Reports of Maj. Gen. Henry Heth, C. S. Army, commanding division
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
HEADQUARTERS HETH'S DIVISION,
Camp near Orange Court-House, September 13, 1863.
Capt. W. N. STARKE,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Third Corps, Army of Northern Virginia.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the operations of my division from June 29 until July 1, including the part it took in the battle of Gettysburg (first day), July 1.
The division reached Cashtown, Pa., on June 29. Cashtown is situated at the base of the South Mountain, on the direct road from Chambersburg, via Fayetteville, to Gettysburg, and 9 miles distant from the latter place.
On the morning of June 30, I ordered Brigadier-General Pettigrew to take his brigade to Gettysburg, search the town for army supplies (shoes especially), and return the same day. On reaching the suburbs of Gettysburg, General Pettigrew found a large force of cavalry near the town, supported by an infantry force. Under these circumstances, he did not deem it advisable to enter the town, and returned, as directed, to Cashtown. The result of General Pettigrew's observations was reported to Lieutenant-General Hill, who reached Cash-town on the evening of the 30th.
On July 1, my division, accompanied by Pegram's battalion of artillery, was ordered to move at 5 a.m. in the direction of Gettysburg. On nearing Gettysburg, it was evident that the enemy was in the vicinity of the town in some force.
It may not be improper to remark that at this time--9 o'clock on the morning of July 1--I was ignorant what force was at or near Gettysburg, and supposed it consisted of cavalry, most probably supported by a brigade or two of infantry.
On reaching the summit of the second ridge of hills west of Gettysburg, it became evident that there were infantry, cavalry, and artillery in and around the town. A few shot from Pegram's battalion Marye's battery) scattered the cavalry vedettes. One of the first shells fired by Pegram mortally wounded Major-General Reynolds, then in command of the force at Gettysburg.
My division, now within a mile of Gettysburg, was disposed as follows: Archer's brigade in line of battle on the right of the turnpike; Davis' brigade on the left of the same road, also in line of battle; Pettigrew's brigade and Heth's old brigade (Colonel Brockenbrough commanding), were held in reserve. Archer and Davis were now directed to advance, the object being to feel the enemy; to make a forced reconnaissance, and determine in what force the enemy were --whether or not he was massing his forces on Gettysburg. Heavy columns of the enemy were soon encountered. Davis, on the left, advanced, driving the enemy before him and capturing his batteries. General Davis was unable to hold the position he had gained. The enemy concentrated on his front and flanks an overwhelming force. The brigade maintained its position until every field officer save two were shot down, and its ranks terribly thinned.
Among the officers of his brigade especially mentioned by General Davis as displaying conspicuous gallantry on this occasion are noticed Colonel Stone, commanding Second Mississippi Regiment; Colonel Connally, commanding Fifty-fifth North Carolina Regiment; Major [A. H.] Belo, Fifty-fifth North Carolina Regiment; Lieutenant-Colonel [H.] Moseley, and Major [W. A.] Feehey, Forty-second Mississippi Regiment, severely wounded while gallantly leading their regiments to the charge. Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, Fifty-fifth North Carolina Regiment, was at the same time killed, as also was the gallant Lieutenant [A. K.] Roberts, of the Second Mississippi Regiment, who, with a detachment from the Second and Forty-second Mississippi Regiments, after a hand-to-hand conflict with the enemy, succeeded in capturing the colors of a Pennsylvania regiment. The good conduct of this brigade on this occasion merits my special commendation.
On the right of the road, Archer encountered heavy masses in his front, and his gallant little brigade, after being almost surrounded by overwhelming forces in front and on both flanks, was forced back. The service lost at this time that most gallant and meritorious officer, Brigadier-General Archer, who fell into the enemy's hands, together with some 60 or 70 of his men.
The enemy had now been felt, and found to be in heavy force in and around Gettysburg. The division was now formed in line of battle on the right of the road, the several brigades posted as follows: Archer's brigade (Col. B. D. Fry, Thirteenth Alabama Regiment, commanding) on the right, Pettigrew in the center, and Brock-enbrough on the left. Davis' brigade was kept on the left of the road, that it might collect its stragglers, and from its shattered condition it was not deemed advisable to bring it again into action on that day. It, however, did participate in the action later in the day. After resting in line of battle for one hour or more, orders were received to attack the enemy in my front, with the notification that General Pender's division would support me.
The division had not advanced more than 100 yards before it became hotly engaged. The enemy was steadily driven before it at all points, excepting on the left, where Brockenbrough was held in check for a short time, but finally succeeded in driving the enemy in confusion before him. Brockenbrough's brigade behaved with its usual gallantry, capturing two stand of colors and a number of prisoners. The officer who made the report of the part taken by Brockenbrough's brigade in this day's fight has omitted to mention the names of the officers and soldiers who distinguished themselves on this occasion.
Pettigrew's brigade encountered the enemy in heavy force, and broke through his first, second, and third lines. The Eleventh North Carolina Regiment, Colonel Leventhorpe commanding, and the Twenty-sixth North Carolina Regiment, Colonel Burgwyn, jr., commanding, displayed conspicuous gallantry, of which I was an eye-witness. The Twenty-sixth North Carolina Regiment lost in this action more than half its numbers in killed and wounded, among whom were Colonel Burgwyn killed and Lieutenant-Colonel Lane severely wounded. Colonel Leventhorpe, of the Eleventh North Carolina Regiment, was wounded, and Major Ross killed. The Fifty-second and Forty-seventh North Carolina Regiments, on the right of the center, were subjected to a heavy artillery fire, but suffered much less than the Eleventh and Twenty-sixth North Carolina Regiments. These regiments behaved to my entire satisfaction.
Pettigrew's brigade, under the leadership of that gallant officer and accomplished scholar, Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew (now lost to his country), fought as well, and displayed as heroic courage as it was ever my fortune to witness on a battle-field. The number of its own gallant dead and wounded, as well as the large number of the enemy's dead and wounded left on the field over which it fought, attests better than any commendation of mine the gallant part it played on July 1. In one instance, when the Twenty-sixth North Carolina Regiment encountered the second line of the enemy, his dead marked his line of battle with the accuracy of a line at a dress parade.
Archer's brigade, on the right (Col. B. D. Fry commanding), after advancing a short distance, discovered a large body of cavalry on its right flank. Colonel Fry judiciously changed his front, thus protecting the right flank of the division during the engagement. This brigade (Archer's), the heroes of Chancellorsville, fully maintained its hard-won and well-deserved reputation. The officer making the report of the part it played in the first and second charges has failed to particularize any officer or soldier who displayed particular gallantry, which accounts for no one being named from this gallant little brigade. After breaking through the first and second lines of the enemy, and several of the regiments being out of ammunition, General Pender's division relieved my own, and continued the pursuit beyond the town of Gettysburg.
At the same time that it would afford me much gratification, I would be doing but justice to the several batteries of Pegram's battalion in mentioning the assistance they rendered during this battle, but I have been unable to find out the names of the commanders of those batteries stationed at the points where important service was rendered, all reports of artillery officers being made through their chief.
My thanks are particularly due to Major Pegram for his ready co-operation. He displayed his usual coolness, good judgment, and gallantry.
My thanks are also due to my personal staff--Major [R. H.] Finney, assistant adjutant-general; Major [H. H.] Harrison, assistant adjutant and inspector general; Lieutenants [M. C.] Selden, jr., and [Stockton] Heth, my aides-de-camp, and acting engineer officer, William O. Slade--for their valuable services in carrying orders and superintending their execution.
I take this occasion to mention the energy displayed by my chief quartermaster (Maj. A. W. Vick) and his assistants in collecting transportation for the division when in Pennsylvania, the division having a limited supply when it crossed the Potomac; also to Major [P. C.] Hungerford, chief commissary of subsistence, and his assistants, for their activity in procuring supplies.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HEADQUARTERS HETH'S DIVISION,
Near Rapidan Station, October 3, 1863.
Capt. W. N. STARKE,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Army Corps.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my command (Heth's and Pender's divisions) at Falling waters, July 14:
On the evening of July 13, I received orders to withdraw my command at dark from the intrenchments near Hagerstown, and move in the direction of Falling Waters, at which point we were to cross the river on a pontoon bridge, already constructed. The artillery attached to my command received its orders through its immediate commander, and moved off a little before dark. I was directed to leave the skirmishers in my front, and was informed that they would be relieved during the night by the cavalry. The officers in charge of the skirmishers were directed, as soon as relieved, to take the road followed by the divisions.
The night was entirely dark and the roads-in a dreadful condition, the entire distance between our breastworks and Falling Waters being ankle-deep in mud. The progress of the command was necessarily very slow and tedious, halting every few minutes to allow the wagons and artillery in our front to pass on. The division was twelve hours accomplishing 7 miles, once halting for two hours.
On reaching an elevated and commanding ridge of hills one mile and a half (possibly a little less) from Falling Waters, I was ordered by Lieut. Gen. A. P. Hill to put my division in line of battle on either side of the road, and, extending along the crest of this hill, facing toward Hagerstown. On the left of the road and on the crest of this hill our engineers had thrown up some half dozen epaulements for artillery, the spaces between the epaulements being open. In our front was an open space, with the view unobstructed for half to three-quarters of a mile; then came a heavy piece of timber some three-fourths of a mile in width.
I was directed, at the same time that I received the order to place my division in line of battle as described, to put Pender's division in rear of my own, in column of brigades. At this point we halted, to allow the wagons and artillery to get over the river. We remained in this position awaiting their crossing for several hours. About 11 o'clock, I received orders from General Hill to move Pender's division across the river, following General Anderson's division, and, after leaving one brigade of my division in line, to follow up the movement of the corps as speedily as possible.
About fifteen or twenty minutes after receiving these orders, and while they were in progress of execution, a small body of cavalry, numbering not more than 40 or 45 men, made their appearance in our front, where the road debouched from the woods previously described. I will here remark, that when on the road, and some 2 or 3 miles from the position I now occupied, a large body of our cavalry passed by my command, going to our rear. When the cavalry alluded to made its appearance, it was at once observed by myself, General Pettigrew, and several members of my staff, as well as many others. On emerging from the woods, the party faced about, apparently acting on the defensive. Suddenly facing my position, they galloped up the road, and halted some 175 yards from my line of battle. From their maneuvering and the smallness of numbers, I concluded it was a party of our own cavalry pursued by the enemy. In this opinion I was sustained by all present. It was not until I examined them critically with my glasses at a distance of not more than 175 yards that I discovered they were Federal troops. The men had been restrained from firing up to this time by General Pettigrew and myself. The command was now given to fire. At the same time, the Federal officer in command gave the command to charge. The squad passed through the intervals separating the epaulements, and fired several shots. In less than three minutes all were killed or captured save two or three, who are said to have escaped. General Pettigrew received a wound in one of his hands at Gettysburg, in consequence of which he was unable to manage his horse, which reared and fell with him. It is probable when in the act of rising from the ground that he was struck by a pistol-ball in the left side, which, unfortunately for himself and his country, proved mortal. A soldier of the Seventh Tennessee Regiment was at the same time mortally wounded. This was the entire loss of my command from this charge; 33 of the enemy's dead were counted; 6 prisoners fell into our hands; also a stand of colors.
Very soon after this, a large body of dismounted cavalry, supported by artillery, of which I had none, made a vigorous attack on Brockenbrough's brigade, which was deployed in line of battle to the right of the road. Brockenbrough repelled the attack, and drove the enemy back into the woods, following him up for some distance. The enemy was now heavily re-enforced, and Brockenbrough was compelled to fall back.
His brigade, having been badly cut up on the 1st and 3d at Gettysburg, was much reduced in numbers. Seeing that the enemy evidently designed turning his right flank, and thus cutting him off from the river, Brockenbrough deployed his brigade as skirmishers, extending well to the right. About this time the enemy appeared on my left flank in force; also in my front.. Seeing the attack was becoming serious, I ordered the several brigades of Pender's division (excepting Thomas', which had crossed the river) to return. At the same time, I sent a message to the lieutenant-general commanding, requesting that artillery might be sent me, as I had none.
On returning, my aide informed me that General Hill directed me to withdraw my command as speedily as possible and cross the river. When this order was received, my line of skirmishers occupied a front of a mile and a half, the left resting on the canal, the right bending around well toward the Potomac. The orders were that the several brigades in line should withdraw simultaneously, protecting their front by a strong line of skirmishers, and converge toward the road leading to Falling Waters. In order to cover this movement, Lane's brigade was formed in line of battle about 500 yards in rear of the advanced line, protected by a heavy line of skirmishers.
The first brigade that passed through Lane's line of battle was reformed in line of battle a quarter of a mile or more in rear of Lane's position, and so on till the command reached the south bank of the Potomac. With the extended line of skirmishers in my front, and being compelled to fall back upon a single road, it is not surprising that, in attempting to reach the road over ravines impassable at many points, and through a thick undergrowth and wood, and over a country with which both officers and men were unacquainted, many of them were lost, and thus fell into the hands of the enemy, who pushed vigorously forward on seeing that I was retiring. The enemy made two cavalry charges, and on each occasion I witnessed the unhorsing of the entire party.
I desire here to brand upon its perpetrator a falsehood and correct an error. The commander of the Federal forces (General Meade) reported to his Government, on the statement of General Kilpatrick, that he (General Kilpatrick) had captured a brigade of infantry in the fight at Falling Waters. To this General Lee replied, in a note to General Cooper, that no organized command had been captured. General Meade recently wrote a note to his Government, reaffirming his first statement, upon the authority of General Kilpatrick. General Kilpatrick, in order to glorify himself, has told a deliberate falsehood. He knows full well that no organized body of men was captured; not even a company was captured, nor the majority of a single company. He asserts, however, that he captured an entire brigade.
The error I wish to correct is attributing all the men captured by the enemy on the 14th as belonging to-my command. I think I state correctly when I say that 3 out of 4 of the men captured by the enemy were captured between our works near Hagerstown and the point where I engaged the enemy, and were the representatives of every corps, division, and brigade which passed over this road. My staff officers alone succeeded in driving from barns and houses immediately on the roadside several hundred stragglers who probably never reached their commands, and these were but a small proportion of the men who straggled.
In conclusion, I will add that the brigade commanders did their duty, and the losses sustained were not attributable to any errors or shortcomings of theirs, but resulted from causes beyond their control. The rear guard of a large army protecting its crossing over a wide river can seldom fail to lose heavily if vigorously pursued by the enemy, especially when in the act of crossing. Under the circumstances, attacked as we were by a large and momentarily increasing force, we have every reason to be thankful that our losses were so small.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
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