BY CAPTAIN DUDLEY H. CHASE, U. S. A. (RESIGNED).
(Dudley H. Chase was born at Logansport, Ind., August 29,1837; educated in the common
schools, and Eel River Seminary at Logansport; graduated in the Cincinnati Law School, April,
1858. He was appointed to Cadetship at West Point in June, 1856, but declined appointment and
went to Kansas in Captain B. P. Plumb's Company of Free State Men, of which be was First
Lieutenant in active command of the company, and remained in this service until Kansas became a
"Free State" in October, 1856. When the war began he was practicing law in Logansport, and in
command of the Logansport Zouave Guard. He enlisted as Captain, Company H, Ninth Indiana
Volunteers Infantry, April 24, 1861, three months' service; was appointed by President Lincoln,
Captain Seventeenth U. S. Infantry. and assigned to Company A, Second Battalion. He was
engaged with the regiment in the West Virginia campaign, under General Thomas A. Morris, at
Laurel Hill, W. Va.; Carricks Ford, July 12,1861; he was attached to the Army of the Potomac,
February, 1863; Chancellorsville, Va., May 1, 1863; Bristoe Station, W. Va., June 14,1863;
Gettysburg, Penn., July 2,1863. Was wounded in the left side at Rappahannock, October, 1863;
from December, 1863, to February, 1864, was in command at Catlett's Station, Va. He resigned
February 14,1864, on account of wounds. After leaving the service, Captain Chase again engaged
in the practice of law; served as Prosecuting Attorney, and for twelve years as judge of the Circuit
Court, after which he resumed the Practice of law until November, 1894, when he was again
elected Circuit judge, which position he still retains.)
Within the limits of time appropriate to an occasion like the present one, you ought not to expect me to give a complete and accurate description of one of the greatest battles, fought on the American continent; and if such is your expectation, you will be disappointed. I trust you will pardon me for the use of the pronoun "I"' to a large extent in the remarks I shall make this evening, as it will be necessary for me to give some of my personal experiences and opinions (for what they are worth) in order to give you an idea of the famous battle of Gettysburg, as I saw it.
The series of combats fought around and in the town of Gettysburg, July 1, 2, and 3, 1863, constitute what is known as the battle of Gettysburg. The meeting of the armies of Meade and Lee, at this point on this occasion was more a matter of chance than of deliberate calculation and intention.
General Meade assumed command of the Army of the Potomac on June 28, 1863, at Frederick, Md. He was a West Pointer by education, and up to the breaking out of the rebellion had no field service as a commander of troops. He was first and foremost an engineer. His temper was irascible, yet he was cautious and deliberate in action, and had the confidence of his officers and men at that time, which he unfortunately lost in 1864. His opponent was of large experience in the field, and had the love and devotion of all his officers and men to an extent approaching idolatry. He had explicit confidence in the ability of his officers, and the gallantry of his soldiers. Such confidence had never been reposed in the Army of the Potomac by any of its commanders until the era of Grant.
McClellan had been fairly worshiped by his men and officers, Yet he entertained such an exalted opinion of the genius of Lee and the fighting powers of the Confederates, that the Army of the Potomac while under his command, never had a. fair chance to show the world the iron stuff of which it was made. Under Burnside this army was badly handled. His military ability was distrusted by his leading officers, and the slaughter of Fredericksburg justified their distrust. His loyalty and patriotism, however, were never doubted and no braver man ever wore the blue. He smothered his resentments and fought for the flag to the end of the war.
Under fighting Joe Hooker the battle of Chancellorsville, one of the best planned of the war, had resulted in disaster and a retreat to the north bank of the Rappahannock. Hooker cherished the same opinion concerning Lee and his soldiers as did McClellan, as appears from the following language from Hooker's testimony before the Committee of Congress on the Conduct of the War: "With a rank and file vastly inferior to our own, intellectually and physically, that army (Lee's) by discipline alone acquired a character for steadiness and efficiency unsurpassed, in my judgment, in ancient or modern times. We have not been able to rival it, nor has there been any near approximation to it in the other rebel armies." Our cavalry, trained under the eye of Pleasanton, had convinced the skeptical that they were more than a match for Stuart and his famous rebel horse, when led by such heroes as Buford, Gregg, Kilpatrick, Farnsworth and Custer. Hooker's reward of five dollars to show him a dead cavalryman had been claimed many times.
Buford was thoroughly acquainted with the country around Gettysburg, from having been on duty at Carlisle barracks, twenty miles from the field, for several years before the rebellion; and to him, modest, unassuming, brave soldier that he was, should be given the greatest part of the credit of choosing Gettysburg for a battle ground. It was under his command, July 1, 1863, that his devoted cavalry division stayed the advance of Lee's overwhelming infantry north of Gettysburg for hours, and until the arrival of the First Corps under the lamented Reynolds, who approved the choice of the field made by Buford, and made immediate arrangements to resist the enemy at this spot. The first corps was heavily engaged when the Eleventh Corps under Howard arrived on the field. Howard posted one of his divisions on Cemetery Hill before engaging the enemy, and for this act he afterwards received the thanks of Congress, while Buford was forgotten and ignored. The First Corps, was badly cut up by the immense forces of the enemy, and was finally compelled to retreat to the heights south and west of the town. On this day the Iron Brigade of the First Corps, composed of three Wisconsin, one Indiana and one Michigan regiments, numbering 1,810 officers and men, lost 1,260 of their number in killed and wounded. Other brigades of the corps suffered in a like proportion.
When the rebels assaulted the Iron Brigade they supposed they were fighting Pennsylvania militia, but were soon disabused of that idea, when they saw the men opposed to them and exclaimed in surprise, "Boys, it is the old Army of the Potomac; they are those damned big-hatted fellows," the sobriquet by which the Iron Brigade were known to the rebel army from wearing infantry hats instead of the usual infantry caps.
Gettysburg was the focus of numerous roads and from all points of the compass. The Chambersburg from the northwest, the Mummasburg west of north, the Harrisburg east of north, the Hanover from the east, the York from the north of east, the Baltimore pike from the southeast, the Tawneytown from the south, the Emmetsburg from the west of south, and the Hagerstown from the south of west. The first day's battle was fought to the north and northwest of the town and over the possession of the Hagerstown, Chambersburg, Mummasburg, and Harrisburg roads. The enemy drove the Eleventh Corps into and through Gettysburg and surrounded and captured large numbers of them in the town itself. The survivors of the Eleventh Corps retreated to Cemetery Hill and assisted the division posted there in defending the position.
While this sanguinary combat was raging, two divisions of the Fifth Corps were on the march from Hanover. My division, the Second or regular, arrived at Bonaughtown, six miles southeast of Gettysburg, at midnight and rested an hour or so, where we were informed of the trouble at Gettysburg. We resumed our march and arrived at the right rear of our army at Rock Creek, at seven o'clock on the morning of the second of July; and here we remained with an occasional change of position, in reserve until about 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
At this point let me correct General Doubleday, who wrote, "the Fifth Corps, which came up about 1 p.m. was posted as a reserve south of the Twelfth Corps, etc.," in his history of the battle. Who ought to know best as to the time of arrival, the officers and men of the Fifth Corps or General Doubleday, who did not see them when they first reached the field? General Sykes, our commander, says in his report that we were on the field at 8 o'clock in the morning. General Barnes,, commanding the first division, says in his report: "The division was soon on the road and continued its march towards Gettysburg, halting after midnight about two miles f rom that place. Resuming its march after a brief rest of two or three hours the division reached Gettysburg at about 7 o'clock on the morning of July 2." An entry in my pocket memorandum book, made by me July 2, says we were on the field at daylight. Colonel Burbank, our brigade commander reports "that after a series of long and rapid marches, arrived in the vicinity of the enemy near Gettysburg, on the morning of July 2."
The Second Corps, Twelfth Corps and Third Corps arrived during the night of the first or early morning of the 2d. The Sixth Corps came up late in the afternoon of the 2d after a forced march of over thirty-four miles. Their physical condition can be better imagined than described. This Corps was composed of the best, if not the very best, troops in the army and had a reputation for fighting unsurpassed by none.
I shall not attempt to give the details of the bloody fight of July 2, but rather a general review thereof. By 1 o'clock p.m. of that day the enemy was in full possession of the town of Gettysburg and of the heights to the West and north of the town called the Seminary Ridge. Our army was in line from Culp's Hill on our right and rear extending along the Cemetery Hill and thence to the south and west to the Emmetsburg road. The left of our line, the Third Corps, being in front of the Round Tops about one mile. The left was thrown back and at an angle to the main line, thus covering in some degree the Round Tops.
The Third Corps thus forming the left of our line of battle was commanded by General Daniel Sickles, one of the best fighting Generals of the Army of the Potomac, and a man of military instincts. His corps was composed of good soldiers, and in its veteran ranks were the Twentieth Indiana infantry, in part made up of men from Logansport and Cass County. General Sickles with the genius of a true soldier had marched on Gettysburg without orders, thereby assuming a great risk. After posting his men on our left and front he rode back to General Meade for orders. Meade did not approve of the position of the Third Corps entirely, and made some objections thereto. Sickles said he would rectify the line and it is reported that Meade rejoined "Maybe the enemy will not let you." As Sickles turned to join his Corps, the enemy, Longstreet's men, commenced the attack on the Third Corps. They numbered near 18,000 men, the flower of the rebel army. Sickles had about 9,000 effective men. After desperate fighting, the Third Corps were driven in towards our center. At this stage of the game, our First Division under Barnes was put in motion, as we were of the Second Division under Ayers. We double-quicked for over two miles, and our strength of wind and limb were about exhausted when we arrived at the Little Round Top in time to cover the retreat of the brave Third Corps, who were fighting like devils against overwhelming numbers and in a faulty position. Caldwell's Division, Second Corps on our right, attempted to stay the enemy in conjunction with our two divisions, but were driven back to the top of the ridge. Barnes' Division was driven back to Little Round Top.
At this point I saw the movements of our division. Our Third Brigade rushed up the slopes of Little Round Top and helped Barnes' men to hold the position. Our brigade, the Second, were next in line to the right. We halted a moment, and then marched square to the front, followed on our right rear by the First Brigade, all in splendid order. As we advanced down the slope of Little Round Top, our officers and men began to fall rapidly, and as we crossed a marsh, called Plum Run, the enemy opened a most destructive fire on my regiment, the Seventeenth Infantry, the extreme left of our line. We were thoroughly wrought up with excitement, and some one yelled out "double quick." At this we all cheered and broke into a run towards the enemy, who were firing at us from the cover of a stone wall a short distance in our front, and from the Devil's Den on our left flank. Our cheers were in the nature of shrieks. Any of you who have had the nightmare and attempted to scream and could not, can imagine the reason we could not give forth good lusty hurrahs instead of shrieks. As
we reached a stone wall in our front we were ordered to lie down, but we did not get down quickly enough to avoid a terrible flank fire from the Devil's Den. Within fifteen minutes, 150 officers and men, of our 260 in the regiment, were killed and wounded. Caldwell's Division breaking on our right, uncovered the flank of our First Brigade, of which the enemy were quick to take advantage. Our two little regular brigades, numbering less than 2,400 men, were then assailed in front and on both flanks by five times our numbers and were compelled to retreat to our main lines where we halted and stopped a further advance of the enemy. About this time Crawford's Pennsylvania Reserves arrived. They advanced to our front on the run and chased the enemy back to the Emmetsburg road, capturing many prisoners and colors. Their charge was a brilliant and successful one. Perhaps it might not have been so, had they charged the enemy before the Third, and our Corps had taken some of the fight out of them.
While this struggle was going on at our left, Ewell's Corps, aided by Hill's, attacked our right, where were posted the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps. The Louisiana Brigade, the Tigers, stormed our batteries on Culp's Hill, drove out their defenders, the Eleventh Corps, captured Weiderick's Battery, and made a fair lodgment in our line; but at the critical moment Carroll's Brigade of westerners, the Fourteenth Indiana, Fourth and Eighth Ohio, and Seventh West Virginia, came down on the enemy like a whirlwind, ran them from our gains and killed, wounded and captured nearly the entire brigade. At another point on our right the enemy broke through and made a lodgment, which if maintained would have resulted in disaster to the army. Help was sent and the enemy driven out. Night and the exhaustion of the combatants stopped the battle for the day. Net result--our lines maintained; First, Third, Fifth and Eleventh Corps badly cut up and injured.
Men will laugh even in the presence of death. A Lieutenant in the Fourteenth United States Infantry, much disliked by the men of his regiment, had formerly been a shoemaker by trade. This fact was known to the men. Often the stilly hours of night after taps, were broken by a peculiarly discordant cry of "W-A-X! W-A-X!" emanating from the quarters of the men. Often we searched for the offender, but without success. As we were marching in line down Round Top, all hearts strained to their utmost tension, suddenly from our right and rear arose the shrill and ear piercing cry of "W-A-X." A hearty laugh greeted the well-known sound. A Lieutenant temporarily attached to my company, astonished me as we were going down the slope, silent and grim, by leaving his place in the line and running along the rear of the company yelling, "Give 'em hell, men! give 'em hell!" Twice I ordered him to desist, telling him I was in command and to keep quiet. When we made the run across the marsh, this Lieutenant was particularly vociferous, swinging his sword, etc., and in the center of the marsh he fell and was covered with mud. His sword scabbard had gotten between his legs and tripped him. All who saw his misadventure laughed.
The night of July 2, Meade called his Corps commanders together in council of war. It was resolved to stay and fight the battle to a finish, although Meade was not so disposed and gave a grumbling consent to the opinion of his officers. At this council the Corps commanders represented the strength of their respective Corps as follows: 9,000, 12,500, 9,000, 6,000, 8,500 6,000, 7,000;, total, 58,000. These figures were found among the papers of General Meade in pencil on the back of a memorandum made of the questions and answers addressed to each Corps commander, and no doubt are accurate. The present for duty equipped of infantry, June 30, 1863, of the Army of the Potomac was 71,922, according to the report of that date, which if correct, showed our losses for the first and second days of July to have been near 14,000 men, or 60 per cent of the loss of the entire three days.
On July 3, matters were quiet until about 1 o'clock P.M., when the rebels opened the ball with 168 pieces of artillery, whose fire was concentrated on our left center. Our position was such that we could bring but eighty guns to answer the enemy, although we had with the army 362 pieces. This awful artillery duel was kept up for over two hours and was very destructive to both men and guns. When one of our caissons would explode you could hear the cheers of the rebel infantry, and when one of the enemy's caissons, or limber chests, went up into the air, thousands of our boys would yell and cheer. In my opinion the rebels had the best of this artillery duel. Finally our firing ceased by order, to allow the guns to cool, and to prepare for the anticipated infantry charge which was not slow in coming. Pickett's Division of Longstreet's Corps had joined his command during the night, and were the flower of his Corps, the great majority being Virginians and North Carolinians. About 3 o'clock in grand array, supported by Pender's Division on the left, and Wilcox's Division on the right, they started on their mission to break the center of the Union army and to conquer their old enemy, the Army of the Potomac. This column of attack numbered near 17,000 men.
Pickett made a straight line for our center, but was deflected somewhat by the houses and fences. On came his division in splendid array, and as soon as he was in good shell range, our batteries opened upon him and tore great gaps in his lines, which were closed up by his men as though on parade. They did not take the double quick until within 800 yards of our position. At this point our guns commenced firing double canister with great accuracy and rapidity and Pickett's men fell in heaps. On they came, however, on the run; quickly their flank was presented to Stannard's Vermonters (nine months men) who rising up from the ground, and making a right wheel, struck the rebel mass squarely in their flank, killing, wounding and capturing large numbers of them. A few gallant spirits kept on and broke into our line of batteries, where they were finally arrested in their charge by Webb's Philadelphia Brigade and other troops, and defeated and driven back.
Pender and Wilcox's men, who had had a taste of Yankee pluck, during the two previous days, did not enter upon the charge with the same alacrity and elan as did the soldiers of Pickett. These divisions were much cut up in their advance, and retreated to their own lines in a demoralized condition. At this stage of the battle, with a Grant or Sheridan in command of our forces, a counter-stroke would have been given. We had the Sixth Corps near at hand in splendid order and rested from the fatigue of their long march of thirty-four miles the day before. Meade, however, was like the minister who passed his hat for a contribution, and remarked on having it returned empty, that he thanked God he had got his hat back from such a congregation. He was thankful the rebels had not beaten us. He said to one of the Corps Commanders, that he could hold out for the part of another
day here if they attacked him.
On the same day the cavalry fought a desperate battle about two miles on our right. Our cavalry defeated Stuart and prevented him from getting into our rear. The day previous our cavalry, under Kilpatrick, fought both the infantry and cavalry, and aided greatly in securing our left at Round Top.
The glorious Fourth day of July, 1863, witnessed a sad scene. Some 6,000 dead were lying in and around Gettysburg, and the groans of some 25,000 wounded pierced the air. Slight skirmishing and picket firing were indulged in on that night and next day. Lee, deliberately left the field on his return to Virginia unmolested by the victorious Union army. In these battles Lee had put in all his men, and we had fought and defeated them. Sedgwick's Sixth Corps, numbering 14,000 splendid infantry, had not been engaged to an appreciable extent. The Twelfth Corps had 6,000 effectives, and were eager for battle, having lost but about 1,000 men in killed and wounded out of an effective force of 7,000 men in the three days fighting. We had fought the enemy in detail, and always to our disadvantage. On the first day our men had been outnumbered at all fighting points, at least three to one, and on the second we had fought two to one. Yet in the face of all these facts, some writers and speakers insist upon it, that the rebel infantry man for man, were better fighters than our men.
Pickett's charge has passed into history as one of the most brilliant in modern times. It is a fact that they came on bravely and grandly, but they came but once. They did not charge earth-works, nor advance over bad ground; they came over gently undulating fields, with no obstacles to break their lines, except an occasional house or low fence. That this charge was grand and heroic none will dispute, but in my humble opinion it does not compare in heroism and courage to the desperate charge of the Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg in December, 1862, against the fortified heights, thrice repeated, and with the full knowledge of officers and men that success was impossible.
There is much dispute as to the number of combatants on the respective sides at Gettysburg. The Count of Paris alleges in his history that we outnumbered the enemy. I do not believe this. He arrives at his conclusion from the reports of the Corps commanders supposed to have been made June 30th. On that day we were on the march at the top of our speed. I will tell you how I mustered my company on that day, which was a fair sample of the other company musters. We had marched twenty-five miles and halted for the night about sundown. I had no blanks, no company books, no papers, no pens nor ink. I was completely worn out, and lying down, when Lieutenant Colonel Greene rode up, and ordered me to muster my command. I told him it was physically impossible. He said for me to do the best I could. I tore the white margin from a piece of newspaper I had in my pocket, and lying on my back, called out a few names of the men lying near, and jotted them down with pencil on this paper, which I used the next morning in lighting my pipe. I reported next day, I believed so many men were present. I guessed at the figures, and guessed them large enough, to cover the absence of the poor fellows who had fallen out of the ranks, from sickness or fatigue, days before on the march. This return for June 30, 1863, was made many days after its alleged date and after the battle of Gettysburg. To further show you by experience how utterly untrustworthy this report is, and was, I call your attention to the case of Justus Goodrich of my company, who was in the battle, and did not fall out of the ranks until some days afterwards. He applied for a pension and stated his case, and a few weeks ago a special pension agent called on me officially for my statement relative to Goodrich, saying that the muster rolls, did not show Goodrich present at Gettysburg. My company rolls were made in July after the fight, and by a Lieutenant who did not know the facts. The number of officers of our army who were killed and wounded at Gettysburg was 1,319, and a great per cent of these were company officers. Does any sane person imagine that our army on its rapid march to Gettysburg stopped to go through the formalities of a muster? No. In our musters of men present equipped, we included everybody in any way attached to the command. All rebel musters show the men with muskets only. In my judgment the numbers in each army were about equal, but the rebel officers possessed the skill of so arranging matters, as to have the most men present at the points of contact. Our losses in this battle were fearful 3,070 killed, 14,497 wounded, 5,334 missing, a grand total of 23,061. The losses of the enemy were equally as great. After the battle, crimination and recrimination was the order of the day with the corps commanders and General Meade. The hero, General Sickles, was blamed for the disastrous second day's fight. He was badly wounded and lost a leg. As soon as he was able to walk on crutches, he visited President Lincoln and asked for a court of inquiry as to his conduct. Mr. Lincoln put his arm around the General and denied his request, saying, "Sickles, there is glory enough for all and no court is necessary."
General Howard received the thanks of Congress for choosing the battlefield, due wholly to Buford and the dead hero--Reynolds. Doubleday, who did his whole duty with the First Corps, was overslawed by others, who were not as deserving and to-day General Pleasanton, the peerless cavalry leader, whose discipline and leading made our cavalry corps famous, walks the streets of Washington almost unknown, and is fretting his life away from the injustice shown him by the government. In 1886 in company with Colonel Bringhurst and other citizens of our town, I visited the field of Gettysburg. The lines are marked by hundreds of noble monuments in memory of the gallant regiments who suffered there. On the right slope of Little Round Top for a distance of 300 yards on our line, there are no monuments, except vacancy. Here stood and fought ten little regiments of United States Infantry--Uncle Sam's hired men. Our comrades of the Twentieth Indiana have time and again petitioned the United States to mark our line, but in vain. The result of this non-action is, to make visitors to the battlefield inquire: "Why didn't the rebels come through your line here, it appears to have been vacant." The answer of their guide is our monument. "The United States Regular Infantry stood here, my dear sirs, and the enemy could not get through."
1 have read with care the Official Records of the war published by our government, and the sworn
testimony of our leading officers before the Committee of Congress on the Conduct of the War
pertaining to Gettysburg, and firmly believe that no one thus far has written an account of this
battle, in all respects, that can be relied upon as accurate and impartial, or that does full justice to
the Union soldiers who fought therein. The public have been misled by viewing the Cyclorama of
Gettysburg, which shows only that portion of the third day's fight in which the rebel General
Pickett and his men are most conspicuous figures. The impartial historian will recount the deeds
of the heroes who fought on the first and second days as well on the third, and the valor and
patriotism of the much suffering and maligned Army of the Potomac will grow brighter as the
facts become known.
(Source: War Papers, Indiana MOLLUS, pages 295-309)