Report of Maj. Gen. Oliver
O. Howard, U.S. Army, Commanding Eleventh Army Corps.
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43]
HEADQUARTERS ELEVENTH CORPS,
August 31, 1863.
Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Hdqrs. Army of the Potomac.
GENERAL: On the evening of June 30, the First Corps, with the exception of one brigade and the supply train at Emmitsburg, was located in the vicinity of Marsh Run, on the direct road from Emmitsburg to Gettysburg, and nearly midway between those towns. The Eleventh Corps was at Emmitsburg.
Just at sunset I received a request from General Reynolds, commanding First Corps, to meet him at his headquarters. He then showed me the order from your headquarters placing him in command of the First, Eleventh, and Third Corps; also the circulars of the commanding general dated June 30, together with a confidential communication. The purport of these papers was that a general engagement was imminent, the issues involved immense, and all commanders urged to extraordinary exertions. General Reynolds and I consulted together, comparing notes and information, until a late hour. I then returned to Emmitsburg. A circular from your headquarters, of June 30, required corps commanders to hold their commands in readiness to move at a moment's notice.
At 3.30 a.m. July 1, orders were received from your headquarters to move the Eleventh Corps to within supporting distance of the First Corps, which was to move to Gettysburg. I immediately sent an aide-de-camp to General Reynolds to receive his orders.
At 8 a.m. orders were received from him directing the corps to march to Gettysburg. The column was at once set in motion, my First Division, General Barlow commanding, following the First Corps by the direct route; my Third, General Schurz, and my Second, General Steinwehr, in the order named, taking the route by Horner's Mill. One battery accompanied the First Division; the remainder of the artillery (four batteries), under command of Major Osborn, accompanied the other two divisions. The distance by the direct route was between l0 and 11 miles, and by the other about 13. As soon as the corps was set in motion, I pushed on with my staff by the direct road, and when within 2 miles of Gettysburg received word from General Reynolds, pointing out the place where I was to encamp; but on approaching the town, heavy artillery firing was heard. For some little time I endeavored, by sending in different directions, to find General Reynolds, in order to report to him in person.
In the meantime I went to the top of a high building in Gettysburg, facing westward. I saw firing beyond Seminary Ridge and not far from the seminary. Toward the right, masses of cavalry were drawn up in order, to the east of the ridge and to the northeast of the town. A portion of the First Corps, of General Wadsworth's command, was between me and the seminary, taking position near the railroad. Another division of this corps was moving by the flank with considerable rapidity, along the ridge and in a northeasterly direction. I had studied the position a few moments, when a report reached me that General Reynolds was wounded. At first I hoped his wound might be slight, and that he would continue to command; but in a short time I was undeceived. His aide-de-camp, Major [William] Riddle, brought the sad tidings of his death. This was about 11.30 a.m. Prior to this the general had sent me orders to move up at double-quick, for he was severely engaged.
On hearing of the death of General Reynolds, I assumed command of the left wing, instructing General Schurz to take command of the Eleventh Corps. After an examination of the general features of the country, I came to the conclusion that the only tenable position for my limited force was the ridge to the southeast of Gettysburg, now so well known as Cemetery Ridge. The highest point at the cemetery commanded every eminence within easy range. The slopes toward the west and south were gradual, and could be completely swept by artillery. To the north, the ridge was broken by a ravine running transversely.
I at once established my headquarters near the cemetery, and on the highest point north of the Baltimore pike. Here General Schurz joined me before 12 m., when I instructed him to make the following dispositions of the Eleventh Corps. Learning from General Doubleday, commanding the First Corps, that his right was hard pressed, and receiving continued assurance that his left was safe and pushing the enemy back, I ordered the First and Third Divisions of the Eleventh Corps to seize and hold a prominent height on the right of the Cashtown road and on the prolongation of Seminary Ridge, each division to have a battery of artillery, the other three batteries, supported by General Steinwehr's division (Second), to be put in position near me on Cemetery Hill.
About 12.30 [P.m.] General Buford sent me word that the enemy was massing between the York and Harrisburg roads, to the north of Gettysburg, some 3 or 4 miles from the town. Quite a large number of prisoners had already been taken by the First Corps. They reported that we were engaging Hill's corps, or a portion of it, and that an aide of General Longstreet had arrived, stating that he would be up with one division in a short time. About this time the head of column of the Eleventh Corps entered and passed through the town, moving forward rapidly toward the position ordered.
The news of Ewell's advance from the direction of York was confirmed by reports from General Schurz, General Buford, and Major [Charles H.] Howard, my aide-de-camp, who had been sent in that direction to reconnoiter. I therefore ordered General Schurz to halt his command, to prevent his right flank being turned, but to push forward a thick line of skirmishers, to seize the point first indicated, as a relief and support to the First Corps.
Meanwhile word was sent to General Sickles, commanding Third Corps, and General Slocum, commanding Twelfth, informing them of the situation of affairs, with a request that General Sickles forward my dispatch to General Meade. General Sickles was at that time, about 1 p.m., near Emmitsburg, and General Slocum reported to be near Two Taverns, distant between 4 and 5 miles from Gettysburg.
At 2 p.m. a report of the state of things as then existing was sent to General Meade directly. About this time I left my chief of staff to execute orders, and went to the First Corps. I found General Doubleday about a quarter of a mile beyond the seminary. His Third Division was drawn up to his front and left, facing toward the northwest, making a large angle with the ridge. The artillery of this division was engaging the enemy at this time. His First Division (Wadsworth's) was located a little to the right of the railroad, and his Second Division (Robinson's)on Wadsworth's right. The First Corps, in this position, made a right angle with the Eleventh Corps, the vertex being near the Mummasburg road. The cavalry of General Buford was located mainly upon the flanks. After inspecting the position of the First Corps, and examining the topography of that part of the field, I returned to my former position at the cemetery.
About this time (2.45 p.m.) the enemy showed himself in force in front of the Eleventh Corps. His batteries could be distinctly seen on a prominent slope between the Mummasburg and the Harrisburg roads.
From this point he opened fire upon the Eleventh Corps, and also more or less enfilading Robinson's division, of the First Corps. The batteries attached to the First and Third Divisions, Eleventh Corps, immediately replied, and with evident effect One battery of the enemy, a little more than a mile north from the cemetery, near the Harrisburg road, could be distinctly seen, and as I had a battery of 3-inch rifled guns, under Wiedrich, near my position, I directed him to fire, provided he could reach the enemy. He did so, but his shells for the most part fell short. Soon after, complaint came that they reached no farther than our own cavalry; however, I never heard that any of our own men were killed or wounded by this fire. The reason of this irregularity was the poor quality of the ammunition there used. Subsequently these guns did most excellent service.
I now sent again to General Slocum, stating that my right flank was attacked, and asking him if he was moving up, and stating that I was in danger of being turned and driven back. Before this, my aide-de-camp, Captain [Edward P.] Pearson, had been sent to General Sickles, requesting him to move up to Gettysburg as rapidly as possible. Owing to difficulty in finding General Sickles headquarters, this message was not delivered until 3.30 p.m.
At 3.20 p.m. the enemy renewed his attack upon the First Corps, hotly pressing the First and Second Divisions. Earnest requests were made upon me for re-enforcements, and General Schurz, who was engaged with a force of the enemy much larger than his own, asked for a brigade to be placed en echelon on his right. I had then only two small brigades in reserve, and had already located three regiments from these in the edge of the town and to the north, and I felt sure that I must hold the point where I was as an ultimate resort. Therefore I at first replied that I could not spare any troops, but did afterward permit General Steinwehr to push out Colonel Coster's brigade beyond the town, to cover the retreat. General Buford was requested to support the center, near the right of the First Corps, as well as he could with his cavalry. A third battery was sent to the front, and put in position near the Third Division, Eleventh Corps.
At 3.45 [P.m.] Generals Doubleday and Wadsworth besought me for re-enforcements. I directed General Schurz, if he could spare one regiment or more, to send it to re-enforce General Wadsworth, and several times sent urgent requests to General Slocum to come to my assistance. To every application for re-enforcements, I replied, "Hold out, if possible, awhile longer, for I am expecting General Slocum every moment." At this time General Doubleday's left was turned, and troops of the enemy appeared far outflanking him, and the enemy were also extending beyond my right flank.
About 4 p.m. I sent word to General Doubleday that, if he could not hold out longer, he must fall back, fighting, to Cemetery Hill and on the left of the Baltimore pike; also a request to General Buford to make a show of force opposite the enemy's right, which he immediately did. I now dispatched Major Howard, my aide-de-camp, to General Slocum, to inform him of the state of affairs, requesting him to send one of his divisions to the left, the other to the right, of Gettysburg, and that he would come in person to Cemetery Hill. He met the general on the Baltimore pike, about a mile from Gettysburg, who replied that he had already ordered a division to the right, and that he would send another to cover the left, as requested, but that he did not wish to come up in person to the front and take the responsibility of that fight. Injustice to General Slocum, I desire to say that he afterward expressed the opinion that it was against the wish of the commanding general to bring on a general engagement at that point.
At 4.10 p.m., finding that I could hold out no longer, and that the troops were already giving way, I sent a positive order to the commanders of the First and Eleventh Corps to fall back gradually, disputing every inch of ground, and to form near my position, the Eleventh Corps on the right and the First Corps on the left of the Baltimore pike. General Steinwehr's division, of the Eleventh Corps, and the batteries which he was supporting, were so disposed as to check the enemy attempting to come through the town, or to approach upon the right or left of Gettysburg. The movement ordered was executed, though with considerable confusion, on account of the First and Eleventh Corps coming together in the town.
At 4. 30 p.m. the columns reached Cemetery Hill, the enemy pressing hard. He made a single attempt to turn our right, ascending the slope northeast of Gettysburg, but his line was instantly broken by Wiedrich's battery, in position on the heights.
General Hancock came to me about this time, and said General Meade had sent him on hearing the state of affairs; that he had given him his instructions while under the impression that he was my senior. We agreed at once that that was no time for talking, and that General Hancock should further arrange the troops, and place the batteries upon the left of the Baltimore pike, while I should take the right of the same. In a very short time we put the troops in position, as I had previously directed, excepting that General Wadsworth's division was sent to occupy a height to the right and rear of our position. In passing through the town we lost many prisoners, but the enemy, perceiving the strength of our position on the heights, made no further attempts to renew the engagement that evening.
About 7 p.m. Generals Slocum and Sickles arrived at the cemetery.
A formal order was at the same time put into my hands, placing General Hancock in command of the left wing. But General Slocum being present, and senior, I turned the command over to him, and resumed the direct command of the Eleventh Corps; whereupon General Hancock repaired to the headquarters of General Meade.
The eventful day was over. The First and Eleventh Corps, numbering less than l8,000 men, nobly aided by Buford's division of cavalry, had engaged and held in check nearly double their numbers from 10 in the morning until 7 in the evening. They gave way, it is true, after hard fighting, yet they secured and held the remarkable position which, under the able generalship of the commander of this army, contributed to the grand results of July 2 and 3.
This day's battle cost us many valuable lives. Major-General Reynolds, a noble commander and long a personal friend, fell early in the action. Lieut. B. Wilkeson, a young officer of exceeding promise, was mortally wounded while in command of Battery G, Fourth U.S. Artillery. Brigadier-Generals Barlow and Paul were severely wounded. For mention of other distinguished officers killed or wounded, I would refer to reports of corps, division, and brigade commanders.
Major Osborn, commanding artillery of Eleventh Corps, reports that his artillery dismounted five of the enemy's guns, which were left on the field. He lost one of his own, which had been dismounted in the action.
I am conscious of an inability to do justice to the operations of the First Corps, never having received a single report from it. Doubtless the general commanding it gives directly and in full sufficient data to enable the commanding general to appreciate its noble behavior as well as its terrible sacrifices.
On the morning of July 2, about 3 a.m., the commanding general, who had previously arrived, met me at the cemetery gate, questioned me about the preceding day, and rode with me over the position then held by our troops. I expressed my opinion strongly in favor of the position. The general replied that he was glad to hear me speak thus, for it was too late to leave it. The Eleventh Corps was disposed with its center near the Baltimore pike--the First Division, General Ames, on the right; Third Division, General Schurz, in the center, and the Second Division, General Steinwehr, on the left. The batteries of the First and Eleventh Corps were united, being put in position with regard to the kind of gun. Colonel Wainwright, chief of artillery First Corps, took charge of all batteries to the right of the pike; Major Osborn, of the Eleventh, all batteries in the cemetery grounds to the left of the pike.
Very little occurred while the other corps were coming into position until about 4 p.m. Just before this, orders had been issued to the division commanders to make ready for battle, as the enemy were reported advancing on our left. Now the enemy opened from some dozen batteries to our right and front, bringing a concentrated fire upon our position. The batteries of Wainwright and Osborn replied with great spirit. Artillery projectiles often struck among the men, but in no case did a regiment break, though suffering considerably.
About 6.30 p.m. I sent word to General Meade that the enemy's batteries on our extreme right had been silenced or withdrawn. After the cannonading had ceased, and the enemy s infantry attack upon the left had been repulsed, another attack, said to be by Rodes' division, commenced between 7 and 8 p.m., beginning between Generals Slocum and Wadsworth, and extending along the front of Ames to the town of Gettysburg. A brigade of General Schurz's division was ordered to support General Ames. Another brigade of General Schurz pushed to the support of General Wadsworth, upon his right. Afterward General Greene, of the Twelfth Corps, came and thanked me for the good service done by this brigade. Lieutenant-Colonel [August] Otto, of General Schurz's staff, present with it, was highly commended.
The attack was so sudden and violent that the infantry in front of Ames was giving way. In fact, at one moment the enemy had got within the batteries. A request for assistance had already gone to headquarters, so that promptly a brigade of the Second Corps, under Colonel Carroll, moved to Ames' right, deployed, and went into position just in time to check the enemy's advance. At Wiedrich's battery, General Ames, by extraordinary exertions, arrested a panic, and the men with sponge-staffs and bayonets forced the enemy back. At this time he received support from General Schurz. Effective assistance was also rendered at this time by a portion of General Steinwehr's command at points where the enemy was breaking through. This furious onset was met and withstood at every point, and lasted less than an hour.
At 9.30 p.m. the old position was resumed by the regiments of my corps, Colonel Carroll remaining between Ames and Wadsworth. Lest another attack should be made, Ames' position was further strengthened by the One hundred and sixth Pennsylvania Regiment, from the Second Corps. At the moment my left was weakened, as also at other times during the engagements, General Newton was ready with re-enforcements from the First Corps.
July 3, at 5 a.m., heavy infantry firing commenced on the right. It continued with more or less severity until after 10 a.m. Neither the artillery nor infantry of the Eleventh Corps were much engaged. Occasionally an attempt was made by the enemy to put batteries in position, and some shots were fired. He always received a prompt reply from our batteries, and failed to receive any advantage.
At about 1 p.m. a terrific cannonade opened upon us from the west, northwest, north, and northeast, hurling into the cemetery grounds missiles of every description. Shells burst in the air, in the ground to the right and left, killing horses, exploding caissons, overturning tombstones, and smashing fences. There was no place of safety. In one regiment 27 were killed and wounded by one shell, and yet the regiments of this corps did not move excepting when ordered.
At 2.30 p.m. we ceased our artillery fire. Soon after, the enemy's artillery also ceased, when a line of his infantry appeared, emerging from the woods upon Seminary Ridge, his left nearly opposite our front, and the line extending far to the left. Our batteries again opened fire, using shells at first. The gaps made by them seemed to have no effect in checking the onward progress of the enemy. Still his line advanced steadily, gaining ground gradually toward his right. When near our line of skirmishers, the batteries opened upon them with grape and canister from the hill. The infantry also commenced firing. The enemy's lines were broken, and the plain in our front was covered with fugitives running in every direction. Colonel Smith's brigade, of General Steinwehr's division, was pushed to the left and front, to the support of the First Corps, moving forward. At this time great numbers of prisoners were taken, in which this portion of the Second Division bore a part.
This was the last attack made by the enemy at the battle of Gettysburg. During the night he withdrew his entire force to and beyond Seminary Ridge.
Were I to accord praise to individuals, I would hardly know where to begin or where to end. I noticed Generals Schurz, Steinwehr, Schimmelfennig, and Ames; Colonels Orland Smith, Coster, Krzyzanowski, and von Gilsa, commanding brigades; also Major Osborn, commanding the artillery, and his battery commanders, and commend them for bravery, faithfulness, and efficiency in the discharge of duty.
I was highly gratified at the conduct and effectiveness of the artillery under Major Osborne. His report shows that he had three batteries at least sent to him from the Artillery Reserve besides his own. No officer could work harder or do better than he did during the battle.
I have mentioned General Barlow, who was so severely wounded the first day. General Schurz commends him highly for coolness and bravery on the field.
My inspector-general, acting chief of staff, my adjutant-general, my quartermaster, my chief commissary, and my aides, all were as brave and efficient as they could possibly be.
We all mourn the death of one specially beloved, Capt. J. J. Griffiths, aide-de-camp, who lived through the battle, but was mortally wounded during the reconnaissance of the Sunday following.
Every staff officer, in fact every officer and soldier who remained with his command, was almost constantly exposed to death or wounds during those three memorable days. My gratitude is so much due to them all that it seems almost invidious to particularize.
I wish to testify in this report to the hearty co-operation and generous support that I received from my associate corps commanders.
The grand results of the battle of Gettysburg are destined to bestow deserved and lasting honor upon the general commanding, and with him every true officer and brave man will claim a share; and yet no candid mind can review those scenes of horror, and doubt, and ultimate joy without feeling constrained to acknowledge the Divine hand which controlled and directed the storm.
O. O. HOWARD,
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