Pittsburgh area's Gettysburg vets the focus of new book

Hundreds of stories about individuals, units were collected

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Arthur B. Fox's book about Allegheny County residents who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg has more than 60 photographs, many in color.

But the final image in his book, "Those Who Fought," may be the most meaningful to him and illustrates his personal connection to the Adams County battlefield. It is a family photograph from 1917 of his grandparents, an aunt, great-aunts and his mother, Annie, at Devil's Den. The boulder-covered hillside was the site of heavy fighting on the second day of the battle.

"My grandfather searched in vain for the name of my great-great-grandfather, Sergeant John Rinker ... on the Pennsylvania Monument," the caption of the photograph says.

His ancestor served in the 41st Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry, but he had been discharged after contracting malaria during the Virginia Peninsula Campaign of 1862. Rinker had then returned to his home in Orbisonia, Huntingdon County.

"The story handed down in our family is that they could hear the cannons firing during the third day of the battle," Mr. Fox said.

Mr. Fox, a longtime teacher of history and geography, and contributor John Haltigan, who retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs, have collected hundreds of stories about units and individual soldiers in "Those Who Fought."

The two writers said one reason for doing the book was to bring attention to the lives of people like Pvt. Casper Carlisle, the only Allegheny County resident to win the Medal of Honor at Gettysburg.

In recommending Carlisle for the honor, Capt. James Thompson, his battlefield commander, wrote that the soldier, facing heavy musket fire, had saved a Union cannon from capture by the Confederates during the second day of the battle. "Those Who Fought" includes a photo of an original painting by James Horton showing Carlisle rescuing the artillery piece. He was a member of Hampton's Independent Pennsylvania Light Artillery Battery.

Mr. Fox and Mr. Haltigan said that many people know the story of Erie's Col. Strong Vincent, who died defending Little Round Top, and of Pittsburgh's Gen. Alexander Hays, a hero at Gettysburg who was killed a year later during the Battle of the Wilderness.

Much less well-known was the story of Pittsburgh's Gen. Thomas Rowley. A veteran of the Mexican War, he commanded a brigade at Gettysburg. Although he was known for battlefield bravery, he was accused and faced court martial for being drunk July 1, the first day of the battle.

Mr. Fox said that Rowley may have been a victim of sunstroke that hot day, and the court martial decision against him was eventually reversed.

Like Hays, Rowley is buried in Allegheny Cemetery, but under a small tombstone while his better known contemporary rests under a tall monument.

The book also includes the sad story of Sgt. Isaac N. McMunn. McMunn was a Pittsburgh soldier with the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves who paid a heavy price for attempting an act of mercy on the battlefield at Gettysburg.

After he stepped out from behind the protection of a stone wall to "carry a cup of water to a 'sorely' wounded Confederate ... a 'rebel sharpshooter' hidden in the tree top put a bullet through McMunn's face."

The sergeant survived his wound and several others, but he drifted from job to job in the years after the war. He drowned himself in the Ohio River in 1888. "He may have suffered from what we [now] call Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, which was not recognized during the Civil War period," Mr. Fox writes.

Mr. Fox, 68, of Dormont and Mr. Haltigan, 69, of McCandless met at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Aspinwall through Mr. Fox's wife, Barbara. Both men are veterans, Mr. Fox of the Navy and Mr. Haltigan of the Air Force.

The book is the third volume in a trilogy Mr. Fox has written about the region's military role at the time of the War Between the States. His earlier works are "Pittsburgh During the American Civil War: 1860-1865" and "Our Honored Dead: Allegheny County, Pa., in the American Civil War." All three books are published by Mechling Bookbindery in Chicora, Butler County.

"Those Who Fought" was planned as a much longer work looking at the experiences at Gettysburg of soldiers from 10 counties in southwestern Pennsylvania. Its 50,000 words now concentrate on units recruited mostly from Allegheny County.

Mr. Fox and Mr. Haltigan have begun work on a new project: a history of the 139th Pennsylvania Infantry. That regiment, composed of men from Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, saw action in many of the later engagements in Virginia. They include the battles of the Wilderness, Cold Harbor and Spotsylvania Court House.

"Those Who Fought" is available from Mechling Bookbindery at www.mechlingbooks.com or by calling 724-287-2120.

Len Barcousky: lbarcousky@post-gazette.com or 724-772-0184.

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