Oh, to have been there…

Over the past couple nights, I’ve been working on an article for Gettysburg Magazine that actually covers an action that Eric Wittenberg and I will be including in a future book.  The article deals with what happened at Gettysburg on Friday, June 26, 1863 – just a few days prior to the battle.  On that day, Confederate Jubal Early advanced his division to Gettysburg from the west, where he clashed with militia forces near Marsh Creek.  I recently gave a tour of this action to the Civil War Discussion Group, which I posted about a couple weeks ago.  That afternoon, John B. Gordon’s Confederate brigade, led by Elijah White’s 35th Battalion Virginia Cavalry, hammered a local cavalry company and militia infantry, capturing most of them.  A while later, one of White’s troopers shot and killed Pvt. George Washington Sandoe along the Baltimore Pike, making him the first casualty at Gettysburg.

Last night, I found an account of Sandoe’s death that I had forgotten I had.  James McAllister, a 77 year-old miller who’s property was along the Pike where Sandoe was killed, saw it happen.  According to the account, he immediately rushed up to the Confederates and “gave them hell” for shooting Sandoe in the back while he was trying to get away without shooting.  Another account, however, states that Sandoe did indeed take a shot at the southerners.  But I found the account of McAllister’s actions quite interesting – I can just imagine this old man waving his arms and cursing hell out of White’s troopers.  After the southerners left, McAllister loaded Sandoe’s body onto his cart, and rode about 6 miles south to deliver his body to his widow – to whom Sandoe had been married only four months.

Amazing what you find when you look, especially the stuff you forget you have.  To write this article, I have a pile of books about 4 feet high, and paper documents and such that’s probably a foot high.  Plus, I constantly go into my library to pull more stuff here and there.  I didn’t even include McAllister’s actions in my recent tour, because it completely slipped my mind that I had it, and I had apparently forgotten about the episode.

I’ll be writing an article which gives details about June 26 at Gettysburg that have never been done before – and just when you think you know everything there is to know about it, you find something “new” and which really perks you up.

That’s one of the awesome things about collecting your research and then digging in to write about a topic – you continually learn new things.  It caused me to completely rewrite three paragraphs of the article, but it was worth the fuss!

Published in: on November 8, 2006 at 9:19 pm  Comments (4)