Report of Brig. Gen. William N. Pendleton, C. S. Army, Chief of Artillery
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
HDQRS. ARTILLERY CORPS, ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
September 12, 1863.
General R. E. LEE,
GENERAL: A report of artillery operations during the late campaign I have now the honor to submit. It has been somewhat retarded by delays on the part of battalion commanders.
The severe contests near Fredericksburg early in May having resulted disastrously to the enemy, opportunity was allowed us of repairing losses and getting ready for subsequent operations. To this end my energies were directed throughout the month of May. What has been the general reserve was distributed, and the three corps, into which the army was now divided, had assigned to each five artillery battalions, averaging four four-gun batteries, each battalion being satisfactorily equipped and well commanded, and the group for each corps being under charge of a suitable chief.
On June 5, when preparations were in progress for a removal of general headquarters on the new campaign, the First and Second Corps having already marched toward Culpeper, the enemy appeared in some force opposite Fredericksburg, and in the afternoon opened a heavy artillery fire near the mouth of Deep Run, under cover of which they established, as some months before, a pontoon bridge, and pushed across a body of infantry. That evening and the following morning were employed in adjusting the artillery and other troops of the Third Corps left on the Fredericksburg Heights for this very contingency. But indications being satisfactory that the movement was only a feint, the commanding general soon after midday moved forward. According to instructions, my own course was also directed toward Culpeper, where, after a bivouac for the night, we arrived early on Sunday morning, June 7.
On the afternoon of June 13, the Second Corps, Lieutenant-General Ewell commanding, which had a day or two before marched from Culpeper, approached Winchester, and Lieutenant-Colonel [R. S.] Andrews' artillery battalion operated with effect in driving back the enemy's advance on the Front Royal road. In the attack upon the enemy's fortifications next day, resulting in his hasty retreat and the capture of his guns and stores, most valuable service was rendered by the artillery under the immediate command of Lieutenant-Colonel [H. P.]Jones, and the general charge of the acting chief of artillery for the corps, Col. J. T. Brown. The works and their armament were alike formidable, and that they were thus rendered untenable by the enemy evinces at once the skill with which our batteries were disposed and the resolution with which they were served. The death of Captain [C.] Thompson, of the Louisiana Guard Artillery, a most gallant and esteemed officer, was part of the price of this victory.
Retreating toward Charlestown, the enemy, near Jordan Springs, on the morning of the 15th, encountered, with Johnson's division, which had marched to intercept him, Lieutenant-Colonel Andrews' artillery battalion. The sharp action ensuing, which resulted in the rout of the enemy and capture of most of his men, was especially remarkable for the unexampled steadiness with which artillery fought infantry skirmishers at close quarters. Lieutenant [Charles S.]Contee, who commanded a section, in a contest of this kind distinguished himself by cool and persistent daring, and several noncommissioned officers are mentioned by their commanders as evincing like gallantry. Lieutenant-Colonel Andrews and Lieutenant Contee were in this affair painfully, though not very dangerously, wounded. While these events were transpiring at and near Winchester, General Rodes' division, accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Carter's artillery battalion, having marched by Berryville, approached Martinsburg, where was an additional force of the enemy. Under the well-directed fire of Colonel Carter's batteries, that force speedily abandoned the town, leaving, in addition to twenty-three captured in Winchester, five superior field guns.
In these several engagements our batteries lost 6 men killed and 15 wounded.
The Second Corps, in its subsequent advance across the Potomac into Maryland and Pennsylvania, was attended by its five battalions, Lieutenant-Colonel Carter's, Lieutenant-Colonel Andrews', Lieuten-ant-Colonel Jones', Colonel Brown's, and Lieutenant-Colonel [William] Nelson's, the three former marching with Rodes', Johnson's, and Early's divisions, the two latter constituting a corps reserve. Simultaneously with these movements of the Second Corps, the First and Third were put in motion, each accompanied by its own artillery force.
The First Corps, Lieutenant-General Longstreet commanding, left Culpeper June 15, attended by Major [M. W.]Henry's, Colonel [H. C.] Cabell's, Major [James] Dearing's, Colonel [E. Porter] Alexander's, and Major [B. F.] Eshleman's artillery battalions, the three former marching with Hood's, McLaws', and Pickett's divisions, and the two latter constituting a corps reserve. As the route of this corps lay along the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge, to guard the several passes of that barrier against incursions of the enemy, its artillery was subjected to serious trial from roads frequently difficult and generally rough, and marches, under extreme heat, more than usually long. Additional labor was also imposed on some of the battalions by the necessity of meeting certain demonstrations of the enemy. Actual contest beyond cavalry skirmishing he declined.
The Third Corps, on June 15, left Fredericksburg en route for Culpeper and the Shenandoah Valley, via Front Roval, accompanied by its artillery battalions, viz: Lieutenant-Colonel [John J.] Garnett's, Major [W. T.] Poague's, and Lieutenant-Colonel [A. S.] Cutts', attending the divisions of Generals Heth, Pender, and Anderson, and Majors [D. G.] McIntosh's and [W. J.] Pegram's battalions as a corps reserve. In this advance, general headquarters being with the First Corps, my own were thereby also chiefly regulated.
On June 16, after a week at Culpeper of such artillery preparation and supervision as were requisite and practicable, I marched toward the Valley, attending near the commanding general, to be ready for such service as might be required.
On the 25th, the army, having sufficiently rested in camp near Millwood and Berryville, crossed the Potomac, the Third Corps at Shepherdstown, the First at Williamsport, the commanding general being with the latter, and my duties lying near him.
On Wednesday, July 1, Chambersburg, Pa., having been reached by easy marches and passed, after a rest of one or two days, and the army being in motion toward Gettysburg, occasional cannon-shots in that direction were heard by myself and others with the main body, as before noon we crossed the mountain. Two divisions of the Third Corps (Heth's and Pender's, the former with Pegram's artillery battalion, the latter with McIntosh's) were in advance on this road; while of the Second Corps, Early's division, attended by Jones' artillery battalion, was approaching from the direction of York, and Rodes' from that of Carlisle, accompanied by Carter's battalion. The advance of the Third Corps had encountered at Gettysburg a force of the enemy, and the firing heard was the beginning of a battle. Its significance, however, was not then fully understood. It might be only a passing skirmish; it might be more serious. After a brief pause near Cashtown, to see how it would prove, the commanding general, finding the cannonade to continue and increase, moved rapidly forward. I did the same, and, at his request, rode near him for instructions. Arriving near the crest of an eminence more than a mile west of the town, dismounting and leaving horses under cover, on foot we took position overlooking the field. It was, perhaps, 2 o'clock, and the battle was raging with considerable violence. The troops of the Second Corps having reached the field some time after the engagement was opened by those of the Third, Carter's and Jones' batteries were at the time of our arrival plied on the left with freshness and vigor upon the batteries and infantry that had been pressing the Third Corps, and, when these turned upon their new assailants, they were handsomely enfiladed by the batteries of Mcintosh and Pegram, posted in front of our lookout on the left and right of the road re counteract this damaging double attack, the enemy made, especially with his artillery, such effort as he could. Observing the course of events, the commanding general suggested whether positions on the right could not be found to enfilade the valley between our position and the town and the enemy's batteries next the town. My services were immediately tendered, and the endeavor made. Where the Fairfield road crosses one range of hills was the farthest to the right admissible, as there was no infantry support near, and a wooded height a few hundred yards beyond seemed occupied by the enemy. Here some guns that had been sent for from McIntosh's battalion were posted, under Capt. M. Johnson; but to advance them and open fire was not deemed proper till some infantry should arrive, the need of which had been promptly reported. They were more or less under fire from the first.
Meanwhile the enemy yielded ground on the left. Our batteries as well as infantry were advanced, and additional troops came up. Garnett's battalion moved to the front, slightly participating in the fight, and then, under cover of a hill near the brick seminary, awaited orders. Poague's battalion also arrived, and moved to Garnett's right into line under cover across the Fairfield road, between Captain Johnson's position and the town.
Having sent members of my staff to reconnoiter the woods on the right, and explore, as well as they might be able, a road observed along a ravine back of those woods, I now pushed forward on the Fairfield road to the ridge adjoining the town, intending to put there Garnett's and other guns which had been previously ordered forward. The position was within range of the hill beyond the town, to which the enemy was retreating, and where he was massing his batteries. General Ramseur coming up from the town, which his command had just occupied, met me at this point, and requested that our batteries might not then open, as they would draw a concentrated fire upon his men, much exposed. Unless as part of a combined assault, I at once saw it would be worse than useless to open fire there. Captain [V.] Maurin, of Garnett's battalion, in command of several batteries, was therefore directed to post his guns, and be ready, but to keep his horses under cover, and not to fire till further orders. Having further examined this ridge, and communicated with Colonel Walker, chief of artillery Third Corps, I returned across the battlefield, and sent to inform the commanding general of the state of facts, especially of the road to the right, believed to be important toward a flank movement against the enemy in his new position. While these operations occurred, Andrews' battalion and the two reserve battalions, Second Corps, came up with Johnson's division on the Cashtown road, and proceeded to join the other troops of their corps on the left, and Colonel Brown, acting chief of artillery for that corps, sent to find, if practicable, an artillery route toward a wooded height commanding the enemy's right. No further attack, however, was made, and night closed upon the scene.
Early on the morning of the 2d, the enemy being now strongly posted on the heights to which he had retired the previous evening, the artillery of the Second Corps occupied positions from the Seminary Hill, around to the left, the gallant Major [J. W.] Latimer, commanding Andrews' battalion, being on the extreme left, and Colonel Brown's battalion, under Captain [W. J.] Dance, on the right, near the seminary. Farther to the right, on the Seminary Ridge, Colonel [R. L.]Walker posted the artillery of the Third Corps, excepting Poague's battalion and a portion of Garnett's, held for a season in reserve. From the farthest occupied point on the right and front, in company with Colonels [A. L.] Long and Walker and Captain [S. R.] Johnston (engineer), soon after sunrise. I surveyed the enemy's position toward some estimate of the ground and the best mode of attack. So far as judgment could be formed from such a view, assault on the enemy's left by our extreme right might succeed, should the mountain there offer no insuperable obstacle. To attack on that side, if practicable, I understood to be the purpose of the commanding general. Returning from this position more to the right and rear, for the sake of tracing more exactly the mode of approach, I proceeded some distance along the ravine road noticed the previous evening, and was made aware of having entered the enemy's lines by meeting two armed dismounted cavalrymen. Apparently surprised, they immediately surrendered, and were disarmed and sent to the rear with two of the three members of my staff present.
Having satisfied myself of the course and character of this road, I returned to an elevated point on the Fairfield road, which furnished a very extensive view, and dispatched messengers to General Longstreet and the commanding general. Between this point and the Emmitsburg road, the enemy's cavalry were seen in considerable force, and, moving up along that road toward the enemy's main position, bodies of infantry and artillery, accompanied by their trains. This front was, after some time, examined by Colonel [William P.] Smith and Captain Johnston (engineers), and about midday General Longstreet arrived and viewed the ground. He desired Colonel [E. P.] Alexander to obtain the best view he then could of the front. I therefore conducted the colonel to the advanced point of observation previously visited. Its approach was now more hazardous, from the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters, so that special caution was necessary in making the desired observation. Just then a sharp contest occurred in the woods to the right and rear of this forward point. Anderson's division, Third Corps, had moved up, and was driving the enemy from these woods. Poague's artillery battalion was soon after sent to co-operate with that division, and also a battery from Lane's battalion. These woods having been thus cleared of the enemy, some view of the ground beyond them, and much farther to the right than had yet been examined, seemed practicable. I therefore rode in that direction, and, when about to enter the woods, met the commanding general, en route himself for a survey of the ground.
There being here still a good deal of sharpshooting, the front had to be examined with caution. General Wilcox, commanding on the right of Anderson's division, had already seen beyond the farther edge of these woods, and, under his guidance, I accompanied Colonel Long to the farm-house at the summit, where the cross-road from Fairfield, &c., emerges. Having noticed the field and the enemy's batteries, &c., I returned to General Longstreet, for the purpose of conducting his column to this point, and supervising, as might be necessary, the disposition of his artillery. He was advancing by the ravine road (as most out of view), time having been already lost in attempting another, which proved objectionable, because exposed to observation. On learning the state of facts ahead, the general halted, and sent back to hasten his artillery. Members of my staff were also dispatched to remedy, as far as practicable, the delay. Cabell's, Alexander's, and Henry's battalions at length arrived, and the whole column moved toward the enemy's left. Colonel Alexander, by General Longstreet's direction, proceeded to explore the ground still farther to the right, and Henry's battalion, accompanying Hood's division, was thrown in that direction. Upon these, as soon as observed, the enemy opened a furious cannonade, the course of which rendered necessary a change in the main artillery column. Cabell's battalion deflected to the right, while Alexander's was mainly parked for a season, somewhat under cover, till it could advance to better purpose. The fire on the cross-road through the woods having, after some time, slackened, I reconnoitered that front again. As before, the enemy was only a few hundred yards off, awaiting attack.
Soon after, at about 4 p.m., the general assault was made. Alexander's battalion moved into position, fronting the peach orchard near the Emmitsburg road, and opened with vigor, as did the battalions to its right. The enemy obstinately resisted, and our batteries suffered severely. Within an hour, however, his guns were silenced and his position was carried. Alexander then ran forward his pieces, which did effectual service in hastening and confining the enemy to his rear position on the mountain. Between his guns in that position and our batteries a cannonade was kept up, more or less briskly, till dark.
While the First Corps thus advanced into position and operated on the right, the batteries of the Third Corps from the advanced position in the center, early taken, occupied the attention of the enemy by a deliberate fire during the whole afternoon. Opportunity was once or twice taken by myself to observe the progress and effect of this fire. It elicited a spirited reply, and was useful in preventing full concentration by the enemy on either flank. On the left, attack was also delayed till the afternoon.
About 4 p.m. the guns of the Second Corps, in position on that front, generally opened with a well-directed and effective fire. This also (although the right seemed to claim my chief attention) was partially observed by me from the central ridge in rear of the Third Corps. Massed as were the enemy's batteries on the Cemetery Hill, fronting our left, and commanding as was their position, our artillery, admirably served as it was, operated there under serious disadvantage and with considerable loss. It still, however, for the most part, maintained its ground, and prepared the way for infantry operations. Here the gallant Major Latimer, so young and yet so exemplary, received the wound which eventuated in his death.
Thus stood affairs at nightfall, the 2d: On the left and in the center, nothing gained; on the right, batteries and lines well advanced, the enemy meanwhile strengthening himself in a position naturally formidable and everywhere difficult of approach.
By direction of the commanding general, the artillery along our entire line was to be prepared for opening, as early as possible on the morning of the 3d, a concentrated and destructive fire, consequent upon which a general advance was to be made. The right, especially, was, if practicable, to sweep the enemy from his stronghold on that flank. Visiting the lines at a very early hour toward securing readiness for this great attempt, I found much (by Colonel Alexander's energy) already accomplished on the right. Henry's battalion held about its original position on the flank. Alexander's was next, in front of the peach orchard. Then came the Washington Artillery Battalion, under Major Eshleman, and Dearing's battalion on his left, these two having arrived since dusk of the day before; and beyond Dearing, Cabell's battalion had been arranged, making nearly sixty guns for that wing, all well advanced in a sweeping curve of about a mile. In the posting of these there appeared little room for improvement, so judiciously had they been adjusted. To Colonel Alexander, placed here in charge by General Longstreet, the wishes of the commanding general were repeated. The battalion and battery commanders were also cautioned how to fire so as to waste as little ammunition as possible. To the Third Corps artillery attention was also given. Major Poague's battalion had been advanced to the line of the right wing, and was not far from its left. His guns also were well posted. Proper directions were also given to him and his officers. The other battalions of this corps, a portion of Garnett's, under Major [Charles] Richardson, being in reserve, held their positions of the day before, as did those of the Second Corps, each group having specific instructions from its chief. Care was also given to the convenient posting of ordnance trains, especially for the right, as most distant from the main depot, and due notice given of their position.
From some cause, the expected attack was delayed several hours. Meanwhile the enemy threw against our extreme right a considerable force, which was met with energy, Henry's battalion rendering, in its repulse, efficient service.
At length, about 1 p.m., on the concerted signal, our guns in position, nearly one hundred and fifty, opened fire along the entire line from right to left, salvos by battery being much practiced, as directed, to secure greater deliberation and power. The enemy replied with their full force. So mighty an artillery contest has perhaps never been waged, estimating together the number and character of guns and the duration of the conflict. The average distance between contestants was about 1,400 yards, and the effect was necessarily serious on both sides. With the enemy, there was advantage of elevation and protection from earthworks; but his fire was unavoidably more or less divergent, while ours was convergent. His troops were massed, ours diffused. We, therefore, suffered apparently much less. Great commotion was produced in his ranks, and his batteries were to such extent driven off or silenced as to have insured his defeat but for the extraordinary strength of his position.
Proceeding again to the right, to see about the anticipated advance of the artillery, delayed beyond expectation, I found, among other difficulties, many batteries getting out of or low in ammunition, and the all-important question of supply received my earnest attention. Frequent shell endangering the First Corps ordnance train in the convenient locality I had assigned it, it had been removed farther back. This necessitated longer time for refilling caissons. What was worse, the train itself was very limited, so that its stock was soon exhausted, rendering requisite demand upon the reserve train, farther off. The whole amount was thus being rapidly reduced. With our means, to keep up supply at the rate required for such a conflict proved practically impossible. There had to be, therefore, some relaxation of the protracted fire, and some lack of support for the deferred and attempted advance. But if this and other causes prevented our sweeping the enemy from his position, he was so crippled as to be incapable of any formidable movement. Night closed upon our guns in their advanced position. And had our resources allowed ammunition for the artillery to play another day, the tremendous part it had performed on this his stronghold could scarcely have sufficed to save the enemy from rout and ruin.
In the defensive measures directed for the 4th, my care was given to the whole line. The batteries on the right and left were drawn back and kept ready for emergencies. Two batteries of Garnett's battalion, Third Corps, two of Eshleman's, First Corps, and one of Jones', Second Corps, were detailed to report to General Imboden, at Cashtown, and aid in guarding the main wagon train back to Williamsport. The battalions generally remained in position most of the day. Nothing, however, was attempted by the enemy. That night artillery and infantry all moved to the rear.
After some casualties incident in part to the progress of such a train in an enemy's country, through mountains infested by cavalry detachments, the batteries accompanying General Imboden arrived with the train at Williamsport late on the 5th, and, on the 6th, did excellent service in repelling an attack of the enemy.
On the 7th, the artillery, with the body of the army, encamped near Hagerstown, without material incident since leaving Gettysburg. Men and animals were, however, much fatigued, and the latter greatly worn down by the hard service they had endured with light fare, and by heavy draught in roads rendered deep by continued rain, with numbers reduced by losses in battle.
On the 10th, attack being threatened by the enemy, the artillery, partaking the hopeful expectations of the whole army, earnestly participated in forming an extended and fortified line of battle, whose left rested on heights west of Hagerstown, and right on the Potomac, some miles below Williamsport. In full expectation of a decisive battle here, the army was, by the commanding general, called upon for its utmost efforts, and I was specially directed to see that everything possible was accomplished by the artillery. Accordingly, for three days, during which the enemy was waited for, my best energies were given, with those of others, to the work of arrangement and preparation. The enemy, however, prudently forbore, and, it being undesirable to await him longer, our army was, on the night of the 13th, withdrawn to the south bank of the Potomac. In this movement, necessarily involving much labor, greatly increased difficulty was imposed upon those responsible for artillery operations by the enfeebled condition of horses drawing through roads saturated with rain, and by the swollen state of the river, which confined the whole army, train and all to one route across the pontoon bridge at Falling Waters. Still, the task was cheerfully undertaken, and in the main successfully accomplished. With the exception of a few caissons abandoned by some officers because teams could draw them no longer, and two guns left by those in charge for like reason, the battalions were entirely across by noon of the 14th. After crossing, Carter's guns were placed in position on the hill just below the bridge, and some of Garnett's on that just above. Lane's 20-pounder Parrotts were also posted some distance farther down, and [W. B.] Hurt's Whirworths higher up, all to repel an expected advance of the enemy. A few only of his guns, however, approached, and threw a shell or two, though they took care to keep out of view. A small body of skirmishers, besides, ventured rather nearer, but they were speedily dispersed by some well-directed shots, and cannon were there needed no longer.
In this Pennsylvania expedition our artillery lost:
Command Killed Wounded Missing Total First Corps Officers 2 9 --- 11 Enlisted men 45 215 42 302 Second Corps Officers 2 8 --- 10 Enlisted men 28 94 5 127 Third Corps Officers 1 9 2 12 Enlisted men 16 102 28 146 Total 94 437 77 608
Of the officers lost, Captain [J. C.] Fraser, Cabell's battalion, First Corps, claims the tribute of grateful honor. No soldier of more unflinching nerve and efficient energy has served the Confederacy in its struggle for existence. He fell, severely wounded, at Gettysburg, and has since yielded his life for his country.
Besides the two serviceable guns mentioned as lost from failure of teams near the Potomac, the enemy got three of our disabled pieces, of which two were left on the field as worthless, and one sent to the rear was captured by his cavalry, with a few wagons from the train. We wrested from him, on the battle-field at Gettysburg, three 10-pounder Parrotts, one 3-inch rifle, and three Napoleons, all ready for use against himself.
In the operations thus imperfectly reported, officers and men, almost without exception, evinced in high degree the important virtues of courage, fortitude, and patience. Shrinking from no danger at the call of duty, they accepted with equal fidelity the hardships incident to just forbearance and stern service in an enemy's country. Alternating heat and protracted storms aggravated other trials. The arid hills of Gettysburg afford no springs, and wells are there speedily exhausted. Many, therefore, were the sufferers from thirst in this long midsummer conflict. Subsequently, on the march, scarcely less was endurance taxed by pouring rain day and night. Yet all this, and whatever else occurred, was borne with ready acquiescence and steady resolution.
Where great merit is so prevalent, individual instances can scarcely be distinguished without danger of injustice to others. Certain cases of special heroism are, however, mentioned by several commanders, whose reports present the facts. On all such details, and all the minutiae of operations, more exact information is contained in the several reports of corps chiefs of artillery and battalion commanders, herewith submitted, than can be presented in a general statement.
Regretting that no more could be achieved in the campaign, yet grateful for what has been accomplished, and for the still-increasing strength with which we are enabled to wield this great arm of defense,
I have the honor to be, general, respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. N. PENDLETON,
Brigadier-General, and Chief of Artillery.
RETURN TO BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG CONFEDERATE ORDER OF BATTLE PAGE