Sunday, July 3, 2011

I Almost Never Happened, But My Ancestor Managed to Survive Gettysburg 148 Years Ago Today

Here we are at an important date in history, which also happens to be my birthday.  Being as egocentric as most, I tend to forget about the history and think of my own important dates.  But today Paul Krugman's Blog sent me over to the Youtube movies about Gettysburg, which are really worth seeing even if not quite professional.

These films reminded me that 148 years ago today my great grandfather lay critically wounded in a Confederate field hospital improvised in a Gettysburg farmhouse.  The day before, Henry had ridden to the southeastern edge of town with General Ewell, in order to get a better view of Union defenses on Cemetery Hill. Henry was Chief Engineering Officer for Ewell's 2nd Corps, but Ewell relied on him as much for reconnaissance as for engineering.  In any case, they had not gone very far when both were hit by Union sniper fire from a distance which both thought too great for accuracy.

In Ewell's case, the "wound" was not serious, because the bullet hit his wooden leg, and he could easily replace it with the spare that he kept back at his command post. Henry was not so lucky.  The bullet hit him near the shoulder blade and lodged next to his lung, where it stayed til the end of his life.  So that is why he lay inert and helpless as the battle raged nearby on July 3rd.

On July 4th, Lee's defeated army prepared to withdraw to Virginia, but the Confederate medics decided that Henry's condition was too serious to permit him to be moved. Henry never expressed much gratitude - at least not in writing - for the care he received from Union doctors who probably saved his life.  He was even less appreciative of those who took care of him for the next year and a half at the prisoner of war camp on Johnson's Island, Ohio.

Fortunately, this ancestor was so tough, as his survival enabled me to enjoy this Happy Birthday 148 years later.

No comments:

Post a Comment