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Doc. 118.-battle of Gettysburgh, Pa.


Official report of General Custer.

headquarters Second brigade, Third division, cavalry corps, army of the Potomac, Berea Church, August 22, 1863.
Captain Estes, A. A.G., Third Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac:
in compliance with instructions received from the headquarters of the Third division, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my command in the engagements near Gettysburgh, July third, 1863.

At an early hour on the morning of the third, I received an order through a staff-officer of the Brigadier-General commanding the division, to move at once my command, and follow the First brigade on the road leading from Two Taverns to Gettysburgh.

Agreeably to the above instructions, my column was formed and moved out on the road designated, when a staff-officer of Brigadier-General Gregg, commanding Second division, ordered me to take my command and place it in position on the pike leading from York to Gettysburgh, which position formed the extreme right of our line of battle on that day. Upon arriving at the point designated, I immediately placed my command in position, facing toward Gettysburgh. At the same time I caused reconnoissances to be made on my front, right, and rear, but failed to discover any considerable force of the enemy. Every thing remained quiet till ten A. M., when the enemy appeared on my right flank and opened upon me with a battery of six guns, leaving two guns and a regiment to hold my first position and cover the road leading to Gettysburgh. I shifted the remaining portion of my command, forming a new line of battle at right angles to my former line. The enemy had obtained correct range of my new position and were pouring solid shot and shell into my command with great accuracy. Placing two sections of battery M, Second regular artillery, in position, I ordered them to silence the enemy's battery, which order, notwithstanding the superiority of the enemy's position, was successfully accomplished in a very short space of time. My line, as it then existed, was shaped like the letter L, the shorter branch formed of one section of battery M, supported by four squadrons of the Sixth Michigan cavalry faced toward Gettysburgh, covering the Gettysburgh pike; the long branch composed of the remaining two sections of battery N, Second artillery, supported by a portion of the Sixth Michigan cavalry on the left, and the First Michigan cavalry on the right, with the Seventh Michigan cavalry still further to the right and in advance, was held in readiness to repel any attack the enemy might make coming on the Oxford road. The Fifth Michigan cavalry was dismounted and ordered to take position in front of my centre and left. The First Michigan cavalry was held in a column of squadrons, to observe the movements of the enemy. I ordered fifty men to be sent one milo and [398] a half on the Oxford road, while a detachment of equal size was sent one mile and a half on the road leading from Gettysburgh to York, both detachments being under the command of the gallant Major Webber, who from time to time kept me so well informed of the movements of the enemy that I was enabled to make my dispositions with complete success. At twelve o'clock an order was transmitted to me from the Brigadier-General commanding the division by one of his aids, directing me, upon being relieved by a brigade from the Second division, to move with my command and form a junction with the First brigade on the extreme left. On the arrival of the brigade of the Second division, commanded by Colonel McIntosh, I prepared to execute the order. Before I had left my position, Brigadier-General Greg, commanding the Second division, arrived with his entire command. Learning the true condition of affairs on my front, and rightly conjecturing that the enemy was making his dispositions for vigorously attacking our position, Brigadier-General Gregg ordered me to remain in the position I then occupied. The enemy was soon after reported to be advancing on my front. The detachment of fifty men sent on the Oxford road were driven in, and at the same time the enemy's line of skirmishers, consisting of dismounted cavalry, appeared on the crest of the ridge of hills on my front. The line extended beyond my left. To repel their advance, I ordered the Fifth cavalry to a more advanced position, with instructions to maintain their ground at all hazards. Colonel Alger, commanding the Fifth, assisted by Majors Trowbridge and Ferry, of the same regiment, made such admirable disposition of their men behind fences and other defences, as enabled them to successfully repel the repeated advance of a greatly superior force. I attributed their success in a great measure to the fact that this regiment is armed with the Spencer repeating rifle, which, in the hands of brave, determined men, like those composing the Fifth Michigan cavalry, is, in my estimation, the most effective fire-arm that our cavalry can adopt. Colonel Alger held his ground until his men had exhausted their ammunition, when he was compelled to fall back on the main body. The beginning of this movement was the signal for the enemy to charge, which they did with two regiments, mounted and dismounted. I at once ordered the Seventh Michigan cavalry, Colonel Mann, to charge the advancing column of the enemy. The ground over which we had to pass was very unfavorable for the manoeuvring of cavalry, but despite all obstacles this regiment advanced boldly to the assault, which was executed in splendid style, the enemy being driven from field to field until our advance reached a high and unbroken fence, behind which the enemy were strongly posted. Nothing daunted, Colonel Mann, followed by the main body of his regiment, bravely rode up to the fence and discharged their revolvers in the very face of the foe. No troops could have maintained this position; the Seventh was <*>herefore, compelled to retire, followed by twice the number of the enemy. By this time, Colonel Alger, of the Fifth Michigan cavalry, had succeeded in mounting a considerable portion of his regiment, and gallantly advanced to the assistance of the Seventh, whose further pursuit by the enemy he checked. At the same time an entire brigade of the enemy's cavalry, consisting of four regiments, appeared just over the crest in our front. They were formed in column of regiments. To meet this overwhelming force I had — but one available regiment, the First Michigan cavalry, and the fire of battery M, Second regular artillery. I at once ordered the First to charge, but learned at the same moment that similar orders had been given by Brigadier-General Gregg. As before stated, the First was formed in column of battalions. Upon receiving the order to charge, Colonel Town, placing himself at the head of his command, ordered the “trot” and sabres to be drawn. In this manner this gallant body of men advanced to the attack of a force outnumbering them five to one. In addition to this numerical superiority, the enemy had the advantage of position, and were exultant over the repulse of the Seventh Michigan cavalry. All these facts considered, would seem to render success on the part of the First impossible. Not so, however. Arriving within a few yards of the enemy's column, the charge was ordered, and with a yell that spread terror before them, the First Michigan cavalry, led by Colonel Town, rode upon the front rank of the enemy, sabring all who came within reach. For a moment, but only a moment, that long, heavy column stood its ground, then unable to withstand the impetuosity of our attack, it gave way into a disorderly rout, leaving vast numbers of their dead and wounded in our possession, while the First, being masters of the field, had the proud satisfaction of seeing the much vaunted “chivalry,” led by their favorite commander, seek safety in headlong flight. I cannot find language to express my high appreciation of the gallantry and daring displayed by the officers and men of the First Michigan cavalry. They advanced to the charge of a vastly superior force with as much order and precision as if going upon parade; and I challenge the annals of warfare to produce a more brilliant or successful charge of cavalry than the one just recounted. Nor must I forget to acknowledge the invaluable assistance rendered by battery M, Second regiment of artillery, in this charge. Our success in driving the enemy from the field is due, in a great measure, to the highly efficient manner in which the battery was handled by Lieutenant A. C. M. Pennington, assisted by Lieutenants Clark, Woodruff, and Hamilton. The enemy made but slight demonstration against us during the remainder of the day, except in one instance he attempted to turn my left flank, which attempt was most gallantly met and successfully frustrated by Second Lieutenant J. H. Kellogg, with company H, Sixth Michigan cavalry. We held possession of the field until dark, during which time we collected our dead and wounded. At dark I returned with my command [399] to Two Taverns, where I encamped for the night. In this engagement my command lost as follows:

Officers.Men.
Killed969
Wounded25207
Missing7225

making a total of five hundred and forty-two. Among the killed I regret to record the name of Major N. H. Ferry, of the Fifth Michigan cavalry, who fell while heroically cheering on his men. It would be impossible for me to particularize in those instances deserving especial mention; all, both men and officers, did their duty. There were many cases of personal heroism, but a list of their names would make my report too extended. To Colonel Town, commanding the First Michigan cavalry, and to the officers and men of his regiment for the gallant manner in which they drove the enemy from the field, great praise is due. Colonel Mann, of the Seventh Michigan cavalry, and Colonel Alger, of the Fifth Michigan cavalry, as well as the officers and men of their commands, are entitled to much credit for their united efforts in repelling the advance of the enemy. The Sixth Michigan cavalry rendered very good service by guarding both my right and left flank; also by supporting battery M under a very hot fire from the enemy's battery. Colonel Gray, commanding the regiment, was constantly seen wherever his presence was most needed, and is deserving of special mention. I desire to commend to your favorable notice Lieutenants Pennington, Clark, Woodruff, and Hamilton, of battery M, Second artillery, for the zeal and ability displayed by each on this occasion. My thanks are personally due to the following named members of my staff, who on many occasions exhibited remarkable gallantry in transmitting and executing my orders on the field:

Captain G. A. Drew, Sixth Michigan cavalry, Assistant Inspector-General.

First Lieutenant R. Baylis, Fifth Michigan cavalry, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

First Lieutenant William H. Wheeler, First Michigan cavalry, A. D. C.

First Lieutenant William Colerick, First Michigan cavalry, A. D. C.

I desire also to mention two of my buglers, Joseph Fought, company D, Fifth U. S. cavalry, and Peter Boehn, company B, Fifth U. S. cavalry; also, Orderlies Norval Churchill, company L, First Michigan cavalry, George L. Foster, company C, First Michigan cavalry, and Benjamin H. Butler, company M, First Michigan cavalry.

Respectfully submitted,

G. A. Custer, Brigadier-General Commanding Second Brigade. Jacob L. Greene, Assistant Adjutant-General.

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