GETTYSBURG MOON26th North Carolina at Marsh Creek
It was another sultry summer's evening in Pennsylvania. Soldiers of the 26th North Carolina stood watch on the Cashtown Pike between Gettysburg and the encampment of A. P. Hill's Corps near Cashtown. The peaceful quiet was broken only by low voices around the campfires, and an occasional laugh. Moonlight reflected over the lush countryside, an apparition very different from the ravaged farms and fields of Northern Virginia. For these men so far from home, the campaign into "Yankeedom" had been a boon. The North had provided food and supplies not made available to them for months. The marches had been easy jaunts with very few enemy encounters, only frightened civilians and curious farmers.
The 26the North Carolina was a veteran regiment, commanded by 21 year old Henry King Burgwyn Jr., a brilliant student before the war, and now an amiable and courageous colonel. Exhausted by the day's duties, Burgwyn rested while his second in command rode the picket line. Lt. Colonel John Randolph Lane reflected the dash and decisive personality of his colonel. Lane began his military service as the captain of G company before his promotion to Lt. Colonel in 1862.
Placed at Marsh Creek on the advanced picket line, Lane was entrusted with the important duty of guarding Hill's corps from surprise. There had been a near brush that day with Federal cavalry near Gettysburg. Everyone knew that there would be an advance toward the town the next day to find out whether those troops belonged to the Army of the Potomac or just another Pennsylvania militia unit. Lane's pocket watch ticked away the hours until dawn and the new day, when the 26th would take up their arms and march toward a deadly rendezvous on July 1. By day's end, Colonel Burgwyn would be dying beside hundreds of his men. Colonel Lane would be critically wounded but would eventually return to his command and serve until the end of the war. In the days to come, the 26th North Carolina would experience success and tragedy. At this moment, though, the stillness of the night and a soldier's rest were more welcome than the call to battle.
Second in the "Moon Series"