Gettysburg Battlefield Horror
The three-day Battle of Gettysburg caused an estimated 50,000 casualties, with the killing and maiming especially acute on the third day during Pickett’s Charge. Total Gettysburg casualties included thousands of men who had been horribly wounded, almost 8,000 corpses that needed to be buried and over 3,000 dead horses, all rotting in the hot July sun. What a scene of devastation, and such a horrible stench! Newspaper reporters saw and smelled it all, and told their readers what it was like.
The Baltimore Sun printed the following accounts on July 7, 1863:
The experience of all the tried and veteran officers of the army of the Potomac tells of no such desperate conflict as has been in progress during this day…While I write the ground about me is covered thick with the rebel dead, mingled with our own.
—from a Times correspondent
…and the sun set over one of the most fearful scenes of carnage there has been during the whole war.
The cemetery fence is destroyed. Cannon balls, tearing through iron rails and marble monuments, have strewn them in all directions. This may not have been the first time a battle has been fought in a graveyard, but never one of such ferocity and desolation.
Broken caissons, guns, and all the accoutrements of war are scattered over acres of ground, mingled with the dead and dying, friend and foe. The rapid putrefaction of horses and men has already made a stench in some quarters almost unbearable.
—from a Philadephia Inquirer correspondent
The only annoyance experienced yesterday was from a few sharpshooters, who posted themselves in the woods opposite our centre, and inhumanly fired upon our fatigue parties who were bringing in the rebel wounded. In consequence of this barbarous proceeding many of the mangled rebels are still lying upon the ground where they fell two days ago, suffering from hunger and thirst and severe exposure.
—from a New York Herald correspondent
Other accounts reported during this time:
Upon the battlefield in rear of the Seminary we witnessed at least as many as five hundred Rebel dead bodies, lying in every conceivable position, and emitting a perfume anything but agreeable.
—Philadelphia Inquirer, July 8, 1863
At the hospitals themselves…the spectacle was intensely wretched. Men with both legs shot off – shot in the eye, the mouth, both hands gone, or one arm lost, were laying in rows that seemed pitiable and in wonderful patience, fortitude, and patriotic pride, facing their sufferings. The rebels, as was just, had to wait their turn for having their wounds dressed, or their limbs amputated, till the Union men had been cared for; then they were treated with equal kindness and attention. Many, after six days, were looking forward as to an unspeakable blessing for the amputation of their shattered limbs.
—Wisconsin Daily Patriot, July 22, 1863
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