The 50th Anniversary Encampment at Gettysburg, the biggest of all gatherings of Civil War veterans, made headlines in the summer of 1913 and required five years of planning as a 'golden' reunion of all veterans, from both North and South.
The Battle of Gettysburg, fought on July 1, 2 and 3, 1863, in Pennsylvania, was the decisive battle of the American Civil War. Fought between the Federal Army of the Potomac under Gen. George Meade, and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under Gen. Robert E. Lee, it ended in a victory for the North. The army of the North was estimated at about 85,000 soldiers, while the Army of the South had 75,000 under arms.
A large percentage of the pioneer families in Lake County who settled in this area in the 1830's and 1840's watched their sons go off to war in the 1860's, serving on the side of the North. Within two weeks after the fall of Fort Sumter on Apr. 14, 1861, after a call by the President for 75,000 men, there was an immediate response, and an organization was begun at Crown Point for a Company of Infantry, a group that later became Company B, the 20th Regiment of Indiana Volunteers, with John Wheeler of Crown Point as captain and William Brown as colonel.
The 20th Regiment was mustered in at Indianapolis on July 22, 1861, and was soon sent to Maryland, where the soldiers stayed until September 1861, when they went to North Carolina, then marched on to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, in November, where they stayed until March, 1862.
They witnessed the sinking of the Merrimac by the Monitor on Mar. 8, 1862, and were assigned to the Army of the Potomac the following June. They fought in one bloody battle after another for the next three years: the Orchards on June 25; White Oak Swamp on June 30; Malvern Hill from July 1 to 5, 1862; the 2nd Bull Run battle on Aug. 30; Chantilly on Sept. 1; the Battle of Fredericksburg from Dec. 12 to 15, 1862; and Chancellorsville (where they captured a whole regiment) from May 1 to 5, 1863.
The 20th then joined the fighting at Gettysburg under General Meade and fought for three days in General Sickle's Corps, when their new Regimental Commander, Col. John Wheeler of Crown Point, was killed on Cemetery Ridge. George W. Edgerton (Lake County) and Joshua Richmond (Cedar Creek Twp.) were also killed at the battle, and Isaac Williams (Lake County) died later from wounds received there.
They moved on to the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864, where Horace Fuller (West Creek Twp.) and James D. Fuller (Lake County) were killed, while David Pinkerton (West Creek Twp.) died later from his wounds.
In June 1864 at Petersburg, William M. Johnson (Lake County) was killed, and Jeremiah W. Drake (Cedar Creek Twp.) and Charles Winters (West Creek Twp.) died of wounds. James A. Deyo (Cedar Creek Twp.) died in August 1864 from his wounds, and Samuel Bangleburn (Lake County) died of disease and mistreatment received at the Andersonville Prison in Southwest Georgia.
The men of Company B of the 20th were privileged to be present when General Lee surrendered at Appomattox on Apr. 9, 1865. They were finally mustered out on July 12, 1865.
The following men from Cedar Creek Twp. served in the 20th Regiment -- G.G. Curtis, J.A. Clark, M.W. Clark, J.A. Deyo, J.W. Drake, G.W. Edgerton, G.W. Fuller, C.A. Fairman, J.D. Griesel, W. Hill, J. Jones, C.C. Jones, O.W. Jewett, D. Richmond, J. Richmond and G.W. Warren.
From West Creek Twp. came D. Benjamin, E. Brown, T.C. Burch, G.L. Castle, A.V. Chapman, J.M. Dwyer, C. Dean, C. DeGroff, H.W. Dodd, L. Frantz, A.L. Fuller, H. Fuller, J.H. Meyers, C.C. Pattee, J. Pattee, Casimer Pattee, D. Pinkerton, C. Rollins, G. Rollins, S. Rollins, E.A. Reed, C. Root, J. Sanders, J.H. Scritchfield, J.W. Stewart, F.P. Stewart, J.F. Tarr, J.C. Thomas, A.P. Thompson, D. Tripp, C. Winters and P. Zimmer.
From Eagle Creek Twp. were C.C. Brown, G.W. Metcalf and H.B. Sisson.
Many of the survivors of Company B traveled to Gettysburg once again to take part in that 50th anniversary and join with veterans of both sides from 46 states (none came from Nevada or Wyoming). They met once again with General Daniel Sickles III, Corps Commander at Gettysburg, who lost a leg in 1863.
Veterans and their groups worked for five years to make the encampment the greatest gathering of its kind, and on Sun., June 29, 1913, the first of nearly 50,000 veterans who were expected began arriving. In all, 55,000 men came to the "Great Camp," representing the half million Civil War veterans still alive.
The camp was a vast city of canvas, with 5,000 tents covering 280 acres in the middle of the battlefield. A "Great Tent" was there for big gatherings, holding nearly 14,000 seats. The camp had its own hospital, doctors, nurses, and transport.
Now the two armies were one, living together. Each man had his own lantern, cot, mattress, blankets and mess kit. Their health was remarkable, for the youngest was 62 (a drummer), and the oldest was 112, with the average age over 70.
In one speech, General Bennett H. Young, commander of the United Confederate Veterans, said: "Comrades, we can give you something that no one else in the world can give you -- 'The Rebel Yell!'" Then every Southerner responded loudly with the famous Confederate battle cry, as a salute to their comrades in blue.
One of the great moments of the encampment came with the re-enactment of Pickett's Charge on the afternoon of July 3, as 150 confederates, representing the original 15,000, charged a few hundred feet to the stone wall at the Angle and reached across the barrier to take the hands of the 180 survivors of Webb's Union Brigade, who were waiting. The Yankees passed over a gift to each of the Rebels -- a silken American flag.
At high noon on the Fourth of July, 1913, the men of both sides stood at attention as the guns of Gettysburg fired one final salute, and the reunion was over. On a station platform, saying their good-byes, a former Union soldier and a Confederate were at a loss for words, but soon they removed and exchanged their uniforms, the Yankee going home in gray, and the Confederate in Union blue!
This coming weekend, July 1-5, thousands of reenactors from all over the United States will mark the 130th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg on the actual site in Pennsylvania. Many of them were there last year to take part in the filming of a lengthy movie based on Pickett's Charge. It was taken from the book, Killers Angels, and will be shown this year under the name Gettysburg.
After that busy weekend, several hundred reenactors will take part in the battles during the Civil War Days at Buckley Homestead on July 10 and 11, many of them having worked as actors in several movies, including North and South, Gettysburg and Glory. The Old Timer, also a re-en-actor, hopes to see you there.
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