THE FIRST DAY OF THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG, WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 1863.
On the morning of the 1st of July,
General Buford, as stated, held the ridges to the
west of Gettysburg, with his cavalry division, composed
of Gamble’s and Devin’s brigades.
His vedettes were thrown far out toward the
enemy to give timely notice of any movement for he
was determined to prevent the rebels from entering
the town if possible, and knew the First Corps would
soon be up to support him. The enemy were not
aware that there was any considerable force in the
vicinity, and in the morning sent forward Heth’s
division of Hill’s corps to occupy the place,
anticipating no difficulty in doing so. Buford
in the meantime had dismounted a large part of his
force, had strengthened his line of skirmishers, and
planted his batteries at the most commanding points.
General Reynolds, in consequence of
the duties devolving upon him as commander of the
Left Wing of the army, that is of the First, Third,
and Eleventh Corps, had turned over the command of
the First Corps to me. He now made immediate
dispositions to go forward to assist Buford.
As my corps was largely engaged in
the first day’s operations, I must be excused
for having a good deal to say in the first person
in relation to them. Reynolds sent for me about
six o’clock in the morning, read to me the various
despatches he had received from Meade and Buford,
and told me he should go forward at once with the
nearest division-that of Wadsworth-to
aid the cavalry. He then instructed me to draw
in my pickets, assemble the artillery and the remainder
of the corps, and join him as soon as possible.
Having given these orders, he rode off at the head
of the column, and I never saw him again.
The position of the two armies on
the morning of the 1st of July, was as follows:
The First Corps at Marsh Creek; the Second and Third
Corps at Taneytown; the latter being under orders to
march to Emmetsburg, to relieve the Eleventh Corps,
which was directed to join the First Corps at Gettysburg;
the Twelfth Corps was at Two Taverns; the Fifth Corps
at Hanover, and the Sixth Corps about thirty-five
miles off to the right at Manchester. Kilpatrick’s
and Gregg’s divisions of cavalry were also at
Hanover. The Confederate army was advancing
on Gettysburg from the west and north. The concentration
of their troops and the dispersion of ours are indicated
on the map.
It must be remembered that the enemy
had but three corps, while the Union army had
seven. Each of their corps represented
a third, and each of ours a seventh,
of our total force. The same ratio extended
to divisions and brigades.
Heth’s division, which started
early in the morning to occupy the town, soon found
itself confronted by Buford’s skirmishers, and
formed line of battle with Archer’s and
Davis’ brigades in front, followed by those
of Pettigrew and Brockenborough. At 9 A.M. the
first gun was heard. Buford had three cannon-shots
fired as a signal for his skirmish line to open on
the enemy, and the battle of Gettysburg began.
[ Lt.-Col. Kress, of General
Wadsworth’s staff, entered Gettysburg about
this time and found General Buford surrounded by his
staff in front of the tavern there. Buford turned
to him and said, “What are you doing here, sir?”
Kress replied that he came on to get some shoes for
Wadsworth’s division. Buford told him that
he had better return immediately to his command.
Kress said, “Why, what is the matter, general?”
At that moment the far off sound of a single gun
was heard, and Buford replied, as he mounted his horse
and galloped off, "That’s the matter."]
As the rebels had had several encounters
with militia, who were easily dispersed, they did
not expect to meet any serious resistance at this
time, and advanced confidently and carelessly.
Buford gave way slowly, taking advantage of every
accident of ground to protract the struggle.
After an hour’s fighting he felt anxious, and
went up into the steeple of the Theological Seminary
from which a wide view could be obtained, to see if
the First Corps was in sight. One division of
it was close at hand, and soon Reynolds, who had preceded
it, climbed up into the belfry to confer with him there,
and examine the country around. Although there
is no positive testimony to that effect, his attention
was doubtless attracted to Cemetery Ridge in his rear,
as it was one of the most prominent features of the
landscape. An aide of General Howard-presumably
Major Hall-soon after Reynolds descended
from the belfry, came up to ask if he had any instructions
with regard to the Eleventh Corps. Reynolds,
in reply, directed that General Howard bring his corps
forward at once and form them on Cemetery Hill
as a reserve. General Howard has no recollection
of having received any such orders, but as he did
get orders to come forward, and as his corps was to
occupy some place in rear, as a support to the
First Corps, nothing is more probable than that General
Reynolds directed him to go there; for its military
advantages were obvious enough to any experienced
commander. Lieutenant Rosengarten, of General
Reynolds’ staff, states positively that he was
present and heard the order given for Howard to post
his troops on Cemetery Ridge. The matter is of
some moment, as the position in question ultimately
gave us the victory, and Howard received the thanks
of Congress for selecting it. It is not to be
supposed that either Howard or Rosengarten would mistake
the matter. It is quite probable that Reynolds
chose the hill simply as a position upon which his
force could rally if driven back, and Howard selected
it as a suitable battle-field for the army.
It has since been universally conceded that it was
admirably adapted for that purpose.
It will be seen from the above map,
that there are two roads coming to Gettysburg from
the west, making a considerable angle with each other.
Each is intersected by ridges running north and south.
On that nearest to the town, and about three-fourths
of a mile from the central square, there is a large
brick building, which was used as a Lutheran Theological
Seminary. A small stream of water called Willoughby’s
Run winds between the next two ridges. The battle
on the first day was principally fought on the heights
on each side of this stream.
Buford being aware that Ewell’s
corps would soon be on its way from Heidlersburg to
the field of battle, was obliged to form line facing
north with Devin’s brigade, and leave Gamble’s
brigade to keep back the overpowering weight of Hill’s
corps advancing from the west.
While this fighting was going on,
and Reynolds and Wadsworth were pressing to the front,
I was engaged in withdrawing the pickets and assembling
the other two divisions, together with the corps artillery.
As soon as I saw that my orders were in process of
execution, I galloped to the front, leaving the troops
to follow, and caught up with Meredith’s brigade
of Wadsworth’s division, commonly called “The
Iron Brigade,” just as it was going into action.
In the meantime the enemy approaching
from the west were pressing with great force against
Buford’s slender skirmish line, and Reynolds
went forward with Cutler’s brigade to sustain
it. He skilfully posted Hall’s 2d Maine
battery in the road, and threw forward two regiments,
the 14th Brooklyn and the 95th New York, a short distance
in advance on the left. At the same time he directed
General Wadsworth to place the remaining three regiments
of the brigade, the 147th New York, the 76th New York,
and the 56th Pennsylvania, on the right of the road.
When this formation was completed the cavalry brigade
under Gamble, which had been fighting there, withdrew
and formed in column on the left of the infantry; but
the other cavalry brigade, under Devin, which was
not facing in that direction, still held the position,
awaiting the advance of Ewell’s corps from the
As Davis’ rebel brigade of Heth’s
division fronting Wadsworth were hidden behind an
intervening ridge, Wadsworth did not see them at first,
but formed his three regiments perpendicularly to the
road, without a reconnoissance. The result was
that Davis came over the hill almost directly on the
right flank of this line, which being unable to defend
itself was forced back and directed by Wadsworth to
take post in a piece of woods in rear on Seminary Ridge.
The two regiments on the right accordingly withdrew,
but the 147th New York, which was next to the road,
did not receive the order, as their Colonel was shot
down before he could deliver it. They were at
once surrounded and very much cut up before they could
be rescued from their perilous position.
The two regiments on the right, which
were forced back, were veterans, conspicuous for gallantry
in every battle in which the Army of the Potomac had
been engaged since the Peninsula campaign. As
Wadsworth withdrew them without notifying Hall’s
battery in the road, or the two regiments posted by
Reynolds on the left, both became exposed to a disastrous
flank attack on the right. Hall finding a cloud
of skirmishers launched against his battery which
was now without support, was compelled to retreat.
The horses of the lost gun were all shot or bayonetted.
The non-military reader will see that while a battery
can keep back masses of men it cannot contend with
a line of skirmishers. To resist them would be
very much like fighting mosquitoes with musket-balls.
The two regiments posted by Reynolds, the 14th Brooklyn
and 95th New York, finding their support gone on the
right, while Archer’s rebel brigade was
advancing to envelop their left, fell back leisurely
under Colonel Fowler of the 14th Brooklyn, who assumed
command of both as the ranking officer present.
I reached the field just as the attack
on Cutler’s brigade was going on, and at once
sent my adjutant-general, Major Halstead, and young
Meredith L. Jones, who was acting as aide on my staff,
to General Reynolds to ask instructions. Under
the impression that the enemy’s columns were
approaching on both roads, Reynolds said, “Tell
Doubleday I will hold on to this road,” referring
to the Chambersburg road, “and he must hold
on to that one;” meaning the road to Fairfield
or Hagerstown. At the same time he sent Jones
back at full speed to bring up a battery.
The rebels, however, did not advance
on the Fairfield road until late in the afternoon.
They must have been in force upon it some miles back,
for the cavalry so reported, and this caused me during
the entire day to give more attention than was necessary
to my left, as I feared the enemy might separate my
corps from the Third and Eleventh Corps at Emmetsburg.
Such a movement would be equivalent to interposing
between the First Corps and the main army.
There was a piece of woods between
the two roads, with open ground on each side.
It seemed to me this was the key of the position,
for if this woods was strongly held, the enemy could
not pass on either road without being taken in flank
by the infantry, and in front by the cavalry.
I therefore urged the men as they filed past me to
hold it at all hazards. Full of enthusiasm and
the memory of their past achievements they said to
me proudly, "If we can’t hold it, where will
you find men who can?"
As they went forward under command
of Colonel Morrow of the 24th Michigan Volunteers,
a brave and capable soldier, who, when a mere youth,
was engaged in the Mexican War, I rode over to the
left to see if the enemy’s line extended beyond
ours, and if there would be any attempt to flank our
troops in that direction. I saw, however, only
a few skirmishers, and returned to organize a reserve.
I knew there was fighting going on between Cutler’s
brigade and the rebels in his front, but as General
Reynolds was there in person, I only attended to my
own part of the line; and halted the 6th Wisconsin
regiment as it was going into the action, together
with a hundred men of the Brigade Guard, taken from
the 149th Pennsylvania, to station them in the open
space between the Seminary and the woods, as a reserve,
the whole being under the command of Lieut.-Colonel
R. R. Dawes, of the 6th Wisconsin.
[ I sent orders to Morrow under the
supposition that he was the ranking officer of the
brigade. Colonel W. W. Robinson, 7th Wisconsin,
was entitled to the command, and exercised it during
the remainder of the battle.]
It is proper to state that General
Meredith, the permanent commander of the brigade,
was wounded as he was coming up, some time after its
arrival, by a shell which exploded in front of his
Both parties were now trying to obtain
possession of the woods. Archer’s
rebel brigade, preceded by a skirmish line, was crossing
Willoughby’s Run to enter them on one side as
the Iron Brigade went in on the other. General
Reynolds was on horseback in the edge of the woods,
surrounded by his staff. He felt some anxiety
as to the result, and turned his head frequently to
see if our troops would be up in time. While
looking back in this way, a rebel sharpshooter shot
him through the back of the head, the bullet coming
out near the eye. He fell dead in an instant,
without a word. The country sustained great
loss in his death. I lamented him as almost
a life-long companion. We were at West Point
together, and had served in the same regiment-the
old 3d Artillery-upon first entering service,
along with our present Commander-in-Chief, General
Sherman, and General George H. Thomas. When quite
young we had fought in the same battles in Mexico.
There was little time, however, to indulge in these
recollections. The situation was very peculiar.
The rebel left under Davis had driven in Cutler’s
brigade and our left under Morrow had charged into
the woods, preceded by the 2d Wisconsin under Colonel
Fairchild, swept suddenly and unexpectedly around
the right flank of Archer’s brigade, and
captured a large part of it, including Archer himself.
The fact is, the enemy were careless and underrated
us, thinking, it is said, that they had only militia
to contend with. The Iron Brigade had a different
head-gear from the rest of the army and were recognized
at once by their old antagonists. Some of the
latter were heard to exclaim: “There are
those d -d black-hatted fellows
again! ’Taint no militia. It’s
the Army of the Potomac.”
Having captured Archer and his men,
many of the Iron Brigade kept on beyond Willoughby’s
Run, and formed on the heights on the opposite side.
The command now devolved upon me,
with its great responsibilities. The disaster
on the right required immediate attention, for the
enemy, with loud yells, were pursuing Cutler’s
brigade toward the town. I at once ordered my
reserve under Lieutenant-Colonel Dawes to advance
against their flank. If they faced Dawes, I reasoned
that they would present their other flank to Cutler’s
men, so that I felt quite confident of the result.
In war, however, unexpected changes are constantly
occurring. Cutler’s brigade had been withdrawn
by order of General Wadsworth, without my knowledge,
to the suburbs of Gettysburg. Fortunately, Fowler’s
two regiments came on to join Dawes, who went forward
with great spirit, but who was altogether too weak
to assail so large a force. As he approached,
the rebels ceased to pursue Cutler, and rushed into
the railroad cut to obtain the shelter of the grading.
They made a fierce and obstinate resistance, but,
while Fowler confronted them above, about twenty of
Dawes’ men were formed across the cut by his
adjutant, E. P. Brooks, to fire through it. The
rebels could not resist this; the greater number gave
themselves up as prisoners, and the others scattered
over the country and escaped.
This success relieved the 147th New
York, which, as I stated, was surrounded when Cutler
fell back, and it also enabled us to regain the gun
which Hall had been obliged to abandon.
The enemy having vanished from our
immediate front, I withdrew the Iron Brigade from
its advanced position beyond the creek, reformed the
line on the ridge where General Reynolds had originally
placed it, and awaited a fresh attack, or orders from
General Meade. The two regiments of Cutler’s
brigade were brought back from the town, and, notwithstanding
the check they had received, they fought with great
gallantry throughout the three days’ battle that
There was now a lull in the combat.
I was waiting for the remainder of the First Corps
to come up, and Heth was reorganizing his shattered
front line, and preparing to bring his two other brigades
forward. The remnant of Archer’s brigade
was placed on the right, and made to face south against
Buford’s cavalry, which, it was feared, might
attack that flank. What was left of Davis’
brigade was sent to the extreme left of the line,
and Pegram’s artillery was brought forward and
posted on the high ground west of Willoughby’s
Thus prepared, and with Pender’s
strong division in rear, ready to cover his retreat
if defeated, or to follow up his success if victorious,
Heth advanced to renew the attack.
As I had but four weak infantry brigades
at this time against eight larger brigades which were
about to assail my line, I would have been justified
in falling back, but I determined to hold on to the
position until ordered to leave it. I did not
believe in the system, so prevalent at that time,
of avoiding the enemy. I quite agreed with Reynolds
that it was best to meet him as soon as possible,
for the rebellion, if reduced to a war of positions,
would never end so long as the main army of the Confederates
was left in a condition to take the field. A
retreat, too, has a bad effect on the men. It
gives them the impression that their generals think
them too weak to contend with the enemy. I was
not aware, at this time, that Howard was on the ground,
for he had given me no indication of his presence,
but I knew that General Meade was at Taneytown; and
as, on the previous evening, he had informed General
Reynolds that the enemy’s army were concentrating
on Gettysburg, I thought it probable he would ride
to the front to see for himself what was going on,
and issue definite orders of some kind. As Gettysburg
covered the great roads from Chambersburg to York,
Baltimore, and Washington, and as its possession by
Lee would materially shorten and strengthen his line
of retreat, I was in favor of making great sacrifices
to hold it.
While we were thus temporarily successful,
having captured or dispersed all the forces in our
immediate front, a very misleading despatch was sent
to General Meade by General Howard. It seems
that General Howard had reached Gettysburg in advance
of his corps, just after the two regiments of Cutler’s
brigade, which had been outflanked, fell back to the
town by General Wadsworth’s order. Upon
witnessing this retreat, which was somewhat disorderly,
General Howard hastened to send a special messenger
to General Meade with the baleful intelligence that
the First Corps had fled from the field at the first
contact with the enemy, thus magnifying a forced retreat
of two regiments, acting under orders, into the flight
of an entire corps, two-thirds of which had not yet
reached the field. It is unnecessary to say that
this astounding news created the greatest feeling
against the corps, who were loudly cursed for their
supposed lack of spirit and patriotism.
About 11 A.M., the remainder of the
First Corps came up, together with Cooper’s,
Stewart’s, Reynolds’, and Stevens’
batteries. By this time the enemy’s artillery
had been posted on every commanding position to the
west of us, several of their batteries firing down
the Chambersburg pike. I was very desirous to
hold this road, as it was in the centre of the enemy’s
line, who were advancing on each side of it, and Calef-exposed
as his battery was-fired over the crest
of ground where he was posted, and notwithstanding
the storm of missiles that assailed him, held his
own handsomely, and inflicted great damage on his
adversaries. He was soon after relieved by Reynolds’
Battery “L” of the 1st New York, which
was sustained by Colonel Roy Stone’s brigade
of Pennsylvania troops, which I ordered there for
that purpose. Stone formed his men on the left
of the pike, behind a ridge running north and south,
and partially sheltered them by a stone fence, some
distance in advance, from which he had driven the
rebel skirmish line, after an obstinate contest.
It was a hot place for troops; for
the whole position was alive with bursting shells,
but the men went forward in fine spirits and, under
the impression that the place was to be held at all
hazards, they cried out, "We have come to stay!"
The battle afterward became so severe that the greater
portion did stay, laying down their lives there for
the cause they loved so well. Morrow’s
brigade remained in the woods where Reynolds was killed,
and Biddle’s brigade was posted on its left
in the open ground along the crest of the same ridge,
with Cooper’s battery in the interval.
Cutler’s brigade took up its former position
on the right of the road. Having disposed of
Wadsworth’s division and my own division, which
was now under the command of Brigadier General Rowley,
I directed General Robinson’s division to remain
in reserve at the Seminary, and to throw up a small
semicircular rail intrenchment in the grove in front
of the building. Toward the close of the action
this defence, weak and imperfect as it was, proved
to be of great service.
The accompanying map shows the position
of troops and batteries at this time.
It will be seen that Heth’s
division is formed on the western ridge which bounds
Willougby’s Run and along a cross-road which
intersects the Chambersburg road at right angles.
Pender’s division, posted in
the rear as a support to Heth, was formed in the following
order by brigades: Thomas, Lane, Scales, and
McGowan (under Perrin); the first named on the rebel
left and Perrin on the right. To sustain Heth’s
advance and crush out all opposition, both Pegram’s
and McIntosh’s artillery were posted on the
crest of the ridge west of the Run.
While this was going on, General Howard,
who was awaiting the arrival of his corps, had climbed
into the steeple of the seminary to obtain a view
of the surrounding country. At 11.30 A.M. he
learned that General Reynolds was killed, and that
the command of the three corps (the First, Eleventh,
and Third) constituting the Left Wing of the army
devolved upon him by virtue of his rank. He
saw that the First Corps was contending against large
odds and sent back for the Eleventh Corps to come
up at double-quick. Upon assuming command of
the Left Wing he turned over his own corps to Major-General
Carl Schurz, who then gave up the command of his division
to General Barlow. Howard notified General Meade
of Reynolds’ death, but forgot to take back
or modify the false statement he had made about the
First Corps, now engaged before his eyes, in a most
desperate contest with a largely superior force; so
that General Meade was still left under the impression
that the First Corps had fled from the field.
Howard also sent a request to Slocum,
who was at Two Taverns, only about five miles from
Gettysburg, to come forward, but Slocum declined,
without orders from Meade. He probably thought
if any one commander could assume the direction of
other corps, he might antagonize the plans of the
Upon receiving the news of the death
of General Reynolds and the disorder which it was
supposed had been created by that event, General Meade
superseded Howard by sending his junior officer, General
Hancock, to assume command of the field, with directions
to notify him of the condition of affairs at the front.
He also ordered General John Newton of the Sixth
Corps to take command of the First Corps.
The head of the Eleventh Corps reached
Gettysburg at 12.45 P.M., and the rear at 1.45 P.M.
Schimmelpfennig’s division led the way, followed
by that of Barlow. The two were directed to prolong
the line of the First Corps to the right along Seminary
Ridge. The remaining division, that of Steinwehr,
with the reserve artillery under Major Osborne, were
ordered to occupy Cemetery Hill, in rear of Gettysburg,
as a reserve to the entire line. Before this
disposition could be carried out, however, Buford rode
up to me with the information that his scouts reported
the advance of Ewell’s corps from Heidlersburg
directly on my right flank. I sent a staff officer
to communicate this intelligence to General Howard,
with a message that I would endeavor to hold my ground
against A. P. Hill’s corps if he could, by means
of the Eleventh Corps, keep Ewell from attacking my
right. He accordingly directed the Eleventh
Corps to change front to meet Ewell. As it did
so, Devin’s cavalry brigade fell back and took
up a position to the right and rear of this line just
south of the railroad bridge.
The concentration of Rodes’
and Early’s divisions-the one from
Carlisle and the other from York-took place
with great exactness; both arriving in sight of Gettysburg
at the same time. The other division, that of
Johnson, took a longer route from Carlisle by way
of Greenwood, to escort the trains, and did not reach
the battle-field until sunset. Anderson’s
division of Hill’s corps was also back at the
pass in the mountains on the Chambersburg road.
It had halted to allow Johnson to pass, and then
followed him to Gettysburg, reaching there about dusk.
The first indication I had that Ewell
had arrived, and was taking part in the battle, came
from a battery posted on an eminence called Oak Hill,
almost directly in the prolongation of my line, and
about a mile north of Colonel Stone’s position.
This opened fire about 1.30 P.M., and rendered new
dispositions necessary; for Howard had not guarded
my right flank as proposed, and indeed soon had more
than he could do to maintain his line. When the
guns referred to opened fire, Wadsworth, without waiting
for orders, threw Cutler’s brigade back into
the woods on Seminary Ridge, north of the railroad
grading; a movement I sanctioned as necessary.
Morrow’s brigade was concealed from the view
of the enemy, in the woods where Reynolds fell, and
Biddle’s brigade, by my order, changed front
to the north. It could do so with impunity, as
it was behind a ridge which concealed its left flank
from Hill’s corps, and was further protected
in that direction by two companies of the 20th New
York State Militia, who occupied a house and barn
in advance, sent there by the colonel of that regiment,
Theodore B. Gates, whose skill and energy were of
great service to me during the battle.
It would of course have been impossible
to hold the line if Hill attacked on the west and
Ewell assailed me at the same time on the north; but
I occupied the central position, and their converging
columns did not strike together until the grand final
advance at the close of the day, and therefore I was
able to resist several of their isolated attacks before
the last crash came.
Stone’s brigade in the centre
had a difficult angle to defend, but was partially
sheltered by a ridge on the west. His position
was in truth the key-point of the first day’s
battle. It overlooked the field, and its possession
by the enemy would cut our force in two, enfilade
Morrow’s and Biddle’s brigades, and compel
a hasty retreat.
After Hall’s battery was driven
back, no other artillery occupied the ground for some
time, then General Wadsworth borrowed Calef’s
regular battery from the cavalry, and posted it in
rear of the position Hall had occupied. When
the remainder of the division came up, Captain Reynolds’
Battery “L” of the 1st New York Artillery,
as already stated, was sent to assist Calef in keeping
down the fire of two rebel batteries on the ridge
to the west; but when Ewell’s artillery also
opened, the cross fire became too severe. Calef
was withdrawn, and Reynolds was severely wounded.
The rebel batteries soon after ceased firing for
the time being; and at Wadsworth’s request,
Colonel Wainwright, Chief of Artillery to the First
Corps, posted a section of Reynolds’ battery,
under Lieutenant Wilbur, on Seminary Ridge, south
of the railroad cut; Stewart’s Battery “B”
4th United States being on a line north of the cut.
Cooper’s battery was directed to meet Ewell’s
attack from the north, and Stevens’ 5th Maine
battery was retained behind the Seminary in reserve.
Barlow’s division on the right
and Schimmelpfennig’s on the left, formed somewhat
hastily against Ewell, whose line of battle faced
south. Barlow rested his right on a wooded knoll,
constituting part of the western bank of Rock Creek.
As there was an open country to the east he considered
that flank secure, for no enemy was in sight then,
and if they came from that direction, there would
be time to make fresh dispositions. After the
formation there was an interval of a quarter of a
mile between their left and the First Corps, which
might have been avoided by placing the two divisions
further apart. This was a serious thing to me,
for the attempt to fill this interval and prevent
the enemy from penetrating there, lengthened and weakened
my line, and used up my reserves. It seems to
me that the Eleventh Corps was too far out. It
would have been better, in my opinion, if the left
had been echeloned in rear of the right of
the First Corps, and its right had rested on the strong
brick buildings with stone foundations at the Almshouse.
The enemy then could not have turned the right without
compromising the safety of the turning column and endangering
his communications; a movement he would hardly like
to make, especially as he did not know what troops
might be coming up. Still they had a preponderating
force, and as their whole army was concentrating on
Gettysburg, it was not possible to keep them back
for any great length of time unless the First and Eleventh
Corps were heavily reinforced. The position
of our forces and those of the enemy, will be best
understood by a reference to the map on page 125.
About 2 P.M., after the Eleventh Corps
line was formed, General Howard rode over, inspected,
and approved it. He also examined my position
and gave orders, in case I was forced to retreat, to
fall back to Cemetery Hill. I think this was
the first and only order I received from him during
Rodes’ division of five brigades
was formed across Seminary Ridge, facing south, with
Iverson on the right, supported by Daniel and O’Neill
in the centre, and Doles on the left, Ramseur being
in reserve. Iverson was sent to attack the First
Corps on Seminary Ridge, and O’Neill and Doles
went forward about 2.45 P.M., to keep back the Eleventh
Corps. When the two latter became fairly engaged
in front, about 3.30 P.M., Early came up with his whole
division and struck the Union right. This decided
the battle in favor of the enemy.
Barlow had advanced with Von Gilsa’s
brigade, had driven back Ewell’s skirmish line,
and with the aid of Wilkinson’s battery was
preparing to hold the Carlisle road. He was not
aware that Early was approaching, and saw Doles’
advance with pleasure, for he felt confident he could
swing his right around and envelop Doles’ left;
a manoeuvre which could hardly fail to be successful.
Schimmelpfennig now threw forward
Von Amberg’s brigade to intervene between O’Neill
and Doles, and to strike the right flank of the latter;
but Doles avoided the blow by a rapid change of front.
This necessarily exposed his left to Barlow, who could
not take advantage of it as he was unexpectedly assailed
by Early’s division on his own right, which
was enveloped, and in great danger. His men
fought gallantly, and Gordon, who attacked them, says,
made stern resistance until the rebels were within
fifty paces of them. As Barlow was shot down,
and their right flank enveloped, they were forced
to retreat to the town. This isolated Von Amberg’s
brigade, and Doles claims to have captured the greater
portion of it.
The retrograde movement of the Eleventh
Corps necessarily exposed the right flank of the First
to attacks from O’Neill and Ramseur.
Howard sent forward Coster’s
brigade, of Steinwehr’s division, to cover the
retreat of the Eleventh Corps; but its force was too
small to be effective; its flanks were soon turned
by Hays’ and Hoke’s brigades, of Early’s
division, and it was forced back with the rest.
We will now go back to the First Corps
and describe what took place there while these events
When the wide interval between the
First and Eleventh Corps was brought to my notice
by Colonel Bankhead of my staff, I detached Baxter’s
brigade of Robinson’s division to fill it.
This brigade moved promptly, and took post on Cutler’s
right, but before it could form across the intervening
space, O’Neill’s brigade assailed its
right flank, and subsequently its left, and Baxter
was forced to change front alternately, to meet these
attacks. He repulsed O’Neill, but found
his left flank again exposed to an attack from Iverson,
who was advancing in that direction. He now went
forward and took shelter behind a stone fence on the
Mummasburg road, which protected his right flank,
while an angle in the fence which turned in a southwesterly
direction covered his front. As his men lay
down behind the fence, Iverson’s brigade came
very close up, not knowing our troops were there.
Baxter’s men sprang to their feet and delivered
a most deadly volley at very short range, which left
500 of Iverson’s men dead and wounded, and so
demoralized them, that all gave themselves up as prisoners.
One regiment, however, after stopping our firing
by putting up a white flag, slipped away and escaped.
This destructive effect was not caused by Baxter
alone, for he was aided by Cutler’s brigade,
which was thrown forward on Iverson’s right
flank, by the fire of our batteries, and the distant
fire from Stone’s brigade. So long as the
latter held his position, his line, with that of Cutler
and Robinson’s division, constituted a demi-bastion
and curtain, and every force that entered the angle
suffered severely. Rodes in his report speaks
of it as “a murderous enfilade, and reverse fire,
to which, in addition to the direct fire it encountered,
Daniel’s brigade had been subject to from the
time it commenced its final advance.”
[ General Robinson states that these
changes of front were made by his orders and under
his personal supervision.]
While Iverson was making his attack,
Rodes sent one of his reserve brigades-the
one just referred to, that of Daniel-against
Stone. This joined Davis’ brigade of Hill’s
corps, and the two charged on Stone’s three
little regiments. Stone threw forward one of
these -the 149th Pennsylvania, under Lieutenant-Colonel
Dwight, to the railroad cut, where they were partially
sheltered. Colonel Dana’s regiment, the
143d Pennsylvania, was posted on the road in rear of
Dwight and to the right. When I saw this movement
I thought it a very bold one, but its results were
satisfactory. Two volleys and a bayonet charge
by Dwight drove Daniel back for the time being. In
this attack Colonel Stone was severely wounded, and
the command of his brigade devolved upon Colonel Wister
of the 150th Pennsylvania.
[ Dwight was a hard fighter, and
not averse to plain speaking. Once, when Secretary
of War Stanton had determined to grant no more passes
to go down to the army, Dwight applied for permission
for an old man to visit his dying son. The request
was refused; whereupon Dwight said: "My name
is Dwight, Walton Dwight, Lieutenant-Colonel of the
149th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers. You
can dismiss me from the service as soon as you like,
but I am going to tell you what I think of you,"
and he expressed himself in terms far from complimentary;
whereupon Stanton rescinded the order and gave him
This attack should have been simultaneous
with one from the nearest troops of Hill’s corps,
but the latter were lying down in a sheltered position,
and Daniel urged them in vain to go forward.
Not being able to force his way in
front on account of Dwight’s position in the
railroad cut, Daniel brought artillery to enfilade
it, and threw the 32d North Carolina across it.
The cut being no longer tenable, Dwight retreated
to the road and formed on Dana’s left.
Daniel had been originally ordered
to protect Iverson’s right, but Iverson swung
his right around without notifying Daniel, and thus
dislocated the line.
Ramseur now came forward to aid Iverson,
and I sent Paul’s brigade of Robinson’s
division, which was preceded by Robinson in person,
to assist Baxter, and, if possible to fill the interval
between the First and Eleventh Corps, for I feared
the enemy would penetrate there and turn my right
When Paul’s brigade arrived,
Baxter was out of ammunition, but proceeded to refill
his cartridge-boxes from those of the dead and wounded.
General Howard has stated that the
interval referred to was filled by Dilger’s
and Wheeler’s batteries of the Eleventh Corps,
but a glance at the official map will show that, before
Paul’s advance, these batteries were several
hundred yards distant from the First Corps.
Another attack was now made from the
north and west by both Daniel’s and Davis’
brigades. Colonel Wister faced his own regiment,
under Lieutenant-Colonel Huidekoper, to the west,
and the other two regiments to the north. The
enemy were again repulsed by two volleys and a gallant
bayonet charge, led by Huidekoper, who lost an arm
in the fight. Colonel Wister having been shot
through the face, the command devolved upon Colonel
Dana, another veteran of the Mexican war.
There had been a great lack of co-ordination
in these assaults, for they were independent movements,
each repulsed in its turn. The last attack, however,
against Wister by extended by Brockenborough’s
and Pettigrew’s brigades to Morrow’s front
in the woods, but Morrow held on firmly to his position.
I now sent my last reserve, the 151st
Pennsylvania, under Lieutenant-Colonel McFarland,
to take post between Stone’s and Biddle’s
So far I had done all that was possible
to defend my front, but circumstances were becoming
desperate. My line was very thin and weak, and
my last reserve had been thrown in. As we had
positive information that the entire rebel army was
coming on, it was evident enough that we could not
contend any longer, unless some other corps came to
our assistance. I had previously sent an aide-
Lieutenant Slagle-to ask General Howard
to reinforce me from Steinwehr’s division, but
he declined to do so. I now sent my Adjutant-General,
Halsted, to reiterate the request, or to obtain for
me an order to retreat, as it was impossible for me
to remain where I was, in the face of the constantly
increasing forces which were approaching from the
west. Howard insisted that Halstead mistook
rail fences for troops in the distance. The lorgnettes
of his staff finally convinced him of his error; he
still, however, refused to order me to retire, but
sent Halsted off to find Buford’s cavalry, and
order it to report to me. The First Corps had
suffered severely in these encounters, but by this
additional delay, and the overwhelming odds against
us, it was almost totally sacrificed. General
Wadsworth reported half of his men were killed or wounded,
and Rowley’s division suffered in the same proportion.
Hardly a field officer remained unhurt. After
five color-bearers of the 24th Michigan Volunteers
had fallen, Colonel Morrow took the flag in his own
hands, but was immediately prostrated. A private
then seized it, and, although mortally wounded, still
held it firmly in his grasp. Similar instances
occurred all along the line. General Robinson
had two horses shot under him. He reported a
loss of 1,667 out of 2,500. Buford was in a
distant part of the field, with Devin’s brigade,
covering the retreat of the Eleventh Corps, and already
had all he could attend to. He expressed himself
in unequivocal terms at the idea that he could keep
back Hill’s entire corps with Gamble’s
cavalry brigade alone.
As Howard seemed to have little or
no confidence in his troops on Cemetery Hill, he was
perhaps justified in retaining them in line there
for the moral effect they would produce.
About the time the Eleventh Corps
gave way on the right, the Confederate forces made
their final advance in double lines, backed by strong
reserves, and it was impossible for the few men left
in the First Corps to keep them back, especially as
Pender’s large division overlapped our left
for a quarter of a mile; Robinson’s right was
turned, and General Paul was shot through both eyes
in the effort to stem the tide. They could not
contend against Ramseur in front, and O’Neill
on the flank, at the same time.
Under these circumstances it became
a pretty serious question how to extricate the First
Corps and save its artillery before it was entirely
surrounded and captured.
Biddle, Morrow, and Dana were all
forced back from the ridge they had defended so long,
which bordered Willoughby’s Run. Each brigade
was flanked, and Stone’s men under Dana were
assailed in front and on both flanks. Yet even
then Daniel speaks of the severe fighting which took
place before he could win the position.
What was left of the First Corps after
all this slaughter rallied on Seminary Ridge.
Many of the men entered a semi-circular rail entrenchment
which I had caused to be thrown up early in the day,
and held that for a time by lying down and firing over
the pile of rails. The enemy were now closing
in on us from the south, west, and north, and still
no orders came to retreat. Buford arrived about
this time, and perceiving that Perrin’s brigade
in swinging around to envelop our left exposed its
right flank, I directed him to charge. He reconnoitered
the position they held, but did not carry out the
order; I do not know why. It was said afterward
he found the fences to be an impediment; but he rendered
essential service by dismounting his men and throwing
them into a grove south of the Fairfield road, where
they opened a severe fire, which checked the rebel
advance and prevented them from cutting us off from
our direct line of retreat to Cemetery Hill.
The first long line that came on us
from the west was swept away by our artillery, which
fired with very destructive effect, taking the rebel
line en écharpe.
Although the Confederates advanced
in such force, our men still made strong resistance
around the Seminary, and by the aid of our artillery,
which was most effective, beat back and almost destroyed
the first line of Scales’ brigade, wounding both
Scales and Pender. The former states that he
arrived within seventy-five feet of the guns, and
adds: “Here the fire was most severe.
Every field officer but one was killed or wounded.
The brigade halted in some confusion to return the
fire.” My Adjutant-Generals Baird and
Halstead, and my aides Lee, Marten, Slagle, Jones,
and Lambdin had hot work carrying orders at this time.
It is a marvel that any of them survived the storm
of bullets that swept the field.
Robinson was forced back toward the
Seminary, but halted notwithstanding the pressure
upon him, and formed line to save Stewart’s battery
north of the railroad cut, which had remained too long,
and was in danger of being captured.
Cutler’s brigade in the meantime
had formed behind the railroad grading to face the
men who were pursuing the Eleventh Corps. This
show of force had a happy effect, for it caused the
enemy in that direction to halt and throw out a skirmish
line, and the delay enabled the artillery soon after
to pass through the interval between Cutler on the
north and Buford’s cavalry on the south.
As the enemy were closing in upon
us and crashes of musketry came from my right and
left, I had little hope of saving my guns, but I threw
my headquarters guard, under Captain Glenn of the 149th
Pennsylvania, into the Seminary and kept the right
of Scales’ brigade back twenty minutes longer,
while their left was held by Baxter’s brigade
of Robinson’s division, enabling the few remaining
troops, ambulances, and artillery to retreat in comparative
safety. It became necessary, however, to abandon
one gun of Captain Reynolds’ battery, as several
of the horses were shot and there was no time to disengage
them from the piece. Three broken and damaged
caisson bodies were also left behind. The danger
at this time came principally from Hoke’s and
Hays’ brigades, which were making their way
into the town on the eastern side, threatening to cut
us off from Cemetery Hill. The troops in front
of the Seminary were stayed by the firm attitude of
Buford’s cavalry, and made a bend in their line,
apparently with a view to form square.
I waited until the artillery had gone
and then rode back to the town with my staff.
As we passed through the streets, pale and frightened
women came out and offered us coffee and food, and
implored us not to abandon them.
Colonel Livingston of my staff, who
had been sent on a message, came back to the Seminary,
not knowing that we had left. He says the enemy
were advancing toward the crest very cautiously, evidently
under the impression there was an ambuscade waiting
for them there. They were also forming against
On the way I must have met an aide
that Howard says he sent to me with orders to retreat,
but I do not remember receiving any message of the
I observe that Howard in his account
of the battle claims to have handled the First and
Eleventh Corps from 11 A.M. until 4 P.M.; but at 11
A.M. his corps was away back on the road, and did not
arrive until about 1 P.M.
The map previously given on page 125
demonstrates that we were a mere advance guard of
the army, and shows the impossibility of our defending
Gettysburg for any length of time.
The First Corps was broken and defeated,
but not dismayed. There were but few left, but
they showed the true spirit of soldiers. They
walked leisurely from the Seminary to the town, and
did not run. I remember seeing Hall’s
battery and the 6th Wisconsin regiment halt from time
to time to face the enemy, and fire down the streets.
Both Doles and Ramsey claim to have had sharp encounters
there. Many of the Eleventh Corps, and part of
Robinson’s division, which had been far out,
were captured in the attempt to reach Steinwehr’s
division on Cemetery Hill, which was the rallying point.
When I arrived there I found General
Howard, surrounded by his staff, awaiting us at the
main gate of the cemetery. He made arrangements
to hold the road which led up from the town, and which
diverged to Baltimore and Taneytown, by directing me
to post the First Corps on the left in the cemetery,
while he assembled the Eleventh Corps on the right.
Soon after he rode over to ask me, in case his own
men (Steinwehr’s division) deserted their guns,
to be in readiness to defend them. General Schurz
about this time was busily engaged in rallying his
men, and did all that was possible to encourage them
to form line again. I understood they were told
that Sigel had just arrived and assumed command, a
fiction thought justifiable under the circumstances.
It seemed to me that the discredit that attached
to them after Chancellorsville had in a measure injured
their morale and esprit-de-corps, for they were
rallied with great difficulty.
About 3.30 P.M., General Hancock arrived
with orders from General Meade to supersede Howard.
Congress had passed a law authorizing the President
to put any general over any other superior to rank
if, in his judgment, the good of the service demanded
it, and General Meade now assumed this power in the
name of the President. Owing to the false despatch
Howard had sent early in the day, Meade must have
been under the impression that the First Corps had
fled without fighting. More than half of them,
however, lay dead and wounded on the field, and hardly
a field officer had escaped.
Hancock being his junior, Howard was
naturally unwilling to submit to his authority and,
according to Captain Halstead of my staff, who was
present, refused to do so. Howard stated in a
subsequent account of the battle that he merely regarded
General Hancock as a staff officer acting for General
Meade. He says “General Hancock greeted
me in his usual frank and cordial manner and used these
words, ‘General Meade has sent me to represent
him on the field.’ I replied, ’All
right, Hancock. This is no time for talking.
You take the left of the pike and I will arrange
these troops to the right.’ I noticed
that he sent Wadsworth’s division, without consulting
me, to the right of the Eleventh Corps to Culp’s
Hill, but as it was just the thing to do I made no
objection.” He adds that Hancock did not
really relieve him until 7 P.M. Hancock, however,
denies that he told Howard he was merely acting as
a staff officer. He says he assumed absolute
command at 3.30 P.M. I know he rode over to
me and told me he was in command of the field, and
directed me to send a regiment to the right, and I
sent Wadsworth’s division there, as my regiments
were reduced to the size of companies.
Hancock was much pleased with the
ridge we were on, as a defensive position, and considered
it admirably adapted for a battle-field. Its
gentle slopes for artillery, its stone fences and rocky
boulders to shelter infantry, and its ragged but commanding
éminences on either flank, where far-reaching
batteries could be posted, were great advantages.
It covered the principal roads to Washington and
Baltimore, and its convex shape, enabling troops to
reinforce with celerity any point of the line from
the centre, or by moving along the chord of this arc,
was probably the cause of our final success.
The enemy, on the contrary, having a concave order
of battle, was obliged to move troops much longer
distances to support any part of his line, and could
not communicate orders rapidly, nor could the different
corps co-operate promptly with each other. It
was Hancock’s recommendation that caused Meade
to concentrate his army on this ridge, but Howard
received the thanks of Congress for selecting the
position. He, doubtless, did see its advantages,
and recommended it to Hancock. The latter immediately
took measures to hold it as a battle-ground for the
army, while Howard merely used the cemetery as a rallying
point for his defeated troops. Hancock occupied
all the prominent points, and disposed the little
cavalry and infantry he had in such a way as to impress
the enemy with the idea that heavy reinforcements
had come up. By occupying Culp’s Hill,
on the right, with Wadsworth’s brigade, and posting
the cavalry on the left to take up a good deal of space,
he made a show of strength not warranted by the facts.
Both Hill and Ewell had received some stunning blows
during the day, and were disposed to be cautious.
They, therefore, did not press forward and take the
heights, as they could easily have done at this time,
but not so readily after an hour’s delay, for
then Sickles’ corps from Emmetsburg, and Slocum’s
corps from Two Taverns, began to approach the position.
The two rebel divisions of Anderson and Johnson,
however, arrived about dusk, which would have still
given the enemy a great numerical superiority.
General Lee reached the field before
Hancock came, and watched the retreat of the First
and Eleventh Corps, and Hancock’s movements
and dispositions through his field-glass. He
was not deceived by this show of force, and sent a
recommendation-not an order-to
Ewell to follow us up; but Ewell, in the exercise of
his discretion as a corps commander, did not do so.
He had lost 3,000 men, and both he and Hill were
under orders not to bring on a general engagement.
In fact they had had all the fighting they desired
for the time being. Colonel Campbell Brown, of
Ewell’s staff, states that the latter was preparing
to move forward against the height, when a false report
induced him to send Gordon’s brigade to reinforce
Smith’s brigade on his extreme left, to meet
a supposed Union advance in that direction.
The absence of these two brigades
decided him to wait for the arrival of Johnson’s
division before taking further action. When
the latter came up, Slocum and Sickles were on the
ground, and the opportunity for a successful attack
In sending Hancock forward with such
ample powers, Meade virtually appointed him commander-in-chief
for the time being, for he was authorized to say where
we would fight, and when, and how. In the present
instance, in accordance with his recommendation, orders
were immediately sent out for the army to concentrate
on Cemetery Ridge. Two-thirds of the Third Corps,
and all of the Twelfth came up, and by six o’clock
the position became tolerably secure. Stannard’s
Second Vermont brigade also arrived, and as they formed
part of my command, reported to me for duty; a very
welcome reinforcement to my shattered division.
Sickles had taken the responsibility of joining us
without orders, knowing that we were hard pressed.
His command prolonged the line of the First Corps
to the left. Slocum’s Corps-the
Twelfth-was posted, as a reserve, also
on the left.
Hancock now relinquished the command
of the field to Slocum and rode back to Taneytown
to confer with Meade and explain his reasons for choosing
Longstreet’s corps soon arrived
and joined Ewell and Hill; so that the whole rebel
army was ready to act against us the next morning,
with the exception of Pickett’s division.
At the close of the day General John
Newton rode up and took charge of the First Corps
by order of General Meade, and I resumed the command
of my division. Several incidents occurred during
the severe struggle of the first day which are worthy
Colonel Wheelock of the 97th New York
was cut off during the retreat of Robinson’s
division, and took refuge in a house. A rebel
lieutenant entered and called upon him to surrender
his sword. This he declined to do, whereupon
the lieutenant called in several of his men, formed
them in line, took out his watch and said to the colonel,
“You are an old gray-headed man, and I dislike
to kill you, but if you don’t give up that sword
in five minutes, I shall order these men to blow your
brains out.” When the time was up the
Colonel still refused to surrender. A sudden tumult
at the door, caused by some prisoners attempting to
escape, called the lieutenant off for a moment.
When he returned the colonel had given his sword
to a girl in the house who had asked him for it, and
she secreted it between two mattresses. He was
then marched to the rear, but being negligently guarded,
escaped the same night and returned to his regiment.
Another occurrence recalls Browning’s
celebrated poem of “An Incident at Ratisbon.”
An officer of the 6th Wisconsin approached Lieutenant-Colonel
Dawes, the commander of the regiment, after the sharp
fight in the railroad cut. The colonel supposed,
from the firm and erect attitude of the man, that
he came to report for orders of some kind; but the
compressed lips told a different story. With
a great effort the officer said, "Tell them at
home I died like a man and a soldier." He threw
open his breast, displayed a ghastly wound, and dropped
dead at the colonel’s feet.
Another incident was related to me
at the time, but owing to our hurried movements and
the vicissitudes of the battle, I have never had an
opportunity to verify it. It was said that during
the retreat of the artillery one piece of Stewart’s
battery did not limber up as soon as the others.
A rebel officer rushed forward, placed his hand upon
it, and presenting a pistol at the back of the driver,
directed him not to drive off with the piece.
The latter did so, however, received the ball in
his body, caught up with the battery and then fell
We lay on our arms that night among
the tombs at the Cemetery, so suggestive of the shortness
of life and the nothingness of fame; but the men were
little disposed to moralize on themes like these and
were too much exhausted to think of anything but much-needed