NOTE from DearMYRTLE: It took me several hours in the air conditioned comfort of my home to compose this post but 1 July 1863 wasn’t as peaceful for my 2nd great-grandfather William Henry Phillips.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee had camped at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He marched his Army of Northern Virginia east toward Gettysburg and first engaged the enemy in a hilly field northwest of town. What Lee faced were the battle-seasoned Union troops known as the Iron Brigade, including my ancestor William Henry Phillips, Company K, 19th Indiana Volunteers.
Also known as the Black Hats for their unusual head wear, the Iron Brigade included
- 2nd Wisconsin Infantry Regiment
- 6th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment
- 7th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment
- 19th Indiana Infantry Regiment
- 24th Michigan Infantry Regiment
“Noted for its strong discipline, its unique uniform appearance, and its tenacious fighting ability, the Iron Brigade suffered the highest percentage of casualties of any brigade in the war.” See: Wikipedia, Iron Brigade.
William’s US Civil War pension file #243464 contains a certified copy of his 6 Aug 1874 certificate of marriage to his second wife, my second great-grandmother, Louisa Terry. This is one of his pension index cards.
- My mother
- Her mother Frances Irene Goering
- Her mother Stella Mae Phillips
- Her father William Henry Phillips
William’s file also indicates his first wife was Sarah Pugh, and mentions two additional daughters, Calley [Phillips] Taylor and Viola [Phillips] Dontal.
GETTYSBURG DAY 1
The Iron Brigade had been positioned near Herr Ridge to stall the progress of Lee’s overwhelmingly large forces, thereby giving time for Union troops to fall in from the east. Click the thumbnail map at left to view a series of Gettysburg battle maps archived at the Library of Congress.
In a private tour of Gettysburg, our professional guide took us to the woods where early in the day the fiercest fighting resulted in heavy casualties including the death of William’s commander and the majority of boys from William’s home county in Indiana. As a result, William’s unit was pushed back to McPherson’s Ridge.
“During the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, the 19th pushed a part of James J. Archer‘s Confederate brigade off McPherson’s Ridge, and then stubbornly defended the heights later in the day before withdrawing to Seminary Ridge. When the I Corps retreated to Cemetery Hill, the Iron Brigade and the 19th Indiana were sent over to nearby Culp’s Hill, where they entrenched.” Source: Wikipedia. 19th Indiana (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/19th_Indiana_Infantry_Regiment : viewed 1 July 2018.)
Our tour guide explained the retreat to Culp’s Hill through the town of Gettysburg was dangerous with Confederate sharp shooters poised in attic windows and Lee’s army in hot pursuit. I suggested my ancestor and the rag-tag remnants of his unit must have been running scared. Our guide immediately objected with these words I shall never forget.
“The 19th Indiana walked backwards through the streets of Gettysburg behind the rest of the Iron Brigade, laying a suppressing fire to ward off Confederates and to protect their comrades.”
The US Civil War pension file of William Phillips, Certificate #243464, Co K 19th Indiana Volunteers contains William’s affidavit stating he injured his left leg in a fall at the railroad cut and “said affects of rheumatism and disease of liver was contracted after the [illegible] battle of Gettysburg in the state of Virginia about Aug 1863, caused by exposure incident to the marching and campaign after said battle of Gettysburg which battle was fought July 4, 1863.”
OK, I guess he incorrectly remembered the precise date and location of the Battle of Gettysburg.
William’s pension file and surviving hospital records indicate he was treated at a Union medical facility in Washington, DC shortly afterwards.
On 21 Sept 1883 William was accepted in the Grand Army of the Republic, John C. Ferguson Post 49 near his residence in Knoxville, Iowa.
IMAGE:”Iowa, Grand Army of the Republic Membership Records, 1861-1865,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-909-49094-31265-72?cc=2351982 : accessed 21 October 2015), Marion, John C. Ferguson, image 505 of 720; citing the State Historical Department, Des Moines. Front and back of membership index card.
It was my honor to place an American flag at the final resting place of William Henry Phillips who is buried with his wife Louisa next to their married daughter Stella. Graceland Cemetery, Knoxville, Marion, Iowa.
Apparently the cemetery records perished in 1950, so I walked the rows until I located the grave.
The metal star to the right of his tombstone indicates he was a member of the GAR, a veterans organization known as the Grand Army of the Republic.