35 Days to Gettysburg, by Mark Nesbitt

35 Days to Gettysburg

The Campaign Diaries of Two American Enemies

Author: Mark Nesbitt

Two rather remarkable soldiers one Confederate, Thomas Lewis Ware; born 9 September 1838 in Lincoln County, rural Georgia to Nicholas and Matilda Stovall Ware and the other of the Union Army, Franklin Horner: born 22 September 1836 in Cameron County, the coal country of Pennsylvania, to Jonas and Mary Horner, each share by their daily diaries what life and war was like in 1861-3. Both write of camp life as it was, what happened on daily marches, drills and the how, what and when of a soldier’s life during the Civil War. Author Nesbitt, in finding these two diaries, adds archived information reinforcing the information provided by Ware and Horner. There are pictures of maps that trace where their orders took them. Today, you can travel Ware’s marches as his directions are precise, Horner’s not quite so detailed. Many of the names used by the writers are still unchanged as to streams and rivers forged, the hills climbed and valleys covered by so many marches, advances and retreats. There are pictures of some of these locations also included. Ware especially notes the communities passed and the condition of those townships, plantations, farms and people. He writes of the condition of cultivation, fields and crops. Each writer would start their daily entry with a weather report and end with a “not feeling well” or “health good”, “slept well” or “no sleep last night” or the number of days without sleep, food rations. Whether you desire it or not, you are viewing the battle of Gettysburg through the eyes of Ware and Horner.

Quotes from the book by Nesbitt: “To most Southerners, the coming war represented their happy bid for independence, seen by many of them early in the war as the same type of divine struggle that was fought against Great Britain. No more would politicians from the North meddle in their affairs of society and property. They would have freedom and their rights.”

For many in the North, it seemed a glorious test of whether the United States was indeed “a more perfect Union” as the forefathers had intended or merely a hodgepodge of individual commonwealths temporarily thrown together by revolutionary necessity and maintained by geographical accident.” Says the author: “If the American Civil War began as a great celebration, it ended as one unbelievable funeral procession”. 20% of the more than three million soldiers died.

In this book, Ware’s and Horner’s entries appear exactly as they were recorded. The spelling is not exact but you will not miss the meaning. Rarely mentioned are high ideals, patriotism, glory or causes and never refer to States rights nor the concept of the Union or slavery – as the author states “perhaps the politicians who stayed at home were “fighting” for those principles, but not these men.” Mr. Nesbitt is thorough in detailing where he researched so you might also follow the journey of Ware and Horner either by archive or map.

Many officers and Generals are mentioned Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, A.P. Hill, Richard S. Ewell, James Longstreet, Captain Lafayette Lamar, Maj Gen George Gordon Meade. Many familiar places; Culpeper County, Culp’s Hill, Rock Creek, Brandy Station, Orange County, Manassas, Fredericksburg, Harper’s Ferry and others.

From Horner’s diary: Friday 5 “Morning clear and pleasant, we were told that the tents would be here to day, but they did not come, and we have too ly in the dust“ – exactly as it appears in his diary.

From Ware’s diary: June the 5th. “Friday” 1863: Appearance of rain. Received orders for all to be ready to leave by 8 A.M. to see the “Calvary Review” 3 miles beyond “Culpeper” C.H. We were in lines & awaited for marching order. “Robertson’s Brig of Cavalry passed by us. We soon left, passing through the village with music, down “Coleman” St.as far as the Hotel, thence filed right up Spencer St. The town is a very desolate looking place, a great many houses in ruins, but few citizens could be seen”. The rest you will have to read from the book for this account continues.

Says Nesbitt: “While Horner may not be as prolific in his writing as Ware, a careful reading of his entries will nearly always provide some insight into his mood, be it frustration, excitement or apprehension. In his mood, we can probably read, in general, a reflection of the mood of his fellow soldiers”.

Each taking their rest periods to write of the events of the day, never mention at length the issue that they enlisted for, and went to war over – slavery, is never mentioned as such. Nesbitt concludes that “when the two write about their direct experiences with blacks, their reflections are surprising, each had only 5 reflections on blacks”.

In this reading it was a surprise, yet maybe not so, that formation of troops/companies etc. were made up of men who knew their fellow soldiers from their community, neighbors and members from the same families. That must have made losing a friend, neighbor, cousin, brother, uncle or even dad all the harder and seeing them wounded as bad in the questioning of the outcome and survival.

Ware’s younger brother, Robert – a teacher in Alabama, joins Thomas in the war. For a short period of time Robert also makes entries in Thomas’ diary. There is an entry of Thomas Ware that refers to fellow soldiers playing ball and we are reminded that while it was thought to be a “Union Army” game for it was Union general, Abner Doubleday, who is credited with introducing the game to the Union Army, it was enjoyed by both sides.

Other tale tell signs emerge, ibid. “on a march to Catlett’s Station via Bristoe Station, their route could be discerned by the number of overcoats discarded along the way”. The wagons were probably sent along what is now modern Route 522, which leads to Front Royal, Virginia. In yet another entry; “here a noble lady presented the Reg’mt with some 2 gal’ns of milk & a large bucket of ham & buisket”. Monthly salaries for a private Union Army in 1863 was $13.00. Military records show that Horner had been promoted from corporal to first sergeant August 3, 1861.

Nesbitt calls us to remember that “currently the Gettysburg National Military Park uses the figure of 44,000 casualties killed, wounded and missing on both sides after three days of slaughter. Official figures at one time, he states, were as high as 51,000 he then continues these are merely words unless one remembers that most modern football stadiums seat 50,000”.

Horner, after the war, returned to work in a sawmill in Cambria County. Thomas Ware, soldier; writer; brother; son and sweetheart – except for his faithfully kept, remarkable detailed diary?

The book concludes with Horner’s and Ware’s March Routes on Modern Highways and The Effects of Casualties under the Civil War System of Recruiting.

The reader is left with an indelible imprint of the Civil War through the daily entries of two who served, that history books alone cannot provide. They never met on the battlefield, always 3 to 20 miles apart – yet they shared the same battlefield and emotions. If you are a historian you will treasure this read, if you are a romantic it is a difficult read, if you are at all curious in what a Confederate and a Union soldier had in common, this is a must read.

Submitted by Cleo Holden

A Ware, Horner, Catlett descendant


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