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29 April 2006 - Saturday

       On our final day of “our most excellent adventure” we were up early.  At 7:00 am, after some coffee and cereal at the motel we turned left out of the parking lot and proceeded east on U.S. Highway 30.  Our immediate destination would be Gettysburg, located about 55 miles from Breezewood.    A short distance up the road we began to have doubts as to whether we were actually on the famous thoroughfare also know as the historic Lincoln Highway, opened in 1913 as America’s first coast–to-coast road.  It certainly looked to us that other than being paved this section hadn’t changed much during the intervening 93 years.  The road was a very narrow two lanes with no shoulders and it literally twisted and turned up and down the mountainous terrain found in this part of Pennsylvania.  Driving this section of road made us think about how difficult and time-consuming long-distance travel was prior to the construction of our current interstate highway system.   Eventually we left the mountains behind just west of Chambersburg as the land flattened into a rolling plain.  We expected clear sailing from here to our immediate destination but that was not to be as we encountered road construction delays all the way through Chambersburg.  

      Eventually we arrived in Gettysburg whereupon we immediately organized our quest for additional information about several ancestors who fought on both sides of the great battle.  Two of Tom’s paternal forefathers Charles Rhubart (great-grandfather) and Samuel Platt (great-great-grandfather where members of the 12th New Jersey Infantry Regiment, Union Army.  In addition, four of our common maternal great-uncles fought in the famous encounter with the Confederate Cavalry under General J.E.B. Stuart.  The most important item on our agenda was to gather information about how and when Samuel Platt was killed during this Civil War battle.  We first parked at the Visitor’s Center and walked over to the National Cemetery where we located Samuel’s grave marker in the New Jersey section.  Looking over the numbered markers of the hundred of unknowns we began to realize how fortunate Tom was to have his ancestor’s sacrifice so well documented.  After this we headed for the gift shop where we found two books on the 12th New Jersey’s history during the war as well as at Gettysburg.  Subsequently, Tom consulted with a Park Ranger as to the location of the 12th New Jersey’s Regimental Monument and the possible location of the Bliss Barn where Samuel was fatally wounded during an attack on the Rebel forces who occupied the structure.  Soon we were out on the battlefield where we found a barn that was possibly the  Bliss Barn we were looking for.   

Tom at the grave of Samuel Platt,  Gettysburg, Penna

12th N.J. Monument with site of Bliss Barn marker in the distance

 

     Following   this we  headed to Cemetery Ridge where the main lines of the Union Army repulsed General Pickett’s ill-fated charge on July 3, 1863.  After much searching we finally located the monument for the 12th Regiment at the extreme right flank of the Union Line.  From here we looked out over the field in search of the Bliss Barn.  The barn that we had originally suspected was much to far to the left of this position and as such we ruled it out.  Just as we were beginning to leave Tom spotted a

stone marker way out in the vast field that lay between the Union and Confederate lines.  We both surmised that the tiny dot of stone may be what we were looking for,( as indicated by the yellow arrow in the photo of the monument).  We returned to the van and drove over in that direction hoping to get a closer look.  Eventually Fred spotted a tiny path through the woods that separated a housing development from that part of the battlefield.  Soon we were out on the field and approaching the area where we believed the marker to be.  Upon arrival we noted that there were actually three monuments.  One indicates the site of the Bliss Farmhouse, another erected by the State of Connecticut describes the site of the Barn and a third monument which tells of the skirmish between the 12th New Jersey and the Confederate force on July 2nd, 1863 when Samuel Platt was killed and subsequently buried. 

Bronze plaque depicting the skirmish at Bliss Barn

We were both exceptionally pleased with the finding of this ancestral location and as such ranked this event up with the other important location finds such as Samuel Scott Scruggs farmstead on the Rockfish and Dutch creeks in Nelson County, Virginia as well as the land owned by John P. Moreland in Maries County, Missouri and the contrasting piece of wilderness he homesteaded in Stevens County, Kansas. 

     Prior to our leaving the area we drove over to the East Cavalry battlefield where Union and Confederate cavalry forces had met three miles east of Gettysburg about noon on July 3rd.  J.E.B. Stuart’s rebel brigades totaled about 6,300 men, who included our great-uncles Joseph, Samuel, James, and William Scruggs all brothers of our great-great-grandfather Albea.  There Union forces commanded by General Gregg and George

Confederate marker depicting the positions of the 1st and 2nd Virginia Cavalry on East Cavalry battlefield 

 

Armstrong Custer encountered them. The fighting began as skirmishers between the two forces from both sides exchanged fire.  Eventually the cavalry battle escalated to fierce hand-to-hand combat with neither side gaining the upper hand. The total Confederate loss numbered about 230 men, while the Union lost about 250. Neither side lost ground and both would claim victory, but Stuart was denied access to the Union rear.

     Eventually we departed the Gettysburg area for the final leg of out coast-to-coast adventure. After and uneventful final drive on the Pennsylvania Turnpike we arrived back at Fred’s home in Mantua, New Jersey at 2:30 pm  Thus the end of a journey of a lifetime. 

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