LAST UPDATED 2/18/96
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On Tue, 30 Jan 1996 16:53:31 -0700 (MST),Brooks Simpson wrote:
<> <>I'm curious as to what the rest of you think about the conduct of the <>initial CSA assault on July 1 on Oak Ridge. In the Gallagher <>collection of essays on the first day, Bob Krick levies a rather <>harsh indictment on O'Neal and Iverson. Perhaps they deserve it. <>But (aside from giving Baxter some credit), I wonder whether Rodes <>deserves a little criticism, too.
If you think Krick's criticism of Iverson was harsh you ought to see what Gerald A Patterson has to say in his article "The Death of Iversons Brigade" in the July 1991 issue of "Gettysburg Magazine" per Patterson Iverson at Gettysburg is "one of the most flagrant cases of irresponsibility and bungling, if not outright cowardice, by a commander to which any unit, blue or gray, was subjected in the war."
Iverson committed two sins that cost him dearly before the disaster. one he remained behind while his men entered battle-two he failed to deploy skirmishers. Every account I have read says that Baxter's men were behind a stone wall and that Iverson's men were decimated at almost point blank range. although I have read accounts that Iverson suffered a nervous breakdown Patterson(and others I have read) makes a persuasive case that Iverson was drunk(or at least very hung over).
For an interesting counterpoint, see the first "Gettysburg Vignettes" issue of Blue & Gray, wherein Gary Kross, who has been researching Iverson for years, makes him a sympathetic character.
I think Rodes very much deserves criticism, mostly for committing his brigade to a series of piecemeal attacks. First O'Neal and Iverson are badly repulsed, then Daniel's command goes in alone, and finally Ramseur makes a final effort on Oak Ridge. Hassler isn't very kind to him, as I recall, in "Crisis at the Crossroads."
Krick rightly chose the O'Neal-Iverson action on July 1 as an example of a sorry fight within a successful battle (from the CSA point of view). Dave Martin gives the most detailed published account in his new book "Gettysburg, July 1."
We may never discover much more about the interaction between officers because most of 'em - Rodes, Daniel, Doles, Ramseur - did not survive the war. Moreover, the CSA after-action reports in the OR couldn't be less helpful (although I have not seen the OR Supplement on this action). I often wonder if the etiquette of military report-writing led many writers to keep silent. The Bachelder Papers provide info, as do some veteran ruminations in the GAR's National Tribune. It is uncanny how little I've been able to find over several years.
Rodes' Official Records statements regarding the July 1 attack on Oak Ridge are unintelligible, especially when you consider them in view of his sending a two-pronged attack against a position that sat right in the rift of a drastic change in elevation. It was like ants on/near the space where two table-tops meet, and one of these tops is about a foot below the other. Without seeming to make enough provisions for coordination between brigades, Rodes sends O'Neal to the lower level, and then proceeds to send unsupported attacks against all the Yankees he sees on the higher level. On high, his units are going due south as well as southeasterly and easterly; on the lower level, O'Neal is persistent but beaten. In circumstances where Iverson and O'Neal could have applied a vise to the dangling and undermanned I Corps right flank, Iverson doesn't attack until Robinson's units have had time to get ready for him.
There's an age gap between Rodes and O'Neal - in fact, his whole organization is thirty-something but for the mid-forties O'Neal. If this isn't a factor, there was something that made for ineffective communication between Rodes and O'Neal. This multi-level situation was clearly too much for the small HQ staffs. There weren't enough people to keep track of things. I agree with the view that Iverson was more a victim than the prime cause. And poor old O'Neal and his Alabamians - blasted by Baxter, then Paul, and raked from their left by Dilger's battery and various XI units.
The land is rather different (from July 1 1863) in that part of the field - what with that damnable railroad, modern homes, & subsequent road improvement - and you can get lost in trying to sort things out. I've seen a number of pictures showing that the old Forney fields were part of an airstrip! On both levels, the Mummasburg Road was lined by high banks and/or deep ditches used as cover by the CSA. South of the road and on the higher level, I think the Forney Farm is best described in the history of the 97th NYV.
Essentially, Robinson's division dribbled onto the field after Rodes was entirely there, but the US nevertheless held its position for a long time and took a huge piece out of Rodes. Baxter's units fortuitously defended the Mummasburg Road against O'Neal's first thrusts and were then able to face west to receive Iverson. Paul's men took up defense of the Mummasburg Road and later were the last units off of Oak Ridge. The XI Corps left entered the picture in the form of the Schimmelfennig/Von Amsberg brigade, but there was never a real tie between the I Corps right and XI Corps left. Ramseur finally inherited the situation and managed to apply concerted pressure on "all levels." Robinson's remnants gathered for a last stand around the railroad cut (the one mangled by Gettysburg College) and were pushed from there, as well.
At one point, the Oak Ridge Yanks were able to look over their shoulders to see the XI Corps advance beyond Gburg and then recede under CSA pressure.
Regarding Brooks' questions - Rodes did not seem aware of what he could not see on the lower level of the Oak Ridge fighting. Iverson's men were definitely surprised by a cross-fire (from Oak Ridge and the north Seminary Ridge Woods) as they neared the east edge of Forney field. Some of Baxter's men fired from a wall, though the 97th NY, in line about midway up the Oak Ridge slope, simply stepped up higher until able to fire into Iverson. The park's stone wall isn't any help to understanding and neither are the placements of many of the monuments in this part of the field.
In a message dated 96-01-31 11:38:21 EST, Ben Maryniak wrote:
>Rodes' Official Records statements regarding the July 1 attack on Oak Ridge >are unintelligible, especially when you consider them in view of his >sending a two-pronged attack against a position that sat right in the rift >of a drastic change in elevation. It was like ants on/near the space where >two table-tops meet, and one of these tops is about a foot below the other. >Without seeming to make enough provisions for coordination between >brigades, Rodes sends O'Neal to the lower level, and then proceeds to send >unsupported attacks against all the Yankees he sees on the higher level. On >high, his units are going due south as well as southeasterly and easterly; >on the lower level, O'Neal is persistent but beaten. In circumstances where >Iverson and O'Neal could have applied a vise to the dangling and >undermanned I Corps right flank, Iverson doesn't attack until Robinson's >units have had time to get ready for him.
Overall, a nice clear post, Ben, much thanks.
One point concerning Rodes and O'Neal that I think is illustrative of the problems, and why Rodes must shoulder a lot of the blame for the problems in his brigades' initial attacks.
When O'Neal advanced, he did so with only three of his five regiments. Rodes held one back as a divisional reserve (a choice I always found redundant since, at the time of O'Neal's first advance, Rodes could turn to Daniel and Ramseur for reserves if things went wrong - I don't think he needed to short-change one of the attacking brigades) and one other regiment (3rd Ala) was ordered to align with Daniel. When O'Neal attacked, he didn't order the 3rd forward because he believed it still under Rodes or Daniel's direction. However, Rodes seems to have forgotten about it, and so it just stayed put.
A small confusion, but indicative of the larger misunderstanding at hand. Rodes did a very poor job of recon that afternoon.
To me, a maddening detail of the July 1 Oak Ridge fighting is the path of Iverson's approach. The standard description has him advancing southeasterly from the vicinity of Carter's Battery on Oak Hill toward the north-south line of Baxter's men who faced west along Oak Ridge. This is the tack taken in Gerard Patterson's vapid regurgitation of OR reports in Issue Number Five of Gettysburg Magazine and Massy Griffin's article in Gburg #4. But if you look at the 97th NYV's regimental history or read Isaac Hall's correspondence in the National Tribune, you get a precise picture of Forney field that makes it seem unlikely that Iverson advanced toward the southeast. Forney's farmhouse stood near the 17th PA Cav monument, in the southern quadrant of Buford Ave's intersection with Mummasburg Road. The Forney field ran alongside the Mburg Rd from the house to the drop in elevation at Oak Ridge, delineated by fences that pretty much paralleled the Mburg Rd. The standard description of Iverson's advance would then have him going across all these fences - a simple matter of plowing through snake fencing. The 97th's regimental, however, particularly points out that the field was divided in half (a drawing is provided in the book on page 136) by a post-and-plank fence, similar to those that lined the Hagerstown Pike at Antietam and the Eburg Road where Pettigrew & Pickett charged - the sort of fence that you could not quickly flatten but had to climb over. Eyewitness statements in the 97th's regimental state that, after the battle, very few bodies lay north of this substantial fence but heaps lay between it and the southern-most fence of Forney's field.
My thought is that Iverson moved out in the southwesterly direction that Junius Daniel took, moving along the west slope of a swell upon which the north end of Buford Avenue runs today. This would have provided cover to his left and Daniel would have screened his front. Iverson's regts stopped to face Oak Ridge once they got below that pole-and-plank fence - around the Sixth NY Cavalry monument's position on Buford Avenue. Stepping off quickly, coming into view of the Oak Ridge Yankees as they came over Buford Ave's ridge, Iverson's line guided left on that pole-and-plank fence - right into the Baxter-Cutler crossfire.
Here's a great fifty-year anecdote.
>From "Rebel Boast - First at Bethel, Last at Appomattox" (1956) by Manly Wade Wellman
page 124 - ". . . And who hadn't heard about the Twentieth North Carolina, Iverson's regiment when he was colonel? It had lost its flag to the enemy, and the Forty-Fifth had got the flag again, with the Yankee who had taken it. Captain Galloway of the Forty-Fifth had handed it to one of the Twentieth - here, son, here's your flag back, take better care of it. Let Iverson's heroes comb that one out of their tangled whiskers!"
page 282 footnote to page 124 - "Captain JA Hopkins, reporting for the 45th in XXVII OR, Part 2, page 575, tells of the recapture of the 20th NC's flag, a tale remembered for years by Daniel's veterans."
"The Official Records" Volume 27 Part 2 page 575 - report by Capt JA Hopkins, 45th NC, dated 7-17-63 - ". . . The regt was next marched by the left flank, and was moved so as to obtain a position perpendicular to the railroad cut, and made a charge on the wood in our front, capturing 188 prisoners in this place and several smaller squads in other places. The flag of the Twentieth North Carolina Regt was recaptured by Capt AH Gallaway, and handed by him to a member of that regt. We also captured a very fine flag-staff and tassels; the remnants of what had been a very fine Yankee flag were lying in different places. . ."
"The New York Times" - July 2, 1913 - page 2, column 6 -
"Fifty years ago today the Twentieth North Carolina lost its flag.
It was in the morning, when Reynolds was backing Buford in his defense
against Hill and sending C Q D calls to Sickles and Hancock to hurry up
from Maryland. In the afternoon, after Reynolds had been killed, and while
Hill, with Ewell coming down from the north to help him, was fighting to
overcome Doubleday, the Twentieth got back, not the whole flag, but half of
it. There were twenty-seven bullet holes in the half they got back, which
gives some idea of the extent in which the Twentieth was not idle that day.
HM Fitzgerald of Chicago walked into the North Carolina camp today
and asked if he could find any member of the Twentieth. Somebody shoved
forward JD Irvin of Virginia.
"He's the colorbearer of the Twentieth," said somebody.
"The colorbearer!" cried Fitzgerald. "That's better than I hoped for. I've got the other half of your flag that we took away from you fifty years ago today, and I wanted to return it to somebody from that regiment, but I didn't hope to be able to give it to the very man we took it from."
BEN'S NOTE: Henry H Fitzgerald was a sergeant in Co K 97th NYV at Gburg. The Roster of North Carolina Troops lists 1st Lt John D Irvin, Co A, 20th NC, age 24, from Cabarrus County NC, wounded in left hand at Gettysburg & losing a finger amputated as a result of his wound.\
I re-read Gary Kross's article GETTYSBURG VIGNETTES so I have some interesting points to bring up.
1. Before Chanclersville, Iverson was commander of the 20th North Carolina. He was promoted to Brigadier General, and tried to appoint one of his old friends to become the new colonel. His friend was currently in Wilmington at the time. The officers of the regiment filed several complaints about this, so Iverson arrested them, causing morale to drop. Sensing this discontent, Iverson had them released. But his lieutenants never forgot what had he had done to them. At Chanclersville, Iverson reported he was wounded in the groin, and went to the rear. His men saw this as an act of cowardice.
2. Iverson's brigade was the farthest any troops have ventured into to Northern soil. They reached the Carlisle Barracks, and there Iverson overindulged himself. He became intoxicated like his commander Robert Rodes. Some officers further stated he was drunk at the time of Gettysburg, and was unfit for command. The reason Iverson drank, was because he used to be stationed at the Carlisle Barracks, bringing back memories of his dead wife.
3. At the action at Oak Hill, Iverson did not accompany his brigade into the fray at Oak Ridge. Yet he stayed with General Daniel presumably checking flanking movements. In what was perhaps, a prelude to Pickett's Charge, his brigade was cut to ribbons, killing many of the officers that went against him. It was here Iverson tore hair out etc. . Later, as Dave implied earlier Iverson was under Joe Wheeler. When asked what his war experience was he simply stated "I fought with Joe Wheeler in Georgia." The source of confusion I believe.
Here is some Oak Hill stuff:
Ashurst, R.L. REMARKS ON CERTAIN QUESTIONS RELATING TO THE FIRST DAYS FIGHT
AT GETTYSBURG, Phila: Allen, Lane and Scott, 1897
Beale, James, Comp. THE STATEMENTS OF TIME ON JULY 1, AT GETTYSBURG, PA,
1863. Phila: Beale, 1897
Gallagher, Gary W. "Confederate Corps Leadership on the First Day..." THE FIRST DAY AT GETTYSBURG..., Kent, OH: Kent State Univ Pr, 1992.
Gaston, Jospeph H. "The Gettysburg Campaign to Include the Fighting on the First Day" Paper, AWC, 1911, USAMHI archives.
Hassler, Warren W. CRISIS AT THE CROSSROADS: THE FIRST DAY... Gaithersburg, MD: Butternut, 1986.
Hassler, "The first Day's Battle at Gettysburg", CW HIST 6 (1906)
Huidekoper, Henry S. A SHORT STORY OF THE FIRST DAY'S FIGHT AT GETTYSBURG
Phila: Bicking, 1906
Krolick, Marshall D. "The Union Command: Decisions that Shaped a Battle." BLUE AND GRAY MAG 5 (Nov 1987) this issues deals with day 1
Bauer, Daniel. "The Most Conspicuous Failure", The Slaughter of the North Carolina Brigade at Gettysburg's First Day." CW XVII: pp. 7-10
Griffin, Massy. "Rodes on Oak Hill: A Study of Rodes' Division on The First Day of Gettysburg." Gettysburg Mag 4 [This article was written by a teenager. It got edited heavily by the staff at GGM. Look at it for additional references. I'm not going to list them but get this article and look at his notes]
Hartwig, D. Scott "The 11th Army Corps on July 1, 1863" Gettysburg Magazine 2 [This one will probably be placed on the web page]
Kepf, Kenneth M. "Dilger's Battery ..." Gettysburg Magazine 4 [Not on Oak Hill but important to the overall play of the action]
Krick, Robert K. "Three Confederate Disasters on Oak Ridge...[this is in THE FIRST DAY AT GETTYSBURG... previously listed]
Patterson, Gerard A. "The Death of Iverson's Brigade" GBM 5 [This is be on the web site]
Paul, this is a start. Don't be dismayed by some of the dates and the fact they look like they would be hard to get. Go to your local library. Get them shipped to you by inter-library loan. All of these (other than the Gettysburg Mag articles which you should get yourself) are available from the U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks PA. They will ship on a inter-library loan.
Also, I recommend that you get a more narrow focus for your article. Oak Hill is a BIG bite. Find something interesting having to do with Oak Hill and get into the detail of it.
If I can help, I will be glad to. You might do three pages and send it to me or one of the other authors and ask for a style check. Introduce characters with first and last names with their rank titles. Then drop to last names. Be consistent. Use the same abbreviations for rank throughout the article. Don't use game terms, i.e. "end runs". Use end notes. If you use footnotes, Dennis will just have to move them. By all means, consult Ben. Eric is "up" on the first day and you might ask Dave Powell to check your interpretations.
> > I am doing an article on Oak Hill for the web site. So far these are the books >I have for it, still have not had an opportunity to go to a university:
>CODDINGTON, EDWIN B. The Gettysburg Campaign
>EISENSCMIML, OTTO The Hidden Face of the Civil War
>FREEMEN, DOUGLAS Lee's Lieutenants Vol 3.
>KROSS, GARY Gettysburg Vignettes
>NAISAWALD, L. VAN LOAN Grape and Canister: The Story of the Field Artillery of >the Potomac
>SAURERS, RICHARD A. The Sixteenth Maine at Gettysburg
>WILEY, BELL IRVIN The Life of Johnny Reb
> > Planning to get photocopies of the O.R . Also planning to consult Ben. If you >have any info on other works, could you please send me a bibliography.
> Paul Macomber