Corps To Gettysburg
June 25 - July 2, 2008
Some details and ruminations as we approach the jump off date.
June 24, 2008
Route Change - Day One
We've officially altered the starting point and route of march for our first day based on the information obtained through Bob Eldridge and the Hunter Mill Defense League. He was able to point me to the original order from Hooker, detailing the route the Sixth was to take from west of Fairfax up to Dranesville. To accomodate this change, we will be meeting at Ox Hill Battlefield Park, at the corner of Monument Dr. and West Ox Rd. in Chantilly, Va. at 1 AM Thursday, June 26, 2008. We'll proceed west out Rt. 50 and then turn north on Centreville Rd. We'll follow that up through Herndon, and then take Dranesville Rd. north to Wiehle, then north to the Dranesville Tavern.
On June 14th, appropriately on Flag Day, we were loaned a 34 star flag to use for the march. I've got two leather flag carriers in hand, so we've got everything we need for our color guard.
For Immediate Release
June 24, 2008
CIVIL WAR GOES 'ON THE ROAD' - REENACTORS MARCH TO GETTYSBURG JUNE 26 - JULY 2
Memorial march seeks to remind citizens of "history on their doorstep."
(Hagerstown, MD) - This week, as the nation looks forward to a relaxing Fourth of July, a small group of Civil War reenactors will be marching along the roads leading from Virginia to Pennsylvania. Theyll be marching from Chantilly, VA to Gettysburg, PA following the route of the U.S. Sixth Corps in 1863. The distance of approximately 120 miles will be covered on the same timetable as the original movement to promote appreciation of Americas Civil War heritage. Organizer Doug Dobbs explained, "We honor the heroics of our ancestors in our national parks, and rightly so. But often we think of these heroics as confined to those sites. We want to underscore the sacrifice and devotion to duty involved in just getting to the battle."
It is the hope of the Sixth Corps March to provide a visual image that will stir the imagination and make history come alive.
"When you see those roads, some unchanged since 1863, and realize the history that was made as men hurried down them, pressing themselves past the limits of human endurance for the love of their comrades and their country, it makes you stop and think," said Dobbs, whose great-great grandfather, James Dow, of the 15th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry travelled those same dusty roads of rural Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania in 1863.
This will be the second time Dobbs has organized this trip. In 2003, his wife, Sal Coxe Dobbs, created a reproduction of the three foot by five foot flag carried by the First Division of the Sixth Corps. This copy is based on the original flag, housed in the Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pa. The original flag was carried all the way along the route in 1863 and the reproduction in 2003 and now again in 2008.
The flag, a red Greek cross on a white field, is often mistaken for a Red Cross flag. But the American Red Cross was not formed until 1881. Dobbs remarked, "This flag pre-dates the Red Cross and it would not have meant the same thing to the soldiers of 1863 as it does to us today."
Further information, route and timetable are available at www.dougdobbs.com .
The Sixth Corps left the area around Fairfax Courthouse, Virginia in the wee hours of June 26, 1863. They proceeded west towards Chantilly, then north through Herndon to Dranesville. On June 27 they headed towards Leesburg, crossing the Potomac to Edwards Ferry on a pair of pontoon bridges. They camped there that night. The morning of June 28 saw them on the road through Poolesville, Barnesville and settling in the fields around Hyattstown that night. They marched the next day (June 29) through New Market, along the National Pike to Ridgeville (Mt. Airy) and then north to Taylorsville.
Around June 29, 1863, General George Meade, newly appointed commander of the Federal Army of the Potomac, issued orders that the 14,000 men of the U.S. Sixth Corps under Gen. John Sedgwick should take a position near Manchester, MD. Meade was not certain of the whereabouts of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under General Lee and wanted to protect the approaches to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. On June 30 the tired men reached their destination and set up camp. They rested the next day, July 1, expecting to hear the bugle call to pack up at any moment, but it didnt come. They played a form of baseball, visitors came from near and far to "see the soldiers," it took on the atmosphere of a country fair according to one witness. Then, as evening came on, the orders flew down the road.
A battle had begun at the village of Gettysburg some 37 miles away and Meade desperately needed those 14,000 men. As darkness fell, fires were doused, gear was packed up and they set off down the road. First they went a few miles west of Westminster, then were told to backtrack across the countryside to hit the Baltimore Pike. The column streamed out in the darkness, the road often choked by wagons and artillery. By turns the men ran or stood still, the hardest marching many ever knew. They swept forward through the night, then in the chill early morning they crossed the border into Pennsylvania. The regiments from that state broke out their flags and the bands struck up a tune. They were home. War had come to Pennsylvania, but they were on their way to end it.
With nary a stop, they pressed to the north. At Littlestown they began to meet wagons and wounded men filtering to the rear after the battle on July 1. On they raced until their dust cloud was seen by the troops already assembled for battle that hot afternoon of July 2. Was this Confederate cavalry coming up behind them? No! It was the Sixth Corps and a cheer went out all along the line. By about 3 PM the men had stacked their arms and were resting on the bank of Rock Creek, having travelled some 37 miles in 17 hours. They cooled themselves in the water, boiled coffee and ate whatever they could find in their haversacks.
Soon a rider arrived from Little Round Top, covered in dust, seeking the commander of the Sixth Corps. The men pointed the way, then got up out of the creek, put their gear back on and were ready to move at a moments notice. The order came and they hurried another two miles across the fields, along what is now Blacksmith Shop Road, and came up the back of Little Round Top. Two brigades of infantry were deployed in line of battle and participated in the final push of Confederate forces across the Wheatfield. As darkness fell they withdrew to the vicinity of Plum Run, where they slept on their arms. Few feats in military history have moved more men a greater distance and had greater effect than this.
Doug Dobbs, Organizer
Sixth Corps Memorial March
12520 Ft. Loudon Rd.
Mercersburg, PA 17236
Phone: 717-816-2941 (preferred means of contact after 6/25)
June 9, 2008
A guiding thought
"It's not about us, it's about them"
I consider it a very high privelage to call attention to the sacrifices of these amazing men, many of whom depended on the Almighty to get them through. Some of them, like my Grampy Jim, never got north of the Potomac again and rest beneath Virginia's soil to this day. It is my goal to keep the memory of their efforts, their example and their sacrifice alive. I welcome your participation towards that end.
In 2003 my wife crafted a remarkably good reproduction of the original First Division flag. As you can see elsewhere on this site, we were able to view the original at the Army's Military History Institute in Carlisle. We'll be bringing that along with us.
If anyone has a 34 star U.S. flag we could borrow for that week, we promise to treat it gently.
Trivia/living history note: West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, but according to the Act of April 4, 1818 signed by James Monroe, the star for a state wasn't added until the Fourth of July after it's admission. So a 34 star flag is correct, even though there were actually 35 states at the time of the march.
I have friends who own a farm east of Gettysburg a few miles. They'll let us park there for those ending the march at Little Round Top. Cars can also be parked at my house near Greencastle, Pa. if we can arrange a van to shuttle us down to Fairfax. If you need to park along the route somewhere so you can get your car when you arrive at that site, we will try to assist you in this, but it'll be a case by case situation.
Please contact me and let me know what you need.
Please print, fill out and mail in your registration asap. After June 20, just email me your contact info and bring the form with you, please. The form is on the site. Please let me know if you have problems printing it out. Note that registration is individual, not by unit.
I trust this finds you all well and that you're walking as much as you can each day. I've heard from several that they're already preparing themselves and their gear. Well done.