Reports of Col. William R. Brewster,
Seventy-third New York Infantry, commanding Second Brigade
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HEADQUARTERS EXCELSIOR (SECOND) BRIGADE,
August 15, 1863.
Capt. CARSWELL McCLELLAN,
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this brigade from the date of leaving Falmouth to July 8, when Major-General Humphreys left the division:
We left Falmouth on June 12, and marched to Hartwood Church.
June 13.--Marched to Rappahannock Station.
June 14.--At 2 a.m. I received orders to go with four regiments to Kelly's Ford and relieve a brigade from the Fifth Corps, then on picket at that point. On arriving at the ford, found the brigade which I was directed to relieve had left some hours previously. Remained on duty at Kelly's Ford until 7 p.m., when we rejoined the division at Rappahannock Station. Marched with it all night, arriving at Catlett's Station at 7 a.m. on the 15th, having in the previous twenty-nine hours marched 32 miles and performed fourteen hours' picket duty.
June 15.--Marched to Manassas Junction, and remained there until the 17th.
June 17.--Marched to Centreville, where we remained until the 19th.
June 19.--Marched to Gum Springs, remaining there until the 25th.
June 25.--Crossed the Potomac at Edwards Ferry, and marched to the mouth of the Monocacy River.
June 26.--Marched to Point of Rocks.
June 27.--Crossed the Catoctin Mountains. Passed through the town of Jefferson.
June 28.--Marched to near Walkersville, passing through Middletown and Frederick City.
June 29.--Marched to Taneytown, passing through Woodsborough and Middleburg.
June 30.--Marched about 6 miles beyond Taneytown, and bivouacked for the night.
July 1.--Marched to a point near Gettysburg, passing through Emmitsburg, reaching there about midnight.
At about 1 o'clock on the afternoon of the 2d, I received orders from the brigadier-general commanding the division to move the brigade to the front, and form line of battle in rear of the First Brigade (then going into position on the right of the First Division), and send one regiment to the crest of the hill, about 250 yards in advance of the First Brigade, with instructions that, should the enemy attempt to take it, to hold it at all hazards.
For this duty I detailed the Fourth Excelsior (Seventy-third New York Volunteers), commanded by Maj. M. W. Burns. The Second Excelsior (Seventy-first New York Volunteers), commanded by Col. H. L. Potter, and the Third Excelsior (Seventy-second New York Volunteers), commanded by Col. John S. Austin, were placed on the left, of the First Brigade, and connected with the First Division. The Fifth Excelsior (Seventy-fourth New York Volunteers), Lieut. Col. Thomas Holt commanding, was placed on the right of the First Brigade, leaving only the First Excelsior (Seventieth New York Volunteers), commanded by Col. J. Egbert Farnum, and the One hundred and twentieth New York Volunteers, commanded by Lieut. Col. C. D. Westbrook, in support of the first line of battle of our division.|
At about 4 o'clock we advanced our line of battle, and in our new position were exposed to a most terrible fire from the enemy's artillery on our left, which was most destructive, killing and wounding many men. At about 5.30 o'clock, the Fourth Excelsior, commanded by Maj. M. W. Burns, having been relieved from its first position on the crest of the hill, I was directed to send it to the support of General Graham's brigade, in the First Division. They advanced to this duty most gallantly.
Up to this time we had not been engaged at all, but now the troops on our left being obliged to fall back, the enemy advanced upon us in great force, pouring into us a most terrific fire of artillery and musketry, both upon our front and left flank. Our men returned it with great effect, and for some time held the enemy in check, but the troops on our left being, for want of support, forced still farther back, left us exposed to an enfilading fire, before which we were obliged to fall back, which was done in good order, but with terrible loss of both officers and men.
Seeing the enemy in possession of three of our guns, I made a charge at the head of about 150 men, from the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and One hundred and twentieth Regiments, and succeeded in recapturing them, taking from one the colors of the Eighth Florida Regiment, and bringing in as prisoners the major of that regiment and some 30 of his men.
The colors were taken by Sergt. Thomas Hogan, Third Excelsior, who by his bravery attracted the personal attention of the general commanding the division.
Soon after sunset we were relieved by a brigade from the Second Corps, in the rear of which we reformed our line of battle, and bivouacked for the night.
On the morning of the 3d, we moved a little distance to the rear, to give the men rations and refill their cartridge-boxes. At about 3 p.m. we again moved to the front, in support of batteries. While here, we were exposed to a very severe artillery fire, and lost quite a number of men. At sunset, we returned to the position occupied in the morning, and bivouacked for the night.
On the 4th, 5th, and 6th, nothing was done beyond sending out parties to bury the dead.
On the morning of the 7th, we started in pursuit of the retreating enemy.
Our losses in the battle of Gettysburg were as follows:
Command Officers Killed Officers Wounded Enlisted Men Killed Enlisted Men Wounded Missing Total Brigade staff --- 2 --- --- --- 2 1st Excelsior --- 8 20 85 4 117 2d Excelsior 1 6 9 62 13 91 3d Excelsior --- 7 7 72 28 114 4th Excelsior 4 11 47 92 8 162 5th Excelsior --- 6 12 68 3 89 120th New York 7 10 23 144 19 203 Total 12 50 118 523 75 778
The strength of the brigade at the commencement of the action was 1,837 officers and men, out of which we lost 778, being nearly 45 per cent. of the entire number, showing the terrible fire to which we were exposed.
The conduct and bearing of both officers and men were so good under the fatigues of the long and tiresome marches, and so gallant, brave, and steady in action, that it is almost impossible to particularize individual acts. It is enough to say that every officer and man in the command seemed determined to sustain the reputation of the brigade, earned on many a hard-fought field, and how well they succeeded is best shown by the loss sustained.
The members of my staff, Adjt. Gen. J. P. Finkelmeier, Capt. George Le Fort, acting assistant inspector-general, and Lieuts. J. A. Smith and [Edward A.] Belger, were very active on the field, and behaved in the most gallant manner, conveying my orders under the hottest fire.
Major Finkelmeier and Captain Le Fort were both wounded, and obliged to leave the field before the action was over.
The medical department of the brigade was under the supervision of Surg. C. K. Irwin, and all the wounded men bear testimony to his kind consideration and care.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. R. BREWSTER,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
HDQRS. EXCELSIOR BRIG., SECOND DIV., THIRD A. C.,
August 21, 1863.
Maj. CHARLES HAMLIN,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Division, Third Corps.
MAJOR: I respectfully beg leave to submit the following report of the operations of this brigade from July 9 to July 26:
July 9.--Marched from Frederick to a point on the South Mountain, passing through Middletown.
July 10.---General Prince assumed command of the division, and we marched to a point near Antietam Creek, passing through Keedysville, and halted near General Meade's headquarters.
July 11.--Moved about 3 miles to the right, in support of the Fifth Army Corps. I was here relieved from command of the brigade by Brig. Gen. F. B. Spinola.
July 12.--Moved about 2 miles to the front, and remained until the morning of the 14th ultimo, when we relieved a division of the Twelfth Army Corps, ordered forward on a reconnaissance. About noon, having ascertained that the enemy had retreated, we moved forward about 3 miles, and bivouacked for the night.
July 15.--Marched to a point a short distance beyond Sharpsburg, passing through Fair Play.
July 16.--Marched to near Pleasant Valley.
July 17.---Crossed the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers at Harper's Ferry, bivouacking for the night on the Leesburg road.
July 18.--Marched to Hillsborough.
July 19.--Marched to Woodgrove.
July 20.--Marched to Upperville, passing through Snickersville, where we bivouacked for the night, and remained until the 22d ultimo, when we moved to Piedmont.
The operations of the brigade on July 23, 24, and 25, including the action at Wapping Heights, are detailed in the following report of Col. J. Egbert Farnum, then commanding the brigade:
HDQRS. EXCELSIOR (SECOND) BRIG., SECOND DIV., THIRD ARMY CORPS,
July 27, 1863.
Lieut. ALBERT ORDWAY,
Actg. Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Division, Third Corps.
LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my command during the days of July 23, 24, and 25:
Early on the morning of the 23d instant, being then in command of my regiment, First Excelsior (Seventieth New York Volunteers), the regiment and brigade left Piedmont, and marched with the other brigade comprising the Second Division on the road through the Manassas Gap toward Front Royal. On arriving at Linden Station, the One hundred and twentieth New York Volunteers was detached and sent upon picket on the road to the left, leading from the station. Arriving near Wapping Station, we were massed by divisions, and, taking the hills upon the right side of the road, advanced to the crossing at that station; then, crossing to the left range of hills, we were advanced close upon the line of skirmishers of the First Division, Third Corps, arriving and halting at about 4 p.m.
At about 5 p.m. we were informed by General Spinola, commanding the brigade, that he had received orders from General Prince to march the brigade through a defile up to the skirmish line, for the purpose of assaulting the enemy on a hill in our front. On the promulgation of this order, the brigade, marching left in front, proceeded to the designated position, and was there formed in line of battle. The order was given to fix bayonets and charge the line in front of us. My regiment, being on the left of the brigade, moved at a double-quick, in conjunction with the other four regiments, under a severe fire from the enemy, and, arriving on the crest of the hill, driving the enemy before us, we found the work but half done, the enemy being in strength on two hills in front of us, the farther being held by their artillery. The brigade charged on, returning the enemy's fire, taking prisoners, and carrying all before it.
At this time General Spinola fell, seriously wounded, and the command of the brigade devolved upon me by seniority. Having arrived at the crest of the second hill, I received orders from General Prince to reform the line of battle and hold the ground which we had charged and occupied. This being done, I threw out a strong line of pickets and scouts in front and on both flanks of my command, and, using stones and fence rails, threw up breastworks in front of our position.
Nothing of interest transpired during the night, and at early dawn I detached the First Excelsior (Seventieth New York Volunteers) and threw them forward to feel the enemy, and soon learned that he had evacuated all his positions in front of us during the night.
Having communicated these facts to General Prince, I received orders to bury the dead, which was done, but hastily, as we were so soon ordered to march.
Leaving our position at about 7 a.m. on the 24th, we moved by the flank to within about a mile of Front Royal, where I formed line of battle on the left of the road, and, supporting the Third Brigade of the Second Division, which was the advanced line of battle, moved a short distance toward Front Royal, when we received orders to return. Marching by the flank, we reached Markham Station, and bivouacked for the night.
On the morning of July 25., taking up the line of march, we proceeded through Salem to a point within 7 miles of Warrenton, where we again bivouacked, and remained until we left for this camp.
During the 25th instant, the One hundred and twentieth Regiment rejoined the column, having been relieved from picket.
In an action where all sustained their reputation gained on other fields with so much gallantry, bravery, and devotion, I am constrained to speak of all alike. It is impossible to select any single officer or man who did leas than his full duty; all were alike brave, true, and gallant soldiers.
I have the honor to append a list of casualties sustained by the brigade during the action of the 23d instant.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
J. EGBERT FARNUM,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade
Command Officers Killed Men Killed Officers Wounded Men Wounded T Brigade staff --- --- 1 --- 1 70th New York 1 10 --- 21 32 71st New York --- 2 --- 13 15 72d New York --- --- --- 8 8 73d New York --- 1 --- 7 8 74th New York 2 2 --- 7 11 Total 3 15 1 56 75
July 26.--Marched through Warrenton, halting 2½ miles beyond the town.
Having been absent from the brigade on sick leave from July 16 to August 10, I am unable to make a more complete report than the above.
I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. R. BREWSTER,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade
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