Battle of Gettysburg: Characters

Characters

Union

1) George G. Meade (Union)

Commander that took over the Union troop three days before Gettysburg.

In the early morning hours of June 28, 1863, a messenger from President Abraham Lincoln arrived to inform Meade of his appointment as Hooker's replacement. Meade was taken by surprise and later wrote to his wife that when the officer entered his tent to wake him, he assumed that Army politics had caught up with him and he was being arrested. He had not actively sought command and was not the president's first choice.

2) Col. Strong Vincent (Union)

Col. Strong Vincent (Union), age 26, successfully defended Little Round Top. He was mortally wounded in battle and died on July 7, but not before receiving a deathbed promotion to brigadier general. Vincent was born in Waterford, Pennsylvania, son of iron foundryman. He attended Trinity College and Harvard University, graduating in 1859. He practiced law in Erie, Pennsylvania. He had started the Gettysburg Campaign knowing that his young wife, Elizabeth H. Carter, whom he had married on the day he enlisted in the army, was pregnant with their first child. He had written her, "If I fall, remember you have given your husband to the most righteous cause that ever widowed a woman."

Strong Vincent is buried in Erie Cemetery in Erie. He is memorialized by a statue on the 83rd Pennsylvania monument on Little Round Top, by a statue erected in 1997 at Blasco Memorial Library, Erie, and by Strong Vincent High School in Erie.

3) Col. Dan Sickles (Union)

Made key mistake at the Peach Orchard (Day 2).

A cannonball caught Sickles (Union General) in the right leg. He was carried off in a stretcher, sitting up and puffing on his cigar, attempting to encourage his men. That evening his leg was amputated, and he returned to Washington, D.C.

In 1852, he married Teresa Bagioli against the wishes of both families—he was 33, she only 15.

Sickles was involved in a number of public scandals, most notably the killing of his wife's lover, Philip Barton Key II, son of Francis Scott Key (writer of the Star Spangled Banner) in 1859 across the street from the White House. He was acquitted with the first use of temporary insanity as a legal defense in U.S. history. His lawyers argued that Sickles had been driven insane by his wife's infidelity, and thus was out of his mind when he shot Key.

Sickles insubordinately moved his III Corps to a position in which it was virtually destroyed, an action that continues to generate controversy.

Confederate

4) Robert E. Lee (Confederate)

Confederate Leader that had established a reputation as an almost invincible general going into Gettysburg. It’s been speculated that Lee had chest pains due to angina at the time.

A West Point graduate

In early 1861, President Abraham Lincoln invited Lee to take command of the entire Union Army.

5) Misc. Confederate Solider at Little Round Top (Confederate)

Confederate troops were ordered to take the hill. The men were exhausted, having marched more than 20 miles that day to reach this point. The day was hot and their canteens were empty; the order to move out reached them before they could refill their water.

Confederate troops here were overcome by a Union bayonet charge and captured as prisoners.

6) Gen. William Barksdale (Confederate)

Gen. Barksdale (Confederate) at the Peach Orchard (Day 2) led the charge on horseback, long hair flowing in the wind, sword waving in the air. At about 5:30 p.m., Barksdale's Brigade burst from the woods and started an irresistible assault, which has been described as one of the most breathtaking spectacles of the Civil War. A Union colonel was quoted as saying, "It was the grandest charge that was ever made by mortal man."

Barksdale was wounded in his left knee, followed by a cannonball to his left foot, and finally was hit by another bullet to his chest, knocking him off his horse. He told his aide, W.R. Boyd, "I am killed! Tell my wife and children that I died fighting at my post." His troops were forced to leave him for dead on the field and he died the next morning in a Union field hospital.

A lawyer, newspaper editor, and U.S. Congressman in civilian life.

Born and raised in Tennessee. Captain in the Mexican War (1846-1848).

Editor of a pro-slavery newspaper. He was considered to be one of the most ferocious of all the "Fire-Eaters" in the House of Representatives.

Fire-Eaters refers to a group of extremist pro-slavery politicians from the South who urged the separation of southern states into a new nation

Other

7) Ginnie “Jennie” Wade (other)

There was only one documented civilian death during the battle: Ginnie Wade (also widely known as Jennie), 20 years old, was hit by a stray bullet that passed through her kitchen in town while she was making bread.

Jennie worked as a seamstress with her mother in their house on Breckenridge Street while her father was in a mental asylum.

She may have been engaged to Johnston Hastings "Jack" Skelly, a corporal in the 87th Pennsylvania, who had been wounded two weeks earlier in the Battle of Winchester.

Jennie, her mother, and two younger brothers left their home in central Gettysburg and traveled to the house of her sister Georgia Anna Wade McClellan at 528 Baltimore Street to assist her and her newborn child. Jennie was hit by a stray bullet on Day 3 of the battle.

About 8:30 a.m. on July 3, Ginnie was kneading dough for bread when a MiniƩ ball traveled through the kitchen door of her sister's house and hit her. It pierced her left shoulder blade, went through her heart, and ended up in her corset. She was killed instantly. While it is uncertain which side fired the fatal shot, some authors have attributed it to an unknown Confederate sharpshooter.

Shortly afterward, three Union soldiers discovered the body and told the rest of the family. They temporarily buried Ginnie's body in the back yard of the McClellan house, in a coffin originally intended for a Confederate officer. Day after the battle, her mother baked 15 loaves of bread with the dough Ginnie had kneaded.

Misc.

8) Priest William Corby (Misc.)
  • a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Corby is perhaps best known for his giving general absolution on the battle field.
  • also served twice as President of the University of Notre Dame. The school's Corby Hall is named for him.
  • Widely remembered among military chaplains and celebrated by Irish-American fraternal organizations, his statue with right hand raised in the gesture of blessing was the first statue of a non-general erected on the Gettysburg Battlefield.

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