William M. Thomas and the 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry were members of the Army of the Potomac’s Sixth Corps, which was the last infantry corps to arrive at Gettysburg. Initially the regiment took up a position near Little Round Top, just south of where the 20th Maine had saved the Union left (which meant that Thomas spent the evening not all that far away from the regiment of future in-law James L. Denton, located on that height’s summit).
On July 3, the regiment was among those forces dispatched to Culp’s Hill to assist in the repulse of the Confederates who had advanced on the evening of July 2 to an area south of a traverse in the Union field fortifications at the base of the southern slope of the northern summit of Culp’s Hill. While it supported the successful effort to oust the Confederates from Pardee Field and the area around the traverse, it was not heavy engaged. Not long afterward, the regiment received marching orders once more to redeploy east of the main battle line stretching from Cemetery Hill south along Cemetery Ridge, but it was not called into action to help repulse the Confederate assault of that afternoon. Rather, it remained near the headquarters of George G. Meade. It was there that the regiment suffered the loss of an officer, Joshua S. Garsed, the only man of the regiment to be killed at Gettysburg.
Those visitors to Gettysburg battlefield who tour Culp’s Hill usually come across the monument to the regiment. Like several other Sixth Corps units serving in the Third Division, the Greek Cross corps badge is rendered in blue, making it quite visible. A Zouave tops the statue (a later addition to the statue, which was originally topped by a pyramid of cannon balls and was located on the other side of the road, closer to the main battle line). Like James L. Denton, William M. Thomas wore a Zouave uniform, so my ancestors were snappy dressers. The regiment’s roster also appears at the base of the Pennsylvania State Monument, with Thomas’s name appearing alongside his fellow soldiers of Company C.