Group promotes in-depth study, remembrance of 'horrible price' paid
During the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, the 62nd Pennsylvania Regiment marched into the “Whirlpool of Death,” otherwise known as “The Wheatfield.” On July 3, 1863, waves of blue and gray clashed and swirled in a four-acre field. Of the 426-man regiment, 175 died in the first few hours of the battle. Several men of that regiment were from Armstrong County.
To honor the memory of all who fought and those who died, an Armstrong County Civil War commemoration group, also dubbed the 62nd Regiment, will travel to Gettysburg starting this weekend through July 6.
The 62nd commander is Robert “Slim” Bowser, who is also commander of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, John T. Crawford, Camp 43.
“Neither the 62nd nor the John T. Crawford Camp are re-enactment groups,” Bowser said. “The beginning of July is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. There will be other Civil War groups doing re-enactments. Our group is going there to honor the memories of the brave soldiers who fought and died there. For some of us, those veterans are our ancestors.
“I had two ancestors in the Civil War. My great, great, great grandfather, Henry Wyant of the 103 Pennsylvania Infantry, died in the infamous Andersonville prison camp. My great, great, great uncle, Daniel Swigart, fought in Gettysburg in the ‘Bloody' Wheatfield Battle. He survived the war and later became a Baptist minister and visited churches throughout Western Pennsylvania. He was with the 62 Regiment, Company D, which was made up of Armstrong County men. In all there were 3,600 men from the county. About 1,000 are buried here. We want to be in that wheatfield on the 1, 2 and 3 of July.”
Bowser said the regiment will visit the Wheatfield monument and fly the regiment's colors. On July 6, they will have a wreath-laying ceremony. They will also have an encampment to which the public will be invited.
Bowser said a key aim of the regiment is to promote a better, more in-depth understanding of the Civil War, especially the different battles that took place in Gettysburg.
“The 62 Regiment fought in the four-acre wheatfield at least twice,” he said. “In just a few hours it suffered a 41 percent casualty rate. It was surrounded on three sides by the Confederate Army and was forced to retreat. About an hour later they were asked, but not ordered, to go into the field again, and they did. The tide of battle changed six times before Confederate forces were routed, but at a heavy cost in lives to both sides. In a three-day period, between 50,000 and 55,000 lives were lost.”
Bowser said that his research showed that 170,000 soldiers fought in Gettysburg, 95,000 Union soldiers and 75,000 Confederate forces. Total Civil War casualties number about 600,000 in nearly four years. In addition to the 62nd Regiment, Company D, other Armstrong County units were companies B, C and E of the 139th Regiment and the 11th Reserve, Company G of the 40th Regiment.
He said that Company D was engaged in the battle of the Peach Orchard, just about a half-mile from the wheatfield. The men of the 11th Reserve were from the Apollo area. The commanding officer was then Col. (later General) Samuel M. Jackson, a farmer and businessman. Jackson was the great grandfather of the late actor Jimmy Stewart.
Much of Bowser's information is based on “A History of Armstrong County,” Smith version, and “Gettysburg's Bloody Wheatfield” by Jay Jorgenson, White Main Books, Shippensburg. Bowser added that at least two county men died in the wheatfield battle, John Walker of the Crooked Creek area and John Long of Red Bank.
He said that some of what is written regarding the war is dependent on the author's viewpoint.
“The war was called ‘The War of Rebellion' by Union forces, but the Confederacy called it the ‘War of Northern Aggression,' he said. “The Civil War is rich in history. Watching re-enactments is great, but it's important to learn details of history that are not found in average textbooks. It's also important to understand that we are now one country united. That unity came at a horrible price.”
Tom Mitchell is a Leader Times correspondent.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- ‘Bend and dent’ store opening in Rural Valley
- Elsa from ‘Frozen’ popular for kids in Halloween parades at Armstrong schools
- Smicksburg businesses get jump on Christmas
- Kittanning, Ford City parades feature school bands for last time
- Armstrong County keeps commissioner raises tied to non-union employees’ pay
- Ford City postpones town hall meeting about police, finances
- Kittanning thrift shop giving away coats Sunday
- Kittanning gets $3 million grant for downtown improvements
- Preliminary hearing postponed again for Ford City man accused of wiretapping
- Grant awarded to fund Armstrong locks summer operations
- Council members dissent on future of blighted properties in Ford City