“What a Girl Saw on the Third Day of the Battle of Gettysburg” by Tillie Pierce Alleman

Battle of Gettysburg Anniversary Special:
Tillie was a young girl in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when war came.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“What a Girl Saw on the Third Day of the Battle of Gettysburg”

from At Gettysburg, or What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle: A True Narrative

Tillie Pierce Alleman

The sun was high in the heavens when I awoke the next day.

The first thought that came into my mind, was my promise of the night before.

I hastened down to the little basement room, and as I entered, the soldier lay there – dead. His faithful attendant was still at his side.

I had kept my promise, but he was not there to greet me. I hope he greeted nearer and dearer faces than that of the unknown little girl on the battle-field of Gettysburg.

As I stood there gazing in sadness at the prostrate form, the attendant looked up to me and asked: “Do you know who this is?” I replied: “No sir.” He said: “This is the body of General Weed; a New York man.”

As concerning many other incidents of the late war, so with the death of this brave general, I find an erroneous judgment has been formed; some claiming that he was instantly killed on Little Round Top, during the fight of the second day.

That General Weed was mortally wounded on Little Round Top while assisting at Hazlett’s battery on account of the scarcity of gunners, is well established. That Lieutenant Hazlett was instantly killed, while bending over the prostrate form of his commander to catch his dying message, is also undisputed; but that General Weed died on Little Round Top is a mistake.

What is more likely than, that after being severely wounded, he should be taken down the eastern slope of the hill, away from the conflict, reaching the Taneytown road at its base? What more probable than, on reaching that road that they should carry his body away from the field by going toward the south? Why would they not carry him into Mr. Weikert’s house when that was the first place they reached, that was used as a battle hospital?

Doubtless General Weed was carried from the field as dead, but the place and circumstances of his death, are given in the preceding lines.

I could never forget that name, and always remembered it by reason of the similarity of sound with that of General Meade, whom I had also seen that same day, when I handed him a drink.

But to return to the passing events.

Tired-out with the strain and exciting scenes of the previous day, I was still sound asleep when the family had finished breakfast; so that when I got down stairs all traces of the morning meal had been cleared away.

While in conversation with the soldier beside the body of General Weed, as above related, I was told by some one, that the carriages were in waiting out at the barn, to take us off to a place of safety.

Already there was occasional musketry and cannonading in the direction of Gettysburg, and we expected greater danger than at any time before.

Some of the soldiers told us that they had planted cannon on two sides of the house, and that if the Rebels attempted to reach the Taneytown road, as they had the day before, there would likely be hard fighting right around the house; and that if we remained, we would be in the midst of flying bullets and shell. Under these circumstances we made all possible haste to depart.

When we reached the carriages, and were about to get in, a shell came screaming through the air directly overhead. I was so frightened that I gave a shriek and sprang into the barn. Even with their suffering, the poor fellows could not help laughing at my terror and sudden appearance. One of them near me said:

“My child, if that had hit you, you would not have had time to jump.” Pretty sound logic. Just after I jumped into the barn, I noticed that the shell had struck in the adjoining field, without exploding.

We then got into the carriages as quickly as possible, and started for a place of safety.

A short distance below the barn we came to quite a number of troops, who were drawn up in line as if held in reserve. Upon inquiry, we were informed that they belonged to the Sixth Corps.

After proceeding a mile or so down the Taneytown road, we turned to the left and crossed over to the Baltimore Pike, near the Two Taverns.

Between the Taneytown road and the Baltimore pike, we passed through a strip of woods, where, some of the soldiers told us, there had been a cavalry fight just an hour previous. Here I first saw Rebel prisoners; there was a whole field filled with them. Their appearance was very rough, and they seemed completely tired out.

While we were talking with our soldiers, I noticed one eating a “hard tack”. I, having had nothing to eat as yet that day, and being quite hungry, must have looked very wistfully at him, for he reached into his haversack and presented me with one of those army delicacies. I accepted it with thanks, and nothing that I can recall was ever more relished, or tasted sweeter, than that Union soldier’s biscuit eaten on July 3, 1863.

We finally arrived at a farm house beyond the pike, and found the place full of people who had also fled from their homes, to get beyond the dangers of the battle.

Toward the close of the afternoon it was noticed that the roar of the battle was subsiding, and after all had become quiet we started back for Mr. Weikert’s home. As we drove along in the cool of the evening, we noticed that everywhere confusion prevailed. Fences were thrown down near and far; knapsacks, blankets and many other articles, lay scattered here and there. The whole country seemed filled with desolation.

Upon reaching the place I fairly shrank back aghast at the awful sight presented. The approaches were crowded with wounded, dying and dead. The air was filled with moanings, and groanings. As we passed on toward the house, we were compelled to pick our steps in order that we might not tread on the prostrate bodies.

When we entered the house we found it also completely filled with the wounded. We hardly knew what to do or where to go. They, however, removed most of the wounded, and thus after a while made room for the family.

As soon as possible, we endeavored to make ourselves useful by rendering assistance in this heartrending state of affairs. I remember that Mrs. Weikert went through the house, and after searching awhile, brought all the muslin and linen she could spare. This we tore into bandages and gave them to the surgeons, to bind up the poor soldiers’ wounds.

By this time, amputating benches had been placed about the house. I must have become inured to seeing the terrors of battle, else I could hardly have gazed upon the scenes now presented. I was looking out one of the windows facing the front yard. Near the basement door, and directly underneath the window I was at, stood one of these benches. I saw them lifting the poor men upon it, then the surgeons sawing and cutting off arms and legs, then again probing and picking bullets from the flesh.

Some of the soldiers fairly begged to be taken next, so great was their suffering, and so anxious were they to obtain relief.

I saw the surgeons hastily put a cattle horn over the mouths of the wounded ones, after they were placed upon the bench. At first I did not understand the meaning of this but upon inquiry, soon learned that that was their mode of administering chloroform, in order to produce unconsciousness. But the effect in some instances was not produced; for I saw the wounded throwing themselves wildly about, and shrieking with pain while the operation was going on.

To the south of the house, and just outside of the yard, I noticed a pile of limbs higher than the fence. It was a ghastly sight…

Twilight had now fallen; another day had closed; with the soldiers saying, that they believed this day the Rebels were whipped, but at an awful sacrifice.

Leave a Reply