Friday, May 4, 2007

Reuben Nichols - Gettysburg July 2, 1863

Some things a family should never forget!
The photo to the left is the Castle Monument on top of Little Round Top at Gettysburg National Battlefield. It Honors the men who fought here with the 44th and 12th New York Infantry.
To commemorate these units, in 1893 General Daniel Butterfield dedicated the monument to the men he commanded on July 2, 1863 at what became known as the Battle at Little Round top.
In honor of the units the structure is 44' tall and the base is 12' by 12'. Butterfield, the composer of the bugle call "taps" by the way, designed the monument.
Inside are plaques naming the men who served that day at this sight. One of my ancestors, Reuben Nichols, from Ft. Edward, New York is named. My father was born in Ft. Edward in 1920.
My father, just like his father, took his son to visit the memorial. I took my son and daughter and hopefully they will take their children too.
It was a long time before I understood the horror that Reuben must have seen. If you see the movie GETTYSBURG, the Jeff Daniel's character's, Colonel Chamberlain, command was down and to the left of Reuben. Chamberlain was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions that day. His men had run out of ammunition and he ordered a bayonet charge. Imagine killing another, face to face, with a bayonet.
The battle lasted just three days; July 1,2 & 3, 1863 but over 50,000 men were killed in that short time.
I never knew whether to be proud or not. He was obviously brave but I wondered about a war where Americans fought Americans.
Most people think the war was fought to end slavery but this was just one part. A large part was state rights vs federal rights and the states ability to contract with foreign entities. Yes, politics.
Reuben being from Ft. Edward ,at this point in history, was probably not a well educated man, so politics probably didn't play a huge role for him.
He enlisted in Albany in 1861. The 44th was an all volunteer unit from all parts of the state and by the time they arrived at Gettysburg they were an experienced unit. By all reports they fought long and hard, far from home, little food and limited water. The conditions were horrendous. When you read casualty statistics many men were discharged for illness, especially dysentery.
Yes, I'll choose to be proud of him.
Some things a family should never forget!

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