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Civil War Blog

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Monuments at Gettysburg – 61st Pennsylvania Infantry

Posted By on November 14, 2014

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The 61st Pennsylvania Infantry Monument at Gettysburg is southeast of the town of Gettysburg on Neil Avenue.  It was dedicated in 1888, a year prior to large group of monuments paid for by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The drawing of the monument (above) is from the Philadelphia Inquirer article describing the regimental ceremonies.  For a picture of the monument, see Steven Recker’s Virtual Gettysburg Web Site which has more information about the monument and the 61st Pennsylvania Infantry.

A full description of the monument, its GPS coordinates, a photograph, and some of the history of the 61st Pennsylvania Infantry can be found on the Stone Sentinels Web Site.

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On 11 September 1889, the Philadelphia Inquirer included the following information on the 61st Pennsylvania Infantry in its article on the monument dedications:

Lost the Highest Number of Officers.

The 61st Regiment monument stands on Wolf’s Hill, and was dedicated last year.  This year there will be a reunion with headquarters on the grounds of the Battlefield Hotel.  The 61st Pennsylvania lost more officers killed during the war than any regiment in the service of the United States – it stands No. 11 on the list of great losses of men in any one battle and No 15 on the list of 45 regiments who had the greatest number of men killed during the war.

This regiment was on the march ten hours without a halt before reaching the rear of Little Round Top, which was a veritable volcano.  As the 6th Corps approached by the Baltimore Pike it was at first mistaken at Meade’s headquarters for the rebel Stuart’s Cavalry.  The corps passed Rock Creek and having barely time to wipe their faces the men went into the flashes of musketry and cheers on Little Round Top.  Longstreet gave up the struggle and fell back.  On the 3rd the regiment was commanded by Major George W. Dawson.  It occupied four different places on the line; on the evening of the 2nd, to the right of Round Top in the repulse of Longstreet; later to the right of Culp’s Hill; then on Wolf’s Hill connecting with the right cavalry, and during the 3rd day’s cannonade on cemetery Ridge in front of Meade’s headquarters.  When Pickett was repulsed the regiment moved back to Wolf’s Hill, where its monument stands.

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George F. Smith (1840-1877)

George Fairlamb Smith, who commanded the 61st Pennsylvania Infantry at Gettysburg, was a 25 year-old lawyer from West Chester, Chester County, Pennsylvania.  He joined the regiment at Washington, D.C., on 15 March 1862 from prior service in two other Pennsylvania regiments and on 1 June 1862 received a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, the rank he held at the Battle of Gettysburg.  On 21 March 1864, he was promoted to Colonel and after the expiration of his term of service on 7 September 1864, he was re-commissioned on 29 September 1864.  His discharge came by General Order on 20 April 1865.

George F. Smith was born on 28 February 1840 and died 18 October 1877 at West Chester.  He is buried at Oaklands Cemetery in West Chester.  Further information about him can be found at his Findagrave Memorial.

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Around the base of the Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg are a series of plaques which, by regiment and company, note the names of every soldier who was present at the Battle of Gettysburg.  The plaque for the 61st Pennsylvania Infantry is pictured below.  By clicking on the plaque it should enlarge so the names can be more clearly read.  If a name does not appear, it could be that the soldier did serve in the 61st Pennsylvania Infantry, but was not part of the regiment during its days in Gettysburg.  There could also be errors on the plaque.

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The news clippings are from the on-line resources of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

 


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