’79 North Carolinians, their dead feet perfectly aligned’

“On July 1, 1863, Alfred Iverson ordered his brigade of North Carolinians across an open field [at Gettysburg]. The soldiers marched in tight formation until Union riflemen suddenly rose from behind a stone wall and opened fire. Five hundred rebels fell dead or wounded ‘on a line as straight as a dress parade,’ Iverson reported. ‘They nobly fought and died without a man running to the rear. No greater gallantry and heroism has been displayed during this war.’

“Soldiers told a different story: of being ‘sprayed by the brains’ of men shot in front of them, or hugging the ground and waving white kerchiefs. One survivor informed the mother of a comrade that her son was ‘shot between the Eye and ear’ while huddled in a muddy swale. Of others in their ruined unit he wrote: ‘left arm was cut off, I think he will die… his left thigh hit and it was cut off.’ An artilleryman described one row of 79 North Carolinians executed by a single volley, their dead feet perfectly aligned. ‘Great God! When will this horrid war stop?’ he wrote. The living rolled the dead into shallow trenches — hence the name ‘Iverson’s Pits,’ now a grassy expanse more visited by ghost-hunters than battlefield tourists.

“This and other scenes of unromantic slaughter aren’t likely to get much notice during the Gettysburg sesquicentennial, the high water mark of Civil War remembrance. Instead, we’ll hear a lot about Joshua Chamberlain’s heroism and Lincoln’s hallowing of the Union dead….”

— From “150 Years of Misunderstanding the Civil War” by Tony Horwitz in The Atlantic (June 19, 2013)


Tree shelled by N.C. troops became memento

“The shards of wartime trees… were fragments to own and display…  in the parlors and cabinets of veterans and battlefield tourists.

“One such war fragment is a three-foot-high tree trunk, smooth and shiny but for a single shot lodged in its surface. North Carolina artillerists fired that shot… on July 2, 1863, in an assault on Big Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg.

“The tree withstood the cannon fire and lived for almost half a century longer before falling in a 1906 thunderstorm. It was then removed from Big Round Top, and the section containing the shot was cut away. Workers peeled its bark, varnished its surface and then attached a plaque explaining the tree’s provenance and the likely origin of the shot. Only then did they mount a bronze bust of Abraham Lincoln on top.”

— From “Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War” by Megan Kate Nelson (2012)