Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Daniel Skelly: A Young Gettysburg Hero Part Two

So wise so young, they say, do never live long.

                                                   ― William Shakespeare, Richard III

Daniel Skelly was an 18 year old clerk working at the Fahnestock Brothers dry goods store in Gettysburg in July, 1863. In our first post, Daniel explained that rumors of the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania were rife in the weeks before the battle. On June 30th, he witnessed the arrival of General John Buford's two brigades of Union cavalry and thought the town and its people would surely be safe from Lee's army. Little did he know that two entire Confederate corps were converging on Gettysburg the following day. Units of the Union's First Corps were encamped just eight miles east of Gettysburg with orders to advance to the town by morning. The world was about to explode on July 1st.

Daniel Skelly

What did this all mean to an excitable eighteen year-old boy?  The chance to see a real battle! And where better than to see a battle than where the battle was happening? The morning of July 1st Daniel and a friend ran toward the Union lines to see what they could see... From Daniel's memoir:

I went directly across the fields to Seminary Ridge . . . just where the old railroad cut through it. The ridge was full of men and boys from town, all eager to witness a brush with the Confederates and not dreaming of the terrible conflict that was to occur on that day and not having the slightest conception
of the proximity of the two armies. 

I climbed up a good-sized oak tree so as to have a good view of the ridge west and northwest of us, where the two brigades of cavalry were then being placed. We could then hear distinctly the skirmish fire in the vicinity of Marsh Creek, about three miles from our position and could tell that it was approaching nearer and nearer as our skirmishers fell back slowly toward the town contesting every inch of ground. We could see clearly on the ridge . . . the formation of the line of battle of Buford’s Cavalry, which had dismounted, some of the men taking charge of the horses and the others forming a line of battle, acting as infantry.

Nearer and nearer came the skirmish line as it fell back before the advancing Confederates, until at last the line on the ridge beyond became engaged. Soon the artillery opened fire and shot and shell began to fly over our heads, one of them passing dangerously near the top of the tree I was on. There was a general stampede toward town and I quickly slipped down from my perch and joined the retreat to the rear of our gallant men and boys . . . a cannon ball struck the earth about fifteen or twenty feet from me, scattering the ground somewhat about me and quickening my pace considerably.

.... to be continued.

Look for my new book on Gettysburg for teens this June from Sky Pony Press: Gettysburg: The True Account of Two Young Heroes in the Greatest Battle of the Civil War. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon, and Indiebound. 

1 comment:

  1. Really fascinating eyewitness testimony. Thanks for sharing.