The Washington Post

Sunday, July 9, 1899


Gallantry of the Confederates at Gettysburg
Brave Staff Officer of Gen. Edward Johnson
Rides Forward to Try to Prevent Surrender
of His Comrades-Firing Starts on
Both Sides, and He Falls Pierced by
Scores of Union Bullets-Rash Act of
Confederate Sergeant After Battle

During the mighty struggle between the Confederates and the Union Forces for possession of Culp's Hill at Gettysburg on July 2 and 3, 1863, the "Stonewall Brigade," with its accustomed gallantry, pushed well up to the intrenchments. But they were prevented by a most galling and deadly fire from reaching them. The line of battle halted, and being unable to advance, could not retreat, but sought shelter behind rocks and trees until the storm of battle should moderate. With a terrible fire raging from friend and foe, this midway position was exceedingly disastrous and had to be abandoned.

A white cloth was raised and as soon as it was discovered by Col. William R. Creighton, of the Seventh Ohio Infantry, the order was given to cease firing and an invitation extended to "come in!" Up sprang seventy-eight Confederates, many of them members of the Fourth Regiment Virginia Infantry, some of them sorely wounded, who hurriedly approached our lines and were welcomed with outstretched hands to a place of safety.

Just as this occurred, looking well to our front in the forest, an officer was seen approaching as if to prevent further surrender. On his splendid mount he pushed up toward our line, with singular disregard for his personal safety, until well within reach of our Springfield rifles. As he advanced, the firing from the Confederates broke out with renewed vigor, and was promptly and cordially met by us from the brow of the hill. Down went horse and rider to rise no more. After the battle it was discovered that this brave and reckless officer was no less a personage than Maj. Benjamin Watkins Leigh, Chief of Staff who had rendered heroic service with Gen. Edward Johnson, who commanded a division in Gen. Ewell's corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Col. Creighton's Report.

Col. William R. Creighton, of the Seventh Regiment Ohio Infantry, First Brigade, Second Division, Twelfth Army Corps, said in his official report: "About 11 o'clock, July 3, I observed a whit flag thrown out from the rocks in front of our intrenchments, and immediately ordered my men to cease firing, when seventy-eight of the enemy advanced and surrendered, including three Captains, two First Lieutenants, and two Second Lieutenants. At the time the white flag was raised a mounted rebel officer, Maj. Leigh, of Gen. Ewell's staff, was seen to come forward and endeavor to stop the surrender, when he was fired upon by my men and instantly killed."

Gen. John W. Geary, commanding Second Division, Twelfth Army Corps, said: "The commanding officer of a regiment raised a white flag when Maj. B. W. Leigh Assistant Adjutant General of Johnson's Division, rode forward to order it down and fell pierced by a dozen balls, his body remaining in our possession." Maj. William Terry, Fourth Virginia Infantry (Confederate), reported:

" Early on the morning of the 3d of July my regiment became engaged with the enemy behind their defenses, in which they were exposed to a heavy and destructive fire of shot, shell and musketry, from which the regiment sustained a heavy loss in killed, wounded and missing of both men and officers.

"A large number of those missing are believed to be prisoners, as when my regiment was ordered to relieve the Thirty-third Virginia Infantry, many men and officers advanced so far up the side of the hill under the enemy's defenses that they afterward, when the regiments in support gave way, found it impracticable to effect a retreat."

Fire Was Destructive

Gen. James A. Walker, commanding the "Stonewall Brigade," said: "After five hours incessant firing, being unable to drive the enemy from his strong position, and a brigade of Rode's division coming to our assistance, I drew my command back under the hill out of the fire, to give them an opportunity to rest and clean their guns and fill up their cartridge boxes. In about an hour I was ordered by Gen. Johnson to move more to the right and renew the attach, which was done, with equally bad success as our former efforts, and the fire became so destructive that I suffered the brigade to fall back to a more secure position, as it was a useless sacrifice of life to keep them longer under so galling a fire." He also says: "Maj. William Terry gallantly led his regiment almost to the breastworks of the enemy and only retired after losing three-fourths of this command."

Gen. Edward Johnson said:

"My loss in this terrible battle was heavy, including some of the most valuable officers of the command. Maj. B. W. Leigh, my chief of staff, whose conscientious discharge of duty, superior attainments, and noble bearing made him invaluable to me, was killed within a short distance of the enemy's lines. Maj. H. Kyd Douglas, Assistant Adjutant General, was severely wounded while in the discharge of his duties and is still a prisoner."

Tried to Take the Colors

As soon as Gen. John W. Geary had been assigned to the defense of Culp's Hill he required his pioneer corps to construct breastworks. They were built so that a trench dug on the inside made them breast high; then a space was left of say six inches to fire through, and then a "head log" placed on top. Troops stationed in these trenches were entirely protected from infantry fire from our front except their faces. This precaution on the part of Gen. Geary rendered the defense of Culp's Hill comparatively safe and harmless to the Union troops who fought in them.

On the night of July 3, about midnight, when the battle having ended and the stillness was only broken by the moans of the wounded yet uncared for in our front, and when the men in the trenches, exhausted from days of marching and fighting, were sound asleep, a Confederate Sergeant made his way stealthily up to our works, and seeing our regimental flag, with staff, leaning against the logs, he reached up, and being much lower, as he stood on the slope of the hill on the outside, could not reach over the head log, so grasped the staff through the firing space and began to work it up so that it would topple over and fall into his arms.

This movement awakened our color Sergeant, who sprang up in a dazed, drowsy condition and shot and killed this handsome, reckless and gallant soldier in gray before he was fairly aware of it and much to the sorrow and regret of his comrades when the facts became known. This shooting alarmed and aroused our line of battle, and supposing another attack was on, firing broke out afresh, but at daylight we could only find this lonely Sergeant as the cause and the only victim of the outbreak.


Late Sergeant Company D, Seventh Ohio Infantry