Gettysburg Seminar Papers

The Army of the Potomac in the Gettysburg Campaign

The Repulse of Longstreet's Assault by the Army of the Potomac
D. Scott Hartwig

On July 3, 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee conceived a plan to shatter the center of the Union Army of the Potomac's position at Gettysburg, with a massive artillery-infantry attack. The target was the open, exposed ground of Cemetery Ridge. Lee's plan was wonderfully simple; he would apply overwhelming firepower upon the point of attack by first subjecting the Union defenders to the heaviest artillery bombardment yet seen in the war, then strike the disorganized and demoralized defenders with an infantry force of over 13,000 troops, including Wilcox and Lang.

Since the attack failed it has been suggested that it never really had any chance at all to succeed. But two months earlier at Chancellorsville, Lee had seen his infantry, supported by considerably less artillery fire, attack and dislodge Union soldiers from strong entrenchments. The Federal soldiers on Cemetery Ridge had little cover or prepared defenses, and many of the regiments and batteries entrusted with defending this critical sector had suffered dreadful losses on July 2. Besides the battle casualties, the Union soldiers were worn down by the severe marches they had made in the days before the battle.

Lee gambled that he could duplicate the feat of Chancellorsville at Gettysburg. Past experience justified his decision. Every major attack his army had mounted against the Army of the Potomac had succeeded, except at Malvern Hill. His grand assault failed at Gettysburg, not because it was doomed to failure at its inception, or because the Federals' advantage of position was too great, or Southern leadership faltered. It failed because the defenders of Cemetery Ridge refused to be defeated, and fought with a spirit and tenacity they had not exhibited on previous battlefields. "I do not believe there was a soldier in the regiment, that did not feel that he had more courage to meet the enemy at Gettysburg, than upon any field of battle in which we had as yet been engaged," wrote Anthony McDermott, of the 69th Pennsylvania Infantry.

This is the story of the Union defenders of Cemetery Ridge, and how they triumphed at the crucial moment on July 3 at Gettysburg. [1]

Although Union commander, Major General George G. Meade, expressed the opinion on the night of July 2 that Lee would attack his center the next day, he did not reinforce this area. [2] His army's strength remained concentrated on its flanks on July 3. Meade probably reasoned that with his interior lines he could reinforce his center if it was assailed more rapidly than he could one of his flanks.

There were eight infantry brigades in three divisions defending Cemetery Ridge.

Elements of two divisions of Major General Winfield S. Hancock's Second Corps, the 2nd and 3rd, commanded by Brigadier General John Gibbon and Brigadier General Alexander Hays, respectively, occupied a front extending from Ziegler's Grove, a woodlot that dominated the northern end of the ridge, south along the ridge for slightly less than 2,000 feet.

The left of the 2nd Division rested about 500 feet south of the clump of trees.

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On their left, the 3rd Division, First Corps, commanded by Major General Abner Doubleday, extended the infantry line approximately another 700-800 feet south before it ended in the low ground on the southern end of Cemetery Ridge. They had been inserted into the front line on the evening of July 2, when a huge gap in the Second Corps front had been created by the departure of Caldwell's Division to the Wheatfield, and Harrow's Brigade had been dispersed to various hot spots.

All three of these divisions had already participated in severe fighting - Doubleday's on July 1, and Gibbon's and Hays' on July 2 - and had suffered heavy casualties. Two of Doubleday's brigades, Colonel Roy Stone's and Colonel Chapman Biddle's, could muster only approximately 440 men each. Nearly two-thirds of the men in these brigades had been shot or captured on July 1.

Doubleday's third brigade, Brigadier General George J. Stannard's, consisted of three big nine-month Vermont regiments, each numbering 600-700 officers and men. They had arrived late on July 1 and had been spared the slaughter experienced by Stone's and Biddle's regiments. Although the regiments were well-drilled, they had never experienced combat. They did well enough on July 2, when ordered to regain guns and ground lost to Richard H. Anderson's Division, but Anderson's attack had spent itself by the time Stannard's men arrived, and the Confederates did not put up serious resistance to the Vermonters' advance. Stannard's nine-monthers had yet to experience the ferocity of an attack by fresh troops of the Army of Northern Virginia. [3]

The three brigades of Gibbon's division had been pressed hard by Anderson's attack on July 2. The regiments of Brigadier General William Harrow's brigade, on the left of the division, in action at various points lost almost 500 men out of a brigade strength of approximately 1,360. The famous 1st Minnesota lost over sixty per-cent of its strength, including all of its field officers, in a desperate charge to check the advance of Wilcox's Alabama Brigade. They numbered a mere 70 effectives on July 3, and this only because Company L, which had been on provost duty on July 2, returned to the regiment. The 82nd New York and 15th Massachusetts were virtually run over by Wright's Georgia Brigade at the Nicholas Codori farm on the Emmitsburg Road, where they were attempting to bolster the right end of the Third Corps line. The 82nd lost 143 men; the 15th did not record their losses for July 2, but they were probably about the same as the New Yorkers. Colonel Francis Heath's 19th Maine lost 130 men in helping coer the retreat of Humphrey's Division of the Third Corps. [4]

Alexander Webb

Gibbon's other two brigades, Colonel Norman Hall's and Brigadier General Alexander Webb's, helped repulse the attack of Wright's Georgians on the 2nd. Casualties had been relatively light, but most of the regiments in these two brigades were slim to start with, the results of hard fighting and campaigning since the spring of 1862. Hall's largest regiment was the 20th Massachusetts, with approximately 240 effectives. Every other regiment in his brigade was under 200 officers and men. Webb's greatest loss came by detachment. The 106th and 71st Pennsylvania were both detached on the evening of July 2; the 106th to East Cemetery Hill, and the 71st to Culp's Hill. The 106th, except for two companies on a skirmish line, remained detached on July 3. The 71st returned. They had no orders to do so, but their colonel, R. Penn Smith, confused by the fluid situation that existed on Culp's Hill on the evening of the 2nd, and a perceived lack of support that cost his regiment 14 men, simply marched his command back to Cemetery. [5]

On Gibbon's right, Alexander Hays had two of his division's three brigades available. Colonel Samuel S. Carroll's veteran brigade, except the 8th Ohio, which was on the division skirmish line, was sent to East Cemetery Hill on the evening of the 2nd, where they helped repulse the attack of Early's Division. They remained there on the 3rd to provide support to the Federal artillery, and bolster the shaky remnants of Ames' division, of the Eleventh Corps.

Hays' remaining two brigades were commanded by Colonel Thomas A. Smyth, and Colonel Eliakim Sherrill. Three of Smyth's four regiments, the 1st Delaware, 14th Connecticut, and 12th New Jersey, took part in severe skirmishing that swirled about the William Bliss farm, midway between Cemetery Ridge and Seminary Ridge, on both July 2, and the morning of the 3rd. It cost the brigade 74 casualties. By Gettysburg standards the losses were not heavy but they left the already understrength 1st Delaware and 14th Connecticut both with less than 200 effectives on July 3. The 12th New Jersey, a huge regiment by the standards of the veteran Second Corps, numbering approximately 370, helped beef-up Smyth's line. [6]

Sherrill's brigade of four New York regiments was also detached on the late afternoon of July 2 to reinforce a gaping hole formally held by elements of the Third Corps. Colonel George Willard, a gallant and skillful officer commanded the brigade then, and he led them up against Barksdale's tough brigade of Mississippians. The steam had largely gone out of Barksdale's attack when Willard's New Yorkers counterattacked. A bloody fight ensued, in which the Mississippians were checked and forced to retreat. But nearly 450 men of Willard's brigade were shot, and Willard was killed by a shell while reforming his command. [7]

The strength of this infantry line on Cemetery Ridge can only be estimated. Certainly, it did not exceed 7,000 effectives and the true strength was probably around 6,500. Nearly all of them were jaded and bloodied. "They looked like an army of rag gatherers," observed Lieutenant Frank Haskall, a staff officer to General Gibbon, "for you know that rain and mud in conjunction have not had the effects to make them very clean." Sergeant James Wright, of the battered 1st Minnesota, wrote that, "Stains of powder and dirt...still covered our hands, faces and clothing...and physical weariness and mental depression and suffering was written on every countenance."

It is difficult to convey the mental and physical fatigue experienced by most of the Federal infantrymen on that ridge. Few people in their lifetime ever endure anything remotely like it. Combat saps the human body of its strength. Yet, these infantrymen were not even permitted the minor luxury of hot coffee, food, and sleep. Fires were forbidden, few regiments had any rations, and most men were too busy strengthening their position or helping evacuate casualties to catch more than the briefest rest. The defenders might have adopted the attitude that they had done their part; it was time for someone else to take their turn. Certainly, the 1st Minnesota Infantry had earned that right, but as Sergeant Wright noted, under ordinary circumstances the regiment would have been relieved, "but this was no ordinary occasion," and "it was believed that every available man and gun would be needed for the defense of the ridge." [8]

The infantry were supported by plentiful artillery. The front of the two Second Corps divisions were covered by the five batteries of the Corps' artillery brigade, commanded by Captain John Hazard.

In Zeigler's Grove were the six 12-pound Napoleons of Lieutenant George A. Woodruff's Battery I, 1st United States Artillery.

Two hundred yards south of Woodruff, Captain William A. Arnold's Battery A, 1st Rhode Island Artillery (six 3-inch rifles), were positioned behind a stone wall.

On Arnold's immediate left, and within the area that would become known as "The Angle," were six more 3-inch rifles of Lieutenant Alonzo Gushing's Battery A, 4th United States Artillery.

Four Napoleons of Brown's Battery B, 1st Rhode Island Artillery stood just south of the Clump of Trees. Captain Brown had been wounded on July 2 and Lieutenant Walter Perrin had assumed command.

One hundred fifty yards south of Perrin's guns were four 10-pound Parrott rifles of Captain James Rorty's Battery B, 1st New York Artillery. [9]

Considerable additional artillery were positioned where their guns could cover the open ground between Cemetery Ridge and Seminary Ridge.

Throughout the morning of July 3, the Union Chief of Artillery, Brigadier General Henry J. Hunt, and Lieutenant Colonel Freeman McGilvery, commanding the 1st Volunteer Brigade of the Reserve Artillery, assembled a powerful line of artillery about 250-300 yards to the left and rear of Stannard's brigade, extending south along an extension of Cemetery Ridge for nearly 400 yards. Parts of nine batteries, many of which had suffered severely on July 2, made up this line, which counted 20 Napoleons, 13 3-inch rifles, 4 James rifles, and 2 12-pound howitzers - 39 guns in all. McGilvery's line, as it came to be called, could punish any troops advancing over the open ground south of the Codori Farm toward Doubleday, Harrow or Hall, with an oblique, and possibly enfilading fire of shrapnel and shell. Beyond Hall's front, his guns could not fire effectively. [10]

Two other batteries contributed to the firepower that could be brought to bear on the southern half of the Cemetery Ridge line. The 9th Michigan Horse Artillery (six 3-inch rifles), commanded by Captain Jabez J. Daniels, took position a short distance to the right and front of McGilvery's line. On Little Round Top, Lieutenant Benjamin Rittenhouse had six 10-pound Parrott rifles of Battery D, 5th U.S. Artillery, that could deliver fire, although at long range, across all of Doubleday's and Gibbon's front. [11]

Alexander Hays' division could count on the support of nearly 38 guns on Cemetery Hill, under the direction of Major Thomas W. Osborne, the Eleventh Corps' artillery chief. These batteries could strike any force advancing on Hays' front from Seminary Ridge to about the Emmitsburg Road. If the enemy managed to advance beyond this point, Osborne's batteries could not safely fire upon them without endangering Hays' infantry with short rounds. [12]

Besides the batteries on the front line, Hunt could draw upon the remainder of the reserve artillery and the Sixth Corps artillery brigade, to strengthen a threatened point, or relieve damaged batteries.

Although it enjoyed deadly fields of fire, the Cemetery Ridge line had its weaknesses, which Wright's attack on July 2 had partially revealed. Apart from Zeigler's Grove, which offered some cover and concealment, the defenders, particularly the artillery, were greatly exposed to artillery fire. The western slope of the ridge was gentle, descending only about 20 feet from the Clump of Trees to the Emmitsburg Road, and there were few obstructions to break up enemy attack formations. The left end of the infantry line, where Doubleday's regiments were posted, was on lower ground than that occupied by Gibbon's and Hays's divisions, and was commanded by the high ground extending from the Peach Orchard to the Rogers Farm.

The infantry force assigned to defend this sector of the Union front, as related earlier, was thin compared to what Meade had massed on his flanks. Hays and Doubleday both had some depth to their lines, but in Hays' case, his reserve line consisted of Sherrill's bloodied brigade, which probably numbered less than 1,000 officers and men. Doubleday had Stone's and one-half of Biddle's brigade's in his support line, which combined barely equalled the strength of one of Stannard's regiments. Gibbon's line was the slimmest. The heavy casualties incurred on July 2 forced him to place all but three of his regiments on the front line. In reserve were the 19th Massachusetts, 42nd New York, and 72nd Pennsylvania. The 72nd was a comparatively strong regiment, numbering approximately 380 effectives, but the 19th and 42nd both counted less than 200 men in their ranks. Gibbon also held the most vulnerable part of the line - what would become known afterward as The Angle. [13]

The Angle had been created not by Union soldiers, but by the people who had farmed this land for generations before. The abundant boulders the farmers plows turned up were put to use to define field and property boundaries. From Abraham Brian's barn, on Hays's front, a stone wall generally followed the crest of Cemetery Ridge for slightly over 200 yards. Here it turned 90 degrees and ran west for about 70 yards, where, upon a rock outcropping, it made a second 90-degree turn south. This point was The Angle. From this outcropping the wall continued south for approximately 260 yards before it stopped. Although the walls were only about two to three feet in height, Hays's and Gibbon's soldiers used them as ready-made protection, improving them slightly by dismantling the rail fencing that rode over the walls and stacking the rails on the walls. But The Angle created a prominent salient on the Cemetery Ridge that, as we shall see, posed a knotty tactical problem for the infantry officers tasked with its defense. [14]

There were several other features along Gibbon's front that created potential problems. The famous Clump of Trees was actually a cluster of trees and brush that had taken root in thin rocky soil that could not be tilled. When Gibbon's soldiers arrived on July 2, the trees of this clump spread down the western slope of the ridge to the stone wall and south along the stone wall until a gap in the wall was reached, located about 100 yards south of The Angle. The gap was merely an access point for farm equipment. About 70 yards south of this gateway a rail fence departed from the stone wall, running in a northwesterly direction to the Emmitsburg Road.

Brush and small trees had also grown up along this fence and at two small knolls, or rock outcroppings, adjacent to the fence, and in front of Gibbon's main line. The first of these knolls is directly in front of the position held by the 7th Michigan. The second is about 100 yards west of the first. This second outcropping offered defilade and a fine firing position for riflemen if it could be reached by the enemy. The brush on this outcropping and the other, and along the stone wall, obstructed the field of fire of Cushing's and Brown's batteries and details cut them down. The cuttings were not removed, creating a slashing of cut brush and small trees along the rail fence and at these knolls. The brush removed from the wall was tossed in rear of the line of battle. Robert Whittick, of the 69th Pennsylvania, positioned directly in front of the Clump of Trees, recalled that within eight or ten feet in rear of his regiment, "it was all cut down," and the cuttings were thick enough to create some difficulty in movement. [15]

Following the near success of Wright's Brigade on July 2, most of Gibbon's regiments had labored through the night to improve their meager protection. Colonel Norman Hall reported that during the night his brigade strengthened its position "as much as possible with rails, stones, and earth thrown up with sticks and boards, no tool being obtainable."

James Wright, of the 1st Minnesota, recalled his comrades "gathered rails, stones, sticks, brush, &c., which we piled in front of us; loosened the dirt with our bayonets and scooped it onto these with our tin plates and onto this we placed our knapsacks and blankets."

The quality of the works thrown up apparently depended upon the unit leadership and the quantity of tools and materials that were handy. Tools were in particularly short supply. Captain Henry L. Abbott, of the 20th Massachusetts reported that there was only a single shovel for the entire regiment, with which they dug "a slight rifle-pit, afoot deep and foot high." The 69th Pennsylvania evidently did not put the same energy into improving their cover, for General Webb observed in his after-action report that the "cover in its front was not well built." Stannard's men collected rails "where the dividing lines of the fields had run" and stacked them in their front for a breastwork, which George Benedict on Stannard's staff noted "sufficed for a low protection of from two to three fret in height." [16]

Besides building up breastworks to stop a bullet or shell fragment, some regiments used the cover of night on July 2, to collect small arms and ammunition from the fallen Union and Confederate soldiers in front. The 69th and 71st Pennsylvania were particularly noteworthy in this enterprise. Colonel Robert P. Smith, of the 71st, had the rifles and muskets his men collected gathered into a pile, but there were enough to equip several companies with three to one dozen muskets to a man. Robert Whittick, of the 69th, stated that his regiment gathered enough small arms to arm each man with between six to twelve rifles or muskets. The adjacent 59th New York also hauled in a large number of small arms. The other regiments along Gibbon's front probably did likewise, but the evidence indicates these three regiments scavenged the lion's share. They would need them. [17]

The infantry regiments and batteries were deployed along the ridgeline in mutual support of one another.

Lieutenant George Woodruff's Battery I, 5th U.S. Artillery, supported by the 108th New York of Colonel Thomas A. Smyth's brigade, held the far right end of the line, although later in the morning Hays moved the 126th New York into line on the battery's right.

The rest of Smyth's regiments filled the space between the barn of Abraham Brian and Captain William A. Arnold's Battery A, 1st Rhode Island. From right to left, they were the 12th New Jersey, 1st Delaware, and 14th Connecticut. Sherrill's four New York regiments, the 126th, 111th, 125th, and 39th, from right to left, lay in support, sheltered partially by Brian's orchard, and, for the right of the 126th, Zeigler's Grove.

To the left of Arnold's guns was The Angle, the defense of which was entrusted to Webb's brigade and Cushing's battery. The 69th were deployed with their left near the farm access gate, which was defended by the 59th New York, and their right extending to about 40 paces from the angle. This space was filled by the left wing of the 71st Pennsylvania, all that could fit. The right wing of this regiment lay to their rear, along the recessed portion of the stone wall, between Arnold's and Cushing's batteries.

One hundred fifty feet in rear of the 69th and left wing of the 71st were Cushing's guns. In their rear, and behind the reverse slope of Cemetery Ridge, Webb placed his strongest regiment, the 72nd Pennsylvania, 380 effectives, as a reserve.

The vulnerable point of Webb's line was The Angle. There simply was no easy way to defend a position at right angles. No one could be placed along the east-west connecting wall for they would present their flank to the enemy line. This left the right flank of the 71st's left wing exposed. They would have to rely upon the firepower of their comrades of the right wing, Arnold's battery, and the 14th Connecticut, along the recessed wall, to protect their flank. [18]

Norman Hall

On Webb's left, Colonel Norman Hall, placed three regiments of his brigade in the front line. From right to left they were the 59th New York, 7th Michigan, and 20th Massachusetts. The 59th, which numbered only about 150 men consolidated into four companies, drew the most difficult assignment: guarding the farm gate. But they had plenty of firepower backing them up. The four Napoleons of Battery B, 1st Rhode Island stood in their rear, at the crest of the ridge, south of the Clump of Trees, their tubes positioned to fire over the New Yorkers. Hall remaining regiments, the 19th Massachusetts and 42nd New York, were placed in rear of Brown as a support and reserve.

The heavy losses incurred on by Harrow's brigade July 2 had left its Norman Hall regiments so reduced that they could afford no reserve, and the entire brigade were on the front line. From right to left they were, the 82nd New York, 19th Maine, 1st Minnesota, and 15th Massachusetts. In rear of the 15th Massachusetts and 82nd New York, were Captain James Rorty's four guns. On Harrow's left were the two tiny First Corps regiments of Biddle's brigade, the 20th New York State Militia and 151st Pennsylvania, under the command of the 20th's Colonel, Theodore B. Gates. About 100 yards in their rear, Doubleday positioned his reserve in two separate lines, Stone's brigade in the first and the remainder of Biddle's in the second. [19]

Stannard's brigade of Vermonters initially were deployed along the same line as Gates, Harrow and Hall, behind what Ralph Sturtevant, of the 13th Vermont, described as a "tumbled down stone wall in our front." Stannard had two regiments on line, the 13th on the right and 14th on the left. The 16th Vermont were detailed to the skirmish line, covering the front of Doubleday's division. Their colonel, Wheelock G. Veazey, placed three companies along with some details from other regiments, out as skirmishers, extending from just north of the Codori farm south-southeast along the slight ravine cut by the headwaters of Plum Run for several hundred yards, until they met the skirmish line of the Fifth Corps. The remainder of the 16th formed the picket reserve about 100 yards in advance of the brigade line of battle. [20]

At daylight on July 3, A. P. Hill's Corps artillery commenced lobbing shells at Union battery positions along Cemetery Ridge. Various batteries responded to this fire, and early in this artillery exchange and a Confederate shell struck a caisson of Thomas's battery and blew it up, killing and wounding a number of men in the nearby 14th Vermont. To protect this regiment from any more such losses, General Stannard, ordered the 14th to move forward about 50 or 60 yards. According to George Benedict, the 14th's right lay in front of Codori spring, and a sluggish stream ran in rear of the regiment. There were scattered trees and bushes throughout this marshy area, which afforded the Vermonters some cover from enemy observation. [21]

Later that morning, Lieutenant Albert Clark, commanding Company G, of the 13th Vermont, pointed out to his regimental commander, Colonel Francis V. Randall, that a rail fence nearby could be torn down and a breastwork constructed along a small tree covered knoll, about thirty or forty yards in front of the regiment's position. This is the knoll upon which General Hancock would be wounded that afternoon. Randall approved the lieutenant's proposal and Clark called out for volunteers to do the dangerous work.

Sharpshooters were an ever-present and deadly danger to anyone who needlessly exposed themselves, so volunteering for Clark's work detail was not for the faint of heart. Sergeant George H. Scott, of Clark's company, was the first to answer his lieutenant's call. About twenty other hardy souls also offered themselves, and led by Sergeant Scott they charged the rail fence, tore it apart, and carried the rails forward to the line indicated by Lieutenant Clark. "The work was quickly and well done and timely," wrote the regimental historian, and fortunately was completed with no casualties. The breastwork stood about two feet high, extending across the tree covered knoll. The regiment did not occupy this advanced position immediately. The works apparently were built to be manned only if the enemy made an attack in the brigade front, for from this knoll the regiment would have an excellent field of fire of the open ground extending to the Emmitsburg Road. [22]

This activity on Stannard's front left his regiments deployed in a staggered, or en-echlon front, with the main body of the 16th Vermont line nearly 100 yards in advance of the mainline. The 14th Vermont lay about 30 yards to their right and rear, their line being south of the tree covered knoll previously mentioned. Sixty to 70 yards to the rear and right of the 14th, was the 13th Vermont. This was not an ideal brigade deployment, and the brigade position, except for the wooded knoll, had few defensive benefits, being commanded by the Confederate positions along the Emmitsburg Road ridge and Peach Orchard. However, Stannard's position fell within the front commanded by Second Corps commander Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, and he voiced no objection to the position of the Vermonter's three big regiments, so we must presume that they had been posted as well as circumstances and terrain permitted. [23]


The defenders of Cemetery Ridge were a fair sampling of the manhood drawn to defend the Union from New England, the mid-Atlantic states, and the upper midwest. They ranged from Harvard graduates to Irish immigrants. There were professional soldiers, fishermen, laborers, farmers, millworkers, clerks, plumbers, bartenders, students, seamen, and a host of others, who now wore the Union blue and gazed across the open space toward the distant trees of Seminary Ridge, waiting for what their foe might be planning. Although the elite of society were represented in the ranks, most of the men belonged to the common class: average people thrust into exceptional circumstances. They were men like Benjamin Falls, James Wilbur, Hugh Bradley, and Henry Ropes. They were part of the now anonymous mass of soldiers whose names have faded into the mists of history, but the fate of the nation rested upon their likes.

Falls had been a seamen before the war. He enlisted in Company A, 19th Massachusetts, at age 36. Wilbur had been born in Canada, but migrated to Vermont, where at age 45 he enlisted in Company C, 13th Vermont. His age, and that of Falls, was not unusual in the largely volunteer army that made up the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg. Hugh Bradley, of Company G, 69th Pennsylvania, had immigrated from Ireland and scraped out a living as a laborer in the Philadelphia area before he enlisted in 1861. There were hundreds like Bradley on Cemetery Ridge, immigrants principally from Ireland or Germany, who now fought to preserve the Union of their adopted nation. In the 20th Massachusetts, Company K was commanded by Lieutenant Henry Ropes, a 23-year old Harvard graduate, whom the major of the regiment described as "one of the purest-minded, noblest, most generous men I ever knew." Colonel Norman Hall said that of everyone he knew in the army, Henry Ropes "was the only one he knew that was fighting simply from patriotism."

Twenty-three year old Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing, commanding Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, was less than two years out of West Point. The battlefields of the Civil War were the grim proving grounds for young professional officers like him. If they did well and survived, it might mean promotion and a good position in the post-war army. [24]

Each man on the ridge had his own unique story and reason for being there. If Colonel Hall's statement about Henry Ropes is accurate, then relatively few were there purely out of patriotism. Most were probably like Corporal Sereno W. Gould, of the 13th Vermont. He was 39 years old and "a robust, well preserved man." But, according to comrade Ralph Sturtevant, Gould "was no brag, nor did he court danger or opportunity to demonstrate prowess on the battlefield. It was evident from his general appearance and careful speech he would not run at the sound of the first cannon or retreat until ordered. He volunteered because his country called and for no other reason." There were no heroes on Cemetery Ridge, merely men ready to do their duty.

Most men were like Gould, unwilling to court danger unnecessarily but equally unwilling to let their comrades down. One such was a Sergeant Armstrong, of Woodruff's Battery I, 5th U.S. Artillery. A gun in the battery had been disabled on July 2, and Woodruff sent it to the rear with the sergeant with orders to have the gun tube dismounted and the damaged carriage abandoned. Armstrong and his detachment found a forge nearly 12 miles in rear of the front lines. Using the tools and equipment available he had the carriage repaired and started back for the front. "What was our surprise on the forenoon of July third to see Sergeant Armstrong return to the line of battle with his piece repaired and ready for action," recalled Lieutenant Tully McRea. Armstrong symbolized the spirit of the Cemetery Ridge defenders. As McRae observed, Armstrong and his detachment could have honorably avoided the fighting on July 3, for they had orders to do so. "But they were not of that kind," wrote McRae, and every man of the detachment reported back for duty. [26]

Some of the defenders would not possess the courage to face the coming storm. Either worn down by too much combat or simply lacking in nerve, they would abandon their comrades when the crisis arrived. Others, in contrast, would find something within them that propelled them to extreme acts of heroism and bravery they never imagined they were capable of.

Gibbon's division, as an organization, contained the most experienced troops on the ridge. Seasoned veterans of every campaign of the Army of the Potomac, except Second Manassas, they had seen some of the most ferocious combat experienced by any troops in the war. At Antietam, the Division, then commanded by John Sedgwick, lost 2,200 men in approximately 20 minutes. At Fredericksburg, the 19th Massachusetts and 7th Michigan made the dangerous crossing of the Rappahannock in boats that established a bridgehead on the south bank. Then the 20th Massachusetts cleared the city of Barksdale's tough Mississippians in costly street fighting. Later in the day the division participated in the bloody and unsuccessful assaults on Marye's Heights. Such combat takes a toll both physically and mentally. Morale in some units had slipped. This, however, was largely dependent upon the leadership, or lack thereof, that existed.

Some units, despite incredible casualties, maintained a very high esprit and discipline. Others did not. Apparently, General Gibbon believed this to be the case with the Philadelphia Brigade. Through most of the Gettysburg Campaign they were commanded by Brigadier General J. T. Owen, an officer popular with the brigade, but who evidently did not run a tight ship, for his brigade earned a reputation for being unruly and straggling badly on the march. When Owen made some trivial breach of military policy several days before the battle, Gibbon placed him under arrest and had Alexander Webb inserted in his place. Although he had never commanded line troops, Webb had a reputation of being a solid disciplinarian. He found upon assuming command on June 23 that the officers in the brigade had removed their insignia of rank, so that they would be less conspicuous in combat. Although this became common for officers in the First and Second World Wars, Webb thought it reflected upon discipline and leadership, and he made the officers restore their shoulder strap. He also issued stem orders against straggling. [27]

The two brigades of Hays' division were both veteran units, but their backgrounds differed greatly. The regiments of both had been raised in the summer of 1862 in response to Lincoln's call for 300,000 volunteers that followed McClellan's failed Peninsula Campaign. Smyth's Brigade had been formed in September, 1862, and Antietam was its first battle. They stormed the infamous "bloody lane" there and suffered dreadful losses. Then came Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Sherrill's brigade had an unhappier background. All of its regiments had been part of the Union garrison at Harper's Ferry when it was surrounded by Stonewall Jackson during the Maryland Campaign in September, 1862. All four regiments suffered the humiliation of the garrison's surrender to Jackson, the largest capitulation of U.S. forces in the war.

Following the surrender the regiments were shipped off to Camp Douglas, near Chicago, where they awaited their parole. Morale plunged. They were dubbed the "Harper's Ferry Cowards," although inept leadership and inexperience, not cowardice, had led to the debacle at Harper's Ferry. In the November, 1862 they were finally paroled and assigned to the defenses of Washington, where it was hoped discipline and drill might be restored to the demoralized regiments. But though the men's morale suffered, their fighting spirit did not flag, and they sought the opportunity to restore their tarnished reputation. Lee's northern invasion provided them with that opportunity.

When the Army of the Potomac marched north, the four regiments, now brigaded together, were attached to the 3rd Division, Second Corps. On July 2 they put to rest the hated label of "Harper's Ferry Cowards" with their counterattacks against Barksdale's Brigade. They proved their mettle, although at a terrible cost. [28]

The artillery batteries of the Second Corps stood with the best in the army. All had extensive combat experience and were led by officers of proven courage and ability.

Doubleday's division, like Hays' division, contained troops of widely differing levels of experience. The 20th New York State Militia was the oldest regiment of the lot. They had fought through every campaign since Second Manassas, but they were a three-year volunteer regiment, and the other regiments of their original brigade were two-year volunteers. Following Chancellorsville, the rest of the brigade went home at the expiration of their term of service. With their brigade dissolved, the 20th were assigned provost guard duty until the eve of Gettysburg, when they were assigned to Chapman Biddle's brigade of Pennsylvania regiments. Biddle's regiments, like those of Colonel Roy Stone's brigade, were raised in the late summer and early fall of 1862. They participated in the Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville campaigns, but saw little or no combat. July 1 at Gettysburg was their first real battle and they fought magnificently, but at a horrendous cost.

Stannard's Vermont brigade were recruited at the same time Biddle's and Stone's Pennsylvanians were, but by the luck of the draw they had ended up in the defenses of Washington. Here General Stannard turned his civilians into soldiers with a steady dose of drill and discipline. Stannard had commanded the 9th Vermont Infantry during the Harper's Ferry disaster in September, 1862, and he well understood the value of training. In that operation many of the Union regiments were so poorly trained that they were of little value when the shooting started. Stannard performed his job thoroughly, earning the respect and awe of his men. Although Stannard's brigade were among the least-experienced commands in the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, they certainly ranked among the most well-prepared, a point they would soon drive home to friend and foe alike.


While training, discipline and experience were crucial to success on the battlefield, the quality of the men who led the rank and file was of equal importance. "Troops without confidence in their leaders are worth nothing," observed Major Fred Winkler, of the Eleventh Corps, in a statement that had universal application.

Fortunately, for the soldiers of the First and Second Corps on Cemetery Ridge, they enjoyed good leadership, and in some cases, outstanding leadership, from the regimental level on up. The commander of the Cemetery Ridge line, Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, ranked as one of the great combat commanders who ever served with the Army of the Potomac. His division commanders, Gibbon, Hays, and Doubleday (because Doubleday's division fell within Hancock's line, it was subject to his orders), were West Point graduates and had plenty of battle experience. As a brigade commander, Gibbon had trained and molded one of the finest fighting formations in the army, the Iron Brigade. He understood the volunteer fighting man, and how to get the most from him. He earned division command after Antietam. His star was still rising and he would ultimately rise to corps command. [29]

Doubleday was a competent but uninspiring officer who possessed a knack for irritating people. He had commanded a division at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. On July 1, at Gettysburg, he performed superbly in temporary command of the First Corps, but Meade had little confidence in him, and replaced him that night with Major General John Newton, a Sixth Corps officer. Doubleday was left simmering in anger over what he rightly considered unfair and unjust treatment. Still, he was a professional, and Hancock could count upon him to do his duty. [30]

Alexander Hays had commanded the 3rd Division, Second Corps, for only three days when the battle began. He led the 63rd Pennsylvania Infantry earlier in the war, during the Peninsula and Second Manassas campaigns. An officer of the 20th Massachusetts described him as "a miserable rowdy," but no one who knew Hays doubted his personal bravery, or ability to lead and inspire volunteers. He received his brigadier's star when he was appointed to command the disgruntled "Harper's Ferry Cowards" fresh from Camp Douglas. Hays restored the men's ruined morale and whipped them back into a combat ready unit that one veteran recorded would have followed him "to the death." When his brigade was attached to Hancock's 3rd Division, by virtue of seniority, Hays assumed command of the division. If anyone questioned his ability to lead a division, they were laid to rest on July 2. One of his men summed up the view of the fighting men toward Hays's, writing, "I think he is the bravest division general I ever saw in the saddle." [31]

Of the eight men commanding brigades on Cemetery Ridge, only two were West Pointers, Webb and Hall. For the 28-year old Webb, Gettysburg was his first experience commanding infantry. His previous service had been in the artillery and as a staff officer with the Fifth Corps. But it was by commanding infantry that rank was gained in the Civil War, and Webb's assignment to brigade command earned him his brigadier's star. Despite his inexperience commanding infantry, Webb understood the principles of leadership. His philosophy was simple, he would order no man "to go where I would not go myself." [32]

Twenty-six year old Norman Hall had graduated from the Military Academy in the class of 1858. He had the distinction, along with Abner Doubleday, of having served in the garrison at Fort Sumter at the outbreak of the war. Following the Peninsula Campaign, Hall sought promotion in the volunteers. Apparently his connections were not as powerful as Webb's. He managed only to secure a commission as a volunteer colonel, commanding the 7th Michigan Infantry, which he led through the bloodbath in the West Woods at Antietam. When the brigade commander was wounded in that battle, Hall assumed command, and subsequently led it at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. He did well, but for reasons unexplained, did not win his star. Major Henry Abbott, of the brigade's 20th Massachusetts, wrote that Hall was "the kindest superior, as well as the greatest and ablest we have ever had." But Hall was not a well man at Gettysburg. Abbott believed he suffered from consumption. "After the battle was over he was so much exhausted that he couldn't stand up," he wrote to his mother. [33]

The commander of Gibbon's 1st Brigade, William Harrow, did not stand in the same company as Webb and Hall. Harrow had been a lawyer before the war and gained the acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln in this line of work. When the war broke out, he recruited a company and received a captain's commission in the 14th Indiana. Within a year he had risen to colonel - a testament to his political connections. His politics were extreme, residing in the Radical Republican camp, a point that likely won him few friends among the professional soldiers around him, nearly all of whom were conservative Democrats. In April, 1863, he won promotion to brigadier general. Although he had seen his fair share of combat with the 14th Indiana there was nothing to suggest he deserved the promotion - certainly he did not deserve it more than Colonel Hall. The star on his shoulder straps smelled of politics, a fact apparently well-known in Gibbon's division. Major Abbott referred to him as "an administration tool...promoted for a bloodless skirmish out west ostensibly, but really for cursing rebels." Webb considered him worthless. "He is an ass and no one respects him," he wrote his wife after the battle. The fighting on July 2 earned him few admirers in the enlisted ranks. Roland Bowen, of the 15th Massachusetts, quipped sarcastically: "This brave man I never saw after the fight first commenced." Fortunately for Gibbon, Harrow's brigade contained some of the most experienced troops in the army, and good regimental commanders who would compensate for his inefficiency.

Hays' two brigade commanders were both pre-war civilians. Colonel Thomas A. Smyth had emigrated from Ireland in 1854 and settled in Philadelphia, where he earned a living as a carver. He was something of an adventurer, for he departed in 1855 to take part in William Walkers's disastrous filibustering expedition in Nicaragua. He survived this debacle and returned to the United States, where he began a new career as a coachmaker in Delaware. At the outbreak of the war, Smyth's prior military experience earned him a commission as major in the 1st Delaware Infantry. In soldiering Smyth found his niche, and by February, 1863, he had won promotion to colonel of the regiment. He accomplished this on ability for he had no political influence or connections. He assumed command of the 2nd Brigade following Chancellorsville as the senior colonel. [35]

Seniority had likewise placed Colonel Eliakim Sherrill in command of the 3rd Brigade of Hays' Division, following the death of its commander, Colonel George L. Willard, on the evening of July 2. The 50-year old Sherrill was described as "a man of education and refinement." He hailed from Ulster County, New York, where he enjoyed success in the tannery business. His success brought him prominence and election to Congress in 1847, and to the state senate in 1854. He moved to Geneva, New York, in 1860 where he was regarded as one of its "most prosperous and influential citizens." During Lincoln's call for 300,000 volunteers in the summer of 1862, Sherrill helped raise the 126th New York Infantry, and was rewarded with a commission as its colonel. He made no pretense as to his military abilities, admitting when his regiment was assigned to the garrison at Harper's Ferry in September, 1862, "that he knew nothing about military; that he made no pretensions to military." However, he compensated for his ignorance with sheer courage, encouraging and animating his men in the fighting for Maryland Heights during the September siege and capture, until he took a bullet in the face that laid him low. He did not return to the regiment until the end of January, 1863. Apparently, Hays and he worked well together, for he became "one of General Hays' most esteemed officers." At Gettysburg, when Willard was killed, through some misunderstanding or error of judgment on Sherrill's part, he ordered the brigade back to its old position on Cemetery Ridge from where it had been ordered by Hancock. That General came thundering up as the brigade marched away and without inquiring why they were moving promptly placed Sherrill under arrest. [36]

On the morning of July 3, Colonel Clinton D. MacDougal, of the 111th New York, in command of the 3rd Brigade while Sherrill remained in arrest, and General Hays, visited Second Corps headquarters to plead Sherrill's case to Hancock. The Corps commander reconsidered his hasty actions of the evening before when the fire of battle had been upon him, and ordered Sherrill restored to command of the brigade.

In Doubleday's division, George J. Stannard had seen limited field service. He served with the 2nd Vermont Infantry, as its lieutenant colonel, during the early stages of the Peninsula Campaign, then departed in July, 1862, to gain a colonel's commission and command of the 9th Vermont Infantry. As related earlier they ended up with the Union garrison at Harper's Ferry in September 1862. Stannard's able command of his inexperienced regiment in the siege and capture stood out sharply, and he earned a promotion to brigadier general in March, 1863, and command of five ninth-month Vermont regiments in the defenses of Washington. Despite his lack of a professional background, Stannard understood soldiering and was a man to be counted upon. His men respected and feared him. In trying to fix a reason why the raw 9th Vermont did not break and run as some other regiments did during the siege and capture of Harper's Ferry, Edward H. Ripley confessed that he believed it was because "we were as afraid of Stannard, our Colonel, as of the enemy." He enjoyed Hancock's confidence, for the Second Corps commander let him alone and made no adjustments to the changes Stannard made on his front during the morning of the 3rd. [38]

Of Doubleday's two remaining brigades, only the two regiments from the 1st Brigade posted in the front line, commanded by Colonel Theodore B. Gates, of the 20th New York State Militia, would be severely tried on July 3. Gates had commanded his regiment through the fires of Second Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. He was an unabashed self-promoter, but he knew his business. These were the key leaders on the ridge. They were supported by generally experienced regimental and company officers, and good fighting men.


These four words characterized the morning of July 3 for the defenders of Cemetery Ridge. At first light - before 4 a.m. - firing broke out between the skirmish lines near the Bliss farm, the combatants taking up where they left off the evening before. Except for those soldiers under fire or firing, most paid no attention to it. "At the commencement of the war such firing would have awakened the whole army," wrote Lieutenant Haskall; "not so now. The men upon the crest lay snoring in their blankets, even though some of the enemy's bullets dropped among them." As for the rest of the Cemetery Ridge front, Haskall recorded "no enemy, not even his outposts, could be discovered along all the position where he so thronged upon the Third Coeps yesterday." James Wright, of the 1st Minnesota, concurred with Haskall. "Very little could be seen of the enemy on our front," he wrote, "though it was certain they were there yet." [39]

This sparring on the skirmish line rapidly spread across the entire front of the line. Colonel Veazey wrote that at 3:45 a.m. the Confederates sent a line of skirmishers down against his line, "and the skirmishing continued more or less all the forenoon." The action on the skirmish line rose and fell like a symphony throughout the morning. The Bliss farm was a particularly hot spot. Occasionally, artillery from both sides entered the fray. At 8 a.m., A. P. Hill's guns began shelling the northern end of the line, dropping shells in on Woodruff, Arnold and Cushing. The Second Corps gunners largely suffered through it with a stiff upper lip, although from time to time they were permitted to return the fire. The Confederates enjoyed some success. One shell blew up three limber chests in Cushing's battery, although miraculously no men were killed, and another exploded a limber in Woodruff's Battery. There were many close calls. Lieutenant Theron E. Parsons, of the 108th New York, lying in support of Woodruff, recorded in his diary that morning that "the shells have struck all around us," but there were no casualties. According to Captain Hazard, before the noon lull settled over the field, Woodruff's Battery had eight separate engagements with Southern guns. Sergeant Frederick Fuger, in Cushing's Battery, recorded that they had three or four engagements, "lasting a few minutes each time; no casualties." [40]

There were plenty of casualties on the skirmish line. Lieutenant George L. Yost, of the 126th New York, offered some idea of this deadly service, when he wrote his father: "I would do anything rather than skirmish with those fellows [Confederates]. I never want to do it again. I will repel charges but don't put me in that place again." [41]

Sharpshooters plagued nearly everyone on Cemetery Ridge. "Our lines were continuously menaced by sharp shooters, and we moved but little in an upright position unless required" recalled Ralph Sturtevant, of the 13th Vermont. These unpleasant fellows concealed themselves "behind stones and fences and buildings and in tree tops," and fired at anyone who exposed themselves. Francis Galwey, of the 8th Ohio, wrote that on his regiment's front the "firing was rapid enough, and yet there was not much random work. It was almost as much as a man's life was worth to rise to his height from the ground." Staff officers, artillerymen, and officers were favorite targets, for they had to expose themselves as they went about their duties. [42]

The infantrymen lay low, concealed behind their works. Some, despite the dangers about them, fell fast asleep. Sergeant Wright, of the 1st Minnesota, recalled that he and his comrades did so, after working to construct a breastwork to protect themselves. "It seems strange now that we could have done this, for at irregular intervals shells shrieked over us, or we heard the thud of a bullet in the ground," he wrote. But extreme fatigue will reduce a soldier's fear of danger. Galwey related that this was the case in his regiment. Although they were on the skirmish line and exposed to constant firing and shelling, he recalled that, "so exhausted had some of our men become that they slept through a good part of the forenoon." [43]

As the morning wore away the sun became another enemy to be cursed. The men had cheered its appearance in the morning, but as it rose in the sky it gave off a heat that Anthony McDermott described as "almost stifling." The air hung heavy and unmoving. "Not a breath of air came to cause the slightest quiver to the most delicate leaf or blade of grass," wrote McDermott. Many combated the sun's fierce rays by rigging up their rubber blankets, canvas side up. Those without shelter suffered. Stannard's men apparently lacked the mean's with which to shelter themselves, and one Vermonter wrote that the sun "beat down upon us with such force that it was almost unbearable." [44]

By 11 a.m. a stillness settled upon the field, as if the heat had sapped the combatants of their energy. The Bliss farm had been set afire by order of Alexander Hays, which removed the most contentious point on the Cemetery Ridge front. "Almost absolute quiet prevailed along the lines," wrote Stannard's aide, Lieutenant Benedict. Over 20 years later, Anthony McDermott remembered it vividly. "Of that stillness you have often heard," he wrote; "no language of mine could cause you to imagine its reality, such a stillness I had never experienced before, nor since, and I have borne part in every engagement of the Army of the Potomac." [45]


Few men on Cemetery Ridge could agree on the time the signal shots were fired from the Confederate line to commence the bombardment of the Union position. Lieutenant Benedict was quite specific, writing, "At ten minutes past one o'clock the signal gun was fired." But Francis Galwey was equally emphatic as to the time. "At ten minutes to one precisely, by my watch," he recalled, the enemy fired their signal guns. Ralph Sturtevant, of Stannard's brigade, perhaps unintentionally, highlighted the vagaries of time on a battlefield when he wrote that "the consensus of opinion as to the time the signal guns were fired and the battle opened in the afternoon of the last day is between one and two o'clock." It depended upon the watch of the wearer as to the time the bombardment began. [46]

There was nearly universal agreement among the defenders that the Confederates fired two signal shots to open the bombardment. Evidence indicates that both shells struck near the 19th Massachusetts in the reserve line. Sergeant John W. Plummer, of Company D, 1st Minnesota, wrote to his brother after the battle, that he and some comrades had gathered around a lieutenant of the regiment, who had somehow obtained a copy of the July 2 edition of the Baltimore Clipper. While the men listened to the lieutenant read, Plummer wrote that a Confederate cannon fired and its shell struck about "twenty yards from us." Captain John Reynolds, of the 19th Massachusetts, stated that this same shell was a solid shot, and that it "came bounding over the ridge like a rubber ball." A second shot followed the first from the same direction. Reynolds recalled that Lieutenant Sherman S. Robinson, of Company A, leaped to his feet after the first shell struck nearby. The second shell, which apparently was also a solid shot, hit Robinson in the left side and disemboweled him. If Reynolds' memory served him right, Sherman S. Robinson was the first man to die in the great cannonade of July 3. A third shell apparently followed the first two, and this one passed through some of the gun stacks and shelters of the 19th. Moments after this third shell arrived on Cemetery Ridge, the Confederate front exploded in fire, as 140 to 150 pieces of artillery opened the pre-assault bombardment of Cemetery Ridge. [47]

"Such an artillery fire has never been witnessed in this war," wrote Sergeant Plummer. "It makes my Blood Tingle in my veins now; to think of" recalled Ben Hirst, of the 14th Connecticut, "Never before did I hear such a roar of Artilery, it seemed as if all the Demons in Hell were let loose, and were Howling through the Air." Lee's bombardment had two objectives. First, to smash up the Federal artillery and inflict losses and confusion in the infantry line. Second, to demoralize the defender and break down his will to defend Cemetery Ridge against the impending infantry attack. [48]

The Confederate shells poured down upon the Union defenders with a rapidity that struck fear into even the most hard-bitten soldier. If the Confederate artillerymen averaged one shot per minute from each of their guns - a reasonable estimate given the rapid nature of their fire - and 140 guns were firing, then every second two or more shells were bursting over or striking the Union line. "It was one grand raging clashing of sound," wrote Captain Reynolds, of the 19th Massachusetts, with the "bursting of shells so incessant that the ear could not distinguish the individual explosions." The infantrymen hugged the earth for dear life; "we would have liked to get into it if we could," said Joseph McKeever, of the 69th Pennsylvania. Sergeant George H. Scott, in the 13th Vermont, wrote that the men "get behind trees, stones, knolls, stone walls, breastworks, - anything to give them a partial walk along the ridge is madness." [49]

The artillerymen of Hazard's Artillery Brigade were not as fortunate as the infantrymen. When the Confederate artillery opened fire, the gunners sprang to their posts and the drivers mounted the horses on the limbers and caissons, all of them terribly exposed to exploding shells and shrapnel. Until they received orders to return fire, they simply stood the enemy fire - an act that required unimaginable courage. According to John H. Rhodes, of Battery B, 1st Rhode Island, orders to return fire were not forthcoming until ten or fifteen minutes after the firing began. This seems excessive and perhaps it only seemed that long to Rhodes. Eventually, battery commanders received orders to return fire and the men jumped to their work, relieved to be able to focus upon something besides being torn to pieces by a shell. [50]

Gradually the Union batteries from Little Round Top to Cemetery Hill began to fire, most of them firing slowly and deliberately, adding their deep bass roar to the already deafening noise. Dense clouds of smoke, trapped by the hot, humid air, enveloped the Union gunners, until, recalled Christopher Smith in Cushing's battery, "the smoke became so dense that we could not see nothing on the other side of the valley."

General Gibbon wrote that, "over all hung a heavy pall of smoke underneath which could be seen the rapidly moving legs of the men as they rushed to and fro between the pieces, carrying forward the ammunition." Eventually, the smoke became dense enough that in Cushing's Battery, and others of the Second Corps artillery brigade, targets were no longer visible and the gun crews simply set the gun to what they believed was the proper elevation and blazed away. As the bombardment continued, the effectiveness of both armies' artillery decreased. [51]

The ineffectiveness of the Confederate artillery was relative, contingent upon where one was or what one was doing. To the Union gunners of Hazard's Artillery Brigade, the fire was murderous. "It was terrible beyond description," Albert Straight, of Battery B, 1st Rhode Island, stated. Colonel R. Penn Smith, of the 71st Pennsylvania, whose right wing lay quite close to both Cushing's and Arnold's batteries, wrote, "My God it was terrible...The field was a grave." At one point, almost simultaneously, shells burst over open limber boxes in Cushing's battery. Lieutenant Haskall, who witnessed this event, wrote, "in both the boxes blew up with an explosion that shook the ground, throwing fire and splinters and shells far into the air and all around, and destroying several men." Haskall probably used the word "destroying" rather than "killing," deliberately, to describe the effect of the explosion upon the bodies of the unfortunate gunners caught within its blast.

Civil War shell fragments and shrapnel often inflicted frightening wounds. One shell, which burst at the muzzle of one of Lieutenant Perrin's Napoleons, offers a grim illustration of this. Alfred Gardner and William Jones were preparing to ram a fresh shell down the tube of their piece, when a Confederate shell struck their gun and burst in their faces. A fragment of the shell hit Jones in the head, cutting the top completely off. Gardner took a fragment in the left shoulder, nearly severing his arm. He died shouting, "Glory to God! I am happy! Hallelujah!" In Arnold's battery, John Zimla, while acting as a gunner, had his head shot off by a shell. Another man in the same battery had his arm and shoulder torn off. The frightful nature of these wounds is what made artillery fire so demoralizing to those on the receiving end. The decapitation of one man could demoralize an entire gun crew, or section, or battery, under the right circumstances. [53]

The destruction and loss the Confederate artillery inflicted upon Hazard's batteries is reflected in the severe losses they suffered. Arnold's battery lost 4 killed and 28 wounded, about one-quarter of its strength.

(click on image for a PDF version)

In Cushing's battery, 83 horses were killed, 7 enlisted men were killed and 38 wounded. Woodruff lost 40 of 60 horses, and 25 officers and men. According to the historian of the 19th Massachusetts, in one-half hour Rorty's battery had only one gun still in action and only one officer, Rorty, and 4 men, out of 60. While 20 or 30 men in an infantry regiment might have been regarded as moderate or light losses, they represented nearly 25 to 30 percent of a battery's strength - losses that could, and often did, cripple it. To maintain a rate of fire in some of the batteries it became necessary to call upon infantry volunteers to serve the guns. Colonel Smith, of the 71st Pennsylvania, detailed 15 of his men to help serve Cushing's guns, and 20 men of the 19th Massachusetts pitched in with Rortys battery. [54]

The front-line infantry, proportionally, did not suffer as severely as did Hazard's batteries, but they took their share of casualties, depending upon where a unit happened to be in line. The 1st Minnesota, for instance, reported no losses, and the 20th Massachusetts had very few. Others were not so fortunate. The rail breastworks thrown up to protect the 20th New York State Militia and 151st Pennsylvania were struck by numerous shells which sent the rails flying with great force, injuring or killing anyone they struck. One shell struck the breastwork of the 59th New York, passing completely through it, killing 1 and wounding 6 men. Webb wrote that his brigade lost 50 men during the cannonade. Colonel Veazey reported that the 16th Vermont suffered severely in the bombardment, but not as heavily as the 14th Vermont, who lost 60 men. The 13th Vermont escaped similar punishment during the bombardment by crawling forward to the breastwork of rails they had thrown up earlier in the day. The Confederates had the range of their former position, but not of the forward one they moved to. [55]

Zeigler's Grove was a particularly unpleasant place to be posted. "Not a second but a shell-shot or ball flew over us," wrote Chauncey L. Harris, of the 108th New York: "Large limbs were torn from the trunks of the oak trees under which we lay and precipitated down upon our heads." Within five feet of Harris five shells struck "a large oak tree three fret in diameter," one of which passed clean through it. Another shell burst at his feet and killed a sergeant and private. Yet another blew up one of Woodruff's caissons. At this, several men started toward the rear, but Lieutenant Dayton T. Card, of Company H, drew his sword and ordered them back. They obeyed, but moments later a piece of shell struck Card in the breast and killed him. Carelessness of Woodruff's gunners subsequently led to even bloodier consequences in the 108th's ranks. To save time the gunners had stacked shells near their guns - close to the 108th. A lucky, or unlucky, Confederate shell struck in them and blew up the lot. "It was an appalling sight and to this day is a horrible one to think off [sic]," recalled Captain David Shields, an aide-de-camp of General Hays. This event shook the entire regiment. Somehow (he does not relate what means he employed) Shields managed to restore confidence in the regiment. [56]

The mental strain of the bombardment was intense. Sergeant Wright, in the 1st Minnesota, wrote that "we had been badly scared many times before this but never quite so badly as then," a statement that deserves notice considering the service this regiment had seen. In the 14th Connecticut, Ben Hirst recorded, "how we did hug the ground expecting every moment was to be our last. And as first one of us got Hit and then another to hear their cries was Awful. And still you dare not move either hand or foot, to do so was Death."

For the duration of the nearly two hour long shelling, Anthony McDermott, in the 69th Pennsylvania, recalled, "we did not enjoy any space of relief from the dread of being ploughed into shreds." Some men were stricken with fear and sought safety in flight. Most hugged the earth, not necessarily out of courage, but because it was safer than making a run for it across the shell-swept rear. As Captain Cook observed, "a retreat would have to be made under the guns of the enemy and almost as dangerous as to remain where we were." It what might be imagined to be the most unusual reaction to the shelling, many men fell asleep! "The effect of this cannonading on my men was the most remarkable I ever witnessed in any battle," wrote Colonel Veazey; "many of them, I think the majority, fell asleep." Francis Galwey recalled a similar reaction in the 8th Ohio. He believed it was the monotonous roar of the guns that caused him and many others to nod off. [57]

Many soldiers found courage from the example of their leaders. Hancock stood out conspicuously. He rode the line under fire accompanied by his personal standard bearer in a sublime example of leadership. When an officer remonstrated against his exposure, Hancock allegedly replied, "there are times when a corps commander's life does not count." Gibbon discovered that "most of the shells burst high and behind us," so that it was actually safer the farther forward one went. He took his aide, Lieutenant Haskall, and crossed the works in the area occupied by the 69th Pennsylvania, to see if they might catch a view of an enemy advance. Along the way they encountered Alexander Webb, "seated on the ground as coolly as though he had not interest in the scene." Gibbon's walk had the unforeseen consequence of giving courage to the infantrymen huddled behind the wall. He recalled them "peering at us curiously" as they walked the line. At one point they came upon several soldiers who had left the ranks to find shelter in a nearby excavation. Haskall recalled that Gibbon said in a fatherly fashion to the men; "My men, do not leave your ranks to try to get shelter here. All these matters are in the hand of God, and nothing that you can do will make you safer in one place than another." Gibbon's logic did the trick and the men returned to their regiment. Ralph Sturtevant observed that General Stannard "apparently paid no attention to exploding shell or whizz of bullet," and went about his duty with a calm courage that gave strength to his men. Alexander Hays, too, stood out prominently, recklessly exposing himself to cheer and encourage his men. Despite the outward appearance of fearlessness, all of these officers harbored fears. "None but fools, I think, can deny that they are afraid in battle," wrote Gibbon. Yet somehow they found the means by which they conquered their fears and were able to perform their duty. [58]

There were many leaders of lesser rank whose bravery gave their men strength and the courage to hold on. Lieutenant Card comes to mind as one example. Lieutenant Rorty was another. When so many men of his battery had become casualties, he tossed off his jacket, took up a rammer and helped crew the one piece still serviceable.

In Cushing's battery when a solid shot destroyed the wheel on the number 3 piece, the sergeant in command of the gun and his crew were panic-stricken and started to run. This was the effect the Confederates sought by their bombardment, to break the morale of the Federal soldiers. But Lieutenant Cushing was equal to the moment. A baby-faced, slender man, Cushing did not fit the popular image of a hero. However, Christopher Smith recalled him as "the bravest man I ever knew." Cushing drew his revolver and ordered the sergeant back to his gun. Then he called out to his Battery, "the first man who leaves his post again I'll blow his brains out." Apparently, his men took the threat to heart. In several minutes the wheel on number 3 had been repaired, and the gun was blazing away again. [59]

Not all leaders provided a positive example for their men. Captain David Shields, Hays' aide-de-camp, while riding back to Meade's headquarters to deliver a message during the bombardment, noticed Lieutenant Colonel Levi Crandall, commanding the 126th New York, sitting in rear of Cemetery Ridge holding his horse, not with his regiment. On his return Shields saw that Crandall had not stirred and he rode up to him "and was very indignant" that the colonel was not with his regiment. Crandall complained that he was sick. Shields ordered him to his regiment, but Crandall refused to budge. "I left him sitting on the ground a miserable man, sacrificing all, for what he thought was the safety of his wretched body," recalled Shields. Fortunately, the Cushing's, Shields', Card's, and their like, greatly outnumbered the Crandall's on Cemetery Ridge, and gave the fighting men the leadership they needed to ride out the bombardment and meet the storm-wave that would follow. [60]


By 3 p.m. the bombardment had run its course. The Confederate guns had largely exhausted their ammunition, and the Union guns, except Hazard's brigade, had ceased fire earlier under orders to conserve ammunition for the anticipated infantry attack. Hancock had countermanded orders issued by artillery chief, Brigadier General Henry Hunt, for Hazard to cease fire, and ordered the batteries to re-open. This exhausted the long-range ammunition of Hazard's batteries, but they were all so badly shot up that even had they followed the course Hunt advocated it may not have made an appreciable difference.

Nearly one-half the officers and men of the brigade had been killed or wounded. Rorty's battery had one, perhaps two, serviceable guns. Battery B, 1st Rhode Island, was a wreckage. Its officers were all dead or wounded and there were not enough men to serve the guns that were left. Cushing could man only two guns. Arnold's battery remained intact, but its long-range ammunition was gone. Woodruff's battery was in similar straits.

Of 24 guns in Hazard's brigade that were present at the commencement of the bombardment, only 11 or 12 were still in service when it ended, and these had only canister left. For the Union infantry, who were accustomed to the superiority of their artillery, it was a new, and rather unsettling state of affairs. "For the first time in our experience, they [the Union batteries] were powerless to silence the rebs," wrote Sergeant Plummer, of the 1st Minnesota.

Losses in the infantry ranks cannot be determined with any degree of accuracy. A reasonable guess would place their losses at 200 to 300 men, but they may have been higher. But 300 men were equal to a strong regiment on the firing line, at a time when every rifle and musket would be needed.

The brief lull that followed the cannonade gave little time to repair the damage done by the Confederate artillery. The overshots by the Southern guns had made the movement of ammunition or troops in rear of the Union center far too dangerous. Fresh batteries from the army reserve, ammunition, and troops were ordered toward the point all believed the enemy intended to attack, but they could not move until the shelling had subsided. Whether intentional or unintentional, Lee's artillery had effectively isolated the point of attack, albeit temporarily. The defenders of the ridge were required to make do with what was on hand.

Webb managed to replace some of his reduced long-range firepower by sending for Captain Andrew Cowan, whose 1st New York Independent Battery had replaced Thomas' battery during the bombardment, to move up and take the place of Brown. Webb had no authority over Cowan, but fortunately the captain was not one to quibble over chain of command and he obeyed. His guns moved so rapidly that the first piece shot past the Clump of Trees and did not stop until it was close up to Cushing's left piece, the close proximity of which precluded the gun from firing for a short time. Cowan's five other 3-inch rifles swung into position in front of what remained of Battery B, unlimbered and cleared for action, while the Rhode Islanders limped off to the rear. [62]

Alexander Hays made adjustments to his line during the bombardment. The three remaining regiments of Sherrill's brigade (the 126th New York had earlier been moved to the right of Woodruff) were moved forward to bolster the front line. The 111th New York advanced to the Brian farm, part of the right wing filling in an open space between the barn and the right of the 12th New Jersey. The rest of the 111th, and the 125th and 39th New York, moved up directly in rear of the front line. After the shelling ceased Woodruff's guns were pulled back by hand by the 108th New York into the ranks of that regiment, to conceal them, and loaded with canister. [63]

While it is relatively easy to assess the physical damage wrought by Lee's artillery, the moral effect is more difficult to determine. The evidence is strong, however, that in this area the Confederates utterly failed to demoralize the defenders. No one illustrates this better than Lieutenant Cushing. His battery had endured the most intense bombardment any Union light artillery battery had experienced in the war. Most of his horses were dead. Many of his men were casualties, and those who were left could man only two guns. The blood and gore of the scene around Cushing must have been both shocking and revolting. The Lieutenant had been badly wounded in the groin and may have been slightly wounded in the shoulder. Altogether, the circumstances were enough to demoralize the stoutest heart. Under normal circumstances the battery would have been withdrawn along with the Perrin's Rhode Islanders. But these were extraordinary circumstances, and every man and gun that could serve were needed. When Webb came up and said that he believed they would soon receive an infantry attack, Cushing did not hesitate. He ordered his two guns up to the wall and had canister brought up and laid beside them. Some hardy volunteers of the 71st Pennsylvania rolled a third gun up by hand into the angle, loading it with pieces of shell, stones, bayonets, and anything else they could find. Cushing epitomized the determination of the Cemetery Ridge defenders, and the failure of the bombardment to break their spirit. He and hundreds of others, gambled their lives that they would stop the coming storm. [64]

Lieutenant Haskell recalled that as the cannonade subsided, he and Gibbon returned to their horses. Gibbon expressed the opinion that the Confederates were going to retreat and the bombardment had been to mask the movement. But then the two officers observed General Hunt in Zeigler's Grove, within Woodruff's battery, "swiftly moving about on horseback." Hunt's rapid movements puzzled the two officers, but moments later, Captain Frank Wessels, one of Gibbon's staff officers rode up and announced rather excitedly, "General, they say the enemy's infantry is advancing." Gibbon and Haskell jumped into their saddles and rode to the crest. The smoke of the bombardment was slowly lifting like the curtain rising on the last act of a tragic drama. "To say that none grew pale and held their breath at what we saw and they then saw, would not be true," wrote Haskell; "Every eye could see his legions, an overwhelming, resistless tide of an ocean of armed men, sweeping upon us!" [65]

"The sublime moment of the battle had now come," wrote Frederick Oesterle, of the 7th Michigan. To Lieutenant George Yost, in the 126th New York, the long sweeping lines of Confederate infantry advancing upon him was "a splendid sight." He wrote his father the day after the fight, "You can't imagine how beautiful it looked to see them stretching across the field in three columns in good line and banners flying." To Chauncey Harris, in Zeigler's Grove, the Confederates reminded him of "so many automatons," as they advanced with perfect precision. He and hundreds of other Union soldiers along the crest could not but admire the pluck and discipline of the men advancing upon them. "I never saw troops march out with more military precision," observed Harris. [66]

Estimates of the enemy force ranged from 12,000 to 18,000, with more men estimating higher than lower. Whether a veteran of two years, or a nine-month volunteer in Stannard's line, no one had faced a force this formidable in any previous battle. Yet, most recorded they were relieved to see the Confederate infantry advance. "Their appearance was truly a relief from that terrible fire artillery," wrote Anthony McDermott. Captain Charles Nash, of the 19th Maine, agreed with McDermott. "It requires less nerve to face the enemy man-to-man, in open field, than to lie down supinely while he hurls his missiles," he related. Some of the veterans knew the strength of their position and the exposed ground the Southern infantry would have to cross to reach them. This gave them confidence. "The moment I saw them I knew we should give them Fredericksburg. So did everybody," wrote Major Abbott. [67]

As the Southern wave moved steadily forward, infantry officers made last-minute preparations. Colonel R. Penn Smith ordered the officers and men of the right wing of his 71st Pennsylvania to collect all the muskets they could carry from a pile of 300 his regiment had collected the previous night. This gave each man from three to a dozen muskets. Smith then went forward to his left wing, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel C. Kochersperger, and instructed him not to fire at the enemy until they had crossed the Emmitsburg Road, "and then to load and fire as rapidly as possible." If they were pushed too hard, Smith gave Kochersperger permission to fall back on a line with the right wing of the regiment. On the 71st's left, Colonel Dennis O'Kane addressed the men of the 69th Pennsylvania, that they should withhold their fire until they see the whites of the enemy's eyes. Such talk was partly bravado, but it was also practical. The closer the range the greater the destruction of the first volley; and the first fire was frequently where the advantage was gained or lost. In the 1st Minnesota, the orders were not to fire until ordered, then to fire at the enemy's feet, since soldiers had a tendency to fire high. So it continued along the line as each regiment prepared to receive the enemy. [68]

Many officers sought to inspire their men with last-minute addresses. Alexander Hays, who seemed to be everywhere along his Division front, told his men "to stand fast and fight like men." Colonel O'Kane announced to his 69th Pennsylvania that they were defending the soil of their native state and that they were as brave as the enemy. He added that if any man should flinch in his duties, "he asked that the man nearest him would kill him on the spot." Webb also addressed the regiment, speaking words of encouragement. Anthony McDermott, whose mood reflected that of many foot soldiers waiting on the ridge, wrote, "these addresses were not necessary as I do not believe there was a soldier in the Regt. that did not feel that he had more courage to meet the enemy at Gettysburg, than upon any other battle in which we had as yet been engaged, stimulus being, the fact that we were upon the soil of our native state."


The first to engage the advancing Confederate line were the artillery. McGilvery's line, Rittenhouse on Little Round Top, and Cowan at the Clump of Trees, all opened on Pickett's Division with shrapnel, shell and shot. Osborne's massed guns on Cemetery Hill targeted Pettigrew's Division. Sergeant William Bowen, of the 12th New Jersey, observing the effect of the artillery, noted it was "mowing great swaths through their lines." But, incredibly, he observed in the enemy ranks, "no hurry, no confusion as our shot was poured into them. They came as steady and regular as if on a dress parade, our guns pouring the shot into them." Sharpshooters also plied their deadly trade, officers being their target of choice. "Valiant men," wrote Sergeant Scott, in Stannard's Brigade, "had not a stronger sentiment possessed us, we their enemies could have thrown our hats in air and given them three times three for their heroism." [70]

The batteries of Hazard's Artillery Brigade, loaded with single and double charges of canister, waited for the Confederates to come within range. In The Angle, Cushing's two guns were pushed forward into Company I of the 69th Pennsylvania. The company commander ordered his men to make room for the guns. For reasons never satisfactorily explained, one of the guns was discharged before the infantrymen were clear. The blast blew the heads off two privates. They would not be the last "friendly fire" casualties of the day. [71]

The other batteries of the brigade opened with single charges of canister at a distance of between 400-500 yards. "The slaughter was dreadful," recorded Lieutenant Tully McRea, with Woodruff's battery; "Never was there such a target for light artillery." The regulars served up canister at a rate of two rounds a minute; a fearsome storm of missiles. Arnold, Cushing, and the remnants of Rorty, were likewise pouring it into the Confederates, but still they continued their steady advance. [72]

Stannard's Brigade may have delivered the first infantry fire, although Hays' division possibly opened at about the same moment. The initial advance of Pickett's Division brought his right, composed of Kemper's Brigade, marching directly toward the 14th Vermont. The skirmishers of the 16th Vermont fell back upon the advance of the enemy, and they and the balance of that regiment withdrew behind the 13th and 14th regiments to reform. Stannard ordered Colonel Nichols, of the 14th, to wait until the enemy were close upon him, then fire one volley and follow this with a bayonet charge.

When Kemper's Brigade had advanced to within 100 yards of Nichols' line, the colonel ordered part of his regiment to their feet in order to make some change in the line. At this, Kemper's line suddenly changed direction toward the northeast and marched across Stannard's front. The Vermonters had no way of knowing that this movement of Kemper's had nothing to do with the appearance of Nichols' men, but was made to maintain alignment with Garnett's Brigade on their left. Nevertheless, "it was a terribly costly movement for the enemy," recorded Lieutenant Benedict. The 14th Vermont opened fire by battalion (five companies, or about 300-400 men in this regiment).

Moments later, the 13th Vermont, still lying down behind their rail breastwork, commenced firing. "We could see them drop faster than we could count them along their lines," recalled Sergeant Scott, of that regiment. Lieutenant Benedict observed that "a line of dead rebels at the close showed distinctly where they marched across the front of the Vermonters." There were nearly 1,200 riflemen in these two regiments. If they were firing a minimum of two shots per minute, then in five minutes Kemper's flank regiments would have been on the receiving end of nearly 12,000 minie balls. [73]

On Hays' front, Pettigrew's Division encountered a similarly murderous musketry fire. Hays' regiments waited until the Southerners reached the Emmitsburg Road and began to climb the fences lining the road. Then the command "fire" rang out along the Union line. Hundreds of muskets and rifles crashed, "and the men dropped from the fence as if swept by a gigantic sickle swung by some powerful force of nature." The historian of the 14th Connecticut recalled, "the numbers of slain and wounded could not be estimated by numbers, but must be measured by yards." Sergeant Bowen observed that Pettigrew's men "fell like wheat before the garner" to the fire of the 12th New Jersey's smoothbore muskets, "but still they came." [74]

Pettigrew and Trimble, in the supporting line, were also receiving a deadly flank fire from the 8th Ohio, which had changed front west of the Emmitsburg Road to rake the Confederate line as it passed. However, the 8th was not the only unit from Hays' line that moved to assail Pettigrew's and Trimble's flank. Captain Samuel C. Armstrong, commanding the picket reserve of Sherrill's brigade, posted in the Emmitsburg Road, led his command, and any other scattered skirmishers he encountered and could get to join him, down the Emmitsburg Road, toward the enemy flank. He posted his men behind a rail fence, apparently on the west side of the Emmitsburg Road and running at right angles to the Confederate line of advance. "Leveling their guns on the top rail they made every shot tell," recalled Armstrong. Meanwhile, east of the Road, Hays ordered that portion of his line positioned north of the Brian farm to swing forward, forming on the fence that enclosed Brian's lane to the Emmitsburg Road. Captain Armstrong recalled this movement and remembered that "there was considerable shirking, but perhaps 200 men of various commands closed in upon that ill fated left flank at close range."

Despite the devastating fire poured in upon them, Pettigrew's and Trimble's men advanced quite close to Hays' works at some points. From the perspective of Captain Charles W. Belknap, of the 125th New York, he feared "that our line would give way as I noticed the uneasiness of some of the men." But at this crucial moment, some men, Belknap did not state who, started to cheer, "and the spirit was spread along the line and cheer on cheer rent the air and we all fought with increased vigor and the ranks of the foe became confused and broken and they were forced back."

Despite courage that won the admiration of nearly every man on Hays' line, Pettigrew's and Trimble's men were unable to make a single penetration on Hays' front. "It is of no use, flesh and blood can't stand it," wrote Albert Emmell, of the 12th New Jersey. Those Confederates who did advance close to the Union works, according to Sergeant Bowen, "were too completely shattered to accomplish anything and most of those still uninjured came in and surrendered." On Hays' front, tremendous firepower, combined with position, and the initiative and courage of those units that struck the enemy flank, had carried the day. "The angel of death alone can produce such afield as was presented," wrote Alexander Hays of the carnage his command had inflicted. [76]

On Gibbon's front victory did not come as easily. Although Stannard's fire caused great damage to Kemper and sowed much confusion, the left of that brigade, Garnett's Brigade, and Armistead's, in the supporting line, pressed on toward Cemetery Ridge. Major Edmund Rice, of the 19th Massachusetts, described their advance:

"Pickett's separate brigade lines lost their formation as they swept across the Emmitsburg road, carrying with them their chain of skirmishers. They pushed on toward the crest, and merged into one crowding, rushing line, many ranks deep. As they crossed the road, Webb's infantry, on the right of the trees, commenced an irregular, hesitating fire, gradually increasing to a rapid file firing, while the shrapnel and canister from the batteries tore gaps through those splendid Virginia battalions." [77]

Colonel Hall ordered the 20th Massachusetts and 7th Michigan to open fire at 200 yards. Some of Harrow's regiments also opened at this range. The rest of Hall's regiments held their fire until the Confederates were within 100 yards. Captain Abbott wrote that the fire of the 20th Massachusetts "bowled them over like nine pins, picking out the colors first. In two minutes there were only groups of two or three men running round wildly, like chickens with their heads off" Fred Oesterle, in the 7th Michigan, recalled that his regiment's volley checked the enemy line but did not stop them. They pressed on "only to be mowed down like grain." Still they advanced, and Colonel Steere, commanding the 7th, ordered his men to fix bayonets. But before the action came to hand-to-hand work, the enemy moved off by the left flank toward Webb's front. [78]

At nearly every point on Hall's and Harrow's front the Confederates met the same murderous fire that completely checked their advance. Major Rice recalled that "nothing human could stand" the fire of his regiment, combined with that of the other regiments, and Cowan's and Rorty's canister. Rice continued:

"Staggered by the storm of lead, the charging line hesitated, answered with some wild firing which soon increased to a crashing roll of musketry, running down the whole length of their front, and then all that portion of Pickett's division which came within the zone of this terrible close musketry fire appeared to melt and drift away in the powder-smoke."

Not everyone drifted away however, as Rice believed. Captain Cowan observed several hundred of Pickett's men drop down behind the brushy knoll about 100 yards in front of the Union works. From this covered firing position, these Virginians opened a deadly fire, concentrating particularly upon Cowan and Rorty. [79]

While Harrow and Hall fought it out with Kemper's left and Garnett's right regiments, Webb faced Garnett's center and left. Cushing's guns blasted Garnett's line with canister until their ammunition ran out and the gunners withdrew, leaving their guns behind, and their leader Cushing, dead, shot through the head and killed instantly. The 69th allowed Garnett's men to advance to within 50 yards of their position before Colonel O'Kane gave the command to fire. "The slaughter was terrible," wrote John Buckley of Company K. The two regiments that were probably directly opposite the 69th, the 19th and 28th Virginia, lost 76 officers and men killed, a grim testament to the effectiveness of the 69th's fire. The numerous rifles and muskets the men of the 69th had handy allowed them to pour a continuous fire into their front, completely checking the enemy advance at this point. However, on their right, the left wing of the 71st was unable to check the Confederate advance and Lieutenant Colonel Kochersperger ordered his men to fall back, leaving what Alexander Webb described as one-third of his fence and wall in enemy hands. [80]

Apparently Colonel Smith had not informed General Webb of his orders to Lieutenant Colonel Kochersperger, for Webb wrote his wife after the battle; "When my men fell back I almost wished to get killed. I was almost disgraced." He hurried immediately to the 72nd Pennsylvania, lying behind the crest of the ridge, intending to order that regiment forward to retake the wall before the enemy could recover from their disorder. The regiment rose up and advanced, moving at a right oblique. "I supposed the objective point of our movement to be the north fence," recalled Major Samuel Roberts. When the regiment reached the crest of the ridge, the Confederates at the wall opened fire. "I judged that not less than eighty of our men fell," testified Roberts. So many were knocked out of the ranks that the right of the regiment was reduced to no more than a skirmish line. [81]

Webb understood that the position of the 72nd, then slightly forward of Cemetery Ridge's crest, was too exposed and he wished to have the regiment advance upon the Confederates at the wall "to take advantage of the halt and confusion." He ordered the regiment to fix bayonets and charge. Lieutenant Henry Russell, of Company A, near the left of the regiment, recalled that Webb was near him when he gave this command. Everyone was firing, creating "such a tremendous racket that you couldn't tell who was shooting." Few heard Webb's order to advance. "It couldn't be heard, I don't suppose ten feet away," Russell testified. When the regiment did not respond to his shouted command, Webb ran to the bearer of the regiment's national colors, Sergeant William Finecy. He ordered Finecy "as forcibly as a man could" to advance with the colors. Having been in command of the brigade for only four days, Finecy may not have recognized Webb in the heat of battle. Whatever, he did not move. Webb seized the colors and attempted to pull the Sergeant and his flag forward, but Finecy pulled back, refusing to move or relinquish the flag. Finally, Webb gave up in disgust and started at a walk toward the 69th Pennsylvania, leaving the 72nd in line on the crest. Moments later Sergeant Finecy was riddled by a half dozen balls and killed. [82]

Webb's fear at the moment was that the enemy would cross the wall and gain the cover of the Clump of Trees. As he made his way down to the 69th, there was a stir among the Confederates at the wall, then a crowd of them rose up and surged over the wall, following Brigadier General Lewis Armistead. Webb estimated their numbers at 150 men, but in such excitement no one can be accurate. Now was the moment for the 71st Pennsylvania. Armed with plentiful rifles and muskets, Colonel Smith's right wing opened "a most galling and rapid fire" on Armistead and his men, which "staggered and checked their advance." But Armistead's advance over the wall threatened the exposed right flank and rear of the 69th, and someone, possibly Webb or the regiment's lieutenant colonel, Martin Tschudy, ordered the three right companies to change front to the north. Companies I and A, on the extreme right, somehow managed to carry out this difficult movement, despite the deafening roar of the battle, although Anthony McDermott remembered it was not made in good order. But the captain of Company F was killed before he could give the order to fall back to his company and they remained at the wall, leaving a gap between F and A companies. There were still many Confederates who remained at the wall and there were large numbers in front of the 69th. Those at the wall quickly took advantage of the gap in the 69th's line, crossing the wall and rushing down through the gap onto the flank and rear of Company F. [83]

In moments, Company F was wiped out, every man killed, wounded, or hauled over the wall a POW. But the seconds or minutes it took to destroy F Company allowed Captain Patrick Tinen, commanding D Company, the next in line, to pull his men back from the wall and turn to face their assailants. Here occurred the only hand-to-hand fighting of note in the struggle for The Angle. Muskets were discharged at point-blank range, and in some instances, guns were clubbed. In time that probably could have been measured in seconds, Tinen's company lost 8 dead, 7 wounded, and 2 prisoners, but in the opinion of one member of the regiment, their stand "saved the regiment from being enveloped and possible capture." Among the dead was Hugh Bradley, the Irish immigrant, his skull crushed by a Confederate musket butt. By this point every field officer in the 69th was down; O'Kane and Tschudy mortally wounded, and Major Duffy severely. The main body of the regiment fell back several paces from the wall, into the slashing of brush they had created. There was little order by this point, the men simply gathered near the regimental colors in a mob. "Everybody was loading and firing as fast as they could," testified Joseph McKeever,"We thought we were all gone," he continued. [84]

Confusion also reigned on the 69th's left. Cowan's battery had been blasting the Confederates in their front, and behind the brushy knoll, with canister, but one of the guns apparently was elevated too low and its canister struck the left companies of the 69th and possibly the right companies of the 59th New York. At least four men in the 69th were killed by this fire and an unknown number wounded. When the main body of the regiment fell back from the wall, the left companies went with them, but some men, including men of the 59th New York, demoralized by the fire from both front and rear, fled to the rear. Cowan recalled one was a captain. "He ran like a turkey, with his sword tucked under his arm, and his face distorted with fear," wrote Cowan. This left Cowan's front unprotected by infantry, something the enemy attempted to exploit. A group of Virginians, who had been lying down behind the brushy knoll, suddenly leaped up and bolted for Cowan's guns, led by a young field officer. Cowan's gunners quickly thumped double charges of canister down their five tubes and as the Confederates crossed the wall the guns were discharged, "hurling 220 chunks of lead from each of the five guns upon them." No one was left standing when the smoke cleared. With his immediate infantry supports gone, Cowan did not intend to remain where he was, and he ordered his guns pulled back by hand.

Although Cowan's storm of canister had checked one threat to the Union line, the situation at The Angle posed a more serious dilemma. Pickett's men had advanced into the slashing in front of the Union works, up to the works previously held by the 69th, into the edge of the Clump of Trees, and around Cushing's abandoned guns. Of this moment, Alexander Webb wrote, with some exaggeration, "the army of the Potomac was nearer being whipped than it was at any time of the battle." It may not have been as bad as he believed, but it was a moment of crisis. The least serious of these lodgements or penetrations into the Union line was Armistead's. Although this is the most famous, Armistead's advance died in a hail of bullets from the right wing of the 71st Pennsylvania, the 72nd Pennsylvania, and companies I and A of the 69th.

Armistead went down with a mortal wound, and afterwards Colonel Smith, of the 71st, counted 30 dead Virginians near him. Those not hit by this converging fire, dashed back behind the stone wall and returned it. All of this took but moments to transpire. Dislodging the Confederates at the wall, in the slashing, and in the Clump of Trees, proved more difficult, for at all of these points the Southerners had some cover for protection.

Hancock was riding down past the Clump of Trees when the break occurred on Webb's line. He galloped up to Colonels Arthur Deveraux, of the 19th Massachusetts, and James E. Mallon, of the 42nd New York. Both of these officers, commanding Hall's reserve line, were standing together at the moment. They had observed the confusion at The Angle and saw a number of Confederate battle flags crossing the Union works. "I had just remarked to Mallon that we must move - there were occasions when you could not afford to wait for orders," recalled Deveraux. Just at this instant, Hancock came thundering up. Deveraux pointed his sword at the enemy crossing the Union works and said he thought they - the 19th and 42nd - should go in there immediately. "Go in there pretty God damned quick," replied Hancock and he dashed off, toward Stannard's brigade, which was in the act of wheeling the 13th and 16th Vermont out to strike the flank of Pickett's Division. [87]

Major Rice, of the 19th Massachusetts, recalled that the men on the left of his regiment heard Hancock's brief orders to Deveraux and were up and on the move immediately. The remainder of the 19th and Mallon's regiment moved moments later at the right oblique and double-quick. The men moved with little regard for order; in fact, Deveraux recalled they "got up there in pretty bad order." But they added about 350 officers and men precisely where they were needed, and saved the 69th Pennsylvania from being completely enveloped from their rear. Some of Pickett's men had just reached the eastern or southern edge of the Clump of Trees when the 19th and 42nd came rushing up. Deveraux testified that when his and Mallon's regiments met the enemy, "they met so fiercely that there was a little rebound." Both lines halted and commenced blazing away at one another at a distance that Deveraux measured afterward of "a little short of fifteen paces." [88]

The movement of the 19th Massachusetts and 42nd New York had checked the Southern tide, but the Virginians fought on stubbornly, exacting a heavy toll of their assailants. Help was on its way, however. When Colonel Hall observed the break in Webb's line, he went down the line to two regiments that he did not identify. They may have belonged to Harrow's brigade, or possibly they were Colonel Gates demi-brigade. Whoever they were, Hall tried to get them to move to the right toward the break, but a sharp fire, probably from Southerners in the slashing and at the brushy knoll, forced them to crowd to the cover of the Union works, mixing in with other regiments. Hall found it impossible to sort out the resulting confusion and he determined he had no choice but to move his own brigade toward the break. The remnants of the 59th New York, the 7th Michigan, and the 20th Massachusetts, all were ordered back from their works and directed to move immediately toward the break. This was easier ordered than accomplished. No one could hear commands over the din of the firing. When the 7th Michigan received their orders to move, only the men immediately around Lieutenant Colonel Amos E. Steele heard the command. The other officers of the regiment, not knowing what the orders were, thought their men were retreating and tried to force them back to the works. So only part of the regiment dashed off with Steele, who moments later fell with a bullet through his brain. [89]

The 20th Massachusetts encountered the same difficulty in moving as a body. "It was impossible to make an order heard," reported Captain Abbott. So, Colonel Macy ordered Abbott to move his company toward the break and Macy would attempt to get the other companies to follow. "Capt. Abbott led gallantly off and his men followed him without regard to order; but in a small compact body with guns charged and bayonets fixed," wrote Macy. The other companies followed as they received their orders from Macy. [90]

Harrow's regiments and Gates demi-brigade, followed the example of Hall, rising up from their works and rushing up toward the break. The axis of their advance brought these two commands in on the left of Hall's regiments. Pickett's riflemen in the slashing, at the brushy knoll, and behind the stone wall took a heavy toll from their ranks, particularly of officers. Macy, of the 20th Massachusetts, and Colonel Heath, of the 19th Maine, were wounded, and Captain Nathan Messick, commanding the 1st Minnesota, was killed. As Harrow and Gates men crowded up toward the Clump of Trees, they exchanged fire principally with men of Armistead's and Garnett's Brigades, who had taken cover behind the Union works formally occupied by the 69th Pennsylvania and 59th New York. Roles were now reversed, and it was the Union soldiers who were exposed while the Confederates had cover. The range was point-blank - 15 to 20 feet according to Captain Abbott's measurement immediately after the fight. "This was one of those periods in action which are measurable by seconds," wrote the major of the 19th Massachusetts. The Confederates, he continued, "were doing all that was possible to keep off the mixed bodies of men who were moving upon them swiftly and without hesitation, keeping up so close and continuous afire that at last its effects became terrible." [91]

At the height of this deadly close-range firefight, a Confederate battery or batteries, commenced throwing shells at the counterattacking Federals, with, wrote Captain Abbott, "great disregard of their own friends who were so disagreeably near us." Major Rice recalled that one shell "tore a horrible passage through the dense crowd of men in blue, who were gathering outside the trees." Instantly after another shell struck with similar ghastly results.

The combination of close-range musketry and artillery fire created a situation that could not last long. In real life, and real battle, people cannot stand such killing for long. Amos Plaisted thought his regiment had traded fire with Pickett's men for nearly five minutes, when George C. Cunningham, of Company B, called out loudly, "For God's sake, let us charge, they'll kill us all if we stand here." Cunningham's cry animated those around him, and suddenly the 15th Massachusetts surged down in a mass upon the enemy. The other regiments of Harrow's Brigade, and Gates demi-brigade, likewise advanced - it is impossible to determine who moved first, but from the accounts it appears to have been nearly simultaneous. From Captain Abbott's perspective, this advance was possible because his regiment and the others had already inflicted great damage upon the Confederates. "The rebels behaved with about as much pluck as any men in the world could," he wrote; "they stood there, against the fence, until they were nearly all shot down." Abbott and others were not aware that they had received substantial assistance from the 13th Vermont. When the 16th Vermont about-faced to deal with the threat posed by Wilcox's brigades, the 13th continued to advance northward striking the flank of Pickett's men who had found shelter at the brushy knoll and the slashing. This eliminated the source of a particularly deadly fire upon Harrow, Hall and Gates, and it threatened the rear of the Virginians at the wall, who were fighting with the men of these commands. [93]

At nearly the same moment that Harrow's and Gates' regiments started forward, so too did Hall's and Webb's Brigades. The 72nd went forward, led by color Corporal Thomas Murphy, the last member of that regiment's color guard left standing. The staff of the regimental color had been shattered by a bullet, but Murphy held on to the stump, and waving his cap, served as the inspiration for the regiment's advance. Gibbon's aide, Lieutenant Haskall, claimed responsibility for starting Murphy forward. Haskall had tried unsuccessfully to get Major Roberts and Captain Andrew Supplee, of Company A, to lead the advance, so he turned to Murphy, who responded. Whether or not Haskall embellished his story, Murphy did dash forward and the regiment followed. On their left, the two companies of the 106th Pennsylvania moved forward, and beyond them, went Hall's regiments. Their advance relieved the beleaguered 69th Pennsylvania, who had fought on despite being nearly surrounded by the enemy. "Men, arms, smoke, fire, a fighting mass; it rolls to the wall" wrote Lieutenant Haskall. This general advance coincided with a collapse of Confederate resistance. They had, as Captain Abbott said, "behaved with as much pluck as any men in the world could," but they had encountered men of equal pluck and courage. The men of Hall's, Harrow's, Webb's, and Stannard's brigades, and Gates demi-brigade, had reacted to the breakthrough at The Angle decisively, and with a grim courage and determination to hurl back their gallant adversaries. [94]

Hundreds of Confederates raised their hands in surrender, or threw themselves upon the ground, for those who continued to resist or attempted to escape drew fire. Amos Plaisted wrote years later with grim honesty, that his regiment was "obliged to fire through those who were ready to come in and many were killed coming towards us." But gradually the firing subsided as the Confederate survivors either surrendered or escaped beyond the range of Union musketry. Battle flags, swords, and other trophies of victory were seized and borne aloft in triumph. The Army of the Potomac would not again taste victory like this until the Battle of Five Forks in April 1865. [95] Among those who bore a captured color to the rear was the 37 year old former seaman, Ben Falls, of the 19th Massachusetts. The color was one of four taken by the 19th that afternoon. [96]

The victory, so costly to the Confederates, had come dear to the defenders. Both Hancock and Gibbon were wounded, and many other valuable officers were dead or wounded. Men like Cushing, Rorty, Card, Steele, Messick, Woodruff, Sherrill, had sealed their army's victory with their lives. Their places would be filled by promotions, but men of their stamp were growing fewer in the army. Assessing the loss of the rank and file is difficult, since most regiments recorded their losses for the entire battle, and not by individual days. Webb's Brigade can offer some idea of the cost. The 69th lost 34 killed, 68 wounded, and 17 captured and the 72nd Pennsylvania had 44 killed, 146 wounded, and 2 missing. Colonel Smith, of the 71st Pennsylvania, did not exaggerate when he wrote after the battle, "it is a graveyard." [97]

The natural strength of the Cemetery Ridge position, the devastating effect of their artillery, and the advantage of fighting on the defensive, all contributed to the victory of Union arms over Lee's grand assault. Yet, these factors only partially explain their success. It had taken hard fighting and raw courage to turn back Lee's brave men. Soldiers like Cushing and Rorty, Webb and Hays, and hundreds of others had fought with a determination to whip the enemy at any cost. A member of Stannard's Brigade, writing from the perspective of a front-line infantrymen, believed "that we beat them off by having good pluck, some officers who knew their duty when we were shaky, and a fire of musketry that human beings could not stand." Yet, Alexander Webb may have struck upon the true reason the defenders of Cemetery Ridge had prevailed, when he wrote his wife, "You must recollect that [at] Gettysburg the fate of a country depended upon individuals." [98]


1. Anthony McDermott to John Bachelder, 6/2/1886, Bachelder Papers, New Hampshire Historical Society, Copy Gettysburg NMP Library. Hereafter abbreviated as BP. This is not to say that the Union defenders on Cemetery Ridge did not enjoy a significant advantage of position over the attackers. The disadvantage of the position was its exposure to artillery fire, which Lee hoped to exploit.

2. Meade had Butterfield send a dispatch to Major General John Sedgwick at 8 a.m. on the 3rd, advising him that from information received from Generals Warren and Howard, Meade believed the enemy intended to "pierce our center." He wanted Sedgwick to place whatever force he could spare "in a central position near where they can support Howard or be thrown to the right or left, as required." See, U.S. Department of War, War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. (Washington, D.C., 1880-1901). Series I, Vol. 51, pt. 1, 1068 (The Official Records will be cited hereafter as, OR 51, Pt. 1, 1068).

3. Unless otherwise noted, all combat strengths and losses are drawn from two sources; OR 27, Pt. 1, 168-187, and, John W. Busey and David G. Martin, Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg (Longstreet House: Hightstown, NJ, 1986).

4. James Wright Reminiscence, 1st Minnesota Infantry Vertical File, Gettrysburg National Military Park Library (hereinafter abbreviated as GNMPL). Executive Committee, Maine at Gettysburg: Report of Maine Commissioners, (Portland, 1898), 294. OR 27, Pt. 1, 426.

5. OR 27, Pt. 1, 432.

6. OR 27, Pt. 1, 469, 470.

7. Eric Campbell, "Remember Harper's Ferry: The Degredation, Humiliation, and Redemption of Col. George L. Willard's Brigade," Gettysburg Magazine, no. 7, (July, 1992), 75.

8. Volunteers were drawn from the infantry regiments to help crew understrength batteries along Cemetery Ridge, which further weakened the front line strength of some units. The 71st Pennsylvania, for instance, provided 50 volunteers to Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery. See, OR 27, Pt. 1, 432. Frank A. Haskall, The Battle of Gettysburg, (Mudge Press, Boston, 1908), 41. James A. Wright Reminiscence, Minnesota Historical Society.

9. OR 27, pt. 1, 478.

10. David Schultz. "Double Canister at Ten Yards:" The Federal Artillery and Repulse of Pickett's Charge. (Rank and File Publications: Redondo Beach, CA, 1995), 6-7. George F. Stewart, in his book Pickett's Charge noted that McGilvery's line was organized with the rifled guns on the right and smoothbores on the left, indicating that he and the Union Chief of Artillery, Brigadier General Henry Hunt, arranged the line principally to meet an attack from the direction of the Peach Orchard. See, Stewart, Pickett's Charge, (Morningside Bookshop: Dayton, OH, 1980), 73.

11. Stewart, Pickett's Charge. 74.

12. Schultz, "Double Canister at Ten Yards", 8.

13. Busey gives the battle strength of the 19th Massachusetts as 163, and the 42nd New York as 197. Both of these regiments had suffered some casualties on the 2nd. See, Busey, 41.

14. It was common for the low stone walls to have a rail fence built over the wall - commonly known as a rider fence.

15. Robert Whittick Testimony, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Appeal of the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, From the Decree of the Court of Common Pleas of Adams County, May term, 1891, nos. 20 and 30. (hereafter cited as 72nd Penna. vs. GBMA, 81). This case concerned the placement of the 72nd Pennsylvania Monument on the front line rather than where the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association had assigned them; in the reserve line. Numerous veterans of the regiments that fought in the Angle testified.

16. OR 27, Pt. 1, 437, 445, 428. James A. Wright Reminiscence. C. G. Benedict. Vermont at Gettysburg, (The Free Press Assoc.; Burlington, VT, 1870), 96.

17. Robert Whittick Testimony, 72nd Penna. vs. GBMA, 80. OR 27, Pt. I, 452. Colonel Robert P. Smith, commanding the 71st Pennsylvania, wrote that the 69th were on picket duty the night of July 2nd, which would account for their accumulation of weapons and failure to improve their defenses. However, no one in the 69th recorded that they were on picket duty that evening - but, they may had simply felt it was unimportant. See, "The Battle, The Part Taken by the Philadelphia Brigade in the Battle," Gettysburg Compiler, June 7, 1887.

18. The deployment of the defenders of Cemetery Ridge is well documented in John Bachelder's isometric map of 1863, and in his three map study of the battle, completed in 1876. However, some questions remain. For instance, the positioning of the 71st Pennsylvania, Arnold's battery, and the 14th Connecticut is uncertain. There does not seem to be enough room for Arnold to fit in here between the 71st's right wing and the 14th. The 1868-1869 Warren Map shows a stone wall that ran south from the recessed angle, which no longer exists. If it existed during the battle, this may be the wall the right wing of the 71st was posted behind, which would mean that they were in rear of their comrades of the left wing. There is also some question as to how much of the 71st were posted in the Angle. According to Anthony McDermott, who was in Company I, of the 69th Pennsylvania, on the extreme right of the regiment, only two companies of the 71st were advanced to the angle. There is additional testimony in the court case over the placement of the 72nd Pennsylvania's monument that supports this statement. However, the commander of the 71st, Colonel R. Penn Smith, maintained that the left wing of the regiment were posted in the angle. Although there does not seem to be enough space between the 69th and the angle for five companies, they would have numbered only about 100 officers and men. Standard doctrine held that one man occupied about two feet, or about one pace. A double rank of riflemen would be 80 men. Adding the file closers and officers and 100 men probably could fit into 40 paces. For the various opinions and statements on this, see, OR 27, Pt. 1, 428, 431, 435, 477. Anthony McDermott to John Bachelder, Oct. 21, 1889, BP. "The Battle," Gettysburg Compiler, June 7, 1887. R. Penn Smith to My Dear General (Isaac Wistar), July 29, 1863, Isaac Wistar Papers, Library of the Wistar Institute.

19. Survivors Association. History of the 121st Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, rev. ed., (Philadelphia, 1906), 59. OR 27, Pt. 1, 316, 318, 336.

20. Ralph Sturtevant, Pictorial History Thirteenth Vermont Volunteers: War of 1861-1865, (n.p., 1910), v. 2, 283. Wheelock G. Veazey to G. G. Benedict, July 11, 1864, Vermont Historical Society. Wheelock Veazey to John Bachelder, no date, BP. Veazey stated that his picket reserve was six rods (about 30-35 yards) in front of the 14th Vermont after they advanced to their forward position on July 3. The 14th stated they advanced ten rods (55 yards) to a new position after being shelled on the morning of the 3rd. Hence, the distance deduced that Veazey's reserve was posted is 80 to 100 yards in advance of the brigade line of battle. See also, G. G. Benedict to Bachelder, March 16, 1864, BP.

21. Stannard, "Diary Extracts," in The Bachelder Papers, v. 1, edited by David and Audrey Ladd, (Morningside Press, 1996), 55. The artillery fire was opened by Hill's corps and responded to by the Union artillery along Cemetery Ridge. Some of Longstreet's artillery may have also participated, for some of Stannard's men recorded that they did. Benedict to Bachelder, March 16, 1864, BP. Ralph Sturtevant says that this morning artillery exchange lasted for "an hour or more." See, Sturtevant, Thirteenth Regiment Vermont Volunteers, 283.

22. Ibid., 289. George Benedict to Bachelder, March 16, 1864, BP. George H. Scott, "Vermont at Gettysburgh," Proceedings of the Vermont Historical Society, (1930), v. 1, no. 2, 75-77. Colonel Theodore Gates, of the 20th New York State Militia, wrote that the breastwork the 13th built was about one hundred feet in front of his line. See Gates to Bachelder, January 30, 1864, BP.

23. Wheelock Veazey letter, no date, BP. Winfield Hancock to Bachelder, December 17, 1885, BP. The ground occupied by the 13th, 14th and 16th Vermont was altered by the construction of the Gettysburg & Harrisburg Railroad, whose tracks ran right through their position, and the Gettysburg trolley line. The construction of Hancock Avenue, by the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, eliminated some of the historic vegetative cover that partially concealed Stannard's men.

24. The Adjutant General, Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War. (Norwood Press: Norwood, MA, 1931), vol. 2, 416. Hugh Bradley Pension File, National Archives. Sturtevant, Thirteenth Regiment Vermont Volunteers, 470. Robert G. Scott. Fallen Leaves: The Civil War Letters of Major Henry Livermore Abbott, (Kent State Univ. Press, 1991), 184. George W. Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U. S. Military Academy. vol. II, (James Miller: New York, 1879), 555.

25. Sturtevant, Thirteenth Regiment Vermont Volunteers, 489.

26. Tully McRae, Reminiscence About Gettysburg, (March 30, 1904), George Stanley Smith Collection, Copy GNMPL.

27. Webb to My Dear James, Aug. 15, 1863, Alexander Webb Papers, Yale University. Lewis R. Stegman, ed., In Memoriam: Alexander Stewart Webb 1835-1911, (Albany: J. B. Lyon Printers, 1916), 96. Frank A. Boyle, A Party of Mad Fellows: The Story of the Irish Regiments in the Army of the Potomac. (Morningside Press: Dayton, OH, 1996), 258-259. For Owen's record see, Ezra Warner, Generals in Blue, (Louisiana State Univ. Press: Baton Rouge and London, 1964), 353-354.

28. Campbell, "Remember Harper's Ferry," 57.

29. William K. Winkler, ed., Letters of Frederick C. Winkler, (Privately Printed, 1963), 52.

30. Meade revealed his opinion of Doubleday in a letter to his wife on January 23, 1863. He wrote, "Doubleday has been assigned to the Reserves, which is a good thing for me, for now they will think a great deal more of me than before." See, George G. Meade, The Life and Letters of George Cordon Meade, (Charles Scribner's Sons: New York, 1913), vol. 1, 349.

31. George T. Fleming, ed., Life and Letters of Alexander Hays, (Pittsburgh, 1919), 349. Scott, ed., Fallen Leaves, 188. Chauncey L. Harris to Father, July 4, 1863, in, Geo. H. Washburn, A Complete Military History and Record of the 108th Regiment N.Y. Vols. From 1862 to 1894, (Rochester, NY, 1894), 52. A good account of Hays's command ability on July 2nd, and on the morning of July 3d, is, Elwood Christ, The Struggle for the Bliss Farm at Gettysburg July 2nd and 3rd 1863: "Over a Hot, Wide, Crimson Plain", (Butternut and Blue: Baltimore, 1993).

32. John T Hubbell & James W. Geary, Biographical Dictionary of the Union, (Greenwood Press; Westport, CT, 1995), 574. Webb to Dearest Annie, July 27, 1863, Webb Papers, Yale University.

33. Steward Sifakis, Who Was Who in the Union, (Facts on File: New York, 1988), 171. Scott, Fallen Leaves, 192-193. Abbott added that Hall "suffered very much during the campaign, but bore up through every thing, battle & all, with as much self control as I ever witnessed."

34. Bio. Dictionary of the Union, 240-241. Scott, ed., Fallen Leaves, 191. Webb to his Wife, Aug. 22, 1863. Greg Coco, ed., From Ball's Bluff to Gettysburg and Beyond: The Civil War Letters of Private Roland E. Bowen, 15th Massachusetts Infantry 1861-1864, (Thomas Publications; Gettysburg, PA, 1994), 201.

35. Who Was Who in the Union, 380. Smyth was promoted to brigadier general October 1, 1864 and was killed in action on April 7, 1865 near Farmville, Virginia, the last Union general to die in the war.

36. George T. Fleming, ed., Life and Letters of Alexander Hays. 422. OR 19, pt. 1, 672. For a full discussion of the events that led to Sherrill's arrest see, Eric A. Campbell, "Remember Harper's Ferry," 73-75.

37. Ibid., 99.

38. Who Was Who in the Union, 386. Edward H. Ripley, "Memories of the Ninth Vermont at Harper's Ferry," Personal Recollections of the War of the Rebellion: Addresses Delivered Before the Commandary of the State of New York, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, (Reprint, Broadfoot Publishing: Wilmington, NC, 1992), 144. Sturtevant, Thirteenth Vermont Regiment History, 293.

39. According to Colonel Veazey, of the 16th Vermont, the Confederates engaged his skirmish line around 3:45 a.m. See Veazey to George Benedict, July 11, 1864, Vermont Historical Society. Haskall, The Battle of Gettysburg, 40-41. James A. Wright Reminiscence, Minnesota Historical Society.

40. Veazey to Benedict, July 11, 1864, Vermont Historical Society. Letter of Wheelock Veazey, no date, Bachelder Papers. Theodore B. Gates to Bachelder, January 30, 1864, BP. Frederick Fuger, "Cushing's Battery at Gettysburg," Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States, v. 41 (1907), 407. Lieutenant Theron Parsons diary, in, Washburn, 108th Regiment N.Y. Vols, 50. OR 19, Pt. 1, 478.

41. George L. Yost to his Father, July 4, 1863, Vertical File (VF) 6-NY126, GNMPL.

42. Sturtevant, Thirteenth Regiment Vermont Volunteers, 288-289. Thomas F. Galwey, The Valiant Hours (Stackpole Co.: Harrisburg, 1961, 110.

43. Sturtevant, Thirteenth Regiment Vermont Volunteers, 288-289. James A. Wright Reminiscence, Minnesota Historical Society. Galwey, The Valiant Hours, 112.

44. Anthony McDermott to Bachelder, June 2, 1886, BP. George A. Bruce. The Twentieth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry 1861-1865, (Houghton, Mifflin & Co.; Boston and New York, 1906), 288. Sturtevant, Thirteenth Regiment Vermont Volunteers, 797.

45. G. Benedict, Vermont at Gettysburg, 96. McDermott to Bachelder, June 2, 1886, BP.

46. Benedict, Vermont at Gettysburg, 97. Galwey, The Valiant Hours, 112. Sturtevant, Thirteenth Regiment Vermont Infantry, 293.

47. Undated letter of Sgt. John W. Plummer to his brother, Brake Collection, USAMHI. John Reynolds, "The Nineteenth Massachusetts at Gettysburg, July 2-3-4," VF6-MA19, GNMPL.

48. John W. Plummer to his brother, undated letter, Brake Coll., USAMHI. Robert L. Bee,

49. ed., "Ben Hirst's Narrative," in, Gary Gallagher, ed., The Third Day at Gettysburg and Beyond, (Univ. of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill & London, 1994), 140-141.

50. John Reynolds, "The Nineteenth Massachusetts at Gettysburg July 2-3-4." Joseph McKeever testimony, The 72nd Penna. vs. the GBMA, 266. Geo. H. Scott, "Vermont at Gettysburg," 75.

51. John H. Rhodes, "The Gettysburg Gun." Personal Narratives of Events in the War of the Rebellion, Being Papers Read Before the Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors Historical Society. v. VII, (Reprint, Broadfoot Pub.: Wilmington, NC, 1993), 393.

52. Christopher Smith, "Bloody Angle," Gettysburg Newspaper Clippings, v. 4, 41-42. Gibbon, Personal Recollections, 146-150.

53. Albert Straight to his brother, quoted in, John H. Rhodes. The History of Battery B First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery. (Providence, 1894), 210. R. Penn Smith to Isaac Wistar, July 29, 1863, Wistar Papers. Haskall, The Battle of Gettysburg, 52.

54. Rhodes, "The Gettysburg Gun." 394-395. The shell that killed Gardner and Jones was the third one that struck this particular gun. Thomas M. Alldrich, The History of Battery, A First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery, (Providence, 1904), 219.

55. Alldrich, The History of Battery A, 219. Frederick Fuger, "Cushing's Battery at Gettysburg," 409. Theron Parsons diary, quoted in Washburn, 108th Regiment New York Volunteers, 50. OR 27, Pt: 1, 177, 432. Colonel Smith's statement in his report that 50 men of his regiment assisted Cushing is probably an error, or a mistake made by whoever transcribed his report for the official records. He told a reporter of the Philadelphia Weekly Times that 15 men, who he remembered by name, volunteered to help the battery. The casualties in the official returns do not generally agree with those recalled by members of the various batteries. Generally, losses were higher than those initially reported. John Reynolds, "The Nineteenth Massachusetts at Gettysburg," GNMPL.

56. Cook, "Personal Reminiscences of Gettysburg" 333. Jacob Bechtal to Miss Connie, July 6, 1863, Typescript, File V6-NY59, GNMPL. Webb to My Dear Wife, July 6, 1863, in, 72nd Penna. vs. GBMA, 316. Veazey to Bachelder, No Date, BP. Sturtevant, Thirteenth Regiment Vermont Volunteers, 295.

57. Chauncey Harris to Father, July 4, 1863, and Theron Parsons diary, quoted in, Washburn, 108th Regiment New York Volunteers, 50, 52. David Shields to Bachelder, August 27, 1884, BP.

58. James Wright reminiscence, Minnesota Historical Society, Ben Hirst's Narrative, The Third Day at Gettysburg and Beyond. 140. McDermott to Bachelder, June 2, 1886, BP. Cook, "Personal Reminiscence of Gettysburg," 333. Veazey to Benedict, July 11, 1864, Vermont Historical Society. Ben Hirst's Narrative, The McDermott to Bachelder, June 2, 1886, BP. Veazey to Benedict, July 11, 1864, Vermont Historical Society. Galwey, The Valiant Hours. 113. Actually, the reaction described by Veazey and Galwey, during periods of long shelling is not unusual. Soldiers on other Civil War battlefields recorded a similar phenomenon, and it was often reported during periods of sustained shellings in WWI.

59. James Ford Rhodes, History of the Civil War, 1861-1865, (New York: The Macmillin Co., 1917), 238. Hancock's quote, "there are times when a corps commander's life does not count," was told to Rhodes by William Livermore, an lieutenant in the 5th New Hampshire Infantry, who had charge of the 1st Division ambulance train during the battle. The quote may well be apocryphal, but it is in keeping with Hancock's character. Gibbon, Personal Recollections, 146-150. Haskell, The Battle of Gettysburg, 54-55. Sturtevant, 13th Vermont, 285. George T. Fleming, ed., Life and Letters of Alexander Hays, (Pittsburgh: Gilbert Adams Hays, 1919), 442.

60. Waitt, History of the Nineteenth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, (Salem; Salem Press Co., 1906), 235. Smith, "Bloody Angle," Vertical Files, V6-US4A, GNMPL.

61. Shields to Bachelder, August 24, 1884, BP.

62. Scott, Fallen Leaves, 186. John W. Plummer to his Brother, August 26, 1863, Brake Collection, USAMHI. OR 27, Pt, 1, 480. Rhodes, The History of Battery B, 211-212. Webb testimony, 72nd Penna. vs. GBMA, 159. John Reynolds, "The Nineteenth Massachusetts at Gettysburg," GNMPL. Washburn, A Complete Military History and Record of the 108th N.Y. Vols., 50, 52. It is impossible to fix with precision the number of Hazard's guns that were silenced by the bombardment. Participants recollections were understandably hazy on this fact afterwards.

63. Cowan, "When Cowan's Battery Withstood Pickett's Splendid Charge," Vertical File 6-NYl-ART, GNMPL. Rhodes, History of Battery B, 211. It is possible that Hunt granted Webb authority to replace Brown's battery with Cowan's, although the record is not clear on this point.

64. For the re-deployment of Sherrill's brigade during the cannonade see, Campbell, "Remember Harper's Ferry," 99-104.

65. Fuger, "Cushing's Battery at Gettysburg," 408. Fuger maintained that Cushing received all of his wounds during the Confederate infantry's advance. However, Captain Andrew Cowan clearly remembered that Cushing had already been wounded when his battery came into position, before the infantry advance. See, Cowan to Bachelder, Dec. 2, 1885, BP. R. Penn Smith, "The Battle," Vertical File V6-PA71, GNMPL.

66. Haskell, The Battle of Gettysburg, 57.

67. Frederick W. Oesterle Reminiscence, Civil War Times Illustrated Collection, USAMHI.

68. Michael Yost to his Father, July 4, 1863, Typescript, Vertical File V6-NY126, GNMPL. Chauncy L. Harris to His Father, July 4, 1863, in, Washburn, 108th Regiment New York Volunteers, 52.

69. McDermott to Bachelder, June 2, 1886, BP. John D. Smith, The History of the Nineteenth Regiment of Maine Volunteer Infantry 1862-1865. (Minneapolis, 1909), 99. Scott, Fallen Leaves, 188.

70. Smith, "The Battle," GNMPL. Smith to My Dear General, July 29, 1863, Wistar Institute. Joseph McKeever Testimony, 72nd Penna. Vs. GBMA, 259. James A. Wright Reminiscence, Minnesota Historical Society.

71. Chauncey Harris to Dear Father, July 4, 1863, in, Washburn, 108th Regiment New York Volunteers, 52. McDermott to Bachelder, June 2, 886, BP.

72. "The Diary of Captain George A. Bowen 12th New Jersey Volunteers," The Valley Forge Journal, v '11, no. 1 (June 1984), 133. Scott, "Vermont at Gettysburgh," 77. Scott mentions sharpshooters picking out officers. Sergeant William Ramsey, of the 150th Pennsylvania, also recalled that some sharpshooters were posted with his regiment. See, Ramsey to Bachelder, April 16, 1883, BP.

73. McDermott to Bachelder, June 2, 1886. McDermott, "The 69th at Gettysburg," Philadelphia Weekly Press, June 11, 1887.

74. Tully McRea, "Reminiscences About Gettysburg," Vertical File V6-US1-ART, GNMPL. Fuger, "Cushing's Battery at Gettysburg," 408. Fuger said that Battery A opened fire at 400 yards.

75. G. Benedict, Vermont at Gettysburgh, 102. Stannard, "Diary Extracts," BP. Veazey to Benedict, July 11, 1864, Vermont Historical Society.

76. Charles D. Page, Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. (Horton Printing Co.: Meridan, CT, 1906), 152. "The Diary of Captain George D. Bowen," 133.

77. OR 27, pt. 1, 462. Samuel C. Armstrong to Bachelder, Feb. 6, 1884, Feb. 13, 1884, BP. Emerson L. Bicknell to Bachelder, Aug. 6, 1883, BP.

78. Charles W. Belknap diary, Vertical File V6-NY125, Donated by Elsie Nelson, GNMPL. "The Life and Experiences of Albert Stokes Emmell," Vertical File V6-NJ12, GNMPL. George A. Bowen diary, Vertical File V6-12NJ, donated by John H. Wade, GNMPL. OR 27, pt. 1, 454. Both brigade commanders on Hays' line were casualties. Smyth was badly wounded in the face by a shell during the cannonade, and Sherrill was mortally wounded, while riding near the 39th New York, on the left of his line. For more details on Sherrill's death, see, Eric Campbell, "Remember Harper's Ferry," 95-110.

79. Edmund Rice, "Rebelling Lee's Last Blow at Gettysburg," Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. vo. III, (New York, 1956), 387.

80. Scott, Fallen Leaves, 188. Frederick W. Oesterle Reminiscence, CWTI Collection, USAMHI. OR 27, Pt. 1, 450.

81. Rice, "Repelling Lee's Last Blow at Gettysburg," 387. Andrew Cowan, Address at the dedication of the monument to Brigadier General Alexander Webb, in, Webb And His Brigade At The Angle, (J. B. Lyon Co.: Albany, 1916), 66.

82. Fuger, "Cushing's Battery at Gettysburg," 408. Fuger's statement that his men stood and fought with handspikes and rammers was refuted by testimony given during the court battle between the 72nd Pennsylvania and the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association. Anthony McDermott, who was in Company I, where Cushing's guns were located, stated positively that the cannoneers left the guns after firing their final shots. See, 72nd Penna. vs. GBMA, 227. John Buckley to Bachelder, no date, BP. R. Penn Smith, "The Battle." Webb to his Father, July 17, 1863, Webb Papers, Yale University.

83. Webb to his Wife, July 6, 1863, Webb Papers, Yale University. Samuel Roberts testimony, 72nd Penna. vs. GBMA, 150. Webb's testimony, Ibid., 160. Samuel Roberts to Webb, Aug. 18, 1883, BP.

84. Testimony of Webb, Russell, Roberts, 72nd Penna. vs. GBMA, 160-172, 99, 150. Roberts to Webb, Aug. 18, 1883, BP. Webb to Peter Rothermal, no date, Rothermal Papers, Pennsylvania State Historical & Museum Commission. In defense of the 72nd, Webb never gave a command to any of the regiment's field officers to advance, which was the proper channel of communications.

85. Smith to Wistar, July 29, 1863, Wistar Papers. Smith, "The Battle." Webb, McDermott and Joseph McKeever testimony, 72nd Penna. vs. GBMA, 172, 229, 263.

86. See, Hartwig, "Casualties of War," Unsung Heroes of Gettysburg Programs of the Fifth Annual Gettysburg Seminar. (1996), 4. McDermott to Bachelder, June 2, 1886, BP. McKeever testimony, 72nd Penna. vs. GBMA, 135, 259-260. McDermott, A Brief History of the 69th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, (D. J. Gallagher & Co.: Phila., 1889), 80.

87. John Buckley and Joseph McKeever testimony, 72nd Penna. vs. GBMA, 135, 260. Cowan to John Nicholson, Dec. 5, 1913, Gettysburg Newspaper Clippings, v. 6. Cowan, "When Cowan's Battery Withstood Pickett's Splendid Charge," New York Herald, July 2, 1911, Copy, Vertical File V6-NY1-ARTa, GNMPL.

88. Webb to his Wife, July 6, 1863, Webb Papers. Smith to Wistar, July 29, 1863, Wistar Papers. McDermott to Bachelder, June 2, 1886, Oct. 21, 1889, BP. See also, 72nd Penna. vs. GBMA, 220-221, 252.

89. Deveraux testimony, 72nd Penna. vs. GBMA, 183-184.

90. Ibid. Waitt, History of the Nineteenth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, (Salem Press: Salem, MA, 1906), 253-254. Rice, "Repelling Lee's Last Blow at Gettysburg," 388-389.

91. OR 27, pt. 1, 439, 448, 450.

92. OR 27, Pt, 1, 445-446. Macy to Bachelder, May 12, 1886, BP.

93. Amos Plaistaid to Bachelder, June 11, 1870, BP. Scott, Fallen Leaves, 188. Rice, "Repelling Lee's Last Blow at Gettysburg," 389.

94. Scott, Fallen Leaves, 188. Rice, "Repelling Lee's Last Blow at Gettysburg," 389.

95. C. Plaistad to Bachelder, June 11, 1870, BP. Scott, Fallen Leaves, 188. Abbott added additional evidence dispelling the myth of the amount of hand-to-hand fighting when he wrote that the fight was "as near hand to hand fighting as I ever care to see."

96. Roberts to Bachelder, August 18, 1883, BP. Thomas Read and Samuel Roberts testimony, 72nd Penna. vs. GBMA, 56-57, 150. Haskall, 65-66.

97. C. Plaisted to Bachelder, June 11, 1870, BP.

98. History of the Nineteenth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 246. Falls died of wounds received in action at Spotsylvania Court House, May 10, 1864.

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