Soldier's National Cemetery
The aftermath of the battle effected Adam's County long after the last shots were fired. There were over 50,000 causalities; the total losses for Federal troops were roughly 23,049 and roughly 28,063 for the Confederates. Churches, homes, and barnes in Gettysburg housed over 22,000 wounded and dying soldiers. On or near the battlefield approximately 6,000 Union and Confederate dead were buried. After the battle it was clear that something must be done to remove the dead from the field. Many soldiers recorded in their diaries and letters about the carnage of the battle. Alfred Carpenter of Wisconsin reported, "The ground was strewed with dead and dying..." Samuel Cormany who fought in the 16th Pennsylvania Calvary during the battle noted on July 5, 1863, "Early we took up the march for Chambersburg -- Crossing the battlefield - Cemitary Hill -- The Great-
sights and smells that assailed us were simply indescribable—corpses swollen to twice their original size, some of them actually burst asunder with the pressure of foul gases and vapors...The odors were nauseating and so deadly that in a short time we all sickened and were lying with our mouths close to the ground, most of us vomiting profusely," wrote a Confederate prisoner assigned burial duty. Daniel Skelly, a Gettysburg teenager who worked as a clerk in a store, noted of the local effort to help the wounded, "All along Washington Street the people of the town were out with buckets of water and the soldiers would stop for a moment for a drink and then hurriedly catch up to their place in the line. They appeared to be straining every effort to reach the scene of conflict, and yet not an hour elapsed before the slightly wounded were limping back and those badly wounded were being brought back in ambulances to the improvised hospitals in the town. The hospitals were located in warehouses, churches, the court house and in various private homes. Many others were left dead on the field they were so heroically eager to reach such a short time before." Another local resident, attorney David Wills, wrote to Governor Andrew Curtain stating, "In many instances arms and legs and sometimes heads protrude and my attention has been directed to several places where the hogs were actually rooting out the bodies and devouring them."
Wheat Field Farm, Seminary ridge -- and other places where dead men, horses, smashed artillery, were strewn in utter confusion, the Blue and The Greymixed -- Their bodies so bloated -- distorted -- discolored on account of decomposition having set in -- that they were utterly unrecognizable, save by clothing, or things in their pockets." "The
Soon the priority was to quickly bury all the dead. During the days following the battle corpses were collected and placed into rows separated by Confederate and Union. Graves were often left marked with any material which could be found. Often the graves were not even marked. Speed was the priority. By August Governor Andrew Curtain needed to react to the situation. The governor selected David Wills to oversee efforts of disposing of the dead. Wills presented the Union governors he was working with the idea of the nation's first national cemetery, the Soldier's National Cemetery. Altoona housed the first interstate commission and is where Wills learned of William Saunders, a noted landscape gardener and architect, to design the cemetery.
Saunders wrote of the design of the cemetery: "I was pleased with the site. On my first visit I studied the ground thoroughly and thought of various methods of treatment. It occurred to me... and I felt it all important under the plan, that the remains of the soldiers from each State should be laid together in a group. In fact, I had examined the ground before suggesting an addition to it and had employed an evening considering how best to arrange for interments." The dead were laid to rest in plots which were distinguished by states from which each served. In 1869 the cemetery was completed, yet the cemetery would be dedicated on November 19, 1863 in which President Lincoln would deliver a "few appropriate remarks," now called the Gettysburg Address.
Gettysburg National Military Park. Lesson Four: After the Battle. 30 June 2007<www.nps.gov/archive/gett/getteducation/bcast03
Gettysburg National Military Park. Visual Tour-The Aftermath. 30 June 2007 <www/nps.gov/archive/gett/gettour/tstops/tstd4-23.htm>.
Gettysburg National Military Park. Voices of Battle: A Boy's Experiences During the Battle of Gettysburg. 30 June 2007<www.nps.gov/
Gettysburg National Military Park. The Last Full Measure of Devotion. 4 April 2004. 30 June 2007<www.nps.gov/archive/gett/getttour/
The Valley of the Shadow. Diary of Samuel Cormany. 30 June 2007<http://valley.vcdh.virginia.edu/personalpapers/collections/ranklin/
Williams, David. A People’s History of the Civil War. New York: The New Press, 2005.