by Steven J. Wright and Blake A. Magner


Steven J. Wright is the curator of collections at the Civil War Library and Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is presently preparing a book on General Gibbon's and General Hancock's papers concerning the battle of Reams Station. He is the author of The Irish Brigade and various magazine articles on the Civil War.

Blake A. Magner is the owner of C. W. Historicals, a small New Jersey publishing house. He is the book review editor for the Civil War News, co-author of Battlefield Commanders: Gettysburg, a cartographer with maps in more than thirty volumes and author of various magazine articles on the Civil War. He is presently compiling and editing the Gettysburg Encyclopedia and a volume on the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble assault from the Federal perspective. The authors would like to dedicate this article to Judge John Reilly who passed away a short time after the Gibbon monument was dedicated.

The Man

It was relatively quiet at the moment. Firing could be heard off to the north and to the south, the area that had seen so much death the day before. The morning was already quite warm and John Gibbons thoughts turned to his family barely sixty miles away in Baltimore. Gibbon reached into the pocket of his uniform coat and found a pencil and a leather-bound field order book that was just about the size of his hand. He tore a page from the book and began to write, addressing the letter to his wife as he had all the others he had written during the war:
Head Quarters, Near Gettysburg
July 3d 1863 10 1/2 o'clock AM

My darling mama:

We had a great battle yesterday commencing at 4 p.m. & continued long after dark. The enemy attacked us, & after the hardest fighting I have seen wer[e] repulsed at all points. Today there has been more or less artillery & picket firing going on but no general fight. & both armies are tired enough to remain quiet for some hour longer. We can await longer than the rebels, and I hope before many hours are over Lees army will be so disabled as to render any further harm in this part of the country impossible[.] God has been good in one dear Mama in protecting me from so many dangers[.] Both [Maj. Gen. John F.] Reynolds and [Brig. Gen. Stephen H.] Weed were both [sic] killed the latter yesterday. Kiss the dear children for me & write often[.]

Yours ever

As he finished writing the note, Gibbon undoubtedly thought of his old friend Reynolds, his former West Point student Stephen Weed, and the thousands of others, Union and Confederate, who had already died during the battle. The question of his own fate must also have crossed his mind.

John Gibbon was born on April 20, 1827, in the Holmesburg section of Philadelphia, the fourth of Catherine Larder and John Heysham Gibbons ten children. When the future general was a boy, perhaps ten or eleven years old, the family moved to Mecklinburg County, North Carolina.

In 1842, at the tender age of fifteen, Gibbon entered the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was held back a year when he failed to answer correctly a question on the date of independence of the United States. He graduated in 1847, ranking twentieth in a class of thirty-seven. Among his classmates were such later notables as Orlando Willcox, A. P. Hill, Ambrose Burnside, Romeyn Ayres, and his life-long friend Henry Heth. Like many of his classmates, Brevet Second Lieutenant Gibbon was sent to Mexico. Assigned to the 3rd U.S. Artillery, he saw service in Mexico City and Toluca but evidently did not see any action.

In September 1847, Gibbon was promoted to second lieutenant and transferred to the 4th U.S. Artillery. With this promotion and transfer, he began what would become long service at dreary frontier posts, fighting Seminoles in Florida and keeping the peace along the Texas-Mexico border. While in Florida, Gibbon met Lt. George Gordon Meade of the topographical engineers, whom Gibbon described years later as a thin man with a hatchet face. 2

Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission Gen. John Gibbon in 1862. In 1854 Gibbon was assigned to the Military Academy as an assistant instructor of artillery and later served as the Academy quartermaster. While at West Point, on October 16, 1855, Gibbon married Frances North Moale of Baltimore, the Dear Mama of his Civil War letters. A year after his marriage, Gibbon was reassigned as captain of his old command, the 4th U.S. Artillery. In 1859 he published The Artillerists Manual which was never officially approved by the War Department, despite its wide use by Union, and later Confederate, gunners.3

Gibbons artillery assignment took the growing family to Camp Floyd, Utah Territory. There, in the spring of 1861, orders were received to abandon the post and return with his company, 4th Artillery, to Fort Leavenworth, some 1,200 miles away. It took more than two months for the column to reach its destination, by which time the seeds of war had been firmly planted.4

Gibbon returned to Washington where he was given command of the artillery in Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell's division. Although Gibbon never wrote of it, the decision to stay with the Union must have been difficult. Having grown up in North Carolina, he was more than familiar with Southern views, if not sympathetic to the cause. Gibbon obviously decided to remain loyal to the Union and the oath he had taken as an officer of the United States army. He was well aware, however, that his three brothers, as well as two brothers-in-law, would serve the Confederacy.5

The winter of 1862 was spent training volunteers, a brand of soldier for which Gibbon originally had little respect. On May 2, 1862, Gibbon was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers, something he had expected much earlier. He was given the command of a brigade of western troops consisting of the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin Infantry, as well as the 19th Indiana.

Through the summer of 1862, Gibbon and his brigade were engaged in the seemingly useless duty of marching around the northern Virginia countryside as part of Maj. Gen. John Popes Army of Virginia. On August 28, a few miles west of Manassas Junction, Gibbons brigade received its baptism of fire at Brawner Farm, the opening engagement of the battle of Second Manassas.

A little more than two weeks later, Gibbons black-hatted, frock-coated westerners again proved their worth at South Mountain. For their actions they won the nom de guerre The Iron Brigade. Just three days later, on September 17, they were again tested at Antietam in Millers cornfield. Following the battle Gibbon wrote to his wife, "I am as tired of this horrible war as you are, and would be perfectly willing never to see another battle field. "6

In November, Gibbon was given command of the Second Division of his old friend John Reynolds First Corps. On December 13 Gibbon was ordered to lead his division in support of George Meade's attack on the Confederate right flank south of Fredericksburg. Although a portion of Meade's division managed to break though the enemy line, and some of Gibbons men captured a few Confederates, the attack did not have the strength to succeed. Near the end of the fight Gibbon was struck in the left wrist by a fragment of an artillery shell. Within three days Gibbon was in Washington, where he was visited by President Lincoln, and a few days later was in Baltimore with his family. Gibbon returned to the army on April 1, 1863, to command the Second Division of Darius Couch's Second Corps. At Chancellorsville, Gibbon discovered just what his division was made of when they supported attacks by John Newtons Sixth Corps division on the heavily fortified Confederate position behind the stone wall at the bottom of Marye's Heights.

Personal tragedy struck Gibbon on June 16 when his twenty-three-month-old son, John, died suddenly. After a short visit home, Gibbon was back with the army by the end of the month and in pursuit of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, which had crossed into Maryland. The Army of the Potomac, with its new commander, the goggled-eyed old snapping turtle Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, finally encountered Lees army near the small Pennsylvania crossroads town of Gettysburg early on the morning of July 1.

Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, the new Second Corps commander and one of Meade's most trusted lieutenants, was sent forward about noon of July 1 to Gettysburg, acting as headquarters eyes. Gibbon had temporarily taken Hancock's place as corps commander and marched the men north towards the town. Early in the evening of that July day, the Second Corps reached the battlefield in the area of the Round Tops. After encamping for only a short time, at dawn on the morning of July 2 Gibbon led his division to a position along Cemetery Ridge just south of the towns Evergreen Cemetery. The terrible fighting of the second day left Gibbons division relatively untouched, but it was obvious to all that the contest would resume again the next day. That evening, as relative calm settled over the field of carnage, Meade called his generals to his headquarters at the Leister House. Years later Gibbon recalled:

I have no recollection of any reason being assigned for the summons to headquarters. We were simply requested to go there and as we straggled in, in parties of twos and threes the assemblage had more the appearance of an informal meeting of officers than anything else. Conversation was free and easy and pretty general except in regard to [Brig. Gen. Gouverneur K.] Warren who very tired and with a slight wound to the neck, lay down in the corner of the room and went fast asleep. 7
The purpose of the meeting was to decide the disposition of the Army of the Potomac. After everyone made a short report on the actions and conditions of his troops, each commander was asked a series of questions regarding whether the army should retire to another position; if it remained should it attack, or await attack from the enemy; if it awaited attack, how long should that delay be? Gibbon, being the junior officer present, voiced his opinion first. His response was to correct the position of the army, but not retreat; the Federal army was in no condition to attack, but should await attack from the enemy until the Confederates moved. Again and again the questions were repeated, the responses recorded by Chief-of-Staff Daniel Butterfield. The result of the meeting was summed up in the simple response of Twelfth Corps commander Maj. Gen. Henry "Slocum, Stay and fight." 8

Gibbon later recalled:

Before I left the house, Meade made a remark to me that surprised me a good deal, especially when I looked back upon the occurrence of the next day. By a reference of the votes in council it will be seen that a majority of the members were in favor of acting upon the defensive and awaiting the action of Lee. In referring to the matter, just as the council broke up, Meade said to me, 'If Lee attacks tomorrow, it will be in your front.' [Gibbons emphasis] I asked him why he thought so and he replied, 'Because he has made attacks on both our flanks and failed and if he concludes to try again, it will be on our centre.' I expressed a hope that he would and told Gen. Meade with confidence that if he did, we would defeat him. 9
Gibbon returned to his headquarters ambulance and, along with Hancock and First Corps commander Maj. Gen. John Newton, retired for some much needed sleep. The following morning was relatively quiet in Gibbons sector. As Gibbon and his fellow officers wore away the hours in conversation, his division headquarters servant prepared coffee and appropriated a tough old rooster, which was made into a stew. General Meade joined the group to partake of the meal, leaving after a short time to return to matters of importance. The remaining diners lolled for a spell and it was probably then that Gibbon wrote the short note to his wife describing the battle of the previous two days. After a time, Gibbon heard the report of a single Confederate cannon. Suddenly the entire area was alive with shells and explosions. Gibbon was forced to run toward the front lines, as the orderly with his horse had been killed. As the general reached the crest of the hill Gibbon found himself
. . . in the most infernal pandemonium it has ever been my fortune to look upon. Very few troops were in sight and those that were, were hugging the ground closely, some behind the stone wall, some not, but the artillerymen were all busily at work at their guns, thundering out defiance to the enemy whose shells were bursting in and around them at a fearful rate, striking now a horse, now a limber and now a man.10
Gibbon, together with his aide, Lt. Frank Haskell, walked past the copse of trees and over the wall behind which his men were trying to hide. Standing at a clump of bushes the commander watched the fields for any sign of the enemy. His men were inspired by his bravery, one commenting on his walking up and down the line in full dress uniform and in full view of the enemy. When another orderly finally came forward with the generals horse and information that the enemy was coming, Gibbon, as he later recalled
. . . hurriedly mounted and rode to the top of the hill where a magnificent sight met my eyes. The enemy in a long gray line was marching toward us over the rolling ground in our front, their flags fluttering in the air and serving as guides to their line of battle. In front was a heavy skirmish line which was driving ours in on a run. Behind the front line another appeared and finally a third and the whole came on in a great wave of men, steadily and stolidly.11
During the attack Gibbon rode up and down his line encouraging his men. While trying to get the left flank of his command to move out and catch the Confederate right in an enfilade fire, Gibbon was wounded in the left shoulder. He later said, I soon began to grow faint from the loss of blood which was trickling from my left hand. Turning command over to Brig. Gen. William Harrow, Gibbon made his way off the field. After he was removed to a hospital near Rock Creek, the surgeon there told Gibbon that the bullet, ". . . had entered exactly in the middle of my left arm near the shoulder and passing behind outside the shoulder blade shattered the upturned edge of the blade, producing the impression that the blow had come from the rear. " He was later visited by Lieutenant Haskell and told the results of the battle. As Gibbon had promised Meade following the council of war the night before, Lee had been stopped. Once again, Gibbon returned to Baltimore for recuperation with his family.12

After recovering from his wound, Gibbon commanded draft depots in Cleveland and Philadelphia before returning to the Army of the Potomac in March 1864. The army did not remain idle for long after his return to the Second Corps. In May the hard fought battles of The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House took place, in which Gibbons division was heavily engaged. On June 7, 1864, Gibbon was promoted to major general of volunteers. In an effort to press the Army of Northern Virginia, the battles of North Anna and Cold Harbor soon followed. A heavy price had been paid by both armies before they dug in for the long siege at Petersburg.

If Gettysburg was the apex of Gibbons career, the ebb was Reams Station, on August 25, 1864. The First ad Second Divisions of the Second Corps had been sent to Reams, eight miles south of Petersburg, to tear up the Weldon & Petersburg Railroad. For most of the day Hancock's men had repulsed Confederate attacks led by Gibbons old friend Harry Heth. At 5 p.m. the Rebels broke through the Union line and took possession of the entrenchments. Caught in a withering cross-fire, Gibbons men withdrew and refused their lines to plug the gap created by the Confederate breakthrough. The gallant Second Corps lost nearly two thousand men captured or missing, nine pieces of artillery, and seven regimental colors. In the long history of the Second Corps, it was the first time that a flag had been lost to the enemy. Some of the regiments surrendered almost en masse without firing a shot.13

Two days after the battle Gibbon wrote to his wife:

It was a severe and terrible battle, and a mortifying one for the Second Corps, which is becoming pretty well used up with its hard work and hard fighting. I had some pretty narrow escapes and thought more than once I had seen you for the last time and I am sure you can immagine [sic] what a bitter thought that was. 14
The battle of Reams Station was also significant in that it furthered the already tenuous relationship between Hancock and Gibbon, a rift that had been festering since the battle of The Wilderness. At that action, according to some sources, Hancock had been angered by Gibbons failure to attack A. P. Hill on the morning of May 6. Hancock believed a unique opportunity to crush Lee had been wasted and never excused Gibbon for failing to comply with orders.15

A few days after the Reams Station fiasco, Gibbon discussed the condition of the Second Corps with Hancock. That evening Gibbon wrote a note to Hancock suggesting that the corps needed to be reorganized and, if necessary, Gibbon would yield his division for consolidation for the good of the corps. Hancock's reply was that perhaps Gibbon should resign the command of his division for the good of the service. 16

Gibbon at once sent a request to Hancock to be relieved of command. Shortly thereafter Gibbon was summoned to corps headquarters where he met Hancock. The meeting was short and did not resolve the situation; rather, it put a further strain on their relationship. Later, Gibbon was once again summoned to meet with Hancock, who was reported to be in a much better mood. After a lengthy discussion Hancock removed the letter suggesting that Gibbon give up his command, and Gibbon withdrew his request to another assignment. He later recalled how Hancock "stuck the note in the candle, set it on fire, threw it in the fireplace and we parted on tolerably good terms, but there was a soreness of feeling remaining on both sides which never entirely disappeared." 17

A few days later, on September 3, Gibbon was assigned temporary command of the Eighteenth Army Corps when Maj. Gen. E. O. C. Ord went on sick leave. Three weeks later Gibbon returned to command his division in the Second Corps. In January of 1865, he was given command of the Twenty-fourth Army Corps, consolidated from white troops of the Tenth and Eighteenth Corps. As part of the Army of the James, Gibbons new command operated north of the James River until late March, when it joined in the final pursuit of Lees army.

When the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia finally took place at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, Gibbon was appointed senior Federal commissioner to oversee the terms of surrender. The war was over, the killing had stopped, and it was a time to renew old friendships that had been separated by the colors of uniforms and differences of ideals.

Gibbon was mustered out of volunteer service in January 1866, and for a short time reverted to his prewar rank of captain in the 4th U.S. Artillery before being promoted to colonel of the 36th U.S. Infantry. In 1869, he was given his most famous postwar command, the 7th U.S. Infantry.

While commander of this regiment, Gibbon led one of the columns against the Sioux in the campaign of 1876. Although seriously ill, he pushed his column toward the Little Big Horn River. Gibbon and his men arrived on June 27, 1876, and relieved the commands of Majs. Marcus Reno and Frederick Benteen, which had taken refuge on a bluff overlooking the river. They also discovered the remains of George Armstrong Custer's command, which had been destroyed two days earlier, and the site of what had once been an enormous Indian village.

Gibbons experience with the Indian Wars did not end with the Centennial Campaign. The following year he led his regiment against Chief Joseph and the Nez Perc, who were making a heroic bid to escape to Canada. Gibbons pursuit of the small band ended with the battle of Big Hole in which Gibbon was once again wounded. Ironically, the general and Chief Joseph became lifelong friends following the campaign. 18 On July 10, 1885, Gibbon was promoted to brigadier general in the Regular Army. Shortly thereafter he was directed by President Grover Cleveland to suppress the anti-Chinese riots in Seattle, which he did without bloodshed. The same year he finished the manuscript for his wartime memoirs, Personal Recollections of the Civil War, although it was not published until 1928, thirty-two years after his death.

Gibbon spent the last six years of service in command of various military departments. Upon his retirement, on his sixty-fifth birthday in 1891, he was heading the Department of the Pacific in San Francisco. He remained active during his retirement, dividing his time between speaking to veterans groups across the country, visiting battlefields, and writing articles, most of which remain unpublished.19 In 1895 he was elected commander-in-chief of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, a post-war veterans organization for former Union officers and their descendants. 19

On February 7, 1896, readers of the Baltimore Sun were met by the simple headline: GENERAL GIBBON DEAD. The obituary stated that the general had died at his rented home at 239 West Biddle Street in Baltimore, and that he was survived by his wife and two children. The story described in detail Gibbons military career, including the fact that he had been promoted by brevet five times during the Civil War for gallant and meritorious service. But perhaps most appropriate was the simple sub-heading, one which would have made the general proud,

He was a Gallant Soldier of the United States Army. Brig. Gen. John Gibbon was buried in a secular service at Arlington National Cemetery, a few hundred yards from the home of his former West Point commander, Robert E. Lee.20

The Monument

In the early 1900s, the state of Pennsylvania appropriated monies to erect bronze monuments honoring five of its native sons. $50,000.00 was available to fund statues to Generals Andrew A. Humphreys, Alexander Hays, John W. Geary, Samuel W. Crawford, and John Gibbon, all of whom had served with distinction at the battle of Gettysburg. In 1913, Governor John Tener ended the construction of the monuments, citing a lack of state revenue as the reason. Three statues had been erected while two, Crawfords and Gibbons, had not.

In the mid 1980s, efforts were begun in the Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, area to erect the long overdue monument to Samuel Crawford. Unfortunately, there was no interest in that area for a monument to Gibbon. In stepped retired army officer and Gettysburg historian, Jacob Sheads. Colonel Sheads contacted John Reilly, the district attorney and later judge from Media, Delaware County, to see if there was any interest in the Philadelphia area to build something for John Gibbon. Judge Reilly contacted a number of people associated with the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table of Philadelphia, and on March 25, 1987, a group met at the Civil War Library and Museum to form the General John Gibbon Memorial Committee.

By the end of the first few meetings, an official committee had been formed with Blake A. Magner acting as chairman, Michael A. Cavanaugh, treasurer, and Patrick E. Purcell, secretary. Additional representatives serving on the committee were Russ Pritchard of the Civil War Library and Museum, J. Gregory Acken, Edward Bauer, Nelson E. Ockerbloom, and Richard Ridinger.

Library of Congress Gen. John Gibbon in 1863. In addition to organizing, the committee faced other problems: the need for money, specifically $75,000, the estimated cost of the monument, the need for a sculptor, and finally, if the statue were to be erected, the acceptance of the National Park Service. The sculptor came along fairly quickly when one of our members found Terry Jones. He had never done anything of this size, but his work on smaller pieces was excellent. The money problems soon disappeared as some of our members had friends in the Pennsylvania State Legislature. State Senator Vincent Fumo (D. Philadelphia) was contacted and discretionary funds associated with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, in the sum of $75,000, were awarded the Gibbon Committee. It was eight months before any money was received, but at least the committee could concentrate on the other problems associated with erecting a monument rather than fund raising. In total, just short of $80,000 was raised, the majority of the extra funds going into a monument maintenance account, which was presented to the Gettysburg National Military Park after the monument was erected.

Working with the National Park Service was a bit more challenging. The committee dealt with qualified people, many of whom were quite set in their ways. There was, at one point, the suggestion that the monument be made of aluminum or stainless steel (for ease of maintenance), but this was quickly dismissed. There was some question as to Gibbons appearance (many said he should have a beard) but solid research on the part of the committee proved that he was clean shaven except for a mustache. To the rescue, came Lt. Frank Haskell who wrote:

Gibbon, the youngest of them all, save [Maj. Gen. Oliver O.] Howard, is about the same size as Slocum, Howard, [Maj. Gen. George] Sykes, and [Maj. Gen. Alfred] Pleasonton, and there are none of these who will weigh one hundred and fifty pounds. He is compactly made, neither spare not corpulent, with ruddy complexion, chestnut brown hair, with a clean-shaven face, except his moustache, which is decidedly reddish in color, medium-sized, well-shaped head, sharp, moderately jutting brow, deep blue, calm eyes, sharp, slightly aquiline nose, compressed mouth, full jaws and chin with an air of calm firmness in his manner.21
Gettysburg Park Historians Kathy Georg Harrison and Robert Prosperi were instrumental in finding a site for the monument by showing the committee one of the spots which was Gibbons headquarters (of course the generals headquarters was frequently his aide standing there holding Gibbons horse). The site was located only a short distance from where Gibbon was wounded and across Hancock Avenue from the U.S. Regulars monument. It was January 1988, with a three-quarters finished statue, when final word was received from the National Park Service that the monument had been approved.

One of the things the committee strived for was returning to the classical style of sculpture for the statue. The goal was to have a monument of the sort that could have been put up by the veterans in the late 1800s. Jones was a capable sculptor, but the statue is only part of a monument; Gibbons likeness had to stand atop something. About this time the Pennsylvania Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS) came to the rescue. A desecrated MOLLUS monument in Philadelphia's Mount Moriah cemetery stood in the plot for the Old Soldiers Home. The statue itself had been stolen and almost sold for scrap. The plaques had disappeared, and all that stood in the cemetery was a weathered, forgotten pile of granite. 22 MOLLUS decided that its contribution to Gibbon would be to donate this stone for use as the base for the monument. What makes this stone appropriate is that it is Quincy granite, quarried in the nineteenth century. The stones were dismantled and taken to a local stone mason where they were cleaned, had the Second Corps trefoil sand-blasted onto the sides, and were prepared for the plaques.

The base itself was made of five pieces. As the next to last stone was removed, a compartment was found that contained the remnants of a book. The covers had been destroyed, but the text remained intact. The volume was a listing of men at the Old Soldiers Home, but also contained a woodcut of the completed monument, which had been erected in one place during the early 1880s and later moved to the cemetery. The book was freeze-dried, re-bound, and a new page was tipped in using the Gibbon Committee stationery and an explanation of who the committee was and what it was doing. The book was encased in plastic and placed back in its compartment when the base was assembled in Gettysburg.

In the interim, Jones had taken an eight-inch, committee approved, maquette (preliminary sculpture model), enlarged it to two feet, and enlarged it again into an eight foot mass of clay that looked like John Gibbon on July 3, 1863. Using the lost wax method of bronze casting, the foundry (Loran Bronze of Chester, Pennsylvania) produced more than twenty pieces of copper and tin alloy, which were welded into the statue that sits on the battlefield today.

Three plaques were written for the monument, one simply saying GIBBON 1827-1896, while the other two were more elaborate. The front face plaque describes Gibbons Civil War career with the quotation: He has a keen eye and is as bold as a lion. The reverse plaque provides a general synopsis of the generals life.23

Ground breaking for the monument was held on a cold, windy morning in mid-March of 1988. The erection of the monument was held on June 15, a day that was as hot as the ground breaking day was cold. This day provides one of the better stories of the Gibbon monument: the story of Ruffo. Ruffo worked for the stone cutter who removed the stones from Mount Moriah, cleaned them and brought them to Gettysburg. Ruffo had learned stone-cutting at the Vatican, moved to Philadelphia in the 1940s, and had not left the city limits since. Ruffo so loved the base we had chosen for Gibbon that he all but adopted it, and he left the city of Philadelphia for the first time in forty years to make sure that his stone was assembled correctly in Gettysburg.

Within two hours, the site chosen went from a practically bare spot of ground to the home of a seventeen-foot, three-and-a-half-ton monument to Brig. Gen. John Gibbon. A comment made later that day suggested that the monument looked as if it had been standing there for a hundred years.

Dedication day was July 3, 1988, the 125th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg. An enthusiastic crowd of some two thousand gathered to watch a small group of Gibbon enthusiasts unveil the monument. There was an honor guard, the 3rd U.S. Infantry, from Arlington National Cemetery, the United States Army National Guard, plus more than two hundred reenactors from the National Regiment who served as a backdrop to the ceremonies. The 110th Pennsylvania, another reenactment group, acted as an honor guard, firing the salute. Just before the ceremony began a mounted artillery sergeant reenactor rode up and asked if his group could participate. Permission was granted and more than a dozen men from the 4th U.S. Artillery, Gibbons old command, joined the ceremonies. Speeches were given by State Senator Vincent Fumo; H. Sinclair Mills, Pennsylvania Commandry of MOLLUS; Terry Jones; Blake A. Magner; Park Superintendent John Ernest; and Maj. Gen. Gerard T. Sajer of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. The key-note speaker that day was Civil War historian Brian Pohanka. A number of Gibbon descendants also attended the ceremony. John Reilly, the man who got the whole project started in the Philadelphia area, was also there.

John Gibbon has been given his just due - a monument he deserves on the battlefield where he gave one of his best performances. As one dedication speaker said: "As each sun sets on the [Gettysburg] battlefield, the shadow of the U.S. Regular Army Monument will stretch out to embrace one of its most faithful soldiers, General John Gibbon." 24