Gettysburg's Coster Avenue

The Brickyard Fight and the Mural

Mark H. Dunkelman

Dunkelman recounts the intense brickyard fight that took place on July 1, 1863—and his life-long quest to paint the battle's fury for generations of park visitors, memorializing the battle and its fallen soldiers in an 80-foot-long mural. Published on the mural's 30th anniversary, the definitive account in the artist's own words.
Date Published :
April 2018
Publisher :
Gettysburg Publishing
Illustration :
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9780999304914
Pages : 50
Dimensions : 8.5 X 11 inches
Stock Status : Out of stock. Available in 6-8 weeks


Coster Avenue, the smallest portion of the Gettysburg National Military Park, marks the site of some of the last fighting on July 1, 1863, the First Day of the great battle. There, in what was then a brickyard, Col. Charles Coster’s Union brigade made a forlorn and futile stand against the two Confederate brigades of Gen. Harry Hays and Col. Isaac Avery. Outnumbered by more than three to one, Coster’s brigade was shattered and sent reeling in a pell-mell retreat through the streets of Gettysburg to the safety of Cemetery Hill. The action resulted in almost 800 casualties, most of them Union soldiers. Among the killed was Sgt. Amos Humiston of the 154th New York, who became celebrated as the father of the “Children of the Battle Field.”

In the decades following the Civil War, Coster Avenue—hidden away off a Gettysburg side street—languished as one of the least-visited parts of the Gettysburg National Military Park. In 1970, Mark H. Dunkelman, an artist and historian of the 154th New York, saw the roofing company that owned the property adjacent to Coster Avenue was building an addition to its warehouse. A blank concrete wall was going up about ten feet from the monument to the regiment he studied. Inspiration struck. Dunkelman designed a mural to cover the 80-feet-long wall. He and his artistic partner Johan Bjurman painted and installed the mural in 1988, the 125th anniversary of the battle. In the years since then, as exposure took its toll on the painting, Dunkelman and Bjurman produced two newer versions of the mural, the current one rendered on glass.

In Gettysburg’s Coster Avenue: The Brickyard Fight and the Mural, Dunkelman tells the little-known story of the battle that inspired the mural and the saga of how the painting came to be and its several permutations. Published on the mural’s thirtieth anniversary, this book includes more than fifty photographs, many in color and previously unpublished, a map, and source notes to the text. Gettysburg’s Coster Avenue is the definitive account of this much admired public artwork, told by the mural’s creator in his own words.

About The Author

The unique approach Mark H. Dunkelman has taken to Civil War history dates from his childhood, when his father and aunt passed along stories and relics of their grandfather, with whom they had grown up on a farm in Cattaraugus County, New York. Those tales and mementoes of Corporal John Langhans of the 154th New York Volunteer Infantry gripped Mark with a life-long passion to learn more about his great-grandfather’s regiment.

During a lifetime of study, he has had the good fortune to connect with more than 1,200 descendants of members of the 154th New York. Since 1986, Mark has organized annual reunions of the descendants in Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties, where the regiment was raised. In 1996, he led them in raising funds and erecting a monument to their ancestors at Chancellorsville, Virginia, the 154th’s bloodiest battlefield. In five decades of work, Mark has located and copied more than 1,700 wartime letters, 27 diaries, portraits of more than 260 members of the regiment, and a great mass of other material. These sources became the basis for his six well-received books and dozens of articles on various aspects of the 154th’s history. His work is preserved in a collection of regimental materials at St. Bonaventure University.

In addition to Civil War history, Mark has had two other lifelong passionate pursuits. He plays pedal steel guitar and dobro and sings in a band, Clip Clop, which performs his own compositions. And since childhood he has created artwork. Gettysburg’s Coster Avenue tells the story of his crowning artistic achievement: The Coster Avenue Mural depicting the 154th New York in action on the battle’s First Day, at the very site on which it occurred.


Part One: The Brickyard Fight
Part Two: The Mural


"A significant part of Gettysburg's visitor experience three decades on from its original installation, the Coster Avenue mural has finally received a fine history of its own."

- Civil War Books and Authors

"For a battle that has been combed over and over and over by historians it is hard to imagine that anything original could be said about Gettysburg. But Mark Dunkelman has defied the skeptics in 'Gettysburg's Coster Avenue: The Brickyard Fight and the Mural' In smooth and compelling prose, Dunkelman recounts the stand of a single Union brigade against overwhelming Confederate forces that bought time for shattered Union forces to reform on Cemetery Hill. Dunkelman has also captured this intense fight in an outdoor mural that stands as a dramatic backdrop along Coster Avenue today. In this fine volume, Dunkelman tells the important story of how this piece of public art came into being and how it enriches our understanding of the last stand of Union forces on July 1 at Gettysburg."

- Peter S. Carmichael, Fluhrer Professor of History at Gettysburg College, Director of the Civil War Institute

"Little did I know upon my first visit to Gettysburg in July 1988 that my pilgrimage coincided with the dedication of what is now among my favorite Gettysburg gems—the Coster Avenue Mural. The mural is more than just a work of art; it's a part of the story of Gettysburg. In <i>Gettysburg's Coster Avenue: The Brickyard Fight and the Mural</i>, Mark Dunkelman tells a rarely-told story of the brickyard fight and its memorialization by a small but dedicated team over the course of decades. His lively text pulls the past forward so that 1863 and 1988 do not seem all that long ago."

- Garry Adelman, author and licensed battlefield guide, Gettysburg

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