Sunday, December 03, 2006
Private George Warner, 20th Connecticut
On Friday, July 3, 1863, the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the 20th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry advanced stubbornly towards the Confederates who had taken their earthworks the previous night. Since before dawn, Union artillery had been shelling the Southern lines adding to the effort to drive the boys in gray off of Culp's Hill.
The 20th received orders not just to dislodge their foes but to relay back to the Union artillery the position of their Southern adversaries. As the fire increased and men in blue began to fall, the 20th's Colonel William Wooster grew increasingly angry. His blood boiled not because of the stubbornly resisting Confederates but due to the Union shells that began to strike his own men. When an exploding round slammed into Private George Warner, Colonel Wooster sent word to the artillery that if they again harmed anyone in his care, he would order the 20th to turn about and charge the batteries.
The commander of the Brigade to which the Connecticut regiment belonged, Archibald L. McDougall described what the 20th endured. "Lieutenant-Colonel Wooster, who was in command of this regiment, had a difficult and responsible duty to perform. He was not only required to keep the enemy in check, but encountered great difficulty, while resisting the enemy, in protecting himself against the fire of our own artillery, aimed partly over his command at the enemy in and near our intrenchments. His greatest embarrassment was, the farther he pushed the enemy the more directly he was placed under the fire of our own guns. Some of his men became severely wounded by our artillery fire. "
In his own official report, Colonel Wooster would expand upon the trials his men faced. "...The enemy were endeavoring to advance through the woods, so as to turn the right flank of the Second Division, and were met and successfully resisted by my regiment. In this position I was enabled to repeatedly communicate to the colonel commanding the brigade and the general commanding the division the movements of the enemy in our immediate front, thereby enabling our artillery to more accurately obtain the range of the enemy and to greatly increase the effectiveness of our shells. At times it became necessary to advance my left wing to successfully repulse the advancing column of the enemy, and again to retire my whole command to save it from being destroyed by our own artillery."
In his official report, Colonel McDougall would ensure that the stalwart New Englanders received the praise they had so rightfully earned on this trying and historic day. "It is also my duty to acknowledge the brave and gallant manner with which Lieutenant-Colonel Wooster, commanding the Twentieth Connecticut Volunteers, as well as the officers and men under his command, while in action on the 3d instant, aided in the recovery of our intrenchments. For several hours, without flinching, they maintained a steady contest with the enemy, enduring part of the time an afflictive and discouraging, though accidental, fire of our own batteries."
Twenty years later, the men from Connecticut would erect a modest monument on the portion of Culp's Hill that they had helped to secure. Private Warner, who miraculously survived his grievous wounding, received the high honor of unveiling the 20th's monument. The task was not a simple one given that the Union artillery's misfires had cost him both of his arms. Still, the Connecticut veterans would not allow this to stand in the way of honoring Pvt. Warner. A rope tied around his waist and a specially rigged pulley allowed the hardy veteran, by simply walking backwards, to raise the veil on the monument honoring the sacrifices of Connecticut's sons.
Please visit my primary site at www.brotherswar.com
All original material Copyright © 2006. All Rights Reserved
Gettysburg: Stories of Men and Monuments
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.