At Gettysburg: Brother v. Brother

Today’s post comes from our summer intern Caroline Isleib.

The Battle of Gettysburg raged 150 years ago today, and many lives were lost or forever changed by the Civil War. It was a war that ripped our country apart and, in quite a literal sense, pitted brother against brother.

“This was never more true than in the case of Wesley Culp and Jack Skelly, two young men who grew up together in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,” writes Jay Bellamy in the latest issue of Prologue, the National Archives quarterly magazine.

The grave marker of Jack Skelly, who grew up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Photo by Jay Bellamy.

Both young men chose to enlist when the war began, but these best friends gave their allegiances to different forces. Culp, who had just moved to Virginia, joined the Hamtramck Guards, which became the Second Virginia Infantry in the Confederate army. Skelly joined the Union’s Second Pennsylvania Volunteers and later the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry.

From prisoner of war camps and hospital infirmaries to battlefields, they frequently came into contact with one another throughout the war. In June 1863, Culp visited Skelly as he lay in a Confederate hospital, due to injuries incurred in battle. There, Skelly asked if Culp ever went back to Gettysburg, and, if so, would he pass along a letter to his sweetheart and their childhood friend, Jennie Wade.

“Within just weeks, remarkably, he had the chance,” Bellamy writes, for Culp was part of Robert E. Lee’s invading force that marched north towards Gettysburg.

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought from July 1 to 3, 1863, was the turning point in the Civil War. It was also one of the most devastating battles, with tens of thousands killed, wounded, or missing. Wes Culp, Jack Skelly, and Jennie Wade were not untouched by the battle that engulfed their hometown.

Read about Wes, Jack, and Jennie and what happened to all three of them in “Brother vs. Brother, Friend against Friend: A Story of Family, Friendship, Love, and War” in the latest issue of Prologue.

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