Tuesday, June 18, 2013

38th PA - 9th PA Reserves Monument

This monument is one of my personal favorites.  It was dedicated in 1890 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and depicts a Union soldier, hat removed and head bowed, standing over the grave of one of his fallen comrades.  The 38th PA, or 9th PA Reserves, was attached to Fisher's 3rd Brigade of Crawford's 3rd Division, Sykes 5th Army Corps.  At Gettysburg, the 9th PA Reserves took only a small part in the closing actions on the southwestern slopes of Little Round Top on July 2, but their monument speaks volumes to the common experience of soldiers on both sides during the battle and war.  The regiment lost 5 men wounded as it moved to the saddle between Little Round Top and Big Round Top that evening, led by Lieutenant Colonel James Snodgrass.  It is quite possible that many of the stone walls around the monument were built in part by the regiment on the evening of July 2/morning of July 3 as fortifications.  Before Gettysburg the regiment was in all the major actions of the Army of the Potomac, suffering immensely during the Peninsula Campaign and in Meade's assault at Fredericksburg in December of 1862.  As is shown on the monument, in total, of over 1,000 men that enlisted in the regiment, over half became casualties during the war.  The monument stands to this day as a testament to the experience of the common soldier in a war filled with so many tragic scenes.  

From the address given at the dedication of the monument by Sergeant Major A.P. Morrison, "Twenty-six years have swiftly rolled away, old comrades of the Ninth, since we stood here on this very spot in battle line, bearing our part in that momentous three-days struggle between the armies of the North and South, which history has already recognized and recorded as one of those great battles of the world, which change or fix and determine the destinies of nations, and the character of their civil institutions for all time."

"Here on this bloody field of Gettysburg, the surging tide of "Secession" was stayed and turned back and the "union" of these states was saved from impending dissolution, and for all time made sure and strong.  Here the most costly sacrifice of patriot blood was poured out a willing offering by the nation's sons, to the end that this great nation might live, and continue to live on and on to the last syllable of recorded time."

"...About 10 o'clock that night, our line being established and our pickets set a few yards in advance, we lay down, each soldier in his place and "with all his armor on" ready for any night attack the rebels might attempt, and not-withstanding an occasional shot from a picket post to remind us of impending danger, and the pitiful moaning of the wounded all around us, we slept as only exhausted soldiers can.  With the earliest dawn of day on July 3rd, our line was up and on the alert.  How vigorously you all worked, comrades, on this stone wall!  A labor of love it was, of love of life, of honor, of country for well you knew how this low breast-work, rude and rough in form might help to gain and save them all, in the storm of battle that then seemed sure to burst upon us ere the sun was high."

"...And may I not now, after the lapse of these many years, adopt the beautiful language of Edward Everett, the venerable and eloquent orator on the occasion of the dedication, a quarter of a century ago, of yonder National Cemetery to the sacred dust of the martyr heroes who gave up their lives, 'that wheresoever throughout the civilized world the accounts of that great warfare are read, and down to the last period of recorded time, in the glorious annals of our common country, there will be no brighter page than that which relates The Battle of Gettysburg." (From Nicholson - Gettysburg Battle-field Commission, Pennsylvania at Gettysburg, Vol. I, pp 236-242)

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