The Battle of Gettysburg

July 3rd, 1863

Braced up against the trunk of a tree was a soldier (living) whose body had been split open so that his bowels protruded.  Some one cried out, “What are you doing there, - pick up your guts & help finish this thing.”

A.R. Waud Sketch in Harper's Weekly of Gettysburg Battle

The Battle of Gettysburg - Longstreet's attack upon our left centre - Blue Ridge in the distance - Wood engraving after drawing by A.R. Waud, Illus. in Harper's Weekly, 1863, August 8.

Table of Contents

Prologue; Sarah Broadhead's Diary - July 3rd

"Diary of a Lady of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania from June 15 to July 15, 1863.
By Sarah M. Broadhead.

July 3. -- Today the battle opened with fierce cannonading before 4 o'clock A.M. Shortly after the battle began we were told to leave this end of the town, for likely it would be shelled.  My husband declared he would not go while one brick remained upon another, and, as usual, we betook ourselves to the cellar, where we remained until 10 o'clock, when the firing ceased.  We could not get breakfast on account of our fears and the great danger.  During the cessation we managed to get a cold bite. Again, the battle began with unearthly fury.

Don Troiani painting of civilians huddled in a Gettysburg cellar

Nearly all the afternoon it seemed as if the heavens and earth were crashing together.  The time that we sat in the cellar seemed long, listening to the terrific sound of the strife; more terrible never greeted human ears.  We knew that with every explosion, and the scream of each shell, human beings were hurried  through excruciating pain, into another world, and that many more were torn, and mangled, and lying in torment worse than death, and no one able to extend relief.  The thought made me very sad, and feel that, if it was God's will, I would rather be taken away than remain to see the misery that would follow.  Some thought this awful afternoon would never come to a close.  We knew that the Rebels were putting forth all their might, and it was a dreadful thought that they might succeed.  Who is victorious, or with whom the advantage rests, no one here can tell.  It would ease the horror if we knew our arms were successful.  Some think the Rebels were defeated, as there has been no boasting as on yesterday, and they look uneasy and by no means exultant.  I hope they are correct, but I fear we are too hopeful.  We shall see to-morrow.  It will be the 4th of July, and the Rebels have promised us a glorious day.  If it only ends the battle and drives them off it will be glorious, and I will rejoice.

Return To Table of Contents

What's On This Page

This page opens with the diary of Sarah Broadhead a resident of the town who lived on Chambersburg Street. It is accompanied by the excellent illustration of artist Don Troiani.  Sarah's diary records events with the uncertainty and worry of an innocent bystander held hostage to a great war.  The introduction that follows, outlines the fighting done by Ewell's Confederates on Culp's Hill; a counter-punch to the more famous attacks of General Longstreet's Corps on July 2nd & 3rd.  The fighting on Culp's Hill was just as dramatic as Pickett's Charge, though this part of the battlefield is less well-known and visited.  The events there greatly influenced the moves of General Robinson's Division on the 2nd & 3rd days' battle, so awareness of them adds a little context to Robinson's change of positions.  The introduction is followed by the essay, "Robinson's Division on July 3rd," which explores the various locations upon the battle-field occupied by the '13th Mass' during the day.  Gettysburg battlefield historian John Bachelder's sequential maps are examined in conjunction with several regimental writings, to clarify the division's whereabouts throughout July 3rd.  There were some discrepancies in the narratives of the '13th Mass' and other regiments, with regard to 'place names' and locations upon the battle-ground, and these are briefly discussed in the spill-over essay, "Where the Heck is Ziegler's Grove?"  Included within all this exposition is a substantial number of descriptive quotes from the reports and histories of men who were present, which helps keep it all exciting.  One last observation is made regarding General Alexander Hays presence on the battlefield, which inspired many of the soldiers who witnessed it.   If all this exposition has not exhausted the reader the primary source material follows.

Charles Davis's narrative, re-iterates much of what is described in the essays that precede it.   But the essays correct some of his un-intended errors.  I've titled his narrative from the regimental history, "A Ray of Intelligence" for reasons that will become obvious. Up next, Major Abner Small of the 16th Maine presents an exceedingly entertaining character study of temporary Brigade commander, Colonel Richard Coulter of the 11th PA.  You will enjoy it.  

The page continues with the narratives of two Union prisoners, who left lengthy accounts of their experiences as captives behind enemy lines. These are Sergeant Austin Stearns and his wanderings through the town as a prisoner of war, and Private Bourne Spooner's experiences as a prisoner in the field.  The two accounts are the longest excerpts from the '13th Mass' rank and file for the day's events.

'Pickett's Charge,' more correctly called 'Pickett's, Pettigrew & Pender's Charge,' if you are from North Carolina, was the main event of the day, and of the battle, and it is presented as it was described in the history of the '9th New York Militia' (83rd NY Vol. Inf.).  The men of the '9th NY' as they liked to be called, were a bit like the '13th Mass' in character, and the two units, with the 16th Maine and '12th Mass', shared many common experiences during the war.

Yes!  There is more source material from the regiment on this page, and you've waited a long time to get to it!  With most of the soldiers captured, there are only a few short glimpses into the experiences of the '13th Mass' on the battlefield July 3rd.  William Warner's short but graphic description of the day's moves, and the emotions experienced while in action, are a highlight, as is Edward Rollin's description of picket duty at night.  Sam Webster had a few choice comments to add which precede Rollins.  These stories close the narrative for July 3.  Several stories from other soldiers of the regiment will be presented on a future page, titled "Aftermath of Battle."  Happy reading.

PICTURE CREDITS:    All images & Maps are from the Library of Congress digital images collection, with the following exceptions:  Don Troiani's illustration of townspeople  taking shelter in a basement is from the book, "Days of Uncertainty & Dread," Gerald R. Bennett, 1994, Gettysburg Foundation, PA; "Steuart's Brigade at Culp's Hill" is from, "Century Collection of Civil War Art," 1974, American Heritage Publishing Company, NY, (originally used in Battles & Leaders of the Civil War) ; Historic images of Ziegler's Grove were accessed at Gettysburg Daily Website entry of September 22, 2011.
[] and also at, The blog of Gettysburg National Military Park, May 21, 2015 entry titled "Rehabbing Cemetery Ridge."  [];   Copies of the Bachelder maps were provided to me by Mr. Bob George and enhanced in photoshop;  Detail of Gettysburg Map showing Ziegler's Grove is from McElfresh  Map Co., 1994, 2007, LLC, PO Box 565, Olean, NY 14760;  The Gen. Alexander Hays illustration is from "General Alexander Hays at Gettysburg" by George Thornton Fleming, Pittsburgh, 1913 accessed via the web.;  Major Abner R. Small, 16th Maine, from "Road To Richmond," edited by Harold Small, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA 1939;  The following (cropped) illustrations are from 'Deeds of Valor', accessed on the web:  H. W. Stilson, 'soldiers on the double-quick', & 'battery in action'; Charles Copeland, 'two seated soldiers';   C.D. Graves,  'Pickett's Charge' (color), and cropped image of  'soldiers advancing past wounded comrades';  Colonel Richard Coulter's image,  (post-war) is from Tim Fulmer's blog,;  The '2nd Division, First Brigade' flag, & the color image of the Gettysburg Cyclorama, were accessed at Wikimedia Commons; The picture of men arguing in the cropped illustration by Francis Schell is from Boston College,  'The Becker Collection',  Drawings from the Civil War Era, []; Jack Davis's  'Rebel Soldier' is from "Some of My Good Stuff", compiled Hank Harrison, Starbur Press, 1990;  Portrait of Sergeant Austin C. Stearns is from "Three Years with Company K",  AUP Press, 1976;  Portrait of General Henry J. Hunt, &  'Confederates waiting for the End of the Artillery Duel', from Battles & Leaders of the Civil War, Century Publications 1887-1888; The John Allan Maxwell illustration is from Civil War Times;  Edwin Forbes illustration, 'After the Battle' is from "Thirty Years After", LSU Press, 1993;  ALL IMAGES HAVE BEEN EDITED IN PHOTOSHOP.

Return to Top of Page

Introduction - The Battle on Culp's Hill

At day-break, July 3rd, the ‘ball opened’  at Culp’s Hill, where Confederates of Brigadier-General Edward Johnson's two brigades, resumed their attacks to carry the Union lines where they had gained a foothold the night before.

View from Baltimore Pike, looking to CUlp's Hill

Since occupying the town of Gettysburg on July first, the Rebels had been wanting to gain a lodgment on the high ground  of Cemetery Hill or Culp's Hill which was the stronghold of the Union position just south of town.   Otherwise, General Lee was inclined to shift his troops from the town towards Seminary Ridge, to concentrate his forces on the Union left, which seemed more vulnerable. With questionable evidence that Culp’s Hill was un-occupied, General Ewell, (whose corps controlled the town), convinced General Lee that he could occupy the hill, and force the Federals out of their strong position.  But, to both Ewell and Lee’s disappointment, General Edward Johnson’s troops failed to move in force upon the hill during the night of July 1st.  Members of Johnson’s scouting party were surprised to find  that there were indeed Union troops on the hill.  Some of the scouts were captured and  Johnson postponed his attempt to take the Hill to the next day.  View toward Culp's Hill from the Baltimore Pike; a Union perspective.

By early morning, July 2nd, the Union lines were heavily re-enforced.  Strong earthworks went up in the night, making Culp’s Hill nearly impregnable.  With their first opportunity lost, Lee and Ewell decided the planned attack against the fortified hills on the Union right would have to wait.  Only a joint effort in concert with Longstreet’s planned assault on the Union left would have any chance of success.  Accordingly, General Ewell’s troops advanced against the hills in the evening of July 2nd.

As described on the previous page of this website, the Louisiana Tigers of General Early’s Division had some success on East Cemetery Hill when they briefly breached Rickett’s & Weidrich’s batteries, before they were driven back by Union re-enforcements.  The Union repulse here was complete, and the Confederates retreated to the town. But General Johnson’s early evening attack on Culp’s Hill met with some success.

Edwin Forbes Painting of Union Breastworks on Culp's Hill

Artist Edwin Forbes painted this image of Union Troops in their Breastworks on Culp's Hill.

Johnson’s division advanced, “and found only one brigade - Greene’s - of the Twelfth Corps in position, the others having been sent to the aid of Sickles at the Peach Orchard.  Greene fought with skill and determination for two or three hours, and, with re-enforcements of seven or eight hundred men from the First and Eleventh corps, succeeded in holding his own entrenchments, the enemy taking possession of the abandoned works of Generals John Geary and Thomas Ruger who had gone to support the Union left.  The confusion of darkness and close proximity of the opposing sides, helped close the fighting for the night, but Johnson's Confederates now occupied lower Culp's Hill near the Baltimore pike.  When Ruger’s division returned from Round Top, and Geary’s from Rock Creek, they found Johnson in possession of their defensive earthworks, and immediately prepared to drive him out at daylight.” - [Quotes from 'Meade at Gettysburg.']

General Lee was encouraged from the results of the bloody attacks ordered on July 2nd, and he resolved to continue them the next day. The assaults of Longstreet on the Union left, and Ewell's Corps at Culp's Hill, were planned to be simultaneous.  Troops were sent to General Johnson in the night to strengthen his lines and help him carry Culp's Hill in the morning.  The brigades of Colonel Edward O’Neal and Brigadier-General Junius Daniels who fought against the '13th Mass' on Oak Ridge, July 1st, were among those sent.  

Conversely, Union generals planned a counter-attack to rid the hill of the Confederate interlopers.  The Union plan to drive Johnson off the hill was to begin with an artillery bombardment, followed by a charge from Brig-General John White Geary’s Division.  Fans of the ‘13th Mass,’  may recall Col. Geary, from the early days of the regiment’s service at Harper’s Ferry.  It was then that Colonel Geary’s bluster, ruffled the feathers of the regiment's usually unflappable Major Jacob Parker Gould.  Gould considered Geary to be, basically, a  self-promoting ‘wind-bag.’ Disregarding his personal charms, Geary was a brave soldier, and now commanded a division of the 12th Corps, and in the wee hours of  July 3rd, 1863, he was set to lead a counter-attack against the Confederate intruders on Culp’s Hill, as soon as first light glimmered upon the horizon.

The blast of 26 guns startled the boys in gray awake at 4 a.m.  That is, if any of them slept at all knowing they were to resume the attack at first light.  After an hour of furious fire, that crashed through trees and smashed around Johnson's position, Geary’s force was about to step-off out of the Federal breastworks, when the Confederates beat him to the punch and launched their own attack.   There would be no artillery support for the Rebels, because they were fighting too close in to the enemy.  The promontory crowned with breastworks on the right of Johnson’s line, was near impregnable and only faint attempts were made against this position.   Other attacks opposite the positions of Union Generals Greene and Geary, were repeatedly repulsed with heavy loss.   Unfortunately for the Confederates, General Ewell had learned 1/2 hour after his assault was underway, that General Longstreet's attack would not begin for several hours. So much for the plan of a simultaneous assault.  Ewell's men had to battle it out on their own. It was too late to recall his troops.  The battle at Culp's Hill would continue to rage for several hours and rack up heavy losses.  Union defenders were well protected within their works and their losses there were comparatively small.  Most of their casualties came when men left the works to replenish ammunition. Supporting troops took turns manning the defences. 

The continuous roar of musketry and unremitting fire along the 12th Corps line was heard by General Meade who wondered if Geary was not wasting too much ammunition!   A soldier of the 147th New York remarked ‘that the men of the regiment had each fired 200 rounds by 10:00 A.M. and that it was relieved four times to clean its guns, get more ammunition, and obtain rations.’1

About 8 A.M., General Johnson ordered 3 of his brigades to try a third time to charge the enemy's works, hoping to break the Union line.  A lonely feeling of dread must have crept  over those selected to do what had been tried and failed twice before.  “It was nothing less than murder to send men into that slaughter pen,” said Major William Goldsborough commanding the 1st Maryland Battalion of Steuart’s brigade.  He was told General Steuart agreed with him, but the order from General Johnson was imperative.2    It wouldn’t have comforted them to know that the Union breastworks had been re-enforced with fresh troops from the 6th Corps.

A.C. Redwood painting of Stuart's Men Preparing for the Assault on Culp's Hill

"Steuart's Brigade at Culp's Hill" (morning of July 3rd) by Allen Redwood.  Redwood served in the Confederate Army at Gettysburg.  He later met several of the men in Steuart's command after the war and wanted to paint this picture for Century Magazine.

The third assault lasted less than an hour.  One of the participants, private Louis Leon of the 53rd North Carolina wrote his company went in with sixty men and left with sixteen.  'One man’s head was shot off, another was cut in two, one soldiers’s brains oozed out, and so forth.’3  Some of the brave attackers came very close to the breastworks, before being pinned down or wounded, but the third attack failed.   The Confederates had to accept defeat and fall back under fire to Rock Creek. The 12th Corps troops of Generals Geary and Ruger  re-occupied their old works and re-established their defensive line.

A sad coda to the battle for the boys in blue was the fatal charge of the 2nd Massachusetts and  27th Indiana.  After  a successful defense of the hill, these two regiments were ordered across an open meadow about 150 yards wide, to drive the enemy, now occupying their former breastworks, from that position if possible.  Against a murderous fire the 2 regiments charged over an open field and up a hill toward the breastworks.  They were cut down with enormous losses in officers and men.  Captain Thomas B. Fox of the 2nd Mass. was among the 45 men of this regiment killed in the charge. He was the brother of Charles B. Fox, former lieutenant, in the 13th Massachusetts.

General Johnson reported the loss of 1,823 men.  This did not include the casualties from 3 brigades outside his division that supported the attacks. 

During the morning's conflagration on the hill, General Meade remained on the far right of his line, riding to various parts of the field strengthening his troop positions.   At 8 a.m. he sent a brigade from the 6th Corps to aid the soldiers fighting on Culp's Hill.  By 10 A.M. it was clear the enemy were massing their artillery along Seminary Ridge from the town of Gettysburg to the Peach Orchard.  An attack was being prepared opposite the center of his line.  An hour later the intense fighting on Culp's Hill ended.  This sanguinary episode of the battle would be over-shadowed by  ‘Pickett’s Charge” still to come later in the day.

NOTES: 1.  Harry W. Pfanz,"Gettysburg, Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill", UNC Press, 1993; p. 306; (regarding the ammunition comment, Commanding General Meade knew an assault would be coming against the center of his line). 2. Pfanz,  p. 314.  3.  Pfanz, p. 322, - from  Louis Leon, 'Diary of a Tarheel Confederate Soldier', Charlotte: Stone Publishing Company, 1913, pages 36-37.

Return To Table of Contents

Robinson's Division on July 3rd

Tracing the moves of the '13th Mass.' on July 2nd & 3rd is difficult.  The soldiers' writings can be vague.  Once again, the reports and writings from other regiments in the division are useful in sorting things out.  But these other writings differ greatly in describing the same moves, which adds another level of difficulty to the interpretations. With the help of maps created by Gettysburg historian John Bachelder, some clarity is discerned.  Once an understanding is achieved, the reports can be re-examined, and suddenly a cohesive narrative emerges from the confusion. 

It appears the division held 3 distinct positions on July 3rd with slight variations.  Writings from various regiments in the division bring the day to life.  I have cut and pasted together descriptive accounts from the different commands to tell the story.  Click on the maps to view larger.

Positions, July 2nd; 9 p.m., Bachelder Map

Early in the evening on July 2nd, General Robinson's small division (about 900 men) was in position along Cemetery Ridge near Little Round Top, bolstering the patched up Union line,  while disorganized troops from the second day's battle re-grouped. They were here because General Sickles' advanced line had collapsed during the afternoon fighting.  Some of Robinson’s men were thrown forward to pick up rifles and equipment left scattered over the battlefield.  Corps Commander General John Newton wrote:

"Night coming on, and active operations closing here for the day, parties were sent to the front to bring in such guns as had been left. They were successful to some extent, but the number thus reclaimed has never been reported." 

John Vautier, of the 88th PA gives a good account of this: 

"The ground had all been fought over, the fields being strewn with the dead and wounded of both armies, the latter crying piteously for help, calling the names of comrades, company, or regiment, in their frantic appeals; one officer, said to be General Barksdale, of the Confederate army, alternately cursed and begged for aid. Help was given to all the wounded within reach until the regiment was relieved in the night, and marching to the vicinity of the cemetery, rested there until the morning of the 3d..."

Sometime in the evening, past 9 o'clock, General Robinson's division returned to Cemetery Hill.  The crisis of the 3rd Corps was ended.  General Meade's defensive line along Cemetery Ridge toward the Roundtop mountains was stabilized, and Robinson's troops were no longer needed there. Another threat, on the right of the Union lines precipitated their move back to Cemetery Hill.

Position of Ricketts' Battery on E. Cemetery Hill

Confederate General Richard Ewell's Corps attacked Union fortifications on Culp's Hill, and, the batteries on East Cemetery Hill, in the evening of July 2nd, between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.  They gained a lodgement on the former, and briefly broke through the defenses of the latter.   Hand to hand combat climaxed  the desperate charge around the  batteries of Captain Michael Wiedrich and Captain R. Bruce Ricketts on East Cemetery Hill.  Robinson's division was ordered over to help and moved quickly to their support.

But the fighting had ended before they arrived.  Col. Samuel S. Carroll's Brigade, 2nd Corps, had preceded them, and pursued the retreating Rebels down the hill to capture as many of the rear guard as possible.  Carroll's brigade then took up a forward position at the base of East Cemetery Hill behind a stone wall and remained there to protect the batteries, through the night and following day.  

Pictured is the monument to Cooper's Pennsylvania Battery B, on East Cemetery Hill.    Ricketts' battery (6 rifled guns) occupied Cooper's position after the late afternoon artillery duel July 2nd. Ricketts' battery was attacked at night July 2nd and briefly breeched by Confederates of Avery's Brigade.  During the repulse Carroll's Brigade arrived and later took position along the stone wall just visible in the front of the hill. 

In "Meade at Gettysburg," the son of the famous general who was an aide to his father during the battle, wrote that General Howard requested re-enforcements at the time of the attacks.  Meade ordered General Newton to send Robinson's Division back to the cemetery.  Then Meade rode to McKnight's Hill and sent a message to troops on Cemetery Hill to hold fast, that re-enforcements would soon be there.  Robinson's Division shortly afterward filed through the cemetery to the Baltimore Pike, but Carroll's men had already done the work required.

It seems after this, Robinson's Division returned to a position on the west side of Evergreen Cemetery, nearby the position they had occupied in the afternoon.*  There would be good cause to place the soldiers here, for Confederate General Robert Rodes' Division was close by and had threatened attack from the south west end of town earlier in the evening. Rodes was supposed to support General Ewell's attacks against East Cemetery Hill, but by the time he drew his troops out of the town and formed them to advance, Ewell's attack had ended.  It was deemed too late and not advisable to attack so Rodes was recalled. 

 Several of General Howard's troops in this area had been sent away to help defend East Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill and it is reasonable to suggest that Robinson's men were plugging a temporary gap in Howard's line. General Howard did write: 

"At the moment my left was weakened, [evening, July 2nd] as also at other times during the engagements, General Newton was ready with re-enforcements from the First Corps."

No more specific information is found about their exact location except that during the night the soldiers in Colonel Coulter's brigade [formerly Paul's brigade] laid in position behind a stone wall, in front of the 11th Corps batteries on Cemetery Hill, facing the town, and were subject to enemy sniper fire.  Several men of the different regiments wrote about it.  In the early morning, some say at daybreak, they scrambled from their forward position facing the town, to a safer position behind the hill they fronted.  See Bachelder Map #6 below.

Here’s what some of the officers reported in the Official Records for the night-time move on July 2nd :

"At about 10 p.m. were placed in position on the Emmitsburg and Gettysburg road in and front of the cemetery, to support a portion of the Eleventh Corps, from which duty we were relieved at daylight on the 3d." - Colonel Richard Coulter, commanding the brigade.

"Returned to our position on the right, and were ordered to the front of the batteries and near the town.  July 3. -- At daylight were ordered to the rear of the batteries." - Lieutenant-Colonel N. Walter Batchelder, commanding 13th Massachusetts.

"When the battle closed, [July 2] we were again marched to the right, and formed in line behind a stone wall on the west of the cemetery, and nearly down to the town; lay on our arms during the night.  The next morning [July 3], we marched, under the fire of the enemy’s sharpshooters, to the rear of the cemetery, to support a battery, as on the day before."   - Colonel Gilbert Prey, commanding 104th New York.

"We returned to our position on the right, and about 9 p.m. moved on the hill in front of the batteries and near the town, where we were much annoyed by the enemy’s sharpshooters firing from the windows and houses.  July 3. – Soon after daylight we were ordered to the rear of the batteries.  As we rode up from behind the stone wall, we received a volley from the enemy’s pickets, but fortunately did us no damage." - Lieutenant-Colonel A.B. Farnham, commanding 16th Maine.

"After dark, I should say about nine o’clock, [July 2] we were moved down the front of the hill, under our batteries and near the town. Rebel sharpshooters were firing from the windows of houses near by. A stone wall offered some protection to our brigade, and the men lay on their arms until morning." -Major Abner Small, Col. Coulter's staff, from, "The Road to Richmond."

      “At 9.30 p.m. it resumed its former position, and was subsequently formed in rear of a stone wall between the hill and town, along the road, where it remained until the morning of the 3d, at daylight, when it was moved to the position it formerly occupied in the rear of the cemetery.” - Captain Jacob J. Bierer, commanding 11th Pennsylvania.

"We lay on our arms [July 2] until about 6.30 p.m., when we were marched to the left, toward the Round Top, under a heavy and effective fire, to assist in driving the rebel hordes back in the famous charge of the second day of the fight.  After the charge, we marched back to near the cemetery, and were ordered to lay in rear of a stone fence, being a protection for the men from the enemy's sharpshooters in our front.... July 3. - At 4.30 a.m. we were posted in the rear of Cemetery Hill, in support of the batteries stationed on that point, remaining in that position until 1.30 p.m., when the enemy opened upon us with a heavy and furious artillery fire."  - Captain E. D. Roath, commanding 107th PA.

First Position, July 3rd; (pre-dawn - mid-day).

Map 6; position early morning July 3rd

As Captain Bierer has estimated the night-time move of July 2nd back to Cemetery Hill at 9:30 p.m. and, Captain Roath has given us an approximate time of 4:30 a.m. for the move from the front of the hill to the rear of the hill, it is interesting to note this time period falls exactly between a gap in Gettysburg historian John Bachelder's hourly maps.  

  Charles Davis, Jr. gives a memorable account of the move from the front of the hill, to the rear, on the morning of July 3rd, in his history of the 13th Mass. regiment:

"At a given signal we were to rush from our position in front to the rear of the batteries with as much confusion and zigzagging as possible, the purpose being to confuse the enemy and to prevent the men becoming a mark for the sharpshooters.  The movement was made so suddenly that it was all over before the enemy had time to recover from their surprise.  It was always gratifying to the rank and file to see a ray of intelligence exhibited, even in a general officer."

The reason the troops were massed behind the hill, as depicted in Bachelder’s Map #6 is given in Brigadier-General John C. Robinson’s report.

“On Friday morning, 3d instant, the division was massed, and held ready to push forward to the support of the Twelfth Corps, then engaged with the enemy on our right.”

The battle for Culp’s Hill had resumed at daybreak and Robinson’s troops might be wanted there. This then is the 'first' position the division held on July 3rd as depicted on Bachelder's map, with allowances for the division being posted in front of the batteries during the wee hours of the night. 

Once the fighting ended on Culp's Hill, about 10 a.m., there was not much to do but wait, and as the morning drifted on, many dropped asleep assisted by the relentless rays of the sun.  For the soldiers, it was a quiet lull in the fight, barely mentionable in their remembrances of the day’s historic events.

“In forenoon, were held in reserve in readiness to be sent to any part of the line.  About one P.M. after a long lull & almost complete cessation of firing on both sides, during which many of our Brigade had dropped asleep, where we laid, unsheltered from the sun, a cannon from the rebel right was fired…” William Warner, 13th Massachusetts.

“…After this engagement a painful quietness ensued, but it proved to be the calm before the storm. ….the tired soldiers rested as best they could in the hot sun until about one P.M.” - John Vautier, 88th PA.

Alfred Waud sketch of artillery moving across Cemetery Hill

“Directly, the silence on Cemetery Ridge was broken by the rapidly-moving artillery, which took positions all along the line from the cemetery to Little Round Top. Guns were sighted, caissons passed to the rear, and men posted for action.  In terrible suspense, moments crept by until one o’clock, when the stillness of the air was suddenly broken by an explosion in the wheat field on Oak Hill, and a huge Whitworth shell, with lightning quickness, came crashing through the Union lines." – Major Abner Small, (16th ME history).

 The artillery fire that erupted at mid-day, was the tremendous cannonade that preceded “Pickett’s Charge.”

Private John Vautier of the 88th PA, and Major Isaac Hall of the 97th NY,  give a good description of the beginning of the tremendous artillery duel, just before the division sought safety in their move to East Cemetery Hill.  Major Hall mentions a clump of trees where the soldiers took temporary refuge, and Vautier identifies the trees as Ziegler’s Grove, which is incorrect.**

“…a mighty rumble shook the earth as the cannon of the enemy simultaneously opened on the Union position, the sky soon being obscured by heavy clouds of white smoke, while the air was full of hissing, shrieking, bursting shells, which appeared to fall everywhere in the Federal lines. For a few moments our cannoneers failed to respond, but then opened furiously, and in this iron tempest, amid the hissing and screaming projectiles, the regiment was called to arms, being marched down the hill to a clump of trees known as Ziegler’s Grove.” – John Vautier, 88th PA

Close up of Gettysburg Map by McElfresh Map Company

The closeup map at right, shows a grove of trees at the foot of the Evergreen Cemetery.   Perhaps these are the trees referenced by John Vautier, above.  Robinson's Division was laying around near where the 4 trees are indicated just below the cemetery, when the artillery duel began.  Note that Ziegler's Grove is to the west, across the Taneytown Road.  Robinson's Division would move there later on in the afternoon, but first, they moved from their position on the west side of  Evergreen Cemetery over to the right, across the Baltimore Road to East Cemetery Hill.  See Map # 7, below.

Major Isaac Hall (97th PA, Baxter’s Brigade) described the initial cannonade, followed by the move to East Cemetery Hill.

“In our immediate front, at the base of the hill and a little up its slope, stood a clump of large trees, of primitive growth, and when the cannonading began, the incessant whiz, the loud reports of bursting shells and crash of solid shot from more than a hundred of the enemy’s guns and the deafening roar from as many of our own - which shook the earth – in close proximity, could not be considered at all soothing to the feelings of men who had left nearly a half of their comrades on the battle grounds the two preceding days.  Yet were nothing but these scenes and the din of conflict to be taken into consideration, these men could look calmly on; but when the foliage and the heavy limbs of trees, with this bursting tempest of missiles came crashing to the ground, and ghastly furroughs through columns of men began to appear, a look of inquiry toward their officers ran along these meager lines.  Such men under the eye of their officers could not break and run; their discipline and moral force chained them more firmly than could fetters of steel, to the ground.  But no column could long exist uncovered amid this desolating storm, and the order came quick and sharp to move to the right of the hill, where in support of a portion of the Eleventh Corps, in rear of a stone wall, it was halted and ordered to lie down.

“Exposed here to the fierce rays of the sun, with scarcely a breeze to mitigate its power, the men began to be sun-struck…” – Major Isaac Hall, 97th NY.

At the same time the famous artillery duel opened, General Robinson prepared to make a move towards East Cemetery Hill, as ordered by commanding General George G. Meade.  Robinson’s report says:

“About noon, I was informed by the major-general commanding the army that he anticipated an attack on the cemetery by the enemy’s  forces massed in the town, and was directed to so place my command that if our line gave way I could attack the enemy on his flank.  I proceeded to make this change of position at the moment the enemy commenced the terrific artillery fire of that day.  Never before were troops so exposed to such a fire of shot and shell, and yet the movement was made in perfect order and with little loss.”

A Shell Is Coming, by Winslow Homer

Here’s what Colonel Coulter, commanding Paul’s Brigade, and thus, the '13th Mass.', wrote about the move to the right in the midst of the torrent of shells.   Keep in mind, time is always difficult to determine in these situations, so the hours given always vary to some degree.

 “About 2 p.m. of the 3d, the artillery fire becoming heavy and general along the line, the brigade was moved quickly to the right, to the support of Captain Ricketts’ and other batteries operating on the right of the cemetery.  Here we remained about an hour, and were exposed to both the front and rear fire of artillery and the enemy’s skirmishers.” - Col. Richard Coulter.

General Henry Baxter wrote of moving his brigade at about 1 p.m.

“We were now ordered to the right and front of Cemetery Hill, in support of the batteries, sustaining a heavy fire from the enemy’s batteries for nearly two hours.” -Brig.-Gen. Henry Baxter.

Captain Emanuel Roath (107th PA) & William R. Warner, (13th Mass)  give a more descriptive account of the danger when moving.

“July 3. - At 4.30 a.m. we were posted in the rear of Cemetery Hill…remaining in that position until 1.30 p.m., when the enemy opened upon us with a heavy and furious artillery fire.  Our division was moved to the right of Cemetery Hill, at the same time lying under two direct fires of the enemy’s sharpshooters and one battery.  The strife became terrific and the artillery firing terrible.  At this crisis… …the regiment was marched with others along the crest or brow of the hill in rear of the batteries, through the most deadly fire ever man passed through, it appearing as though every portion of the atmosphere contained a deadly missile.” -Report of Capt. Emanuel Roath, 107th PA.

“Shells were dropping all around us – We were hastily removed from this position which seemed to be the point where random shells from any part of the enemys lines were falling, to a field nearer to our Infantry lines but under the ridge & less exposed to Artillery fire” – William R. Warner, 13th MA.

Second Position, July 3rd; (about 1 - 3:30 p.m.)

Although Bachelder's Map # 7 gives the time as 8 - 11 A.M., Robinson's Division did not move into the position shown until mid-day, after the massive artillery duel had commenced.  Many of the soldiers described this as 'the north side of the hill.'  Relative to their previous position this is correct.   Click to view larger.

Map, 2nd Position, July 3rd, East Cemetery Hill

The new position is the division’s second major position of July 3rd.  This is the position Charles E. Davis, Jr. referenced in his regimental history for the 13th Mass., "Three Years in the Army."  But Davis thought the regiment had been in this position since the evening of July 2nd.  The regiment  was indeed now near the batteries of Weidrich and Ricketts as he wrote,  except it was later in the day and under different circumstances.   [See snapshot photo of East Cemetery Hill above. The Division lay on the southeast slope of the hill which would be down the hill, out of frame, on the right side of that photo.]

Robinson's Division remained here seeking shelter as best they could while the batteries raged about them.  Here are a two descriptions of the most terrific cannonade of the war.

“…While the Confederates were hurling the bolts of death from nearly one hundred and fifty guns, room could be found for but eighty pieces on Cemetery Ridge, but these eighty replied with good effect, … ...The fire of so many pieces of artillery had cleared Cemetery Ridge of all save the men who lay in their ranks, behind stone walls, and such rude defences as they had hastily constructed.  The artillery suffered severely, some of the batteries having to be replaced after the cannonade ceased.  Caissons were blown up, and horses killed by the score.  The infantry suffered but little, and were not in the least demoralized by the terrible storm of shot and shell that fell all about them.

“During this time Baxter’s brigade was subjected to the storm of battle, and many were the grim jokes uttered during its continuance.  As boys in the dark sometimes whistle to keep their courage up, soldiers, when under fire and unable to reply in kind, manage to comfort and cheer each other in passing remarks upon the enemy’s marksmanship.” – William Todd, History of the 9th Regiment; 83rd NY Vols.

" hundred and fifty guns were discharged as if by electricity, and tons of metal parted the air, which closed with a roar, making acres of earth groan and tremble.  The hills and the huge boulders take up the sound and hurl it back, to add its broken tones to the long roll of sound that strikes upon ears thirty miles away.  For two hours the air was filled with a horrible concordance of sounds – a roar, echoing the passions of hell loosed among men.  The air, thick with sulphurous vapor and smoke, through which comes the sharp cry of agony, the hoarse command, and the screaming shell, almost suffocated those supporting the batteries.  Men cover the ground in fragments, and are buried in detail beneath the iron hail.  Guns are dismounted, and rest their metallic weight upon quivering flesh. Caissons explode, and wheels and boxes strew the ground in every direction.  Horses by the score are blown down by the terrible hurricane, and lie shrieking in agony almost human in its expression.  Dead Horses from a Union Battery, sketched by Edwin ForbesOne battery in our immediate front lost forty horses in twenty minutes.  In the vicinity of Meade’s headquarters shells exploded at the rate of sixty per minute.  Solid shot would strike the ground in our front, cover a battalion with sand and dirt, ricochet, and, demon like, goes plunging through the ranks of massed men in the rear.  For a mile or more a lurid flame of fire streams out over the heads of our men in long jets, as if to follow the tons of metal thrown through the murky air, which parts to receive it, and shudders as if tortured by screaming furies.  Roar answers roar, and, meeting in the valley, doubles the awful din which reels into the Devil’s Glen, and holds high carnival for hours." - Major Abner Small, History of the 16th ME.

An officer of the 97th NY made the following observations during the confusion:

 “the men of his regiment, brigade and division…were getting badly mixed by changing positions as a solid shot or shell chanced to drop among them.”  - Major Isaac Hall's history of the 97th NY.

Charles Davis, Jr., and Abner Small, wrote this new position was a tough spot to be in.

“We stayed an hour in our new position, exposed not only to shelling from both east and west, but also to the galling fire of rebel skirmishers.” – Major Abner Small, from "The Road to Richmond."

 “It seemed like jumping out of the frying-pan into the fire, so far as danger was concerned, as we were now facing the sharpshooters and pickets on that side, who were swarming behind fences and stone walls, making it lively for the gunners in our rear.  We sheltered ourselves as well as we could by hugging the ground or taking advantage of any object that would stop or ward off a bullet. It was a hard place, inasmuch as it was impossible for us to do any firing, situated as we were. While we were lying here our artillery all along the line suddenly stopped firing, exciting in us grave apprehensions of failure and retreat.”  – Charles E. Davis, Jr., "Three Years in the Army."

The artillery duel ended.  The Union batteries were ordered to stop responding to the enemy’s fire to save ammunition for the expected infantry attack that was to follow.  William Warner, and Isaac Hall described the brief silence before the storm.

“Then a gradual dropping off of fire & so complete a quiet, that it was noticeable” – William R. Warner, 13th Mass.

“Finally the well known sound of firing grape and canister by our guns was heard. This was the first signal to Robinson’s division - which was out of sight of this charging force - that the Confederates were coming; next came the Confederate yell and the rattle of our infantry in quick succession followed. 

“Amid all these tumultuous sounds of infantry and of artillery, and the din of conflict, the practiced ear and eager eye of the veteran listened, or peered to the left to catch the cheer of success or the first sight of disaster demanding help. The suspense, which was more trying than all this surrounding turmoil, was finally broken by the boys in blue, with the familiar cheer which arose from among the tombs of the cemetery and was born along the lines of the  Second Corps.

map showing Robinson's move to Gen. Hays line, July 3

“The regimental colors of Robinson’s division were now placed in line at a distance apart, apparently of the length of a corporal’s guard, and then rang out the order of General Robinson to “fall in,” and in three minutes every man was in his place and on a march by the left flank to the support of the right of the Second Corps. In passing to this position the division was under the fire of the sharp-shooters from the houses in town and of the Confederate cannonading – still going on - one of the most destructive ever witnessed.” – Major Isaac Hall, 97th NY.

Once more, Robinson’s Division was ordered to move, this time to the support of the 2nd Corps on Cemetery Ridge.  This is the 3rd and final position the division took on July 3rd.  General Robinson briefly stated:

“Later in the day, the enemy having made his attack on our left instead of the center, I was ordered to the right of the Second Corps…”

Third Position; July 3rd; (3 p.m. - next day).

Colonel Coulter wrote of his brigade:

“About 3 p.m. moved rapidly to the left, under a severe fire, to the support of the Second Corps, upon which the enemy appeared to have concentrated their attack, and took position in support of a battery on the right of the Third Division, Second Corps.  Brisk skirmishing was kept up with considerable loss on both sides until 9 p.m.”

Gettysburg Map, Robinson's third position, July 3.

General Baxter wrote:

 “We were then ordered to the left and rear of Cemetery Hill, where we had but just formed line of battle, throwing up breastworks.

“In taking this position, we passed under one of the most galling fire of artillery ever witnessed. The main attack had been repulsed, but we were sorely annoyed by the enemy’s skirmishers and sharpshooters, and, by order of General Robinson, I at once threw out skirmishers to meet them.  The Twelfth Massachusetts Volunteers and a detachment of the Ninetieth Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered forward to drive them back, which was done promptly and with deserved credit to those engaged, moving steadily forward to a point where the ground sloped toward the enemy, though not without considerable loss, and there holding their position.

On the regimental level, Colonel Gilbert Prey and Lt.-Col. N. Walter Batchelder had this to report regarding the move to support the 2nd Corps:

“…we were marched, through a galling fire of shot, shell, and bullets, across the cemetery and to the left and formed line in front of a brass battery in the woods immediately to the left of the cemetery.  Sent out skirmishers.” - Col Gilbert Prey, 104th NY

“…we were sent to support the center, which the enemy were making desperate efforts to break. Reached the point of attack as the enemy were handsomely forced back by the Second Corps. Relieved the troops that had been engaged, built earthworks in the edge of the woods, and, after detailing a strong picket, bivouacked.”  - Lt.-Col. N. Walter Batchelder, 13th Massachusetts.

General Alexander Hays 2nd Corps Line July 3rd

Pictured is part of General Alexander Hays 2nd Corps line just north of the Bryan Farm buildings, at the edge of Ziegler's Grove.  Robinson's Division would have moved toward this line coming from the distant background around the center of this photo.  The monuments for the 90th PA Vols and the 88th PA Vols of Baxter's Brigade, are just out of sight in the woods, beyond the 126th NY monument. The 12th Mass marker is beyond these in the parking lot for the old Cyclorama building.  This view is looking north east.

According to Bachelder's map, Coulter and Baxter's Brigades were now positioned on the edge of, and also in front of a woods on Cemetery Hill called Ziegler's Grove.  The forward line constructed breastworks from near the Bryan Farm buildings, north to the edge of the grove.  Brigadier-General Alexander Hays, commanded troops of  the 3rd Division, 2nd Corps, on this part of the field, but he was short of Carroll's Brigade, which went to support the batteries on East Cemetery Hill the night of July 2nd, and remained there through July 3rd.  When General Robinson arrived he sent out pickets. His division remained here until the morning of July 5th.  Map #8 above, shows the division's line.  Judging from the placement of the few monuments here for Baxters' Brigade, Coulter's Brigade lay closest to the Bryan Farm Buildings on the curve of the line..

1906 downshot of Zieglar's Grove, from former park observation tower

Here is a tower view of the same line of monuments pictured in the snapshot above.  The following information is quoted directly from the caption for this photograph on the Gettysburg Daily Website entry of September 22, 2011.
"The image is titled, "016576 Gettysburg From Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg, PA."  It was taken from the top of the Ziegler's Grove Observation Tower looking northward to the town of Gettysburg.  In the bottom left of the photograph is an artillery piece marking the location of the 9th Massachusetts Battery on July 3, 1863.  At the bottom of the photograph is the top of the monument to the 108th NY Infantry Regiment.  Notice the trees recently planted in Ziegler's Grove.  The monument most clearly seen in the grove is for the 126th NY Infantry Regiment.  Also visible through the grove is the monument to the 90th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment.  The road on the left is Hancock Avenue.  Parallel with Hancock Avenue including the curve is the electric trolley line.  This view by the Detroit Publishing Company was taken facing northwest circa 1900-1906.  It is part of the Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.  The reproduction number & Call number, is LC-D4-16576." 

Robinson's line would have extended NE from the 90th PA Monument, through the woods pictured, and  following the curve of the road.  Monuments to the 88th PA and 12th MA are there.  For more information, see the following essay, "Where the Heck is Ziegler's Grove."

         *Charles E. Davis, Jr, the author of the 13th Mass. regimental history, wrote that the regiment were supporting Wiedrich and Ricketts' batteries during the night of July 2nd, but this would be incorrect.  All the other regiments in the division mention returning to a position near the one occupied in the afternoon of July 2nd.  The maps of Gettysburg historian John Bachelder place the two brigades of Robinson's Division in position a little to the west of Evergreen Cemetery on Cemetery Hill, which would be in agreement with those reports.  Bachelder researched the battle for years, interviewing many of the participants, almost as soon as the battle ended.

**See the essay below titled. "Where the Heck is Ziegler's Grove?" for a  further discussion of this location. 

SOURCES:  Harry W. Pfanz,"Gettysburg, Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill", UNC Press, 1993; Report of Major-General John Newton, OR 27.1:260-263; John D. Vautier, "History of the Eighty-eights Pennsylvania Volunteers in the War for the Union, 1861-1865", Philadelphia: J.B. Lippencott, 1894;  Report of Colonel Richard Coulter, (1st Brigade) OR 27.1:292.; Report of Lt.-Col. N. Walter Batchelder, (13th MA), OR 27.1:299-300.; Report of Colonel Gilbert Prey, (104th NY), OR 27.1:300.;  Report of Lt.-Col. A. B. Farnham, (16th ME), OR 27.1:295.;  A.R. Small, "The Sixteenth Maine in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Portland, Maine: B. Thurston & Company, 1886.;   Harold Small, ed., Major Abner Small, "The Road to Richmond", by Major Abner R. Small,  University of California Press, 1939;  Report of Captain Jacob Bierer, (11th PA), 27.1:302.;  Report of  Captain Emanuel Roath, (107th PA), OR 27.1:304.; Charles E. Davis, Jr., "Three Years in the Army", Boston: Estes & Lauriat, 1894.;  William R. Warner, unpublished manuscript, courtesy of Mr. Eric Locher.;  Major Isaac Hall, "History of the Ninety-Seventh New York Volunteers, Utica Press of L.C. Childs & Sons, 1890.;  Report of Brigadier-General Henry Baxter (2nd Brigade), OR 27.1:307.; William Todd, ed., "History of the Ninth Regiment (83rd New York Volunteers) 1845-1888, New York: George Hussey, 1889.

Return to Top of Page

Where the Heck is Ziegler's Grove?

Discrepancy in the Source Material

Much of my time researching Gettysburg focused on the July 1st battle for Oak Ridge between General Robinson's Division and General Rodes' Division, so I was more familiar with the ground of the first day's fight than other parts of the battlefield.  When I began researching the positions of the '13th Mass' on July 2nd & 3rd, I ran into some difficulties. Naturally my first resource was Charles E. Davis, Jr.'s  regimental history, "Three Years in the Army."  But there are several errors in this brief text, that have to do with locations.  This is not to disparage Davis's work, there are many brilliant passages in his Gettysburg narrative.  From Davis,  I knew the regiment occupied a position on Cemetery Hill the night of July 1, but not exactly where this was.  It was satisfying to discover they held the famous point of the line known as the angle for a brief moment, although at the time of their occupation, (the night of July 1st) all was quiet.  On July 2nd, it was equally gratifying to discover they were far down the Union line on Cemetery Ridge not far from Little Round Top, supporting troops near some of the heaviest fighting on that day.  The positions occupied by General Robinson's division at these times were clearly mapped by Gettysburg historian John Bachelder, who carefully researched the battle.  But concerning the regiment's position through the night of July 2nd until dawn of July 3rd there is a discrepancy in location and time,  between what Davis wrote and where Bachelder placed the division on his map.  Davis wrote:

 "... later in the evening [July 2] we returned to Cemetery Hill to support Ricketts’ and Wiedricks’s batteries, which were being charged by the Louisiana Tigers. We were thrown in the front of these guns, with orders to hug the ground as closely as possible while the batteries fired over us. ...At daylight we found ourselves in front of the batteries on Cemetery Hill facing the town; an uncomfortable position on account of the sharpshooter who were posted in houses fronting the hill, and, like the man at the Donnybrook Fair, wherever they saw a head, were there to hit it."

I visited the battlefield in June, 2016 with this passage in mind, and my guides took me to the positions of Wiedrich's and Ricketts' batteries on East Cemetery Hill.  This is not where Bachelder placed the division on the morning of July 3rd.  The reports and histories of other regiments in the division are more in agreement with Bachelder's map.  The division was in position to the west of Evergreen Cemetery.  But there is another discrepancy here.  There is a gap in Bachelder's hourly maps between 9 p.m. July 2nd and 4 a.m. July 3rd.  The gap corresponds precisely to the hours in which the regiments of Robinson's Division were lying behind a stone wall, facing the town, in front of a line of batteries.  Bachelder does not show this.  It must be assumed they were on the front slope of Cemetery Hill  facing Rodes' Confederates.

Eagle Monument, Ziegler's Grove, 90th PA

At dawn they were assembled in the rear of the hill as shown on Bachelder's map #6.  They were in this position when the raucous artillery duel began.  Shortly afterward the division was moved over to East Cemetery Hill, near the batteries of Wiedrich and Ricketts.  This is where Charles Davis probably picked up the aforementioned error in his narrative.  His sources must have confused matters of time, or been vague enough to suggest the regiment spent the previous night in this location, on East Cemetery Hill, which they did not come to occupy until after noon on July 3rd.  All of the reports and histories from other regiments in the division, and from the officers commanding the troops, state the move was made shortly after the cannonade began which was about 1 p.m.  Bachelder's map puts the division in this position between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., July 3rd.  Clearly something is amiss.  Perhaps Bachelder decided to limit the number of maps he made and concerned himself with the broader picture, but it adds a little more confusion in trying to unravel the moves of Robinson's Division on this day.   Still, the accounts are reliable, that Robinson moved to the right, after the bombardment commenced, and Bachelder's map shows them in the right place, at the wrong time.  The next puzzle for me, was visualizing their final position, the place where the two brigades built earthworks at the edge of the woods known as Ziegler's Grove.

The name, Ziegler's Grove was familiar to me, for the 90th PA placed a beautiful monument at the sight.

"This monument marks the spot where the 90th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, stood on the afternoon of July 3d, 1863, at the time Pickett's Division made its famous charge across the plain..."  -From the Dedication of the Eagle Monument, Ziegler's Grove, 90th Pennsylvania Survivors Association.

What I wasn't prepared for was the realization that the spot where I parked my car upon my visit to the battlefield, was Baxter's battle line of July 3rd.  It is a parking lot, and several monuments are scattered about its medians.

Pictured above is the 90th PVI's Eagle Monument, in Ziegler's Grove, marking their position July 3rd.  Note the parking lot in the background.  Baxter's line extended through the parking lot. The much smaller stone monument to the 88th PA is just visible to the right of the canteen design, in the background, before the tree trunk.  The 12th Mass. marker, is further on, embedded in one of the parking lot medians.   I had incorrectly thought the battle line was several yards in the front of these markers.

The site has been a parking lot for many years.  This doesn't conjure up visions of  the stirring scene described by William R. Warner of the '13th Mass.', when he wrote in his journal:

"As we came over the brow, the rebel line which had charged was broken.  Through the throng of men pushing to rear, half were rebel prisoners who had thrown down their arms, others were wounded & troops changing positions.  General Hayes with his hands full of rebel flags which he was trailing in the dirt, was rushing his horse up & down the line near the house that stands to the left of the grove.  Braced up against the trunk of a tree was a soldier (living) whose body had been split open so that his bowels protruded.  Some one cried out, “What are you doing there, - pick up your guts & help finish this thing.”  Beyond, in the fields over which the enemy had charged were rebs trying to come in to our lines – others endeavoring to go back.  It was a Moment of Wildest Confusion & of intensest feeling, yet over all, was that sense, to every Union Soldier, which expressed itself in every way, - by cheers, by clamor of all sorts, that a great victory had been won."

Ziegler's Grove as it used to look

When I walked the battlefield, I  had imagined the line of Robinson's Division running north from the Bryan Barn, and the breastworks being built in the field beyond. The fact is the breastworks ran from the house, not the barn, to the current parking lot.  It took me some time studying the Bachelder maps to come to terms with this.   The good news which everyone around Gettysburg would know, is that a restoration of this part of the battlefield has been happening for several years now.  The parking lot will be one of the last things to go.

The Cyclorama building dating from 1963 and the old visitor center are already long gone and the ground around them is re-graded. Some monuments are being moved back to their original positions before the 1960's development.  Much of the field is already restored to what it once was, and the parking lot, I have heard is going to be reduced in size by half.

Pictured is Ziegler's Grove as it once was, view looking north.  There is a ravine running through it.  The monument to the 88th PA is visible in the middle-ground to the left. Note the absence of parking lots.

In order to better interpret the battle maps, which were given to me during my visit in June, I transposed the 3 positions of Robinson's Division onto a satellite image of the terrain.  Wiedrich and Ricketts batteries are marked, as are the Bryan Farm buildings and other points of reference.  If you are reading this, chances are you have a decided interest in the topic, and perhaps the map will help you too, should you ever get to walk the ground.

satellite map with Robinson's positions transposed

The satellite map is a composite of the three main positions held by Robinson's 2nd Division of the First Corps on July 3rd.   The center grouping is the morning position, close in to the Taneytown Road.  The men were in front of the batteries until dawn (not shown) and then moved back over the hill to this position.  Coulter's Brigade is on the left, Baxter on the right.  The division moved over to East Cemetery Hill during the mid-day artillery barrage.  They were near Weidrich's and Ricketts' batteries.  The final position of their pickets is the curved line running north from the Bryan Farm Buildings.   The monument markers indicated in yellow represent the main line the division formed at the edge of Ziegler's Grove.  Click to view in higher resolution.

Return to Table of Contents

General Hays

The most graphic description of General Robinson's troops moving across Cemetery Hill to the scene of "Pickett's Charge" comes from Major Isaac Hall, of the 97th NY Volunteer Infantry.

“Just in advance of the 97th, a soldier wounded by a sharpshooter, falling out to the front from the files of his regiment, dropped upon the ground. His comrade came to his assistance, and as the 97th approached, bending over him, was struck by a bullet on the back of his head, and with his brains oozing from his forehead, fell across his companion and the column passed on; but the crack of that man’s skull was long retained in memory by the beholder.

“As the division took position in front of the guns of Hayes’s command, on the slope southwest of the town, an indescribable scene of confusion and disorder presented itself. The havoc upon the field in our front was appalling; the dead lay at intervals one upon another, torn and mangled; and were strewn over the field in every conceivable condition. From among the slain arose the wounded, who struggled to reach our line; some in their vain endeavor, fell to rise no more; others who could not rise cried for help and for water.

“General Hayes, mounted and with a large Confederate flag trailed in the dust, rode in front of his line, which made the fields echo again with shouts. These demonstrations of course were in sight of the enemy and were made for effect. Rails were soon brought with which temporary works were built in front of our line.” – Major Isaac Hall, 97th NY.

General Alexander Hays dragging Rebel Flags along his line

Brigadier-General Alexander Hays, commanding the 3rd Division of the 2nd Corps, burned quite an impression into the minds of all who witnessed him riding along the lines that day.  Many of the soldiers nearby mentioned him in their letters. One in particular, from Chaplain Philo G. Cook, of the 94th NY, appeared in print in the Buffalo Courier.

Buffalo Courier; Letter of Chaplain P. G. Cook, 94th NY

From the New York Military Museum and Veterans Research Center;  94th NY pdf files; Transcribed by Brad Forbush.


How the Rebels treat North Carolina Soldiers – A Picture of Battle – Brig. Gen. Hays – Fiendish Outrage by the Rebels – Taking Care of the Wounded – The 94th Regiment.

Gettysburg, July 8th 1863.

Dear Courier: - Since I wrote you last, which epistle contained a promise of a future fuller account of the great battle that, for three days and nights, raged around this pretty village, the battle has become to you, undoubtedly, somewhat rusty, so that any attempted narration of its progress, from one whose part in it was simply to do his duty in the line of a single regiment would be quite “stale and unprofitable.” - Hence I abandon my plan and break my promise.

But there are matters connected with this conflict, which have come under my personal observation, that are perhaps worthy to be noted down. One very prominent is the fact, long suspected that North Carolina is, at this day, as much a Union State as Maryland or Kentucky, if not, indeed, more truly so. Never was this so fully brought out as in these battles. Everywhere North Carolina troops were put into the front of the conflict, and at all points they surrendered themselves by regiments and brigades. The language of their wounded and prisoners was all tuned to the same key. They whined, said they were forced to fight, that Mississippi and Georgia soldiers were put in their rear with bayonets fixed when they had to make a charge, whom they feared more than they did our forces.  Not by me alone was this noticed.  Last Saturday night I stood in a broad field covered with rebel wounded, when Gen. Alex. Hays, of the 3rd Division, 2nd Corps, than whom a more gallant soldier breathes not, rode up, and hearing a poor fellow tell me that he was forced into the conflict, asked him what State he was from. – When answered, “North Carolina,” – “There it is again,” said the General, “all the whiners are North Carolinians.”

But this feeling seems to exist nowhere but in the Pine-wood State.  Our prisoners from the Gulf States are as impudent as you please, not in an objectionable way – rather independent.  They say they are rebels to the back bone; Jeff. Davis men to the last pinch of their hearts.  And I must say, in all candor, that the average of their rank and file are better appearing men than ours.  They are not one tithe as profane.  Indeed, some of our boys, whom they captured, were reproved by them for swearing while with-in their lines.  Very many of them are real praying Southern Methodists, sandwiching their fights between a prayer for preservation and one of thanksgiving.  All this was a singular revelation to me, quite contrary to my ideas, but it is, to a great extent, the real state of the case.  Of course they have their rowdies, their Mississippi boatmen, and their New Orleans plug-uglies, but the large majority of their rank and file are simple-minded, pure-heated, courageous men, with unbounded confidence in God and General Lee.

General Alexander Hays

I have spoken just above of our Gen. Hay. – I wish you could have seen a picture, just at the close of last Friday’s battle, on the left of our centre, of which his splendid figure formed a prominent part.  Our little brigade, which had been lying on Cemetery Hill, was ordered over to the position that was so valiantly but unsuccessfully charged by Pickett’s rebel division.  We hurried there through a storm of shot and shell, but only arrived in time to see the grand finale, the tableaux vivants, ['living picture'] and, alas, mourants, [dying] at the close of the drama.  The enemy’s batteries were still playing briskly, and their sharpshooters kept up a lively fire, but their infantry, slain and wounded and routed, were pouring into our lines throughout their whole extent.  Then enter Alex. Hay, Brigadier General U.S.A., the brave American soldier.  Six feet or more in height, and as many inches the length of his mighty mustache, erect and smiling, lightly holding well in hand his horse – the third within an half-hour, a noble animal, his flanks bespattered with blood, tied to his streaming tail a rebel flag that drags ignominiously in the mud – he dashes along our lines, now rushing out into the open field, a mark for a hundred sharp-shooters, but never touched, now quietly cantering back to our lines to be welcomed with a storm of cheers.  I reckon him the grandest view of my life.   I bar not Niagara.  It was the arch spirit of glorious Victory wildly triumphing over the fallen foe. [General Alexander Hays, pictured]

The night after, I met Gen. Hay again.  After the fight of Friday afternoon, we held the battle-field, our skirmishers forming a line on the outer edge of it.  This field was strewn with rebel wounded.  It was impossible for us to bring them in Friday night, every apology for a hospital being crowded, our own wounded, in many cases, lying out all night.  But Saturday morning bandsmen were sent out with litters to bring in the poor fellows, and were fired upon by the rebel sharp-shooters so briskly that it was impossible to help them.   Stories similar to this I had often heard, but never believed.  This came under my own observation. So all day Saturday the poor fellows lay there, praying for death.  When night fell, another officer of my regiment and myself got a few volunteers to go out with us, thinking there might be some who could creep into our lines, supported, on either side, by one of us.  May God preserve me from such a position again!  We could do almost nothing. Of a thousand wounded men we found one whom four of us carried into our lines in a blanket.  Other poor souls would think they might accomplish it, but at the slightest change of position, would fall back, screaming in awful agony.  Litters we had none.  Then appeared Gen. Alex. Hay in another light, less of the bravado, perhaps not less of the hero.  He sent out two companies, who cleared the rebel sharp-shooters from a position they held in a ruined building, busied himself in procuring litters and officers, and before morning many  of the poor fellows were safe within our lines.  It is not my good fortune to be personally acquainted with this Gen. Alex. Hay, but I wish every one, as far as I can effect it, to honor him as the bravest of soldiers, and love him as the best-hearted of men.  A true chevalier he must be, sans peur et sans reproche. 

In our regiment (the 94th N.Y. V.,) affairs stand about the same as when I wrote you last.  In the Buffalo company nothing has been heard of the seven that I reported as “missing (probably killed),” except that Edgar S. Rudd, of Alden, lies in the 2d Division Hospital nearly dead.  I leave to other hands, and days not far distant the task of exposing the drunkenness in high positions that caused our terrible defeat of Wednesday, for much it was, however glossed over. –

We could not have hoped for victory, pitted against a force so far superior, but had Gen. Reynolds lived our repulse would have been of another sort.  When fifteen thousand men retreat in confusion for two miles, exposed to a severe fire from three sides, some one is to blame.  A day of reckoning will yet come.

Col. Root, with 160 prisoners of his regiment, was paroled on conditions.  The men attend to the wounded, and agree not to bear arms until exchanged, their present parole to be considered in force, if accepted by our government, but if not they are to give themselves up again as prisoners of war.   The Colonel has gone to Washington to put this business through, and the men remain here, where they are much needed.  The town is crowded with citizens, both sight-seers, and those who, in connection with the Sanitary Commission, attend to the wounded and sick. Of this latter class is the Rev. J. Hyatt Smith, formerly of Buffalo.  A large number of Sisters of Charity, worthy of the name, are here from Emmettsburg, Md., where they have a great convent.

Yours,    C.

Return to Table of Contents

"A Ray of Intelligence"

In the regimental history of the 13th Massachusetts, "Three Years in the Army", Charles E. Davis, Jr. writes:

"our services became unnecessary, and later in the evening we returned to Cemetery Hill to support Ricketts’ and Wiedricks’s batteries, which were being charged by the Louisiana Tigers. We were thrown in the front of these guns, with orders to hug the ground as closely as possible while the batteries fired over us."

This gives the impression that the regiment spent the night in support of these batteries on East Cemetery Hill.  All of the other regiments in Robinson's Division suggest that they returned to a position  west of Evergreen Cemetery.  Davis's statement is probably incorrect.  See the essay above, 'Where the Heck is Ziegler's Grove?' for more information.  

The regiment did move to the area he mentions, but it was in the early afternoon of July 3rd, after the artillery bombardment had begun; according to other writings and reports from the division.  William R. Warner wrote the following, about the move on July 2nd:

"Our lines were being re-formed and later in evening, [July 2] Our Division returned again to Cemetery Hill, where Hay’s Louisiana Brigade had attempted  To take possession of Ricketts & Wiedrick’s Batteries by an Evening Charge."

Warner's manuscript was one of the primary source materials Davis used when writing the regimental history in 1893.  (Davis was not at Gettysburg.)  Perhaps this statement, or something from one of his other sources suggested the regiment remained in front of Wiedrich and Ricketts' batteries during the night.  Col. Coulter suggests they were lying near the Emmitsburg Road, in front of the Cemetery. This is still vague, and other officer's reports don't help much.  General Newton commanding the 1st Corps wrote:  

"July 3. - The dawn of day found the position of the First Corps as follows: ...The Second Division on Cemetery Hill, ready to support the Eleventh Corps or the Second Corps..."

General Howard, Commanding the 11th Corps wrote:

"At the moment my left was weakened, [evening, July 2nd] as also at other times during the engagements, General Newton was ready with re-enforcements from the First Corps."

Regarding the position Robinson's men took up in front of the batteries - the reports of the 11th Corps' battery commanders and troops are silent on the matter. Gettysburg historian John Bachelder, placed the division, in the morning, near the position Colonel Coulter described.  It must be assumed they were in front of this hill facing the town, during the night.

I have removed a paragraph of Davis' narrative regarding the shell that dropped within the thin ranks of the 16th Maine, during the division's move across Cemetery Hill on July 3rd.  The incident took place on July 2nd, where it is included on this website, in the narrative for that day.

The following is from "Three Years in the Army,   The story of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers from July 16, 1861 to August 1, 1864."  by Charles E. Davis Jr. Boston, Estes and Lauriat, 1894. Pages 235-237.

Friday, July 3.
        At daylight we found ourselves in front of the batteries on Cemetery Hill facing the town; an uncomfortable position on account of the sharpshooter who were posted in houses fronting the hill, and, like the man at the Donnybrook Fair, wherever they saw a head, were there to hit it.

Soon after daylight we receive what, for the moment, seemed a very singular order.  At a given signal we were to rush from our position in front to the rear of the batteries with as much confusion and zigzagging as possible, the purpose being to confuse the enemy and to prevent the men becoming a mark for the sharpshooters.  The movement was made so suddenly that it was all over before the enemy had time to recover from their surprise.  It was always gratifying to the rank and file to see a ray of intelligence exhibited, even in a general officer.

We were now held in reserve, in readiness to be sent at once to any part of the lines that might need strengthening.  As a lull had occurred in the fighting, a good many of the boys occupied the time in sleep, while some visited officers, and friends in other regiments, swapping gossip, etc.

About 1 o’clock the silence was suddenly broken by the discharge of signal-guns by the enemy.  Immediately following this was the continuous discharge of one hundred and thirty-eight pieces of artillery, answered by eighty pieces of our own, making a roar such as the world has rarely heard.

Union Artillery on Cemetery Hill - A.R. Waud

The air was full of projectiles, while bursting shells were carrying havoc among supply-trains, ambulances and reserve batteries, the men in the meanwhile hurrying for shelter behind the slightest elevation of ground.  It seemed to rain shells.

During this excitement our division, under General Robinson, was removed from its exposed position to the north-east side of Cemetery Hill, where it was placed in support of some batteries at that point.  It seemed like jumping out of the frying-pan into the fire, so far as danger was concerned, as we were not facing the sharpshooters and pickets on that side, who were swarming behind fences and stone walls, making it lively for the gunners in our rear.  We sheltered ourselves as well as we could by hugging the ground or taking advantage of any object that would stop or ward off a bullet. It was a hard place, inasmuch as it was impossible for us to do any firing, situated as we were.  While we were lying here our artillery all along the line suddenly stopped firing, exciting in us grave apprehensions of failure and retreat.  In fifteen minutes or more they began again, and shortly we were ordered to hasten to the support of the Second Corps, now engaged in repulsing Pickett’s charge.  

William Henry Stilson Illustration, cropped

We ran along the crest of the hill amid a continued shower of rebel shell, while the noise was increased by musketry-firing and the shouting and yelling of troops on both sides.  Our speed was retarded by the broken caissons, gun-carriages, and other debris,  and also the bodies of men and horses lying dead or wounded, many of the later crawling or limping to hospitals in the rear.

While these sights were such as are commonly observed on all battlefields, they seemed more hideous than any seen before, even to those familiar with such scenes.

The tide of battle had turned just as we arrived, and the remnant of Pickett’s corps could be seen hurrying back to their lines, while men were bringing in squads of prisoners, some willing and others unwilling to be captured.

Thousands of Union men and officers, many of whom were begrimed with powder or stained with blood, were shouting themselves hoarse at their success.   Riding up and down the line coatless, waving his hat and shouting like the rest of us, was General Hays, dragging in the dust a lot of rebel banners whose staffs he held with the other hand. The rebel artillery-firing continued; but no one thought of exploding shells at a moment like this.  The army was boiling over with enthusiasm.  It seems as though the pent-up feelings of two long years had been suddenly released, so boisterous were its demonstrations. Everywhere in that much-abused army was expressed the wish to be led forth to finish up the bloody business.

Return to Table of Contents

Colonel "Dick" Coulter

The following biographical notes are from the National Tribune, as reprinted in 13th Regiment Association Circular #21, December, 1908.

Richard Coulter was born in Greensburg, Pa, Oct. 1, 1822.  His father was a well-known business man, and his mother a daughter of Col. John Alexander, of Carlisle, an officer in the Revolutionary Army.  After leaving college he became a law student in the office of his uncle, but left in December, 1846, to enlist in the 2nd Pennsylvania for the Mexican War.  He served through the war and was engaged in all the principal battles fought by General Scott's column advancing upon the city of Mexico.  At the conclusion of the war he re-entered the practice of the law and became distinguished in it.  At the outbreak of the Civil War he took his company into the 11th Pennsylvania and became lieutenant-colonel of the regiment.  At the conclusion of the three months' service he reorganized the 11th Pennsylvania for three years and commanded it until promoted to brigadier-general.  He was wounded at Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Spotsylvania.  At Second Bull Run his horse was shot under him, and in the Wilderness he lost two horses in succession.

Charles Davis, Jr. of the 13th Mass had this to say:

Coulter at 11 PA Monument, 1910

On reading this notice of "Dick" Coulter, the members of the 13th will be reminded of one of the most picturesque characters they had the pleasure of meeting during the war.  When we first saw him at the head of the 11th Pennsylvania he did not impress us as a man of culture and refinement.  His exuberant and impetuous nature certainly violated many of the canons of taste and refinement that were commonly accepted in New England at that time. We have learned a good many things since and our knowledge of the world was considerably accelerated by service in the army.  He was a very brave soldier, tender-hearted, a highly intelligent officer, prominent in his profession and much respected in Pennsylvania, where he was highly honored.    In the establishment of the National Soldiers' Home he was appointed, with the Chief Justice of the United States and others, one of the trustees.  On his visits north we had the pleasure of meeting him many times.  Though we could still see him on horseback clothed in a linen duster, a conspicuous figure in battle, shouting his orders and urging men forward, he seemed to have undergone some transformation.  "Dick" Coulter seemed to have disappeared and we found ourselves in the presence of a highly cultured and attractive gentleman.

While in the service he was always to be found in the thickest of a fight.  As soon as his wounds were dressed he was back again urging his men forward and directing their fire.  On one of these occasions he was remonstrated with and begged to retire.  "To Hell with retiring!  I've a surgeon to save my body and a chaplain to save my soul; let them 'tend to their business and I'll attend to mine."  We always had a sincere affection for Dick Coulter, who was a man worth knowing.  

Major Abner Small of the 16th Maine was assigned to Col. Richard Coulter's staff when Coulter assumed command of General Paul's Brigade.  Major Small presents an amusing anecdote of the brigade commander in action.

 "The Road to Richmond", by Major Abner R. Small, University of California Press, 1939; p. 104-106.

brigade flag

At daylight of July 3d, we were withdrawn and moved up to the left.  As we came up the hill, we heard to the east the boom of cannon on the morning air; a little later we heard musketry; and by snatches we caught the noise of fighting until late in the fore noon.  Near us, all was quiet. Colonel Coulter established brigade headquarters on the brow of the hill, at the left of the cemetery, pitching his tent in the edge of a small grove of trees and planting defiantly in full sight of the rebels the brigade flag.

From this point I could see almost all the Union position from Cemetery Hill to the Round Tops, two miles to the south, and the opposing curve of Seminary Ridge, now held by the rebels, and the valley between.  The skirmish lines in the valley were clearly defined by streaks of curling smoke that faced upwards in the shimmering heat.  A false calm possessed the field.

Noon came, and the sun blazed fiercely hot, and the silence fretted us. Time was counted through minutes that seemed hours and an hour that seemed an eternity.  illustration of a battery with smokeThen away down the Emmitsburg road a rebel cannon flashed, and a puff of smoke blew and hung on the still summer air; then another, and then from all the rebel line there was one vast roar, and a storm of screaming metal swept across the valley. Our guns blazed and thundered in reply.  The earth groaned and trembled.  The air, thick with smoke and sulphurous vapor, almost suffocated the troops in support of the batteries.  Through the murk we heard hoarse commands, the bursting of shells, cries of agony.  We saw caissons hit and blown up, splinters flying, men flung to the ground, horses torn and shrieking.  Solid shot hit the hill in our front, sprayed battalions with fountains of dirt, and went plunging into the ranks, crushing flesh and bone.  Under that awful fire, continuous, relentless, our brigade and all our line held tight and unfaltering.

About two o’clock our brigade was moved from the left to the right of the cemetery and placed in support of batteries there.  How that short march was made, I don’t know.  The air was all murderous iron; it seemed as if there couldn’t be room for any soldier upright and in motion.  We stayed an hour in our new position, exposed not only to shelling from both east and west, but also to the galling fire of rebel skirmishers.

Colonel Coulter, tearing up and down the line to work off his impatience, all of a sudden drew rein and shouted:

“Where in hell is my flag?  Where do you suppose that cowardly son of a bitch has skedaddled to?  Adjutant, you hunt him up and bring him to the front!”

Uncle Sam illustration

Away I went, hunting for the missing flag and man and finding them nowhere; and returned in time to see the colonel snake the offender out from behind a stone wall, where he had lain down with the flag folded up to avoid attracting attention. Colonel Coulter shook out the folds, put the staff in the hands of the trembling man, and double-quicked him to the front.  A shell exploded close by, killing a horse, and sending a blinding shower of gravel and dirt broadcast.  The colonel, snatching up the flag again, planted the end of the staff where the shell had burst, and shouted:

“There, Orderly; hold it!  If I can’t get you killed in ten minutes, by God, I’ll post you right up among the batteries!”

Turning to ride away, he grinned broadly and yelled to me:
         “The poor devil couldn’t be safer; two shells don’t often hit the same place.  If he obeys, he’ll be all right and I’ll know where my headquarters are.”

Recklessly he dashed down the line.  In a few minutes he returned, with one arm dangling.  I recall the expression of his pain-distorted face when I, in my anxiety, asked him if he would not dismount; it was almost one of reproof.

“No, no,” he said; “not now.  Who in hell would suppose a sharpshooter would hit a crazy-bone at that distance?”

His pain drove him to have the wound dressed.  The command of the brigade was transferred to Colonel Lyle of the 90th Pennsylvania, but for a short time only; Colonel Coulter remained with the brigade and resumed the command.

About three o’clock we were again moved to the left, from the hill to the ridge.  Many of the Union guns were now ceasing their fire; damaged batteries were going to the rear, and others were hurrying up from the reserve. Shot and shell from the enemy still pounded the hill. The ground was strewn with dead horses. Here and there were dead men.  We wondered, as we passed through the cemetery, that we weren’t smashed into earth to mingle with mouldering citizens of peace.

As we hastened toward the ridge we heard a thunder of artillery there, and musketry that wasn’t the crash of volley or the harsh rattle of scattered firing, but one continuous din. The long-awaited assault had come.  As we topped the ridge we caught another tone of the uproar, strange and terrible; a sound that came from thousands of human throats, yet was not a commingling of shouts and yells, but rather like a vast mournful roar.

Battle of Gettysburg

Down the slope in front of us the ground was strewn with soldiers in every conceivable vehemence of action, and agony, and death.  Men in grey, surrounded and overwhelmed, were throwing up their hands in surrender.  Others were falling back into the valley. Many were lying in the trampled fields, dying and dead.  The assault had failed. I felt pity for the victims of that ruined hope.  Looking down on the scene of their defeat and of our victory, I could only see a square mile of Tophet.

Our brigade moved forward as the enemy fell back, and we took part in a general skirmish fire that was kept up by both sides until after dark. We threw up breastworks; and when it was learned about eleven o’clock, that the rebels in our front were taking down fences, perhaps to clear the way for another attack, we strengthened our works with rails from fences within our reach. The brigade was busy with this labor almost all night.

Return to Table of Contents

Sergeant Austin Stearns - Prisoner in the Town

Sergeant Stearns was wounded slightly in the arm on Oak Ridge on the first day's fight.  He took refuge in Christ Church on Chambersburg Street, then being used as a First Corps Hospital.  There he spent the next few days in captivity, yet he was allowed to wander about the town freely.  

This excerpt is from, Three Years with Company K, edited by Arthur A. Kent, p. 192-197.  Used with permission.

The morning of the third was a most beautiful one, and as I had nothing to do, no dressing, no breakfast to get or eat, I was early on the street to get the news and see if there was any change, but could hear of none.  All the movements of the rebels were kept from us; all we knew of their contemplated arrangements were what we saw.

Up the street but a few steps was an old, unoccupied house, and as I passed by it I heard some talking, and stepped in to see what was going on.  There was about an equal number of rebs and union men, and they had found some concentrated water, and having imbibed quite freely, each was trying by argument to convince the other that he was in the wrong.  Argument was fast failing and they were about to try the only other way known to them.   Frank Schell Illustration, cropped, of soldiers talkingI took it all in at a glance, and was glad to get out from such a rable.  A rebel officer happened to ride by at this time, and as some of the disputants had reached the sidewalk, he stopped and ordered all the rebels to their respective commands, and the union soldiers to keep within their limits.  Later in the day the same officer, who was of the Provost Guard, rode down the street, and found one of the rebel soldiers who had not received as much satisfaction as he wished from the morning’s debate trying to get up a row with some one.  None of the union men wanted to have anything to do, or say to him, and he, thinking that we were afraid of him, had become very insolent and abusive, and was insulting everyone he met. The officer saw him, and rode down so he could hear what the fellow was saying.  Finding none of the union men saying anything, but rather trying to avoid him, he spoke up sharp and told the fellow to go to regiment immediately.  The soldier, not fully comprehending who or what was being said, seized the horse by the bitts and commenced to run him back. The officer told him to hold on, at the same time using the spur, but the fellow, with a fearful oath, still persisted.  The officer drew his pistol, and holding it within an inch or two of the fellows head, told him he would give him just one moment to let go his hold of the horse or he would drop him there on the sidewalk.  By this time the fellow began to realize his situation, and who was speaking to him, and quickly dropping his hold of the horse he slunk away down the street and we saw no more of him.

We were now feeling as though we should like something to eat – could, as the saying is, “eat a raw dog” – for we had had nothing since the morning before when we had cleaned out my haversack.  Fay and myself were sitting on the door-steps of a house when a rebel soldier came along with his arm in a sling, he having a slight wound.  He stopped and commenced to talk with us.  After talking a few moments we said  “We wished they would give us something to eat.”  He asked “if we hadn’t received any rations yet.”  We said “no.”  He put his hand in his haversack and took out two cakes made of flour, such as I have seen my mother make on top of the stove, and said “he would divide with us.”  We said “we didn’t wish to rob him” but he told us to take it, which we did without further urging, and, thanking him for his kindness, Fay and I ate it.

Jack Davis illustration of a Rebel Soldier

In the church where the boys were was another reb who was a nuisance.  He was an Irishman, and done every thing he could to make it unpleasant for them.  I was in there when he was walking up and flourishing his fife, and telling what they could, and what they would do with them. I went to talking with him to draw his attention from the boys, and asked him why he was away from his regiment, that all good soldiers would be with their command in times like these and not be up in a hospital taunting wounded men, and added that perhaps he might bring up yet in the guard house.

He was mad with me in an instant, and turned on me in a way and manner that a man will when he knows that the other cannot help himself.  He said he was never in the guard house but once in his life, and that was not because he straggled behind, but because he straggled ahead, and that he was not expected to go into battle for he was a musician.  He flourished his fife in such close proximity to my head, and was so loud and boisterous that I left the church, he following me, for I knew I could shake him off on the street, or that some rebel officer would pick him up and march him off.  I relieved them of his presence for only a few moments, when he came back and was more insolent than ever.  He was bearing down so hard that it was unendurable, or at least so thought ---- of Company G, who was wounded in the breast.   He seized a gun and told him if he didn’t leave immediately he would shoot him on the spot.  The reb had found his match, and took himself away pretty quick amidst the cheers of the wounded men.

About noon an Officer rode through the street, surrounded by a numerous and brilliant staff, that we thought might be Gen’l Lee. I asked a reb who was near if he could tell me who that officer was, and he said he didn’t know.  He was a man about sixty, quite grey, with a closely shaven face with the exception of a mustache.

In the afternoon, about the time the battle began, a rebel Quartermaster rode along pretty drunk and ugly; he was just spoiling for a fight, and said he could lick any ten dammed yanks there was in the town.  As there was none that felt like disputing him, even if we would be let – for if we had shown the least desire for a fight, we would have been shot down like sheep – he rode on down the street continuing his abuse.

There was a public house up on the Diamond that was the headquarters for quite a crowd of rebel officers, and they were lounging around in front of the place.  Bullets from the skirmishers were coming over constantly, and one of the officers was wounded in front of the house; some of them swore it was one of our boys that did it, and were going in to clear the streets of the d---d yanks, but the soberer portion thought it was hardly a safe thing to do on so sleight an excuse.  The Quartermaster was a fair specimen of some of them.

The fighting had been considerable at different times and places all through the day, and bullets had whistled merrily around with occasionally a shot of larger size, which would strike a chimney or roof and send the bricks and kindling wood around into the streets below.  About three o’clock it broke out like a tornado blast.  We that were shut up in the town could see and know nothing of the mighty preparation that had been going on, so we were not prepared for the most terrific yells and deafning noise of the three hundred guns and the continual roll of musketry that suddenly broke upon us.  We held our breath in awe while the dreadful work went on [and] hardly dared to speak to each other, fearing for the results.  Copeland Illustration, cropped, two soldiers sitting.We all wished for victory, and so we sat, or stood, looking into each others faces, and listened to the dreadful, dreadful noise.  I remember now of sitting on a doorstep that hot July afternoon, and heard the roar and din of the mightiest battle ever fought on the continent of America.  The earth fairly shook, and it did seem as though the heavens and the earth were grinding together.  It was simply fearful.  Moments seemed like hours, and hours ages, and still the fearful carnage went on. The rebs had with few exceptions deserted the streets only one now and then was to be seen.  We in the village were comparatively safe, being between the two ridges, but the uncertainties that hung over us made it a worse place than if we could see and hear all that was going on.

But the longest day will have an end, and at length the fire slackened, and there was only an occasional gun.  We breathed freer, and talked with each other as to the results.  What was to become of us? was the question uppermost in our thoughts.  If our army was defeated, where would we go, and if victorious, would we be taken away with the rebel army?

Return to Table of Contents

Sergeant John Boudwin & Private Bourne Spooner, Prisoners in the Field

Diary of Sergeant John Boudwin, Company A

The 1863 diary of Sergeant John Boudwin is noteworthy for documenting his captivity at Belle Isle Prison in Richmond, Virginia following the battle of Gettysburg.  The cruel suffering from starvation and exposure, during his captivity in the  Summer and Fall of 1863 is recorded for posterity.  Those interested are urged to obtain a transcription from the Pearce Civil War Collections Museum, Narvarro College, Corsicana, Texas.

July, Friday, 3.     1863
   Came in  pleasant.  The Rebel officers told us to form in to line and those that wished to take the parole to step to the front and l/2 of the Regiment done so- and wer sent to Carlisle with 1000 others.  We wer kept to the same old spot.  Heavy fighting all day  lots of Rebel wounded coming in.  Heavy Infantry Fighting all night.  Drew rations of flour and fresh beef - flour-a Tea Cup full to a Man.  Rations a scarce article in this place.  See Warren Freeman and he was all right and Took the Parole and was sent to Carlisle - sent word by him to Write to Mother if he should get a Chance.  Nothing else occurred during the day.

Private Bourne Spooner's Memoirs

Private Bourne Spooner, Company D, was captured on the retreat from Oak Ridge on July 1st.  His unpublished memoirs  relate some of his war time experiences in great detail.  They were shared with me by his descendants.  This excerpt, continues his narrative from the entries posted on the July 1st and July 2nd pages of this website.  In contrast to Sgt. Boudwin, Private Spooner accepted the 'illegal' parole, and thus avoided months of suffering in Rebel prisons.

characature of a Rebel officer

Sometime during the forenoon of the second day (July 3rd) a rebel surgeon, a native of Richmond, and another field or staff officer came down to have a look at the Yankee captives.  They sat down upon the ground and got into conversation with one or two of our officers.  The officer accompanying the surgeon had a remarkably fair and pleasant face, and his handsome grey uniform was neat and well-fitting.  The countenance remarkably resembled a certain playmate of mine when a young lad at Harrison Square, whose name I cannot recall.  The surgeon was tall, sallow, with dark, dreamy eyes, and soft and rather affected manner.  Among the things discussed was horses, the surgeon maintaining that those of the South were superior in blood, style and endurance to the northern animals.  While they were talking, there was a little commotion occasioned near at hand by the finding of a snake or some other reptile in the grass, and a little knot of men composed of both rebs and prisoners gathered in a most fraternal manner to see the curiosity.  At this the surgeon remarked, “How strange it is that army life tends to make men so simple and childish in their habits - they are ‘pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw.’ ”   The subject of camp life  with its rough, dirty style of living was somehow brought up, when one of our officers remarked that he had got used to it and did not dislike it.  The surgeon then replied, “For my part I don’t like it and can’t get used to it; I have no propinquity for dirt.”  His use of this word struck me as rather odd and has stuck in my remembrance ever since.  After some further conversation which I cannot recall, the surgeon finally remarked to his friend that “he guessed they’d better go to the front to see what was going on,” when they two, bidding our union officers “good-day,” went to where their horses were tethered, unhitched, and mounted them, and rode away.

Shortly after noon severe fighting began, and at one o’clock commenced that terrific cannonade - the greatest of the whole war.  From our position we could see a ridge, possibly it was Seminary Ridge, along which the enemy had several of their batteries posted.  We could see the clouds of cannon smoke hanging above the spot where each was located, but could not see the pieces owing to intersecting woods or trees.  As the cannonade increased in fury all desultory conversation ceased, and the crowd stood watching with eager interest all that was visible of the battle.  We saw no actual troops, as I remember, in motion, or at least but few, but imminent trains hurrying to and from the front. Still, after all, I have some dim recollection of seeing masses of the enemy moving up into action.  The actual movements of the troops in action, of course, was shielded from view, as the battle was all in the valley beyond the ridge.  Edwin Forbes illustration of Gettysburg, croppedOccasionally, as the cannonade progressed, a caisson would be exploded by a hostile shot with the same phenomenon, as before described, of a sudden column of smoke shooting vertically upwards a short distance and then opening like an umbrella. At every instance of this kind some of our men would set up an exultant shout.  One of the enemy’s pieces was of much heavier calibre than the rest and was said to be a Whitworth gun.  Every time its thundering boom was heard the men would remark, “There goes another Whitworth shot.”  The visitations of cold metal from this battery, I since learned, were very annoying to our men.  Occasionally one of our Yankee shells would spin over to the hither side of this ridge, but they always fell far short of where we were.  The cordon of rebel artillery drowned, for the most part, the terrible musketry which was going on beyond them.  My dominant desire, while all this was going on, was that our forces should succeed in breaking through the Confederate lines or drive them down among us, and we could get mixed up in the rout.  How gloriously we 5,000 prisoners could have contributed to increase the confusion in such an event!   But such was not to be as old soldiers may be defeated, but scarcely ever routed.

During the afternoon we were given our choice whether to take the parole or go to Richmond.  At this time the Southern prisons had not got the bad reputation they afterwards had.  There had also been read the previous spring, when Hooker took the command, a general order forbidding anyone if he should happen to be captured to take the parole and stating that they would not be considered valid if taken.  Having this order in mind, three of the five thousand prisoners chose to go to Richmond.  We were drawn up in line, each regiment by itself, and rolls were made out containing the names and rank of all.  The only evidence of discourtesy which occurred during our captivity was while this was being done.  A Colonel Smead, who had charge of this work, betrayed a very savage dispassion and threw a large stone at some of the men for not getting into line with sufficient promptitude to suit him.  This officer, however, was a tyrant to his own men and was most cordially hated by them. Most of the regiments went in a body one way or the other, but ours split up.  Company D, of which there were some nine or ten prisoners, split, the majority choosing to go to Richmond.  I, however, with Burton and one or two others took the parole.  The liability of being put back into the ranks, recaptured and executed was rather too improbable to give me any annoyance.

W. H. Sheppard Illustration

It required some hours to complete this work, but after it was done those who elected to got to Richmond were marched off to an adjoining field with a fence and a line of sentries between us.  A good deal of good-natured banter took place between the two camps, and some of the old cries are called up like “Why don’t you come o-v-e-r here” and many jocose remarks about Richmond, etc.  After the division had been made, a couple of commissary wagons came up with rations for us paroled prisoners - the first and last to be given us while in the hands of the enemy.  We were divided into squads of ten or a dozen, and one of our servants doled out the rations to each.  One man’s share consisted of about a pint of flour and an little piece of smoked bacon-side fat, soft and flabby, weighing about two ounces.  For me, however, this bacon was always more palatable than our salt pork.  We prisoners then built up little fires, and there being an abundance of flat stones about we heated them in the fires and, mixing our flour with water,  baked it on the hot stones.  As my haversack had become completely depleted, this meal was hugely enjoyed - indeed, in any event, the flour and bacon would have been preferable to our own pork and hardtack.  Though during this time a great battle was going on so near us, we knew nothing of its progress and how it was turning.

About sundown we paroled prisoners were moved off to another place and bid the Richmond prisoners a hearty “good-bye” as we marched away.  We marched, I should think, a mile or two and at dark turned into a field of lush, rank grass beside the Carlisle road to bivouac.  Just as I was sinking to sleep the rattle of distant musketry was borne to my ears - the last sound to reach us of the great battle.

Return to Top of Page

"Pickett's Charge"

"They call it Pickett's charge.  He was not there.  He was not that kind of man.  It was Longstreet's charge. He directed it. Pickett was not in it.  All the officers that were in it were killed." - General Alexander Webb to James Edward Kelly, November, 1905.*

Captain David Ballenger of the 26th Alabama Infantry, O'Neal's Brigade, wrote his mother describing the battle of Gettysburg on July 18, "I consider that our loss was the heaviest in this battle that we ever sustained on one battlefield.  And I further think that it was the worst piece of generalship I ever knew General Lee to exercise, in undertaking to storm the enemy's fortifications.  The whole mountain was like a volcano of artillery and small arms."**

Edwin Forbes Painting, "Pickett's Charge"

"Pickett's charge on the Union centre at the grove of trees about 3 P.M." by Edwin Forbes.

George Hussey, the historian of the '9th NY' has compiled a good account of 'Pickett's Charge' for his history of that regiment.  As the '9th NY' men were part of Baxter's Brigade, and many of the men were friends with many of the men in  the '13th Mass', I include it here, complete with quotes from Confederate histories.

Excerpts From "History of Ninth Regiment N.Y.S.M. ---N.G.S.N.Y. (Eighty-third N.Y. Volunteers) 1845-1888, New York: George Hussey,  Ed. by William Todd. 1889; pages 275 - 284.

Lee had made two attempts to pierce the Union line – on the right and on the left – and had failed in both; but he determined to make one more effort, and decided to attack the center.  He could hardly afford, after having entered upon a campaign of invasion, to retreat without fighting a decisive battle. All his troops, except Pickett’s division of Longstreet’s corps, had been engaged during the battles of the 1st and 2nd, and to Pickett – with his three brigades of Virginians, under Generals Garnett, Armistead and Kemper – was assigned the advance.  This column was to be strongly supported on both flanks by other divisions.

General Hancock had been entrusted with the command of the Union center, defended by the Eleventh, Second, First and Third corps, in the order named, from the right.  During the forenoon the enemy had been making the necessary preparations for the assault.

About daylight of the 3d the Ninth moved with the brigade to the same position occupied the previous afternoon in support of a battery of the Eleventh corps.

An opportunity is now given to know what took place at that time behind the Confederate line, and from their standpoint to witness the supreme effort.

Colonel Owen, in The Washington Artillery, says:

"At one-thirty P.M. this note was brought by a courier to Colonel Warton, as we were sitting on our horses in a grove of oaks on the Emmetsburg Pike, opposite the Peach Orchard.

Headquarters, July 3, 1863.

Colonel: - Let the batteries open; order great care and precision in firing.  If the batteries at the Peach Orchard cannot be used against the point we intend attacking, let them open on the Rocky Hill.

Most respectfully,                                           
J. Longstreet,                                   
Lieut.-Gen. Commanding.    

To Col. Walton, Chief of Artillery:

   "Instantly orders were given to Major Eshleman (commanding the Washington Artillery) to fire the signal guns which was done; and then began the most furious cannonade the world ever saw.  The one hundred and thirty-seven Confederate guns were belching fire upon the enemy’s lines, who replied with eighty guns more.Rebels waiting for the artillery duel to end  Our batteries fired nearly two hours, when the enemy’s guns suddenly slackened their fire, until they hardly returned shot for shot.

"Soon all was still as death itself.  It was but the calm before the storm. Pickett’s division, heroes of many battles, had been lying down during the cannonade.

Illustration from Battles & Leaders of the Civil War; "Confederates Waiting for the End of the Artillery Duel."  

"They now arose and dressed their lines, the men fully comprehending the serious work before them.  Many were heard bidding good-bye to comrades a few files from them.

"Upon a signal from Colonel Alexander, who had been observing the effect of the artillery fire upon the enemy, under the direction of General Longstreet, the whole line moved forward out of the woods in common time.  They had nearly a mile of open plain to cross in full sight of the enemy, and in range of his artillery, which had opened again, and to ascend the Cemetery Hill and attack the works theron.

"Steadily they moved forward.  McDonald’s charge at Wagram was eclipsed. The enemy were in their ranks, and, from behind stone fences, poured a storm of lead into them.  Men fell by scores.  Still on they pressed without faltering.  Heth’s division, commanded by General Pettigrew, now emerged from the woods in echelon, going to Pickett’s support. They went in steadily at first for the purpose, but soon were shaken by the storm of shot and shell that met them.  Presently a small column of the enemy emerged from the woods and began to form on their flank. The men saw it, wavered, stopped, and then fell back in a panic, getting terribly punished as they did so.  In vain were all efforts to stop them.  Longstreet, who had seen the threatening move, sent Latrobe to warn General Pettigrew, but the rout had commenced before he could meet him. His horse was shot under him as he rode across the plain.  Pickett, whose men were now well in, rally.  Many other officers did the same; but it was all in vain.  It was a panic such as will at times strike the best and bravest troops, and no efforts could induce them to form anew while under the terrific storm of fire.  The division lost frightfully, but the worst effect was that Pickett’s men, who had behaved so gloriously, were now left to fight alone against overwhelming odds." [End quote from 'Washington Artillery'].

Colonel Walter Harrison, of Pickett’s staff, in his interesting volume, Pickett’s Men, in describing the scene at its culmination says:

"The enemy again opened fresh batteries, at short range, which had been reserved for this moment, and their infantry, from behind their sheltered position, poured a destructive fire of musketry right into the faces of the men as they rushed up their breastworks.

Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg by C.D. Graves, from Deeds of Valor

"Like a narrow wedge, driven into a solid column of oak, they soon broke through the outer barrier of resistance, crushed in an inner ring of defence, and penetrated even to the heart.  They touched the vital point; they made the lifeblood flow.  They stretched out a hand to grasp a victory at that moment; but alas the blood-red hand was not sufficiently strong. It was fierce to seize, but too feeble to retain. The nerve and spirit to strike was there; but the force to hold was impotent."  [End quote from 'Pickett's Men'].

General Henry J. Hunt

While the Confederates were hurling  the bolts of death from nearly one hundred and fifty guns, room could be found for but eighty pieces on Cemetery Ridge, but these eighty replied with good effect, until the ammunition, running low, General Henry J. Hunt, the Chief of Artillery, [pictured] ordered the firing to cease, well knowing that he would have need of the remaining cartridges to fire grape and canister at the enemy’s infantry when they should advance.  The fire of so many pieces of artillery had cleared Cemetery Ridge of all save the men who lay in their ranks, behind stone walls, and such rude defences as they had hastily constructed. The artillery suffered severely, some of the batteries having to be replaced after the cannonade ceased.  Caissons were blown up, and horses killed by the score.  The infantry suffered but little, and were not in the least demoralized by the terrible storm of shot and shell that fell all about them.

During this time Baxter’s brigade was subjected to the storm of battle, and many were the grim jokes uttered during its continuance.  As boys in the dark sometimes whistle to keep their courage up, soldiers, when under fire and unable to reply in kind, manage to comfort and cheer each other in passing remarks upon the enemy’s marksmanship.

When the artillery ceased firing, the men in the ranks coolly and quietly completed their preparations to meet the onset of the Confederate infantry. Extra cartridges had been provided, and many of the men laid out little piles of them in convenient places.  There was not excitement; but a grim determination to hold their ground or die at their post.  It was not known upon what point of the line the bolt would fall – perhaps it would be a grand advance of the enemy’s whole line!  But all doubt was soon set aside.  From over the ridge at the Emmetsburg road came a division, apparently of three brigades, of five regiments each, and advanced steadily in column of brigade front.  When this leading column had got well into the plain, the supporting divisions- one on each flank – were noticed following.  From ten to fifteen thousand men were moving towards the Union line, threatening to strike it like a wedge, and with force enough to break through all obstacles !

General Hunt, meanwhile had placed fresh batteries along the line, with full limber-chests and caissons, and the Union troops waited with confidence the issue of the conflict.

Map of 2nd Corps Positions, July 3rd

As the Second and Third divisions of the Second, and Third division of the First corps, were destined to receive and repulse the attack, let us see how their ranks were formed:  On the right, resting on the Emmetsburg road, in front of Ziegler’s Grove, was Hay’s Third division of the Second corps, Colonel Smyth’s brigade on the left of the division, its left (Fourteenth Connecticut) joining – except for an interval, occupied in rear of the line of infantry by Arnold’s battery – the right of the Second division.  The Second division was under the command of General Harrow – Gibbon,  its permanent commander – being temporarily in command of the corps.  General Alexander Webb’s command, the Sixty-ninth, Seventy-first, Seventy-second, and One Hundred and Sixth Pennsylvania, was Harrow’s right brigade; then came Colonel Hall’s brigade, and next Morrow’s brigade, under Colonel Heath.

The posted map depicts many of the brigades mentioned in this description.  The artillery units are represented but without the battery commanders names.  Robinson's Division is highlighted in blue.

On Heath’s left was the Third division of the First corps, under General Doubleday.  The First division of the Second corps was on Doubleday’s left.  Woodruff’s, Arnold’s, Cushing’s, Cowan’s and Rorty’s batteries were posted along Hay’s and Harrow’s front. Hay’s division and Webb’s brigade were behind a low stone wall.  Cushing’s pieces were in rear of Webb.  But few of the guns of the batteries named had anything but grape and canister to use, having expended their long-range projectiles during the cannonade.

While engaged in the artillery duel the guns of Cushing’s battery – A, Fourth U.S. Artillery – were posted in rear of the left wing of the Seventy-first and right of the Sixty-ninth. Who occupied the front line behind the stone wall. The Seventy-second Pennsylvania was in rear of the battery. As the Confederate divisions were advancing to the assault, Cushing ran his six guns down to the stone wall, thereby compelling the left wing of the Seventy-first and right of the Sixty-ninth Pennsylvania to fall back behind his pieces.  The muzzles of the guns now pointed over and beyond the stone wall.

When the enemy came within grape range, Cushing’s guns had full play, and the men of the two regiments, which he had displaced, were thankful that they were in no danger from canister cases, which, had the pieces been fired from their rear, would doubtless have injured many, as would also the flame and grains of unburned powder – so close were they to the muzzles of the guns in their original position.  The artillery and infantry, to the right and left of Gibbon’s division, also opened upon Pickett’s supports; the men of Hay’s division – Smyth’s brigade especially – being close enough to pour in a destructive fire.

John Allen Maxwell Illustration

But through this decimating storm the assaulting column pressed on up the gentle slope, the point of the wedge aimed at Webb’s brigade of Pennsylvanians. As the enemy comes within two hundred yards the infantry pour their volleys of musketry into the advancing column.  Picketts’ right support  - Wilcox’s division  - owing to some blunder, has failed to connect properly with the leading troops, and a wide gap opens between them.  Into this gap Stannard’s brigade of Vermonters, and the Twentieth New York State militia (80th vols.) and One Hundred and Fifty-first Pennsylvania (under command of Colonel Theodore B. Gates of the Twentieth) of Doubleday’s division, are pushed out to the front and perpendicular to the Union line, and fire into Pickets’ right flank, thereby forcing his men to crowd towards the left and center of the advancing column, and producing more or less confusion in their ranks.  Colonel Gates follows up the stricken flank and continues to make it interesting for the enemy, while General Stannard turned his attention to Wilcox.  Some accounts say – in fact General Stannard himself so described the movement – that he counter-marched  two regiments of his brigade by the left, and brought the lines to face the left flank of Wilcox, who, by this time, had begun to fire at Caldwell’s First division of the Second corps, which occupied a position on Doubleday’s left.  This bold movement was entirely successful; the Vermonters poured such a destructive fire into the unprotected flank of the enemy that Wilcox was compelled to retreat in confusion.

B&W illustration of Pickett's Charge

The head of Pickett’s division, had, by this time, become much shattered by the destructive fire of the artillery and infantry, and General Armistead – commanding the rear brigade when the division first started – had surged to the front; a crowd follows him, straight for Webb’s front and Cushing’s guns; he reaches the stone wall; Cushing’s gunners, now behind and between their guns, are using handspikes, sabers and sponge-staffs, while the men of the Sixty-ninth and Seventy-first Pennsylvania are mixed up with the artillerists in a hand-to-hand fight with the enemy, whose colors crown the stone wall.  

This stylized picture shows soldiers of Doubleday's division firing into General Armistead's attacking Confederates, near Cushing's Battery.  Armistead is represented with his hat upon the tip of his sword so as to be visible to his men during the deadly advance.

Webb hurriedly re-formed the men of these two regiments, who have fallen further back up the slope, and, with the Seventy-second Pennsylvania, who had been posted in rear of the front line, moves forward to repulse the attack. At the same time, two regiments of Hall’s brigade – the Nineteenth Massachusetts – Colonel Devereaux – and the Forty-second (Tammany) New York – Colonel Mallon – under command of the former, and who had been in the rear of the other two regiments of the brigade, move forward through and to the right of the “copse of trees,” and add their fire in aid of Webb.  Armistead had fallen just as he reached the stone wall, and in front of the muzzle of No. 3 gun of Cushing’s battery.  His brave followers also crowd up to the wall, and across this line Union and Confederate fight desperately for the mastery.  It is the supreme moment !  Who shall yield ?  Victory to those who shall move forward !  A cheer – a rush – and the Boys in Blue crowd towards the stone wall!  The battle is won!

H. A. Ogden illustration of Gen'l's Longstreet & Pickett

        “Then Pickett, who had so proudly said to Longstreet: “I shall lead my division forward, Sir!” when he reached the ridge his men had so gallantly charged, had but to look around him to see that the ground could not be held.  His supports all gone, his men falling around him, his trusted Generals, Garnett, Armistead, and Kemper, and all the field officers dead, or wounded unto death, his men fighting over the guns with clubbed muskets and banner staved, the enemy in front and on each flank, and crowding upon them in overwhelming numbers, he threw away his empty pistol, and, with his great soldier heart almost bursting, gave the order for his remaining braves to fall back.  (Colonel Owen in The Washington Artillery, page 251.)"

Soon after the great artillery duel ceased Baxter's brigade was sent a short distance to the left - still on Cemetery Ridge - but had hardly formed line of battle before it was ordered still further to the left, where it took position upon the right of the Third division - General Hays - of the Second corps.  Meanwhile Pickett's charge had been repulsed and the enemy had again opened a heavy artillery fire, to which the brigade was subjected during this last movement.  The enemy's sharpshooters, too, sent their bullets about the moving column.  When line had been formed the Twelfth Massachusetts and a detachment of the Ninetieth Pennsylvania - preceded by skirmishers - moved forward and drove the enemy's sharpshooters and skirmish line back.  The brigade remained here during the night.  

At seven o'clock the little handful composing the Ninth regiment was sent out on picket, and posted on ground in front of the ridge.  The dead and wounded were still lying where they had fallen, and the groans and cries of the latter were heard through the entire night.  Shortly after midnight the men of the Ninth were relieved from outpost duty.

During the night relief parties went over the field bringing in many of the wounded, but at daylight of the 4th the enemy began picket firing and the humane labors were suspended.  Light showers had cooled the air somewhat, and, fortunately for the wounded yet remaining on the field, the morning was cloudy.

*Quote from "Generals in Bronze" ed. by William B. Styple, Belle Grove Publishing, NJ, 2005. Interview with General Webb, November 26, 1905. Page 156-157.

**Capt. David Ballenger Letters, July 18, 1863, Camp Near Martinsburg, from the University of South Carolina Library. Gettysburg National Battlefield Park Library.

Return to Top of Page

Diary of Lieutenant William R. Warner

Once again I must thank Warner's step descendant Mr. Eric Locher, for allowing me to share this excerpt from Warner's unpublished manuscript.   

Friday, July 3rd 1863
        In forenoon, were held in reserve in readiness to be sent to any part of the line.  About one P.M. after a long lull & almost complete cessation of firing on both sides, during which many of our Brigade had dropped asleep, where we laid, unsheltered from the sun, a cannon from the rebel right was fired and in less than a minute, every gun in position on both sides were engaged.  Shells were dropping all around us – We were hastily removed from this position which seemed to be the point where random shells from any part of the enemys lines were falling to a field nearer to our Infantry lines but under the ridge & less exposed to Artillery fire – Then a gradual dropping off of fire & so complete a quiet, that it was  noticeable.  Soon cannon & musketry opened again, and in a few minutes we were ordered to the left, in support of Haye’s Division of 2nd Corps at a little grove of trees.

Gettysburg Cyclorama, closeup of fighting on Cemetery Ridge near Bryan Farm

Close up of the Gettysburg Cyclorama, Cemetery Ridge near the Bryan Farm looking north east.  Robinson's Division would have approached the battlefield from the right beyond the trees in the background.

As we came over the brow, the rebel line which had charged was broken.  Through the throng of men pushing to rear, half were rebel prisoners who had thrown down their arms, others were wounded & troops changing positions.  General Hayes with his hands full of rebel flags which he was trailing in the dirt, was rushing his horse up & down the line near the house that stands to the left of the grove.  

Braced up against the trunk of a tree was a soldier (living) whose body had been split open so that his bowels protruded.  Some one cried out, “What are you doing there, - pick up your guts & help finish this thing.”    Beyond, in the fields over which the enemy had charged were rebs trying to come in to our lines – others endeavoring to go back.  It was a Moment of Wildest Confusion & of intensest feeling, yet over all, was that sense, to every Union Soldier, which expressed itself in every way, - by cheers, by clamor of all sorts, that a great victory had been won.

Return To Table of Contents

Austin Stearns Continued...

This excerpt is from, Three Years with Company K, edited by Arthur A. Kent, p. 198-200.  Used with permission.
Sergeant Austin C. Stearns

As the night advanced and I saw so few of the rebs, I began to feel certain that victory had not perched upon their banners.  Their very silence was an answer, for I had seen and heard enough in the last three days to know that they would have let us know in more ways then one of their success.

 I was sitting along an a doorstep thinking of the events of the last three days, and watching a company of rebel soldiers under charge of an officer as they came down the street, halting every few rods and going into backyards and other places picking up all the rebel soldiers and all the guns they could find, loading the guns into a wagon that accompanied them, when a soldier passed up the street that I thought I knew.  He, seeing me and thinking the same as I did, stopped and came back, we shook hands, and each in turn enquired where the other had been.  He was a sergeant in Co. I. I told him I had been on the street every day, at which he was much surprised and wondered that I had not been sent away.  He said he had been hid up in a cellar since the 1st, and this was his first appearance out.  He was anxious to learn all I knew about the boys, and also about the fight.

 While we were thus engaged, two rebel soldiers came along loaded down with things that they had confiscated from a drug store.  Each had a large basket filled to the overflowing with things obtained there, besides pockets were filled.  One had a large jug in his hand, and the other a large open mouthed jar under his arm.

On seeing us they stopped and bade us good evening.  My comrade who had not been out was a little uneasy and said nothing.   I wished them a good evening, at the same time rising. They sat their bundles down, and we commenced to talk about the events of the day.  They were very intelligent fellows and knew more then they chose to tell us, but gave us to understand that although they had got the worst of the fight today, they were by no means licked, and when we hinted that perhaps they were preparing to retreat, they indignantly denied all thoughts of such a thing and said we would hear more from them in a few days.  All the time they knew they were making preparations for this end, and they, being familiar with drugs and medicine, had come into the village to replenish their stock that they were in need of.  After talking a few moments they asked if we wished to have something to drink. They said they had some that could not be beat, in the army at least. We both declined, thinking they wanted to play a trick on us; they, suspecting, and wishing to relieve us from all such fears, took the large open mouthed jar up and drank our health in a good draught there from, then they passed it to me with the request that I would not disappoint them but drink their health as hearty as they had ours.

Illustration of 3 men drinking a toast

 As they had not told what kind of liquor the jar contained I drank rather sparingly at first but still without fear, and passed it to my comrade, who followed my example.  Then we sat down and talked as only soldiers can; they passed the jar, and we talked on until they were rested, when they rose to go, and – wishing to empty the jar – they passed it again for a final pledge, and we knowing it was our last chance, took a good long pull, and after [our] shaking hands and bidding each other good night [they] took up their things and departed. They were young men from New Orleans and had worked in a drug store.

 They said the liquor was French brandy. I never drank any such before and am very sure I never have since.

 My comrade, being a little uneasy, left me.  Not wishing to take any risks, he invited me to go with him, but I declined as I was not quite satisfied with all I had seen and heard. 

After he left me I walked up and down the streets till I thought there was nothing more to be learned, so, selecting a place that was somewhat retired, I lay down and was soon asleep.

Return to Top of Page

Picket Duty on the Battlefield at Night

Pictured is the field just north of the barn, of the Bryan Farm, looking to the west and slightly north.  This is the area occupied by pickets from Baxter's and Coulter's Brigades, the night of July 3rd, and held through July 4th.   The main line of these two brigades was several yards behind the camera position.  The tip of the marker in the bottom left corner is the 107th PA of Coulter's / Paul's brigade, who occupied this spot the evening of July 1st to the morning of July 2nd.  The Emmitsburg Road runs through the photo.

View northwest from the Bryan Farm

Several men went out on picket duty the night of July 3rd.  It is fortunate to have two remembrances from the '13th Mass'; Sam Webster's brief comments and Lt. Edward Fay Rollins story. 

Again, here is what the '9th NY' history says:

"At seven o’clock the little handful composing the Ninth regiment was sent out on picket, and posted on ground in front of the ridge. The dead and wounded were still lying where they had fallen, and the groans and cries of the latter were head through the entire night.  Shortly after midnight the men of the Ninth were relieved from outpost duty."

"During the night relief parties went over the field bringing in many of the wounded, but at daylight of the 4th the enemy began picket firing and the humane labors were suspended for the wounded yet remaining on the field, the morning was cloudy."

 Diary of Samuel D. Webster

Sam Webster's comments were written in the margins of his journal.  Sam was not present during the fighting, being a drummer he requested leave and left the ranks before the battle began on July 1st,  to look up some relatives in the town.  The relatives were not there so he re-joined the regiment on Cemetery Hill after briefly helping out at the First Corps hospital in town.  Finding he could do nothing at the front he moved to the rear the night of July 2nd and observed the battle from that vantage.

The following typed note was tucked between pages 234 and 235 of vol. 2 of Sam's post war memoirs.

At Gettysburg, Pierce* said the ranks were depleted by men who went back with prisoners, as well as by direct loss; that he stood on the ridge, and could see men marching from over toward the 11th Corps right (say Carlisle Road), facing to the left, climbing a fence and advancing, line after line, against Schurz's and Barlow.

His attention was given to a column marching past where he was, almost within a stone's throw going around toward the others (away past our right) and that he fired at them, in column.  Also that he took a long shot, just for the fun, at those moving directly against the 11th Corps.  Finally fell back on Gettysburg.

Was on the skirmish line night after Pickett's Charge and right on that ground.  (only 4 of B rallied at Cemetery Gate July 1st).  Was sent back with another to announce to headquarters (Meade) that the rebs appeared from the noise to be removing fence near the front of the pickets.  Gathered some canteens as they went.  Filled them, and as they came back, helped the wounded rebs, with water, making them comfortable, etc.  Helped one attend to a call of nature -- not able himself.

*There are several men named Pierce, in the roster of the regiment,and, they are in several different companies too.  Since Sam did not specify, a guess must be made to the soldier's identity.   The reference to Company B, suggests the soldier is William H. H. Pierce, a recruit of 1862, who served with the regiment until muster out in August, 1864.  W. H. H. Pierce settled in Chicago after the war, and remained a close friend of David Sloss, another post-war Chicago resident.  David carried the State Colors at Gettysburg.

Picket Duty on the Battlefield at Night
By Lieutenant Edward Rollins

Lieutenant Edward Fay Rollins' reminiscence is from the regimental history, "Three Years in the Army."

About sunset a detail of fifty men from the Thirteenth were sent out in front to establish a skirmish line in connection with the troops on the right and left, at a point just beyond the Emmitsburg pike, about midway of the plain between the armies, on the ground over which Pickett made his charge.

Illustration by graves, of wounded men

I, with other officers, was detailed to take fifty men of my regiment and establish a skirmish line in connection with the troops on our right and left, at a rail fence beyond the Emmitsburg pike, and about midway of the plain, over which Pickett’s charge had taken place.  As this line made its way to its destination through the trampled and unmown grass, we often stumbled over dead bodies, and were exhorted by the wounded who had life enough to peak, “For God’s sake don’t step on us!” or to give them a drink of water, or to turn them over, or other like entreaties.  Though strict orders had been given to pay no attention to the wounded, with an explanation that the stretcher-bearers would follow the skirmish line, still flesh and blood could not refuse these offices, even to our late enemies.  

The thought came to me of my own comrades, wounded two days before on Seminary Ridge, who must have asked the same favors of them.  I also had a feeling of admiration for these brave men who had composed that charging party of  17,000 men marching close en masse,  and who closed up the gaps as our solid shot and shell ploughed through their ranks, and who still came on so magnificently that they almost deserved success, even in a bad cause.  Arriving at the rail fence, we saw beyond a pile of dead and wounded, struck as they exposed themselves clambering over, while on the charge.  A scattering fire had annoyed us as we advanced, but no determined effort was made to stop us.

From the rebel line beyond, in the darkness we could hear the sound of chopping and driving stakes in the ground; and this was intermingled with groans and shrieks of the wounded and dying, all around us. Indeed, neither time nor inclination will allow me to describe the horrors of that night.  At 11 o’clock a detail of surgeons and assistants from our line came out, giving the wounded, so far as I could learn, not much but morphine.  Edwin Forbes Illustration, "After the Battle"One wounded man would pass the word along to another, who begged for it to drown his sufferings. I arranged with an officer of the Ninety-fourth New York to call him when it was time for his relief to go on, and he showed me where he was going to lie down with one of his men on the same “relief,” he wishing to get a little sleep.  When the time came for me to call him I groped around and found him.  On awakening he began to shake his blanket companion and told him to get up, it was time for their “relief” to go on duty.  He could not start him, and greatly surprised were both of us when we discovered that he had made a mistake in the darkness, and had been sharing his blanket and sleeping beside the body of a dead rebel.

  This whole night a wounded and probably insane rebel, in the rear of the skirmish line, walked back and forth like a sentinel, singing religious hymns, in a clear, calm voice, and paid no attention to requests to keep quiet.  We rejoined the regiment at daylight.

Next Page:  "13th Mass Casualties"

Return to Top of PageContinue Reading

Page Updated September 6, 2016.

13th logo
"It was always gratifying to the rank and file to see a ray of intelligence exhibited, even in a general officer.”