Monuments to Individuals at Gettysburg
The monument to Major General Oliver O. Howard is southeast of Gettysburg on Cemetery Hill. The monument stands where Howard established a fallback position that allowed the Union forces to rally after their defeat on July 1st. (East Cemetery Hill tour map)
General Howard commanded the Eleventh Army Corps at the Battle of Gettysburg. For a large part of the day on July 1st after General Reynolds was killed and until the arrival of General Hancock he was the senior Union officer on the battlefield.
Commander, 11th Corps, Army of the Potomac.
From the right side of the monument
Major General Oliver Otis Howard
United States Army
Born Nov. 8, 1830 Died Oct. 26, 1909
From the left side of the monument
Erected to the memory of
Major General Oliver Otis Howard
and the citizens of Maine
who served their country in the Civil War.
Oliver O. Howard was born on November 8, 1830 in Leeds, Maine. He graduated from Bowdoin College, then graduated with the West Point Class of 1854. He taught at West Point for several years as a professor of mathematics. With the outbreak of the Civil War Howard became Colonel of the 3rd Maine Infantry.
Howard commanded a brigade at the First Battle of Bull Run and again in the Peninsula Campaign. He was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines, losing his left arm. But he quickly returned to duty. Howard took over the wounded Sedgwick’s division at Antietam. He was given command of the 11th Corps in November of 1862. Howard’s neglect of his flank led to the collapse and rout of the 11th Corps at Chancellorsville, but he retained his command.
Howard at Gettysburg
At Gettysburg on July 1 Howard took command of the battlefield as senior officer after the death of Reynolds. Howard’s command again collapsed and was routed. He did have the foresight to leave a brigade in reserve on Cemetery Hill that was able to form the nucleus of a defensive line and a rally point for the army at the end of the first day.
Hancock had been sent by Meade to take command of the field when Meade heard of the death of Reynolds. This led to a confrontation with Howard, who was senior to Hancock and refused to subject himself to Hancock’s orders. Hancock worked out a compromise to salvage Howard’s feelings, but it is perhaps fitting that on Cemetery Hill Howard’s statue has its back conspicuously turned towards Hancock’s statue a short distance away.
Oddly, Howard was one of three men (the other two being army commanders Hooker and Meade) who were voted the thanks of Congress for their actions at Gettysburg.
After the Army of the Potomac
After the Battle of Gettysburg Howard’s 11th Corps was ordered west to to Chattanooga. In 1864 he commanded the 4th Corps in the Atlanta campaign and took over the Army of Tennessee after the death of General McPherson. Howard led the army on Sherman’s march to the sea and in the Carolinas campaign.
Howard was a deeply religious abolitionist. After the war he dedicated himself to the welfare of the freed slaves. He was the first commissioner of the Freedman’s Bureau and was instrumental in establishing Howard University. He served on the western frontier in the 1870’s and 80’s and then was Superintendent of West Point. In 1886 he commanded the Division of the East. In 1893 he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Seven Pines.
After his retirement from the army in 1894 Howard helped establish Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee. He died in Burlington, Vermont in 1909.
Location of the monument to Oliver O. Howard at Gettysburg
The monument to Major General Howard is south of Gettysburg on Cemetery Hill. It is about 100 yards east of Baltimore Street at the gate to the National Cemetery. (39°49’19.0″N 77°13’44.0″W)