Report of Brig. Gen. J. B. Robertson, C. S. Army, commanding brigade
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
HEADQUARTERS TEXAS BRIGADE,
Near Bunker Hill, Va., July 17, 1863.
Maj. W. H. SELLERS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Hood's Division.
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit through you my report of the action of my brigade in the battle of Gettysburg, on July 2 and 3. I have been too much occupied with the duties imposed by the marches and maneuvers we have gone through to allow me to make this report at an earlier time.
The division arrived on the ground in front of the position of the enemy that we were to attack but a few minutes before we were ordered to advance. I therefore got but a glance at the field on which we had to operate before we entered upon it. I was ordered to keep my right well closed on Brigadier-General Law's left, and to let my left rest on the Emmitsburg pike. I had advanced but a short distance when I discovered that my brigade would not fill the space between General Law's left and the pike named, and that I must leave the pike, or disconnect myself from General Law, on my right. Understanding before the action commenced that the attack on our part was to be general, and that the force of General McLaws was to advance simultaneously with us on my immediate left, and seeing at once that a mountain held by the enemy in heavy force with artillery to the right of General Law's center was the key to the enemy's left, I abandoned the pike, and closed on General Law's left. This caused some separation of my regiments, which was remedied as promptly as the numerous stone and rail fences that intersected the field through which we were advancing would allow.
As we advanced through this field, for half a mile we were exposed to a heavy and destructive fire of canister, grape, and shell from six pieces of their artillery on the mountain alluded to, and the same number on a commanding hill but a short distance to the left of the mountain, and from the enemy's sharpshooters from behind the numerous rocks, fences, and houses in the field.
As we approached the base of the mountain, General Law moved to the right, and I was moving obliquely to the right to close on him, when my whole line encountered the fire of the enemy's main line, posted behind rocks and a stone fence. The Fourth and Fifth Texas Regiments, under the direction of their gallant commanders (Colonels Powell and Key), while returning the fire and driving the enemy before them, continued to close on General Law, to their right. At the same time, the First Texas and Third Arkansas, under their gallant commanders (Lieutenant-Colonel [P. A.] Work and Colonel Manning), were hotly engaged with a greatly superior force, while at the same time a heavy force appeared and opened fire on Colonel Manning's left, seriously threatening his left flank, to meet which he threw two or three companies with their front to his left flank, and protected his left.
On discovering this heavy force on my left flank, and seeing that no attack was being made by any of our forces on my left, I at once sent a courier to Major-General Hood, stating that I was hard pressed on my left; that General McLaws' forces were not engaging the enemy to my left (which enabled him to move fresh troops from that part of his line down on me), and that I must have re-enforcements.
Lieutenant-Colonel Work, with the First Texas Regiment, having pressed forward to the crest of the hill and driven the enemy from his battery, I ordered him to the left, to the relief and support of Colonel Manning, directing Major [F. S.] Bass with two companies to hold the hill, while Colonel Work with the rest of the regiment went to Colonel Manning's relief. With this assistance, Colonel Manning drove the enemy back, and entered the woods after him, when the enemy reoccupied the hill and his batteries in Colonel Work's front, from which Colonel Work again drove him.
For an hour and upward, these two regiments maintained one of the hottest contests, against five or six times their number, that I have witnessed. The moving of Colonel Work to the left, to relieve Colonel Manning while the Fourth and Fifth Texas were closing to the right on General Law's brigade, separated these two regiments from the others. They were steadily moving to the right and front, driving the enemy before them, when they passed the woods or ravine to my right. After finding that I could not move the First and Third to the right to join them, I sent to recall them, ordering them to move to the left until the left of the Fourth should rest on the right of the First; but my messenger found two of General Law's regiments on the left of my two (the Fourth and Fifth Texas), and did not find these regiments at all.
About this time my aide, Lieutenant Scott, reported my two regiments (the Fourth and Fifth Texas) in the center of General Law s brigade, and that they could not be moved without greatly injuring his line. I sent a request to General Law to look to them.
At this point, my assistant adjutant and inspector general reported from the Fourth and Fifth that they were hotly engaged, and wanted re-enforcements. My courier, sent to General Hood, returned, and reported him wounded and carried from the field. I sent a messenger to Lieutenant-General Longstreet for re-enforcements, and at the same time sent to Generals [George T.] Anderson and Benning, urging them to hurry up to my support. They came up, joined us, and fought gallantly; but as fast as we would break one line of the enemy, another fresh one would present itself, the enemy re-enforcing his lines in our front from his reserves at the base of the mountain to our right and front, and from his lines to our left. Having no attack from us in his front, he threw his forces from there on us.
Before the arrival of Generals Anderson and Benning, Col. J. C. G. Key, who gallantly led the Fourth Texas Regiment in, up to the time of receiving a severe wound, passed me, being led to the rear. About the same time, I learned of the fall and dangerous wounding of Col. R. M. Powell, of the Fifth, who fell while gallantly leading his regiment in one of the impetuous charges of the Fourth and Fifth Texas on the strongly fortified mountain.
Just after the arrival of General Anderson on my left, I learned that the gallant Col. Van H. Manning, of the Third Arkansas, had been wounded and carried from the field, and about the same time I received intelligence of the wounding and being carried from the field of those two able and efficient officers, Lieut. Cols. K. Bryan, of the Fifth, and B. F. Carter, of the Fourth, both of whom were wounded while bravely discharging their duty. Captain [J. R.] Woodward, acting major of the First Texas, was wounded near me while gallantly discharging his duty.
The Fourth and Fifth Texas, under the command of Majors [J. P.] Bane and [J. C.] Rogers, continued to hold the ground of their original line, leaving the space over which they had made their successive charges strewn with their wounded and dead comrades, many of whom could not be removed, and were left upon the field. The First Texas, under Lieutenant-Colonel Work, with a portion of Benning's brigade,-held the field and the batteries taken by the First Texas. Three of the guns were brought off the field and secured; the other three, from the nature of the ground and their proximity to the enemy, were left. The Third Arkansas, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel [R. S.] Taylor, ably assisted by Major [J. W.] Reedy, after Colonel Manning was borne from the field, sustained well the high character it made in the earlier part of the action.
When night closed the conflict, late in the evening, I was struck above the knee, which deprived me of the use of my leg, and prevented me from getting about the field. I retired some 200 yards to the rear, leaving the immediate command with Lieutenant-Colonel Work, the senior officer present, under whose supervision our wounded were brought out and guns secured, and our dead on that part of the field were buried the next day.
About 2 o'clock that night, the First Texas and Third Arkansas were moved by the right to the position occupied by the Fourth and Fifth, and formed on their left, where the brigade remained during the day of the 3d, keeping up a continuous skirmishing with the enemy's sharpshooters, in which we had a number of our men severely wounded. I sent my assistant adjutant-general, Capt. F. L. Price, at daybreak to examine the position of the brigade, and report to me as soon as he could, and, while in the discharge of that duty, was either killed or fell into the hands of the enemy, as he has not been seen or heard of since.
About dark on the evening of the 3d, the brigade, with the division, fell back to the hill, and formed in line, where it remained during the 4th.
Lieutenant [J. R.] Loughridge, commanding Company I, Fourth Texas, who commanded the skirmishers in front of the Fourth, and who was left when that regiment moved to the right, joined the First Texas, and did gallant service during the engagement.
In this, the hardest fought battle of the war in which I have been engaged, all, both officers and men, as far as my observation extended, fully sustained the high character they have heretofore made. Where all behaved so nobly, individual distinction cannot with propriety be made.
I cannot close this report without expressing my thanks to my personal staff for the able and satisfactory manner in which they discharged their duties. The wounding of so many commanding officers, among them the division commander, rendered their duties peculiarly arduous. They were discharged with zeal and promptness. Capt. F. L. Price, my assistant adjutant-general, whose loss on the morning of the 3d I have to deplore, was an active, efficient officer, and did his duty nobly. My aide-de-camp, Lieut. John G. Scott, my assistant adjutant and inspector general, Lieut. John W. Kerr, and Lieut. John Grace, volunteer aide, discharged their duties with a promptness and ability that merit special notice.
A list of the casualties in the several regiments, together with the reports from each of the regimental commanders, is herewith submitted.
J. B. ROBERTSON,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Brigade.
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