May 9, 2019
Today we (Pius App and Larry App) continued our Civil War march from Chancellorsville to the Gettysburg Battlefield following Solomon and Jeremiah App, brothers who were members of Company G, 147th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. From the comfort of our car, and following their trail, it is about a 3 hour drive for us on the back roads. In 1863, they left Chancellorsville on May 7 and arrived in Gettysburg near Little Round Top on July 1. During those almost 2 months, Company G and the 147th were consumed with drills and other military training readying themselves for the next campaign which turned out to be at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Company G was the only German speaking company in the war, and there is an extraordinary diary that tells their story during the nearly 3 year term of service. It was written by M. S. Schroyer who was a sergeant for Company G. Fortunately for us, the diary preserves some very interesting stories that happened right where we are travelling today.
“A bright, jovial and good looking young man had come to our camp after the Chancellorsville campaign. His name was Richardson, and hailed from Howard County, Maryland, and became our newsboy. He rode a horse and the papers he sold were unfolded and spread over the horse’s back from which he distributed them throughout the camp at five cents each, and Company G bought many a paper from him. We all liked him. He continued with us on our Gettysburg campaign, making his headquarters with the army wagon train. While the army marched to Gettysburg the wagon train was sent to Westminster, Maryland, about 40 miles away. When the battle was over the train was sent in advance of the army to Frederick City. While there, this young man was suspicioned by General Kilpatrick of being a rebel spy.
“He was arrested and found guilty, he having at the time of his arrest a complete map of the defenses of Baltimore and Washington. It was said that when these papers were found on his person and when confronted with the other strong evidence, which was brought against him, that he made a full confession and said that he had been in communication with the rebel cavalry and had he not been arrested for one hour more our entire wagon train would have been destroyed by the rebel cavalry. As a result of information given he was immediately ordered to be hanged just west of the city and left hanging for three days. The whole army, which had been concentrated at Frederick, was marched by this rebel spy.
“We saw him on the second day after he was hanged. In short, it was a horrible sight to behold. A poor, misguided, intelligent young man, who offered up his young life without honor to himself, his family or his country.”
We arrived at the Gettysburg National Battlefield in the afternoon and it was a rainy day. However, that did not prevent us from visiting two important sites. Our first stop was at the base of Culp’s hill where Company G was positioned for battle. Pius stands by the monument that marks the very spot.
Here is what the App brothers and Company G experienced on the second day of battle at Gettysburg from their position at Culp’s Hill:
“July 3rd. We returned to our former position on Culp’s Hill. Soon after daylight, probably 5 o’clock, the Rebels advanced to the stone wall on our direct front. We had thrown up temporary breastworks with rails on the ridge, after which, the Colonel, seeing the disadvantage to us in this position, ordered the regiment to advance into a narrow timbered ravine just in our front and somewhat lower than the breastworks. This move was our salvation, for when the Confederates advanced and saw the breastworks, they supposing we were there, directed their fire on said works, while we were shielded behind rocks and trees. When the order to fire was given by Colonel Pardee, the Rebel line of battle, which had advanced to within a short distance of our own hidden line, dropped almost out of sight. So severe was our fire that the writer saw five Confederates drop side by side, who had just touched elbows on this their last charge.
“The enemy with their famous Rebel yell made repeated charges upon our lines, but were as often swept back with fearful slaughter, our men holding their fire until the enemy was at close range and finally, broken and dispirited, the Rebels were driven from the field.
“About 1:30 PM a signal gun was discharged, then a reply from the other side after which was experienced one of the greatest artillery duels of the war. About 100 cannons belched forth death and destruction everywhere. The air was full of screeching and bursting shells. This was kept up for about one hour and a half. The very earth trembled during this time.
“While the artillery duel was in progress Picket’s rebel division was getting ready for their famous charge. This charge lasted scarcely an hour, and during this time Picket’s division was almost wiped off the face of the earth. This was the last charge made on the battlefield of Gettysburg. The battle closed about 3 P. M. The combat over and won, Gettysburg has gone into history as the greatest battle of modern times.
“The ground in our immediate front was strewn with the dead and wounded. We noticed one wounded man sat up and reached for a gun. The supposition was that he intended to shoot someone of our officers. A few shots were fired at him, but none struck him and I think they were only fired to scare him. He loaded his gun, placed a cap on the tube, then placed the butt of the gun between his feet, placed the ramrod upon the trigger with one hand and held the muzzle under his chin with the other. He looked down to see that all was right, when he pushed the ramrod against the trigger and another poor soul was ushered into eternity.
“July 4. Many rebel dead were buried on the afternoon of the fourth. J. A. Lumbard and the writer walked out over the battlefield where the dead were lying around by the hundreds. Seeing a rebel lying on his back with a blanket over his face Lumbard, of course, thinking him dead gave him a kick and said, ‘This fellow fell nice.’ To our great surprise the man threw the blanket off his face and said, ‘Please don’t hurt me, I am badly wounded’ and we walked away without even asking him whether we could do anything for him, or even so much as to offer him a drink of cold water. This has always been one of the saddest regrets of my life. We might excuse our actions by the fact that the feeling ran so high between the North and the South; that they were our enemies and ready to kill us at any opportunity; that we were mere boys only 20 years of age and knew but little of the ways of the world; but even granting the above excuses were true, yet how unkind and inhuman our treatment of this man.”
Our second stop was the Pennsylvania Monument that commemorates, on many bronze panels, all of the Pennsylvania soldiers who fought at Gettysburg. Pius App points out two names, Solomon App and Jeremiah App, for whom our family is particularly proud.