Reports of Maj. B. F. Eshleman, Washington (Louisiana) Artillery.
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
AUGUST 11, 1863.
Col. J. B. WALTON,
Chief of Artillery, First Corps.
COLONEL: I have the honor to transmit the following report of the operations of the Washington Artillery Battalion under my command at the battle of Gettysburg, Pa., July 3:
I moved my command, in obedience to orders, from Culpeper Court-House, on June 15, in the direction of Winchester. Crossed the Potomac at Williamsport on the 25th; arrived at Chambersburg, Pa., on the 27th; crossed the South Mountain at Cashtown Gap on July 1, and arrived on the 2d near the battle-field of Gettysburg.
Owing to the excessive heat, dry weather, and dust, the march was a severe one, but the endurance of the men and animals proved equal to the task, and my command arrived at Gettysburg in good fighting condition. On arriving within about 3 miles of the battlefield, by your direction, I went into park to await orders. Just before dark, your orders came to move speedily to the front. I mounted my cannoneers, and moved forward at a trot, but before reaching the old school-house the firing had ceased, and, it being dark, you ordered me again into park.
About midnight, I received orders from Colonel Alexander, commanding reserve artillery, to take position on the field before daylight, and with his assistance I placed my battalion, consisting of eight Napoleon guns and two 12-pounder howitzers, as follows, viz: Three Napoleons (Third Company), Lieutenants [Andrew] Hero, jr., and [Frank] McElroy, and one Napoleon (First Company), Lieutenant [C. H. C.] Brown, all under command of Captain [M. B.] Miller, about 100 yards to the left of the peach orchard, and on the immediate left of Captain [O. B.] Taylor's battery, of Alexander's battalion; two Napoleons (Fourth Company), Captain Norcom and Lieutenant Battles, on Captain Miller's left, and two Napoleons (Second Company), Captain [J. B.] Richardson and Lieutenant [Samuel] Hawes, on the left of Captain Norcom. The two howitzers--one of the Second and one of the Fourth Company--were held in reserve, under command of Lieutenant [George E.] Apps, Fourth Company.
As soon as day broke and the enemy's lines became visible, it was apparent that to provide against an enfilade fire, the left of my line had better be thrown a little to the rear. Colonel Alexander having approved the proposed change, Captain Norcom's battery was retired about 30 yards, and Captain Richardson's moved about 200 yards to the left and to the rear of Norcom, forming en échelon by batteries. Major Dearing afterward took position with his battalion on my left, and five guns of Colonel Cabell's battalion were placed in position between Captains Norcom and Richardson.
During the morning, the enemy threw forward heavy lines of skirmishers, endeavoring to gain the ravine and cover of the woods in my front. My guns, with those of Captain Taylor, opened upon them moderately with evident effect. The enemy's batteries replied, but I paid little attention to them, seldom answering their fire at their batteries, in order to save my ammunition for the grand attack.
Early in the day my attention was called by Captain Richardson to a 3-inch rifled gun (that had been abandoned by the enemy the previous day) standing between the lines, about 300 yards in advance of our line of skirmishers. The horses had all been killed, and lay harnessed to the piece. William Forrest and Jim Brown (drivers), of Captain Richardson's company, immediately volunteered and earnestly requested permission to bring it off. Having given them directions how to proceed, I allowed them to do so, and the piece was drawn off under a heavy fire from the enemy's sharpshooters. Several shots struck the carriages, but the men and horses were unharmed. The limber contained about 50 rounds of ammunition, and the gun was immediately placed in position by Captain Richardson.
I was deprived of the services of Capt. Joe Norcom early in the day, who, being struck by a piece of shell, had to retire from the field after turning over the command to Lieut. H. A. Battles.
Between 1 and 2 p.m. you ordered me to give the signal for opening along the entire line. Two guns in quick succession were fired from Captain Miller's battery, and were immediately followed by all the battalions along the line opening simultaneously upon the enemy behind his works. The enemy answered vigorously, and a most terrific artillery duel ensued. Notwithstanding a most galling fire from the enemy's artillery from behind his works, and an enfilade fire from the mountain on my right, my men stood bravely to their work, and by their steady and judicious firing caused immense slaughter to the enemy.
About thirty minutes after the signal guns had been fired, our infantry moved forward over the plateau in our front. It having been understood by a previous arrangement that the artillery should advance with the infantry, I immediately directed Captain Miller to advance his and Lieutenant Battles' batteries. Captain Miller having suffered severely from the loss of men and horses, could move forward only three pieces of his own battery and one of Lieutenant Battles' section. Then, with one piece of Major Henry's battalion, under the direction of Major [J. C.] Haskell, he took position 400 or 500 yards to the front, and opened with deadly effect upon the enemy. With the exception of these five guns, no others advanced.
Captain Taylor, on my right, and Major Dearing, on my left, at this juncture ran out of ammunition and withdrew, leaving my battalion alone to bear the brunt of this portion of the field. The battery of Colonel Cabell's command, on Captain Richardson's right, had also ceased firing.
The advanced position of Captain Miller and Lieutenant Battles made them, as soon as the batteries on their flanks had ceased firing, the center of a concentrated fire from several of the enemy's batteries. Our artillery fire seemed to have slackened upon the whole line, and our infantry, unable to hold the works they had so gallantly taken, were falling back, and being pressed by the enemy, who had advanced from behind his breastworks.
At this juncture, General Longstreet ordered that all the artillery that could be spared from the right should be sent to the position just evacuated by Major Dearing. Finding my advanced guns were suffering severely, I determined to change their position to that indicated by General Longstreet. Captain Miller, Lieutenant Battles, and Captain Richardson were immediately withdrawn, and placed with the section of howitzers, under Lieutenant Apps (till now held in reserve), in this position.
This change, however, could not be made, I regret to say, under such a galling fire, without the loss of several of my gallant men, who fell, killed and wounded; among whom was Lieutenant Brown, commanding the First Company piece, severely wounded in the abdomen by a Minie ball. Lieutenant Battles had both of his pieces disabled-one struck on the face and so badly indurated as to prevent loading, and the other by having the axle broken. Captain Miller's loss in horses was so great that he could maneuver but one piece. Three pieces of the Third Company and the section of the Fourth Company were, therefore, sent to the rear. The captured rifle (Captain Richardson's), after having fired away all its ammunition, was struck on the axle by a solid shot and disabled, and was also withdrawn.
Our infantry having fallen back about 200 yards to the rear of my guns, I was left, with the assistance of Captain Moody's section of howitzers, Captain Parker's battery, and one section of Colonel Cabell's, under Lieutenant ------- -------, and a few skirmishers, to hold the enemy in check.
After having once been driven back, he made no farther advance in force, but threw out a heavy line of sharpshooters, which we held in check till dark, when, by order of Colonel Alexander, I withdrew, and by your direction went into park near the old school-house, and bivouacked for the night.
My officers, non-commissioned officers, and men, by their good judgment, intrepidity, and zealous conduct on the field, fully sustained the proud reputation already won on so many bloody fields.
I am under especial obligations to Sergt. Maj. E. J. Kursheedt, who (having no adjutant) acted as my aide. He was always at hand, frequently under the heaviest fire, performing his duty with coolness and efficiency.
Too much cannot be said in praise of William Forrest (driver), of Captain Richardson's company, for the gallant manner in which he acted in getting off the Yankee gun. Having secured the gun, and finding ammunition with it, it was necessary, in order to put it to immediate use, to have horses and harness. Forrest was indefatigable in his exertions till he had captured from between the lines horses and harness sufficient to haul the gun, having several times approached within near range of the enemy's sharpshooters. He was afterward wounded by a Minie ball in the arm at the battle of Williamsport, Md.
My casualties were: Wounded, 3 officers. Killed, 3; wounded, 23, and missing, 16, non-commissioned officers and privates; 37 horses killed and disabled; 3 guns disabled; 1 limber blown up.
I omitted to state in the proper place that Lieutenant Apps, shortly after putting his howitzers in position, was struck by a piece of shell, and had his horse killed under him. He was obliged to leave the field.
I have the honor to be, colonel, your obedient servant,
B. F. ESHLEMAN,
AUGUST 18, 1863.
Col. J. B. WALTON,
Chief of Artillery, First Army Corps.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the Washington Artillery Battalion under my command since leaving Gettysburg, Pa., July 4, embracing the battle of Williamsport, Md., July 6:
I moved from my bivouac near the battle-field of Gettysburg, in obedience to your order, about 9 o'clock on the morning of the 4th, and reported to General Imboden, commanding the cavalry escort to the wagon train, at Cashtown, with seven Napoleons, one rifle, and one howitzer, 12-pounder. My ammunition-chests bad been partly replenished, and Captain Richardson's rifle, since transferred from its carriage with a broken axle to that of his howitzer. The howitzer was attached to one of Captain [John] Wood's (acting quartermaster Washington Artillery Battalion) empty wagons for transportation. Captain Norcom's disabled Napoleon was turned over to the ordnance officer, Captain [James M.] Garnett.
On reaching Cashtown, I placed my battalion in the column of wagons, distributing it in sections, at intervals of about a mile. A drenching rain, which continued during the afternoon and night, made the roads very heavy, and my men and horses suffered much from the forced march, having made the whole distance from Gettysburg to Williamsport without halting to feed, and only once to water.
No special incident occurred on the march till I passed Greencastle, when the enemy's cavalry made a dash into the wagon train about 2 miles to the front of my forward section. Obtaining the support of a skeleton regiment of infantry that had been posted near Greencastle to protect our flanks, I immediately pressed forward Captain Norcom's section, but the enemy withdrew before I could get within range of him. I ordered the trains to be put in new trim again as quickly as possible, and the column closed up. The balance of the march was made without additional incident.
Arriving at Williamsport at 3 a.m. on the 6th, I was ordered by General Imboden to go into position at once on the Boonsborough and Hagerstown roads, near town. Captain Miller, Lieutenants Hero and McElroy, with a section of Napoleons, and Captain Nor-com, Lieutenants Battles and Apps, with one howitzer and one Napoleon, were posted on the Boonsborough road, half a mile from town. Captain [C. W.] Squires, with one Napoleon, in charge of Lieutenant [John M.] Galbraith, and Captain Richardson, with a section of Napoleons under Lieutenant Hawes, and one 3-inch rifle, were posted on the Hagerstown road, about a half mile from town. Between these two roads, Captain [Joseph D.] Moore, of Garnett's battalion, had two rifled, and [James F.] Hart's battery a section of 12-pounder howitzers, but with very little ammunition. The Donaldsonville battery was in position on the Greencastle road, and a few guns of General Imboden's command occupied positions between the Greencastle road and the river on the left, and between the Boonsborough road and the river on the right. An opportunity was now offered to repose my men and horses, who, after the severe battle of Gettysburg, had been steadily marching for forty-two hours, without sleep, rest, or subsistence.
About 5 p.m. the enemy made his appearance in force with cavalry and artillery on the Boonsborough road, and soon afterward on the Hagerstown road. Dismounting his cavalry, he threw forward heavy lines of skirmishers, and placed a battery on each side of the Boons-borough road. Captains Miller and Norcom opened on him, but the range was found too great for their Napoleon guns. Captains Moore's and Hart's batteries engaged their right battery, but soon exhausted their short supply of ammunition, and had to withdraw.
Seeing our only salvation was to make a bold and determined attack, I immediately advanced Captain Miller's battery about 600 yards, ordering the line of skirmishers forward with him. The enemy deployed his skirmishers to the right, and soon got possession of a house and commanding position immediately on the right of Captain Miller's position, from whence he was annoying Miller very much. I directed Captain Norcom, who had advanced his Napoleon gun, to shell the house, and at the same time ordered our skirmishers on my right to advance and drive the enemy back. This was executed at once, and we afterward held the position.
Lieutenant Battles during this time engaged the enemy farther to the right with his howitzer, checking his advance on a farm road, and Captains Squires and Richardson, on the left of the center, handsomely beating back his advancing column over the Hagerstown road.
Having assumed command of all the artillery, and the unerring and destructive fire of my guns under Captains Miller and Norcom having signally repulsed the enemy in their front, my attention and presence was directed to the left, where Captains Squires and Richardson were gallantly battling with the enemy in this unequal contest. As soon as Hart and Moore had retired, Captain Richardson sent his two Napoleons, under Lieut. Samuel Hawes, to hold that part of the line. Hawes fought the enemy under a most galling fire, in which he lost in killed and wounded 12 men on one piece.
At 6.30 p.m. General Imboden stated to me that General Fitz. Lee's brigade of cavalry was close at hand, and that he wanted all the artillery that could be spared from other parts of the field to be posted so as to command the enemy's position in the center, and at the proper time to silence his battery, with a view to making a charge. The artillery was soon in position, but the cavalry, under command of General Lee, did not arrive till about dark. At dark, the enemy withdrew, and I retired my guns to the original line, and remained in position all night.
Too much cannot be said in praise of the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of my battalion for the zeal and devotion manifested on this occasion. They had just undergone a most fatiguing march of two days and two nights, without sleep, food, or rest. Nevertheless, on the approach of the enemy they sprang with alacrity to their guns, and, by their assiduity and courage and noble defense of our wounded men and transportation, and of Williamsport, have again placed the service and their commanding officer under lasting obligations. Captain Richardson makes special mention of Sergeant [John] Newton, of Captain Hart's South Carolina battery, who volunteered as gunner on one of his pieces after he had lost so many men as to render it difficult to work the gun. I regret to say that Sergeant Newton was mortally wounded, and died before he could be taken off the field.
My loss was:
Command Killed Wounded Total First Company Enlisted Men ---- 2 2 Second Company Enlisted Men 1 12 13 Third Company Enlisted Men ---- 2 2 Sergeant Newton, Hart's battler 1 ---- 1 Total 2 16 18
Killed and disabled, 12 horses.
On July 8, by order of General Imboden, I crossed the Potomac with my battalion (ferrying the river), and went into position on the hill about 1 mile from the ford, to guard the approaches against the enemy's cavalry, where I remained, getting nothing but hay for my horses, till the 13th, when I received orders from General Pickett to move in the direction of Martinsburg, in front of his division.
I arrived at Bunker Hill on the 15th, and by your order reported on the lath to Colonel Alexander, with whom I marched till we reached Gaines' Cross-Roads, when, by Colonel Alexander's order, I was again temporarily attached to General Pickett. It being understood that Dearing's horses were in too poor a condition to make the march over the mud road to Culpeper Court-House with his division (General Pickett's), he was sent by the pike. On arriving at Culpeper, I again reported to Colonel Alexander.
On July 11, Captain Miller's battery was detached and sent with General Imboden to Strasburg, to guard the Yankee prisoners. He reported to me again at Bunker Hill on the 18th.
On the march and in battle, Acting Ordnance Officer [B. L.] Brazel-man acted with his usual efficiency in his department.
I am, colonel, with great respect, your obedient servant,
B. F. ESHLEMAN,
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