Report of Col. Orland Smith,
Seventy-third Ohio Infantry, commanding Second Brigade.
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG, SECOND DIV., ELEVENTH A C.,
Near Catlett's Station, Va., August 5, 1863.
Lieut. R. E. BEECHER,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to report the operations of the Second Brigade, Second Division, Eleventh Corps, from June 12 to July 4, beginning with its departure from Brooke's Station and ending with the battle of Gettysburg.
The brigade, consisting of the Seventy-third Ohio, Thirty-third Massachusetts, Fifty-fifth Ohio, and One hundred and thirty-sixth New York Volunteers, marched from its encampment at Brooke's Station on Friday, June 12, at 1 p.m. Its marches and halts until its arrival at Gettysburg were as follows:
Friday, June 12.--Brooke's Station to Hartwood Church, 13 miles.
Saturday, June 13.--From Hartwood Church to Weaverville, near Catlett's.
Sunday, June 14.--Weaverville to Blackburn's Ford, 18 miles.
Monday, June 15.--Blackburn's Ford to Centreville, 5 miles, where we tarried until Wednesday, June 17.
Wednesday, June 17.--Centreville to Goose Creek, 18 miles, where the brigade took position on the north side of Goose Creek, picketing that side, and sending scouting parties and patrols to Leesburg, Hog Back Mountain, near Mount Gilead, and to Aldie. Remained on Goose Creek till Wednesday, June 24; marched from Goose Creek to Edwards Ferry, 7 miles.
Thursday, June 25.--Edwards Ferry to Jefferson, 22 miles. Friday, June 26.--Jefferson to Middletown, 7 miles.
Saturday, June 27.--Middletown to Boonsborough Gap, 6 miles. Sunday, June 28.--Boonsborough Gap to Frederick, 16 miles.
Monday, June 29.--Frederick to Emmitsburg, 22 miles. Tarried here until Wednesday, July 1; Emmitsburg to Gettysburg, 9 miles.
The men marched fully equipped, with haversacks, knapsacks, &c, carrying three days' rations and 60 rounds of ammunition. The previous comparative inactivity in camp caused some weariness during the first few days, and before half the distance was accomplished the shoes began to fail, thus leaving many men to march barefooted sometimes over very rough roads.
The march from Boonsborough Gap to Emmitsburg is worthy of note. Starting at 4.40 p.m. on Sunday, 28th instant, we reached Frederick, 16 miles distant, about midnight, having been somewhat wearied, and impeded by the wagon trains which preceded us. Leaving Frederick at 4.30 a.m. on the 29th, we reached Emmitsburg at 5 p.m., having made 38 miles in twenty-four and one-half hours, with scarcely an instance of straggling. At times the roads were in bad order, being very heavy from the rains, rendering the marching very painful to those whose shoes had given out. Every labor and hardship was endured, however, with a cheerfulness which is worthy of commendation.
On the march from Emmitsburg to Gettysburg, this brigade brought up the rear of the entire corps; consequently it was the last to arrive at the scene of action, which had been commenced earlier in the day by the First Corps.
In compliance with orders from General Steinwehr commanding the division, I immediately formed the brigade in line of battle by battalions in mass in rear of Cemetery Hill, and thus advanced through the cemetery to the front of the hill overlooking the town. It was soon evident our forces, consisting of the First Corps and First and Third Divisions, Eleventh Corps, were retreating before vastly superior numbers from the opposite side of the town. The moment seemed critical, and, under the directions of the general, dispositions were rapidly made to repel any assault upon the hill should the enemy see fit to advance so far. The movements and deployments were made with considerable rapidity, and positions were frequently made by changes, as will be indicated by the reports of the regimental commanders, which are herewith submitted.
The final disposition of the brigade was as follows: The base of the hill in front of the batteries of the corps was occupied by the Fifty-fifth and Seventy-third Ohio Volunteers and the One hundred and thirty-sixth New York Volunteers, the former being on the extreme right, and reaching to the southwest corner of the town, the Seventy-third in the center, and the One hundred and thirty-sixth on the left, connecting with the Second Corps. The Thirty-third Massachusetts was placed on the northeasterly side of Cemetery Hill, and, as I learned from the report of Colonel Underwood, was put temporarily under the command of General Ames, of the First Division, this, however, being the first intimation to me of such a fact.
Our entire front was covered by a line of skirmishers thrown out toward the enemy's lines, the right resting near the town and the left connecting with a similar line of the Second Corps. These skirmishers were more or less engaged with those of the enemy during the whole period from the 1st to the night of July 3. This line was exposed not only to the fire of the enemy's front, but to a fire from the flanks and rear by the sharpshooters posted in the houses in the town. Indeed, the main line, though posted behind a stone wall, was constantly subjected to annoyances from the same source.
During the various contests which marked the three days' battle, the regiments were constantly exposed, not only to the fire in front, but to the shot and shell coming from the batteries placed opposite the Twelfth Corps, on the right. Moreover, some casualties were occasioned by the premature explosion of some of the shells from our own batteries. Though the situation was at times of the most trying character, never a man faltered, to my knowledge, or complained, but every man seemed inspired by a determination to hold his position, dead or alive.
On the night of the 2d, our line was threatened by a strong force of the enemy deployed in our front, while a vigorous attack was made upon the right wing of the corps. No attack was made on us, however, owing, as I have since been informed, to their failure to carry the hill on the right.
On Friday, the 3d, when the final terrific assault was made by the enemy, the direction of their march at first seemed to indicate that our brigade would be strongly attacked. A change of direction to the right, however, threw the whole force of the attack upon the Second Corps, our skirmishers being only partially engaged. Nevertheless, the firmness manifested, not only by the old troops, but by those who had never before been actively engaged, was remarkable.
With the reports of the respective regimental commanders will be found detailed lists of killed, wounded, &c., which foot up as follows:
Aggregate 73d Ohio
136th New York
For specific accounts of the operations of each regiment, I respectfully refer to the accompanying reports.
Where all vied with each other in the performance of their respective duties, it is impossible to single out officers for special mention. I desire, however, to express my entire satisfaction at the conduct of the regimental commanders--Lieut. Col. R. Long, of the Seventy-third Ohio Volunteers; Col. C. B. Gambee, of the Fifty-fifth Ohio Volunteers; Col. A. B. Underwood, of the Thirty-third Massachusetts Volunteers, and Col. James Wood, jr., of the One hundred and thirty-sixth New York Volunteers--all of whom, by their vigilance and watchfulness, contributed to lighten my own cares and responsibilities.
I cannot forbear mentioning with commendation the members of my staff--Capt. Benjamin F. Stone, jr., acting assistant adjutant-general; Capt. J. D. Maderia, acting assistant inspector-general; Capt. E. H. Pratt, and Lieut. H. E. Van Zandt, acting aides-de-camp, whose constant attention and ready response to all-calls in seasons of the greatest danger entitle them to the greatest praise.
In closing, I venture to express the opinion that the arrival of this brigade upon Cemetery Hill at a critical moment, in good order and with full ranks, contributed much toward checking the enemy's advancing forces, and resulted in holding the hill, which, in my own opinion, was of the most vital importance, as was demonstrated by the subsequent actions.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding Second Brigade.
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