Report of Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Ruger,
U.S. Army, commanding First Division.
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, TWELFTH CORPS,
Tullahoma, Tenn., December 5, 1863.
Capt. S. E. PITTMAN,
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the First Division, Twelfth Corps, Army of the Potomac, in the battle of Gettysburg:
The Twelfth Corps arrived at the village of Two Taverns, Pa., on the turnpike from Littlestown to Gettysburg, on July 1. The First and Eleventh Corps having engaged the enemy beyond Gettysburg, the corps moved forward to their support. The First Division, leaving the turnpike and bearing to the right at a point about 2 miles from Gettysburg, gained a position threatening the left flank of the enemy, who had compelled the First and Eleventh Corps to retire toward Gettysburg. The appearance of the division in this position at the time it occurred was apparently a timely diversion in favor of our forces, as the farther advance of the enemy ceased. About sunset, the division, in accordance with orders, took up a position about three-quarters of a mile in rear of the position previously occupied, and so remained during the night of the 1st.
At daylight of July 2, shots were exchanged between our pickets and those of the enemy, with some slight loss on our side. About this time the advance of the Fifth Army Corps arrived, and took position on the right of the division.
Up to this time the division was under the command of its commander proper--Brig. Gen. A. S. Williams. I now received orders from General Williams to take command of the division, General Williams having been placed in command of the corps. I turned over the command of my brigade, the Third, to Col. Silas Colgrove, Twenty-seventh Indiana Volunteers, senior colonel, and assumed command of the division.
About 9 a.m. I received orders from General Williams, commanding corps, to move the division by the Baltimore turnpike toward Gettysburg, and place it in position next on the right of the Second Division of the corps, distant about 1½ miles by the road indicated. I immediately moved the division as ordered, and placed it in position as indicated by General Williams, commanding corps, present on the ground, on the right of the Second Division of the corps and in line of battle, two lines formation, the First Brigade immediately on the right of the Second Division, the Third Brigade on the right of the First Brigade.
The line of the First Brigade was in prolongation of the right portion of the line of the Second Division, and along the crest of a rocky, wooded ridge, called Culp's Hill, about 700 yards from, on the right of, and nearly parallel with, the turnpike, the right reaching nearly to Rocky Run [Rock Creek], a creek which approached the position from the left and front. The line of the Third Brigade made an angle with that of the First Brigade, inclining to the rear and following the general directions of the creek, and was cut by a marshy ravine or swale, some 50 yards in width, which put in to Rocky Run [Rock Creek] from the rear, leaving space enough on left of swale from the right of the First Brigade line for one regiment front.
Breastworks were immediately constructed of logs, rocks, and earth along the whole line, and at the gap in the line caused by swale, so as to give cross-fire in front of gap. In rear of breastworks of First Brigade, and about 75 yards therefrom, and nearly parallel therewith, was a stone wall, behind which the second line of the First Brigade was placed. In front of the line of the Third Brigade Rocky Run [Rock Creek] was from 4 to 6 feet deep, with muddy bottom, caused by a dam near the turnpike. The whole position was covered with rocks. The ground in front of the First Brigade descended to Rocky Run [Rock Creek], and in front of the Third Brigade, on the opposite side of the creek, ascended therefrom, and was covered with rocks, and wooded.
The following rough sketch shows generally position of troops and main topographical features of ground. (See map annexed.)
The division remained in this position until about 6 p.m., the enemy not having appeared in force in its immediate front. At this time I received orders from Brigadier-General Williams, commanding corps, to move with the division to the assistance of the left of the general line, then hotly engaged with the enemy, reporting my arrival to the corps commander of the forces engaged. The division was moved in the direction ordered, being exposed on part of the line of march to a heavy artillery fire. Having approached the point of heavy fire of musketry, which had become feeble, I formed the division in line of masses preparatory to moving forward.
At this time I received orders from Brigadier-General Williams to move the division back to the position recently left as quickly as possible,
and reoccupy the line of breastworks. At about the same time my aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Dechert, who had been sent forward to report the coming of the division, returned and reported that he had seen Major-General Sedgwick, commanding Sixth Corps, and Major-General Sykes, commanding Fifth Corps, who informed him that the attack of the enemy had been repulsed, and the services of the division would not be needed on that part of the field. The division, on receipt of order therefor from General Williams, commanding corps, was moved as rapidly as possible for its former position.
On the march back, I was informed by a staff officer of Major-General Slocum, commanding right of main line, that the Second Division of the corps, which, with the exception of one brigade left to guard breastworks, had been ordered to the left, had been ordered to return to its line of breastworks, and was supposed to be then in possession of them. After crossing the turnpike, 1 directed brigade commanders to throw forward skirmishers and ascertain if the enemy held any part of the breastworks, and, if not, to occupy them at once. It was ascertained that the breastworks on the right of the swale were unoccupied, and they were taken possession of, but the breastworks on the left of swale, being the whole original position of the First and of part of the Third Brigade, were found to be occupied by the enemy in force. Seventeen men were captured from the skirmish line by the enemy and some captures made by them.
The occupancy of the breastworks by the enemy, and absence of firing from the right of line of Second Division, rendered it evident that the Second Division was not in possession of its whole line of breastworks, a considerable portion of which I soon ascertained was held by the enemy, and also that the Second Division had not returned. I deemed it unwise to attack the enemy, owing to the darkness, difficult character of the ground, and want of knowledge of the force of the enemy, and immediately placed the division in line along the crest of a slight ridge bordering the swale, with the left of the division advanced from the line, the position best adapted to prevent the enemy from advancing toward the turnpike if he should attempt it, and reported the situation of affairs to Brigadier-General Williams, commanding corps. The Second Division came up soon after. No change occurred during the night.
At 4.30 o'clock on the morning of July 3, fire was opened on the position held by the enemy from a battery placed in position during the night in rear of the left of the then position of the division; also from a battery still farther to the right, on a commanding hill. The enemy soon after moved forward his infantry, and attacked that portion of the line of breastworks of the Second Division still in our possession.
The Twentieth Connecticut Volunteers, supported by the One hundred and seventh New York Volunteers, First Division, was thrown forward from the left of the division into the woods in rear of the stone wall held by the enemy. The general relation of the lines of the First and Second Divisions of the corps was a two-sided, truncated triangle, the apex at which point was the battery from the enemy, the ends toward the enemy inclining to the right and left, respectively, and too strong to be carried, Rocky Run [Rock Creek] protecting the right and strong breastworks occupying the left.
The enemy entered the space between the lines, and attempted to force one of the sides. The ground, covered in most places with large rocks, was unfavorable for rapid movements of troops, and exposed to a cross-fire from the batteries in our rear. No considerable development of line by the enemy that would have been of advantage to him could be made by him in front of lines of either division without exposure of a portion of his line to an enfilading fire of musketry from the other divisions. The batteries fired over the line of the division, which was unavoidable, but the loss from this was small.
This state of things continued until about 10 a.m., the enemy maintaining the attack with great constancy, throwing forward fresh troops from time to time, suffering severely, but gaining no advantage, while our loss was comparatively slight. At this time I received orders to try the enemy on the right of the line of breast, works, to the left of the swale, with two regiments, and, if practicable, to force him out. I sent orders by a staff officer to Colonel Col-grove, commanding Third Brigade, to advance skirmishers against the enemy at that point, and, if not found in too great force, to advance two regiments, and dislodge him from the breastworks. From mistake of the staff officer, or misunderstanding on the part of Colonel Colgrove, it was attempted to carry the position without first ascertaining the force of the enemy. The regiments selected--the Second Massachusetts Volunteers and Twenty-seventh Indiana Volunteers, of Third Brigade--moved forward gallantly, crossed the swale in line under a severe fire, gained the woods on the opposite side, forced the enemy back part way up the slope to breastworks, but could not dislodge him, owing to the natural obstacles to the advance and heavy fire of the enemy from his well-protected position. The regiments were withdrawn. The enemy attempted to follow, but was quickly driven back by the two regiments, who turned and opened fire, assisted by their supports.
About 100 prisoners were captured from the enemy at this time, who was followed by skirmishers.
The One hundred and twenty-third New York Volunteers, First Brigade, which had meantime been advanced from the left of the division, gained the stone wall; the enemy fell back over the breastworks, which were occupied by that regiment and the skirmishers. The line of the division from center to left was at once advanced, and the breastworks reoccupied, the enemy retiring from under fire. The enemy's sharpshooters kept up an annoying fire from cover in front of the line during the remainder of the day, but no more fighting took place.
At about 2 p.m., in accordance with orders, one brigade (the First) was sent to the support of the left center of main line, its place being temporarily supplied by regiments from Third Brigade. The attack of the enemy was repulsed without the services of the brigade being required, and it returned to its place.
At about 5 p.m. two regiments of Third Brigade--the Thirteenth New Jersey Volunteers, Colonel Carman, and One hundred and seventh New York Volunteers, Colonel Crane--were sent to act as supports to cavalry force of Brigadier-General Gregg on the right of the army, and remained until about 9 a.m. of the next day.
On the morning of July 4, it was ascertained that the enemy had withdrawn during the night from our immediate front. A reconnaissance, under the direction of Major-General Slocum, was made by the Third Brigade, and Forty-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers and Fifth Connecticut Volunteers, of the First Brigade, under my command, around the right of the army, the line of march being along the turnpike about 2 miles, thence by a cross-road to the Hanover road, and by the Hanover road to Gettysburg. The enemy had wholly withdrawn from the front of the right of the army. General Williams at this time resumed command of the division, and I of the Third Brigade.
The services of the division in defeating, in conjunction with the Second Division of the corps, the attack by a superior force of the enemy on July 3, on that portion of the general line held by them, were of the first importance. If the enemy had succeeded, and thereby gained possession of the turnpike and a position in rear of Cemetery Hill, the army would have been in great peril.
There were present with me, of my staff, First Lieut. Robert P. Dechert, acting assistant adjutant-general and aide-de-camp; First Lieut. William M. Snow, acting assistant inspector-general, and Second Lieut. James E. Crane, aide-de-camp, who performed their duty faithfully.
The following is a statement of force carried into action and of casualties.
Of the brave dead is Lieutenant-Colonel Mudge, Second Massachusetts Volunteers, a gallant officer, who was killed while in command of his regiment, in the charge on the right on the forenoon of July 3.
Accompanying are the reports of brigade commanders, to which I respectfully refer for details of the parts taken by their respective brigades.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
THOS. H. RUGER,
Brig. Gen. of Vols., Comdg. First Div., Twelfth Corps.
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