Report of Col. William S. Tilton,
Twenty-second Massachusetts Infantry, commanding First Brigade
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., FIRST DIV., FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
Middletown, Md., July 9, 1863.
Capt. C. B. MERVINE,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., First Division, Fifth Corps.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the part taken by this brigade in the battles of the 2d and 3d instant.
At 4:30 p.m. on July 2, the brigade, under my command, advanced to the front, and was placed, by order of General Barnes, in order of battle in a piece of woods at the south of Mr. Rose's house. The Second Brigade was on our left, but there being no infantry upon our right, I made a crotchet by refusing the right wing of my right battalion (One hundred and eighteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Gwyn).
The line was like this:
No sooner was the line formed than the foe attacked our front. The onslaught was terrible and my losses heavy--so much so that I was somewhat doubtful if our line could withstand it. This fact I communicated to the general commanding division, who ordered me to fall back in good order if unable to hold the position; but my men behaved nobly, and twice repulsed the assailants. My colonels wished to advance. Being anxious about my right, however, I reconnoitered in person, and discovered the enemy in large force coming from the direction of Rose's house, with the evident design of outflanking me. I immediately retired and took up a new position (in two lines), at the left and rear of a battery which had been posted about 300 yards to my right and rear. The battery soon commenced to retreat, firing, followed by the rebels, who were now again upon my right flank. To avoid this flank movement, I retired, firing, a short distance in the timber, and then moved across an open field, took up a new position upon the right of the Second Division, and reported to General Sykes. In this last movement I was greatly embarrassed by squads of men and parts of regiments, who, hurrying from the front, broke into and through my line. I think, however, that I saved my brigade from great disaster after it could no longer do any good in front, and succeeded in forming a new line, which was retained through the night.
All of my officers and men did their duty, their whole duty, and showed the greatest coolness and courage, and where all did so well it were invidious to mention names.
On the 3d, we relieved the Third Brigade, on duty, holding the rocky hill upon the extreme left.
On the 4th, I advanced the brigade to the edge of the woods in our front, and sent out a strong line of skirmishers to feel the enemy. The report of this reconnaissance has been made by order directly to Major-General Sykes.
My loss on the 2d instant was 12 killed, 80 wounded, and 17 missing; total, 109.
Owing to forced marches, we had remaining on the 2d only 474 men, and as part of these were not actually engaged, it will be seen that the percentage of loss is very great.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. S. TILTON,
Colonel, Commanding First Brigade.
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