Standing on Hancock Avenue, Terry Jones easily imagines what happened that hot summer afternoon 150 years ago.

The smoke from an artillery bombardment lifts like a curtain, and 12,000 gray-clad soldiers march across an open field as if on parade.

Red battle flags with the blue St. Andrew's cross flutter overhead, officers' swords rise skyward, and a forest of musket barrels and bayonets gleams in the sun.

The objective: a small clump of trees on Cemetery Ridge, the center of the federal line where a native Philadelphian, Brig. Gen. John Gibbon, and other Union troops waited that Friday, July 3, 1863, outside Gettysburg.

From long hours of research, Jones knew every detail of what came next, down to the spot where Gibbon fell, seriously wounded, while helping turn back the Confederate attack known as Pickett's Charge.

Gibbon's crucial role was captured in an animated bronze statue by Jones of Delaware County, one of only four living sculptors of monuments on the Gettysburg battlefield.

Jones will honor Gibbon with a tribute July Fourth during a wreath-laying ceremony at the monument.

The Newtown Square sculptor also plans to participate in the massive Gettysburg reenactment, July 4-7. With his white beard, longish hair, and a wide-brimmed hat, Jones will portray a combat artist who captured the war for newspapers, including The Inquirer, which printed the images from woodcuts.

His sculpture of Gibbon - shown heading toward the sound of the guns - is one of 1,400 monuments and markers at Gettysburg, which has one of the largest collections of public art in the world.

The statue, erected in 1988 for the 125th Gettysburg anniversary, was delayed by the need to raise public and private funds.

"I compiled as many firsthand accounts as I could," said Jones, one of the country's foremost historical sculptors. "I had to be there, walk the field, do research, and talk to historians" before sculpting Gibbon's figure.

"You have to feel it, smell it and taste it," he said. "You imagine the spectacle and horror, the emotion and chaos."

From research of the Battle of Gettysburg, Jones knew that "Gibbon had sent out a foraging party and they came back with a couple of old roosters, potatoes, butter, bread, and coffee." So he invited the army's commander, Gen. George Gordon Meade, and other officers to lunch at about 11:30 a.m., Jones said.

Meade had predicted - during a council of war the night before - that Southern Gen. Robert E. Lee would assault the center of the Union line, where Gibbon was. He was right.

After their lunch, "by about 1 p.m., the first Confederate artillery pieces opened up," Jones said.

The bronze sculpture of Gibbon shows him at that moment, grabbing the scabbard of his sword in one hand and binoculars in the other as he strode toward the long blue line of Union troops.

"I wanted to show this important general animated and determined as he went to the front," said Jones, whose research revealed that Gibbon wore a moustache that day, instead of the beard he usually had.

"You can only imagine what happened because you're not there," he said, "but you want to create that moment that illustrates Gibbon."

During Pickett's charge, the general rode his horse to the top of a hill, "where a magnificent sight met my eyes," Gibbon wrote in his Recollections of the Civil War. "The enemy in a long gray line was marching towards us over the rolling ground in our front, their flags fluttering in the air. . . . "

Gibbon was cool under fire, said historian Andy Waskie, a Temple University professor. "He wanted to instill confidence and bravery in his soldiers, leading by example," Waskie said. "He was brave and resolute, a pivotal participant in the battle.

"He felt, if your number is up, it's up."

In the eye of the storm, Gibbon, then 36, rode among his men, until shot near a walnut tree, which remains today.

"I felt a stinging blow apparently behind the left shoulder," he wrote. "I soon began to grow faint from the loss of blood, which was trickling from my left hand."

The general, who left the field as the rebels fell back, later served on the commission accepting the surrender of Gen. Lee's Confederate Army at Appomattox and led the troops after the war that found the massacred command of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer in the aftermath of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

But Gettysburg would stand out in his memory. A fellow soldier once wrote of him, "He has a keen eye and is as bold as a lion."

The Gibbon statue has always stood out for Jones as the first of several major works, including the Angel of Marye's Heights monument at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg and the Scottish Immigration Monument at Front and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia.

The Gibbon statue pays tribute to the general "for his bravery and undying patriotism," said Jones. "In my heart, I hope he approves. . . .

"Even as his eyes were witness to the horrors on this field 150 years ago, I hope his spirit witnesses through these eyes of bronze the unity and brotherhood of North and South today."

>Inquirer.com

gettysburg for more coverage, including a video interview with Terry Jones and an interactive map of Civil War sites in Philadelphia.EndText

Contact Edward Colimore at 856-779-3833 or ecolimore@phillynews.com.