Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Battle of Gettysburg: South Carolina's Great Lieutenant General James Longstreet's Assault (Pickett's Charge) on July 3, 1863 Fails on Land Owned By a Free Black Man, Abraham Bryan

The Ronald B. Saunders Project
Special Report
Slippery Rock, PA
February 23, 2011

My family and I had the great pleasure of touring the historic Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, PA on September 19, 2009.
We found all the National Park service staff to be very accommodating and courteous.
Our tour guide was a Licensed Battlefield Guide from the great Empire State of New York who provided us with a lot of detailed information about the Battle of Gettysburg.  Our Battlefield Guide suggested that we stop at the farm of Abraham Bryan who was a free Black man. The Bryan (or Brian) House is one of the many civilian farm houses still remaining on said battlefield, which are not designated stops of the car tour of the Battlefield.  Our Battlefield Guide informed us that the rebels went down to defeat on land that was owned by a free Black man.
We toured the outside of the Bryan House and were able to view the inside of the house.  We observed the various farm objects and other historical items that were germane to that period in American history. An extensive Q and A session was conducted with our tour guide.
                                                     Brian House
The Brian farm ( or Bryan) is located on the Gettysburg battlefield just south of town and west of the old Cyclorama in Ziegler's Grove. It was the home to Abraham Brian (often spelled Bryan), an African-American widower with five children who bought the farm in 1857 when he married his third wife, Elizabeth. The twelve acre farm grew wheat, barley, and hay and had a small apple and peach orchard.
The farmhouse was the headquarters of General Alexander Hays' Division of the Union 2nd Army Corps and was the front lines during the fighting on July 2nd and 3rd
When Brian returned to his home after the battle he found it ransacked and nearly destroyed along with his fences, crops and orchards, and the field west of his house a huge graveyard. Brian put his  property back in order and resumed farming the land until 1869, when he went to work in a local hotel.
He petitioned the U.S. government for $ 1,028 in restitution but received only $ 15. He died in 1875 and is buried in Gettysburg with his first two wives.
The house and barn have both been reconstructed and belong to the National Park Service.
(below) The Bryan barn, facing northwest toward Von Steinwehr Avenue

Bryan house in the 1860's

The guide informed us that the Union forces used the Bryan farm to plan their battlefield operations for military engagements and for cover.
One could still see the bullet holes in the barn and home.
The Licensed Battlefield Guide also informed us that the Union had about 186,000 Colored Troops in uniform who provided the necessary manpower that was essential in the defeat of the Confederate States of America. The guide further stated that many of the White Union troops were battle-fatigued and worn out from hard fighting with the rebels.  The Colored troops provided the  reinvigoration needed for the ranks of the Federals.
Our guide added an anecdote that his favorite movie was "Glory", which dramatizes the exploits and achievements of the Colored Troops of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment and their unsuccessful assault on July 18, 1863 upon Fort Wagner located on Morris Island, South Carolina.  Note the first Battle of Fort Wagner occurred on July 11, 1863 where the Union lost 1330 men and the Confederate States of America only lost 12.
We also toured Little Round Top, Devil's Den, the Wheat field, the Peach Orchard, Cemetery Ridge and Cemetery Hill which were other battlefield sites. This was one of the most informative tours that we have been on and much thanks are given to the Licensed Battlefield Guide for letting us stop at the historical Bryan Farm and informing us as to the significance that Bryan's farm played in the famous Battle of Gettysburg.
An extension of the trip was a visit to the Gettysburg Museum. We watched the three dimensional Cyclorama Painting of the battle.  We purchased several gift items and memorabilia from one of the shops inside the Gettysburg Museum.
We then drove to the Shriver House and had a very moving, informative and interesting tour of the Shriver House Museum.
Finally, we ate dinner at the famous Colonial Dobbin House Tavern.  After dinner, we had a very interesting and educational tour of the Dobbin House Tavern which is listed on the National Registry of Historical Places. The upstairs of the Dobbins House contained a secret room where the owners hid runaway enslaved Africans from the numerous slave catchers who were always on the prowl looking for escaped enslaved Africans.
After we returned home, I called the Gettysburg National Military Park and inquired to one of the park's historians, John Heiser, for information on Pickett's Charge, which was the pivotal point in the Battle of Gettysburg.
According to Heiser, a significant portion of General James Longstreet's Grand Assault, popularly known as "Pickett's Charge", failed on land owned by a free Black man who was Mr. Abraham Bryan or Brian . Ranger Heiser also stated that there were other parcels of land on which Pickett's Charge occurred and were owned by other Gettysburg civilians. Heiser further stated that the great Robert E. Lee ordered the charge with the hopes of renewing an offensive and breaking the Union line on Cemetery Ridge once and for all. According to Heiser, Confederate Generals Isaac Trimble and James J. Pettigrew commanded the left wing of the charge and went down to defeat on Bryan's farm land. Heiser also stated that Trimble and Pettigrew's men had been banged up from two straight days of hard fighting with the Federal forces.
The Confederates who fought on Mr. Bryan's farmland came from the following states: Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
Union or Federal troops that fought on the Bryan farmland came from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware.
Each side had roughly about 11,000 officers and men.
My research revealed that Longstreet's famous assault ends on land partially owned by a free Black man,  Mr. Abraham Bryan who emigrated to Gettysburg from the State of Maryland. With Pickett's defeat and the failure of the charge, Lee withdrew to a defensive position on Seminary Ridge to the west of Gettysburg, and began his retreat to Virginia overnight on July 4, 1863. In three days of fighting, the Army of the Potomac, commanded by General George G. Meade, had lost 23,000 men, and the great Army of Northern Virginia under Lee lost upward of 28,000 men.
I am of the belief if the Confederate States of America's best General, the brilliant tactician Stonewall Jackson would have been at Gettysburg, the Union may have lost the great battle.
The Confederate States of America let President Lincoln outfox and outmaneuver them by putting together 186,097 Colored Troops of which 7,122 were Officers and 178,975 were enlisted who fought gallantly for the Union. Negro Union soldiers participated in at least 41 major battles and in another 450 smaller actions.
When the Confederate States of America's Congress on March 13, 1865 approved the use of 300,000 Negro slaves for use in combat, the war was basically over and thus the South's fate was sealed at the Battle of Gettysburg. 
Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, should have known that many loyal slaves in the Antebellum South would have fought for their masters and for their masters' homelands. It is apparent that Davis and his cabinet miscalculated the use of the enslaved Negro. There were many Negro troops who served with the Confederate States of America in the role of cooks, teamsters,  wheelwrights, mechanics, harness makers, firemen, ambulance drivers, boatmen, servants, musicians, nurses, female luandresses, blacksmiths, wagon drivers, laborers, stevedores, trench diggers, armed pickets (guards), team drivers, aides to their masters, escort service, bodyguards, engineer helpers, and manning the Howitzers Batteries.  Many saw combat against the Federals in Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, Louisiana and the Carolinas.  At the first and second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), the Negro troops manned the Howitzer Batteries for the Confederates.  The Negro Confederate troops at the Battle of Richmond partially manned the Howitzers Battery # 2.  In many battles the armed Negro troops of the Confederacy escorted the captured Union soldiers to rear holding centers for transport to Southern prisons.
On April 4, 1865 in Amelia County Virginia, a Confederate supply train was exclusively manned by guards of Negro Infantry, and when the train was attacked by the Federals, the Negro troops repulsed the first wave of the attack. On the second assault of the supply train, the Negro Confederate troops were overwhelmed by the superior man and firepower of the Yankees.
The Confederate States of America couldn't have survived a day without the valuable support of a few free and numerous enslaved Africans.  A total of 65,000 Negro troops served with the Confederate States of America and it is believed that 13,000 served in combat against the Federals.
Many Negroes willingly died in combat and in support of the various State Confederate Battle flags.  The record is not complete or verifiable as to how many enslaved Africans ran away rather than support the war effort of the Confederate States of America.  More unbiased scholarship and research is still needed as to the true role that Black Confederate soldiers played in the Southern States of America's War of Independence. There appears to be a deliberate attempt by many so-called Civil War scholars and historians to cover-up and relegate to a position of secondary consideration the role that both the Negro Confederate soldiers and Negro Union soldiers played in the internal conflict called the war between the States.
Upon one's visit to the Arlington National Cemetery, one will see the Confederate Monument of a Confederate soldier handing his child to an enslaved African female to care for while he is heading off to war.  Another Confederate Monument depicts a Negro soldier in full Confederate uniform marching in the ranks with other Confederate soldiers.  These two Confederate Monuments were designed by the Confederate Jewish War Veteran, Moses Ezekiel.  It is believed that the monument of the Confederate Negro soldier is the first monument honoring a Black soldier in the United States of America.
All of the Confederate States of America paid pensions to the Negro War veterans of the Civil War. And many of these Confederate Negro War veterans of the Battle of Gettysburg did in fact return to Gettysburg, PA for the various reunions with their White Confederate counter-parts along with the veterans from the Union/Federal ranks.
The record is not clear as to whether there were any armed engagements between the Colored Federal Troops vs. the Colored Troops of the Confederacy.
It's very unfortunate that most of the history books in the United States of America fail to mention anything about the free Negro Abraham Bryan. He like other townspeople, on their property, played a key role in the Battle of Gettysburg, which was the turning point in the War between the States.
With the defeat at Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg, Mississippi soon after, the war commonly referred to as the United States Civil War had reached its zenith. The great Robert E. Lee would fight on for an additional two years but he may have known the Confederacy would never have another opportunity as his army had at Gettysburg.


terryadkins01 said...

Awesome article. Thanks for the information. I watched the Battle of Gettysburg on the History Channel which highlighted the irony of the battle being fought on a free slave's property, but stated no name. Took more than a New York minute to find any info that seemed credible until yours. Did you hear the claim that Abraham Bryan was actually a Moor and was never a slave? Or is there another free slave (particularly a Moor) whose property had become part of the battlefield?

Black Buzz said...

terryadkinsol: Thanks for your kind comments.
There is no credible evidentiary proof that Abraham Bryan was a Moor.
Mr. Bryant/Brian/ Brien/ migrated to Gettysburg from the state of Maryland in 1847, which was a slave state but there were numerous Free Blacks living in the state of Maryland such as Benjamin Bannecker.
The record is not clear as to whether Mr. Bryant was an enslaved Black African in the state of Maryland. But when Mr. Bryant left Maryland he was migrating not running away.
Please note that some Black Africans taken against their will to British America, the Caribbean Islands, and Central& South America were Moors and Muslims.
More Black Africans were enslaved in Brazil than any other area in the Americas.
As a matter of fact British America/13 Colonies had the fewest number of Black Africans who were taken against their will from Africa.

Black Buzz said...

terryadkinsol:You may want to review the late great scholar's Dr. Ivan Van Sertima DVD Video titled the Science Of The Moors.
Dr. Van Sertima states that when the Romans entered West Africa in 46 BCE, they saw Africans and called them Maures, from the Greek adjective Mauros, meaning dark or Black. Dr Sertima further states that it is Mauros and the latin term Marues that the word Moor is derived. According to Dr. Sertima the inhabitants of North Africa were Black them and the Romans and later the Europeans called them Moors. It is no coincidence that the land inhabited by the Moors was called Mauritania and Moroco, meaning" Land of the Blacks."
The Moors ruled Spain from 711-1492 until the Spanish Inquisition. Also note that people identified as white Arabs ruled Spain jointly with the Moors from 1305-14oo.
In 1969 I had the pleasure of visiting Moorish sites in Cordoba, Granda and Saragossa Spain.
I also met several Moorish students in Rabat Morocco in 1969, and they looked your like typical Afro-American of today. The Moorish students heroes were the great Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X.
The Moors presently reside in the following countries:
1. Algeria
2. Mali
3. Mauritania
4. Morocco
5. Niger
6. Senegal
7. Western Sahara
Also note the words Moor and Black are used interchangeably.
The word Africa is from Latin origin which was is the name given to continent by the ancient Romans. Thus the Nile River was really from the Latin Nilus. The continent of Africa had many more names much older than Africa.

Black Buzz said...

terryadkinso1: (Part THREE)

There were two other African Americans who owned property on the Gettyburg National Battle Field and they are as follows:
1.Alfred Palm- The Palm House
2. James Warfield- Warfield House and Warfield Ridge were heavy fighting took place between the Union and Confederate Forces.
You may also want to read a very good book title Africans Americans and the Gettysburg Campaign by James Paradis by Scarecrow Press.
The New York Herald reported on July 11, 1863 that SEVEN fully clothed Black soldiers were among the thousands of Confederates who were captured at the famous Battle of Gettysburg.
Black Confederates killed Yankees at the Battle of Gettsyburg.
Note Abraham Bryant's step- son by his second wife Kitty Payne fougth gallantly with the Colored Troops of the Union at the Battle of The Crater/ Petersburg Virginia.
I thank you for you time and consideration.

Black Buzz said...

Part/4- Correction on Part Three.
The New York Herald on July 11, 1863 reported that SEVEN FULLY ARMED Black soldiers were among the thousands of Confederate troops who were captured at the Battle Of Gettysburg.
* The record in not clear as to whether Black Confederate troops engaged in combat against the the Colored Troops of the Union.
Black slave owners did participate in the Colored Troops of the Confederacy. And one Black slave owner from South Carolina rode as a Lt. with a tough South Carolina Regiment. When he was killed in battle his entire home town turned out to honor him in a memorial service.

Black Buzz said...

That tough Lt. Black South Carolinaian slave owner that rode with the Confederate forces was the "Fighting Dick Anderson."

Dragoh said...

I have always been a person who loved studying the battle of Gettysburg, having read every book I ran across and watchin many documentaries. The AHC show on Gettysburg was the first I have heard of the farm owned by a free black man. Good to know his name. Sadly, the History/Channel AHC version of Gettysburg was full of GROSS inaccuracies as to battle chronology and Stewart's vs. Custer's rolls in the battle. I am glad that they at least got this part correct.

WsBj LLC said...

Might I add that those Americans that are mis-categorized as African are actually Native...The misnomer attempt to attach my family to that title was tried roughly 150yrs earlier but fortunately my great grandparents still had their scruples intact (Choctaw/Cherokee)....

Black Buzz said...

WsBj LLC: Could you please clarify your above statement in the historically correct context of Africans in America and Choctaw/ Cherokee people. Its a know fact that some Cherokee and Choctaw owned African slaves and some bans fought on the side of the Confederacy while other bans fought on the side of Union.
There are records of Blacks owning slaves throughout the Antebellum period which was not restricted to family members and some were Mega Slave owners like their Caucasian counter-parts.
Ronald B. Saunders