The Gettysburg National Military Park created the “Adopt-A-Position” program as an opportunity for volunteers to augment Park Service laborers in caring for the many monuments and tablets and their immediate grounds throughout the battlefield. Volunteers provide the time and labor while the Park provides the resources; in 2019 the AAP program’s 1,621 volunteers contributed 5,371.75 hours at Gettysburg! There are several sites at the park available for adoption, and individuals or groups can adopt a site (in the fall of 2019, the First Defenders met an individual from New Jersey who has adopted 22 sites, and he volunteers to pick up cigarette butts at each of them!).
In the past, Adopt-A-Position volunteers were asked to commit for a two-year period for one day in both the spring and the fall to work on their assigned tasks. Tasks can be as varied as raking leaves, painting fences, weed-whacking or picking up discarded debris. The First Defenders Civil War Round Table has fielded a small group of eager volunteers, and six sites have been adopted.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Park Service was forced to cancel Adopt-A-Position activities in 2020 and 2021. Although the pandemic has eased, GNMP has opted to keep the AAP program on hold as it re-evaluates volunteer opportunities. While the program is not anticipated to go away, changes may be in the offing to benefit participants and operate more efficiently.
Prior to the Adopt-A-Position hiatus, the First Defenders Civil War Round Table had adopted the following sites:
Reynolds Equestrian Monument
Major General John Fulton Reynolds was a native of Pennsylvania. Commanding the First Corps in the Army of the Potomac, Reynolds had been temporarily elevated to command the left wing which consisted of three corps moving into Pennsylvania in search of the Army of Northern Virginia. Responding to an urgent summons from Cavalry Commander John Buford early on the morning of July 1st, 1863, Reynolds quickly made the decision to hurry forward his left-wing infantry and engage the Rebels. Not long after his arrival, however, Reynolds would be struck down while leading his troops into action.
The Reynolds equestrian statue is located on the north side of the Chambersburg Pike on McPherson’s Ridge, not far from where we was killed. Dedicated in 1899, this monument is one of three dedicated to Reynolds on the battlefield.
John Buford Statue
Brigadier General John Buford led the First Division of the Cavalry Corps in the Army of the Potomac. He and the 2,500 men in his two brigades were screening and scouting ahead of the left wing of the Army when they rode into Gettysburg during the afternoon of June 30th, 1863. Buford’s troopers would deploy to the north and west of the town on good defensive ground, and they established that A.P. Hill’s Confederates were only a few miles away at Cashtown while Richard Ewell’s troops were approaching from the direction of Carlisle and Harrisburg. Buford recognized he could delay the Rebel advance, and it was his urgent report that brought General John Reynolds hurrying toward the town the next day. From the point of the present-day “First Shot Marker,” it is precisely three miles to the square in Gettysburg, a distance the Confederates could have covered in a little more than an hour. Due to Buford’s stubborn defense and the arrival of infantry support, however, the first elements of the Army of Northern Virginia would not get into town for an exhausting eight hours, enough time for the Union Army to secure the important high ground to the south.
The monument is a tribute to Buford, calmly standing on McPherson’s Ridge along the Chambersburg Pike surveying the approaching Rebel columns to the west. It was dedicated during the last decade of the 19th Century.
(Gregg) Cavalry Shaft
The East Cavalry Battlefield is not among the most visited areas of the Gettysburg National Military Park. Located about three miles east of the town along the Hanover Road, these rolling farmlands witnessed some of the most savage cavalry fighting of the war as J.E.B. Stuart’s southern cavaliers attempted to work their way toward the rear of the Union Army at the same time Longstreet’s Assault was taking place on the afternoon of July 3rd, 1863. Elements of the Second and Third Divisions of the Union Cavalry Corps spotted Stuart’s troopers, engaged them in wild battle and protected the Federal rear areas from the threat. Under the overall command of General David M. Gregg, the Cavalry Shaft marks the approximate location of the action between Stuart’s Confederates and the Michigan “Wolverines” led by Brigadier General George A. Custer.
The Cavalry Shaft, sometimes referred to as the “Gregg Cavalry Shaft,” was dedicated in 1884.
18th Pennsylvania Cavalry
Assigned to the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Union Cavalry Corps, the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry would find itself in the midst of the most ill-advised action of the Gettysburg Campaign. Division commander Judson Kilpatrick would direct Brigadier General Elon Farnsworth to take his men in a charge on the Confederate right wing as Longstreet’s Assault to the north was ebbing to its conclusion. The ground was ill-suited for cavalry action with boulder-strewn ground and Confederates well-entrenched behind stone walls. Farnsworth would protest the order, obeying only after Kilpatrick questioned his courage. As the Union horsemen rode into the field, they were cut down by Rebels who came “out of the ground like bees.” Many of those making the attack, including General Farnsworth, would not return to Union lines.
The monument to the 18th PA Cavalry is located along South Confederate Avenue in the low area to the southwest of Big Round Top. It was dedicated in 1889.
1st West Virginia Cavalry
The 1st West Virginia Cavalry was also part of the brigade that was ordered to make the ill-fated “Farnsworth’s Charge” on the afternoon of July 3rd, 1863. It was considered “one of the most desperate charges of the present rebellion,” and the regiment would leave nine of its numbers dead and wounded on the field.
Curiously, the 1st West Virginia Cavalry monument is located some distance from the scene of its action. Dedicated in 1898, it is located along the Taneytown Road a few yards north of Pleasanton Avenue just in the rear of Cemetery Ridge, not far from the “Angle” on which Longstreet’s Assault was focused.
Benning’s Brigade Marker
Gettysburg National Military Park includes more than 360 “tablets” that mark the position of Union and Confederate brigades. These bronze tablets include an outlines of the unit activities during the battle and the casualties suffered. As an interesting note, the tablets are attached to granite bases and are tilted at an angle of about 30-degrees; this was done to allow early battlefield visitors riding in carriages or on horseback to easily read the unit narrative.
Henry “Rock” Benning led one of Major General John Bell Hood’s brigades in the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. Engaged in Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s assault on the left of the Federal Army late in the afternoon of July 2nd, 1863, Benning’s Georgians would see action primarily on the Rose Farm and in the Wheatfield. They would remain in position to protect the Confederate right on the third day of the battle and until the Rebels withdrew from the field.
The brigade marker is located along South Confederate Avenue, just south of the intersection with the Emmitsburg Road.