|Pickett's Charge: Eyewitness Accounts
|Pickett or Pettigrew?
- Edited by Greg Mast
|- Pickett's Charge
|Turning Points At Gettysburg
THE HISTORY OF BATTERY B (B, 1st R.I. Lt. Arty.):
John H. Rhodes describes the preliminaries of the Confederate assault of July 3rd:
"The dawn of July 3rd broke in splendor, but before the calm beauty of that magnificent landscape was revealed, by the first rays of the sun, the clamor of human strife broke forth; it rose and swelled to fury along the rocky slopes of Culp's Hill, on our right. The Twelfth Corps, returning from the left, had found their old position occupied by the rebels (Johnson's division), and only waited for daylight to advance and drive the intruders out. The contest was sharp, but the nature of the position did not permit of rapid and decisive work. Little by little, the enemy was forced back (though reinforced by three brigades) until finally they were compelled to give up the ground and abandon the position to the Twelfth Corps.
The position now occupied by the two armies had each their advantages and disadvantages. On the Union side, General Meade's shorter, convex line gave him the important advantage of being able to transmit orders and transfer troops with great celerity; on the Confederate side, the long range of hills afforded space for a greater number of batteries than could be brought into action by the Union commander. Of this fact General Lee was preparing to take advantage, having in view a grand assault. Where? He had tried the right, also the left, and the next would naturally be the Union centre along Cemetery Ridge."
"The four pieces of Battery B, on the morning of July 3d, wereso posted that its two centre pieces were a little in advance of its right and left pieces, thus enabling them to bear upon and command a given point. The third piece, Sergt. A. B. Horton and Corp. Samuel J. Goldsmith, gunner, was on the right of the battery; next to the left was the fourth piece, Sergt. A. Straight and Corp. J. M. Dye, gunner; then the second piece, Sergt. A. A. Williams and Corp. John F. Hanson, gunner; the first piece, Sergt. R. H. Gallup and Corp. Pardon S. Walker, was on the left of the battery. Several rods further to the left, on line with our battery, was Captain Rorty's Battery B, First New York, in position, while several rods to our right, and a little further to the front, was Lieutenant Cushing's Battery A, Fourth United States. Of the infantry, the Fifty-Ninth Pennsylvania held position, in the main battle line, to the left of the gap at the stone wall, and the Sixty-Ninth Pennsylvania regiment was in position at the right of the gap. These two regiments were in front of Battery B's position. In reserve, several rods to the right and rear, lay the Forty-Second New York and the Nineteenth Maine regiments; while the Seventy-Second Pennsylvania was at the left and rear of the battery.
In the morning a desultory fire of artillery was kept up, during which the rebels succeeded in exploding one of our ammunition wagons and several of the limber chests along our line, in retaliation we performed the same service for them, which was acknowledged by both parties with continued shouts and cheers. As the forenoon wore on there came a lull, a stillness even unto death. A feeling of oppression weighed upon all hearts, the silence was ominous and portentous of coming evil. It was the calm which precedes the storm.
Early this morning, as we lay in line of battle waiting, word had been sent to the rear for rations, as most of the men were out, not being able to procure them the previous day on account of the engagement. It was past noon and still no rations. What was the trouble? What had befallen Bob Niles, the veteran driver of our ration wagon? We were watching for him, with almost a wolf's hunger. But as we looked anxiously across the plain, to our rear, we saw him coming with four head-strong mules, well in hand, on the full jump.
Robert A. Niles, better known to us as Bob Niles, whether in camp, on the march or on the battlefield, would try to overcome all obstacles to reach us, if sent for. He was one of the reckless artillerymen of Battery B, shrewd and quick to grasp a situation, surmounting all difficulties without complaint. Here he was, on this field, mid shot and shell to feed us. But, he arrived too late, for we were suddenly called to our posts by a quick flash and the report of the enemy's gun. It proved to be their signal gun, followed by gun after gun along their line; we could not leave our posts, so, amid a shower of shot and exploding shell, Bob was forced to return to the rear, and we to continue our fast."
John H. Rhodes, author of THE HISTORY OF BATTERY B, continues, with his description of the artillery bombardment before Longstreet's grand assault:
"About one o'clock in the afternoon a cannon shot, from the enemy's Washington Artillery, was fired on our right followed by another, thus breaking the silence brooding over the scorched battlefield.This signal was well understood, and the smoke from those guns had not dispersed before the whole rebel line was ablaze. From the throats of over one hundred cannon, which obeyed the signal, burst forth a concerted roar rivalling the angriest thunder. Our cannoneers jumped to their places and the drivers to their horses waiting for the order to commence firing.
It was ten or fifteen minutes before we received orders to fire. Then the shrieking shot and shell were sent upon their work of destruction, proving it to be one of the most terrible artillery duels ever witnessed. Then came Pickett's grand charge to break the Union centre, sweep the Second Corps from their path, and on to Washington. How Lee succeeded history tells. Through this ordeal Battery B still sustained its well-earned reputation of stability and resistance, and though suffering heavily in both men and horses, did not leave its position nor slacken fire until relieved by orders of chief of artillery of the corps, Captain Hazard.
During this fierce cannonade one of the guns of Battery B was struck by a rebel shell, which exploded killing two cannoneers who were in the act of loading. No. 1, William Jones, had stepped to his place in front, between the muzzle of the piece and the wheel on the right side, and, having swabbed the gun, stood with the sponge staff reversed (which is also the rammer) waiting for the charge to be inserted by No. 2. Alfred G. Gardner, No. 2, had stepped to his place, between the muzzle and wheel on the left side, and, taking the the ammunition from No. 5, was in the act of inserting the charge when a shell struck the face of the muzzle, left side of the bore, and exploded. No. 1 was killed instantly by a fragment of the shell, which cut the top of left side of his head completely off. He fell with his head toward the enemy, while the sponge staff was thrown two or three yards beyond him.
Albert G. Gardner was struck in the left shoulder, almost tearing his arm off. He lived a few minutes, and died shouting: 'Glory to God! I am happy! Hallelujah!'. His sergeant and friend bent over him to receive his dying message; which was to tell his wife that he died happy, and to send her his Bible.
Sergt. Albert Straight, and the remaining cannoneers, tried to load the piece, but , in placing a charge in the muzzle of the gun, they found it impossible to ram it home. Again and again, with rammer and an axe, they endeavored to drive in the shot, but their efforts were futile, as the depression on the muzzle was too great, and the attempt had to be abandoned. As the piece cooled off, the shot beecame firmly fixed in the bore.
This piece was the so-called "Gettysburg Gun" of Battery B, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery."
[This gun is at Providence RI at the State Capitol, and the modern-day Battery B presented a model of the Gettysburg Gun to the NPS and it is now on display in the lobby of the Visitor's Center-JK.]
"About half past two o'clock, Battery B's fire began to slacken from want of men and ammunition, and, at quarter of three P.M., a battery (Cowen's First New York Artillery) came up to the ridge on the trot, wheeled into battery on the left and front of Battery B's position, and opened fire, with spherical case shell, on the enemy's line of infantry moving then from the woods toward the Emmitsburg road. Battery B had been ordered to cease firing, and by being relieved by Cowen's battery, withdrew from the field by orders of Capt. John G. Hazard, chief of artillery of Second Corps.
As the battery was limbering up and retiring, the enemy's line of battle could be seen advancingfrom the woods on Seminary Ridge, three-fourths of a mile away. A line of their skirmishers sprang forward into the open field, closely followed by first one line of battle, then by a second, then by a third line.
General Gibbon's division, which was to stand the brunt of the assault, looked with eager gaze upon their foe marching forward with easy, swinging step, and along the Union line men were heard to exclaim: Here they come! Here comes the Johnnies!" Soon little puffs of smoke issued from the skirmish line, as it came dashing forward, firing in reply to our own skirmishers; it never hesitated for an instant but drove our men before it or knocked them over, by a biting fir, as they rose up to run in.
This was Pickett's advance, which carried a front of five hundred yards or more on that memorable charge of the Confederates against the Union centre. The repulse was one of the turning points against the Confederates, and helped to break the backbone of the rebellion."
John H. Rhodes describes the field and Taneytown Road immediately in back of the Angle during the bombardment, as Battery B withdraws from the line:
"As Battery B was leaving the line of battle, the field in the rear of its position was being swept by the enemy's shot and bursting shell. The gun detachments and drivers, in order to avoid this field, went with three pieces to the right (as they were facing to the rear) diagonally toward the Taneytown road. The other piece, of which the writer [author John H. Rhodes] was lead driver at that time, instead of following the first three went to the left, down a cartpath, toward the same road.
We had not proceeded far when a rebel shell exploded on our right, and a piece of it struck the wheel driver, Charles G. Sprague, on the forehead, cutting a gash from which the blood flowed copiously down his face, blinding him so that he could not manage his horses. He got off his horse, saying, "I cannot ride but will try to lead them."
I asked the swing driver, Clark L. Woodmansee, to take the wheel horses and let his swing go alone. He did so, thus relieving Sprague. Then we started down the path again. The flash of the bursting shell, and the screeching of the solid shot, which were flying thick and fast around us, caused the swing horses, now that they had no driver, to plunge frantically from one side to the other, and then backward, entangling themselves in their traces and interfering greatly with our progress. Looking to my left, I saw one of our cannoneers, a detached man from the One Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania Regiment, Joseph Brackell, lying beside a large boulder rock. I called to him to come and drive the swing horses as we could not get along. He came, and after clearing the horses from their traces, he mounted. This somewhat calmed the horses, and we started for the road again. When within a few rods of the road, where the path descended, a shell at our right exploded, and a piece cut through the bowels of the off wheel horse, another struck the nigh swing horse, which Brackell was riding, on the gambrel joint breaking the off leg. Still another piece swept across the saddle of my off horse cutting the feedbags loose, whereby I lost my cooking utensils and extra rations. Whipping up my horse I shouted to the other drivers, "Let's get into the road!" We continued and finally swung around into the road, which was three feet lower than the field. Here the wheel horse dropped dead, and we could go no further. Having cleared the the horses from the piece, we were about changing harnesses, from the dead and wounded horses to the uninjured swing horse, when a shot struck the gun wheel taking out a spoke. and then went screeching into the woods. This was followed by a shell exploding in the woods in our rear. The horses were frightened, and Woodmansee's ran down the road, he after him. The poor crippled horse, seeing his mate going off, hobbled on trying hard to keep up. Being thus left alone, I could do nothing, so mounted and, leaving the piece where it was , went down the road hoping to find the battery. I found the road anything but pleasant to travel, for shot and shell were flying about quite lively."
Rhodes and Woodmansee (after catching his horse) found Battery B, and after the charge went back to get the gun left on the Taneytown road. Interestingly enough, they never found the gun nor the harness. The officers had not noted the number of the gun, so it was never found. This must have been a cause of some embarrassment in the days to come, although I have never found any reference to repercussions from the loss of the gun.
The battery's loss during the two days of July 2-3 were 7 killed, 31 wounded, 1 taken prisoner, and 1 deserted. Later another man died in the hospital. In addition, Lt. Joseph Milne, on detached service with Cushing's Battery, was killed during the repulse of the Confederate assault. The Battery lost 29 horses killed, 36 wounded of which 17 were unfit for further service.
A loss of 40 men in an artillery unit is unusually severe, being
upwards of 25-30 percent.
Esteemed member email@example.com contributes:
I do not know on what day of Gettysburg this happened, but I feel that the importance of this small act of humanity deserves mention. Sometime back we had a discussion of men who deserved the Medal Of Honor at Gettysburg. This American soldier certainly does, although the side that he fought on precludes him from that award. As I do not have a first hand account of this, I'd like to write it in the style of the citation of that award.
Patrick McNeil, While a member of Parker's Virginia Battery engaged at Gettysburg saw a wounded Federal soldier lying in front of his position. His battery being under Artillery fire, Patrick McNeil, at great personal risk, advanced to the wounded man's position, and under fire dragged the Federal soldier to the safety of the Confederate lines, on completion of his deed, Patrick McNeil was struck by a Union artillery shell, which crushed both of his legs. Patrick McNeil died shortly thereafter.
Patrick McNeil's last words were "Oh, My poor wife and Children!"
I kind of like to think that McNeil's action speaks for brave men
on all three days. May God have mercy on his eternal soul.
Esteemed member firstname.lastname@example.org contributes:
Rank and organization: Musician, Company B, 73rd Ohio Infantry. Place and Date: At Gettysburg, Pa. 1-3 July, 1863. Entered service at: Chillicothe, Ohio. Birth: Germany. Date of issue: 11 September 1897. Citation: Voluntarily took rifle and served as a soldier in the ranks during the first and second days of the battle. Voluntarily and at his own imminent peril went into the enemy's lines at night and, under a sharp fire, rescued a wounded comrade.
Citation - Medal Of Honor
Esteemed member "Bill Cameron"
July 3rd 1863:
We bivouaced on the field last night and this morning. July 3rd, considerable skirmishing ensued and towards noon the battle was raging again and the heaviest and hottest artillery fire of the war. A man sitting beside me struck with piece of shell and a horse killed within a few yards. We have a station on the hill here within rifle fire shot of the enemy. At 10 o'clock the enemy planted three batteries commanding this hill and three times advanced to try to and take it but were repulsed at ever outset. The fight on the right has been more severe but we have whipped them every point. It is reported that the 8th and 22nd Corps are on their way to reinforce us, also that Vicksburg is captured. From one o'clock p.m. until about 2 o'clock p.m. such a hail of shell shot and shrapnell I never withnessed. During the heat of the contest I rode the whole length of the line with a dispatch from Gen. Waren to Maj. Generals Barney [Birney, this is probably a typo in the manuscript which was typed by Furst's son in 1932], Segwick or Mead. The boys would yell out, you better stop, orderly, you will never get through, but I was bound to try it and putting my horse on a break neck pace, delivered my dispatch to Mead (but nearly killed my horse). Aiken, with another dispatch, did not undertake it and waited utill the shelling subsided.
This has always been a very interesting diary entry for me. I have
typed it exactly with the spelling errors and all. Note that Warren was
back down there on the 3rd. There is evidence that he was telling the Signal
Corps exactly what to look for and as Furst indicated the Signalmen were
sending the intelligence back to the headquarters. They were doing it by
courier due to the fact that they had ceased all flag signals because if
they stood up on the signal rock, they would immediately take fire from
Devil's Den. Also note that Furst had information about Vicksburg. Rumors
of reinforcement were not unusual. In reading Furst, he seemed to have
the inside track on information. Some of it was true and some of it was
not but he was in a position to hear a lot of information. The ride to
the headquarters is true and is mentioned elsewhere in manuscripts. Quite
a young man.
Esteemed member "Bill Cameron"
MOUNTAIN PEAK SIGNAL STATION
July 3, 1863 - 8.15 a.m.
Can see wenty - seven pieces of the enemy's artillery in position opposite. No movement of infantry; no wagon trains visible. The enemy's sharpshooters are very annoying here. the mist now interfers with observations. The enemy has a battery of six guns beraring directlly on this point.
Captain, Signal Officer.
Pierce was Luther Furst's signal officer. Furst was the flagman.
Esteemed member "Bradley Eide"
Yonder, I saw the enemy's skirmish line advancing from the trees with colors flying. I gave the distance and the time [setting] for the fuse. The artillery fire was quite accurate and did much execution. Still, the Rebel line advanced in a most splendid manner.
I commenced firing cannister at 200 yards..."
"Zook was calm, serene, and dignified, speaking occasionally, but never of himself, and apparently suffered but little pain....He drank a little whiskey at times, and some of the broth that the women made for him, but towards evening he began to fail, and at five o'clock peacefully breathed his last.
Thus ended the career of a brilliant officer, an estimable gentleman, and a faithful friend. Killed at the head of his troops, on his native soil, defending the honor and integrity of the country he loved so well, is after all a glorious death to die, and so far as he is concerned, perhaps is the most fitting climax of a brilliant career.... He was to all of us friendly in the extreme, just, exacting at times, but always ready to acknowledge and give us credit whenever we deserved it....
A single life, even that of a distinguished general, in time of war is of slight consequence to the general result, an so in this case the battle continued in our absence..."
The third and final installment of Thomas Hyde's letter:
"Daylight awoke us from our sleep in the long wet grass. About ten o'clock I started to find the depot for prisoners, and losing my way happened to run across Neill's Brigade with the Seventh Maine, then detached to the 12th Corps; offering my services to Gen. Neill, he told me he was just going to put three of his regiments upon the extreme right of the army which it though Ewell was trying to turn. Col. Connor, Gen, Neill and I rode ahead of the troops and, having passed through an orchard, were climbing up a steep hill upon the top of which I had been advising the General to put his line, when from the summits about 30 rebel skirmishers let fly at us before we had suspected we were within a mile of the enemy. They had gained this hill, completely flanking us, and from which in a moment more they would open fire upon the road where were all our trains and ammunition and which was our only line of retreat. Quick action was necessary. We formed the troops and took the hill in which little fight eight of the Seventh Maine were killed and wounded. An immense disaster was here temporarily averted for a few shots into the army trains would have made a most ungovernable stampede. Fearing with increased numbers they would soon drive us from the hill, I hastened to Gen. Slocum, commanding Twelfth Corps, and got two Regiments and put them in position on the right of Gen. Neill. As Gen. Slocum was very anxious about the position, I thought I would make sure, so, as Capt. Long of Neill's staff was going to scout a little on the right, I went with him. We ran across some of our cavalry who had lost their way, and placed them as a chain of videttes so they could see any movement of the enemy on our right. Then passing on we saw a body of 5,000 or 6,000 cavalry at a gallop, and were glad to recognize them with a glass to be one of our Division on their way to turn the rebel left. Then I went to my regiment again, being obliged to crawl up to them on account of rebel sharpshooters. Then I went down the hill to our hospital a barn near the road and found some of my old Antietam friends lying wounded. One of the men insisted on getting me some coffee, so I stayed with the sounded for a while. Soon the battle broke out with greater fierceness in Gen. Slocum's front, and going to see it I stayed with him till it was over and then found my way back to the extreme left and received a gentle scolding from Gen. Sedgwick for going unnecessarily under fire. Very tired I went a little way back to one of the wagons that had come up and got a bit of ham and a few minutes' sleep, but was awakened by the heaviest cannonade the country ever heard of field artillery at haste over 300 pieces a constant roar no one discharge could be recognized. This was the prelude to their main attack on our center which I did not see and which closed the day's fighting, with the exception of some in our front which I saw but was not engaged in. We lay there the next day the fourth. Of all the exciting incidents of the pursuit, I may write some other time.
Thos. W. Hyde.
Note: This and the previous 2 posts were from a letter written while
the 6th Corps was at Warrenton, Va. On September 6th, 1863. This letter
and the previous letter of his posted on June 30th were from _Civil War
Letters by General Thomas W. Hyde_ published by John H. Hyde, privately
Esteemed member "Bill Cameron"
The following report excerpt covering July 3 was written by Captain E.C. Pierce. This report is not in the O.R.
July 3. At daylight we commenced making observations, the results of which we reported, by orderlies, to Major-Generals Meade, Sedgwick, Sykes, Hancock, Birney, Pleasonton, Newton, etc.
Headquarters Signal station was in plain sight all the time, and we could hence call it, but not without exposing the lives of our men to the deliberate aim of the enemy's sharpshooters, who, stationed behind rocks, in tops of trees, etc., fired with fatal effect upon all that showed themselves. they kept two guns of Hazlett's battery silent, except when worked by volunteers, and kept up a continual fire upon the rock, not ten feet square, occupied by us. Seven men, including officers, who were drawn there by curiosity, were killed or several wounded by the combined fire of the sharpshooters and artillery. About 11 A.M., we were joined by Lieutenants Wiggins and Camp, who agreed with us upon the impossibility of employing flag signals, and consequently we continued to report by orderlies.
About 3 P.M., the enemy opened fire with all their artillery upon our lines, and the necessity of sending orderlies increased as Gen. Warren, Chief of Engineers on Gen. Meade's staff, who came to our station at 2 o'clock, P.M. directed us to keep a lookout on certain points, and to send messages every few minutes to Gen. Meade's during the day. in this connection, I wish particularly to pace upon the record the fact that the signalmen attached to Lieut. Wiggins's party and mine are worthy of all commendation for the bravery displayed by them in riding to and fro, through an unexampled artillery fire, with important messages. during the afternoon of this day, after the enemy were repulsed from our right and centre, Major-General Meade, Sedgwick, Sykes, Pleasonton, etc., visited our station, and remained there until Gen. Crawford's division drove the enemy and sharpshooters from their position.
This source confirms what Furst wrote. Note that Warren is down there
directing the gathering of intelligence. I suspect that it was had more
attention paid to it with Warren's involvement. Also note that there was
a mini parade of brass down there after the repulse of the charge. This
is an interesting report. Norton, the Chief Signal Officer, evidently took
these Corps level reports and integrated them into his report but the Corps
reports never got into the O.R. That's a real shame. Hall wrote a report
that I'm still trying to track down. After Gettysburg, during the pursuit,
all of the individual Signal Officer reports are in the O.R. and you get
a much better picture of what was going on.
Esteemed member SYLVIA SHERMAN
From 2nd Liutenant Goerge Bisbee, 16th Maine
" After our capture we were carried to the rear and guarded by Pickett's Division and we were in full sight of his headquarters and were in such a position that we saw him and his troops when they were moving out to make the famous charge, and I can assure you it was a very serious time with us. We could not see the troops when they were engaged and all that we could tell about the results of the charge was that the firing, both cannonading and musketry, were in the same place, and so we knew from that our army was holding its position. By and by Pickett's division came straggling back all cut up, and the guard who guarded his headquarters told us that General Pickett went into his tent and sat down and cried like a child over the result of the loss of his beloved troops."
Elisha Hunt Rhodes - Diary 3rd July
"This morning the troops were under arms before light and ready for the great battle that we knew must be fought. The firing began, and our Brigade was hurried to the right of the line to reinforce it. While not in the front line yet we were constantly exposed to the fire of the Rebel Artillery, while bullets fell around us. We moved from point to point, wherever danger to be imminent until noon when we were ordered to report to the line of Gen. Birney. Our Brigade marched down the road until we reached the house used by General Meade as Headquarters. The road ran between ledges of rocks while the fields were strewn with boulders. To our left was a hill on which we had many batteries posted. Just as we reached Gen. Meade's Headquarters, a shell burst over our heads, and it was immediately followed by showers of iron. More than two hundred guns were belching forth their thunder, and most of the shells that came over the hill struck in the road on which our Brigade was moving. Solid shot would strike the large rocks and split them as if exploded by gunpowder. The flying iron and pieces of stone struck men down in every direction. It is said that this fire continued for about two hours, but I have no idea of the time. We could not see the enemy, and we could only cover ourselves the best we could behind the rocks and trees. About 30 men of our Brigade were killed or wounded by this fire. Soon the Rebel yell was heard, and we have found since that the Rebel General Pickett made a charge with his Division and was repulsed after reaching some of our batteries. Our lines of Infantry in front of us rose up and poured in a terrible fire. As we were only a few yards in rear of our lines we saw all the fight. The firing gradually died away, and but for an occasional shot all was still. But what a scene it was. Oh the dead and dying on this bloody field. The 2nd R.I lost only one man killed and five wounded. One of the latter belonged to my Co. "B". Again night came upon us and again we slept amid the dead and dying.
We charged sugar loaf mountain last night and took possession without firing a shot[.] part of our Regiment got lost and got out side of our Pickets but we got back again and now are on the hill and have rifle pits[.] we stayed on the hill all day without fighting any[.] the battle last all day[.] the heaviest artillery fight commenced at two p.m. and lasted for two hours[.] the rebs got the worst of the fight[.] they a great many prisoners[.]
Co. H, 12th PA Reserve Volunteers There is no entry for July 3 in Thomas Ware's [Co. G, 15th Georgia] diary, but to follow his saga...
By 5:00 on July 3, General Crawford had returned to the regiments he had left [from which Franklin Horner's unit had been detached] to check Fisher's Brigade and received an order from his commander, General Sykes, to drive the enemy from their front. In his report he mistakes Benning's men for Anderson's - both brigades of Georgians - and confuses several other details, such as the number of prisoners taken and the size of the force he fought.
In reality, Crawford's men charged and struck one lone regiment left stranded by a mix-up in orders - the 15th Georgia - capturing the regimental flag under which Thomas Ware had marched, fought, and died, and several dozen prisoners, among whom was Robert Andrews Ware.
In his possession was the diary of his older brother.
[Again taken from _35 Days to Gettysburg: The Campaign Diaries of
Two American Enemies_ by Mark Nesbitt].
Esteemed member Elaine
Brig. Gen John Gibbon - Personal Recollections 3rd July (part 1)
"Everybody was soon astir, but the morining wore away and nothing very remarkable seemed to be taking place although every now and then the cannon on either side would open or a sudden spurt of picket firing take place, showing that both sides were alert and ready for slaughter-when the chiefs gave the word. I can hardly recall how the long hours of the morning wore away, or how we occupied our time, but recollect that the servants at my Division Headquarters went to work late in the morning to make us some coffee and prepare something to eat. One of them had "picked up" somewhere (no doubt without due process of law, for hungry men are not overscupulous in regard to other men's rights or chickens) an old and tough rooster which was prepared for the pot and made into a stew and I recollect that I at once went to Meade's Headquarters and finding him looking worn and haggard, asked him if he had had any breakfast. He said no and I urged him to come to my Headquarters and share mine. He at first objected saying he must remain at his Headquarters prepared to receive reports which were constantly coming in and act on them. But I pointed out that we were close at hand in plain sight, that he would be absent but a few minutes, could leave word where he was and besides he must keep up his physical strength. He yielded to my solicitations and went with me sharing with us our coffee and stewed rooster, but almost immediately after returning to his Headquarters leaving our group of officers seated on the ground chatting over the battle and the probable events of the day. How long we sat there it is impossible to say but after a long silence along the line a single gun was heard off in my front and everyone's attention was attracted. Almost instantly afterwards the whole air above and around us was filled with bursting and screaming projectiles, and the continuous thunder of the guns, telling us that something serious was at hand.
All jumped to their feet and loud calls were made for horses, which orderlies hurried forward with, already saddled and waiting. Mine did not come at once and anxious to get upon my line, I started on a run, up a little swale leading directly up to the center of it. Some features of that hurried trip are indelibly impressed upon my memory. The thunder of the guns was incessant, for all of ours had now opened fire and the whole air seemed filled with rushing, screaming shells. The larger round shells could be seen plainly as in their nearly completed course they curved in their fall towards the Taneytown road, but the long rifled shells came with a rush and a scream and could only be seen in their rapid flight when they "upset" and went tumbling through the air, creating the uncomfortable impression that, no matter whether you were in front of the gun from which they came or not, you were liable to be hit. Every moment or so one would burst, throwing its fragments about in a most disagreeably promiscuous manner, or, first striking the ground, plough a great furrow in the earth and rocks, throwing these last about in a way quite dangerous as the pieces of the exploding shell.
At last I reached the brow of the hill to find myself in the most infernal pandemoniumn it has ever been my fortune to look upon. Very few troops were in sight and those that were, were huggind the ground closely, some behind the stone wall, some not, but the artillery were all busily at work at their guns, thundering out defiance to the enemy whose shells were bursting in and around them at a fearful rate, striking now a horse, now a limber box and now a man. Over all hung a heavy pall of smoke underneath which could be seen the rapidly moving legs of the men as they rushed to and fro between the pieces and the line of limbers, carrying forward the ammunition. One thing which forcibly occurred to me was the perfect quiet with which the horses stood in their places. Even when a shell, striking in the midst of a team, would knock over one or two of them or hurl one struggling in his death agonies to the ground, the rest would make no effort to struggle or escape but would stand stolidly by as if saying to themselves, "It is fate, It is useless to try to avoid it." Looking thus at Cushing's Battery, my eyes happened to rest upon one of the gunners standing in rear of the nearest limeber, the lid open showing the charges. Suddenly, with a shriek, came a shell right under the limber box, and the poor gunner went hopping to the rear on one leg, the shreds of the other dangling about as he went.
As I reached the line just to the left of Cushing's Battery, I found Gen. Webb seated on the ground as coolly as though he had no interest in scene and somehow it seemed to me that in such a place men appear to take things a good deal as I had remarked the horses took them. Of course, it would be absurd to say we were not scared. How is it possible for a sentient being to be in such a place and not experience a sense of alarm? None but fools, I think, can deny that they are afraid in battle.
"What does this mean?" I asked. Webb shook his head. In fact it was a question about which we all felt anxious, but no one could answer it yet. It might mean preparation for retreat; it might signify the prelude to an assault."
From Steven Benet's *John Brown's Body*, Book Seven
"We were now four hundred yards from Cemetery Hill, when away off to the right nearly half a mile, there appeared...a long, dark mass, dressed in blue, and coming down at "double quick" upon the unprotected right of Pickett's men...their battle flags dancing and fluttering in the breeze created by their own rapid motion, and their burnished bayonets glistening above their heads like forest twigs covered with sheets of sparkling ice when shaken by a blast.
Garnett galloped along the line saying: "Steady, men! Steady! Don't double quick. Save your wind and your ammunition for the final charge!" and then went down among the dead, and his clarion voice was heard no more above the roar of battle."
Captain Henry T. Owen
18th Virginia Infantry
Esteemed member Elaine
Brig. John Gibbon - Personal Recollections 3rd July (part 2)
"How long did this pandemonium last? measured by our feelings it might have been an age. In point of fact it may have been an hour or three or five. The measurement of time under such circumstances, regular as it is by the watch, is exceedingly uncertain by the watchers. Getting tired of seeing men and horses torn to pieces and observing that although some of the shells struck and burst among us, most of them went high and burst behind us, the idea occurred to me that a position farther to the front would be safer and rising to my feet, I walked forward accompanied by my aide (Lt. Haskell). I ahad made but a few steps when three of Cushing's limber boxes blew up at once, sending the contents in a vast column of dense smoke high in the air, and above the din could be heard the triumphant yells of the enemy as he recognized this result of his fire.
Passing the clump of trees referred to as marking this point of our line, we walked forward to the fence, where the men were lying close behind it and motioning them to make room for me, I stepped over the wallm went to a clump of bushes standing just in front of the line and looked out there to see if I could detect any movement going on in that direction. Nothing could be seen but the smoke constantly issuing from the long line of batteries and nothing heard but the continuous roar of hundreds of guns, the screaming of countless projectiles, as they rushed through the air in all directions and the bursting of shells. These all went over our heads and generally burst behind us. Whilst standing here and wondering how all this din would terminate, Mitchell, and aide of Gen. Hancock, joined me with a message from Hancock to know what I thought the meaning of this terrific fire. I replied I thought it was the prelude either to a retreat or an assault.
After standing here for some time and finding the enemy did not lessen the elevation of his pieces we walked down to the left still outside of the line of battle, the men peering at us curiously from behing the stone wall as we passed along. As we approached the left of my division the line made a slight inclination to the front, beyond which was the spring... As we neared the piece of marshy ground below it I called Lt. Haskell's attention to a man who had evidently left his regiment in front to get some water. Around his neck were hung several canteens and he was crawling back through the wet ground, keeping as close to the earth as possible, evidently fearful of the shot and shell soaring over his head. As we came nearer I called out to him. "Look out, my man, you might get hit!" At the sound of my voice, he turned his head, still keeping it as close to the ground as possible, to look at me and then, as if inspired by a new idea, rose to his feet and walked deliberately back to his regiment; no doubt arguing with himself that if two could walk errect there was little danger to a third. Passing around the left of my line, I was proceeding behind it up towards the right, when I noticed a man coming across the field carrying another, evidently wounded, on his back. Just as they came opposite to us, they encountered a low stone wall over which the one was trying to climb with the other still on his back. I stopped and told Haskell to assist them and we then continued on our way.
The fire on both sides had now considerably slackened and only a few shells were coming from the enemy's guns. As we walked towards the right, a staff officer with an orderly leading my horse met me with the information that the enemy was coming in force. I hurriedly mounted and rode to the top of the hill where a magnificent sight met my eyes. The enemy in a long grey line was marching towards us over the rolling ground in our front, their flags fluttering in the air and serving as guides to their line of battle. In front of a heavy skirmish line which was driving ours in on a run. Behind the front line another appeared and finally a third and the whole came on like a great wave of men, steadily and stolidly.
Hastily telling Haskell to ride to Gen. Meade and to tell him the enemy was coming upon us in force and we should need all the help he could send us, I directed the guns of Arnold's Battery to run forward to the wall loaded with double rounds of canister and then rode down my line and cautioned the men not to fire until the first line crossed the Emmetsburg road. By this time the bullets were flying pretty thickly along the line and the batteries from other portions of the field had opened fire upon the moving mass in front of us. The front line reached the Emmetsburg road and hastily springing over the two fences, paused a moment to reform and then started up the slope. My Division, up to this time, had fired but little but now from the low stone wall on each side of the angle every gun along it sent forth the most terrific fire.
Mounted officers in the rear were seen to go down before it and as the rear lines came up and clambered over the fences, men fell from the top rails, but the mass still moved on up to our very guns and the stone wall in front. I noticed after all three lines were closed up, that the men on the right of the assaulting force wee continually closing in to their left, evidently to fill the gaps made by our fire, and that the right of their line was hesitating behind the clump of bushes where I had stood during the cannonade.
To our left of this point was a regiment of the Division, and desirous of aiding in the desperated struggle now taking place on the hill to the right I endeavored to get this regiment to swing to the front, by a change front forward on the right company, take the enemy's line in flank to sweep up along the front of our line. But in the noise and turmoil of the conflict it was difficult to get my orders understood...
In my eagerness to get the regiment to swing out and do what I wanted, I spurred my horse in front of it and waved forward the left flank. I was suddenly recalled to the absurd position I had assumed by the whole regiment opening fire! I got to the rear as soon as possible. Looking to my left to see if I could find troops there likely to be induced to follow out my orders I saw a command lying behind a small breastwork I had, myself, caused to be erected the day before and putting spurs to my horse I rode towards it. Just before I reached the position to my amazement, the men commenced to break to the rear, though there was no fire whatever to amount to anything on their front. With some difficulty I induced the command to return to their breastwork, calling the attention of the officers and men to the large numbers falling back from the assaulting party which could be plainly seen from where we were and then, satisfied that I could derive no benefit from that command, I galloped back to my own division and again attempted to get the left of that to swing out. Whilst so engaged, I felt a stinging blow apparently behind the left shoulder.
I soon began to grow faint from the loss of blood which was trickling from my left hand. I directed Lt. Moale, my aide, to turn over the command of the Division to Gen. Harrow and in company with another staff officer, Capt. Francis Wessells, 106th Penn., Division J. A. left the field, the sounds of the conflict on the hill still ringing in my ears." Another "lest we forget":
Hatz off to those Tennessee boys "fightin' for ar rats"......
- keb (genetic material in the 14th Tenn. Inf. that day)
Esteemed member email@example.com (William Hoermann, Quantum Tech Pubs, Shrewsbury) contributes:
I pause to commemorate the death, 134 years ago this afternoon, of
distant relative Col. Eliakim Sherrill, 126th NY, 3rd Div, II Corps. He'd
returned to command of the company after recovering from wounds received
at Harper's Ferry during the Antietam campaign.
Esteemed member firstname.lastname@example.org (Paul Macomber) contributes:
I would pause just to remember those 15,000 confederates who charged
from Seminary to Cemetary around 2 PM eastern.
Esteemed member "Kerry Webb"
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign.
No. 442.--Report of Maj. James Dearing, C. S. Army, commanding
. . . About daybreak the next morning (the morning of July 3), it marched to the field of battle, and was, later in the morning, put in position on the crest of the hill immediately in front of the enemy's position, which was assailed by General Pickett's division. On my left and rear was Colonel Cabell's Artillery Battalion, and on my right and rear was the Washington Artillery Battalion. Early that morning, the enemy threw forward a strong line of skirmishers in front of my position, and, having no infantry to drive them away, Captain [R. M.] Stribling's battery was ordered to drive them in, which was done by firing about a dozen rounds. Several of my men and horses were wounded by these sharpshooters. There was no more firing from my battalion until the signal guns for the commencement of the general attack were fired. Maj. J.P. W. Read, who was superintending the firing of Captain Stribling's battery in the morning, was wounded in the head by a fragment of shell. Though not dangerous, the wound was painful. Major Read did not leave the army on account of this wound, but has been with it all of the time.
Today in Weather History
1863-The Battle of Gettysburg -A great 3 day encounter: reached its climax with Pickett's charge at about 2:00 pm local time. The weather at 2:00 pm was reported to be partly cloudy and 87 degrees with the wind from the ssw at force 1. A deluge of rain on the 4th and 5th hindered the Yankees pursuit and the Confederates escaped.
Capt. Cowan of the First Independent New York Light Artillery
"We wheeled into Brown's position at a gallop. Then, at a glance over yonder, I saw the enemy's skirmish line advancing from the trees with colors flying. I gave the distance and the time [setting] for the fuse. The artillery fire was quite accurate and did much execution. Still, the Rebel line advanced in a most splendid manner.
I commenced firing cannister at 200 yards..."
"Then in a flash our infantry behind the wall in front of my guns arose and rushed to the right through the trees, for some cause I could not see. Quite a number of them ran through my guns. One was a captain, with his sword tucked under his arm, running like a turkey. I swore at him as he passed me. But it was a circus to hear and see Corporal Plunkett, swearing like a pirate and prancing like a mad bull, striking at runaways with his fists, until I saw him pick something from the ground and smash it over the head of one of the frightened boys. It was a big tin coffee-pot, the loot from some 'Dutch' frau's kitchen. The blow broke the bottom in. I can still see that fellow running with the tin pot well down over his ears."
"I stopped at a dozen or more of the great Pennsylvania barns, looking more like large factory buildings than like our New England barns. Each of them was a field hospital; its floors covered with mutilated soldiers, and surgeons busy at the lantern-lighted operating tables.
By the door of one of them was a ghastly pile of amputated arms and legs, and around them lay multitudes of wounded men, covering the ground by the acre, wrapped in their blankets and awaiting their turns under the knife. I was stopped hundreds of times by wounded men, sometimes accompanied by a comrade but often wandering alone, to be asked in faint tones the way to the hospital of their division, till the accumulated sense of the bloodshed and suffering of the day became absolutely appalling. It seemed to me as if every square yard of the ground, for many square miles, must have its blood stain."
"The enemy seemed to be developing three lines - their skirmish line with two strong lines following - and were keeping a splendid alignment, guiding left. We fired rapidly from our five guns; I let the gun at the right take care of itself under acting Sergeant Mullaly, a brave soldier. Presently I saw a body of Confederates appear, topping the ridge where Alexander's Artillery was in action. It was Pickett's division of Longstreet's Corps, 5,000 strong, which had not been engaged the first or second day. They dressed their lines before advancing and from there they came on steadily in three lines at brigade front; the front of the advance was about 500 yards. I could see them perfectly, for there were no trees then along the wall to obstruct the view. As gaps opened in their lines, when men fell under our cannon fire, they closed to their left and kept a splendid front. Their direction was oblique, and it seemed that they were marching to this copse of trees, as indeed they were. The Codori House and barn hid them from my sight for a minute, and when I saw them again they were coming on the run, without regard to alignment."
I would first like to say thank you to all the members in this group who contributed their labors in researching all the quotes and occurrences that we have all been reading this week. I know that this week showed what this group is all about. The true members of this group have overcome the differences that brought about this terrible battle. I would especially like to thank the Lawrences, whose idea this was. Although I am 2500 miles, and 134 years away from the event, for this week I felt that I was there. For those who posted for the first time during this week, please keep it up, the diversity of the group made for some truly fascinating reading.
I'll leave July 3rd 1863 with:
from Gen Henry Hunt USA commanding artillery:
. . . Most of the enemy projectiles passed overhead, the effect being to sweep the ground in our rear, which was of little benefit to the Confederates-a mere waste of ammunition, for everything here could seek shelter.. . . Colonel Long, who was at that time on General Lee's staff, had a few years before served in my mounted battery expressly to receive a course of instruction in the use of field artillery. At Appomattox, we spent several hours together, and in the course of conversation I told him that I was not satisfied with the conduct of this cannonade which I had heard was under his direction, inasmuch as he had not done credit to his instruction; that his fire, instead of being concentrated on the point of attack as it should have been, and as I expected it would be, was scattered over the whole field. He was amused at the criticism and said: "I remembered my lessons at the time, and when the fire became so scattered, wondered what you would think about it!"
And, as my final addition to the commemoration:
The Earth is the sepulcher of heroes, monuments may rise, and tablets be set up to them in their own land, but on far flung shores there is an abiding memorial that no pen or chisel has traced; it is graven not on stone or brass, but on the living heart of humanity. Take these men for your example. Like them, remember that prosperity can only be for the free, that freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.
May all of you have a happy and safe Independence Day, may those
seperated from their loved ones be safely reunited, may all those whom
we commemorated this week Rest In Peace.
Esteemed member email@example.com contributes:
Part three of a letter written by Lt. George Breck of Battery L, 1st NY Light Artillery to Alfred Reynolds of Rochester, father of the battery commander, Captain Gilbert H. Reynolds
Friday Noon, July 3rd.
I have not been able to mail this yet. The Major arrived at a late hour last night, feeling and looking well. He was warmly welcomed. The battle was resumed yesterday afternoon and raged with the greatest fury till long after dark. We were engaged all the time, exposed to a terrible fire, but we had only one man wounded, though we lost several horses
The result was in our favor, the enemy being driven back, after a hand-to-hand contest with the artillerists on our left. They, the rebels, still hold possession of the town. Nothing has been heard of our prisoners, and consequently I am unable to give further information about Gilbert.
July 2, 1863 (sic?)
The battle was resumed this morning at an early hour on our right, and at present writing, a terrific firing is going on. (This proved to be the recapture of Culps Hill by our army which the Confederates got possession of the night previous.) We are not engaged just at present. I think today will decide the issue of the great battle. Time will not permit me to write more.
Sunday morning, July 5th.
My letter still remains unmailed. Just a word or two more to say that, our army is victorious and we have regained possession of Gettysburg. Fond the Captain comfortably situated in a private house. He was in good spirits and getting along finely. By this time he is probably in Baltimore, homeward bound.
My kindest regards to your family.
. Your friend