Gettysburg gets gift of rare documents


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In late June 1863, Confederate Gen. Jubal Early didn't just ride into Gettysburg to be part of a famous battle. His initial goal in coming north into Pennsylvania was to get local towns to provide food, boots, bullets and other supplies for his war-weary troops.

So the subordinate of Gen. Robert E. Lee wrote to the Gettysburg leaders, "making demands of the town prior to the battle," say Gettysburg National Military Park officials.

That "demand letter," which is of immense interest to historians and Civil War buffs, will be on display later this year at the National Military Park, along with dozens of other rare historical documents and records being donated by Craig Bashein, a lawyer and Civil War artifact collector from Cleveland.

He praised the National Park Service for doing "a tremendous job of safeguarding and preserving many of our nation's most treasured artifacts surrounding the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg." He said the dozens of drawings and documents he is donating will let people further study and appreciate this important event in our history.

He also called on other collectors to donate their historic and treasured pieces from the Civil War to the national park's museum.

A few of Mr. Bashein's donations -- some personal possessions of Union Gen. Alexander S. Webb, who took part in repulsing Pickett's Charge -- will be displayed in an exhibit called "Treasures of the Civil War," which will open June 16. Dozens of displays and re-enactments are set for late June and early July at the military park, to mark the 150th anniversary of the famous Gettysburg battle, fought July 1-3, 1863.

But most of the hundreds of items from Mr. Bashein will have to be slowly studied by military park historians and won't become available to researchers or the public until sometime later this year, say park service officials.

The Bashein wartime notes, artifacts, records and 64 unpublished sketchbooks "will offer enormous new opportunities to examine the Battle of Gettysburg and other Civil War battles that occurred from 1862 to 1865," the park service said in a statement.

Many of the materials were created by Emmor Bradley Cope, an engineer for the Union's Army of the Potomac, as a way "to understand the topography, obstacles and the nature of the towns and countryside where these battles were occurring." Many of the maps were made by Cope while riding the battlefields on horseback and were ordered by Gen. George Meade, the commanding Union general during the battle.

"Since Gettysburg's museum exhibits cover all the years of the Civil War," from 1861-65, the artifacts from Mr. Bashein "will be invaluable in helping us tell the full story of the war, as well as providing unpublished resource materials that will benefit all those who study Gettysburg and the Civil War," said Bob Kirby, superintendent of the military park.

Many of the personal items are from Webb, who was given the Medal of Honor for gallantry for his actions when Confederate Gen. George Pickett unsuccessfully led his troops against Union forces on July 3, the final day of the battle.

The Webb items include his pistol, a soldier's hat, field binoculars and a medal from Gen. Meade for meritorious service.

Other donated items, which will go on display later this year, include:

• A map of the Gettysburg battlefield, done by Capt. J.D. Briscoe, an aide to Union Gen. David Birney. It has hand-drawn notes of where troops were positioned. The map was used by Birney during testimony about the battle to a Congressional committee in the spring of 1864.

"This map is believed to be one of the first battlefield maps of Gettysburg ever prepared," the park service said in a statement.

• The archives of David Kendlehart, a Gettysburg burgess, made during the battle, which include the "demand letter" from Early.

• Leather gloves worn by Philip Sheridan, a Union cavalry general.

• An engraved silver pocket watch given to Union Gen. Henry Halleck by his staff officers.

artarchitecture - civilwar - gettysburgstories

Tom Barnes: Hickeybarnes@yahoo.com.


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