The General WIlliam Wells statue is located on South Confederate Avenue, on a curve resembling a sine wave. This marker would be on the lower peak of the second oscillation (lower maximum amplitude), just before the wave begin to climb for its final time, finishing its cycle, and ending in a small straightaway before yet another curve. The monument is on the right or southern side of the road if traveling east along the avenue and rather close to the road, perhaps 10 feet away. Parking in this area is very tricky and limited due to the curve of the road. It is very important to park on the side of the road and not on the grass; I cannot emphasize this enough! You will be ticket, that is for sure. The statue faces north. I visited this statue on Saturday, March 10, 2012 @ 5:03 PM at an elevation of 588 feet ASL.
William Wells (December 14, 1837 - April 29, 1892) was a businessman, politician, and general in the Union Army during the American Civil War who received a Medal of Honor for gallantry at the Battle of Gettysburg. Wells commanded the Second Battalion, 1st Vermont Cavalry, in the repulse of Stuart's Cavalry at the Battle of Hanover during the Gettysburg Campaign. In the famous and desperate cavalry charge on Big Round Top on the third day at Gettysburg (July 3, 1863), he commanded the leading battalion, rode by the side of General Farnsworth, the brigade commander, and, almost by a miracle, came out unharmed, while his commander fell in the midst of the enemy's infantry.
The Draw the Sword site helped out by the NPS narrative and the SIRIS site offers the following description: portrait of Major Wells striding forward as he leads the Second Battalion of the 1st Vermont Cavalry across Plum Run in their charge against Law’s Brigade on the afternoon of July 3, 1863. His saber is raised in his proper right hand and his proper left hand rests on the handle of a sword that hangs on his proper left side. The sculpture is installed on a stone boulder adorned with a bronze relief depicting Major Wells’ charge against Law’s Brigade at 5:00 on the afternoon of July 3, 1863. On the far left of the relief, Major Wells can be seen brandishing a saber. On his right, a mortally wounded Brigadier General Elon Farnsworth falls from his horse. Behind Wells, Capt. Henry C. Parson is lying face down on his horse. To the right of Capt. Parsons is F. Stewart Stranahan, First Sergeant Troop L. with his saber raised. Sweitzer took care to use several of Wells’ possessions (including his uniform, hat, revolver, boots, and belt) to make the monument more authentic and true to life. It was so well received that friends ordered an exact copy which stands in Battery Park in Burlington, Vermont, Wells' home town.
Stone Sentinels offers some insight about the bronze relief as well: The tablet represents the charge of four companies of the 1st Vermont Cavalry led by General Elon Farnsworth against Law's Alabama Brigade at the close of the battle on July 3rd. Union General Kilpatrick had ordered Farnsworth to make the charge and had questioned his bravery when Farnsworth protested. Farnsworth went on to lead the charge, which started from the area around the monument. When Farnsworth was mortally wounded. Wells took command of the survivors.
The monument was sculpted in 1913 by J. Otto Schweizer, contracted by the Van Amringe Granite Companite using the Gorham Manufacturing Company foundry. Eventually, the monument was dedicated on May 30, 1914. A book was written about the dedication ceremony which can be found HERE. The sculpture is of bronze as well as a gorgeous relief tablet, also in bronze. There are also two bronze inscribed tablets. The base is a natural boulder. SIRIS lists the dimensions as: Sculpture: approx. 7 ft. x 3 ft. 6 in. x 3 ft.; Base: approx. 7 ft. 6 in. x 12 ft. 5 in. x 15 ft. 3 in. The inscriptions on the two tablets read:
Brevet Major General U.S. Vols.
1837 - 1892
First Lieut. Co. E. 1st Vermont Cavalry Oct. 14 1861
Captain Co. C. Nov. 18 1861
Major Dec. 30 1862
Colonel July 2 1864
Brevet Brigadier General U.S. Vols. Feb. 22 1865
Brevet Major General U.S. Vols.
"For gallant and meritorious services" March 13 1865
Brigadier General U.S. Vols. May 19 1865
Honorably mustered out Jan. 15 1866
Once wounded and once a prisoner
Awarded Medal of Honor for "most distinguished
gallantry at Gettysburg" July 3 1863
Commander of Sheridan's Cavalry Corps
At 5 p.m. July 3 the 2nd Battalion 1st Vermont Cavalry led by Major William Wells, General Farnsworth commanding the brigade riding by his side crossed Plum Run near this point charging over stone walls amid rocks and through woods till they encountered five regiments of Law's Confederate Brigade near the spot where the regimental monument stands.
The 1st Battalion and part of the 3rd Lt. Col. A.W. Preston commanding were ordered to the support of the 2nd moved northerly to the Slyder house turned into the lane and struck Law's Brigade in the flank the onset was terrific sabres and bayonets revolvers and muskets being freely used after a struggle the hill was carried by the 1st Vermont and the prisoners captured sent to the rear.
The three battalions united soon came under the fire of the 4th Alabama Infantry and presently of the 9th Georgia Infantry finding no exit to the south they turned to the east and charged the 15th Alabama Infantry which answered a summons to surrender by a destructive musketry fire. Those unhurt escaping mostly to the south.
This memorial signalizes the valor of the officers and the men of the First Vermont Cavalry who here paid to the nation the uttermost tribute of devotion.
The Major General William Wells Statue is a contributing feature to the Gettysburg National Military Park Historic District which is nationally significant under NR Criteria A, B, C & D. Areas of Significance: Military, Politics/Government, Landscape Architecture, Conservation, Archeology-Historic. Period of Significance: 1863-1938. The original National Register Nomination was approved by the Keeper March 19, 1975. An update to this nomination was approved by the Keeper on January 23, 2004. The monument is identified as structure number MN371.
From the Nomination Form:
Civil War Mn that commemorates services of Major General William Wells during Battle of Gettysburg. Located where 2nd Battalion of 1st Vermont Cavalry led by Wells & Farnsworth crossed Plum Run in their charge on Law's Brigade (July 3, 1863) on S Confederate Avenue.
Short Physical Description:
Bronze figure, 8' high, on 2 natural granite boulders, 8' high. Heroic representation of Union Cavalry officer. 2 bronze inscription tablets on E and W of base. Relief on N face. All 16' H.
Long Physical Description:
Statue is a bronze figure of Wells set on two native granite boulders. Two bronze inscription tablets on the east and west sides of the base and a reproduction of a relief cast from the original is attached to the north side. Overall height is16 feet. Sculptured by J. Otto Schweizer. Located on South Confederate Avenue near Plum Run.
1. NRHP Narrative
3. Stone Sentinels
4. Virtual Gettysburg
5. Draw the Sword
6. Historical Marker Database