Philadelphia Brigade

Philadelphia Brigade

Esteemed member "Dennis Matthews" contributes:

jeffburk recently asked:

> While reading "Pa at Gettysburg" I came upon info on the 72 pa that >states that they had to file a law suit in order to place their >monument. It seems some non named people claimed that they were not at >the angle on july 3, 1863.

The PA legislature set up a commission and set aside money to work with PA regiments who fought at Gettysburg to site their regimental monuments on the battlefield. The 72nd, working with the commission, chose a spot and design, the Zouave swinging his musket just inside the angle. The Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Assoc (GBMA) was opposed to the location, arguing the monument should be placed along the ridge (about where the road is now). The regiment ended up having to go to court, eventually all the way to the PA supreme court. The court found the GBMA argument had no merit and the monument was allowed to be situated where it is today. You can read some excerts from the trial in Pickett's Charge! Eyewitness Accounts edited by Richard Rollins. I believe the original transcipt from the Adams County trial is at the GNMP library. The Supreme Court transcript is available at the State Library in Harrisburg.

The story of the 72nd is told by Haskell, and recounts a reluctant regiment, unable to charge the stone wall, but willing to stand and fight and die. Webb apparently wrestled with the color guard, trying to get the regiment to move forward before giving up and joining the 69th PA regiment near the Copse of Trees. Eventually, the 72nd did charge, and was instrumental in the repulse. The veteran's speak poignantly of the bodies of their comrades lying prostrate across the wall.

The 72nd PA of the Philadelphia Brigade (69th, 71st, 72nd, and 106th PA) were placed at the Angle on July 2nd where they remained through the fight on July 3rd. The 69th PA was placed along the wall in front of the Copse of Trees, between Brown's Battery B, 1st RILA (later Cowan's NY Battery) and Cushing's US Battery. Part of the 71st PA was placed to the right of Cushing's battery, along the fence facing Bryan's house, or north, on the right edge of the Angle, with the rest of the Regiment positioned about 50 yards behind and to their right along the wall facing west. The 72nd was placed in support of Cushing's battery behind the Angle 50-75 yards. When the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge hit the Federal position, the portion of the 71st fell back to the rest of the regiment, being in a hopelessly exposed position along the edge of the Angle. This left the 69th all alone in front of the Copse (Cushing's battery abandoned, Cushing and most of his men being down), but the 69th held at terrible cost. General Webb, Brigade commander, ran back to the 72nd and ordered a charge against the advancing rebels, but the 72nd hesitated to charge, so Webb went back to the 69th "in disgust". Finally the 72nd charged, driving the Confederates back and capturing large numbers of prisoners. The hesitation apparently was caused by the color bearer for the 72nd being killed, and his successor wounded, just before Webb asked for the charge. Later, Webb found little fault with the 72nd's performance, so this may have been the situation. The Gettysburg Memorial Commission assigned the 72nd's monument to a location back of the Angle along the road, but he 72nd not only went to court to move it to the Wall, but also bought a piece of land IN FRONT of the Angle to place the monument there if necessary. The court case is a good secondary source for the description of this portion of the battle. The 69th PA regiment's fight is beautifully described in an article by Terry Hartwig in an article in Gettysburg Magazine several years ago, "It Struck Terror into Us All" (I believe it is also on the GDG Homepage).

Jack Kelly

Esteemed member "Frederick W. Hawthorne" contributes:

I've seen several excellent posts justifying why the 72nd Pa deserved to have their monument where it is currently located but none, so far, as to the position of the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association which precipitated the event.

GBMA, an organization which should be held up to great praise as the first and for many years only preservation organization anywhere, was quite concerned about the number of monuments being placed on the field. In the early days some groups were placing monuments (or planning to place them) at places where visitors tended to go rather than where they actually fought. GBMA officials feared the ""Angle"" area was in great danger of becoming a virtual "graveyard" of stones commemorating units that may never have actually fought within a mile of the place. Accordingly a resolution was passed requiring the placement of the unit's monument where it was on its main battle line. Advanced positions could be marked with secondary mrkers following placement of the main one. According to their position the 72nd was in a supporting role to the main line and only advanced to the wall in response to events. Their main monument, therefore, was to be placed back on a line where the 42nd NY was later placed. If they wished, they could then put an advanced marker at the wall. They chose, instead, to fight the claim. GBMA lost and to their great, good fortune, no one else had the money, influence or desire to fight them.

Interestingly enough the 2nd MD CSA on Culp's Hill had already received approval to have their monument placed against the Union works on Culp's Hill and ultimately did so. A year or so later and they would've faced the same problem. Coincidently, the "Pickett Monument" in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond was originally intended for the "Angle." As this was an advanced position, it was turned down and instead of putting it along Seminary Ridge as they were invited to do, chose to place no marker at Gettysburg.

The court case is indeed interesting reading, full of first hand testimony. For a different angle ( no pun intended ) check out the dedication speech of the 42nd NY in "New York At Gettysburg." You'll find many other veterans, Sickles included, weren't particularly happy about the fact the Philadelphia boys tried to put themselves ahead of everyone else.

Fred Hawthorne

Esteemed member contributes:

Contrary might be a good adjective for the Philadelphia Brigade. Part of 71st Pa. broke at the angle and went behind the 72d Pa in line near the crest. It seems from all that have read that the officers were hard to find and the men refused to go forward to fill the breach. One comment by Stewart was that they fell in line being easy targets silhoueted (sp) against the sky. A sergeant and some men of the 71st were captured at the angle, switched sides of the wall, and stayed there until the Confederates retreated. Webb seems to have done guite well in running the brigade considering they seemed to have a knack for that being the best behaved men in the AoP. Bacheldor (sp) seems to have quite irrate when he wrote about the 71st.

Esteemed member "John M. Kelly" contributes: Esteemed Members of the GDG,

The 71st PA was in a situation likened to a rock and a hard place. They had one company, as I remember, along the section of wall running perpendicular (east-west) to the rest of the line, with the rest of the regiment located at the continuation of the wall up near the present park road. They had no unit on their immediate left, since Cushing's battery were in that location precluding anyone worried for their health from placing themselves in front of the guns. These guys were really in an impossible situation, so when the Confederates approached the Angle, the extended company of the 71st fell back with the rest of the regiment, which meant that they were falling back through the ranks of the 72nd. I do not fault them as do others when you consider their predicament.

When Webb called for the 72nd PA to advance to fill the gap near the Angle, the regiment had just lost their color sergeant killed, and his replacement was hit just as Webb ordered the advance, which caused some confusion and delay. They did advance once they pulled themselves together. The colors, as you know, needed to move before everyone else in the regiment moved, particularly in the middle of a very noisy engagement. By the way, I do not believe that the 72nd should have been allowed to place their monument at the wall, but that was settled many years ago.

Does anyone know why General "Paddy" Owen was put under arrest just before Gettysburg, it must have been for quite a serious offence.

Dear Elaine and Esteemed GDGers,

Frank A. Boyle in _A PARTY OF MAD FELLOWS, The story of the Irish Regiments in the AOP_ described Owen's replacement as a personality clash between BG John Gibbon and Owen. Boyle suggests:

"George Stewart, in his fine work _Pickett's Charge_, advanced the idea that "Paddy" Owen being Irish was, no doubt, a great one for the bottle, and this led to his downfall. A sound enough theory, except that Owen was born in Wales and only owed his nickname to the fact that he had been the colonel of the 69th Pennsylvania before being promoted in the fall of 1862."

Paddy Owen was, from all accounts, a boozer. Boyle recounts an encounter between Owen and LtCol Dennis O'Kane in Oct.1862. Owen met O'Kane who was driving his wife and daughter in a carriage near camp. Owen was "apparently drunk" and rode his horse around the carriage close to the team pulling the carriage. O'Kane asked him to stop, but Owen continued, frightening the women and calling O'Kane "an Irish son of a bitch". The former tavern keeper O'Kane alighted from the carriage and pulled Owen off his horse, for which he was court martialed. The president of the court martial was Winfield Scott Hancock, not exactly a creampuff when it came to discipline. O'Kane was found "Not Guilty" on all charges. Later, Owen returned to command the Philadelphia Brigade and was dismissed after Cold Harbor in 1864. Dennis O'Kane was promoted to Colonel and was killed at the Angle in the gallant stand of the 69th PA on July 3rd in the Pickett-Pettigrew Charge.

Your other question was the fact that there was a discipline problem within the 71st PA. There was actually a discipline problem in the entire Brigade, epitomized by some kind of shootout between two officers of the Brigade in which Capt. Andrew McManus of Company D 69th PA was killed. Very high straggling rates, absenteeism, and arrests also showed the Brigade was rotting from the top down.

Hancock brought Webb in as commander just before Gettysburg. Webb called his officers together and ordered them to wear their insignia, not a real popular decision (shoulder straps made great targets for sharpshooters!). He later told the regimental commanders to bring all stragglers to Brigade HQ where they would be summarily shot. It must have worked for the straggling in the Brigade was drastically reduced.

I hope this answers some of your questions. I would recommend that you read Scott Hartwig's article from _GETTYSBURG MAGAZINE_, "It Struck Horror To Us All" on the 69th PA's defense of the Angle, a wonderfully written article on what I call the "Forgotten" Irish regiment