Report of Col. Archibald C. Godwin, Fifty-seventh North Carolina Infantry, commanding Hoke's brigade.
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
HEADQUARTERS HOKE'S BRIGADE,
July 30, 1863.
Maj. JOHN W. DANIEL,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Early's Division.
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the action of Hoke's brigade in the late campaign from Fredericksburg into Maryland and Pennsylvania, and back into Virginia:
From the commencement of the campaign to the night of July 2, the brigade was commanded by Col. I. E. Avery, Sixth Regiment North Carolina troops, General Hoke not having recovered from the effects of a severe wound received at the battle of Chancellorsville. Colonel Avery left no memoranda of the operations of his command, and this fact must serve to account for the meager and imperfect details of this report.
Leaving camp near Hamilton's Crossing on June 4, the brigade reached Culpeper Court-House on the 8th; encamped near Gaines' Cross-Roads on the 11th, and, by a forced march on the 12th, passed through Chester Gap to Front Royal, and forded both branches of the Shenandoah.
On June 13, the division having reached the vicinity of Winchester, via Newtown, a position was taken in front of the enemy on the left of the Valley turnpike, Gordon's brigade on the right, Hays' brigade in the center, Smith's-brigade on the left, the right of Gordon's brigade resting on the turnpike.
Sharp skirmishing ensued, and was kept up along the lines throughout the day. The action of Hoke's brigade consisted in moving rapidly from right to left of the line already established, and back again to a position about 600 yards in rear of Gordon's brigade. Night coming on, the brigade was faced by the rear rank, and further instructions received to establish a line of pickets in our late rear, to guard against any approach of the enemy in that quarter. Arms were stacked, and the men bivouacked on their lines.
At daylight on the morning of the 14th, the Fifty-fourth Regiment North Carolina troops was left on picket duty in the rear, and the brigade, now composed of the Sixth, Twenty-first, and Fifty-seventh Regiments, moved up within supporting distance of Gordon's brigade later in the day.
The plan of attack having been changed, General Gordon was left to divert the attention of the enemy in front, while the rest of the division were marched silently and rapidly by a circuitous route to a range of wooded hills running parallel with the line of intrenchments occupied by the enemy in rear and northwest of the town.
The command having been allowed time to rest, the division was formed in three lines of battle, Hays' brigade in front, Hoke's brigade 75 yards in rear, and Smith's brigade a like distance in rear of Hoke's. The artillery was placed in position on the flanks of the division, and at 6 p.m. opened a furious fire upon the enemy, very much to his surprise and confusion. He promptly returned the fire, with but little effect, however, and fifteen minutes later General Hays commenced to advance. Hoke's brigade moved forward at the same moment, but had scarcely gained 10 paces when the Fifty-seventh Regiment was ordered to move off by the left flank to the support of the batteries on the left, and a few moments later the two remaining regiments, viz, Sixth and Twenty-first, were ordered to move by the right flank to the support of the batteries on the right. General Hays soon succeeded in driving the enemy from his intrenchments, and the batteries on the left were immediately hurried forward to the position he had just gained. The Fifty-seventh Regiment then advanced in line of battle across the intervening valley, and was halted, by order of Major-General Early, in rear of Hays' brigade. Some loss was sustained in this position by the shells from the fort, which were directed at the troops upon the hill.
At sunset, by order of Major-General Early, this regiment was ordered to advance upon the works on the extreme right of the enemy's line. The order was executed without loss, the enemy retiring without firing a shot. Night put an end to further movements, and by the morning the enemy had evacuated their stronghold and inner line of fortifications.
At sunrise, Colonel Avery moved forward in pursuit with the Sixth and Twenty-first Regiments. By order of Major-General Early, the Fifty-seventh Regiment was left to hold the intrenchments against any attack which might be made by re-enforcements to the enemy from the direction of Romney.
Following the movements of the division, the brigade forded the Potomac at Shepherdstown on the 22d, entered Pennsylvania on the 23d, and on the 28th occupied the town of York.
On July 1, we advanced upon Gettysburg, along the Heidlersburg road, and, when distant one mile and a half from the town, line of battle was formed on the left of the road, the right resting on Hays' brigade. The brigade at this time consisted of three regiments--the Sixth (commanded by Major [Samuel McD.] Tare), the Twenty-first (by Colonel [W. W.]Kirkland), and the Fifty-seventh (by Colonel Godwin), the Fifty-fourth having been sent back to Staunton with Federal prisoners captured at Winchester.
Skirmishers were deployed in front of our lines, and at 3 p.m. the order to advance was received. The enemy had formed line of battle on the hillside in front of the town, under cover of a strong fence, portions of which were made of stone. Our advance was made with great deliberation until we approached a sluggish stream, or slough, about 200 yards in front of the enemy's lines, when the batteries opened upon us with grape and canister, seconded by a very destructive fire from the infantry.
Colonel Avery now gave the order to double-quick, and the brigade gallantly dashed through the stream and up the hill to the fence, the enemy stubbornly holding their position until we had climbed over into their midst. Two Napoleon guns were taken by the Sixth North Carolina. A large number of prisoners taken at this point were sent to the rear. The enemy now fled into the town, many of them being killed in the retreat.
The brigade continued to advance toward the town, but, while yet in the outskirts, was wheeled to the left and reformed on the railroad. The enemy had now succeeded in planting a battery upon a high, sloping spur on the mountain side immediately in our front. Under cover of the railroad cut, we were moved by the left flank about 400 yards to the left, and again moved forward. The shells from the enemy proving very effective, we were soon after halted in a depression on the hillside, and the men ordered to lie down. Skirmishers were thrown forward, and this position held through the night and until 8 p.m. on the next day, July 2, when the brigade moved forward to the attack.
As soon as the summit of the hill was gained, it was discovered that the batteries which we had been ordered to take were in front of Hays' brigade, and considerably to the right of our right flank. We continued to advance, however, under a terrific fire, climbed a rail fence, and still farther beyond descended into a low bottom, and dislodged a heavy line of infantry from a stone wall running parallel with our front. The enemy's batteries now enfiladed us, and a destructive fire was poured into our ranks from a line of infantry formed in rear of a stone wall running at a right angle with our line of battle and immediately below the batteries.
Colonel Avery now ordered a change of front, and succeeded in wheeling the brigade to the right, a movement which none but the steadiest veterans could have executed under such circumstances. In swinging around, three stone walls had to be surmounted. The ground was rocky and uneven, and these obstacles prevented that rapidity of movement and unity of action which might have insured success. The men now charged up the hill with heroic determination, and drove the enemy from his last stone wall. In this charge, the command had become much separated, and in the darkness it was now found impossible to concentrate more than 40 or 50 men at any point for a farther advance. Major Tate, with a portion of the Sixth North Carolina Regiment, aided by a small number of the Ninth Louisiana Regiment, succeeded in capturing a battery on the right. No supports were at hand, and the approach of the enemy in overwhelming force compelled him to retire. The scattered fragments of the brigade now withdrew, and were reformed near the position which it had occupied through the day.
Here I learned for the first time that our brigade commander (Col. Isaac E. Avery), had been mortally wounded. In his death the country lost one of her truest and bravest sons, and the army one of its most gallant and efficient officers.
In t-he desperate struggle through which we had just passed, the officers and men of Hoke's brigade fulfilled all the expectations which their gallantry on former occasions had excited. No body of men of equal number could have accomplished greater results against such overwhelming odds.
The command of the brigade now devolved upon me, and before daylight, by order of Major-General Early, I moved into position in the railroad cut on the outskirts of the town. Later in the day, I was ordered to form on the left of Hays' brigade, in one of the upper streets of the town, and in advance of the position on the railroad.
At 2 a.m. on the morning of July 4, by order of Major-General Early, I moved the brigade by the right flank to a position west of Gettysburg, and formed line of battle on the left of Hays' brigade. This position was maintained throughout the day.
At 2 a.m. on the morning of the 5th, the brigade moved off with the division in the direction of Hagerstown.
I respectfully beg leave to call your attention to the action of the Fifty-fourth North Carolina Regiment in the engagement at Williamsport, Md., on July 5. A full report of the operations of this regiment by Colonel [Kenneth M.] Murchison is herewith submitted.
For a list of casualties in the late campaign, reference is respectfully made to the reports heretofore submitted.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. C. GODWIN,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
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