Reports of Brig. Gen. J. H. Hobart Ward,
U. S. Army, commanding Second Brigade and First Division
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., FIRST DIV., THIRD CORPS,
August 4, 1863.
Capt. W. F. A. TORBERT,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., Third Army Corps.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to transmit a report of the action and movements of my brigade on July 1, 2, 3, and 4.
This brigade with the other brigades of the division arrived at Emmitsburg, Md., on July 1, at 3 p.m., and, while making dispositions for bivouacking for the night, received orders to proceed to Gettysburg, 10 miles distant, to support the First and Eleventh Corps, then engaged with the enemy. The command arrived at Gettysburg about dark by a forced march over horrible roads, and bivouacked for the night.
On the morning of the 2d, by direction of Major-General Birney, the brigade took a temporary position about 1 mile in rear of the Emmitsburg road, which was subsequently changed to a position at right angles with the Emmitsburg road, the left resting on a rocky eminence near Round Top or Sugar Loaf hill, that being the extreme left of the army. Previous to this the two regiments of sharpshooters and the Third Maine Regiment, all under command of Colonel Berdan, were detached to make a reconnaissance. Colonel Berdan's report is hereto annexed.
After placing my brigade in the position assigned, Major Stoughton, of the Second U.S. Sharpshooters, reported to me with his command. I directed him to advance his command as skirmishers across the field in front of mine for half a mile and await further orders. They had scarcely obtained the position designated before the skirmishers of the enemy issued from a wood in front, followed by heavy lines of infantry. Captain Smith's battery of rifled guns, posted on the eminence on my left, opened on the advancing enemy, as well as Captain Winslow's battery on my right, the enemy replying from a battery near the Emmitsburg road. The supports of the first two lines of the enemy were now-coming up in columns en masse, while we had but a single line of battle to receive the shock. Our skirmishers were now forced to draw back. My line awaited the clash. To the regiments on the right, who were sheltered in a wood, I gave directions not to fire until they could plainly see the enemy; to those who were on the left, not to fire at a longer distance than 200 yards.
The enemy had now approached to within 200 yards of my position, in line and en masse, yelling and shouting. My command did not fire a shot until the enemy came within the distance prescribed, when the whole command fired a volley. This checked the enemy's advance suddenly, which gave our men an opportunity to reload, when another volley was fired into them. The enemy now exhibited much disorder, and, taking advantage of this circumstance, I advanced my right and center with a view of obtaining a position behind a stone wall, about 160 yards in advance, and which the enemy was endeavoring to reach. While advancing, the rear columns of the enemy pressed forward to the support of the advance, who rallied and again advanced. This time our single line was forced back a short distance by the heavy columns of the enemy. In this manner for the space of one and a half hours did we advance and retire, both parties endeavoring to gain possession of the stone wall.
In the meantime I had sent to General Birney for re-enforcements, who directed Colonel Egan, with the Fortieth New York, to report. The enemy now concentrated his force on our extreme left, with the intention to turn our left flank through a gorge between my left and Sugar Loaf hill. The Fortieth New York was dispatched to cover the gorge, which they did most effectually. Our men, now much exhausted and nearly destitute of ammunition, were relieved by a portion of the Second and Fifth Corps, when we retired and bivouacked for the night.
The unfortunate accident to Major-General Sickles placed me in command of the division. The action of the brigade on the succeeding day will be included in the report of Colonel Berdan, who succeeded me in command.
This brigade, with the exception of Antietam, has been engaged in every battle fought by the Army of the Potomac, and has been frequently mentioned for its gallantry, but on this occasion it eclipsed all its former actions. The immense force opposed to them was at one time almost overwhelming. The number of effective men in the brigade when they engaged the enemy was not 1,500, while the loss is nearly 800. Out of 14 field officers, we lost 8.
The Third and Fourth Maine, Twentieth Indiana, and Ninety-ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers, the veterans of this brigade, to their world-wide reputation have added new laurels, and, if possible, excelled themselves. The First and Second U.S. Sharpshooters and the Eighty-sixth and One hundred and twenty-fourth New York Volunteers, recently assigned to this brigade, have richly earned the title to wear the "Kearny patch."
The Twentieth Indiana lost its colonel (shot through the head), than whom a more gallant soldier and efficient officer did not exist. The great State of Indiana may well feel proud of John Wheeler, the hero, the patriot, and the honest man. He was worthy to command the glorious Twentieth, and his command was proud of him.
The One hundred and Twenty-fourth New York lost its colonel and major (both shot through the head). Col. A. Van Horne Ellis was one of those dashing and chivalrous spirits that we frequently read of, but seldom encounter in real life. He fell while gallantly leading his men in a charge. In this he was ably seconded by Lieutenant-Colonel Cummins and Major Cromwell, the major falling within a few seconds of the colonel, and the lieutenant-colonel being severely wounded.
Colonel Walker, of the Fourth Maine, was severely wounded in the leg, but refused to leave the field until his regiment retired. Lieutenant-Colonel Higgins, Eighty-sixth New York Volunteers, was also severely wounded side by side with the colonel of the One hundred and twenty-fourth New York Volunteers.
Major Lee, Third Maine, and Major Whitcomb, Fourth Maine, were also severely wounded in the various actions of their regiments.
To the officers and men of my command, without exception, my thanks and the thanks of the country are eminently due. For nearly two hours my brigade was opposed to at least 10,000 of the enemy, in line and en masse.
Besides the killed and wounded mentioned, I would particularly call the attention of the major-general commanding, to the gallant conduct of Colonel Berdan, U.S. Sharpshooters; Colonel Lakeman, Third Maine; Lieutenant-Colonel Taylor. Twentieth Indiana; Major Moore, Ninety-ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers; Major Stoughton, Second U.S. Sharpshooters, and Major Lansing, Eighty-sixth New York, who vied with each other in doing their whole duty.
It would afford me much gratification to speak of others in the terms they deserve, but space will not permit. I would respectfully refer to the regimental reports for a detailed statement of the particular deeds of many other gallant officers. I cannot omit, however, the names of a few gallant non-commissioned officers, viz: Sergt. Henry O. Ripley, color sergeant, Fourth Maine, Sergt. H. M. Munsell, Ninety-ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Sergt. Maj. William B. Van Houten, One hundred and twenty-fourth New York, who, by their bravery and example, inspired all in their vicinity. It is to be hoped that a suitable reward, by promotion and otherwise, will be awarded these splendid soldiers.
I cannot close this report with justice to myself without mentioning the able, efficient, and gallant services of my staff, who were unremitting in their exertions in forming the men for action, and encouraging by example when engaged: Capt. J. M. Cooney, assistant adjutant-general; Capt. G. W. Meikel, Twentieth Indiana, acting assistant inspector-general, and Lieuts. S. J. Leigh and A. M. Rap-hall, aides-de-camp. I also regret to say that Lieutenant Raphall was so severely wounded as to require the amputation of his right arm.
The total loss in my brigade was 46 officers and 712 enlisted men.
To Dr. Orpheus Everts, Twentieth Indiana, acting brigade surgeon, the thanks of the many sufferers in this command are tendered for his undivided attention to their wants and comfort.
I herewith transmit official reports of regimental commanders. The valuable service rendered by Col. T. W. Egan, Lieutenant-Colonel Merrill, and their noble regiments (Fortieth New York and Seventeenth Maine) at an opportune moment cannot be overestimated. Their steadiness and valor were not unknown to me, having had the honor to command them on other occasions. They came to me at the right time, were put in the right place, and well did they perform the duty assigned them.
J. H. HOBART WARD,
HDQRS. FIRST DIVISION, THIRD ARMY CORPS,
July 27, 1863.
Capt. W. F. A. TORBERT,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., Third Army Corps.
SIR: In compliance with circular from headquarters Third Corps, of July 27, 1863, I have the honor to report the operations of this division on July 22, 23, 24, and 25.
On July 22, this division, with Fourth Maine and Keystone Batteries, left Upperville at 2 p.m. in advance of the corps, en route for Piedmont. On arriving at that point, instructions were received from Major-General French that this division would proceed to Manassas Gap, and support General Buford, who anticipated an attack.
Putting the troops in motion, I dispatched a staff officer to General Buford to report. On his return, he informed me that General Buford had left, but that General Merritt, with one brigade of cavalry, held the Gap, and was anxious for the arrival of supports, as he expected an attack the next morning. I pushed on to Petersburg, miles from Piedmont, and bivouacked between 11 and 12 p.m. about 1½ miles from the cavalry.
On the morning of the 23d, the command joined the cavalry between 4 and 5 a.m. After an interview with General Merritt, he informed me that he had directions to move to another position. I immediately took measures to relieve his command and outposts, placing the batteries in position to command the Gap, and awaited further orders, in the meantime sending scouts to the front, to ascertain the position of the enemy.
About 10 a.m. General French, with the balance of the corps, arrived. In the meantime the scouts had reported the enemy's pickets on the hills at the entrance of the Gap. General French now ordered my command forward. We advanced to within a short distance of the base of the several hills on which the enemy was established. I immediately sent forward skirmishers with heavy supports, covering in extent the surface of a mile, many regiments of the command being detached on picket and in support of batteries within the Gap.
Dispositions having been made, the whole force now advanced together, steadily but surely driving the enemy from his positions until all the hills were in our possession. The enemy retreated, and took position in the valley beyond, on the road leading from the Gap to Front Royal. I ordered a portion of the First and Third Brigades forward, to support the skirmishers and drive the enemy out. This order was countermanded, and the Second Brigade, Second Division, was ordered to report to me for that purpose, and the First and Third Brigades were dispatched to the extreme left of my position, to cover that flank. The enemy could now plainly be seen in three heavy columns, moving southward by the flank.
General Spinola, commanding Second Brigade, Second Division, reported to me through one of his staff officers. The general being my senior, I did not presume to give him orders, but made such suggestions to the general as I deemed necessary under the circumstances, but which he entirely approved and adopted, forming his troops in a ravine in front of the enemy's position, and charging them in magnificent style, driving them from the field in confusion, the major-general commanding the corps witnessing the whole operation. In this charge General Spinola was twice wounded.
I now received orders, in consequence of the lateness of the hour, to cease operations and make dispositions for the night.
On the morning of the 24th, the Second Division having been ordered forward to Front Royal on a reconnaissance, this division was ordered to its support. The Second Division advancing to the town with but slight opposition, the active service of this division was not required. The division then returned to Piedmont, and, after two days' march, arrived at Warrenton, and is now stationed in advance of the corps.
In conclusion, I have to state that the whole division sustained its already well-earned reputation; no retrograding from commencement to end. I herewith transmit list of casualties in this division.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. HOBART WARD,
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