Report of Col. John S. Hoffman, Thirty-first Virginia Infantry, commanding Smith's brigade
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
HEADQUARTERS SMITH'S BRIGADE,
August 4, 1863.
Maj. JOHN W. DANIEL,
MAJOR: This brigade was commanded by General [William] Smith from the time it left the vicinity of Fredericksburg till July 10 last, when, having tendered his resignation and obtained leave of absence, the command devolved upon me. The brigade accompanied the main body of the division during the campaign, excepting that portions were temporarily detached, as will be mentioned.
On June 13, near Kernstown, south of Winchester, the brigade formed on the right of the Valley turnpike, in rear of General Hoke's brigade, and afterward moved by the left flank, and formed to the left of the road; thence the Thirty-first Virginia Regiment was sent forward to hold a brick house and orchard near the road, and it being reported that the enemy was advancing in force, the residue of the brigade soon followed, and the whole formed near the house, where it was exposed to a few shell from one of the enemy's batteries; thence it moved to the left and forward, and formed on the southwest of the enemy's fortifications near 'Winchester, on the left of General Hays' brigade, under a considerable fire of shell, which, however, passed over the command. Here the Thirteenth and a part of the Forty-ninth Virginia Regiments were deployed and advanced as skirmishers.
The brigade occupied this position during that evening and night and the forenoon of the next day, the Thirteenth Virginia Regiment occasionally skirmishing with the enemy's sharpshooters.
On the 14th, about the middle of the day, the brigade moved to the left and forward, crossing the Northwestern turnpike, and formed on a ridge west of the enemy's works, in rear of General Hays' brigade. Late in the evening, the artillery of the division having opened and delivered a heavy fire upon the enemy's works, which was promptly returned, and General Hays, under severe musketry as well as artillery fire, assaulting and carrying his first line of works, this brigade followed and supported it, and with it occupied the place during the night. In this action only 2 men were wounded.
Having left the Thirteenth and Fifty-eighth Virginia Regiments near Winchester, only the three others constituting the brigade, on July 1 it formed on the northward of the town of Gettysburg, and twice moved forward toward the town. After the enemy had been driven beyond the town, the brigade moved to the left, crossing the [Gettysburg] Railroad and York turnpike. The Forty-ninth Virginia Regiment was advanced as skirmishers. On several occasions during the day the brigade was exposed to fire from the enemy's batteries.
On the 2d, it being reported that the enemy's cavalry was approaching from the northward, the brigade, with that of General Gordon, moved on the York turnpike, and the Forty-ninth Virginia Regiment was sent forward as skirmishers, and the Thirty-first Virginia Regiment was sent across to the Hunterstown road, to report to Major-General Stuart, who ordered that it should remain in support of a part of his cavalry during the night.
On the morning of the 3d, the Forty-ninth and Fifty-second Virginia Regiments moved to the left and forward eastwardly, crossing the creek, and formed between the creek and the enemy's works near the left of General Johnson s division, and thence moved to the left, and formed nearly at right angles to the extreme left of that division, when the Forty-ninth, supported by the Fifty-second Virginia Regiment, advanced upon a large body of the enemy near the left flank of that division, and dislodged it from its position. The Thirty-first Virginia Regiment having been relieved by General Stuart and joining the others about this time, the Forty-ninth Virginia Regiment was left, while the other two regiments recrossed the creek and moved down southeastwardly, and formed, and thence moved back up the creek and to the rear, and rested, when they were joined by the Forty-ninth Virginia Regiment.
Early in the afternoon, the brigade moved, and again crossed the creek and formed under the enemy's works to the right of its former position, in rear of the Stonewall Brigade, of General-Johnson's division, where it remained till after dark. During most of the early part of the day the brigade was exposed to a heavy fire of artillery, and during a part to that of musketry also. The Forty-ninth Virginia Regiment suffered very severely, losing, indeed, 'more than two fifths of its members. During the latter part of the day, the brigade was much annoyed by the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters, protected by rocks.
In the night, the brigade moved to the rear and around to the right, and, on the morning of the 4th, formed westward of the town, on a ridge to the left of the Chambersburg turnpike, on the left of General Gordon's and right of General Hays' brigade, where we remained during the day.
During the three days of the battle, the loss of the brigade was 3 officers and 12 men killed, 5 officers and 105 men wounded, and 17 men missing.
On June 15, the Thirteenth Virginia Regiment was left at Winchester as provost guard, and remained there on that duty till July 23, when it rejoined the brigade.
On June 17, at Winchester, the Fifty-eighth Virginia Regiment was placed in charge of 108 officers and 1,500 men captured there, and, on June 22, delivered them at Staunton, where four companies were detached and sent with the prisoners to Richmond. These having rejoined the regiment on June 28, it moved toward the brigade, having charge of an ordnance train.
Reaching the Potomac, and finding it unsafe to take the train across, on July 5 the regiment crossed the river to Williamsport, and, under an order from General Imboden, moved on the Cashtown road about 6 miles to the intersection of the National road, and remained on these roads till about 3 o'clock in the morning of the 6th.
This morning, under an order from the same general, the regiment moved back to Williamsport, and deployed as skirmishers on the heights north of the town, between the Hagerstown and Boons-borough roads, and met a large force of the enemy's cavalry dismounted, with artillery, and, after an engagement of some hours, repulsed it, killing and wounding a number of men and horses and taking 5 prisoners. The loss of the regiment was 1 officer and 8 men wounded.
Under an order from General Pickett, the regiment recrossed the Potomac, and remained till, on July 11, it again crossed and joined the brigade. Besides the men missing already mentioned, 32 are missing who are supposed to have been captured.
On all occasions of exposure to danger during the campaign, as far as my observation has extended, while the conduct of the officers has been, without exception, highly creditable, the unfaltering steadiness of the men has surpassed anything that I had before witnessed.
J. S. HOFFMAN,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
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