Report of Brig. Gen. John C. Caldwell, U.S.
Army, commanding First Division.
-- Gettysburg Campaign
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43]
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, SECOND CORPS,
September 5, 1863.
Lieut. Col. FRANCIS A. WALKER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Corps.
COLONEL: I have the honor to transmit the following report of the part taken by my division in the battle of Gettysburg, July 2 and 3: My command arrived on the field of battle on the morning of July 2, and was placed in position by General Hancock on the left of the Second Division, in columns of regiments by brigades. Early in the afternoon the Second Corps, which had moved forward some distance toward the Emmitsburg road, engaged the enemy, and I was ordered to its support. I had moved but part of the distance required, when a column of the Fifth Corps appeared, coming to the assistance of the Second, and by order I resumed my former position. The battle was raging with considerable fury at the left, where, between 4 and 5 o'clock, I received orders to report with my command to General Sykes. I moved off immediately by the left flank, and sent forward my aide (Lieutenant Cross)to find General Sykes, but he did not succeed in finding him. Before reaching the position designated for me, I met a staff officer (I think the adjutant-general of General Sykes), who told me he had orders where to place me. I moved forward rapidly, a portion of the time at double-quick, as the Third Corps was said to be hard pressed. The position assigned me was on the right of the Fifth and the left of the Third Corps, and I was ordered to check and drive back the enemy who were advancing at that point. I ordered Colonel Cross, commanding the First Brigade, to advance in line of battle through a wheat-field, his left resting on the woods which skirted the field. He had advanced but a short distance when he encountered the enemy, and opened upon him a terrific fire, driving him steadily to the farther end of the wheat-field.
In the meantime I had put the Second Brigade in on the right of the First, and they advanced in like manner, driving the enemy before them. The Third Brigade I ordered still farther to the right, to connect with the Third Corps, while I held the Fourth Brigade in reserve. The First, Second, and Third Brigades advanced with the utmost gallantry, driving the enemy before them over difficult and rocky ground, which was desperately contested by the slowly retreating foe. The First Brigade, which had been longest engaged, had expended all its ammunition, when I ordered Colonel Brooke to relieve it. He advanced with his usual gallantry, and drove the enemy until he gained the crest of the hill, which was afterward gained by the whole of my line. In this advantageous position I halted, and called upon General Barnes, who was some distance in the rear, to send a brigade to the support of my line. He readily complied, and ordered the brigade of Colonel [Sweitzer] forward into the wheat-field. I then galloped to the left to make a connection with General Ayres, and found that I had advanced some distance beyond him. He, however, gave the order to his line to move forward and connect with my left. Thus far everything had progressed favorably. I had gained a position which, if properly supported on the flanks, I thought impregnable from the front. General Ayres was moving forward to connect with my left, but I found on going to the right that all the troops on my right had broken and were fleeing to the rear in great confusion. As soon as they broke, and before I could change front, the enemy in great numbers came in upon my right flank and even my rear, compelling me to fall back or have my command taken prisoners. My men fell back under a very heavy cross-fire, generally in good order, but necessarily with some confusion. I reformed them behind a stone wall until relieved by the Twelfth Corps.
By direction of Major-General Hancock, I marched my command back to the ground it had occupied in the earlier part of the day, where we lay on our arms until the morning of the 3d. I then formed what was left of the division in one line on a slight crest, and began to throw up breastworks. Before noon we had a work which served to protect the men during the artillery fire which followed.
About noon the enemy opened upon us with all his artillery the most fearful fire I have ever witnessed. Although this lasted an hour, but one of my men was killed and very few wounded.
Nearly at the same time with the grand assault which, following the artillery fire, was made upon our center, a single line, I should think a small brigade, advanced in our immediate front, but did not succeed in getting beyond our picket, being broken by the fire of our artillery: A large portion of this force came in and gave themselves up as prisoners.
The division on the afternoon of the 2d fought with its accustomed gallantry, and performed everything that could be expected of either officers or men. The large number of its killed and wounded attest its desperate valor. That it fell back was owing entirely to the breaking of the troops on the right, permitting the enemy to get on its flank and its rear.
While driving the enemy triumphantly before them, two of my brigade commanders, Brigadier-General Zook and Colonel Cross, of the Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers, fell, mortally wounded. They were both old and tried soldiers, and the country can lily spare their services. They both fell in the front of battle while driving back the invader, and lived long enough to know that their blood had not been shed in vain, but that the enemy had been driven back with terrible repulse. A grateful country will remember their virtues and hold them up to the admiration of posterity.
Colonel Roberts, One hundred and fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Lieutenant-Colonel Merwin, Twenty-seventh Connecticut Volunteers, were instantly killed; both gallant officers and brave men.
Colonel McKeen, Eighty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, who, after the fall of Colonel Cross, succeeded to the command of the First Brigade, behaved, as he always has on every battle-field, with the most distinguished gallantry, and brought off his command in perfect order.
Lieutenant-Colonel Hapgood, Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers, and Lieutenant-Colonel Broady, Sixty-first New York Volunteers, behaved with the utmost coolness and bravery, and added to their already high reputation.
Colonel Kelly behaved with his wonted gallantry.
The conduct of Lieutenant-Colonel Fraser, One hundred and fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Lieutenant-Colonel Chapman, Fifty-seventh New York Volunteers, was worthy of all praise.
Of the merit of Colonel Brooke, commanding Fourth Brigade, too much can scarcely be said. His services on this as well as many other fields have fairly earned him promotion.
Colonels Brown and Baily are deserving of high praise.
The members of my staff rendered most efficient service. I would mention as worthy of particular commendation Lieutenants [Daniel K.] Cross and [William P.] Wilson and Majors [George W.] Scott and [John] Hancock.
I have before had occasion to mention the bravery and good conduct of my orderly, Corpl. Uriah N. Parmelee, Company D, Sixth New York Cavalry. On this occasion he not only behaved with great bravery, but was of great assistance to me in checking fugitives. I respectfully recommend his promotion.
The lists of killed, wounded, and missing have already been forwarded.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN C. CALDWELL,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
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