George Stouch, Augusta Catherine (Wantz) Stouch, Florence Stouch,
and George W.H. Stouch on the Gettysburg Battlefield, July 3, 1886.
George Wesley Hancock Stouch (GWH) was born March 3, 1842 in Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania. While earlier generations of the family settled in York County, GWH’s moved west. Shown leaning on the rock in the above photograph with his son George, wife Augusta, and daughter Florence, GWH was a veteran of the Civil War, and saw significant action during the Battle of Gettysburg. In his own words, he explained the significance of the place where this photograph was taken:
“I was Sergt Major 11th US Infantry at Gettysburg and was captured about 5 o’clock pm July 2nd by Cobb’s Georgia Legion of Woffard’s Brigade, McLaws Division, Longstreet’s Corps. at the repulse and retreat of our Brigade, the 2d Regulars of the 2nd Division, 5th Army Corps, from their position on the crest near the Wheat Field and in the wood between the Wheat Field and Devil’s Den, in front of Little Round Top. I was captured while helping to carry to the rear with us Lieut. Petter of our Regt., who was wounded while on the retreat. We were caught at the rock, and ordered by the Rebels to go behind it, to protect ourselves from the fire of our own men on Little Round Top, and those who had reformed at the foot to resist the charge of the Rebels. With me behind the rock were Lieuts Elder and Petter, 1st Sergt. Price, Pvts Smith and Cooke, all of the 11th Infantry. Petter and Elder were wounded. Elder died from the effects of his wound on the 8th of July. We were prisoners until about 5:30 pm when were were recaptured by Crawford’s Division of Pennslylania Reserves, who drove back the Rebels beyond the wood we had captured.
To the right of us, looking from Little Round Top across a small ravine, and on a rocky ledge running perpendicular to little Round Top, between us and Devil’s Den, were a lot of Rebel sharpshooters behind rocks. They saw us captured, and one of them about 50 yards from us, when he saw we were about to be recaptured, commenced firing at us. We were in the followng positions behind the rock – I was sitting where Momma is standing. On my right Cooke, next to him Smith and on the extreme right Price, Elders head resting on my lap, he lying on his back. Petter in the same position with his head on Smith’s lap. The first shot he fired at us struck Cooke in the forehaed killing him instantly. The next shot struck Price in the neck inflicting a severe wound. The third struck me in the left wrist, while I was supporting Elder’s head, he drinking at the time from a canteen. In an instant after I was hit we were recaptured and the Rebel sharpshooters ran back over the rocky ledge towards the rear of Devil’s Den. My wound was very severe, the surgeons wanting to amputate it that night, but I objected and did not have an operation performed until 5 o’clock pm on the 4th, when it resected about 1 1/4 inch of the radius. It was about fourteen months before it was entirely healed. In the meantime, I was promoted to 2d Lieutenant, 3d US Infantry, and joinded the Regiment at Fort Hamilton, New York Harbor, June 10th, 1864.
This photo was taken about 4 pm the 3d of July 1886, the 23rd Anniversary of the battle.
[signed] Geo. W.H. Stouch, Capt. 3d Infty”
Upon seeing the photograph and reading about the events that occurred there during the Gettysburg Campaign, I knew I had to find the place where it was taken. From the extremely detailed description given by GWH, I was able to establish an estimated location where I should look. At the base of Little Round Top, the land is relatively flat with large rocks scattered about, exactly as shown in the image. My daughter and I decided we would take a short drive and investigate.
Searching for a particular rock was a difficult task. The grasses were significantly higher than shown in the old photograph, and weeds completely obscured some rocks from sight. The ground was swampy at places from recent rains, and thorns scraped us as we proceeded with our search. Ready to give up, we decided to shift our focus to a smaller area across the road. Within minutes, we were standing by a rock that had several similarities with the one shown in the old photograph:
The rock shown in the original photograph had some very distinct characteristics, the most notable being large cracks evident in the image below:
By precisely sizing and placing a small portion of the photograph I took over the one from the 1886, I could clearly see the cracks in both rocks matched perfectly. This evidence clearly shows that I had located the place described by GWH.
The middle portion of this image was from a recent photograph, while the left and right
were taken from the old photo. You can clearly see the cracks in both are a match.
At times, I tend to take take on challenges that others would find trivial, such as finding a single rock in the middle of a Civil War battlefield. Reading what George Wesley Hancock Stouch wrote in this blog post is one thing, but when you stand on the exact spot where the events took place and read it, you get a completely different feeling. Some men who fought at that spot escaped unscathed, some were wounded, and others suffered fatal wounds, never to see their family again. Knowing what he witnessed on that spot while reading his words are powerful.
This place is a small piece of Gettysburg history, United States history, OUR history.
How would you feel standing at such a place, reading a first-person account of the tragic events that occurred there?
- The original photograph is courtesy of John M. Beebe, great-grandson of George Wesley Hancock Stouch.
- Future writings about GWH will include his involvement with Indian reservations, and I’ll even be throwing in his connection to Buffalo Bill.
- The writings of GWH shown above were transcribed from an original document using OCR (optical character recognition) software. Due to software limitations, some errors were evident and corrected. I am working to obtain a digital copy of the original document to ensure an accurate transcript exists. I believe some names may be incorrect and need to be verified.