Chapter 3: percentage of killed in regiments in particular battles — comparison of such losses with those of European regiments.
The loss sustained by a regiment in any battle can be properly estimated, only when the number of men engaged is known and taken into consideration, The small battalion in which fifty men were killed must not be classed, in point of loss, with the large regiment losing the same number.
The 31 men killed in the One Hundred and Forty-first New York, at Peach Tree Creek
, was as severe a loss as the 102 killed in the Eleventh Illinois at Fort Donelson
The percentage of loss in each case was the same, and the one faced as hot a fire as the other.
In proportion to the number engaged, the greatest loss sustained by any regiment, during the war, was that of the First Minnesota at Gettysburg
This regiment was then in Harrow
's Brigade, Gibbon
's Division, Second Corps.
On the afternoon of the second day at Gettysburg
, the Union
line was driven back in confusion from its position along the Emmettsburg road.
was “patching” up a second line, he perceived a column of the enemy (Willcox
's Brigade) emerging suddenly from a clump of trees near an unprotected portion of his line.
The First Minnesota, alone and unsupported, was in position near by, and Hancock
, desirous of gaining time until reenforcements could be brought forward, rode up to Colonel Colville
and ordered him to take the enemy's colors.1
A desperate fight ensued, in which the enemy was forced back, leaving their colors in the hands of the First Minnesota.
Speaking of this affair afterwards, General Hancock
is reported to have said:
There is no more gallant deed recorded in history.
I ordered those men in there because I saw that I must gain five minutes time.
Reenforcements were coming on the run, but I knew that before they could reach the threatened point the Confederates, unless checked, would seize the position.
I would have ordered that regiment in if I had known every man would be killed.
It had to be done, and I was glad to find such a gallant body of men at hand, willing to make the terrible sacrifice that the occasion demanded.
The regiment took 262 officers and men into this affair.2
It lost 50 killed and 174 wounded, total, 224 casualties, nearly all of which occurred in this fight.
A remarkable feature of this loss is that none were missing.
Seventeen officers were killed or wounded,