Report of Col. Sidney Burbank,
Second U.S. Infantry, commanding Second Brigade.
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., SECOND DIV., FIFTH A. C.,
July 21, 1863.
Capt. GEORGE RYAN,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., Second Div., Fifth Army Corps.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that the brigade under my-command, consisting of the Second, Seventh, Tenth, Eleventh, and Seventeenth Regiments U.S. Infantry, after a series of long and rapid marches, arrived in the vicinity of the enemy, near Gettysburg, Pa., on the morning of July 2.
The brigade was formed in line of battle, its left resting on the right of the Twelfth Army Corps. Skirmishers were deployed in front, and the line advanced slowly through a thick woods, behind which it had been deployed, The line halted on the edge of the woods, and remained in that position for an hour or more, the skirmishers feeling for the enemy in front. At the end of this time, I received orders to withdraw the brigade and to establish it in a new position somewhat to the rear. The movement was commenced, but instead of taking up a new position, the brigade continued its march to the left for some 2 miles, when it was halted.
There it remained until about 5 p.m., when, during a heavy cannonading, I received orders to advance, and the brigade took a route to the left. The rapidity of the firing increased, and I was soon met by a staff officer, directing me to move forward with the utmost dispatch. The command was, therefore, moved forward for some time at double-quick, but, fearing to exhaust the men, a little shower step was resumed. We were soon in the vicinity of the enemy, and I was directed to deploy into line, the left resting on a battery then in position and its right extending back into the woods. As soon as deployed, the line was moved to the left, to occupy ground supposed to have been left by the Third Brigade; but this brigade was still occupying the ground, and I moved again to the right a short distance.
At this time the brigade occupied on the left the side of an extremely rough and rocky hill, the right extending into the woods and some heavy undergrowth. The whole line moved forward to the foot of the hill and out of the woods to the edge of a wide marsh, extending across its whole front, and soon after across this marsh at double-quick, and ascended to the crest of the hill on the opposite side, and moved forward to some shelter near a woods. At this time the left flank was much exposed to the enemy's sharpshooters, and the left company of the Seventeenth U.S. Infantry was thrown back to confront this fire and to a more secure position under a slight rise of ground.
During this time another army corps (the Second, I think) was advancing across our front and perpendicular to my line, to attack the enemy to the left. In a short time these troops fell back, and, as they did so, I ordered my line forward to a fence and stone wall on the edge of the woods, and near which we had been halting. A regiment of the Second Corps, however, halted after having reached my left, and persisted in holding that position, and did so until I was ordered to relieve it by changing my front to the left and occupy its place, this regiment passing to the rear through intervals in my line.
As soon as this position was obtained, a volley was fired, but there appearing to be no fire on our front, our firing ceased; but at this moment a heavy fire was opened on our right flank, and as I proceeded to make a disposition of the troops to meet this attack, I received orders to retire my brigade. The enemy was seen at this time moving through a wheat-field to our rear, and the brigade was withdrawn as rapidly and in as good order as the nature of the ground would permit. In doing so, however, the troops were exposed to a heavy fire on both flanks, and the loss of officers and men was very severe.
It had now become nearly dark, and the brigade was reformed in rear of the battery and near the ground of its first deployment. Although held in readiness, the brigade was not engaged again during the battle of Gettysburg.
The conduct of both officers and men in this severe contest was deserving of all praise, and was all I could wish. The reports of regimental commanders, with the lists of the casualties, are herewith transmitted.
I beg leave to state that although the regiments named as composing the brigade preserve their organization, and are called regiments, yet they are greatly reduced in number, and the whole brigade went into action with less than 900 muskets.
Of 80 officers who went into this action, 40 were either killed or wounded, namely, 7 killed and 33 wounded, 1 mortally, since dead, and the proportion among the enlisted men was about the same.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel Second U. S. Infantry, Commanding.
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