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Three Paths to Gettysburg

Three Paths to Gettysburg

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Published by gfisher7
This traces how three of my ancestors found their ways and took part in the battle of Gettysburg on the Union side during the American Civil War.
This traces how three of my ancestors found their ways and took part in the battle of Gettysburg on the Union side during the American Civil War.

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Published by: gfisher7 on Mar 21, 2009
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10/17/2011

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Home 
Three Paths to Gettysburg
 
Gordon McCrea Fishergfisher@shentel.net
 
Prologue
 
No one who reflects, certainly no one who gives rein to hisimagination, can approach even the slightest attempt to tell the story of a man’s life upon earth, whether it be his own or another’s,without feeling that he is doing so in obedience to one of theoverruling impulses, one of the deep-seated instincts of humanity. . .We cannot know, we can only guess.
Henry Cabot Lodge,
Memorial Address
(1915),in
Charles Francis Adams 1835-1915, An Autobiography 
(1916).
 
Glaucus son of Hippolochus and Tydeus’ son Diomedesmet in the no man’s land between both armies:burning for battle, closing, squatting off and the lord of the war cry Diomedes opened up,Who are you, my fine friend? – another born to die? . . . . . . . . . .The noble son of Hippolochus answered staunchly,"High-hearted son of Tydeus, why ask about my birth? Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men.Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth,now the living timber bursts with the new budsand spring comes round again. And so with men:as one generation comes to life, another dies away.
Homer,
The Iliad 
, between 725 and 675 B.C.,trans. Robert Fagles, 1990.
 
This is a story of three relatives of mine who took three differentpaths to the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. Two of them areancestors of mine: my paternal grandfather, Captain Charles WileyFisher of Company I of the 104th New York Volunteer Infantry, and agreat-grandfather on my mother’s side, Corporal Elvin Gilman Hill, of Company E of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. The third isLieutenant Tully McCrea of Battery I of the U. S. First Artillery, a WestPointer. He is a collateral relative, husband of my great-aunt HarrietCamp, sister of my grandmother Sophia (Camp) Fisher, wife of Charles.
 
 
In a sense, these three members of my family converged atGettysburg, and there was another kind of convergence by way of marriages. In other senses, they converged and are now convergingin me.
 
My great-grandfather Elvin Hill, it appears, was involved in one of the more famous events at Gettysburg, the charge of the FirstMinnesota regiment ordered by General Winfield Hancock on abrigade of Alabamians, which resulted in the largest percentage of casualties suffered by any unit of comparable size during the CivilWar, and indeed in any war. My great-uncle Tully McCrea was amember of an artillery battery notably involved in the repulse of whatis known as Pickett’s Charge. This action is sometimes said to havebeen a turning point of the Civil War, one of the keys of a turn fromSouthern to Northern dominance. My grandfather Charles Fisher waswounded twice in the war, once at Second Bull Run (Manassas), andagain at Gettysburg. At Bull Run, he was also captured and spentsome time in the Libby Prison. He was paroled in time to take part inthe Battle of Gettysburg, and was again captured, on the first day,but this time managed to get fairly quickly back to the Union lines.
 
In what follows, the parts in bold-face type (other than headings)are direct quotations, identified with authors’ names, which can betaken as references to the bibliography at the end of the work. I havechosen to quote copiously the words of actual participants in theevents described, and also the words of some early and, occasionally,current historians. Sometimes quotations are altered slightly topromote an easier flow of words. Parts of what is being quoted areoften omitted, as signaled by the usual dots. Hopefully, intendedmeanings are not distorted. Often enough, I think, intendedmeanings have been emphasized by the omissions. For some events,I quote several different descriptions by people who were involved orcommented on them. This gives views of these events from differentperspectives; for example, those of officers, from lieutenants togenerals, and of men from the ranks, from privates to sergeants, aswell as of a few civilians.
1. Great-grandfather Elvin ‘Gil’ Hill
 
Compared to the untold myriads of human beings who have lived 
 
and died, the number of biographies, of epitaphs, of bare mentioneven,
 
in lists or catalogues, is trifling, and yet each one of thecountless
 
and unnoted millions had his trials and sorrows and joys,his virtues and his crimes, his soul history, deeply interesting if truly narrated and rightly considered. But we can only deal with what wehave, and from what we possess must infer the rest, for that alone is permitted to us.
Henry Cabot Lodge (loc. cit., 1915).
 
 
1.1 Where He Came From
 
My great-grandfather Elvin Gilman Hill was born May 9
th
, 1833, inSt. James Parish, New Brunswick, Canada. He was descended frompeople who migrated from England sometime in the 17
th
century towhat is now the state of Maine. Elvin’s grandfather Samuel Hillmigrated from Machias, Maine, to New Brunswick during theAmerican Revolutionary War.
 
Elvin was the son of Samuel’s son, Stephen Hill, and Hannah(Philips) Hill. In 1833, when Elvin was 6 months old, they movedback to the United States from New Brunswick to Calais, Maine. In1855, Stephen and his family migrated to Bellevue, Morrison County,Minnesota. Stephen was a farmer and Methodist preacher in thefrontier region where his family lived, perhaps a so-called laypreacher. His wife used to hold Sunday School in their home. Elvinwas one of 12 children of Stephen and Hannah. Among the otherchildren were my great-great-uncle Jonas R. Hill, who served withElvin in Company E of the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry in theCivil War and was wounded at Gettysburg, and also Henry StephenHill, who served with the Second Minnesota Light Artillery.
 
1.2 Formation of the First Minnesota VolunteerInfantry
 
To anathematize war is to gibber like a fool, and to declare it to beunreasonable, is to twaddle like a pedant. Love is unreasonable and so is madness. All things divine and diabolical are unreasonable, and mixed with clay from out these two unreasoning opposites emergesman, a vibrating mass of unreasoning instincts which will out, and demoniacally so when they are imprisoned. As well attempt to dampdown Erebus with a duster as to attempt to control the primitiveinstincts of man by oath, syllogism, or agreement.
Col. J. F. C. Fuller,
The Reformation of War 
, 1923.
 
Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leadersof the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simplematter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of theleaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are beingattacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.
Hermann Goering, at the Nuremberg trials, 1946.
 
The First Minnesota was officially commissioned on April 29
th
, 1861at Fort Snelling, which lies near the junction of the Minnesota and

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