Reports of Col. Silas Colgrove,
Twenty-seventh Indiana Infantry, commanding regiment and Third Brigade.
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
NEAR KELLY'S FORD, VA., August 7, 1863.
Lieut. ROBERT P. DECHERT,
A. A. A. G., Third Brig., First Div., Twelfth Corps.
SIR: I have the honor of submitting the following report of the part taken by the Twenty-seventh Regiment Indiana Volunteers on July 1, during the first day's fighting at the battle of Gettysburg, Pa.:
The Twenty-seventh Regiment Indiana Volunteers, with the balance of the troops composing- the Third Brigade, marched on the morning of the 1st, from Littlestown, Pa., on the pike toward Gettysburg, by way of Two Taverns, and when within about 2 miles of Gettysburg the brigade filed to the right, leaving the pike, and proceeded about 1½ miles, apparently with the intention of flanking the enemy's left, the Twenty-seventh Indiana having the advance.
After arriving in front of the enemy's left, the brigade was halted in a piece of woods, and, in obedience to orders from General Ruger, commanding the brigade, I threw out Company G, deployed as skirmishers to the front and right, who soon reported the hill in our front to be held by the enemy's mounted skirmishers. I immediately communicated this fact to the brigade commander, and received orders to advance my regiment and take possession of the hill occupied by the enemy, which order was immediately obeyed. I advanced my regiment in line, keeping my skirmishers well to the front. By the time the regiment had reached a ravine or small creek, thickly skirted with undergrowth, at the foot of the hill, my skirmishers had nearly reached the crest of the hill occupied by the enemy, who had retired as my skirmishers advanced.
At this point, I received orders to halt and fall back to my original position in the woods, which order was obeyed. The regiment, with the balance of the brigade, was subsequently moved Back by the same route it had advanced about 1 mile, and, after throwing out a strong line of pickets, bivouacked for the night.
Early on the morning of July 2, I was ordered to advance my regiment to the front, in the direction of the position occupied by the brigade on the evening of the 1st. I immediately deployed Company F as skirmishers, and advanced. I had not proceeded more than hair a mile beyond our picket line when my skirmishers became engaged with those of the enemy. The enemy's skirmishers occupied a piece of woods in my front, and a stone house and a large barn on my right. They also endeavored to gain a house and barn immediately on my left. This movement of theirs I anticipated, and threw a part of my skirmishers forward, and took possession of the house and barn on my left and front. The balance of my line of skirmishers occupied open ground and without protection, while the enemy's line was entirely covered by woods and buildings. In this position sharp firing was kept up for something like an hour, at which time I received notice from General Ruger that the brigade had been ordered to fall back, with orders to hold my position until further orders. Subsequently I received orders to fall back, which was done by moving my regiment in line, keeping the skirmishers deployed in the rear. I rejoined the brigade on the ground upon which we had bivouacked the night previous.
At this point I was ordered to take command of the Third Brigade in place of General Ruger, who had been placed in command of the division. The subsequent part taken by the Twenty-seventh Regiment will be reported by Lieutenant-Colonel Fesler, who commanded the regiment during the 2d, 3d, and 4th.
In the skirmishing of the morning of the 2d, Company F had 1 man killed and 4 wounded.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
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NEAR KELLY'S FORD, VA., August 8, 1863.
General T. H. RUGER,
Comdg. First Div., Twelfth Corps, Army of the Potomac.
SIR: I have the honor of submitting the following report of the part taken in the action at Gettysburg, Pa., on July 2 and 3, by the Third Brigade:
On the morning of July 2, I was informed by Lieutenant Dechert, acting assistant adjutant-general of the brigade, that the command of the division had devolved upon you, and that I was ordered to take the command of the brigade. I immediately took command of the brigade, and, in obedience to orders received from you, I moved it back to the Gettysburg pike, at the point where we had left the same on the day previous, leaving my line of skirmishers engaged with the enemy, and the Twenty-seventh Indiana as a rear guard. Subsequently, according to instructions, I withdrew the line of skirmishers and the Twenty-seventh Indiana.
The brigade was then, together with the balance of the division, moved to the front on the hill, forming a part of the line of battle, and then to the right into a piece of woods; and then again to the right, and formed in line on the right of the First Brigade, the One hundred and seventh New York forming the left of the line; the Thirteenth New Jersey formed in double column closed in mass in rear of the One hundred and seventh New York. Immediately on the right of the Thirteenth New Jersey was a small meadow of very low ground, which was considered untenable, and on its right was a small piece of timber, into which I placed the balance of the brigade in the following order: Second Massachusetts, Third Wisconsin, and the Twenty-seventh Indiana on the extreme right of the line. The three last-named regiments occupied three sides of an irregular square.
I ordered the One hundred and seventh New York to construct breastworks, their line fronting southeast and forming an angle of about 45 degrees to that of the line occupied by the First Brigade, and completely enfilading the open ground or meadow not covered by our line; the Second Massachusetts fronting to the northeast at nearly the same angle, and also enfilading the open space; the Third Wisconsin fronting to the east, and the Twenty-seventh Indiana to the south. The ground occupied by the two latter regiments was protected in the front by a small creek (Rocky Run) [Rock Creek], some 60 to 80 feet in width and from 6 to 8 feet deep, rendering the position of these two regiments not assailable from the east or south. Breastworks of rails, timber, and stone were speedily thrown up, covering the whole line.
In obedience to orders received from you, I subsequently changed the disposition of the regiments. I placed the Third Wisconsin on the left, on that portion of the line occupied by the One hundred and seventh New York; the Thirteenth New Jersey in the position occupied by the Third Wisconsin, and the One hundred and seventh New York in the rear of the three right regiments as a reserve.
Shortly before sundown, I received information through one of your aides that the extreme left of our line was hard pressed, with orders to immediately proceed with the brigade to the left, to the support of that part of the line. I immediately put the brigade in motion, and proceeded, I should judge, to the left about 1½ miles, where the battle appeared to be raging the fiercest. By the time I had gained the point indicated, it had become quite dark. I immediately formed the brigade in line of battle, under your direction, and threw out skirmishers to the front.
By this time the firing had entirely ceased, and, after remaining in this position from forty minutes to one hour, I received orders to march the brigade back, and occupy the position we had left. The brigade was immediately put in motion. We arrived on the open ground within a few hundred yards of our old position about 10 p.m., as near as I can judge. The night being quite dark and our line of breastworks being covered by the timber, it was impossible to tell whether they were occupied or not.
In obedience to instructions from you, I threw forward one company of skirmishers from the Second Massachusetts. In or near the breastworks they captured one of the enemy. With this exception, we found the works on the right of our line unoccupied. We immediately took possession of them. The skirmishers were ordered to cross the open space between the right and left of our line, and reconnoiter the woods and line of works on that side. They shortly returned with 23 prisoners, and reported that the enemy held our works on the left in large force. It was also ascertained from the prisoners that [John M.] Jones' and [George H.] Steuart's brigades occupied our works. It was deemed unsafe to undertake to recover them at that time, owing to the darkness of the night; consequently the brigade was held in position in the works on the right during the night.
I wish to state here that great credit is due the officers and men of Company F, Second Massachusetts, as skirmishers. They advanced into the woods, where it was impossible to tell friend from foe, and before they scarcely knew it were in the midst of a brigade of the enemy, from whom they captured 23 prisoners and brought them in, with a loss of only 2 captured on their side.
Early on the morning of the 3d, before it was fairly light, the battle commenced on our left, on that portion of the line held by the Second Division, and almost simultaneously the enemy's sharpshooters, from the breastworks and large ledges of rocks on our left, opened fire upon us.
I immediately deployed sharpshooters from the Third Wisconsin and Second Massachusetts in front of our breastworks, covered by a small belt of timber, and returned their fire briskly for about two hours. About this time the firing on our left, which had been very heavy, was fast receding, and loud cheering was heard along our lines. It was evident to me that General Geary had dislodged the enemy, and had retaken the breastworks occupied by him the day before. At this time I discovered the First Brigade, which was on my right, advance in line to the woods, forming a line at nearly right angles with my line.
At this juncture, Lieutenant Snow, of your staff, came up and said, "The general directs that you advance your line immediately." The position of the First Brigade was such that it was impossible for me to advance more than two regiments in line. Between the enemy and our line lay the open meadow, about 100 yards in width, The enemy were entirely sheltered by the breastworks and ledges of rock. It was impossible to send forward skirmishers. The enemy's advantages were such that a line of skirmishers would be cut down before they could fairly gain the open ground that intervened. The only possible chance I had to advance was to carry his position by storming it.
I selected the Second Massachusetts and Twenty-seventh Indiana for the work, and ordered the Second Massachusetts to charge the works in front of their position; the Twenty-seventh, as soon as they should gain the open ground, to oblique to the right and carry the position held in the ledges of rocks. At the command, "Forward, double-quick!" our breastworks were cleared, and both regiments, with deafening cheers, sprang forward. They had scarcely gained the open ground when they were met with one of the most terrible fires I have ever witnessed.
Up to this time the enemy had remained entirely concealed. It had been impossible to tell anything about his strength in our immediate front, but it was now clearly ascertained that he had massed a heavy force at that point. It seemed that the two regiments were devoted to destruction. Undaunted, on they charged, officers leading and cheering their men. The Second Massachusetts succeeded in clearing the open ground to the left of the breastworks. The Twenty-seventh Indiana, having obliqued to the right, had nearly double the distance to traverse to gain the position of the enemy, but on it went; at every volley of the enemy, gaps were being cut through its ranks. It became evident to me that scarcely a man could live to gain the position of the enemy. I ordered the regiment to fall back behind the breastworks, which it did. The Second Massachusetts' was also overpowered by numbers, and had to fall back.
The Twenty-seventh had scarcely gained the breastworks when the rebels in turn charged, with the intention of carrying our works. As soon as they had fairly gained the open ground, I ordered fire to be opened upon them, the Third Wisconsin, Twenty-seventh Indiana, and part of the Thirteenth New Jersey firing from the breastworks; the Second Massachusetts, from the new position on the left, had an enfilading fire upon them. At the first fire they were completely checked, and at the second they broke in confusion and fled, leaving their dead and wounded upon the field. I threw forward skirmishers from the Third Wisconsin, and ascertained that they had abandoned the breastworks. Colonel Hawley was ordered to advance his regiment (Third Wisconsin) and take possession of the works, which he did, and held them during the day. During the whole day my entire line was exposed to the enemy's sharpshooters, and quite a number in all the regiments were killed and wounded by them.
In the charge, the Second Massachusetts lost about 130 killed and wounded. Among the killed was its commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Mudge, who fell while gallantly leading his men in the charge; a most gallant and brave officer, his gallant conduct will be cherished by his brother officers and men. The Twenty-seventh lost 112 in killed and wounded. Among the latter were 8 commissioned officers. The loss of these two regiments was much the heaviest, being the only two regiments engaged in the charge. Aside from this, the losses are about equal.
I take pleasure in bearing willing testimony to the good conduct and bravery not only of the officers, but also of the soldiers, of this command during the time I had the honor of commanding the brigade. Exposed as they were to extreme peril; doomed as they were during the latter part of the day on the 3d to remain inactive under one of the most terrific artillery fires the world has ever witnessed; shell, shot, and missiles bursting over them, around them, and among them for hours, and at the same time sustaining the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters, I scarcely witnessed a single instance upon the part of any soldier or officer of flinching from duty. The highest compliment that I can possibly pay them is to say that the reputation which they had won upon so many hard-contested fields during the war--at Winchester, Cedar Mountain, Antietam, and Chancellorsville--was fully sustained.
The casualties of the different regiments of this brigade having heretofore been reported in detail, supersede the necessity of making the same in this report. For a more detailed report of the part taken by each regiment during the three days' fighting, I respectfully refer you to the accompanying reports of the commandants of the several regiments composing this command.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
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