Details

Col George Willard Monument

Gary Casteel

Size: 3¼” x 1¾” x 4¾”
Weight: .95 lbs
1863 Signed and Numbered Limited Edition Monument Replicas

The 2nd Corps, 3rd Division, 3rd Brigade was also known as Willard’s Brigade. During the Battle of Gettysburg, it served as a member of Hays’ Division in the Second Corps, Army of the Potomac. The unit was commanded by Colonel George Lamb Willard, who at the outbreak of the Civil War was a Captain in the 8th United States Infantry. After being promoted to Major of the 19th United States Infantry he took leave to become colonel of the 125th New York. A month later they were surrendered with the rest of the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry, earning them the nickname of the “Harpers Ferry Cowards.” The brigade was paroled and exchanged after spending a miserable winter in a Union prison camp. General Hays rebuilt their shattered morale, and by Gettysburg they were spoiling for a chance to erase their bad name.

On July 2, 1863, after being kept in reserve, Willard led the brigade in a counterattack against Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade. Following fierce fighting throughout the day, yawning gaps developed in the Union front that advancing Confederate troops threatened to exploit. It was imperative that those gaps be closed, whatever the cost. As dusk approached, Hays was ordered to send a brigade to the left. He chose Willard, instructing the colonel to “take your brigade there and knock the h— out of the rebs.”

Nearing the southern end of Cemetery Ridge, in the vicinity of where the Pennsylvania Monument stands today, the brigade encountered the confusion brought on by the frantic exodus of 3rd Corps soldiers retreating from the Confederate onslaught. Willard deployed his brigade approximately along the line where Hancock Avenue now runs. “It was difficult to keep a line in the face of these squads of flying men,” wrote one 111th New York soldier, who noted they also faced artillery fire—“terrific” in its intensity. Then, from a thicket about 400 yards to the west, came small-arms fire from Brig. Gen. William Barksdale’s advancing Confederates.

Barksdale had led a wild charge that punched a half mile deep hole in the Union lines near the Codori-Trostle thicket. Shouting “Remember Harpers Ferry!” the Willard’s brigade threw back the Mississippians. They recaptured several Union cannon and mortally wounded General Barksdale. It was doubly sweet revenge, as the Mississippians had been one of the brigade’s foes at Harpers Ferry. However, as the brigade was pulling back to Union lines, Willard was struck in the head by an artillery shell and killed. His body was carried to a farmhouse on Taneytown Road, where it was wrapped in linen and sent home for burial.

“As night settled down upon the scene, our regiment was returned to its position on Cemetery Hill. But he returned not with us who had led us gallantly, coolly - as this writer was witness - down into that fiery vortex; and not all those came back who had gone forth. With over 100 of our regiment cut down in the brief space of a half hour, had fallen our brave, skilled, loved colonel. Willard was dead. He was struck just after the brigade had, by orders, fallen back east of the swale through which it had just charged and driven the Rebels. A piece of shell carried away a part of his face and head, and he fell from his horse instantly killed. His body was taken to the Fry House, the ground and barn of which were used as a hospital, as were many of the houses in near vicinity of the field. .... The body was carefully wrapped in linen cloth and was last seen by the writer as it was lying on the ground ready for faithful and loving hands to bear it homeward to an afflicted wife and kindred."

--Final Report on the Battlefield of Gettysburg Vol. II., 1900, page 886.

The monument was dedicated in 1888 and is located about 340 yards west of Hancock Avenue, east of Plum Run.

Price: $110.00

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