‘Tenting tonight’ at Gettysburg



It’s the title of a song from the Civil War era, in which the singer laments the peaceful times when “the boys” tented on the old campground.  

 Many men, most in rural areas, were members of the State militia in mid-19th Century America. Many were compelled to be members as a matter of law unless exempted.

157 years ago tonight tens of thousands of men were “tenting” on the ground between the Little Round Tops and Culp’s Hill near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 

Actually, few were “tenting,” They were lying wounded on the field awaiting aid. The descriptions of that night range from macabre to merely eerie. Many tell of men singing songs of home and longing. Some describe the lanterns of the orderlies moving like fireflies on the fields seeking the wounded and trying to aid them.

Three of my four great or great-great grandfathers were there that day; two with Longstreet in the Peach Orchard and Wheat Field, both of whom lived to tell the story.   

My maternal great grandfather, a generation closer because he married a young wife after his first wife died, was with Wright’s Brigade, Hill’s Corps, in the middle of the Confederate line attacking the Union line on Cemetery Ridge.

They attacked through the smoke and the setting sun and took that damned hill; they spiked the US guns. And then the support from the left didn’t come and they were alone on the hill with no support. They fell back to the Codori Barn halfway down the hill. Their admired colonel was badly wounded, and they offered a white flag to secure his removal to medical attention.   

The Yankees refused, and would only accept the surrender of the entire regiment. My great grandfather took a .69 ball in his shoulder in that retreat. He was treated in a Confederate field hospital and since he was walking wounded, was returned to the ranks. 

Hill’s Corps and Wright’s Brigade were something of a rear guard in Lee’s retreat. Wright’s Brigade fought in the rear guard action at Manassas Gap protecting Hill’s retreat. My great-great uncle James Marion Riner was captured and made a guest of the Yankees at Point Lookout, Maryland for awhile.

I grew up with ghosts in my closet.  I understand both the predestinarian faith of the religious South and the “it would take more courage not to” loyalty to kith and kin of the Southern soldier.   My great grandfather took that .69 ball in his left shoulder, was treated in a field hospital, walked 110 miles back to Richmond and fought a couple of battles along the way.  He was admitted to Chimborazzo Hospital in Richmond on 16 July, two weeks after he was wounded. He was treated for his wounds and given 30 days leave to recover. He went home and married a much younger woman, from whence cometh I.

There isn’t actually a public monument of a Confederate soldier in my home town in Georgia. There are a couple of fancy private monuments to men who had a lot of money and barely crossed the county line during the Civil War; that is the way Southern society worked.

I’ve advocated to my Southern friends that they should abandon the monuments.  The people who placed them there don’t live in the “doughnut” cities anymore. The White South long ago abandoned Southern cities; many, I among them, abandoned The South altogether. 

Take the monuments down, preserve them, and put them in museums where they can be preserved.   This fight was lost long ago.


  1. Yep. No need to hide them in doors though. I loved Gettysburg, the same way Eisenhower did after visiting. He moved there. So hunting to take the audio tour. You can here the shots whistling by. Leave the monuments in plain sight so every can remember what not to do. Good men are on those pedistols. Good husband’s, father’s.

    • I think the monuments on the battlefields need to stay there and could get pretty aggressive about that. The town square monuments just need to go to museums before they’re destroyed.

  2. The Park Service already decolonized Glorieta Pass. Not an interpretive sign, plaque or pullout anywhere on or near the battlefield.

    • The only people other than you and I who know what Glorieta Pass was could be counted on our fingers. Unfortunately, the Park Service does a whole lot more propaganda and political correctness than history.

  3. I was wondering where you would weigh in on the monuments issue Art and even
    More curious about your “ abandoning the south” which really seems odd given that you are a man of great historicity. Couldn’t you have at least retired there on your modest PERs pension?

      • To those that live and belong there, you’re just another clown wanting to whitewash a heritage many are proud of.

        You’re their stupid lefty.

        • I love my fans; you’re just another click.

          I’m a Life Member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. A signed and numbered Don Troiani print of “Mahone’s Counterattack at The Crater” is on my dining room wall; my gg/grandfather, Sgt. Joseph Sherrod, Co. H, 48th Georgia Voluntary Infantry Regiment, Wright’s Brigade, Hill’s Corps, Lee’s Army was killed there and lies in the mass grave of Georgia soldiers at Blanton Church in Petersburg, VA. Every military aged male lineal ancestor served in the Army of Northern Virginia.

          I grew up with the grandchildren and great – grandchildren of men who served in and led regiments and many of whom died in service to those regiments. One of my best friends growing up was the gg/grandson of the XO of the CSS Alabama. I grew up with the women who kept body and soul together and raised their children without their fathers in the 19th Century South. Don’t lecture me about history or heritage.

          • Haha… Rave on, cat sh*t. Someone will come along and cover you up; click.

            There’s a lot of bluster in your writing and a lot of credit you assume for acts you’ve had nothing to do with beyond perhaps having been the fastest swimmer in the batch that day. If I have a print of Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson in my dining room does that mean that I’m of like mind and spirit? Or maybe that I’m qualified to speak on his behalf these 215 years later? Yeah, no.

            Of all the people that should have some connection to accurate history, among them s/b those that recognize the acts that brought us to this point. For a guy that’s been confronted with having made racially charged and misogynistic remarks in the recent past how have you now become such a delicate little flower offended by the strategic and masculine figures that helped shape the area you’re visiting? How about you recognize that you’re local to the south primarily through cultural appropriation and that of all the people that should mess with local historical monuments, you’re not among them.

  4. They will not stop until.

    “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

  5. My ancestors from North Carolina fought in the Revolutionary war, the civil war and every American conflict since then. I make no apologies to anyone for their service. They were men of their times. With regard to tearing down statues and monuments, most black Americans are laughing at the white SJW’s doing most of the damage all the while chanting “black lives matter”. Tearing things down requires no real commitment to anything. Try going to the inner city and starting a scout troop or a tutoring program. That would show a real commitment to positive change and it would actually help some disadvantaged kids. But it would also require work……..a dirty word to the “woke” mob.

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