Reports of Brig. Gen. James Barnes,
U. S. Army, commanding First Division
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
Aldie, Va., June 22, 1863.
Col. A. J. ALEXANDER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Cavalry Corps.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this division while under the command of Brigadier-General Pleasonton, commanding the Cavalry Corps, on the 21st and 22d instant:
In conformity with instructions from Major-General Meade, commanding this corps, I reported for duty with the Cavalry Corps on the morning of the 21st, at 3 o'clock, and, receiving instructions from General Pleasonton, proceeded with the three brigades composing this division, under the command of Colonels Tilton, Sweitzer, and Vincent, of the First, Second, and Third Brigades, with the Third Massachusetts Battery (c), under the command of Lieutenant Walcott, to Middleburg.
At that point the Third Brigade, Colonel Vincent commanding, was detached to accompany the division of cavalry under Brigadier-General Gregg, to meet the enemy, strongly posted a short distance toward Upperville, and posted the First and Second Brigades, with the battery, at Middleburg.
For the operations of the Third Brigade, in conjunction with the division under General Gregg, I beg leave to submit the report of Colonel Vincent, which accompanies this report.
The First Brigade, Colonel Tilton, of the Twenty-second Massachusetts, commanding, was dispatched to the relief of the Third Brigade in the afternoon of the 21st, which had been continually engaged with the enemy during the day. This brigade followed the retiring enemy as far as Upperville, when they received orders to bivouac.
The Second Brigade, Colonel Sweitzer, of the Sixty-second Pennsylvania Volunteers, commanding, remained at Middleburg. Strong pickets were thrown out toward Hopewell, on the south, and toward the Snicker's Gap road, on the north, and Lieutenant Walcott, with his battery, took advantageous positions to prevent any successful attack which the enemy might contemplate during the absence of the remaining portion of the command in the direction of Ashby's Gap. The pickets of the enemy appeared on the Hopewell road, but made no attempt to approach to any point nearer than about 2 miles from the village.
In this position we remained until the following day, when, by direction of General Pleasonton, the command prepared to return to Aldie. The First and Third Brigades, returning, moved in good order, followed by the Second Brigade and the battery. The enemy, following carefully the force as it was withdrawn, endeavored to annoy us, but, under the direction of General Gregg, the command halted, and was drawn up to await further orders from General Pleasonton. These were soon received, and the First and Third Brigades resumed the march toward Aldie, while the Second Brigade with the battery were directed to remain to resist any attempt which the enemy might make to disturb the force as it was gradually withdrawn. With the exception of a few random shots, no important effort was made by them.
The two brigades returned in order to their camp at Aldie on the same evening, and, on the following morning, the Second Brigade resumed its former position in the division. Under orders from General Pleasonton, I reported the return of the division to Major-General Meade, commanding the Fifth Corps, the whole command having successfully accomplished the object which had been designated by General Pleasonton upon first reporting to him for orders.
It gives me pleasure to bear testimony to the zeal displayed by the command in their co-operation with the Cavalry Corps, and I mention with pleasure the names of the officers composing my staff in their prompt and ready discharge of the duties confided to them. Captain Mervine, my assistant adjutant-general; Major [William H.] Lamont and Lieutenant Ross, aides-de-camp; Captain [Percy B.] Spear, acting aide-de-camp, and Captain [George A.] Batchelder, ordnance officer, all discharged their duties in a manner highly creditable to them.
With great respect, I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
Beverly Ford, Va., August 24, 1863.
Lieut. Col. FRED. T. LOCKE,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Fifth Corps.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the First Division of the Fifth Corps from June 28 to July 9, including the battle of Gettysburg and the movements of the command during the few days previous and subsequent thereto, in conformity with instructions from headquarters:
On June 28, after a succession of rapid marches from Virginia, the division encamped about 2 miles to the south of Frederick City, Md. On the 29th, the command of the Army of the Potomac having devolved upon Major-General Meade, until then commanding the Fifth Corps, Major-General Sykes, who had succeeded to the command of the corps, directed an early movement forward. The First Division, under my command, moved accordingly through Frederick City toward the town of Liberty, and, passing beyond that place about 2 miles, bivouacked for the night.
On the 30th, at 4 a.m., the march was resumed and continued toward Union Mills, approaching the place with proper precautions, on account of a heavy body of cavalry of the enemy, some 8,000 or 10,000 in number, as reported, then occupying it. Upon reaching the town, we found that this cavalry force had left it some three or four hours before our arrival, and had gone in the direction of Hanover.
The division halted here for the night, and on the following morning, July 1, left at an early hour for Hanover, where it arrived at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Orders were here received to halt for the night, but scarcely had arms been stacked when news was received that an engagement had that day taken place between the enemy and a portion of the army at Gettysburg. Orders were received for an immediate resumption of the march toward Gettysburg, and, notwithstanding a long march had already been accomplished, the orders were received by the troops with the utmost enthusiasm. The division was soon on the road, and continued its march toward Gettysburg, halting after midnight about 2 miles from that place. Resuming its march, after a brief rest of two or three hours, the division reached Gettysburg at about 7 o'clock in the morning of July 2.
The Eighteenth Massachusetts, Colonel Hayes commanding, was immediately detached to support a battery upon the left of the road, and the remaining portion of the command was placed in position, by direction of General Sykes, on the right of the Second Division of the corps, south of and facing toward the village.
The Ninth Massachusetts, Colonel Guiney commanding, was here detailed from the Second Brigade as skirmishers, and deployed at some distance in front of the line.
The command here rested for further instructions. After the lapse of an hour or more, the division received orders to change its position, moving some distance to the rear and toward the left of this first line, but it remained in this new position for a short period only. Orders were again received to move still farther to the left, and, subsequently crossing the creek over a small bridge, we were held in reserve in an orchard on the left of the road, with instructions to wait there for further orders. Here the Eighteenth Massachusetts, detached as above stated early in the morning, rejoined the command, and was posted on the opposite side of the road. These various movements occupied the time until long after midday. The sound of the enemy's artillery still indicated a movement toward the left of the point where we were then halted.
Between 4 and 5 o'clock in the afternoon, orders were received from General Sykes to move toward the left and to the front. The column was immediately formed, and moved rapidly up by the Taneytown road to the ground assigned to the division. General Sykes and myself, preceding the advance of the column upon the ground upon which it was to take position, reconnoitered the field, and the position to be held by the command was determined upon by him.
Soon after, the head of the column entered upon the field. At the same time General Warren, of the staff of General Meade, came up, riding rapidly from the left, and, pointing out the position of the elevation known as the Round Top, not far off and toward the left, urged the importance of assistance in that direction. General Sykes yielded to his urgent request, and I immediately directed Colonel Vincent, commanding the Third Brigade, to proceed to that point with his brigade. Colonel Vincent moved with great promptness to the post assigned to him. The brigade consisted of the Sixteenth Michigan, the Forty-fourth New York, the Eighty-third Pennsylvania, and the Twentieth Maine Regiments.
The Second Brigade, commanded by Colonel Sweitzer, arrived next upon the ground. This brigade consisted of the Fourth Michigan, the Sixty-second Pennsylvania, the Ninth Massachusetts, and the Thirty-second Massachusetts. The Ninth Massachusetts, however, was absent, being upon the special duty for which it had been detailed in the morning. Upon receiving his instructions, Colonel Sweitzer placed his command promptly in position.
The First Brigade, under the command of Colonel Tilton, arrived next. This brigade was composed of the Eighteenth Massachusetts, the Twenty-second Massachusetts, the One hundred and eighteenth Pennsylvania, and the First Michigan Regiments. The position assigned to it was on the right of the ground occupied by the Second Brigade, and was immediately placed by Colonel Tilton in conformity with the instructions given to him.
The division thus in position constituted the right of the Fifth Corps, and its place in line was on the left of the ground assigned to the Third Corps. The line was on the edge of a thick wood, the ground to the front being cleared of timber, but interspersed with rocks and some straggling trees. As the two brigades entered the wood, they passed over a line of troops, understood to be a portion of a brigade of the Third Corps; they were lying down upon the ground.
Upon the right of our position an open space, apparently unprotected, extended to some distance. Upon calling the attention of General Sykes to it, he remarked, referring to the part of the Third Corps over which we had passed and then lying down in our rear, that those troops were to be removed. The remaining portion of the Third Corps was understood to be at some distance to the right, and much in advance of what seemed to be their natural and true position. This unguarded space was watched with great anxiety. There was little time, however, for deliberation. General Sykes, called by his duty to the left of the line, went toward that portion of his command. The attack of the enemy commenced almost immediately along my front. It was very severe, but was gallantly withstood.
After some time, during which the firing was very heavy, the enemy showed himself in great force upon our right flank. He had penetrated through the unguarded space there, and commenced pouring in a destructive fire from the advantageous position he had gained, and without changing my front there were no means of checking his advance toward my rear. Colonel Tilton, commanding the First Brigade, which was on the right, was immediately directed to change his front to the right, and the order was at once executed, deliberately, yet promptly, and in good order. Colonel Sweitzer, commanding the Second Brigade, on the left of the First, was immediately notified of this change upon his right, and directed to fall back in good order, and to take up a new position a short distance in his rear, for the purpose of co-operating in opposing this heavy attack upon the flank. This brigade, consisting at that time of only three regiments, numbering in all, officers and men, 1,010, was placed promptly and in good order as directed. The First Brigade numbered in all, officers and men, 654.
Affairs being in this position, General Caldwell, commanding a brigade of the Second Corps, came up in great haste, and stated to me that his brigade, then in the woods a short distance to the left, was driving the enemy in his front, and urgently requested assistance. I immediately directed Colonel Sweitzer to go to his relief. He moved his brigade forward in line, to the front and left, his men giving cheers as they advanced across an open field to the edge of the wood; but the progress of the enemy upon our flank still continued, and this brigade was compelled again to change its front to repel his advance, and soon found itself in close conflict with him. The Fourth Michigan and the Sixty-second Pennsylvania were in actual contact with him. Colonel Jeffords, commanding the Fourth Michigan, was thrust through with a bayonet while gallantly attempting to rescue his colors from the grasp of the enemy.
Finding himself unable to compete with numbers far superior to his own, and that the enemy was gaining ground to his rear, Colonel Sweitzer directed his command to retire slowly, but orderly, halting and firing as they retired, and took position on elevated ground a short distance to his rear, and succeeded in preventing the enemy from making any further progress in that direction.
In the meantime the movements of the First Brigade, under similar circumstances, corresponded with those of the Second. This brigade, small in numbers, fired, and retired in good order, and succeeded in reaching the ground on the opposite side of the open field toward the left, and there halted. The darkness put an end to the conflict, and the enemy was foiled in his effort to get in the rear of the command. The Ninth Massachusetts shortly afterward rejoined the Second Brigade, having been relieved from the duty upon which it had been detailed early in the morning. In this position the two brigades remained during the night.
On the following day, the First Brigade was directed to relieve the Third Brigade at Little Round Top, where it also had succeeded in maintaining the position assigned to it, as will appear in the sequel.
I cannot speak in terms too commendatory of the bearing of the officers and men of these two brigades during the progress of this conflict. Skillfully directed by the two brigade commanders, they obeyed with cool intrepidity every order issued to them, under the most trying circumstances, and long resisted superior numbers with firmness. Partly surrounded by the enemy, they succeeded in preventing the left of the line from being taken in reverse, resisting an attack not exceeded, I am sure, in violence in any contest hitherto occurring. The exposure of their flank, arising from whatever cause, placed them in a most dangerous position, and their heroic conduct alone saved the command at least, if not the entire left of the army, from disaster. The statement of the casualties of the contest is sufficient evidence of their gallant resistance, and it is alike due to those who have survived and to the memory of the gallant dead that this record should be made of their valor and devotion.
The Third Brigade, as above related, was detached from the division upon its arrival upon the ground, and was consequently removed from my immediate oversight. The record of its service, however, drawn principally from the report of its commander, belongs to this record of the service of the division.
Colonel Vincent, commanding the brigade, upon being detached, as above mentioned, proceeded promptly to the position assigned him. It was upon an elevated and rocky hill known as the Little Round Top. It was situated at some distance to our left, and near the extreme left of the line of battle. Its defense was of the utmost importance. When the brigade was placed in position, the Twentieth Maine occupied the left of the line, the Sixteenth Michigan the right, the Eighty-third Pennsylvania and the Forty-fourth New York the center. The Third Division of the Fifth Corps was posted on the right of the brigade. The enemy had concentrated a heavy force in front of the line, and began a fierce attack immediately after the troops were in position. Repeated charges were made upon the center of the brigade, but the line was unbroken. A vigorous attack upon the right caused a temporary wavering there, but the One hundred and fortieth New York coming promptly to its support, it was re-established at once.
It was at this time that Colonel Vincent, commanding the brigade, while rallying this part of his command, fell, mortally wounded. He was a gallant officer, beloved and respected by his command and by all who knew him. His death is a serious loss to the army and the country.
Upon the removal of Colonel Vincent from the field, the command of the brigade devolved upon Colonel Rice, of the Forty-fourth New York Volunteers. The enemy, as stated, having in yam attempted to break the right of the brigade, renewed his attack upon the center and left. The Twentieth Maine, Colonel Chamberlain commanding, was posted on the left. It consisted of 380 men and officers. While the enemy in its front was making a fierce attack, a brigade was observed in the rear of their lines moving by its right flank and passing through a slight ravine on our left, with the evident purpose of gaining a position on the left flank of this regiment.
Colonel Chamberlain at once threw back his left wing, and extended his right wing by intervals toward the left, in order to avoid diminishing the extent of his front. The brigade of the enemy alluded to reaching a proper position, attacked him furiously on the left flank, advancing within 10 paces and rapidly firing. They were first checked and then repulsed by the left wing of the regiment, thrown back for that purpose.
A second, third, and fourth time the enemy renewed their attempt to break this line, and each time were they successfully repelled by that handful of men. Four times that little interval of 10 paces was the scene of a desperate conflict. The ground was strewed with dead and wounded men of both sides, promiscuously mingled. Their ammunition was exhausted; they replenished it from the cartridge-boxes of the men lying around them, whether friends or foes, but even this resource soon failed them; the enemy in greatly superior numbers pressed hard; men and officers began to look to the rear for safety, but the gallant commander of the regiment ordered the bayonets to be fixed, and, at the command "Forward," that wearied and worn body of men rushed onward with a shout. The enemy fell back. Pressing on, and wheeling to the right in open intervals, the left wing came again in line with the right wing, and then the whole regiment, deployed at intervals of 5 paces, followed up the advantage they had gained. The enemy threw down their arms and surrendered in large numbers; the others fled rapidly from the contest; 368 prisoners, including 1 colonel, 1 lieutenant-colonel, and a dozen other officers of lesser rank were sent to the rear; 50 of their dead lay upon the field, and large numbers of their wounded; 30 of this gallant regiment were killed, over 100 were wounded, but not one was taken a prisoner, and none were missing.
It was now nearly dark. A portion of the enemy appeared to have occupied the summit of the rocky hill to the left. The men of this brave regiment, exhausted by their labors, had thrown themselves upon the ground, and many of them sunk at once in sleep. Colonel Rice, now in command of the brigade, directed Colonel Chamberlain to drive the enemy from this height. The order was at once given. Roused again to action, and advancing with fixed bayonets and without firing, lest the smallness of their numbers might be suspected, they rushed up the hill.
Twenty-five more prisoners, including some staff officers, were added to the number previously taken, with a loss to the regiment of 1 officer mortally wounded and 1 man taken prisoner by the enemy. It was ascertained that these troops occupying the hill had been sent from Hood's division, which was then massed a few hundred yards distant, and that their object was to reconnoiter the position as a preliminary to taking possession of the height.
In addition to the prisoners above mentioned as taken by this regiment, 300 stand of arms were also captured by them. It is due to this regiment and to its commander that their service should be thus recorded in some detail.
Upon receiving a re-enforcement of five regiments of the Third Division, under command of Colonel Fisher, Colonel Rice detached two of them to the aid of Colonel Chamberlain, in order to maintain the position he had gained, and he was thus enabled to hold it, and the enemy, having been repelled upon every point of his attack, and night coming on, withdrew from the conflict.
Colonel Rice directed the Forty-fourth New York and the Eighty-third Pennsylvania to move to the front and gather up the wounded, who, including those of the enemy who had been left upon the field, were carefully brought in. The total results of the service of this brigade are stated by Colonel Rice to be 500 prisoners captured, including 2 colonels and 15 other commissioned officers, and 1,000 stand of arms. The brigade numbered about 1,000 men.
The following day was principally occupied in burying the dead. The Third Brigade was relieved by the First Brigade, and held the position occupied by it.
It would be a grateful task to relate in detail the services of many who deserve a more particular mention, but the limits of this report will not permit. No one failed in his duty.
A tribute is due to the memory of Colonel Vincent, who fell, mortally wounded, early in the engagement. He lingered a few days after the engagement. His promotion as a brigadier-general was sent to him at once as an appreciation of his services by the Government, but it reached him too late for his own recognition. He expired soon after its receipt.
A special mention should also be made of Colonel Jeffords, of the Fourth Michigan Volunteers, who sealed his devotion to his country with his blood, while contending hand to hand with overpowering numbers, in endeavoring to rescue the colors of his regiment from the hands of the enemy.
To Colonels Tilton, Sweitzer, and Rice, the commanders of brigades, great credit is due for the successful and skillful management of their commands under the very trying circumstances in which they were placed. Colonel Chamberlain, of the Twentieth Maine Volunteers, whose service I have endeavored briefly to describe, deserves especial mention.
To the officers of my staff I am indebted for efficient and prompt attention to their arduous duties, namely: Captain [Catharinus B.] Mervine, assistant adjutant-general; Lieuts. [Charles H.] Ross and [T. Corwin] Case, aides; Captain [George M.] Barnard, assistant inspector-general of the division, and Dr. [Charles] Shippen, the medical director of the division.
The command remained in the same position the two following days.
Being disabled for further actual command of the division, the opportune arrival of General Griffin enabled me to relinquish it to him, and the division moved toward Middletown, where it arrived on July 8.
A tabular and a nominal return of casualties have been duly forwarded. The total strength of the division upon entering the engagement was, in the three brigades, 2,664, and the aggregate of killed, wounded, and missing, 897.
Very respectfully, I have the honor to be, &c.,
Brigadier-General, U.S. Volunteers, Commanding.
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