Sunday, December 16, 2012

143rd PA Infantry

Colonel Edmund Dana
          The 143rd Pennsylvania was part of the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 1st Army Corps and was involved in the heavy fighting on the afternoon of July 1 on McPherson's Ridge.  The regiment's Colonel, Edmond Dana, ended up taking command of the brigade after severe fighting incapacitated the Brigade Commander, Colonel Roy Stone of the 149th PA and his replacement, Colonel Langhorne Wister of the 150th PA.  Initially the regiment deployed facing north along the south side of the Chambersburg Pike and received the attacks of Junius Daniels' North Carolina Brigade before finally falling back to Seminary Ridge for one last stand with the other regiments of the 1st Corps.  Again they were outnumbered and outflanked, being forced to flee through the town of Gettysburg and reform on the heights south of town.
Color Sgt. Ben Crippen
          One famous story of the regiment's fight that day helped to formulate the idea for their memorial on the field.  That is the story of Color Sergeant Ben Crippen.  Little is known about this young man, but the story goes that as the Federal troops were retreating off McPherson's Ridge, he would periodically turn towards the enemy bravely waving the flag aloft and shaking his fist in defiance of the enemy attack.  This act of courage was actually witnessed by Confederate 3rd Corps commander, Lt. General AP Hill.  Hill also noted that he saw the brave young man fall.  His body was never identified after the battle and it is very possible that Color Sgt. Crippen is buried as an unknown in the National Cemetery.  The regiment decided to honor him and the rest of their fallen comrades through the entire war with a monument that permanently displays the young man's courage while facing the enemy.  The regiment took 515 men into battle on July 1, 1863 and lost 253 of them in the fight.
          The monument was erected for approximately $1,500 by Smith Granite Company and dedicated on September 11, 1889 in front of veterans and their family members on Pennsylvania Day.

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