Reports of Col. James C. Rice,
Forty-fourth New York Infantry, commanding regiment and Third Brigade
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HDQRS. FORTY-FOURTH NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS,
June 22, 1863.
JOHN M. CLARK,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
LIEUTENANT: I respectfully report the following as the part taken by this command in the affair of June 21:
This regiment left camp on June 21, at 3 a.m., forming a portion of the Third Brigade. At Middleburg we took the White Plains road, following it nearly a mile; thence to the right across the fields, and by a circuitous and covered route into an oak wood, where we halted.
The regiment remained here about half an hour, when, in obedience to orders, it was moved forward and right-obliqued, with skirmishers thrown well to the front. After connecting on the right with the left of the Sixteenth Michigan Volunteers skirmishers, the line was moved directly forward, our skirmishers being continually and sharply engaged with those of the enemy, who fell back as ours advanced. The regiment advanced rapidly in line of battle, with occasional halts to dress the line and allow the skirmishers to get a distance of about 2 miles farther to the front. The enemy appeared to have one battery of artillery, which fired occasionally, and fell back with our advance. When we reached a point about three-fourths of a mile this side of Goose Creek, this battery was posted upon the opposite bank, and opened upon us with shell and solid shot. The regiment went forward at double-quick under a very severe fire, and faltered not until it reached the stone wall on this side the creek. Skirmishers examined the creek, and, finding it not fordable, waited for orders upon the bank.
After the lapse of half an hour, we left this position by the right flank, and, marching into the road on our right, crossed the creek on a stone bridge, and formed line of battle again in the fields opposite, to support a battery in position on the brow of the hill.
Skirmishers were thrown to the front, and after a lapse of perhaps an hour the regiment again advanced. Continual skirmishing was kept up by the companies thrown out in advance. By successive advances and halts, we reached a point about 3 miles from Upperville, where we halted for an hour, at the expiration of which time we returned a distance of 1 mile, and bivouacked for the night.
At about 7 a.m. of the 22d, the regiment returned with the brigade to which it is attached to its original camp, near Aldie, reaching that place at about 4 p.m.
Herewith I transmit nominal report of casualties.
I am, lieutenant, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES C. RICE,
Colonel, Comdg. Forty-fourth New York Volunteers.
HDQRS. THIRD BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
July 31, 1863.
Capt. C. B. MERVINE,
Assistant Adjutant-General, First Division.
CAPTAIN: In compliance with orders from division headquarters, I have the honor to report the operations of this brigade during the battle near Gettysburg, on the 2d and 3d instant.
The brigade, under the command of the late Colonel Vincent, was detached from the division and ordered into position at about 4 p.m. of the 2d instant, on the extreme left of our line of battle. The Twentieth Maine occupied the extreme left of the brigade line, the Sixteenth Michigan the extreme right, connecting with the Third Division, under General Crawford, while the Eighty-third Pennsylvania and Forty-fourth New York occupied the center. The muskets taken into action by the brigade numbered about 1,000.
The ground occupied by the brigade in line of battle was nearly that of a quarter circle, composed mostly of high rocks and cliffs on the center, and becoming more wooded and less rugged as you approached to the left. The right was thrown forward somewhat to the front of the ledge of rocks, and was much more exposed than other parts of the line. A comparatively smooth ravine extended along the entire front, perhaps 50 yards from our line, while on the left and beyond a high and jagged mountain rises, called Round Top hill. That the disposition of the forces and the nature of the ground may the better be understood by the general commanding, I send with this report a diagram of the same.
The brigade had scarcely formed line of battle and pushed forward its skirmishers when a division of the enemy's forces, under General Hood, made a desperate attack along the entire line of the brigade. He approached in three columns, with no skirmishers in advance. The object of the enemy was evident. If he could gain the vantage ground occupied by this brigade, the left flank of our line must give way, opening to him a vast field for successful operations in the rear of our entire army.
To effect this object the enemy made every effort. Massing two or three brigades of his force, he tried for an hour in vain to break the lines of the Forty-fourth New York and Eighty-third Pennsylvania, charging again and again within a few yards of these unflinching troops. At every charge he was repulsed with terrible slaughter. Despairing of success at this point, he made a desperate attack upon the extreme right of the brigade, forcing back a part of the Sixteenth Michigan. This regiment was broken, and, through some misunderstanding of orders, explained in the official report of the commanding officer, it was thrown into confusion; but being immediately supported by the One hundred and fortieth New York Volunteers, the line became again firm and unbroken.
It was at this point of time that Colonel Vincent, commanding the brigade, fell, mortally wounded. Of the character of this gallant and accomplished officer I will speak before I close this report.
The enemy again attacked the center with great vigor, and the extreme left with desperation. Passing one brigade of his forces by the right flank in three columns, he pushed through the ravine toward the left of our brigade, came immediately to a "front," and charged upon the Twentieth Maine. Now occurred the most critical time of the action. For above half an hour the struggle was desperate. At length the enemy pressed so strongly upon the left flank of Colonel Chamberlain's regiment that he wisely determined to change the order of battle, and commanded his left wing to fall back at right angles to his right. He then ordered a charge, and repulsed the enemy at every point.
On assuming the command of the brigade during this attack upon the center and left, I at once passed along the line, and notified the officers and men of my own regiment that I was about to take command of the brigade, and that they must hold their position to the last. I did this that no panic might arise. I then notified all the commanders of the regiments in person, and assured them of my determination to hold the line to the last. Colonel Chamberlain and other officers immediately informed me that their commands were out of ammunition. I had at this time neither an aide nor an orderly even to bear a message. (See P.S.) The enemy was still pressing-heavily upon the line. I immediately pressed into service every officer and man in the rear not engaged in the action, whether known or unknown, and made them pledge their honor that they would deliver in person every order that I should send by them. I sent four of them, one after another, with orders for ammunition. The ammunition came promptly, was distributed at once, and the fight went on.
The enemy was now attempting to take possession of Round Top hill, a commanding position overlooking our left. It was evident no time was to be lost, and I sent at once other officers, whom I pressed into my service, with messages to the general commanding the corps, asking for re-enforcements to support the brigade. The messages were promptly delivered, and five regiments were at once sent to my support from the Third Division, General Crawford, under command of Colonel Fisher.
Having, with the aid of this officer, properly disposed of three regiments of this force, I ordered Colonel Chamberlain, of the Twentieth Maine, to advance and take possession of the mountain. This order was promptly and gallantly executed by this brave and accomplished officer, who rapidly drove the enemy over the mountain, capturing many prisoners. Colonel Fisher at once ordered two regiments of his command to support Colonel Chamberlain, and the hill remained permanently in our possession.
The forces of the enemy being now repulsed on our left and front, I ordered a detachment from the Forty-fourth New York Volunteers and the Eighty-third Pennsylvania to push forward and secure all the fruits of this hard-earned victory.
It was now 8 o'clock in the evening, and before 9 o'clock we had entire possession of the enemy's ground, had gathered up and brought in all of our own wounded and those of the enemy, and had taken and sent to the rear over 500 prisoners, including 2 colonels and 15 commissioned officers, together with over 1,000 stand of arms belonging to the enemy.
The following morning the prisoners of the brigade buried all of our own dead and a large number of those of the enemy.
The fearful loss of the enemy during this struggle may be estimated from the fact that over 50 of his dead were counted in front of the Twentieth Maine Regiment, and his loss was nearly in that proportion along our entire line.
Although this brigade has been engaged in nearly all of the great battles of the Army of the Potomac, and has always greatly distinguished itself for gallant behavior, yet in none has it fought so desperately or achieved for itself such imperishable honors as in this severe conflict of the 2d instant.
A nominal and tabular list of the casualties of this brigade has already been forwarded to the major-general commanding, but it is fitting again to mention the names of the brave and faithful officers of the command who fell in this desperate struggle. Of the Forty-fourth New York Volunteers, Capt. L. S. Larrabee and Lieutenants Dunham and Thomas; of the Twentieth Maine, Lieutenant Kendall, and of the Sixteenth Michigan, Lieutenants Browne, Jewett, and Borden were killed.
The brigade was relieved during the forenoon of the 3d instant by the First Brigade, and ordered to the center of the line, where it remained in reserve the balance of the day, exposed to a severe cannonading, but with no loss, from the security of its position.
The colonel commanding would commend to the favorable notice
of the general commanding the following-named officers, for their gallant conduct in battle on the 2d instant: Colonel Chamberlain and Adjutant Chamberlain, of the Twentieth Maine; Lieutenant-Colonel Conner and Major Knox, of the Forty-fourth New York Volunteers; Captain Woodward and Adjutant Gifford, of the Eighty-third Pennsylvania, and Captain Elliott and Adjutant Jacklin, of the Sixteenth Michigan.
Especially would I call the attention of the general commanding to the distinguished services rendered by Colonel Chamberlain throughout the entire struggle.
To the loss sustained by this command in the death of Colonel Vincent I can refer in no more appropriate language than that used in the general order announcing it to the brigade, a copy of which I herewith annex.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES C. RICE,
Colonel Forty-fourth New York Vols., Comdg. Brigade.
P. S.--In justice to the officers composing the staff, it gives me satisfaction to state, in explanation of my report, that at the time I took command, Captain [Eugene A.] Nash, inspector-general of the brigade, was, in obedience to orders received from Colonel Vincent, at the front watching the movements of the enemy, to report the same if he should attempt a flank movement; that Captain [John M.] Clark, assistant adjutant-general, in obedience to orders, was absent for ammunition, and that Captain [Amos M.] Judson, by orders, was absent for re-enforcements. During the night these officers rendered me the greatest service, and I desire to commend each of them to the most favorable notice of the commanding general for their gallant conduct both under Colonel Vincent's command as well as my own.
GENERAL ORDERS No. 5
HDQRS. 3d BRIG., 1st DIV., 5th CORPS,
July 12, 1863.
The colonel commanding hereby announces to the brigade the death of Brig. Gen. Strong Vincent. He died near Gettysburg, Pa., July 7, 1863, from the effects of a wound received on the 2d instant, and within sight of that field which his bravery had so greatly assisted to win. A day hallowed with all the glory of success is thus sombered by the sorrow of our loss. Wreaths of victory give way to chaplets of mourning, hearts exultant to feelings of grief. A soldier, a scholar, a friend, has fallen. For his country, struggling for its life, he willingly gave his own. Grateful for his services, the State which proudly claims him as her own will give him an honored grave and a costly monument, but he ever will remain buried in our hearts, and our love for his memory will outlast the stone which shall bear the inscription of his bravery, his virtues, and his patriotism.
While we deplore his death, and remember with sorrow our loss, let us emulate the example of his fidelity and patriotism, feeling that e lives but in vain who lives not for his God and his country.
By command of Col. James C. Rice, commanding Third Brigade:
GEO. B. HERENDEEN,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
HEADQUARTERS THIRD BRIGADE,
August 14, 1863.
Capt. C. B. MERVINE,
CAPTAIN: In reply to circular of the 12th instant, from headquarters Army of the Potomac, I have the honor to submit the following report supplementary to that of the battle of Gettysburg:
June 28.--In camp near Frederick City.
June 29.--Left camp in the morning, and marched 2 miles beyond Liberty, in the direction of Johnsville. Camped at 7 a.m. [P.m.]
June 30.--Left camp at 4 a.m., arriving at Union Mills about 4 p.m., when we bivouacked for the night.
July 1.--Broke camp at 6 a.m., arriving at Hanover about 3 p.m. Left again at 5 [P.m.], and arrived within 3 miles of Gettysburg at 1 a.m. [July 2], when we bivouacked.
July 2.--Started at 4 a.m.; went about 2 miles, when we got into position; remained some 2 hours; then crossed the creek, and lay in position awaiting orders until about 4 p.m., when we were ordered to the front; immediately on arriving there became engaged; held that position, and bivouacked on the field that night. (See previous report.)
July 3.--Remained on the field of the previous day's fight until about 9 a.m., when we were relieved by the First Brigade and Ninth Massachusetts, of the Second Brigade, we taking their old position farther to the right.
July 4.--Same position of previous day until we were ordered to relieve General Bartlett's brigade, of the Second [Sixth?] Corps.
July 5.--Same position as previous day. Started about 5 p.m. in direction of Emmitsburg. Bivouacked on the road about 10 p.m.
July 6.--Started at 6 a.m., and arrived at 12 m. within 3 miles of Emmitsburg, when we camped.
July 7.--Left camp about 6 a.m., and arrived within 5 miles of Frederick City at 6 p.m., when we bivouacked.
July 8.--Broke camp early in the morning, and arrived at Middletown about 4 p.m.
July 9.--Left Middletown early in the morning, and arrived within 2 miles of Boonsborough about noon.
July 10.--Broke camp early in the morning, and arrived at Jones' Cross-Roads about 3 p.m. The Eighty-third Pennsylvania went on picket immediately.
July 11.--Changed direction of the line to the right early in the morning. In the afternoon advanced to Pleasant Valley.
July 12.--Changed front to the left, and advanced on the Hagerstown and Sharpsburg pike.
July 13.--Camped in front of pike; two companies of the Eighty-third Pennsylvania on picket.
July 14.--Advanced to within 1 mile of Williamsport.
July 15.--Left camp at 4 a.m., and arrived near Burkittsville at 5 p.m., where we bivouacked for the night.
July 16.--Left camp about 4 a.m., and arrived near Berlin 12 m., and went into camp.
July 17.--In same position until about 3 p.m., when we recrossed the Potomac and camped near Lovettsville.
July 18.--Broke camp at 4 a.m.; proceeded 7 miles in the direction of Purcellville; bivouacked at 12 m.
July 19.--Left camp at 8 a.m.; marched 4 miles to Purcellville.
July 20.--Broke camp early in the morning, and marched to near Upperville, on Goose Creek, arriving there at 2 p.m.
July 21.--Remained in same position.
July 22.--Broke camp in the afternoon, and went to Rectortown, July 23.--Left camp early in the morning, and marched to Manassas Gap. Six companies were detached as skirmishers, and were on picket all night-four of the Eighty-third and two of the Forty-fourth New York Volunteers.
July 24.--In the morning advanced to the high hill in front of the position occupied the previous day. In the afternoon withdrew, and camped some 2 miles to the rear.
July 25.--Left early in the morning in the direction of Warrenton; at 4 p.m. bivouacked for the night.
July 26.--Broke camp early in the morning, and continued our march. When within 3 miles of Warrenton went into camp.
July 27.--Broke camp early next morning, and passed through Warrenton, camping about 3 miles from it.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. C. RICE,
Colonel, Commanding Third Brigade.
RETURN TO BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG UNION ORDER OF BATTLE PAGE