Nov 18, 1863. Gettysburg & burials
[For the Herald and Torch]
Letter from Gettysburg.
Historical associations of the Town— Patriotic dead
— Searching for friends- National Cemetery, Exhuming the dead, Consecration etc.
I have no doubt that a letter from this place will be interesting to many of your readers. This pleasant little town is now a place of intense interest to thousands in our beloved land. Here it is where one of the greatest battles of the war was fought. Here it is where the army of the Potomac held the rebel army at bay for three days and finally succeeded in driving them from Northern soil. Here it is that many a brave, generous, noble man, who has braved the storms of life for years, fell in defence of the flag of our country.— Here it is that many a patriotic, brave, young man poured out his life’s blood in defending; our homes from the desolating hand of Rebel invaders.— Here lies the bones—many of them blenching upon the soil—of those who were near and dear to us by the ties of consanguinity. Toward this place many eyes are nightly turned, vainly stretching the imagination to behold those who were dearer to them than life itself. Many are now mourning the loss of father, brother, husband or son, whose history can be traced no farther than Gettysburg. Hundreds have visited this place in quest of friends, and after a diligent search in hospitals, graveyards and over battle field, they are compelled to relinquish all idea of ever hearing of their loved ones. In going over the field they observe little mounds—or long trenches—containing the remains of some one; they disinter the body, examine the hair, teeth, clothing, belt or whatever may be found on their person—discover nothing that can be identified, and are finally obliged to despair ever finding the body sought. Oh! how sad, how the heart bleeds—how slowly and reluctantly they wend their way homeward—now and then casting back a look of disappointment. Do we utter anything beyond what is true, when we say that it is a place of intense interest to thousands? Cases have come under my own observation, where commissioned officers died in the hospitals during the first few days of the fight, whose bodies can no where be found.
But the good of the North, at the instigation of Gov. Curtin, have concluded to pay respect to the remains of the union men who fell in this sanguinary battle; and for this purpose have purchased a lot of grounds South-East of the town, adjoining the cemetery, for the purpose of reinterring them. The locality is one of great beauty. From the summit of the National Cemetery you can view the surrounding Country for a distance of twenty or thirty miles. It is a place of special interest from the fact that it was the centre of our line of battle, and upon this spot much hard fighting was done. It was beautifully laid out into angles, squares and circles by a celebrated gardner from Washington.
The exhuming was commenced last week, raising on an average, from fifty to seventy-five bodies daily. They are immediately conveyed to the National Cemetery where they are placed side by side in long trenches excavated for the purpose, with a stone wall at the upper side or head of the trench upon which will be placed a head stone or board for each person marked with the name, company, and regiment,--or where this can not be ascertained,—with the simple inscription — unknown.
The work is superintended on the field by Mr. Samuel Weaver, a very clever, honest upright citizen. He exercises the greatest care in having them property disinterred, carefully examining each one to ascertain whether there is anything upon the body by which those can be identified where the graves were not marked. Thus far he has succeeded in getting the name of quite a number, from marks on their belts, names in a book or some such way.
The National Cemetery will be solemnly consecrated on the 19th inst., at which time Hon. Edward Everett will present and deliver the address. Thousands of visitors from the loyal states are expected to be present, and the citizens are making every preparation to give them a pleasant reception !
Yours &, RAMBLER.
"Ramber", Herald of Freedom & Torch Light
Washington County Free Library
Hagerstown (Md.), Newspapers; Maryland, History, Civil War, 1861-1865
Washington County (Md.), 1861-1865