The Left Attack - 60th New York Infantry Regiment
"The Left Attack (Ewell's), Gettysburg"
By Brevet Captain Edward N. Whittier,
U.S.V. Fifth Maine Battery.
A Paper Prepared And Read Before The
Massachusetts Commandery Of The Military Order Of The Loyal Legion Of The United States, (MOLLUS)
February 10, 1891.
Transcribed And Donated By Tom Ebert
Source: Civil War Papers. Read at the Commandery of the State of Massachusetts, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Printed by the Commandery, Boston 1900.Volume I: 315-350.
The returns of June 30th, 1863, give (1) “present for duty equipped” in the 1st Army Corps, 708 officers and 9,314 enlisted men. These were killed, wounded, or captured in the first day’s fight at Gettysburg, of this number, as nearly as can be ascertained, 65 per cent.
Barely 2,400 fighting men found their way up the slopes of Cemetery Hill and formed anew in this position at the close of the that day’s desperate fighting. No sight more welcome ever gladdened the hearts of soldiers, than that which burst upon our longing eyes, when, escaping capture in the streets of Gettysburg, we gained the plateau of East Cemetery Hill. From this high ground which dominated the town and the fields in all directions, save one, there was an unobstructed view of rolling country open and accessible to the fire of our guns. To the north and northeast the town and the scattered buildings along its border; to the east a great expanse of farming country, bisected by Rock Creek nearly parallel to our front, and flowing in a southwesterly direction; in the southeast and at a distance of about 700 yards Culp’s Hill, bold, rough, and densely wooded, rising from the bed of the stream whose tortuous channel skirted its eastern base for nearly three-fourths of a mile until the southern slopes merged in the swamp, rocky and almost impassable, separating Culp’s from Wolf’s Hill, at that time bristling with the welcome bayonets of the 12th Corps. Following a course almost southerly the Baltimore pike reached nearly to the horizon, crowded with fugitives or masked by the dust of columns hurrying to the front. To the southwest the Round Tops, and in the west the splendid spectacle of Buford’s Brigade of Cavalry in lines of battalions in mass, standing as if on parade, unshaken and undaunted in the face of advancing Confederate infantry.
But more than this, in the centre of the plateau (125 x 110 paces) was a group of general officers, staff officers and orderlies. It was a scene of utmost activity, and yet there was no confusion, for the condition was changed from that expressed in the memorable words of General Buford, when in conveying to General Pleasanton the sad tidings of the death of Reynolds he added, “in my opinion there seems to be no directing person,” for in the centre of the group, on horseback, erect, unmoved by all confusion among the thousands of retreating and well-nigh worn out soldiers, sat a man born to command, by birth and education a soldier of high degree, competent to evolve order out of the chaos of retreat, cool, calm, self-possessed, the master of the first position that day found for successful resistance. I shall never forget, for I reported to him for orders, the inspiration of his commanding, controlling presence, nor the fresh courage he imparted; his very atmosphere, strong and invigorating, and I remember even his linen clean and white, his collar open at the neck, and his broad wrist-bands showing large and rolled back from his firm, finely moulded hand. This was General Hancock, of who General Walker wrote:
“As the sun shining through a rift in the clouds may change a scene of gloom to one of beauty, so did the coming of this prince of soldiers bringing fresh life and courage to the disheartened bands which were halting uncertainly upon the new line of defense. At his call the braver spirits flamed to their heights, the weaker souls yielded gladly to the impulse of that powerful, aggressive, resolute nature.”
If I may use a figure prompted by service in a light battery I would divide the battle into three sections: the right, the left, and the centre, or from the Confederate point of view, the right, the left, and the centre attack., mentioning each in its chronological order. The right attack, Longstreet’s, on the afternoon of the second day, the left attack, Ewell’s, on the evening of the second day, and the centre attack as on the afternoon of the third day, I am not unmindful of the importance assigned by many authorities to the sanguinary struggle of the first day, nor of the fact that by other writers the first day’s battle is treated as preliminary and incident to the accidental collision of troops manoeuvering for position. The Comte de Paris divides his subject into two parts, Oak Hill and Gettysburg, describing in the first chapter (Oak Hill) the ground, the events of the first day, and the unforeseen circumstances which were about to bring the two armies into hostile contact.
Confederate argument leading the attack:
1st. The spirit of victory, high and controlling, pervading all circles in the army of Northern Virginia, the outgrowth of Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and even of Antietam.
2nd. Elation arising from the unexpected success of the first day.
3d. The disappointment from the failure to seize Culp’s and Cemetery Hill when these positions were almost in their grasp; Culp’s Hill at least could have been secured. Ewell’s officers had ascended Culp’s Hill on the first day, and he was in full possession of the knowledge that our lines of retreat by Baltimore pike could be broken if Culp’s Hill could be secured.
4th. The assumption and the assurance that Longstreet would and could disorganize our left; that no reinforcements could be taken from our centre, so closely watched by Hill, and the hope that Meade would be forced to draw from his right and so diminish resistance at that point, for orders had been issued that our flanks should be attacked simultaneously.
Culp’s Hill, which Early could have taken possession of on the first day without striking a blow, rises strong, bold, and precipitous, from the bed of Rock Creek, about 700 yards southeast from East Cemetery Hill. The highest point, about 120 rods from the Baltimore pike, is also its most northern, and the ridge sloping gradually follows a southwesterly course until it merges in the swamp full of large boulders separating Culp’s from Wolf’s Hill; the greater part of the northern face and the whole of the eastern slope are heavily timbered, difficult of ascent, steep and exceedingly rocky. The hill commands the valley of Rock Creek, faces the height of Wolf’s and Benner’s Hill, and completely flanks the plateau of Cemetery Hill. Some of the Confederate reports mention Culp’s Hill as a mountain, and others speak of Rock Creek or Run as a branch at the foot of the mountain, so high and abrupt did it appear to their officers from the vantage ground of even Benner’s, and that which later was known as Hospital Hill. On the northern face of Culp’s Hill, on a small knoll, General Hancock on the afternoon of the first day had placed the 5th Maine Battery, six 12-pounders, facing the town and commanding the valley separating Culp’s and Cemetery’s Hills and also the steep acclivities of its southern face; joining the right of this battery and extending easterly to the highest point of the hill; thence southerly along the crest, Wadsworth’s Division, 1st Corps; joining the right of this small division was the 2nd Division of the 12th Corps, having Greene’s Brigade on the left, made up of the 60th, 78th, 102nd, 137th and 149th New York Regiments. The remaining portion of the 12th Corps (to which had been assigned Lockwood’s Independent Brigade) prolonged our line in a southerly direction following the crest and most defensible positions until the extreme right rested on the low ground and woods near McCallister’s mill, Lockwood’s Brigade on the extreme right refused and nearly touching the Baltimore pike.
The woods covering the greater portion of this part of our line afforded abundant material for the construction of formidable works of defence, and during the night of the first and morning of the second, men accustomed to wood craft built log breastworks, felling the trees and blocking them up into a close log fence, battening with cord word from piles near by, and surmounting the whole with “head-logs” which later proved of inestimable value in the close contact of the contending forces. So formidable were these works in places, that the Confederates reported them to be log forts requiring scaling ladders for their successful assault. Some regiments more fortunate than others had picks and spades, and strengthened their works with earth. All along the line, earth, logs, boulders, cord-wood, brush, in fact anything which could be made use of, was taken advantage of to complete the line of defence. About ten o’clock on the morning of the second the works were in a great measure completed, although men were employed for the greater part of the day in strengthening the angles, developing salients whenever the ground admitted, and in Greene’s Brigade, under the supervision of that gallant officer, in constructing a traverse from his right along the crest of a ridge, which, nearly at right angles with the main front, ran back toward the Baltimore pike.
It was after Longstreet’s attack had made great headway that there was presented to our wondering gaze the unexampled spectacle of a Confederate battery thrown into “action front” as deliberately as if on parade, on ground sloping toward us and just to the north of the high ground since known as Benner’s Hill. It was the initial movement of Andrew’s Battalion of Light Artillery, Johnson Division, taking position, closely crowded on the crest of this small eminence; a short distance to the north two guns of large calibre (20-pounders), and still farther north, at longer range, rifled batteries, all opened fire on East Cemetery Hill, and enfilading our lines on its northern slope, and in the cemetery. Six Confederate batteries in all were engaged in this attack. (Comte de Paris, v. iii., p. 624.) The response was quick and effective. Weidrich, Cooper, and Reynolds on the plateau and southern slope of Cemetery Hill, and Taft’s 20-poind rifles back in the cemetery, with the 5th Maine smooth bores from Culp’s Hill, opened fire; in less than half an hour four of their limbers or caissons were exploded, their men driven from their guns, and the batteries silenced.
Nowhere on the field of Gettysburg was such havoc wrought by artillery on artillery, and the wreck of Andrew’s battalion in dead horses, shattered guns, and ammunition carriages left on the field was for months a noteworthy feature. The commanding officer, Major Latimer, died of wounds received here. One Captain and one Lieutenant were severely wounded; one non-commissioned officer and nine men killed; two non-commissioned officers and thirty men were wounded, thirty horses killed; in Carpenter’s Battery alone five men were killed, nineteen badly, and several others slightly wounded. (2)
As I look back over the interval separating us from the events of that day and evening, I remember that for several years I was at a loss to understand the phenomenal activity and foolhardy exposure of the artillery on that afternoon, for if there was anything the Confederates were conservative of it was the material composing their light artillery organizations. For a long time I supposed that this direct and enfilading fire from this large artillery force on our right was simply to divert attention from the salient feature of that afternoon, viz., Longstreet’s attack on the Peach Orchard and the Round Tops, for it was at least two hours after these batteries were silenced before any movement of the Confederate infantry took the form of an attack on our line opposite to the position of their guns on Benner’s Hill.
Our guns grew cool, but hot apprehensions seized us as with our glasses we watched the fearful struggle on the left, our infantry falling back and lines driven in from the high ground at the Peach Orchard and the Emmitsburg road. About six o’clock, directly in our rear, the Twelfth Corps at a double-quick was pouring out of the woods on Culp’s Hill and crossing the Baltimore pike in response to the urgent need and call for reinforcements along the Third and Fifth Corps fronts. Almost at the very hour the Twelfth Corps was vacating the breastworks on Culp’s Hill in the movement to reinforce our left flank, General Ewell ordered the advance of Johnson’s Division. This division, in position on the extreme left of the Confederate Army and somewhat refused, had during the day occupied the fields on the Culp farm beyond the Hanover road, in a general direction northeast from Culp’s Hill and a distance of somewhat more than a mile. Jones’ Brigade had been thrown forward in support of the artillery on Benner’s Hill and halted under the cover of a range of low hills about 300 yards in rear and to the left of Andrew’s Battalion. General Johnson describes the point assaulted by his division as “the enemy’s strong position, a rugged and rocky mountain, heavily timbered and difficult of ascent, a natural fortification rendered more formidable by deep intrenchments and thick abatis.”
No one of high rank in the Confederate Army knew as Johnson did, the difficulties in his path, the vital importance of this position to our army, or the nearness of the prize, the Baltimore pike, to gain which he must exert his best powers; for on the preceding afternoon his Engineer officer had crossed Rock Creek and with a small force of infantry for protection, scaled the sharp acclivities of the eastern face of Culp’s Hill and from its commanding crest looked down upon the fields and the road almost at his feet, and secured of information of the uttermost importance, for within 120 rods was the Baltimore pike, our line of retreat, even at that hour demonstrating its value in such emergency, crowded with men and teams struggling to escape from the wreck and havoc wrought by the day’s disasters. This officer barely escaped, for some of his men were captured by the skirmishers of the 7th Indiana extending our line to the right by General Hancock’s orders.
From this position on Benner’s Hill General Johnson had full in his front the wooded outlines of Culp’s Hill stretching in bold relief for nearly half a mile across the southwestern sky. Concealed behind this high ridge but in close and dangerous proximity to it, and commanded by it, the Baltimore pike, separating the narrow fields at the base of Culp’s Hill from the ground holding in dense park our reserve ammunition trains; but chiefest of all, and highest attainment of all, an opportunity to turn our flank and to place his command across the line of retreat for more than two-thirds of the Potomac Army. Nor should it be forgotten that this assault by Johnson’s Division was the first step in a movement by the whole of the 2nd Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, flushed with inspiration of success on our right flank at Chancellorsville, for Johnson and Early, pivoting on the town, were by a right half-wheel to take position to attack our right flank from the east while Rodes advancing out of the town and from the fields on the west, would advance against the northern slopes of Cemetery Hill.
“In obedience to an order from the Lieut.-General commanding, reports General Johnson, (3) “I then advanced my infantry to the assault of the enemy’s strong position, Jones’s Brigade in advance, followed by Nicholls’s and Stewart’s. By the time these brigades had crossed Rock Creek and reached the base of the mountain it was dark, the enemy’s skirmishers were driven in and the attack was made with great vigor and spirit.”
Through an interval now closed by trees in the valley between Benner’s and Culp’s Hills, our officers on the east spur of Cemetery Hill had caught sight of Johnson’s troops passing to our right, and a brisk artillery fire was opened on them and maintained as long as they were in sight. Crossing Rock Creek by various fords, the enemy reached the base of Culp’s Hill, driving our skirmishers in upon Greene’s front and making a sharp attack on that brigade while it was attempting to obey General Slocum’s order “to occupy the breastworks thrown up by the Corps.” As nearly as can be ascertained, this was not far from half past seven, and Ireland’s regiment, the 137th New York, strung out into a thin line of separate men, had hardly gained the protection of the breastworks vacated by Kane’s Brigade, on Greene’s right when the enemy attacked the whole front with large force most vigorously. For nearly an hour the fight to dislodge Greene by a front attack and to gain possession of his works were urged with extreme gallantry. The enemy made four distinct charges between 7.30 and 9 p.m., and were repulsed with great loss. Soon after 8 the enemy appeared in force on the right flank of Ireland’s regiment, which had been reinforced, only to be abandoned by a regiment sent from the 11th Corps. As the enemy advanced, placing Greene’s right in a most critical position, Colonel Ireland met the flank attack with great bravery and soldierly skill, forming his right company at right angles with the breastworks and checking by stubborn resistance the movement to his flank, until, losing severely in killed and wounded by a fire from three sides, the front of the works, the right, and from a stonewall in his rear, and sorely pressed, he was forced back to the works occupied by his brigade, and formed line behind the traverse built by General Greene in the early part of the day, which now served its grand purpose. I doubt if in any portion of the field to-day the soldier lingers longer or more fondly than about the fast fading traces of the traverse on the right of General Greene’s line, built in the quiet morning of the second day, a strong line for defence in the gloom of impending defeat when the night closed on the doubtful issue of the Confederate assault on the right of our infantry line on Culp’s Hill.
General Greene, as soon as the attack commenced at dusk, had sent to General Wadsworth and to General Howard for help, and quick response was made by General Wadsworth sending the 6th Wisconsin, 14th Brooklyn and 147th New York, about three hundred and fifty-five men in all, and by General Howard sending the 82nd Illinois, 48th New York, and 61st Ohio, about four hundred men all. These regiments rendered good service, being sent into the trenches to relieve regiments whose ammunition was exhausted or whose muskets required cleaning. Greene’s Brigade behaved with the most unflinching gallantry, maintaining their desperate position during an attack of two and a half hours from vastly superior numbers. The large number of Confederate dead and wounded close up under the works and in front of the lines attested their high valor. The enemy, meeting with so determined resistance, discontinued the attack about 10 p.m., but remained in occupancy of the ridge and works formerly held by the First Division, as well as those of Kane and Candy’s Brigades., 2nd Division, General Greene still maintaining his original position with the 137th New York Volunteers, placed in line at a right angle to the rest of the brigade and behind the traverse. Kane’s Brigade returning at 9 p.m., and within 200 paces of the breastworks, was met with a sharp fire, which was supposed at the time to come from the First Brigade (Candy’s), misled by the darkness; the men were ordered not to reply, and were withdrawn to the turnpike, where a staff officer of General Greene, sent for the purpose, advised Colonel Kane that the intrenchments of the brigade were in the possession of the enemy. About one in the morning of the 3rd, Candy’s Brigade, which had been held in readiness in the fields southwest of the pike, crossed the road, and was placed in double line along a narrow lane, the right resting in an orchard near the house of Henry Spangler, close by the Baltimore pike. The position was screened from the enemy’s observation by woods, and the various dispositions were made with the utmost silence and secrecy, within a few rods of the enemy’s lines.
During the night prisoners from the forces occupying our works were brought in; they were from Jones’s and Stewart’s Brigades, and our men deployed as skirmishers, carefully feeling their way and exchanging frequent shots with the enemy, reported that the works to the south of the Swale were unoccupied. A few prisoners were brought in from that portion of our line, presumably from scouting parties of the enemy, but Company F, 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, skirmishing, developed a large force of the enemy in our works, where in the darkness it was impossible to tell friend from foe, before they scarcely knew it, were in the midst of a brigade of the enemy, from which they captured twenty-three prisoners, one of them a captain, and brought them in with a loss of only two captured on our side.
Our right flank was once more secure, and the night advanced broken with occasional volleys from Greene’s front on the eastern face of Culp’s Hill, and scattering shots from the angle and along the traverse. Through the woods, among the wounded between the lines, brave men of both armies crept over the rocks and fallen trees, bearing grateful sustenance to their suffering comrades. The cool, clear waters of Spangler’s Springs reflected in the moonlight in turn Confederate and Union soldiers, for scouting parties from each side between midnight and early dawn filled their canteens and quenched their thirst where to-day the hands of children welcome veterans visiting the hard-fought field.
Turn back with me to the early evening of the second day and kindly permit me, before entering upon a description of Early’s attack on the east spur of Cemetery Hill, to refresh your memory of the designations and positions of our troops there, and also to call your attention to the distinguishing features of that spot.
Slopes of considerable ruggedness, overtopped here and there by steep acclivities, rendered the position easy to defend against any direct attack from the north; but the declivities of the east face were so sharply defined, falling 64 feet in the first hundred yards, and 140 in the first seven hundred, that the guns on the plateau were wholly unprotected in event of assault from that quarter unless infantry placed behind the wall at the base of the hill possessed staying qualities of the highest order. Whether they did or not, let the narrative answer.
The opening plateau which these slopes encompassed was visible to and dominated by the neighboring heights within reach of cannon shot. Hence the earthworks thrown up by Von Steinwehr, whose military training taught him that soon there would be need of a last rallying point, for from this high outlook, on the afternoon of the first day, he could, in the north and east, see the columns of the enemy bearing down with overwhelming force on the veterans of the First Corps on Seminary Ridge, and pressing hard the thin lines of the Eleventh Corps stretched out through the fields to the north and northeast beyond the town.
The Comte de Paris regards the position of Cemetery Hill as completing the strategic advantages in a tactical sense presented by Gettysburg, for it commands the town and all the roads adjoining it. The left of Ames rested on the turnpike on the northern slope facing the town. His command consisted of the 107th Ohio, and the 25th Ohio., fronting north and the 75th Ohio and 17th Connecticut, facing east, under command of Colonel Harris of the 75th Ohio. Joining Andrew’s Brigade was the left of Von Gilsa’s Brigade, the 54th New York Regiment refused and facing northeast; the remaining regiments, the 68th New York, the 153rd Pennsylvania, and the 41st New York, were in position facing east and behind the stone walls lower down at the base of East Cemetery Hill. On the plateau high above the infantry lines was the artillery, Battery B, 4th Artillery, with four guns, straddling the pike near the Cemetery gate and looking down into the town; Battery I 1st New York (Weidrich), six guns, facing northeast; Batteries F and G (consolidated), 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery, six guns, facing east; and a short distance down the slope and at the head of the valley separating Cemetery from Culp’s Hill, Battery L, 1st New York Artillery, four guns. The interval between Von Gilsa’s Brigade and the northern face of Culp’s Hill was occupied on its extreme right, at dusk, by the 33rd Massachusetts, Colonel Underwood, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Eleventh Corps.
Batteries on the plateau facing east were placed a short distance back from the crest behind earthworks, whose condition to-day bears witness to their thorough construction. They were long-range guns, having as their objective point the high ground occupied by the Confederate artillery and infantry on the farther side of Rock Creek, and the rolling fields at a distance of six or eight hundred yards between the creek and the edge of the town. These batteries had absolutely no point blank whatever, and were prevented by the sharp descent of the eastern face from exerting any control over the portion of the front which an artillerist holds as his dearest possession, leaving a dead angle, large and of terrible significance, in the place of ground where guns can vex and tear assaulting columns with canister; but on a small knoll, half-way along the northern face of Culp’s Hill, which projects like a salient at this point of our lines, and about 350-400 yards to the right, and somewhat advanced from the plateau of East Cemetery Hill, General Hancock, with unerring judgment, had placed a battery of light twelve-pounders, the 5th Maine. The guns of the battery could reach Benner’s Hill, and command the valley and wooded banks of Rock Creek and the farm lands between Benner’s Hill and the edge of the town, and by swinging the trails sharp to the right, the steep acclivities of East Cemetery Hill were within canister range, and the fields at the foot of the hill, inaccessible to the guns of the crest, could be swept clean of any troops assailing the front at that point by an enfilading fire of double canister.
On the right of this battery, and facing north, Wadsworth’s Division prolonged the line to the top of Culp’s Hill, where the front again faced east and the right of the division joined Greene’s Brigade holding the left of the Twelfth Corps line of works.
Johnson’s attack on the east face of Culp’s Hill was pressing with great force and vigor on Greene’s front, within a few hundred yards of the right flank of the battery under my command, and because it seemed that the enemy would certainly break through the lines at that point, the right half of the battery was changed to fire to the right, and canister was brought into the works, for the distance to the woods was too short for effective service from the limber chests of the guns. It was about 7.30 to 7.45 p.m.; the sun had dropped behind the Cumberland mountains, and the dusk of evening was creeping through the valley of Rock Creek, when we made out the lines of the enemy at a distance of 1,000 yards, forming near the house and farm buildings of William Culp, on the outskirts of the town. This was the assaulting column of Early’s Division, Hay’s Brigade (Louisiana Tigers), and Hoke’s Brigade of North Carolinians, with Gordon’s Brigade well closed up in reserve. Their right rested on the town, and their left on Rock Creek, near the base of Benner’s Hill; their objective point, East Cemetery Hill, by a right half wheel, pivoting on the town. A French ordnance glass, the nearest approach to a range-finder for light artillery at that time in use, had that afternoon given me the distance of all prominent landmarks in our front. The clump of buildings on the Culp farm was one of the most marked, and as quickly as the enemy appeared, even while his lines were forming, the battery opened with case-shot, each one bursting as if on measured ground, at the right time and in the right place in front of the advancing lines. This was the first intimation given by artillery of the rebel advance. General Underwood, at that time facing nearly at right angles to our front but on lower ground to our left and rear, wrote me afterwards: “I had just placed my regiment, the 33rd Massachusetts, behind the stone wall at the foot of the knoll, and had no knowledge the enemy was so far advanced, of any artillery near me, when suddenly, right over my head it seemed, there was a blaze, a crash and a roar as if a volcano had been let loose.” It was a six-gun battery, firing by battery six guns simultaneously. In another moment the battery was firing at will, and Weidrich, Picketts, and Reynolds on the plateau of East Cemetery Hill volleyed and thundered.
The movement of Early’s Division was a noted example of the independent action of division commanders, and departure from orders of the general-in-chief to make the attack on our right simultaneously with Longstreet’s on our left, and that the three divisions of Johnson, Early, and Rodes should at the same hour assault our right. Delayed, by what no man knows, but delaying until Johnson had gained our works, Early did not start his division until nearly or quite 7.30 p.m. Some authorities place the time 7.45. Delayed by the twilight obscuring the ground in their front; delayed by the difficult passage over rolling farm lands and fields shut in by stone walls breaking up their alignments; delayed by loading and firing as they advanced, for as soon as they felt the annoyance from the few sharpshooters and skirmishers in our front they opened fire along their whole front; delayed by the fire of the sixteen guns from East Cemetery Hill directly in their front, and six smooth bores on Culp’s Hill on their flank; nearly an hour was consumed in passing over the 700 yards between their starting point and the fields within short range of our infantry behind the walls at the base of East Cemetery Hill.
The Confederate reports of this portion of their assault on our right are few and scant. They are apologetic chronicles of defeat. Nevertheless, they are convincing and confirmatory of the equally brief reports made by our officers, --- reports written on the march, by the roadside, or hurriedly by camp-fires, by men who could not at the time comprehend the magnitude of the Confederate defeat at this point, or the depressing effect upon the Confederates of our successful resistance on ground they believed they could conquer from an army they were accustomed to overcome.
Early’s movements after this time, 8.30 p.m., were guided by the position of his right flank, but when Hoke’s Brigade, having the left of his line, had reached the “low bottom,” near the base of East Cemetery Hill, Colonel Avery (in command since Hoke’s severe wound at Chancellorsville) found his troops too far to the left of the position they were ordered to assault, and he ordered a change of front and wheeled his brigade to the right, --- a movement which none but the steadiest veterans could have executed under such circumstances. It was in this movement that the enemy swept past the left flank of the 5th Maine Battery with such rapidity that the right half battery could not be brought to bear upon their lines hastening to gain a new position and re-form on ground from which they could more successfully charge the crest of the hill.
The Confederate reports state that the ground was rocky and uneven, crossed by stone walls, creating obstacles which prevented rapidity and unity of action which might have insured success. The greater part of the movement was on ground sloping towards the northern face of Culp’s Hill and within 300 paces. The trails of the guns of the left half battery was limbered to the rear, and in the darkness hurried into position on the left of the guns remaining in the works, and in a moment the whole battery at close range was pouring a most destructive, demoralizing, enfilading fire of double canister into a confused mass of the enemy struggling in the uncertain shadows of the crest of East Cemetery Hill. General Hays writes: “The enemy’s artillery, now within canister range, opened upon us; but owing to the darkness of the evening verging into the night, and the deep obscurity afforded by the smoke of the firing, our exact locality could not be discovered by the enemy’s gunners, and we thus escaped what in the full light of day could have been nothing else than horrible slaughter.” (4)
Behind a stone wall in the low ground at the head of the valley separating Culp’s and Cemetery Hill the 33rd Massachusetts Infantry, Colonel Underwood, rendered loyal service with a left oblique fire; and on the right of the battery, behind rifle pits , the survivors of the first day’s fight of the Iron Brigade, the 24th Michigan and the 29th Indiana on the left in open ground on the ascending slopes of Culp’s Hill. (This brigade, 1,883 effectives, on the first day, lost sixty-four three-tenths per cent; the 19th Indiana, seventy-two per cent, but the 24th Michigan had the glorious record of eighty-four four-tenths per cent killed, wounded, and missing --- of these last but few ever answered the roll-call again, for they were “dead on the field of honor.”) These small regiments constituted the only infantry effective that night on this part of our line. Von Gilsa’s Brigade, Eleventh Corps, behind the stone wall at the foot of Cemetery Hill, disappeared at the first approach of the enemy and left their front open. When this was discovered the 17th Connecticut was ordered to the ground vacated by Von Gilsa; some of the reports have it to the support of Von Gilsa. Through this opening in our lines, caused by the change of position of the 17th Connecticut, the few Confederates who succeeded in reaching the crest found their way, and in the rush for the plateau and the guns there the enemy struck the right of the 75th Ohio, breaking off two companies, and swept them along in their headlong charge. The remainder of the 75th Ohio changed front to the rear on the third company (now on the right of the regiment), and held firm place. Weidrich’s and Ricketts Batteries were overrun, the guns were seized, the left piece of Ricketts was spiked; but the cannoneers fought the enemy hand to hand with handspikes, rammers, and pistols, and succeeded in checking them for a moment, when Carroll’s Brigade from the Second Corps, sent unasked by General Hancock, --- a happy inspiration, --- unable to advance by a larger front than that of a single regiment, it being perfectly dark and Carroll having no guide, found the enemy’s line entirely by their fire, charged across the plateau, and drove the enemy down the slopes. The position was safe. Colonel Wainwright, Chief of Artillery, First Corps, in his reports states that the enemy’s centre never ascended the hill. Colonel Goodwin, commanding Hoke’s Brigade, and making the report on July 30, speaking of the charge when a change of front had been made says: (5) “In this charge the command had become much separated, and in the darkness it was now impossible to concentrate more than forty or fifty men at any point for farther advance. Major Tate with a portion of the 6th North Carolina Regiment, aided by a small number of the 9th Louisiana, succeeded in capturing a battery on the right.”
Major Tate, commanding the 6th North Carolina, writing to Governor Vance, says: (6) “After a struggle such as this war has furnished no parallel to, seventy-five North Carolinians of the 6th Regiment, and twelve Louisianians of Hays’s Brigade, scaled the walls and planted the colors of the 6th North Carolina and the 9th Louisiana on the guns. It was now fully dark. The enemy stood with a tenacity never before displayed by them, but with bayonet, clubbed-musket, sword and pistol, and rocks from the wall, we cleared the heights and silenced the guns.”
We now approach the third scene in this day’s eventful drama, the part taken by Rodes’s Division of the Second Corps, with its support from Pender’s Division of the Third Corps.
Rodes’s Division, the largest but one in the Army of Northern Virginia, and numbering 8,500 effectives, occupied the town and the Chambersburg pike as far back as Seminary Ridge. Orders had been received by General Rodes requiring him to co-operate with the force attacking our right as soon as opportunity should offer for so doing with good effect. Some stir in our line opposite Rodes’s front, late in the afternoon, causing a diminution of artillery and infantry, led General Rodes to seek General Early with the view of making an attack in concert with him. These officers agreed as to the fitness of the opportunity for attacking, and each made preparations accordingly. It must not be lost sight of that this joint attack was to be made by Rodes and Early, by the latter on the east face, and by the former on the northern slope, of Cemetery Hill, from such directions as to expose our lines to a flank as well as to a direct fire, Early’s attack flanking the northern slope and Rodes’s the eastern front of the hill, sort of military rectangular co-ordinates; and it is a curious fact, which can easily be verified, that lines let fall perpendicularly from the centre of each attacking division would intersect within 200 feet of the highest point on Cemetery Hill.
General Rodes in his report grows apologetic, and says that he hastened to inform General Lane, commanding Pender’s Division of Hill’s Corps on his right, that he would attack at dark, and desired his co-operation. Lane brought forward the brigades of Thomas and Perrin, supporting these with his own brigade and that of Scales. Rodes further states, (7) “Having to draw my troops out of the town by the flank, change the direction of the line of battle, and them to pass over a distance of 1,200 or 1,400 yards while General Early had to move only half that distance without change of front. The result was that before I drove the enemy’s skirmishers in, General Early had attacked, and had been compelled to withdraw.”
But at this time there took place an exhibition of the spirit of independence so prevailing and prominent among the brigadiers of Lee’s Army. Ramseur holding the right of Rodes’s Division, with the understanding that the remaining brigades were to conform to his movements, obeyed the order to advance until within 200 yards of our lines on the northern slope, when he discovered, so he reports, (8) “batteries so placed as to pour upon his lines direct, cross and enfilade fires. Two lines of infantry behind stone walls and breastworks, were also discovered supporting the batteries.” He halted his brigade, conferred with the nearest Brigadier, General Dole (the whole line governed itself accordingly), the forward movement was arrested, and with it all opportunity of acting in concert with General Early; for it was during the time thus wasted, and the critical moment in which the large masses of Rodes and Pender were halting uncertainly, almost within our lines, that Carroll rapidly moving by his right, covered the rear of the position captured by Early on East Cemetery Hill, and threw his brigade upon the troops of Hays and Avery (Hoke’s old brigade). “The action,” writes General Walker, “was short, sharp, and decisive. Hays and Avery were thrown out by Carroll’s impetuous attack, and Gordon’s brigade advancing to their support met them retreating down the slope. Thus the Eleventh Corps’ position was restored and its guns retaken. Early’s assault on the Eastern face of Cemetery Hill having failed, Rodes’s and Pender’s against the Western slope was abandoned.”
It is extremely difficult at this late date to discriminate between facts well-known at the time and sustaining an important relation to the events of the 2nd and 3rd days at Gettysburg, and the knowledge since then acquired from the literature of my subject, but I am assured by friends whose opinion I am bound to respect, that it would not be well to differentiate, and that the largest and best results are obtained when the narrative of personal observation and participation is rounded out by a synopsis of clearly ascertained and definitely determined historical facts. I find that the literature of the battle divides itself into three parts, the historical, the oratorical, and that which is synchronal with the events themselves; but the oratorical (and I cite Mr. Everett’s oration at the dedication of the National Cemetery) bears about the same relation to the stubborn facts as Rothermel’s picture, painted for the State of Pennsylvania, sustains to the reality of the central feature of the fight, for the painting serves chiefly to bring to the front the part claimed to have been borne by the Corn Exchange Regiment of Philadelphia on the third day. The Confederate movements at Gettysburg on the second day were broken, disjointed, and disconnected.
The change in the understanding reached at Falmouth, “the campaign if made into Pennsylvania should be offensive in strategy and defensive in tactics,” had been supplemented by General Lee’s disregard of Longstreet’s advice that the Confederate Army “should be thrown around our left and interposed between our position and Washington.” If we take it for granted that no disappointment, not even this two-fold failure to influence his General-in-chief, could have made Lee’s greatest lieutenant lukewarm or sluggish, we cannot lose sight of the fact, the subject of much controversy in Confederate high circles after the battle, that Longstreet began his attack too late in the afternoon of the second, and even then failed to engage the whole of McLaw’s Division in time to support that of Hood.
Rodes and Early did not advance against the northern front and easterly face of Cemetery Hill simultaneously as ordered. Hills Corps occupying the Confederate centre, with the exception of three brigades (Anderson’s) afforded no assistance to the troops engaged on its right and left.
A portion only of Edward Johnson’s Division forcing back the thin line and small detachments of part of Greene’s Brigade gallantly but ineffectually resisting, gained possession of our works on the extreme right of our line, within 200 yards of the Baltimore pike, and within easy musket-shot of our reserve ammunition trains. Smith’s Brigade detached from Early’s Division opposite the east spur of Cemetery Hill to watch a body of Cavalry on the York road, was not within supporting distance of Hoke’s and Hays’s Brigades at the time of their grand assault on east Cemetery Hill in the dusk of the evening.
In fact Lee’s lieutenants would not or could not obey his commands to move simultaneously against our flanks, while Hill was directed to seize every opportunity to crush our centre, “for the extreme independence encouraged among the Confederate Corps commanders, and which Division and Brigade general imitated in their turn, rendered the best conceived plans and the most daring efforts, fruitless.” (9)
At eight o’clock in the evening, a desperate attempt was made by the enemy to storm the position of the 11th Corps on Cemetery Hill. Here too, after a terrible conflict he was repulsed with immense loss. Ewell on our extreme right, which had been weakened by the withdrawal of the troops sent over to support our left, had succeeded in gaining a foot-hold within a portion of our lines near Spangler’s Spring. These were the only advantages obtained by the enemy, to compensate them for the disaster of the day, and of these, as we shall see, they were soon deprived.
“Such was the result of the second act of this eventful drama, a day hard fought, and one moment anxious, but with the exception of the reverse just named, crowned with dearly earned but uniform success to our army, auspicious of a glorious termination of the final struggle. On these good omens the night fell.” (10)
Those glowing words, spoken by Mr. Everett in his Gettysburg oration, at the time of the dedication of the National Cemetery, November 19, 1863, are highly oratorical, but they cannot be regarded as historical, for when the night fell on the second day’s fight, the omens were not good but bad. The 1st Corps had left 60 per cent, the 3rd Corps 38 per cent, and the 11th Corps 33 per cent, dead or wounded on the field, or prisoners in the enemy’s hands; throngs of stragglers had not yet fallen into line, while far to the right and a mile in rear of our right centre, rebel yells, and the rattle of musketry awoke the slumbering echoes of Culp’s and Power’s and Wolf’s Hills. The night fell on a loss inflicted by the enemy of more than 20,000 men, without counting the men dispersed by the combat and not yet able to regain the colors, and the conviction was strong that the enemy had not yet spoken his last word, and General Meade was made to fear that another day’s fighting equally as murderous might cause his whole army to literally melt away.
Permit me at this point to quote the terse statement of General Hunt, descriptive of the situation at nightfall. “On our left the enemy had gained lodgment at the bases of the Round Tops, the possession of Devil’s Den and its woods, and the ridges on the Emmitsburg Road, which gave him the coveted positions for his Artillery. On our right, the occupation of part of the intrenchments of the 12th Corps, with an outlet to the Baltimore pike by which all our lines could be taken in reverse. At the centre the partial success of three of Anderson’s brigades in penetrating our lines, from which they were expelled only because they lacked proper support --- better concert of action might have made a good lodgment here also.”
General Walker will recognize his words so expressive of the opinion prevailing, “The fall of night found the Potomac Army in a situation that demanded the most grave and serious consideration. We had repulsed the last assaults, but nearly 12,000 men had fallen in the desperate battle of the afternoon. Our whole left had been beaten back to the position assigned it in the morning; the two Corps chiefly engaged, the 3rd and 5th, had been shockingly depleted; the enemy had taken advantage of the absence of the greater portion of the 12th Corps to push around our right and seize a part of our line, holding there an open gateway through which their troops could be advanced to seize the Baltimore pike. It was indeed a gloomy hour when General Meade assembled his Corps Commanders to consider upon the situation, and to frame plans for the morrow.”
For those weighty reasons, as night fell, and before the fight on our right which gave the enemy possession of the works at that point, had been fully decided, a council of war was called to decide the question of remaining or retreating, and if it should be decided to remain, should the army await or deliver the attack.
These were the omens on which night fell, and the ranks re-formed among the dead too numerous to occupy attention at the time; men took position in silence, for the exaltation of victory was not felt to cause them to forget their fatigue, their hunger, their losses, their suffering comrades or their own chances of death on the coming day. Words were never spoken more clearly expressing the anguish of brave men’s hearts as that night fell, than those of the gallant Birney, who while watching the small numbers of determined soldiers gathering about him in the gloom of the evening, whispered to one of his lieutenants “I wish I were already dead.” The facts are hard, cold and incontestable. The pallid moon seemed to shine as on the night before, but it was upon a field hard fought, dearly won, barely held and drenched with blood, and upon tokens presaging evil to the Army of the Potomac. On these omens, portentous, forbidding, and ill-boding, in truth that night fell.
The moon, which was then at her full, lighted the valleys and fields around Gettysburg and favored the march of soldiers of both armies hurrying towards our right. About half past one in the morning Daniels’s and Rodes’s (old) Brigade of Rodes’s Division, began their march of about four miles, so writes General Daniels to reinforce Johnson. Smith’s Brigade, detached from Early’s command in the preceding afternoon to watch a body of cavalry in the Hanover road, was also put in motion for the same point on Johnson’s line, while the Stonewall Brigade, Johnson’s Division, was drawn in from the position where it had protected Johnson’s left flank from our cavalry in the afternoon of the preceding day, and rejoined the command. Only four pieces of artillery were placed in position, for officers of that branch of the service could find no ground available for the artillery force of the 2nd Corps, Army of Northern Virginia.
In all Johnson had under his command when daylight came, 10,500 effectives close up to our lines and in full possession of that part of our works vacated in the afternoon of the second day.
On our part, the troops returning during the night had reoccupied the small portion of our intrenchments not taken possession of by the enemy; in the woods on the hill south of the meadow and swamp near the extreme right of our line, Colgrove’s Brigade rested on Rock Creek, with skirmishers in the woods beyond, McDougall’s Brigade on his left, extending as far as the Baltimore pike and facing nearly north. On the other side of the swale, beginning at the Baltimore pike, near Henry Spangler’s house and facing southeast, Lockwood’s Independent Brigade was on the left of a line made up of that brigade, and Cundy’s and Kane’s, prolonging the line formed by Greene in the early part of the night of the second day, when his right was assailed by Jones’s and Stewart’s Brigades of Johnson’s Division. On the western slope of Culp’s Hill Shaler’s Brigade, 6th Corps, in column of regiments, was in position in rear of Greene’s right. In the woods and on the hillside north of the meadow and swamp, and extending along the whole eastern face of Culp’s Hill, was Johnson’s command, in close columns, waiting for light to enable them to renew the struggle for the possession of the Baltimore pike. On our side the night had been spent in well directed through hurried efforts to so strengthen our position that it could resist successfully the assault which was certain as soon as light would reveal to the enemy how near he was to the Baltimore pike.
On the high ground of Slocum’s headquarters, and along the ridge west of the Baltimore pike, was ranged our artillery, with a converging fire on the ground occupied by the enemy; on Power’s Hill, where General Slocum had his headquarters, the batteries of Winegar, Knapp, and Rigby; 120 rods north, K of the 5 th U.S. (Kinsil’s ), and a little farther on, F of the 4 th U.S. (Muhlenberg’s), parallel to the pike and directly opposite the centre of the line formed by the 12 th Corps, and controlling the approaches of the enemy along the ravine formed by Rock Creek, and through the swale leading from the bed of the stream out on to the open ground near the pike.
General Lee, deceived by the result of Longstreet’s assault, and particularly by the success attained by the two brigades of Anderson at Zeigler’s grove, and encouraged by Johnson’s Division, decided to resume on the third the movements of the preceding day, adhering to the tactics of a double attack by way of the two wings. Ewell was notified that the battle would be renewed by Longstreet at daybreak, and he was directed to attack at the same hour the position near which had gained possession of our works.
Although the reinforcements of the night gave Johnson an aggregate for his assaulting column which might by its sheer weight crush opposing lines, no thought appears to have been given the subject of artillery support, other than to trust to the fortunes of war, that sufficient gain could be made by the Confederates to enable them to place their batteries on the plateau southwest of the Baltimore pike. But the ground in Johnson’s immediate front, and which he hoped to gain possession of, and over which he must pass, afforded no passage for his guns. It was the same swampy, wooded, boulder covered country which had been carefully examined by General Slocum and General Warren on the morning of the second and reported as broken by woods and swamps, traversed by a stream impassable for artillery, unfit for movement ordered by General Meade, for the 12th, 5th and 6th Corps to move forward and attack the Confederate left.
But Johnson was leading Jackson’s old corps, men who had been taught by their illustrious chief that a flank position outflanked the enemy and gave victory.
The movements for the morning of the third day were therefore, an attack from both wings of the Confederate Army, and if either flank should have become disorganized, an assault by Hill’s Corps on our centre, with Zeigler’s grove as an objective point.
At 4.30 a.m. the artillery of the 12th Corps opened at a range of 600-800 yards. Twenty pieces converged and crossed their fire on the earthworks occupied by the enemy, while the guns on Power’s Hill enfiladed the eastern slope of Culp’s Hill. To those whom the last sound slumbers of the night held in their soft but sure embrace, the awakening was violent and startling. Johnson’s left was menaced by that portion of the 1st Division which was in the woods and rough ground south of the meadow through which flows the streamlet from Spangler’s spring. Geary’s Division threatened the enemy’s right flank, but their front was open and just beyond, and almost in their grasp, it might seem, was the pike covered with wagons and moving troops, apparently pushing to the rear as if already in retreat.
A forward movement of our infantry, somewhat delayed by the cannonade, was anticipated by Johnson, and as soon as it was light enough to maintain alignments, he hurled his battalions in lines scarcely separated, straight at the works on Greene’s front which had resisted the efforts of the night before, and stimulated by the view of the Baltimore road, the Confederates charged with extreme ardor. The shock, writes the Comte de Paris, (11) was terrific, and a desperate struggle took place among the rocks with which the ground is thickly covered. All the batteries of the Artillery Reserve not in position on our left concentrated their fire on the ground occupied by the assailants. The 6th Corps south of the pike prepared to co-operate in case the enemy should succeed in obtaining foot-hold upon the open ground at the head of the meadow, on Geary’s right. The movement of the 1st Division against the enemy’s left is arrested by his strong resistance, and the conflict is prolonged without losing any of its desperate character. Facing musketry and cannon shot and shell without a single gun with which to reply the Confederates repeatedly charged an impenetrable front under a sun, which rising higher and higher, at last becomes absolutely scorching. The battle at times languishes only to be renewed with yet greater violence. Johnson alone, writes the historian, sustains the brunt of the terrible struggle, hand to hand, man to man, impossible to describe, and in vain watches for some signal of Longstreet’s attack renewed against our left, to relieve him by distracting the attention of his enemy. But Jackson’s soldiers, accustomed never to back out, are still unwilling to give up the hope of victory. The largest portion of the reinforcements sent to Johnson occupy a position in our earthworks and along the southern slope of Culp’s Hill, at once the most menacing with reference to the pike, and most exposed to our artillery, and the fire of our infantry lines on the enemy’s flanks, should he attempt to break through the thin line which at the head of the meadow presented a brave front, parallel and within a few hundred yards of the Baltimore road.
The general relation of the lines of the First and Second Divisions of the Corps, reports General Ruger, (12) were a two sided truncated triangle, ends toward the enemy inclining to the right and left, and too strong to be carried. Rocky Run, Colgrove’s and McDougall’s brigades protecting the right, and strong breastworks occupying the left. The ground covered in most places with rocks, was unfavorable for rapid movement of troops exposed to a cross fire from batteries on the southwest side of the Baltimore pike.
No considerable development of line by the enemy that would have been of advantage to him, could be made by him in front of lines of either division, Ruger or Geary, without exposure of a portion of his line to an enfilading fire of musketry from the other division, and to a cross fire from the artillery on the high ground south of the road and from Power’s Hill; these last mentioned batteries fired over the line of the First Division, causing a small but unavoidable, loss.
This state of affairs continued until about 10 a.m., the enemy, by repeated assaults, endeavoring to make headway and suffering severely, when General Ruger received orders to try the enemy in the woods and behind the works on the north of the meadow, and if practicable to force him out. From a mistake of the staff officer, or misunderstanding on the part of Colonel Colgrove, writes General Ruger, it was attempted to carry the position without first ascertaining the force of the enemy.
It was now 7 o’clock. The battle, which had begun before it was fully light in the woods and behind the breastworks, and large hedges of rocks on the southern slope and eastern face of Culp’s Hill to the left of the position occupied by Colgrove and the First Division, and had been very heavy, was fast receding and loud cheering was heard along the lines. At the same time, on Colgrove’s right, troops were discovered by him to have advanced in line to the woods, forming nearly at right angles to is front. At this juncture, Lieutenant Snow of Ruger’s staff, delivered the order to Colonel Colgrove (13) “The General directs that you advance your line immediately.” “The position of the First Brigade,” wrote Colgrove, “was such that is was impossible for me to advance more than two regiments in line. Between the enemy and our line lay the open meadow about 100 yards in width. The enemy was entirely sheltered by the breastworks and ledges of rocks. It was impossible to send forward skirmishers. The enemy’s advantage were such that a line of skirmishers would be cut down before they could fairly gain the open ground that intervened. The only possible chance I had to advance was to carry his position by storming it.
“I selected the 2nd Massachusetts and the 27th Indiana and ordered the 2nd Massachusetts to charge the works in front of their position, the 27th Indiana as soon as they should gain the open ground, to oblique to the right and carry the position held in the ledges of the rocks. At the command, ‘Forward, double quick,’ our breastworks were cleared and both regiments with deafening cheers, sprung forward. They had scarcely gained the open ground when they were met with one of the most destructive fires I have ever witnessed. Up to this time the enemy had remained entirely concealed. It had been impossible to tell anything about his strength in our immediate front, but it was now clearly ascertained that he had massed a heavy force at that front. It would seem that the two regiments were devoted to destruction.”
In these words, which I have quoted, General Colgrove bears witness to the discipline, the indomitable courage of the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, and we are to-day, for the first time, able to trace to its source the error and the order which sent this gallant regiment across the narrow swale, not pausing to reason why, into the very teeth of an overwhelming force concealed by woods, protected by breastworks, or shielded by great ledges. No less than three brigades of the enemy were reported to have been on the ground these two small regiments were ordered to carry. The 2nd Massachusetts gained the woods; the 27th Indiana broke when about half way across the narrow meadow.
Permit me to refer to the paper written by Colonel Charles F. Morse of the 2nd Massachusetts, and read at a reunion of regimental officers, May 10, 1878.
A verbal order was given to Colonel Mudge, directing him to charge across the meadow and attempt to drive the enemy out of their works in the woods. Chaplain Quint in his book says Lieutenant-Colonel Mudge questioned the messenger, “Are you sure that is the order?” “Yes.” “Well,” said he, “it is murder, but it’s the order. Up. men, over the works. Forward, double quick.”
These brave words deserve a longer life than those now so widely known, “Up Guards, and at them.” “Up men; over the works. Forward, double quick.” For up and out from behind the well-built intrenchments, across the swale, into the woods, driven out, fighting their way back through a line of the enemy thrown behind them to compel them to surrender, re-forming under the slight protection of a low detached piece of stone wall about half-way across the meadow, clearing the ground of the enemy in their new front, falling back to their first position, and calling the roll; not one man reported as missing, but one hundred and forty as killed or wounded. Such the record made by the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, July 3, 1863.
The 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, writes Colonel Morse, went into action with 22 officers and 294 enlisted men, and when the roll-call was ended but 190 had answered to their names, and the little knot of officers numbered but twelve. Five times the colors changed hands, and when on the next day the regiment took its place in column to march away, it passed General Slocum’s Headquarters, he and a large group of general and staff officers uncovered their heads.
General Greene reports 391 Confederate dead in his immediate front, with an estimate of 150 across the Creek; 541 all told.
General Geary, commanding the Second Division, reports 900 buried on his front, and estimates the loss by the enemy at 1,200 killed and wounded, at the ratio of four to one killed. (14) “The day was a most disastrous one to Ewell’s Corps, and equally, if not more so, to the whole rebel army, in consideration of the importance which the turning of our flank would be to them, and which alone could compensate them for the repulses they had received upon the parts of the line in their well-conceived designs upon the key points to the position of our army. They were not only defeated, but terribly punished.” Report of General Geary. (15)
No place on the field of Gettysburg presented such a terrible effect of battle as the portion of the Culp’s Hill in front of Greene’s line and along the works vacated by McDougall’s Brigade of the First Division. From close up under our works down the hill to the Creek, the open places between the boulders were covered with Confederate dead, every exposed place holding groups, and behind the rocks many wounded had been dragged only to die a lingering death.
Other notable losses were those of the 27th Indiana, 110; 1st Maryland, Potomac Home Brigade, 104; and strange coincidence of figures, the 137th New York, Colonel Ireland, lost 137.
The 66th Ohio, Cundy’s Brigade, on that point of the line adjoining the right of the First Corps, was ordered to advance outside the intrenchments. The men gallantly leaped over the works, and charging down the hill gained a flank position and inflicted great loss upon the enemy.
About eleven, in front of the intrenchments of Greene’s line, a considerable body of the enemy, close under the works, displayed a white flag. Major Leigh, of General Johnson’s staff, galloped into the throng and endeavored to prevent the surrender, but fell shot to pieces almost by a volley from our works. I remember well on the morning of the 4th, crossing the short distance to the front of Greene’s line, and there seeing the major pinned to the ground by his horse shot at the same time with his rider and falling on him.
“For the great trees were not only stripped, but in many cases the trunks themselves were so scarred and battered by musketry and cannon-shot and shell that they have since died, decayed, and fallen to the ground.”
The 12th Corps, reinforced by Shaler’s Brigade of the 6th Corps, aggregated by 10,449 effectives. The corps lost 1,082; Shaler’s Brigade, 75; total 1,157. Johnson’s Division, according to Confederate reports, lost 1,372; Smith’s Brigade of Early’s Division, 142, while there is no way of determining the loss of O’Neill’s and Daniels’s Brigades of Rodes’s Division, as their losses appear in bulk and include the first with the third day.
I cannot close my subject better than by adapting to the present occasion the glowing words of Mr. Blaine, spoken in eulogy of Geo. Fr. Leppien, lieutenant-colonel Maine Light Artillery, who Sunday morning, the 3rd of May, placed his old battery, the 5th Maine, in an open field on the right of the Chancellorsville House, within 1,000 feet of a rebel battery already in position, and within 800 yards of the thirty pieces artillery crowning the ridge at Fairview and Hazel Grove, and there received his mortal wound.
“And when in future years, in story and in song, shall be told the brave deeds of the brave men of this great era, let no child of ours ever forget the youthful heroes, who on the blood-stained fields of the Rebellion laid down their lives in defending the honor of our flag, in upholding the glory of our States.”
Oh comrades, past and present, oh memories, sweet and eternal!”
“Were ‘t the last drop in the well
As I gasped upon the brink,
Ere my fainting spirit fell,
‘Tis to thee would I drink.”
1. 43. W. R., 151
2. 44. W. R., 544
3. 44. W. R., 504
4. 44. W. R., 480
5. 44. W. R., 484
6. 44. W. R. 486
7. 44. W. R., 556
8. 44. W. R., 588
9. “ Civil War in America,” Comte de Paris, vol. III., Amer. Ed.
10. Everett’s Oration at Gettysburg, Nov. 19, 1863. 1st ed., p. 52
11. “Civil War in America,” v. iii, p. 648, Amer. Ed.
12. 43. W. R., 777
13. 43. W. R., 813
14. 43. W. R., 831
15. 43. W. R., 831