Reports of Col. John R. Brooke, Fifty-third Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding Fourth Brigade.
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43]
HDQRS. FOURTH BRIG., FIRST DIV., SECOND ARMY CORPS,
Bivouac near Thoroughfare Gap, Va., June 23, 1863.
Maj. JOHN HANCOCK,
SIR: In accordance with instructions received this day from headquarters First Division, I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of my command on the 14th and 15th instant:
At about 4 p.m., June 14, having previously received orders therefor from the major-general commanding corps, proceeded to Banks' Ford, arriving there about 6 p.m., the detachment under my command consisting of portions of the Fifty-third Pennsylvania, One hundred and forty-fifth Pennsylvania, Second Delaware, Sixty-fourth New York, Twenty-seventh Connecticut, and two pieces of artillery from Battery A, Fourth U.S. Artillery. The command was halted when near the ford, at a point as near as could be reached without being exposed to view. I at once moved forward with three of my regiments (Second Delaware, One hundred and forty-fifth Pennsylvania, and Sixty-fourth New York), and posted them to support the picket on duty there, consisting of the Fifty-second New York, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Freudenberg. In the wood to the rear of the first-mentioned regiment, a battalion of the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry was bivouacked, under command of Captain Wickersham.
In accordance with orders furnished me by the major-general commanding the corps, I proceeded when fully dark to withdraw the infantry pickets and post cavalry, with instructions to follow the infantry at the expiration of one and a half hours. The command having been collected, and joined by the Fifty-second New York, took up the line of march, and had reached within a short distance of the main Warrenton road, when Lieut. W. D. W. Miller, aide-de-camp, arrived with orders to replace the infantry pickets at the ford, and move with the rest of the command to Berea Church, and occupy the cross-roads at that point. The Fifty-second New York again took up the picket line at the ford, supported by the Second Delaware, the remainder of the detachment moving on to Berea Church, where the troops were put into position, the artillery being posted to the best advantage to cover the roads. The detachment arrived at the church about 11 p.m.
Having thrown out pickets, the men were permitted to sleep on their arms until, at or about 1.30 a.m., Lieutenant Miller, aide-de-camp, arrived with orders to abandon the ford at once, and to move the whole detachment to Stafford Court-House, the choice of roads being left to my discretion.
At 5.30 a.m. the infantry all assembled at Berea Church. The command was moved at once, taking the shortest road to Stafford Court-House, the whole detachment arriving there safely about 9.30 a.m., June 15.
No casualties occurred to the detachment while under my command, nor were any of the enemy seen, excepting those in their works on the right bank of the river, opposite the ford.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN R. BROOKE,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
HDQRS. FOURTH BRIG., FIRST DIV., SECOND A. C.,
August 15, 1863.
Maj. JOHN HANCOCK,
SIR: I have the honor to make the following report of the late actions at Gettysburg, Pa., and subsequent movements to Warrenton, Va.:
June 29, at about 6 a.m., marched from Monocacy Bridge, below Frederick City, Md., to Uniontown, a distance of about 31 miles, where the troops remained until July 1, at 6 a.m., when they marched for Taneytown. On reaching the latter, it became evident an engagement was in progress with the enemy at or near Gettysburg, Pa., when the march was continued, and the command arrived at a point about 3 miles from Gettysburg about 9.30 p.m. The brigade then took a position on the right of the road, and, after establishing a picket line on the right flank, extending to the rear, the men were allowed to sleep.
On the morning of July 2, at about 3 a.m., the command moved forward in column for the field of battle, arriving there soon after sunrise, and, forming the right of the division, was formed in mass by columns of regiments on the left of the Second Division. During the day, the enemy were evidently feeling our position from right to left.
At about 5 p.m. a furious attack was made upon our left. In a short time, General Caldwell directed me to move to the left. I immediately marched, following the Irish Brigade, and forming in line in a copse of woods in rear of the Irish Brigade, and, moving forward in supporting distance, I crossed an open field or marsh, when, meeting the general commanding the division, he commanded me to halt my line. He then moved the Irish Brigade to the right, leaving my brigade in rear of and at supporting distance from the First Brigade, Colonel Cross, which was then hotly engaged beyond the crest, behind which I then was. In a short time the general commanding directed me to relieve the First Brigade. I advanced in line, faced by the rear rank (which formation was necessary, from the fact that there was not time to form by the front rank), and, passing the line of Colonel Cross at the edge of a wheat-field, I became at once hotly engaged. Pressing forward, firing as we went, we drove back the first line of the enemy, capturing a great number, and then charging the second line, drove it from its almost impregnable position on a rocky crest.
I now found my flanks threatened by a strong force of the enemy, and immediately sent an officer to the general commanding the division for assistance, and finding also a part of the Third Brigade close at hand, I immediately ordered them in and held my ground. Both my aides being wounded, and myself severely bruised, I with great difficulty was able to maintain a proper knowledge of the enemy. Being notified about this time that a heavy column of the enemy was coming upon my left, I immediately took measures to meet them, sending word to that effect to the general commanding. I held them at bay for some time, when word was brought me that my right was being turned, and finding no troops coming to my support, and finding that unless I retired all would be killed or captured, I reluctantly gave the order to retire, and in good order the whole command came off the field slowly, and, firing as they retired, succeeded in bringing off nearly all their wounded. In passing back over the wheat-field, I found the enemy had nearly closed in my rear, and had the movement not been executed at the time it was, I feel convinced that all would have been lost by death, wounds, or capture.
I cannot speak in too high terms of the bravery and cool, steady bearing of the troops.
The greater part of the command reformed behind some stone walls, ready to fight to the last, but other troops coming up, relieved them, and the brigade reformed in rear of the hill called Round Top.
The loss in officers and non-commissioned officers was very large, leaving companies without officers and first sergeants.
After reforming, the general commanding again took position near the position occupied in the morning, where we bivouacked for the night.
July 3, early, the general commanding directed me to form on the left of the Third Brigade. The enemy, seeing the movement, immediately commenced a brisk shelling, which killed and wounded several men. Here we were directed by General Caldwell to throw up rifle-pits. In the afternoon a terrific cannonade was opened upon our lines, followed by an infantry attack, which did not, however, direct itself against our line. After the failure of this attack, nothing of importance transpired, the enemy evidently being defeated.
It is with regret that I record the death of the gallant Lieut. Col. H. C. Merwin, of the Twenty-seventh Connecticut, who fell in the thickest of the fight. His death is a national loss. All other officers and all the men behaved with extraordinary bravery.
Of my staff, Capt. H. J. Smith and Lieut. C. F. Smith were seriously wounded. Lieut. Charles P. Hatch, acting assistant adjutant-general, Capt. A.M. Wright, acting assistant inspector-general, and Lieut. J. J. Whitney rendered me efficient and valuable service. I would respectfully ask for them the notice of the general commanding.
The list of casualties has already been furnished. The proportion of killed and wounded to the number engaged will show how desperately the fight raged.
July 4 passed without much fighting, and on the 5th, at 4 p.m., by order of the general commanding the division, took up line of march, following the Third Brigade; forded Marsh Creek, and marched a short distance beyond Two Taverns, Pa. Remained at this point until 5 a.m. July 7, when marched for and arrived at Taneytown at 11 a.m.
On July 8, 9, 10, and 11, marched by way of Frederick, Cramp-ton's Pass, Rohrersville, Keedysville, and the old Antietam battlefield to Jones' Cross-Roads, and, forming line parallel to the Hagerstown turnpike, bivouacked.
On the 12th, moved forward about three-quarters of a mile, and took up an advantageous position on a crest, in heavy timber; threw up strong intrenchments at this point.
On the morning of the 14th, at 5 o'clock, received orders to move my brigade to the front and feel the enemy. The Fifth New Hampshire and Fifty-seventh New York were temporarily attached to my command; the Twenty-seventh Connecticut and One hundred and forty-fifth Pennsylvania were temporarily detached, not being drilled as skirmishers. Advancing, with the brigade deployed as skirmishers, I moved on the enemy's works, but found them evacuated; took many prisoners, and pressed forward to Falling Waters, where slight skirmishing occurred. The enemy having crossed, with the exception of those taken, bivouacked near Falling Waters for the night.
On the 15th, marched for Sandy Hook, by way of Downsville and Sharpsburg, arriving at Sandy Hook on the 16th, a.m.
On the 18th, took up line of march (leaving the Twenty-seventh Connecticut, whose term of service had nearly expired), crossing the Potomac and Shenandoah at Harper's Ferry. Bivouacked near Keys' Pass, in Loudoun Valley.
On July 19 and 20, marched to near Upperville, remaining here until July 22, when the march was resumed via Upperville to Paris. My brigade was ordered to occupy Ashby's Gap and remain until relieved by the Twelfth Corps.
At 2.30 p.m. on the 23d, being relieved by a brigade of the Twelfth Corps, I pushed on after the corps (which had marched to Markham, near Manassas Gap, at an early hour), reaching Markham at dark; and receiving orders to push on and join the corps, which had been ordered to Linden, I marched through the Gap, and joined the division about 1 a.m., this being the hardest march the troops ever made, being over a hilly, rocky, and marshy country, and it being very dark.
On the 24th, at 12 m., took up line of march again, reaching Markham at 6 p.m.
On the 25th and 26th, marched by way of White Plains and Warrenton to within 3 miles of Warrenton Junction.
During the long marches and hard fighting of this campaign, it is but just to say that the men did all that was required of them without a murmur and in a true soldierly spirit.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN R. BROOKE,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
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