The Haversack

Very obvious within all six photographs is a confederate haversack. I would like to point out that this particular haversack is a very fine model. It may be made from leather rather than the common canvas types. Although its pouch section is not visible in the one stereo taken at the sharpshooter's "home"(photo 2), it's carrying strap still is, as always, tightly encircling the body's neck.

A look at photograph 1 will show the haversack plainly bulging with something squarish inside it. We can't see what it is but it is apparent that something IS in there. Click here for photos

Now take a look at photos/stereos 3, 4, 5, 6, which were all taken down the hill. The haversack is now pulled up around the neck area and is being used to prop the soldier's head away from the cameras, in itself a curious thing if these photos were taken first. But what is even more curious is the appearance of the haversack now. It is empty. It is not only flat, it has the definite look of being compressed in its inner parts, as if it had been pulled or tugged on(also notice the buttoned diagonal fold extending from the corners-when undone this provided extra carrying capacity). And so now, not only has something been removed from within the haversack, the photographers have "manhandled" the pouch. What has happened here?

A look at photo 2 reveals the haversack invisible and beneath a peculiar patterned blanket (unlike any other blanket seen within the other photos taken of the battlefield). This blanket has long been suspected as being the means of transporting (carrying) this body up the hill from the currently supposed found position DOWN the hill.

Take a look at this blanket and note how it has the creased appearance of being freshly unfolded and gently placed before the body (not under it. The haversack is beneath the blanket but the strap still visible would have stopped it from being slid under the body). The blanket is "billowy" upon the grass and ground and obviously was not found in this condition as it would have been flattened by time and the rain which fell Saturday and early Sunday. Ergo, we are left with the visual fact that this blanket has just been found and unfolded then laid to the forward left-side of the soldier's body. There is nothing to indicate this blanket has been used to carry anybody anywhere.

I should say here that this patterned blanket does seem to belong to this soldier and has just been found and likely removed from its folded condition and containing device (the haversack) by the photographers. Then it was placed beside the body to, we may suppose, make it appear the man lay wounded for a while before he died. I know this for a reasonable fact because a similar cross-patterned blanket or thin rug was already beneath the dead soldier's body when Photograph 1 was taken.

Detail of sharpshooter's left lower leg in photo 1 showing patterned striped blanket or rug visible beneath.

Take a close look at the patterned object just barely noticeable beneath the soldier's left leg in the left photograph (1) detail, and keep in mind this photo shows the full haversack and no blanket laying in front of the body. Do you see? It can be nothing other than another blanket or rug. A thorough examination of photo 1 also shows this "rug" to be extending to the left and right of the still full haversack. I have often been told the soldiers carried one blanket with them. It seems this man also carried something extra. Perhaps he used one to lay on and the other for a cover on the chilly nights and to keep the dew off his face. What could be more normal?

[Could the barely seen piece of rug or blanket in photo1 be simply an extension of the patterned piece seen freshly unfolded in photo 2? I suppose so. Curious... if all one whole, why was a section of blanket packed into the haversack? Could the sharpshooter have been in the act of packing away his ground-covering blanket when the fatal shell exploded at the door of his "Home"?]

I wondered why there would be a blanket or rug beneath this soldier's body if it wasn't used to carry him up from down the hill. Was it normal practice to place a blanket upon the ground when sharp-shooting from a set position? Interestingly, Gardner makes mention of a sharpshooter doing just so. In the caption of his 1866 "Photographic Sketchbook", plate 40, "Sharpshooter's Last Sleep" he writes this: "...and the blanket, partly shown, indicates that he (sharpshooter) had selected this as a permanent site from which to annoy the enemy."

An interesting quote! How would Gardner know such a thing? Perhaps he had actually observed it on the the wall and boulders...?

The "NEW" Shoes

Everything we see in these photographs leads to the conclusion this soldier was a neat and meticulous individual--and proud of his army. For example, he is dressed much more smartly than the other confederates photographed upon the battlefield. He wears a Kepi in preference to the slouch hat of his common brethren. All of his equipment and accessories are first-class items. Even his slip-on shoes are "new". There is no wear showing on the heels (see photo detail below). Which is peculiar if this guy spent the last few days marching from Virginia to Pennsylvania (perhaps they were protected by metal heel guards). I'm thinking those shoes may be "borrowed" from some of the numerous Union bodies scattered about Houck's Ridge (from the terrific fight occurring on the second day of battle). The opportunity to find a "new" pair was certainly there.

Detail of photo 3 showing a nice pair of slip-on shoes.

At this point you may notice I'm back thinking in the realm of this man being alive and working on the 3rd day-July third. I have seen two photographs, taken by Gardner et al., of some yanks killed on the battlefield showing the Confederates had "borrowed" their shoes; they are all in socks! The Southern army had a great need for shoes (although that's not why they stopped at Gettysburg). A look at their dead killed on the 2nd day near the Rose Farm, as well as in the Plum Run Gorge, show the sort of shoes they typically wore when they died. Indeed, most are worn-looking laced-up clompers.

But not those shoes on the feet of this body. I would say they are some sort of lengthy lace-less slip-ons. I'm no whiz on shoe-styles of the period, but from what I can tell by looking at shoes of Northern soldiers appearing throughout my Dover Books' reprint of Gardner's 1863 "Sketchbook of the Civil War", their shoes were often the very same thing this soldier is wearing.

I have also seen Confederate dead in their socks on this battlefield. Reasonably, I can conclude that, regardless the political views of the dead, if a fellow owned a good pair of shoes and had gone to his rest in Confederate territory, than he would be buried without them.

These observations lead me to conclude that our man was alive and well (for a while) on the third, and may have "borrowed" his pair of shoes from the Northern dead lying around the conquered grounds of Houck's Ridge on the evening of the 2nd. But, whether he borrowed a pair or came with his own good pair, the following fact still applies: If he had died on the 2nd , as we have believed now for many years, then why would he be photographed still wearing those nice shoes? His brethren occupying the area on the evening of the second would have grabbed them. And I can't accept the idea or mental vision of Gardner going around placing shoes on his dead subjects. That prop rifle, yes. But shoes...?

Additional thought: It is possible those shoes could have been causing the sharpshooter some problems; either from poor fit if borrowed, or too much marching, or carrying stones to build a wall.

That Blanket Again

To continue, and as I was saying, this sharpshooter may have been meticulous in his character also. If he did as I think, at some point during the fateful day he removed his shoes from his feet and placed the rug-blanket on the ground to keep the earth from soiling fumbled (dropped) equipment, his socks, and his uniform as he loaded his rifle, walked around, kneeled, sat and etc.

I am mentioning this so you are aware that there might be other reasons besides transportation purposes for that rug-blanket being underneath the soldier's body.

The blanket peeking out in photo 1 does not disappear when we examine the stereo-photo 2. In fact, with the removal and replacement of a section of rotten stump-wood, we can now discern that original rug-blanket extending beneath the soldier's neck-head area. It just may be covering the whole area immediately in front of the wall.

Could the second rug-blanket barely seen in photo 1 be the means of carrying the body up the hill? I would agree that one could....if the body was carried up the hill.

The Body was Carried Up or Dragged Down the Hill?

Excepting that 2nd rug-blanket barely showing beneath the body, there is nothing otherwise visible to show that the photographers may have carried the body UP the hill (as pointed out and now obvious, the blanket laid out in front of the body in photo 2 was not used to carry the body up the hill as it is not underneath the body and was freshly garnered from-most likely- the haversack).

In contrast to the weak evidence for an up-hill journey, there are several visual clues to show that the body was probably dragged (not carried) down the hill with its now empty haversack and the knapsack.

I do feel he was dragged, too. I mean, think about it for a moment. Say you find a days-old dead body at this "Home" site and you decide you want to get it out of there (the "why" is not important enough to mention just yet). You really do not want to touch the thing- disease, you know. How would you move it ? And would you move it up the hill or down the hill?

Detail of photo 6

Take a look at the photographs taken down the hill and the answer becomes clearer. For example, photo 6 shows two straps around the soldier's neck. One is the now empty haversack strap. The other is more peculiar because it is actually one of the two wider shoulder-straps belonging to the fellow's knapsack- which was so plainly visible beneath the head in photos 1 and 2. I would submit to you the photographers were trying not to show this knapsack because, like the face, it had already held such a noticeable position in the photos taken up the hill. If you are trying to hide what you have done (moving the body), then at least you had better not show too many of the same objects; the viewers might get wise to this re-staging act .

Although we did not see this second knapsack strap in the photos taken UP the hill, nevertheless this strap was probably around the fellow's neck. You see, in order for the wider knapsack strap to be BENEATH the thinner haversack strap, the knapsack strap must have been placed around the head and neck FIRST- and I assume- by the unfortunate sharpshooter himself.

I have to wonder what he was planning to carry upon his back instead of that kanpsack. He chose to carry the knapsack at his side instead of its usual position upon his shoulders and back. He must have had a good reason, and it must have been paramount, because he placed the shoulder-strap around his neck first. Aware he had been discovered by the arty crews on LRT, he was likely gathering his equipment and trying to exit his hiding place post-haste. The clobbering shot from LRT left him with this unusual strap/shoulder-strap configuration around his neck. The wall topple may have killed him outright . Or, as he fell backwards he may have hit his head against the larger boulder of his "Home". If he wasn't killed outright, then it could well be that this strap combination from opposite directions compressed his neck area enough to cause suffocation. Earlier, while he was calmly shooting away at the battery atop LRT, the sharpshooter would not have had anything around his neck as that would have interfered with his careful aim.

The straps already around the dead shooter's neck would have supplied all the means necessary to drag the body to its new down-hill photo-location. That's why that knapsack went along for the ride down. One photographer would grab the haversack. The other photographer would then grab the knapsack. Then both would pull in unison. The body would easily follow, and if the direction was down the hill, the task would have been easy. There was no need to touch the stinky body. Further, the 'beyond flat' and "clinched" appearance of the haversack seen in its' new location (best seen in photos 3, 5,6,) would be caused by Gardner or O'Sullivan grabbing it with both hands in a manner proper for pulling; thereby indenting and compressing the area of the haversack just inside its' perimeter edge.

A last indication of dragging appears in the final placement of the body down the hill. You will notice the head ends up facing south-in the direction the body was dragged. That is, DOWN THE HILL then around the rocks (it was probably dragged downward in a near bee-line for about 70 yards West then turned at the corner of the rock-grouping and dragged an additional 5 yards South). If the body had been carried down the hill, the odds are the head would have ended up more likely pointing up the hill (my own inclination), or to various other parts of the compass.

In fairness, I must add here that I found no indication of dragging in the short pasture grass seen in the down-hill photographs.

Pause to Reconsider

What I have written so far should have warning bells sounding in your brain. These obvious clues I have given you carry great weight.

But perhaps you are still not convinced the body was found up the hill at the "Sharpshooter's Home". Perhaps you still believe (or hope-- depending on how deep your commitment to the notion) that the body was a regular infantryman killed on the second day of battle, found down the hill, then, on inspiration, moved up the hill to a much better photo-location. You are not being unreasonable by today's measure of that word.

If you are unfamiliar with the findings which first led to the current thinking (i.e., the body was originally found down the hill) then you are in the vast majority of readers. You tell your friends and acquaintances about the body not being a sharpshooter but you know of no actual clues or proofs of support. Again, I encourage you to seek all the evidence currently available and make your own decision.