Report of Col. P. Regis de Trobriand,
Fifty-fifth New York Infantry, commanding Third Brigade
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HEADQUARTERS THIRD BRIGADE, July --, 1863.
Capt. F. BIRNEY,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., First Division.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor of submitting the following report of the part acted by the Third Brigade, First Division, Third Corps, under my command, in the battle of Gettysburg, on the 2d and 3d instant:
On July 1, I had been left with my command, and a battery of artillery from the First New York Artillery at Emmitsburg, to hold the place, in connection with a brigade from the Second Division, while the balance of the Third Corps was moving toward Gettysburg.
But an order having reached me at 2 o'clock on the following morning to join the corps, I started at daybreak, and reported to Major General Birney about 10 o'clock.
About 2 p.m. the same day, a line of battle was formed in expectation of an impending attack from the enemy on our left. The First Brigade (General Graham's)formed the left end of our front line, and the Second Brigade (General Ward's) was drawn en potence to prevent a flank movement, while the Third Brigade occupied the apex of the angle, being in column by regiments, ready to support either of the other two brigades according to circumstances.
In the meantime the enemy had been steadily moving large masses of troops under cover of the woods toward our left, out of range of musketry, and covering himself with a line of skirmishers, the march by the left flank of which was the indication of the direction of the probable attack. Our skirmishers soon after having been hardly pressed, and the fire becoming more brisk, I was ordered to detach a regiment to their support, and while our artillery was opening fire I sent the Third Regiment Michigan Volunteers, which, under the command of Col. Byron R. Pierce, proceeded forward to a peach orchard close to the road to Emmitsburg, and, deploying rapidly, checked any farther advance of the rebel skirmishers on that point.
Still, the forces of the enemy were passing around our left, and when in proper position, their columns rushed forward on General Ward's brigade, drawn in line to receive the shock. The accustomed yells of the Confederates and the intensity of the firing on my left had scarcely announced the precise point and the violence of the attack, when I extended my right by moving the Seventeenth Maine Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Merrill commanding, across a wheat-field, in order to fill a gap open there, thereby re-enforcing General Ward. The Seventeenth Maine took a strong position behind a stone wall, and did good service at this point. Soon after, I was ordered to send a regiment to support General Ward, and I immediately detached for that purpose the Fortieth New York Volunteers, Colonel Egan, which marched forward, and aided efficiently in checking the enemy's advance in the most exposed position on our extreme left.
The battle was raging on my left and right to the rear on both sides, in consequence of my advanced position as already explained, and soon these two attacks came converging on the angle of which I formed the summit, with the Fifth Michigan, Lieutenant-Colonel Pulford, and the One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania, Major Jones, the only two regiments left at that point. Fortunately my position there was a strong one, in a wood commanding a narrow ravine, which the enemy attempted in vain to cross under our fire.
The unflinching bravery of the Fifth Michigan, which sustained the loss of more than one-half of its number without yielding a foot of ground, deserves to be especially mentioned here with due commendation. Had a sufficient force been there under my orders when the enemy gave up forcing our position, I would not have hesitated to try to break his line at that point; but two regiments from the Fifth Corps, sent there to my support, having fallen back without engaging the enemy (by what orders I could never ascertain), and some points of our line yielding under a disproportionate contest for want of timely support, I found myself in danger of being surrounded, and fell back out of the woods, where the enemy did not risk to follow us. I found the Seventeenth Maine in a wheat-field, where it had followed the receding movement of the line.
As the enemy was pressing upon us on that side, I made a retour offensif with that regiment, re-enforced by the Fifth Michigan, keeping the enemy at bay in the woods until the arrival of sufficient re-enforcements from the Second Corps allowed us to be relieved when our ammunition was just exhausted.
By order of Major-General Birney, who was present with us in the wheat-field, I then took my command to the adjoining wood in the rear, and then farther off, to avoid unnecessary losses by the fire of the enemy, which disabled some of my men in that position. I was soon joined there by the Third Michigan, and later in the evening by the Fortieth New York.
On July 3, when the last and furious attack of the enemy took place on our right, my brigade was at once brought to form a second line, supporting our batteries, when, without being actually engaged, several officers and men were wounded by the too well directed fire of the enemy's artillery.
At night I was put in command of the advance line across that part of the battle-field, which I occupied until the following day with two brigades, the Third and First, without any special occurrence to mention.
It becomes now my gratifying duty to state how nobly the officers and men of my command have sustained at Gettysburg the glorious reputation won on many other battle-fields by the old Kearny (now Birney's) division.
The regimental commanders have gallantly and efficiently done their duty. Among them Col. B. R. Pierce, Third Michigan, was wounded in the leg, since amputated, as also Maj. D. M. Jones, One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania. Lieut. Col. John Pulford, Fifth Michigan, was slightly wounded in the hand. Col. T. W. Egan had his horse killed under him.
I could not mention here the field or line officers who have distinguished themselves under my eyes without injustice to the others, all of them having behaved in the most gallant manner.
The officers of my staff I must mention as brave and efficient in action. Capt. Ben. M. Piatt, assistant adjutant-general, had his horse shot under him, while he was himself slightly hit. Capt. I. C. Smith, acting assistant inspector-general, was severely wounded in the leg, which will deprive me for a time of the services of that most valuable officer. My two aides, Lieuts. E. B. Houghton and G. W. Waldron, lent me good assistance by their gallant alacrity in the performance of their duties.
Command Officers Killed Enlisted Men Killed Officers Wounded Enlisted Men Wounded Officers Missing Enlisted Men Missing Total Headquarters Third Brigade --- --- 1 --- --- --- 1 40th New York 1 28 6 114 --- 5 154 17th Maine 1 17 7 105 --- 2 132 110th Pennsylvania --- 8 6 39 --- --- 53 5th Michigan 2 17 8 74 --- 4 105 3d Michigan --- 7 2 29 --- 7 45 Total 4 77 30 361 --- 18 490
R. DE TROBRIAND,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
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