On the thirtieth anniversary of the Gettysburg battle, veterans of New York units reunited on the battlefield for ceremonies commemorating the role of New York in the Union victory. During "New York Day" numerous monuments to New York regiments were dedicated on the same sites where those units fought thirty years earlier. Lieut John McGurrin, a veteran of the Thirteenth New York Independent Battery, delivered the following address during dedication ceremonies for the monument to the Thirteenth.
DEDICATION OF MONUMENT
13th INDEPENDENT BATTERY - "WHEELER'S"
July 4, 1893
Address of Lieut. John P. McGurrin
Veterans of the Thirteenth New York Independent Battery:
The great importance of the Union victory won at Gettysburg by the Army of the Potomac, after three days' desperate fighting, has caused the government to purchase and lay out as a National Military Park, the ground on which the Union troops fought and won that victory. The national government has also erected here a grand monument to honor and commemorate the heroism and patriotism of the men who on this battlefield gave their lives for their country.
The loyal states that were represented in the battle of Gettysburg by volunteer military organizations have shown their appreciation of the sacrifices, made by their sons, on this and other battlefields, by erecting here a separate monument to the deceased members of each organization. The State of New York had, in the battle of Gettysburg, a much larger number of volunteer soldiers than any of the other loyal states, and the number of killed and wounded of New York State volunteers was much larger than the number of killed and wounded from the volunteers of any of the other states at Gettysburg.
The people of the State of New York did not rest content with erecting a monument to the deceased members of each volunteer organization from that state , but they also erected here a grand State monument to commemorate the very important part that the sons of New York had in winning the greatest and most important of all the battles fought for the restoration of the Union.
The battle of Gettysburg was not only the greatest of the battles for the preservation of the Union; it was more than that. It was the pivotal battle of the war-the battle upon the result of which depended, to a great extent, the fate of the nation.
The Confederate army at Gettysburg was the best army of the Southern Confederacy, composed as it was of veterans of many hard-fought fields, led by the ablest generals of the Confederacy. They hoped and expected to win on the soil of the loyal State of Pennsylvania a great victory, and thus impress the people of the loyal states with the futility of a further prosecution of the war. But they met here their old antagonist, the great Army of the Potomac; and after three days of most desperate fighting the Confederates were compelled to acknowledge defeat, and to retreat from the battlefield after suffering great losses in killed, wounded, and prisoners.
This finest army of the Confederacy never won a battle of any importance after its defeat at Gettysburg. It retreated to its strongholds in Virginia only to be driven from one to another, until it reached its last ditch at Appomattox and surrendered unconditionally to the general who had hammered it unceasingly until it surrendered. So we see that the tide of victory which was so strongly turned in our favor at Gettysburg was never turned back, but irresistibly rolled on until it washed out every vestige of opposition to the complete restoration of the Union. This is why the national government and the loyal states that were represented by volunteer soldiers in this battle have joined in doing honor to the men who fought and won the victory at Gettysburg, and saved the Union, which now extends from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with all its citizens, North and South, East and West, ready and willing to defend it with their lives if necessary.
This visit to the battlefield of Gettysburg vividly recalls some of the thrilling incidents of the engagement in which, as members of the Thirteenth New York Independent Battery, we took part. It recalls the rapid march of the battery from Emmitsburg to Gettysburg, when on July 1st, it galloped all that distance to take part in the fight which was being fiercely contested by the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac and the Confederate forces. It recalls the part taken in that battle by the battery until the enemy, who then greatly outnumbered the part of the Army of the Potomac which had reached here up to that time, threatened to surround and capture our guns, when with prolonges hitched so as to fire retiring we moved back to Cemetery Hill. It also recalls the part taken by this command in the battle of July 2d, on Cemetery Hill. It recalls to us that when the Confederates under General Pickett, on July 3d, made their desperate attempt to overwhelm the Union lines, the battery was ordered to the point known as the "Bloody Angle", and there it poured canister at close range into the ranks of the advancing Confederates until beaten and baffled at every point they retreated from the field after suffering a defeat which proved a death blow to the Southern Confederacy.
Comrades, our visit to this battlefield to-day is mainly for the purpose of dedicating to our fallen comrades this monument erected to their memory by the people of the state of New York. Of the members of the battery who took part in the battle of Gettysburg, only a very few are living. Many of them gave their lives for their country on the battlefields of Georgia and Tennessee in 1863 and 1864, and many others died of wounds received in those campaigns. Of the number who returned to their homes at the close of the war, many have died of diseases contracted because of the many hardships and privations they had to suffer in the many campaigns in which they took part during their four years of service, from 1861 to 1865.
We sadly miss them to-day, but we miss more than all the gallant and brave Captain Wheeler, who commanded the battery at a Gettysburg and on many subsequent fields until he gave his life for his country at the battle of Kolb's Farm, in Georgia, on June 22, 1864.
The inscription on this monument is most appropriate. "The Thirteenth New York Independent Battery - Wheeler's!" It was Wheeler's Battery; because to him, as an officer of the command from its enlistment, was due the efficiency which made it such a valuable military organization. This efficiency was continued under his successor in command, Capt. Henry Bundy. He, also, was a brave and capable officer, as was shown on many occasions, notably at Peach Tree Creek, Ga., July 20, 1864, when the battery repulsed several determined charges of the enemy on its front, and also drove him from its right flank by changing front with a section, bringing to the Thirteenth the thanks of General Hooker, the commander of the Twentieth Corps, for the bravery and efficiency thus displayed under most trying circumstances.
To go into any detailed account of the battles and campaigns in which you took part during your four years' service would make this address too long. We will, therefore, conclude by dedicating to our dead comrades of the Thirteenth New York Independent Battery this monument erected to their memory by the people of the State of New York. Comrades, we, who shared with them the dangers and perils of many battles, the hardships and privations of many campaigns, know how truly worthy our deceased comrades are of this tribute of respect to their memory. We know how unflinchingly and courageously they bore every sacrifice demanded of them, because they were willing to do and to suffer all things in their power for the restoration of the Union, which they all so dearly loved, and for which they were willing to suffer even death.
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13th Independent Battery - NY Light Artillery
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Updated 9 Jun 2001