Gulian Weir

Gulian Weir

Subject: Weir's Battery C 5th US

Hello GDG

I have quickly reviewed the Bachelder Papers all 3 vols and I find the vols extremely useful. I have just one question for our group.

In Vol 2 a few letters deal with the abandoment of Weir's guns on the second day near the Wheatfield etc. I am at my office and do not have the exact pages handy etc. I can furnish if necessary.

It appears some have accused Weir of being a coward etc.

I have not read of this incident before, can some of our more knowledgable members shed some light on this incident or direct me to a better source on the matter.

Marc Riddell
Cooper's Battery B 1st Pa Light Artillery

From: ( TERRY MOYER) Subject: Re: Weir's Battery C 5th US Marc,
The letters written by Hancock to Bachelder concerning Weir and the 2d days incident with his battery are very interesting aren't they? After I read about Weir I became interested in the incident also and did a little investigating. Since the 19th Maine was originally assigned to guard the battery I went to Maine at Gettysburg for an account of the incident from that regiments point of view. The regimental sketch spoke of the fighting which led to the abandonment of the guns of Weir's battery. Fortunately Maine at Gettysburg has been reprinted and is available for $45 in Gburg. I can get the name of the publisher for you if you are interested. The 13th Vt recovered the guns of the battery. I have in my collection a speech entitled: Vermont at Gettysburgh, which was given before the Vt Historical Society, July 6, 1870, bu George Scott, 1st Sgt of Co. G, 13th Vt. Here is an excerpt from that speech dealing with the recovery of the guns:

"As Hancock saw Randall he said 'Colonel where is your regiment'? 'Close at hand' said Randall. 'Good,' said Hancock, 'the enemy are pressing me hard - they have just captured that battery yonder (a battery about 20 rods in front) and are dragging it from the field. Can you retake it'? 'I can, and pretty damn quick too, if you will let me.'

At that moment they both observed a rebel brigade deploying from the woods to the left (codori thicket - twm) and making for the guns. In a moment Randall was at the head of his regiment ... He led us into the gap. We were now in front of the enemy who was dragging off our guns. They did not await us; many fled, others threw themselves into the grass, we passed over them, and they were picked up by other regiments in the rear. They doubtless supposed from the steadiness and rapidity of our movements that we were fresh troops and much more numerous than we were. We deployed in line of battle, discharged our muskets into the enemy and gave three cheers, and then at the command 'Charge'! bayonets bore down upon the enemy. We retook the guns and dragged them to the rear. The artillerymen to whom they belonged came up with horses, took them from us and thanked us for recapturing them. This was battery 'C' of the fifth regular artillery"

Perhaps tomorrow I can drag out the account of the 19th Maine and excerpt it for you.

I noticed as I was reading the Hancock correspondence that he would be visiting the field along with Weir and a number of other personages to tour the area with Bachelder. It so happens that Hancock, Bachelder and the entire tour group was photographed during this visit, once in front of the High Water mark (before the iron fence was in place, as I recall) and once in front of the site where Hancock was wounded. At least one of these photos appear in the Gburg magazine article about Bachelder by Sauers, entitled something along the lines of "John B Bachelder Gov't Historian of the Battle of Gettysburg" the issue number I think is 3, though as you can tell I have none of this material close at hand to check right now. Although Weir is not identified in the photo caption in this article (nor in other sources where I have seen this photograph) he certainly must be one of the members of this group. I tried to pick out the tortured soul who must be Weir, but couldn't come up with any candidate who would obviously be Weir.

(According to the Ladd's, Weir could not stand the shame of abandoning his guns on the 2d day of the battle, and eventually committed suicide by shooting himself. When you read his letters in the Bachelder volumes you can see the turmoil in his soul.)

Terry Moyer

From: John Kelly (
Harry Pfanz wrote a short section about Gulian Weir who was placed near the Codori barn on the right of Humphreys (III Corps)almost at the Emmitsburg Road. Weir's fight is described in Pfanz's book GETTYSBURG-THE SECOND DAY pp377-378. Weir did indeed lose three guns, and never got over it. He finally shot himself in 1886 at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn NY. I have also seen something else about Weir in another source, but I do not remember the title, unfortunately, and am not able to find it in the disorder I call an office.

Regards, Jack Kelly

Subject: Re: Weir's Battery C 5th US

Marc and GDG,
Another place that you would want to look to find information would be regimental histories for the 19th Maine or 13th Vt (if they exist - Ben Maryniak would know about that).

John Kelly brought up Pfanz's 2d Day book. At least that source is easy to locate!

Here is Randall's account:
Series 1, Vol 27 Pt 1, Page 351-353
Report of Col. Francis V. Randall, Thirteenth Vermont Infantry,
July 10, 1863.

GENERAL: In compliance with your request, I make the following report of the part taken by my regiment (Thirteenth Vermont) July 1, 2, and 3 instant: ... The brigade then marched to Gettysburg, arriving there on July 1, at about 5 p. m. My regiment, with the Fourteenth and Sixteenth, took position on Cemetery Hill, in rear of our line of battle, made up of the first and Eleventh Corps.
On the morning of the 2d, we occupied substantially the same position until about 2 p. m. , when I was ordered to advance five of my companies, under Lieutenant-Colonel Munson, to support a battery on our front. Soon after this, I was ordered to advance the balance of my regiment a little to the front and to the left of our former position, which brought us nearly in rear of the right of the Second Corps. This took me entirely out of the line occupied by the rest of our brigade, and I received no further orders from our brigade headquarters during the remainder of that day. A heavy fight was going on in wi received some injury from the artillery fire of the rebels without being able to engage in the fight. At this time an officer, whom I did not know at the moment, but who proved to be General Doubleday, came galloping over the hill from General Hancock's position, and approached my regiment. After having found what regiment we were, and making a few inspiring remarks to my men, he directed and report to General Hancock, whom I would find there, and hard it before I could get there, I started, riding in advance of my regiment to meet General Hancock and find where I was needed, so as to be able to place my men in position without exposing them too long under fire. As I reached the ridge or highest ground between the cemetery and Little Round Top Mountain, I met General Hancock, who was encouraging and rallying his men to hold on to the position. He told me the rebels had captured a battery he had there, and pointed out to me the way they had gone with it, and asked me if I could retake it. I told him I thought I could, and that I was willing to try. He said it would be a hazardous job, and he would not order it, but, if I thought I could do it, I might try. By this time my regiment had come up, and I moved them to the front far enough so that when I deployed them in line of battle they would leave Hancock's men in their rear. They were now in column by division, and I gave the order to deploy in line, instructing each captain as to what we were to do as they came on to the line, and, taking my position to lead them, gave the order to advance. At this time my horse was killed, and I fell to the ground with him. While on the ground, I discovered a rebel line debouching from the woods on our left, and forming substantially across our track about 40 rods on ourfront. We received one volley from them, which did us very little injury, when my men sprang forward with the bayonet with so much precipitancy that they appeared to be taken wholly by surprise, and threw themselves in the grass, surrendering, and we passed over them. General Hancock followed up the movement, and told me to press on for the guns and he would take care of the prisoners, which he did, and we continued our pursuit of the guns, which we overtook about half way to the Emmitsburg road, and recaptured them, with some prisoners. These guns, as I am told, belong to the Fifth U. S. Regulars, Lieutenant Weir. There were four of them. We were now very near the Emmitsburg road, and I advanced my line to the road, and sent my adjutant (James S. Peck) back to inform General Hancock of our position. While he was gone, the rebels advanced two pieces of artillery into the road about 100 rods to the south of us, and commenced to shell us down the road, whereupon I detached one company, and advanced them under cover of the road, dug way, and fences, with instructions to charge upon and seize those guns, which they did most gallantly. We also captured the rebel picket reserve, consisting of 3 officers and 80 men, who had concealed themselves in a house near by. In pursuance of orders from General Hancock, we now slowly fell back to the main line of battle. It was dark, and no further operation took place on our part that night.

Same source, pages 879-88-

Report of Lieutenant Gulian V. Weir, Battery C, Fifth U. S. Artillery,
First Regular Brigade.

September 20, 1863.
SIR: I have the honor to report the part Battery C, Fifth U. S. Artillery, took during the engagements of July 2 and 3, at the battle of Gettysburg. July 2. - Left camp near Taneytown, Md. , and marched to within a mile and a half of Gettysburg, Pa. , and went into park. After remaining here until the afternoon, moved to the front, by order of General Tyler. About 4 o'clock was ordered by Major-General Hancock to take up a position about 500 yards to the right and front, with orders to watch my front, as our troops were falling back on the left at the time. I was ordered by General Gibbon to open fire to the left with solid shot at 4 degrees elevation. In a short time the enemy showed themselves in front, and, in their advance toward the battery, met with no opposition whatever from our infantry, who were posted on my right and front. I opened with solid shot and spherical case, and as they continued to advance, I opened with canister. Soon it was reported to me that we were out of canister. The enemy being within a few rods of us, I immediately limbered up, and was about to retire when a regiment of infantry took position on my left and rear, and opened fire. I immediately came into battery again, hoping that our infantry would drive the enemy back, as their force seemed to be small and much scattered. The enemy were too close. I endeavored to get my guns off the field; succeeded in getting off but three, as some of the drivers and horses were disabled while in the act of limbering up. My horse was shot at this time, and, as I was rising from the ground I was struck with a spent ball, and everything seemed to be very much confused. I hastened off with the remaining guns. After the enemy had been driven back by the infantry, the other guns were brought off ...
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
First Lieutenant Fifth Artillery, Commanding Battery.

If this large post didn't "Weir" you out, I can probably excerpt a somewhat smaller account from the Maine at Gettysburg tonight. If I see a flurry of "unsubscribe" messages this afternoon, I will take the hint and desist...

Terry Moyer

Subject: Re: Weir's Battery C 5th US

In a message dated 96-01-30 14:14:16 EST, you write:

I usually study Gettysburg and the Artillery as my 2 favorite CW subjects. An artilleryman did not want to lose his guns at any cost and I can understand where Gulian Weir was upset with himself to the point of committing suicide in 1886.

The cannoners themselves were originally only issued artillery sabers as the army wanted the men to protect the guns at all costs. Only officers and NCOs had pistols at the beginning, but many men acquired pistols on their own. The gun was like an arm to the artilleryman and to lose one to the enemy was not on their list of things to happen.

Marc Riddell

Cooper's Battery B


As an aside, virtually any of the batteries that lost guns at Gettysburg had similar contretemps in the post-battle liturature to a greater or lesser degree. Weir's example was extreme, but not that far from common.

Dave Powell