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Abstract

The 1863 Battle of Gettysburg in south-central Pennsylvania was one of the most important in American history, as well as the biggest ever fought within America’s boundaries. It shows clearly how underlying geology and surface topography can influence military actions. Thus, it continues to attract the attention of many specialists of varied interests, in addition to the general public (who came out for the 150th-anniversary reenactments two years ago).

Previously, we prepared a concise field-trip guide (Cuffey et al., 2006a) for use on organized field trips across the battlefield, and for later self-guiding examination of critical sites thereon. Because that guide remains relevant and appropriate, it is available in its entirety, 1 for use with this year’s GSA Annual Meeting field trip.

Please see the National Park Service battlefield map therein (Cuffey et al., 2006a, p. 2, Fig. 1).

A few helpful updates can be added to that guide and are included in this introductory paper. They concern the most visibly battle-damaged building on the battlefield, the similar 1859 Battle of Solferino, and the new Gettysburg Battlefield Visitors’ Center.

1GSA Data Repository Item 2015275, “Geology of the Gettysburg battlefi eld: How Mesozoic events and processes impacted American history” (Cuffey et al.,2006a), is available at www.geosociety.org/pubs/ft2015.htm, or on request from editing@geosociety.org or Documents Secretary, GSA, P.O. Box 9140, Boulder, CO 80301-9140, USA.

Battle-Damaged Trostle Barn

This new stop should be added to the middle of the earlier guide (Cuffey et al., 2006a). After lunch in Gettysburg, omit/skip Stops 6, 7, and 8 therein, and proceed out of town as directed below. (The cumulative mileages given below [second number, in bold] are only for the distances between successive stops, not the entire trip.)

Leave Emmitsburg Rd. and drive east on United States Ave.

Leave Emmitsburg Rd. and drive east on United States Ave.
0.10.1Cross Sickles Ave.
0.30.4STOP: Trostle barn on left/north.
0.40.8Continue ahead/east, to intersection with Hancock Ave.; this junction is 0.4 mi south of the large Pennsylvania state memorial.
0.10.1Cross Sickles Ave.
0.30.4STOP: Trostle barn on left/north.
0.40.8Continue ahead/east, to intersection with Hancock Ave.; this junction is 0.4 mi south of the large Pennsylvania state memorial.
Figure 1.

Battle-damaged south end-wall of the Trostle barn: (top) close-up view showing embedded shell (upper left), larger clean hole (lower right), and broken panel (high center-line); (lower) overall views from two different angles.

Figure 1.

Battle-damaged south end-wall of the Trostle barn: (top) close-up view showing embedded shell (upper left), larger clean hole (lower right), and broken panel (high center-line); (lower) overall views from two different angles.

STOP: 15–30 min.

Initially underestimated in its appeal to park visitors, actual battle damage has proved to be one of the most requested items on the Gettysburg battlefield. The best site to see such damage is the south end-wall of the Abraham Trostle farm barn, with artillery holes and a broken panel.

This damage probably occurred on the afternoon of the second day of the battle, likely from the fighting immediately to the south and southwest of the barn (Wheatfield, Peach Orchard). It no doubt represents collateral damage from stray rounds flying across the area, rather than intentionally aimed fire specifically targeting the barn.

Most conspicuous are two holes in the brickwork of the upper half of the end-wall (Fig. 1). The larger hole is somewhat to the lower right of the center of that upper half, and is a completely open, clean cut through the brick wall. The smaller is higher, along the upper left edge of the wall where it intersects the roof. It appears to be filled with a round, flat, dull black, metal object. That is likely the rear flat base plate of a cylindrical shell still embedded into the wall, or perhaps might be a solid cannonball fractured fortuitously in the same plane as the surrounding wall. The small white panel high on the center line of the brick wall is partially broken as well, although when and why is difficult to determine precisely.

Previously published photos of the Trostle barn have been too small to reveal these details, hence necessitating this close-up view (Fig. 1).

Relationship to Solferino

As noted briefly in our guide (Cuffey et al., 2006a, p. 10, Stop 3), the 1859 Battle of Solferino in northern Italy may have influenced Robert E. Lee’s planning for Gettysburg’s third day: initial cannonade, infantry assault, final breakthrough.

Recent personal field examination of the Solferino battlefield allows more detailed comparisons and contrasts with Gettysburg: comparable topography, different geology, but some strikingly similar military actions. These are summarized in the following two Geological Society of America abstracts (Cuffey, 2014; Cuffey et al., 2006b), reproduced here, pending future detailed papers:

Geology of the Solferino (Italy 24 June 1859) and Gettysburg (Pennsylvania 1-3 July 1863) Battlefields: Comparisons, Contrasts, and Possible Connections

Cuffey, Roger J., Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State Univ, 412 Deike Bldg, University Park, PA 16802, rcuffey@psu.edu

Solferino, largest clash in mid-19th-C Europe, was the war-winning battle in a war for Italian unification. Professional soldier Robert E. Lee likely heard of it (especially its massed artillery), applying its example later at Gettysburg.

The 17-km-square Solferino battlefield is dominated by a narrow, steep-sided, 100-m-high ridge W of that village, with lower cultivated plains to N and S. Capped by a medieval tower furnishing views all around, this is an end/terminal moraine of late Riss (3rd glacial; ~150 ka) age; it is one of the outermost moraines concentrically rimming the S end of Lake Garda. It consists of compact massive silt with many floating cobbles - many volcanics, some carbonates, a few crystallines, all subrounded, water-worn in the ancestral lake before being picked up by the glacier filling its valley. The lowlands to the N are underlain by younger till (Würm, 4thglacial; 70-15 ka), and to the S by weathered older drift (mid-Pleistocene; ~300-600? ka). In contrast, Gettysburg’s bedrock (diabase vs. redbeds) holds up 20-m-high Cemetery Ridge.

In mid-1859, the Austrian army moved W beyond Solferino ridge and unexpectedly met the oncoming French and Piedmontese at dawn on June 24 (start of Battle of Solferino). By mid-morning, many French cannons from Grole to Rebecco were bombarding that ridge. Later, French infantry assaulted the W slope, getting up on the ridge top’s NW end by early afternoon. Simultaneously, more French infantry swept SE around the S end of Solferino ridge, N into Solferino village, and on SE into San Cassiano. Mid-afternoon, French infantry also attacked the NE slope of the ridge, and helped push SE along the ridge top to take the tower. Austrian troops pulled back into the lowlands to the E, their cavalry counter-attacked but failed to stop the advancing French, who went on SE into Cavriana. Then, a sudden heavy rainstorm (as after Gettysburg) halted the fighting. The Austrians exited the battlefield to the E, leaving the French in control of the area.

Meanwhile, to the N, through most of the day, the Piedmontese and another Austrian force were deadlocked in stalemate (Battle of San Martino).

Afterwards, the casualties and destruction so shocked the participants that they negotiated an end to the war in France’s favor. This also led to the International Red Cross and Geneva Convention. (Cuffey, 2014)

The Gettysburg Battlefield: Geology’s Impact Upon Military History

CUFFEY, Roger J.1, INNERS, Jon D.2, FLEEGER, Gary M.2, and LANE, Jennifer A.3, (1) Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State Univ, 412 Deike Bldg, University Park, PA 16802, cuffey@ems.psu.edu, (2) Pennsylvania Geol Survey, 3240 Schoolhouse Road, Middletown, PA 17057, (3) Division of Paleontology (Vertebrate), American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024

The Gettysburg battlefield is a mile-wide lowland with low ridges on W and E. The lowland is on soft red shale to fine sandstone (lower Gettysburg Fmn; U. Triassic; floodplain or lake/playa deposits). The ridges are on hard basal-Jurassic diabase: Seminary Ridge on the W on a thin vertical dike of Rossville lower-Ti diabase, and Cemetery Ridge on the E on a thick west-dipping sill (Gettysburg Sill) of slightly older York Haven higher-Ti diabase. Both ends of Cemetery Ridge rise into higher hills eroded from the Gettysburg Sill: Cemetery + Culp’s Hills to the NE, Little + Big Round Tops to the S. Further W of Seminary Ridge are low hills (McPherson + Herr Ridges), but developed on hard gray sandstone, redbeds, argillite, and black shale (Heidlersburg Member, mid-Gettysburg). By analogy with the Newark Basin, these strata appear cyclic, orbitally forced, arid and monsoonal tropical climates.

During the mid-Civil War (1863), 75 000 Confederates under Lee slowly moved Nward behind the Blue Ridge - South Mountain barrier, while 90 000 Union troops under Hooker (later Meade) remained E on the Piedmont to shield Washington. By late June, both armies converged on Gettysburg, due to the landscape’s grain, the many roads radiating out from that town, and reports of possible supplies available there.

Early July 1, Confederates moving SE toward Gettysburg ran into Union troops coming N just W of town. Both sides began to fight vigorously, especially for McPherson Ridge, and ever more units fed into that conflict all day. By late afternoon, the Confederates prevailed and spread S along Seminary Ridge, while the Federals retreated through town and prepared positions on its S edge on Cemetery Ridge + Hill. Intense fighting continued July 2 as the Confederates attacked (unsuccessfully) the ends of the Union position, the S (Little Round Top) in the afternoon, the N (Cemetery + Culp’s Hills) in the evening + night. July 3, Lee struck Meade’s center on Cemetery Ridge. Like 1859’s battle at Solferino, Lee heavily cannonaded the Union line, and then sent a massive infantry assault (under Pickett) across the lowland. As Pickett’s troops neared Cemetery Ridge, the Union artillery opened a devastating fire, so that few Confederates were left when they got up to the Union line; hence, this frontal charge also failed. July 4, under heavy rain, both armies sat exhausted. The following night, the Confederates began withdrawing back to Virginia. (Cuffey et al., 2006b)

Additionally, Brooks (2009) provides a description of the strictly military aspects of the Battle of Solferino.

New Visitors’ Center

Drive straight ahead after turning.

Drive straight ahead after turning.
0.20.2Dropoff point for new Visitors’ Center on right/north.
0.20.4Far end of car parking area south of Visitors’ Center; may have been expanded since initial opening.
0.20.2Dropoff point for new Visitors’ Center on right/north.
0.20.4Far end of car parking area south of Visitors’ Center; may have been expanded since initial opening.

STOP: May be visited at the start, middle, or end of one’s visit; time spent here will vary according to one’s interests/ activities/schedules.

In 2008, a new Visitors’ Center was opened at Gettysburg, away from where the previous one had stood for many years.

Security is typical for other Federal government buildings (no backpacks or large handbags—leave such in your car or bus; no firearms, knives, explosives, etc.).

Be sure to pick up the National Park Service folder/brochure with the battlefield map when you enter.

Two noteworthy rock types were used in constructing the new Visitors’ Center.

The countertops of the ticket-sales bar and washrooms, both just inside the main entrance, are a highly polished medium-crystalline, dark-gray igneous rock, apparently a real diabase, like that on the battlefield (Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, Cemetery Ridge, Seminary Ridge). It consists half of white to light gray plagioclase, partly in oblong rectangles (“laths”; a few with vaguely fibrous texture—twinning?) 2-3 mm long by 1-2 mm wide, and partly as aphanitic/amorphous groundmass; and half as black pyroxene grains, mostly 1 mm diameter or less.

The floor blocks/tiles, in the entry hallway/area, are dark gray, with obvious light gray to white swirls, apparently gneiss, like what makes up much of the Piedmont up and down the Appalachians.

The extensive ground floor of the new Visitors’ Center is subdivided into 11-12 exhibit rooms or “galleries,” with two or four larger movie theaters in the central area (showing the park’s 30 min feature film, New Birth of Freedom). Well produced, its individual scenes are repeated in the short videos in the various exhibit rooms, which lay out many artifacts, maps, and explanations. In addition to various topical galleries, three are devoted to the battle action on days 1, 2, and 3; particularly insightful are booths which track the progress of Pickett’s Charge as seen by the attacking Confederates, and what happened to them as they came across the lowland between the ridges.

Unfortunately, the informative “electric map” was no longer on display when the new Visitors’ Center opened.

The ground floor also houses a book and souvenir store, as well as a snack bar-type “refreshment saloon” with many tables.

Above the central part of the ground floor is a two-story barn-looking structure housing the famous Cyclorama, a tall, wrap-around, detailed painting, which places the viewer (standing INSIDE) into one particular moment in history: the climax of Pickett’s Charge, when Confederate General Armistead and his hundred or so soldiers came across the low stone wall at The Angle, just before they were cut down or captured by the thousands of Union troops rushing toward them. The Cyclorama used to be in its own round building just north of The Angle on Cemetery Ridge.

The structure is bowl-shaped, with an elevated platform in the center, and a variety of brilliant lights going on and off to spotlight the various parts of the action. Next to the platform are various three-dimensional models or artifacts; further away, they blend into the two-dimensional but curved surface of the painting (by French artist Paul Philippoteaux), so as to give an overall three-dimensional “you-are-there” effect.

One enters the Cyclorama by a pair of up-only escalators. Get on the RIGHTHAND one, and turn 90° to your RIGHT as you get off—that will immediately place you right next to The Angle and General Armistead, at the center of the action being depicted. Push to the railing for the most complete viewing. Toward the end of the presentation, circle around to the left, for views of the battlefield’s sides (along Cemetery Ridge) and the Union rear behind you.

After the sound-and-light show is over, you exit down a couple of stairways, then through a small room, with the wall showing a reduced version of the painting with all the important scenes clearly marked on it.

On some days, park personnel demonstrate various aspects of Civil War uniforms, drills, and weaponry; ask at the main entrance what is planned for the day you are there.

References Cited

Brooks
,
R.
,
2009
, Solferino
1859
: The Battle for Italy’s Freedom:
Oxford
,
UK
, Osprey, Campaign Book
207
,
96
p.
Cuffey
,
R.J.
,
2014
,
Geology of the Solferino (Italy 24 June 1859) and Gettysburg (Pennsylvania 1-3 July 1863) battlefields
: Comparisons, contrasts,
and possible connections: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs
 , v.
46
, no.
2
, p.
46
.
Cuffey
,
R.J.
Inners
,
J.D.
Fleeger
,
G.M.
Smith
,
R.C.
Neubaum
,
J.C.
Keen
,
R.C.
Butts
,
L.
Delano
,
H.L.
Neubaum
,
V.A.
Howe
,
R.H.
,
2006a
, Geology of the Gettysburg battlefield: How Mesozoic events and processes impacted American history, in
Pazzaglia
,
F.J.
, ed.,
Excursions in Geology and History
:
Field Trips in the Middle Atlantic States: Geological Society of America Field Guide 8
 , p.
1
16
, doi:10.1130/2006.fld008(01).
Cuffey
,
R.J.
Inners
,
J.D.
Fleeger
,
G.M.
Lane
,
J.A.
,
2006b
,
The Gettysburg battlefield
:
Geology’s impact upon military history: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs
 , v.
38
, no.
7
, p.
301
302
.

Acknowledgments

I thank the Geological Society of America for allowing us to reuse our field-guide chapter and reprint our abstracts, Vincent Santucci (National Park Service) for working with me to make this field trip possible, Jon Inners (Pennsylvania Geological Survey) and Jack Garihan (Furman University) for reviewing this manuscript, Debra Lambert (Pennsylvania State University) for preparing Figure 1, and John Barnes (Pennsylvania Geological Survey) for providing the close-up photo that reveals the embedded artillery shell.

Figures & Tables

Figure 1.

Battle-damaged south end-wall of the Trostle barn: (top) close-up view showing embedded shell (upper left), larger clean hole (lower right), and broken panel (high center-line); (lower) overall views from two different angles.

Figure 1.

Battle-damaged south end-wall of the Trostle barn: (top) close-up view showing embedded shell (upper left), larger clean hole (lower right), and broken panel (high center-line); (lower) overall views from two different angles.

Leave Emmitsburg Rd. and drive east on United States Ave.

Leave Emmitsburg Rd. and drive east on United States Ave.
0.10.1Cross Sickles Ave.
0.30.4STOP: Trostle barn on left/north.
0.40.8Continue ahead/east, to intersection with Hancock Ave.; this junction is 0.4 mi south of the large Pennsylvania state memorial.
0.10.1Cross Sickles Ave.
0.30.4STOP: Trostle barn on left/north.
0.40.8Continue ahead/east, to intersection with Hancock Ave.; this junction is 0.4 mi south of the large Pennsylvania state memorial.

Drive straight ahead after turning.

Drive straight ahead after turning.
0.20.2Dropoff point for new Visitors’ Center on right/north.
0.20.4Far end of car parking area south of Visitors’ Center; may have been expanded since initial opening.
0.20.2Dropoff point for new Visitors’ Center on right/north.
0.20.4Far end of car parking area south of Visitors’ Center; may have been expanded since initial opening.

Contents

References

References Cited

Brooks
,
R.
,
2009
, Solferino
1859
: The Battle for Italy’s Freedom:
Oxford
,
UK
, Osprey, Campaign Book
207
,
96
p.
Cuffey
,
R.J.
,
2014
,
Geology of the Solferino (Italy 24 June 1859) and Gettysburg (Pennsylvania 1-3 July 1863) battlefields
: Comparisons, contrasts,
and possible connections: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs
 , v.
46
, no.
2
, p.
46
.
Cuffey
,
R.J.
Inners
,
J.D.
Fleeger
,
G.M.
Smith
,
R.C.
Neubaum
,
J.C.
Keen
,
R.C.
Butts
,
L.
Delano
,
H.L.
Neubaum
,
V.A.
Howe
,
R.H.
,
2006a
, Geology of the Gettysburg battlefield: How Mesozoic events and processes impacted American history, in
Pazzaglia
,
F.J.
, ed.,
Excursions in Geology and History
:
Field Trips in the Middle Atlantic States: Geological Society of America Field Guide 8
 , p.
1
16
, doi:10.1130/2006.fld008(01).
Cuffey
,
R.J.
Inners
,
J.D.
Fleeger
,
G.M.
Lane
,
J.A.
,
2006b
,
The Gettysburg battlefield
:
Geology’s impact upon military history: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs
 , v.
38
, no.
7
, p.
301
302
.

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