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York’s Penn Common Civil War memorial

One of downtown’s York’s most interesting places for the Civil War buff is the Penn Common (or Penn Park). It was the site of the U.S. Army Hospital which treated more than 14,000 wounded and ill soldiers during the war. Among them were hundreds of patients brought to York from the battlefield at Gettysburg.

Recently the state installed a series of historical wayside markers throughout southern Pennsylvania to commemorate the region’s Civil War history. Among the Pennsylvania Civil War Trails sites is Penn Common.

Penn Common features a very impressive Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, one of the finest monuments in the area and one that would certainly stand out even at nearby Gettysburg.

Let’s take a closer look at this large monument. Each of the four sides features a different bronze plaque featuring a different aspect of the Union military effort.

This plaque memorializes the artillery, a key branch that made the difference in dozens of Civil War battles. Some historians credit very effective work by Henry Hunt’s cannons at Gettysburg for the victory by the Army of the Potomac, citing in particular the effect of the artillery in breaking up Pickett’s Charge.

The Union Navy started the war as a very small regular Navy force, which Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles built into one of the most powerful navies on earth by the end of the Civil War.

Massed cavalry charges were a relative rarity in the Civil War, especially compared with the Napoleonic Wars and even the Mexican War. The Third Battle of Winchester (also known as Opequon) featured a successful assault by Phil Sheridan’s horse soldiers.

The vast majority of Civil War fights were between infantry forces, and more than 90% of all casualties throughout the war were inflicted by the common foot soldier.

In my next post, I will post a few more photographs of Penn Common and its Civil War heritage.