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October 16, 2013

Battery B monument replacement set

NEW CASTLE — A shiny new monument, commemorating the contribution of Cooper’s Battery B at Gettysburg, will be rededicated next month.

Unfortunately, three faces of the eight-sided marble capstone will be left blank.

“That could still change,” said Keith Foote, chairman of the Battery B Capstone Monument Replacement Project.

Wind, weather and time obliterated the writing on the monument, which had commemorated the battery’s service. Foote remains hopeful that one day, a document will surface containing the original wording of the eight-sided marble capstone that had topped a four-foot-high pedestal for more than 130 years.

Permission of the National Park Service was needed to replace the monument.

The re-dedication will be at 9 a.m. Nov. 23, during Remembrance Day Weekend. This is providing the park — now closed because of the federal government shutdown — is reopened.

Members of the re-enactors unit, most of whom live in central Pennsylvania, and several descendants of those who served in Battery B, plan to attend.

Foote of Selinsgrove in central Pennsylvania, is a Civil War re-enactor whose unit is Cooper’s Battery B, First Pennsylvania Light Artillery.

Foote and his fellow re-enactors took on the project in 2010, after they noticed the faces of a Gettysburg Battlefield National Park monument commemorating the battery’s service had eroded away.

Battery B, First Pennsylvania Light Artillery — recruited from the Mount Jackson area — served under Capt. James Cooper. The battery took part in 25 engagements during the Civil War and was the only light artillery unit to have participated in all three days of fighting during the Battle of Gettysburg — July 1, 2 and 3, 1863. Three monuments on that battlefield testify to the unit’s bravery.

This reconstructed monument, the smallest of the three, is also the oldest. It was placed at East Cemetery Hill in August 1880 by survivors of the battery. It marks the unit’s post on the second day of the battle.

“Battery B veterans raised the $45 for the monument. One of their members, Isaac Nesbit, engraved it,” Foote said. But no record of the original wording seems to exist.

Foote spent years searching for historic records or descendants who might be able to document what information the stone contained.

He did not succeed entirely.

Reunion minutes from the battery indicate the unit’s name, organization and discharge dates, other engagements and the commanders’ names had been recorded, but he can’t find what had filled the remaining three sides.

After the re-enactors took on the project, he said, the National Park Service sent the capstone to a government lab where laser technology was used to read its surface to determine what the original writing had been. Three sides were too eroded to discern any image. Writing on the other five sides and the crossed cannons on the top, has been recreated on the new stone.

“I haven’t given up,” he said. “ We might yet come up with something.”

The cost of replacing the monument was just under $10,000, Foote said.

“We have another $3,000 to raise, but the monument will be replaced on Nov. 23 if we raised all of the money or not.”

Anyone interested in donating toward the cause may send contributions to Dennis DeWalt, treasurer of the re-enactors unit, where he is also a captain. He can be reached at 4671 Upper Road, Shamokin, Pa. 17882.

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