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          23rd Pennsylvania

23rd Pennsylvania Monument

Culp's Hill, Slocum Avenue
"Gettysburg, Pennsylvania"

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One of the very first regiments raised from the State of Pennsylvania and the first from the City of Philadelphia to leave the city with uniforms and arms, was the 23rd Pennsylvania. The regiments nickname was "Birney’s Zouaves" named after their first commander Colonial David Bell Birney.

During the summer of 1886 there was a debate between The Battlefield Memorial Association and the Survivors of the 23rd Pennsylvania on just where a monument should be placed on the Gettysburg Battlefield. The 23rd Pennsylvania arrived on the field near the spot on Little Round Top where Col. Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine repulsed the Confederate attack. Another location that was considered was to the right and rear of General Gordon Meade's Headquarters where the 23rd was placed on July 3rd as The Confederate offensive that would come to be known as "Pickett's Charge" would take place. It was in this spot where the 23rd would lose their most promising and young officer Lt. Joshua S. Garsed of Company “B”, who was torn to pieces by an artillery shell in one of the last shots fired of the battle. However, men from the unit felt from the beginning that the only spot that they should place a monument to the regiment, is where they were most heavily engaged during the battle. However it would be the Survivors Association board that would make the final decision as to the placement of the 23rd Pennsylvania Monument.

1886 Monument (Topped with Cannonballs)
(Click to Enlarge)

1886 Dedication of the 23rd Monument
(Click to Enlarge)

1886 Monument (Topped with Cannonballs)
(Click to Enlarge)

1888 Re-Dedication
1886 Monument Dedication
(Click to Enlarge)

Those two spots were more prominent however the Survivors Association felt that the monument should be placed where the regiment did most of their fighting. So on August 5th 1886, the monument was dedicated on Slocum Ave., at Culp's Hill. The remaining Survivors, thier families and friends were in attendance as well as politicians and media. A list of everyone who was in attendance can be found in the units Regimental History.

The monument was made of Quincy Granite and stood 6'10'' with a stack of Highly Polished Cannonballs on the top. The Monument contains the complete history of the unit contains all of the Battles they participated in and their officers. On the front is the 6th Corps Symbol, the Greek cross made from blue tiles which indicates the units association with the 6th Corps, Third Division. Just to each side of the Corps badge is an etching of the unit’s two battleflags, the National Flag and the State Flag. The National Flag has the 33 stars in a circular pattern in the star field and the State Flag has the stars with the Pennsylvania State logo. These represent the two battle flags that the 23rd Pennsylvania had during their campaign.

1886 Monument (Topped with Cannonballs)
(Click to Enlarge)

1886 Monument Dedication
(Click to Enlarge)

6/12/1888 Re-Dedication of Monument,
with Statue of Birney Zouave
(Click to Enlarge)

Company B
(Click to Enlarge)

Now the original position of the monument is not in the location where it stands today. In 1886 when the monument was topped by cannonballs, it was across the street and down in the valley a bit where the 137th NY Monument sits. There was a debate between the two organizations and since the 137th NY was at the front and finally relieved during the night of the 2nd, it was given to them to place their monument in the "front line" position and the 23rd PA moved theirs to the “reserve position.” Old photographs of the 23rd monument with other monuments in the views prove this little known fact.The State of Pennsylvania gave the unit money for the construction and placing of the monument but the survivors decided that an upgrade to a more appropriate monument was necessary, so they spent the next two years to raise funds. After two years the unit had raised $1500 for a new statue to be placed at the top, replacing the cannonballs. In June 12th 1888, in the presence of 129 Survivors, the monument was rededicated and a statue of a "Birney Zouave" was placed at the top, replacing the highly polished cannonballs. One Veteran commented on how young the boy on the statue looked. Another Veteran, standing next to him replied, "We were young!" The average age of the men at the time of the Battle was 19 years. The Cannonballs were taken and placed behind the monument on the ground. At the top of the monument is the figure of a "Birney Zouave" in all of his glory. The Zouave Uniform that the men wanted to be remembered in. The Survivors Association wanted the figure to represent the Secretary of the survivors Association, William J Wray but Wray felt he could not be used to make a model from since he had his face deformed to do a shot through the eye at Fredericksburg. What was decided on was to have the head of Matthew Spence modeled and the rest of the body would be that of William J Wray.

During the Battle of Gettysburg one of the men of the 23rd found a head of a penny that had been cut out. Down the line a little further was the ring of the same penny. Sometimes this was done to make jewelry such as rings and charms. Both men saved what they had found. While the man spoke of this at the dedication, the other soldier overheard it and brought the middle piece. The pieces fit and they were placed in a box with a few other items at the base of the monument.

1888 Re-Dedication of the 23rd PA Monument with The Ladies of Philadelphia
(Click to Enlarge)

Side view With Boulder
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Tipton Stereo
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May 19th 1906
Monument with Original Stack of Cannonballs in rear at Veterans request.
(Click to Enlarge)

The monument tells the story of the battle at Culp’s Hill, in detail. A young man of 19 has just arrived on the field, tired and weary. He has just climbed the hill at "Trail Arms" and suddenly comes under fire. In an instant he grabs his musket in shock with his other hand. The broken tree stump behind him is represenitive of the hard fighting and deadly artillery pounding the hill for several days. Trees were literally cut down by the heavy fire. It is a very beautiful monument and one that should be visited when at Gettysburg.

The monument sits right along the auto tour road and there is a small dirt pull off to the right. Behind the Monument is a small wooded area. On the left and right of the monument about 100 feet on each side are the regimental flank markers, marking the spot of the line the men formed. Here is a list of details Pertain to the 23rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Monument located on North Slocum Avenue, Culp’s Hill, at Gettysburg National Military Park.

1889 23rd PA Monument (Front View)
(Click to Enlarge)

1948 23rd PA Monument
(Click to Enlarge)

1886 Monument (Topped with Cannonballs)
(Click to Enlarge)

1888 Re-Dedication
1886 Monument Dedication
(Click to Enlarge)

To see a full explanation of all the photos in chronological order, click page 2 at the top of this page.

  • Dedicated: August 5th 1886
  • Re-dedicated: June 12th 1888
  • Location: North Slocum Avenue
  • Cost of Base: $850
  • Cost of Statue: $1500
  • Contractor (Base): Bing and Cunningham
  • Contractor (Statue): John Ferguson
  • Designer: One of the Regiment
  • Material: Quincy Granite
  • Specs: Base-4'6"SQ X 1'6"H Statue 6'10"H


    The information to put this write-up together was taken from the following sources:

  • “Life of the 23rd Pennsylvania “Birney’s Zouaves” ,William J. Wray 1904, 1999,2004
  • Research and Studies of Frank P. Marrone Jr.

  • Birney's Zouaves


    23rd PA Monument

    David Bell Birney

    Original Photos


    23rd PA Flag

    Virtual Cemetery

    Pension Records

    Submit a Burial

    Monument Rededication

    Regimental History

    © November 3, 2010 - "Birney's Zouaves" The 23rd PA Infantry Volunteers
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