July 1, 2013

Why Gettysburg's called a 'Maine battlefield'

For three days in July, 150 years ago, the course of this nation's history took a dramatic turn in a Pennsylvania town, and Mainers by the hundreds did their part to see the Union preserved.

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 3)

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“Bayonet - July 2, 1863,” a painting by American historical artist Don Troiani, depicts the 20th Maine Regiment at Little Round Top in Gettysburg, Pa. With his men running out of ammunition, Col. Joshua Chamberlain leads a bayonet charge during the three-day battle, generally considered the turning point in the American Civil War. This week marks the battle’s 150th anniversary.

Painting by Don Troiani

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FOR MORE about artist Don Troiani and his paintings of historic battle scenes, visit his website.

The fields and hills around Gettybsurg are littered with dead soldiers and horses.  

In a letter to his brother written on July 5, Capt. William Livermore, from Milo, a color guard with the 20th Maine, describes the landscape near the former Confederate lines after the battle: “There was as many as 30 or 40 lay dead there of that (regiment). They had laid there 3 days in hot July weather and I wish I never could see another such a sight. It is nothing to see men that have just been killed. But every man was swollen as large as two men and purple and black.”

The body of John Chase, 19, from Augusta, is tossed into a wagon filled with dead soldiers.  On July 2, while stationed with the 5th Maine Battery on Culp’s Hill, he had been hit by 48 fragments of a shell that burst four feet away from him. The shell tore off his right arm, put out his left eye, and pierced his lungs. He is then left for dead on the field. 

As the wagon bumps along the road toward the newly dug graves, Chase moans.

The driver pulls Chase from the pile of bodies and gives him a sip of water. Chase mumbles his first words. He asks, “Did we win the battle?”

Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

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Additional Photos

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Capt. William Livermore, from Milo and a color guard with the 20th Maine, described this battle carnage in a letter to his brother.

Courtesy Library of Congress

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The fields and hills around Gettysburg are littered with dead soldiers and horses, a gruesome landscape described by Capt. William Livermore in a letter to his brother. The Milo man served on the Color Guard with the 20th Maine.

Courtesy Library of Congress

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Livermore wrote: “There were as many as 30 or 40 lay dead there of that (regiment). They had laid there 3 days in hot July weather and I wish I never could see another such a sight. It is nothing to see men that have just been killed. But every man was swollen as large as two men and purple and black.”

Courtesy Tom Desjardin

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Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard (1830-1909) of Leeds sent a brigade to occupy Cemetery Hill on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. It provided the Union Army with a superior defensive position during the conflict.

Courtesy Library of Congress

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Nineteen-year-old John Chase of Augusta was piled upon a wagon of dead soldiers when he moaned and was found alive by the driver. Hit by 48 shell fragments, Chase lost an arm and an eye but survived.

Courtesy Library of Congress

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Col. Joshua Chamberlain, a former Bowdoin College professor, commanded the 20th Maine at Little Round Top. Congress awarded the Maine man the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle at Gettysburg.

Courtesy Library of Congress

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A monument marks the burial place for 104 Mainers at Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pa. Ninety-six more casualties from Maine are buried elsewhere at the site.

Photo courtesy Tom Desjardin

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