Do you know this man? His face might not be as recognizable as many of Gettysburg’s other prominent figures – Longstreet, Armistead, Buford, Chamberlain – but he arguably plays a vital role in the Civil War’s most famous battle.
Of the millions of bullets fired during those three days in Gettysburg, some may believe few were more important than the first. Pictured is Lt. Marcellus Jones, of the 8th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry. His name meant little before July 1, 1863, when he “carefully rested a borrowed cavalry carbine on a fence rail … and touched off a shot,” wrote Historian J. David Petruzzi in America’s Civil War magazine.
Regardless, this first shot touched off a firestorm for the next three days, killing thousands, wounding tens of thousands and leaving a nation changed forever. Both men stood adamant about their role in this fierce fight.
This controversy lasted for many years and erupted when each regiment wanted to stake claim to the first shot on their monuments in Gettysburg. You can read more about the controversy and decide for yourself by reading Petruzzi’s article on Historynet.com.
Today, the so-called First Shot Marker stands far from what we know as the battlefield, though the Gettysburg National Military Park owns the sliver of land of which the monument stands off Route 30 at the intersection with Knoxlyn Road. For a map of the monument’s location – courtesy of the Stone Sentinel’s website – click here.
The 9th New York Cavalry monument, standing much taller along Buford Avenue, near Mummasburg Road, makes a less direct claim but clearly states “Picket on Chambersburg Road fired on at 5 a.m.”
The First Shot Marker may not be covered during a standard battlefield tour and is a bit far off the beaten path to be included in the auto route of the battlefield, but the next time you’re out on your own or with your battlefield guide, stop by and take a look.