Friday, July 01, 2016

A death at Gettysburg: '... Covered up with a little dirt'

The 7th Wisconsin routed the Confederates in McPherson's Woods (background) before it was
forced to hastily retreat. (Library of  Congress)
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During the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, Private Silas Pease of the 7th Wisconsin was killed instantly by a gunshot through the head, probably during the regiment's attack in McPherson's Woods. Because the regiment was forced to hastily retreat, Pease's body was left on the field and his commanding officer was unsure if he had been buried by the enemy. "Probably he was covered up with a little dirt, as that is the way they generally bury our dead," Lieutenant William Gildersleeve wrote in a letter to Pease's friend or relative nearly a month after the battle.

While examining pension records on, I found Gildersleeve's letter about the 7th Wisconsin private, whom he described as "somewhat eccentric" but a "genial companion." If Silas Pease's remains were recovered, his final resting place may be in Gettysburg National Cemetery in an unknown grave.

(National Archives via
Camp of the 7th Regiment, Wis. Vol.
Washington Junction, Va.

G.F. Duren

Dear Sir:

Your favour of the 22nd inst. came to hand last night & I hasten to answer your inquiries. Silas Pease was killed about 4 o'clock PM on Wednesday, July 1st. He was shot in the head and died instantly. Soon after we were driven from the field and had to leave our dead & wounded in the hands of the enemy. His tent mate informs me he had between seventy & eighty dollars in his pocket, which the enemy got or was buried with him. I cannot vouch for his being buried. Probably he was covered up with a little dirt, as that is the way they generally bury our dead. I did not know that he was killed until after the battle. He was on the left & I on the right of the company.

I do not think that his body can be found or the place of his final rest. He has just 2 months pay due him for which he was mustered for & his friends will get it in due time through the proper channels, no other effects. He lost all with his brave & noble life. A patriot & a brave soldier, missed by his comrads in arms & friends at home. Although somewhat eccentric he was a genial companion. Give his friends ...

(National Archives via
... this testimony of our regrets of his untimely end. Many fell on that event full day and Silas was one that gave his life in putting down this rebellion. Peace to the memory of our noble boys.

If I can do anything further for you or Silas's friends it will afford me pleasure so to do.

Yours truly
W.H. Gildersleeve
2nd Lieut, Command'g Co. E
7th Regt. Wis. Vol

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1 comment:

  1. Extraordinary primary source. Moving. Thanks!