WASHINGTON, D. C.,
December 14, 1863.
General: I have the honor to report that, on the morning of the 28th of June, the First Corps left Middletown, Md., for Frederick, and encamped in the western suburbs of that town, picketing the roads toward the northwest.
On the 29th, it left Frederick, and after a long and toilsome march arrived at Emmittsburg; passed through that place, and bivouaced for the night on the heights to the north. This position had been carefully selected by General Reynolds as a defensive line; the rebels having been reported in some strength at Fairfield.
On the 30th, we made a short march of three or four miles to Marsh Creek, where we again took up a defensive position: Wadsworth's Division, with Hall's 2d Maine battery, covering the Gettysburgh road; my own division, with Cooper's 1st P. R. V. Battery, covering the Fairfield road, and Robinson's Division, with the remaining three batteries, some miles in rear as a reserve. It was General Reynolds' intention to dispute the enemy's advance at this point, falling back, however, in case of a serious attack, to the ground already chosen at Emmittsburg. Here he received orders to re-assume the command of the right wing, consisting of his own 1st Corps, Howard's 11th and Sickles' 3d Corps. In consequence of this order, he directed me to take command of the First Corps.
On the eventful morning of the 1st of July, between 7 and 8 o'clock, General Reynolds sent for me for the purpose of explaining the telegrams received by him in relation to the movements of the rebels, and the latest position of our own troops. This information showed that the enemy was reported in force at Cashtown and Mummasburgb, and that our cavalry were skirmishing with them on the roads leading from Gettysburgh to those places. He told me he had already given orders to Wadsworth's division, with Hall's battery, to move forward, and that he would accompany these troops in person, while I remained to bring up the balance of the corps. Owing to the intervals between the Divisions and the necessity of calling in the pickets, from an hour and a half to two hours elapsed before the remaining troops were en route. Wadsworth's Division was, therefore, obliged to sustain the brunt of the action alone for this length of time.
As soon as I saw that Robinson's and Rowley's divisions, with the remaining batteries, had commenced the march, I rode on in advance of the column. The sound of rapid cannon firing convinced me that our cavalry was warmly engaged. I pushed forward at full speed, and soon overtook Wadsworth's Division, which had left the main road and was filing rapidly through woods and fields toward a ridge which ran north and south, about 400 yards to the west of the seminary, which is itself about a quarter of a mile to the west of Gettysburgh, and located on a similar ridge parallel to the first. About 200 yards farther on, the former range of heights sloped down, and ended in a ravine called Willoughby's Run.
On the most westerly of these ridges, General Reynolds had directed his line of battle to be formed, and was himself superintending the placing of Cutler's brigade as I rode up. I had previously sent an Aid, Lieut. Martin, to the general for instructions. He returned with orders for me to attend to the Millerstown road, on the left of our line. A small piece of woods cut the line of battle in about two equal parts. These woods possessed all the advantages of a redoubt, strengthening the center of our line, and enfilading the enemy's columns should they advance in the open spaces on either side. I deemed the extremity of the woods, which extended to the summit of the ridge, to be the key of the position, and urged that portion of Meredith's Brigade, the western men assigned to its defense, to hold it to the last extremity. Full of the memory of their past achievements, they replied cheerfully and proudly, "If we can't hold it, where will you find men who can?"
General Reynolds' intention appeared to be simply to defend the two roads entering the town from the northwest and southwest, and to occupy and hold the woods between them. The principal effort of the enemy was made on the Cashtown road from the northwest, and was opposed at first by Cutler's Brigade and Hall's Battery, the former stretching across, the latter posted on, the right of the road.
Immediately on my arrival at the ridge, I rode to the left to examine the ground in that direction, and then was engaged in overseeing the operations of Meredith's Brigade, commonly known as the Iron Brigade. These troops were formed in the following order, from right to left: The 2d Wisconsin, 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana, and 24th Michigan Vols.
The 6th Wisconsin, together with the Brigade Guard, under Lieutenants Harris, of the 6th Wis., and Showalter, of the 2d Wis., had been detached by my order, to remain with me as a reserve.
There was no time to be lost, as the enemy was already in the woods, and advancing at double-quick to seize this important central position and hold the ridge. The Iron Brigade, led by the 2d Wisconsin in line, and followed by the other regiments, deployed en echelon without a moment's hesitation, charged with the utmost steadiness and fury, hurled the enemy back into the run, captured, after a sharp and desperate conflict, nearly 1,000 prisoners--all from Archer's Brigade--and reformed their lines on the high ground beyond the ravine.
The 2d Wisconsin, in this contest, under the gallant Col. Fairchild, was particularly distinguished. It accomplished the difficult task of driving superior numbers of rebel infantry from the shelter of the woods, and to it also belongs the honor of capturing General Archer himself. He was brought in by private Patrick Maloney, of Company G. It is to be lamented that this brave Irishman was subsequently killed in the action.
The troops were now withdrawn to the eastern side of the run by my order, and reformed on a line with the 2d Wisconsin, the 7th Wisconsin taking the right of the new line and the 19th Indiana the left.
Immediately after this, I took my position behind the left wing. I had hardly done so when I learned, with deep sorrow, that our brave and lamented commander, Major General Reynolds, had just been shot, and was no more. This melancholy event occurred in the beginning of the attack referred to, about 10.15 a.m.
The whole burden of the battle was thus suddenly thrown upon me.
The death of General Reynolds was followed by other disasters. A column of the enemy's infantry had succeeded in approaching Hall's Battery to within a distance of 60 yards by charging up the ravine on his right, and had poured in a terrible and destructive fire at that short range. At the same time a vastly superior force advanced in two lines against Cutler, in front and on his right flank. General Wadsworth directed this brigade to fall back to the shelter of the woods on Seminary Ridge. This left Capt. Hall without any supports to his battery, and, as he received no orders to withdraw, his situation soon became a precarious one. The 147th New York Vols., of Cutler's Brigade, did not receive the order to retire; Lieut.-Col. Miller, its commander, having been wounded, was unable to communicate his instructions to his successor, Major Harney. The latter bravely held the Regiment to its position until the enemy was in possession of the railroad cut on his left, thus intercepting his line of retreat. During the half hour which elapsed before he could be relieved, his loss was 207 killed and wounded out of 380.
The dispositions made by Capt. Hall to meet the emergency and save his battery were both able and resolute. He broke the force of the charge against him by firing canister, and then ordered his battery to retire by sections. The right section, while falling back, was charged upon by the enemy's skirmishers, and 4 of the horses of one piece shot. The cannoneers, however, drew off the piece by hand.
In reference to this period of the action, Capt. Hall says, in his official report:"As the last piece of the battery was coming away, all of its horses were shot, and I was about to return for it myself, when General Wadsworth gave me a peremptory order to lose no time, but get my battery in position near the barn on the heights, to cover the retiring of the troops. I sent a sergeant and 5 men after the piece, all of whom were wounded or taken prisoners."
Capt. Hall was now withdrawn behind Seminary Ridge by way of the railroad grading, which runs nearly parallel to the Cashtown road, and is about 100 yards from it--an unfortunate route to take, as it was swept by the enemy's guns. He was soon afterward assigned to a new and more advanced position by an aide-de-camp of the division commander, but, in attempting to occupy it, he was fired upon by the rebel advance, who already held possession of the ground, and he again withdrew.
The whole of these events had occurred on the right so soon after my arrival, that there was no opportunity for me to interpose, issue orders, or regulate the retreat. The moment was a critical one, involving the defeat, perhaps the utter rout, of our forces. I immediately sent for one of Meredith's Regiments, the 6th Wisconsin, a gallant body of men, whom I knew could be relied upon. Forming them rapidly perpendicular to the line of battle on the enemy's flank, I directed them to attack immediately. Lieut. Col. Dawes, their commander, ordered a charge, which was gallantly executed. The enemy made a hurried attempt to change front to meet the attack, and flung his troops into the railroad cut for safety. The 95th N. Y. Vols., Col. Biddle, and the 14th Brooklyn, under Col. Fowler, joined in the charge; the cut was carried at the point of the bayonet, and two regiments of Davis' (rebel) Brigade were taken prisoners.
The results of this manoeuver were the capture of the two rebel regiments referred to, with their battle-flags, the release of the 147th New York Vols., which had been cut off, and the recapture of one of Hall's pieces, which had been left, in consequence of all the horses having been shot down and men wounded or killed.
I immediately directed the original line of battle to be resumed, which was done. All this was accomplished in less than half an hour, and before General Howard had arrived on the field or assumed command.
Tidball's Horse Battery was now ordered up by General Wadsworth, to replace Hall's Battery, which had been very much cut up. Tidball was soon hotly engaged with a battery in his front. Soon after, Capt. Reynolds was sent to relieve him.
Upon taking a retrospect of the field, it might seem, in view of the fact that we were finally forced to retreat, that this would have been a proper time to retire; but to fall back without orders from the commanding general might have inflicted lasting disgrace upon the corps, and as General Reynolds, who was high in the confidence of General Meade, had formed his lines to resist the entrance of the enemy into Gettysburgh, I naturally supposed that it was the intention to defend the place. There were abundant reasons for holding it, for it is the junction of seven great roads leading to Hagerstown, Chambersburg, Carlisle, York, Baltimore, Taneytown, and Washington, and is also an important railroad terminus. The places above mentioned are on the circumference of a circle of which it is the center. It was, therefore, a strategic point of no ordinary importance. Its possession would have been invaluable to Lee, shortening and strengthening his line to Williamsport, and serving as a base of maneuvers for future operations. I knew that Slocum's and Sickles' Corps were within striking distance when we left Marsh Creek; that Howard's corps was already passing through the streets of the town, and that the remaining divisions of the First Corps were almost up. A retreat without hard fighting has a tendency to demoralize the troops who retire, and would, in the present instance, in my opinion, have dispirited the whole army and injured its morale, while it encouraged the enemy in the same proportion. There never was an occasion in which the result could have been more momentous upon our national destiny. Final success in this war can only be attained by desperate fighting, and the infliction of heavy loss upon the enemy; nor could I have retreated without the full knowledge and approbation of General Howard, who was my superior officer, and who had now arrived on the field. Had I done so, it would have uncovered the left flank of his corps. If circumstances required it, it was his place, not mine, to issue the order.
General Howard, from his commanding position on Cemetery Hill, could overlook all the enemy's movements as well as our own, and I therefore relied much upon his superior facilities for observation to give me timely warning of any unusual danger. I sent word to him shortly after this that, in addition to the forces opposed to me, Ewell's corps was coming down on my right flank, and requested him to protect that portion of the line with the 11th Corps. Almost at the same time he sent me the same information, together with instructions to hold Seminary Hill at all hazards, if driven back. Just previous to this, the remainder of the First Corps, consisting of Robinson's and Rowley's divisions, came up. I immediately directed General Robinson to station his division in reserve at the seminary, and to throw up some slight intrenchments, to aid me in holding that point in case I should be driven back.
I divided Rowley's division, sending Stone's brigade to the open space on the right of the wood, to close the interval between Cutler and Meredith. The other brigade, under Col. Biddle, 121st Pa. Vols., was posted on the left and rear of the Iron Brigade, toward the Millerstown road. General Rowley had charge of this part of the line. Later in the day he intrusted the extreme left to Col. Gates, 20th New York State Militia, who, with his own regiment and the 151st Pa. Vols., under Lieut.-Col. McFarland, stubbornly maintained it to the last. He was greatly aided in this by two companies of skirmishers from his regiment, who occupied a house and barn in advance of our left, on the other side of the ravine.
I relied greatly on Stone's brigade to hold the post assigned them, as I soon saw I would be obliged to change front with a portion of my line to face the northwest, and his brigade held the pivot of the movement. My confidence in this noble body of men was not misplaced, as will be shown hereafter. They repulsed the repeated attacks of vastly superior numbers at close quarters, and maintained their position until the final retreat of the whole line. Stone himself was shot down, battling to the last. The gallant Col. Wister, who succeeded him in command, was also wounded, and the command devolved upon Col. Dana, of the 143d Pa. Vols.. This brigade, in common with almost every regiment in the Third Division, were Pennsylvanians, and were actuated by a heroic desire to avenge the invasion of their native State.
General Howard now formed his lines to resist the advance of Ewell's corps, which came from the northeast. The corps of A. P. Hill, opposite us, at once made a junction with the new-comers. This compelled me also to change front, with Wadsworth's Division on Stone's brigade as a pivot, so that the two branches of my line of battle were facing, the one west, the other northwest. I relied upon the woods and ridges to partially shield the troops from an enfilading fire.
In consequence of Ewell's new line of battle, Wadsworth threw back Cutler's Brigade to Seminary Ridge, to avoid a battery upon his flank. Both Tidball's and Reynolds' batteries were obliged to retire, as they were exposed to a cross-fire from two directions. Capt. Reynolds was badly wounded in the eye, but for a long time refused to leave the field.
Col. Stone, who had been contending with very little shelter against the rebel infantry and two batteries on the other side of the run, suffered some loss from the same enfilading battery which had rendered a change of front necessary on the part of Wadsworth. Leaving Col. Wister's regiment, the 150th Pa. Vols., still facing the west, he threw successively Lieut. Col. Dwight, with the 149th Pennsylvania, and Col. Dana, with the 143d Pennsylvania, into the Cashtown road, facing a little east of north. As this left an open space of some 200 yards between the right of Stone and the left of Cutler, and as the rebels at this time were not making any strong demonstrations against our left, Cooper's battery fired through the interval, and Biddle's brigade changed front to support it.
Shortly after this, Lieut. Wilber, of Battery L, 1st New York Artillery, was sent, in answer to a request from General Wadsworth for a battery, and posted in an orchard on the south side of the Cash-town road, where the right flank was sheltered by a house and barn. The remaining two sections were posted on the open crest, also to the south of the road.
I had hoped General Howard would have been able to connect with the right of my line, but after General Schurz had formed his division, there was a wide interval between the two corps. This gap might have been filled by my falling back to the Seminary Ridge, but unfortunately that ridge is open ground, and could have been, as it was afterward, enfiladed by Ewell's batteries throughout its whole extent. Finding it necessary to stop this gap at all hazards, I directed General Robinson, whose division I had kept in reserve, to send one of his brigades there. He detailed General Baxter for that purpose.
This brigade moved forward and formed on the right of Wadsworth's Division, but an interval still existed of nearly 400 yards between Baxter's right and the 11th Corps. The enemy attacked in this interval, and were driven back by a change of front. They then assailed the left flank of the brigade, obliging Baxter again to change front. He drove the rebels before him in handsome style, but was constantly outflanked and enfiladed. Nevertheless, the brigade be-hayed nobly, capturing a great number of prisoners, the 88th Pennsylvania taking two battle-flags and the 97th New York one. They were greatly aided in this by a galling fire poured in on the flanks of the enemy by the 12th Massachusetts. Finding Baxter was in danger of being overpowered, I directed General Robinson to go in person to his assistance with the remainder of his division (Paul's brigade). Stewart's battery, of the 4th U. S. Artillery, was also sent to report to General Robinson.
Part of General Paul's brigade was posted by General Robinson as a support to Baxter against an enemy advancing on our front, and part was posted perpendicular to our line to protect the right flank. General Robinson says:
"The enemy now made repeated attacks on the division, in all of which he was handsomely repulsed, with the loss of three flags and about 1,000 prisoners. In one of these attacks I was deprived of the services of the veteran commander of the 1st Brigade, Brig. General Paul, who fell, severely wounded, while gallantly directing and encouraging his command. The division held this position on the right, receiving and repelling the fierce attacks of a greatly superior number, not only in front, but on the flanks, and, when the enemy's ranks were broken, charging upon him, and capturing his colors and his men, from about noon until nearly 5 p.m., when I received orders to withdraw. These orders not being received until all the other troops, except Stewart's battery, had commenced moving to the rear, the division held its ground until outflanked right and left, and retired, fighting. From the nature of the enemy's attacks, frequent changes were rendered necessary, and they were made promptly, under a galling fire. Soldiers never fought better or inflicted severer blows upon the enemy. When out of ammunition, their boxes were replenished from those of their killed or wounded comrades."
Ewell's forces advanced about 1.30 p.m. in two deployed lines, supported by a third line of battalions en masse. A portion of these made the attack already referred to against Baxter's left, in which they were repulsed. Their defeat was partly owing to the fact that they became separated from their main line, and swung around in such a manner as to expose their flank to Col. Stones troops in the road, who took advantage of the opportunity to pour in a destructive fire at long range.
Having thus failed in their assault upon Robinson's division, they next made a determined advance against the two regiments in the road. To meet this, Col. Stone sent one of these regiments, the 149th Pennsylvania, under Lieut. Col. Dwight, forward to the railroad cut. This formed en echelon about 100 yards to the front and left of Col. Dana's regiment, 143d Pennsylvania Vols. In spite of two most effective volleys of musketry, the enemy struggled on to within 30 yards of the cut. Here, however, they were driven back in confusion by a spirited bayonet charge ordered by Lieut. Col. Dwight. Dana was at the same time warmly engaged in protecting the flank of the advanced regiment.
The enemy, immediately after this, brought a battery to enfilade the cut, and Dwight was forced to fall back to his first position, on Dana's left.
It was in this affair that Col. Stone was severely wounded, and Col. Wister assumed command of the brigade.
The rebels now advanced from the northwest to flank the two regiments in the road, but the 150th Regiment, under Lieut. Col. Huidekoper, changed front forward and met the enemy precisely as Dwight had met them, with two volleys of musketry and a gallant bayonet charge, led by Col. Wister in person; this dispersed them. Another desperate onslaught came from the north, passed the railroad cut, and almost reached the road, only, however, to encounter another defeat from the irresistible bayonets of our men. The next attack came from the west, but was again repulsed by the indomitable 150th Regiment.
Col. Wister was now severely wounded in the face. Col. Dana, who assumed command, contested the position with varying fortunes until the close of the battle.
Just previous to this, the brave and resolute Lieut. Col. Huidekoper had faced four companies of his regiment to contend with the opposing forces from the west, while six companies kept off an entire brigade from the north. Lieut. Col. Huidekoper lost his arm at this point, and as Major Chamberlain was also wounded, the command devolved upon Capt. Widdis.
Lieut. Col. Dwight was left upon the field wounded in three places, and fell temporarily into the hands of the enemy.
Every regiment of Stone's brigade changed front forward, and two regiments changed front to the rear while closely engaged. The most eminent military writers regard the first movement as difficult, and the last as almost impossible, to be executed under fire.
About 4 p.m. the enemy, having been strongly re-enforced, advanced in large numbers, everywhere deploying into double and triple lines, overlapping our left for a third of a mile, pressing heavily upon our right, and overwhelming our center. It was evident Lee's whole army was approaching. Our tired troops had been fighting desperately, some of them for six hours. They were thoroughly exhausted, and General Howard had no re-enforcements to give me. It became necessary to retreat.
All my reserves had been thrown in, and the First Corps was now fighting in a single line.
It is stated by General Wadsworth in his official report that the portion of the 11th Corps nearest to us, unable to stand the pressure, had fallen back some time before this, and that our right flank was thus uncovered, so far as that corps was concerned.
Biddle's brigade about this time again changed front to meet the strong lines advancing from the west.
I now gave orders to fall back, this and Meredith's Brigades covering the movement by occupying the intrenchments in front of the seminary, which I had directed to be thrown up as a precautionary measure to assist in holding the new position. Cooper's Battery was assigned by the chief of artillery on the north, and Stevens' Battery, the 5th Maine, on the south of the seminary, and the shattered remnants of the Iron Brigade also fell into line. From behind the feeble barricade of rails these brave men stemmed the fierce tide which pressed upon them incessantly, and held the rebel lines, which encircled them on three sides, at bay until the greater portion of the corps had retired. The 151st, 142d, 142st Pa. Vols., and 20th New York State Militia, of Biddle's command (the last two under Col. Gates, of the 20th New York State Militia), and the 2d and 7th Wisconsin and 19th Indiana, of the Iron Brigade, here made their final stand. Capt. Richardson, acting assistant inspector-General, of Meredith's staff, rode up and down the lines, waving a regimental flag and encouraging the men to do their duty. The troops, with the assistance of part of Stewart's battery, under Lieut. Davison, poured in so deadly a fire as to wholly break up and disable the first line of the enemy approaching from the west; but the other lines pressed on, and soon commenced a flank attack, which it was no longer possible to answer. When all the troops at this point were overpowered, Capt. Glenn, of the 149th Pa. Vols., in command of my headquarters guard, defended the building for fully twenty minutes against a whole brigade of the enemy, enabling the few remaining troops, the ambulances, artillery, &c., to retreat in comparative safety.
The batteries had all been brought back from their advanced positions and posted on Seminary Hill. They greatly assisted the orderly retreat, retarding the enemy by their fire. They lost heavily in men and horses at this point, and, as they retired to the town, were subjected to so heavy a fire that the last gun was left, the horses being all shot down by the enemy's skirmishers, who had formed line within 50 yards of the road by which the artillery was obliged to pass.
The First Corps only consisted of about 8,200 men when it entered the battle. It was reduced at the close of the engagement to about 2,450. It must be remembered that A. P. Hill's corps alone, which fought us on the west, was estimated at 35,000 men, of which 25,000, under Heth and Pender, were in line opposed to us, and that Ewell's corps, which attacked us on the north, was said to amount to 30,000 more. Its two divisions with which we contended, under Rodes and Early, contained about 20,000 men. Reserves amounting to 20,000 additional men, belonging to the two corps, and backed by the whole rebel army, were within a few hours' march. When that part of the 11th Corps adjacent to us fell back, a force of 30,000 men was thrown upon the First Corps, which in the beginning only contained about 8,200.
I remained at the seminary superintending the final movement until thousands of hostile bayonets made their appearance around the sides of the building. I then rode back and rejoined my command, nearly all of whom were filing through the town. As we passed through the streets, the pale and frightened inhabitants came out of their houses, offering us food and drink and the expression of their deep sorrow and sympathy.
The written statements of the division commanders in regard to the details of this period are slightly conflicting. I therefore present extracts from the reports themselves.
General Robinson has already been quoted.
General Wadsworth says: "I received orders direct from Major General Howard to hold Seminary Ridge as long as possible. Tidball's battery had been driven back, but about 3 p.m. Battery B, 4th Regular Artillery, commanded by Lieut. Stewart, came to our assistance, and rendered effective service, demolishing a brigade of the enemy by a destructive fire of canister and shell. Battery. L, 1st New York Artillery, and the 5th Maine Battery, were likewise engaged in position near the seminary. At about 2.30 p.m. Major General Schurz, who had been advanced on our right, fell back after partially engaging the enemy, and left our right exposed. The enemy advanced in large force from that direction, and on our left the Third Division of this corps was driven back. Finding myself outflanked on both right and left, heavily pressed in front, and my ammunition nearly exhausted, I ordered the command to retire at 3.45 o'clock. The movement was effected in good order, and all the artillery brought off safely, excepting one caisson, the 7th Wisconsin bringing up the rear and suffering heavily with the whole of the command from the fire from our front and both flanks. The severity of the contest during the day will be indicated by the painful fact that at least half of the officers and men who went into the engagement were killed or wounded."
General Rowley says: "A general advance of the enemy's infantry was now made in two very strong lines, the right of which outflanked the 1st Brigade, at that time consisting only of three small regiments, numbering together not over 830 men and officers, the 151st Pa. Vols. having been previously detached from that brigade to support the part of our line on the right of the wood. When the enemy was first observed advancing on their extreme right, they issued from a piece of woods extending north and south, a mile distant from the 1st Brigade, the brigade being then faced to the north, and almost at right angles to its original position. A change of front of this part of the division was ordered, and executed under a heavy fire. After the change, the 142d Pa. Vols. and 20th New York State Militia were on the right and center of the brigade, and the 121st Pa. Vols. on the left, with the battery between the 142d Pa. Vols. and 20th New York State Militia. Notwithstanding the murderous fire with which the enemy was received by my left, the disparity between the contending forces was too great to render it possible for our line to hold its position. The 1st Brigade gradually fell back, firing, until it reached a cover of rails, hastily thrown up by some of the other troops, in front of the seminary. Here it remained, together with some men of the First Division, fighting desperately, and until time was afforded to most of our other troops, to the artillery, and to the ambulances to withdraw in an orderly manner from the town in the direction of Cemetery Hill, and until the advancing lines of the enemy were gaining on our flanks. At the breastworks, Col. Biddle, commanding the 1st Brigade, was wounded in the head by a shot, but he still remained on the field, and retired with his men, and reformed them on arriving in rear of Cemetery Hill, behind which Col. Dana, with the Second Brigade, with reformed lines, was also again ready for service. The Second Brigade, on first falling back, halted in a peach orchard, where it renewed its fire, giving time for the removal of a battery which had been established there."
Arrived at the cemetery, our lines, with those of the 11th Corps, were reformed under the direction of Major General Howard. Our batteries were placed upon the summit of the hill, the First Corps having been directed to occupy the ground to the west of the road, the 11th Corps being on its right. A portion of the troops was placed behind the hill in reserve.
Major General Hancock now rode up, and informed me he had been placed in command of both corps. He at once directed me to send a force to support a battery which had been established on a lower range of hills, some 100 yards to the east of our position, protecting our flank in that direction. I complied with the order, and sent the remainder of Wadsworth's Division there. Immediately afterward orders came from Major General Howard, who ranked Hancock, to send the troops in another direction. This occasioned at the time some little delay and confusion.
No very serious demonstrations were made against our new position, and the hours passed away until sundown in comparative quiet.
The operations of the day were of necessity accompanied by severe losses in killed, wounded, and missing, on account of the great disparity in numbers and the prolonged nature of the contest. This preliminary battle, however, had the most important bearing on the results of the next two days, as it enabled the whole army to come up and re-enforce the admirable position to which we had retreated.
Had we retired earlier in the day, without co-operation with the other parts of the army, the enemy by a vigorous pursuit might have penetrated between the corps of Sickles and Slocum, and have either crushed them in detail or flung them off in eccentric directions. The whole retreat from the commencement was most creditable to the troops engaged. There was no hurry and no confusion, but the regiments fell back calmly, turning from time to time to check the enemy's advance by volleys of musketry, and again retreating. From the admixture of so many different regiments at the seminary, it became impossible to reorganize them in good order without a delay which would have exposed the men to certain destruction. I saw, however, no running or undue haste. All the troops passed tranquilly on, although the enemy was firing into them from the side streets, and all reformed promptly on their arrival at Cemetery Hill, and in a very short time were again ready for service. The 6th Wisconsin marched through the streets in a body, stopping from time to time to return the fire of the enemy, and giving hearty cheers for the good old cause and the 6th Wisconsin Vols..
I have said the losses were exceedingly heavy. More than half of those who went into the battle were killed or wounded. In the 2d Wisconsin, 69 came back out of 302; in the 19th Indiana, 78 returned out of 288; the 150th Pa. Vols., Col. Wister's regiment, out of about 400 men and 17 officers, lost, in killed, wounded, and missing, 16 officers and about 316 men; the 149th Pa. Vols. lost in the same proportion.
That portion of the 11th Corps posted beyond the almshouse had fought with great obstinacy until its right flank was turned by Early's division, and further resistance had become hopeless. It then fell back to the town, and choked up the main street at the very time Paul's brigade was attempting to pass. This resulted in heavy loss to the brigade.
It gives me great pleasure to state that my division commanders used unwearied efforts to hold the portions of the line assigned them. General Robinson guarded the right flank with great courage and skill when it was left exposed toward the close of the day. General Wadsworth's Division opened the combat, and defended the center of the line to the very last, while General Rowley held the left wing under the most adverse circumstances, and, with a portion of Wadsworth's men, covered the retreat of the main body by successive échelons of resistance.
I concur with the division commanders in their estimate of the good conduct and valuable services of the following-named officers and men.
General Wadsworth says of the First Division: "The officers of my staff and of my command performed their whole duty without an exception. Under these circumstances, I cannot particularly commend any of them without doing injustice to others equally meritorious."
General Cutler, commanding the Second Brigade, First Division, whose coolness and self-possession were remarkable, and who had two horses shot under him, says: "Col. Hofmann, 56h Pa. Vols.; Major Harney, 147th New York Vols.; Major Pye, 95th New York Vols., and Capt. Cook, 76th New York Vols., deserve special mention for gallantry and coolness. Col. Fowler, Fourteenth Brooklyn, for charging the enemy at the railroad cut, in connection with the 95th New York and 6th Wisconsin, by which the 147th New York was relieved from its perilous position. Major Grover, commanding the 76th New York Vols., a brave and efficient officer, was killed early in the action of the 1st inst., and the command devolved upon Capt. John E. Cook, and most ably and faithfully did he perform his duty. Lieut. Col. Miller, commanding the 147th New York Vols., was severely wounded at the head of his regiment on the first isnt. Col. Biddle, 95th New York, was wounded in the breast. Major Harney, of the 147th New York Vols., and Major Pye, of the 95th New York, on assuming command of their respective regiments, did all that brave men and good soldiers could do, and deserve well for their services. Sergt. Henry H. Hubbard, Company C, 147th New York, was in command of the provost-guard of the brigade on the morning of the 1st inst. He formed the guard, consisting of 18 men, on the right of the 76th New York, and fought until the battle was over, losing 12 of his men. He deserves promotion. The color-sergeant of the 147th New York was killed, and the colors were caught by Sergt. William A. Wybourn, of Company I, 147th New York, and brought off the battle-field by him, notwithstanding he was himself severely wounded. In closing, I beg leave to acknowledge my great obligations to Capt. J. A. Kellogg, acting assistant adjutant-General; Capt. William Bloodgood, acting aide; Lieut. S. W. Woodrow, of the 95th New York, and Lieut. T. W. Miller, volunteer aide on my staff. These officers all acted with the most perfect coolness and bravery throughout the whole action. Every one of my staff and orderlies were dismounted by having their horses shot; Lieut. Miller and Capt. Bloodgood twice each, and Lieut. Woodrow three times."
The report of General Meredith, commanding the First Brigade, First Division, has not been received, he having sustained severe internal injuries by the falling of his wounded horse.
Copies of several of the regimental reports, however, having been laid before me, I take pleasure in calling attention to the following-named officers and men mentioned by regimental Commanders.
The 7th Wisconsin Vols. was commanded by Col. W. W Robinson, whose conduct was everything that could be desired. He speaks of Lieut. Col. Callis, who was wounded, and of Major Finnicum; also of Sergt. Daniel McDermott, color-bearer, who had his flag-staff shattered by canister shot during the retreat, and who was himself severely wounded. While in this condition, he was placed upon a caisson, and rode off waving his tattered flag in defiance of the enemy.
No report has been obtained from the commanding officer of the 2d Wisconsin Regiment, except a brief statement from Lieut. Col. Mansfield, giving the number of killed, wounded, and missing.
Col. Morrow states in reference to his Regiment, the 24th Michigan Vols., that in the desperate conflicts of the day, it became almsot certain death to carry the flag. Privates Abel G. Peck, Charles Ballow and August Earnest, color-bearers, were successively killed. Corporal Andrew Wagner afterwards seized the standard, but was shot through the breast. Col. Morrow, himself, then took the colors in his hands, but yielded them at the earnest request of private Wm. Kelley, who said: "The Colonel of the 24th Michigan shall never bear the colors while I am alive to take them." The flag floated again for a brief period in front of the battle, but soon private Kelley paid the penalty of his heroism with his life. Col. Morrow took the colors once more, but was prostrated by a scalp wound which left him senseless for a time. After the deadly strife at the barricade of rails, this cherished flag was found in the hands of a soldier of the Regiment whose name is unknown, and who, although to all appearance mortally wounded, still held it with a firm, unyielding grasp.
I desire to add my testimony of respect and affection to the memory of Capt. Wm. J. Speed, anofficer of brilliant talents and distinguished courage, who formerly acted as Judge Advocate General on my staff.
Of the Field Officers of the 24th, Col. Morrow was prostrated by a scalp wound, and remained for some time in the hands of the enemy. Lieut. Col. MArk Flaniga, (one of the bravest and most efficient officers in service,) lost aleg. Major Edwin B. Wright, who lost an eye, was also conspicuous for his gallantry. As all the Field Officers were wounded, the command devoled upon Capt. Albert M. Edwards, a worthy successor to those who had preceeded him.
Col. Morrow commends very highly Capt. Malachi O'donnell, Lieuts. Walter H. Wallace, Gilbert G. Dickey, Newell Grace and Reuben H. Humphryville, all of whom lost their lives in the engagement. He speaks also in high terms of Capt. Wm. Hutchinson, who, with a severe contusion in the groin, refused to leave the field. Also, of Captains Wm. H. Raxford, Richard s. Dillon, Wm. W.Wright, Charles c. Hoyt, and ---- Garland; and Lieuts. Michael Dempsey, ----- Hutton, John M. Far.and, Wm. R. Dodsley, Sprague, Witherspoon,Norton, Frederick A. Buhl, Abram Earnshaw and Whiting; also, of Sergt. Major Andrew J. Conner and 1st Sergt. Geo. W. Haight, who fought with wounds still unhealed, and Private Augustus Sink, of co. A 1stSergeant Charles Bucklin and corporal G. W. Evans, are praised for their bravery and purity of life; they were both killed on the field. Also Corporals Edward Dwyer and Wm. Carroll, of Co. B, both of whom were killed.
Sergt. Augustus Pomeroy, too severely wounded to handle his musket, tore cartridges for his comrades.
Sergt. Wm. Nagle, Co. A, who was killed, attracted the special notice of Col. Morrow for his bravery.
Sergt. Joseph Eberlee, who continued to fight after being twice wounded, and Corporals David E. Rounds, James Stirling and Andrew Strong, and Private George Klin, of Co. F, were highly praised by their immediate commands.
Surgeon Beach, Asst. Surgeons Collins and Tower, and Chaplain Wm. C. Way did all that could be done and were unremitting in their attentions to the wounded.
Col. Morrow states that, while a prisoner, he heard the enemy express their admiration of the bravery of the First corps. The rebel General a. P. Hill remarked he had never known the Yankees fight so well before.
In the 19th Indiana, Private James Stickley, of Company C, deserves special mention for refusing to leave the field when badly wounded. He was killed late in the action. Lieut. Jones, of Company B, and Lieut. East, of Company C, fell while cheering on their men. Sergeants [James] Ferguson and [Andrew] Beshears, of Company H; [Thomas] Winset and [Thomas J.] Daugherty, of Company K; [Thomas K.] Michener, of Company E, and [Allen W.] Ogborn, of Company B, were among the killed who are worthy of special notice. The active and fearless Lieut. Col. Dudley lost a leg; Major Lindley, always cool and courageous, was wounded in the hand; Capt.s Holloway, Ives, and Shaler, and Lieut.s Wilson, Schlagle, Campbell, Witemyre, Macy, Branson, Patrick, Gisse, and Nash were also wounded while doing all that men could do to insure success. The two last-mentioned officers refused to leave the field. Capt.s Hart, Makepeace, and Greene, and Lieut. Richardson, fell into the enemy's hands. This regiment was commanded by Col. Samuel J. Williams, and to his promptness, courage, and skill it is in a great measure indebted for increasing the high reputation it already enjoyed.
In the 6th Wisconsin, Adj't. Edward P. Brooks is mentioned for greatly aiding the successful capture of the two regiments in the railroad cut, by throwing a body of men into the cut so as to enfilade the rebel line. Corpl. F. Asbury Waller, of Company I, captured the colors of the Second Mississippi previous to the surrender of that regiment. Major Hauser was particularly brave and efficient. Capt. John Ticknor and Lieut. Orrin D. Chapman, who were killed in the charge, were a great loss to the service, Capt. Rollin P. Converse and Lieut. Charles P. Hyatt, of Company B, and Lieut. Goltermann, of Company F, were also among the highly distinguished. The commander of the regiment, Lieut. Col. R. R. Dawes, proved himself to be one of the ablest officers on the field.
General Robinson, commanding the 2d Division, thus commends the officers and men of his command: "The instances of distinguished gallantry are too numerous to be embodied in this report, and I leave it to the brigade and regimental commanders to do justice to those under their immediate commands. When all did so well it is difficult to discriminate. As, however, they came under my personal observation, I cheerfully indorse the remarks of General Baxter in commendation of Col. Coulter, 11th Pa. Vols.; Col. Wheelock, Ninety-seventh New York; Col. Lyle, Ninetieth Pennsylvania; Col. Bates and Lieut. Col. Allen, Twelfth Massachusetts; Lieut. Col. Moesch, Eighty-third New York, and Major Foust, Eighty-eighth Pennsylvania. After the fall of General Paul, the command of the First Brigade devolved successively upon Col. Leonard, Thirteenth Massachusetts, Col. Root, Ninety-fourth New York, and Col. Coulter, Eleventh Pennsylvania, all of whom were wounded while exercising command. My thanks are due to Brig. Generals Paul and Baxter for the able and zealous manner in which they handled their brigades. The officers of my staff were actively engaged during the whole of the three days' engagements. Lieut. Morgan, acting assistant adjutant-General, Lieut. Halleck, aide-de-camp, and Lieut.s Bratton and Mead, acting aides, were at all times distinguished for their gallantry and good conduct. Capt. Hovey, acting assistant inspector-General, was wounded and taken from the field early in the day. Lieut. Smith, ordnance officer, was diligent in the performance of his duty. It affords me pleasure to call special attention to the gallant conduct of one of my orderlies, Sergt. Ebenezer S. Johnson, First Maine Cavalry, whose chevrons should be exchanged for the epaulette. When we make officers of such men, the soldier receives his true reward and the service great benefit."
General Rowley, commanding the Third Division, says: "I take pleasure in calling to the notice of the commanding General, Col. Chapman Biddle, commanding the First Brigade, and Col. Dana, commanding the Second Brigade, and also the following officers, recommended by brigade commanders: Col. Gates, Twentieth New York State Militia; Lieut. Col. McFarland, 151st Pa. Vols. (severely wounded); Lieut. Col. McCalmont and Major Biddle, 142d Pa. Vols.; Major Musser, 143d Pa. Vols.; Lieut. Col. Dwight and Capt's Irvin and Glenn, 149th Pa. Vols., and Col. Wister, Lieut. Col. Huidekoper, Major Chamberlain, and Adjutant Ashurst, 150th Pa. Vols., as being distinguished for bravery. The members of the brigade staff are likewise favorably noticed. I would also call to the notice of the commanding General, Lieut. William L. Wilson (slightly wounded), acting assistant adjutant-General: Capt. Flagg (killed July 3), acting assistant inspector-General, and Lieut. Moore. 143d Pa. Vols., aide-de-camp--all acting on my staff July 1--for gallant conduct. The death of Col. Cummins, 142d Pa. Vols., a brave and efficient officer, has occasioned feelings of regret throughout the command."
My thanks are specially due to a citizen of Gettysburgh named John Burns, who, although over seventy years of age, shouldered his musket, and offered his services to Col. Wister, 150th Pa. Vols.. Col. Wister advised him to fight in the woods, as there was more shelter there, but he preferred to join our line of skirmishers in the open fields. When the troops retired, he fought with the Iron Brigade. He was wounded in three places.
Private Dennis Buckley, of Company H, 6th Michigan Cavalry, having had his horse shot under him, also joined 150th Pa. Vols, and fought throughout the day. Shortly after he came up, a shell from a rebel battery exploded in the midst of Company C, killing 2 men and dangerously wounding 3 others. Buckley joined this company, saying, "This is the company for me," and remained throughout the entire engagement, doing excellent service with his carbine. He escaped unhurt.
During the three days' fight, General Rowley himself displayed great bravery. He was several times struck by spent shot and pieces of shell, and on the third day his horse was killed by a cannon-shot while he was holding him by the bridle and conversing with me.
Col. Wainwright, chief of artillery, mentions in terms of commendation Capt. Reynolds, whose heroism was conspicuous; Capt. Tidball, Capt. Cooper, Capt. Stevens, the oft-distinguished Lieut. Stewart, Lieut. Davison, Lieut. Breck. Lieut. Wilbur's gallantry is also the subject of much praise.
In conclusion, I desire to speak of the officers of my own staff: Col. Wainwright, chief of artillery, was unremitting in the discharge of his duties; Lieut. Col. Bankhead, inspector-General, rendered most valuable services in carrying orders and reconnoitering the enemy's movements; Surgeons Heard and Bache refused to leave our wounded, and remained with them as prisoners at Gettysburgh until the retreat of the enemy released and restored them to duty. Lieut. Col. Livingston, acting assistant inspector-General; Capt. Baird, assistant adjutant-General; Capt. Halstead, assistant adjutant-General; Lieutenants Lee and Martin, aides-de-camp; Lieut. Egbert, commissary of musters; Lieut. Cowdrey, assistant commissary of musters; Lieut. Lambdin, acting aide-decamp, all distinguished on other fields of battle, were equally distinguished on the present occasion. Lieut. Jones, acting aide-de-camp, behaved with great coolness and courage. Lieut. Slagle, acting judge-advocate-General, was active in carrying orders to exposed parts of the field.
General Wadsworth has furnished me the following list of his staff, all of whom were distinguished for intrepidity and intelligent action: Lieut. Col. Kress, assistant inspector-General; Major Meneely, aide-de-camp; Lieut. Rogers, provost-marshal; Lieut. Carrington, aide-de-camp; Capt. Ford, acting aide-de-camp; Capt. Ellsworth, aide-de-camp, and Capt. McClure, commissary of subsistence.
Col. Stephenson, Librarian of Congress, acted as volunteer aide to General Meredith. He exposed himself freely on all occasions, and rendered many valuable services.
I am much indebted, too, to Major [William] Riddle and Capt's Wadsworth and Mitchell (General Reynolds' aides), who kindly volunteered their services and were of great assistance; Capt. Wilcox, aide-de-camp, also brought me some orders from General Howard, and rendered himself useful: Capt. Taylor, commanding General Reynolds' escort, also reported to me, and was well employed in various duties, particularly in driving back stragglers at the close of the day. Lieut. Col. Dana, assistant quartermaster, and Lieut. Col. Sanderson, commissary of subsistence, deserve mention for services rendered in their respective departments.
Col. Fairchild, 2d Wisconsin, who lost an arm, is universally spoken of in the highest terms.
I have the honor to be,
your obedient servant,
Major General of Vols.
To Brig. General S. WILLIAMS,
Asst. Adjutant General,
Headquarters Army of the Potomac.
Return to theIndex to Appendix F, Reports of Engagements