Reports of Maj. Gen. Carl Schurz,
U. S. Army, commanding Third Division.
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, ELEVENTH CORPS,
August 20, 1863.
Maj. Gen. O. O. HOWARD,
Commanding Eleventh Corps.
GENERAL: On the part taken by my command in the battle of Gettysburg, I have the honor to report as follows:
On July 1, at 7 a.m., the Third Division left its camp, near Saint Joseph's College, at Emmitsburg, with orders to march to Gettysburg by way of Homer's Mills.
About 10.30 o'clock, when my division had just passed the latter place, I received, through one of your aides, the order to hurry forward my command as fast as possible, as the First Corps was engaged with the enemy in the neighborhood of Gettysburg. Leaving the command of the division in General Schimmelfennig's hand, I hastened to the front, where I arrived about 11.30 o'clock, finding you upon an eminence east of the cemetery of Gettysburg, from which we overlooked the field of battle. You informed me that General Reynolds had just been killed; that you were in command of the whole, and that you had to turn over the Eleventh Corps to me.
I saw the First Corps engaged in a lively fight on the ridge northwest of Gettysburg. A dispatch from General Wadsworth informed us that he was advancing; that the forces before him were apparently not very strong, and that he thought, although he had no Clear evidence of it, that the enemy was making a movement toward his right. The right of the First Corps seemed to extend across the Cashtown road and the railroad northeast of it. It was at the time difficult to see how far the ground was in our possession. Of the enemy we saw but little, and had no means of forming a just estimate of his strength. Either the enemy was before us in small force, and then we had to push him with all possible vigor, or he had the principal part of his army there, and then we had to establish ourselves in a position which would enable us to maintain ourselves until the arrival of re-enforcements. Either of these cases being possible, provision was to be made for both. Accordingly you ordered me to take the Third and First Divisions of the Eleventh Corps through the town, and to endeavor to gain possession of the eastern prolongation of the ridge then partly held by the First Corps, while you intended to establish the Second Division and the artillery, excepting the batteries attached to the First and Third Divisions, on Cemetery Hill and the eminence east of it as a reserve.
The Third Division arrived at -- o'clock, at double-quick; the weather was sultry, and the troops, who had marched several hours without halting a single time, much out of breath. I ordered General Schimmelfennig, to whom I turned over the command of the Third Division, to advance briskly through the town, and to deploy on the right of the First Corps in two lines. This order was executed with promptness and spirit.
Shortly afterward the First Division, under General Barlow, arrived by the Emmitsburg road proper, advanced through the town, and was ordered by me to form on the right of the Third Division, its First Brigade to connect with the Third Division west of the road leading to Mummasburg, while I ordered the Second Brigade to be held en echelon behind the right of the First Brigade east of the Mummasburg road. Each division had one battery with it. It was about 2 p.m. when the deployment of the two divisions was accomplished. The Second Division arriving shortly after; the First remained with you in the position above indicated.
The engagement between the First Corps and the enemy had during that time continued briskly, the enemy being apparently driven to the crest of the ridge upon which the college building stands.
Hardly were the two divisions deployed a few hundred yards north of the town, when I received an order from you to remain in the position I then occupied, and to push my skirmishers forward as far as possible. This was done, and our skirmishers, who became soon engaged, especially those of the Third Division, took a considerable number of prisoners.
While this was going on, two of the enemy's batteries, placed on a hillside opposite the Third Division, one above the other, opened upon us, flanking the First Corps. Captain Dilger, whose battery was attached to the Third Division, replied promptly, dismounting in a short time four of the enemy pieces, and driving away two regiments which were on a line with the enemy's artillery at the foot of the hill.
In the meantime the firing near my extreme left seemed to increase in volume, and, leaving the point I had selected for myself and staff, on the Mummasburg road, I rode over toward the left, in order to see what was going on. The right of the First Corps seemed to be engaged in a very severe struggle. The enemy was evidently pressing upon that point. At the same time signs were apparent of an advance of the enemy upon my line, especially the right. The enemy was evidently stronger than he had been at the commencement of the battle, and the probability was that re-enforcements were still arriving. Feeling much anxiety about my right, which was liable to be turned if any of the enemy's forces were advancing by the Heidlersburg road, I dispatched one of my aides to you, with the request to have one brigade of the Second Division placed upon the north side of the town, near the railroad depot, as an echelon to the First Division. My intention was to have that brigade in readiness to charge upon any force the enemy might move around my right.
After having taken the necessary observations on my extreme left, I returned to the Mummasburg road, where I discovered that General Barlow had moved forward his whole line, thus losing on his left the connection with the Third Division; moreover, the Second Brigade, of the First Division, had been taken out of its position en echelon behind the right of the First Brigade. I immediately gave orders to re-establish the connection by advancing the right wing of the Third Division, and hurried off aide after aide to look after the brigade of the Second Division which I had requested you to send me for the protection of my right and rear, but it had not yet arrived.
Suddenly the enemy opened upon the First Division from two batteries placed near the Harrisburg road, completely enfilading General Barlow's line. This fire, replied to by our batteries, produced but little effect upon our men. Soon afterward, however, about 3 o'clock, before the forward movement of the First Division could be arrested by my orders, the enemy appeared in our front with heavy masses of infantry, his line extending far beyond our right. It was now clear that the two small divisions under my command, numbering hardly over 6,000 effective men when going into battle, had a whole corps of the rebel army to contend against.
The simultaneous appearance of the enemy's battalions on so long a line led me to believe that they had been lying in position for some time behind the woods in our front, fully prepared for us, and that it was their intention, while entangling us in a fight where we were, to throw their left wing around our right, and thus to cut us off from the town. A movement to the rear became at once necessary, but before any orders to that effect could be transmitted, my whole line was engaged, and the Second Brigade, First Division, whose flank had been most exposed in consequence of the advance, fell back in considerable disorder. Unfortunately, General Barlow, who had been directing the movements of his troops with the most praiseworthy coolness and intrepidity, unmindful of the shower of bullets around, was severely wounded, and had to be carried off the battle-field. The command of the First Division devolved upon General Ames.
It was now of the highest importance to hold the Middletown and Mummasburg roads. Had the Brigade of the Second Division been then at the appointed place, I would have ordered it to charge upon the flanking columns of the enemy, taking them in flank and rear; but that brigade not being there, all I could do was to endeavor to rally the Second Brigade, of the First Division, and to hold the ground west of those roads until the other brigades could be taken back. The enemy, however, pressing on with great vigor, that brigade could be rallied only in part, and the First Brigade, of the First Division, finding its right flank uncovered, was forced back also, not, however, without hotly contesting every inch of ground.
At that moment it was reported to me that the right wing of the First Corps had been pressed back, and one of Major-General Doubleday's aides brought me a request for a few regiments to be sent over to its assistance, which it was, under the circumstances, impossible for me to do. I received also a report from the Third Division, stating that it was flanked on the left. At the same time your order reached me to withdraw to the south side of the town, and to occupy the position on and near Cemetery Hill previously chosen by you.
While I was doing my utmost, assisted by the officers of my staff, to rally what was within my reach of the First Division, in order to check the enemy's advance upon my right and to hold the entrance of the town, the First Brigade, of the Second Division, under Colonel Coster, at last made its appearance. I led it out of the town, and ordered it to deploy on the right of the junction of the roads near the railroad depot, which the enemy was fast approaching. It was now too late for executing the offensive movement upon the enemy's left flank, which I had originally contemplated, and which might have been made to great advantage ten minutes before, but the brigade, assisted by a battery, succeeded, at all events, in checking the enemy long enough to permit the First Division to enter the town without being seriously molested on its retreat. The Third Division had meanwhile to sustain a furious attack. According to orders, it fell back toward the town in good order, contesting the ground step by step with the greatest firmness.
In this part of the action, which was almost a hand-to-hand struggle, officers and men showed the highest courage and determination. Our loss was extremely severe. The Second Brigade, Third Division, lost all its regimental commanders; several regiments nearly half their number in killed and wounded. Being flanked right and left, the situation of that division was most trying.
The retreat through the town, protected by part of our artillery, was effected as well as could be expected under such circumstances, the streets being filled with vehicles of every description and overrun with men of the First Corps. A considerable number of men, who became entangled in cross streets and alleys, were taken prisoners by the enemy, who entered the town immediately after us. General Schimmelfennig fell in this way into the hands of rebel skirmishers, but succeeded in hiding himself until, on July 4, we retook possession of Gettysburg.
It was after 5 o'clock when the Eleventh Corps occupied the position on Cemetery Hill; the Second Division behind the stone walls inclosing the cemetery on the west side; the Third Division immediately opposite the town, and the First Division on the right. The group of houses nearest the cemetery were occupied by our skirmishers. The enemy did not undertake to attack that position, and the corps remained in it undisturbed until the enemy resumed the attack on July 2.
I remain, general, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
- - - - -
HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, ELEVENTH CORPS,
August 20, 1863.
Commanding Eleventh Corps.
GENERAL: On the part taken by my division in the actions of July 2 and 3, I have the honor to submit the following report:
By the losses sustained in the battle of July 1, the Third Division was reduced to an effective force of about 1,500 men. A large number of officers were killed, wounded, or missing, many regiments being under the command of captains. General Schimmelfennig being still in his hiding place within the lines of the enemy, Colonel von Amsberg, of the Forty-fifth New York, commanded my First Brigade.
The position of the Third Division was behind the stone walls inclosing the cemetery on the northwest side, an orchard separating it from the first houses of the town. I had five regiments deployed in the first line, five in column in the second, connecting on my left with the Second Division, and on my right with the First. My skirmishers were from 300 to 500 yards in front, and a detachment in a group of houses near the cemetery.
The enemy made no attack in the forenoon of July 2. We observed his artillery moving on the ridges west, north, and east of Gettysburg, and taking position.
About 4 p.m. the enemy opened upon us from his batteries, the artillery on Cemetery Hill replying with great spirit. The fire continued for about two hours. Although the cannonade was fearful and many projectiles fell into our battalions, not a man belonging to the Third Division, unless wounded, left the ranks. After the cessation of the cannonade, the enemy made a heavy attack upon the left wing of the army, which resulted in a complete repulse.
Between 6 and 7 p.m. the enemy made a demonstration upon our right wing. As soon as the firing commenced, you ordered me to send one of my brigades to the support of General Ames, commanding the First Division. I took the First Brigade, Colonel von Amsberg commanding, out of its position, filling its place behind the stone wall with the reserve regiments of the Second Brigade. One of the five regiments of the First Brigade (Seventy-fourth Pennsylvania) was left with General Ames to strengthen his right wing. The remaining four were directed toward a strip of woods on the right of the First Division, in which the firing had become very heavy, and where, according to the reports of some staff officers of the First Corps, immediate aid was needed. Two regiments (the One hundred and fifty-seventh New York and the Sixty-first Ohio) were guided by one of these officers, while two others (the Eighty-second Illinois and Forty-fifth New York) were led by the chief of my staff, Lieutenant-Colonel Otto, of the Fifty-eighth New York. It had meanwhile become quite dark, the direction of the fight being indicated by nothing but the sound of the musketry. The regiments entered the woods with the greatest determination, and drove the enemy from our rifle-pits, of which at several points he had already gained possession.
It is my pleasant duty to mention as especially deserving, the names of Lieutenant-Colonel Otto, who superintended this operation with great judgment and courage, and of Lieutenant-Colonel Salomon, of the Eighty-second Illinois, who displayed the highest order of coolness and determination, under very trying circumstances.
At 9 o'clock the enemy was repulsed at that point, and no further demonstration made. While this was going on, between 8 and 9 p.m., we suddenly heard a rapid musketry fire on the eminence immediately east of the cemetery, where Captain Wiedrich's battery stood. You ordered me to take two regiments across the road to the aid of that battery. This order was executed by two regiments of the Second Brigade, the One hundred and nineteenth and Fifty-eighth New York, headed by Colonel Krzyzanowski, commanding Second Brigade. I at once hastened with my whole staff toward the threatened point, driving back stragglers with our swords as we went. To my great surprise, we found a general melee in the battery itself, the enemy's infantry having already gotten possession of some of the guns. The cannoneers were defending themselves valiantly. Our infantry made a vigorous rush upon the intruders, and, after a short but very spirited hand-to-hand fight, succeeded in driving them down the hill.
I cannot refrain from speaking of the conduct of the officers and men on that occasion with the greatest satisfaction.
The regiments, thus scattered among other commands, were withdrawn during the night, and returned to their former positions.
In the action of July 3, no part of my command but my skirmishers was engaged. During the memorable cannonade of the afternoon, my men behaved with the same firmness which they had exhibited on the preceding day.
At daybreak on July 4, the Fifty-eighth New York, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Otto, entered the town of Gettysburg, the enemy having retreated, and took over 280 prisoners, among whom were several commissioned officers.
At 8 a.m. Colonel Krzyzanowski, with the One hundred and nineteenth New York and the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin, made a reconnaissance toward the ridge opposite our right; and took 47 additional prisoners. He was called back without having found the enemy. On the 5th, we marched to Emmitsburg.
A report exhibiting the heavy losses my division suffered in the three days' battle has already been submitted to you. It bears ample testimony that my men in that battle fought with bravery, and never yielded without necessity.
I am, general, most respectfully, yours,
Major-General, Commanding Third Division.
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