Fans of Gettysburg will be thrilled with this early Christmas present. The announcement came last week that the damage done to the 4th New York Artillery, Smith’s Battery at Gettysburg, has finally been repaired! Vandalism is an unfortunate problem with the monuments at Gettysburg, putting monuments out of commission for days, weeks, or months. The 4thNew York pedestal has stood empty for almost 6 years, but will soon be complete once again.
The 4thNew York artillery was organized in New York City by Captain James E. Smith and was mustered in October 24, 1861. Leaving New York October 26, 1861 the battery served in the Virginia campaigns of the 3rd Corps until the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. At Gettysburg, they held a position near Devil’s Den at the extreme left of the 3rd Corps line. Even with infantry support from the 4th Maine, the confederate attacks of July 2 managed to capture three of the guns stationed on that ridge. Their other guns, located to the right of those captured, continued in action until 6 p.m. that night. The battery suffered thirteen casualties, killed and wounded—their biggest loss of the war. After Gettysburg, the battery was transferred to the 2nd Corps and sent to Washington to exchange their equipment. They remained in the field for a few more engagements until part of the battery disbanded December 4, 1863. The rest of the men then transferred to the 5th and 15th New York Batteries and Battery B, 1st New York Light Artillery.
On July 2, 1888, to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of their service, veterans of the Battery dedicated a monument at their position near Devil’s Den. The monument features the bronze figure of an artilleryman on top of a stone pedestal. The artilleryman’s right foot rests on the barrel of a gun, and he holds a ramrod.
Damaged 4th NY Monument missing its head and ramrod.
On the night of February 15-16, 2006, vandals pulled the statue off its base, dragged it about 160 feet, and stole the head, a total of around $50,000 in damage. Unfortunately, this was not the first time vandals hit the 4th New York monument (nor is it the only monument that has been damaged or vandalized over the years). In 1995, vandals used a rope to pull the statue down, denting the ramrod. This was quickly repaired and the statue returned, but with the head missing this second time, the damage was more severe.
Artilleryman from Manchester, NH monument identical to 4th NY statue.
For six years, the headless statue has stood in the park maintenance facility, waiting repair; I even saw it there when I was interning with the park in 2008. Fortunately, a similar mold existed that could be used to make a replacement head. The artist who created the 4th New York monument also did the sculpture for a monument in Manchester, NH that features statues representing the four branches of service (interestingly enough, I actually saw this monument last year when I was in town for a family wedding). It turns out that the artillerymen on both monuments are identical and a mold could be created off of one to repair the other. The new head is bright and shiny; chemicals will applied to speed the process of creating a patina that will match the rest of the statue.
The new head for the 4th NY Monument
The monument should be back on its pedestal by Christmas, once again honoring the service of the 4th New York Artillery!