Gettysburg tablets of the cast iron variety

Did you know that, despite what MapQuest says, the road that runs along the northern edge of the Pennsylvania State Memorial is NOT Pleasanton Avenue?

Did you know that part of Wheatfield Road is labelled by the National Park Service as “McGilvery Artillery Avenue?”

And did you know that the NPS doesn’t officially recognize a place called Pitzer’s Woods? Or Spangler’s Woods? Or Barlow’s Knoll??

Do I have your attention now? :)

The explanation for all of these things can be found on the National Park Service tablets around the Park.

The Gettysburg National Military Park has more than 230 bronze tablets which identify the brigades, divisions, corps, U.S. regular units, and hospitals from the two armies.  It also has more than 30 cast iron itinerary tablets and those marking the positions of artillery units.  All of these tablets (as well as more traditional monuments, of course), along with their inscriptions, photos, and locations, are in our popular smartphone app, Pocket Gettysburg.

But there are 80 other cast iron tablets around the Park1 which get less attention and aren’t typically considered “monuments.” The NPS is nonetheless responsible for their maintenance and preservation.

With one exception,2 these additional tablets were installed by the NPS’ predecessor, the U.S. War Department, in the years 1896-1920.  (Yes, tablets were cast-iron a hundred years before iPads were cool.) Most of them fall into three categories which the NPS calls “Site ID Tablets,” “Avenue Tablets,” and “Information Tablets.” You’ll find them all listed below.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

So what happened to “Pleasanton Avenue”?  Well, if you’re a Gettysburg nerd like me, you probably don’t have to look at the Park’s tablets to know that the General’s name was Alfred Pleasonton (not PleasAnton) and the name of the road is therefore Pleasonton Avenue.  But MapQuest isn’t the only one to make this mistake.  There are four monuments on the Park that spell his name wrong too!  And three of them are on the street that is named after him. The four monuments are:

  1. the Second Division, Cavalry Corps monument on the South side of Cavalry Field Road
  2. the Cavalry Corps monument on Pleasonton Avenue
  3. the monument to Batteries B & L, Second U.S. Artillery where Pleasonton Avenue meets Taneytown Road, and
  4. the Sixth Ohio Cavalry monument at the same intersection.

(For extra credit, there’s another marker at the corner of King and Queen Streets in Littlestown which spells the General’s name wrong … twice!)

The avenue that doesn't exist.

The avenue that doesn't exist?

So where the heck is “McGilvery Artillery Avenue?” Nobody seems to really know. But there’s a Park tablet for it on Wheatfield Road in the pull-off area by the Peach Orchard. John Heiser, historian for the GNMP, says that the original location of that tablet is no longer known. According to the Park Service’s official database (aka the List of Classified Structures3), it was originally installed in the Park between 1896 and 1920, removed for an unknown reason around 1974-1975, and restored in its current position in 1992. Col Freeman McGilvery ordered the famous artillery stand in the area of the Peach Orchard but, John says, the objective was to respect and preserve the tablet as an original U.S. War Department structure (and therefore a kind of historical document in itself) without any real intent to make a statement about the location of the “avenue.”

Something has been deleted here.

Something has been deleted here.

OK, but you’ve heard of Pitzer’s Woods, right?  Well, take a look at the Park’s tablet there. It says “Pitzer Woods”; it’s not possessive. In case you think that’s a mistake, the List of Classified Structures calls it Pitzer Woods too, not Pitzer’s.  In fact, look even closer at the tablet and you’ll see that, while it was originally cast to say “Pitzer’s Woods,” the Park Service has carefully painted over the apostrophe and “S” to correct the mistake. Likewise for Spangler Woods. Apparently, somebody else cares about this minutia too.
…and here.

…and here.


Similarly, it is Barlow Knoll, not Barlow’s.  Yikes!  That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.  But don’t take my word for it. Go look at the tablet. Or the database.

Don’t even get me started on Calvary!  That’s yet another knoll – but outside Jerusalem.  The horse soldiers are c-a-v-a-l-r-y, notwithstanding the embarrassing spelling on this Gettysburg-related monument in Lemoyne, PA, among others.

Now I admit that some of this topic is just silliness that some will respond to by saying, “Who cares?!” But I find it entertaining to discovery these little stories and details about the Park that are missed by most visitors. Isn’t that why we keep researching, talking, and learning about Gettysburg?

Some day I’ll make a blog post about the many other misspellings that I’ve found on the Park monuments, including the names of at least three Medal of Honor recipients.

Oh, and if you’re a stickler for pronunciation, check out this cool video from Garry Adelman for the Civil War Trust.

OK, so following are the lists that I promised.

-Bob Velke

Site ID Tablets
20th Maine Stone Wall Barlow Knoll
Biesecker Woods Black Horse Tavern
Brian House Codori House
Culp’s Hill Devil’s Den
East Cemetery Hill Excelsior Field
G. Weikert House Klingel House
Little Round Top McMillan House
McMillan Woods Menchey’s Spring
Oak Ridge Peach Orchard (2)
Pitzer Woods Reynolds Woods
Rodes’ Division Wall Rogers House
Sherfy House Shultz House
Shultz Woods Spangler House
Spangler Woods Spangler’s Spring
Stevens Knoll The Angle
The Loop Trostle House
Wentz House Wheatfield (2)
Ziegler’s Grove  

Avenue Tablets
Ayres Avenue (2) Berdan Avenue
Birney Avenue (2) Brooke Avenue (2)
Buford Avenue (2) Carman Avenue
Colgrove Avenue Confederate Avenue (2)
Confederate Cavalry Ave Coster Avenue
Crawford Avenue (2) Cross Avenue (2)
Custer Avenue DeTrobriand Avenue (2)
Doubleday Avenue (2) Geary Avenue
Gregg Avenue Hancock Avenue (2)
Howard Avenue (2) Howe Avenue
Humphreys Avenue (2) Hunt Avenue (2)
McGilvery Artillery Ave. Meredith Avenue (2)
Neill Avenue Pleasonton Avenue (2)
Reynolds Avenue (2) Robinson Avenue
Sickles Avenue (2) Slocum Avenue (2)
Sykes Avenue (2) Taneytown Road
United States Avenue (2) Wadsworth Avenue
Wainwright Avenue Warren Avenue (2)
Williams Avenue (2) Wright Avenue

Information Tablets
1st and 2nd Cavalry Units 1st US Sharpshooters
5 NY Cav. & Bat. E (2) Berdan Avenue
US Cav. & Bat. K 1st  

Other Tablets
(in the National Cemetery)
Act of Congress Tablets (2) American Legion Tablet

NOTES

1 There are 106 if you count duplicates. But the NPS considers the two naming tablets on either end of Hunt Avenue, for instance, to be one “structure.”

2 The American Legion tablet in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery was installed in 1955.

3 The link is correct but the site is often down.  So if it doesn’t work, then wait a bit and try again.




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