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Thread: 6th Pennsylvania Reserves MOH winners during Gettysburg?

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    6th Pennsylvania Reserves MOH winners during Gettysburg?

    I'm quite a rookie when it comes to the American Civil War but have developed a fair bit of interest lately. I came across this one bit of unusual info concerning the 6th Pennsylvania Reserves while looking through the MOH winners from Gettysburg. Here's a photo of the monument dedicated to the Regiment.




    Anyway, the part I found really interesting is the fact that 6 soldiers from this regiment where awarded the MOH over 30 years after the battle as detailed below:

    Medal of Honor Winners: FURMAN, CHESTER S. Rank and organization: Corporal, Company A, 6th Pennsylvania Reserves. Place and date: At Gettysburg, Pa., 2 July 1863. Entered service at: ——. Birth: Columbia, Pa. Date of issue: 3 August 1897. Citation: Was 1 of 6 volunteers who charged upon a log house near Devil’s Den, where a squad of the enemy’s sharpshooters were sheltered, and compelled their surrender.

    HART, JOHN W. Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company D, 6th Pennsylvania Reserves. Place and date: At Gettysburg, Pa., 2 July 1863. Entered service at: Cumberland, Md. Birth: Germany. Date of issue: 3 August 1897. Citation: Was one of six volunteers who charged upon a log house near the Devil’s Den, where a squad of the enemy’s sharpshooters were sheltered, and compelled their surrender.

    JOHNSON, WALLACE W. Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company G, 6th Pennsylvania Reserves. Place and date: At Gettysburg, Pa., 2 July 1863. Entered service at: Waverly, N.Y. Birth: Newfield, N.Y. Date of issue: 8 August 1900. Citation: With five other volunteers gallantly charged on a number of the enemy’s sharpshooters concealed in a log house, captured them, and brought them into the Union lines.

    MEARS, GEORGE W. Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company A, 6th Pennsylvania Reserves. Place and date: At Gettysburg, Pa., 2 July 1863. Entered service at: Bloomsburgh, Pa. Birth: Bloomsburgh, Pa. Date of issue: 16 February 1897. Citation: With five volunteers he gallantly charged on a number of the enemy’s sharpshooters concealed in a log house, captured them, and brought them into the Union lines.

    ROUSH, J. LEVI. Rank and organization: Corporal, Company D, 6th Pennsylvania Reserves. Place and date: At Gettysburg, Pa., 2 July 1863. Entered service at: ——. Birth: Bedford County, Pa. Date of issue: 3 August 1897. Citation: Was 1 of 6 volunteers who charged upon a log house near the Devil’s Den, where a squad of the enemy’s sharpshooters were sheltered, and compelled their surrender.

    SMITH, THADDEUS S. Rank and organization. Corporal, Company E, 6th Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry. Place and date. At Gettysburg, Pa., 2 July 1863. Entered service at: ——. Birth: Franklin County, Pa. Date of issue: 5 May 1900. Citation: Was 1 of 6 volunteers who charged upon a log house near the Devil’s Den, where a squad of the enemy’s sharpshooters were sheltered, and compelled their surrender."



    I've been trying to find out more details about this but seem to be having not much luck. I purchased Pfanz’s “Gettysburg: The Second Day.” but unfortunately, he states in the notes section that there's no trace of this charge on a house in any published material about the regiment or anywhere in the official records. A bit odd but would this be due to the medals being awarded over 30 years after the event?

    I also have "Gettysburg's Bloody Wheatfield" by Jay Jorgensen, but a quick browse doesn't seem to mention it.

    I'm just curious if somebody here might recall seeing something about this on a website or different book.
    Last edited by mako88sb; 22 Apr 12, at 09:25.

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    The Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides

    Try this group or the historian at Gettysburg NMP...they may be able to help.

    There is so much written I am sure the story has been told somewhere.

    The 6th PA Reserves/35th PA VI did conduct a counterattack after the last failed Confederate attack on 2 July towards the Round Tops. The purpose was to clear the Devil's Den and area of all Confedrate activity.
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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    Thanks a lot. I'll give that a try. One thing I was wondering about is if there would be more a detailed report used for their MOH applications stored away in some archive. No idea where to start with that however.

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    You best bet may be the National Archives and Records Administration (National Archives and Records Administration) but the records are spotty.

    A better bet may be looking at the endnotes in Pfanz and look for the citation(s) regarding this section of the battlefield not just this instance. You may find a reference to another regiment or brigade's history which may discuss the house in question.

    The process in the 1890s to clear up the MOH records did a lot to declutter them

    Medal of Honor Citations

    From the US Army Center of Military History website on the Medal of Honor;

    "The citations provided here are taken from the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs Report, Medal of Honor Recipients: 1863-1978 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1979)."

    May want a NARA search on that as well.

    Still say your best bet is the staff at Gettysburg.
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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    It seems that the early MOH citations lack the same sense of desperate combat circumstances as later awardings... as if the early medals came a bit "cheaper" than the later. Maybe this was due to a lack of documentation, or maybe they were, in fact, cheaper and more frequently awarded.

    Examples:

    Citation: With 2 other men he volunteered to search for a wagon passage out of a 4,000-foot valley wherein an infantry column was immobile. This small group passed 6 miles among hostile Apache terrain finding the sought passage. On their return trip down the canyon they were attacked by Apaches who were successfully held at bay.
    Citation: While the Indians were concealed in a ravine, assisted men on the skirmish line, directing their fire, etc., and using every effort to dislodge the enemy.
    Oh, K.

    As the decades and wars went by, it seems the requirements rose exponentially.

    Sgt. Charlton, a member of Company C, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. His platoon was attacking heavily defended hostile positions on commanding ground when the leader was wounded and evacuated. Sgt. Charlton assumed command, rallied the men, and spearheaded the assault against the hill. Personally eliminating 2 hostile positions and killing 6 of the enemy with his rifle fire and grenades, he continued up the slope until the unit suffered heavy casualties and became pinned down. Regrouping the men he led them forward only to be again hurled back by a shower of grenades. Despite a severe chest wound, Sgt. Charlton refused medical attention and led a third daring charge which carried to the crest of the ridge. Observing that the remaining emplacement which had retarded the advance was situated on the reverse slope, he charged it alone, was again hit by a grenade but raked the position with a devastating fire which eliminated it and routed the defenders. The wounds received during his daring exploits resulted in his death but his indomitable courage, superb leadership, and gallant self-sacrifice reflect the highest credit upon himself the infantry, and the military service.
    Just an observation... IMO, it may have swung too far in the other direction, with few people even able to wear the medal, so many of them awarded posthumously.

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    Chogy,

    There are several reasons for this.

    At the time of the ACW the Medal of Honor was the only award for bravery available. On special occasions Congress would award a gold medal (Grant after Chattanooga) or a sword.

    The brevet system was used as a a way to reward an officer for exceptional battlefield prowess but is was an honor rather than a promotion. Thus, Stonewall Jackson, a First Lieutenant in the Mexican War and a great gunner, was brevetted to LTC for his numerous exploits on the many battlefields...same with Braxton Bragg. For enlisted it was the Certificate of Merit.

    The MOH was much abused early on (for instance, all the members of the 27th Maine who reenlisted were awarded MOHs!) but that is why the Army set up review boards in the early 1890s to review all MOHs, brevets and commendable mentions. These resulted in many MOHs being revoked (all of the 27 ME for example) but it also saw many actions awarded which had been overlooked.

    As the Army reformed over the next several decades the decoprations for valor were increased to provide for more flexibility and to retain the prestige of the MOH.

    The Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross were added in WW 1, Silver Star in 1932 (retroactive to WW 1), and Bronze Star in 1944 (retroactive to start of the WW 2) to help allow for degrees of bravery.

    2 good sites with mroe info on this.

    Prologue: Selected Articles

    CMOHS.org - History of the Medal of Honor


    So back to Mako's question....the actions of the members of the 6 PA RES are probably in the BSM/SSM range....but we weren't there to judge it.
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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    Well, this is a bit embarrassing as I received an answer to my query not long after posting my question but somehow neglected to share it here with those that might be interested. John Heiser was kind enough to help although as you'll see, the exact details about the incident will probably be never known:

    "The exact circumstances of the incident that provided these six soldiers
    with the Medal of Honor is a bit of a mystery though we’re certain it
    occurred on the grounds of the Jacob Weikert Farm, which was located at the
    southwest tip of Trostle Woods at the northern end of Plum Run Valley, also
    known as the “Valley of Death”. This site has no relation to Devil's Den,
    which is noted in the citations and we're not sure why the Den is mentioned
    other than being a mistake on the part of the person or persons who wrote
    the nominations.

    Late on the afternoon of July 2, 1863, the Third Division of the Fifth
    Corps was sent to a location behind Little Round Top where it was divided,
    the Second Brigade ordered to the south of Little Round Top while the First
    Brigade under Colonel William McCandless, which included the 6th
    Pennsylvania Reserves, was ordered to form a battle line beginning on the
    north slope of Little Round Top and extending northward along Cemetery
    Ridge. At approximately the same time, Brig. General William Wofford’s
    Georgia Brigade broke through the last of the Union defenders in the Peach
    Orchard to the west and in combination with units from Kershaw’s and
    Semmes’ brigades, swept the Wheatfield, driving the Union survivors back to
    Cemetery Ridge. General Samuel Crawford, commanding the Third Division,
    ordered McCandless to charge and personally led the counterattack through
    the Valley of Death, driving the southerners back to the edge of the
    Wheatfield and beyond. The 6th Pennsylvania Reserves were on the right of
    the brigade line, closely followed by another brigade from the Sixth Corps
    under Colonel Nevins. During the charge, the regiment bypassed the small
    log house owned by Weikert in which a number of Confederates took refuge,
    shooting at the Union troops as they passed. The 6th Pennsylvania reached
    the stone fence that bordered a triangular wood lot on the north side of
    the Wheatfield, where it remained through the following afternoon, their
    location now marked by the regimental monument dedicated in September 1890.


    What is unclear is exactly when the six volunteered to charge the house and
    take out the Confederate “sharpshooters” as described in the citation,
    whether it was during the charge or after the regiment had reached the edge
    of the Wheatfield. I looked at this incident several years ago and though
    I could not find any documentation of substance, I believe it occurred
    after the 6th had reached the stone wall, having bypassed the log house and
    the southerners within. Colonel Nevins’ brigade of the Sixth Corps did not
    advance as far as the Pennsylvania Reserves, taking up positions behind a
    stone wall just east of the Weikert buildings and his regiments may have
    been the primary recipients of the Confederates’ rifle fire from the house,
    approximately 200 feet behind the position then held by the 6th PA.
    Obviously someone noticed what was occurring and these six men rushed the
    house, taking the Confederates by surprise and forcing them to surrender.


    As you note, there is precious little information regarding this incident
    other than the citations and according to a researcher who looked through
    the United States War Department records at the National Archives and
    Records Administration several years ago, there are no surviving affidavits
    relative to this incident. Given that the medals were awarded long after
    the war, I suspect that the nomination was generated by the association of
    veterans of the Pennsylvania Reserves though we do not know if any records
    from that group survived after it ceased to meet in the early 1900’s. It is
    interesting to note that all six were non-commissioned officers- corporals
    and sergeants, the latter being file closers who would have been behind the
    regimental line and in the best position to observe events behind the
    regiment at its final position.


    The Weikert house was torn down by the Althoff family that purchased the
    farm after the Civil War, replacing it with a two-story frame house
    approximately 100 feet east of the original dwelling site. These buildings
    still stand and are marked by a sign at the northern end of the Valley of
    Death on Wheatfield Road.


    I apologize that we cannot offer further sources regarding this incident
    but perhaps a renewed search in the records of the U.S. War Department at
    NARA will turn up something more about these men and their awards."


    Sincerely,
    John Heiser
    Ranger/Historian
    Gettysburg National Military Park
    Last edited by mako88sb; 04 Nov 13, at 20:55.

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