[Continued from page 480.]
and the part taken therein by
BY G. G. BENEDICT, LIEUT. and A. D. C.
The Battle of Gettysburgh was one of the great battles of
the world, in respect to numbers engaged and loss of life involved. It was also
the only great battle of the late war fought on the soil of a
It is no part of the purpose of this paper to sketch in
any detail the movements preceding the battle. It will be enough if we remember
that Gen. Lee took across the Potomac, on his northern march, the best
rebel army at the height of its strength, numbering 100,000 men of all arms;
that the Army of the Potomac, 85,000 to 90,000 strong, had followed, constantly
covering Washington till Baltimore was also threatened, and then moving so as
to intercept him, should he march upon either city; and that the rebel
commander, having collected his army in the Cumberland Valley in Pennsylvania,
turned southward on the 1st of July, 1863, through the mountains; to anticipate
the Army of the Potomac in securing the point the village of Gettysburgh, Pa.
at which the main roads cross and diverge to Baltimore, Frederick City,
Harrisburgh and Washington. I omit all details of the hard and toilsome march,
accomplished at the rate of nearly 20 miles a day for ten consecutive days, by
which our army moved from the Rappahannock to the
Thursday, July 2d a pleasant summer day passed on without strife till 3 o'clock, P. M., when its quiet was broken by a movement on the part of our army. At the hour named, the 3d Corps, Gen. Sickles, swung out from its position on the left of Cemetery Hill and advanced to occupy a low rounded ridge half a mile to the east. It was an unfortunate movement. Longstreet, as Gen. Lee states in his official report, had been ordered to occupy the same ridge, and had already deployed his forces, of Hood's and McLaws' divisions, for the purpose. His line extended beyond the left flank of the 3d Corps and he met its advance with a sweeping artillery fire on front and flank, while Hood's and McLaws' pressed forward to seize the crest. The 3d Corps stood up well to its work. Gen. Sickles fell with a shattered leg, but his command held its own and even
drove back the enemy for a time. The rebel Gen. Hood lost
an arm and was taken from the field. His successor, Gen. Robertson, was served
in the same way, and it was not till Longstreet headed a charge in person that
the line of the 3d Corps became broken. It fell back over ground strewn with
its dead. Longstreet now followed up his advantage sharply, and made a
determined effort at once to turn Gen. Meade's left and to break through on the
left center. The attack on the extreme left was repulsed with hard and bloody
fighting by the 5th Corps, Gen. Sykes, which as the assault on the 3d Corps
opened had just formed its line in the rear and to the left of the 3d Corps.
The broken lines of the 3d were enabled to form afresh in the rear of the 5th,
while the latter stubbornly held its ground, with the support of a portion of
the 6th Corps, now just arrived upon the field. The left of the 5th Corps
extended to Little Round Top Hill, and desperate fighting took place for the
possession of that hill. The enemy were repulsed at its foot by a brigade of
the 5th Corps, consisting of the 16th Michigan, 44th New York, 83d
Pennsylvania, and 20th Maine, which not only maintained its positron with a
loss of the brigade commander, Col. Vincent, and fifty per cent. of its members
killed and wounded, but captured some 300 prisoners. The hill was finally
occupied by the 20th
The attempt on the left center came nearer to succeeding
when success for it would have been bitter disaster for our army. The disaster
to the 3d Corps left open large intervals in our lines to the left of Cemetery
Hill. A portion of the troops brought down by Gen. Hancock, commanding that
wing, to fill the largest gap, had broken for the rear under the pressure of
Longstreet's advancing columns. The federal batteries to the south of the hill
were left without support. One or more of them had actually fallen into the
hands of the enemy, when the
This service was important enough to be described a little more in detail.
To go back a little, the Vermont 2d Brigade, consisting of the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 16th Vermont Regiments, under command of Brig. Gen. Geo. J. STANNARD, had been assigned to the 3d division of the 1st Corps, when the army passed the line of the Occoquan; but leaving that line a day behind the Corp; it had not been able, though marching hard and gaining gradually on the Corps, to make an actual junction with it before the battle. The 12th and 15th Regiments were detached at Emmettsburgh, by order of Major Gen. Reynolds, to guard the Corps trains. On the afternoon of Wednesday, July 1st, one of these regiments having been ordered up to the field by Gen. Sickles, the 15th Regiment rejoined the brigade on Cemetery Hill, and remained there through the night and until noon of the 2d, when it was sent back by Gen. Doubleday to guard the train, then parked at Rock Creek Church, about two and a half miles from the field. The 12th and 15th Regiments were sent back to Westminister from there; and thus, while doing important duty and going where they were ordered, had no opportunity to share in the glory and dangers of the actual conflict.
The Brigade, (thus for the time being reduced to three regiments) did its utmost, on Wednesday, hurried forward by the sound of cannon and by couriers from Gen. Doubleday, to reach the field in time to take part in the first day's fight. It succeeded only in reaching the ground as the last guns of that day were fired from Cemetery Hill. It marched in on the left, over ground which was occupied by the enemy next morning, and after some marching and counter-marching, under contradictory orders from different corps commanders, three of whom assumed immediate command of the Brigade, was allowed to halt and drop to rest on the left of Cemetery Hill. Gen, Stannard was appointed General Field Officer of the day, or of the night rather, for that portion of the field, and a picket detail of 200 men of the 16th Regiment was posted in front, relieving Cavalry who had been doing that service. Thursday morning the Brigade was moved to the rear of Cemetery Hill, and five companies of the 13th, under Lieut. Col. Munson, were detached as a support to one of the batteries on the Hill. Co. B, of the 16th, was also detached to strengthen the skirmish line on the left front of Cemetery Hill, and
did not rejoin the regiment till the close of the battle.
While stationing these skirmishers, Capt. Foster, Acting Inspector General in
Gen. Stannard's Staff, was shot through both legs, the first officer of the
Brigade that was hurt by a rebel bullet. The shells burst thickly over the
Brigade during the severe shelling of Cemetery Hill, which accompanied the
assault on our left Thursday afternoon, and a few men were wounded by the
pieces. But the men had nothing to do till five or six o'clock, when the orders
came which hurried the Brigade to the left and front, into the fight of which
they had thus far heard much but seen little. They were sent to the rescue and
support of the batteries on the left center, which the enemy, following up the
retreat of the 3d Corps. were now assaulting with infantry. The 14th Regiment,
Col. Nichols, led the way, and forming in line of battle, moved forward under a
sharp fire to the rear of a battery from which the supporting infantry had just
retired in confusion. The enemy fell back as they advanced, and the firing soon
ceased at that point. The 16th Regiment, Col. Veazey, which followed the 14th,
also found in front of it a battery without support, and supported it till dark
losing several men wounded by shells. The right wing of the 13th (the left
wing of the regiment, it will be remembered, was supporting a battery on
Cemetery Hill and had not yet come up) was brought forward in the rear of the
position of a battery which had just fallen into the hands of the enemy. The
gunners had fled from their guns or fallen under them. The rebels had laid hold
of the pieces. In another minute they would have been withdrawn or turned upon
us. At this moment Col. Randall, whose horse had just been shot under him and
who was marching on foot at the head of his regiment, was addressed by Gen.
Hancock who had been endeavoring to rally the panic-struck supports of the
battery with the question, if he could retake that battery? "We can;
forward, boys!" was the reply, and in they went. The battery was saved,
the guns were passed to the rear; but the 13th did not stop there. Pushing on
with his men Col. Randall advanced to the Emmettsburgh road, half a mile to the
front, and captured there two 12 lb. brass guns, brought down by the enemy
while following up the 3d Corps. These were the only guns taken by our forces
from the hands of the enemy during the battle, though another piece, abandoned
by the rebels in their retreat, fell into our hands subsequently. A company of
about 40 rebels, with their Captain, were taken prisoners in and about
While these events were in progress on the left wing, Gen.
Meade's center and right had been subjected to a shelling, which was only
eclipsed by that on the left center the day following. At five o'clock the
enemy, probably surmising (which was the fact) that our right had been weakened
to reinforce the left, made a determined attack on our extreme right. The
ground here is high and broken, rising into two eminences, known as Culp's Hill
and Wolf Hill, whose steepest inclines faced the enemy to the north and east
separated by a deep valley or ravine strewn with large granite blocks. Hills
and valley are wooded with a fine growth of oak. The whole position here had
been made very strong by substantial breastworks of felled trees and piled
stones. Culp's Hill was held by Gen. Wadsworth with the remnant of his division
of the 1st Corps, and by Gen. Geary's division of the 12th, until the latter
part of the afternoon, when Geary was ordered with two brigades of his division
across to the right of the field to reinforce Sickles. Gen. Greene's brigade of
Geary's division remained and manned the breastwork through the ravine. About 7
o'clock the famous Stonewall Brigade of Early's division of Ewell's Corps,
formed column in mass, and marched boldly up the steepest part of Culp's Hill,
against what they supposed to be our extreme right. They met the 7th
trees and rocks, kept up, till 9 o'clock, a close but comparatively ineffective fire on our whole position.
This assault on the right was a terribly expensive operation for the enemy, and fruitless with one important exception. At the point where the removal of Geary's troops left the breastwork undefended the rebels gained an entrance. Fortunately the darkness made it impossible to distinguish friend from foe, and prevented them from taking advantage of their success that night; and in the morning they found a different situation of affairs.
The night passed quietly on our lines, and our Generals doubtless took courage as they looked the situation over. We still held our own. We had suffered terribly on the left, but had balanced the account by the slaughter of the rebels on the right, and our army was now all upon the ground.
The 2d Vermont Brigade slept upon its arms, with the exception of the 16th Regiment, which under direction of Col. Veazey, who was general field officer of the day, was posted on the picket line, three companies deployed on the line and the remainder of the regiment held in reserve. During the night word was brought by a prisoner to Col. Nichols, that the rebel Gen. Barksdale lay mortally wounded on the field in front of our line. Col. Nichols at once sent out a detail of eight men under Sergeant Vaughan a brave soldier who fell next day who brought him in on a stretcher and took him to a small temporary hospital in the rear. His last message, "Tell my wife I fought like a man and will die like one," was delivered to Sergeant. Vanghan; and his hat and gloves, which he gave to one of the men who brought him in, are now in Col. Nichols' possession. His body, with a ball hole through the breast, and legs bandaged and bloody from gun shots through both of them, lay in the rear of the position of the Vermont Brigade during the forenoon and was then temporarily interred upon the spot.
Friday, the third great day of the battle, opened with a
simultaneous cannonade at daylight on right and left, on the left from
Longstreet's batteries along the low ridge he gained the afternoon before. This
was to attract attention to that part of the field, while Ewell should make
good his foothold on the right. It received but small response from our
batteries and died away in an hour or so. On the right our own guns opened the
ball. Several batteries had been collected there to shell the enemy out of the
woods near the
Early, supported by Rhode's division, pressed forward to secure the advantage he had gained the night before. It is said he had sworn, he would break through on our right if it cost him his last man. If so he was forsworn. For six hours from 5 till 11 o'clock the musketry rolled on those hillsides in one incessant crash. For six hours, from other portions of our lines, we watched the white smoke-clouds curling up through the tree-tops, and wondered what the issue would be. At 11 Geary had driven the enemy back over the breastwork into the valley below. Gen. Greene, after repulsing an other desperate assault on his line, made a sally and drove the rebels from his front, capturing three colors and some prisoners. Early retired terribly broken, and the battle was over for good on the right. The rebel dead at its close covered the ground from the front of our breastwork to the foot of the ravine. Our own loss on the right was quite small.
To return to the left centre: The 2d Vermont Brigade took its full share of the opening cannonade in the morning and lost a few men by it. The 14th Regiment in particular had several non-commissioned officers and men killed and wounded at the same instant, by the explosion of a caisson of the battery close to which they were lying. Just after the enemy's batteries opened in tho morning, Col. Nichols received permission to move his regiment forward about ten rods to a position where some scattered trees and bushes afforded a partial shelter for his men. The regiment took up the position during the cannonade and remained substantially in that position thenceforward through the battle. The 13th Regiment lay to the right, and a little to the rear of the 14th. On the right and a few rods to the rear of the 13th, extended the
line of the 2d Corps. About half of the 16th Regiment was upon the skirmish line in front, disposed for the most part in picket posts, rather than strictly as skirmishers and the other half of the regiment was held in reserve in their rear.
The troops of Gen. Doubleday's Division were disposed in
three parallel lines of battle. There were two reasons for this show of
strength. In the first place the comparatively level and open nature of the
ground at that point invited assault. In the second place our Division and
Corps Generals distrusted the ability of the
With the exception of scattered firing on the skirmish line, no fighting took place on the left during the forenoon of Friday. The only further preparation to resist an attack that under the circumstances could be made in that portion of the field, was attended to. It was to collect the rails lying strewn where the dividing lines of the fields had run, and to pile them into breastworks. There were not enough of them to make a breastwork proper, anywhere; but they sufficed for a low protection of from two to three feet in height, which would shelter men lying flat behind them, and we found that every such help was needed before the day was done.
For two hours succeeding the close of the musketry fight on the right, almost absolute quiet prevailed along the lines. Occasionally only, a distant cannon shot boomed from the north where Gregg with the cavalry were harassing the enemy's left and rear. The silence else was oppressive. The batteries frowned like grim bull dogs from the opposing ridges, but not a shot was fired. The great feature of the day and a grander one has seldom been witnessed in the history human warfare was in preparation, the charge of an army; for the body of infantry which Longstreet had been marshaling during the forenoon, for the great assault on our left center, was an army in itself. That charge has commonly been known as the charge of Pickett's Division, a most inadequate title. The troops composing it were not one but three divisions (lacking one or two brigades) of the rebel army. They were Pickett's Division of Longstreet's Corps, Heath's Division of' Hill's Corps, commanded by Pettigrew, Heath having been wounded the day before and two-thirds of Pender's Division of the same corps, commanded by Trimble, Pender being also wounded. Pickett, as stated by the correspondent of the London Times, by the Richmond Press, and by prisoners taken, took not less than 4300 men of his division into that charge. Pettigrew's was a strong division, made stronger by the addition of Wilcox's brigade of Anderson's Division and numbered, on the same authority, 10,000 men. The two brigades of Pender's Division probably numbered not less than 2,500 men. The English officer who wrote the account of the battle in Blackwood's Magazine says Longstreet told him afterwards that the great mistake on their side was in not making the attack on Friday afternoon with 30,000 men instead of 15,000. They made it, as these figures show, with about 17,000.
The grand assault was heralded by a cannonade of equally tremendous proportions. The pieces which played upon our left center were estimated by our Generals at the time at one hundred. The reports from the other side show that there were more than that. The London Times' Correspondent states that 140 guns were in position opposite our left center, without counting Ewell's batteries on the right, which, he adds, "made a concert of about 200 guns." Other rebel accounts say 140 guns. There was doubtless concentrated on our left center the fire from 140 to 150 pieces a fire with hardly a parallel in field operations. The famous cannonade with which Napoleon preceded the decisive charge at Wagram, was of but 100 guns, and that of Ney at Borodino of but 80.
At ten minutes past 10 o'clock the signal gun was fired, the rebel pieces were run to the top of the low ridge which had concealed their movements from us, and in an instant the air seemed literally filled with flying missiles. It was a converging fire which
VERMONT AT GETTYSBURGH. 713
came upon our lines at every angle from direct point blank, at a range at which grape was served with effect, to an enfilading fire, from a battery of Whitworth guns far to the right, which sent their long six-sided bolts screaming by, parallel to our lines, from a distance of over two miles. Shells whizzed, and popped, and fluttered on every side; spherical case shot exploded over our heads, and rained iron bullets upon us; solid shot tore the ground around us, and grape hurtled in an iron storm against the low breastwork of rails. About 80 guns replied from our side. It is of course impossible to describe such a cannonade. It may assist the imagination, however, to recollect that a field piece, actively served, is discharged with ease twice in a minute. Of course such a rate cannot be maintained continuously, still at times it was probably the case that the 230 guns in action gave over 200 discharges a minute, and, adding the explosions of the shells, it is not extravagant to estimate that in many a minute of those two hours the explosions amounted to 400; and this without count of the musketry. The din of the cannonade was compared, by the English writer I have quoted, to the "thundering roar of all the accumulated battles ever fought upon earth rolled into one volume." The sound was distinctly heard at the town of Greensboro, Green County, Penn., 143 miles in a direct line from Gettysburgh.
This cannonade was in due accord with the precepts of modern military science. The articleon artillery in the New American Encyclopedia closes as follows:
"The grandest results are obtained by the reserve artillery, in great and decisive battles. Held back out of sight the greater part of the day, it is brought forward in mass upon the decisive point, when the time for the final effort has come. Formed in a crescent a mile or more in extent it concentrates its destructive fire upon a comparatively small point. Unless an equal number of guns is there to meet it, half an hour's rapid firing settles the matter; the enemy begins to wither under the hailstorm of howling shot, the intact reserves of infantry advance, a last sharp struggle and the victory is won. Thus did Napoleon prepare McDonald's advance at Wagram, and resistance was broken before the three divisions advancing in column had fired a shot or crossed bayonet with the enemy."
Gen. Lee followed closely the general plan thus laid down, but there were some variations in details. Instead of half an hour of rapid firing, he gave two hours; there was another important variation the troops sustaining "the hailstorm of howling shot" did not "wither" according to the programme. Creeping close under the low protections of rails they had piled in the forenoon, and hugging the ground, heads to the front and faces to the earth, our men remained immovable in their lines. The general, staff and field officers alone, as their duties required, stood erect or moved from their places, all else needed little caution to keep down even the wounded, for the most part, remained and bled quietly in their places. Col. Veazey of the 16th Vermont regiment, in a recent letter to the writer, recalls a most remarkable effect of the cannonade on his men, who it may be premised had been on picket the night before, and, in common with the rest of the Vermont 2d brigade (the 14th regiment excepted) had been mainly without food for 24 hours. He says: "The effect of this cannonading on my men was the most astonishing thing I ever witnessed in any battle. Many of them, I think a majority, fell asleep, and it was with the greatest effort only that I could keep awake myself, notwithstanding the cries of my wounded men, and my anxiety in reference to the more fearful scenes which I knew would speedily follow." The portion of his regiment of which he speaks was lying at this time in front of and almost under the muzzles of our own batteries, which fired right over them. It could hardly have been sleep under such circumstances which overpowered the men, but was rather probably a stunned and weary drowse.
The effect of this awful cannonade was especially noticeable on the batteries which occupied the crest on our side, and which were for the most part without any protection. They stood stoutly to their work but suffered greatly in both horses and men. Four caissons of Thomas' battery, in position on the left center just to the right of the Vermont 2d brigade, were blown up at once by the enemy's projectiles. There was a scene of great confusion around it for a moment as the thick cloud of smoke, through which shot fragments of exploding shells, rolled up, and mutilated horses were seen dashing wildly to the rear; but another battery wheeled promptly into its place, and before the rebel cheers which greeted the sight from the opposite ridge, had died away,
714 VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.
our fire opened with fresh vigor from the spot. Cushing's battery, further to the right, lost 63 of the 84 horses attached to it.
The cannonade ceased on the rebel side shortly after 3 o'clock, and the grand charge followed. The assaulting force of about 17,000 men was formed, the main body in two lines, with a front of about 1,000 yards, with supports in the rear, extending beyond the flanks of the front lines. The ground selected for this movement was the only portion of the whole field over which so many men could have been rushed in line. It was a broad stretch of open meadow ground, with here and there a cultivated field, extending from the left of Cemetery Hill to the southwest, perhaps a mile and a half in length and varying from half a mile to nearly a mile in width between the confronting ridges. It sloped gently for most of the distance, from the summit occupied by our batteries for half the way across, and then rose with like gentle incline to the enemy's position.
The advance of the enemy was deliberate and steady.
Preceded by their skirmishers the long gray lines came on at common time, till
they reached the lowest ground half way across the open interval, when the
VERMONT AT GETTYSBURGH. 715
before them. The 13th regiment moved first, and marching by the right flank approached to near the enemy's flank that Gen. Stannard feared for the moment that his order had been misunderstood, and sent an order to "change front forward on first company" at once. This was immediately done. The extreme left of the battalion, as it swung out into the scattering fire now opened from the enemy's flank, faltered for a moment. There was danger for the instant that the hesitation and disorder might extend down the line and endanger the success of the movement; but the few men who had begun to hang back and look to the rear were promptly faced into line by a staff officer; and a line of fire ran down the front of the regiment, as they opened at half pistol range upon the enemy. The 16th regiment now came down and formed on their left, and once engaged in firing, all were so eager that it was with difficulty they were induced to perceive the fact and stop, after the enemy in front of them had surrendered. The front of our regiments, where they opened fire, was hardly a dozen rods from the enemy's flank, and they advanced while firing, so that that distance was much lessened. At this short range the 13th fired 10 or 15 rounds, and the 16th probably half that number, into a mass of men on which every bullet took effect, and many doubtless found two or three victims. The effect upon the rebel lines was instantaneous. Their progress ceased close upon the low breastworks of the 2d Corps. For a moment they crowded together in bewilderment, falling like wheat before the reaper, then breaking into a disorderly mob they fled in all directions The larger portion, on their right and center, dropped their arms and rushed within our lines as prisoners. On their left, where Pettigrew's Division had made a less resolute advance, the larger portion retreated whence they came. Their dead and wounded and small arms by thousands strewed the ground over which they charged.
But the work on the left center was not yet ended. The rebel brigade, which formed the support to Pickett's Division on his right, was now advancing across the open fields. It did not follow the flank movement, which had proved so disastrous to the main column, but marched straight forward, directing its course upon the position of the 14th Regiment, its front extending to the left of the 14th. The batteries and the 14th received it with a hot fire in front, while the 16th, already faced about by Col. Veazey and started back in anticipation of the order, was ordered back, to take them on the flank. The 13th was at the same time directed to resume its former position. The enemy's batteries, which had ceased their fire as their lines approached ours, now reopened with redoubled fury, and shot and shell tore thickly through the ranks of our regiments, as these orders were obeyed. They sustained it, however, without being thrown into disorder, some of the rebel accounts to the contrary notwithstanding. The 13th resumed its place in the line in good order, while the 16th, marching by the flank, hurried back at double quick across the open field, losing many men killed or wounded, but keeping its formation as perfectly as if marching on parade. Soon changing front to the left, the regiment formed in line of battle, facing obliquely the left flank of the rebel force, now brought nearly to a halt by the front fire. At Col. Veazey's request, preferred in person to Gen. Stannard, he was now given permission to charge. The regiment fell upon the enemy's flank cheering, with bayonets at a charge, and without firing a shot. The movement was so sudden that the rebel commander could effect no change of front to meet it, and the 16th swept down the line of three regiments, taking their colors and scooping them in a body into our lines. The prisoners were, for the most part, passed over to the troops in our rear at once, and the exact number taken by our Vermont troops is not known. Of the rebel forces engaged in that charge 3500 were left in our hands as prisoners. Nearly as many more were killed or wounded. The remainder, in scattered squads, retreated beyond the low ridge and were lost to our view. The colors taken by the 16th were those of the 8th Verginia the battle flag of another regiment, which was lost by the fall of the man who took it and was brought in by other parties, and the colors of the 2d Florida, a beautiful silk flag bearing a rising sun with the inscriptions of "Williamsburgh" and "Seven Pines." The 16th occupied for a while a position on the left, taken by them after this charge, under the final cannonade of the enemy, which they opened on friend and foe alike, and was supported for a short time
there by four companies of the 14th, under Lieut. Col. Rose. The regiments were then all brought back to the original line and remained there till 10 o'clock in the evening, when they were withdrawn a short distance to the rear and allowed to bivouac for the night.
The loss of the brigade was:
Killed. Wounded. Missing.
Of the 13th Regt., 8 89 26
" " 14th " 17 68 22
" " 16th " 14 89 15
Total: 39 killed, 246 wounded, 63 missing aggregate, 348.
During the last sharp shower of grape and shell, with which the enemy strove to cover his repulse, Gen. Stannard was wounded in the leg by an iron shrapnel ball, which passed down for three inches into the muscles on the inside of the thigh. His wound was very painful till a surgeon came (which was not for an hour) and removed the ball; but. though strongly urged, he refused to leave the field. He remained in front with his men till his command was relieved from duty in the front line, till his wounded had been removed, and arrangements made for burying the dead, and then sank almost lifeless to the ground. To his perfect coolness, close and constant presence with his men, and to the promptness almost that of inspiration with which he seized the great opportunity of the battle, was very greatly owing the glorious success of the day.
Maj. Gen. Hancock fell, while in conversation with Gen. Stannard, close to the front line, just after the flank attack had been ordered. He was caught, as he sank from his horse, by Gen. Stannard's Aids, Lieuts. Hooker and Benedict, and the bleeding from his wound a singular and very severe one from the joint entrance, at the upper part of the thigh, of a minne ball and a twisted iron nail was stopped by the hands of Gen. Stannard and members of his staff.
There was some skirmishing on the left at dusk; but the battle in fact ended with the repulse of the great charge of Pickett, Trimble and Pettigrew, on Friday afternoon. Two or three of the enemy's batteries retained their places opposite our position till dark; but it is now known that in their rear a scene of complete panic prevailed. Henry Congdon, of Clarendon, Vt., a sharpshooters then a prisoner behind the enemy's lines, states that the rebel forces opposite our left center, started at once in full retreat and could not be rallied till they found they were not followed. This is confirmed by the English eyewitness, on the rebel side, who wrote the account of the battle published in Blackwood's Magazine in September, 1863, who says: "It is difficult to exaggerate the critical state of affairs as they appeared about this time [subsequent to the repulse.] If the enemy or their general had shown any enterprise, there is no saying what might have happened."
I go back again, to note the share in the battle taken by
VERMONT AT GETTYSBURGH. 717
was ordered forward and drove in their skirmishers for a mile or more. On Sunday, the 5th, the brigade joined in the pursuit of the retreating enemy, until he effected his escape through the mountains.
That Hood's Division, on Longstreet's extreme left, did not participate in the great rebel assault of Friday afternoon, is believed to be due to the presence and daring of our Cavalry. At four or five o'clock in the afternoon Gen. Farnsworth, commanding a brigade of Gen. Kilpatrick's Division, which covered Gen. Meade's left, was ordered to attack the enemy strongly posted behind some stone walls. With the 1st Virginia and 2d battalion of the 1st Vermont Cavalry he charged. Leaping a wall, under a severe fire, he dispersed the front line of the enemy, followed them through a field swept by hostile batteries, and succeeded in piercing through a second line, in the rear of which his force became dispersed. Lieut. Col. Preston moved gallantly to his support with two squadrons of the 1st Vermont Cavalry, encountered a rebel regiment sent on to intercept the retreat of the first column, and, after a severe struggle, drove it from its position. The attack could not be maintained, however, and the cavalry withdrew, leaving behind them the brave Farnsworth and 75 of the Vermont Cavalry killed and wounded; but having accomplished the important diversion intended, and having made one of the most gallant charges by cavalry on infantry in line, on record in the war.
I have thus shown that at three important points in the field, and at two great crises of the battle the presence and good behavior of Vermont troops had an important bearing on the final result. But something more than this may be justly claimed for them, viz. that the flank attack of the 2d Vermont Brigade decided the fate of that great rebel charge, and with it the issue of the battle. Disinterested testimony to this fact is given by the English and rebel correspondents, who certainly had no partialities to gratify on our side, and by the rebel officers taken prisoners. An account of the charge and its repulse, given in the Richmond Sentinel of July 13, 1863, contains the following passage:
"The order was given at 3 o'clock, P. M., and the advance was commenced, the infantry marching at common time across the field, and not firing a musket until within 75 yards of the enemy s works. As Kemper's Brigade moved up it swung around to the left and was exposed to the front and flanking fire of the Federals, which was very fatal. This swinging around unmasked a part of the enemy's force, five regiments being pushed out from their left to the attack. Directly this force was unmasked, our artillery opened on it with terrible precision. * * *
"Seven Confederate flags were planted on the stone fence, but there not being enough men to support them, they were captured by the advancing Yankee force, and nearly all of our severely wounded were left in the hands of the enemy.
* * * * * * *
Another account, in the same paper, derived from the
surviving officer of the 1st
"When the firing of cannon ceased, the order for the infantry to advance was given, which was done at common time no doublequicking or cheering, but solemnly and steadily those veterans directed their steps towards the heavy and compact columns of the enemy. The skirmishers were at once engaged, the enemy having a double line of skirmishers to oppose our single line. The enemy were driven from their position behind a stone fence, over which entrenchments had been thrown up, and our forces occupied their position about twenty minutes. About this time a flanking party of the enemy, marching in column by regiments, was thrown out from the enemy s left on our extreme right, which was held by Kemper's Brigade, and by an enfilading fire forced the retirement of our troops. * * * *
"With their repulse the heavy fighting of the day terminated. Our loss here was heavy, and our forces, after the most desperate fighting, were forced to fall back beyond the range of fire. * * * *
"In the whole three days fighting we lost but two pieces of cannon, and these were abandoned because of the destruction of their carriages."
The correspondent of the Richmond Enquirer, after a vivid account of the cannonade and charge, in which he states that Pettigrew's Division on the left first broke, adds:
"Pickett is left alone to contend with the hordes of the enemy pouring in on him on every side. Garnett falls, killed by a minnie ball, and Kemper, the brave and chivalrous, reels under a mortal wound and is taken to the rear. Now the enemy move around strong flanking bodies of infantry, and are rapidly
718 VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.
gaining Pickett's rear. The enemy press heavily our retreating line and many noble spirits, who had passed safely through the advance and charge, now fall on right and left. Armistead is wounded and left in the enemy's hands. The shattered remnant of Wright's Georgia Brigade is moved forward to cover their retreat and the fight closes here. Our loss in this charge was very severe."
I add one more quotation, taken from the spirited description by the correspondent of the London Times. He says:
"Slowly emerging into the open ground, with shells (singularly ineffective, as it seemed to me, considering the apparently murderous precision with which they all burst) cracking and snapping over them at every stride, Gen. Pickett's men seemed to take hours to surmount the mile of interval which divided them from the federal batteries. At length their destination is reached; with a wild yell they spring into the Yankee earthworks; astride of each Federal gun rides a Confederate soldier; the group around Gen. Longstreet congratulates him that the advance is a complete success, and for a few moments breath is drawn more freely. But the quick eye of Gen. Longstreet discerns that Pettigrew's Division, upon whose almost simultaneous advance depends the retention by Pickett of the captured guns, is in confusion. Upon the left Pettigrew's men, when close up to the Yankee batteries, perceive a large column of Federals descending the hill to flank them. Retaining that fatal habit of thinking for themselves, which is so pernicious to a soldier, the Confederates first halted, then got into confusion, then broke and fell back. The frightful carnage from grape and canister which, shrinking at this perilous moment, they could not but sustain, was compared by an eye-witness of both scenes to the punishment inflicted on the Federals from the heights of Fredricksburgh in December last. In vain did Gen. Longstreet send Major Latrobe to Gen. Pettigrew, shortly before the latter's troops broke, urging him in military language, 'to refuse his left,' that is, to meet the flanking column by a line thrown obliquely out to meet it. Major Latrobe's horse was shot as he sped on his message, and on foot he could not get up to Gen. Pettigrew in sufficient time to instruct and guide him. When Pettigrew and his men fell back, the flanking column of Yankees, meeting with no resistance, swept round until they approached and overlapped Pickett. Then, and not till then, he commenced to give way. 'Hide, blushing glory, hide' the cost of that retreat. Out of a division of 4300 men he brought out, in the first instance, about 1500, though I believe that another 1000 straggled in the next day. His three Brigadier Generals lay dead or desperately wounded upon the field; out of all his field officers only one, a Major, came out unwounded; 11 out of the 13 colors which he carried into action were lost. Since the commencement of this war I know of no division on either side which has ever made so resolute an advance or been so rudely and murderously handled. Long will the 3d of July be remembered in anguished Virginia, from which State almost all of Pickett's Division was drawn."
With all their inaccuracies in detail, these extracts seem to show conclusively that on the rebel side, at least, the failure of their grand assault of Friday afternoon, and the consequent loss of the battle, was attributed to a flank attack by several Federal regiments; and no such force made, or claims to have made, such an attack that day, but the Vermont Second Brigade.
In following out the main purpose of this paper, I am compelled, by its proper limits, to neglect for the most part all description of the actual scenes of the battle, or allusion to the numerous instances of individual good conduct. Nor can I enter here upon any description of the sickening horrors, offending every sense, of those battlegrounds, on which lay stretched, at the close of the battle, over seven thousand dead men and three thousand dead horses.
It may be fitting to append a summary of the casualties, often incorrectly stated. Gen. Meade's losses including the skirmishes following the battle, in one of which, at Funkstown, the 1st Vermont Brigade was sharply engaged and lost nine killed and fifty-nine wounded, and in which our Vermont Cavalry had an important share and suffered severely were, as officially stated, 2,834 killed, 13,709 wounded, and 6,643 missing. We lost of general officers Maj. General Reynolds, and Brigadier Generals Weed, Zook and Farnsworth killed, and eight wounded, viz.: Major Generals Hancock and Sickles, and Brigadier Generals Barlow, Barnes, Gibbon, Graham, Paul and Stannard. The losses on the rebel side have never been reported. We only know that over 5,000 rebel dead were buried on or near the field; that 7,600 severely wounded rebels were left in our hands and registered in the Gettysburgh hospitals; and that the total of prisoners taken by us was 13,621. We know that the wagons loaded with his wounded taken with him by Gen. Lee on his retreat were counted by the citizens of Green Castle, Pa., as they passed through that town, and numbered 2,100. We know that whereas the
greatest number of rebel general officers killed or
mortally wounded at any previous battle was three, viz.: Gens. Branch, Anderson
and Steele, at
Upon the results of the victory, gained with such fearful bloodshed, I cannot be expected to enter. The time is, I trust, not far distant when the full history of that battle will be written; when the evidence will be brought forth that the advance of Gen. Lee into Pennsylvania was at the invitation of the Northern allies of the Rebellion; and that his anticipated success in the great battle, which must follow, was to have been the signal for an organized outbreak in the cities of Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York, which was to paralyze for the time being the arm of the North, assure the fall of the National Capitol, and gain for the Southern Confederacy the recognition of foreign powers; when the work done in those three July days will be understood and appreciated; and when the fight of Gettysburgh, though mainly a defensive battle on the victorious side, will take its place among the truly decisive battles of the world.