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Sculpted by Gary Casteel


1863 Signed and Numbered Limited Edition Monument Replicas


On July 3, 1863, the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee ordered an attack on the Union Army center, located on Cemetery Ridge.  This offensive maneuver called for over 12,000 men to march roughly ¾ of a mile across dangerously open terrain while under enemy fire towards a small Copse of Trees.  This assault later became known as Pickett’s Charge.  Union guns and infantry on Cemetery Ridge unleashed volley after volley against the advancing men, inflicting a 50% casualty rate on the Confederate ranks.  The surviving Confederates were able to breach the Union lines in just one place, the distinctive bend in the stone wall (“the Angle”).  However, they could not hold the breach to exploit it and were ultimately driven back.  Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia retreated the next day, leaving Gettysburg for Virginia.


Days after the battle ended, John Bachelder, an educator and artist from New Hampshire, spent months interviewing soldiers about their experiences and sketching the field.  Although Bachelder did not volunteer for service during the war, he was instrumental in the preservation and development of the Gettysburg battlefield and became “the” expert on the battle, so acknowledged by the likes of Generals George G. Meade and Winfield Scott Hancock.


Not long after the war ended, Bachelder met Walter Harrison, who had been General George Pickett’s acting adjutant and inspector general during the battle.  Bachelder invited Harrison to visit Gettysburg with him and Harrison agreed.  During the visit, the two men spent several hours in the shade cast by the Copse of Trees on Cemetery Ridge.  During their discussion Bachelder recalled that Harrison, “explained to me what an important feature that copse of trees was at the time of the battle; and how it had been a landmark towards which Longstreet’s assault of July 3d, 1863, had been directed.”  This profoundly impressed Bachelder, who said to Harrison, “Why, Colonel, as the battle of Gettysburg was the crowning event of this campaign, this copse of trees must have been the high water mark of the rebellion.”  Harrison agreed, and Bachelder was filled with “a reverence for those trees.”


Following the sale of seven acres, including the clump of trees Harrison had identified to Bachelder, by Basil Biggs to the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association in 1881, Bachelder recommended, numerous times, that the Association erect an iron fence to enclose and protect the trees.  Finally, in 1887, it passed unanimously.  At the same meeting, John Vanderslice, a member of the Board and the impetus behind the expansion of the Association’s activities on the battlefield, recommended that Bachelder “prepare an appropriate and suitable tablet descriptive of the engagement and the commands engaged at the copse of trees where Pickett’s Division assaulted the Union line, said tablet to be placed upon a metallic post thereat.” The idea for the High Water Mark Monument was born.


However, Bachelder envisioned something grander than Vanderslice’s recommendation, and at a meeting of the GBMA’s executive committee on September 25, 1888, he offered a resolution for a bronze tablet “setting forth the movements of the troops at the copse of trees” be erected.  The committee approved the proposal unanimously, but the chairman commented that there were no funds for such a memorial and another observed that all that was really needed was a “small tablet bolted to the fence.”  As Bachelder later reflected, I certainly did not realize the immense amount of thought and labor which its completion would involve; nor did I then contemplate such an expensive structure.”


Following four years of planning, the final design Bachelder selected was an open book supported by pyramids of cannon balls and flanked by two Napoleon cannon.  The legend identified, in part, that “This Copse of Trees Was the Landmark Towards Which Longstreet’s Assault Was Directed July 3, 1863.”  However, as author D. Scott Hartwig noted in High Water Mark: Heroes, Myth, and Memory:


If Bachelder believed that because these words were now etched in bronze that they would endure, he was mistaken. The term Longstreet’s Assault was displaced by the more popular and catchy “Pickett’s Charge” as the term most commonly used to describe the attack…. What did stick was the name Bachelder gave the monument, which was in turn applied to this place on the battlefield and ultimately, to the battle itself: the High Water Mark of the Rebellion. This, Bachelder proclaimed, was where the rebellion turned. He wrote with evident pride that the idea of naming the Copse of Trees the High Water Mark of the Rebellion “was mine.”


This monument was dedicated on June 2, 1892 and is located on the west side of Hancock Avenue next to the Copse of Trees.

The High Water Mark

SKU: 1130
  • Size:  14” x 12 ½” x 12”

    Weight:  25.1lbs

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