Photo: LOC

Historians, authors, re-enactors, guides, etc. (and artists too), have agreed this body belonged to a regiment fighting in the "triangular field" area of the southern termination of Houck's Ridge on Thursday, the 2nd of July and second day of the battle. However, if this were true, this body-supposedly found down the hill- would have lain in the open for several days. By the time the photographers found it, this body would be just as bloated and grotesque as all the other bodies found and photographed in the area. Even a group of confederates killed within the somewhat shaded wood-line at the base of Round Top on the 2nd show horrible bloating. These soldiers-I think Georgians killed by a case-shot spray pattern from one of James Smith's Fourth N.Y. Battery rifled 10 PDR Parrotts-were left to lay throughout the 3rd (Friday), which was the hottest, most sunlit day of all occurring between the time of battle and the arrival of the photographers (for bloating, a day of heat and sunlight is key for the necessary fermentation to occur). After the 3rd, the weather turned cloudy and thunderstorms moved through the area. The photographers most likely took this photo (as well as the sharpshooter's) on Tuesday or Wednesday, and, according to all the photographs taken that day, the weather was still overcast.

Thus, everybody killed on the second day would be exposed to terrific warmth throughout the third day. Decay and bloating would accelerate with the heat. My point being that if this fellow was killed on the second while fighting for the acquisition of Houck's Ridge, then his body would be looking as horrific as everybody else's. But it isn't. It's not even close. It may then be assumed that this particular body was not exposed to the same degree and length of heat as those meeting their fates on the second day.

With this in mind, we can now entertain the possibility that this fellow may actually be a sharpshooter in position behind his wall and between the two massive boulders. He is doing his duty trying to negate the arty crews atop LRT on the third of July (Friday). He is killed in that location on that day instead; and therefore his body is some 18 hours "newer" than the other dead soldiers found and photographed in that battle area. Thus, his body does not experience the full "hottest" day treatment which doubtless was the primary cause for the horrid swollen appearance of all the other bodies photographed Monday and Tuesday on the battlefield. Click here for photos

Further, if he is killed in this location, he is surrounded by sunlight-blocking boulders and a still substantial, cooling-effective, stone-enclosure on three sides. In addition, according to the diameter of the deciduous tree stump just visible in the lower right corner of both stereo and plate made at this spot, a fifteen to twenty-foot tree is providing shade (You can see this tree's stump visible in the lower right foreground of photos 1, and 2. This tree has apparently been sawn down and removed to provide the best camera view of the dead sharpshooter. Scions growing upwards from around its' base have been stomped down and out of the way). The dead soldier's body temperature would remain cooler at this position than a position upon the open and lower (DOWN the hill location) South-West hillside. Therefore his body would be in a much better condition by the time he is found by the photographers on Tuesday.

The Flattened Legs

There is another difference between the condition of this body and the others found and photographed by Gardner, O'Sullivan , and Gibson. Take a good look at photograph 4. Notice the lower legs. They are crushed FLAT. The feet are pointing in opposite directions. This is not possible unless something of heavy weight has been resting upon this fellow's legs for some time. Photo: LOC

I could discern no other body recorded upon the battlefield which exhibits these crushed and so obviously flattened legs (typically their knees are elevated). And so it is a very curious anomaly.

The question is simply this: in which of these two positions, UP at the wall or DOWN on the open hill-side, would the body be more likely to be found with something heavy lying upon his lower extremities? Notice I say "lower extremities", for if this soldier had been buried by his companions with stones or whatever, his entire body would be flattened after several days duration. There is nothing about the rest of the upper body indicating it was covered by anything. Hence, there is no reason to believe he was buried at any time before the photographers found him.

Returning to the simple question, the wall and boulders, of course, is the most likely place--especially if part of the wall had collapsed upon this unfortunate soldier during battle. Although the reader cannot discern rocks laying on the soldier's legs in either photograph made at the wall "Home" (the photographers having removed them for the proper effect) we cannot throw out the obvious condition of the legs. Further, the flattened effect of the legs is not the only evidence showing the possibility of a wall-collapse.

I will call your attention to photograph one. Click here for photos Notice the stiff and elevated condition of the man's coat. Strangely, it does not lay flat upon and over his chest. In fact it has all the appearance of being pulled up and over the body's chest area by the photographers. I submit that the photographers found the soldier lying in his "home" with his coat actually opened and lying to the side of the body-over the left arm- and upon his haversack and ground. After being open for several days and being sodden from the various rains, this coat had taken on the plastic character of whatever it was laying across. It has become "impressed" by objects beneath it as well as objects laying upon it. As we can tell it has now been pulled up and over and laid upon the chest- for which purpose it is too reluctant and stiff in character to do convincingly. It does not lie in an effective manner upon the body, thus betraying its found state.

A bulge in this coat just left from the bottom of the "patch-pocket" shows where a rock had lain upon the inside of the open coat for several days; long enough to make its presence known and visible. I think the photographers removed and tossed it as they endeavored to replace the coat over thechest. Likewise, the rocks lying upon the man's legs were haphazardly removed and plugged back into the wall beyond the body.

There is also some post-war written evidence to say that the wall had partially fallen upon this sharpshooter. Historians have dismissed these stories as circular reasoning because they purport the sharpshooter died at his wall. As I have said before, the historians have concluded this body was moved to the wall and was not found there, ergo, they believe these stories are false and probably made up after Gardner published his famous "Sharpshooter's Home" photo in 1866. Although we must always bear in mind that the written word, especially in hindsight, can be fraught with falsity and memory lapses, still, there may be something to them.

I will mention two nearly identical stories which I found in author William Frassanito's "Early Photography at Gettysburg", page 276. I am indebted to Mr. Frassanito for providing this information to his readers- else I probably would not have found them.

The gist of the reports (mostly Capt. Augustus Martins') are that the battery situated upon the summit of LRT on Friday, the third of July, was under sporadic rifle-fire coming from a place in the Devil's Den area. By the use of a field glass, someone finally spotted the culprit doing the shooting behind a wall built between two large boulders. Although under good cover and camouflage, it seems the confederate sharpshooter was noticed by the smoke of his rifle which preceded the whizzing from the bullets as they sped by the artillerists. They directed one or more percussion 10 pdr. parrott shots from their cannon at the position and the sniper-fire quit. The next day -Saturday- when the southerners had left the area, some of the union soldiers visited the sharpshooter's position where they found him buried beneath the stones of his demolished fort. He must have been examined well because it was apparent to the union men that the dead confederate did not appear to have a mark upon his body. They assumed from their visual inspection that the fellow had died from shell-concussion (although it is also possible that he died from suffocation after being knocked senseless either against the rock face or one of the rocks falling from his "home"--more later).

Martin's account seems good and plausible, and rings close to a first hand visual inspection at the time. However, the second story, which infers multiple shell-firings and mentions rocks upon the body, is ended by a note from a man named Wert who concluded saying the dead confederate sharpshooter never received any other burial and his bleaching bones could still be seen within his "home" many months later. This conclusion must be questionable and inferred. The union soldiers would have left the scene soon after the battle ended and so could not have known what happened to the body in the future days and months. Here is where Gardner sneaks back into the "picture" as he says in his "Sketchbook" that he visited the sharpshooter's position in November, '63, and found the soldier's bones still extant- complete with rusting rifle! This is one of those nasty lies perpetrated by Gardner. A very obvious falsity spread by this clever photographer and causing much of the disbelief associated with this up-hill site as the original location of the body's discovery.

When I read these stories I was curious. You will recall my introduction where I described my May, '97 trip to the park. I visited the site looking for reasons for the possible extinction of the sharpshooter at his "home" and found possible evidence pointing to direct shell-fire causality. I am convinced that the "Home" truly did come under shell-fire and , directly or indirectly, caused this young sharpshooter's death. I here include a photograph showing what I believe are probable shell-hit damage marks to the East rock-face of the boulders at the "Home".

Photo by the artist.It is now August 1997 and I was able to talk my wife into leaving the car.

In this photo Carolyn points to a scar I think is consistent in appearance to a direct shell-hit. Another mark (B) at the upper left edge of the same rock is consistent with possible flung shell bits (shrapnel) from a hit close to but in front of the boulders of the sharpshooter's "home". The lost lower left boulder-edge could be shell induced but gravity played a large role in its production and so I should not consider it herein . The larger central "hit" I believe is evidence to Augustus Martin's percussion shell . As you can discern by the little triangle at the lower center of the scar, its depth passes beyond the scaling effects of exfoliation (which is typical to the area showing left and right of Carolyn's head). Still, I cannot think this hit should have caused all the visual cues I gathered from my study of the possible effects of shell-fire to the area of the "Sharpshooter's Home" photographs and elsewhere.

Close-up of my possible case-shot debris hit "B" in photo above. Strike point of shell debris is at center. Note: first exfoliation rock layer has been removed from the left side of the strike point. Normal weathering is not evident. "A" is a small rounded edge cooling crack. "B" is a large rounded-edge cooling crack. "C" is a much weaker rounded edge cooling crack extending into the second layer of the granite's skin. All cracks visible throughout the photo are also various cooling cracks. Now here is the puzzler: The vertical hairline crack to the left of "D" is not a cooling crack. Rather, it is a sharp-edged impact crack radiating from what I suppose is that strike point. Well, that's my opinion. Next time you visit the battlefield take a look and see what you think. Photo by the artist

Thus, I believe the sharpshooter's death was incidental to another shell hit. Perhaps a shell that may have caused the suspicious and more superficial damage (B) to the boulder. There is actual visual evidence in the old photos to indicate a shell (more likely a case-shot) exploded somewhere in front of the "Home". Momentum debris then struck against and toppled some of the highest wall-rocks down upon the luckless sharpshooter - pinning his legs, knocking him dead or unconscious. It also cropped off a small 10 foot cedar directly behind and in direct line with the sharpshooter's hole and felled a 30-foot dead pine tree even further back. Viewed from LRT, this lucky shell hit and its effects on the trees, ground, and shrubs beyond the "Home" may have been easily misconstrued to be more of a miss than a hit. As I said, the evidence is there within those old photos and I will cover that further on.

Photo by the artist

Here is another view showing the front (facing LRT) side of the wall. The bald spot at "A" is normal exfoliation and I could tell by looking at the "Home" photo that this area was exposed well before the battle. It is smoother and had lichen growing upon its surface (in photos from 1863, 1867). However, "B" is very much newer and does not "play" by the general rules of geologic break-down. Something beyond gravity and mechanical weathering was at work here. And so I regard it as suspicious. "C" is the rougher surface which indicates it is newer than the older pre-civil war smoother surface "A". It may have likely scaled off the boulder's edge after the possible shell debris hit at "B".