Reports of Maj. Gen. David B. Birney,U. S. Army,
Commanding First Division of, and Third Army Corps.
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HDQRS. BIRNEY'S DIVISION, THIRD CORPS, August 7, 1863.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the movements and actions of this division from June 28 to July 3, during which time it was under my command:
On the morning of June 28, the Third Corps, under my command, marched from Middletown, Md., to Frederick, at which place Major-General Sickles reported for duty and relieved me from the command of the corps. I resumed command of this division, and marched to Walkersville, on the road to Taneytown, and bivouacked beyond the town.
On June 30, it remained in bivouac until 3 p.m., and I then received orders to proceed immediately to Emmitsburg. Under orders from Major-General Sickles, the command bivouacked within 1½ miles of the town.
On the morning of July 1, the division took position beyond Emmitsburg, toward Gettysburg, covering the road from Fairfield and Gettysburg.
During the afternoon of the same day, at 2 o'clock, I was ordered by Major-General Sickles to proceed immediately to Gettysburg with my First and Second Brigades and three batteries, reporting to Major-General Howard, then engaged with the enemy. The Third Brigade, Colonel De Trobriand, was left in position at Emmitsburg, covering the road referred to and as a protection to the corps trains.
My command reached Gettysburg at 5.30 p.m., marching with enthusiasm and alacrity over the road, rendered almost impassable by mud and the passage over it of the First and Eleventh Corps through the rain.
On the morning of July 2, about 9 o'clock, the Third Brigade, Colonel De Trobriand, relieved by orders of the commanding general, rejoined the division.
At 7 a.m., under orders from Major-General Sickles, I relieved Geary's division, and formed a line, resting its left on the Sugar Loaf Mountain and the right thrown in a direct line toward the cemetery, connecting on the right with the Second Division of this corps. My picket line was in the Emmitsburg road, with sharpshooters some 300 yards in advance.
At 12 m., believing from the constant fire of the enemy that a movement was being made toward the left, I received permission from Major-General Sickles to send 100 of Berdan's Sharpshooters, with the Third Maine Regiment as a support, and feel the enemy's right. I sent Capt. J. C. Briscoe, of my staff, with the reconnaissance, which was under Colonel Berdan's command. They advanced from the peach orchard out the Millerstown road, and entered the woods in order to flank the enemy. The skirmishers of the enemy were driven in, but three columns of their forces were found marching to our left. The force sent by me was driven back by overwhelming numbers, with the loss of about 60, killed and wounded.
Communicating this important information to Major-General Sickles, I was ordered by that officer to change my front to meet the attack. I did this by advancing my left 500 yards, and swinging around the right so as to rest on the Emmitsburg road at the peach orchard. He also informed me that a division from the Second and one from the Fifth Corps had been ordered to be in readiness to support me.
My line was formed with Ward on the left, resting on the mountain, De Trobriand in the center, and Graham on my right in the peach orchard, with his right on the Emmitsburg road. Smith's battery of rifled guns was placed so as to command the gorge at the base of the Sugar Loaf Mountain; Winslow's battery on the right of Ward's brigade, and a battery from the Artillery Reserve; also Clark's and Ames' batteries to the right, in rear of the peach orchard, supported by Graham's brigade, and the Third Michigan, from the Third Brigade, and the Third Maine, from the Second Brigade. Randolph's, Seeley's, and Turnbull's batteries were placed near the Emmitsburg road, on the front, parallel with it. I immediately sent an aide to Major-General Sykes asking for the division promised to support my left. I now opened (say at 3.30 p.m.) with Clark's and Smith's batteries upon the columns of the enemy moving toward our left, parallel with the Emmitsburg road.
At 4 o'clock the enemy returned the artillery fire on my entire front, and advanced their infantry en masse, covered by a cloud of skirmishers. Major-General Sykes reached my left opportunely, and protected that flank. A portion of his command, under General Barnes, had been placed in rear of the right of De Trobriand's brigade, but during the fight he withdrew his force, and formed some 300 yards farther in the rear.
As the fight was now furious, and my thin line reached from Sugar Loaf Hill to the Emmitsburg road, fully a mile in length, I was obliged to send for more re-enforcements to Major-General Sickles, and Major Tremain, aide-de-camp to the commanding general, soon appeared with a brigade of the Second Corps, which behaved most handsomely, and, leading them forward, it soon restored the center of my line, and we drove the enemy from that point, to fall with re-doubled force on Ward's brigade. My thin lines swayed to and fro during the fight, and my regiments were moved constantly on the double-quick from one part of the line to the other, to re-enforce assailed points.
I cannot estimate too highly the services of the regiments from Burling's brigade, Second Division (the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh New Jersey volunteers and Second New Hampshire). These regiments were sent to me during the contest, and most gallantly did they sustain the glorious reputation won by them in former battles.
Graham's brigade was subjected at the point of the angle of the line on the Emmitsburg road to a fearful artillery fire, enfilading his line, but this brigade, with the assistance of the Third Maine, from the Second Brigade, and the Third Michigan, from the Third Brigade of this division, held the peach orchard until nearly dusk, when, finding the right unsupported, it fell back to the next ridge.
At 6 o'clock I found Major-General Sickles seriously wounded, and, at his request, took command of the troops. I immediately visited Humphreys' division, and, finding that the enemy, advancing through a gap in the line of my division, would take it in reverse, I ordered a change of front. General Humphreys accomplished this promptly under a most effective artillery and musketry fire, and, advancing his division rapidly, recaptured several batteries that the enemy had temporary possession of.
Major-General Hancock reached me about 7.30 o'clock with a brigade of fresh troops, and, at his request, I assigned them a position. My division was relieved from the front line by the Second and Fifth Corps toward dusk.
The annexed tables of casualties show the nature of the engagement and its terrific character. Several of my regiments lost more than 50 per cent. of their number and almost every officer engaged. One regiment, the One hundred and forty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Madill, lost, out of 200 taken into the fight, 149 men and officers killed and wounded.
Accompanying this report I send those of the brigade and regimental commanders, which give in detail the movements of their commands. Every regiment of my command did its whole duty, and officers vied with each other in honorable emulation to repel the masses that were hurled on my small division for three hours.
The batteries were well handled, and I have no report of any guns being lost, as, in retiring, we hauled the disabled pieces from the field.
The First Brigade, composed of Pennsylvania regiments, commanded by Brig. Gen. C. K. Graham, tried with its skeleton ranks to even outdo Chancellorsville. General Graham was wounded and fell into the hands of the enemy, with Lieutenant-Colonel Cavada, of the One hundred and fourteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Major Neeper, of the Fifty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers. The Fifty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Sides; Sixty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, Major Danks; Sixty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Tippin; One hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Craig; One hundred and fourteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Cavada, and the One hundred and forty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Madill, composed this brigade, and have made its reputation equal to any in this army. General Graham showed the same coolness, daring, and endurance under the terrible fire that distinguished him at Chancellorsville.
The Second Brigade, Brigadier-General Ward, held also a post of great honor and importance, and fully sustained its old reputation. The First U.S. Sharpshooters, Colonel Berdan, and Second U.S. Sharpshooters, Major Stoughton; Third Maine, Colonel Lakeman; Fourth Maine, Colonel Walker; Twentieth Indiana, Colonel Wheeler; Ninety-ninth Pennsylvania, Major Moore; One hundred and twenty-fourth New York, Colonel Ellis, and Eighty-sixth New York, Lieutenant-Colonel Higgins, composed this brigade.
Colonel Walker, who had so distinguished himself on the Peninsula and at Manassas, Chantilly, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, was serious? wounded; and those gallant officers, Colonels Ellis and Wheeler, fell, dead, with their crowns to the foe, at the head of their regiments. I am indebted to Brigadier-General Ward for his cordial co-operation.
The Third Brigade, Colonel De Trobriand commanding, held the center of my line. The Fortieth New York, Col. T. W. Egan; Third Michigan, Colonel Pierce; Fifth Michigan, Lieutenant-Colonel Pulford; Seventeenth Maine, Lieutenant-Colonel Merrill; and One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania, Lieut. Col. D. M. Jones, composed this brigade.
Colonel De Trobriand deserves my heartiest thanks for his skillful disposition of his command by gallantly holding his advanced position until relieved by other troops. This officer is one of the oldest in commission as colonel in the volunteer service; has been distinguished in nearly every engagement of the Army of the Potomac, and certainly deserves the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers, to which he has been recommended.
The Fortieth Regiment New York Volunteers, Colonel Egan, was sent by me, under charge of Captain Briscoe, aide-de-camp, to strengthen General Ward's line, and, led by its gallant, dashing colonel, charged the enemy and drove him back from his advanced point, and poured the most terrific fire into his ranks. This regiment is composed of the old Fortieth, and gallant men from the Eighty-seventh, One hundred and first, Thirty-eighth, and Fifty-fifth New York consolidated with it, making a glorious unit.
The Seventeenth Maine Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Merrill, was driven back from its position by overwhelming force, but, responding to my personal appeal, again charged the enemy across the small wheat-field, and retook their position. This regiment behaved most gallantly, and evinced a high state of discipline. Their enthusiasm was cheering, and the assistance rendered by its charge most important.
I have already mentioned the valuable aid rendered to me by the command of Colonel Burling, commanding the Third Brigade of the Second Division. This officer and his gallant old regiments never did better service at a better time.
I annex a map, showing the position of my troops and the batteries supported by us.
In a special report to be made under paragraph 743, Revised Regulations, I will mention those officers and soldiers deserving special mention.
Colonel Berdan, of the Sharpshooters, and Captain Briscoe, of my staff, deserve mention for their services in leading the reconnaissance before the battle, and for the valuable information derived from it.
The two regiments of sharpshooters, under Colonel Berdan and Major Stoughton, were of the most essential service in covering my front with a cloud of sharpshooters, and pouring a constant and galling fire into the enemy's line of skirmishers.
All of the members of my staff were efficient and ready with their services in the field.
During July 3, this division, under command of General Ward, was held in reserve, and during the heavy artillery fire of that day was brought up under it to support General Newton's line. The enemy were, however, repulsed without its assistance.
Annexed is a list of casualties and map alluded to in my report.
I am, your obedient servant,
D. B. BIRNEY,
Major-General, U.S. Vols., Comdg. Division.
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