Club’s Are Trumps. A Story For Saint Paddy’s Day.
by Phil Spaugy
While I have many favorite monuments on the Gettysburg Battlefield, the monument of the 116th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry of the famed Irish Brigade stands out as the one that gives me more pause and reflection than any other. Situated on top of the rise know as “Stony Hill” it shows a fallen soldier laying in repose behind a stone and rail fence, his bent and broken musket at his side. I am sure that many battlefield visitors who pass this memorial believe that the soldier depicted belonged to the 116th PVI, that is not the case. The soldier memorialized forever on this monument is Private Charles F. Gardner of the 110th Pennsylvania. Gardner had fallen early in the action before his regiment was pushed back off the hill. Shortly after the 116th, along with the other units of the Irish Brigade charged through the “Wheatfield,” and retook the Stony Hill Position. Major St. Clair Mulholland, who commanded the 116th PVI at Gettsyburg noticed the fallen soldier, laying at peace where he fell. Mulholland was so moved by the slight smile and peaceful countenance on Private Chandlers face that when the 116th decided to raise a regimental monument he proposed that the slain Chandler be memorialized in stone so that future generations would forever know the horrible sacrifice and cost of war.
The following account is Major Mulholland’s description of the advance of the 116th that carried Stony Hill and his impression upon seeing the fallen Chandler the first time:
“…..as the column moved towards the left, Zook’s Brigade was in the rear, and as that command was passing the Rose farm, Colonel H. E. Tremaine, of General Sickles’s staff,rode up to the general and requested him to halt and
advance against the enemy who were breaking through the Union lines at that point. Zook at first refused to do
so, as he had no authority from the division commander,General Caldwell, who was then far in advance at the
head of the column, but Colonel Tremaine insisted and gave Zook a peremptory order in the name of General
Sickles. The gallant Zook hesitated no longer but, leaving the division column, quickly formed line, dashed into
the woods, met the enemy and began fighting, while the other three brigades of the division continued marching
towards Little Round Top, unaware of the fact that Zook’s men had left the command and were fighting all alone.
When the three brigades arrived at the foot of the hill (Little Round Top), there was a short delay; then Cross
deployed and went forward. Brooke went in to his left, and the Irish Brigade counter-marched to the right, passing
in rear of Cross and, after clearing his line, deployed and formed on the right of the division. As that brigade
advanced it moved over exactly the same ground on which Zook’s men had fought, passed over the line that they had reached, and struck the foe. Zook had been carried to the rear dying, and all the regiments of his brigade, after
making a most gallant fight, had fallen back, and as the brigades of Brooke, Cross and Kelly advanced and fought,
the One Hundred and Sixteenth held the extreme right flank of the division line.
The men of the Regiment went in at a “right shoulder shift” and, although the ground was covered with huge
boulders, interspersed with forest trees, hilly and rough, the alignment was well-preserved and, as it neared the
crest, met the enemy and received a volley. But the shots were too high and did but little damage and the men
rushed on. Soon the lines were but a few feet apart, and the men returned the fire with deadly effect. Captain
Nowlen drew his revolver and opened fire ; nearly all the other officers followed his example. Little Jeff Carl killed
a man within six feet of his bayonet. That hero. Sergeant Francis Malin, was conspicuous by his dash and bravery,
as his tall form towered above all around him – a noble soul. He soon fell dead with a bullet through his brain.
For a few moments it was hand-to-hand, but the Confederates seemed to have no stomach for the fight ;
they were tired, weary and glad to call “enough”, surrendered and were sent to the rear as prisoners of war.
The Regiment had met and fought the men of Kershaw’s Brigade, the same who, at Fredericksburg, had poured
their deadly fire into the Regiment from the stone wall at the base of Marye’s Heights. Then the brigade was
halted and aligned where the monuments now stand.
The meeting of the lines was unexpected to both the Confederates and Union men. As the latter were moving
up one side of the hill the Confederates were ascending the other. They gained the crest first and seeing the
Union men so close, they became excited and fired too quickly, resulting in the volley passing overhead, and but
few of the men of the Regiment were injured. On the contrary, the fire of the Regiment was delivered with
precision and calmness, and every shot told. The Confederates were on a crest while the regimental line
was below them, their feet about on a level with the heads of the men. When the Regiment charged and gained the
ground on which the enemy stood, it was found covered with their dead, nearly every one of them being hit in the
head or upper part of the body. Behind one large rock five men lay dead in a heap. They had evidently fallen
at the first volley and all at the same time. One of them, in his dying agony, had torn his blouse and shirt open,
exposing his breast and showing a great hole from which his heart’s blood was flowing.
The large ball (calibre 69) and three buck shot with which the pieces were loaded, although a wretched
ammunition for distant firing, was just right for close hand-to-hand work, and so, on this occasion the fire of
the Regiment was terrible in its effect, while the small rifle balls of the South Carolina men went whistling over
the heads of the men of the One Hundred and Sixteenth. In front, and a little to the right, stood the Rose farm
house and barn. Over the little valley in the immediate front one could see the enemy massed and preparing for
another attack. The dead of the One Hundred and Tenth Pennsylvania Volunteers lay directly in front, on
the ground which that command had vacated but a half hour before, and one young boy lay outstretched on a
large rock with his musket still grasped in his hand, his pale, calm face upturned to the sunny sky, the warm blood
still flowing from a hole in his forehead and running in a red stream over the gray stone. The young hero had
just given his life for his country. A sweet, childish face it was, lips parted in a smile, those still lips on which
the mother’s kisses had so lately fallen, warm and tender. The writer never looked on a soldier slain without feeling
that he gazed upon the relics of a saint ; but the little boy lying there with his blood coloring the soil of his own
State, and his young heart stilled forever, seemed more like an angel form than any of the others.
” Somebody’s watching and waiting for him,
Yearning to hold him again to her heart ;
And there he Hes with his blue eyes dim,
And the smiling child-like lips apart.”
As the Regiment stood in line waiting for the foe in front to advance, a column of the enemy, supposed to be
Semm’s and Wofford’s Brigades, passed through the peach orchard, formed a line in rear and began to
advance just as the line in front began moving forward. Orders were given for the division to retire, and under
the circumstances it was done in fairly good order.”
So today as you toast Saint Patrick, raise a glass or two to the fallen Private Gardner and to the valor of the Irish soldier, who in the American Civil War as in all of our conflicts sacrificed much to help keep their adopted country free.
Faugh a Ballagh !!!!
The 116th Pennsylvania Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865 – available on line at Archive.Org