104th New York Infantry Regiment's Civil War Historical Sketch

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 3Oth of June, 1863, found our corps near Emmitsburg, Md. Wadsworth's Division was within five miles of Gettysburg; Robinson's, with which was the One hundred and fourth, bivouacked that night at Emmitsburg. On the morning of July 1st, orders came to move. General Wadsworth's Division had the lead in the march. General Doubleday's followed, with General

Robinson's in the rear. Our march was north, towards Gettysburg, on the Emmitsburg Pike. A mile from Gettysburg we obliqued to the left, crossing the field towards the Seminary and striking Seminary Ridge near the Hag erstown Road, taking position on the north side of the grove and on the west slope of the ridge. Here we were first under fire at Gettysburg. Soon we were moved farther north towards the railroad track, with order to keep our guns unloaded. The day had become quite showery. At this place Colonel Root of the Ninety-fourth was wounded by an exploding shell. From this point we moved still farther north. In this movement our brigade became so mixed with Baxter's that when we were across the railroad the Thirteenth Massachusetts Regiment was in line fronting the Mummasburg Road on the east slope of Seminary Ridge, the One hundred and fourth on the left of the Thirteenth, obliquing across the ridge westerly to a stone wall. This wall made an acute angle with the road, leaving a very obtuse angle in the battle lines. To our left on and along the ridge southerly was the Ninety-seventh New York of Baxter's Brigade. Joining the Ninety-seventh was the One hundred and seventh Pennsylvania, then the Sixteenth Maine, and the Ninety-fourth New York. The Ninety-fourth and the Ninety-seventh had exchanged brigades.

While the brigade was awaiting orders and the regiments were taking position I received an order from General Robinson in person to form on the right of the Thirteenth Massachusetts. I moved to form on the right, and so moved obliquely to the line of the Thirteenth, when there came from the crest of the ridge a stentorian voice: " Colonel Prey, you, where are you going? Form on the left." I glanced to the rear and saw at once that I was just in position so that by flanking to the left I would form on the left of the Thirteenth as nicely as if on brigade drill. Remembering that the guns were unloaded, and knowing that we would be engaged immediately, I gave the command to "March! Load at will!" The One hundred and fourth formed on the left of the Thirteenth on that occasion in as good style as General Robinson ever formed a regiment, or that he ever maneuvered in a brigade drill.

Not until this time did General Paul appear on the field, and while riding up in the rear of the One hundred and fourth was shot through the face, destroying one eye and coming out under the other, but not injuring it. My horse was hit at the same time, obliging me to dismount, which General Robinson said he very much regretted as he wanted all his regimental commanders mounted; yet, I remember seeing all of the regimental commanders un mounted during that fight.

The brigade was getting demoralized by having no brigade commander. I saw General Robinson near where he had given me his forcible command, and asked who was in command of the brigade, as General Paul had been taken from the field wounded. He said, " Where is Colonel Root? " " Don't know; not here." "Where is Colonel Leonard?" "Not with his regiment." "You are next in rank, take command of the brigade!"

The firing was tremendous from the angle of the road and the stone wall. Seven color bearers had already been shot down. Upon coming up from the right and reaching the angle I saw that in a few minutes we would have no men left, and gave the command to the left wing of the regiment to charge on the wall or they would all soon be dead men. Do you remember it, comrades? Do you remember that you hesitated? That was the only time

I ever knew the One hundred and fourth to hesitate. I stepped in front and said, " I'll lead you, boys." You followed. The wall was taken and you were safe. I went back to the right wing; we made a similar charge on the Mummasburg Road, and not only took our position but captured over 60 prisoners, which we sent to the rear. Lieutenant Colonel Batchelder of the Thirteenth Massachusetts took them from our detail as they passed his regiment and reported them captured by the Thirteenth.

Upon passing up to the crest of the ridge I saw a column of Confederates passing into the McLean timber, and calculated they would be too many for us, as we had thus far three to one against us. I reported the fact to General Robinson, and that we would need reinforcement to hold our position. The Sixteenth Maine was sent to the angle, and while it was moving the order came to fall back to the timber, near the railroad leading to Chambersburg. We fell back, forming in good shape except the One hundred and seventh Pennsylvania, which was in command of its lieutenant colonel. We next received an order to fall back further, as the portion of the Eleventh Corps, north of Gettysburg, was running like scared sheep. We were obliged to fall back across the valley and just got through the lower part of the town " by the skin of our teeth," running the gauntlet through a storm of bullets. If General Howard had been on the plain with his men, and not allowed the Confederate troops to get in the rear of the First Corps, who were doing so splendidly, he would have been in better business than where he was on the ridge.

Let me tell you something. No man could then or can now, with any glass, stand on Cemetery Hill and see even the ground over which the First Corps fought that day, except one brigade on the extreme right. A strip of timber along the ridge from the Mummasburg Road to a point opposite the Round Tops hid the maneuvering of Lee's forces. Besides, there were clumps of timber here and there along the whole ridge. General Howard told you over at Silver Lake that he commanded the First Corps while on Cemetery Hill with his glass, after General Reynolds was killed. As I remember, General Doubleday did. He told you that he it was who established the ground for fighting Lee's forces at Gettysburg. History says General Hancock did, being sent out for that purpose by General Meade.

If I hadn't been in the strife at Gettysburg I would have gone out from that lecture with the idea that General Howard fought the whole battle. Because a general outranks others, it's no reason he should assume to have done all the work. General Butterfield, at the meeting of the G. A. R. Posts of Livingston and Allegany, at Nunda, said that the private soldier did some of the work of putting down the Rebellion. He is the only general officer I ever heard talk who gave any credit to the men in the ranks. A little word is too often omitted after a general's name; it is "men," and the general's name should be followed by an apostrophe and an " s." Had there been none to do the fighting but those who wore shoulder straps, there would have been small chance of putting down the Rebellion.

General Wadsworth's Division after the first day was in position east of Cemetery Hill, between the Eleventh and the Twelfth Corps, near Culp's Hill; Doubleday's, on the left of the Second Corps, toward Round Top; Robinson's, in Ziegler's Grove, south of the Cemetery, on the right of the Second Corps. General Robinson on arriving at the Cemetery Hill transferred Colonel Coulter with his regiment from Baxter's Brigade to Paul's, and Colonel Coulter, being superior in rank, replaced me in command of the brigade. In a few days he exchanged Colonel Coulter's regiment for the Ninetieth Pennsylvania, and Colonel Lyle took command of the brigade. Don't such things look a little like the shadow of Thoroughfare Gap?

At the close of the first day's fight the reported casualties in the One hundred and fourth was just one-half of its morning strength. During the second day we occupied a position along the Baltimore Pike on the east slope of the hill until the battle commenced, when we were moved to Ziegler's Grove.

Near dark we and the Sixteenth Maine were moved up on the double-quick to help the Second Corps save their cannon, which were between the lines, with all the horses killed. They were hauled off by hand and all the pieces saved. As we arrived the last Confederate cannon was fired on that part of the field. It cut down two or three men of the Sixteenth Maine, and struck ground some five or six feet from where I stood. We were soon marched back to Ziegler's Grove. The One hundred and fourth was then moved to the rear of the batteries, and bivouacked for the night.

When the battle opened on the afternoon of the third day we were moved to the stone wall in front of the batteries and near the Emmitsburg Pike. We were in front of Pettigrew's Division, which moved with General Pickett on his famous charge.

The only casualty I am able to name on the third day was the wounding of Sergeant Gouber, of Company F, by a sharpshooter, when on his way to the picket line.

The monument of the One hundred and fourth Regiment says " eleven killed." I think it should say twenty-two. I understand the only casualties put on the monuments were those sent in on the first hasty report, instead of the full number for the three days' fighting.*

We remained at the Grove on the 4th and 5th, while the dead were being buried, and on the 6th followed the Confederates towards Williamsport, where they were allowed to cross the Potomac.

*The regimental report of its casualties, or " nominal list," was made after the third day. There were 11 killed and 18 mortally wounded in this regiment; but in reporting its losses the latter were necessarily included with the wounded, some of whom were probably killed. Had the corps retained possession of the ground the return could have been more accurately classified.— Ed.