During the afternoon of July 1, 1863, the men of Union Colonel Roy Stone's "Bucktail Brigade" found
themselves outnumbered. Colonel Edmund Dana of the 143rd Pennsylvania offered a brief description of their darkening predicament.
"The brigade went into position at about 11 a. m., became engaged about noon. The conflict had continued until about 4 p. m.,
when a more heavy advance by the enemy was made and again checked by a well-directed fire, but the support both upon our right
and left having been withdrawn, his superior numbers enabled the enemy to extend his lines, so as to threaten both our flanks
and rear...most of the commissioned officers of three regiments, had been wounded. These casualties, with the heavy loss of
enlisted men, made it necessary, in order to save the command from capture or entire destruction, to move to some point of
support. Facing to the rear, the line was withdrawn in good order some distance toward the town..."
As the men of the 143rd Pennsylvania
in the Union's 1st Corps slowly gave ground, at least one member of their regiment took
their retreat personally. During the withdrawal, Color Sergeant Ben Crippen turned several times and shook his fist in defiance
at the oncoming Southerners. Standing 6' 1" tall and bearing the National Flag, he was an easy target. When shot down, even
Confederate 3rd Corps Commander Lt. General Ambrose Powell Hill lamented the loss of one so brave. According to an English observer
traveling with the Confederate Army, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Freemantle from Britain's Coldstream Guards recalled, "A Yankee
color bearer floated his standard in the field and the regiment fought around it, and when at last it was obliged to retreat,
the color bearer retreated last of all, turning around now and then to shake his fist in the face of
the advancing Confederates. He was shot. General Hill was sorry when he met his fate."
Colonel Stone would also speak of the fighting of his Brigade.
"No language can do justice to the conduct of my officers and men on the bloody "first day," to the coolness
with which they watched and awaited, under a fierce storm of shot and shell, the approach of the enemy's overwhelming
masses; their ready obedience to orders, and the prompt and perfect execution, under fire, of all the tactics of the
battle-field; to the fierceness of their repeated attacks, or to the desperate tenacity of their resistance.
They fought as if each man felt that upon his own arm hung the fate of the day and the nation. Nearly two-thirds of my
command fell on the field. Every field officer save one was wounded and disabled. Their names are to be found already
in your general report. Not one of them left the field until completely disabled. Colonel Wister, while commanding the
brigade, though badly wounded in the moth and unable to speak, remained in the front of the battle, as did also
Lieutenant-Colonel Huidekoper, commanding One hundred and fiftieth, with a dangerous gun-shot wound through the thigh."
Decades later, in 1889, the men of the 143rd Pennsylvania would return to the fields where so many of their brothers blood was shed.
The monument pictured above, dedicated that same year, will forever depict the likeness of the soldier who gave men of the
North and South pause and inspired both with his remarkable courage. Unfortunately, his body was never identified
although he is likely buried with the Union unknowns in the Gettysburg National Cemetery.