As a Gettysburg College History major in 2005, my senior seminar focused on the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg community during the Civil War. The class was taught by legendary professor Gabor S. Boritt. My thesis topic did not focus on the battle, but rather on the 138th Pennsylvania, a three-years regiment recruited in the summer of 1862. In fact, I narrowed my focus further by exploring two companies in particular - Company B, recruited in Gettysburg, and Company G, recruited in Bendersville and Heidlersburg. My final paper presented a narrative history of these two companies, largely built on manuscript sources at the Adams County Historical Society, and on the frequent letters printed in Gettysburg newspapers from members of the two companies during the war.
After I graduated, I was able to post my thesis online as an article at militaryhistoryonline.com. Over the years I've had email inquiries related to the project, and granted permission to others to post it on a few websites. More recently, I've pulled the thesis out of my files and used it as the basis for a few blog posts and further research into the story the 138th over the past year. But I was not necessarily prepared for the inquiry I received a few weeks back from Debra Sandoe McCauslin. Debra operates For the Cause Productions, which offers specialized programs and tours on local history in Adams County.
Debra's ancestor, David Slaybaugh, served in Company G. Exploring Slaybaugh's story, she came across my article. She also realized that many residents of Bendersville and Adams County as a whole have family connections to the 138th. She decided that these soldiers deserved to be remembered, and that the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg was a fitting time to do it. In many ways, it is very fitting. The 138th did not fight at Gettysburg, though it was added to the Army of the Potomac during its pursuit of Lee after the battle. And the commemorative landscape of Gettysburg has a long history of serving not just as the place to honor those who fought at Gettysburg, but as the memorial field of the Army of the Potomac.
And so, on Sunday, June 30th - as the nation's eyes turn to Gettysburg's commemoration of the largest battle of the Civil War, McCauslin has put together a special program in Bendersville honoring the men of Company G, 138th Pennsylvania. The program will begin at 1:00 p.m. at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Church Street. Several veterans from the regiment are buried in the church's graveyard. Descendants of the veterans of Company G are encouraged to attend.
I am honored that Debra has asked me to attend and provide a brief overview of the history of the regiment. If you plan on attending the Battle anniversary, but are looking to get away from some of the major crowds, consider stopping by this unique, and free, event honoring the memory of the soldiers of Company G - many of whom grew up in Gettysburg's backyard, but lost their lives on distant Virginia battlefields.