May 19



The monument to the 153rd Pennsylvania, located along Wainwright Avenue at the foot of Cemetery Hill, has been vandalized. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.

The monument to the 153rd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment located along Wainwright Avenue at the foot (east side) of East Cemetery Hill has been vandalized. Speculation is that the perpetrators possibly struck sometime on Saturday or Sunday before and/or during the heavy rains. The vandalism was discovered by the National Park Service at approximately 2:00 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009. Thanks to Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Stuart Dempsey, one of our experts on the 11th Corps, who informed us Monday evening about the monument’s demise.



Here is how the monument looked before the vandals struck. Many thanks to Craig Swain of the Historical Marker Database for the high resolution photograph of the monument before it was vandalized. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 4:46 PM on Saturday, February 21, 2009.



The monument was dedicated on July 1, 1884. It is located where the 153rd Pennsylvania fought Isaac Avery’s North Carolinians as the Confederates attacked East Cemetery Hill the evening of July 2, 1863. Again thanks to Craig Swain of the Historical Marker Database for the high resolution photograph of the monument before it was vandalized. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 2:32 PM on Saturday, April 4, 2009.



The primary monument to the 153rd Pennsylvania is located on Barlow’s Knoll where they fought on the first day. It was dedicated in 1889. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 8:30 AM on Sunday, September 14, 2008.



The incident occurred along Wainwright Avenue at the foot of East Cemetery Hill. The monument to the 68th New York is on the right. The orange cones in the background mark the location where the 153rd Pennsylvania monument is located. Confederates attacked from left to right (east to west) the evening of July 2, 1863. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.



A closer view of the site shows the marker for Von Gilsa’s Brigade on the right, then the 153rd Pennsylvania, and then the 41st New York. The McKnight House is in the right background. The Battlefield Museum is in the center background. McKnight’s Hill/Stevens’ Knoll is out of sight in the left background. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.



The monument has been separated into three pieces. This view was taken facing west at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.



This is not the first time the monument has been vandalized. It was also broken into these three pieces in the 1990s, and speculation is building that these could be the same vandals. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.



Why would they return and do this again? Possibly just because they got some sort of thrill out of doing it… This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.



…or possibly they are looking for something… This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.



What the National Park Service law enforcement rangers are remembering from the first incident is that this hole or cavity in the base of the monument possibly held artifacts from the dedication. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.



One theory is that the vandals might have stolen the original items out of the cavity the first time they vandalized it, and may have come back again to see if anything else of historical significance had been placed in the monument. The cavity is filled with water, which may mean that it was vandalized before the heavy rains we had during the weekend. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.



One of the many frustrating aspects of this incident is that the National Park Service has brought on new protection rangers, and has had a much more visible law enforcement presence the last couple of months. The 41st New York Monument is on the left and the McKnight House is in the background. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.



On the evening of July 2, 1863, when the Confederates began their attack, this was not a good position for infantry. A rise in the ground blocks the view of the Confederate’s approach. While out as skirmishers, the 153rd Pennsylvania (342 men) had taken the place of the 41st New York at the wall, but then they were sent out as skirmishers to see what was on the other side of the rise of ground. As the 153rd fell back from the advancing Confederates, in the darkness, their brigade commander, Colonel Leopold von Gilsa, ordered his men to cease firing at the Confederates because he thought they were Union skirmishers returning to the lines. Officers were trying to convince von Gilsa that they were Confederates, when finally the 153rd opened on the North Carolinians with a volley. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.



But it was too late, and hand to hand fighting began at the wall… This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.



…and the Tarheels began coming over the wall. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.



Lieutenant J. Clyde Miller of the 153rd Pennsylvania said that “the fight was on in all its fierceness, muskets being handled as clubs; rocks torn from the wall in front and thrown, fist and bayonets used, so close was the fighting. I remember distinctly of seeing a Rebel color bearer, with his musket in one hand and flag in the other, with outspread arms jump upon the little wall, shouting, ‘surrender, you damned Yankees.’ In an instant a Company A or F man, I could not tell which, as the smoke was commencing to get heavy, — ran his bayonet through the man’s chest and firing at the same time. I can still see in my mind’s eye how the shot tore into shreds the back of his blouse.” This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.



The North Carolinians broke through and continued towards the top of the hill until stopped by reinforcements including the 4th Ohio Infantry whose gray monument is in the background just to the left of the red brick Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.



The 153rd Pennsylvania had 499 men engaged at the Battle of Gettysburg and were roughly handled on both days. They had 23 men killed, 142 wounded, and 46 missing/captured for total casualties of 211, or 42.3%. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 6:30 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009.

See the following related posts:

Peace Light: Some Photographs Taken When the Vandalism was First Discovered on January 27, 2009.
Peace Light Monument Vandalism on January 10, 2009.
153rd Pennsylvania Monument on Barlow Knoll on September 14, 2008.
Red Cloths Finally Removed From Monuments on July 7, 2008.
Smith’s New York Battery Monument Still Awaits Restoration on May 31, 2008.
A New Type of Vandalism for Memorial Day on May 26, 2008.


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