For a century, the “scorecard” of the Great Reunion has been that only nine veterans out of more than 50,000 attendees died during the encampment. What has been lost to history, however, is that at least one veteran – and most likely others – died after the encampment had concluded but from injuries suffered during the days of the Great Reunion.
The July 12th, 1913 edition of the Adams County News contained a front-page story entitled DIES AS A RESULT OF INJURY HERE and which reported that Doctor David Stewart of Sharon, Pennsylvania had passed away the previous Wednesday evening (which would have been July 9th, 1913) at a Harrisburg hospital of heart trouble…but that Doctor Stewart had fallen at the Gettysburg railroad station on July 4th as he was preparing to depart the Great Reunion. Doctor Stewart had fought at Gettysburg, the story reported.
The same story also reported that en route to the state of Washington, returning from the Great Reunion, Colonel C.S. Rugg passed away. As with Doctor David Stewart of Pennsylvania, Colonel Rugg’s death was not included among the official nine fatalities recorded in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s official report published at the end of 1913. As an interesting side note, the story reported that Colonel Rugg claimed to have fired the first shot of the Battle of Gettysburg (see our blog post about the various claims to that “honor”)…a doubtful claim given other historical information about the first moments of the Battle of Gettysburg, but reported as such in the paper nonetheless. The accuracy of Colonel Rugg’s claim notwithstanding, the article also mentioned that he had been a prisoner in the Andersonville Prison for 26 months.
Were Doctor Stewart and Colonel Rugg the 10th and 11th fatalities of the Great Reunion? Or perhaps the 15th and 16th? The 25th and 26th? We will never know for certain but what we can state is that despite the very low casualty count during the encampment itself, some veterans did die shortly afterwards, and some of them – as in the case of Doctor Stewart of Sharon, Pennsylvania – as a result of an injury or medical condition that occurred during the occasion.
Still, even taking into account some number of additional casualties in the weeks that followed the Great Reunion, given that more than 50,000 veterans lived in tents for days amidst some of the most brutal heat and humidity imaginable, the fates did indeed smile on those old men to the point where the overwhelming majority came through and lived out whatever number of days they had left.