Report of Brig. Gen. J. B. Gordon, C. S. Army, commanding brigade.
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
HEADQUARTERS GORDON'S BRIGADE,
August 10, 1863.
Maj. JOHN W. DANIEL,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Early's Division.
MAJOR: I have the honor to report that my brigade began the march with Early's division from Hamilton's Crossing on June 4 last. Halting at Culpeper Court-House two days, on the night of the 12th, after a most exhausting march of 17 miles in about six hours, we reached Front Royal.
I was ordered to move on the pike leading to Winchester at 3 a.m. June 13. Fording both branches of the Shenandoah, we marched to a point on the Staunton pike about 3 miles from Winchester, when, as ordered by Major-General Early, I moved to the left of this road, and formed line of battle 3 miles southwest of the town. About 4 o'clock in the afternoon, I deployed a line of skirmishers, and moved forward to the attack, holding two regiments (the Thirteenth and Thirty-first Georgia) in reserve. After advancing several hundred yards, I found it necessary to bring into line these two regiments, the Thirty-first on the right and the Thirteenth on the left. The enemy's skirmishers retreated on his battle-line, a portion of which occupied a strong position behind a stone wall, but from which he was immediately driven. A battery which I had hoped to capture was rapidly withdrawn. In this charge, which was executed with spirit and unchecked at any point, my brigade lost 75 men, including some efficient officers.
On the 14th, detachments from this brigade were engaged in skirmishing with the enemy in front of the town and fort.
In accordance with orders from Major-General Early, received on the night of the 14th, I began to move my brigade upon the fort at daylight the following morning. I soon discovered that the fort was evacuated, and, sending a detachment to occupy it and take possession of the garrison flag, I sent an officer to communicate with the major-general, and moved as rapidly as possible in the direction of the firing, distinctly heard, on the Martinsburg pike. My brigade reached the point where a portion of Johnson's division engaged the retreating enemy only in time to assist in collecting horses and prisoners.
Crossing the Potomac at Shepherdstown on June 22, we marched through Boonsborough, Md., to Gettysburg. Pa. Before reaching this place, my brigade was detached by Major-General Early from the division, and ordered on a different road, with a battalion of cavalry, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel [E. V.] White. In front of Gettysburg, a regiment of Pennsylvania militia was charged and routed by this cavalry battalion.
I was here ordered to move on the direct pike to the city of York. Before entering this place, the mayor and a deputation of citizens were sent out by the city authorities to make a formal surrender. In accordance with prior instructions from Major-General Early, I moved directly through, having sent in front of the brigade a provost guard to occupy the city and take down the Federal flag left flying over the principal street.
We moved by the direct pike to Wrightsville, on the Susquehanna. At this point I found a body of Pennsylvania militia nearly equal in number to my brigade, reported by the commanding officer (whom we captured) at 1,200 men, strongly intrenched, but without artillery. A line of skirmishers was sent to make a demonstration in front of these works, while I moved to the right by a circuitous route with three regiments, in order to turn these works, and, if possible, gain the enemy's rear, cut off his retreat, and seize the bridge. This I found impracticable, and, placing in position the battery under my command, opened on the works, and by a few well-aimed shots and the advance of my lines, caused this force to retreat precipitately, with the loss of about 20 prisoners, including 1 lieutenant-colonel. I had no means of ascertaining the enemy's number of killed and wounded; 1 dead was left on the field: Our loss, 1 wounded.
It may not be improper in this connection, as evidence of the base ingratitude of our enemies, to state that the Yankee press has attributed to my brigade the burning of the town of Wrightsville. In his retreat across the bridge, the enemy fired it about midway with the most inflammable materials. Every effort was made to extinguish this fire and save the bridge, but it was impossible. From this the town was fired, and, notwithstanding the excessive fatigue of the men from the march of 20 miles and the skirmish with the enemy, I formed my brigade in line around the burning buildings, and resisted the progress of the flames until they were checked.
Leaving Wrightsville on the morning of the 29th, I sent the cavalry under my command to burn all the bridges (fourteen in number) on the railroad leading to York, to which place I marched my brigade, and rejoined the division, from which we had been separated since June 26.
Marching thence to Gettysburg, we participated in the battle of July 1. In accordance with orders from Major-General Early, I formed my brigade in line of battle on the right of the division, one regiment (the Twenty-sixth Georgia) having been detached to support the artillery under Lieutenant-Colonel Jones.
About 3 p.m. I was ordered to move my brigade forward to the support of Major-General Rodes' left. The men were much fatigued from long marches, and I therefore caused them to move forward slowly until within about 300 yards of the enemy's line, when the advance was as rapid as the nature of the ground and a proper regard for the preservation of my line would permit. The enemy had succeeded in gaining a position upon the left flank of Doles' brigade, and in causing these troops to retreat. This movement of the enemy would necessarily have exposed his right flank but for the precaution he had taken to cover it by another line. It was upon this line, drawn up in a strong position on the crest of a hill, a portion of which was woodland, that my brigade charged. Moving forward under heavy fire over rail and plank fences, and crossing a creek whose banks were so abrupt as to prevent a passage excepting at certain points, this brigade rushed upon the enemy with a resolution and spirit, in my opinion, rarely excelled. The enemy made a most obstinate resistance until the colors on portions of the two lines were separated by a space of less than 50 paces, when his line was broken and driven back, leaving the flank which this line had protected exposed to the fire from my brigade. An effort was here made by the enemy to change his front and check our advance, but the effort failed, and this line, too, was driven back in the greatest confusion, and with immense loss in killed, wounded, and 'prisoners. Among the latter was a division commander (General [F. C.] Barlow), who was severely wounded. I was here ordered by Major-General Early to halt.
I had no means of ascertaining the number of the enemy's wounded by the fire of this brigade, but if these were in the usual proportion to his killed, nearly 300 of whom were buried on the ground where my brigade fought, his loss in killed and wounded must have exceeded the number of men I carried into action. Neither was it possible for me to take any account of the prisoners sent to the rear, but the division inspector credits this brigade with about 1,800. I carried into action about 1,200 men, one regiment having been detached, as above stated.
The loss of the brigade in killed and wounded was 350, of whom 40 were killed.
The movements during the succeeding days of the battle (July 2 and 3), I do not consider of sufficient importance to mention.
In the afternoon of July 5, on the retreat from Gettysburg, my brigade, acting as rear guard, was pressed by the enemy near Fairfield, Pa. I was ordered by Major-General Early to hold him in check until the wagon and division trains could be moved forward. Detaching one regiment (the Twenty-sixth Georgia), I deployed it, and after a spirited skirmish succeeded in driving back the enemy's advance guard and in withdrawing this regiment through the woods, with the loss of 8 or 10 killed and wounded.
On July 14, this brigade, with the division, recrossed the Potomac at Williamsport.
It would be gratifying, and in accordance with my sense of justice, to mention the acts of individual courage which came under my own observation, and which have been reported to me, but as the exhibition of this virtue was the general rule, I should do injustice to many if I attempted it.
I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. B. GORDON,
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