Report of Maj. James Dearing, C. S. Army, commanding Artillery Battalion.
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
AUGUST 16, 1863.
Col. J. B. WALTON,
Chief of Artillery, 1st Army Corps, Army Northern Virginia.
COLONEL: In obedience to instructions from you, I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of my battalion from the time it left Culpeper Court-House, in June last, until its return to that place in July:
At the time we started upon the late campaign, my battalion was attached to Maj. Gen. G. E. Pickett's division, First Corps.
I left the vicinity of Culpeper Court-House about June 15, taking the road known as the Sperryville pike, and arrived at Gaines' CrossRoads the next day about 3 p.m., where I rejoined the division, which had marched by the dirt road.
On the 17th, I took up the line of march with the division, taking the right at Gaines' Cross-Roads, and marching east and parallel to the Blue Ridge, encamping for the night at Piedmont.
The next day we continued our march to Paris, and from there we marched to Snicker's Gap, continuing east of the Blue Ridge all the time. From Snicker's Gap we marched to within a mile or so of Berryville, where we remained for two or three days.
About June 24, we left camp near Berryville, taking the Charlestown pike, but soon turned, the left coming out on the Valley pike near Darkesville, where we encamped for the night.
The next day we crossed the Potomac, encamping about midway between Williamsport and Hagerstown.
On the 26th, we passed through Hagerstown, taking the road to Chambersburg, Pa., encamping for the night near Greencastle, Pa.
The march was resumed the following day, and we passed through Chambersburg, encamping about 3 miles north of that place, and on the road to Carlisle.
We remained near Chambersburg until the morning of July 2. On that day we marched to within a few miles of the battle-field of Gettysburg, and went into camp, after a very long and tiresome march both to men and horses. That evening about dusk, orders were received to move at once to the field of battle, which was done, my battalion encamping (or rather bivouacking) for the night in rear of the line of battle of the First Corps.
About daybreak the next morning (the morning of July 3), it marched to the field of battle, and was, later in the morning, put in position on the crest of the hill immediately in front of the enemy's position, which was assailed by General Pickett's division. On my left and rear was Colonel Cabell's Artillery Battalion, and on my right and rear was the Washington Artillery Battalion. Early that morning, the enemy threw forward a strong line of skirmishers in front of my position, and, having no infantry to drive them away, Captain [R. M.] Stribling's battery was ordered to drive them in, which was done by firing about a dozen rounds. Several of my men and horses were wounded by these sharpshooters. There was no more firing from my battalion until the signal guns for the commencement of the general attack were fired.
Maj. J.P. W. Read, who was superintending the firing of Captain Stribling's battery in the morning, was wounded in the head by a fragment of shell. Though not dangerous, the wound was painful. Major Read did not leave the army on account of this wound, but has been with it all of the time.
When the signal guns were fired, I at once brought my battalion in battery to the front, and commenced firing slowly and deliberately. To insure more accuracy and to guard against the waste of ammunition, I fired by battery. The firing on the part of my battalion was very good, and most of the shell and shrapnel burst well. My fire was directed at the batteries immediately in my front, and which occupied the heights charged by Pickett's division. Three caissons were seen by myself to blow up, and I saw several batteries of the enemy leave the field. At one time, just before General Pickett's division advanced, the batteries of the enemy in our front had nearly all ceased firing; only a few scattering batteries here and there could be seen to fire.
About this time my ammunition became completely exhausted, excepting a few rounds in my rifled guns, which were used upon a column of infantry which advanced on General Pickett's right flank. I had sent back my caissons an hour and a half before for a fresh supply, but they could not get it. Two of my batteries and a part of Captain [G. V.] Moody's battery, of Colonel Alexander's battalion, under command of Captain Moody, remained under a very heavy fire for upward of an hour without being able to fire a single shot. My own batteries remained on the field after every round of ammunition was exhausted and until I could receive some fresh batteries which Colonel Alexander sent to me.
Captain Moody's four 24-pounder howitzers, two of Captain [Joe] Norcom's guns, and one of Captain [M. B.] Miller's, and Captain [O. B.] Taylor's battery were sent to me. I put them in position, and succeeded in driving back the column of infantry which was at that time advancing. This was near 6 o'clock, as nearly as I can recollect. After the enemy was driven back at this point, nothing but desultory picket firing could be heard on that part of the line for the rest of the day.
In this engagement, Captain Stribling's battery had 3 men wounded and 10 horses killed and left on the field. Captain [M. C.] Macon had 3 men killed. 3 wounded, and 8 horses killed and left on the field; Captain [W. H.] Caskie, 3 men wounded and 7 horses killed and left on the field; Captain [J. G.] Blount had 5 men killed and wounded, and 12 horses killed. There were others so slightly wounded as not to unfit them for duty, and, consequently, not reported.
Captain Moody and the others who served under my orders that day will, of course, hand in their reports to their respective battalion commanders.
The behavior of officers and men was all that could be desired by any commander. They were all cool, collected, and in earnest, and perfectly indifferent to danger. In the field and staff, Major Read was wounded, as above mentioned, early in the morning. The horse of my color-bearer and courier was shot under him while bearing the flag along the line. There were no other casualties.
On the morning of July 4, I took position in line of battle with General McLaws' division, to the right and rear of the position occupied by me on the 3d. It was nearly the same position occupied by Colonel Alexander on July 2. I remained in line of battle until nearly sundown, when I was ordered back to what was known as the Black Horse Tavern, to join in the line of march of the corps.
We did not leave that point until about sun-up on the morning of the 5th. We stopped an hour or so in the middle of the day at Fayetteville. There I was ordered to report to Col. E. P. Alexander, who was put in command of the Reserve Artillery, First Corps. That evening we continued our march, stopping for the night on the top of South Mountain, at a place called Monterey Springs.
On the morning of July 6, we proceeded in the direction of Hagerstown, Md. After marching a mile or so, I was ordered by Colonel Alexander to send two batteries to report to General Pickett, who had charge of the prisoners. I sent Captain Stribling's and Captain Macon's batteries, under command of Captain Stribling. With the remainder of my command, we marched through Hagerstown the same day, taking the Sharpsburg pike, and went into camp that night about 2 miles from Hagerstown.
From this time to July 10, nothing of interest occurred. Some of my batteries were on picket, and I was engaged in getting horses to supply the places of those killed and broken down. During this time, Captain Stribling was ordered back with the two detached batteries to the battalion.
On July 10, I was ordered over to the right of our line, near a place called Downsville, not far from Saint James' College. Here, under direction of Colonel Alexander, we took up an excellent position in line of battle, and hastily dug very excellent pits for all of our guns.
We remained in line of battle until the night of July 13, when we took up the line of march for the pontoon bridges at Failing Waters.
I crossed the bridge about 7 o'clock in the morning of July 14, and continued the march until within 4 miles of Martinsburg, Va., where we rested until the morning of the 15th, when the march was continued to Bunker Hill, where we went into camp, and rested until the 19th, when we marched to Smithfield.
From there, on the 20th, we continued our march through Berryville to Millwood, where we encamped for the night.
At 3 a.m. of the 21st, I sent two batteries, under Major Read (who, though not recovered, was anxious to go), in advance with General Corse's brigade, of Pickett's division. With the remainder of the battalion, I came along with General Pickett, to whom I have been reattached on being relieved from further duty with the Reserve Artillery at Bunker Hill, on July 17.
The advance of my battalion, under Major Read, after a rapid march and crossing both forks of the Shenandoah, one of which was very deep, succeeded in reaching Chester Gap just before the enemy. Major Read made a judicious selection of positions, and when the enemy (two brigades and a battery) advanced, they were handsomely driven back by Captain Blount's and Captain Caskie's batteries, under Major Read, without the assistance of the infantry.
The rest of my battalion crossed about daylight on the morning of July 22 on the pontoons, which were just completed, and, after reaching the summit of the Blue Ridge at Chester Gap, rested there until 6 p.m., when the march was continued in the night to Gaines' CrossRoads, where all of my command arrived about 3 a.m. of the 23d, excepting Caskie's battery, which was rear guard, and did not get up until 7 a.m.
At 10 a.m. on the 23d, I started for Culpeper Court-House, going by the Sperryville pike, the infantry going the dirt road. I encamped that night a mile and a half south of Woodville, and, starting early next morning, reached my old camp near Culpeper CourtHouse about 2 p.m. on July 24, both horses and men very much jaded and worn out for want of proper food and rest.
From the time I arrived at Downsville, Md., July 10, until July 25, my horses had not a mouthful of corn, and subsisted entirely on wheat and grass, or new hay. I was also in great need of horseshoes; and from these causes and the long and frequent marches day and night a good many of my animals broke down and had to be abandoned on the road. I lost nothing in the way of guns, caissons, harness, or equipments of any kind.
At the battle of Gettysburg, Colonel Alexander being unable to man a 20-pounder Parrott, and such guns being much needed, I exchanged a 12-pounder howitzer with him for it. I have the 20-pounder Parrott gun now.
While in line of battle on July 4, I sent off by some teams two 12-pounder howitzers left on the field in rear of General McLaws' position. Also, I got a wagon, and made my men dismount a piece which had its axle and wheels broken in the engagement of July 2, and placed the piece in a wagon, and fastened the rear part of the caisson on to the wagon also, and sent them off. These pieces belonged to Colonel Alexander's battalion. I think one of the 12-pounder howitzers was the one he had exchanged with me for his 20-pounder Parrott.
The behavior of my command in this campaign has met with my entire approbation. There was no straggling, no molesting of private property, and the willingness and promptitude with which all orders were obeyed reflect much credit upon them.
I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major, Comdg. Battalion Artillery, First Corps.
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