Report of Capt. George E. Randolph,
First Rhode Island Light Artillery,
commanding Artillery Brigade, Third Army Corps
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HDQRS. ARTILLERY BRIGADE, THIRD ARMY CORPS,
September 2, 1863.
Capt. W. H. HILL,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Army Corps.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the artillery of the Third Army Corps, from June 28 to July 3:
On the morning of June 28, the batteries of the corps, with one exception, were encamped near Middletown, Md. Clark's battery was near Crampton's Pass, with one brigade of infantry.
Early in the day, in compliance with the order of Major-General Birney, commanding the corps, I marched to Frederick, where I encamped and fed about noon, and where I was joined by Clark's battery an hour or two later.
In the afternoon the corps marched to Woodville, and, on June 29, to Taneytown, encamping a mile north of the town.
On the afternoon of the 30th, the corps, including batteries, marched to Bridgeport, a place about 2 miles from Taneytown, on the road to Emmitsburg, and pushed on the next morning to the latter place.
In the afternoon of July 1, by command of Major-General Sickles, who had resumed command of the corps at Frederick, three batteries --Randolph's, E, First Rhode Island; Clark's, B, First New Jersey, accompanying the First Division, and Seeley's, K, Fourth U.S. Artillery, accompanying the Second Division--marched to Gettysburg, and encamped on the left of the town, near the Taneytown road.
Early on the morning of July 2, Randolph's and Clark's batteries were placed in position on the line held by General Birney's division, running from near the left of the Second Corps to the base of Signal or Round Top Mountain. The positions of both were low, unprotected, and commanded by the ridge along which runs the road from Emmitsburg to Gettysburg. Seeley's battery remained in the field where it had encamped, and, as there were no desirable positions on our part of the line, Smith's and Winslow's batteries, on their arrival from Emmitsburg, were parked near Seeley's until some better disposition could be made of them.
Between 1 and 2 p.m. Major-General Sickles notified me that he was about to change his line, throwing his right forward to the high ground, running his line from Round Top Mountain, on the left, to a peach orchard on the Emmitsburg road, and thence along the road toward Gettysburg to a second orchard. This new disposition seemed to me, notwithstanding the sharp angle in our line made necessary by the formation of the ground, to be a much more desirable one. I placed Smith's battery near the extreme left, between Round Top Mountain and the woods, on a rocky hill commanding a long valley running toward Emmitsburg. On the right of Smith's, after passing a belt of woods, was an opening, in which I placed Winslow's battery of light 12-pounders. This position was surrounded by woods, but, in my opinion, the line was materially strengthened by this battery of short-range guns. In the open field, with his left resting near the woods, I placed Captain Bigelow's (Massachusetts) battery, from the Artillery Reserve; on his right Clark's, and next, and in the peach orchard that stood in the angle formed by our lines, was Ames' battery, G, First New York, also from the Artillery Reserve. All these batteries fronted toward Emmitsburg, or in the direction from which the attack of the enemy was expected and afterward received. Randolph's battery was placed on the Emmitsburg road, fronting nearly perpendicular to those before mentioned; and, still farther to the right, and near the extreme left of the line held by the corps, was Seeley's.
With the exception of almost continual skirmishing between our sharpshooters and those of the enemy, the first movement of the latter toward attacking was, at about 2 p.m., to place a battery in position near the intersection of the Fairfield and Emmitsburg roads, near a barn, and easily visible from the peach orchard in the angle of our lines.
In obedience to the command of Major-General Sickles, as well as in accordance with my own conviction of the necessity of holding that point, I was examining the ground with a view of placing a battery in the orchard, when the enemy opened a smart artillery fire upon the troops massed in the open field. I directed Captain Clark to take the position before mentioned as held by his battery, and to silence, or at least reply to, the fire, while I placed Ames' battery of light 12-pounders in the orchard to assist him.
It soon became evident that the enemy was preparing for an attack at this point. He soon opened more batteries on the right of his first, and commenced a heavy fire from them upon our troops. Ames and Clark were soon so well at work that the advantage was not on the side of the enemy, and at last a well-directed fire from Smith's battery (10-pounder Parrotts) on the extreme left silenced them for a time.
The respite, however, was short, as at about 3 p.m. the enemy reopened fire, and, under cover of his artillery, began to push infantry against our position. The part of our line where Smith's battery was placed was assailed in the most furious and determined manner, and, notwithstanding the gallant conduct of our troops, after a long struggle it became evident that the line would break. The hill upon which the guns stood was very rough and rocky, rendering maneuvering with horses almost an impossibility. Four of Captain Smith's guns only had been at first placed in battery. These were served effectively till they could no longer be without danger to our own troops, who had advanced to the front of the battery. The remaining two were placed in position a few yards in rear, and pointed obliquely into the woods on the left, in front of Round Top Mountain, which were occupied by the advancing lines of the enemy. These guns continued their fire till their supports were compelled to retire, when they were withdrawn by Captain Smith, leaving three of the four that were in advance still on the hill and in possession of the enemy. Captain Smith says he supposed the hill would be immediately retaken by our troops, and that, as it was a place most difficult of access, it was wiser to leave them where they could be used against the enemy immediately we regained the hill. I regret the loss, but from my knowledge of the position and of the gallantry displayed by Captain Smith, I am convinced that it was one of those very unpleasant, but yet unavoidable, results that sometimes attend the efforts of the most meritorious officers.
The attack on the left of our line involved Winslow's battery. From the position of the battery and of the infantry supporting, it was deemed best for a time to fire solid shot into the woods over our troops, who were fighting in front under protection of a stone wall. This fire was very effective (as such use of solid shot always is when troops are engaged in woods, the moral effect being at least equal to the physical), and was continued till our troops in front fell back of his battery, when Captain Winslow used case shot, 1 and 1½ second fuse, ending with canister.
When the enemy had gained two sides of the woods, and the position was no longer tenable, Captain Winslow, by command of General Birney, retired handsomely by piece, losing heavily during the movement. The position of Captain Winslow's battery did not seem to be very good, owing to the nearness of the woods on all sides, but the result proved that the battery was able to do good service, and Captain Winslow deserves credit, not only for the good working of his battery, but for the handsome manner in which he withdrew under trying circumstances.
In the open field between the woods occupied for a time by Barnes' division, of the Fifth Corps, and the Emmitsburg road, were Bigelow's (Massachusetts), Clark's (New Jersey), and Ames' (New York) batteries.
Of Bigelow's, I can only say that they took the position I assigned them promptly under a heavy fire, and fought gallantly till compelled to retire. I have tried to obtain reports from the batteries of the reserve that reported to Major-General Sickles, but with no success, excepting in the case of Captain Ames, G, First New York.
Clark's battery, B, First New Jersey, was placed in position about 2 p.m. A column of the enemy had been discovered moving on the Fairfield road, toward the left of our line. Captain Clark opened with shell and shrapnel, making excellent shots, and diverting the column of the enemy to some road in rear of and covered by the ridge running perpendicular to the Emmitsburg road, near its intersection with the Fairfield.
An hour later the enemy's batteries opened from this ridge, and Clark replied, while Ames' battery was being placed in the peach orchard on his right. The combined fire of Smith's, Clark's, and Ames' batteries soon silenced those of the enemy. The artillery fire, however, was only preliminary.
Shortly after 3 p.m. the attack was made by the enemy's infantry. Beginning, as I have stated, on the left, near Smith's position, it extended to the right, and brought the whole line under a destructive fire of musketry. The attack on the peach orchard, where Ames' battery, was placed, was-hardly less furious than that on the left. Ames battery maintained its position under a fire from front and right flank until it was relieved by Battery I, Fifth U.S. Artillery. Randolph's battery, E, First Rhode Island, was placed in position to counteract a cross-fire from the woods in front of the Emmitsburg road upon Ames' battery, and the troops in the peach orchard were immediately engaged with the enemy, composed of infantry and a battery of 12-pounders, in front and a little to the left of its position. The very effective fire of this battery of six light 12-pounders did great damage to our lines until it was silenced by the fire of Randolph's battery and a section of Ames' that had been turned upon it. Randolph's battery remained in this position, doing good service, but greatly exposed, as the returns attest, until the withdrawal of its support to strengthen the peach orchard and the subsequent repulse of our troops in that position made its withdrawal a matter not only of prudence but of necessity. Lieut. John K. Bucklyn, commanding, received a painful wound while endeavoring to take from the field a caisson, some of the horses of which had been killed.
All the batteries whose operations I have thus far described were supported gallantly and effectively by the First Division (Birney's), who held this very extended line, notwithstanding the overwhelming force thrown against it, from 3 p.m. until dark, fighting with the dogged determination that has made it famous.
Seeley's battery (K, Fourth U.S. Artillery), supported by the Second Division (Humphreys'), was placed near the left of our corps line about 3 p.m., and became immediately engaged with artillery and infantry in its direct front. After driving the batteries in its immediate front from the field, and having been two hours in position, it directed its fire upon the guns of the enemy farther to the left, that were firing upon the positions held by Ames', Clark's, and Randolph's batteries.
About 5.30 p.m. Lieutenant Seeley was badly wounded, and the command devolved upon Second Lieut. Robert James. At the same time, the enemy's infantry advanced under cover of the crest to very near the battery, and attacked it almost with impunity, and, as the supports had fallen back, the battery was withdrawn. A second position was taken and held till the next morning, when the battery was ordered to the rear.
I have chosen to report the action of each battery rather than the artillery of the corps as a whole, at the risk of being thought diffuse, because I consider that in no other way can I convey a distinct idea of the operations of my command. The batteries were widely separated, and each performed special duties that no other kind of narrative could describe.
At about 5 p.m. I rode along the line, and became aware that the batteries were becoming very much exhausted, and upon my representation of the fact to Major-General Sickles, he applied for batteries from the Artillery Reserve to relieve them; they arrived, however, too late for the purpose intended, but in time to be used by Major McGilvery in forming a second line.
I was especially fortunate in having the advice and assistance of Brigadier-General Hunt, chief of artillery, Army of the Potomac, who examined the ground with me, and who, at the commencement and during the action, was present to contribute by his valuable advice to the efficiency of our artillery.
I regret that I cannot more accurately locate the batteries. Having been absent from the army when our troops reoccupied the battle-field, I lost the opportunity of examining it after the battle, as well as of correcting the impressions received during an action and hearing many incidents that might be of interest, though not mentioned in battery reports.
A wound that I received in the shoulder early in the action prevented my being as active on the field as I desired, and although I was able from time to time to ride along the line and to keep informed of the progress of the battle in the various parts of the field where my batteries were stationed, I could not give the line the same personal attention I would had I been stronger.
The conduct of my command was admirable. They were all in exposed positions, as the loss will show. The battery commanders fully sustained the reputation they had gained by distinguished conduct in former battles, and to the old added the laurels of a new and most severely contested engagement.
It is proper that I acknowledge here the valuable aid rendered me by Lieut. P.S. Jastram, acting assistant adjutant-general of my brigade, whose duties were rendered more arduous by my own inability to keep the saddle, and who displayed the same energy, bravery, and good judgment that he had already given evidence of as a battery commander.
Although in this battle of July 2 each of my batteries was compelled to retire, I may be permitted to claim, in view of the grand results of the three days' fighting, that they contributed in no small degree to the success of our arms.
I append statement of losses in men and matériel.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
GEO. E. RANDOLPH,
Capt. First R. I. Art., and Chief of Art. Third A. C.
RETURN TO BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG UNION ORDER OF BATTLE PAGE