Friday, May 06, 2011

Gettysburg hidden history

David Acheson was buried next to this rock near the tree line on the
  John T. Weikert farm. Acheson was a captain in the 140th Pennsylvania.
David Acheson's comrades refused to let him be forgotten.

David Acheson was originally buried in the
 woods in back of this farm outbuilding.
Killed by a shot to the chest on July 2, 1863, during the fight in the Wheatfield at Gettysburg, the captain in the 140th Pennsylvania was carried to the rear and eventually buried in a shallow grave on the John T. Weikert farm. To mark the grave, one of his fellow soldiers crudely carved the initials "D.A." in a large rock near the tree line of the farm.

Thanks to a comrade whose name is lost to history, Aceheson's family was able to find his grave on July 13 and take his body back to his hometown in Washington, Pa., about 35 miles south of Pittsburgh. The 23-year-old Acheson was buried in Washington Cemetery on July 15. (1)

After trudging through the soggy ground about 50 to 60 yards in back of one of the original Weikert farm outbuildings Wednesday morning, I found the Acheson marker a few steps into the woodlot. A park service worker told me hardcore battlefield visitors often look for the site. (Huge hat tip goes to J. David Petruzzi's excellent book "The Complete Gettysburg Guide" for directions.)

There are many other examples of "hidden history" at Gettysburg.

A.L. Coble, a Confederate soldier from North Carolina, carved his name 
and unit  into this boulder in the Spangler Spring meadow.

Gettysburg volunteer guide Dick Kolmar, 73, points
 to the A.L. Coble carving.
On a ridge in the Spangler Spring meadow, a Confederate soldier from North Carolina carved his name into a boulder. It's unclear whether A.L. Coble, a 20-year-old private at Gettysburg, did his handiwork during the battle or at a veterans gathering years later. Gettysburg volunteer guide Dick Kolmar, who helped me find the carving Wednesday afternoon, thinks it's unlikely Coble had time to do it during the battle.

Kolmar related another interesting story about Coble's work. He recently noticed a couple staring at the ground in the area of the Coble rock. Suspecting they were relic hunters, he asked them what they were doing. As it turned out, the couple was looking for the Coble carving. They told Kolmar they are direct decendants of the North Carolina soldier.

Barely legible, these inscriptions were carved by two Civil War
soldiers from Pennsylvania at  the McPherson barn.

The initials of two Pennsylvania soldiers appear on the
McPherson barn, just above the vent on the right.
On the McPherson farm, scene of intense fighting on the first day at Gettysburg, two soldiers from Pennsylvania etched their initials above a wooden vent on the barn. It took me several minutes to find the barely legible initials of Jonas C. Tubbs and Singleton M. Goss, whose scratchings were discovered in 2004 by Jesse Richards, the son of a battlefield guide. Tubbs and Goss, who served in the 143rd Pennsylvania, apparently did their work at  a veterans gathering in 1889. (2).

Other carvings are very obvious.

On Little Round Top, there's a clear carving on top of a 4-foot high boulder to mark the spot where Union Col. Strong Vincent was mortally wounded on July 2. He was shot in the groin, no doubt a painful way to go. The inscription was likely made by Union veterans of the battle.

This carving is thought to be one of the earliest on the battlefield.
And on a boulder near Devil's Den, veterans from the 4th Maine regiment made their mark. I had no problem finding this carving, which was re-discovered in 1993 by Gettysburg battlefield guide Timothy Smith, according to Petruzzi.. If the park service doesn't cut the grass regularly, though, it may be hard to find. 

This carving is found near Devil's Den.

Those kids in 1890 were crazy!
Of course, old soldiers didn't have all the fun. I made my first trip up the steep, craggy slopes of Big Round Top on Thursday morning to check out the 41st Pennsylvania Infantry monument. (You may need an oxygen mask.) At the base are children's hand prints in cement that date to the placement of the monument in 1890. Those dang kids! (3)

1.) "The Complete Gettysburg Guide," Page 249
2.) Ibid, Page 261
3.) Ibid, Page 244


  1. Great post! I enjoy using the Petruzzi/Stanley guidebook as well. How often do you make it down this way?

  2. Dylan: Thanks for kind words. I visit Gettysburg at least once a year, even when we lived in Texas. Special place. Antietam my favorite.

  3. Anonymous7:09 PM

    I am trying to find my Great Grandfather’s name carved on any of the monuments there. He fought with Illinois and attended the 75th with my Mother. Any help?