Terror On The Monongahela, Part One

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British Major General Edward Braddock

Major General Edward Braddock’s Expedition of 1755 is an important piece of American history. Being ordered to America, and arriving at Hampton, VA in February, Maj. Gen. Braddock was leading the largest military force in American history. After George Washington’s 1754 defeat to rid the French from the Forks of the Ohio where Fort Duquesne was located, Braddock began his movements in April. Dividing his army into two columns, Maj. Gen. Braddock took the advice of Major Sir John St. Clair, and sent a column Colonel Sir Peter Halket’s 48th Regiment of Foot directly to Winchester, VA, while Colonel Thomas Dunbar’s 44th Regiment of Foot, and Braddock moved through Maryland. The army would reassemble at Winchester and move directly to Will’s Creek.

Arriving at Will’s Creek, Maj. Gen. Braddock concentrated there, at Fort Cumberland, where supplies came in. By the middle of June, Maj. Gen. Braddock begins his final push, cutting a road from Fort Cumberland to Fort Duquesne. After leaving Fort Cumberland, and marching for about one week, Maj. Gen. Braddock and Lieutenant Colonel George Washington discussed creating a “flying column.”

On June 19, the flying column marched forward, leaving Col. Dunbar to bring up the rear of Braddock’s army. Eventually, Col. Dunbar fell several days behind with the majority of the wagon train and militia troops. Braddock’s advance of Maj. St.Clair, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage, and the flying column managed to move almost the 130 miles from Fort Cumberland to Fort Duquesne, until Braddock was met with disaster.

It took Maj. Gen. Braddock almost three weeks to move through the American wilderness from Fort Cumberland to his July 8 encampment near the Monongahela River. Major General Braddock’s army began moving out of Fort Cumberland on June 10. Now, their objective was in British grasp, but they were well behind French territory. For three weeks, Maj. Gen. Braddock’s army managed to move through the American wilderness without a major confrontation.

At 8:00 p.m. on July 8, Maj. Gen. Braddock’s army made camp at Sugar Creek, a few miles east of the Monongahela River. During a meeting with the officers of his flying column, Maj. Gen. Braddock laid out marching orders for July 9. The orders called for his column to be staggered as it pushed further west. The men were to carry only what they needed in their knapsacks, leaving their tents behind with the wagons. They were issued two days’ rations of beef and flour, along with 24 rounds of fresh ammunition.

At 2:00 a.m, on July 9, the first portions of Maj. Gen. Braddock’s army began marching out. Lt. Col. Gage led the advance of the British army with 160 men from the 44th and 48th Regiments of Foot. He was supported by an additional 100 men from Captain Horatio Gates’ New York Independents, and two 6-pounder cannon.

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Sir Major John St. Clair

Two hours later, at 4:00 a.m., the work detachments of Maj. St. Clair moved out. Major St. Clair had about 250 men under his direction. Their task was to open the road to allow the heavier cannon and wagons to move through the wilderness. Many of these men did not sleep long the prior night and were very tired from marching for most of the previous day.

By dawn, the day was already hot, and the skies were clear. At 5:00 a.m., after sunrise, Maj. Gen. Braddock began moving his army. Major General Braddock had two major river crossings that stood as a natural barrier between his army and Fort Duquesne. Major General Braddock’s army moved behind Maj. St.Clair’s workers with 150 men in front, followed by cannon, and another 150 men. The wagons, pack horses and livestock followed. Bringing up the rear of Braddock’s army was the remainder of the artillery and the rearguard. Major General Braddock also had flankers covering both sides of his army.

Lieutenant Colonel Gage reached the first of two Monongahela River crossings early in the morning, five miles from the Sugar Creek encampment. Two miles away was the other river crossing. Major General Braddock would reach this point by 8:00 a.m. Moving ahead of the army and Maj. St.Clair’s workers, Lt. Col. Gage struggled to move his artillery through the wilderness, as the road wasn’t cut in.

By 9:30 a.m. the second Monongahela River crossing was reached. This location was where Turtle Creek emptied into the Monongahela River. Securing his position, Lt. Col. Gage ordered his two cannon to deploy and cover his infantry during the river crossing, and be ready for action. Lieutenant Colonel Gage ordered his men into battle line formation and marched them into the waters of the Monongahela River. The crossing was located in an open area 200 yards wide and about knee deep.

Once the western bank was secured, Lt. Col. Gage ordered a courier back to report to Maj. Gen. Braddock that the river crossing was secured. There, Lt. Col. Gage ordered his men to rest. Many of the men began fixing their rations. For some, this will be their last meal. Lieutenant Colonel Gage saw evidence of campfires left by Indian scouts.

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British Lt. Colonel Thomas Gage

While Lt. Col. Gage rested his command, Maj. Gen. Braddock’s army hacked their way through the wilderness. While Maj. Gen. Braddock was at the first river crossing, the French Marines, Canadian Militia, and their Indian allies prepared to seek out the British. The night before, the French and their allies had decided to attack Braddock the following day. Canadian Captain Daniel Liénard de Beaujeu led a force of 637 Indians and 146 Canadian Militia, supported by 72 French Marines that stood between the second Monongahela River crossing and Fort Duquesne. They moved out at around 8:00 a.m. and moved eastward.

By noon, Maj. Gen. Braddock was preparing to cross the second ford of the Monongahela River. With a wave of his hand, Braddock points forward, giving the sign to begin crossing the river. Braddock’s men, wearing clean, red uniforms with their bayonets fixed to their Brown Bess rifles, marching to the sound of 40 drums beating and fifes echoing through the wilderness, was a spectacle never witnessed before in America. As the men formed their columns with the King’s colours waving, Maj. Gen. Braddock’s men moved forward into the river.

With the fife and drum playing the “Grenadiers March,” the 44th Regiment of Foot was the first to ford the river. Once on the other side, they were to picket the right flank. The wagons, pack horses, and livestock, along with the artillery went next. Bringing up the rear was the 48th Regiment of Foot, and they would cover the left flank.

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French Canadian Captain Daniel Liennard de Beaujeu

The sound of the drums beating in the distance was heard by the French and their allies. Captain Beaujeu had scouts who observed the river crossing. Captain Beaujeu then began moving toward the sound of the drums. Major General Braddock knew that the French, Canadian, and their Indian allies would have scouts out searching for the British. But once he knew that there would be no attack made upon him, that was when Maj. Gen. Braddock forded the river.

Once across the river, Maj. Gen. Braddock felt a sigh of relief. If there would be a place for the French to attack the British, it was most likely going to be there at the river crossing since it was in the open. Once the entire army was on the western bank of the Monongahela River, Maj. Gen. Braddock reformed his column. Twelve miles from Fort Duquesne, Maj. Gen. Braddock ordered his advance to position themselves closer to the main column.

While Maj. Gen. Braddock’s orders were being sent, Lt. Col. Gage and Maj. St.Clair were meeting about other tasks ahead of them. When Braddock’s orders arrived, both Lt. Col. Gage and Maj. St. Clair had orders to move their commands and march for another two more hours. Major St. Clair asked about moving the two 6-pounder cannon from the rear and deploy them in the front to protect the workers. Lieutenant Colonel Gage opposed the idea.

By 1:00 p.m., Lt. Col. Gage had six Virginia horsemen at the head of his column. As the column moved through the wilderness, Lt. Col. Gage took notice of the ravines to his front, and the higher hills to his right. His command was deployed with about 150 Grenadiers from the 44th and 48th Regiments of Foot leading his column. The battalion companies of about 150 men followed behind. Lieutenant Colonel Gage posted upwards of 110 men on his flanks. Each was broken down into squads of ten men, and they were to protect the flanks from attack. The advance alone, covered about one eighth of a mile wide.

Following behind Lt. Col. Gage was Maj. St.Clair’s 250 workers. Behind Maj. St.Clair were several companies of Virginians. These Virginia companies could very well be various ranger units of Captains William Peronee’s, Wagner’s and Adam Steven’s command. Captain William Polson’s Virginia Carpenters most likely is the company that performed much of the road building. Bringing up the rear was Captain Gates’ New York Independants. Located about one hundred yards behind Captain Gates was Captain Robert Stewart’s Virginian horsemen. Then came Braddock with the main column of men supported by artillery and wagons.

Marching from the ford of the Monongahela River, the landscape was full of thick vegetation. The brush continued on for about a quarter mile. Lieutenant Colonel Gage’s column began marching up to a ridge line. There, they entered into a forest with various large oak and walnut trees. The tops formed a heavy canopy, while the forest floor was wide open, except for fallen trees. The landscape was very peaceful, however, unknown to Lt. Col. Gage, the French were closing in.

The Battle for Turner’s Gap

On September 14, 1862, several battles erupted on South Mountain. The Union army, commanded by Major General George McClellan had caught up with the rear of the Confederate army, commanded by General Robert E. Lee. Much of the fighting during the morning of September 14, was concentrated around Fox’s Gap, one mile to the south of Turner’s Gap and the National Road. By the afternoon, reinforcements from both armies began making their way toward South Mountain. By evening, the battles of Brownsville Gap, Crampton’s Gap, Fox’s Gap, Turner’s Gap and Frostown Gap would erupt.

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Confederate Colonel Alfred Colquitt, shown here as a major general.

Guarding the eastern approach to Turner’s Gap, situated along the National Road, was a brigade of Confederate infantry commanded by. His brigade consisted of 13th Alabama Infantry, 6th Georgia Infantry, 23rd Georgia Infantry, 27th Georgia Infantry, and the 28th Georgia Infantry. They had been posted east of Turner’s Gap, since the evening prior the Battles of Catoctin Mountain came to an end. Supporting Col. Colquitt was Captain John Lane’s Battery of Lieutenant Colonel A. S. Cutt’s Battalion, who positioned his guns at Turner’s Gap overlooking the National Road.

While Col. Colquitt remained in his position, several miles east at Frederick, Maryland, the Union I Corps, under the command of Major General Joseph Hooker, left their camp along the banks of the Monocacy River at 6:00 a.m. By 1:00 p.m., Maj. Gen. Hooker’s corps had reached Middletown, Maryland. There, he was ordered to attack Turner’s Gap. Marching his men to the small town of Bolivar, Maj. Gen. Hooker moved his corps to the right, along Mt. Tabor Road, and came near the small area called Frostown. Here, Maj. Gen. Hooker would attack the Confederate left flank holding the mountain ridge north of Turner’s Gap.

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Union Brigadier General John Gibbon

While Maj. Gen. Hooker’s corps was deploying, Brigadier General John Gibbon’s Fourth Brigade of Brigadier General John P. Hatch’s First Division was ordered back to the National Road and attack Turner’s Gap. Brigadier General Gibbon’s brigade consisted of the 19th Indiana Infantry, commanded by Colonel Solomon Meredith. Commanding the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry was Colonel Lucius Fairchild, and the 6th Wisconsin Infantry was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Edward S. Bragg. The 7th Wisconsin Infantry was commanded by Captain John B. Callis. Brigadier General Gibbon’s brigade would hold the extreme left flank of the I Corps. The last of fresh troops, part of Major General Jesse Reno’s IX Corps was located a mile to the south, ready to attack Fox’s Gap.

By 3:00 p.m., Gibbon’s Brigade were positioning themselves into a battle line just east of Bolivar. Supporting Gibbon’s Brigade was a section of artillery from Battery B, Fourth U.S. Artillery, commanded by Lieutenant James Stewart. Brigadier General Gibbon deployed his brigade on both sides to the National Road. In front, the 19th Indiana Infantry was on the left of the National Road, and were in battle line formation. Supporting them was the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, who were deployed in columns. The 7th Wisconsin Infantry was located on the right side of the National Road and deployed in a battle line, while the 6th Wisconsin Infantry was in support, deployed in columns.

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Map showing the positions of Gibbon’s Brigade and Colquitt’s Brigade.

Colonel Colquitt had his brigade deployed along the National Road, at the base of South Mountain leading into Turner’s Gap. His left flank was held by the 28th Georgia Infantry, commanded by Major Tully Graybill. To their right and left of the National Road was the 23rd Georgia Infantry, commanded by Colonel W. P. Barclay. Located on the right side of the National Road was Lieutenant Colonel J. M. Newton’s 6th Georgia Infantry. Positioned next to them was the 13th Alabama Infantry, commanded by Colonel Birkett D. Fry. Holding the right the flank was the 27th Georgia Infantry, commanded by Colonel Levi B. Smith. Four companies of skirmishers from  the 28th Georgia Infantry, commanded by Captain W. M. Arnold, were positioned just east of Fox’s Gap that joined the National Road.

By 5:00 p.m., as part of a coordinated assault on Frostown Gap and Fox’s Gap, Brig. Gen. Gibbon ordered his men forward. Captain W. W. Dudley’s company of the 19th Indiana Infantry moved to the left and deployed as flankers. They would hold the extreme left flank of Gibbon’s brigade. Company B, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry deployed skirmishers in front of the 19th Indiana Infantry, while Company K, 6th Wisconsin Infantry deployed in front of the 7th Wisconsin Infantry.  

Upon seeing Gibbon’s brigade moving forward, Col. Colquitt sent a dispatch to Major General Daniel H. Hill asking for reinforcements. Major General Hill responded, saying that he had none and that Col. Colquitt would need to defend Turner’s Gap with the forces he had on hand. This was due to Maj. Gen. Hooker’s assault on Frostown Gap to the north of Col. Colquitt’s position, and Major General Jesse Reno’s IX Corps attacking Fox’s Gap to his south.  Additional Confederate reinforcements were needed in those areas in order to keep the Union army from breaking through South Mountain.

Captain Lane’s artillery opened on Gibbon’s brigade as they began moving forward. As Gibbon’s brigade moved forward, Lt. Stewart’s two gun section followed behind until their rifled cannon were in range of the Confederate guns. The skirmishers of Captain Arnold concealed themselves within the wood line. They opened on the advancing skirmishers of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry and 19th Indiana Infantry. Many of the Confederate skirmishers took up in the whitewashed house that was located at the intersection of the National Road and Fox’s Gap Road.

Lieutenant Stewart’s guns quickly silenced the Georgians, but they fell back and took up position just west of the intersection, using stone fences to reform their skirmish line. As the Georgian skirmishers quickly went back to work, they managed to hold back the 19th Indiana Infantry. Company G, of the 19th Indiana Infantry managed to quickly wheel left and begin gaining ground. Captain Clark, the company commander, managed to dislodge Arnold’s skirmishers, capturing 14 Confederates.

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The Iron Brigade Field, South Mountain State Battlefield. This is where the 6th and 7th WI Infantry moved as the right flank. A series of boulders in this field also provided protection to those Union men while many leaped frogged through the field.

While Brig. Gen. Gibbon’s left flank engaged, his right flank moved forward. They entered a cornfield that covered about half of a mile. The 7th Wisconsin Infantry followed behind the 6th Wisconsin Infantry skirmishers, who were in their front, 100 yards ahead. Once they moved out of the cornfield, they came to an open field. There, the 23rd Georgia Infantry and the 28th Georgia Infantry opened fire. These two Georgia regiments were well concealed behind a stone fence that was at the bottom of a ravine, which made a perfect breastwork.

The 7th Wisconsin Infantry quickly formed their battle line, with their left situated on the National Road, and their right stretched across the field, where their right flank rested near the woods. The Georgians kept up their fire.

While Col. Colquitt’s left flank was situated behind a natural breastwork, his right flank was still coming under fire. The 19th Indiana Infantry, along with the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry slowly began to dislodge the Confederates. At the same time, Brig. Gen. Gibbon’s right flank was starting to get bogged down. To complicate matters, Brig. Gen. Gibbon was losing daylight.

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The Iron Brigade Field, looking east toward Bolivar.

As the 19th Indiana Infantry and the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry continue to hit Col. Colquitt’s right flank, it began to give way. That part of Col. Colquitt’s brigade was in a more exposed position, and they were slowly being driven back. Finally, the 19th Indiana Infantry managed to break Col. Colquitt’s right flank. The 27th Georgia Infantry, followed by the 13th Alabama Infantry, and the 6th Georgia Infantry were forced to retreat further up South Mountain. As Col. Colquitt’s right flank was giving up ground, this allowed Brig. Gen. Gibbon’s left flank to support the two Wisconsin regiments that formed the right flank. The 23rd Georgia Infantry began receiving fire from it’s right. But, still using the stone fence as a breastwork, the Union fire wasn’t enough to break Colquitt’s left flank.

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Map showing the final assault by the Iron Brigade on Colquitt’s position just as nightfall was coming.

The 7th Wisconsin Infantry kept a heavy fire upon the 23rd Georgia Infantry. Receiving support from the their left flank, the 7th Wisconsin Infantry began another advance. They were quickly hit with musketry from the 28th Georgia Infantry. This drove the 7th Wisconsin Infantry back. They were getting fired upon by the Confederates from their front, flank, as well as their rear.

The 6th Wisconsin Infantry was brought into action, and they quickly formed up on the right flank of the 7th Wisconsin Infantry. As the 6th Wisconsin Infantry moved forward, they were hit by fire from the 28th Georgia Infantry. As daylight was fading, Col. Bragg ordered his 6th Wisconsin Infantry to advance by wings. The right wing of Col. Bragg’s regiment fired into the Confederates. While they reloaded, he then advanced his left wing, who quickly fired into the Confederates. He then advanced his right wing and continued this leapfrog movement. Col. Bragg gained a considerable amount of ground.

Now, with twilight upon the battlefield and darkness setting in, Brig. Gen. Gibbon ordered his brigade to cease fire. Gibbon’s brigade was withdrawn from the battlefield with the exception of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry, who would sleep under arms that night. Brigadier General Gibbon’s losses were 37 killed, 251 wounded, and 30 missing. Colonel Colquitt’s losses were 110 killed, wounded, or missing. Colonel Colquitt attended to his wounded and managed to evacuate many of them.

Although Gibbon’s brigade was unable to break through the Confederate battle line, they earned the nickname “The Iron Brigade.” At one point during the attack, Maj. Gen. McClellan, observing the battlefield, saw Gibbon’s brigade and complimented on how they stood their ground, saying that Gibbon’s men stood like iron. The Iron Brigade was also known as the “Black hats” as they proudly wore their dress Hardee hats, with their dress frock coats and white gaiters.

Gettysburg’s Cyclorama French Military Influence

Each year, thousands of people travel to Gettysburg National Military Park. Many will see the film and the Gettysburg Cyclorama before venturing out onto the battlefield. When most people see the Gettysburg Cyclorama, I often wonder if they see the same heavily influenced French military culture that I see? Even the most hardcore Civil War buff, I feel, fails to see that influence. Unless you’re a hardcore living historian who has spent years researching Civil War uniforms and equipment, like I have, you may not see the uniforms and equipment being worn by Union soldiers as that of the Second French Empire.

So let’s start at the beginning, what is a cyclorama? It’s a large painting that is displayed in the round. It often features a foreground that blends in with the scenery of the painting. It was considered as an exhibit, meant for entertainment, where a panoramic view totally surrounds the viewer, giving them a 360 degree view as if he or she was standing in the center inside the painting. This type of artwork has its roots dating back to 1787 when Robert Barker, an Irish painter, wanted to display a painting that captured a moment in time, giving the viewer the feeling that he or she was actually there. Robert Baker created a panoramic scene that eventually became known as a cyclorama. The cyclorama would gain major popularity in the mid to late 19th Century.

The Gettysburg Cyclorama is an oil painting done on canvas, and stands forty-two feet tall and three hundred, and seventy-seven feet in circumference. The Gettysburg Cyclorama that you see on display is number two out of four that the French artist Paul D. Philippoteaux and his team of special artists completed. The Boston painting, commissioned by Charles Willoughby of Chicago, IL for a sum of $50,000 was completed in just over eleven months in 1884. It was first displayed in Boston in late December. It made its way to Gettysburg in 1913 for the 50th reunion of Civil War veterans. Today, it is one of the largest oil paintings on display in North America and is the only one of four that Paul Philippoteaux completed between the years 1883-1886.

The Gettysburg Cyclorama captures the moment of the High Water Mark of Pickett’s Charge, the last major battle that was fought at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. The painting, as some visitors will say, is the closest to seeing the ground as it was in 1863. There are no monuments, no highway and no modern buildings. I’ve seen people tear up because of how the painting is displayed, and how they felt they were a part of it. I have also seen people who couldn’t care less about the painting because of what it portrays, war! Either way, the painting has stood the test of time.

How did the cyclorama craze begin here in America? In 1879, Paul Philippoteaux was commissioned to do the Chicago painting of Pickett’s Charge. In 1882, he arrived in the United States and conducted a great deal of research and interviews. He visited Gettysburg and hired a local photographer, William Tipton to take a series of photographs of the landscape. The artist took all of his research back to Europe and began working on the concept. The Chicago version of the Gettysburg Cyclorama painting was unveiled and opened to the public in 1883. By December of 1884, the Boston painting opened. There would be two others that came after the Boston version debuted, the New York and Philadelphia paintings. Over time, the Boston version would be the sole survivor.

Let’s take a closer look at the French Military influence that we see in the Gettysburg Cyclorama. Let’s begin with the artillery you see in the Gettysburg Cyclorama.

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The First Rhode Island Artillery, Battery A (Arnold’s Battery) was equipped with 3-inch Ordinance Rifles and not Parrott rifles as seen in the painting. These men are also using some weird type of drill that looks similar to the reduced numbers drill.

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This Battery wagon (Battery A, 1st R. I.) should not be this close to the fighting. They were further back and ready to make repairs in the field as needed.

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I love how the lid on the limber chest opens the wrong way, towards the battery. They should open from behind with the top of the lid facing towards to the guns.

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Members of the 13th New York Artillery. Notice the kepi that are being worn instead of the Federal regulated forage cap. Also, notice the red should-straps, and red tape on the sleeves with three buttons. Some of the artillerymen have a solid red cuff on their sleeves rather than the tape you see in this photograph. These jackets are not of the Federal Government issue, but rather they are uniforms of the Second French Empire. I do like the mixture of slouch hats that the artist places into the painting.

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Here is a better photograph of a NCO wearing the French tunic. He is also wearing some type of cartridge box suspended by a buff leather strap. The buff belt holds a LeMat revolver inside of a brown leather holster.

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Notice the red shoulder-strap and blue collar. This is what I would call a blooper.

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The New York State Militia Guidon. This is to represent the 13th New York Artillery coming to the front. This guidon is incorrect. The 13th New York Artillery was never part of the New York State Militia. In fact, in 1862, the New York State Militia was changed to the New York State National Guard.

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Again, notice the red tape located at the cuff and the white haversack on the guy located left. The white haversack is part of the French military issue to its army. Now look at the guy on the right who is wounded. Notice there is a lack of a cuff, but retains his red collar and shoulder-strap.

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I love the detail of this Union artillery officer. Notice his shoulder-strap signifying he has rank. He still retains the red collar for his branch of service, the artillery. The Union army used shoulder boards for the most part to signify rank. Also, notice the French style kepi which actually would be correct for an officer in the Union army if he choose to wear one.

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This is General Henry Hunt, Chief of Artillery. For the most part, he looks good. He has shoulder boards, red sash and saber belt. He even wears a kepi. But notice the French braid on his sleeves. The Union army officers very seldom had these on their jackets. Also, notice the collar. It appears to have some sort of insignia that could be used for his rank or branch of service.

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Notice the cartridge box marked with U.S. Also, this is a good closeup of the equipment used for the horses.

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This guy appears to be some sort of officer, judging by the red shoulder board. What I life about this guy, is you can see what the French uniform looked liked from the back of the soldier. Again, the cartridge box and saber belt are standard French issue accouterments.

Let’s take a look at the infantry.

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The Byrd Brothers. You can see the left brother is wearing a tunic that appears to be an eight button from. You can make out the blue collar and should-straps. The brother on the right, is wearing an officers jacket. You can see the French braid as well as some sort of shoulder board and blue collar.

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I like this picture because of the soldier on the left. He is very large compare to the normal size soldier.

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This is a great view of the hard pack knapsack and how the blanket was attached. You can also see the mess kits, cartridge box, scabbard and yes, the haversack. All standard French issue.

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Various blanket rolls and accouterments.

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This is a good close up of the infantry tunic. Notice the collar, shoulder straps and cuffs. The eight button front along with French blue trousers and white shirt. You can also see a close up of the canteen, cap pouch and belt with buckle.

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Another close up of the cap pouch and haversack and the tunic.

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Close up of the top of the tunic.

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The knapsack, blanket and mess tin.

Odds and ends.

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The usage of pack horses.

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The usage of horses and hospital saddles to remove wounded men. This also shows the usage of African Americans as contractors in the military.

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The usage of wagons moving with Pickett’s men during the charge.