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BL- one thing I am not clear on: Did Buford know that the Rebs were coming to Gettysburg? Or did he just hope they were and guessed right? Suppose they didn't come- would Buford have simply moved on after a few days?

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BL- one thing I am not clear on: Did Buford know that the Rebs were coming to Gettysburg? Or did he just hope they were and guessed right? Suppose they didn't come- would Buford have simply moved on after a few days?

On June 30, Devin's men observed Pettigrew's brigade, which subsequently turned back when they saw a large group of troopers on horseback. Col Devin reported it to Buford. They knew from locals that the rebs were behind the mountain in Cashtown and Chambersburg. Buford warned Devin, who casually replied they would be ready for anything.

"To hell you will. They'll come at you in the morning, three deep and booming. It'll take everything we have to hold them off before Reynolds comes up."

He had a pretty good idea what was coming.

They also had videttes (small groups of troopers) posted on all the roads north and west east of Gettysburg. They knew the Wrightsville bridge had been burned, preventing Gordon from crossing. They knew Ewell might come from the north, having been recalled from Harrisburg. They knew Early was over to the east/northeast in York.

Nothing was certain, but what developed was not a surprise to Buford. He knew his business.

So let's say for the sake of argument Harry Heth never came down the Chambersburg Pike that morning. Sickles was in Fairfield, Slocum was over to the East in 'Two Taverns, Reynolds just over the state line south of Gettysburg. Meade's contingency plan was known as the Pike Creek Circular, issued July 1 but never implemented. It called for the AoP to concentrate around a good defensive position a few miles south of the 'burg anchored on Pike Creek. Meade's plan was to choose the ground to give battle on. Lee's plan was to bring his three corps within supporting distance, and making contact with Stuart. Once he had his eyes and ears back with the ANV, they could decipher where the seven corps AoP was located, and develop a plan of attack once that was known.

ETA: A lot of folks look at the 1863 map of Gettysburg, see 10 roads converging from all directions, nearly every one of them occupied by some element of one army or the other, and conclude it was the inevitable spot they would clash. Neither army commander viewed it that way, however.

Edited by BobbyLayne

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Heth's Division was encamped just west of Marsh Creek, about three miles from Herr Ridge, where they would be anchored from early morning until mid afternoon. Buford's 6 piece rifled cannon battery was stationed a half mile west on McPherson Ridge. Between the Marsh Creek bridge and Herr Ridge there were several rise and falls in the Chambersburg Pike. Gamble's men deployed in line of battle, forcing Heth to change from route march (four abreast) to line of battle not less than three times. That accounts for why it took them several hours to cover the distance (ASIDE - first light was around 4 a.m., as there was no daylight savings...sunrise around 5 a.m.).

About the Area

Willoughby Run creates the cut between Herr Ridge and McPherson Ridge. As the Mcpherson property ends near the south end of McPherson Ridge, Lutheran minister John Herbst's property began at Herbst Woods (or Herbst Woodlot). Because the border was undefined, many soldiers did not know the correct name and called it McPherson Woods.

From Willoughby Run the land rises fairly rapidly to Herbst Woods, a climb of about 50 feet, and Herbst Woods was the key to dominating the area south of McPherson Ridge.

Participants

Union:

BG William Gamble (Buford)

3rd Indiana

12th Illinois

8th Illinois

8th New York

BG Lysander Cutler (Wadsworth)

84th New York (14th Brooklyn)

BG Solomon Meredith

2nd Wisconsin

7th Wisconsin

19th Indiana

24th Michigan

Confederates:

BG James Archer (Heth) (captured)

1st Tennessee

7th Tennessee

13th Alabama

About the Engagement

Maryland-born and West Point-trained James Archer was headed southeast along Chambersburg Pike (Cashtown Pike). Opposing him initially was a brigade under William Gamble.

Splitting in two in front of the cavalry pickets on Herr Ridge, Joe Davis, marching with Archer, formed a battle line to the north of the Cashtown Pike (Chambersburg Pike) while Archer formed a battle line to the south. After chasing the pickets from Herr's Ridge Davis and Archer advanced to Willoughby Run. It was here at 8:45am that Archer encountered stiff resistance from Col. William Gamble, recently reassigned from the Pennsylvania Reserves to BG John Buford's cavalry as infantry support. His men had been effectively resisting Archer's advance from Cashtown since 7:45am, which is exactly what he wanted to do. Realizing he was outnumbered, Buford hoped to simply delay the advance of the Rebels until John Reynolds and his I Corps arrived.

As Archer's Confederates approached Willoughby Run they halted on the east side of the creek. Archer saw no support behind him and roughly 500 Yankees in front of his Rebels. He was concerned about the lack of support when an agitated Henry Heth rode up and asked him what was the delay. Archer expressed his concern and Heth claimed Archer should be able to "brush aside" the small number of troops in his front. A petulant Archer took his time crossing Willoughby Run as John Buford rode up to Gamble with orders to prepare to withdraw around 10:00 am. The I Corps was moving up quickly.

Behind Gamble's men the two brigades of BG James Wadsworth's First Division began arriving. Lead units, under BG Lysander Cutler, moved north to relieve Devin's men north of the Cashtown Pike. Gamble's artillery battery ran into them as it withdrew. Behind Cutler's men, BG Solomon Meridith had his men change from marching column into battleline formation in front of the Lutheran Seminary. From there they advanced towards Herbst Woods.

Archer's Rebels completed the crossing of Willoughby Run, briefly reorganized and began to advance. The 7th Tennessee, on the Confederate left flank (closest to the Chambersburg Pike), were stopped not far into their advance by a quarry, while the right flank (13th Alabama and 1st Tennessee) were slower crossing the river, had more natural obstacles on the hill in front of them, and were harassed by Union soldiers, probably William Gamble's retreating infantry. The center of his line, the 14th Tennessee, bulged into Herbst Woods and formed a line, waiting for a Union response or for their flanks to catch up.

The 7th Wisconsin arrived on the east side of Herbst Woods under the command of Lucius Fairchild, a future 3-time governor of the state. His men quickly prepared for battle and entered the woods but the first shots rang out from the Confederate line and decimated the black-hatted Badgers of the Iron Brigade.

Major General John Reynolds, in command of the Union forces, and five staff members drew up east of the woods. Reynolds began urging the 2nd Wisconsin on saying, "Forward, men, forward. For God's sake drive those men from the woods." Moments later a Confederate Minié ball struck and killed Reynolds instantly at 10:45am (time and location are disputed). In spite of the death of Reynolds, Solomon Meredith's men continued to pour into Herbst, quickly gaining a numerical advantage as 5 regiments concentrated on a 100-year wide section of the Confederate line.

Increasing pressure on Archer's Volunteers forced them to withdraw, first to Willoughby Run and then, under fire, across the fast-flowing creek. On the opposite side James Archer stood near the riverbank trying to rally his retreating men. Suddenly, the Confederate line collapsed as the Yankees also crossed the river, surging past the hapless Archer, who was captured by a private Patrick Moloney of Company G., 2nd Wisconsin, "a brave patriotic and fervent young Irishman." Archer resisted capture, but Moloney overpowered him. Moloney was killed later that day, but he received the Medal of Honor for his exploit. When Archer was taken to the rear, he encountered his former Army colleague Gen. Doubleday, who greeted him good-naturedly, "Good morning, Archer! How are you? I am glad to see you!" Archer replied, "Well, I am not glad to see you by a damn sight!".

Archer was the first Confederate general captured in battle since Robert E. Lee had assumed command.

The men returned their starting point, Herr Ridge, where they finally encountered the support that General Archer had been waiting for when he crossed Willoughby Run, the other two brigades in Henry Heth's Division. The first engagement was over but the battle of Gettysburg was just beginning.

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This article was penned by J.D. Petruzzi, a friend of mine who is a lawyer in Gettysburg. He has co-authored several cavalry books with Eric Whttenberg (see the earlier Defense in Depth post).

If you are ever in Gettysburg during the anniversary of the battle, J.D. is the reenactor who portrays Colonel Thomas Devin of Buford's Brigade.

Who Shot General John F. Reynolds?

Contributed by J. David Petruzzi

revised 10/03/04

Union Major General John Fulton Reynolds was the highest-ranking officer of either side killed during the Battle of Gettysburg. Speculation over who fired that fatal shot, and how and when it happened, has provided fuel for many theories since that opening battle on McPherson's Ridge began on the morning of July 1, 1863.

Sharpshooter on the ground, in a tree? Unknown skirmisher or infantryman? Aimed or stray bullet? Ask anyone, be it a Gettysburg buff, a Park Service Ranger, Battlefield Guide, or even someone with just a passing interest in the battle, and you're likely to get as many different answers. Watch the "Reynolds" scene in the Turner movie "Gettysburg" and you'll see the sharpshooter theory acted out by a determined Confederate, steadying his scoped rifle on a tree, aiming and firing at the mounted Reynolds as he urges his Iron Brigade into the woods along the ridge.

As to be expected, there are those who have taken credit for delivering the fatal shot, some even reluctantly. Infantrymen, sharpshooters, all have publicly announced they were the one who "spotted a high-ranking mounted officer," saw their chance, and brought the commander down. Let's examine some of those claims, and then evaluate their possible validity.

Sharpshooter Sgt. Ben Thorpe of the 55th North Carolina

One of the most famous claims of responsibility for the General's death was made very reluctantly, and not until some time had passed. Not until 1902, in fact. In the fall of that year Leander T. Hensel and others from the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, area happened to stop at a farm located near Satterwhite, North Carolina. The owner of the farm was Benjamin Thorpe, who struck up a conversation with the unannounced visitors. Thorpe had a lively and friendly discussion with the strangers until they mentioned that they hailed from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. Suddenly Thorpe's demeanor changed. The visitors asked why Thorpe's mood had changed once they mentioned "Lancaster County." Thorpe explained that he knew the famous General Reyolds came from the area and was buried there. He went on to explain that he was a sharpshooter during the Civil War and had lived, for the past forty years, with the fact that he was the one who shot the man. Thorpe stated that it was some time before he learned who it was he actually shot, as the news of Reynold's death had spread like wildfire through both armies during that Battle. "...And when I did learn," he explained, "when I heard and read of what a great and good man and splendid soldier I had brought to death, I was genuinely sorry. I have been sorry ever since..." The Northerners listened closely to this fascinating confession, and knew they had to go public with it.

On November 7, 1902, residents of the Lancaster County area read with consuming interest an article that appeared in the Lancaster Intelligencer. In it was the account of the Northerners' chance meeting with farmer Ben Thorpe and his sorrowful confession of killing the General with his sharpshooter's rifle on the morning of July 1. The story related that Thorpe, a sixteen year-old, had perched himself in a cherry tree with his rifle near an old stone house when Captain Henry Webb, his superior, caught his attention. "Look to your right, at the battery on the hill, there," commanded Webb, "There's a general, take him!" Looking through his field glass, Webb estimated the range to be about 1,100 yards, and told Thorpe to take a shot based on that range. Thorpe took aim and fired too high. Based on a new range of 900 yards, Thorpe fired a second time. Webb thought the shot still too high. Taking aim for 800 yards now, Thorpe fired a third time. Webb, seeing the man fall from the horse through his glass, commended the young sharpshooter. "Well done, Thorpe, you got him!" That evening, Federal prisoners related the death of Reynolds, stating that a sharpshooter must have got him at extreme range.

Private John Hendrix, Co. F, 13th Alabama

Company F had been placed on the extreme left of the 13th Alabama regiment as they tramped through Herbst's Woods toward an unseen enemy. Suddenly, many blue uniforms appeared on their front. Private Hendrix saw, amongst the Yankees, a mounted officer and fired at him. Both Hendrix and another soldier at his side saw the officer fall from his horse. Shortly after the incident, Hendrix and 16 of his company were taken prisoner. As they were marched through Gettysburg under guard, Hendrix heard the news of Reynolds' death. "That was the man I shot!" exclaimed Hendrix to the soldier who had also seen Reynolds fall, a Private E.T. Boland. Boland returned years later to the Gettysburg battlefield and inspected the spot where Reynolds' monument was placed at the edge of the woods. "I inspected the ground," he later wrote, "and I can truthfully say at that spot John Hendrix shot a man off his horse." Another private in the 13th, W.H. Moon, went to the Reynolds monument in 1913 and wrote the following: "I had been under the impression that General Reynolds was shot by a Tennessean until I met Captain Simpson of Company F, 13th Alabama, at Gettysburg in 1913, and we went to the Reynolds monument, where he pointed to the place where he and his men were standing when he ordered them to "shoot the man on the horse" (only about 30 yards distant), which was promptly done... I have no doubt of his statement being true."

Sharpshooter Frank Wood (Claimed Unit - 55th North Carolina)

In a 1947 account, a Pennsylvanian was visiting North Carolina after the war and went to the stone quarries of Mount Airy North Carolinia, where the Pennsylvania Monument for the Gettysburg Battlefield was being made. He was informed that one of the blacksmiths working on the project was the sharpshooter who killed Reynolds. In fact, he was working on the very statue of Reynolds for the monument. The Pennsylvanian asked where this blacksmith may be found and paid him a visit, hearing the story of the incident. Sharpshooter Wood and Private Cox got separated from their company and found themselves in a railroad cut, right in the line of fire. They ducked under a rail fence for protection. A few hundred yards away they saw, on a horse, a mounted Federal officer of apparent high rank with gold braid and epaulets. He was standing in the saddle, shouting to his men, "Give them hell, boys, give them the grape!" Cox then asked Wood if he could shoot the officer at that distance. Woods thought he'd give it a try, aimed, and fired. The man fell from his horse, and Wood always assumed it was Reynolds and had not reason to doubt it.

The 1st Tennessee "Mad Dash"

The 1st Tennessee regiment proceeded through Herbst's Woods on the left flank of the Alabamians. According to Captain William Tolley of the 1st, Major Felix Buchanan led a group which made an "impetuous dash" at the enemy in blue, and in the melee, killed the General. There were no personal claims from the regiment taking credit for bringing down Reynolds.

Rosengarten's 'Overhead Sharpshooter'

After stating that the General was a "shining mark to the enemy's sharpshooters," Reynolds' aide Captain Joseph G. Rosengarten declared that Reynolds was "struck by a minnie ball, fired by a sharpshooter hidden in the branches of a tree almost overhead, and killed at once."

Other Theories

In his report after the battle, Confederate Major General Henry Heth attributed a shot from one of Pegram's cannons to the death of Reynolds, backed by a report by Captain E.B. Brunson of the battery. A commander of another artillery unit, Major D.G. McIntosh, also felt that one of Pegram's shots struck the General. After the war, Charles B. Fleet of Marye's battery made the same claim. Two cannoneers of the unit, Henry A. Strode and Henry G. Chesley claimed they aimed the fatal shot.

Amongst Union Officers, Lt. Colonel W.W. Dudley of the 19th Indiana, and Captain W.H. Harries of the 2nd Wisconsin, both of whom were on the scene, asserted that Reynolds was killed by one of Archer's infantrymen. Interestingly, both Major General Abner Doubleday and Colonel Chapman Biddle subscribed to the sharpshooter theory, but neither were present until after the General's death.

What Likely Happened

Let's begin first by stating what probably did not happen. Ben Thorpe's lifelong guilt and remorse was probably unfounded. This is one of the most persistent and famous of the sharpshooter stories. Thorpe's account is implausible for the officer being Reynolds on several accounts. For one, Reynolds was not posting a battery when he was shot. For another, it would have been impossible for Thorpe to even see Reynolds, if he was where he said he was (800 yards west northwest on the opposite side of the woods). Reynolds would have been screened by innumerable trees (look at the area today). No sharpshooter in Confederate ranks could have seen, let alone aimed at, Reynolds from a distance of 800 or so yards. More significantly, Thorpe himself backed off his claim just 2 years after the meeting at his farm, in 1903, that he ever shot Reynolds. He did insist, however, that he did knock some officer off his horse at that distance.

Hendrix's claim may be slightly more plausible, although he more likely was aiming at Lt. Colonel John R. Callis of the 7th Wisconsin, who had his horse shot from under him and was wounded in the side and hip in this area. However, it is not possible to deny the claim with certainty.

Wood's claim is easier to dismiss. To begin, there is no "Frank Wood" listed on the roster of the 55th North Carolina, which was the only North Carolina unit engaged at that time of the morning. Second, again, Reynolds was not posting or with an artillery battery when he was shot. And finally, Davis' men did not reach the fence adjoining the railroad cut until the battle had been progressing for at least 45 minutes, at which time the field would have been too blanketed with smoke to see Reynolds from that area, especially if he were just inside the eastern edge of Herbst's Woods.

As for the claim by the 1st Tennessee in their "impetuous dash" at the enemy, Captain Tolley's account is difficult to reconcile with the known facts, as the regiment had to skirt very swampy ground to proceed through the woods, and they joined the fight later than the 13th Alabama, likely reaching that point after Reynolds had already been shot.

Rosengarten's sharpshooter account has been persistent over the years, being as he was one of Reynolds' aides and present when the General was shot. Even famous historian Edwin Coddington accepted the account. Coddington was heavily influenced by the statement from the General's sister Jennie that the fatal ball struck Reynolds behind the right ear and traveled around his skull, lodging finally in his chest. A sharpshooter "in a tree, almost overhead the General" is very difficult to believe, however, for obvious reasons: None of Archer's men could have climbed up into and been posted in any trees as sharpshooters when their line was proceeding steadily through Herbst's Woods. There is also the problem of a sharpshooter in a tree could sight in on Reynolds' head when the General was mounted, riding just inside the woods, and had the line of the 2nd Wisconsin between him and the enemy.

All accounts of cannon fire causing the General's death are easily dismissed, due to the fact that all Federal reports show that it was a minie ball that caused the fatal wound, not shrapnel or any type of artillery ammunition. So what likely happened? Let's examine in more detail the events that took place during the time of Reynolds' death.

First, let's try to establish a likely range of time for the wounding. Most accounts vary from as early as 10 am up to after 11 am that morning. Nearly a dozen published accounts, and many historical works, place his wounding at about 10:15 am. However, it could possibly and more likely have been slightly later, about 10:35 to 10:45 am.

Brigadier General James Wadsworth is mostly responsible for the 10:15 am scenario. His post-battle report couples Reynolds' death with the opening of the hostilities of Cutler's and Davis' brigades, which occurred at about 10:15 am. Cutler's opening volley probably began a little later, perhaps as late as 10:30 am. Considering the fact that Reynolds led the 2nd Wisconsin into action after Cutler started firing, his wounding had to occur still later than that. Any claims for it to be prior to 10:30 are likely too early. Significantly, members of Reynolds' staff themselves reported to his family members that he fell between 10:30 and 11:00 am. This later time frame helps us place who was where and at what time.

The next factor to look at is the fact that the shot that hit Reynolds was not a lone, single, solitary shot. At the time Reynolds was hit, Sergent Charles Veil's horse and some of the General's other orderlies were hit by fire. As Veil recounted the following year: "The enemy still pushed on, and was not much more than 60 paces from where the Gen'l was. Minnie balls were flying thick. The Gen'l turned to look towards the Seminary (I suppose to see if the other troops were coming on). As he did so, a minnie ball struck him in the back of the neck, and he fell from his horse dead." Veil's horse was killed as soon as he dismounted, and other staff members took bullets as well. Veil and two others saw the General fall off the left side of his saddle and onto his face. Veil reached Reynolds first, turned him onto his back, and cradled his head in his lap. The three of them picked him up and began carrying him towards the Seminary.

These accounts from staff members themselves seem to point to Reynolds being hit by a volley from the front ranks of Archer's men. It may have been a stray shot, it may have been aimed, but this likely was the source. He was a tempting target; a mounted officer and staff, commanding at the front line. Archer's men would have easily seen him, and probably an unknown and unnamed Johnny Reb took aim at this tempting target and squeezed the trigger. No sharpshooter at several hundred yards could have seen him, and none were posted in the treetops. A front-line infantryman with both feet on the ground may not have even known he just killed the highest-ranking Yankee on the field.

We may prefer the glorious, dramatic tale of a trained sharpshooter, with a long brass scope on his heavy target rifle, taking aim at this dashing mounted officer and bringing his command to a close. It seems more "romantic" and fitting that way. If Reynolds must die leading his men to glory, it seems that we must elevate the scenario to this Hollywood ideal. He was one of the Union's best and most-respected Generals, a bright future ahead of him, and was offered the command of the Army of the Potomac before it was thrust upon George Meade, whom Reynolds had recommended for the position when he himself refused it. But when we consider the man, who he was and what he stood for and how he died, we must recognize his own personal decision to press the fight on those ridges west of Gettysburg; and it was this very aggressiveness that led him to be at the head of his troops, exposing him to such deadly danger. Reynolds, by being at the front line, set an example for his volunteer troops. Reynolds was probably also eager to defend his home state and drive the enemy from it. Whatever the General's motives were, there was no need for him to have been so close to the front lines, in the midst of the shooting, when he could have just as easily, and much more safely, directed the battle from the safety of the Seminary area. Regardless of the Hollywood ideal, regardless of the images of the well-trained sharpshooter holding his breath and taking aim, it is much more fitting that a common infantryman may have brought the General's life to a close. For that is what Reynolds was at heart; he was no shirker, nor a coward. He was a brave front-line officer who led his men by example into the most desperate of fights. He wouldn't ask a man to do what he wouldn't do himself. That is the quality of the greatest of leaders.

"Forward, forward, men! Drive those fellows out of those woods! Forward! For God's sake forward!"

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The Battle of Gettysburg - Wednesday, July 1, 1863

Gettysburg's Railroad Cut

Some of the most ferocious fighting on Day 1 of the battle occurred in the unfinished bed of a railroad cut running just north and almost parallel to the Chambersburg Pike. While the Union's Iron Brigade drove back CSA General James J. Archer's Brigade on the southern side of the pike, the nephew of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Confederate Brigadier General Joseph R. Davis, marched in the direction of the area north of the town just above the cut and south of Oak Hill. His brigade of Mississippi and North Carolina regiments pushed across the open, gently undulating ground driving the stubborn northerners in their front.

Cutler's Brigade (which was in the process of positioning along Chambersburg Pike and the railroad cut) was attacked hard by Davis' Brigade and soon found itself outflanked. Wadsworth (the Division commander) seeing that he was being outflanked on the right, ordered Cutler's three Regiments north of the Pike to retreat and reform along Seminary Ridge. Unfortunately, the runner tasked with this message was killed and was not able to deliver the order. Instead, Cutler's Regiments along the railroad sustained heavy casualties and were only then forced to retreat. Davis' Brigade, seeing Cutler's collapsed right flank, broke ranks in pursuit, but quickly lost its fighting integrity.

At this time, the 6th Wisconsin Regiment (held up to this point in reserve and later supported by the 84th and 95th NY), was sent by Doubleday against Davis' pursuing Brigade. Davis' Brigade, disorganized and out of ranks, was forced to seek the protection of the unfinished railroad cut. Despite occupying the ideal defensive position, Davis' Brigade was charged by the Wisconsin 6th Regiment and the two New York regiments. Despite heavy casualties, Wisconsin 6th surrounded more than half of Davis' Brigade and took them prisoner. The remainder of Davis' Brigade now retreated to Herr Ridge where the remnants of Archer's Brigade had retreated earlier.

Lieutenant Colonel Rufus R. Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin led his men over open ground that helped to slow this Confederate onslaught and trapped over 200 gray clad soldiers in their dubious shelter. Much of the cut was far too deep to allow sight of the approaching enemy, a field of fire, or the chance to easily scale the banks. What appeared to be a safe haven from which to fight would become a snare, trapping many a Southern man.

Despite the Union success however, many men in blue breathed their last on this day. The 6th Wisconsin lost about 170 of their 420 men, while the 14th Brooklyn lost 128, and the 95th New York suffered 115. Steven W. Sears, in his excellent book on the Gettysburg Campaign, relays one particular incident that underscores the suffering of even those who succeeded. He notes that, Colonel Rufus Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin wrote a letter to his fiancée shortly after the battle. In that letter, he laments, "Our bravest and best are cold in the ground or suffering on beds of anguish. One young man, Corporal James Kelley of Company B, shot through the breast came staggering up to me before he fell and, opening his shirt, to show the wound said, Colonel, won't you write to my folks that I died a soldier?" The Iron Brigade, of which the 6th Wisconsin was a part, lost a staggering 1,212 of 1,883 men on July 1st alone.

84th NY or as they preferred, the 14th Brooklyn (their Revolutionary War militia designation) would fight at varying locations on each of the three days of the battle including the prolonged, tumultuous struggles on Culp's Hill. Their contributions on July 2 and 3rd resulted in the 14th becoming one of the few Union regiments on the field to claim to have

taken part in serious action each day of the battle. Confederate General Davis' men would also fight again as they crossed the nearly mile long fields of the Bliss Farm to take part on July 3rd in the tragic Pickett / Pettigrew Charge.

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Yet another great article, BL. Two points:

1. Certainly its very brave to put oneself at risk in the front of one's troops. Rommel comes to mind, and George Custer. But it's also pretty stupid, and bad warmaking. Reynolds may have increased his troops' morale but he also ran the risk, it seems to me, of leaving his troops in disarray if he was hurt or killed. The writer seems to agree with this, though he does praise the general in the end, and well-deserved.

2. Based on Thorpe's apparent remorse, there seems to have been a feeling of dishonor about shooting the general. I don't know why this is so. Wouldn't you instruct your men to shoot officers if exposed? But perhaps in the Civil War this was not considered chivalrous (though I wonder if men like Grant, Sherman, or Bedford Forrest would have cared.)

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Not sure about point #2; the AoP had a couple of designated sharpshooter units. The ANV did not have specialized units, but there is evidence certain companies functioned as such. One plausible explanation is it was considered ungentlemanly to shoot at someone doing something exceptionally brave. I recall reading several instances where officers stopped men from aiming at someone who was attempting to rescue a wounded soldier stranded between the lines, or colonels/generals who were exposing themselves while attempting to rally disrupted units.

Seems wacky to us, but there was a certain honor to this war that escapes our modern viewpoint.

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The 26th North Carolina versus the 24th Michigan

These two units squared off for about 30 minutes shortly after General Lee ordered Heth to renew his attack on McPherson Ridge in support of Rodes attack north of town. They began the day with just under 1,350 combatants; half an hour later, a little more than 300 unharmed soldiers remained. It is often cited as one of the most ferocious, determined, stand up fights between two units any where in the four years of the war.

The 26th North Carolina Regiment started the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg with 800 men. By sunset, 588 of them were either dead or wounded. Yelling like demons, they had courageously charged and taken the formidable federal position on Seminary Ridge. Fourteen colorbearers in the 26th were shot down in succession. One of them was 21 year-old Henry King Burgwyn, the youngest colonel in the Confederate army, who stained the flag with his blood as he fell wrapped in its folds.

All 90 soldiers in the 26th's Company F - The Hibriten Guards - had fallen. All of the men in that company came from the same area. Imagine the shock this news must have caused back hom.

After their disastrous first day at Gettysburg, the 26th was not utilized in the actions fought on the second day. But the third day of the battle found the regiment charging under its battle flag across the fields to the federal position behind the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge. Members of the 26th North Carolina advanced as far as any other of the Confederate troops that took part in Pickett's charge, and like the rest, they paid a terrible price for their bravery and determination. Only 90 soldiers from the 26th North Carolina were able to make their way back to the Confederate lines on Seminary Ridge. The Battle of Gettysburg claimed as casualties 88 percent of the regiment, the highest percentage of casualties for any regiment, North or South, in any battle.

Fascinating Fact: Approximately 2,000 men served in the 26th North Carolina Regiment during the course of the war. Just 131 of them were left to receive their paroles at Appomattox.

The 24th Michigan marched to Gettysburg with 496 men. The next morning, 99 remained. They lost 9 color bearers while defending Herbst Woods.

The official report of Colonel Henry Morrow:

I several times sent officers to the General commanding to report the condition of the line, and suggesting a change of position, as it was , to my judgement, untenable.

To these reports of the condition of the line I received answer that the position was ordered to be held at all hazards. The enemy advanced in two lines of battle, their right extending beyond and overlapping our left. I gave directions to the men to withhold their fire until the enemy should come within easy range of our guns; this was done, but the nature of the ground was such that I am inclined to think we inflicted but little injury on the enemy at this time. Their advance was not checked and they came on with rapid strides, yelling like demons. The 19th Indiana, on our left, fought most gallantly, but was overpowered by superior numbers, the enemy having also the advantage of position, and after a severe loss was forced back.

"The left of my regiment was now exposed to an enfilading and crossfire, and orders were given for this portion of the line to swing back so as to force the enemy now on the flank. Pending the execution of this movement the enemy advanced in such force as to compel me to fall back and take a new position a short distance in the rear.

"In the meantime I had lost in killed and wounded, several of my best officers and many of my men. Among the former were Captain William J. Speed, acting Major, Lieut. Dickey, a young officer of great promise, and Charles Ballou, my second color bearer.

"The second line was promptly formed, and we made a desperate resistance; but the enemy accumulating in our front and our losses being very great we were forced to fall back and take a third position beyond a slight ravine. My third color bearer, Augustus Ernst, of Company 'K', was killed on this line; Major E.B. Wight, acting Lieutenant Colonel, was wounded at this time and compelled to leave the field.

"By this time the ranks were so decimated that scarcely a fourth of the force taken into action could be rallied. Corporal Andrew Wagner, of Company 'F', one of the color guard, took the colors and was ordered by me to plant them in a position to which I designed to rally the men; he was wounded in the breast and was left on the field. I now took the flag from the ground where it had fallen and was rallying the remnant of my regiment when Private William Kelly, of Company 'E', came up and took the colors from my hand, remarking as he did so, 'The Colonel of the Twenty-Fourth shall never carry the flag while I am alive', he was killed instantly.

"Private Silburn Spaulding, of Company 'K', seized the colors and bore them for a time; subsequently I took them to rally the men and kept them until I was wounded near the barricade west of the Seminary Buildings, and left the field.

"We had inflicted severe loss on the enemy, but their numbers were so overpowering and our losses had been so great that we were unable to maintain our position, and were forced back, step by step, contesting every foot of ground to the barricade referred to.

"Previous to our abandoning our last position orders were received to fall back, given, I believe, by Major General Doubleday. The command of the regiment now devolved upon Captain Albert M. Edwards, who collected the remnant of it and fell back with the brigade to Culp's Hill, which it held for the two succeeding days. Shortly after I was wounded Captain Edwards found the colors in the hands of a wounded soldier, who had fallen on the east side of the barricade. He was reclining on his right side, and was holding the colors in his left hand. I have not been able to ascertain the name of this brave soldier in whose paralyzed hands Captain Edwards found the flag, and who describes the soldier as having been severely wounded, and is therefore probably among the dead. His name may forever be unknown, but his bravery will never die.

"Captain Edwards behaved very gallantly at this time in rallying the men under a murderous fire. The field over which we fought from our first line of battle in McPherson's woods, to the barricade near the seminary, was strewn with the killed and wounded. Our losses were very large, exceeding perhaps the losses sustained by any one of equal size in a single engagement, of this or any other war.

"The strength of the regiment on the first day of July was as follows:

"3 field officers, 1 staff officer, 24 line officers, and 468 non-commissioned officers and privates, a total of 496, while its loss was 316, being 8 line officers, 22 non-commissioned officers and 49 privates killed; wounded, 3 field officers, 1 staff officer, 10 line officers, 41 non-commissioned officers, and 182 privates.

About 80 of the enlisted men and three officers were reported as missing in action, many of whom have never been heard from and are known not to be in the hands of the enemy. They were undoubtably killed, but not having been so reported, are not included in the above.

Morrow had ridden the 24th pretty hard since he took over from General Meredith, who had been promoted to Brigade command. Although they were part of the Iron Brigade, they were the last western unit to join the Army of Potomac's famous Black Hat brigade, reporting in December just before Fredericksburg. They had a bit of chip on their shoulders about proving they were worthy. Maybe that is why they wouldn't move off that hill.

Morrow had constantly goaded them that they hadn't fought at Groverton against the Stonewall Brigade, or taken part in the assault at South Mountain or the charge at Antietam. As he lay wounded in a farm house in Gettysburg, one member after another of the 24th was brought in to be laid beside him to receive treatment. More than once he heard the question

"Are you proud of us now, Colonel?"

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Last post of the night...

My favorite monument at Gettysburg is the 143rd PA Infantry?

Ben Crippen was a bad ### mofo. He didn't survive, but his determined spirit surely did. The Rebs pushed the Yanks off McPherson Ridge and then Seminary Ridge, and they had to retreat to beyond the town. But that didn't mean they had to like it.

During the afternoon of July 1, 1863, the men of Union Colonel Roy Stone's "Bucktail Brigade" found themselves outnumbered. Colonel Edmund Dana of the 143rd Pennsylvania offered a brief description of their darkening predicament. "The brigade went into position at about 11 a. m., became engaged about noon. The conflict had continued until about 4 p. m., when a more heavy advance by the enemy was made and again checked by a well-directed fire, but the support both upon our right and left having been withdrawn, his superior numbers enabled the enemy to extend his lines, so as to threaten both our flanks and rear...most of the commissioned officers of three regiments, had been wounded. These casualties, with the heavy loss of enlisted men, made it necessary, in order to save the command from capture or entire destruction, to move to some point of support. Facing to the rear, the line was withdrawn in good order some distance toward the town..."

As the men of the 143rd Pennsylvania in the Union's 1st Corps slowly gave ground, at least one member of their regiment took their retreat personally. During the withdrawal, Color Sergeant Ben Crippen turned several times and shook his fist in defiance at the oncoming Southerners. Standing 6' 1" tall and bearing the National Flag, he was an easy target. When shot down, even Confederate 3rd Corps Commander Lt. General Ambrose Powell Hill lamented the loss of one so brave. According to an English observer traveling with the Confederate Army, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Freemantle from Britain's Coldstream Guards recalled, "A Yankee color bearer floated his standard in the field and the regiment fought around it, and when at last it was obliged to retreat, the color bearer retreated last of all, turning around now and then to shake his fist in the face of the advancing Confederates. He was shot. General Hill was sorry when he met his fate."

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John Burns - the only Gettysburg civilian to participate in the battle as a combatant

On the afternoon of July 1, 1863, as the tide of gray soldiers pushed forward towards town, a 69 year old defender confidently strode towards the expanding struggle. A veteran of the War of 1812, John Burns could not simply stand idly by as his home became a hotly contested battle ground. Moving in with the somewhat incredulous men of the Iron Brigade, the near 70 year old Burns fought along side men 50 years his junior. With them he would remain until wounded. Although the Southerners would capture the ground of the McPherson farm that he helped to defend, with assistance from his Union Army comrades, Burns found his way home where he recovered from several wounds received that day.

A few months later, John Burns would have the honor of meeting and walking with President Abraham Lincoln when, in November of that year, Lincoln offered his few appropriate remarks to the dedication of the soldiers national cemetery.

Union Lieutenant Frank Haskell, also present for the battle, wrote of his brief contact with Burns. "I saw "John Burns," the only citizen of Gettysburg who fought in the battle, and I asked him what troops he fought with. He said: "O, I pitched in with them Wisconsin fellers." I asked what sort of men they were, and he answered: "They fit terribly. The Rebs couldn’t make anything of them fellers."

And so the brave compliment the brave. This man was touched by three bullets from the enemy, but not seriously wounded."

Major General Abner Doubleday would comment similarly, offering his thanks for Burns' contribution and willingness to defend his home. "My thanks are specially due to a citizen of Gettysburg named John Burns, who, although over seventy years of age, shouldered his musket, and offered his services to Colonel Wister, One hundred and fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Colonel Wister advised him to join our line of skirmishers in the open fields. When the troops retired, he fought with the Iron Brigade. He was wounded in three places."

Burns statue on McPherson Ridge between the monuments to the Wisconsin and Pennsylvania Regiments where he fought. The monument was erected July 1, 1903, 40 years after the battle.

The only local citizen known to have picked up arms during the battle to aid in the defense of his town, John Burns would live nine more years, passing away in 1872. Mr. Burns is buried the Gettysburg's Evergreen Cemetery which borders the Soldiers National Cemetery. He will forever rest on those grounds, honored by the colors of a continuously flying American flag.

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I am going to forego discussing Iverson's disaster and O'Neal's negligence. Suffice to say mistakes were made, and men paid with their lives. O'Neal did not accompany his brigade onto the battlefield, and poorly guided, they suffered 40% casualties. Iverson also lurked in the rear while his regiments were sent into the fray on Oak Ridge. Concealed by a stone wall, Baxter's brigade inflicted 70% casualties on the unsuspecting Georgians. Neither would remain ever command Confederate troops in battle again.

There were a lot of mistakes made by commanders on Day One on both sides. Francis Barlow extended Howard's line too far, pushing out to Blocher's Knoll, exposing his small command as a salient in the Union line. Early's division outflanked them and easily routed them off the eminence, which is today known as Barlow's Knoll. It precipitated the collapse of the 11th Corps, an event which seems to have nearly coincided with the 1st Corps retreat from Seminary Ridge. Certainly the two were close enough it is difficult to say one was the result of the other.

Henry Slocum, who would have been the senior commander had he arrived on the battlefield, was slow to move his 12th Corps from Two Taverns. It was never fully explained why, but it may be he felt Howard had gotten himself into a disaster that he wanted no responsibility for. Whatever the reason, they arrived on the battlefield - actually stopping a mile short of Culp's Hilll - too late to be of any assistance to the two Union Corps who had met with defeat.

Anyways, we'll move forward to the subject most would prefer to debate: was Richard Ewell correct in not pushing forward in an attempt to seize the last line of Howard's defense, Cemetery Hill?

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From the knoll, Barlow could have seen far to the west and it must have been a terrible sight. He would've seen Confederates swarming in from the north to put the finishing touches on First Corps and put Howard's other division to flight back into town. However the decision was reached for him to place his troops that far northward, it would have been plain for him to see that the position was soon to be untenable. It's an awesome view.

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BTW, if anybody is planning on visiting the Gettysburg NMP, the best expert on Barlow's Knoll and Oak Ridge is Chaplain Chuck Teague. He's one of the best Licensed Battlefield Guides around, and has forgotten more about that part of the battlefield than most of us will ever learn.

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The 26th North Carolina versus the 24th Michigan

These two units squared off for about 30 minutes shortly after General Lee ordered Heth to renew his attack on McPherson Ridge in support of Rodes attack north of town. They began the day with just under 1,350 combatants; half an hour later, a little more than 300 unharmed soldiers remained. It is often cited as one of the most ferocious, determined, stand up fights between two units any where in the four years of the war.

The 26th North Carolina Regiment started the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg with 800 men. By sunset, 588 of them were either dead or wounded. Yelling like demons, they had courageously charged and taken the formidable federal position on Seminary Ridge. Fourteen colorbearers in the 26th were shot down in succession. One of them was 21 year-old Henry King Burgwyn, the youngest colonel in the Confederate army, who stained the flag with his blood as he fell wrapped in its folds.

All 90 soldiers in the 26th's Company F - The Hibriten Guards - had fallen. All of the men in that company came from the same area. Imagine the shock this news must have caused back hom.

After their disastrous first day at Gettysburg, the 26th was not utilized in the actions fought on the second day. But the third day of the battle found the regiment charging under its battle flag across the fields to the federal position behind the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge. Members of the 26th North Carolina advanced as far as any other of the Confederate troops that took part in Pickett's charge, and like the rest, they paid a terrible price for their bravery and determination. Only 90 soldiers from the 26th North Carolina were able to make their way back to the Confederate lines on Seminary Ridge. The Battle of Gettysburg claimed as casualties 88 percent of the regiment, the highest percentage of casualties for any regiment, North or South, in any battle.

Fascinating Fact: Approximately 2,000 men served in the 26th North Carolina Regiment during the course of the war. Just 131 of them were left to receive their paroles at Appomattox.

The 24th Michigan marched to Gettysburg with 496 men. The next morning, 99 remained. They lost 9 color bearers while defending Herbst Woods.

The official report of Colonel Henry Morrow:

I several times sent officers to the General commanding to report the condition of the line, and suggesting a change of position, as it was , to my judgement, untenable.

To these reports of the condition of the line I received answer that the position was ordered to be held at all hazards. The enemy advanced in two lines of battle, their right extending beyond and overlapping our left. I gave directions to the men to withhold their fire until the enemy should come within easy range of our guns; this was done, but the nature of the ground was such that I am inclined to think we inflicted but little injury on the enemy at this time. Their advance was not checked and they came on with rapid strides, yelling like demons. The 19th Indiana, on our left, fought most gallantly, but was overpowered by superior numbers, the enemy having also the advantage of position, and after a severe loss was forced back.

"The left of my regiment was now exposed to an enfilading and crossfire, and orders were given for this portion of the line to swing back so as to force the enemy now on the flank. Pending the execution of this movement the enemy advanced in such force as to compel me to fall back and take a new position a short distance in the rear.

"In the meantime I had lost in killed and wounded, several of my best officers and many of my men. Among the former were Captain William J. Speed, acting Major, Lieut. Dickey, a young officer of great promise, and Charles Ballou, my second color bearer.

"The second line was promptly formed, and we made a desperate resistance; but the enemy accumulating in our front and our losses being very great we were forced to fall back and take a third position beyond a slight ravine. My third color bearer, Augustus Ernst, of Company 'K', was killed on this line; Major E.B. Wight, acting Lieutenant Colonel, was wounded at this time and compelled to leave the field.

"By this time the ranks were so decimated that scarcely a fourth of the force taken into action could be rallied. Corporal Andrew Wagner, of Company 'F', one of the color guard, took the colors and was ordered by me to plant them in a position to which I designed to rally the men; he was wounded in the breast and was left on the field. I now took the flag from the ground where it had fallen and was rallying the remnant of my regiment when Private William Kelly, of Company 'E', came up and took the colors from my hand, remarking as he did so, 'The Colonel of the Twenty-Fourth shall never carry the flag while I am alive', he was killed instantly.

"Private Silburn Spaulding, of Company 'K', seized the colors and bore them for a time; subsequently I took them to rally the men and kept them until I was wounded near the barricade west of the Seminary Buildings, and left the field.

"We had inflicted severe loss on the enemy, but their numbers were so overpowering and our losses had been so great that we were unable to maintain our position, and were forced back, step by step, contesting every foot of ground to the barricade referred to.

"Previous to our abandoning our last position orders were received to fall back, given, I believe, by Major General Doubleday. The command of the regiment now devolved upon Captain Albert M. Edwards, who collected the remnant of it and fell back with the brigade to Culp's Hill, which it held for the two succeeding days. Shortly after I was wounded Captain Edwards found the colors in the hands of a wounded soldier, who had fallen on the east side of the barricade. He was reclining on his right side, and was holding the colors in his left hand. I have not been able to ascertain the name of this brave soldier in whose paralyzed hands Captain Edwards found the flag, and who describes the soldier as having been severely wounded, and is therefore probably among the dead. His name may forever be unknown, but his bravery will never die.

"Captain Edwards behaved very gallantly at this time in rallying the men under a murderous fire. The field over which we fought from our first line of battle in McPherson's woods, to the barricade near the seminary, was strewn with the killed and wounded. Our losses were very large, exceeding perhaps the losses sustained by any one of equal size in a single engagement, of this or any other war.

"The strength of the regiment on the first day of July was as follows:

"3 field officers, 1 staff officer, 24 line officers, and 468 non-commissioned officers and privates, a total of 496, while its loss was 316, being 8 line officers, 22 non-commissioned officers and 49 privates killed; wounded, 3 field officers, 1 staff officer, 10 line officers, 41 non-commissioned officers, and 182 privates.

About 80 of the enlisted men and three officers were reported as missing in action, many of whom have never been heard from and are known not to be in the hands of the enemy. They were undoubtably killed, but not having been so reported, are not included in the above.

Morrow had ridden the 24th pretty hard since he took over from General Meredith, who had been promoted to Brigade command. Although they were part of the Iron Brigade, they were the last western unit to join the Army of Potomac's famous Black Hat brigade, reporting in December just before Fredericksburg. They had a bit of chip on their shoulders about proving they were worthy. Maybe that is why they wouldn't move off that hill.

Morrow had constantly goaded them that they hadn't fought at Groverton against the Stonewall Brigade, or taken part in the assault at South Mountain or the charge at Antietam. As he lay wounded in a farm house in Gettysburg, one member after another of the 24th was brought in to be laid beside him to receive treatment. More than once he heard the question

"Are you proud of us now, Colonel?"

Nicely done BL but just a couple of comments.

Morrow was actually the 24th's leader from the day it was created in 1862, his comments during the recruitment and mustering were pretty good!

“One word for myself. I am going to the field. I invite you to go with me. I will look after you in health and in sickness. My influence will be exerted to procure for you the comforts of life, and lead you where you will see the enemy. Your fare shall by my fare, your quarters my quarters. We shall together share the triumph, or together mingle our dust upon the common field. We are needed on the James River. Our friends and brothers are there. Let us not linger behind…”(July 19th, 1862)

Also, the 24th received orders to join the Iron Brigade on October 8th 1862.

Wrote a paper on the 24th Michigan last fall and was able to go through some original letters from a company commander of the 24th. It was great stuff!

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BTW, if anybody is planning on visiting the Gettysburg NMP, the best expert on Barlow's Knoll and Oak Ridge is Chaplain Chuck Teague. He's one of the best Licensed Battlefield Guides around, and has forgotten more about that part of the battlefield than most of us will ever learn.

Another good LBG is Jack Drummond. Really enjoyed his knowledge and corresponded with him a bit after my visit in 2008.

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Thank you, SofaKings...was going off memory - shaky thing for the middle aged - and my Iron Brigade stuff is trapped in a cabinet behind the entertainment system (it's a NYC apartment, e.g., have to use every square inch).

ETA: Aye, just googled Solomon Meredith, who was the 6'7" brigade commander. He was originally the 19th Indiana Colonel (an original Iron Brigade regiment), who was promoted when Gibbon was promoted to division command.

Edited by BobbyLayne

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Did Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell Lose the Battle of Gettysburg?

Late in the afternoon of July 1, 1863, after a full day of fierce fighting, Confederate troops finally drove the Union defenders from the fields west of Gettysburg. As the Union troops fled east toward the haven of Cemetery Hill, General Robert E. Lee sent the following order to Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell, commander of the II Corps, whose men had gained victory that day: 'The enemy [is] retreating over those hills … in great confusion. You only need press those people to secure possession of the heights … .Do this, if practical.' Legend tells us that, at that crucial moment, 'Old Bald Head' lost his nerve. Instead of pursuing the fleeing Union soldiers, who were so panicked they could not defend themselves, Ewell held back, allowing the Federals to entrench atop Cemetery Hill. The advantage of holding the heights led to the Union victory at Gettysburg. Ewell's indecision supposedly cost the South the battle.

First, a review of the fighting during Day One:

You may recall that west of town, on the Chambersburg Pike, Heth started his column of 7,500 troops, including the infantry brigades led by Brig. Gens. James J. Archer, Joseph R. Davis, John M. Brockenbrough and James J. Pettigrew, toward Gettysburg at 5 a.m. on July 1. About three miles west of the small crossroads village, Heth's advance was met by Federal skirmishers from Colonel William Gamble's brigade of Maj. Gen. John Buford's cavalry division. This confrontation started about 5:30 a.m.

Gamble's objective was to delay the Rebels until Union infantry reached the field. The Union Army of the Potomac, under Maj. Gen. George C. Meade, was hurrying through Maryland to intercept the Confederates, who were concentrating just north of the border.

When the Union pickets opened fire, Heth halted, formed into battle line and began to slowly probe his front to test the strength of the force that was blocking his way into Gettysburg. Two hours passed. When the Confederates finally climbed Herr Ridge, they saw ahead a meandering creek, Willoughby Run. On the opposite bank, the ground sloped upward to McPherson's Ridge, where Gamble's 1,600 men were posted. Heth sent Archer's and Davis' brigades, totaling 3,800 troops, ahead to face the Union line. They exchanged fire from a distance with the Federal cavalry for two more hours.

At about 10 a.m., Union Maj. Gen. John Reynolds' infantry corps came marching into Gettysburg. Brigadier General James A. Wadsworth's division, including the brigades led by Brig. Gens. Lysander Cutler and Solomon Meredith, arrived first and pressed forward to relieve Gamble's exhausted troops, who were still aligned along McPherson's Ridge. The cavalry withdrew to the left, below the slope, as a reserve force. Just as Wadsworth's men took their post, the Confederates under Archer and Davis charged. Both sides absorbed terrible losses in the one-hour melee. At first the Southerners prevailed, but a Northern counterattack pushed them back.

The two sides then resumed their original positions, content to continue the battle by exchanging artillery fire. The lull on this portion of the battlefield continued until around 2 pm.

When the Union I Corps' remaining divisions, led by Brig. Gens. John C. Robinson and Thomas Rowley, arrived at Gettysburg at 11 a.m., the latter's two brigades pushed ahead to reinforce Wadsworth; Robinson's brigades were held in reserve in Gettysburg to face the enemy's II Corps, reported to be approaching from the north.

Ewell, with only Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes' division in hand, arrived at Gettysburg at about noon. As he came out of the woods that crowned Oak Hill, Ewell saw the exposed Union flank below him and knew he had an unparalleled opportunity to rout the enemy.

After giving Rodes orders to deploy his 8,125 soldiers for battle, Ewell sent Major Campbell Brown, his stepson and principal aide, to find Lee and tell him that Ewell meant to join the fray. Brown found Lee on Herr Ridge, where both he and Hill had come after hearing the bark of muskets and bellow of cannons. Lee sent Campbell back to Ewell with an astounding order: 'Do not charge; I want to avoid a general engagement.'

Despite Lee's orders, Ewell could not pass up the opportunity to assault the open Union flank. The enemy troops were so vulnerable that they could be quickly routed, which would not be a 'general engagement,' Ewell reasoned. He decided to gamble his rank and career by proceeding with a charge. In giving the written order to his division commanders, Rodes and Maj. Gen. Jubal Early, Ewell stressed that, after driving the enemy from the ground, they must break off their engagement. This point was also verbally emphasized by the messengers dispatched to both Rodes and Early.

Before he could launch his attack, Rodes had to switch from column into battle formation. He moved Brig. Gen. Junius Daniel's brigade west to flank the Federals along McPherson's Ridge; Brig. Gen. Alfred Iverson's men would slip behind the Union forces on the hill to take the enemy from the rear. Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Edward A. O'Neal's troops would come down Oak Ridge, where they would be in a position to block a Union retreat. Brigadier General George Doles would guard Rodes' left flank; Brig. Gen. Stephen Ramseur's brigade would be his reserve.

As the Confederates filed into position, the Federals hastened to meet the enemy threat. Brigadier Generals Gabriel Paul and Henry Baxter rushed their troops, 2,600 men in all, out of Gettysburg and into a line facing northwest along Oak Ridge.

bout that same time, the Union XI Corps, led by Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard, reached the battlefield. Howard's command included divisions under Brig. Gens. Carl Schurz, Francis C. Barlow and Adolph von Steinwehr. Schurz's two small brigades rushed into position on the right, northwest of Gettysburg; Barlow's 3,400 men extended the line east to Rock Creek. The Union soldiers grimly awaited the arrival of Early's division.

Rodes' alignment took much longer than he had expected, and the arrival of fresh Federal troops added desperation to his assault. As a result, when Rodes' troops finally advanced at about 2 p.m., their charge was delivered piecemeal. O'Neal had 1,800 soldiers at hand, and in his haste to attack the Federals he sent only three of his five regiments down Oak Ridge against Paul, who easily repulsed the charge.

Iverson's 1,500 troops moved ahead at about 2:30 p.m. As the men advanced, looking for the enemy on their right, they failed to spot Baxter's force, hiding behind a stone wall to their left. The Federals waited until the Confederates were opposite their position, then rose and poured a savage salvo into Iverson's flank. Five hundred men, a third of the brigade, fell from the withering fire of Union rifles. Almost 400 more were quickly captured.

To the right, Daniel started his 2,300-man brigade down McPherson's Ridge. When they saw Iverson under assault near the stone wall, three of the five regiments swerved left to the rescue. They not only were too late to save Iverson but also left Daniel with just two regiments for his own assault. As a result, Daniel was easily repulsed.

Heth, on Herr Ridge, saw Ewell's attack falter. Turning to Lee, he asked if he should press Pettigrew's and Brockenbrough's brigades into the fray. 'No,' Lee curtly replied. 'I am not prepared to bring on a general engagement today.' He was determined to shun battle that day, and no doubt was incensed at Ewell for having defied his orders.

Atop Oak Hill, Ewell watched as Rodes' attack disintegrated. His expectations of a quick victory had vanished, and he knew that Lee's wrath was sure to come his way. Having drawn the Federals into battle, however, Ewell had no choice but to continue the fight. After ordering Rodes to gather his troops for a second charge, Ewell rushed east to check on Doles, who was posted north of Gettysburg. When he reached that front, he found Doles and his 1,500 Georgians under attack by two Union brigades, whose superior numbers enveloped both Confederate flanks. Ewell hurried back to his command post on Oak Hill to bring Ramseur, his only reserve, to Doles' rescue. As he rode west, an enemy artillery shell crashed nearby, killing Ewell's horse and throwing Ewell to the ground. Shaken but otherwise unhurt, the one-legged general gallantly mounted a spare mare and continued his dash back to Oak Hill.

When Ewell finally reached his field headquarters, he was surprised to learn that the battle had shifted dramatically in his favor. Ramseur had taken his 1,100 men, plus a few of O'Neal's troops, and charged the Federals defending Oak Ridge. Both Paul and Baxter had been driven from the field, all the way back to Cemetery Hill. Ramseur was pursuing the fleeing Union soldiers.

Meanwhile, at 4:15 p.m., Daniel had charged again into a railroad cut. He, too, had routed his adversary out of his strong position, and the Federals were reeling in retreat toward Gettysburg. The assault, however, had exhausted Daniel's men, and they had halted along Oak Ridge.

When Lee saw the tide of battle shift in his favor, he suddenly turned aggressive and ordered A.P. Hill to have Heth's reserve brigades (Pettigrew and Brockenbrough) charge the Union line along McPherson's Ridge. The Federals greeted the attack with repeated salvos, dropping hundreds of Confederates, but Heth's troops refused to falter. They clambered up the slope, pushing the enemy back to Seminary Ridge, an extension of Oak Ridge, below Chambersburg Pike. Their lines shattered, Pettigrew and Brockenbrough halted along McPherson's Ridge. Hill sent three of Maj. Gen. Dorsey Pender's brigades chasing after the retiring Federals.

To the east, the threat to Doles' position had been reduced by the sudden appearance of Early's division. He had arrived at about 3 p.m., but paused for half an hour so that his infantrymen could catch their breath after their hard march to the field. Early then charged out of the northeast, sending the brigades led by Brig. Gens. John B. Gordon, Isaac E. Avery and Harry T. Hays against the Union line. The Federals repelled the initial attack from Gordon out of the north, but when Hays came up from the east, the blue-clad troops broke and began running for Gettysburg. The retreat opened the flank to Gordon, who led his brigade toward the Federal ranks. The Union defense collapsed, and the soldiers rushed in disarray toward Gettysburg and the safety of Cemetery Hill. Gordon's troops had exhausted their ammunition in the charge, and they halted above the town; both Hays and Avery pursued the fleeing enemy.

Howard, attempting to stem the Southerners' advance, rushed troops off Cemetery Hill to intercept the oncoming Confederates. As they moved north, however, the reinforcements collided with the Federals running for the rear. The new men panicked and turned to join their compatriots fleeing for the heights.

When the Union right broke, the flank held by Brig. Gens. George von Amsberg and Wladimir Krzyanowski was exposed. They probably did not notice their problem, however, since they were busy dealing with the menace to their front. Doles had charged their line, and as the Federals braced for Doles' blow, Ramseur suddenly exploded against their left flank and rear. The Union defense collapsed, and the troops under von Amsberg and Krzyanowski joined their XI Corps comrades in a desperate run for the haven of Cemetery Hill. Doles and Ramseur followed close on the heels of the enemy.

Howard, upon seeing his corps routed, sent word to the I Corps on Seminary Ridge that the Rebels were coming across its rear, and the I Corps must retire before the Confederate troops closed the gap. The message was never received, and Doubleday's soldiers held their ground, weathering several assaults on their front.

At about 4:30 p.m., the Confederate superiority in numbers began to tell, and although Union fire opened gaping holes in their ranks, Hill's men finally pushed the Federal I Corps off Seminary Ridge. With the Yankees in full retreat, both Rodes and Early called a halt to their pursuit, following the instructions issued by Ewell at the onset of the battle.

The federal army was in retreat, and the confederate army was exhausted and disorganized. What happened next has been debated for nearly 150 years.

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Did Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell Lose the Battle of Gettysburg? (part 2)

At about 4:30 p.m., as the Union line began to break, Lee and Hill stood atop Seminary Ridge and watched the Federals retreating through Gettysburg and up Cemetery Hill. While they were thrilled by the Rebel success, they were also stunned by the cost of that victory. Hill had thrown seven brigades into the battle and suffered terrible losses. Archer and Davis, who opened the fray, had taken about 1,400 casualties, one-third of their original number. Their troops lay exhausted on Herr Ridge. Brockenbrough and Pettigrew had lost 648 men, 20 percent of the force that had charged the Union troops on McPherson's Ridge. Their brigades were strewn along the dearly bought ground. Brigadier Generals Abner Perrin, James H. Lane and Alfred Scales, who had pushed the attack against the Federals on Seminary Ridge, had seen more than 1,000 of their men, one-fourth of their commands, fall in the fight. Only Perrin had continued the pursuit of the enemy troops into Gettysburg.

Lee, who was personally commanding Hill's troops (he had at first refused to order them into battle, then changed his mind and sent them forward), decided at the time to accept what had been accomplished that afternoon. He did not instruct Ewell to mount a charge against Cemetery Hill. He allowed Perrin to return to Seminary Ridge. Had Lee wanted to deny the enemy the heights, he could have sent Maj. Gen. Richard Anderson's division — just now arriving and ready to fight — ahead to Cemetery Hill. Instead, Lee told Anderson to prepare to camp for the night.

When he wrote his report, Hill recalled Lee's words, 'Prudence led me to be content with what had been gained [in the fight], and not push forward troops [who were] exhausted and necessarily disordered … to encounter fresh troops from the enemy.'

Lee's actions were sensible. He had just fought and won a punishing battle, during which he had committed every man available. Lieutenant General James Longstreet and his I Corps were approaching with reinforcements, but they were not expected to arrive before sunset. If Lee was to continue the fray, he would have to do so with the troops at hand, most of whom had spent all day in battle.

At the same time, the entire Union Army was known to be rushing toward Gettysburg, and the lead elements had already arrived and offered battle. Were Meade's other corps about to come into line? Lee did not know, but since more Federal infantry were apt to appear at any moment, he could not gamble on sending weary troops against Cemetery Hill, which was likely to be defended by fresh enemy troops.

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Did Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell Lose the Battle of Gettysburg? (part 3)

Ewell's forces were in just as bad shape as Hill's. Rodes had sent all five of his brigades into the battle, but only two, Doles' and Ramseur's, were at the front and in position to continue the fighting. O'Neal had lost almost 25 percent of his force, and most of his survivors (except the few who had joined Ramseur's charge) remained on Oak Hill. Daniel, too, had taken huge losses; almost 35 percent of his troops had fallen in battle. Iverson had suffered the most. His casualties exceeded 900 men, 60 percent of his brigade, and the remnants lay exhausted atop Oak Hill. And even though both Doles and Ramseur were ready for more action, their numbers, too, were diminished. They had entered into battle with 2,600 effectives; only about 2,000 remained.

Only one of Early's four brigades was still positioned for action. Avery's 2,000 men had advanced to the base of Cemetery Hill, where they were still attracting the enemy's attention. 'We were subject to galling fire,' remembered Lieutenant Warren Jackson. 'I spent about two hours as miserably as I ever did in my life.'

Early's other brigades were unavailable for Ewell to send into action. William Smith's men were posted east of the village, on the York Pike, guarding the corps' flank; Gordon's troops were north of Gettysburg, awaiting a resupply of ammunition; and Hays' soldiers were in the town, encumbered with 3,000 Union prisoners.

Ewell had no thought of continuing the battle, but his rationale for holding in place was not based on having fewer than 4,000 men available for action. He was more concerned over having disobeyed his orders. 'General Lee … instructed me not to bring on a general engagement,' he replied to the subordinates who urged an assault against Cemetery Hill. 'I will wait for those orders.'

While Ewell's reasons for not challenging the Federals crowded on Cemetery Hill were perhaps wrong, was he right in not mounting an assault against the slope? Many who have studied Gettysburg say yes. They base their analysis not only on the impotence of the Confederate forces but also on the strength of the Union forces.

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Did Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell Lose the Battle of Gettysburg? (part 4)

When the Federal lines collapsed north and west of Gettysburg, the Union troops drew back to Cemetery Hill, the designated haven in case of defeat. Colonel Orland Smith's 2,000-man brigade, supported by a battery of six guns, was atop the knoll, eager to greet any oncoming Rebels. As the fleeing Federals climbed the slopes, their officers guided them into imposing defensive positions. Gamble's 1,500 troopers were sent south, in front of and along Cemetery Ridge, where they guarded the left flank from Confederate assault. Most of the I Corps fell in atop Cemetery Ridge behind the cavalry; Wadsworth's division rushed to Culp's Hill to protect the right flank; and Howard's corps augmented Smith's men on Cemetery Hill. A total of about 12,000 Union soldiers were ready to defend the heights.

Reinforcements were also at hand. Five hundred veterans from the 7th Indiana came forward, and Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum's XII Corps had arrived. The leading columns of the 1st Division, led by Brig. Gen. Thomas Ruger, began filing into position behind Cemetery Hill at about 4:30 p.m. Brigadier General John W. Geary's 2nd Division reached Gettysburg about half an hour later. These 8,000 fresh troops brought the Union strength to about 20,000 soldiers.

In addition to the reinforcements, the Federals had most of their artillery pieces, which they had salvaged during their retreat. Almost 40 cannons had joined Smith's six guns, and the entire array was emplaced, unlimbered and ready to fire, atop Cemetery Hill.

Ewell, of course, saw the enemy digging in on Cemetery Hill. Although he no doubt suspected that the Union soldiers would be impossible to dislodge, he knew that sooner or later he would have to charge the heights. When Early urged an immediate assault, Ewell agreed, but insisted that Lee must approve their attack and Hill had to provide reinforcements. James Power Smith, an aide who had spent the afternoon with Lee and had just now come to Gettysburg (without bringing any orders from Lee to Ewell), was dispatched back to Lee with those two requests.

Back on Seminary Ridge, when Lee saw that the Federals had aligned their guns shoulder to shoulder across the crest of Cemetery Hill, he also recognized that the Southerners would have to attack the heights — perhaps better now than on the morrow. Lee had already recalled Hill's men from the field; therefore only Ewell's troops were available to dispute the enemy's new front.

After 5 p.m., just prior to Smith's arrival with Ewell's proposal to charge Cemetery Hill and long after the Union retreat had started, Lee sent an aide, Colonel Walter Taylor, to Ewell with instructions to challenge the Federals. 'The enemy is retreating … in great confusion,' Lee said in his message. 'You only need to press those people to gain possession of the heights … .Do this if possible.'

Lee's order seemed to assume that it would be relatively easy for Ewell to dislodge the Federals from their post atop Cemetery Hill. After the Civil War, apologists for Lee ignored the fact that the Union position was virtually impregnable, and they used this order as proof that Lee was not responsible for the Southern defeat at Gettysburg. Ewell was to blame because he had failed to pursue the defeated Northern army, allowing them to entrench on the critical high ground.

When Taylor found Ewell in Gettysburg and presented the message, Ewell made no comment. He may have been dumbfounded by Lee's apparent assumption that the enemy could be easily pushed off Cemetery Hill; more likely, he knew that the note was meaningless. He could not move until he received Lee's response to his plea for reinforcements. Years later, Taylor would claim that Ewell's silence meant that he had agreed to charge Cemetery Hill, another attempt to clear Lee by discrediting Ewell.

When Smith arrived at army headquarters, he handed Ewell's request for reinforcements to Lee. 'Tell General Ewell … I regret that my people are not [able] to support his attack,' Lee responded, 'but … I wish him to take Cemetery Hill if practicable.' He then added an impossible condition — should Ewell advance against the hill, he must 'avoid a general engagement.'

Smith returned to Gettysburg, where he found Ewell and gave him Lee's instructions. Ewell saw at once that his new orders were paradoxical. He could not drive the enemy from the heights without reinforcements. The force at hand, 4,000 men, was no match for the hordes of Federals, backed by cannons, atop Cemetery Hill. To attack would bring disaster to his corps. And even if Ewell mounted the suicidal assault, how could he assure Lee that reopening the battle would not bring on a general engagement? He had no choice. Ewell dropped his plan for a direct charge against Cemetery Hill.

In the fighting that followed on days two and three at Gettysburg, the Confederates had numerous chances to defeat the enemy, but in each instance, they failed to take advantage of their opportunities. Ewell blundered more than once, and he manfully admitted his errors. He was as much responsible for the South's losing the battle as any of the other commanders involved.

But Ewell was not frozen by indecision, unable to find the courage to charge the Union forces on Cemetery Hill on the first day. Lee's order to 'press those people … if possible' was not sent during the Union retreat. He issued the directive after he recalled Perrin's force from Gettysburg, after the Federals had fled the field and after the enemy troops had consolidated their position atop the heights. Ewell, refused the reinforcements he believed necessary for a successful attack on Cemetery Hill, elected not to charge, a good decision in retrospect, because the Federals were never really vulnerable to being driven off the high ground. Ewell did not lose Gettysburg by himself.

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BL, let me quote McPherson:

So Lee gave Dick Ewell discretionary orders to attack Cemetery Hill "if practicable." Had Stonewall Jackson still lived, he undoubtedly would have found it practicable. But Ewell was not Jackson.

Based on what you have written, do you believe the bolded to be an incorrect assertion?

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BL, let me quote McPherson:

So Lee gave Dick Ewell discretionary orders to attack Cemetery Hill "if practicable." Had Stonewall Jackson still lived, he undoubtedly would have found it practicable. But Ewell was not Jackson.

Based on what you have written, do you believe the bolded to be an incorrect assertion?

I think its a popular opinion, especially if you are trying to what if your way to a Confederate victory. Let's pretend it is a true statement. My only question is what troops will the ressurected General Jackson be using for the assualt?

A.P. Hill's III Corps would lend no troops to the assault; Richard Anderson's troops (about 7K) had not been engaged, but Lee ordered them into bivouac west of Seminary Ridge.

The II Corps has one fresh division, Edward Johnson's 6,380 man force, but they're not on the field.

Rodes has two commands that are completely demoralized from excessive casualties (both a direct result of incompetent generalship). Daniels and Doles have been engaged for hours, disorganized and exhausted from numerous charges. Ramseur's small command (started the day with about 1,025 in the brigade) is a possibility.

The last division we can consider is Early. You remember Jubal; he led the post-war cabal Ewell and J.E.B. Stuart. He flatly refused to renew the attack because Hays was strewn out throughout the town rounding up prisoners, Gordon's command was blown from hard fighting, Extra Billy Smith was chasing ghosts out east of town. Hoke's brigade, 3 regiments under Col. Avery numbering just over 1,200 at the start of the battle, has been lightly engaged.

OK, so there it is. Jackson is alive (or if you prefer, Ewell has found a fire some felt he lacked). We're going to knock 12,000 federal troops and numerous batteries of artillery off an entrenched position on Cemetary Hill. We've got about 2,000 fresh troops to do the job. Who's with me?

Do you see why I have problem believing Dick Ewell lost the battle?

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OK, then, continuing the narrative with the start of Day 2:

Studying the Union defenses through his field glasses on the morning of July 2, Longstreet concluded that this line was too strong for an attack to succeed. He urged Lee to turn its south flank and get between the Union army and Washington. This would compel Meade to attack the Army of Northern Virginia in its chosen position. Longstreet liked best the tactical defensive; the model he had in mind was Fredericksburg where Yankee divisions had battered themselves to pieces while the Confederates had suffered minimal casaulties. Longstreet had not been present at Chancellorsville nor had he arrived at Gettysburg on July 1 until after the whooping rebels had driven the enemy pell-mell through the town. These were the models Lee had in mind. He had not accomplished the hoped-for "destruction" of the enemy in the Seven Days' or at Chancellorsville. Gettysburg presented him with a third chance.

(20 years later Isaac Trimble, one of Lee's division commanders at Gettysburg, wrote from memory an "almost verbatim" account of a conversation with Lee on June 27, 4 days before the battle began. When the Army of the Potomac came up into Pennsylvania seeking him, Lee told Trimble:

I shall throw an overwhelming force on their advance, crush it, follow up the success, drive one corps back on another, and by successive repulses and surprises...create a panic and virtually destroy the army...then the war will be over and we shall receive the recognition of our independence.)

The morale of Lee's troops had never been higher, and he believed that these same troops would regard such a manuever as Longstreet suggested as a retreat, and lose their fighting edge. According to a British military observer accompanying the Confederates, the men were eager to attack an enemy "they had beaten so constantly" and for whose fighting capacity they felt "profound contempt." Lee insisted to unleash them. Pointing to Cemetery Hill, he said to Longstreet:

The enemy is there, and I am going to attack him there.

Longstreet replied:

If he is there, it will be because he is anxious that we should attack him; a good reason, in my judgment, for not doing so.

But Lee had made up his mind, and Longstreet turned away sadly with a conviction of impending disaster.

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BL, let me quote McPherson:

So Lee gave Dick Ewell discretionary orders to attack Cemetery Hill "if practicable." Had Stonewall Jackson still lived, he undoubtedly would have found it practicable. But Ewell was not Jackson.

Based on what you have written, do you believe the bolded to be an incorrect assertion?

I think its a popular opinion, especially if you are trying to what if your way to a Confederate victory. Let's pretend it is a true statement. My only question is what troops will the ressurected General Jackson be using for the assualt?

A.P. Hill's III Corps would lend no troops to the assault; Richard Anderson's troops (about 7K) had not been engaged, but Lee ordered them into bivouac west of Seminary Ridge.

The II Corps has one fresh division, Edward Johnson's 6,380 man force, but they're not on the field.

Rodes has two commands that are completely demoralized from excessive casualties (both a direct result of incompetent generalship). Daniels and Doles have been engaged for hours, disorganized and exhausted from numerous charges. Ramseur's small command (started the day with about 1,025 in the brigade) is a possibility.

The last division we can consider is Early. You remember Jubal; he led the post-war cabal Ewell and J.E.B. Stuart. He flatly refused to renew the attack because Hays was strewn out throughout the town rounding up prisoners, Gordon's command was blown from hard fighting, Extra Billy Smith was chasing ghosts out east of town. Hoke's brigade, 3 regiments under Col. Avery numbering just over 1,200 at the start of the battle, has been lightly engaged.

OK, so there it is. Jackson is alive (or if you prefer, Ewell has found a fire some felt he lacked). We're going to knock 12,000 federal troops and numerous batteries of artillery off an entrenched position on Cemetary Hill. We've got about 2,000 fresh troops to do the job. Who's with me?

Do you see why I have problem believing Dick Ewell lost the battle?

Well done. And many of those rebel troops were still milling around inside Gettysburg looking for Union troops in hiding.

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One of the oft-overlooked aspects of the Battle of Gettysburg is the effect on its civilian population.

Tillie Pierce was born in 1848 and when the battle began, had lived all her life in the village of Gettysburg. Her father made his living as a butcher and the family lived above his shop in the heart of town. Tillie witnessed the entire battle and published her observations twenty-six years after the event.

Tillie attended the "Young Ladies Seminary" a finishing school near her home. She was attending school on June 26 when the cry "the Rebels are coming!" reverberated through the town's sleepy streets:

Memories of a teenage girl

"We were having our literary exercises on Friday afternoon, at our Seminary, when the cry reached our ears. Rushing to the door, and standing on the front portico we beheld in the direction of the Theological Seminary, a dark, dense mass, moving toward town. Our teacher, Mrs. Eyster, at once said:

'Children, run home as quickly as you can.'

"It did not require repeating. I am satisfied some of the girls did not reach their homes before the Rebels were in the streets.

"As for myself, I had scarcely reached the front door, when, on looking up the street, I saw some of the men on horseback. I scrambled in, slammed shut the door, and hastening to the sitting room, peeped out between the shutters.

"What a horrible sight! There they were, human beings! Clad almost in rags, covered with dust, riding wildly, pell-mell down the hill toward our home! Shouting, yelling most unearthly, cursing, brandishing their revolvers, and firing right and left.

"I was fully persuaded that the Rebels had actually come at last. What they would do with us was a fearful question to my young mind.

"Soon the town was filled with infantry, and then the searching and ransacking began in earnest.

"They wanted horses, clothing, anything and almost everything they could conveniently carry away.

"Nor were they particular about asking. Whatever suited them they took. They did, however, make a formal demand of the town authorities, for a large supply of flour, meat, groceries, shoes, hats and (doubtless, not least in their estimations), ten barrels of whisky; or, in lieu of this five thousand dollars.

"But our merchants and bankers had too often heard of their coming, and had already shipped their wealth to places of safety. Thus it was, that a few days after, the citizens of York were compelled to make up our proportion of the Rebel requisition."

...to be continued

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Tillie Pierce at the time of the battle (age 15)

- continued -

July 1: Escape to a Safe House and the first encounter with the tragedy of war

As the sounds of battle increase and the fighting nears her home, Tillie joins a neighbor as she and her children flee to her father's (Jacob Weikert) house three miles south of town near Round Top. Tillie's parents elect to stay in town:

"At last we reached Mr. Weikert's and were gladly welcomed to their home."

"It was not long after our arrival, until Union artillery came hurrying by. It was indeed a thrilling sight. How the men impelled their horses! How the officers urged the men as they all flew past toward the sound of the battle! Now the road is getting all cut up; they take to the fields, and all is in anxious, eager hurry! Shouting, lashing the horses, cheering the men, they all rush madly on.

"Suddenly we behold an explosion; it is that of a caisson. We see a man thrown high in the air and come down in a wheat field close by. He is picked up and carried into the house. As they pass by I see his eyes are blown out and his whole person seems to be one black mass. The first words I hear him say are: 'Oh dear! I forgot to read my Bible to-day! What will my poor wife and children say'

"I saw the soldiers carry him up stairs; they laid him upon a bed and wrapped him in cotton. How I pitied that poor man! How terribly the scenes of war were being irresistibly portrayed before my vision."

James Pierce house at the corner of Baltimore St and Breckinridge St; the attached wood structure in the rear was his butcher shop. The house was built in 1829, and refurbished/restored a few years ago. Edited by BobbyLayne

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Jacob Weikert Farm

The safe house Tillie Pierce went to for the remainder of the battle, on Taneytown Road, east of Little Round Top. Over 700 wounded and dying soldiers were hosted in the barn and house. General Stephen Weed died in the house, and the bodies of artillery Lieutenant Charles Hazlett, and 140th New York Colonel Patrick O’Rorke were also brought here and laid on the front porch.

The Weikert barn is now the site of an antique shop, Tillie's Treasures. During the battle it was designated a hospital for the Fifth Corps, though wounded soldiers from the First, Second, Third, and Eleventh Corps were also brought here.

At the time of the battle, the Weikerts lived here with their 13 children. The Weikerts raised animals, wheat, corn, apples, and peaches. During the afternoon of July 2nd, Mrs. Weikert and her daughters baked bread for the soldiers. Mrs. Weikert searched through the house, bringing up all the cloth items that she could spare in order to make bandages.

After the battle, a damage claim by Jacob Weikert declared losses of 12 acres of wheat, 16 acres of meadow, 11 acres of oats, 3500 fence rails, linens, furniture, and assorted household items. In the field across the Taneytown Road, approximately 100 bodies were buried, according to the 1864 map of engineer S.G. Elliott.

Edited by BobbyLayne

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Memories of a Teenage Girl (concluded)

July 2: Officer brutality

During the battle's second day fighting shifts to the area around Little Round Top. Tillie remains in the Weikert home carrying water to passing Union troops while others bake bread for the soldiers. Towards noon she witnesses an incident at the front of the house:

"This forenoon another incident occurred which I shall ever remember. While the infantry were passing, I noticed a poor, worn-out soldier crawling along on his hands and knees. An officer yelled at him, with cursing, to get up and march. The poor fellow said he could not, whereupon the officer, raising his sword, struck him down three or four times. The officer passed on. Little caring what he had done. Some of his comrades at once picked up the prostrate form and carried the unfortunate man into the house. After several hours of hard work the sufferer was brought back to consciousness. He seemed quite a young man, and was suffering from sunstroke received on the forced march. As they were carrying him in, some of the men who had witnessed this act of brutality remarked:

'We will mark that officer for this.'

"It is a pretty well established fact that many a brutal officer fell in the battle, from being shot other than by the enemy."

July 3: The surgeon's work

Lee aims his attack at the center of the Union line. The ferocity of the battle forces Tillie and the others to flee to a farm house farther from the fighting. Late in the day, as the battle subsides, the family decides to return to the Weikert farm:

"Toward the close of the afternoon it was noticed that the roar of the battle was subsiding, and after all had become quiet we started back to the Weikert home. As we drove along in the cool of the evening, we noticed that everywhere confusion prevailed. Fences were thrown down near and far; knapsacks, blankets and many other articles, lay scattered here and there. The whole country seemed filled with desolation.

"Upon reaching the place I fairly shrank back aghast at the awful sight presented. The approaches were crowded with wounded, dying and dead. The air was filled with moanings, and groanings. As we passed on toward the house, we were compelled to pick our steps in order that we might not tread on the prostrate bodies.

"When we entered the house we found it also completely filled with the wounded. We hardly knew what to do or where to go. They, however, removed most of the wounded, and thus after a while made room for the family.

"As soon as possible, we endeavored to make ourselves useful by rendering assistance in this heartrending state of affairs. I remember Mrs. Weikert went through the house, and after searching awhile, brought all the muslin and linen she could spare. This we tore into bandages and gave them to the surgeons, to bind up the poor soldier's wounds.

"By this time, amputating benches had been placed about the house. I must have become inured to seeing the terrors of battle, else I could hardly have gazed upon the scenes now presented. I was looking out of the windows facing the front yard. Near the basement door, and directly underneath the window I was at, stood one of these benches. I saw them lifting the poor men upon it, then the surgeons sawing and cutting off arms and legs, then again probing and picking bullets from the flesh.

"Some of the soldiers fairly begged to be taken next, so great was their suffering, and so anxious were they to obtain relief.

"I saw the surgeons hastily put a cattle horn over the mouths of the wounded ones, after they were placed upon the bench. At first I did not understand the meaning of this but upon inquiry, soon learned that that was their mode of administrating chloroform, in order to produce unconsciousness. But the effect in some instances were not produced; for I saw the wounded throwing themselves wildly about, and shrieking with pain while the operation was going on.

"To the south of the house, and just outside of the yard, I noticed a pile of limbs higher than the fence. It was a ghastly sight! Gazing upon these, too often the trophies of the amputating bench, I could have no other feeling, than that the whole scene was one of cruel butchery."

The battle's aftermath

Hearing that her family is safe in town, it is decided that Tillie should remain at the Weikert farm for a few days after the battle. On July 5, Tillie and some friends climb to the crest of Little Round Top and survey the battlefield below:

"By this time the Union dead had been principally carried off the field, and those that remained were Confederates.

"As we stood upon those mighty boulders, and looked down into the chasms between, we beheld the dead lying there just as they had fallen during the struggle. From the summit of Little Round Top, surrounded by the wrecks of battle, we gazed upon the valley of death beneath. The view there spread out before us was terrible to contemplate! It was an awful spectacle! Dead soldiers, bloated horses, shattered cannon and caissons, thousands of small arms. In fact everything belonging to army equipments, was there in one confused and indescribable mass."

Tillie Pierce's memoir of the battle was published in 1888, and reprinted in 1994.

Alleman, (Pierce) Tillie, At Gettysburg, or What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle

It is also available online at the U Penn digital library.

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The Barlow/Gordon Incident At Gettysburg

Great story. I copied and forwarded to a friend of mine. He called and reminded me of his similar tale from Vietnam that he had told me before. His unit came under attack and he was wounded. He remembers the attack happening and then waking up stateside much later. Eight years later he ran into a corpsman that evidently treated him on the field in Vietnam. The corpsman looked at him like he was a ghost because he was the last one shipped out as they didn't expect him to survive the day.

He said the guy stopped, looked at him and said "you're dead!"

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From the diary of Gideon Welles

Welles was President Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy.

30 June:

"Lee and his army are well advanced into Pennsylvania, and they should not be permitted to fall back and recross the Potomac. Halleck is bent on driving them back, not on intercepting their retreat; is full of zeal to drive them out of Pennsylvania. I don't want them to leave the State, except as prisoners. Meade will, I trust, keep closer to them than some others have done. I understand his first order was for the troops at Harper's Ferry to join him, which was granted. Hooker asked this, but it was denied him by the War Department and General Halleck."

"We have no positive information that the Rebels have crossed the Susquehanna, though we have rumors to that effect. There is no doubt the bridge at Columbia, one and a half miles long, has been burnt, and, it seems, by our own people. The officer who ordered it must have been imbued with Halleck's tactics. I wish the Rebel army had got across before the bridge was burnt. But Halleck's prayers and efforts, especially his prayers, are to keep the Rebels back, — drive them back across the "frontiers" instead of intercepting, capturing, and annihilating them. This movement of Lee and the Rebel forces into Pennsylvania is to me incomprehensible, nor do I get any light from military men or others in regard to it. Should they cross the Susquehanna, as our General-in-Chief and Governor Curtin fear, they will never recross it without being first captured. This they know, unless deceived by their sympathizing friends in the North, as in 1861; therefore I do not believe they will attempt it.

I have talked over this campaign with Stanton this evening, but I get nothing from him definite or satisfactory of fact or speculation, and I come to the conclusion that he is bewildered, that he gets no light from his military subordinates and advisers, and that he really has no information or opinion as to the Rebel destination or purpose."

1 July:

"July 1, Wednesday. We have reports that the Rebels have fallen back from York, and I shall not be surprised if they escape capture, or even a second fight, though we have rumors of hard fighting to-day."

2 July:

"Met Sumner and went with him to the War Department. The President was there, and we read dispatches received from General Meade. There was a smart fight, but without results, near Gettysburg yesterday. A rumor is here that we have captured six thousand prisoners, and on calling again this evening at the War Department I saw a telegram which confirms it. General Reynolds is reported killed. The tone of Meade's dispatch is good."

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Gettysburg Day 2 Continued

Although aware of Longsteet's reluctance, Lee assigned to him the principal attack duty on July 2. 2 of Hill's 3 divisions had suffered heavy casualties the previous day and could not fight today. Ewell still regarded the Union defenses on Cemetery and Culp's hills as too strong for a successful assault. Lee grudgingly agreed. He therefore ordered Longsteet's 2 fresh divisions (the third, under George Pickett had been posted as rear guard and could not arrive in time) to attack the Union left holding the southern end of Cemetery Ridge. The assault would be supported by Hill's one fresh division, while Ewell was to demonstrate against the Union right and convert this demonstration into an attack when Meade weakened his right to reinforce his left. If this plan worked, both enemy flanks would crumble and Lee would have the war-winning Cannae that he sought. (Cannae was a battle in 216 B.C. in which Hannibal of Carthage defeated and virtually annihilated a Roman army- which by coincidence almost equaled the size of the Union force at Gettysburg- with a double envelopment that crushed both flanks. Cannae became a byword in military history for a total, annihilative tactical victory.

Longstreet's state of mind as he prepared for this attack is hard to fathom. The only non-Virginian holding high command in the Army of Northern Virginia (and the only prominent Confederate general to join the postwar Republican party), Longstreet became the target of withering criticism from Virginians after the war for insubordination and tardiness at Gettysburg. They held him responsible for losing the battle- and by implication the war. Some of this criticism was self-serving, intended to shield Lee and other Virginians (mainly Stuart and Ewell) from blame. But Longstreet did seem to move slowly at Gettysburg. Although Lee wanted him to attack as early in the day as possible, he did not get his troops into position until 4:00 p.m.

There were extenuating reasons for this delay; Longstreet's two divisions had made right marches to reach the vicinity of Gettysburg and were then compelled to countermarch by circuitous route to reach the attack position because Lee's guide led them initially on a road in sight of an enemy signal post on Little Round Top, a high hill on the south end of the Union line. Yet Longstreet may have been piqued by Lee's rejection of his flanking suggestion, and he did not believe in the attack he was ordered to make. He therefore may not have put as much energy and speed into its preparation as the situation required.

To compound the problem, Longstreet did not find the Yankee left on Cemetery Ridge where Lee's scout had reported it to be. It was not there because of an unauthorized move by Dan Sickles, commander of the 3rd Corps holding the Union left. Distressed by the exposed nature of the low ground at the south end of Cemetery Ridge before it thrust upward at Little Round Top, Sickles had moved his 2 divisions a half-mile foward to occupy slightly higher ground along a road running southwest from Gettysburg. There his troops held a salient with its apex in a peach orchard and its left anchored in a maze of boulders locally called Devil's Den, just below Little Round Top. Although this gave Sickles high ground to defend, it left his men unconnected to the rest of the Union line and vunerable to attack on both flanks. When Meade learned what Sickles had done, it was too late to order him back to the original line. Longstreet had launched his attack.

Edited by timschochet

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Gettysburg Day 2, Continued

Sickles's unwise move may have unwittingly foiled Lee's hopes. Finding the Union in an unexpected position, Longstreet probably should have notified Lee. Scouts reported that the Round Tops were unoccupied, opening the way for a flanking move around to the Union rear. Longstreet's division commanders urged a change of attack plans to take advantage of this opportunity. Longstreet's division commanders urged a change of attack plans to take advantage of this opportunity. But Longstreet had already tried twice to change Lee's mind. He did not want to risk another rebuff. Lee had repeatedly ordered him to attack here, and here he meant to attack. At 4pm, his brigades started forward in an echelon from right to left.

During the next few hours some of the war's bloodiest fighting took place at the peach orchard, in a wheat field to the east of the orchard, at Devil's Den, and on Little Round Top. Longstreet's 15,000 yelling veterans punched through the salient with attacks that shattered Sickles's leg and crushed his undersize corps. But with skillful tactics, Meade and his subordinates rushed reinforcements from 3 other corps to plug the breaks. Part of Hill's fresh division finally joined Longstreet's assault, while on the other end of the line Ewell's men belatedly went forward but achieved only limited gains before Union counterattacks and darkness halted them.

The most desperate struggle occured on Longstreet's front where 2 Union regiments at separated points of the combat zone, the 20th Maine and the 1st Minnesota, achieved lasting fame by throwing back Confederate attacks that came dangerously close to breakthroughs. Rising above the surrounding countryside, the two Round Tops dominated the south end of Cemetery Ridge. If the rebels had gotten artillery up there, they could have enfiladed the Union left. Sickles's advance had uncovered those hills. A brigade of Alabamians advanced to seize Little Round Top. Minutes earlier nothing but a Union signal station had stood in their way. But Meade's chief of engineers, General Gouverneur K. Warren, discovered this appalling situation as enemy troops were approaching. Galloping down the hill, Warren persuaded the 5th Corps commander to send a brigade double-timing to the crest of Little Round Top to meet the charging rebels.

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Gettysburg Day 2 concluded

Posted at the far left of this brigade was the 20th Maine, commanded by Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain. A year earlier, Chamberlain had been a professor of rhetoric and modern languages at Bowdoin College. Taking a leave of absence ostensibly to study in Europe, he joined the army instead and now found himself responsible for preventing the rebels from rolling up the Union left. The fighting professor and his downeasterners proved equal to the occasion. For nearly two hours they stood off repeated assaults by portions of several Confederate regiments along the rocky, wooded slope filled with smoke, noise, and terror. But their valor seemed in vain. With more than a third of his men down and the remainder out of ammunition- and with the rebs forming for another assault- Chamberlain was in a tight spot. But cool and quickwitted- perhaps a legacy of dealing with fractious students- he ordered his men to fix bayonets on their empty rifles and charge. With a yell, these smoke-grimed Yanks lurched downhill against the surprised rebels. Exhausted by their uphill fighting following a 25 mile march that day to reach the battlefield, and shocked by the audacity of this bayonet assault, the Alabamians surrendered by scores to the jubilant boys from Maine. Little Round Top remained in northern hands. Although Sickles's corps was driven back yard by yard through the peach orchard, the wheat field, and Devil's Den, the Union left on Little Round Top was secure.

A mile to the north, however, another Alabama brigade threatened to puncture the Cemetery Ridge line near its center. Their attack hit a gap in the Union line created by the earlier advance of Sickles's corps to the peach orchard. Winfield Scott Hancock's 2nd Corps occupied this sector, but until Hancock could shift reinforcements to stop the assault he had only 8 companies of one regiment on hand to meet the oncoming brigade. The regiment was the 1st Minnesota, veterans of all the army's battles since the beginning at Bull Run. Hancock ordered these 262 men to charge the 1,600 Alabamians and slow them down long enough for the reinforcements to arrive. The Minnesotans did the job but only 47 of them came back. Hancock plugged the gap, and the Confederate attack all along the southern half of the battlefield flickered out in the twilight.

To the north the shift of Union troops from Cemetery and Culp's hills to meet Longstreet's assault gave Ewell's corps the opportunity Lee had hoped to convert his demonstration into an attack. But the opportunity slipped away. Several of Ewell's brigades did finally advance as dusk descended. One of them seized some trenches on Culp's Hill left unoccupied by a Federal unit sent to seize the other end of the battlefield, but could advance no farther against determined opposition. Two other gray brigades scored a temporary lodgment against the hapless 11th Corps at Cemetery Hill, but a 2nd Corps brigade counterattacked in the gathering darkness and drove them back.

The Confederate attacks on July 2 were uncoordinated and disjointed. The usual skill of generalship in the Army of Northern Virginia was lacking this day. On the Union side, by contrast, officers from Meade down to regimental colonels acted with initiative and coolness. They moved troops to the right spots and counterattacked at the right times. As a result, when night fell the Union line remained firm except for the loss of Sickles's salient. Each side had suffered 9,000 or more casualties, bringing the two-day totals for both armies to nearly 35,000.

It was the heaviest single-battle toll in the war thus far. And the fighting was not over.

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I have narrated only the barest outlines of what happened on one of the most significant days in American history, and specifically military history. I'm sure BobbyLayne and others will want to fill in several details, and we're all looking forward to that. I will therefore now take a break until next week before continuing with Day 3.

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A couple of observations. Though Little Round Top was not as heavily forested in 1863 as it is today, Oates' Alabamans were still able to get very close to 20th Maine and the rest of Weed's brigade before being spotted. The proximity of the opposing forces must have made this a very hot fight indeed.

I can only imagine what went through William Colville's (regimental commander of 1st Minnesota) mind when Hancock asked him to march out into the open against the better part of two Confederate brigades. Surely, he knew exactly what his men were in for if he said "Yes," but that's exactly what he said without hesitation.

An echelon attack was a very solid tactic for the circumstances. The Confederates had a plan that they could execute while Union commanders were forced to react on the fly, no easy task in the day of limited communications. Much credit goes to Hancock on Day 2 as he marshalled forces from two or three different corps to throw into the breaches that were constantly opening up when Sickles' corps was eventually run off the field.

On Sunday, I got a good look at the ground where William Barksdale launched his Mississippi brigade at Sickles' right flank just north of the Peach Orchard. He didn't have far to go and they did it at a dead run. It must have been pretty terrible for the beleaguered Union troops along the Emmitsburg Road fenceline, who were already taking heat from rebels advancing on their flank beyond the Peach Orchard, to bear the brunt of this screaming attack. Barksdale was killed in the charge.

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I can only imagine what went through William Colville's (regimental commander of 1st Minnesota) mind when Hancock asked him to march out into the open against the better part of two Confederate brigades. Surely, he knew exactly what his men were in for if he said "Yes," but that's exactly what he said without hesitation.

This action by the 1st Minnesota reminds me of the three torpedo squadrons that perished during the Battle of Midway, and the sailors of Ziggy Sprague's small carrier task force in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. These are all among the most valorous actions in American military history.

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I did a battlefield walk on July 2nd (147th Anniversary) of Barksdale's line of advance. A confederate staff officer called it "most magnificent charge I witnessed during the entire war". A Union colonel was quoted as saying, "It was the grandest charge that was ever made by mortal man." I'm inclined to agree with those assessments.He must have been a sight to behold. He was a very large man, with shoulder length white hair, hat removed so that it flowed with the wind. He was a staunch secessionist Congressman for eight years before Mississippi seceded, and often gave pep talks to his men before they went into battle. He was a fiery, zealous man with natural fighting abilities (as demonstrated in the Mexican War and numerous engagements from First Manassas onward), and the affection he felt toward his men was reciprocated. Lee had a number or capable brigadier generals in brigade command, and Barksdale was one of his best.

Barksdale's Mississippians arrived into the field near Gettysburg well past midnight on July 2,1863. The Mississippi Brigades made Camp at Willoughby Run at about 9 o'clock on the morning of July 2nd, with Colonel E. P. Alexander and the Washington Artillery. Lee had not yet formalized his plans for an engagement at this timeAfter copious reconnaissance, formulation of a plan and issuance of orders was finally achieved. Pursuant to those orders, the Divisions took their places of defense as follows: "The Confederate Left was covering the North and East curve of the enemy's line. Johnson's division near Culp's hill, Early and Rode's extending the line to the right through Gettysburg: Pender's division on the right of Rode's; the other divisions of the Third Corps resting on Seminary Ridge, with McLaws's division and Hood's three Brigades near General Headquarters"While waiting across from the Peach Orchard, Barksdale repeatedly requested of McLaws and Longstreet permission to charge "that little battery across the way, "referring to the 9th Massachusetts Battery at the Trostle house. He was told to wait. Chafing at the bit, he implored Longstreet "Give me just five minutes, and that battery and it's guns will be ours". Longstreet's reply was "Just hold on, we'll all be going in presently".Colonel E. Porter Alexander and the Washington artillery had been brought up onto the line of McLaws's to provide artillery support for the impending infantry advance to the Federal batteries and infantry regiments of Sickle's corps placed on a line against the Emmitsburg road from the fields before the Roundtops to the Cemetery facing Cemetery Ridge. Alexander's report states that "About 4 p.m. I placed five batteries in action against a heavy artillery and infantry force of the enemy about 500 yards distant in a Peach Orchard on the Emmetsburg pike. After a spirited engagement of a half hour, the enemy's guns were silenced and the position was immediately carried by the infantry and the enemy fell back to its position on the mountain where our infantry gallantly pursued him. The sum total of my losses were killed, 19, wounded 114. There were also 2 killed and 3 wounded of a detachment of 8 gallant Mississippians at Captain Moody's guns, who volunteered to help maneuver them on very difficult ground." The "difficult ground" most likely refers to bringing these batteries into position from the Pitzer woods behind the Confederate line to this position about 500 yards. from the Peach Orchard.It was during the cannonade which Alexander described that Barksdale repeatedly requested permission to advance to "that little battery" in the Peach Orchard. The fiery Mississippian was certain that his men would show the same mettle they had shown at Fredericksburg the previous December, and could hold off the entire Army of the Potomac if necessary. Every time McLaws would near the Mississippians, Barksdale would assure him that the Federal battery could "be taken in five minutes."McLaws was in a quandary of his own , due to the apparently severed communication between Longstreet and Lee, the result of difference of opinion in the order of battle for the day. As any good soldier, McLaws wanted to please his superior, and would not presume to issue an order without the knowledge that this was Longstreet's wish, yet Longstreet inquired as to his plans. Added to this, Barksdale's impetuous nature and desire for ending the nagging inconvenience of the Federal Battery in the Peach Orchard had him asking repeatedly of McLaws for permission to charge the battery. Longsteet rode to Mc Laws line and Barksdale saw the opportunity to lobby for his cause. He emplored "General, I wish you would let me go in, I could take that battery in five minutes!" "Wait a little," Longstreet responded, "We shall all be going in presently."Finally, as J.C. Lloyd of the 13th Mississippi remembered it, "Directly in our front, only a few steps, are Generals Longstreet, McLaws, Barksdale, and our beloved Colonel Carter, with their glasses, taking a last look over the field". At this point, two men of the 17th Mississippi were ordered forward to remove the rails from a fence, so the line could charge unbroken across the field.Barksdale called all of the commanders of his regiments together to issue the orders he had just formulated with Longstreet and Mc Laws, and, referring to the Federals some 600 yards in front, said "The line in front must be broken. To do so, let every Officer and man animate his comrades by his personal presence in the front line." Barksdale mounted a fine White charger, and rode across the rear of his line as the drums beat assembly, and each officer moved to the front and called his line to attention.The brigades were lined from the left with the 18th, then the 13th, 17th and the 21st on the right. Barksdale emerged from the rear of his Brigade and rode to the left passed the 21st and 17th, and stopped in front of his old regiment, the 13th, awaiting the arrival of Captain G.B. Lamar, McLaws' aide de camp, to issue the direct order to advance from his divisional commander.Harry Pfanz in Gettsyburg-The Second Day remarks that "Perhaps McLaws sent Lamar to Barksdale after it was apparent that his brigade was delayed: no one said. But when Lamar reached Barksdale with the order to go forward, the news made the general's face 'radiant with joy'. Barksdale ordered his four regiments over the wall. (Had they gone beyond the wall too soon they would have masked Moody's and Gilbert's batteries and exposed themselves to Federal fire unnecessarily.)"Lamar recalled that, as he received the order, Barksdale was "radiant with joy. He was in front of his men with his hat off, and his long, white hair reminded me of the white plume of Navarre."Pvt. T. M. Scanlon of the 17th Mississippi recalls Barksdale's speech to his men prior to the charge: "These were his commands: Halt! Front! Order Arms! Load! Fix Bayonets! The entrenchment 500 yards in front of you at the red barn, and that park of artillery as well as the cone mountain (Little Round Top), which is covered with riflemen screened by huge boulders, and beside that entrenched line there is another 200 yards beyond which we are also expected to take. This is an heroic undertaking and most of us will bite the dust making this effort. Now if there is a man here that feels this is too much for him, just step two paces to the front and I will excuse him. We will proceed to within 75 yards of the entrenchment withholding our fire. There you will receive the command, Halt! Ready! Fire!, after which, without command you will charge with the bayonet."Barksdale then snapped out his order "Attention, Mississippians! Battalions forward! Dress to the colors and Forward to the foe! Onward, Brave Mississippians, for Glory,!" and rode out to lead the charge, as far as fifty yards in front of his men.Within minutes the Brigades had crossed this farmland up and down a series of gentle swales which lay in front of the skirmish lines of the Pennsylvanian regiments of Brigadier General Charles A. Graham, and the rifled guns of the New Jersey Light, 2nd battery under the command of Captain A. Judson Clark.The Mississippians showed their veteran strength and determination as they swept forward, through the fire of the artillery rending huge gaps through them that would immediately close as the Mississippians drew together and forward through the fields. Barksdale's men simply overran the Federal troops going forward to the Peach Orchard, capturing at least fifty Union Infantry men, including General Graham.By this time, Barksdale and his men had reached the Emmitsburg road and, gaining the high ground, Barksdale wheeled the 13th, 17th and 18th to the left up the road, as the 21st continued deeper into the Peach Orchard then followed the line to the left.In front of the 21st, Colonels Holder and Griffin of the Mississippians (17th and 18th) implored Barksdale to stop and reform, to which Barksdale replied "NO! Crowd them now, We've got them on the run! Move your regiments!"Barksdale barked at his men in a gruff authoritarian manner "Advance, advance! Brave Mississippians, one more charge and the day is ours!" This statement brought cheers from his men, according to J. S. McNeily, who chronicled the charge at the Peach Orchard in Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade at Gettysburg: Most Magnificent Charge of the War in 1913. He goes on : "Barksdale moved bravely on, the guiding spirit of the battle."When he was wounded in the area of Plum Run, North and East of the Trostle Farm, he saw his courier, W.R.Boyd and said "I am killed! Tell my wife and children that I died fighting at my post." At that time, Boyd was wounded in the leg, which made it impossible for him to assist his General. He left Barksdale's side with the Federals closing in on them from less than fifty yards. As Boyd was retreating, his horse was shot out from under him. Boyd closed in on Barksdale again, and was told that, if he could get to a battery of the Washington Artillery which had moved to a distance of about 250 yards away, to "order them to the front."Boyd was successful in so doing, and attempted to return to Barksdale's side, but could only get within 40 yards of where the General lay. Boyd closes his report by saying "The last words of this ardent patriot, gallant man and dying hero that ever fell upon the ears of his own countrymen should nerve and incite them to his highest standards of duty. The ordeal through which his brigade passed in this fight may be judged when it is told that of the 1,420 bayonets carried into it, 730 were lost in Killed, Wounded and Missing."Barksdale and his Mississippi Brigade had severed the Union line, but could not hold this position, or advance to establish stronger defenses, due to failure of Wofford and Semmes to follow the Mississippians through at the point of the break in the federal line, and due to the almost limitless refreshment of the Union forces under Hancock which battled the Confederate lines.Barksdale had boasted upon entering Pennsylvania on June 24th that his men had not been bested previously, nor would they be now. His optimism extended throughout his charge, and, as he lay mortally wounded on a make shift surgeon's table at the Hummelbaugh farm he warned the blue clad officers and surgeons that "Hancock had better watch his back, Old Peter has a surprise for you in the morning!"

That dude was a S.O.B. right to the end. Helluva way to go if you ask me.

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There are a number of Day Two anecdotes I would like to relate over the next few days, but as for the general narrative, I'll just let timschochet's summary stand. Perhaps someone else would like to expand it, or delve into certain controversies; without looking anything up, a few come to mind:

Ewell's refusal to re-position his troops

The erroneous scouting performed by Lee's staff officer in the a.m.

Longstreet circuitous march to the front

The ordeal of Law's brigade

Hood modifying his orders without permission

Sickles advance

The sharpshooters clash with Wilcox

G.K. Warren at LRT

The 20th Maine

et al

The only thing I know for certain I'll write about is the march of the Sixth Corps, so the floor is open for anyone who wants to jump into the conversation.

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Everett's Review of Day 2

Long before the dawn of the 2d of July, the new Commander-in-Chief had reached the ever-memorable field of service and glory. Having received intelligence of the events in progress, and informed by the reports of Generals Hancock and Howard of the favorable character of the position, he determined to give battle to the enemy at this point. He accordingly directed the remaining corps of the army to concentrate at Gettysburg with all possible expedition, and breaking up his head-quarters at Taneytown at 10 P.M., he arrived at the front at one o'clock in the morning of the 2d of July. Few were the moments given to sleep, during the rapid watches of that brief midsummer's night, by officers or men, though half of our troops were exhausted by the conflict of the day, and the residue wearied by the forced marches which had brought them to the rescue. The full moon, veiled by thin clouds, shone down that night on a strangely unwonted scene. The silence of the graveyard was broken by the heavy tramp of armed men, by the neigh of the war-horse, the harsh rattle of the wheels of artillery hurrying to their stations, and all the indescribable tumult of preparation. The various corps of the army, as they arrived, were moved to their positions, on the spot where we are assembled and the ridges that extend southeast and southwest; batteries were planted, and breastworks thrown up. The Second and Fifth Corps, with the rest of the Third, had reached the ground by seven o'clock, A.M.; but it was not till two o'clock in the afternoon that Sedgwick arrived with the Sixth Corps. He had marched thirty-four miles since nine o'clock on the evening before. It was only on his arrival that the Union army approached an equality of numbers with of the Rebels, who were posted upon the opposite and parallel ridge, distant from a mile to a mile and a half, overlapping our position on either wing, and probably exceeding by ten thousand the army of General Meade.

And here I cannot but remark on the providential inaction of the Rebel army. Had the contest been renewed by it at daylight on the 2d of July, with the First and Eleventh Corps exhausted by the battle and the retreat, the Third and Twelfth weary from their forced march, and the Second, Fifth, and Sixth not yet arrived, nothing but a miracle could have saved the army from a great disaster. Instead of this, the day dawned, the sun rose, the cool hours of the morning passed, the forenoon and a considerable part of the afternoon wore away, without the slightest aggressive movement on the part of the enemy. Thus time was given for half of our forces to arrive and take their place in the lines, while the rest of the army enjoyed a much-needed half-day's repose.

At length, between three and four o'clock in the afternoon, the work of death began. A signal-gun from the hostile batteries was followed by a tremendous cannonade along the Rebel lines, and this by a heavy advance of infantry, brigade after brigade, commencing on the enemy's right against the left of our army, and so onward to the left centre. A forward movement of General Sickles, to gain a commanding position from which to repel the Rebel attack, drew upon him a destructive fire from the enemy's batteries, and a furious assault from Longstreet's and Hill's advancing troops. After a brave resistance on the part of his corps, he was forced back, himself falling severely wounded. This was the critical moment of the second day; but the Fifth and a part of the Sixth Corps, with portions of the First and Second, were promptly brought to the support of the Third. The struggle was fierce and murderous, but by sunset our success was decisive, and the enemy was driven back in confusion. The most important service was rendered toward the close of the day, in the memorable advance between Round Top and Little Round Top, by General Crawford's division of the Fifth Corps, consisting of two brigades of the Pennsylvania Reserves, of which one company was from this town and neighborhood. The Rebel force was driven back with great loss in killed and prisoners. At eight o'clock in the evening a desperate attempt was made by the enemy to storm the position of the Eleventh Corps on Cemetery Hill; but here, too, after a terrible conflict, he was repulsed with immense loss. Ewell, on our extreme right, which had been weakened by the withdrawal of the troops sent over to support our left, had succeeded in gaining a foothold within a portion of our lines, near Spangler's Spring. This was the only advantage obtained by the Rebels to compensate them for the disasters of the day, and of this, as we shall see, they were soon deprived.

Such was the result of the second act of this eventful drama, — a day hard fought, and at one moment anxious, but, with the exception of the slight reverse just named, crowned with dearly earned but uniform success to our arms, auspicious of a glorious termination of the final struggle. On these good omens the night fell.

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Gettysburg Day 3 Part 1

Robert E. Lee's views about the second day of Gettysburg were that, despite stout resistance by the Yankees, he believed that his indomitable veterans had almost achieved victory. One more push, he thought, and "those people" would break. Lee seemed unusually excited by the supposed success of the past two days. At the same time, however, he was weakened by a bout with diarrhea and irritated by Stuart's prolonged absence (Jeb's tired troopers had finally rejoined the army during the day.) In any case, Lee's judgment was not at its best. He had come to Pennsylvania in quest of a decisive victory and he was determined not to leave without it. He had attacked both enemy flanks, causing Meade (he believed) to weaken his center. With Pickett's fresh division as a spearhead, therefore, Lee would send three divisions preceded by an artillery barrage against that weakened center on July 3. Stuart would circle around the Union rear and Ewell would assail the right flank to clamp the pincers when Pickett broke through the front. With proper coordination and leadership, his invicible troops could not fail.

Across the way a midnight council of Union generals resolved to stay and fight it out. With prescience, Meade told the general commanding his center that "if Lee attacks to-morrow, it will be in your front." At first light, however, fighting broke out at the extreme right of the Union line along the base of Culp's Hill. Units of the Federal 12th Corps, which had been shifted to the left the previous day, came back during the night and attacked at dawn to regain their abandoned trenches now occupied by the rebels. In a 7 hour firefight they succeeded, and thus dimmed Lee's chances for turning the Union right simultaneously with the planned piercing of the center.

While this was going on, Longstreet once more urged Lee to maneuver around Meade's left. Again Lee refused, and ordered Longstreet to attack the Union center with Pickett's division and two of Hill's- fewer than 15,000 men to advance three-quarters of a mile across open fields and assault dug-in infantry supported by ample artillery. "General Lee," Longstreet later reported himself to have said, "there never was a body of 15,000 men who could make that attack successfully." Lee impatiently replied that his magnificent army had done it before and could do it again. Longstreet later wrote:

My heart was heavy. I could see the desperate and hopeless nature of the charge and the hopeless slaughter it would cause...That day at Gettysburg was one of the saddest of my life.

Edited by timschochet

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I want to take a moment to pause and discuss Lee's decision to attack on Day 3, and the historical significance of it, before continuing with the narrative.

McPherson, whom I have used for the narrative thus far, follows other historians in giving Lee a number of excuses. We are informed he had diarrhea. This is the first time in any battle that such a point has been made. I have no idea if Lee had this during other battles, like Fredericksburg or Chancellorsville. I can't quite believe that this ailment had anything to do with Lee's decision. Yet it is included in the narrative, obviously for a purpose.

We are also told that Lee was "irritated" by Stuart's absence. This is highlighted in the film Gettysburg, which includes a nasty confrontation between the two men (not sure of the historical accuracy here.) But if Lee was so concerned by this, why then wasn't he more cautious about what to do next, since he lacked the necessary information? Why gamble on the fact that he believed his enemy was weakened in the center?

Information, wrote Sun Tzu, is the key to winning victories. Lee did not have information. Basically he made the same mistake as Napoleon at Waterloo. Napoleon had faced the Prussian general Blucher the day before the final confrontation with Wellington, and delivered a mighty blow. Without knowing, Napoleon assumed that Blucher was done for, and so he attacked Wellington. But Blucher was not done fore, and the combined British and Prussian forces were too strong for the French. Lee thought the northern center was severly weakened and only needed one big push to give way. He didn't have the information one way or the other; but he believed he did.

Or did he? One thing I have always wondered about- is it possible Lee DID know the odds were severly against success, and went ahead anyhow? Based on the knowledge that, if he took Longstreet's advice, his army and the Confederacy would surely lose the war eventually, even if the army survived for the time being? Was this assault a one time roll of the dice, knowing the odds were stacked against you but even so praying for double sixes?

Robert E. Lee was not an Iyeyasu, the Japanese general turned Shogun who never in his life lost a battle, because he never fought any battles unless he had a decisive advantage. Nor was Lee his wife's grandfather, George Washington, who skillfully kept the dream of the United States alive by keeping his army intact; avoiding combat at times, but always remaining a threat. No, the general in history to me that Lee most resembles in Erwin Rommel, and the parallels are amazing. Like Lee, Rommel won one astonishing victory after another against odds and forces much greater than his own. Like Lee, Rommel did this by expertly dividing and dividing his forces, always to give him superiority at the point of attack. Rommel's magnificent victory at Tobruk, his career highlight, mirrors Lee's victory at Chancellorsville, and Rommel's defeat at El Alamein, one of the key turning points of World War II, mirrors Gettysburg.

El Alamein was a battle far away from Rommel's supply lines, in which he was heavily outnumbered, too much even for his brilliant fighting. But Rommel believed that the British were done for, and one more push, one more victory by his exhausted troops would put him on the road to Alexandria and a chance for Germany to win the war. The odds were extremely long but Rommel decided to chance it. I think this very well may have been behind Lee's decision as well.

Rommel responded to the loss of El Alamein by brilliantly changing his strategy to defense, and through amazing skill delaying Germany's defeat for more than a year to come. As we shall see, this is yet another parallel to Lee.

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Lee's actions remain one of the hotly debated points, but they seem very in character for him (in an overall sense) and do not need explaining away (like you mention, Tim - the whole diarrea thing is a bit "odd").

Had Lee lost at Chancellorsville, we'd question the exact same moves and ask "why? why?" But he didn't lose, so instead of questioning why, we call it brilliant and daring. He lost at Gettysburg, hence questioning. But it really wasn't anything different than he'd previously done - he simply attacked a superior force. And this time, he lost.

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timschochet -

the diarrhea, like McPherson's narrative, is a bit dated...there is a lot of talk these days that perhaps Lee was suffering from angina...or rather I should say he was most likely suffering from chest pains, and eventually did die from coronary artery disease...how much any of that affected him is debatable...I agree with Shelby Foote's fatalistic viewpoint that "the stars in his course were aligned against him"...there were dozens of things that happened that week...Stuart loses contact, Ewell can't press his advantage (worse - won't move around to the right flank), Lt. Johnson's faulty reconnaissance to LRT, Hood goes off course (& gets wounded right when they are jumping off), Pendelton sends the ammunition trains to the rear right before the biggest cannonade of the entire war...add it all up, lot of sheet went wrong - plenty of blame to go around.

Question for guys who were born/raised in the deep south:

Somebody - a writer, might have been Tony Horwitz, but maybe it was Shelby Foote once said, "Every Sothron boy, at one point in his life, has imagined himself marching toward that stone wall in front of the copse of trees".

Really?

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Question for guys who were born/raised in the deep south:

Somebody - a writer, might have been Tony Horwitz, but maybe it was Shelby Foote once said, "Every Sothron boy, at one point in his life, has imagined himself marching toward that stone wall in front of the copse of trees".

Really?

Shelby Foote definitely said it on Ken Burns' The Civil War. The novelist Pat Conroy, who is from South Carolina, asserted the same thing in one of his novels.

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Interesting. I lived in Charleston for six years, and I feel like there are a lot of things about the south I understand better because of that.

But I gotta be honest, that is a mystery to me.

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I wrote about Barksdale earlier, and I am a great admirer of his. Amazing was his brigade did.

I'm of the opinion Ambrose Wright got all the way the CR at the end of Day Two (many doubt he understood where exactly he was). He couldn't stay there anymore than Ewell's men could hold CH, but it was a near thing.

Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble, though...I just don't understand the allure or the fascination. It was doomed before they ever stepped out of the woods.

I guess I understand the admiration...it is hard to imagine marching a full mile in formation while under fire...but no way would I ever wish to be there myself.

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I wrote about Barksdale earlier, and I am a great admirer of his. Amazing was his brigade did.

I'm of the opinion Ambrose Wright got all the way the CR at the end of Day Two (many doubt he understood where exactly he was). He couldn't stay there anymore than Ewell's men could hold CH, but it was a near thing.

Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble, though...I just don't understand the allure or the fascination. It was doomed before they ever stepped out of the woods.

I guess I understand the admiration...it is hard to imagine marching a full mile in formation while under fire...but no way would I ever wish to be there myself.

It's the same romantic fascination that surrounds the Charge of the Light Brigade for England- not coincidently, a contemporaneous event. The Light Brigade's charge was a stupid waste of men, but it was a time period when these sorts of charges were considered incredibly brave. It helps that Pickett was a fan of, and fashioned himself after Sir Walter Scott's Ivahoe, which was incredibly popular among the upper classes in Antebellum South. I'll get into this a little more in the next few posts.

The Civil War, though incredibly bloody, somehow allowed the chivalrous, romantic aspects of war to survive it. It was really the first industrialized war, but nobody realized it. World War I killed the romanticism once and for all. In the Battle of the Somme, some 16,000 British died in a matter of minutes. They gained no territory and accomplished nothing. Pickett's charge was a small horror compared to this.

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I wrote about Barksdale earlier, and I am a great admirer of his. Amazing was his brigade did.

I'm of the opinion Ambrose Wright got all the way the CR at the end of Day Two (many doubt he understood where exactly he was). He couldn't stay there anymore than Ewell's men could hold CH, but it was a near thing.

Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble, though...I just don't understand the allure or the fascination. It was doomed before they ever stepped out of the woods.

I guess I understand the admiration...it is hard to imagine marching a full mile in formation while under fire...but no way would I ever wish to be there myself.

It's the same romantic fascination that surrounds the Charge of the Light Brigade for England- not coincidently, a contemporaneous event. The Light Brigade's charge was a stupid waste of men, but it was a time period when these sorts of charges were considered incredibly brave. It helps that Pickett was a fan of, and fashioned himself after Sir Walter Scott's Ivahoe, which was incredibly popular among the upper classes in Antebellum South. I'll get into this a little more in the next few posts.

The Civil War, though incredibly bloody, somehow allowed the chivalrous, romantic aspects of war to survive it. It was really the first industrialized war, but nobody realized it. World War I killed the romanticism once and for all. In the Battle of the Somme, some 16,000 British died in a matter of minutes. They gained no territory and accomplished nothing. Pickett's charge was a small horror compared to this.

I suppose that is as good of an answer as any.

I have the same sort of disconnect with Anzac Day. I used to live in a Aussie enclave of brownstone Brooklyn, and it was always a mystery for me what exactly they were celebrating.

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