Report of Brig. Gen. J. B. Kershaw, C. S. Army, commanding brigade, McLaws' division
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
HEADQUARTERS KERSHAW'S BRIGADE,
Near Chattanooga, October 1, 1863.
Maj. J. M. GOGGIN,
MAJOR: I have the honor to report the operations of my command from the commencement of the march from Culpeper Court-House until the return of the army to that place.
Tuesday, June 16.--The brigade marched to Sperryville.
17th.--To Mud Run, in Fauquier County. These two days were excessively hot, and on the 17th many cases of sunstroke occurred. At Gaines' Cross-Roads, the wagons were sent by the way of Front Royal. Rice's battalion was detached as a guard to the division train.
18th.--Marched to Piedmont.
19th.--To Ashby's Gap, where Rice's battalion rejoined the command.
20th.--Crossed the Shenandoah River at Berry's Ford.
21st.--Recrossed, and took position in line of battle near Paris, to resist a threatened attack of the enemy.
22d.--Returned to camp on western side of the river.
23d.--Obtained 503 new arms from Winchester.
24th.--Marched to Summit Point.
26th.--Crossed Potomac River; encamped near Williamsport.
27th.--Marched by the way of Hagerstown, Middleburg, and Green-castle, and encamped 5 miles from Chambersburg.
28th.--Marched through Chambersburg, and encamped 1 mile beyond.
Remained in camp until the 30th, when we marched to Fayetteville.
July 1.--Anderson's and Johnson's divisions and General Ewell's wagon train occupied the road until 4 p.m., when we marched to a point on the Gettysburg road, some 2 miles from that place, going into camp at 12 p.m.
The command was ordered to move at 4 o'clock on the morning of the 2d, but did not leave camp until about sunrise. We reached the hill overlooking Gettysburg, with only a slight detention from trains in the way, and moved to the right of the Third Corps, and were halted until about noon. We were then directed to move under cover of the hills toward the right, with a view to flanking the enemy in that direction, if cover could be found to conceal the movement. Arriving at the hill beyond the hotel, at the stone bridge on the Fairfield road, the column was halted while Generals Longstreet and McLaws reconnoitered the route. After some little delay, the major-general commanding returned, and directed a countermarch, and the command was marched to the left, beyond the point at which we had before halted, and thence, under cover of the woods, to the right of our line of battle. Arriving at the school-house, on the road leading across the Emmitsburg road by the peach orchard, then in possession of the enemy, the lieutenant-general commanding directed me to advance my brigade and attack the enemy at that point, turn his flank, and extend along the cross-road, with my left resting toward the Emmitsburg road. At the same time a battery of artillery was moved along the road parallel with my line of march. About 3 p.m. the head of my column came into the open field in front of a stone wall, and in view of the enemy. I immediately filed to the right along and in front of the wall, and formed line of battle under cover of my skirmishers, then engaged with those of the enemy, these extending along the Emmitsburg road.
In the meantime, examining the position of the enemy, I found him to be in superior force in the orchard, supported by artillery, with a main line of battle intrenched in the rear and extending to and upon the rocky mountain to his left far beyond the point at which his flank had supposed to rest. To carry out my instructions, would have been, if successful in driving him from the orchard, to present my own right and rear to a large portion of his line of battle. I therefore communicated the position of things to the major-general commanding, and placed my line in position under cover of the stone wall. Along this wall the division was then formed, Semmes in reserve to me and Barksdale on my left, supported by Wofford, in reserve. Artillery was also placed along the wall to my right, and Colonel De Saussure's Fifteenth South Carolina Regiment was thrown beyond it to protect it. Hood's division was then moving in our rear toward our right, to gain the enemy's left flank, and I was directed to commence the attack so soon as General Hood became engaged, swinging around toward the peach orchard, and at the same time establishing connection with Hood, on my right, and co-operating with him. It was understood he was to sweep down the enemy's line in a direction perpendicular to our then line of battle. I was told that Barksdale would move with me and conform to my movement.
These directions I received in various messages from the lieutenant-general and the major-general commanding, and in part by personal communication with them. In my center front was a stone house, and to the left of it a stone barn, both about 500 yards from our line, and on a line with the crest of the orchard hill. Along the front of the orchard, and on the face looking toward the stone house, the enemy's infantry was posted. Two batteries of artillery were in position, the one in rear of the orchard, near the crest of the hill, and the other some 200 yards farther back, in the direction of the rocky mountain. Behind the stone house, on the left, was a morass; on the right a stone wall running parallel with our line of battle. Beyond the morass some 200 yards was a stony hill, covered with heavy timber and thick undergrowth, extending some distance toward the enemy's main line, and inclining to our left, and in rear of the orchard and the batteries described. Beyond the stone wall, and in a line with the stony hill, was a heavy forest, extending far to our right. From the morass a small stream ran through this wood along the base of the mountain toward the right. Between the stony hill and this forest was an interval of about 100 yards, which was only sparsely covered with scrubby undergrowth, through which a small road ran in the direction of the mountain. Looking down this road from the stone house, a large wheat-field was seen. In rear of the wheat-field, and between that and the mountain, was the enemy's main line of battle, posted behind a stone wall.
Under my instructions, I determined to move upon the stony hill, so as to strike it with my center, and thus attack the orchard on its left rear. Accordingly, about 4 o'clock, when I received orders to advance, I moved at once in this direction, gradually changing front to the left. The numerous fences in the way, the stone building and barn, and the morass, and a raking fire of grape and canister, rendered it difficult to retain the line in good order; but, notwithstanding these obstacles, I brought my center to the point intended. In order to restore the line of the directing battalion (the Seventh South Carolina), as soon as we reached the cover of the hill, I moved it a few paces by the right flank. Unfortunately, this order given only to Colonel [D. Wyatt] Aiken, was extended along the left of the line, and checked its advance.
Before reaching this point, I had extended an order to Colonel Kennedy, commanding Second South Carolina Regiment (my left center regiment), then moving in magnificent style, to charge the battery in their front, being the second battery mentioned above, and which most annoyed us, leaving Barksdale to deal with that at the orchard.
Meanwhile, to aid this attack, I changed the direction of the Seventh Regiment (Colonel Aiken) and the Third (Major [R. C.] Maffett) to the left, so as to occupy the rocky hill and wood, and opened fire on the battery. Barksdale had not yet appeared, but came up soon after, and cleared the orchard, with the assistance of the fire of my Eighth South Carolina (Colonel [John W.] Henagan), on my left, and James' battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel [W. G.] Rice), the next in order of battle. This brigade then moved so far to the left as no longer to afford me any assistance.
In a few minutes after my line halted, the enemy advanced across the wheat-field in two lines of battle, with a very small interval between the lines, in such a manner as to take the Seventh South Carolina in flank. I changed the direction of the right wing of the regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel [Elbert] Bland, to meet the attack, and hurried back to General Semmes, then some 150 yards in my right rear, to bring him up to meet the attack on my right, and also to bring forward my right regiment (Fifteenth South Carolina, Colonel De Saussure), which, separated from the command by the artillery at the time of the advance, was now cut off by Semmes' brigade. Its gallant and accomplished commander had just fallen when I reached it, and it was under the command of Major [William M.] Gist. General Semmes promptly responded to my call, and put his brigade in motion toward the right, preparatory to moving to the front. I hastened back to the Seventh Regiment, and reached it just as the enemy, having arrived at a point about 200 yards from us, poured in a volley and advanced to the charge. The Seventh received him handsomely, and long kept him in check in their front. One regiment of Semmes' brigade came at a double-quick as far as the ravine in our rear, and for a time checked him in their front. There was still an interval of 100 yards between this regiment and the right of the Seventh, and into this the enemy was forcing his way, causing the Seventh to swing back more and more, still fighting at a distance not exceeding 30 paces, until the two wings were doubled on each other, or nearly so.
Finding that the battery on my left had been silenced, I sent for the Second South Carolina Regiment to come to the right, but by this time the enemy had swung around and lapped my whole line at close quarters, and the fighting was general and desperate. At length, the Seventh South Carolina gave way, and I directed Colonel Aiken to reform them at the stone wall, some 200 yards in my right rear. I fell back to the Third Regiment, then hotly engaged on the crest of the stony hill, and gradually swung around its right as the enemy made progress around our flank. Semmes' advanced regiment had given way. One of his regiments mingled with the Third, and, among the rocks and trees, within a few feet of each other, a desperate conflict ensued. The enemy could make no progress in front, but slowly extended around my right. Separated from view of my left wing by the hill and wood, all of my staff being with that wing, the position of the Fifteenth Regiment being unknown, and the Seventh being in the rear, I feared the brave men about me would be surrounded by the large force pressing around them, and ordered the Third Regiment and the [Fiftieth?] Georgia Regiment with them to fall back to the stone house, whither I followed them.
On emerging from the wood, I saw Wofford coming in in splendid style.
My left wing had held the enemy in check along their front, and lost no ground. The enemy gave way at Wofford's advance, and, with him, the whole of my left wing advanced to the charge, sweeping the enemy before them, without a moment's stand, across the stone wall, beyond the wheat-field, up to the foot of the mountain. At the same time, my Fifteenth Regiment, and part of Semmes' brigade, pressed forward on the right to the same point. Going back to the stone wall near my rear, I found Colonel Aiken in position, and at the stone building found the Third South Carolina and the regiment of Semmes' brigade. I moved them up to the stone wall, and, finding that Wofford's men were coming out, I retained them at that point to check any attempt of the enemy to advance.
It was now near nightfall, and the operations of the day were over. Gathering all my regiments, with Semmes' brigade, behind the wall, and placing pickets well to the front, I commenced the melancholy task of looking up my numerous dead and wounded. It was a sad list. First among the dead was the brave and able officer, Col. W. D. De Saussure, the senior colonel of the brigade, whom I had been pleased to regard as my successor in command should any casualty create a vacancy. His loss to his regiment is irreparable; to his State and the country not to be estimated. Major [D. McD.] McLeod, of the Eighth South Carolina Regiment, a gallant and estimable officer, was mortally wounded. Col. John D. Kennedy, of the Second South Carolina Regiment, was severely wounded while gallantly leading his command to the charge. Lieutenant-Colonel [F.] Gaillard conducted the regiment through its subsequent operations. Lieutenant-Colonel Bland, of the Seventh South Carolina Regiment, while commanding the right wing of the regiment with his usual courage and ability, was severely wounded, as was also Maj. D. B. Miller, James' battalion [Third Battalion South Carolina Infantry]. A long list of brave and efficient officers sealed their devotion to the glorious cause with their blood, each of whom merits special mention did the proper limits of this report admit it.
All the officers and men of the command behaved most admirably, and are entitled to the gratitude of the country. I am especially indebted to the members of my staff--Captain [C. R.] Holmes, assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenant [Alfred E.] Doby, aide-de-camp, and Lieutenant [W. M.] Dwight, acting assistant inspector-general--for most efficient services on the field under the most difficult circumstances.
About dark, I was ordered to move my brigade to the left, to the peach orchard, where I remained until noon of the next day, when I was ordered to return to the stone wall. An hour later, I was directed to return to the wall where I had first formed line of battle. Hood's division, then commanded by General Law, was engaged with the enemy's cavalry in his front, his line being formed across our right flank. Lieutenant-General Longstreet directed me to move to the right, so as to connect with Hood's left, retaining my then front. This I did, and remained in that position until the night of the 4th, when, about midnight, I moved with the army, via Franklin, to Monterey.
On the 6th, marched through Hagerstown, via Waterloo, and encamped near Funkstown.
On the 10th. I was directed to proceed, with my own and Semmes' brigades, and a section of [J. C.] Fraser's battery to the bridge across the Antietam, near Macauley's, and defend that position, the enemy having appeared in force on the other side. Some unimportant skirmishing occurred here, and next morning I rejoined the division, near the Saint James' College.
We remained in line of battle, with the enemy in front, until the night of the 13th, when we marched to Falling Waters, and recrossed the Potomac on the 14th.
March was continued next day to Bunker Hill, where we rested until the 18th, when we resumed the march for Culpeper Court-House, via Millwood, Front Royal, Chester Gap, and Gaines' Cross-Roads, arriving at 10 a.m. on the 24th.
I cannot close this report without expressing my thanks to Maj. W. D. Peck, assistant quartermaster, and Maj. Joseph Kennedy, acting commissary of subsistence, of the brigade staff, and all the regimental officers of their departments, for their assiduous and efficient exertions during this important campaign.
The reports of regimental commanders accompany this. The casualties have already been reported.
I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. B. KERSHAW,
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