The Gettysburg campaign--report of Brigadier-General Harry T. Hays.
headquarters Hays' brigade, August 3d, 1863.Major — I respectfully submit the following report of the operations of the troops under my command near the city of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. On Wednesday, July 1, 1863, after a march of twelve or fourteen miles returning from the city of York, I arrived with my brigade on the Heidlersburg road, within a mile and a half of Gettysburg. At this point I discovered that a space in the division line of battle had been left for my command, which had been marching in the rear of the column; Brigadier-General Gordon having deployed to the right; Brigadier-General Hoke's brigade, commanded by Colonel Avery, and Smith's brigade to the left. I formed my line of battle, extending across the road, placing the Fifth, Sixth and right wing of the Ninth regiments on the right of the road, the left wing of the Ninth, the Seventh and Eighth regiments on the left. This arrangement being completed, Brigadier-General Gordon, a little after two o'clock, was ordered to advance. In a short time, Brigadier-General Gordon having encountered the enemy in force, I received an order to advance in support, Hoke's brigade moving forward at the same time on my left. Pressing steadily on I met with no other opposition than that presented by the enemy's skirmishers, and the firing of his artillery, until I came up to the line of Gordon's brigade. Here I found the enemy in considerable strength. I still continued to move, however, succeeding in driving before me all the forces opposed, until I arrived at the railroad, which here runs from east to west, just skirting the edge of the city of Gettysburg. In my progress to this position the fire to which my command was subjected from the enemy's batteries, posted upon well selected rises of the ground, was unusually galling. But so rapid and impetuous was the movement of my troops in this advance, that my skirmishers, keeping well to the front, captured two pieces of artillery. I had barely time to pause at the railroad referred to, when I discovered a heavy column of the enemy's troops, who had been engaged with Gordon's brigade and the division of Major-General Rodes, advancing  rapidly, threatening my right. Perceiving that a forward movement on my part would expose my flank to an attack from this force, exceeding in number that under my command, I immediately changed front forward on the first company, first battalion, of a portion of my brigade, the Fifth, Sixth and the right wing of the Ninth regiments. With this line, after several well directed volleys, I succeeded in breaking this column on my right, dispersing its men in full flight through the streets of the city. But for this movement on my flank, I should have captured several pieces of artillery opposite the left of my line, upon which the Seventh regiment was advancing in front and the Eighth by a side street at the time I halted. After reforming my line of battle, I advanced through the city of Gettysburg, clearing it of the enemy and taking prisoners at every turn. During this time, as well as in my progress to the city, a great number of prisoners were captured by my command, but unwilling to decrease my force by detailing a guard, I simply ordered them to the rear as they were taken. Many of these following the road to the left, fell into the possession of Major-General Rodes' troops. I am satisfied the prisoners taken in the above mentioned movements by my brigade exceeded in numbers the force under my command. My loss this day was small--one officer and six men killed, four officers and thirty-seven men wounded and fifteen men missing. The loss of the enemy cannot be known with exactness, but it was apparent, from an inspection of the field, that his loss exceeded ours by at least six to one. Having driven the enemy entirely out of the city, I rested my line on one of the upper (southern) streets — Hoke's brigade, on my left, extending beyond the eastern suburbs. In this position I remained until twelve o'clock that night. At that hour I received an order from Major-General Early to make a reconnoissance of the ground between my situation and that of the enemy, who, after abandoning the city, had entrenched himself on Cemetery hill, a commanding height, one of a series or chain of hills belting Gettysburg on the south. After a careful examination of the locality indicated, about two o'clock in the morning (2d of July) I moved my troops into an open field between the city and the base of a hill intervening between us and Cemetery hill, throwing out skirmishers to the front. In this field we remained the entire day of the 2d July, prominently  exposed to the fire of the enemy's skirmishers and sharp-shooters. During the afternoon of this day I was directed by Major-General Early to hold my brigade in readiness at a given signal to charge the enemy in the works on the summit of the hill before me, with the information that a general advance of our entire line would be made at the same time. A little before 8 o'clock P. M. I was ordered to advance with my own and Hoke's brigade on my left, which had been placed for the time being under my command. I immediately moved forward, and had gone but a short distance, when my whole line became exposed to a most terrific fire from the enemy's batteries from the entire range of hills in front and to the right and left. Still both brigades advanced steadily up and over the first hill and into a bottom at the foot of Cemetery hill. Here we came upon a considerable body of the enemy, and a brisk musketry fire ensued. At the same time his artillery, of which we were now within canister range, opened upon us. But owing to the darkness of the evening now verging into night, and the deep obscurity afforded by the smoke of the firing, our exact locality could not be discovered by the enemy's gunners, and we thus escaped what, in the full light of day, could have been nothing else but horrible slaughter. Taking advantage of this, we continued to move forward until we reached the second line, behind a stone wall at the foot of a fortified hill. We passed such of the enemy who had not fled and who were still clinging for shelter to the wall to the rear as prisoners. Still advancing, we came upon an abatis of fallen timber and the third line disposed in rifle pits. This line we broke, and, as before found, many of the enemy who had not fled, hiding in the pits for protection. These I ordered to the rear as prisoners, and continued my progress to the crest of the hill. Arriving at the summit, by a simultaneous rush from my whole line, I captured several pieces of artillery, four stands of colors and a number of prisoners. At that time every piece of artillery which had been firing upon us was silenced. A quiet of several minutes now ensued. Their heavy masses of infantry were heard and perfectly discerned through the increasing darkness, advancing in the direction of my position. Approaching within a hundred yards, a line was discovered before us, from the whole length of which a simultaneous fire was delivered. I reserved my fire from the uncertainty of this being a force of the enemy or of our men, as I had been  cautioned to expect friends both in front, to the right and to the left--Lieutenant-General Longstreet, Major-General Rodes and Major-General Johnson respectively having been assigned to these relative positions. But after the delivery of a second and third volley, the flashing of the musketry disclosed the still advancing line to be one of enemies. I then gave the order to fire; the enemy was checked for a time, but discovering another line moving up in the rear of this one, and still another force in rear of that, and being beyond the reach of support, I gave the order to retire to the stone wall at the foot of the hill, which was quietly and orderly effected. From this position I subsequently fell back to a fence some seventy-five yards distant from the wall and awaited the further movements of the enemy; only contemplating, however, to effect an orderly and controlled retreat before a force which I was convinced I could not hope to withstand, at all events where I then was. I was on the point of retreating to a better position, when Captain Campbell, the Brigade Quartermaster, informed me that Brigadier-General Gordon was coming to my support. I immediately dispatched an officer to hasten General Gordon with all possible speed. But this officer returning without seeing General Gordon, I went back myself, and finding General Gordon occupying the precise position in the field occupied by me when I received the order to charge the enemy on Cemetery hill, and not advancing, I concluded that any assistance from him would be too late, and my only course was to withdraw my command. I therefore moved my brigade by the right flank leading it around the hill so as to escape the observation of the enemy, and conduct it to the right of my original position, then occupied, as above stated, by General Gordon's brigade. This was about ten o'clock. I remained in this position for the night. About daybreak in the morning I received an order from Major-General Early to withdraw my command from its position, and to occupy that street in the city which I had held during the 1st July. I continued to remain here that day (the 3d), and until early in the morning of the 4th July, when I was ordered by Major-General Early out of the city to a range of hills on the west. Here I put my brigade in line of battle, the division line being on the left of Major-General Rodes. In this position I remained with my command until two o'clock on the morning of the 5th July, when the line of march was taken towards Hagerstown,  Maryland. My loss the 2d July was five officers and sixteen men killed; fifteen officers and one hundred and four men wounded, and three officers and thirty-eight men missing. Loss the 3d July, one officer and seven men killed, three officers and thirty-seven men wounded, one officer and eighteen men missing. On the 4th July, twenty men were reported missing. Total loss--seven officers and twenty-nine men killed, twenty-two officers and one hundred and seventy-eight men wounded, four officers and ninety-one men missing. The missing, I fear, were either killed or wounded. The artillery I captured on the heights of Cemetery hill I was compelled to abandon. The prisoners sent to the rear, being under charge of no guard, escaped in the darkness. Seventy-five were brought back by my men in retreating from the hill. The colors taken I have now in my possession. In all the operations in the neighborhood of Gettysburg, I am happy to state that both officers and men, while animated with a spirit of daring that disdained to concede any obstacle to their progress insurmountable, were yet amenable to all the orders of their leaders, and accepted readily any position assigned to them. While rendering this tribute to the merit of all of my command, I would call attention particularly to the efficiency of Colonel L. A. Stafford, Ninth Louisiana regiment, and Colonel D. B. Penn, Seventh Louisiana regiment. In the engagements of the 1st and 2d July, each of these officers distinguished himself by an exhibition of gallant bearing in leading their respective regiments into action, and of soldierly skill in its management and control. My thanks are due to the several members of my staff, each of whom, in his respective departments, was attentive to the discharge of his duties — Captain New, Assistant Adjutant-General and Acting Inspector; Captain Seymour, Assistant Adjutant-General, and Lieutenant Freeland, Aid-de-Camp. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major John W. Daniel, Assistant Adjutant-General, Early's Division:
Major John W. Daniel, Assistant Adjutant-General, Early's Division:
Harry T. Hays, Brigadier-General Commanding.