This is the full 5,500 word response to Andrea Custer’s interpretation of Farnsworth’s Charge as we submitted it to Blue & Gray magazine:
TO THE EDITOR:
We read, with great interest, the recent article on Farnsworth’s Charge by Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Andrea Custer. We’ve heard about her theory for years, so it was good to see it spelled out in detail at last. Although the breadth of her research should be applauded, her results unfortunately do not pass muster, and cannot be accepted as the accurate interpretation of these events. Andrea is a respected guide and historian, who has done laudable work across the spectrum of historiography. When one chooses to rewrite established accepted events, however, the interpretation must be placed through the most demanding rigors of scrutiny and examination.
If we understand the theory correctly, the proponent argues that the present, accepted interpretation of where these events occurred is inaccurate, and that the mounted cavalry charge actually happened half a mile or so from where the National Park Service and all conventional accounts place them. The basis for this claim is that the 5th New York Cavalry monument was originally misplaced and moved approximately half a mile to the peak of Bushman’s Hill, and because the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association (“GBMA”) had rules requiring that the monuments reflecting the regiments of a given brigade were to be established in a fashion that reflected the brigade’s line of battle. Therefore, if there was a brigade line among Farnsworth’s other regiments, it too, must be shifted half a mile south, apparently in keeping with the setting of the regimental monuments in that brigade line. The author further asserts that Farnsworth was mortally wounded at the outset of the charge (shot down by a member of the 1st Texas Infantry) and not later by the 15th Alabama as the accepted version of events states.
The author’s cited authority for these propositions is the minutes of the GBMA. Specifically, she cites to certain minutes and claims that they support her position. While nobody disputes that the 5th New York’s monument was originally badly misplaced by Col. John Hammond and was subsequently relocated, the theory breaks down after that. Nothing set forth in the GBMA minutes reflects or otherwise even suggests that any monument other than that of the 5th New York Cavalry was to be moved (despite the author’s claims to the contrary), and neither is there any documentation among any veteran account or regimental history, nor is there any other primary source that the monuments to the 1st Vermont Cavalry or 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry were placed with any relationship whatsoever to the original location of the 5th New York’s.
On page 58 of her article, Custer contends:
Hammond’s mistake did not affect his regiment alone. Bachelder and the GBMA assigned regimental monument locations for the 1st Vermont, 18th Pennsylvania and 1st West Virginia in proximity to Hammond’s 5th New York site based on the regulation that all regimental monuments would be on the same line where the brigade formed for battle… Therefore, the assigned sites for each of the remaining regimental monuments were to the left of the 5th New York according to their battle alignment.
The fundamental question to be asked, therefore, is whether this assertion of fact is actually true. If it is not true, then the basic underpinnings of the author’s theory collapse under their own weight. As her authority for this statement, Custer cites her Gettysburg Magazine article “John Hammond’s Mis-Stake”, which was published in Issue No. 30, January 2004. In other words, she cites herself as if she were a primary source. In that article, specifically on page 107, she discusses this idea of the other two monuments being placed simply in relation to the incorrect original location of the 5th New York’s monument. Therein she makes the identical assertion, but curiously provides absolutely no historical documentation whatsoever, even though the rest of the article is footnoted (as are all pieces in this particular popular magazine). In other words, this is asserted as a statement of fact, but is not footnoted. Thus, there is no evidence of there being any authority to support it. Having made this assertion once previously, without any source documentation at all, the author has apparently assumed the role of becoming her own primary source in this new article in order to provide substantiation for a theory that has no basis in the historical record.
So let us look instead at what the veterans themselves had to say, all of which is in direct contradiction to the author’s claims. At the September 11, 1889 dedication of the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry’s monument, main speaker Lt. Col. John W. Phillips, who participated in the charge, stated:
The boulevard opened by the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association marks the whole line of battle of the last day’s struggle. It is fitting that, on this line… we, the survivors of the Eighteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, should meet and solemnly dedicate this monument, which, on this same extended line, has been erected on the spot where we stood that day, as a memento of the fact that we participated in the grand event.(emphasis added)
The boulevard Phillips referred to here was the recently opened Confederate Avenue, which was paved and improved a few years later and which still exists today. Phillips’ comment that the monument marks “the spot” where they stood speaks for itself. Phillips closed his long remarks with the following transfer of the regimental monument to the GBMA:
To you of the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, its keeping is irrevocably committed. Take and care for it, and may it ever stand in its place on this line, so that when in the aftertime our children and children’s children visit these scenes, they may be reminded of the honored part their fathers took in this battle…(emphasis added)
This final comment is particularly revealing. Does the wish “may it ever stand in its place on this line” sound like the monument was placed anywhere other than where it was supposed to be, or that anyone anticipated that it was ever to be moved? Hardly. In fact, just the opposite is apparent. The author would have us instead believe, as she states time and time again in this and other articles she has written on the subject, that the veterans expected their monuments to someday be relocated since they were temporarily placed only in relation to the incorrect placement of the 5th New York’s. The author would have us further believe that no single surviving veteran of the 18th Pennsylvania, 1st Vermont, or 1st West Virginia had any idea where they were located or fought on July 3, 1863, just 25 years earlier, and simply picked an arbitrary location in relation to the 5th New York’s monument based on an imaginary “brigade line.” There simply is no evidence anywhere in the historic record to suggest that these monuments were temporarily placed, and that the veterans intended to relocate them.
Let us further look at what the record concerning the 1st Vermont Cavalry’s monument has to say. In the Report of the Vermont Commissioners (1890) of the state’s Gettysburg monuments, written the year following the dedication of the monument, it is recorded:
The monument marks the position where the charging squadrons encountered a most destructive converging fire, and near which their gallant leader in the charge, Gen. Farnsworth was killed.
There is no doubt that this original location is where the monument was intended to stand for all time, and it marks exactly what its inscription says it marks. Nothing is said about a contemplated move of the monument in the entirety of the report, or anywhere else in the historical record.
Interestingly, the report next states:
It has been and still is in contemplation by the survivors of Farnsworth’s brigade, to erect a Cavalry Brigade Monument on the line from which these heroic troopers made their famous charge (emphasis added).
This is an extremely revealing statement. Survivors of Farnsworth’s Brigade originally intended to erect another, separate monument, perhaps featuring a portrait statue of Farnsworth himself, at the Bushman Hill area where the charge generated. An October 1888 article that was published in The National Tribune describes another proposed monument: it was to be a five-sided granite pedestal, with each side dedicated to each of the regiments and the battery attached to the brigade, and surmounted by a standing heroic figure of Farnsworth. The National Tribune article also states specifically that this proposed brigade monument (the reasons why it was never erected are lost to history) was to be placed at the spot where Farnsworth fell, adjacent to the monument to the 1st Vermont Cavalry. This is further proof that the present monument of the 1st Vermont regiment, in its present location, was primarily intended to mark the spot near where Farnsworth fell, and that it has absolutely nothing to do with any “brigade line” asserted by the author. That particular effort was to be left to the erection of another, altogether separate monument.
In his October 9, 1889 address at the dedication of Vermont’s monuments at Gettysburg, Col. Wheelock Veazey, the lead orator, stated:
In front of Round Top, the First Vermont cavalry followed the heroic Farnsworth in that reckless, but most gallant, charge upon the lines of Law’s infantry brigade… This is the well-selected location for a monument to the brave riders in eighty-six battles and engagements of the war in which they participated (emphasis added).
Veteran William Wells was, of course, in attendance along with other veterans of the regiment, and Wells was a member of the Veteran Committee that selected the location for the monument to the place where Farnsworth fell. At the dedication of the 1st Vermont Cavalry’s monument that day, Wells was the main speaker and was followed by Capt. Henry C. Parsons, who later purchased the Slyder farm, including the D-shaped field where the 1st Vermont Cavalry’s monument was placed. Both described details of the charge in that area, without so much as a mention that everyone was perhaps standing in a location, and surrounding a monument, that was some one-half mile in the wrong place (as the author would have us believe). Of particular note is the fact that the Monument Commission described the nearby section of the battlefield road (known today as Confederate Avenue) that skirts the D-shaped Slyder farm field as “Kilpatrick Avenue.” This name is also to be found on captions of Tipton pictures of the area, GBMA maps, and in minute book references.
This theory of moving monuments also fails in practice. According to the author’s theory, all of the monuments to Farnsworth’s Brigade needed to be placed in a brigade line, and that the monuments to the 1st Vermont and 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry regiments were misplaced and had to be moved in order to keep them in brigade line with the re-located monument to the 5th New York Cavalry. The author cites to GBMA minutes that spell out the “brigade line” rules as the authority for the proposition. In her interpretation, these rules were cast in stone, and there were no exceptions.
As set forth below, these “brigade line” rules certainly were not cast in stone, and here are but a few examples among many:
1. The Union monuments on East Cavalry Field are most assuredly NOT in brigade lines. The 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry’s monument is on the flank, where its men made their most significant contribution to the Union victory. The 1st New Jersey Cavalry’s monument is at the edge of the Rummell farm, where they spent most of the day fighting hard. The 1st Maine Cavalry’s monument is across the Hanover Road from the Spangler House, reflecting the fact that this regiment was held in reserve for the entire battle and never fired a shot in anger that day. The Michigan Cavalry Brigade monument–a monument to a brigade and not its individual regiments–is located on the spot where the charge of the 1st Michigan Cavalry crashed into the charging Confederate cavalry, and not in a position that reflects where the 5th and 6th Michigan Cavalry fought, or where the 7th Michigan made its charge. The 5th, for instance, fought dismounted in the fields surrounding the Rummell barn, and was nowhere near the spot where the brigade monument stands. The monument to the 1st Maryland Cavalry stands in the middle of East Cavalry Field, even though its men really weren’t engaged. The same holds true for the single company of Pernell’s Legion that were with Gregg that day.
2. Merritt’s brigade monuments also are not in anything resembling a brigade line. The monuments to the 1st, 2nd, and 6th U. S. are on the ridgeline at the very southern end of the field, where the monument to Graham’s battery stands. The 6th U. S. Cavalry didn’t even fight at Gettysburg; their engagement was at Fairfield. They were not present. The 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry’s monument reflects its primary skirmish line for most of the afternoon, and the 5th U. S. Cavalry’s monument reflects its flanking movements. These units are NOT in anything that remotely resembles a brigade line.
3. What about the monuments to the regiments of Col. Pennock Huey’s cavalry brigade, which never made it north of the Mason-Dixon line during the three days of the battle? These units have monuments on Pleasonton Avenue, next to the Pennsylvania Memorial. If the “brigade line” rule was hard and fast, how can regiments that never even made it to the battlefield have monuments on the field at all? Obviously, an exception was made, or these units would not have monuments on the battlefield.
4. There’s also the monument to the 1st West Virginia Cavalry on the Taneytown Road. If, in fact, this “brigade line” rule was a hard and fast rule, despite what is asserted in the GBMA records, why would the 1st West Virginia have been permitted to place its monument there, irrespective of whether the rest of the so-called “brigade line” was misplaced?
5. Finally, there’s the issue of the monuments to the 1st Vermont, 18th Pennsylvania, and 5th New York. Let’s keep in mind that the 5th New York did not participate in the charge. After getting clobbered at Hanover on June 30, it spent the day of July 3 supporting Elder’s Battery. Thus, it is properly placed atop Bushman’s Hill. The monument to the 18th Pennsylvania is placed at the point of its farthest advance, not in any “brigade line.” The 1st Vermont’s monument marks the climax of the charge, at the point where the charge ended, and its brigade commander mortally wounded, far behind enemy lines. Its charge was separate and distinct from the rest of the brigade, its monument placement reflects this, and the inscription states that it is at a spot near where Farnsworth fell. Thus, the monuments of this brigade, evidenced by their very inscriptions, do not support the author’s own theory.
We suggest that perhaps there is a misreading of the GBMA’s intentions regarding monument placements on “brigade lines” on the part of the author. If one reads carefully through the GBMA minutes records from 1872 through 1895, which are readily available online at the Gettysburg Discussion Group’s website (http://www.gdg.org), it quickly becomes apparent that the “brigade line” rule was not instituted for the purposes stated by Custer. The rule was instituted in 1887 (see minute records for December 16 of that year) to deal with the confusion that future battlefield visitors may experience since Federal regiments had differing positions from July 1 to July 3. In addition, some Confederate units at the time had proposed placing monuments on and, in some cases, behind Federal lines, much to the outcry of Union veterans. In contradiction to the author’s assertion, then, the rule was not instituted as some response to Hammond’s incorrect placement of his monument, but instead to deal with the broader issues of future interpretation of battlefield positions and so that there would be rules for Confederate monument placements.
When one considers that the 1st Vermont Cavalry’s monument specifically states that it marks Farnsworth’s nearby death site, and the Vermont Monument Commission and the GBMA intended for it to mark as such (instead of a theoretical “brigade line”), the very idea that the author proposes that such a monument should be moved to comport with a more “correct” battle line makes no sense. We encourage everyone to read through the minutes for themselves, to take note of the environment in which the rule was instituted, and it will become apparent that these regulations had nothing whatsoever to do with the placements of the monuments to Farnsworth’s other regiments in light of what they were originally intended by all to mark.
In addition, an 1890 map prepared by the War Department to indicate where the existing GBMA and public roads were, where new park roads were proposed, and which shows the placement of all the U. S. Regular monuments, recently surfaced in the collection of the Adams County Historical Society. It has never been published before. That portion of it dealing with Farnsworth’s Charge and South Cavalry Field is reproduced here for the first time, courtesy of Executive Director Wayne Motts of the Adams County Historical Society. This map indicates that the War Department’s proposed Cavalry Avenue did not track—or even come close to—where the author places it. Instead, it connects Elder’s Battery atop Bushman’s Hill with the Regular monuments along the Emmitsburg Road at the southern end of the field. Note that it passes through the D-shaped field—where the 1st Vermont Cavalry monument now sits—through the Slyder Farm, and then connects with what is today called Merritt Avenue, the seldom-visited grassy lanes that connect the monument to the 5th U. S. Cavalry and a detachment marker on either side of Ridge Road. It then continues south to connect up with the Regular monuments. Therefore, in direct contradiction to Custer’s asserted plan and location of Cavalry Avenue, the proposed road actually passes by and connects the present-day monuments of Farnsworth’s Brigade (minus the 1st West Virginia, located on Taneytown Road) and those of Merritt’s Regulars. In her article, Custer asserts that the veterans “had to put them [the monuments] somewhere” and that they were “awaiting construction of the promised road.” There is no documentation cited to support this contention, and none has been found in the GBMA records or anywhere else. This newly discovered map, combined with the fact that the author has no historical record to substantiate her statement, undercuts the primary basis of her theory. The proposed avenue, therefore, was actually designed to connect and support the locations of the monuments, not to move them from their present-day locations.
If that’s not enough to disprove this theory, then let’s look at some documentary evidence. John B. Bachelder was hired by the War Department to write a history of the Battle of Gettysburg. To that end, he solicited input from the veterans, to get the story—and the placement of the monuments—correct. On January 13, 1883, an article by Bachelder was published in the “Annals of the War” section of the Philadelphia Weekly Times newspaper. Bachelder’s account places the charge precisely where the traditional accounts put it. Here’s what Colonel Bachelder had to say:
I have received several communications asking me the particulars of this ‘exciting episode’. It was not my fortune to be an eye-witness of the thrilling scene alluded to, but by persevering inquiry I have gathered so many facts concerning it, and the affair itself was of so much strategic importance that your correspondent’s account would seem to imply, that I cheerfully contribute the following details, with the hope that any error which I may have been led into will be corrected before it is embodied in my forthcoming history of the battle.
The account published in the newspaper article matches the one in Bachelder’s book, meaning that none of the veterans came forward to challenge his interpretation. The Weekly Times was widely read, as many enjoyed the nearly 200 articles by leading participants in the war, and of which 56 were published in book form as The Annals of the War. The point is that Bachelder’s interpretation is based exclusively and specifically upon the accounts of the veterans, and all placed these events on Bushman’s Hill, the Slyder Farm, and in the D-shaped field on the front slope of Big Round Top. The fact that none of the veterans came forward to dispute this certainly goes a long way toward demonstrating that the monuments are properly placed and that they accurately reflect where these events occurred.
Lt. Col. Addison W. Preston commanded the 1st Vermont Cavalry on July 3, 1863. Preston wrote two official reports. One was published in the Official Records. The other, to the Adjutant General of Vermont, was published in the August 10, 1863 issue of the Rutland Weekly Herald, a weekly paper from Rutland, VT. Here’s Lt. Col. Preston’s take on Farnsworth’s Charge (which does not include the account of the rest of the campaign):
July 3, in the attack made by General Kilpatrick on the right flank of the enemy at Gettysburg this cavalry led the advance. Co.’s A, D, E, and I, dismounted, were deployed as skirmishers and soon drove the enemy’s skirmishers back of their main lines. The contest was continued by the opposing batteries and dismounted carbineers until five o’clock p.m., when General Farnsworth, commanding the brigade, was ordered to charge the enemy, strongly posted behind stone walls and in the woods, and which proved to be Major General Hood’s division of infantry. With the 1st [West] Virginia Cavalry on the left, and the second battalion of the 1st Vermont, under Major Wells, on the right, General Farnsworth dashed forward, closely followed by his men, leaping one stone wall under a severe fire. Our force drove the enemy in all directions; over still another stone wall and through a field swept by the rebel batteries, and succeeded in piercing the enemy’s second line, where many of our dead were found. I moved to the support of the 2nd battalion with the 1st under Captain Parsons, and a part of the 3rd under Captain Grover. On the hill between the two walls we encountered a fresh regiment of the enemy, sent in from the right to intercept the retreat of our first column and to re-establish their lines. The struggle for this hill became most desperate but was at length carried by our boys with severe loss, the greater part of the enemy being captured. Our loss this day, killed, wounded, and missing, 75 men.
There’s lots of interest here. First, it demonstrates that Farnsworth did NOT fall at the outset of the charge, as contended by the author’s alternate theory, but rather cleared the wall and proceeded through the 1st Texas, as the traditional, conventional account suggests.
Second, Preston’s report clearly places these events in the area of the field where the accepted account places them. The alternate theory does not have a struggle for a hill. Likewise, Preston describes the Slyder farm field, and not the heavily wooded area where the alternate theory’s events occur. It only makes sense if we’re referring to either Warfield’s Ridge, or, more likely, either the front slope of Big Round Top, where the 1st Vermont’s monument is, or Bushman’s Hill, where a portion of the regiment made its way back to safety.
Third, and most important, the area swept by the enemy batteries (Bachmann and Reilly) only makes sense if it’s where the traditional interpretation of these events places it. These batteries could not have been engaged in firing canister if the charge occurred where the alternative theory places it, some one-half mile away and out of canister range of the batteries.
One of Kilpatrick’s veterans, a soldier named William Small, published a pamphlet in 1887, a few years after the death of Judson Kilpatrick. The pamphlet is titled Campfire Talk on the Life and Military Services of Maj. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick, and is quite rare. Here’s what Small had to say about the location of the charge:
In one of these charges, and the most important one, the brave General Farnsworth, commander of the 1st Brigade, was killed after he and his brave followers rode several miles beyond the skirmish line, the enemy contesting every inch of the way, but though many of the boys in blue ‘bit the dust,’ they halted not nor wavered until they had driven the foe from position after position and from two stone barricades; halted not nor wavered until they had crossed Plum [Run] Creek and reached the base of Round Top; halted not nor wavered until all but a mere handful were either killed or captured. (emphasis added)
Again, this is further evidence that the traditional interpretation is the one supported by the accounts of the veterans.
Then, there is the account of Capt. George Hillyer of the 9th Georgia Infantry. Although it’s recently been published, it’s always been available to the author of the article; a copy of it has been in the National Park Service archives at GNMP for years. Here’s what Hillyer says about these events:
Soon afterwards I saw a column of Kilpatrick’s cavalry break through the thin line of the 1st Texas (the latter not having men enough to have more than about one to every five or six steps). They came galloping through the intervening ground toward where one of our batteries was posted on the rising ground, to the left of where we were.
The 9th Georgia was positioned near the end of the Confederate line, in supporting distance of Bachmann’s battery, which was positioned on Warfield Ridge, near the present-day Alabama monument. Thus, unless Hillyer was completely wrong, the author’s attempt to relocate the charge must be erroneous.
Consider an account left in 1892 by Lt. Col. Thomas W. Hyde of the 7th Maine Infantry. Standing near the Federal signal station atop Little Round Top on the afternoon of July 3, Hyde heard firing from the area around Devil’s Den and spotted a large mass of charging Federal Cavalry. He noted that Farnsworth’s men “seemed…to have penetrated quite a distance into the enemy’s lines, but as the ground became opener it was hard to see them charging over fences and up to the woods only to be destroyed by the deliberate fire of the Southern rifle.” Had the action taken place where Custer purports, it would have been impossible for Hyde to see the charging troopers.
Likewise is an account left by Brig. Gen. Henry L. Benning, commander of a brigade of Confederate infantry, and published in the Southern Historical Society Papers in 1877. From his position atop Houck’s Ridge, Benning watched as Farnsworth’s troopers galloped in front of his post. Benning could not have seen the troopers had the action occurred where Custer places it.
The author refers to a letter to John Bachelder by Sgt. Thomas Grier of the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry, found in Volume 3 of Ladd and Ladd’s The Bachelder Papers (p. 1541-44). In his letter, after visiting the field, Grier states that he saw Hammond’s stake marking the proposed location for the 5th New York’s monument, and that he has “grave doubts as to its correctness.” Here, Grier is speaking only of the ORIGINAL proposed location for the 5th New York Cavalry’s monument, not its relocated position supporting the guns of Elder’s Battery. However, the author failed to include the entire quote, including Grier’s closing remark regarding Bachelder’s map of the regiment’s locations in the action depicting the traditional and present-day placement: “Your map is substantially correct.” In the interest of full disclosure, this exculpatory statement should have been included by the author.
The same holds true for the September 1888 letter by Col. William C. Oates to Bachelder, also located in Volume 3 of The Bachelder Papers. Much is made of Oates’ statements about Farnsworth’s manner of death and location, but the author failed to include a statement by Oates in that letter in which he writes, “I think that particular little copse of trees where he [Farnsworth] fell had been cleared & cultivated when I visited Gettysburg a few years ago.” This could only apply to the Slyder Farm field where the 1st Vermont Cavalry monument is presently located, as no cultivation can be documented in the woods where the author has attempted to place Farnsworth’s death site.
Most revealing, however, is the lengthy letter by Evander Law to Bachelder of June 13, 1876, found in Volume 1. The author has cherry-picked selective quotes from the letter to provide, at best, circumstantial evidence for her theory. However, Law’s letter references a multitude of Bachelder’s map location numbers, placing his Confederate locations, and the locations and movements of Farnsworth’s troopers, exactly where the map places them in the traditional interpretation, and upon which Bachelder eventually evaluated the proposed monument locations. The majority of the letter, then, confirms the accepted interpretation of the action and places events exactly where the monuments are now located.
Finally, there is the only known account of these events by Maj. William Wells of the 1st Vermont Cavalry, who was later awarded a Medal of Honor for his valor that day. Writing in January 1887, Wells responded to an inquiry about the events of July 3, 1863. Wells’ letter to Col. Carle Woodruff can be found in the Orlando B. Wilcox Papers:
Relating to Gen Farnsworth’s Brigade at Gettysburg Pa July 3d 1863. The 1st West Virginia Cavalry and the 2nd Battalion of 1st Vermont Cavalry were ordered to charge. I was Major in command of the four cos above named. The 1st Virginia moved as far to the front as possible on our left, but were unable to break the lines of the enemy of course did not form a part of the charging column. Gen Farnsworth rode by my side at the head of the battalion. We broke the first line of the enemy, passed over two stone fences, where we met another force of the enemy. About this time General Farnsworth’s horse was shot. We became separated. Suppose he must have joined us later, but have no recollection of seeing him again. As soon as his horse was shot David P. Truman a private soldier in C Company dismounted and gave the General his horse. Should say the distance from first point where we broke the enemy’s line to point where we turned back, was fully three fourths of a mile.
This letter is further evidence that Farnsworth did not fall at the beginning of the charge.
One other point needs to be made. Other than the newspaper account by New York Times correspondent E. A. Paul, there are no other reliable accounts that suggest that Farnsworth was shot down by the 1st Texas. In fact, the overwhelming majority of accounts indicate that Farnsworth—along with Capt. Oliver W. Cushman, who rode at his side—was shot down by men of the 15th Alabama. If these events occurred where the conventional interpretation places them, they had only a couple of hundred yards at best to move from the Devil’s Kitchen area (where the modern-day parking lot for Big Round Top is located) to the D-shaped field. Reacting to an emergency, there would not have been much time for them to respond and deploy into a skirmish line.
Conversely, if these events occurred where Custer places them, the 15th Alabama would have had to dash across nearly a mile of ground, likely under fire at least part of the way, in order to meet the charge. There are no accounts that suggest that they did so. There would not have been time, and to do so would have been foolhardy and unnecessary, as there would have been other units available to do just that. The facts themselves do not support the claim, and neither do logic or common sense.
We have only touched on the voluminous primary source evidence that disputes this attempted revision of the facts of Farnsworth’s Charge. In light of the above, we do not believe that the evidence supports the conclusions she states on p. 61 of her article. On this particular page, her statements are presented as if they are fact, when there is not only no basis in the historical record (and she provides no footnotes as such), the historic evidence soundly refutes them.
In light of all of the foregoing, we did not believe that we could permit this version of these events to go unchallenged. The evidence does not support them, and, instead, supports the traditional view and traditional placement of Farnsworth’s Charge. When all of the evidence is evaluated, we hope that your readers will see it that way, too. It is how the veterans saw it, and comports with how they placed their monuments—monuments that (except for the admitted original misplacement of the 5th New York’s) the veterans intended to remain in their place for all time.
Eric J. Wittenberg
J. David Petruzzi