Tucked between two housing plans are a few Civil War cannon. They represent Lieutenant Colonel Hilary Jones’ Confederate artillery line on the July 1st battlefield. Jones was the chief of divisional artillery for Major General Jubal Early’s Confederate Second Corps Division.
Early’s division made their way through Gettysburg on June 26. The division then headed off to the east following their “capture” of Gettysburg, moving onto York, and north towards Harrisburg. On the early afternoon of July 1st “Old Jube’s” division made their way down the Harrisburg Road toward Gettysburg. Early’s corps commander Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell had orders to march to the army at Gettysburg or Cashtown. Ewell chose Gettysburg as his destination and sent his three divisions down separate paths, to converge on the town. When Early arrived, Brigadier General Francis C. Barlow’s Federal 11th Corps division had moved forward to a small knoll named Blocher’s Knoll, named after John and David Blocher, whose family owned the land. (Today Blocher’s Knoll is known as Barlow’s Knoll.)
Supporting Barlow’s division were six Napoleons of Battery G, 4th United States Artillery. This battery was commanded by First Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson. Wilkeson posted four of his guns atop the knoll; his remaining two guns were posted along the Harrisburg Road, about 200 yards to the right rear of Barlow’s right flank.
Jones’ sixteen guns roared to life bombarding the knoll, decapitating Lt. Col. Douglas Fowler of the 17th Connecticut. Wilkeson’s guns responded in kind. Although out manned and outgunned Wilkeson’s artillerist’s more than held their own, quickly inflicting twelve casualties on Jones’ Battalion. Jones then took an unorthodox approach and ordered his gunners not to target the guns on the knoll, but the officer on horseback. Soon thereafter Wilkeson was hit by a shell in the right leg, mangling it badly, and gutting his horse. Trapped Wilkeson did what he thought best, applying a makeshift tourniquet, he drew his penknife and amputated his leg. Four of his men took him to the Almshouse in the rear of Barlow’s line. Where, that night Wilkeson gave a wounded man who was crying for water his canteen. The man proceeded to down the contents. Wilkeson then “…smiled on the man, turned slightly, and expired.” Wilkeson was just 19 years old.
Bayard’s father, Samuel, was a newspaper correspondent attached to the Army of the Potomac. Samuel wrote after the battle “Who can write the history of a battle whose eyes are immovably fastened upon a central figure of transcendingly absorbing interest — the dead body of an oldest born, crushed by a shell in a position where a battery should never have been sent, and abandoned to death in a building where surgeons dared not to stay?”
To reach Jones’ artillery line, drive north from teh square along Carlisle Street Bus. 15 North. At East Lincoln Avenue turn right. At the Y intersection bear to your left and follow the Old Harrisburg Road (Bus. 15 North) three-quarters of a mile. As you near Gettysburg High School, which will be on your left, look for a housing plan to your right. Behind the houses runs narrow unmarked alley. Turn right into this alley there is a turnaround at the end of the road.
Authors Note: The road is Jones Battalion Avenue, which is the only avenue officially named after a Confederate officer in the park. Latimer Avenue atop Benner’s Hill is also known as Benner’s Hill Avenue, so by this technicality Jones Battalion Ave is the only avenue officially named for a Confederate in the park. Jones Avenue also has the distinction of being only one of two park avenues named after an officer below the rank of colonel. Gotta love the Gettysburg minutia!