Report of Col. E. A. O'Neal, Twenty-sixth Alabama Infantry, commanding Rodes' brigade.
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
HEADQUARTERS RODES' BRIGADE, July 24, 1863.
Maj. H. A. WHITING,
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit a report of the operations of this brigade since June 4, the day we broke up camp at Santee, Caroline County, Va.
The brigade left Grace Church, Caroline County, Va., on June 4, at 4 o'clock, and arrived at Culpeper Court-House on the 7th.
On June 9, I was ordered to put my brigade under arms, and shortly afterward moved rapidly to Brandy Station, to support General Stuart's cavalry, there hotly engaged with the enemy. The enemy commenced retreating as we arrived on the ground, and we did not become engaged. That night we bivouacked on the farm of the Hon. John M. Botts.
Resumed the march next day, and arrived at Berryville on the 13th, after a rapid and toilsome march. Here the enemy made demonstrations as if they intended to give us battle; but when we formed line of battle (my brigade being in the center of the division and immediately confronting the town and the enemy's works), and when we advanced, they precipitately retired, leaving their tents, camps, and a great many valuables in our hands.
In the course of a few hours, I was ordered to put the brigade in motion, and arrived in front of Martinsburg on June 14. I was ordered to form on the right of General Iverson, my left resting on the turnpike road, and my right in supporting distance of Colonel Carter's battery, there hotly engaging the enemy, and immediately in front of the town.
The enemy shelled us furiously for a few moments, but were soon silenced by the accurate and splendid firing of Carter's artillery.
I ordered the column to advance, and, after passing over a number of stone fences and very rough ground, entered the town about dark, and found six pieces of artillery, which the enemy in their flight had left on the public square. A guard was placed over these, and [they were] afterward turned over to Colonel Carter, who entered the town with me, and was present.
Resumed the march on the 15th, and, after resting at Williamsport two days (on the south bank of the Potomac), we crossed into Maryland on the 18th, and arrived at Carlisle, Pa., on the 27th, halting at Hagerstown and other places on the road.
On June 30, I was ordered to move in the direction of Gettysburg, and arrived near the town July 1. The enemy being in heavy force between the division and the town, I was ordered to form to the right of the road and immediately in rear of our batteries, there engaging the enemy. A severe engagement between a portion of Colonel Carter's artillery and the enemy's here took place, which lasted for more than an hour.
While lying here, and awaiting orders to advance, Captain [T. R.] Lightfoot, of the Sixth Alabama, and several privates, were wounded by the enemy's shell. Our artillery having been withdrawn, we were ordered forward (that is, the Sixth, Twelfth, and Twenty-sixth Alabama Regiments), and found the enemy strongly posted and in heavy force, and, after a desperate and bloody fight of about half an hour, we were compelled to fall back. The Third Alabama (Colonel Battle), on the right of the brigade, was ordered by General Rodes to connect with the brigade of General Daniel, on my right, and the Fifth Alabama (Colonel Hall), on the left. General Rodes said he would command in person, so that I only moved forward with the Twelfth, Twenty-sixth, and Sixth Alabama Regiments. Why my brigade was thus deprived of two regiments, I have never been informed.
We were compelled to fall back, as the regiment on the extreme left, being flanked by a superior force of the enemy, gave way. It was impossible to hold the position we had gained, as the enemy had the advantage in numbers and position. In a few minutes after we had fallen back, General Ramseur with his brigade arrived. I had sent my aide (Lieutenant A. H.] Pickett) for him before I gave the order to fall back. An advance and charge was immediately ordered. Captain [C. W.] Fry moved up his battery, and by his energy, coolness, and skill aided materially in driving the enemy across the plain and through and beyond the town. We drove (in connection with the other brigades of the division) the enemy through the town and to the heights beyond it. The greater portion of my brigade had passed through the town, and I had ordered up some pieces of artillery and had formed my brigade, and, in conjunction with General Doles, was in the act of charging the hill, when I was recalled, and ordered to form my brigade beyond the railroad. Here I rested that night and the next day.
About dusk on the evening of July 2, I was ordered to advance, and, after moving forward some distance, was recalled and placed in the town to bivouac for the night.
About 2 a.m. on July 3, I was ordered to move to the left of our lines, to re-enforce General Edward Johnson, and arrived there at daylight, and was soon under a severe fire of artillery and infantry, but did not actively engage the foe until 8 a.m., when I was ordered to attack the works of the enemy, strongly posted in a log fort on the spur of the mountain.
The attack was made with great spirit by the Sixth, Twelfth, Twenty-sixth, and Third Alabama Regiments, under their respective commanders, Captain Bowie, Colonel Pickens, Lieutenant-Colonel Goodgame, and Colonel Battle. The brigade moved forward in fine style, under a terrific fire of grape and small-arms, and gained a hill near the enemy's works, which it held for three hours, exposed to a murderous fire.
Officers and men fought bravely, and held their ground until ordered to fall back with the entire line.
We retired behind the hill, where we remained, under an incessant fire of artillery and musketry, till 12 o'clock at night, when I was ordered to withdraw and join my division. I joined the division in rear of the town, on the hill near the enemy, and was ordered to occupy the hill to the left of the railroad and fortify, which I did during Saturday, July 4.
At 1 o'clock on the morning of the 5th, we commenced falling back toward Hagerstown, where we arrived on the 7th, and offered battle to the enemy for three days, which he declined.
In the marches and actions, the officers and men bore fatigue and privation with patience and fortitude, and fought with a gallantry and courage for which they are distinguished, and which has attracted the praise and admiration of all.
On July 23, after a fatiguing march from Winchester to Front Royal, I was ordered forward to aid General Wright, at Manassas Gap, in repelling a large cavalry and infantry force of the enemy. The brigade was drawn up on the crest of a hill in rear of Wright's (Georgia) brigade, and was deployed as skirmishers. About 3 o'clock, the Fifth, Sixth, and a part of the Twenty-sixth Alabama Regiments, with the corps of sharpshooters under Major Blackford, assisted in repelling three separate and distinct charges of the enemy. The enemy moved to the assault in three lines of-battle, and were repulsed, with little loss on our side.
Shortly after dark, I was ordered to call in my skirmishers, and to withdraw from the ground we had held during the evening.
Inclosed you will find the reports of regimental commanders; also a report from Major Blackford, commanding corps of sharpshooters. This latter report was made by my order, as during the operations of the brigade on Friday, July 3, when we were sent to the left to re-enforce General Johnson, Major Blackford, with his corps of sharpshooters, was left in Gettysburg, together with the Fifth Alabama Regiment, to hold the town and annoy the enemy. How well they performed this duty, the report of Major Blackford and the confessions of the enemy will show.
I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
EDWARD A. O'NEAL,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
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