24 November 2008 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 4 comments

J. D. Petruzzi has an interesting but sad post on his blog today regarding the destruction of the stone wall that was the focus of some fairly bitter fighting between troopers of Brig. Gen. David M. Gregg’s Second Cavalry Division and the Stonewall Brigade of Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell’s Second Corps for several hours late in the afternoon of July 2, 1863. JD also points out that the landowners have re-graded the ground to the east of where the wall stood and have changed the historic lay of the land.

That stone wall became the linchpin to the position, and, at one point, there was literally a race between troopers of the 10th New York and 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry regiments and soldiers of the 2nd Virginia Infantry as to who would seize and hold the wall. At the time, the wall was waist-high and served as a very strong natural breastwork that sheltered whichever side held it. The dismounted Federal horse soldiers won the race and held the position for the rest of the fight.

The wall itself began at the intersection of the Hanover Road and Hoffman Road, which runs perpendicular to the Hanover Road, and extended north for fifty yards or so. Due to erosion and settling dirt and plant growth, the wall was hard to find, but it was still there. If you knew where it was, it was easy to find. I used to love standing on it to interpret the fighting on Brinkerhoff’s Ridge. It was very cool knowing that I was standing on the spot that was the focal point of the fighting I was describing at that very moment.

Old friend Stan O’Donnell, who has a place right next to East Cavalry Field, had let me know that the owner of the property had cleaned up a lot of brush and had cut down scrub trees that blocked the view from Brinkerhoff’s Ridge to the battlefield at East Cavalry Field. Without that stuff in the way, you can clearly see the Michigan Cavalry Brigade monument and the Cavalry Shaft from Brinkerhoff’s Ridge, which makes the interpretation of the Brinkerhoff’s Ridge much easier. That part is good news.

The senseless and needless destruction of that historic stone wall and the regrading of the ground to the east of it, on the other hand, is not good news at all.

As I said in the comment that I left on JD’s blog, this sort of thing is tragic, but it’s probably also unavoidable. The march of progress goes on, no matter what. So long as that wall was in private hands, the threat of this sort of thing was always there. Thus, when JD called me to tell me the bad news, I was bummed, but I cannot honestly say that I was terribly surprised.

It’s tragic, but there are so many important sites associated with the Battle of Gettysburg that lay outside the park boundary that this sort of thing is, unfortunately, inevitable. Given my personal connection with this piece of the battlefield, I am especially disappointed that this happened and that the lay of the land and the stone wall will never be the same again.

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Comments

  1. Tue 25th Nov 2008 at 10:24 am

    Frankly, y’all who love the Gettysburg story are spoiled. This kind of crap has been going on in Franklin, Atlanta, and Nashville, and much, much worse, for years. That doesn’t make it suck any less, but out West we have been fighting battles Maryland and Pennsylvania and most of Virginia couldn’t imagine.

  2. Eric McDannell
    Tue 25th Nov 2008 at 11:29 am

    I agree Eric. This sort of thing makes me feel ill although I expect it. The previous post about western sites is right on. I cringe every time I hear about the Stones River battlefield. Private landowners have the right to do whatever they want, it’s just tough to accept it.

  3. Keith Toney
    Tue 25th Nov 2008 at 11:30 am

    Eric,
    Sad news indeed. I didn’t do that many Brinkerhoff Ridge tours but I always made it a point to point out the stone wall on my way to ECF when I did a cav field tour. as you said, there’s just something about that physical connection to the battle.

    Eric J., you’re right, we are spoiled. So much of the western Theatre has been lost it isn’t even funny. Thanks and kudos to all who give of their time and money to continue the preservation fight.
    Regards,
    Keith

  4. J David Petruzzi
    Tue 25th Nov 2008 at 12:23 pm

    The loss of the wall is indeed minor compared to the many land battles being waged all over historic places, but it’s yet another example of a loss, no matter how minor. As Lt. William Brooke-Rawl of the 3rd PA Cavalry, who fought there that day, said: “The stone wall was the key to the position.”

    Now we have to imagine it instead of seeing it. A minor shame, but a damn shame nonetheless.

    J.D. Petruzzi

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