General George H. Steuart's Brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Baltimore, July 19th, 1876.
Rev. J. Wm. Jones, Secretary Southern Historical Society:
Dear Sir--In the interest of truth, and for the vindication of a brigade that captured and held for twelve (12) hours a position in rear and not four hundred (400) yards from the summit of Cemetery Hill, we desire to place side by side with that of General O.O. Howard our account of the fighting on the Federal right at Gettysburg. The simple facts, as we have narrated them, can be substantiated by a number of soldiers who were actively engaged in this part of the field.
Very respectfully yours,
William P. Zollinger,
Lieutenant Company A, 2d Maryland Infantry.
Privates Company A, 2d Maryland Infantry, C.S.A.
General O.O. Howard, in an article in the Atlantic Monthly for July, entitled "Campaign and Battle of Gettysburg," says: "It was Ewell's effort on our right to assist Lee's main attack after Williams' and a part of Geary's division had been withdrawn, and ordered off to reinforce the right." [Left] "The enemy's troops took quiet possession of the points vacated, and really slept within our lines, but the ground was rough and the woods so thick that their generals did not realize till morning what they had gained."
General Edward Johnson's division (composed of a Louisiana, Jones', George H. Steuart's and the Stonewall brigades), arrived and formed line of battle the night of July 1st, 1863, on the left of the army. The Stonewall was the extreme left, next ours (Steuart's), and the other two brigades on our right. About 6 P.M. of July 2d, we received orders to advance. We soon met the enemy's skirmishers, pressed them rapidly back, crossed Rock creek, in some places waist deep, pushed up the eastern part of Culp's Hill under a heavy fire of musketry, and were ordered to lie down scarcely thirty yards from the enemy's breastworks. An angle in the enemy's works, not 100 yards to our right, exposed us to a severe flank fire. While lying down, we could distinctly see the Federals rise and fire at us from the works in front. Indeed, they fought so stubbornly, that orders passed up the line that we were firing into our own men, and we began to think it was Longstreet coming up from the other side. After lying in this position probably fifteen minutes, we were ordered to charge, and as we climbed over the breastworks we distinctly remember seeing dead or wounded Yankees within the works. Our battalion (Second Maryland) had its Lieutenant-Colonel and Adjutant badly wounded, and also lost a number of men.
General O.O. Howard says "the enemy's troops took quiet possession of the points vacated."
(Five soldiers who participated in this part of the battle, recently visited Gettysburg and carefully examined the ground. We found the works we captured were on the east and several hundred yards from the summit of Culp's Hill.)
We reformed behind the works, almost at right angles to our original line of advance. "During the night," General O.O. Howard says, "Williams' division, strengthened by Lockwood's brigade and two brigades of Geary's division, attempted to return to their breastworks on the extreme right of our line, but found them occupied by Johnson's Confederates." (This was Steuart's brigade, as the Stonewall Brigade was detached to watch our flank, in the absence of our cavalry, and the two brigades on our immediate right were no as successful as we.) "Williams made arrangements to attack the enemy at daylight, and regain the position formerly occupied by the Twelfth Corps. I was not awakened till five (5) A.M., when I heard quick and sharp musketry firing, with an occasional sound of artillery. It began like the pattering of rain on a flat roof, only louder, and was at first intermitted. Then it would increase in volume of sound, till it attained a continuous roar. Of course I sent at once to the right and to headquarters to ascertain what the firing meant. The reply came shortly: 'The Twelfth Corps is regaining its lines.' By seven o'clock the battle was fully joined. The Confederates were determined to hold on, and disputed the ground with great obstinacy, but after a lively contest of five hours, Ewell was driven beyond Rock creek, and the breastworks were occupied and held."
July 3d Steuart's brigade (composed of the First and Third North Carolina, Second Maryland, Tenth, Twenty-third and Thirty-seventh Virginia regiments), separated from our line of battle on our right, with rear and flank exposed, with no artillery support, fought for five hours a largely superior force--(General O.O. Howard says the Twelfth Corps.) The enemy's artillery played on us from front, rear and flank--(vide Whitelaw Reid in Bates' Battle of Gettysburg.) Only one other brigade came to our assistance, but took no part in the assault. Our brigade was then moved to the left, and our line was reformed. A writer, speaking of the men at this moment, says: "The compressed lip, the stern brow, the glittering eye, told that those before me would fight to the last." When the final order to charge was received, the General remarked, "it is a slaughter pen." A gallant captain replied, "it can't be helped, it is ordered," placed himself at the head of his company, and was killed instantly, less than fifty yards from the foe. The task was impossible for the little brigade, but it obeyed orders. The loss was fearful, our company losing sixty-two (62) out of ninety-odd in the two days' fighting. The men were rallied behind some large boulders of rock (the position they had just charged from), and were forced to retire, from their losses incurred in their charge against, and not before any charge of the enemy, to Rock creek, several hundred yards to the rear, where, posted as a heavy skirmish line, they continued the contest till night.
On Cemetery Hill art has erected a beautiful monument in memory of the victors, but nature, in
the "Everlasting Hills," more grandly attests the valor of the vanquished.
(Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 2, pages 105-107)