60th New York Infantry Regiment's Civil War Historical Sketch
By Lieut. Edwin A. Merritt
Taken from Final Report on the Battlefield of Gettysburg (New York at Gettysburg) by the New York Monuments Commission for the Battlefields of Gettysburg and Chattanooga. Albany, NY: J.B. Lyon Company, 1902.
The Second Division of the Twelfth Corps reached the vicinity of the Gettysburg battlefield at about 4 p. m., where we remained, lying upon our arms, until 6:30 a. m., on the morning of the 2d of July, when we took up position in line of battle, about half a mile to the right of Cemetery Hill, on Culp's Hill, the Sixtieth connecting with the right of the First Corps, where we threw up entrenchments connecting with the One hundred and second New York Volunteers on the right.
The men worked with a will, and had by 9 a. m. completed a breastwork, that commanded the brow of Culp's Hill, which, on the right, extended to low ground. We were now about one mile from the enemy's front. Our men were permitted to lie quietly behind their stacks of arms, in rear of the work, until 4 p. m. At this time, discovering the enemy in line, supposed to be about one brigade in strength, General Geary, commanding the division, placed five guns in position, which opened on the Rebels, and drove them from sight. The fire, however, was returned, and some of the cannoneers having been wounded were replaced by men from the Sixtieth who understood artillery practice. About 5 o'clock all was quiet on that part of the line and remained so until 7 o'clock, when the Rebel infantry advanced in force. Our skirmishers, falling back, unmasked our line, which opened upon the enemy at close range a most destructive fire for about four hours. The fire of the enemy being somewhat slackened, a portion of the regiment was ordered forward.
The men eagerly leaped the works and surrounded fifty-six of the enemy, including two officers, whom they brought in as prisoners. They also captured a brigade battle-flag, said to belong to Jones's Brigade, and one regimental banner, which, as we learned from one of our prisoners, was a present from the ladies of the district in which the companies were organized. Seven Rebel officers were found dead on the ground covered by the colors and guard. The capture of these flags and prisoners shows how desperate a defence our men made. The effects of our fire was so terrible that the flags were abandoned, and the prisoners were afraid to either advance or retreat. The color bearers were both killed. One of them had advanced within twenty paces of our breastworks. The officers and men, on the arrival of these trophies, were greatly cheered and encouraged. They felt as though they had done a good thing.
The ammunition had to be replenished several times, which was promptly done. The regiment was not entirely out of ammunition but once. On the discovery of this fact Colonel Godard ordered them to " fix bayonets," which they did, and in that position waited until they were again supplied.
Great coolness was displayed by both officers and men. Our loss, during this night's action, was 9 men killed and 16 wounded. About midnight the firing almost ceased, except by sharpshooters and skirmishers, which was kept up until daylight, when we were enabled to discover large numbers of the Rebel dead within fifty feet of our line. The regiment, in this action, consisted of Colonel Godard, commanding regiment, Lieutenant Nolan, Acting Adjutant, 16 line officers, and 255 enlisted men.
Irregular picket-firing continued until 4 a. m., on the 3d, when the enemy again advanced, and heavy firing opened on both sides, which continued until 10 a. m., the enemy being steadily held in check, at which time they retired, leaving only sharpshooters, who kept up an irregular fire during the day. At 2 p. m., the regiment was relieved for an hour, when it again returned to the entrenchments, and remained until 2 a. m., July 4th. During the battle on the 3d we lost 2 enlisted men killed, and 19 wounded, and 2 officers — Lieutenant Stanley, wounded severely in the head, which proved fatal on the 7th day of July, and Lieutenant B. T. Bordwell, in the foot. The Sixtieth, it will be observed, was on the extreme left of the Twelfth Corps, and joined the right of the First Corps. The flags were properly inscribed with the record of capture, and forwarded to headquarters.
It may not be inappropriate to speak of the operations of the Third Brigade, of which the Sixtieth formed a part, commanded by Gen. George S. Greene, and the honorable part it performed at the battle of Gettysburg. The universal praise awarded it is justly due. The credit cannot be subdivided. The regiments comprising it were the Sixtieth, Seventy-eighth, One hundred and second, One hundred and thirty-seventh, and the One hundred and forty-ninth New York Volunteers, containing within their organizations as good and brave men as ever the Empire State sent to the war. This brigade was on the left of the Twelfth Corps. The Second Brigade of the Second Division was on our right. Thrown forward at a right angle, on the crest of a hill in front, was a heavy growth of timber, freed from undergrowth, with occasional ledges of rocks. These afforded a good cover for marksmen. The first duty, after getting into position, was to intrench, which, by noon on the 2d, was successfully accomplished, having constructed a breastwork of such material as was found convenient, of earth, stone, and logs. This work subsequently proved of great service, as by its assistance a vastly superior force was kept in check. At about 6:30 p. m. the Twelfth Corps was withdrawn from the line for some purpose, and General Greene directed to occupy the whole front of the corps with the Third Brigade, which order he was attempting to carry out, and had placed the One hundred and thirty-seventh New York in the trenches occupied by the Second Brigade, when the whole line was attacked. This was about 7 o'clock p. m.
At 8 o'clock the enemy succeeded in gaining the entrenchments on the right, in the portion of the line formerly occupied by the First (General Williams's) Division, which was nearly perpendicular to the line of the Second Brigade, now occupied by the One hundred and thirty-seventh. The enemy attacked our right flank, while also attacking the front. This necessitated the changing of the front of the One hundred and thirty-seventh, which was successfully done under fire. Four separate and distinct charges were made on our line before 9:30 o'clock, which were effectually resisted. The situation becoming critical, one regiment was sent to its support, which was placed on our right (" The California Regiment"), but was soon withdrawn, leaving the right,- as before, very much exposed. Subsequently, reinforcements were received from General Wadsworth's Division of the First Corps, and from the Eleventh Corps — about 350 men from the former, and 400 from the latter — who rendered important aid, relieving the men so that they could clean their guns and replenish their cartridge-boxes, which they had entirely emptied of ammunition. At the close of the attack the brigade held its position.
At 11:30 a. m., on the 3d, the right was reinforced by the return of the First Brigade of the Second Division, who took position in support of the right of the Third Brigade. Artillery was placed in position to attack that portion of the Rebel forces then occupying our entrenchments on the right; and at 4 a. m., opened on them, and the attack was general on our whole line, lasting until 10:30 o'clock, when the enemy was driven back, all retiring except their pickets. During this attack the fire was kept up constantly and effectively along the whole line. The enemy having been early driven from the trenches, they were again occupied by the Second Brigade, and the First Division.
The men were relieved occasionally by others, with a fresh supply of ammunition and clean arms, the relief going forward at the double-quick with cheers, and the troops relieved falling back through their files, when they arrived in the trenches. The men, by this means, were comparatively fresh, and their arms in good order. '
Capt. A. B. Shipman served on the general's staff as an inspector general, and Lieut. C. T. Greene as aide-de-camp. The brigade contained about 1,300 men. The loss of the enemy greatly exceeded ours. We found after the action in our front, of their dead, 391, and there were across the creek a number of dead, estimated at 150; making a total of 541. We picked up 2,000 muskets, of which at least 1,700 must have belonged to the enemy, showing clearly a loss on their part of killed, wounded, and missing, in addition to those who may have carried their arms off the field, estimated at 500, and, including 130 prisoners captured, of 2,400 men. Their loss in officers was heavy. The troops opposed to us proved to be Johnson's Division of Ewell's Corps, in the night attack of the 2d; and the same division, reinforced by Rodes's Brigade, on the 3d. General Johnson's assistant adjutant general was killed, and left on the field.
The casualties were as follows: killed, 6 officers; 56 enlisted men; wounded, 10 officers, 203 enlisted men; missing, 1 officer, 31 enlisted men; total, 17 officers, 290 enlisted men.
The Sixtieth Regiment was organized at Ogdensburg in the autumn of 1861, and started for the seat of war November 1st, of that year. It was stationed on guard along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad during the following winter. On the retreat of General Banks' army in the Shenandoah Valley, it was ordered to Harper's Ferry, and thence up the valley to Winchester. It was on active duty at the front again, during the Second Bull Run campaign, under General Pope. It participated in the battle of Antietam, where Col. William Goodrich was killed; also twenty-two others, killed and wounded. The regiment also participated in the battle of Chancellorsville, in which 9 were killed, 44 wounded, and 8 were missing. At Gettysburg, 11 were killed and 39 wounded; at Lookout Mountain, 37 were killed and wounded (the Sixtieth capturing one cannon and battle flag); at Ringgold, 4 were killed and 14 wounded. The regiment at this time had only 175 men fit for duty.
After the close of the campaign and while located in Lookout Valley it re-enlisted as a veteran regiment, received furlough, and returned to Ogdensburg as a regiment. Returning to the Army of the Cumberland before the opening of the campaign in 1864, it participated subsequently in the battles of Resaca, New Hope Church, Peach Tree Creek, and the movement on Atlanta. It marched with Sherman to the Sea, and northward through the Carolinas, and was in the battle at Bentonville. After the surrender of the Rebel armies under Generals Lee and Johnson, the Sixtieth marched with the victorious army to Washington, and was in the Grand Review of Sherman's army. Soon after that event it returned to Ogdensburg, where it was mustered out of service. From first to last it had a most honorable record.