Charles William Eliot.

American historical documents 1000-1904, with introductions, notes and illustrations online

. (page 36 of 48)
Online LibraryCharles William EliotAmerican historical documents 1000-1904, with introductions, notes and illustrations → online text (page 36 of 48)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Back in disorganized masses they fled into the town, hotly
pursued, and in lanes, in bams, in yards and cellars, throw-
ing away their arms, they sought to hide like rabbits, and
were there captured, unresisting, by hundreds.

The First Corps, deprived of this support, if support it
could be called, outflanked upon either hand, and engaged
in front, was compelled to yield the field. Making its last
stand upon what is called "Seminary Ridge," not far
from the town, it fell back in considerable confusion, through
the South-west part of the town, making brave resistance,
however, but with considerable loss. The enemy did not
see fit to follow, or to attempt to, further than the town,
and so the fight of the ist of July closed here. I suppose
our losses during the day would exceed four thousand, of
whom a large number were prisoners. Such usually is the
kind of loss sustained by the Eleventh Corps. You will
remember that the old "Iron Brigade" is in the First
Corps, and consequently shared this fight, and I hear their
conduct praised on all hands.

In the 2nd Wis., Col. Fairchild lost his left arm; Lieut
Col. Stevens, was mortally wounded, and Major Mans-
field was wounded; Lieut Col. Callis, of the 7th Wis., and
Lieut Col. Dudley, of the 19th Ind., were badly, danger-
ously, wounded, the latter by the loss of his right leg
above the knee.

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 an-
swered: "They fit terribly. The Rebs couldn't make any-
thing of them fellers."

And so the brave compliment the brave. This man
was touched by three bullets from the enemy, but not seri-
ously wounded.

But the loss of the enemy to-day was severe also, prob-
ably in killed and wounded, as heavy as our own, but not
so great in prisoners.

Of these latter the "Iron Brigade" captured almost an
entire Mississippi Brigade, however.

Of the events so far, of the ist of July, I do not speak



Digitized by VjOOQIC



AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS 353

from personal knowledge. I shall now tell my introduction
to these events.

At eleven o'clock A. M., on that day, the Second Corps
was halted at Taneytown, which is thirteen miles from
Gettysburg, South, and there awaiting orders, the men were
allowed to make coffee and rest. At between one and two
o'clock in the afternoon, a message was brought to Gen.
Gibbon, requiring his immediate presence at the headquarters
of Gen. Hancock, who commanded the Corps. I went with
Gen. Gibbon, and we rode at a rapid gallop, to Gen.
Hancock.

At Gen. Hancock's headquarters the following was
learned: The First Corps had met the enemy at Gettys-
burg, and had possession of the town. Gen. Reynolds was
badly, it was feared mortally, wounded; the fight of the
First Corps still continued. By Gen. Meade's order. Gen.
Hancock was to hurry forward and take command upon
the field, of all troops there, or which should arrive there.
The Eleventh Corps was near Gettysburg when the mes-
senger who told of the fight left there, and the Third Corps
was marching up, by order, on the Emmetsburg Road —
Gen. Gibbon — ^he was not the ranking officer of the Second
Corps after Hancock — ^was ordered to assume the command
of the Second Corps.

All this was sudden, and for that reason at least, ex-
citing; but there were other elements in this information,
that aroused our profoundest interest. The great battle
that we had so anxiously looked for during so many days,
had at length opened, and it was a relief, in some sense,
to have these accidents of time and place established. What
would be the result? Might not the enemy fall upon and
destroy the First Corps before succor could arrive ?

Gen. Hancock, with his personal staff, at about two
o'clock P. M., galloped off towards Gettysburg; Gen. Gib-
bon took his place in command of the Corps, appointing
me his acting Assistant Adjutant General. The Second
Corps took arms at once, and moved rapidly towards the
field. It was not long before we began to hear the dull
booming of the guns, and as we advanced, from many an
eminence or opening among the trees, we could look out

HC ILUU (ta)



Digitized by VjOOQIC



354 AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS

upon the white battery smoke, puffing up from the distant
field of blood, and drifting up to the clouds. At these sights
and sotmds, the men looked more serious than before and
were more silent, but they marched faster, and straggled
less. At about five o'clock P. M., as we were riding along at
the head of the column, we met an ambulance, accompanied
by two or three mounted officers — ^we knew them to be
staff officers of Gen. Reynolds — ^their faces told plainly
enough what load the vehicle carried — it was the dead
body of Gen. Reynolds. Very early in the action, while
seeing personally to the formation of his lines under fire,
he was shot through the head by a musket or rifle bullet,
and killed almost instantly. His death at this time affected
us much, for he was one of the soldier Generals of the
army, a man whose soul was in his country's work, which he
did with a soldier's high honor and fidelity.

I remember seeing him often at the first battle of Fred-
ericksburg — ^he then commanded the First Corps — and while
Meade's and Gibbon's Divisions were assaulting the enemy's
works, he was the very beau ideal of the gallant general.
Moimted upon a superb black horse, with his head thrown
back and his great black eyes flashing fire, he was every
where upon the field, seeing all things and giving commands
in person. He died as many a friend, and many a foe
to the country have died in this war.

Just as the dusk of evening fell, from Gen. Meade, the
Second Corps had orders to halt, where the head of the
column then was, and to go into position for the night. The
Second Division (Gibbon's) was accordingly put in posi-
tion, upon the left of the (Taneytown) road, its left near
the South-eastern base of "Round Top" — of which moun-
tain more anon — and the right near the road; the Third
Division was posted upon the right of the road, abreast of
the Second, and the first Division in the rear of these two —
all facing towards Gettysburg.

Arms were stacked, and the men lay down to sleep,
alas ! many of them their last but the great final sleep upon
the earth.

Late in the afternoon as we came near the field, from
some slightly wounded meti we met, and occasional strag-



Digitized by VjOOQIC



AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS fi9

glers from the scene of operations in front, we got nutny
rumors, and much disjointed information of battle, of lakes
of blood, of rout and panic and undescribable disaster, from
all of which the narrators were just fortunate enough to
have barely escaped, the sole survivors. These stragglers
are always terrible liars !

About nine o'clock in the evening, while I was yet en-
gaged in showing the troops their positions, I met Gen.
Hancock, then on his way from the front, to Gen. Meade,
who was back toward Taney town; and he, for the purpose
of having me advise Gen. Gibbon, for his information, gave
me quite a detailed account of tiie situation of matters at
Gettysburg, and of what had transpired subsequently to his
arrival.

He had arrived and assumed command there, jnst when
the troops of the First and Eleventh Corps, after their re-
pulse, were coming in confusion through the town. Han-
cock is just the man for such an emergency as this. Upon
horseback I think he was the most magnificent feoking Gen-
eral in the whole Army of the Potomac at that time. With
a large, well shaped person, always dressed wi^ elegance,
even npon that field of confusion, he wotdd look as if
he was "* monarch of all he surveyed,** and few of bis sub-
jects would dare to question his right to oonunand, or do
aught else but to obey« His quick eye, in a flash, saw what
was to be done, and his voice and his royal right hand at
once commenced to do it Gen. Howard had put one of his
Divisions — ^Steinwehr — ^with some batteries, in position,
upon a commanding eminence, at the "Cemetery,** which,
as a reserve, had not participated in the fight of the day,
and this Division was now of course steady. Around
this Division the fugitives were stopped, and th6 shattered
Brigades and Regiments, as they returned, were formed
upon either flank, and faced toward the enemy agaJn. A
show of order at least, speedily came from chaos-Hhe root
was at an end— the First and Eleventh Corps were in line
of battle again— not very systematically formed perhaps—
in a splendid position, and in a condition to offer resistance,
should the enemy be willing to try them. These formations
were aU accomplished long before night Then some con-



Digitized by VjOOQIC



356 AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS

siderable portion of the Third Corps — Gen. Sickles — came
up by the Emmetsburg road, and was formed to the left
of the Taney town road, on an extension of the line that
I have mentioned; and all the Twelfth Corps — Gen. Slocum
— arriving before night, the Divisions were put in position,
to the right of the troops already there, to the East of
the Baltimore Pike. The enemy was in town, and behind
it, and to the East and West, and appeared to be in strong
force, and was jubilant over his day's success. Such was
the posture of affairs as evening came on of the first of
July. Gen. Hancock was hopeful, and in the best of spirits;
and from him I also learned that the reason for halting
the Second Corps in its present position, was that it was
not then known where, in the coming fight, the line of
battle would be formed, up near the town, where the troops
then were, or further back towards Taneytown. He would
give his views upon this subject to Gen. Meade, which were
in favor of the line near the town — ^the one that was sub-
sequently adopted — and Gen. Meade would determine.

The night before a great pitched battle would not ordi-
narily, I suppose, be a time for much sleep for Generals and
their staff officers. We needed it enough, but there was
work to be done. This war makes strange confusion of
night and day ! I did not sleep at all that night It would,
perhaps, be expected, on the eve of such great events, that
one should have some peculiar sort of feeling, something
extraordinary, some great arousing and excitement of the
sensibilities and faculties, commensurate with the event it-
self; this certainly would be very poetical and pretty, but
so far as I was concerned, and I think I can speak for the
army in this matter, there was nothing of the kind. Men
who had volunteered to fight the battles of the country, had
met the enemy in many battles, and had been constantly
before them, as had the Army of the Potomac, were too old
soldiers and long ago too well had weighed chances and
probabilities, to be so disturbed now. No, I believe, the
army slept soundly that night, and well, and I am glad the
men did, for they needed it.

At midnight Gen. Meade and staff rode by Gen. Gib-
bon's Head Quarters, on their way to the field; and in con-



Digitized by VjOOQIC



AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS 357

versation with Gen. Gibbon, Gen. Meade announced that he
had decided to assemble the whole army before Gettysburg,
and offer the enemy battle there. The Second Corps would
move at the earliest daylight, to take up its position.

At three o'clock, A. M., of the second of July, the sleepy
soldiers of the Corps were aroused; before six the Corps
was up to the field, and halted temporarily by the side of the
Taneytown road, upon which it had marched, while some
movements of the other troops were being made, to en-
able it to take position in the order of battle. The morning
was thick and sultry, the sky overcast with low, vapory
clouds. As we approached all was astir upon the crests near
the Cemetery, and the work of preparation was speedily
going on. Men looked like giants there in the mist, and
the guns of the frowning batteries so big, that it was a
relief to know that they were our friends.

Without a topographies^ map, some description of the
ground and location is necessary to a dear understanding
of the battle. With the sketch I have rudely drawn, with-
out scale or compass, I hope you may understand my
description. The line of battle as it was established, on the
evening of the first, and morning of the second of July was
in the form of the letter " U," the troops facing outwards.
And the ** Cemetery,*' which is at the point of &e sharpest
curvature of the line, being due South of the town of
Gettysburg. " Round Top," the extreme left of the line, is
a small, woody, rocky elevation, a very little West of South
of the town, and nearly two miles from it

The sides of this are in places very steep, and its rocky
summit is almost inaccessible. A short distance North of
this is a smaller elevation called " Little Round Top.** On
the very top of ** Little Round Top,** we had heavy rifled guns ^
in position during the battle. Near the right of the line is a
small, woody eminence, named * Culp*s HilL** Three roads
come up to the tovm from the South, which near the town
are quite straight, and at the town the external ones unite,
forming an angle of about sixty, or more degrees. Of these,
the farthest to the East is the "Baltimore Pike,'' which
passes by the East entrance to the Cemetery; the farthest
to the West is the "Emmetsburg road," which is wholly



Digitized by VjOOQIC



358 AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS

outside of our line of battle, but near the Cemetery, is within
a hundred yards of it; the "Taneytown road" is between
these, running nearly due North and South, by the Eastern
base of " Round Top," by the Western side of the Cemetery,
and uniting with the Emmetsburg road between the Ceme-
tery and the town. High ground near the Cemetery, is
named " Cemetery Ridge."

The Eleventh Corps — Gen. Howard — ^was posted at the
Cemetery, some of its batteries and troops, actually among
the graves and monuments, which they used for shelter from
the enemy's fire, its left resting upon the Taneytown road,
extending thence to the East, crossing the Baltimore Pike,
and thence bending backwards towards the South-east; on
the right of the Eleventh came the First Corps, now, since
the death of Gen. Reynolds, commanded by Gen. Newton,
formed in a line curving still more towards the South. The
troops of these two Corps, were re-formed on the morn-
ing of the second, in order that each might be by itself,
and to correct some things not done well during the hasty
formations here the day before.

To the right of the First Corps, and on an extension of the
same line, along the crest and down the South-eastern slope
of Gulp's Hill, was posted the Twelfth Corps — Gen. Slocum
— ^its right, which was the extreme right of the line of the
army, resting near a small stream called "Rock Run."
No changes, that I am aware of, occurred in the formation
of this Corps, on the morning of the Second. The Second
Corps, after the brief halt that I have mentioned, moved
up and took position, its right resting upon the Taneytown
road, at the left of the Eleventh Corps, and extending the
line thence, nearly a half mile, almost due South, towards
Round Top, with its Divisions in the following order, from
right to left: The Third, Gen. Alex Hays; the Second
(Gibbon's), Gen. Harrow, (temporarily) ; the First, Gen.
Caldwell. The formation was in line by brigade in column,
the brigade being in column by regiment, with forty paces
interval between regimental lines, the Second and Third
Divisions having each one, and the First Division, two
brigades — there were four brigades in the First — similarly
formed, in reserve, one hundred and fifty paces in the rear



Digitized by VjOOQIC



AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS 359

of the line of their respective Divisions. That is, the line
of the Corps, exclusive of its reserves, was the length of
six regiments, deployed,* and the intervals between them,
some of which were left wide for the posting of the batteries,
and consisted of four common deployed lines, each of two
ranks of men, and a little more than one-third over in
reserve.

The five batteries, in all twenty-eight gtms, were posted
as follows: Woodruffs regular, six twelve-pound Napo-
leon's, brass, between the two brigades, in line of the Third
Division; Arnold's "A" first R. I., six three-inch Parrotts,
rifled, and Cushing's Regular, four three-inch Ordnance,
rifled, between the Third and Second Division; Hazard's,
(commanded during the battle by Lieut. Brown,) "B" first
R. I., and Rhorty's N. G. each, six twelve-pound Napoleon't,
brass, between the Second and First Division.

I have been thus specific in the description of the posting
and formation of the Second Corps, because they were works
that I assisted to perform ; and also that the other Corps were
similarly posted, with reference to the strength of the lines,
and th« intermixing of infantry and artillery. From this»
you may get a notion of the whole.

The Third Corp*— Gen. Sickles— the remainder of it
arriving upon the field this morning, was posted upon the
left of the Second extending the line still in the direction of
Round Top, with its left resting near " Little Round Top."
The left of the Third Corps was the extreme left of the
line of battle, until changes occurred, which will be men-
tioned in the proper place. The Fifth Corps — Gen. Sykes— •
coming on the Baltimore Pike about this time, was massed
there, near the line of battle, and held in reserve until some
time in the afternoon, when it changed position, as I shall
describe.

I cannot give a detailed account of the cavalry, for I
saw but little of It. It was posted near the wings, and
watched the roads and the movements of the enemy upon
the flanks of the enemy, but further than this participated
but little in the battle. Some of it was also used for guard-

^As the Second and Third DiYitiotii had three brigades eaoh» It follows
that two brigades from each of the three diyisions were in the front line*
— T. L. L.



Digitized by VjOOQIC



3eO AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS

ing the trains, which were far to the rear. The artillery re-
serve, which consisted of a good many batteries, were posted
between the Baltimore Pike and the Taneytown road, on
very nearly the center of a direct line passing through the
extremities of the wings. Thus it could be readily sent to
any part of the line. The Sixth Corps — Gen. Sedgwick —
did not arrive upon the field until some time in the after-
noon, but it was now not very far away, and was coming up
rapidly on the Baltimore Pike. No fears were entertained
that "Uncle John," as his men call Gen. Sedgwick, would
not be in the right place at the right time.

These dispositions were all made early, I think before
eight o'clock in the morning. Skirmishers were posted well
out all around the line, and all put in readiness for battle.
The enemy did not yet demonstrate himself. With a look
at the ground now, I think you may understand the move-
ments of the battle. From Round Top, by the line of battle,
round to the extreme right, I suppose is about three miles.
From this same eminence to the Cemetery, extends a long
ridge or hill — ^more resembling a great wave than a hill,
however — ^with its crest, which was the line of battle, quite
direct, between the points mentioned. To the West of this,
that is towards the enemy, the ground falls away by a very
gradual descent, across the Emmetsburg road, and then rises
again, forming another ridge, nearly parallel to the first,
but inferior in altitude, and something over a thousand yards
away. A belt of woods extends partly along this second
ridge, and partly farther to the West, at distances of from
one thousand to thirteen hundred yards away from our line.
Between these ridges, and along their slopes, that is, in
front of the Second and Third Corps, the ground is culti-
vated, and is covered with fields of wheat, now nearly ripe,
with grass and pastures, with some peach orchards, with
fields of waving corn, and some farm houses, and their out
buildings along the Emmetsburg road There are very few
places within the limits mentioned where troops and guns
could move concealed. There are some oaks of considerable
growth, along the position of the right of the Second Corps,
a group of small trees, sassafras and oak, in front of the
right of the Second Division of this Corps also; and con-



Digitized by VjOOQIC



AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS 361

siderable woods immediately in front of the left of the
Third Corps, and also to the West of, and near Round Top.
At the Cemetery, where is Cemetery Ridge, to which the
line of the Eleventh Corps conforms, is the highest point in
our line, except Round Top. From this the ground falls
quite abruptly to the town, the nearest point of which is
some five hundred yards away from the line, and is culti-
vated, and checkered with stone fences.

The same is the character of the ground occupied by,
and in front of the left of the First Corps, which is also
on a part of Cemetery Ridge. The right of this Corps, and
the whole of the Twelfth, are along Culp's Hill, and in
woods, and the ground is very rocky, and in places in front
precipitous — a most admirable position for defense from an
attack in front, where, on account of the woods, no artillery
could be used with effect by the enemy. Then these last
three mentioned Corps, had, by taking rails,'by appropriating
stone fences, by felling trees, and digging the earth, during
the night of the first of July, made for themselves excellent
breast works, which were a very good thing indeed. The
position of the First and Twelfth Corps was admirably
strong, therefore. Within the line of battle is an irregular
basin, somewhat woody and rocky in places, but presenting
few obstacles to the moving of troops and gims, from place
to place along the lines, and also affording the advantage
that all such movements, by reason of the surrounding
crests, were out of view of the enemy. 'On the whole this
was an admirable position to fight a defensive battle, good
enough, I thought, when I saw it first, and better I believe
than could be found elsewhere in a circle of many miles.
Evils, sometimes at least, are blessings in disguise, for the
repulse of our forces, and the death of Reynolds, on the first
of July, with the opportune arrival of Hancock to arrest
the tide of fugitives and fix it on these heights, gave us
this position— perhaps the position gave us the victory. On
arriving upon the field, Gen. Meade established his head-
quarters at a shabby little farm house on the left of the
Taneytown road, the house nearest the line, and a little
more than five hundred yards in the rear of what became
the center of the position of the Second Corps, a point where



Digitized by VjOOQIC



i6Z AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS

he could communicate readily and rapidly with all parts of
the army. The advantage! of the position, briefly, were
these: the flanks were quite well protected by the natural
defences there. Round Top up the left, and a rocky, steep,
untraversable ground up the right. Our line was more
elevated than that of the enemy, consequently our artillery
had a greater range and power than theirs. On account of
the convexity of our line, every part of the line could be
reinforced by troops having to move a shorter distance than
if the line were straight; further, for the same reason, the
line of the enemy must be concave, and, consequently, longer,
and with an equal force, thinner, and so weaker than ours.
Upon those parts of our line which were wooded, neither
we nor the enemy could use artillery; but they were so
strong by nature, aided by art, as to be readily defended by a
small, against a very large, body of infantry. When the
line was open, it had the advantage of having open cotmtry
in front, consequently, the enemy here could not surprise,
as we were on a crest, which besides the other advantages
that I have mentioned, had this: the enemy mtist advance
to the attack up an ascent, and must therefore move slower,
and be, before commg upon us, longer under our fire, as
well as more exhausted. These, and some other things,
rendered our position admirable«-ofor a defensive battle.

So, before a great battle, was ranged the Army of the
Potomac. The day wore on, the weather still sultry, and the



Online LibraryCharles William EliotAmerican historical documents 1000-1904, with introductions, notes and illustrations → online text (page 36 of 48)