Gordon's regiments were fatigued from the day's march and he allowed them to advance slowly until within 300 yards of Barlow's line. The enemy he directed his advance towards was von Gilsa's weak brigade. At 300 yards Gordon stepped up the pace. 48
Musketry crackled from the banks of Rock Creek as the 54th and 68th New York brought Gordon's advancing line under fire. The skirmishers of the 153rd Pennsylvania, in Blocher's Woods, could see no targets yet. Farther up the slope, Lieutenant Merkle's section of Bancroft's battery banged away at Doles's approaching brigade with shell and shrapnel. The remaining three guns of Bancroft's battery, which had shifted its position to the left of its initial firing position, also used shell and shrapnel on Doles's.49 As Gordon's Georgians neared Rock Creek they aggressively rushed upon von Gilsa's thin line on the opposite bank. The creek proved a formidable barrier. Gordon reported the "banks were so abrupt as to prevent passage excepting at certain points. . . ." Raising the Rebel yell, the Georgians splashed across the creek. Pvt. G. W. Nichols of the 61st Georgia, on Gordon's left, found the Federals particularly obstinate; "We advanced with our accustomed yell, but they stood firm until we got near them. They then began to retreat in fine order, shooting at us as they're treated. They were harder to drive than we had ever known them before."50
The 54th and 68th New York were unable to withstand the fury of Gordon's attack, which the Georgian believed was made "with a resolution and spirit, in my opinion, rarely excelled." The New Yorkers ran up the slope of Blocher's Knoll into the ranks of the supporting 153rd Pennsylvania. Pvt. Reuben Ruch of F Company recalled a man to his right raised his rifle-musket to shoot one of the retiring skirmishers when Cpl. Peter Smith knocked his rifle-musket into the air an instant before it discharged. Ruch and others then emptied their muskets into the Georgians who were now swarming across Rock Creek and scrambling up the hill. When Ruch reached for a second cartridge the man behind him was struck and fell in front of Ruch "his face towards me." An instant later the man to Ruch's left was killed. Ruch remained steady and sent four or five more rounds into Gordon's advancing host before he heard an order shouted to fall back.51
The situation was quickly deteriorating for the 153rd. Gordon's right broke the Pennsylvanians' left and the Georgians also worked around the regiment's right flank. Private Ruch hesitated to join his slowly retiring comrades. He spotted a color bearer splashing across Rock Creek "yelling like an Indian." Ruch determined to "fix him" the moment he capped his loaded piece. As he raised his weapon he changed his mind and determined he should shoot a man without a weapon. Spotting a Georgian reaching for the top rail of a post and rail fence several yards in front, Ruch aimed and squeezed the trigger. ". . . He struck his hand against his side and dropped. He did not come, over the fence. "52
The 153rd was now retiring, although stubbornly, firing as they made their way to the crest of the hill. Ruch recalled as he emerged from Blocher's Woods seeing the line of his regiment's dead: "They were piled in every shape, some on their backs, some on their faces, and others turned and twisted in every imaginable shape." The regiment was under a cross fire that dropped many a Pennsylvanian. Ruch was struck twice in the legs as he made his way up the knoll. Nearby, 19-yearold Pvt. John Trumbauer stepped up beside a large oak tree, leaned his rifle-musket against it and said, "Come boys, let us give then what they deserve." Before he could discharge his weapon he was struck through the right shoulder and dropped his weapon. "But he was made of good old stuff," and Trumbauer seized his weapon, worked the piece up to his left shoulder and fired into Gordon's ranks.53 In Company G, Capt. Howard Reeder deliberately discharged his revolver into the faces of the yelling Georgia until they were no more than 15 feet from him. He then turned and ran, miraculously escaping without being hit. John Rush in K company was struck by a minie ball that passed nine inches through the muscles of his left arm shoulder. He turned to go and was hit by another that shattered his collar bone. Rush staggered on and encountered a young lieutenant who was trying to rally the men who were retiring. Rush explained he was wounded in both shoulders and the officer told him to break his weapon. When he replied this was impossible, the lieutenant had Rush pass him cartridges and caps while he fired the private's rifle-musket. Soon, Gordon's Confederates closed upon them and the lieutenant fled, narrowly escaping, while Rush fell into enemy hands.54 On the summit of Blocher's Knoll, Lieutenant Bancroft had observed the collapse of von Gilsa's Brigade. Discharging his last rounds of canister, the lieutenant limbered guns and cleared out. Farther to the left, Merkle's section which had been firing canister into Doles's, left soon after. 55
The collapse of von Gilsa's Brigade exposed the flank of Ames's Brigade, which was under attack from Doles's, Gordon promptly seized upon-his advantage and pushed his right against Ames's right flank. The blow fell hard against the 25th Ohio and it began to waver. So, too, did the 10t7th Ohio, under heavy fire from Doles's. Ames ordered up the 75th Ohio and 17th Connecticut to restore the situation. Col. Andrew L. Harris, commanding the 75th, was instructed to fix bayonets and advance into the interval between the 107th and 25th Ohio. "It was a fearful advance and made at a dreadful cost of life," recalled Harris. Ames led the counterattack on foot but the front and flank fire brought it to a standstill. The 75th halted and attempted to return the fire that slashed their ranks .56
The fire of the 75th, checked what was probably the 12th Georgia, but other elements of Doles's Brigade and Gordon's Brigade worked their way around the Ohioans' flanks. "Our situation was perilous in the extreme," wrote Harris. The 25th and 107th Ohio were being pressed back and the counterattack of the 17th Connecticut was thrown into disorder by men of von Gilsa's Brigade who came streaming to the rear and broke through their ranks. The New Englanders loosed only one volley then the regiment fell back "about ten feet or so." The regiment's colonel, Douglas Fowler, had his bead blown off by a shell from Jones's Battalion, sending his brains spattering upon the regiment's adjutant, H. Whitney Chatfield. One company commander was also killed and two wounded. An officer shouted for the regiment to halt and momentarily the retreat stopped. But disorder and panic's seed had been sown and the regiment began to run again. William H. Warren of Company C saw Rufus Warren of his company throw up his hands and shout, "O Dear, Help me, Help me," before he fell ...... It was not time for me to stop," wrote Warren, "so I kept on. "57
Francis Barlow exposed himself recklessly to stem the retreat of his men. As von Gilsa's men came streaming up the slope of the knoll he turned his horse to get in front of the men in order to rally them and "form another line in the rear." Before he could turn his horse a bullet struck him in the left side between the arm pit and head of the thigh bone. Barlow dismounted and tried to walk. "Every body was then running to the rear & the enemy were approaching rapidly," wrote the New Yorker several days later. Two men came up on either side of the wounded general and tried to assist him off the field. One of them was shot and fell and Barlow was struck by a spent ball in the back. Barlow's second attendant apparently departed for safer environs and the general lay down too faint to go on.58
Back in Blocher's Woods, Colonel Harris considered his situation. He had lost more than fifty percent of his men and four of twelve officers. Ames, furiously attempting to rally the fast disintegrating division, failed to send Harris orders to retire. Harris decided he could hold no longer and escape being overrun. He ordered his men to disperse into a skirmish line to reduce losses and left Blocher's Woods to the Confederates. After a bruising, violent struggle of perhaps 15-20 minutes, Blocher's Knoll belonged to the Georgians of Doles's and Gordon's Brigades. The remnants of the 1st Division were streaming in retreat for the Almshouse. Assistance was fast approaching, however.59 Schurz had dispatched Schimmelfennig's 2nd Brigade to Barlow's support the moment he had seen the advanced position the 1st Division had assumed. But, so swiftly had Gordon's and Doles's attack fallen, that Krzyzanowski was just leading his regiments across the Carlisle Road when the 1st Division began to disintegrate. The Pole's regiments advanced in column of divisions, probably to facilitate rapid movement and deployment, with the 82nd Ohio, 75th Pennsylvania, 119th New York, and 26th Wisconsin from left to right. The moving blue mass of nearly 1,200 men made a splendid target for Rodes's and Early's artillery as they moved over the open ground. Capt. Alfred Lee of E Company, 82nd Ohio, recalled that the Confederate artillery fire swept the plain from two or three directions "and their shells plunged through our solid squares, making terrible havoc." Heedless of their mounting losses, Krzyzanowski's regiments pressed on, tearing down fences that stood in their path .60
As the brigade entered a meadow south of Blocher's wheatfield they observed the 21st Georgia, Doles's right regiment, in the wheat. Farther to the right, and probably still engaged with Ames's regiments were the 44th and 4th Georgia. "Their movements were firm and steady, as usual," wrote Captain Lee, "and their banners, bearing the blue Southern cross, flaunted impudently and seemed to challenge combat." Krzyzanowski ordered his regiments to deploy and open fire. "Quick as a flash the compliment was returned," by Col. J. T. Mercer's 21st Georgia. Finding his regiment no match for the Federals' heavier numbers, Mercer pulled his men back to Blocher's farm lane and had his men lie down. 61
Doles reacted aggressively to Krzyzanowski's threat to his flank. The 44th and 4th Georgia shifted to face the Federals until the two lines were "scarcely more than seventy-five yards apart, and the names of battles printed on the Confederate flags might have been read had there been time to read them." For several minutes the two lines simply stood up and blazed away at one another. Doles's fire was rapid and accurate and the Federals dropped in scores along the firing line. Ames's regiments soon gave way on Krzyzanowski's right exposing the flank of the 26th Wisconsin to the fury of Gordon's musketry. Confederate musketry killed 26 of the Badger regiment and wounded 129. It gave way exposing the flank of the 119th New York. A front and enfilading fire ate away at the New Yorkers and they too began to drift to the rear. Krzyzanowski's left also crumbled as the 82nd Ohio was decimated by the fire of probably the 44th Georgia. As the 82nd started to fall back Captain Lee picked up a fallen musket to fire into the Georgians whose fire was tearing his regiment's ranks. As he went to load the weapon a young soldier dropped by his side crying out, "Oh, help me!" He seized Lee's hand and struggled to rise, but was unable. "Oh, I'm gone! just leave me here," he murmured. An instant later Lee "felt the sting of a bullet, and fell benumbed with pain. It was an instantaneous metamorphosis from strength and vigor to utter helplessness." He called to a nearby comrade for help, but he too was struck and struggled off leaving Lee to the eneMy.62
Col. Francis Mahler's 75th Pennsylvania stood alone for a moment. Mahler had his horse shot down but jumped up and ran to his left flank which the 44th Georgia threat ened to turn. Mahler went down with a mortal wound and Maj. August Ledig assumed command. Ledig ordered a left oblique fire and proceeded to pull his men back. In fifteen minutes of fighting the regiment had lost 108 men killed and wounded. Reduced to a shambles, Krzyzanowski's Brigade retreated across the Carlisle Road toward an orchard on the northern edge of town.63
Unknown to Krzyzanowski's hard fighting regiments, Schimmelfennig had attempted to relieve the pressure upon them by sending the 157th New York forward to strike Doles's flank. With all the regiments of von Amsberg's Brigade either on the skirmish line or supporting Wheeler's and Dilger's batteries, Schimmelfennig could spare only the 409 officers and men of the 157th New York to counterattack Doles's exposed right flank. Col. Philip P. Brown was ordered forward, alone and unsupported, to face Doles's tough Georgians.64
Brown led his regiment forward, then changed front to the right and advanced up nearly to the Carlisle Road, a mere fifty yards from the 44th Georgia. Maj. W. H. Peebles of the 44th saw Brown's New Yorkers approaching and having driven Krzyzanowski's regiments from his front by the time the 157th was in position, changed front to the right to confront the Federals. The 4th Georgia soon came into line on Peebles's left and the fire upon Brown's Federals intensified. Trouble soon loomed on Brown's left flank as the 21st Georgia rose from Blocher's lane and opened fire. Doles shifted the 12th Georgia from his extreme left to the right of the 21st Georgia and the brigade began a general advance.65
Brown's New Yorkers fought back manfully, but they were now heavily outgunned. Lt. Col. George Arrowsmith went down, shot in the head, and the carnage in the ranks was terrific. The 44th and 4th Georgia pushed across the fences along the Carlisle Road and began to press around the 157th's right. On the left the 21st and 12th Georgia pressed forward. "The men were falling rapidly and the enemy's line was taking the form of a giant semi-circle ... concentrating the fire of their whole brigade upon my rapidly diminishing numbers," wrote Colonel Brown. One of Rodes's batterys, with an enfilading fire upon the 157th, added their shells to Doles's minie balls. Brown looked to the rear for support and saw an aide of Schimmelfennig's taking the saddle off his dead horse and sprinting for safety. Later Brown would learn the officer had stepped several paces beyond his fallen horse and "hallooed to me to retreat." Brown heard nothing and fought until his regiment ` was nearly annihilated, then ordered a retreat. No l1th Corps regiment would suffer as many casualties as the 157th on July 1. Brown lost 27 dead, 166 wounded, and 114 missing and captured, or 75 percent of his engaged strengths.66
It was probably not yet 3:30 p.m. and the l1th Corps defense had been shredded by the brigades of Doles and Gordon. Although they had superior numbers available the 11th Corps had been outnumbered at the point of attack in every instance. It was a classic example of defeat in detail and an example of how a smaller force can defeat a larger one when well handled. The remnants of the 1st Division attempted to rally about the Almshouse buildings. Colonel von Gilsa had lost his horse in the fighting on Blocher's Knoll, but he seized another that came by. Through sheer courage and leader ship, von Gilsa managed to assemble a line of battle. "He rode up and down that line through a regular storm of lead, meantime using the German epithets so common to him," recalled Reuben Ruch. Adelbert Ames also struggled valiantly to stay the rout. Private Nichols of the 61st Georgia recalled the Federal officers at the Almshouse line "were cheering their men and behaving like heroes . . . ... But Gordon's advancing line was still intact and his fire was heavy while Ames' regiments were in disorder which meant slack fire. The Almshouse line collapsed. "The whole division was failing back with little or no regularity, regimental organizations having become destroyed," reported Ames. Gordon swept through the Almshouse buildings scooping up dozens of prisoners who had become separated from their units and sought shelter among the many structures adjacent to the poor house.67
As Gordon's regiments cleared the Almshouse in their pursuit of Ames's routed division a fresh Federal line of battle appeared upon the northeastern edge of Gettysburg threatening the Georgian's left. Early, who was alertly keeping touch with the flow of the battle, saw the forming Federals and ordered Gordon to halt, then gave the signal to Hays and Avery to advance and crush this force. These two brigades had remained east of Rock Creek skirmishing with the four companies of the 17th Connecticut. Now they pushed across the creek, easily driving the New Englanders before them and bore down upon the fresh Federal battle line.68
The Federals were Col. Charles R. Coster's Brigade of the 2nd Division who, at last, had come to Schurz's aid. Schurz had sent a final courier to hurry this brigade on when he saw that Barlow was about to come under heavy attack. Capt. Fred Winkler, Schurz's AAG, carried the final urgent summons, galloping through town to Cemetery Hill, where he found Coster's men unmoved. "I urged haste impetuously," wrote Winkler, "and it set in motion at once." The brigade contained approximately 1,107 men, 200 men having been detached that morning to serve as flankers on the corps march to Gettysburg. The brigade double-quicked down Baltimore Street to Carlisle Street . 69 Preceding Coster by some minutes was Capt. Lewis Heckman's Company K, 1st Ohio Light (4 Napoleons), which had likely been ordered forward in response to Bar low's request for additional artillery support. Heckman rumbled through town and unlimbered on its northern edge, between the Carlisle and Harrisburg Roads. Targets in abundance were immediately offered him as Gordon's, Hays's, 'and Avery's regiments were probably in view. It was not an inviting position for an artilleryman. The Federal infantry was failing back in disorder rendering infantry support unlikely or unreliable. Nevertheless, Heckman unlimbered and ordered canister.70
As Heckman's guns thundered away and Barlow's and Schimmelfennig's Divisions fell back, Coster's fresh regiments came rushing down Carlisle Street. As they passed the railroad station, Coster dropped off the 73rd Pennsylvania ~ as a reserve, leaving him perhaps 800 effectives in his three remaining regiments. Capt. Winkler rode ahead of the brigade to seek out Schurz. He encountered men of the 1st Division "in a retreat less orderly than it should have been, crowding the sidewalks on both sides." The sight infuriated Winkler, "think of it; it was a northern village," he wrote. The Capt. encountered Schurz at the northern edge of town and pointed out Coster's approaching brigade. Schurz galloped up to Coster and personally led his column to Stratton Street, directing the colonel to deploy his three regimens east of the road to dispute the advance of Hays and Avery, who threatened to envelop the corps' right flank. One-half hour earlier Schurz had envisioned an offensive role for this brigade, now he hoped to use it to allow him to withdraw his two beaten divisions. 71
Coster led his men from Stratton Street across the front of a brickyard. His column caught the eye of some sharp eyed artillerymen of Rodes's artillery battalion and they sent several shells screaming towards the Federals. Each shell burst closer to the column as the gunners got the range. Sgt. John F. Wellman of B Company, 154th New York, wrote, "I looked for some disorder, but I swear to you today, not one man broke step from the head of the column to the rear. I said they were brave. I wanted to take off my hat and cheer them right then."
When the 27thPennsylvania, Coster's last regiment, had cleared Stratton Street, he commanded, "halt, front, fight dress." Coster's right regiment, Lt. Col. Allan H. Jack son's, 134th New York deployed its 430 men in a wheatfield behind a stout post and rail fence. On the 134ths left, but with a gap between, formed Lt., Col. D. B Allen's 154th New York, numbering approximately 220 men, also behind the rail fence. The 1eft was held by Lt Col. Lorenz Cantador's 20th Pennsylvania, 283 strong The ground in front of the 27th sloped up to a ridge blocking their field of fire to the front so that the 27th could only fire at a right oblique. Coster might have advanced the 27th to the ridge but for the presence of the fence and the fact that Hays's and Avery's regiments were within 200 yards by the time he had completed his deployment. The Federals were ordered to kneel and wait until the Confederates "were"e close enough to make our volley effective."72
Heckman, off to Coster's left, turned his canister up Avery and Hays in an attempt to slow their advance. Although he may have slowed Hays, he did not check Avery, who moved upon Coster at the double-quick. "I shall always remember how the Confederate line of battle looked as it came into full view and started down towards us," wrote Sgt. Charles McKay of C Company, 154th New York; "It seemed as though they had a battleflag every few rods, which would indicate the formation was in solid column." The command rang out along Co3ter's line to commence firing. "Instantly the whole line is a blaze of fire," recorded Sgt. John Wellman of the 154th. In front of the 154th, the 21st North Carolina was checked and the 6th North Carolina suffered sharp casualties. Hays's Brigade came bearing down upon the brigade's left flank and the 57th North Carolina enveloped the right the 134th New York.73
Colonel Cantador had noticed the gap between the 134th and 154th New York shortly after the musketry battle had erupted. He shouted for his 2nd Battalion to double-quick behind the 154th and fill it in, but in the noise only 50 men under a stout 1st lieutenant named Adolphus F. Vogelbach responded and headed for the threatened sector. By the time they arrived the 134th New York had simply been shot to pieces. The 57th North Carolina had swung around almost into the New Yorkers' rear and tore their front, flank, and rear with musketry. Of the 430 men 42 were killed and 151 wounded. The position was hopeless and Coster ordered a retreat.74
Coster's order never reached Colonel Allen and the 154th New York, who battled manfully with the help of Lieutenant Vogelbach's contingent. Allan, who apparently was on the right of his regiment, saw the 134th go and a ordered his regiment to retreat towards the left. When he reached the point in rear of where the 27th Pennsylvania had been he found they too had pulled out and Confederates of the 6th North Carolina and Hays' Brigade had passed beyond his left down Stratton Street and across an open field west of Allan's position. His situation was desperate. Casting a glance to the rear he saw the ground "cut up into village lots surrounded by board fences, so that retreat was greatly impeded in that direction." Allan led his regiment onto Stratton Street in an attempt to force his way through. A fierce hand-to-hand conflict ensued as the, opposing forces mingled with one another. Four color bearers, including two brothers, were shot down in rapid succession. Lieutenant Vogelbach, ignoring a summons surrender, attempted to fight his way through the North Carolinians and Louisianans, but was felled with a wound. His men, their courageous leader down, dropped their weapons and surrendered. Dozens in the 154th began to do the same. A mere 3 officers, including Colonel Allen, and 15 men, who survived the heavy fire directed at them, escaped. One officer, Lt. James W. Bird, managed to carry the state colors of the 154th and the third officer, Capt. M. B. Cheney, picked up both the state and national colors of the 134th New York and bore them from the field. Taken prisoner were 178 men of the 154th, 59 of the 134th New York, and 78 from the 27th Pennsylvania, mostly from Lieutenant Vogelbach's command. One member of the 154th, Lt. ? Jenkins, had just returned from being captured at Chancellorsville. He had entered the fight at Gettysburg vowing "I'll never surrender again." Cpl. Newell Burch noted, however, that Jenkins was among the prisoners who were disarmed and led to the rear.65
Disaster also befell Heckman's guns. Elements of the 6th North Carolina came upon him and the Ohioan ordered his guns to limber up and retire. The 6th North Carolina swarmed into his battery and captured two Napoleons. These might have been saved had some of Krzyzanowski's Brigade, which was nearby, chosen to fight. Major Winkler had come upon 100 to 150 men of the 2nd Brigade, who had been rallied, including 32 enlisted men of the 26th Wisconsin, Winkler's regiment. "It was use less, of course, to try to resist the long rebel forces that were then approaching, but we could delay them and thus ensure a safe retreat to the rest of our troops," he wrote. But, as Hays's line came nearer everyone but Wink let's small band departed without a fight. His men tried to join the rest, but Winkler halted them and had them crouch down. From his vantage point the capt. watched Hays approach unopposed except for Heckman's guns and saw Avery overrun Coster. As Coster's men went, Winkler saw an aide of Krzyzanowski's. He shouted to him for orders and was told to retreat. Winkler's group fell back, fired a volley into what was probably Hays's right, and then fled into town with everyone else. Winkler burned with rage as he saw the Federal troops streaming into town in retreat. "It seemed so awful to march back through those same streets whipped and beaten," he wrote, "It was the most humiliating step I ever took." The capt. stood in the Carlisle Road for a moment as if to beckon a bullet, but then joined in the retreat .76
The defeat of Coster's Brigade marked the end of organized resistance by the l1th Corps. It was no later than 3:45 p.m. and the five brigades of the corps that had deployed north of Gettysburg were in retreat through the streets of town. In less than one hour of fighting the corps had suffered heavy losses. A reasonable estimate would place them at 250 killed, 1,200 wounded, and 1,400 missing, most of whom were captured, or nearly 50 per cent of the force engaged. In return, the corps inflicted 765 casualties upon the four principal Southern brigades they had engaged. The many prisoners the 45th New York had captured from O'Neal's Brigade and sent back to Pennsylvania College, were freed later in the day by their comrades. In terms of losses taken and losses inflicted it had been a stunning defeat. What had happened? 77
Much of the corps' defeat can be explained by its position. There was simply too much ground for Schurz's four reduced brigades to adequately defend. Schurz had also to confront Rodes on Oak Hill and Early to the northeast, which meant facing in two different directions and exposing everyone to a cross and enfilading fire. Also, because the corps was so spread out to cover the ground the two divisions were unable to render timely support to one an other allowing Doles and Gordon alone to beat three full brigades in detail and crush a regiment from a fourth brigade. Does Barlow deserve censure for pushing his line so far forward and losing connection with the 3rd Division? It would appear so but there is not sufficient evidence to form a reasonable opinion.
A second factor in the corps' defeat was Howard's delay in forwarding Coster's Brigade. If this brigade had been sent up when Schurz requested it, it might have slowed Early's attack and enabled the 1st and 3rd Divisions to get off the field without the excessive loss of prisoners they suffered.
Lastly, the corps had had the misfortune to encounter crack Confederate troops who were superbly and aggressively led. Gordon's and Doles's regiments were simply not to be denied. Early too had handled his division with consumate skill, feeding his brigades into the battle at precisely the right time and point.
Despite its defeat, the rank and file of the l1th Corps had fought with courage and frequently with tenacity. Many were the men and officers who distinguished them selves in the fight. Men such as Francis Irsch, who would later earn the Medal of Honor for his gallantry that day, Hubert Dilger, Bayard Wilkeson, Adelbert Ames, Reuben Ruch, and many others had shone brightly. But theirs had been a hopeless mission from the start, and even the stoutest courage could not have staved off the defeat that ultimately enveloped them.