldiers killed in that fight. Out of the 3 I was able to eliminate 2 of them because they were mortally wounded and I found out exactly where they were buried. The remaining soldier, I found a picture of his brother but had no resemblance of the sharpshooter. But sometimes brothers don't look a like so...anyway in the end he was most likely the subject of another Gardner photo in the Triangular Field, but that is another story...I confirmed that there was only one enlisted soldier killed on July 3rd from the 2nd Georgia and that was John R. Ash, Company A. Of course the records don't indicate when or where he was killed, but there is only one account written, that I could find anyway, that told of this soldier's death. It was written by John Bowden, Co. B. He was left behind on picket duty when Bennings Brigade withdrew from Devil's Den around 6:30 that evening on July 3rd. It just so happens that the area conveyed in the account is the exact area where Gardner found the body. The other soldier with Bowden and the soldier that was killed was Lt. Franklin, but he was mortally wounded in the head and did not survive the night. Out of the three Bowden was the only one to escape unharmed, by playing possum then when the firing stopped making a run for it past the "danger zone". Here is the kicker, Bowden had mistaken the date of their withdraw as July 4th and not the 3rd. It is not a "massive assumption" as one well known historian had put it, to believe that Ash's brother Co. A and Bowden Co. B, knew each other and Bowden was the only surviving witness to this soldier's death and as I already pointed out the only enlisted soldier killed that day from the 2nd was John Ash. It is a very reasonable assumption despite what was said by the historian who will remain unnamed.
 
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Scott F

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Not a problem. In no way was my comment above directed at you. I realized it was a simple mistake right after I read it.
My mistake, I shouldn't read stuff so fast.
My magazine collection is quite extensive and would take some time to find but I will share my response to the Hoge family descendant I was talking about before. It is the unedited version so please excuse any errors in the text and it also differs in the published version in its length. I believe that because of space constrictions some parts were edited out as well as parts of the original letter from the family member in which I also have.
 

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Stone in the wall

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My magazine collection is quite extensive and would take some time to find but I will share my response to the Hoge family descendant I was talking about before. It is the unedited version so please excuse any errors in the text and it also differs in the published version in its length. I believe that because of space constrictions some parts were edited out as well as parts of the original letter from the family member in which I also have.
Thanks for the letter. I know how magazine collections grow.
 
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I was wondering if maybe the 'victim' was moved down the slope for the purpose of burial, later, and then photographed, as Groves speculated in his 1998 article, @Scott F. I am sure this idea was likely discussed already, but I missed it. Being the need to move the 'victim' at some point would be necessary, and where others had already been interred close by, it is a reasonable assumption based on the artillery report. Plus, Private Ash would perform any duty that would harass an enemy position, and possibly took aim.
Lubliner.
 

Scott F

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Very good questions, and the movement of the body comes up a lot. I believe the body was moved up the hill for the sole purpose of getting a good photograph, and let's face it, it became one of the most iconic photographs of the Civil War. I have studied Gardner's work and life intensely and it most definitely seems like something he would do. Not personally, I might add. There is always a little truth in his narrative for the photographs but of course very much dramatized. When he says he happened upon a burial party, he was probably telling the truth. He likely solicited them to move the body, paying them money or some kind of other favor or even ordering them to do so. It is not well known at all that Gardner was a Captain in the Union Army, worked for the maps and engineering dept. Anyway, to answer your questions, no I don't think the body was moved after that. The burial party had moved on and so the soldier never received a proper burial. He was seen at that location many months later. Some concerned citizens possibly had placed the rocks from the wall on top of him. A couple of writers ever incorporated that into Martin's storyaftver seeing with their own eyes. That a shell hit the wall and buried him in the rubble. Anyone that has seen the photo can tell that was not true. And yes I believe that Captain Martin was an upstanding officer and just conveyed what he believed. Yes I think Groves and Martin were right when they said a round had struck the boulders face. That position was constructed for a reason and it was used as a sniper position during July 3rd, but I don't believe they killed anyone there. When the position was targeted the skirmishers using it most likely skedataled. Martin was there in Gettysburg until July 8th and most likely saw the body after it was photographed and before he left Gettysburg. That position was held by the 17th Georgia throughout the day and into the evening of July 3rd so it is doubtful that John Ash used it, though it seems he was on picket duty that day. He was most likely killed while running through that area when they were left behind just as Bowden had claimed. Thanks for your questions they are very well informed.
 
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