Report of Col. Edmund L. Dana,
One hundred and forty-third Pennsylvania Infantry,
commanding Second Brigade
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., THIRD DIV., FIRST ARMY CORPS,
Camp near Warrenton Junction, Va., July 29, 1863.
Maj. E. C. BAIRD.
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Third Div., First Army Corps.
SIR: The command of the brigade devolved upon me early in the action of July 1, in the midst of a severe fire, and after the preliminary dispositions of the several regiments to receive the enemy had been made. Up to this time my attention had been chiefly occupied with my own regiment--One hundred and forty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers. All the field officers of the One hundred and forty-ninth and One hundred and fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiments are absent by reason of wounds received in the first day's engagement, and it is possible, therefore, that omissions may occur in the following report.
On the morning of July 1, the brigade, comprising the One hundred and forty-third, One hundred and forty-ninth, and One hundred and fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers, marched from Marsh Creek, where it had halted the previous evening, and, when within some 2 miles of Gettysburg, a heavy firing at the front indicated that the advance had become engaged with the enemy. Hurrying forward to a point a short distance west or northwest of the town, the brigade formed in column of regiments, and, leaving knapsacks and blankets behind, agreeably to orders, advanced at a double-quick through fields and up a gentle ascent toward the enemy. Attaining the crest of the hill or slope, a line was formed to the right and somewhat in advance of the First Brigade, with the One hundred and fiftieth Regiment on the left, the One hundred and forty-third in the center, and the One hundred and forty-ninth upon the right. The One hundred and fiftieth and One hundred and forty-third occupied the interval between a grove of woods on the left (in or near which General Reynolds was killed) and a barn and stone dwelling on the right, while the One hundred and forty-ninth was formed on an extension of the line to the right of the barn and between it and the railroad cut. The troops occupied this position for a short time under a fire of round shot and shell, when the enemy's advance, preceded by skirmishers, was discovered, and at the same time an artillery fire was opened on our right, enfilading our line. Company B, of the One hundred and fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers, under Capt. G. W. Jones; Company A, of the One hundred and forty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, under Capt. C. M. Conyngham, and Company K, of the One hundred and forty-ninth, under Capt. John C. Johnson, were deployed to the front as skirmishers, and soon after became warmly engaged. Later in the day, Company E, of the One hundred and forty-ninth, under Capt. Z. C. McCulloch, was detached for like duty, and these four companies, under their gallant officers, were employed in this service during the early part of the engagement, and until forced back by overwhelming numbers upon the main line.
The attack upon our right became so severe that a partial change of front was necessary, and the One hundred and forty-third and One hundred and forty-ninth Regiments, under a severe fire, were formed in a line, facing the right and at a right angle with the first line, along a road which runs parallel with and distant about 100 yards from the railroad cut. The One hundred and forty-third Regiment took position to the right of the One hundred and forty-ninth, while the One hundred and fiftieth retained its original position, being merely deployed to occupy the space between the grove and barn, and fill up the interval exposed by the removal of the One hundred and forty-third to its new position. This movement had scarcely been completed when the enemy advanced against our entire front in large numbers, and, when within easy range, were received with an effective fire from our whole line, which threw them into confusion, and a charge by the One hundred and forty-ninth forward to the railroad cut being made, they fell back to a sheltered position, where they were re-enforced and their broken ranks reformed.
At about this point in the action, Colonels Stone, of the One hundred and forty-ninth, and Wister, of the One hundred and fiftieth, having been wounded, I took command of the brigade. The contest soon became severe and close. Three successive assaults upon our line were repulsed, in which we sustained heavy losses in killed and wounded, but the enemy evidently, from the numbers left upon the ground at each repulse, suffered still more severely.
The brigade went into position at about 11 a.m.; became engaged about noon. The conflict had continued until about 4 p.m., when a more heavy advance by the enemy was made and again checked by a well-directed fire, but the support both upon our right and left having been withdrawn, his superior numbers enabled the enemy to extend his lines, so as to threaten both our flanks and rear.
In addition to Colonels Stone and Wister, Lieutenant-Colonel Dwight, commanding the One hundred and forty-ninth, Lieutenant-Colonel Huidekoper, Major Chamberlain, and Adjutant Ashurst, of the One hundred and fiftieth, with most of the commissioned officers of three regiments, had been wounded. These casualties, with the heavy loss of enlisted men, made it necessary, in order to save the command from capture or entire destruction, to move to some point of support. Facing to the rear, the line was withdrawn in good order some distance toward the town, where it was halted, and several volleys were fired at the advancing enemy. Moving thence nearer the town to a peach orchard, not far from where the railroad embankment begins, the brigade was again halted, and, together with a portion of a battery of artillery and parties that had become separated from their regiments, renewed the fire. The supply of ammunition--60 rounds per man--having been exhausted, was here replaced and expended.
On the withdrawal of the artillery, this command moved along the embankment toward and through the town, the last organized body of troops, I believe, to leave the field, and, falling in with numbers of the First Division, First Army Corps, and some of the Eleventh Corps, passed through the streets under a destructive fire, and between 5 and 6 p.m. reached and was halted on Cemetery Hill. A line was formed near a low wall facing the town, and the arrival and position of what remained of the brigade were reported to the division and corps commanders.
With the exception of some skirmishing between the advanced posts and occasional artillery firing, the morning of Thursday, July 2, on this part of the field passed in comparative quiet.
In the afternoon, a severe engagement occurred on our left, and simultaneously a cannonade opened between our batteries on Cemetery Hill and those of the enemy. Later in the day this brigade, with the First, moved at a double-quick and under a sharp fire about half a mile to the left and front, to re-enforce that portion of the line. The One hundred and forty-ninth and One hundred and fiftieth Regiments, under Captains Glenn and Jones, were here advanced some 600 yards, until they encountered the enemy's pickets, and in the morning rejoined the brigade, bringing with them two pieces of artillery and caissons recovered from the field.
On the morning of Friday, July 3, during intervals between the artillery firing, this command threw up a slight breastwork of rails and stones in front of its position, which was in the second line, and held it during the terrific cannonade in the afternoon and the decisive and final infantry charge of General Longstreet, which have rendered this day historical.
The conduct of both officers and men during this protracted contest, with few exceptions, merits the highest commendation. The lines were formed, changes of front made, under heavy fire, with steadiness and precision; and the final withdrawal from the field, on the first day, under the pressure of overwhelming numbers upon flank and rear, was effected without panic or confusion.
Where all behaved so well, it seems unjust to particularize, yet I cannot withhold my acknowledgment of the coolness and ability of Maj. John D. Musser, commanding the One hundred and forty-third; of Captain Glenn, commanding the One hundred and forty-ninth after Lieutenant-Colonel Dwight and Acting Maj. John Irvin, in the fearless discharge of their duties, had been wounded, and of Capt. G. W. Jones, both upon the skirmish line and in command of the One hundred and fiftieth after the field officers of that regiment had been disabled. Lieuts. William M. Dalgliesh and B. Walters, acting aides, rendered efficient services during the first and also the second and third days' engagement. The horse of the former was shot under him; that of the latter while temporarily dismounted.
Brigade Surgeon Reamer, One hundred and forty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers; Surgeon Quinan, of the One hundred and fiftieth; Assistant Surgeons Fulton, of the One hundred and forty-third, and Hunter, of the One hundred and forty-ninth Regiments, detailed for hospital duty at the beginning of the action of July 1, were taken prisoners in the town, but continued their care of the wounded until it was reoccupied by our troops. Assistant Surgeon Scott, of the One hundred and forty-third Regiment, remained with the regiment and was faithful in his attention to the wounded of July. 2 and 3.
This command marched from Gettysburg on the morning of July 6, following up with other troops the retreat of General Lee.
On the afternoon of the 10th, coming up with his rear at or near Funkstown, Md., preparations were made for an attack. My brigade being in the front line, skirmishers were thrown out, and a brisk fire opened. Night came on, and the enemy withdrew. Our troops advanced to the Potomac, crossed into Virginia, and by easy marches came on to this place. The following is a statement of the casualties sustained by this brigade:
The One hundred and forty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers went into action July 1 with 465 men.
Officers and Men Killed Wounded Prisoners Missing Total Commissioned officers 1 10 --- --- 11 Enlisted men 20 130 65 26 241 Total 21 140 65 26 252
The One hundred and forty-ninth went into action with 450 men.
Officers and men Killed Wounded Prisoners and missing Total Commissioned officers 1 12 4 17 Enlisted men 33 159 127 319 Total 34 171 131 336
The One hundred and fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers went into action with 400 men.
Officers and men Killed Wounded Prisoners and missing Total Commissioned officers 1 10 4 15 Enlisted men 28 141 80 249 Total 29 151 84 264
The brigade went into action July 1 with 1,315 men.
Officers and men Killed Wounded Prisoners and missing Total Commissioned officers 3 32 8 43 Enlisted men 81 430 298 809 Total 84 462 306 852
By far the larger portion of this loss was sustained July 1.
Very respectfully submitted.
EDMUND L. DANA,
Colonel, Comdg. Second Brig., Third Div., First Army Corps.
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