Monday, July 1, 2013

Reporting from Gettysburg: Josiah R. Sypher

            Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  The battle was covered by about 45 newspaper reporters who competed to get stories to their papers as fast as possible.  The New York Tribune had nine reporters at Gettysburg and managed to secure a telegraph line to Baltimore which was a great advantage during the first days of fighting.
            One of the reporters covering Gettysburg for the Tribune was Josiah R. Sypher.  The 1899 edition of Who’s Who in America included the following entry:
            “Sypher, Josiah Rhinehart, lawyer; b. Liverpool, Perry Co., Pa., April 12, 1832; grad. Union Coll., 1858; read law with Thaddeus Stevens, Lancaster, Pa.; admitted to bar, 1862; was war correspondent New York Tribune in the war of the rebellion; since the war has practiced law in Philadelphia, his specialty being copyrights, trade marks and patents.  Author: Pennsylvania Reserve Corps [1865]; History of Pennsylvania [1868]; History of New Jersey; etc.”
            After the War, Josiah settled in Philadelphia with his wife, Alice (Maxwell) Sypher.  From about 1869 to 1875, they lived at 3620Baring St. with Alice’s sister, Mary G. W. Maxwell, who owned the house.
            One interesting piece of reporting by Sypher stemmed from interviews he did with members of the German-speaking members of the 11 Corps following the Battle of Gettysburg.  He reported in the Tribune that more than 300 of their members had fallen from attacks by sharpshooters and skirmishers on July 3rd.  They believed there were about a dozen snipers hidden inside a brick building on Baltimore St.  Sharpshooters were a relatively new phenomenon resulting from the development of more accurate rifles and Syypher reported sharpshooting had become “a serious service in battle.”  He went on to describe a dilemma that has become a common feature in battles involving house-to-house combat.  He stated that “The house might have been destroyed, but in doing this many others in town would have been damaged. It is a question, however, whether the whole town is worth the lives it cost to save it.”  (see: Timothy J. Orr. “Sharpshooters Made a Grand Record This Day” Combat on the Skirmish Line at Gettysburg on July 3.  Gettysburg National Military Park.) 
       Sypher became the Tribune's correspondent with the Army of the Potomac.  Some of his reporting about the War around Lancaster is summarized in the blog Lancaster at War which includes the following picture of Sypher taken with the Lancaster - Company B, 1st Penna. Reserves in 1863.