Saturday, December 29, 2012

A soldier cemetery at Gettysburg

Frank Haskell of the 6th Wisconsin of the Iron Brigade was serving as a aide to Gen. John Gibbon when the two went to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in November 1863. They were there to represent the Army of the Potomac at the special dedication of a new federal soldier cemetery. The neat row of stones of the fallen was troubling to Haskell. He wrote his brother a short time later:

“…[W]hat is so appropriate for the soldier’s rest as the spot where he died nobly fighting the enemies of the country,--where perhaps the shout of victory went up with his spirit to Heaven—where his companions in arms, his survivors, had lovingly wrapped him in his blanket, and wet with brave men’s tears, had covered him with the earth his blood had consecrated…. But no,--these things were not to be. The skeletons of these brave men must be handled like the bones of so many horses, for a price, and wedged in rows like herrings in a box, on a spot where there was no fighting—where none of them fell! It may be all right, but I do not see it…but as it is now…we have instead a common, badly arranged grave yard, in which names, and graves, if designated at all, are as likely to be wrong as right. But read the newspapers,--Every body says this is splendid, this making the ‘Soldiers’ Cemetery,’ and I suppose it is.”

Frank Haskell was himself killed in 1864 leading a charge of the 36th Wisconsin near Cold Harbor, Virginia. His body was returned to Wisconsin for burial at Portage.


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