The Real Story of Sgt. George H. Buck at Gettysburg

Joined
Jun 7, 2021
Does anyone know the actual story on this man? I'm reading "Army Life: A Private's Reminiscences of the Civil War," by Theodore Gerrish, a member of the 20th Maine, and he describes a very moving scene where, during a lull in the fighting on LRT, Joshua Chamberlain kneels over the dying Private Buck and restores him to the rank of Sergeant. Which seems like a pretty decent thing to do seeing as how Chamberlain probably had a lot of other things on his mind just then. Looking on CWT website for more info though, I find some folks don't think Gerrish is a very reliable source. It seems like the more I read, the less I know. Are there any good first person accounts of the 20th Maine? If this is covered in another thread, please direct me there. Thanks!
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
Keep in mind that Gerrish was not with the 20th Maine at Gettysburg; he was hospitalized near Philadelphia at the time.
https://www.historynet.com/broken-bond.htm
Great link. Thanks. I read a speech given by Chamberlain after the war which he begins by saying words to the effect of, "First I want to say that the tales of my daring exploits, as reported in the local papers this week, are not true."
As an (old) journalism major, I can attest to the notion that Hearst would most definitely have juiced up a story in any way necessary to increase the sale of his papers.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
I found a George W. Buck on Findagrave.com who answers every description for this soldier except that my newly purchased Kindle version of Gerrish's book clearly identifies him as George H. Buck. The book says "In the national cemetery at Gettysburgh (sic) is a little mound marked Sergeant George H. Buck ...20th Maine Volunteers." According to Findagrave however, the location of his remains is unknown. I'm feeling seriously bummed about buying this book.
The cover says "a truthful representation of the marches, skirmishes, battles, associations, and camp life of the private soldier - TG Buckspobt (yes, that's how the name is really spelled). 😖 Guess I won't be enjoying the weekend reading a new book after all.
 

John Hartwell

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It's been years since I read Gerrish's book, and don't recall if he said he was personally present at Gettysburg. But, he was a member of the 20th Maine, and as such had every opportunity to hear the story first hand from those who were. So, while we might wonder how much he may have embroidered upon one incident or another (the same might be said of anyone's actual eyewitness testimony), I see no reason to doubt or dismiss him as "unreliable." If he kept in touch with his comrades, attended reunions, etc, they would have surely made it known if what he wrote was significantly inaccurate.

As with any memoir, handle Army Life: A Private's Reminiscences of the Civil War, with due care, but don't dismiss it.
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[National Tribune, Oct. 12, 1882]​
 
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General Casey

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Jan 26, 2016
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Massachusetts
If anyone has it available and nearby, check and see if this incident is mentioned in Thomas Desjardins' Stand Firm Ye Boys From Maine. My copy is in storage at the moment.

Ryan

It is in there. The incident that prompted Bucks demotion to Private from Sergeant occured in January 1853 when the 20th was encamped at winter quarters at Stonemans Switch, Virginia.

Apparently Buck was spotted by the regimental quartermaster, Lieutenant Alden Litchfield one day and was asked to cut some wood. Buck told Litchfield that he was on sick fall and exempt from duty and also, as a non-commissioned officer, it was not his duty to provide a personal service to the officer. Litchfield apparently struck Buck and then apparently pressed charged against Buck for insubordination.

Chamberlain (and many others) felt it was a miscarriage of justice (apparently Litchfield was a bully and would later be charged with bank robbery after the war).
 

ErnieMac

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I thumbed through my copy of Stand Firm Ye Boys From Maine and came up with a few tidbits of interest.
  1. The book plainly states that the accounts of Theodore Gerrish and Howard Prince were second hand as neither had been present at Gettysburg.
  2. In the 1890s Chamberlain submitted a list of 20th Maine participants in the battle to the Gettysburg Commission. he apparently struggled with the decision whether to include Gerrish's name on the list, but eventually did so.
  3. George Buck's full name was George Washington Buck. The book cites Chamberlain's account of the battle, Through Blood and Fire at Gettysburg as being another source for Buck's reinstatement to the rank of sergeant.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
I thumbed through my copy of Stand Firm Ye Boys From Maine and came up with a few tidbits of interest.
  1. The book plainly states that the accounts of Theodore Gerrish and Howard Prince were second hand as neither had been present at Gettysburg.
  2. In the 1890s Chamberlain submitted a list of 20th Maine participants in the battle to the Gettysburg Commission. he apparently struggled with the decision whether to include Gerrish's name on the list, but eventually did so.
  3. George Buck's full name was George Washington Buck. The book cites Chamberlain's account of the battle, Through Blood and Fire at Gettysburg as being another source for Buck's reinstatement to the rank of sergeant.
thanks- and now I'm looking for a copy of Stand Firm Ye Boys From Maine 👍
 
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