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Hancock and Howard in the first day's fight.

I. From General Hancock's official report.

General Hancock's report bears no date except 1863, but a supplemental report, by way of correction, dated October 24th, shows that the paper was written prior to that time, and during his convalescence from the wound received near the end of the battle. There are passages in the report which show a determination on the part of Meade to fight at Pipe Creek. General Hancock says:
On the morning of July 1st the command marched to Taneytown, going into bivouac about 11 A. M. I then proceeded in person to General Meade's headquarters, and, on reporting to him, was informed as to his intention with reference to giving battle to the enemy, the orders for preparatory movements being then ready for issue. A few minutes before 1 P. M. I received orders to proceed in person to the front and assume command of the First, Third, and Eleventh corps, in consequence of the death of Major-General Reynolds. Having been fully informed by the major-general commanding as to his intentions, I was instructed by him to give the necessary directions upon my arrival at the front for the movement of troops and trains to the rear toward the line of battle he had selected, should I deem it expedient to do so. If the ground was suitable, and circumstances made it wise, I was directed to establish the line of battle at Gettysburg. . . . At 3 P. M. I arrived at Gettysburg and assumed the command. At this time the First and Eleventh corps were retiring through the town, closely pursued by the enemy. The cavalry of General Buford was occupying a firm position on the plain to the left of Gettysburg, covering the rear of the retreating corps. The Third Corps had not yet arrived from Emmitsburg. Orders were at once given to establish a line of battle on Cemetery Hill, with skirmishers occupying that part of the town immediately in our front. The position just on the southern edge of Gettysburg, overlooking the town and commanding the Emmitsburg and Taneytown roads and the Baltimore turnpike, was already partially occupied on my arrival by direction of Major-General Howard. Some difficulty was experienced in forming the troops of the Eleventh Corps, but by vigorous efforts a sufficiently formidable line was established to deter the enemy from any serious assault on the position. They pushed forward a line of battle for a short distance east of the Baltimore turnpike, but it was easily checked by the fire of our artillery. In forming the lines, I received material assistance from Major-General Howard, Brigadier-Generals Warren and Buford, and officers of General Howard's command. . . . The trains of all the troops under my command were ordered to the rear, that they might not interfere with any movement of troops that might be directed by the major-general commanding. My aide, Major Mitchell, was then sent to General Meade to inform him of the state of affairs, and to say that I would hold the position until night. Shortly after, I addressed a communication to the major-general commanding, sending it by Captain Parker, of my staff, giving in detail the information in my possession, and informing him that the position at Gettysburg was a very strong one, having for its disadvantage that it might be easily turned, and leaving to him the responsibility whether the battle should be fought at Gettysburg or at a place first selected by him. Between 5 and 6 o'clock, my dispositions having been completed, Major-General Slocum arrived on the field, and, considering that my functions had ceased, I transferred the command to him. The head of the Third Corps appeared in sight shortly afterward, on the Emmitsburg road.

About dark I started for the headquarters of the army, still at Taneytown, thirteen miles distant, and reported in person to General Meade. I then ascertained that he had already given orders for the corps in the rear to advance at once to Gettysburg, and was about proceeding there in person.

Ii. From General Howard's official report.

General Howard's detailed report is dated August 31st, 1863, and speaks specifically of the course of events after he took command on the morning of the First Day's battle. He says:
Just at sunset [June 30th] I received a request from General Reynolds, commanding First Corps, to meet him at his headquarters [at Marsh Run, midway between Emmitsburg and Gettysburg]. He then showed me the orders from your headquarters placing him in command of the First, Eleventh, and Third corps; also the culars of the commanding general dated June 30th, together with a confidential communication. The purport of these papers was that a general engagement was imminent, the issues involved immense, and all commanders urged to extraordinary exertions. General Reynolds and I consulted together, comparing notes and information until a late hour. I then returned to Emmitsburg. A circular from your headquarters, of June 30th, required corps commanders to hold their commands in readiness to move at a moment's notice. . . . At 8 A. M. [July 1st] orders were received from him [Reynolds] directing the corps to march to Gettysburg. . . . As soon as the corps was set in motion, I pushed on with my staff by the direct road, and when within two miles of Gettysburg received word from General Reynolds, pointing out the place where I was to encamp; but, on approaching the town, heavy artillery firing was heard. For some little time I endeavored, by sending in different directions, to find General Reynolds, in order to report to him in person. In the meantime I went to the top of a high building in Gettysburg facing westward. I saw firing beyond Seminary Ridge and not far from the seminary. Toward the right masses of cavalry were drawn up in order, to the east of the ridge and to the north-east of the town. A portion of the First Corps, of General Wadsworth's command, was between me and the seminary, taking position near the railroad. Another division of this corps was moving by the flank with considerable rapidity, along the ridge and in a north-easterly direction. I had studied the position a few moments, when a report reached me that General Reynolds was woun ded. At first I hoped his wound might be slight, and that he would continue to command; but in a short time I was undeceived. His aide-de-camp, Major [William] Riddle, brought the sad tiding of his death. This was about 11:30 A. M. Prior to this the general had sent me orders to move up at double-quick, for he was severely engaged. On hearing of the death of General Reynolds, I assumed command of the left wing, instructing General Schurz to take command of the Eleventh Corps. After an examination of the general features of the country, I came to the conclusion that the only tenable position for my limited force was the ridge to the south-east of Gettysburg, now so well known as Cemetery Ridge. The highest point at the cemetery commanded every eminence within easy range. The slopes toward the west and south were gradual, and could be completely swept by artillery. To the north, the ridge was broken by a ravine running transversely. I at once established my headquarters near the cemetery and on the highest point north of the Baltimore pike. Here General Schurz joined me before 12 M., when I instructed him to make the following dispositions of the Eleventh Corps. Learning from General Doubleday, commanding the First Corps, that his [288] right was hard pressed, and receiving continued assurance that his left was safe and pushing the enemy back, I ordered the First and Third divisions of the Eleventh Corps to seize and hold a prominent height [Oak Hill, which they did not reach — the Confederates getting there first.--editors] on the right of the Cashtown road and on the prolongation of Seminary Ridge, each division to have a battery of artillery, the other three batteries, supported by General Steinwehr's division (Second), to be put in position near me on Cemetery Hill.

About 12:30 [P. M.] General Buford sent me word that the enemy was massing between the York and Harrisburg roads, to the north of Gettysburg, some three or four miles from the town. Quite a large number of prisoners had already been taken by the First Corps. They reported that we were engaging Hill's corps, or a portion of it, and that an aide of General Longstreet had arrived, stating that he would be up with one division in a short time. About this time the head of column of the Eleventh Corps entered and passed through the town, moving forward rapidly toward the position ordered. The news of Ewell's advance from the direction of York was confirmed by reports from General Schurz, General Buford, and Major Charles H. Howard, my aide-de-camp, who had been sent in that direction to reconnoiter. I therefore ordered General Schurz to halt his command, to prevent his right flank being turned, but to push forward a thick line of skirmishers to seize the point first indicated [Oak Hill], as a relief and support to the First Corps. Meanwhile word was sent to General Sickles, commanding Third Corps, and General Slocum, commanding Twelfth, informing them of the situation of affairs, with a request that General Sickles forward my dispatch to General Meade. General Sickles was at that time, about 1 P. M., near Emmitsburg, and General Slocum reported to be near Two Taverns, distant between four and five miles from Gettysburg. At 2 P. M. a report of the state of things as then existing was sent to General Meade directly. About this time I left my chief-of-staff to execute orders, and went to the First Corps. I found General Doubleday about a quarter of a mile beyond the seminary. His Third Division was drawn up to his front and left, facing toward the north-west, making a large angle with the ridge. The artillery of this division was engaging the enemy at this time. His First Division (Wadsworth's) was located a little to the righ t of the railroad, and his Second Division (Robinson's) on Wadsworth's right. The First Corps, in this position, made a right angle with the Eleventh Corps, the vertex being near the Mummasburg road. The cavalry of General Buford was located mainly upon the flanks. After inspecting the position of the First Corps, and examining the topography of that part of the field, I returned to my former position at the cemetery. About this time (2:45 P. M.) the enemy showed himself in force in front of the Eleventh Corps. His batteries could be distinctly seen on a prominent slope between the Mummasburg and the Harrisburg roads. From this point he opened fire upon the Eleventh Corps, and also more or less enfilading Robinson's division of the First Corps. The batteries attached to the First and Third divisions, Eleventh Corps, immediately replied, and with evident effect. One battery of the enemy, a little more than a mile north from the cemetery, near the Harrisburg road, could be distinctly seen, and as I had a battery of 3-inch rifled guns, under Wiedrich, near my position, I directed him to fire, provided he could reach the enemy. He did so, but his shells for the most part fell short. Soon after complaint came that they reached no farther than our own cavalry; however, I never heard that any of our own men were killed or wounded by this fire. The reason of this irregularity was the poor quality of the ammunition there used. Subsequently these guns did most excellent service.

I now sent again to General Slocum, stating that my right flank was attacked and asking him if he was moving up, and stating that I was in danger of being turned and driven back. Before this my aide-de-camp, Captain [Edward P.] Pearson, had been sent to General Sickles, requesting him to move up to Gettysburg as rapidly as possible. Owing to difficulty in finding General Sickles's headquarters, this message was not delivered until 3:30 P. M.

At 3:20 P. M. the enemy renewed his attack upon the First Corps, hotly pressing the First and Second divisions. Earnest requests were made upon me for reenforcements, and General Schurz, who was engaged with a force of the enemy much larger than his own, asked for a brigade to be placed en échelon on his right. I had then only two small brigades in reserve, and had already located three regiments from these in the edge of the town and to the north, and I felt sure that I must hold the point where I was as an ultimate resort. Therefore I at first replied that I could not spare any troops, but did afterward permit General Steinwehr to push out Colonel Coster's brigade beyond the town, to cover the retreat. General Buford was requested to support the center, near the right of the First Corps, as well as he could with his cavalry. A third battery was sent to the front, and put in position near the Third Division, Eleventh Corps. At 3:45 P. M. Generals Doubleday and Wadsworth besought me for reenforcements. I directed General Schurz, if he could spare one regiment or more, to send it to reenforce General Wadsworth, and several times sent urgent requests to General Slocum to come to my assistance. To every application for reenforcements, I replied, “Hold out, if possible, a while longer, for I am expecting General Slocum every moment.” At this time General Doubleday's left was turned, and troops of the enemy appeared far outflanking him, and the enemy were also extending beyond my right flank. About 4 P. M. I sent word to General Doubleday that, if he could not hold out longer, he must fall back, fighting, to Cemetery Hill and on the left of the Baltimore pike; also a request to General Buford to make a show of force opposite the enemy's right, which he immediately did. I now dispatched Major Howard, my aide-de-camp, to General Slocum, to inform him of the state of affairs, requesting him to sen d one of his divisions to the left, the other to the right of Gettysburg, and that he would come in person to Cemetery Hill. He met the general on the Baltimore pike, about a mile from Gettysburg, who replied that he had already ordered a division to the right, and that he would send another to cover the left, as requested, but that he did not wish to come up in person to the front and take the responsibility of that fight. In justice to. General Slocum, I desire to say that he afterward expressed the opinion that it was against the wish of the commanding general to bring on a general engagement at that point.

At 4:10 P. M., finding that I could hold out no longer, and that the troops were already giving way, I sent a positive order to the commanders of the First and Eleventh corps to fall back gradually, disputing every inch of ground, and to form near my position, the Eleventh Corps on the right and the First Corps on the left of the Baltimore pike. General Steinwehr's division of the Eleventh Corps and the batteries which he was supporting were so disposed as to check the enemy attempting to come through the town, or to approach upon the right or left of Gettysburg. The movement ordered was executed, though with considerable confusion, on account of the First and Eleventh corps coming together in the town.

At 4:30 P. M. the columns reached Cemetery Hill, the enemy pressing hard. He made a single attempt to turn our right, ascending the slope north-east of Gettysburg, but his line was instantly broken by Wiedrich's battery, in position on the heights. General Hancock came to me about this time and said General Meade had sent him on hearing the state of affairs; that he had given him his instructions while under the impression that he was my senior. We agreed at once that that was no time for talking, and that General Hancock should further arrange the troops and place the batteries upon the left of the Baltimore pike, while I should take the right of the same. In a very short time we put the troops in position, as I had previously directed, excepting that [289] General Wadsworth's division was sent to occupy a height to the right and rear of our position. In passing through the town we lost many prisoners, but the enemy, perceiving the strength of our position on the heights, made no further attempts to renew the engagement that evening.

About 7 P. M. Generals Slocum and Sickles arrived at the cemetery. A formal order was at the same time put into my hands placing General Hancock in command of the left wing. But General Slocum being present, and senior, I turned the command over to him, and resumed the direct command of the Eleventh Corps, whereupon General Hancock repaired to the headquarters of General Meade. The eventful day was over. The First and Eleventh corps, numbering less than eighteen thousand men, nobly aided by Buford's division of cavalry, had engaged and held in check nearly double their numbers from 10 in the morning until 7 in the evening. They gave way, it is true, after hard fighting, yet they secured and held the remarkable position which, under the able generalship of the commander of this army, contributed to the grand results of July 2d and 3d.

In a letter to President Lincoln, dated Near Berlin, July 18th, 1863 ( “Official Records,” Vol. XXVII., p. 700), General Howard says:

The successful issue of the battle of Gettysburg was due mainly to the energetic operations of our present commanding general prior to the engagement, and to the manner in which he handled his troops on the field. The reserves have never before during this war been thrown in at just the right moment. In many cases when points were just being carried by the enemy, a regiment or brigade appeared to stop his progress and hurl him back. Moreover, I have never seen a more hearty cooperation on the part of general officers as since General Meade took command.

In a resolution dated January 28th, 1864, the thanks of Congress were tendered to General Joseph Hooker and his army for the movement covering Washington and Baltimore; “and to Major-General George G. Meade, Major-General Oliver O. Howard, and the officers and soldiers of that army, for the skill and heroic valor which, at Gettysburg, repulsed, defeated, and drove back, broken and dispirited, beyond the Rappahannock, the veteran army of the Rebellion.” On May 30th, 1866, the thanks of Congress were given to Major-General W. S. Hancock, “for his gallant, meritorious, and conspicuous share in that great and decisive victory”--meaning Gettysburg. Editors.

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