Report of Col. Hiram Berdan,First U.S. Sharpshooters,
Commanding First and Second U.S. Sharpshooters.
Battle of Gettysburg
HEADQUARTERS FIRST U.S. SHARPSHOOTERS,
July 29, 1863
Capt. F. BIRNEY,
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the Sharpshooters at the battle near Gettysburg:
On the morning of July 2, I received instructions from the division commander to assume command of the First and Second Regiments of Sharpshooters, and to report direct to division headquarters. In accordance with instructions received, I posted the Second Regiment, Major Stoughton commanding, on our left, to act as flankers, and the First Regiment on our front.
About 7.30 a.m. I received orders to send forward a detachment of 100 sharpshooters to discover, if possible, what the enemy was doing. I went out with the detail, and posted them on the crest of the hill beyond the Emmitsburg road, and where they kept up a constant fire nearly all day upon the enemy in the woods beyond until they were driven in, about 5 p.m., by a heavy force of the enemy, after having expended all their ammunition.
As it was impossible with this force to proceed far enough to discover what was being done by the enemy in the rear of this woods, I reported the fact to Major-General Birney, and about 11 a.m. I received an order from him to send out another detachment of 100 sharpshooters farther to the left of our lines, and to take the Third Maine Volunteers as support, with directions to feel the enemy, and to discover their movements, if possible.
I moved down the Emmitsburg road some distance beyond our extreme left and deployed the sharpshooters in a line running nearly east and west, and moved forward in a northerly direction parallel with the Emmitsburg road. We soon came upon the enemy, and drove them sufficiently to discover three columns in motion in rear of the woods, changing direction, as it were, by the right flank. We attacked them vigorously on the flank, and from our having come upon them very unexpectedly, and getting close upon them, we were enabled to do great execution, and threw them for a time into confusion. They soon rallied, however, and attacked us, when, having accomplished the object of the reconnaissance, I withdrew under cover of the woods, bringing off most of our wounded, and reported about 2 o'clock to Major-General Birney the result of our operations and discoveries.
The Second Regiment was deployed in front of the Second Brigade, by order of General Ward, and moved forward to a favorable position, where they held the enemy's skirmishers in check and did good execution, breaking the enemy s front line three times, and finally fell back as the enemy advanced in heavy force, remaining in action with the remainder of the brigade during the engagement. The balance of the First Regiment, under the immediate command of Captain Baker, moved forward to the right of the peach orchard, on the right of the First Brigade, where they had a splendid chance for execution, the enemy coming forward in heavy lines. I relieved them from time to time as they exhausted their ammunition.
On the 3d, a detachment of about 100 sharpshooters was sent, under command of Captain Baker, as sharpshooters, to cover the front of the Sixth Corps. They remained there all day, constantly firing, and toward night advanced, driving the enemy's skirmishers some distance, and capturing 18 prisoners. The balance of the command was moved toward the right with the rest of the division, to the support of some batteries, where nothing of importance occurred.
On the morning of the 4th, the Second Regiment was deployed in the field in front of our position on the 3d, and advanced, driving the enemy's skirmishers to the edge of the woods, which position they held until relieved at 7.30 p.m. by a New Jersey regiment, having been under heavy picket firing all day.
The entire command, with very few exceptions, behaved most gallantly.
I desire to make special mention of Colonel Lakeman and Major Lee, of the Third Maine Regiment, for their services on the reconnaissance, in which the Third Maine was used as a support to the detachment of sharpshooters.
I desire to make special mention also of Captain Nash, who rendered invaluable assistance in the reconnaissance referred to, and behaved most gallantly; also of Major Stoughton and Captain Baker, for their judgment and skill in handling their troops under fire; also Lieutenant Norton, acting adjutant of the Second Regiment, who displayed great bravery, and who with a small squad captured and sent to the rear 22 prisoners on Thursday.
We went into action with about 450 rifles. During the three days, we expended 14,400 rounds of ammunition.
Our total loss was:
Commissioned officers: 2 killed 7 wounded 1 missing 10 total
Enlisted men: 10 killed 52 wounded 17 missing 79 total
I trust that the sharpshooters lost none of their reputation at Gettysburg. Though operating in small detachments, and with other troops, and in such extensive engagements, their deeds may not have been so conspicuous as on some former occasions where the whole force was used together.
I have the honor to be, captain, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding U.S. Sharpshooters.
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