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Chapter 24: the battle of Gettysburg begun

General Meade at once began the sending of his forces so much eastward that we knew that any movement against Lee's rear or the Confederate communications via Harper's Ferry had been given up.

The evening of June 28, 1865, the whole army was at or near Frederick, Md. In his dispatch that evening Meade said: “I propose to move this army to-morrow in the direction of York.”

By a glance at the map it will be seen that this plan was the precise opposite of that of Hooker, as indicated by his dispatches two days before. The reason for the change was that Lee was reported not only on our side of the Potomac, but as already occupying Chambersburg, Carlisle, and threatening Harrisburg, and having at least a brigade in the town of York. He did not just then seem to care greatly for his communications, any more than did Hannibal of old after he had once obtained his strong foothold on the Continent of Europe. Lee had now corn, flour, cattle, and horses in abundance, and the farther north he pushed, the more sumptuous would be his supply. Lee's position in Pennsylvania gave ominous threats to Harrisburg and Philadelphia, caused real fright to the loyal people of Baltimore, and to the administration at Washington. [398] The life of the Nation was in its greatest perilit appeared to hang upon but a thread of hope, and, under God, the thread was Meade and his army.

A little later information determined our general to cover more ground, to stretch out in line of corps as he moved forward. An army line in a campaign is now a day's march or more long. After our marches of June 29th, the First and Eleventh Corps were on the left of that extended line at Emmittsburg; the Third and Twelfth at Taneytown, where was General Meade himself; the Second at Frizelburg; the Fifth at Union, and the Sixth at New Windsor.

This grand army line looking northward had most of its cavalry under Pleasonton, well forward-one division under Buford aiming for Gettysburg, and the others fighting and chasing the Confederate cavalry, which daringly swept around our army between us and Washington and Baltimore and Philadelphia. The army of Meade was also well supported by a fine reserve; for Halleck, strange to tell, had given to Meade what he had withholden from Hooker, namely, the force at Harper's Ferry. French moved it, now 11,000 strong, to Frederick, Md. It here constituted a cover to our depots, to Washington communications, and a ready help for any contingency.

The infantry and artillery extended over a large area. Military experts ask: “Was not this an error of Meade's, to so move forward his command, exposing his left to be attacked by at least two-thirds of Lee's army?” Meade's answer is in his own words: “If Lee is moving for Baltimore, I expect to get between his main army and that place. If he is crossing the Susquehanna, I shall rely upon General Couch holding him until I can fall upon his rear and give him battle.” [399]

But Lee was already drawing back his scattered forces to the neighborhood of Chambersburg and watching toward Gettysburg, to see what could be behind the bold pushing of John Buford's cavalry division in that neighborhood. He began his concentration before Meade could do so, and upon the flank where he was not expected to concentrate.

On the last day of June a few changes in our position took place. The First Corps, under John F. Reynolds, went to “Marsh Run,” about five miles from Gettysburg; the Eleventh, under my command, remained at Emmittsburg for that day; the Third (Sickles's corps) moved from Taneytown to a point near Emmittsburg; the Twelfth (Slocum's) went forward and encamped near Littlestown. The headquarters and remaining corps did not change. Buford's cavalry was kept ahead of Reynolds, in the vicinity of Gettysburg.

On June 30th the Confederate army formed a concave line (concavity toward us), embracing Chambersburg, Carlisle, and York. Ours formed an indented line, extending from Marsh Run to Westminster, the left of that line being thrown far forward. If Lee could bring his men together east of the South Mountain, near Cashtown, it would appear that he might strike us in the flank-before we could assemble-blow after blow, and beat us in detail. Of course, it was a bold undertaking. The safe course of a cautious mind would have been different-probably to have concentrated beyond the South Mountain as Lee had done at Antietam; but Longstreet was at hand, and urged Lee to adopt more risky measures with the hope of obtaining grander results.

So, then, while we were feeling around in the darkhess [400] of conflicting rumors and contradictory information, Lee, June 29th, designated a point east of South Mountain, behind Cashtown and Gettysburg, for the grand gathering of his forces. When the order came Ewell was near Harrisburg; he had already drawn back Early's division from York. Early's and Rodes's, with the corps chief, coming together, succeeded in reaching Heidelsburg, about ten miles north of Gettysburg, the evening of the 30th, but Johnson's division, obeying the same orders, had gone from Carlisle back toward Chambersburg. He, however, took a left-hand road by the way of Greenwood, and encamped the same night near Scotland, a hamlet west of the mountain. The other two corps-Longstreet's and Hill'swere not far in advance of Ewell's; for, though they had shorter distances they had fewer routes from which to choose. Hill's corps led, and was at or near Cashtown the evening of the 30th.

Longstreet, with two divisions, remained that night near Greenwood, at the west entrance to Cashtown Gap. One division only — that of Pickett-caring for Lee's transportation, remained behind, at Chambersburg. The Confederate commander then had, the night of June 30th, the bulk of his army-probably between 50,000 and 60,000 men-within fifteen miles of Gettysburg. His leading division I (Heth's of Hill's corps) had already encountered our cavalry. After Heth had arrived in Cashtown, eight miles from Gettysburg, he sent, on the 30th, Pettigrew's brigade with wagons to that town for shoes and other supplies. Pettigrew was just entering the suburbs at 11 A. M., when he discovered Buford's division rapidly approaching. Pettigrew, who expected only detached militia, being surprised by meeting our cavalry, immediately [401] withdrew and marched back four miles toward his own division, halted at Marsh Run on the Cashtown road, and reported to his chief that Meade's army in force was near at hand.

At that time Stuart's Confederate cavalry was not with the main army to bring him information, but was hastening to Lee's left flank.

In this irregular manner, on the last day of June, the two great armies, each in the aggregate near 100,--000 strong, came so close to contact that Lee's right and our left had exchanged shots at Gettysburg.

In the subsequent operations of our army and in the changes of commanders incident to the coming bloody conflicts, the left (three army corps) was still called the Right Wing; but the corps were really located on the extreme left of Meade's general line. Buford's division of cavalry cooperated with this wing, brought its chief all the information it gathered, and handsomely cleared its front. The Comte de Paris remarks of the cavalry leader and of the commander of the wing:

Meade intrusted the task of clearing and directing his left to two men equally noted for quickness of perception, promptness of decision, and gallantry on the battlefield-Buford and Reynolds.

This is just praise.

There were several kinds of officers to serve under, as every man who was in the army for any considerable time as a subordinate will admit. A few were simply tyrants; some were exacting as commanders, but always fair and ready to recognize work; some were courteous enough in deportment, but held subordinates to an extreme responsibility, striving to do so in such way as to clear themselves of all adverse [402] criticism. Others belittled the aid rendered them, and absorbed the credit to themselves and threw all faults at another's door; others, still, who had a steady hand in governing, were generous to a fault, quick to recognize merit, trusted you and sought to gain your confidence, and, as one would anticipate, were the foremost in battle. These generally secured the best results in administration and in active campaigning. To the last class belonged General Reynolds. From soldiers, cadets, and officers, junior and senior, he always secured reverence for his serious character, respect for his ability, care for his uniform discipline, admiration for his fearlessness, and love for his unfailing generosity. He was much like General George H. Thomas, not, however, so reticent and, I should judge, not quite so tenacious of purpose. It was always a pleasure to be under the command of either. I had been for some time during this campaign reporting to Reynolds.

At Emmittsburg, June 30th, I had only changed the position of my corps from the east to the northwest of the village. There was an establishment (probably we should call it a college) under the care of several Jesuit fathers. On my arrival the 29th, in the neighborhood, these met me very pleasantly, and begged me to make my headquarters with them. That day had been cold and rainy, the roads heavy, and the march very tiresome. I yielded to the tempting offer of hospitality, and instead of pitching my tent or stretching my “fly” as usual, I went to enjoy the neat and comfortable bed which was offered me. Here, too, I was to pass the night of the 30th. It was about dark when a message came from Reynolds. He desired me to ride up to his headquarters, situated about six miles off on [403] the Emmittsburg and Gettysburg road, where the Marsh Run crosses it.

Taking Lieutenant F. W. Gilbreth, my aid-de-camp, and an orderly, I set out immediately, and in less than an hour found my way to the little house which Reynolds occupied. It was near the run, on the right-hand side of the road. Dismounting, I was at once shown into a back room near the south end of the house. Reynolds rose to meet me; he was here occupying a room which had in it but little furniture — a table and a few chairs. The table appeared to be laden with papers, apparently maps and official dispatches. After the usual cordial greeting, he first handed me the confidential appeal which General Meade had just made to his army commanders. In this Meade expressed the confident belief that if the officers fitly addressed the men of their commands, they would respond loyally to their appeal. He urged every patriotic sentiment which he felt assured would arouse to enthusiasm and action his whole army, now on the threshold of the battlefield — a field which he felt might decide the fate of the Republic. After reading this communication, we next went over the news dispatches of the day. They were abundant and conflicting. They came from headquarters at Taneytown, from Buford at Gettysburg, from scouts, from alarmed citizens, from all directions. They, however, forced the conclusion upon us, that Lee's infantry and artillery in great force were in our neighborhood.

Longstreet's corps, which had been with General Lee himself at Chambersburg, had come toward us; Hill's, which was lately at Fayetteville, had already passed the mountain and his nearest camp was not more than four miles from Gettysburg. [404]

We spent the entire evening together, looking over the different maps, discussing the probabilities of a great battle, and talking of the part our wing would be likely to play in the conflict.

Reynolds seemed depressed, almost as if he had a presentiment of his death so near at hand. Probably he was anxious on account of the scattered condition of our army, particularly in view of the sudden concentration of the enemy.

At about eleven I took my leave of the general, and rode rapidly back to headquarters. I retired to my comfortable bed in the college and was soon fast asleep. It could not have been an hour before a loud knocking at the door aroused me.

“What is it, orderly?” I asked. “Orders from army headquarters.”

I took the bundle of papers in my hand. The address was to Reynolds as the wing commander. To forestall the possibility of their loss between Emmittsburg and Marsh Run, I opened the dispatches, as was customary, read them, and sent them forward with a note.

The orders were as follows: “OrdersHeadquarters at Taneytown--Third Corps to Emmittsburg; Second Corps to Taneytown; Fifth Corps to Hanover; Twelfth Corps to Two Taverns; First Corps to Gettysburg; Eleventh Corps to Gettysburg (in supporting distance); Sixth Corps to Manchester; cavalry to front and flanks, well out in all directions, giving timely notice of positions and movements of the enemy.”

With these orders came a clear indication of Meade's opinion of the location of Hill and Longstreet, as between Chambersburg and Gettysburg, while Ewell was believed to be still occupying Carlisle and York. [405]

He closed his circular letter with these significant words: “The general believes he has relieved Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and now desires to look to his own army and assume position for offensive or defensive, or for rest to the troops.”

The town of Gettysburg covers about one square mile, and is situated in an undulating valley, through which runs Rock Creek. This small stream, fed by three or four smaller ones, courses from the north and flows southeast of the town. The Cemetery Ridge, so often described, begins at Culp's Hill, broadens out on the top westerly to take in the cemetery itself, and then turns to trend due south to Zeigler's Grove; then bends a little south, to ascend gradually a rugged, rocky knoll-Little Round Top. Farther on is a rougher, higher, and larger prominence called Big Round Top. Four important wagon roads traverse the region; the road due east from Bonaughton, just showing Benner's Hill on its north side; the Baltimore pike from the southeast, crossing White Run and Rock Creek, and after passing the cemetery enters the village; the Taneytown road skirting the east slope of the main ridge, going near the Round Tops and entering Gettysburg along one of its main streets; and the Emmittsburg road, which passes by the west side of the Round Tops and Sherfy's peach orchard, and makes a westerly sweep well out from the ridge, comes back to cut the Taneytown road, and ends at the Baltimore pike just below the cemetery and near the town.

The Seminary Ridge lies toward the west, and is nearly parallel with the Cemetery Ridge, and about one mile from it. It is, however, a third longer, and passes considerably beyond the village. The Willoughby Run, with a southern flow bearing off with the [406] ranges of heights, courses between the Seminary Crest and the next higher western ridge.

As the day dawned that memorable July 1, 1863, with somewhat less than 5,000 cavalry, Buford was fully ready. General John Buford was a healthful, hardy cavalry officer, born in Kentucky, a graduate from the Military Academy of the class of 1848. He especially distinguished himself during the war for boldness in pushing up close to his foe; for great dash in his assaults, and, at the same time, for shrewdness and prudence in the presence of a force larger than his own. The night before, he had deployed his brigade beyond Gettysburg so as to cover the approaches from the west, pushing his pickets and scouting far out on the different roads. He knew that he must contend against infantry, so he dismounted his men and prepared them to fight on foot. Devin's brigade held the right and Gamble's the left. Devin was between Chambersburg Railroad and Mummasburg road. Gamble extended his lines so as to cover the space leftward as far as the Middletown road.

The Confederates were early in motion. This time Pettigrew was reinforced by the remainder of Heth's division. Their head of column reached Buford's pickets a little after sunrise, and their skirmishers came within sight of the seminary and Buford's artillery before nine o'clock.

Without hesitation Buford's command opened fire upon them, enfilading the roads with his horse artillery, and confidently breasting against them with small arms from his extended line. Doubtless, Confederate Heth thought there must be something besides a cavalry division in his front, for at once he put his command in order of battle. The cavalry, showing the [407] tenacity of infantry, prolonged the struggle until even the leading corps commander of Lee, A. P. Hill, arrived with Pender's division.

It is said that watchers from the Lutheran Seminary, who could from that high point look westward far out toward Cashtown along the Chambersburg pike and behold the thickening columns of Lee, could also at that moment toward the south see our own bright flags approaching amid the rising mists. The sun in its heat was clearing the valleys, and Reynolds with his First Corps was on the field and soon met Buford near the seminary.

It appears that Reynolds, who commanded our wing, gave that morning the immediate charge of the First Corps to his senior division commander, General Abner Doubleday, who set out for the front with the main body. Reynolds, going rapidly to the position of Gamble, encouraged Buford's weary cavalrymen to hold on a little longer, then he sent his officers as guides to conduct Wadsworth directly from the Emmittsburg road across the fields to the Seminary Hill. He also at this time sent an officer to meet me on the road from Emmittsburg.

Doubleday had now come up, so that there were together the wing, the corps, and two division commanders, yet thus far only two brigades of infantry and the weary division of cavalry to withstand the large corps of A. P. Hill. But Wadsworth's division was well commanded. He himself, of large frame, always generous and a natural soldier, had under him two reliable brigades, Cutler's and Meredith's; the latter, for its tenacity, was dominated the “Iron brigade.” In these Were some notable regimental commanders who gave strong character to their regiments. [408]

We noticed how Heth of the Confederates had deployed his columns. Davis's, his right brigade, extended north of the Chambersburg pike and railway, seemed to be aiming for Devin's right, while Archer's, on his (Davis's) left, deployed southward and advanced toward the Seminary Ridge. The firing was brisk and our skirmishers retiring. Archer had reached the edge of a handsome grove of trees that stretched along south of the pike and near Willoughby Run.

Reynolds quickly made his dispositions. Meredith was sent against Archer. He deployed and endeavored to take the grove in front. Wadsworth, with Cutler's brave troops, and Buford still there to help him, deployed, pressed forward, and opened his lively fire upon the enemy's right. Just as General Reynolds beheld the movement of his “Iron brigade” going into action, he himself, not far in the rear, on the south side of the pike, on a spot now pointed out to every traveler, fell, pierced through the head with a rifle ball.

On July 1st, weary as I was after having been awakened by the ominous orders of the night, it was necessary to be at work again at dawn. I resolved to send Barlow's division by the direct road to Gettysburg; the distance is eleven miles. Steinwehr's and Schurz's were to follow a road, clearer and better, a little farther to the eastward, passing Homer's Mill and entering the route from Taneytown. Being obliged to wait for Reynolds's order of execution, the columns did not start till 8.30 A. M.

Barlow that day, always vigorous and pushing, owing to the heat of the weather, a road full of ruts and stones, and still obstructed by the supply wagons [409] of the preceding corps, made an average of but two and one-half miles per hour.

With my staff and a small escort of horsemen I set out, as the march began, toward Gettysburg, taking the fields and woods, in order to avoid the trains and columns which occupied the roads. Many officers remember the rapidity of that ride. By 10.30 A. M., according to my own time, I was in sight of the village of Gettysburg, when the staff officer which Reynolds had dispatched on his arrival met me. He gave me information of the commencement of the battle.

A battle was evidently in progress, judging by the sounds of the cannon and small arms and the rising smoke, a mile and a half to my left. I could then see the divisions of Doubleday, moving along northwesterly across the open fields toward the seminary. My previous orders were to keep within supporting distance. When neither corps was in action this was interpreted to be an interval of four or five miles, but the aid who met me said: “Come quite up to Gettysburg.” I remember distinctly, as if it were but yesterday, asking him where the general desired to place me and the aid replied: “Stop anywhere about here, according to your judgment, at present.” The spot where this remark was made was on the Emmittsburg road, near Sherfy's peach orchard. The aid left and the firing continued. I sent Captain Daniel Hall to find Reynolds and bring me word that I might go to him.

Then with my staff, as was my habit in coming to a new field, I began to examine the positions with the view of obtaining the best location in that vicinity for our troops. I rode from place to place, first visiting the high portion of a cross ridge to my left, near the [410] Emmittsburg road. Not finding a point from which I could get an extended view and noticing higher ground eastward, I turned and rode to the highest point of the Cemetery Ridge. Here was a broad view which embraced the town, the seminary, the college, and all the undulating valley of open country spread out between the ridges. There was a beautiful break in the ridge to the north of me, where Culp's Hill abuts against the cemetery, and touches the creek below. It struck me that here one could make a strong right flank.

Colonel Meysenberg was my adjutant general. We sat on our horses, side by side, looking northward, when I said: “This seems to be a good position, colonel,” and his own prompt and characteristic reply was: “It is the only position, general.” We both meant position for Meade's army.

After observing the whole sweep of the country, I then made up my mind what I would do with my troops, or recommend for Reynolds's wing, or for the army, should my advice be sought, that is, use that Cemetery Ridge as the best defensive position within sight.

Recognizing that one's mind is usually biased in favor of his own theory, I have taken great pains to ascertain the impressions of others who were associated with me as to whether I received any instructions or intimation from any quarter whatever touching the selection of Cemetery Ridge and Hill. The testimony, both direct and indirect, points all one way: that I did not; that I chose the position and used it throughout the first day of the battle, as we shall see. The aiddecamp of General Reynolds (Captain Rosengarten), who thinks he heard General Reynolds tell my aiddecamp that I must occupy Cemetery Ridge, is certainly [411] in error. Captain Daniel Hall was the only aid of mine sent to the general; the only one who saw him at all, and he never brought me any such order or intimation. In this connection I may quote Captain Hall's own words in a letter to me:

You directed me to ride forward as rapidly as possible, find General Reynolds, report to him the progress of the Eleventh Corps, and ask for his orders. I followed with all speed and overtook him nearly at the extreme advance of our troops, where the skirmishers and some regiments were already hotly engaged. I spoke to General Reynolds, reported to him the approach of the Eleventh Corps, as directed, and told him you had sent me to obtain his orders. In reply he told me to inform you that he had encountered the enemy apparently in force, and to direct you to bring your corps forward as rapidly as possible to the assistance of the first. General Reynolds gave no order whatever in regard to occupying Cemetery Hill, nor did he make any allusion to it.

I immediately left him to return to you. Retracing my steps, I met you hurrying into the town, and not far from the cemetery. I communicated to you the order of General Reynolds to bring up your column as rapidly as possible to the assistance of the First Corps, and the order was dispatched immediately back to the columns of Schurz and Barlow. Riding into the town at your side I remember that, as we passed along the road at its base, you pointed to the crest of Cemetery Ridge on our right and said: “There's the place to fight this battle,” or words to similar effect.

Speaking of the same thing in another letter to a friend in February, 1877, Hall says: “The impression has always been firmly fixed in my mind that the first [412] suggestion that I ever heard about occupying Cemetery Hill was from General Howard.”

Once more, in a subsequent letter to me, Captain Hall used these words: “I know to a certainty that nobody anticipated you in seeing the importance of Cemetery Hill, and immediately acting upon that conclusion.”

Major E. P. Pearson, of the Twenty-first Infantry, who was then Captain Pearson, commissary of musters, avers the same thing in a letter that lies before me. And certainly there is no official communication or testimony from any quarter whatever that has ever reached me which even claims that any orders for me to occupy Cemetery Hill or Ridge were delivered to me.

After my first visit to the cemetery with my staff, I rode into the village, and we were trying some method of getting into the belfry of the court house, when my attention was called by Mr. D. A. Skelly to Fahnestock's observatory across the street.

Mounting to the top, I was delighted with the open view. With maps and field glasses we examined the battlefield. Wadsworth's infantry, Buford's cavalry, and one or two batteries were nearest, and their fighting was manifest. Confederate prisoners were just then being sent to the rear in large groups from the Seminary Ridge down the street past my post of observation.

We were noting the numerous roads emerging from Gettysburg and from our charts comparing the location and names, when a young soldier riding up the street below, stopped, and looking up, saluted me and said: “General Reynolds is wounded, sir,” and I replied [413] to him: “I am very sorry; I hope he will be able to keep the field.”

It was not many minutes afterwards that an officer (I now believe it was Captain Hall) stood in the same street and, looking up, said sadly: “General Reynolds is dead, and you are the senior officer on the field.” This, of course, put me in the commander's place.

I realized the situation. We had here, deducting our losses, in Lee's front, not to exceed 12,000 men; my corps was yet many miles back and our other troops were very much scattered, and the majority of them far away-too far for this day's work. My heart, was heavy and the situation was grave indeed but I did not hesitate, and said: “God helping us, we will stay here till the army comes,” and quickly dictating orders, assumed command of the field; Schurz to take the Eleventh Corps; Doubleday to hold the First, and the cavalry of Buford to remain with him. Reynolds's last call for help had gone through me back on the Emmittsburg and Taneytown roads, to Barlow, Schurz, and Steinwehr. The new orders were carried to them again by Captain Hall to Schurz and to the reserve artillery under Major Osborn; by Captain Pearson to Barlow; then on to Sickles, ordering him up from Emmittsburg. Thence the news was borne to General Meade at Taneytown. A message was also sent to General Slocum, who was my senior. He was, judging from Meade's orders by this time at or near the two taverns.

Under my orders Osborn's batteries were placed on the Cemetery Ridge and some of them covered by small epaulements. General Steinwehr's division I put in reserve on the same heights and near the Baltimore pike. Dilger's Ohio battery preceded the corps, [414] and soon after Wheeler's, the two passing through the town at a trot, to take their places on the right of the First Corps. Schurz ordered General Schimmelfennig (who had Schurz's division now) to advance briskly through Gettysburg and deploy on the right of the First Corps in two lines. Shortly after that the first division, under Barlow, arrived by the Emmittsburg road proper, and advanced through the town on the right of the third division. I rode with Barlow through the city, and out to what is now Barlow Hill.

The firing at the front was severe and an occasional shell burst over our heads or among the houses. When I think of this day, I shall always recall one incident which still cheers my heart: it was that a young lady, after all other persons had quite disappeared for safety, remained behind on her porch and waved her handkerchief to the soldiers as they passed. Our living comrades who were there will not forget this episode, nor the greeting which her heroism awakened as they were going to battle. How heartily they cheered her!

Leaving Barlow to complete his march and deployment near the upper waters of Rock Creek, and sending my senior aid, Major C. H. Howard, to visit Buford, I rode off to the left, passing in the rear of Robinson, had a few words with Wadsworth, and stopped a short time with Doubleday farther to the west. Doubleday's left flank was near the Willoughby Run, and his artillery actively firing at the time.

The first brilliant incidents of the engagements in this quarter were over, but the movements made by General Reynolds did not cease at his death. Meredith under Doubleday's eye made a charge straight forward which resulted in the capture of a Confederate [415] brigade commander (General Archer) and several hundred of his men; but Cutler, farther to the right, was not so fortunate. A charge from Confederate Davis's brigade broke his line; the One Hundred and Forty-seventh New York, near the railway cut, was badly handled and lost much ground; the Fourteenth Brooklyn, Ninety-fifth New York, and Hall's battery were cut off, and in danger of capture; the horses of one gun were all disabled, so that the best thing to do was to retire and leave that gun to the enemy. Just here the corps commander (Doubleday) took the offensive farther to the left; using Fairchild's --Second Wisconsin and a piece of artillery, he pressed them forward; then bearing to the right, they fired rapidly into the exposed flank of the Confederate commander Davis, who was too hotly in pursuit of Cutler's men to notice these flankers. Of course, Davis turned upon his new enemy, but Cutler's men, recovering from their temporary discomfiture, pushed forward into action. Two Confederate regiments were thus caught between two fires and in the railroad cut and soon surrendered with their brigade commander.

Immediately after this movement General Robinson, of the First Corps, posted his division more strongly northward of Wadsworth, drawing back his right so as by the aid of Buford to make there a strong flank. It was a little after eleven o'clock and this primary work of the First Corps was over. There was artillery firing and skirmishing, but just then no active effort by either army. The temporary repulse of Cutler and the defeat of Archer and Davis had produced a feeling of caution on both sides, so that there was a period of delay before any organized assault was again attempted. [416]

I returned to my headquarters feeling exceedingly anxious about the left flank. I believed, as soon as Lee should deploy the entire corps of Hill and support his line by Longstreet's men, who could not be far behind, that Doubleday's weak left would be overlapped and pressed back; so, in order to relieve the threatened pressure against the First Corps and at the same time occupy the enemy's attention, I ordered Schurz to push out a strong force from his front and seize a wooded height situated some distance north of Robinson's position; but the order had hardly left me when Major Howard brought me word that Early's division of Ewell's corps was at hand; in fact, the entire corps was coming in from the north and east. Reports from Schurz and Buford confirmed the alarming intelligence.

Barlow against a shower of bullets made a strong effort to advance his lines, but as soon as I heard of the approach of Ewell and saw that nothing could prevent the turning of my right flank if Barlow advanced, the order was countermanded, except to press out a skirmish line. The skirmishers on their arrival found the heights already occupied by Rodes's division of Ewell's corps.

Our lines were much extended, and there was quite an interval between the Eleventh and First Corps, occupied only by the two batteries and skirmishers which I have named, yet Robinson, aided by Schimmelfennig (Forty-fifth New York Regiment), captured in that space another Confederate brigade (Iverson's).

I sent again to General Slocum, hoping that he would be able to come to my relief. After a short time, probably within one hour after I had returned from Doubleday to the cemetery, a lively skirmish [417] arose all along the front. At 3.30 P. M. the enemy renewed his attack upon the First Corps, hotly pressing the first and second divisions. There was a similar movement of Ewell's deployed lines against Schurz. The fighting became severe and reinforcements were called for. I sent from the reserve all that I dared. Steinwehr had then at my instance put one brigade-Coster's — in the edge of the town, behind barricades and in houses, prepared to cover the anticipated retreat. At 3.45 the calls to me for help from Doubleday and Wadsworth were stronger than ever. Schurz was instructed to send one regiment to Wadsworth, as his front was the place at that moment of the hardest pressure. It was only a few minutes after this when the firing, growing worse and worse, showed me that the front lines could not hold out much longer.

I will not attempt to describe the action further. It saddens me to think of the losses on that front. The order that I sent to Doubleday then was this: “If you cannot hold out longer, you must fall back to the cemetery and take position on the left of the Baltimore pike.”

But it was not long before I was satisfied that the men were giving way at different points of the line, and that the enemy, who overreached both flanks, were steadily and slowly advancing. I then sent positive orders to Schurz and Doubleday to fall back to the cemetery as slowly as possible and take post-the Eleventh on the right and the First on the left of Baltimore pike. I instructed Buford to pass to the extreme left and extend the new line, making with his cavalry all the show possible.

Speaking of the retreat of the two corps Doubleday remarks: “I think the retreat would have been a very [418] successful one, if it had not been unfortunately the case that a portion of the Eleventh Corps, which had held out very well on the extreme right, had been surrounded and fallen back at the same time that my right flank fell back.”

The two corps were entangled in the streets. There was much straggling there for a time, and doubtless many men leaving their ranks found their way eastward along the Taneytown and Baltimore routes. The brigade in the front of the town, put there to help the retreat, lost heavily.

When the men were reaching their new position on the heights, and at the time of the greatest confusion between 4 and 5 P. M., General Hancock joined me near the Baltimore pike; he said that General Meade had sent him to represent him on the field. I answered as the bullets rent the air: “All right, Hancock, you take the left of the Baltimore pike and I will take the right, and we will put these troops in line.” After a few friendly words between us, Hancock did as I suggested. He also took Wadsworth's division to Culp's Hill and we worked together in prompt preparations until sundown, when, after Slocum's arrival at that time, IIancock returned to meet General Meade. Slocum's troops had been previously placed in the line.

Gratified by the successes of the day, General Lee made but one more attempt against us that night. This, to turn our right in column, our well-posted batteries thwarted. As the darkness fell General Sickles, having at once heeded my call, had arrived from Emmittsburg, and the remainder of the army, with General Meade at its head, was already en route. The First and Eleventh Corps and General Buford's cavalry did their duty nobly that first day at Gettysburg [419] 1-fought themselves into a good defensive position for the army, especially good when the whole Army of the Potomac had come up to occupy the Cemetery Ridge.

General Lee, mistaking our numbers from the vigor of our defense, and beholding the great fortificationlike appearance of our new stand, contented himself with what he had gained, and postponed further attack till the next day.

When the broken regiments were emerging from Gettysburg upon the open ground just north of the cemetery, my aid, Lieutenant Rogers, was standing by my side, both of us dismounted; a colonel passed by murmuring something in German-his English was not at his command just then; fragments of his regiment were following him.

Seeing the color sergeant and guard as they came between me and the stone wall, near the edge of the city, I called out: “Sergeant, plant your flag down there in that stone wall l” Not recognizing me the sergeant said impulsively: “All right, if you will go with me, I will!” Thereupon I took the flag and accompanied by Rogers, the sergeant and his men, set it up above the wall. That flag served to rally the regiment, always brave and energetic, and other troops.

Ames, who succeeded Barlow, formed his entire division to the right of that regiment. After the battle Slocum, Sickles, and I took 9ur headquarters on the ground near the gatekeeper's cottage. Mrs. Peter Thorn, whose husband was a soldier, with her daughter was caring for the cottage. I had been all day from breakfast at sunrise without food and was nearly famished. Mrs. Thorn, before we had time to ask, brought us some bread and cups of coffee. Those refreshments have never been forgotten.

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