One hundred and fifty-seven years ago, Bill Thompson was toiling away on a 36-mile march in the high heat and humidity of a Maryland July day in 1863. Bill was stepping into his destiny.
He had sailed from England to America to fight for the Union Army and joined the Third New York Independent Battery in 1861. They reached the outskirts of the little farming town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania amidst a horrific fight around four o'clock on the afternoon of July 2, 1863.
The following morning, July 3, Bill's battery was moved up to the front line and soon found themselves in the midst of a fierce cannonade with the Confederates almost a mile away. Over 200 cannons sent shells tearing through the air. It was so loud that it could be heard 27 miles away in Carlisle. Two hours later, there was a pause. It was a very brief respite for out of the woods on Seminary Ridge, stepped 15,000 rebel soldiers and they were marching straight for Bill's position.
Pickett's/Pettigrew's Charge had begun. The Pennsylvanians at the Bloody Angle fought hard as the rebels came on and pierced their line. The attack was repulsed, but Bill suffered a wound to his upper leg.
The town was overwhelmed with wounded after the three-days of battle. The citizens were mustered into nursing service as most of the churches and houses in town became makeshift hospitals.. One of those citizens was Margaret Slonaker, who was living in the Adams County Almshouse, along with her seven-year-old son, Forrest. The first day's battle had seen the armies surging back and forth almost on their doorstep.
While nursing Bill back to health, Margaret found herself attracted to the Englishman from Northampshire. Little did Bill know that his heart would be stolen away after the carnage of the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War.
After his recovery, Bill joined the 17th Pennsylvania Calvary and road away to fight on. The 17th battled on all the way to Appomattox Court House in April of 1865.
Afterwards, Bill found his way back to Gettysburg and proposed to the light of his life, Margaret. They married in September, 1866 and had four children. Bill informally adopted Margaret's son, Forrest.
Margaret passed away in 1897, but Bill lived to be 98 years old and took part in the 50th anniversary of the famous battle. He passed away in 1927.