Report of Col. Thomas A. Smyth, First Delaware Infantry, commanding Second Brigade.
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43]
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., THIRD DIV., SECOND CORPS,
July 17, 1863.
Capt. GEORGE P. CORTS,
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by this brigade in the action at Gettysburg, Pa., from July 1 to 4:
Being in camp at Uniontown, Md., on the morning of July 1, I received an order to march at 6.30 a.m.; marched to Taneytown, and halted until 12 m., when the command resumed the march toward Gettysburg, and encamped about 3 miles from the town.
At 4 a.m. on the 2d, the brigade was placed in position on the hills overlooking the town, my command being placed on the left of the First Brigade. This position we occupied until the termination of the action on the night of the 3d.
Skirmishing commenced briskly along our front. At 8 a.m. the First Delaware Volunteers were sent out as skirmishers, and the One hundred and eighth New York Volunteers were assigned to the support of Woodruff's battery.
At 2 p.m. the enemy opened upon us with a severe fire of artillery, accompanied by an advance of infantry, which drove in our skirmishers. They were, however, immediately replaced, and the enemy's skirmishers retired to their original position, excepting that a force of them retained possession of a large barn about 400 yards in front of our line.
Four companies of the Twelfth New Jersey Volunteers were sent to retake the barn and to dislodge the enemy's sharpshooters, which they succeeded in doing, capturing 92 prisoners, including 7 commissioned officers. The enemy advanced in turn, and recaptured the barn.
The First Delaware Volunteers and four more companies of the Twelfth New Jersey Volunteers, under the command of Captain Thompson, Twelfth New Jersey, were subsequently sent to again take possession of the barn, which they did, having taken 10 prisonors, one of whom was a major. Observing that the enemy was moving in force along a ravine toward the barn, Captain Thompson thought proper to retire.
Firing ceased about 9 p.m., the remainder of the night being quiet.
Artillery firing from both sides began at 4 a.m. on the morning of the 3d, the heaviest firing being on our right. Skirmishing with artillery and infantry continued all along the line until 10.30 a.m., when a lull ensued, which lasted up to 2 p.m. The barn and house near it being reoccupied by the enemy's sharpshooters, an order was received from General Hays, commanding the division, to take the house and barn at all hazards and hold it. The Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteers was detailed on this service, which it gallantly performed. Soon after, an order came from General Hays to burn the house and barn, and they were accordingly fired.
At 2 p.m. a most terrific cannonading was opened upon our front by the simultaneous discharge of a whole battery. This fire, from an extended line of the enemy's batteries, concentrated on the small space occupied by our troops, and continued without intermission until 5 p.m.
The officers and men behaved with the greatest coolness, and endured this terrible fire with much fortitude. As the fire of the enemy's batteries slackened, their infantry moved upon our position in three lines, preceded by skirmishers.
My men were directed to reserve their fire until the foe was within 50 yards, when so effective and incessant was the fire from my line that the advancing enemy was staggered, thrown into confusion, and finally fled from the field, throwing away their arms in their flight. Many threw themselves on the ground to escape our destructive fire, and raised their hands in token of surrender.
The number of prisoners captured by this brigade is estimated at from 1,200 to 1,500. The number of small-arms collected by them is estimated at 2,000. This command captured 9 battle-flags, as follows: The Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteers, 4; the First Delaware Volunteers, 3, and the Twelfth New Jersey, 2.
The One hundred and eighth New York Volunteers rendered very efficient service while supporting Woodruff's battery, and lost heavily, the casualties being about half of the regiment in action. The men assisted in maneuvering the guns when so many of the horses were killed that the guns, limbers, and caissons could with difficulty be moved.
During the cannonading, having received a wound, I was obliged to quit the field, and surrendered the command to Lieut. Col. Francis E. Pierce, One hundred and eighth New York Volunteers.
The casualties in my command were as follows:
Total Brigade Staff --- 2 --- --- --- --- 2 1st Reg. Delaware Vol 2 2 1 7 41 10 63 108 New York Vol 3 10 --- 13 76 --- 102 14th Connecticut Vol --- 10 --- 10 42 4 66 12th New Jersey Vol 2 4 --- 21 75 11 113 1st Battalion 10th N.Y. --- --- --- 2 4 --- 6 Total 7 28 1 53 238 25 352
I desire to call the attention of the general commanding to the bravery, self-possession, and energy of Lieut. Col. F. E. Pierce, commanding One hundred and eighth New York Volunteers, who, throughout the heaviest of the fire, showed the greatest unconcern, passing along his line and encouraging his men; Maj. John T. Hill, commanding Twelfth New Jersey volunteers, who directed his men to retain their fire during the charge of the enemy until they were within 20 yards, when, at his command, so tremendous a fire of buck and ball was poured into their ranks as to render it impossible that one of them could reach the breastwork; Maj. Theodore G. Ellis, commanding Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteers, who led the last attack on the house and barn occupied by the enemy's sharpshooters in a very spirited manner, completely routing them, and Lieut. William Smith, who commanded the First Delaware Volunteers during the attack upon our front. He was a brave and efficient officer, and was instantly killed, with one of the enemy's captured flags in his hand.
I would also particularly mention the able and efficient services of the gentlemen composing my staff: Lieut. William P. Seville, acting assistant adjutant-general; Capt. James Parke Postles, acting assistant inspector-general, and Lieut. Charles S. Schaeffer, aide-de-camp, who was wounded, and Lieut. Theron E. Parsons, aide-de-camp. These officers are deserving of much credit for their conduct during the whole action. Lieut. William P. Seville and Capt. J. P. Postles I wish specially to recommend to your notice as really meritorious officers.
THOS. A. SMYTH,
Colonel First Delaware Volunteers, Comdg. Brigade.
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