Report of Col. Francis V. Randall,
Thirteenth Vermont Infantry
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
CAMP NEAR MIDDLETOWN, MD.,
July 10, 1863.
Commanding First Army Corps.
GENERAL: In compliance with your request, I make the following report of the part taken
by my regiment (Thirteenth Vermont) July 1, 2, and 3 instant:
Prior to June 24, my regiment was doing picket duty on the Occoquan River, from Occoquan Bay to near Wolf Run Shoals, headquarters near the village of Occoquan. The balance of our brigade (Second Vermont Brigade) was stationed at or near Union Mills.
On the evening of June 24, I received orders to call in my pickets and join the brigade at Centreville, which I did on June 25. The brigade consisted of the Twelfth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Vermont Regiments, commanded by Brig. Gen. George J. Stannard. The brigade then marched to Gettysburg, arriving there on July 1, at about 5 p.m. My regiment, with the Fourteenth and Sixteenth, took position on Cemetery Hill, in rear of our line of battle, made up of the First and Eleventh Corps.
On the morning of the 2d, we occupied substantially the same position until about 2 p.m., when I was ordered to advance five of my companies, under Lieutenant-Colonel Munson, to support a battery in our front. Soon after this, I was ordered to advance the balance of my regiment a little to the front and to the left of our former position, which brought us nearly in rear of the right of the Second Corps. This took me entirely out of the line occupied by the rest of our brigade, and I received no further orders from our brigade headquarters during the remainder of that day. A heavy fight was going on in our front, in which the Second and Third Corps were engaged, and we received some injury from the artillery fire of the rebels without being able to engage in the fight. At this time an officer, whom I did not know at the moment, but who proved to be General Doubleday, came galloping over the hill from General Hancock s position, and approached my regiment. After having found what regiment we were, and making a few inspiriting remarks to my men, he directed me to take my regiment in the direction from which he had come, and report to General Hancock, whom I would find there, and hard pressed, and he said he feared he would lose his artillery or some of it before I could get there. I started, riding in advance of my regiment to meet General Hancock and find where I was needed, so as to be able to place my men in position without exposing them too long under fire. As I reached the ridge or highest ground between the cemetery and Little Round Top Mountain, I met General Hancock, who was encouraging and rallying his men to hold on to the position. He told me the rebels had captured a battery he had had there, and pointed out to me the way they had gone with it, and asked me if I could retake it. I told him I thought I could, and that I was willing to try. He said it would be a hazardous job, and he would not order it, but, if I thought I could do it, I might try. By this time my regiment had come up, and I moved them to the front far enough so that when I deployed them in line of battle they would leave Hancock's men in their rear. They were now in column by divisions, and I gave the order to deploy in line, instructing each captain as to what we were to do as they came on to the line, and, taking my position to lead them, gave the order to advance.
At this time my horse was killed, and I fell to the ground with him. While on the ground, I discovered a rebel line debouching from the woods on our left, and forming substantially across our track about 40 rods in our front. We received one volley from them, which did us very little injury, when my men sprang forward with the bayonet with so much precipitancy that they appeared to be taken wholly by surprise, and threw themselves in the grass, surrendering, and we passed over them. General Hancock followed up the movement, and told me to press on for the guns and he would take care of the prisoners, which he did, and we continued our pursuit of the guns, which we overtook about half way to the Emmitsburg road, and recaptured them, with some prisoners. These guns, as I am told, belong to the Fifth U.S. Regulars, Lieutenant Weir. There were four of them.
We were now very near the Emmitsburg road, and I advanced my line to the road, and sent my adjutant (James S. Peck) back to inform General Hancock of our position. While he was gone, the rebels advanced two pieces of artillery into the road about 100 rods to the south of us, and commenced to shell us down the road, whereupon I detached one company, and advanced them under cover of the road, dug way, and fences, with instructions to charge upon and seize those guns, which they did most gallantly. We also captured the rebel picket reserve, consisting of 3 officers and 80 men, who had concealed themselves in a house near by.
In pursuance of orders from General Hancock, we now slowly fell back to the main line of battle. It was dark, and no further operations took place on our part that night.
In the morning of the third day of the battle, we were placed in the front line, to the left of Cemetery Hill. In this position we remained, sustaining the same against the heavy assaults which were made on our position during the day.
During the heavy artillery fire on the afternoon of that day, preceding Longstreet's great charge, my regiment being badly exposed, I asked permission to advance it a little to the front, about 15 rods, so as to take advantage of some rocky points that emerged from the ground, and also the more favorable conformation of the ground. This was granted me, and I immediately advanced my regiment to the more favorable position, and the Fourteenth Vermont, which occupied the position next to my left, also advanced so as to conform to my line. This placed us that much farther to the front than the regiments to the right and left of us, but gave us a very favorable position, which we immediately strengthened with loose stones and rails that we found in the vicinity. Before we had fairly completed our little arrangements the great charge commenced, and the course they took brought them directly on these two regiments. Our general officers were quite solicitous for this position, General Hancock repeatedly coming to me and giving us the benefit of his advice and encouragement, and offered us supports, but my men, as well as those of the Fourteenth Regiment, expressed a desire to hold the place alone if they could. The heavy rebel column, which I need not describe, bore down steadily upon us until about half way from the Emmitsburg road to our position. Our men were directed to withhold their fire up to this time, when the two regiments rose up and poured in a volley that seemed to level their front rank and all mounted officers. We continued to pour in our fire as best we could, and very soon the charging column seemed to slacken and nearly halt. In this way they staggered for a moment, and commenced to move by their left flank toward a position more nearly in front of the cemetery. As our front became uncovered, I moved my regiment a little by the flank, so as to extricate my left from some shrubbery that partially surrounded and hid them, when I changed front forward on my right company, throwing my left flank toward the rebel main line of battle. The Fourteenth Regiment remained in their position. The Sixteenth Regiment, or a portion of it, were on the skirmish line, and were driven in by this charge.
General Doubleday at this time rode up to me, and assured me that my movement would be a success, and he ordered the regiments to my right to cease firing and allow me to pass in front of their line, which we did, following the rebel column so close that when they faced to charge up Cemetery Hill we were within 15 rods of them, and they passed directly in review before us, my men at the same time pouring one of the most withering fires I had ever beheld into their exposed flank. We had fired about 10 rounds per man when they seemed to be in utter confusion, and large numbers came in in rear of my regiment for shelter. I do not know how many prisoners my regiment captured, but I had apparently more than there were men in my regiment.
While this was going on, the Sixteenth Regiment, Colonel Veazey, came up in my rear (having gathered up his regiment as far as he could after having been driven in with the skirmish line), and formed his regiment in rear and partially to my left, where he succeeded in capturing some prisoners. He had been in this position but a few moments when we discovered a small rebel column approaching over nearly the same ground the main rebel column had passed over, and for the moment it seemed as though we should be squeezed between the two, but Colonel Veazey promptly faced his regiment about, and advanced to meet this new danger, and I very quickly followed. When I got nearly opposite my original position, General Stannard sent orders to me to bring my regiment back to the main line, and he sent a portion of the Fourteenth Regiment to support Colonel Veazey. This rebel column, however, about that time commenced to diverge in the opposite direction, and entered the woods to the south of us, where they were pursued by the Sixteenth and Fourteenth Regiments. This substantially ended our part in the battle.
General Hancock was wounded while sitting on his horse giving me some directions. I was standing very near him, and assisted him from his horse. General Stannard was also wounded soon after, and compelled reluctantly to leave the field, since which time I have been in command of the brigade.
The casualties in my regiment, as near as I can now ascertain, were 8 killed, 89 wounded, and 26 missing. As we know of none captured, probably many of the 26 may prove to have been killed, or severely wounded, and cared for in some private house.
FRANCIS V. RANDALL,
Colonel Thirteenth Regiment Vermont Volunteers.
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