Union College News Archives

News story archive

Navigation Menu

Union at Little Round Top

Posted on Jul 1, 1995

If the Battle of Gettysburg was the Civil War's turning point, Little Round Top
(in which nine Union “alumni” participated), was Gettysburg's crucial
moment.  The battle, tactically, was unremarkable – a Union brigade arrives
on a hill minutes before larger Confederate forces come to seize it. The Union brigade barely holds on but a second brigade arrives and drives back the Confederates. This action keeps the Union army from being outflanked, and the next day Pickett's failed charge becomes a household word….

By 4 p.m. on July 2, 1863, the Federal army held the high ground outside of Gettysburg but was on the defensive. An
ill-conceived attack near Little Round Top, against larger Confederate forces, was disastrous, leaving the hill undefended. By controlling the strategic hill, the Confederates could push north, creating a domino effect on other Federal positions, or
swing east to begin encircling the entire Union army.

Spotting Confederates moving forward, a Union general commandeered Col. Strong Vincent's 1,200-man brigade ' (consisting of the 44th New York, 83rd Pennsylvania, 20th Maine, and 16th Michigan regiments), ordering them to Little Round Top. They arrived, out of breath, about 4:30 p.m., only ten minutes ahead of the first of 2,400 Confederates. [With the
possible exception of the tiny window of opportunity at Midway in 1942, when American planes caught Japanese fighters refueling and sank four aircraft carriers, few minutes have been more decisive in American military history.]

Vincent quickly placed his four regiments one-third of the way down the steep, rocky hill so the Confederates at the bottom would be in the open while his troops were protected by trees and rocks as they fired downhill. Not yet seeing the enemy, Vincent sent out skirmishers including the 44th New York's Company B2 with Moses H. Bliss '57, Charles E. Sprague '60, and James F. Knowles '68. The skirmishers had gone only
a short distance when, out of the woods at the foot of the hill, came 1,200 men from John Bell Hood's Texas Brigade, the creme de la creme of Lee's great army.

John Foster Knowles

The Confederates launched two attacks, getting within yards of the Union lines, but heavy Federal fire drove them back behind large boulders on the lower slope. This was a classic Catch 22the defenses were so strong that the Rebels began fighting “Indian-style,” shooting down dozens of Federal soldiers, including perhaps John Butler '62, who was seriously wounded.

Other problems quickly developed. Part of the 44th and all the undersized, 150-man 16th Michigan were in an open area, taking heavy casualties. Those Confederates not pinned down, reinforced by another regiment-altogether perhaps 600 men-began moving toward the 16th. As the Rebel attack gained strength and confidence, the outnumbered 16th began to crumble. Shortly after 5:30 its colonel fled with forty men. Seeing this gap between the 44th and the 16th, Vincent quickly shifted two of the 44th's companies, again linking the regiments, and himself circled to the rear to prevent others from running away.

Here Vincent ran into Sprague. At Union, Sprague was Phi Beta Kappa, gifted in languages (he knew eight), and gave the salutory address in Greek. Now he was just another casualty, a bullet through his shoulder. Staggering to the rear, Sprague screamed and cursed at the fleeing men of the 16th. In 1910 Sprague wrote:

“The 16th seemed to be retiring in some confusion. I turned toward them and commenced to exhort them to stand…. I was bleeding profusely and very likely a little
delirious; my waist belt had broken and I was trying to hold up both my trousers and my wounded arm (which seemed to weigh a ton) with my right arm. The men of the 16th stared at me curiously, but I think what they saw was someone behind me,
Vincent coming up on foot with his wife's little riding whip in his hand. [Vincent] touched me lightly with his left hand, saying, `That will do, Sgt. Sprague; I'll take hold of this.' …he happened to know my name from the old chaplain of the 83rd who graduated from Union College. (I wish I could
remember his name.)… [Vincent] went to driving the men of the 16th back into line with the little whip and that was the last …I saw him.”

James H. Robinson

Minutes later, Vincent was mortally wounded. “This is the… fifth time they have shot at me,” he gasped, “and they have hit me at last.”

Just when all seemed lost, another Union regiment suddenly appeared on the Confederate left. Only yards from victory, the Rebels had to change direction to face Col. Patrick O'Rorke's 450-man 140th New York coming over the crest of the hill. O'Rorke's adjutant, Porter Farley '61, later wrote:

“A great basin lay before us full of smoke and fire and literally swarming with riderless horses and fighting, fleeing and pursuing men… The wild cries of charging lines, the rattle of musketry, the booming of
artillery, and the shrieks of the wounded were the orchestral accompaniments of a scene like hell itself…. O'Rorke did not hesitate… `Dismount,' he said, for the ground before us was too rough to ride over. We
sprang from our horses and gave them to the sergeant major. O'Rorke shouted, `Down this way, boys!' and following him we rushed down the rocky slope…. [where O'Rorke] was shot in the neck and dropped instantly dead.”

Hand-to-hand fighting followed. The 140th, crazed at O'Rorke's death, surged on, linking up with Vincent's men, not stopping until the Rebels had fled down Little Round Top. With this, and the arrival of three new regiments (including the 146th New York with Benjamin Franklin Wright '62 and James Henry Robinson '68), the battle should have ended.

But just about the same time, two additional Confederate regiments, under a William Oates, reached the opposite side of little Round Top and attacked Joshua Chamberlain's 20th Maine, with Lt. Samuel T. Keene '56.

Outnumbered two to one, Chamberlain's regiment held its ground against four determined assaults. Oates called the 20th's fire “so destructive that my line wavered like a man trying to walk in a strong wind.” About 7 p.m., with his men out of ammunition, Chamberlain led the 20th Maine in a bayonet charge that drove Oates's men off the hill.

The day's fighting had finally ended. Dressed in their flannel uniforms, heavy and sticky with sweat and caked with the grime of gunpowder, eyes watery from acrid smoke, stomachs turning from the sights and smells of
the littered field, the Union men realized they had won.

But for the wounded, the worst was just beginning. At field hospitals, doctors were sorting them into those likely to survive who did not need
surgery; those who might survive but needed surgery; and those whom only the clergy could help-including Sprague.

Left to die, Sprague defied the odds to write later:

“Most of this is still very clear in my mind, as also the terrors of that night in the old stone house. I heard every tick and every stroke of the old clock as I lay in [a] bedroom; rows of men of all ranks and of both armies covered the floors; each one seeming to have his own peculiar groan or cry…. On the night of the third I was carted in anguish somewhere to the south, was soaked all night, and on the morning of the Fourth found close by me the old Chaplain of the 83rd who saved my life with a tumbler of whiskey.”

By the morning of July 3, Vincent's brigade had left Little Round Top. Robinson, Wright, and Farley's regiments
remained and they witnessed Gettysburg's outcome.

“No language [Farley wrote] can exaggerate the mighty storm of shot and smoke and sound which for nearly two hours filled the air. Many caissons were blown up on both sides [with] an occasional explosion much louder than the rest and huge columns of smoke rising…. We saw [Pickett's charge] up to the point where they came into actual collision with our lines and there the hills and trees hid them for us. Then succeeded a few minutes of the most exciting suspense, while we waited for the verdict from this trial by battle… [but] at last the well-known cheers of the Union troops broke out upon the air.”

After Little Round Top

Samuel T. Keene '56
, an officer, was shot in the chest by a sniper a year later. He died in the arms of a good friend, who married his widow.

Moses Hawks Bliss '57
was wounded twice after Gettysburg. Little more is known about him. He died in Pasadena, Calif., around 1905.

Charles E. Sprague '60
survived but his left arm was thereafter useless. Sprague became a banker, helped develop a “universal” language, was active in veterans affairs, and served on Union's Board of Trustees. He died in 1911.

Porter Farley '61
left the law to practice medicine. He wrote extensively on the Civil War, coming back to Schenectady when Union honored its veterans in 1915.

John Butler '62
became a missionary and died in China in 1885.

Benjamin Franklin Wright '62,
an officer, was captured in 1864 and spent a year in a Confederate prison. In 1895 he was a school principal in St. Paul, Minn.

James F. Knowles '68
became a minister holding sixteen pastorates in seven states. He died in 1909.

James H. Robison '68
was captured with Wright and sent to the infamous Andersonville prison. He became a minister, and was active in Veterans affairs, attended Union's 1915 ceremonies, and became his class president. He died in 1923.

Read More

Bicentennial Puzzler

Posted on Jul 1, 1995

Question 7:
This nineteenth-century educator was a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Union before becoming the president of
Brown University. Two of his textbooks, Moral Science and Elements of Political Economy, were so important in Japanese higher education
in the latter half of the nineteenth century that Chiao University has a  university holiday in his honor.

Francis Wayland

Answer 7:

The influential nineteenth-century educator who taught at Union before leading Brown was Francis Wayland, a member of the Class of 1813.

Wayland was elected president of Brown in 1826 and served for twenty-eight years. He introduced science and engineering to the curriculum, allowed some elective courses, and substituted modern languages for some of the classical language requirements.

If this sounds similar to the changes made at Union during that era, it should; Wayland taught at Union under Eliphalet Nott, and the two established a relationship that helped prepare Wayland for a college presidency.

After Japan opened its borders in the 1850s, Fukuzawa Yukichi, a teacher and the founder of Chiao University, traveled to the United States. He returned to Japan in 1867 with many American textbooks, including the two books by Wayland. Yukichi considered both books-one a major work on ethics, the other a standard text on economics-important to the development of Japanese society.

Wayland Day was established at the university in 1957. A Japanese professor visiting Brown University in 1994 told the Brown Daily Herald that “Francis Wayland is more famous at Chiao University than at Brown.”

He could have added Union, for there were relatively few correct answers to this puzzler.

Robert J. Espersen '64, of Pensacola, Fla., noted that the personalities of Union and Brown are intertwined. Nott received his master of arts from Rhode Island College (later to become Brown) and Wayland, of course, taught at Union under Nott. When Wayland became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Boston, “Nicholas Brown arranged with Nott to keep Wayland at Union as professor of mathematics and natural philosophy until December 1826 when Wayland was elected president of Brown.”

Correct answers also came from:

Renato Pomatte '39, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Frederick Frank '57, Meadville, Penn.
Joseph Keane '65, Sparkill, N.Y.
Michael Jackson '91, Trophy Club, Texas

Question 8:
This nineteenth-century alumnus achieved a certain fame – or notoriety – when he wrote a book that contained extensive descriptions of his drug-prompted hallucinations. He also wrote the words to a song
every alumnus knows.  Who was he, and what were those two literary

Send your answer to Puzzle, Public Relations Office, Union College, Schenectady, N.Y. 12308.

Read More

Running hard – though not for office

Posted on Jul 1, 1995

Linda Klein '80

On any given day, Linda Klein '80 can find herself trying a complex civil litigation case in an Atlanta courtroom or enjoying a catfish dinner on the Oconee River while speaking to lawyers from the Ocmulgee Circuit Bar Association.

Such is life for the first female officer of the State Bar of Georgia.

Klein began her climb up the Georgia Bar Association's ladder in 1990 when she was elected to the Board of Governors. “It's just so easy to make a difference,” Klein says of
her work for the state bar.

Four years later, Klein had become accustomed to the feeling of making a difference and wanted to take her work for the bar to the next level. She decided to run for the office of
secretary even though a race for secretary had not been contested in fourteen years and she faced an opponent who declared his candidacy several months after she did.

No matter-Klein won, and won big, taking nearly two-thirds of the vote.

“If you work hard, show you want to help, and
take the time to meet people and listen to their problems, they'll vote for you,” Klein says of last year's campaign. “I'd get in my car at 6 a.m. to make it to a breakfast in Macon with a group of lawyers there, then head to Albany (Ga.) for lunch. Then I'd eat catfish dinner with another group. I'd listen to what they had to say, and even if I didn't agree with them, I'd be honest with them and hope they would respect me for that.”

Georgia has 26,000 practicing lawyers, many with small practices in remote rural areas. Klein has developed programs to encourage lawyers to reach out and help people in their communities.

She also has a keen interest in reform of the juvenile justice system in a state that she says has a shortage of beds for teenage offenders and not enough prevention programs.

“Mostly the state has responded by trying to provide more beds,” she says. “Since we know that preventing truancy is the first step in stopping juvenile crime, we are trying to expand a program that intervenes when kids
start to become truants.”

Despite spending what an estimated 1,500 hours a year on bar-related activities, Klein squeezes as much time as she can into her private practice at the Atlanta law firm of Gambrell and Stolz. It helps that she puts in seven-day work weeks and sixteen-hour workdays. During a typical workday last month, Klein spent nearly eight hours at the executive committee meeting of the state bar. Afterwards, she returned to her office for twenty minutes to work on two client matters, then addressed the Georgia Association of Black Women Lawyers during its conference on legal difficulties for women and children with AIDS. Finally, she arrived at home at 8 p.m. and began several hours worth of work for one of her clients.

“Then I woke up the next morning at 6 a.m. and started all over again,” she says.

Her civil practice includes everything from personal injury cases to complex construction litigation.

After a government-owned A-7 airplane crashed into a suburban Atlanta apartment building in 1988, killing a mother and injuring her daughter, Klein represented the daughter in her suit against the government that also included what she calls a “complex custody battle.”

The government admitted responsibility for the crash but refused to compensate the daughter for her loss. The case settled before going to trial. Though the details of the settlement remain sealed, she says the case was settled “on a satisfactory basis for the little girl.”

Trying to help people is the bottom line, Klein says when asked if there is a common theme that runs through all of her work. “As a lawyer, you have to remember that the most beneficial result for your client isn't always the one that costs the most to get there.”

Klein says she doesn't have any interest in pursuing a political career. °I just want to serve my clients and serve my profession,” she says.

Read More

A commitment to caring

Posted on Jul 1, 1995

When George Bush started talking about the Thousand Points of Light, he may well have had Patricia McKinley '74 in mind.

McKinley, who graduated with the College's first full-time class of women in 1974, calls herself a professional volunteer.

“I'm fortunate that I don't need to work for money to support my family, and most nonprofit organizations are desperate these
days for good volunteers, people who will take on a responsibility and stick with it,” McKinley says from her home in Cheshire, Conn.

McKinley divides her volunteer time among with the Hartford College for Women (HCW), a 300student school that is now affiliated with the University of Hartford; the United Way; and Hartford's Catholic Archdiocese. In each, she has become a regional leader.

McKinley began her work at the Hartford College for Women twenty-five years ago when she earned an associate degree before transferring to Union for her junior and senior years. After earning her B.A., McKinley returned to the Hartford college to help coordinate extracurricular activities and supervise the more than sixty women who lived on campus.

McKinley went on to earn a master's degree in higher education from Harvard in 1983. Now that she is the chairwoman of the Board of Trustees at HCW as well as a member of the University of Hartford's Board of Regents, she relies on her educational training and her experiences as a student to help foster a sense of community at the school she serves.

“I try to make sure HCW is an equal player with the eight other schools at the University of Hartford,” says McKinley, who also keeps her eye on the financial issues that confront the college and helps make sure HCW remains fiscally sound. “I'm always figuring out how the college can be a strong voice for women's education.”

McKinley also tries to be a strong voice for volunteering. That goal has helped McKinley earn a spot on the board of directors for the United Way
of the Central Naugutuck Valley. It also helped make her the honoree at a recent 300-person United Way dinner, where she was given the Community Volunteer award for the year's outstanding volunteer in the area.

McKinley's work for the United Way has focused on the organization's recent efforts to recruit chief executive officers to organize company-wide fundraising drives. Since her husband
is a doctor, McKinley is responsible for targeting medical professionals in Hartford and other areas of central Connecticut.

For McKinley, volunteering is more than just a nice thing to do with some spare time. As a Catholic Christian, she sees it as a duty and one of the major focuses in her life, especially since fewer people have the time to volunteer these days.

“I think people are more reluctant to take on responsible volunteer positions and help with planning and organization,” she says. “With all the downsizing in business, people are working harder. And women are working more than they used to now, too. President Clinton has encouraged giving for the simple joy of serving, which is great, but it's getting harder and harder to find folks who can take on one more thing in their lives.”

McKinley says she has “had the blessing” of being involved with planning for Hartford's Archdiocese, which includes 223 parishes. She helps organize Small Christian Communities-local groups that foster the development of parishes in small communities and provide a forum for members to discuss the challenges of life and faith.

She has also written several chapters in the book Quest, a discussion-group guidebook put out by the Archdiocese, which helps people bring religion into their everyday lives. The book
provides weekly reflections and comments on the scriptures as well as topics for discussion.

“It doesn't do any good to know about Jesus unless you're going to try to change what you do in life with regards to faith,” McKinley says. “I try to show how you can approach your life in a renewed fashion.”

Read More

Dr. Mom

Posted on Jul 1, 1995

Melanie Otten Manis '74

Long before drugs reach the pharmacy shelf, Melanie Otten Manis '74 is part of a team that develops a picture of how the human body will handle those drugs.

Manis is a research scientist for the Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo, Mich., specializing in drug metabolism. In other words, she studies how the human body will absorb,
distribute, metabolize, and excrete potential new drugs. During the past nine years, she has worked on anxiolytic, antiarthritic, antiarryhythmic, and cholesterol lowering medications.

One part of her job is to select compounds for development that are metabolized slowly, so that the effect extends
for the maximum length of time and patients will have to take the drug less often. She studies drugs recently synthesized by the chemists at Upjohn and selects a fraction of them that look promising.

“Each member of the team-chemist, pharmacologist, toxicologist, and drug metabolism scientist-contributes to the selection of new compounds for development as drugs,” she says. “Our combined information from these different areas of research helps us make better choices. Due to a variety of factors, the success for new compounds is still pretty
low somewhere in the order of 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 10,000.”

She also studies the timecourse of disposition. Colestid, which lowers cholesterol levels in the body, was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for two new formulations, in part because of Manis's research.

In 1993, she used radiolabelled Colestid administered to dogs and human subjects to determine how long it took to excrete the drug and to demonstrate that it was not absorbed. The information was used in the application for adding the new formulations, flavored granules and tablets. “These forms of the drugs are easier to take, so patients are more likely to take the full dose needed to help control their cholesterol levels,” she says.

Manis has also been active in applying in vitro methods to studying drug metabolism. Because the liver is the main site for metabolism of drugs and contains a wide range of enzymes, she uses thin slices of liver tissue from laboratory species, adds potential new drugs to the beaker or test tube, and compares the results to studies performed in vivo in the same lab animal species. If this in vitro/in vivo correlation is good, the process can be extended to humans using the liver slice method. The test gives her a picture of how a human will metabolize a new drug prior to administration in the clinic.

“We use this information to correlate the metabolism in lab animals with that in man,” she says. ” If the metabolism in animals is similar to man, then the effects of the drug at a variety of dose levels may be as well.

“Metabolism of these foreign compounds by the body is amazing. You have to expect the unexpected in research and always be open to the new and unusual result. That's what keeps it so exciting.”

Access to human liver tissue for preparing slices enabled Manis to set up a human liver bank-a valuable resource for comparing metabolism of standard compounds to potential new drugs in humans. The results allow her to characterize the pathways the body uses to metabolize a drug and specific enzymes involved-important for the individual who is taking multiple medications. Sometimes these medications can interact because they are metabolized by the same enzyme. The interaction can cause extended pharmacological effects or adverse side effects. Manis says this detective work is fun, and the impact of the results on drug development are very satisfying.

Manis realized she was interested in science as a career at Union where
analytical chemistry and biochemistry piqued her interest. “Dr. Helen Birecka was a great example for me, both personally and professionally. The Chemistry Department was very supportive, encouraged me, and gave me the tools to succeed in graduate school,” Manis remembers.

She studied biochemistry and microbiology before getting a degree in pharmacology from Michigan State University. The Ph.d. was necessary, she says, to gain the flexibility and scientific freedom she wanted. However, no academic degree could have prepared her for the work at Upjohn. “There isn't a university training ground for the work I do,” she says. “You have to work in the industry and learn it. It's a marriage between biochemistry and animal physiology with medicinal chemistry and kinetics.”

In a sense, Manis hasn't gone far from the upstate New York dairy farm where she grew up. She, her husband, and their two young daughters, Rebecka, five, and Sarah, twenty-two months, live on a 150-acre farm outside of Kalamazoo, where her husband raises wheat and corn.

After giving birth to her second daughter, Manis recently returned to work on a part-time basis. “Upjohn
has been very open to changes in my work schedule and has offered me projects that can be done on a part-time basis,” she says. “Right now I am focused on just one aspect of the research scientist's job-writing regulatory documents. As a part-time employee, I have also done development projects involving lab work. Flexibility is key, for both management and employee. The more open one is to change, the more opportunities there are.”

The flexible work schedule has allowed her to achieve a balance in her life between family and career. Now, if she wants to, she can plan a
mid-afternoon country bike ride with her kids. “If you look at my initials,” Melanie Often Manis adds, “I'm really Dr. MOM.”

Read More