Alright, let’s move over to Col. Thomas Devin’s brigade in Buford’s cavalry division for their monument, memorializing their participation in the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. The 9th New York is one of my favorite regiments – they were recruited and trained in upstate NY where my wife is from. One day I hope to pen a modern regimental (I currently have a collection of hundreds of letters and some diaries of members). Next I’ll post my biography of 9th NY trooper Alpheus Hodges, who vied with Marcellus Jones of the 8th Illinois Cavalry for the honors of firing the “first shot” of the battle that morning.
Photo by Pat Finnegan
The beautiful sculpture adorning the front of this monument is called “Discovering the Enemy” and shows the vigilant trooper spotting enemy elements, sculpted after 9th New York trooper Alpheus Hodges’ likeness. The sculptor was Casper Buberl of New York. The monument is located on Buford Avenue on the regiment’s main battle line on the first morning. It is constructed of Hallowell Maine granite, resting on a base of Gettysburg granite, and cost approximately $2500.There is an inscription on the back which states that this was the “Position 8 am July 1st 1863, Picket on Chambersburg Road fired on at 5 am.” There was some bitter controversy during the placement of this, and Lt. Marcellus Jones’ First Shot Marker west of here on the Chambersburg Road. The 5 am time refers to the claim of Corporal Alpheus Hodges, Co. F of the 9th New York, that Rebel pickets fired on his vedette post west of Willoughby Run at that hour. There likely was some limited skirmishing in that area prior to Jones’ shot, but Jones lays claim to the first fire at an element of the Confederates’ principal force. When the theme of the monument was brought to the attention of by the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, it was objected to on the grounds that its claims would not be historically accurate, in light of Jones’ and the 8th Illinois’ claim. The committee, led by Colonel Wilbur G. Bentley, presented evidence of the regiment’s “first shot” and the Association then voted unanimously to allow the inscriptions, recording the following in its published proceedings:
“At a meeting held July 3, 1888, a committee of the Ninth New York Cavalry
appeared before the board, and established to the entire satisfaction of those
present that this regiment fired the first shot of July 1, 1863.”
The monument was dedicated on July 1, 1888, the 25th Anniversary of their first-morning action.The regiment was known as the “Westfield Cavalry” and was raised in the counties of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Wyoming, and St. Lawrence, and Warren County PA. It was organized at “Camp Seward” (the county fairgrounds) in Westfield NY and mustered in from September 9 to November 19, 1861.
Colonel William Sackett (pictured) commanded the regiment at Gettysburg, taking command after the first Colonel, John Beardsley, resigned after being forced out of the service in March 1863. Sackett was born in Seneca Falls NY on April 16, 1839. He had been a lawyer in Chicago at the start of the war. He was mortally wounded on June 11, 1864 in the battle at Trevilian Station VA and died three days later. The GAR Post No. 234 in Westfield NY would later be named the “William Sackett Post” in honor of their slain regimental commander. The reverse of the regiment’s monument at Gettysburg features a bronze medallion bust of Sackett.
Of the unit’s 425 troopers at the battle, two were killed, two were wounded, and seven were missing. The troopers carried Sharps and Smith single-shot carbines, and .44 caliber Colt revolvers.