Report of Col. William McCandless,
Second Pennsylvania Reserves, commanding First Brigade.
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HDQRS. FIRST BRIGADE, PENNSYLVANIA RESERVES,
Near South Mountain, July 9, 1863.
Capt. R T. AUCHMUTY,
SIR: I have the honor to forward the following report of the part taken by my command in the action of the 2d and 3d instant, near Gettysburg, Pa.:
After a week of continuous marching, the command arrived on the field about 1 p.m. of the 2d instant, and at 5 p.m. was assigned a position near the left, that being the point against which the enemy had massed a heavy force.
Our first position was naturally strong, being a rocky, wooded hillside, with good cover, sloping steeply down to a plain, which extended from the base about 700 yards to a stone wall. This plain was marshy and difficult to cross; over it, however, the enemy passed his infantry in a disordered mass, driving our forces back on my position.
I immediately formed my brigade, together with the Eleventh Regiment of the Third Brigade, in two lines, the first line being composed of the Sixth Regiment on the right, the First on the left, and the Eleventh in the center. The second line was massed on the first, and was composed of the First Rifles (Bucktails) and Second Regiment of Infantry. As soon as our front was uncovered, the brigade advanced in gallant style, the first line delivering one volley; then the whole brigade charged at a full run down the hillside and across the plain, driving the advancing masses of the enemy back upon the stone wall, for the possession of which there was a desperate struggle, we finally carrying- it. Prior to reaching the wall, however, my left flank being exposed to a galling fire, I deployed the second line, viz, the First Rifles and Second Regiment, to the left, forming a prolongation of my first line, along with which they steadily advanced. It was at this time, and when within a short distance of the wall, that the brave and lamented Col. Charles F. Taylor fell, while gallantly leading his regiment.
Being ordered not to advance beyond the stone wall, I formed a line along it, threw a strong line of skirmishers on my front, and flankers on my right and left. I remained in this position up to 6 p.m. of the 3d instant, the enemy occasionally shelling the position without effect.
On the evening of the 3d instant, I was ordered to advance and clear the woods on my front and left, to do which the command had to cross an open field about 800 yards wide. The enemy, noticing this movement, opened a battery directly in front. I pushed the Sixth Regiment through the woods on the right, and drove out the enemy's skirmishers, and annoyed the gunners, causing the batted to slacken its fire, and, as the remaining regiments of the brigade charged in line, and at a run across the open field, they compelled the enemy to retire. Having cleared the woods in front, and finding a line of the enemy in the woods on my left and at right angles therewith. I faced my command by the rear rank, and charged the enemy directly on the left flank, routing him, capturing nearly 200 prisoners (among whom was a lieutenant-colonel), also a stand of colors. The field was strewed with small-arms, 2,000 or 3,000 in number, the majority of which had been piled on brush heaps, ready to be burned.
The enemy took up a new position on a wooded ridge about half a mile in advance of our front, and were busy during the night chopping timber and fortifying.
About noon of the 4th instant, I was relieved by fresh troops, and moved back to my former position at the stone wall.
I cannot close this report without calling special attention to the gallantry displayed by both officers and men of this command who were fortunate enough to enter the field when our left was overpowered and the enemy was boldly advancing on the key of our position.
I am, sir, very respectfully, yours, &c.,
Colonel, Comdg. First Brigade, Pennsylvania Reserves.
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