from the Philadelphia Times, March 14, 1881.


by John B. Bachelder

An Interesting Incident of the Battle
Chapman Biddle's Gallantry

In the course of my investigations regarding the history of the battle of Gettysburg, I have come in possession of the details of an interesting incident which I deem proper to have preserved in the columns of your admirable paper with other unpublished annuals of the war. This will be read with interest, not only in your city, but by the veterans of the old army, for one of the actors was a citizen of Philadelphia, recently deceased, and a distinguished officer of the Army of the Potomac. I allude to the late Colonel Chapman Biddle. The incident referred to occurred on the afternoon of the first day at Gettysburg, at that period of the battle when Heth's division of Confederates, supported by Pender's division advanced to the grand attack, overwhelming the Union troops and forcing them to retire from the field. Colonel Biddle was in command of the extreme left brigade of the Union army, which was opposed by Pettigrew's brigade of north Carolinians. When the final Confederate advance was made Pettigrew's brigade was found to outflank and greatly outnumber Colonel Biddle's command. The contest which ensued was desperate and bloody. The left of Pettigrew's line engaged the Nineteenth Indiana and Twenty-fourth Michigan, of the old "Iron Brigade", which was in position on Biddle's right. The right of Pettigrew's brigade, overlapping Biddle's left, advanced more rapidly than the rest of his line and, being unopposed, directed its fire by "left oblique" upon Biddle's troops, who were standing up manfully against the heavy front attack of Pettigrew's centre. This flank fire from Pettigrew's right caused the Union line to waver, seeing which Colonel Biddle seized the colors and gallantly dashed into the break. His horse was at this moment shot under him and he fell, bruised and bleeding, to the ground.

It may be interesting to your reader to know the counterpart of this incident, and as my investigation embrace the movements of both armies I will give it, together with my sources of information. Several years ago, while conversing with General Scales, of North Carolina, on the floor of the House of Representatives at Washington, regarding the battle of Gettysburg, he remarked that one of this colleagues, Captain Davis, was there, commanding a company in the Forty-seventh North Carolina Regiment, and, if agreeable to me, he would present him, which he did.

Captain Davis entered at once upon a warm discussion of the details of the historic event. Finally he said:

"Now you can tell me something that I very much want to know. At what part of the field was General Reynolds killed?"
I answered; "In the woods at your left, while engaging Archer's Brigade, in the morning at the very opening of the battle."
"Are you sure," said he "that he was not killed in front of Pettigrew's brigade?"
"As sure as one can be who did not see the act, but depend upon theirs for his information," I answered.
"Thank God!" exclaimed Captain Davis, " I have always feared I was responsible for his death."
After a moment he added: "What general officer was killed on my front?"
"None," I said.
"But," he replied, "I saw him, colors in hand, dash into his disordered ranks to rally his troops, and, calling to Frank Escue, a sharpshooter of my command, I directed the shot and saw him fall, and I have always feared that in the heat and excitement of battle I had been the direct cause of the death of a gallant officer."
"You can set your mind at rest upon that point," said I, "for there was no general officer killed in your front, but if you would like to see the man you thought dead, you can do so when you are in Philadelphia by calling on Colonel Chapman Biddle."
I will add that having alluded to this incident in a lecture, it attracted the attention of Colonel Biddle, who wrote to me to put him in communication with Captain Davis, which resulted in several letters passing between them on the subject.

I have the honor to be very truly yours,
Boston, Mass March 14, 1881