Report of Col. Langhorne Wister,
One hundred and fiftieth Pennsylvania Infantry,
commanding Second Brigade
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., THIRD DIV., FIRST ARMY CORPS,
Rappahannock, Va., September 12, 1863.
COLONEL: I have the honor, in accordance with orders received from headquarters Third Division, to report the action taken by this brigade in the battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 2, and 3.
Before proceeding with the report, I would state that the brigade was commanded first by Col. Roy Stone, then by the undersigned, and lastly by Col. E. L. Dana, of the One hundred and forty-third Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment.
This brigade encamped on the evening of June 30 at a point about 6 miles from Gettysburg and on the north side of Marsh Creek. On the morning of July 1, at about 9.30 o'clock, it took up its line of march for Gettysburg. After marching about 3 miles very slowly, cannonading was heard in our front, and an order was received to march the men as fast as possible, which was done, the brigade arriving at or near the Gettysburg Seminary at about 12 m. Colonel Stone there ordered the men to unsling and pile knapsacks and to load, which having been done he moved the command in column by battalion toward a house and barn on the Chambersburg pike. The One hundred and fiftieth Regiment occupied the ground to the left of the house, its right resting near the One hundred and forty-third and left about 300 yards from General S. Meredith's command (of First Division). The One hundred and forty-third occupied the space between the barn and house, the One hundred and forty-ninth being on the right of the barn, with no support in sight upon its right flank. The whole line faced to the west. From unslinging knapsacks to this time a heavy cannonading was directed upon us by the enemy, killing and wounding a number of men, under which the brigade behaved with the utmost coolness. After being in the position above mentioned for some time, Colonel Stone ordered a change to be made, as the range of the enemy's guns was so exact. This change was effected also with the greatest coolness.. The ground or line now occupied by the brigade was in the form of a right angle, the right of the One hundred and fiftieth and left of the One hundred and forty-ninth Regiments being within 100 yards of the barn, respectively, the One hundred and forty-third regiment accompanying the right of the line.
In the meantime one company from each regiment had been detached as skirmishers(these companies were, of the One hundred and fiftieth, Capt. G. W. Jones; One hundred and forty-third, Capt. C. M. Conyngham; One hundred and forty-ninth, Capt. J. C. Johnson), and were engaged with the skirmishers of the enemy. These companies fought splendidly, and retarded the advance of the enemy greatly, they being, however, at last driven in. The enemy advanced in column by battalion slowly but steadily until they came to about 150 yards from our line, when a well-directed fire was delivered upon them from our whole front, killing and wounding many and driving the remainder of their first line almost entirely to the rear of the second line, with the exception of some who succeeded in getting into the railroad cut, which was in front of the One hundred and forty-third and One hundred and forty-ninth Regiments. Upon these, Colonel Stone ordered a charge to be made by the One hundred and forty-ninth, which was entirely successful in driving them out. The One hundred and forty-ninth then took up its original position on the Chambersburg turnpike, and awaited the advance of the second rebel line, and the first one, now reformed.
About this time Colonel Stone was wounded severely, and was carried into the barn before spoken of. The command then devolved upon me. By this time a furious musketry fire was again going on along the whole line, and soon the enemy began another advance, in the greatest force, on the front of the One hundred and forty-ninth and One hundred and forty-third Regiments. I accordingly divided the One hundred and fiftieth into two wings--the right under Lieutenant-Colonel Huidekoper, the left under Maj. T. Chamberlain. That under Lieutenant-Colonel Huidekoper I ordered to change front forward, so as to occupy the same line as the One hundred and forty-third and One hundred and forty-ninth Regiments. This it did in good order, though under a very severe musketry fire. The left wing of the One hundred and fiftieth was kept in its former position, to keep in check three times its number. The gradual advance of the enemy had by this time brought many of them into the railroad cut again; consequently I ordered a charge to be made by the One hundred and forty-ninth and right wing of the one hundred and fiftieth Regiment, which was as successful in driving the enemy out as the former one.
About this time, Lieut. Col. W. Dwight, commanding One hundred and forty-ninth Regiment, was wounded in the thigh; Maj. T. Chamberlain, commanding left wing One hundred and fiftieth Regiment, through left breast and shoulder; Lieutenant-Colonel Huidekoper, commanding right wing One hundred and fiftieth Regiment, through the upper bone of right arm; also Adjt. R. L. Ashurst, One hundred and fiftieth Regiment, through the arm. Five minutes after, I was wounded in the mouth, which made it impossible for me longer to command; consequently I sent word to Col. E. L. Dana to take command of the brigade. In five minutes after, the advance of overpowering numbers of the enemy compelled the brigade to fall back gradually, which they did, fighting all the way. Colonel Dana being at this time in command, I extract from his report:
Facing to the rear, our lines were withdrawn in good order to a point midway between the barn and the spot designated as the peach orchard. The brigade was again halted in the rear of and as a support to a battery of artillery, and again renewed its fire. The supply of ammunition, 60 rounds per man, becoming exhausted, was here renewed. On the withdrawal of the artillery, this command moved on toward and through the town, falling in with the rear of other divisions, sustaining with them a destructive fire in its passage through the streets, and at length reached and was halted upon Cemetery Hill.
Formed in line in the rear of a battery, the men here bivouacked for the night. With the exception of skirmishing between ours and the advance posts, and the occasional interchange of artillery fire, the morning of Thursday, July 2, in this immediate part of the line, passed in comparative quiet.|
In the afternoon, a severe engage-merit occurred upon our left, and simultaneously a cannonade opened between our batteries on Cemetery Hill and the enemy.
Later in the afternoon, this brigade, together with the First, was moved at double-quick and under a sharp fire about half a mile toward the left, to re-enforce that portion of the line. The One hundred and forty-ninth and One hundred and fiftieth Regiments were advanced, under Captains Glenn and Jones, some 600 yards to the front, until they encountered and engaged the pickets of the enemy. Remaining in position until morning, this detachment succeeded in bringing off the field two pieces of artillery and caissons, and rejoined the brigade.
On the morning of July 3, during the interval between the firing, this command threw up a rude breastwork of rails and stone in front of its position, which was in the second line, and held and occupied the same during the terrific cannonade and the final and decisive infantry struggle which have rendered this day historical.
The conduct of both officers and men during this tremendous struggle was all that could be desired from the most exacting. On the first day the brigade was in the most imminent danger of being cut off, as no order had been received to retire, and the enemy occupied the ground on our left flank, which was left vacant by the withdrawal of the Iron Brigade (General Meredith). The Eleventh Corps, which, in a measure, supported our right, had withdrawn some time before. The determined resistance of this command alone saved it, the enemy supposing a much larger force in their front.
Having first taken position about 12 m., the brigade did not retire until after 3 p.m., when all other troops had left the field, and only left the seminary at about 3.40 o'clock. Taking into consideration that the force opposed to it was more than twice as large, the result is wonderful. The enemy had, to my certain knowledge, six regiments, any one of which contained 500 men, all of which were in full view, opposed entirely to this small brigade. Col. Roy Stono, during the time he was in command, displayed the utmost coolness and skill, and deserves much credit for the position taken up, which had not to be materially changed during the action (until the retreat commenced), and for the movements made upon the field. Col. E. L. Dana conducted the retreat from the barn to Cemetery Hill, and was during that time distinguished for his coolness and judgment.
Lieutenant-Colonel Huidekoper, One hundred and fiftieth Regiment, kept the field for a long time after his right arm was shattered, as did also Lieutenant-Colonel Dwight, commanding One hundred and forty-ninth Regiment.
Maj. T. Chamberlain and Adjutant Ashurst, of the One hundred and fiftieth Regiment, behaved in the most gallant manner. The line officers of the whole brigade also behaved, with scarcely an exception, splendidly.
Colonel Dana mentions Captains Jones and Glenn, of the One hundred and fiftieth and One hundred and forty-ninth Regiments, respectively, who commanded after their field officers were wounded, as being of great service to him.
Lieuts. William M. Dalgliesh and B. Walters, of the personal staff of Colonel Stone, and afterward of myself and Colonel Dana, behaved during the whole fight brilliantly, riding into the hottest of the fire. Each had a horse killed, the former under him, the latter while standing near him.
I herewith submit the following report of casualties in this brigade: Killed, 115; wounded, 429; missing, 284.
The brigade went into action with 1,300 men.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Col. 150th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Comdg. Second Brig.
RETURN TO BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG UNION ORDER OF BATTLE PAGE