More Points in Regard to the Time of the Arrival of Sedgwick's Command.
By James L. Bowen
In The Weekly Times of June 10 Major Mark, of the Ninety-third Pennsylvania Regiment, corrects my impressions regarding the time of the Sixth Corps' arrival at Gettysburg. After quoting from his regimental history Major Mark says: "It will be seen that Mr. Bowen is incorrect by four hours." Let us see how Mr. Mark verifies his figures. The extract from his regiment's history says: "At 2 P. M. the regiment arrived at Rock Creek. At 3 General Sedgwick was ordered to send a brigade to the support of the Third and Fifth Corps, then hard pressed on the left." Observe the italics, which are mine. If any point in regard to the battle is established beyond question it is the time of Longstreet's attack on Sickles, which every reliable report puts at just after 4 o'clock, and of which General Longstreet himself says in the bound volume of Annals, p. 424: "At half-past: 3 o'clock the order was given Hood to advance upon the enemy." General Longstreet also quotes from the New York World account of the fight, which, after careful noting the time of Longstreet's last charge upon the Federal lines as 6 o'clock, speaks of the Fifth Corps as going into action subsequent to that time, and, after describing a long struggle that followed, says: "A division from the Twelfth Corps reached the scene at this instant and at the same time Sedgwick came up with the Sixth Corps." This was Wheaton's Brigade, coming in at half-past 6 or 7 o'clock by this careful authority. The Rev. Dr. M. Jacobs, Professor of Mathematics at Pennsylvania College, an eye-witness of the battle, says Longstreet's cannonade opened at 4.20 and was soon followed by an infantry attack, and the Pennsylvania Reserves of the Fifth Corps went into the fight at 6 o'clock.
WHERIN AUTHORITES AGREE
Mr. Coffin's account of the movement of troops agrees well with the above and so do all authorities whom I have been able to consult during many years' especial study of the subject. All concur in saying that the attack was borne by the Third Corps for a time without assistance and that about or after 5 o'clock the Fifth Corps were put in, regarding which General Doubleday agrees with the other authorities. The latter follows the course of the fight till 5.30, which point of time he notes and then describes events which must have consumed perhaps an hour before the arrival of Wheaton's Brigade, which formed line next to General Doubleday's own forces, the Pennsylvania Reserves, and of whose advent General Doubleday says: "Wheaton formed on the right and below Little Round Top. The sight of the firm front presented by these fresh troops thoroughly discouraged Longstreet, who went forward to reconnoiter, and he gave up all attempts at making any further advance." Major Mark also speaks of the "Third and Fourth Corps being present" when his brigade was ordered in, and as the latter corps did not begin to fight till after 5 o'clock this juncture could not be placed before 6 o'clock, probably later, which would agree very nearly with my own impressions, General Doubleday's record and Carleton's careful and positive statement. Major Mark agrees with me in giving the leading brigades of the corps an hour's rest before going into the fight. This hour could not have been from 2 to 3, for there was no fight to go into at 3, but it might have begun at 5 or 6, and in that case would have tallied exactly with other established facts in the history of the battle.
A WORD OR SO FROM DOUBLEDAY
General Doubleday, in a recent private letter, says: "I believe General Sedgwick reached Meade's headquarters at 2 P.M., but his corps was still far behind." This would seem to explain the whole misunderstanding. General Sedgwick reporting at 2, while his men were still miles away trudging slowly along on foot, would account for the error which somebody obviously made. Is not this the true solution? Let the man that knows speak out. In the course of much association with ex-soldiers, and discussion of the battle of Gettysburg, the alarm caused among the troops already engaged by the cloud of dust which our advance occasioned, and which was at first thought to be caused by the Confederate Cavalry coming up in the Union rear, has been often referred to, and always spoken of as occurring at 5 or 6 o'clock. Can all these people have been so mistaken in point of time? Or was what seemed to us an hour's rest really four or five hours? My only wish is to have the truth of the matter brought out, but that Major Mark's correction does not correct must be evident to any careful reader.
Further on the same writer says: "Mr. Bowen is further incorrect when he says "the men sink down to sleep upon their arms," etc. My purpose in the article referred to was to portray the march to the battlefield, not to follow the troops into action, and the words which I used were exactly true of my own brigade (Eustis'), which I believe was next to Wheaton's in the line of march and which followed the latter to the left in support of Sickles and Sykes. A single sentence will, of course, be only approximately true of all the troops of a corps, but another expression used in the same article - "Some of whose brigades were engaged in a few minutes after reaching the field" - was true of Wheaton's Brigade as nearly as a general statement be true of a particular command. Neither could be called an error, yet neither is strictly true as applied to the whole corps.
Springfield, Mass., June, 1882