50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, June 27, 1913: I forget what I did today.

Postcard of  (circa 1913)

Postcard of General Warren’s Statue on Little Round Top, Gettysburg, Pa. (circa 1913)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma again didn’t write much a hundred years ago today—and I find the story of the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Battle of Gettysburg fascinating, I’ll share some more excerpts from 1913 newspapers:

Gray Praises the Blue for the Great Reunion

Los Angeles Times (July 2, 1913)

In the pitiless glare of a sun that sent the mercury bubbling over the hundred mark the armies of the North and the South began today the formal exercises to mark the semi-centennial of Gettysburg.

Every seat under the canvas was taken long before Secretary of War Garrison and Gov. Tener, the orators of the day, came chugging up in their automobiles. Although the men in gray were far outnumbered by those in blue, there were possibly 2000 southerners in the amphitheater and what they lacked in numbers they made up in lung power.

Before the morning exercises began, the reunions of regiments and companies and squadrons began. Confederates who were in Pickett’s charge took keen delight in marching with fife and drum to Spangler’s wood, where the columns of Pickett formed on July 3, ’63, to begin the charge that marked the high tide of the lost cause.

On the edge of the Union side of the camp, the veterans of Meredith’s Iron Brigade and of Pettigrew’s brigade of North Carolina got together to go over the story of the fight of the first of July.

Veteran Resents Slur on Lincoln: Seven Wounded

Chicago Daily Tribune (July 3, 1913)

Seven men were stabbed tonight in the dining room of the Gettysburg Hotel as a result of a fight which started when several men aroused the anger of a veteran in blue by abusing Lincoln.  . . .

. . . the flight started suddenly and was over in a few minutes. It began when the dining room was full and caused a panic among the scores of guests.

The veteran heard the slighting remarks about Lincoln. He jumped to his feet and began to defend the martyred president and berated the detractors. . .

A romance developed in camp today when John Goodwin of New York, a veteran, and Margaret  Murphy of Chicago were united in marriage by Squire Harnish. Forty-six years ago the two were engaged, but they subsequently married others. They became widower and widow, the old flame was rekindled, and they agreed to come to Gettysburg on the fiftieth anniversary of the battle and marry. The happy pair will go on a wedding tour from here and will reside in New York.

Gen. “Tom” Steward of Pennsylvania is telling an amusing story of a “runaway vet” he came across in the big camp. The veteran is 85 years old and his son at home announced decisively that under no circumstances should his aged parent go to Gettysburg. The desire to be here and meet  his former comrades was so strong in the heart of the old gentleman that he climbed out of a window of this home and ran away, turning up here in good shape. He is now happy and well cared for.

Veterans as Good Story Tellers as They Formerly Were Solders

New York Times (July 3, 1913)

Last night the veterans were really able to enjoy themselves for the first time since their arrival. ..

A roaring storm swept down out of the Blue Ridge over the plateau of Gettysburg yesterday morning, bringing needed relief to the thousands of veterans in blue and gray, who had sweltered for four days in an atmosphere that was dangerous in the city of 50,000 old and weary men.

For more than a half hour the rain came pouring down upon the sun-cracked and wind-swept encampment grounds. It charged with violent thundering over the ground that Pickett covered in ’63. Its salvos of thunder were like the booming guns of Meade and Lee, but the thermometer dropped with wonderful ability and the lightning cleared the air of its humidity. . .

So many cases have been reported of veterans losing their return railroad tickets and the consequent distress because of the inability to purchase transportation that Governor Tener yesterday notified General Liggett, the United Sates army officer in charge of the camp, that the state of Pennsylvania would pay the return fare of all veterans who had lost their tickets.

Gettysburg Cold to Wilson’s Speech

New York Times (July 5, 1913)

Mr. Wilson came to Gettysburg at 11 o’clock by train from Baltimore. His appearance at the station of Gettysburg was the signal for a cheer and from down in the Gettysburg College grounds came a twenty-one gun salute. . .

The President spoke slowly and carefully, but the breeze played under the side of the tent and the restless feet of those who hastened in made it difficult for the old men to hear and understand. He was interrupted only once or twice with cheering and that seemed perfunctory. . .

At high tide the camp cared for 65,000 men, about 85 percent of whom were old warriors, not put under the discipline of fighting men, and susceptible to all the ill-effects that climate and camp hardships can have on men. The youngest was scarcely less than 65 years old, and most of them were 70 or more. In view of the average fatalities in the best conducted military camps of the world, allowance had been made for ten deaths a day in the camp. Yet there were only eight deaths for the four days of the encampment, and one of the victims was killed by an automobile.

If you missed yesterday’s post you might also enjoy:

Free Transportation for Veterans to the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

21 Responses

  1. Those are some wonderful little tales about the reunion. I love that the old soldiers lost their return tickets. And that there was a fight. I felt sure there would be with so many gathered there. And the authorities even calculated that there would be deaths amongst the old ones!

  2. Very interesting!
    Grandma must have not written in her diary for awhile and been catching up – maybe that’s why she doesn’t have news many days….!

    • Yes, it does sometimes seem like she may not have written in the diary for a couple days–and then just entered some perfunctory statements for the missing days.

  3. A marvelous way of marking this anniversary, the 150th. Well done.

  4. Thanks so much for this series. Fascinating and well done!

  5. Very interesting. What a great way to mark the 150th anniverary.

  6. So interesting! Thanks so much for sharing so that we could enjoy reading 100 years after.

  7. Very interesting post.

  8. Don’t you wonder what was going through her mind in these little entries where she says nothing? Why does she feel compelled to write anything if she doesn’t feel she has anything to say? Just curious what you think.

    • I think that you are probably right that she felt some sort of need to write something each day–regardless of whether she felt like it or not. In general, based on her diary entries, it seems like she set high expectations for herself. I’m guessing that she felt like she’d successfully accomplished something if she wrote something–even if it lacked substance–in the diary.

  9. This was very interesting especially about the old gentleman who ran away from home….that brought a chuckle and I thought of Tom and how he would have enjoyed that story!

  10. Forgot what she did that day, must have been busy! Nice historic articles. The one from the Los Angeles Times sounds almost poetic.

    • I bet you’re right that she was so busy that she was exhausted by evening and ready to just fall into bed–instead of trying to remember what she’d done earlier in day.

  11. You can imagine my favorite part of the story is the 85 year old veteran sneaking out to join his buddies at the commemoration. Also like the way Wilson’s speech puts the Civil War in perspective to the upcoming WWI. I think of my 88 year old father today, a veteran of WWII, and can’t help but wonder what is on the horizon for the young people who see that as “ancient history.” Part of the charm of 1913 is that it is pre-World War. And this post helps me see 1913′s “post-Civil War” context.

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