Home | Battles | Descendants | Find A Soldier | Monuments | Museum | Towns | Units | Site Map
Adjutant and Inspector General Reports
New York, September 19, 1863.
General: I have the honor to report that, on the evening of the 1st day of July, 1863, I resumed command of the 3d Division of the 1st Corps, consisting of Rowley's and Dana's Brigades. A Third Brigade of Vermont troops, under Big. Gen. Stannard, also reported to me about twilight of the same day. It consisted of the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th Regiments. The 12th and 15th had been directed to act as a guard to the wagon train. The 15th came up the next morning, but was again ordered back for the same purpose. The remaining regiments, having marched with General Sickles' troops through some mistake, were placed in the same line with them on the night of the first. They joined me the next morning, and were posted with my other brigades principally in reserve behind the western part of Cemetery Hill, to assist in the defense of that important position.
On the 2d, the left wing of the 13th Vermont Regiment, under Lieut. Col. Munson, was ordered forward to support a battery, and a company of the 16th Vermont was sent out as a support to the skirmishers in front.
Towards twilight, on the evening of the 2d, I received orders from the Corps Commander to form my men at once, and go to the assistance of Hancock's Corps, which had been driven in by a desperate charge of the enemy. I marched my command as rapidly as possible to the place indicated, which was about a quarter of a mile west of the Cemetery, and formed them on several lines by Regiments for a charge. It was soon discovered that the enemy had retired, and we were ordered to halt. My advance, however, consisting of five companies of the 13th Vermont, under Col. Randall, met Major Gen. Hancock, and asked permission of him to keep on and endeavor to rescue the guns of a regular battery, which had just been captured. The request was granted. Col. Randall charged the retreating enemy in handsome style, retook the four guns that had just been lost. Shortly afterwards, I sent out the 149th and 150th Regiments Pennsylvania Volunteers, who sent in two additional guns taken from the enemy, after a short and spirited engagement, close to his line of battle.
My Division bivouaced for the night on the ground occupied by us. The 16th Vermont, under Col. Veasey, was thrown out to the front on picket. The 149th and 150th Pennsylvania volunteers also remained in close proximity to the enemy all night. The Vermonters, with the 20th New York State Militia and 151st Pennsylvania Volunteers, held the front line during the remainder of the action, and the troops of Rowley's and Dana's Brigades the second and third lines.
About 2 P. M.,on the 3d, a terrific artillery fire opened on us, from more than 100 guns. The firing was accurate and incessant, and lasted for several hours, blowing up caissons from time to time, and sweeping away men as well as artillery and staff horses in every direction. I told the Brigade Commanders to shelter men and officers as much as possible, and when the fire slackened to be prepared to spring to their feet and meet the enemy with the bayonet if necessary.
Toward 5 o'clock I received notice from General Hancock and others that the final charge of the enemy had commenced. The rebels were formed in three lines, with additional troops deployed as wings on the right and left of the rearmost line. In this order they advanced directly towards my Division, overlapping its right. They came on for a short distance and then marched by the left flank until they uncovered the front of my command, and then marched forward against Hancock's troops on my right. The wing nearest to us did not follow the movement, but becoming separated from the main body, moved towards Birney's Division on our left. General Stannard, perceiving that the enemy had exposed his right, at once changed front forward, formed directly upon the flanks of the rebel lines, and poured in a terrible fire which they were wholly unable to resist. I quote from his official report everything in reference to the 3d day's operations:
He says: "The front line thus established was held by my Brigade for twenty-six hours. At about 4 o'clock on the morning of the 3d, the enemy commenced a vigorous artillery attack, which continued for a short time, upon my position. During its continuance I moved the 14th, under command of Colonel Nichols, to the front of the main line about seventy-five yards, which was done at double-quick in good order. I then, with permission from my immediate commander, selected a position to occupy, if attacked with infantry, some distance in front of the line. At about 2 o'clock P. M., the enemy commenced a vigorous attack upon my position. After subjecting us for an hour and a half to the severest cannonade of the whole battle, from one hundred guns or more, the enemy charged with a heavy column of infantry -- at least one division, in close column by Regiments. The charge was aimed directly upon my command, but, owing apparently to the firm front shown them, the enemy diverged midway, and came upon the line upon my right. But they did not thus escape the warm reception prepared for them by the Vermonters. During this charge, the enemy suffered from the fire of the 13th and 14th, range being short. At the commencement of the attack, I called in the 16th Regiment from the skirmish line, and placed it in close column by division in my immediate rear. As soon as the change in the point of attack became evident, I ordered a flank attack upon the enemy's column. Forming in the open meadow in front of our lines, the 13th changed front forward on the first company. The 16th, after deploying, performed the same, and formed on the left of the 13th, at right angles to the main line of our army, bringing them in line of battle upon the flank of the charging divisions of the enemy, and opened a destructive fire at short range, which the enemy sustained but a very few moments, before the larger portion of them surrendered and marched in, not as conquerors, but as captives. I then ordered the two Regiments into their former position. The order was not filled when I saw another rebel column charging immediately upon my left. Col. Veazy, of the 16th, was at once ordered to attack it in its turn upon the flank. This was done as successfully as before. The rebel forces, already decimated by the fire of the 14th Regiment, Col. Nichols commanding, were scooped almost en masseinto our lines. The 16th took in this charge the regimental colors of the 2d Florida and 8th Virginia Regiments, and the battle-flag of another rebel regiment. The 16th was supported in this new and advanced position by four companies of the 14th, under command of Lieut. Col. Rose.
"The movements I have briefly described were executed in the open field under a very heavy fire of shell, grape, and musketry, and they were performed with the promptness and precision of battalion drill. They ended the contest in the centre and substantially closed the battle.
"Officers and men behaved like veterans, although it was for most of them their first battle."
To this splendid record, I have only to add what Gen. Stannard, in his modesty, has forgotten to state: that he, himself, was badly wounded in the leg, but refused to leave the field until the contest was over.
Col. Gates, of the 20th New York Volunteers, also bore a conspicuous part in the repulse of the enemy. He says, in his official report:--
"About 12 P.M. on the 3d, the enemy opened a furious cannonade upon our left centre, which continued about two hours. At the end of that time his infantry advanced in two lines upon my position, when his first line received our fire. He faced to his left, and moved in the new direction until nearly opposite the bill on our left centre, when he faced to the right, and moved rapidly in line of battle toward the hill. The second line followed the movements of the first. Perceiving that his intention was to get possession of the hill and the batteries upon it, which would have cut our line and greatly endangered our army, I ordered my two Regiments by the right flank quickly up to the hillside, which he had already commenced ascending. Here some very sharp fighting took place. The enemy had got possession of the fence at the foot of the hill, and of the slashing on the hillside, caused by felling trees to clear the range for our guns. The fighting was now at quarter pistol range, and the fence and fallen trees gave the enemy considerable protection. I, therefore, ordered my men forward, and they sprang through and over the slashing and up to the fence, the enemy generally dropping their arms and surrendering themselves. Very few of the force that advanced to the attack got back to their own lines again. A great many prisoners were taken, whom I sent to the provost-marshal without guard or escort, as I had no men to spare."
I think these extracts show that it is to Gen. Stannard and Col. Gates the country is mainly indebted for the repulse of the enemy's charge and the final victory of the 3d of July.
About the time the rebels attained our line, heavy reinforcements of artillery and infantry reported to me. I posted them at various oints along the crest and in reserve, but thery were not required, as, before they reached their destination, the enemy had fallen back. The troops in the 2d and 3d lines also deserve special commendation, as they were equally exposed to the enemy's missiles. Although the artillery fire was very severe, I did not see a man desert his post.
After the retreat of the enemy, we remained where we were, and bivouaced upon the field. The Vermont Regiment on picket was relieved, through the kindness of Major General Birney, by a division of the 3d Corps.
On the 4th, my troops still retained the same position on the field of battle.
On the 5th, they retired a few hundred yards, to obtain a more pleasant encampment.
On the 6th, they remained in the same place.
On the 7th, I left very early under orders for Washington.
Among the circumstances worthy of mention, which occurred on the 3d day, was the death of the rebel General Barksdale. He was brought into my lines by my Acting Assistant Inspector General, Lieut. Col. Livingston, 76th N. Y. Vols. His dying speech, and last messages for his family, together with the valuables about his person, were intrusted by him to Lieut. Col. Livingston.
I have already mentioned my staff, in my report of the operations of the Corps on the 1st. They did their whole duty without exception. Several had their horses shot, and one, Lieut. Cowdrey, (Commissioner of Muster,) was wounded.
I was myself struck by a piece of shell towards the close of the day, but was not seriously injured.
Dr. [George M.]*Ramsay, Chief Surgeon of the Division, is entitled to my thanks for his valuable services. Captain [Chandler] Hall, A. Q. M., Captain [John D.] Adair, C. S., Lieut. [Charles T.] Shaw, Ordnance Officer, and Lieut. [George R.] Snowden, of the Ambulance Corps, were all zealous and efficient in the discharge of their duties.
I have the honor to be,
Your obedient servant,
Major General Volunteers.
To Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS,
A. A. G.,
Headquarters Army of the Potomac.
* NOTES: first names, not in the original 1864 Adjutant General's Report, added from the Official Records.
Return to theIndex to Appendix F, Reports of Engagements