A subset within the War Department tablets erected to orient visitors to the Gettysburg Campaign are the Itinerary tablets. These tablets were placed around 1901 to provide a general overview of the campaign, and their text briefly recounts the movements, skirmishes, and battles fought during the campaign. Within this subset, I break the tablets into three groups: the Army of the Potomac tablets placed in several Maryland and Pennsylvania towns, the Army of the Potomac tablets on East Cemetery Ridge, and the Army of Northern Virginia tablets on West Confederate Avenue. Allow me to address these in reverse order.
The Army of Northern Virginia tablets cover the time span from June 26 t0 July 5, 1863 – ten all told. The narrative follows the last of the Confederate infantry crossing at Williamsport; the wide ranging columns around Franklin, Cumberland, York and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania; then the concentration of forces toward Gettysburg; and finally the withdrawal from the field. If the reader browses the tablets off the link above, note the text strictly covers the arrival of the divisions to the field. The itinerary tablets are just that, and are mostly concerned with the movement time line. For the details of the battle, the visitor must go to the respective unit tablets on the field. As was the standard for all tablets at Gettysburg, these were placed to allow the carriage or car bound visitor to read, pulled to the side.
I have seen mentioned that these tablets were restored around 2007. Certainly these are sharp looking compared to some of the weathered brigade tablets elsewhere on the field. The location, just south of the Schultz Woods,is a logical spot to pause when starting the tour down Seminary Ridge. As such I wonder what that early Twentieth-century traffic looked like.
A matching set of itinerary tablets, placed on East Cemetery Hill, similarly detailed the movements of the Army of the Potomac. The tablets were originally placed in 1901, standing along Baltimore Pike opposite the National Cemetery entrance, facing the road. The tablets were removed at some point, and restored in 2008 – but facing away from the road. Safety of course, as nobody in their right mind would wish to risk their life parked along the road there today!
As with the ANV tablets, these detail how the AOP’s corps and divisions arrived at the battlefield. But unlike the Confederate narrative, these start on June 29 and cover the initial movements in pursuit out to July 7, 1863 – nine tablets total. The text narratives allow the reader to chart the Army as it worked north through Frederick County, Maryland into Pennsylvania. The last three tablets follow the Army as it worked south and west toward the retreating Confederates, ending as the Cavalry has moved toward a town named “Boonsborough” in Maryland. Yes, sometimes the spellings have evolved with time.
I’ve saved the most elusive, and most often overlooked, War Department tablets for last. The Battlefield Commission placed seventeen (by my count) tablets far afield at key points in the march through Maryland and Pennsylvania. Personally I see this as a forward thinking idea for 1901. It dated similar efforts by the State of Pennsylvania and more recently the Civil War Trails system.
Through the efforts of several contributors at HMDB, we’ve cataloged many of these. Here’s the list of the tablets (with links to the HMDB entries where applicable):
- Uniontown, Maryland – June 29 (Update: Located and entered)
- Middleburg, Maryland – June 29 (Update: Located and entered)
- Westminster, Maryland – June 29 and July 3
- Taneytown, Maryland – June 30 and July 1
- Manchester, Maryland – June 30 and July 3
- Emmitsburg, Maryland – July 1 and July 4
- Hanover, Pennsylvania – June 30 and July 1
- Two Taverns, Pennsylvania – July 1 and July 7
- Hunterstown, Pennsylvania – July 2
- Littlestown, Pennsylvania – July 5
- Fairfield, Pennsylvania – July 6
Yes, eleven thirteen of seventeen are documented. Because these tablets were well outside of the park, no doubt they suffered a bit over time from wear and damage. Of those six four missing from HMDB, no doubt some are just not physically in place anymore.
But some authority, I assume the National Park Service, who would have received the easements that the tablets stand on, has repaired and replaced some of these “far afield” itinerary tablets. The Hanover tablets were listed as missing in 1985, but are in place today in the town center.
As I drove through Emmitsburg on the way home yesterday, I took a side trip to check on the spot where two “stalks” stood last year.
I found the tablets restored. Although these face the road, as with the traditional placement, one should park at the Post Office or nearby parking lots and walk behind the guard rail to read these tablets. South Seton Avenue is rather busy most of the time.
Looking at the back of the tablets, there’s sort of a “Frankenstein” patch job apparent, attesting to the wear, tear, and damage seen by the metal plates.
A weld ridge runs down the tablet. Three metal strips, fixed with screws, brace tablet. The screws are well masked on the front, covered with paint, placed between the lines of text. But the crease left by a break is noticeable.
The “stalks” themselves were rather well designed in my opinion. In cross section, the stalk forms an “X” with reinforced center, presumably extending a few feet below the ground. The base plate at the ground is rounded, to reduce any uprooting. But where it attaches to the tablet, a simple pad slides between two ridges.
Simple, but it works. Probably more than you ever wanted to know about the tablets… but I thought I’d mention it.
These thirty-six tablets, placed at the turn of the last century, differed from the other tablets at Gettysburg. Instead of detailing the flow of battle and casualties, the itinerary tablets discussed how the units got to the battlefield.