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"A Light Caress"
111th NY Monument at the Bryan Barn
Image Size 11" x 30"
Release Date: April 2002
Edition size 400: 40 A/P: 20 P/P
Price: $200.00 Each, Unframed

The 111th New York Infantry Monument

Sometimes on Cemetery Ridge,
The sunset gently caresses the now tranquil fields,
Upon which transpired
So much agony and glory
For three days in July of 1863.

Paul R. Martin III

I have always marveled at the tranquil beauty of the Gettysburg Battlefield. For three days, twenty-five square miles of earth was torn and rent asunder by a divided nation thrown into the cauldron of battle. The passage of time has healed the scarred fields and woods, their wounds no longer evident. I like to think that these hallowed grounds have come to symbolize the unity, strength and grandeur of our nation, forged by the fire of civil war.

“No one not of your number can conceive the emotions that must be aroused in you by the contrast between this peaceful scene and the fearful conflict that you witnessed here.”

Benjamin B. Snow
Dedication Speech
June 26, 1891

Framed by the peach trees of Zeigler’s Grove, “A Light Caress” displays vividly the panoramic landscape of the battlefield in all its splendid glory. It is viewed from the crest of Cemetery Ridge looking toward Seminary Ridge, across the fields of the Grand Assault. The print honors the men of the 111th New York Infantry Regiment. Their monument, along with the Bryan Barn are dramatically silhouetted against a breathtaking and fiery sunset.

Organized in Wayne and Cayuga Counties in NY State in August of 1862, the 111th New York Infantry Regiment was assigned to the Harper’s Ferry Garrison in September as part of an emergency defense post. Newly recruited and relatively untrained they were placed into a critical situation against overwhelming numbers. Although the regiment fought hard and well under desperate circumstances, the Garrison Commander, Col. Dixon Miles, had no choice but to surrender when the town was surrounded by General Stonewall Jackson’s superior force. Scorned by other units in the army because of their Harper’s Ferry surrender, they were taunted with the derogatory nickname “The Harper’s Ferry Cowards”.

“We rose to our feet to meet the assault of the enemy. Not a man flinched, but every brow was knit... with stern determination to win or die.”

Capt. A. P. Seeley
111th New York Infantry Regiment

After being paroled in November of 1862, the 111th was eventually reassigned to the Army of the Potomac. At the end of June 1863 they were designated the 3rd Brigade of Hays’ 3rd Division , 2nd Corps. With Col. George L. Willard of the 125th NY promoted to Brigade Commander, the 111th marched towards Gettysburg determined to redeem themselves and their reputation. Upon arrival late on the evening of July 1, they camped for the night in a field just east of Big Roundtop. On the morning of the second day they were placed in a reserve position near the Bryan house and Zeigler’s Grove. Later that afternoon, as Sickles’ 3rd Corps line crumbled and fell back towards Cemetery Ridge, Willard’s Brigade was ordered in by General Hancock to help reinforce the line. Marching quickly southward they eventually charged into the fray and actively engaged in stemming the tide of Barksdale’s charge. In less than twenty minutes during this action, they lost 185 men killed or wounded including their brigade commander Col. Willard. A commemorative marker was erected to Col. Willard at the spot where he was killed, in the swale by Plum Run. After the stabilization of that end of the Union line and the cessation of the day’s hostilities, they were moved back to their original location in Zeigler’s Grove.

During the Grand Assault of July 3, they again participated in the defense of Cemetery Ridge against Pettigrew’s Division. Once again they took heavy casualties, including all of their field officers, and the death of their new Brigade Commander, Col. Eliakim Sherrill who had assumed command after Willard’s death the day before. In their two days involvement at the Battle of Gettysburg, the 111th NY sustained a casualty rate of 71.7% with a fatality rate of 24.4%, the highest fatality rate of any federal regiment that participated in the battle. 95 of their 390 men were killed or mortally wounded. Their vindication had come at a very high price, but the stigma and disgrace of Harper’s Ferry had finally been lifted from the men of the 111th NY and Willard’s Brigade.

“The crucial test of your courage was upon you; here you must stand and receive the shock. impatiently you awaited the onslaught, retaining your fire until they were within a few rods of you. Not until they were scaling the fence at the Emmitsburg Road did you open the musketry fire.....the volley you gave them on the fence threw them into confusion; but they reformed, even rectifying their lines and advanced with redoubled fury. The fire now became general. As the effect of each volley could be seen, the cheers and the confusion were wild. Many of them came within a few feet of this low stone wall; but the fire was too severe, the resistance too great, and when you charged them in turn, hundreds of them threw down their arms and asked to surrender, while others fled in complete rout”

Col. Clinton D. MacDougall
111th New York Infantry Regiment

It was near their third day’s action that the 111th Memorial Association placed their monument at Gettysburg to honor their fallen comrades. Dedicated on June 26, 1891, the monument was sculpted by Caspar Buberl and stands at the spot where four color bearers and two officers were killed during the repulse of the Grand Assault. The sculpture represents a skirmisher out in front of the regiment’s line, his hand on the hammer, alert and prepared to fire. He stands, gazing forever across the fields of Pettigrew’s advance. Visible across the Emmitsburg Road, between the Bryan Barn and monument is the Bliss Barn site which was hotly contested during the battle. The 111th NY also sent several companies out as skirmishers in the fields around the Bliss Barn.

“Jubilant as we were at the success of our brave defenders, we little realized then what we distinctly see now, that the grave of the Confederacy lay here, at the foot of Cemetery Ridge.”

Benjamin B. Snow

The setting sun, symbolically foreshadowing the lost cause of the Confederacy, gently touches with “A Light Caress” the ground where the Confederate Army assembled for their assault. It would take two more years, but the road from Gettysburg led to Appomattox and ensured the United States“......A new birth of freedom, - that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Paul R. Martin III
May, 1996

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