Gettysburg National Military Park | MONUMENTS AND MARKERS

58th New York Infantry Monument (1888), Gettysburg National Military Park

58th New York Infantry Monument (1888), Gettysburg National Military Park

It’s hard to miss the monuments that line the roads within Gettysburg National Military Park. In fact, they are the first things that catch the eye of those touring the battlefield. The initial tendency is to slow down or stop at each one and read the inscription, but it doesn’t take most people long to figure out that this not only gets boring pretty fast, but it’s also an effort in futility. After all, according to the National Park Service there are 1,328 monuments in the park.

While you may not have an interest is stopping to see every monument, it is good to know what types of monuments are in the park. Monuments and markers can be broken down into four categories:  Markers and Tablets, State Memorials, Regimental Monuments, and monuments erected to individual soldiers, usually officers.

Like most Civil War battlefields, Gettysburg was preserved not for tourism purposes, but to document military history, to provide military instruction for new cadets, and to provide a place for the memorialization of those who fought and died in the battle. The first parcels of the Gettysburg battlefield were purchased in 1863 by David McConaughy and David Wills, some of which was used for the establishment of Soldiers’ National Cemetery (aka Gettysburg National Cemetery). Soon afterwards in April 1864, the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association (GBMA) was formed to further the preservation of the battlefield through land purchases. McConaughy and Wills deeded their land to the GBMA.

In addition to raising money to purchase more of the battlefield, the GBMA came up with the rules for monument placement and the types of materials that could be used in the construction of a monument (typically granite and bronze). It also came up with the names for the new roads that were created to facilitate travel around the battlefield.

Despite the effort, the GBMA was unable to obtain much of the land that was occupied by the United States Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the battle, so it turned to the federal government for help. This led to the creation of Gettysburg National Military Park in February 1895, at which time the GBMA turned all of its land over to the federal government—522 acres and 320 existing monuments. With the park now in federal hands, the government was able to seize private property and prevent further development of the battlefield.

Like all Civil War battlefields owned by the federal government in the late 1800s, Gettysburg was initially managed by the U. S. War Department. The National Park Service was not established until 1916, and at that time only natural areas were eligible to become National Parks. It wasn’t until 1933 that historical properties were considered. Morristown National Historical Park was the first history-based park managed by the National Park Service. Gettysburg was transferred to the National Park Service later that same year.

MARKERS AND TABLETS

The War Department set out to document the Battle of Gettysburg by placing markers and tablets to denote officer headquarters and troop locations and movements during the battle. By 1912 there were over 350 such markers. Headquarter locations are marked with a canon tube. The location and actions of artillery batteries are marked with Battery Tablets and are often accompanied by actual cannon. Brigade positions and actions are marked with Brigade Markers—round bases are for Confederate brigades and square bases for Union brigades. Note that when you are looking at a tablet or marker that you are facing the direction in which the actual troops would have been facing.

Marker for the headquarters of Major General Abner Doubleday at Gettysburg National Military Park

Marker for the headquarters of Major General Abner Doubleday at Gettysburg National Military Park

Battery Tablet at Gettysburg National Military Park

Battery Tablet at Gettysburg National Military Park

Confederate Brigade Marker for Pegram's Battalion, Gettysburg National Military Park

Confederate Brigade Marker for Pegram’s Battalion, Gettysburg National Military Park

REGIMENTAL MONUMENTS

Regimental monuments, the most numerous type of monument at Gettysburg, commemorate State and United States Regular Army regiments. These are placed at the center of a particular regiment’s line of battle (where it was at the beginning of the battle). Most often they were commissioned by the surviving regiment members and not the state government.

12th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Monument (1885), Gettysburg National Military Park

12th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Monument (1885) at Gettysburg

Most of the regimental monuments at Gettysburg are for Union regiments; there are less than a dozen Confederate regimental monuments. There are a number of reasons for this. First off, the South was not in great financial condition after the war, so erecting monuments was not a priority. Second, Confederate monuments were not initially welcome on the battlefield. And third, rules stated that the monuments must be placed where the regiment began the battle, not where it ended up. Since the Confederates were the attackers, this meant they often began the battle far from where the action took place. Southerners simply weren’t interested in erecting monuments so far away from where their soldiers actually died. Because of these reasons, most of the Confederate regimental monuments—in fact all types of Confederate monuments—were erected after 1920; some were erected in the 2000s. Most of the Union monuments were erected between 1880 and 1930.

The very first Confederate regimental monument was for the 2nd Maryland Infantry C. S. A. It was dedicated in 1886. It is located on Slocum Avenue between Culp’s Hill and Spanglers Spring. Maryland was a slave state that remained with the Union, and as a result, Maryland men formed both Union and Confederate regiments.

2nd Maryland Infantry Monument at Gettysburg National Military Park

2nd Maryland Infantry Monument at Gettysburg National Military Park

STATE MEMORIALS

State Memorials, which are typically funded with state money, are dedicated to all soldiers from a particular state who fought at Gettysburg. Each state that had soldiers in the battle is allowed one memorial, with the exception being states that had citizens fighting on both sides. Notice that the Union memorials are typically in the classical style while Confederate state memorials are often more modern looking. As mentioned earlier, this is because most Union state memorials were erected between 1880 and 1930 while most Confederate state memorials at Gettysburg were dedicated in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, and thus have a more modern design style. Oddly enough, the Delaware State Memorial is the newest at Gettysburg (2000). Size also varies, with some so large they can be considered temples and others so small they seem like an afterthought.

See the State Memorials web page here on National Park Planner for more information and photographs of all the state memorials at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Pennsylvania State Memorial (1910), Gettysburg National Military Park

Pennsylvania State Memorial (1910), Gettysburg National Military Park

Tennessee State Memorial (1982), Gettysburg National Military Park

Tennessee State Memorial (1982), Gettysburg National Military Park

INDIVIDUAL MEMORIALS

Visitors to the Gettysburg battlefield will also see plenty of monuments dedicated to individuals, most often officers. These are typically paid for by the men who fought under a particular officer and found him to be truly gallant. Keep in mind that there are plenty of monuments with sculptures of soldiers on them, but these are just generic soldier figures that adorn regimental monuments. If the monument is dedicated to an individual, it will have the man’s name inscribed on it.

General John Fulton Reynolds Memorial (1898) at Gettysburg

General John Fulton Reynolds Memorial (1898) at Gettysburg

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Last updated on September 12, 2022
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