@ Indy1919 @ 4V50Gary,
Sixteen-year-old John H. Rosensteel found a 36-pound rifle with a telescopic sight on July 5, 1863, at Devil's Den. A small brass plate on the stock was inscribed "HCP 1862." Rosensteel went on to amass thousands of relics that are the core of the national military park's collection and this rifle, his first artifact, is displayed at the visitor center. For years the sign with the rifle noted that its owner was not known.
In the meantime Raymond H. Herrington of Austin, Texas, had an interest in the Civil War. He visited the Gettysburg battlefield during a trip east to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. "I didn't know I had any relatives or anything and went to the museum a little bit," he recalls.
Then his aunt, Artie Fay Powell McDonald, now 88 and living in California, sent information that led Herrington back to Gettysburg. She's the family genealogist, doing it the old-fashioned way, going through hard copies, not the Internet, Herrington says. She sent information that Herrington's great-grandfather, 20-year-old Henry Clay Powell, served in Co. K, 1st Texas Infantry, at Gettysburg and he was wounded on July 2, 1863.
During a trip last summer to see the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, Herrington and his wife Zelda returned to Gettysburg. As they waited for a tour with a licensed battlefield guide they visited the visitor center exhibits.
When guide John Fuss began the tour he asked, as he always does, if Herrington was a descendant or had a special interest. Learning about Herrington's connection to the 1st Texas, Fuss says he talked a little more about the unit's action at Devil's Den and "it led to 'there's a sharpshooters rifle here with HCP on it.'"
Herrington had seen the rifle and the two men began to think the impossible - that rifle owner HCP was Herrington's great-grandfather.
By the time Herrington returned home information had been forwarded by Fuss and soon park museum specialist Paul Shevchuck was researching the possibility.
Herrington's great-grandfather was wounded in the head, which made sense if he were a sharpshooter. The rifle, which was made in Keene, N.H., was not government issue, and it had the brass plate with initials, two indications that it was someone's personal weapon. The gun's owner would not have left it on the battlefield unless he were wounded or killed.
These leads didn't prove that HCP was Henry Clay Powell. In fact Shevchuck found several HCPs in Texas and Arkansas rosters of units that were in Devil's Den. Then it came down to Texans H.C. Powell and H.C. Patrick.
Which man was the Gettysburg sharpshooter?
Herrington, a retired state auditor, put his digging skills to work. He found H.C. Patrick in the Texas archives. Patrick was ruled out as the Gettysburg sharpshooter - he had lost an arm the year before at Antietam.
Gettysburg's HCP was Henry Clay Powell.
In recognition of the new information the park changed the display this past June. Visitors can see the rifle on the left as they enter the exhibit gallery.
Herrington and his wife Zelda returned Gettysburg on July 28 to see the display and take pictures. He held his great-grandfather's heavy rifle, "the thrill of my life." Herrington says the park did a "wonderful job" with the display.
After he learned he was a Confederate descendant Herrington joined George Washington Littlefield Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 59 in Austin. He's treasurer and joins camp members for parades and grave marking ceremonies. He wore his Confederate uniform when he returned to Gettysburg and John Fuss took him again to Devil's Den where his ancestor was wounded.
The Herringtons are coming east again in September and will take relatives from Massachusetts to see the rifle and new display at Gettysburg. They'll meet John Fuss and Paul Shevchuck, revisit Devil's Den, and take plenty of video since many relatives, including Aunt Artie Fay, won't be able to travel to Gettysburg.
Battlefield guide Fuss says, "This is one of the most interesting episodes I've been involved in" in his 12 years of guiding. He gave 59 tours to descendants last year and has had more than 30 tours this year with people who had an ancestor or association to the battle. He doesn't count the many who mistakenly believe they're related to Robert E. Lee, the Gettysburg figure with the most "descendants."
Henry Clay Powell survived three Civil War wounds and died in 1892 of pneumonia at the age of 50. He and his wife and a wagon full of their 10 children had gone to Oklahoma for the land rush. She died of pneumonia 10 days after her husband and their children were farmed out, not seeing each other again for decades. One of them was Aunt Arty May's father....