around the Gettysburg battlefield at sunset in mid-summer, itís hard
to reconcile how so much death and suffering could have occurred in
such a beautiful, peaceful place.
Fittingly, in the late evening when most of the daily thousands of
visitors are gone and the fireflies appear, the Pennsylvania battleground
with its more than 1,700 monuments and plaques seems more like an
enormous cemetery than a national historic site commemorating a momentous
military engagement. Indeed, more than 3,000 of the 7,000 or so soldiers
who died here during the first three days of July 1863 lie buried
nearby. Many are in unmarked, mass graves.
More American soldiers fell in one day of fighting during that pivotal
Civil War battle than before or since.
Among the 157,000 soldiers who took part in the bloody clash (97,000
Northern soldiers versus 70,000 Confederates), were 1,303 Texans Ė
members of the 1st, 4th and 5th Texas Infantry. They constituted just
over 75 percent of Brig. Gen. J. B. Robertsonís so-called Texas Brigade,
the remaining 24-plus percent being 426 men with the 3rd Arkansas
Infantry. While a small component of the overall rebel force, the
Texas Brigade fought hard and suffered greatly.
At Gettysburg, the brigade was part of what was known as Hoodís Division,
since its overall commander was Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood, future namesake
giant Fort Hood. (Hood got wounded in the fight, but survived.) The
Texas Brigade took part in every major battle of the four-year war
except Chancellorsville. Of 5,000-plus who served in the unit at one
time or another, only 617 were around when Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered
the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in April 1865.
But despite the Texas Brigade's earned reputation as the Southís shock
troops, of all the many and varied monuments dotting the landscape
at Gettysburg today, only four directly honor the fighting Texans
and their Arkansas comrades.
The first Texas-related monument, a squat gray granite obelisk, went
up in 1913 -- the 50th anniversary of the battle -- at the area along
the Confederate battle line where the Texas troops had been gathered.
Several thousand soldiers showed up for a blue and gray reunion that
July, many of them from Texas.
Another half-century passed before the second Texas-related monument
went up at the battlefield. That is a larger, though certainly not
imposing, red granite monument dedicated in September 1964 during
the centennial observance of the war. (In all, Texas placed 11 markers
at battle sites across the South noting the role played by Lone Star
soldiers.) The most salient portion of the state's Gettysburg marker
From near this spot the Texas Brigade
at about 4:30 p.m. on July 2 crossed
Emmitsburg Road and advanced with
Hoodís Division across Plum Run toward
Little Round Top. The Texas Brigade
after severe fighting on the slopes
of Little Round Top retired to a
position on the south side of Devilís
Den. The Brigade held this position the
night of July 2 and during the day on
July 3 then fell back to a
position near this memorial on the
evening of July 3. On the field at
Gettysburg the Texas Brigade suffered
recent scholarship has identified 604 casualties. Though many people
take "casualty" as a synonym for death, the military counts anyone
killed, wounded, missing or captured as a casualty.
The Texas Brigade of 1,729 men had 152 killed, 312 wounded, and
128 missing or captured for a casualty rate of 32.8 percent. The
highest casualty rate was sustained by the 5th Texas Infantry. Of
its 409 men, 54 were killed, 112 wounded and 45 missing or captured
for a staggering casualty rate of 51.6 percent. The 415-man 4th
Texas Infantry had a 27 percent casualty rate with 28 killed, 53
wounded and 31 missing. The 1st Texas Infantry of 426 soldiers lost
29 killed, 46 wounded and 22 missing for a casualty rate of 22.8
percent. Finally, the 3rd Arkansas Infantry had 426 men and lost
42 killed, 101 wounded and 40 missing for a casualty rate of 38
In modern warfare, casualty calculations are more complicated, but
by way of semi-comparison, from 2001 to 2010, the American military
combat death rate in the Middle East was 27.7 men or women per 100,000
personnel. And of the wounded, roughly 90 percent survived. In other
words, Gettysburg was a slaughter house.
The final line on the 1964 Texas marker reads: "Of all the gallant
fights they [the Texas Brigade] made none was grander than Gettysburg."
In addition to the two monuments, two metal plaques on stone bases
note the locations of Hood's and Robertson's headquarters at the
Despite all the stone and metal at Gettysburg commemorating this
or that unit or action, at the 1913 reunion Gen. Dan Sickels, the
last surviving high-ranking Union officer who fought there captured
the essence of the matter. When someone observed that no marker
stood in his honor, the one-legged general unknowingly spoke for
both blue and gray when he replied: "Hell, the whole battlefield
is my monument."
© Mike Cox
July 6, 2016 column
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