“I’m so glad I came:” an Arkansan at the 1938 Gettysburg Reunion

ECW welcomes guest author Jeff T. Giambrone

Wilson Polk Wallace posing with the Confederate flag he took to the 1938 Gettysburg Reunion. (Author’s Collection)

From June 29 – July 6, 1938, Union and Confederate veterans met at Gettysburg for one last great reunion. These aged veterans, most of them over ninety, walked the fields of Gettysburg, serving as a tangible reminder of the war that nearly tore the nation apart 75 years earlier.[1]

Among the veterans who attended the Gettysburg reunion was ninety-four-year-old Wilson Polk Wallace of Ozan, Arkansas, who was making his first trip to the Pennsylvania battlefield. During the war Wallace had served in Company H, 17th Arkansas Infantry, a regiment that was later combined with another unit to form the 11th and 17th Consolidated Arkansas Infantry. Serving in the Western Theater of the war, Wallace was captured on July 8, 1863, when the Confederate garrison at Port Hudson, Louisiana, surrendered.[2]

A reporter wrote that Wallace attended many Confederate reunions, and that he vowed he would not miss the trip to Gettysburg. It was said of the old veteran that “If he saw a Confederate flag or heard Dixie played or sung, his patriotic spirit became so alive and full of pep that enthusiastic collegiate prep leaders might well be abashed.”[3]

Wilson P. Wallace was accompanied to Gettysburg by his son Cecil, and his friend and fellow veteran James S. Wilson, who also served in the 11th and 17th Consolidated Arkansas Infantry. Wilson and Wallace were photographed together at the reunion, and the image sent back to their hometown newspaper, the Hope Star, where it appeared under the headline “Wilson and Wallace, at Gettysburg, Join in Ceremony Uniting the Gray and Blue.”[4]

Sadly, Wilson Wallace fell ill while on the journey home, and had to be taken to a hospital in Saint Louis where he died on July 11, 1938. It was noted that his last words before he passed were “I’m so glad I came.”[5]

Wilson Polk Wallace at the 1938 Gettysburg reunion; the next veteran in line is his friend and fellow veteran James S. Wilson. (Author’s Collection)

Jeff T. Giambrone is a native of Bolton, Mississippi. He has a B.A. in history from
Mississippi State University and an M.A. in history from Mississippi College. He is employed as a Historic Resources Specialist Senior at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Giambrone has published four books: Beneath Torn and Tattered Flags: A Regimental History of the 38th Mississippi Infantry, C.S.A., Vicksburg and the War, which he co-authored with Gordon Cotton, An Illustrated Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign and National Military Park, and Remembering Mississippi’s Confederates. In addition, he has written articles for publications such as North South Civil War Magazine, Military Images Magazine, Civil War Monitor, and North South Trader’s Civil War Magazine.

———————–

[1] Cohen, Stan. Hands Across The Wall. Pictorial Histories Pub. Co., 1997, p. 41.

[2] Compiled Service Records of W.P. Wallace, 17th Arkansas Infantry and 11th and 17th Consolidated Infantry, accessed on Fold3.com, January

[3] “The Wilson Polk Wallace Homepage”. Reynoldsarchives.Com, 2021, https://www.reynoldsarchives.com/wilson.wallace_1.htm. Accessed 19 Aug 2021.

[4] Hope Star “Wilson And Wallace, At Gettysburg, Join In Ceremony Uniting The Gray And Blue”. 5 July 1938, p. 1; “W.P. Wallace Dies On Way Home From Gettysb’g Reunion”. 11 July 1938, p. 1;

[5] “The Wilson Polk Wallace Homepage”. Reynoldsarchives.Com, 2021, https://www.reynoldsarchives.com/wilson.wallace_1.htm. Accessed 19 Aug 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Common Soldier and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to “I’m so glad I came:” an Arkansan at the 1938 Gettysburg Reunion

  1. billhenck says:

    Thank you for this post. It reminds us that the Civil War was often the major event in the lives of the veterans, many of whom lived for a good long time after that. Wallace’s last words say it all.

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!