Initial Deployment Confederate Assault
As Schurz's column cleared Horner's Mill, approximately 5-6 miles southeast of Gettysburg, he was met by a hard riding courier from corps commander Howard. The courier brought news that the 1st Corps was engaged at Gettysburg and that Schurz was to assume command of the corps and bring up his command with all haste. Schutz summoned 1st Brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Alexander Schimmelfennig, and turned command of the division over to the former Prussian Army officer with instructions to increase the pace to the "double-quick." Schutz spurred on to Gettysburg with his staff.
As the cavalcade neared Gettysburg they encountered an increasing stream of civilian fugitives fleeing from Gettysburg. One terrified woman attempted to stop Schurz, crying out, "Hard times at Gettysburg! They are shooting and killing! What will become of us!" For all Schurz knew there was no fighting at Gettysburg, for he had heard no sounds of battle even though he was now only several miles from town.3
With his glasses and tousled hair and beard, 33-year-old Carl Schutz, looked more the part of a college professor than warrior. Indeed, he possessed a brilliant mind and was adept with the use of the pen. He had been born in Prussia and, in 1848, served as a subaltern against the Prussian Army in the European Revolutions. The Prussians crushed the insurgents and Schutz fled to Switzerland. By 1856 he found his way to the United States by way of Great Britain and France. He settled in Wisconsin and promptly became an outspoken advocate of abolition. He was a gifted orator and he campaigned vigorously for Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 election. In the Spring of 1862, Schutz received a brigadier general's commission in the volunteers despite his extremely limited military background. To his credit, Schutz applied himself to the study of military science and he developed into a competent soldier, fighting with some ability at 2nd Manassas and again at Chancellorsville, where his division was routed through no fault of his own. Nevertheless, Schurz's reputation had suffered from Chancellorsville and his association with the l1th Corps, which was alone held responsible for the Union defeat in that battle.
Schurz galloped up to Cemetery Hill around 11:30 a.m. and reported to Howard. The soft-spoken Howard gave Schutz the grim news of Reynolds' death and informed the Prussian of what little he knew of the general situation. While the two men discussed the state of affairs a report from Brig. Gen. James Wadsworth, commanding the 1st Division of the 1st Corps, was received. Wadsworth offered the opinion that the enemy forces in front were relatively weak but that the enemy seemed to be moving around his right flank. From Cemetery Hill, Howard could see nothing of the enemy and very little of the 1st Corps. If Wadsworth was correct then the Confederates might be moving to seize a commanding hill (Oak Hill) situated off of Wadsworth's right flank. If the 1st Corps position west of Gettysburg was to be secured it would be necessary to seize this hill before Southern forces did. Accordingly, he instructed Schurz to take the 1st and 3rd Divisions, approximately 5,386 men, not counting stragglers, through Gettysburg and occupy Oak Ridge and Oak Hill, thereby extending and securing the right flank of the 1ST Corps. The 2nd Division, under Brig. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr, 2,861 electives bolstered by Capt. Lewis Heckman's K, 1ST Ohio Light (4 Napoleons) and Captain Michael Weidrich's 1, 1ST New York Light (6 3-inch rifles), were to halt on Cemetery Hill where they would constitute the general reserve. No provisions were made to defend the northern approach to Gettysburg because no Confederate force was yet reported approaching from that direction. If a Confederate force did move upon Gettysburg from the north or northeast Howard could rely that Col. Thomas Devin's Brigade of John Buford's Cavalry Division, which was picketing the northern approaches, would provide timely warning.4
Between 12:30 and 12:45 p.m. the head of the 3rd Division came hustling up to Cemetery Hill. Although the division had farther to march than Brig. Gen. Francis Barlow's 1ST Division, Barlow had been slowed by the trains of the 1st Corps and was still a good one-half hour distant. Schimmelfennig's men were "panting and out of breath" and streaming with perspiration as they swept past Cemetery Hill. The rapid marching had caused large intervals between regiments so that the division arrived in pieces rather than in a body. 5
The imminent action the corps seemed sure to engage in offered an opportunity for it to redeem its badly tarnished reputation. Throughout the rest of the army the 11th Corps was seen as the weak link and such slurs as "Howard's cowards" and "The flying Dutchmen" were hurled at them. The intense feeling against the corps had developed from two separate causes. One was nationality. A large percentage of the corps was composed of Germans, many of whom spoke little English. Many officers, likewise, like Schurz and Schimmelfennig, were foreign born. Despite the long military tradition of the German states, the Germans were held in contempt by the English speaking element of the army and considered to be poor fighters.
The performance of the corps at Chancellorsville bore out the myth that the Germans of the corps were cowardly soldiers. The corps was placed upon the extreme right flank of the army. When Lt. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson made his march to gain the Union flank, corps commander Howard ignored numerous warnings that he was about to be attacked upon his flank and so failed to take precautionary measures that might have prevented disaster. Jackson attacked and routed the corps. Placed as they were, Howard's men, or any other men in the same situation, never had a chance. The rest of the army was unforgiving however, and found the Germans of the 11th Corps a convenient scapegoat for the Union defeat.
Morale in the corps plummeted and discipline grew slack. "I confess that I have but little confidence in the Corps," wrote Capt. Fred Winkler of the 26th Wisconsin: "jealousy and intrigue between officers has, in many of our old regiments, destroyed all discipline; most of them have a very good reputation for fighting and they may fight well under favorable circumstances, but they are not reliable in any emergency." Winkler struck upon the problem with the 11th Corps and it had nothing to do with nationality. The key word was discipline. Soldiers without strong discipline will not fight well no matter what nationality they hail from.6
Affairs were particularly bad in the corps 1st Division, which had suffered the initial shock of Jackson's attack at Chancellorsville. To bring the division back to its feet Howard brought 28-year-old Brig. Gen. Francis Barlow to its command. A boyish-faced prewar lawyer, Barlow had proven himself a hard, aggressive fighter and stern disciplinarian. To assist Barlow, Howard secured another tough disciplinarian, a 27-year-old West Pointer, Brig. Gen. Adelbert Ames, to command the division's 2nd Brigade. Barlow found the position a difficult one and he complained later of his German regiments, "But these Dutch won't fight. Their officers say so & they say so themselves & they ruin all with whom they come in contact." Following Gettysburg he would write, "I would take a brigade to such a division."7
Yet another indication that the corps lacked any esprit was the fact that few men wore the corps badge of the half moon although in other corps it was almost universally worn. Part of the lack of esprit stemmed from a lack of confidence in corps commander Oliver 0. Howard. It had been Howard's misfortune to replace Franz Sigel, a miserable soldier, but exceptionally popular with the corps' German regiments. Howard's aloof personality won him few friends and he put no fire into the downcast spirits of his men. His handling of the corps at Chancellorsville only reinforced the corps' displeasure with their commander, as Captain Winkler explained to his girl in a letter of May 12, ". . . very little confidence is felt in General Howard. Troops without confidence in their leaders are worth nothing."8
So the corps marched to battle at Gettysburg under an ugly cloud of shaky morale and uncertain leadership. It was not a promising state of affairs.
The leading regiment of the corps was Col. George von Amsburg's 45th New York Infantry of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division. The 45th counted 375 officers and men, Germans nearly to a man. The hard marching Germans streamed past Cemetery Hill and passed north on Washington Street emerging on the northern edge of town.9
Some minutes after the 45th disappeared into town, Capt. Hubert Dilger's Company 1, 1st Ohio Light (6 Napoleons), one of the best batteries in the army, came rumbling up the road with the rest of the 1st Brigade struggling behind. Some distance behind came Col. Wladimir Krzyzanowski's 2nd Brigade."10
When acting 3rd Division commander Schimmelfennig rode up, Schurz instructed him to take the division through town and deploy on the right of the 1st Corps. Schimmel- fennig moved on with his men and Schurz remained near the intersection of the Taneytown Road and Emmitsburg Road to await the arrival of Barlow's Division. 11
The trains of the 1st Corps had slowed Barlow's pace so that the head of his division did not make its appearance until after 1 p.m. Schurz summoned the New Yorker and the latter rode ahead and met his corps commander at the above road intersection. Schurz instructed Barlow to take his division through town and deploy one brigade on the right of the 3rd Division, which should be west of the Mummasburg Road, and place the other brigade east of the road, en echelon to the main line of the corps. While Barlow waited for his division to come up, Schurz rode to inspect the deployment of the 3rd Division. 12
Schurz's intended deployment of the 3rd Division had hit a snag. The obstacle was the nearly 8,000-man division of Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes which had beat the l1th Corps in the foot race to occupy Oak Hill. Rodes was on the hill in force and only a fight would secure it for the Federals.
As the 45th New York emerged from town on the Mummasburg Road, Colonel von Amsburg ordered the four right companies under Capt. Francis Irsch to deploy as skirmishers "to the right of the Mummasburg Road as far as he could towards the east." Von Amsburg promised to follow with the balance of the regiment as soon as the men had closed up and caught their breath." 13
Irsch spread his four companies out, facing Oak Hill, and stepped off. A battery, stationed near Wilbur McLean's farm situated at the base of the hill, proceeded to lob shells at Irsch's deploying line, but with little effect initially. The battery was Capt. R. C. M. Page's Virginia Battery (4 Napoleons), belonging to the artillery battalion of Rodes' Division. Page's battery had been dispatched by Rodes to dispute the advance of the lith Corps, which he presumed intended to attack his left flank. Rodes also deployed the crack Georgia Brigade of Brig. Gen. George Doles between the Carlisle Road and northern extension of Oak Ridge. It was Doles's duty to hold the 11 th Corps at bay, preventing them from turning Rodes's flank, until Maj. Gen. Jubal Early's Division, which was approaching from Heidlersburg along the Harrisburg Road, could arrive. To assist Doles in this difficult mission a battalion of Alabama sharpshooters under Maj. Eugene Blackford were deployed in a long line extending from Oak Ridge (the northern extension) to the Harrisburg Road, near Blocher's Knoll (known today as Barlow's Knoll). It was Blackford's keen eyed riflemen that brought the first accurate fire upon Irsch's New Yorkers.14
"Under a terrific artillery and sharpshooter fire," Irsch worked his skirmish line forward. Losses began to mount as Blackford's crack shots found their targets and Page's gunners found the range. Despite the intense fire Irsch pushed on for perhaps 400 yards when he ordered his men to lie down behind nearby fences. With the advantage of some cover the New Yorkers opened a rapid and deadly fire with their Remington rifles.15
As Irsch's men worked their Remington rifles with good effect, Lt. Col. Adolphus Dobke came up in the rear with the remaining six companies of the regiment, lending some bark behind the bite of the skirmish line. Soon, Dilger's battery of Napoleons came jingling out of town on the Mummasburg Road. Schimmelfennig directed the Ohioan to take position between the Mummasburg and Carlisle Roads and engage Rodes's batteries thereby drawing their fire from the deploying infantry of the 3rd Division. Dilger responded by advancing Lt. Clark Scripture's section forward, presumably to a point near, but east of, Doersom's farm. Scripture's Napoleons quickly drew the fire of Page's four Napoleons and Dilger was compelled to reinforce him with the entire battery.16
While Dilger's guns dueled with Page and Irsch kept Blackford's Alabamians at arm's length, Schimmelfennig's 3rd Division came streaming onto the field. On the heels of Dilger came Colonel Stephen McGroarty's 61st Ohio, a slim 143 electives. McGroarty was instructed to deploy his regiment as skirmishers and extend the right of the 45th New York towards the Carlisle Road. Following the Ohioans came the balance of the 1st Brigade, now under Col. George von Amsburg of the 45th New York. Col. Adolph von Hartung's under strength 74th Pennsylvania, 134 strong, was deployed as skirmishers and went into position on the right of the 61st Ohio, along a dirt lane that ran from the Carlisle Road towards Wilbur McLean's farm in the shadow of Oak Ridge. As the senior officer Hartung assumed command of the skirmish line which now numbered nearly 425 men and extended from the Mummasburg Road to the Carlisle Road. On the left of the line, Irsch's New Yorkers dislodged Blackford's troublesome sharpshooters from Hagy's orchard giving the left end of the skirmish line a firm anchor and denying the Confederates a fine concealed position from which to pop away at the Federals. On the 61st Ohio and 74th Pennsylvania's front the skirmishing was sharp. Hartung was wounded and command fell to Lt. Col. Alexander von Mitzel. These regiments killed and wounded totaled 96 men, most of them no doubt shot on the skirmish line.17
The balance of the 1st Brigade, the 157th New York and 82nd Illinois, 725 men, under von Amsberg's personal direction, deployed in the rear of Dilger's guns and were instructed to lie down.18
The duel between Dilger's and Page's batteries had intensified during the 1st Brigade's arrival as Rodes reinforced Page with Capt. W. J. Reese's 4 3-inch rifles of the Jeff Davis (Alabama) Artillery. Dilger's magnificent gunnery soon gained the upper hand. He dealt Page a thorough pounding, killing or mortally wounding 4 men, wounded 26 and killed 17 horses. Page pulled his wrecked battery under cover and Reese, lest he draw Dilger's deadly fire, also fell silent.19
During Dilger's gun duel, Krzyzanowski's 2nd Brigade, counting approximately 1,270 officers and men, came double-quicking down Washington Street. Schimmelfennig or dered the Pole to mass his men in support of Dilger. Forming in double column of companies, the regiments took position in an orchard northeast of Pennsylvania College. From left to right the order of battle was the 82nd Ohio, 75th Pennsylvania, light New York, and 26th Wisconsin. Two companies of the 58th New York were also present and they were likely attached to one of the above regiments. As the regiments filed into position Krzyzanowski directed Col. John T. Lockman of the 119th New York to deploy two companies of skirmishers and have them occupy a farm (possibly the Almshouse area) and outbuildings beyond the right flank of the division.
Despite Dilger's counterbattery fire, Krzyzanowski's Brigade drew fire from Reese and Page before they were silenced. The dense mass of bluecoats made a splendid tar get as Captain Alfred Lee of E Company, 82nd Ohio, recalled:
The return fire of the rebel guns was lively, and their shot and shell ricochetted splendidly over the open fields. While the regiment was taking its position, a corporal of my company (23-year-old Cpl. Isaiah Mahan) was struck by one of these misses and thrown prostrate. Directly another soldier was struck, and the regiment, being unable to return fire, slightly shifted its position. Then the rolls were called, and the men quietly responded to their names amid the boom of cannon and the screech of exploding shells.20
To the 82nd's right, Col. Francis Mahler's 75th Pennsylvania lost 1 killed and 2 wounded to the Southern artillery. Slight casualties one might be prompted to say, but the effect of artillery is also psychological. Its purpose is to inflict damage but also to break down the will to combat in the enemy. Considering the Confederate artillery fire emanated from the vicinity of-Oak Ridge, which dominated the 11 th Corps position, its effect must have been demoralizing and unnerving.21
Up on the skirmish line the action was intensifying. Around 1:30 p.m. Rodes's assault upon Robinson's Division of the 1st Corps on Oak Ridge jumped off. Irsch's New Yorkers soon observed the dark lines of Col. Edward A. O'Neal's Alabama Brigade emerge from the woods on Oak Hill and advance along the slope and base of the hill towards Robinson's right flank. Irsch's men peppered the 26th Alabama on O'Neal's left with a flank fire but failed to check it. Irsch sought stronger measures. A request was dispatched to Dilger to engage O'Neal with canister and shrapnel. Dilger gave them shrapnel, concentrating the fire of all six guns upon O'Neal's infantry while the 45th New York skirmishers kept up a steady fire as the Southern infantry passed across their front. Colonel Dobke alertly began to shift the remaining six companies of the 45th towards the gap between the 1st and lith Corps. Dobke's concentrated fire, combined with Irsch's, Dilger's, and two regiments of Robinson's Division was more than O'Neal's three regiments could stand. "The enemy began to break and run," recalled a member of the 45th, and Irsch roused his skirmishers to their feet and sent them in a rush for Wilbur McLean's farm, where many Alabamians had sought shelter from the fire. The tough Germans scrambled through McLean's outbuildings and barn and emerged with a sizeable number of butternut prisoners who they ordered to the rear.22
The arrival and deployment of the 3rd Division had scarcely been completed when Schurz, who by this time had arrived at the front, received a report from Howard that a large enemy force was reported to be approaching from the direction of Heidlersburg. Howard directed Schurz to halt his command in place and prevent his right flank from being turned, but to also push forward a "thick line of skirmishers" and attempt to still seize Oak Hill. No doubt because of these orders, Schurz kept the entire 3rd Division east of the Mummasburg Road, rather than deploying it on the west side as he had intended to do. As Schurz digested and pondered Howard's new orders and the ominous news they carried, O'Neal's attack jumped off on Oak Ridge. The escalating musketry fire caught Schurz's curiosity and he rode forward to the Hagy farm. Dismounting, he climbed to the roof of Hagy's house to get a better view of the situation. 23
While Schurz was absent from his headquarters to study the situation at the front, Barlow's 1st Division, accompanied by Howard, came slogging up Washington Street through mud "four inches deep." The men were greatly exhausted having double-quicked several miles. To their delight and refreshment, many women of Gettysburg emerged from their homes along Washington Street and "stood along the sidewalks with buckets of water, and doing all they could for men."24
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