72nd Pennsylvania

“Third California Regiment”
“Baxter’s Fire Zouaves”
“Philadelphia Fire Zouaves”

 

Two monuments to the 72nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment are south of Gettysburg at The Angle.

The main monument is at the stone wall of The Angle.  A secondary monument is 70 yards to the east.

The regiment was commanded at the Battle of Gettysburg by Colonel Dewit Clinton Baxter. He was wounded on July 2, and Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Hesser then took over.

The placement of the 72nd’s monument was at the center of a controversy that eventually reached all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It grew from the fact that the starting position of the 72nd during Pickett’s Charge was not at the stone wall at the Angle, but in a support position a short distance back at the crest of the ridge, at the location marked by its secondary monument.

After Pickett’s men broke the Union line and advanced past the wall General Webb, the new commander of the brigade, tried to advance the 72nd. He was unable to do so, struggling unsuccessfully with the color-bearer and finally giving up and going over to the nearby 69th Pennsylvania.

The 72nd would not advance but it also would not retreat, and suffered heavily in its exposed position at the crest of the ridge in a close range firefight. Finally, as Union reinforcements closed in from all sides, the 72nd pushed forward to the wall, overwhelming Pickett’s survivors.

The rules of the battlefield commission stated that units must place their monuments on their main line of battle, which was interpreted as the rearward position. But the 72nd’s veterans insisted that their monument be at the wall where their fighting ended. They even purchased a small plot of land on the far side of the wall, which was at the time still privately owned, to place the monument in case the ruling went against them. But after three years of deliberations the court ruled in favor of the veterans, and the monument was dedicated at The Angle on July 4, 1891.

- Information taken from gettysburg.stonesentinels.com

© 2001  Civil War and More.

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