Monday, September 9, 2019


William F. Quigley, Jr.
Pure Heart
Kent State University Press, 2016, 164-165

On Cemetery Hill that evening of July 1st (1863), as Major Biddle recalled, “82 of the 121st Regiment gathered together, received fresh cartridges from an Eleventh Corps officer of ordnance and were as ready as at first.” Within half an hour, he reported, “some cannon shots were fired by the battery” and “troops were ordered to be in readiness” for another assault. “A Bucktail regiment, believed to be Colonel Langhorne Wister’s moved at double-quick toward Culp’s Hill” to the east and right of the 121st’s position, but “no assault was made.” Commanders on both sides prepared, instead, for the morrow.

“Quiet gradually settled upon the hill,” and Major Biddle wrote that “the evening was passed by the men singing hymns as they rested on their arms in view of the possibilities of the morrow.” Lieutenant Rosengarten recounted that his compatriots’ hymn singing was “not evidence of satisfaction with the result of the day’s work, but still showing that there was no panic in the hearts of men who, after so many weary hours of fighting and such heavy losses, could find comfort in their dear old tunes.” More than a diversion in Civil War camps, music was a full-throated outlet for soldiers’ emotions. Twenty-five years later, a Philadelphia newspaper would remark about the soldiers’ hymn singing in the wake of that day’s battle: “There is a touch of pathos in this, very characteristic of the officers and men of the regiment, and the serious earnestness with which they did their duty. We do not think the incident has ever been told before, and it well deserves a place in the future histories of Gettysburg and that great battle.”

To Lieutenant Dorr, and to the remaining soldiers of the 121st Pennsylvania, a “beautiful rainbow seen in the west seemed to promise better fortune for the morrow,” and they slept warily that night on their arms “in a field on the south slope of Cemetery Hill.”

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