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Bucket List Trip – Gettysburg

Part 1

These split rail fences and hundreds of cannons immediately let the traveler know they are entering hallowed ground — the Gettysburg National Military Park.
numerous cannon dot the Gettysburg battlefield

Everywhere you look …

Is history. After reading about a zillion books on Gettysburg, it was awesome to finally set foot on the “place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.” (A. Lincoln, Nov. 19,1863) My two sons Matthew and Glenn Peterson, and son-in-law Erik Craig, took me there in fall 2022. The subject is so broad that I thought I might just touch on some interesting sidelights we encountered including in Part 1 a multitude of monuments and a hero dog.

So much land, so many stones

everywhere one looks they can see a monument dedicated to a Civil War unit
The large monument to Pennsylvanians who fought on their home turf

There are 1,328 monuments on the Gettysburg battlefield. Park rangers love to tell the story about the most frequent question from visitors — did the soldiers take cover behind the monuments? Humorous but probably apocryphal. Some 410 cannons dot the landscape too. Visitors occasionally complain the monuments distract from the somber landscape where 7,400 Union and Confederate soldiers died in an epic three-day battle. That debate is moot since the stones are there to stay.

The monuments include the striking large edifice at the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge celebrating Pennsylvanians defending their home ground, to the arresting grandeur of the Robert E. Lee Virginia monument where the troops started out on the ill-fated Pickett’s Charge. By and large Confederate memorials didn’t appear until the 20th century as emotions softened. By the way, the last great reunion (75th anniversary) of North and South soldiers occurred in July 1938 with President Franklin Roosevelt in attendance. Naturally, there is a granite slab erected to that event.

Monuments were stuck all over like this lonely obelisk to a New York regiment. My son Glenn felt it was his duty to walk back into the woods to read the inscription.

Hero dog

11th Pennsylvania infantry monument with their mascot dog Sallie Ann
The bronze likeness of Sallie Ann Jarrett, the 11th Pennsylvania regiment’s heroic mascot lies in eternal repose on the unit’s monument on the Gettysburg battlefield at a spot known as Oak Ridge.

Sallie Ann Jarrett served with the 11th Pennsylvania her entire life. She was given to the unit as a puppy in the spring of 1861 as the regiment was training in West Chester, Penn. The dog was named after a young lady the men admired and the first commanding colonel, Phaon Jarrett. Jarrett was succeeded by Col. Richard Coulter who described the pup as a “brindle bull-terrier, of a fine breed.” Today she would be identified as an American Staffordshire Terrier.

According to “Wikipedia,” Sallie became an excellent infantry soldier, participating in drills and marching at the head of the column whenever the regiment went on the move. She reportedly walked when President Abraham Lincoln reviewed the troops. The regiment was involved in ALL the great battles of the eastern theater, and Sallie stood beside the men while the bullets flew. She also did her duty for her breed, giving birth to five litters of puppies.

Her combat record could not be exceeded, but her place in history was assured on July 1, 1863, the first day of the battle of Gettysburg. The 11th Pennsylvania like the rest of First Corps, lost its famous leader, General John Reynolds, earlier in the day. The corps was outflanked by the Confederates and had to retreat to Cemetery Ridge where the rest of the battle was fought. In the confusion, Sallie had been left behind, but she lay down with the regimental dead lying in the field until her human comrades rescued her on July 4 when the rebels retreated.

Nursed back to health, Sallie participated in the horrific battles of the spring and summer of 1864. She was wounded in the neck at Spotsylvania Courthouse. Treated by the regimental surgeon, the ball in Sallie’s neck could not be removed so she carried it like red badge of courage the rest of her life.

The end came on Feb. 6, 1865, just two months before Appomattox. During one of the Union army’s flanking attacks at the siege of Petersburg, Sallie was killed at a place called Hatcher’s Run. She was buried where she fell.

The regimental monument was erected in 1890. The bronze figure of Sallie is life-sized and taken from an actual photograph.

Posted in Gettysburg, Civil War, War History

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