I certainly hope you will make some reply to the very unjust reflection of General Hancock on the management of the artillery at Gettysburg on the 3rd of July 1863. Since he has opened the subject, while the actors are still living, the fact should be established that artillery was used at Gettysburg and that it was of material assistance in breaking Longstreets Charge-the measure of its service being only limited by the amount of Genl. Hancocks interference with its management.
During several weeks of the winter of 1863-64, Col. McGilvery of the Maine Artillery, while awaiting assignment to duty stopped with me at Brandy Station, as my guest. Repeatedly he has told me of his Experiences at Gettysburg, especially on July 3rd.
He has told me how, on that day, he had a very considerable amount of Artillery massed on the left of the 2nd Corps. and so ranged as to sweep its front. How Hazard had more, massed on Cemetery Hill, which could so range with his as to oblige the enemy attacking the 2nd. Corps to pass through a destructive cross-fire. Of your own indefatigable labor from early dawn and of your explicit instructions, that the batteries should reserve their ammunition, until the grand charge should commence, for which the enemy were undoubtedly preparing.
He told me that during the cannonade by the enemy Genl. Hancock came riding up to him in hot haste and wished him to reply to the enemy with his batteries, giving the old excuse that it was necessary in order to keep his men steady. But McGilvery would not receive orders from him. As an Artillery Officer, he saw that if Hazard would reserve his ammunition, when the Crisis should come, they could keep Hancocks front clear and the steadiness of his troops need hardly be called into question.
There again he was in no wise under Genl. Hancocks orders, more than of any ?other Superior Officer who might happen along. He was placed in command and received his instructions from Genl Hunt. acting in the name of Genl Mead. And, if there was any responsibility in refusing to obey, he was willing to accept it, the more especially since Genl Hancock seemed unnecessarily excited, was unduly emphatic and, as there was nothing in sight- except puffs of smoke,1500 and more yards away, his orders would result in a most dangerous and irreparable waste of ammunition. Hazard, however, did not m? his fire. The result showed the wisdom of your orders. When the enemy charged, McGilvery said he was ready, with an abundance of ammunition, and from his batteries gave a heavy and destructive fire. The fire from Hazards front on the contrary was very light; probably because his ammunition had been expended as Genl Hancock ordered.
The enemy appreciating the difference in the severity of McGilverys and Hazards fire in the advance towards our lines, obliqued towards Hazards position.
McGilvery always stoutly maintained that, had Genl. Hancock not interfered and had Hazard reserved his fire as you instructed, the enemy could not have got a handful of men, through the cross-fire, which Hazard and he would have poured over the open field in front of the Second Corps.
As it was, the lack of ammunition of Hazards Batteries allowed a very considerable body of the Enemy, not fairly subjected to McGilverys fire, to press up to the 2nd Corps front and for a time the struggle was uncertain and terrific.
Again Genl. I hope you will answer Genl. Hancock and claim for the Artillery at Gettysburg the credit, which hitherto it has never received.
Very humbly Yours,
Genl. H. J. Hunt.