Reports of Col. Chapman Biddle,
One hundred and twenty-first Pennsylvania Infantry,
commanding regiment and First Brigade
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., THIRD DIV., FIRST ARMY CORPS,
In the Field, near Gettysburg, Pa., July 2, 1863.
Lieut. W. L. WILSON,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., Third Div., First Army Corps.
LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to submit, for the information of the general commanding the division, the following sketch of the operations of the brigade in the action of Wednesday, the 1st instant, near Gettysburg, Pa.:
Early in the morning of the 1st, I was directed to move with the brigade and a battery of four pieces of artillery about 1½ miles in advance of the other divisions of the corps toward Gettysburg, where it was supposed the enemy were in considerable force. The route taken by the brigade brought us, about 11 a.m., to within 1 mile of the town, in a westerly direction from it. The heavy firing then heard indicated that a portion of our forces were engaged with the enemy. The brigade was accordingly pushed forward and formed in line as soon as possible on the extreme left, in a field one-third of a mile in front of the seminary and facing west. The battery was also placed in position, and its fire directed toward the northwest, on the left of a piece of woods in which the First Division of the corps was then engaged with the enemy. In front of our line, and at the distance of three-quarters of a mile or more, were woods running nearly parallel with it, and between these woods and our line and toward our left were a brick house and a large stone barn. The barn affording cover to the enemy's sharpshooters, who were then skirmishing in front of us, a company of skirmishers was sent from the Twentieth New York Regiment for the purpose of protecting the battery. The position of the brigade was varied two or three times in order to shelter the men from the heavy artillery fire of the enemy, which at one time enfiladed them from the north. During the morning, rebel infantry were observed on the edge of the woods first referred to, and between 2 and 3 p.m. a large body of them, amounting to a division or more, advanced in two lines toward us. Of the four small regiments constituting the brigade, one (One hundred and fifty-first) had been previously detached to support a portion of the corps to our right and rear. The remaining three were drawn up in the following order: The One hundred and forty-second on the right, Twentieth New York in the center, and the One hundred and twenty-first on the left, the battery occupying a space between the One hundred and forty-second and the Twentieth. Notwithstanding the great disparity of the contending forces, and the left of our line being outflanked by at least one and probably two regiments, and the enemy's fire, direct and oblique, being very severe, the men of the brigade continued to hold their position for some time, until, being without any support, they were compelled about 4 p.m. to retire to a cover on the edge of the town, immediately in front of the seminary. Here they remained, doing good service, checking the farther advance of the enemy, till the batteries and many of the troops in the town had withdrawn in the direction of Belleview Cemetery, when they retired to that point.
The total number of officers and men who went into the action was 1,287; out of this, 440 were either killed or wounded, and 457 are missing, leaving as the present effective force only 390 officers and men.
As during the greater part of the time the general witnessed the behavior of the troops, it might seem scarcely necessary to make any reference to it, but I would be doing injustice to the officers and men were I not to say that their gallant conduct was even more than could have been expected from men under the trying circumstances of their situation, and in this opinion I think he will heartily concur. I respectfully refer to the list (herewith sent) of those who are reported by their regimental commanders as having particularly distinguished themselves.
It gives me pleasure to make mention of the excellent conduct of Colonel Gates, of the Twentieth New York; Lieutenant-Colonel McCalmont, of the One hundred and forty-second Pennsylvania Volunteers, and of Major Biddle, commanding the One hundred and twenty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers. I desire also to call attention to the valuable services rendered me by Captain Warren (One hundred and forty-second Pennsylvania Volunteers), acting brigade inspector, and Lieut. T. M. Hall (One hundred and twenty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers), acting assistant adjutant-general, during the action.
I regret to add that Lieutenant-Colonel McFarland (One hundred and fifty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers)was badly wounded while faithfully discharging his duties. The death of Colonel Cummins, of the One hundred and forty-second [Pennsylvania], a brave and efficient officer, has occasioned feelings of deep regret throughout the command.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel 121st Pennsylvania Volunteers, Comdg. Brigade.
HEADQUARTERS 121ST PENNSYLVANIA VOL. REGT.,
Near Gettysburg, Pa., July 4, 1863.
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to report that the command of the First Brigade, which had devolved upon me on the night of June 30 and during July 1, was resumed on the 2d instant by General Rowley. The report of the operations of the brigade on the first day's fight has already been furnished, including that of the One hundred and twenty-first Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers. I have now to add a few words in reference to the part taken by the regiment on the 2d and 3d instant.
On the morning of the 2d, the regiment was moved into a field to the south of and near the cemetery, and placed under cover of a stone wall by the roadside, where it remained during the forenoon. Toward 12 m. it was exposed to a severe shelling, which reached it from both the front and the rear during a sharp attack made by the enemy on our extreme right. The peculiar shape of the general line of battle, resembling somewhat a flattened horseshoe, will account for this effect. In the afternoon the fire slackened, when the regiment was moved behind a wall on the other side of the road, in which position its defenses were reached by the enemy's musketry. The attack on this part of our line ceased toward evening, when the regiment changed its position to a field in front, and subsequently to the road, where the night was passed.
On the morning of the 3d, the regiment was moved to the left, to a field nearly opposite to our left center, where it remained during the morning, exposed somewhat to the enemy's fire. Toward 1 p.m. a violent cannonading from a very large number of pieces of artillery was concentrated on our position, which continued for upward of two hours and a half without intermission, destroying much of the breastwork sheltering the men, and wounding 3 of them. During the hottest part of this fire the regiment was moved in good order to an adjoining field to the left, and placed behind a breastwork of rails near the crest of a hill, where it remained throughout the attack on the center. This attack, of a most determined character, was finally and successfully repulsed toward sundown by the troops in the first line, supported by our artillery. The steadiness of the men during the fury of the unparalleled artillery fire of the enemy cannot be too highly commended, and to it in some measure may be attributed the brilliant results of this day's operations.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel One hundred and twenty-first Pennsylvania Vols.
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