Report of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon,
U. S. Army, commanding Second Division of, and Second Army Corps
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
August 7, 1863.
Maj. W. G. MITCHELL,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Corps.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the Second Division during the battle of Gettysburg, on July 2 and 3:
The report will refer partly to the Second Division and partly to the Second Corps, in command of which I was twice placed, first at Taneytown, and again during the battle of the 2d, when General. Hancock was ordered to take command of the Third Corps.
The corps arrived upon the ground on the morning of the 2d, and was placed in position with the right (Third Division, Brig. Gen. A. Hays) resting near the cemetery and extending along the crest of a hill which, turning to the left, ran parallel to the turnpike and toward a prominent hill called Round Top. The Second Division came next, and the First Division (Brigadier-General Caldwell) was upon the left, connecting with the Third Corps, and was afterward detached for service with that corps.
At the advance of the Third Corps at 4 p.m., the division was in the following order: Webb's brigade on the right, partially behind a low stone wall, and protecting Cushing's battery, Fourth U.S. Artillery, which was on its right; Brown's Rhode Island battery was on Webb's left; Hall's brigade prolonged the line to the left, while Harrow's was held in reserve to the rear.
At 4 o'clock the Third Corps advanced, and, swinging round its left flank, took up a position along the Emmitsburg road. To give support to its right flank, I ordered forward two regiments of Harrows brigade, to occupy a position-along that road and to the right of a brick house. Here they tore down the fences and constructed breastworks, behind which they did most excellent service in checking the advance of the enemy, and preventing him from cutting off the Third Corps from our lines. For the same purpose, I sent a 12-pounder battery to the right and rear of these two regiments, to fire across the Emmitsburg road at some of the enemy's batteries established there.
No sooner was the Third Corps in position, with its right resting near the brick house and the left "in the air," than the enemy made a most furious assault with infantry and artillery on that flank, rolling it back and enfilading the whole line. Such a flank attack could not be successfully resisted, and although dispositions were made to check the advance of the enemy, he came on so rapidly as to drive everything before him. I directed solid shot to be thrown from our batteries over the heads of our own men, and, on the application of General Humphreys, sent two of my regiments to his assistance.
About this time the command of the corps was turned over to me by Major-General Hancock. The smoke was at this time so dense that but little could be seen of the battle, and I directed some of the guns to cease firing, fearing they might injure our own men or uselessly waste their ammunition.
The Eighty-second New York and Fifteenth Massachusetts, near the brick house, were overpowered, outflanked by the enemy in pursuit of the Third Corps, and forced back after heavy loss, including both commanding officers. The Nineteenth Massachusetts, Colonel Devereux, and Forty-second New York, Colonel Mallon, sent to the assistance of General Humphreys, finding themselves unable with that small force to stem the triumphant advance of the enemy, retired, after a short struggle, in good order.
The enemy came on with such impetuosity that the head of his column came quite through a vacancy in our line to the left of my division, opened by detaching troops to other points. By the steadiness, however, of the troops in the immediate vicinity, and the timely arrival of the Twelfth Corps, this advance was checked and driven back with considerable loss, the pursuit being continued for some distance beyond our lines, and all the guns overrun by the enemy retaken. Darkness ended the contest here, but it continued for some time on our right, in front of the Eleventh Corps. I sent Carroll's brigade, of the Third Division, and two regiments of Webb's brigade to its assistance.
July 3.--Skirmishing continued all along the line at intervals during the morning, and some little artillery firing occurred, but at 1 o'clock (at which time, General Hancock having resumed command of the corps, I returned to my division) the enemy opened with his artillery all along his line, and for two hours the most terrific shower of shot and shell continued, ably responded to by our batteries. At the end of that time the fire on both sides slackened, and the enemy displayed his first line coming out of the woods, stud preceded by a heavy line of skirmishers, which commenced immediately to push ours back. The line moved steadily to the front in a way to excite the admiration of every one, and was followed by a second and third, extending all along our front as far as the eye could reach. Our guns were run well forward, so as to give them a good sweep over the ground, loaded with canister, and the men warned to keep well under cover, and to reserve their fire until the enemy got well within range. As the front line came up, it was met with such a withering fire of canister and musketry as soon melted it away, but still on they came from behind, pressing forward to the wall. By this time most of our artillerymen had fallen, and but an occasional cannon shot along our part of the line interrupted the continuous rattle of musketry. The right of the enemy's line did not extend as far as the left of my division, and, while urging forward some of my left regiments to take his line in flank, I was wounded and left the field. The rest is told by the brigade reports.
Webb's line of three small regiments was overwhelmed and driven back by the superior masses of the enemy, but Hall's men, skillfully directed by himself and the gallant Devereux, Mallon, and others, rushed to the rescue, fell upon him in flank, and, with the assistance of some of the First Brigade and of Webb's men, who, under the direction of their brave commander, Colonel Smith, Seventy-first Pennsylvania, and others, had turned again, drove him back over the wall, capturing a large number of prisoners and many colors.
The repulse of this assault was most gallant, and I desire to call special attention to the great gallantry and conspicuous qualities displayed by Brigadier-General Webb and Colonel Hall. Their services were invaluable, and it is safe to say that, without their presence, the enemy would have succeeded in gaining a foothold at that point.
Attention is also called to the officers and men specially mentioned by the various reports.
I desire to call particular attention to the manner in which several of the subordinate reports mention the services of my gallant aide, Lieut. F. A. Haskell, Sixth Wisconsin, and to add my testimony of his valuable services. This young officer has been through many battles, and distinguished himself alike in all by his conspicuous coolness and bravery, and in this one was slightly wounded, but refused to quit the field. It has always been a source of regret to me that our military system offers no plan for rewarding his merit and services as they deserve.
Major Baird, Eighty-second New York, my division inspector-general, received a severe wound in the foot while gallantly carrying an order for me on the 2d. Such men as these should be promoted on the field, though I regret to say they are frequently overlooked by the State authorities, and incompetent persons (not soldiers) placed over their heads. I have urged Major Baird for the colonelcy of his regiment, now vacant.
Captain [John P.] Wood, assistant adjutant-general, was injured by his horse being shot and falling upon him early on the 3d.
Captain Wessels, One hundred and sixth Pennsylvania, my division judge-advocate, and Lieutenant Moale, Nineteenth U. S. Infantry, aide-de-camp, were with me on the field, and behaved with great coolness and gallantry.
Our batteries were served in the most gallant style, continuing their fire to the last under the most trying circumstances. The heavy loss in officers and men, horses and matériel attest at the same time the severity of the enemy's fire and the noble manner in which it was sustained.
Our loss in killed and wounded was fearful, especially among the field officers, demonstrating how gallantly the men were led. Colonel Ward, Fifteenth Massachusetts; Lieutenant-Colonel Huston, Eighty-Second New York; Colonel O'Kane and Lieutenant-Colonel Tschudy, Sixty-ninth Pennsylvania; Colonel Revere, Twentieth Massachusetts; Lieutenant-Colonel Steele, Seventh Michigan, and Lieutenant-Colonel Thoman, Fifty-ninth New York, were killed; and Colonel Baxter, Seventy-second Pennsylvania; Colonel Colvill, Lieutenant-Colonel Adams, and Major Downie, First Minnesota: Lieutenant-Colonel Macy, Twentieth Massachusetts, and Lieutenant-Colonel Wass and Major Rice, Nineteenth Massachusetts, were wounded. The division went into action about 3,800 strong; lost in killed and wounded over 1,600, and captured more prisoners than it had men on the ground at the end of the conflict, besides many colors.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding Division.
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