The battle of Gettysburg, 2nd July, 7.15 p.m. till dark

The battle of Gettysburg, 2nd July, 7.15 p.m. till dark

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

The battle of Gettysburg, 2nd July, 7.15 p.m. till dark

Map showing day two of the battle of Gettysburg, 2nd July, 7.15 p.m. till dark

Map taken from Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: III: Retreat from Gettysburg, p.308

Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, Allen C. Guelzo .An excellent account of the Gettysburg campaign, illustrated by a splendid selection of eyewitness accounts. Focuses on the actions of individual commanders, from Meade and Lee down to regimental commanders, with a focus on the corps commanders and their activities and attitudes. Supported by plenty of accounts from further down the command chain and from civilians caught up in the fighting. [read full review]

Stars in Their Courses: Gettysburg Campaign, Shelby Foote, 304 pages. Well researched and written by one of the best known historians of the Civil War, this work is taken from his longer three volume work on the war, but does not suffer from that.

Return to: Battle of Gettysburg - Gettysburg Map Collection

Battle of Gettysburg: General George Sears Greene at Culp’s Hill

The Union left had almost broken late on the afternoon of July 2, 1863, the second day of fighting around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s Rebels had hit the Federals hard for more than an hour, with the 15th and 47th Alabama storming up Little Round Top, the key high ground on the Union left flank. Only the heroics of Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his tiny 20th Maine had prevented the hill’s capture.

Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Union Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, responded to the threat on his left by ordering up reinforcements just after 6:00 p.m. Reserve units from Major General John Sedgwick’s VI Corps, brigades from Meade’s old V Corps, and battered portions of the I Corps all answered his call. Meade then called for the XII Corps, which was guarding the Union right on Culp’s Hill.

Upon receiving Meade’s instructions, Major General Henry Slocum — normally the commander of the Union XII Corps, but at Gettysburg the commander of the army’s right wing — requested permission to leave one of his two divisions on Culp’s Hill as a precaution. But Meade was adamant in his call for all available troops and allowed Slocum to pick only one brigade to stay behind. So Slocum made his choice: the weight of Meade’s questionable decision would fall on the shoulders of Brigadier General George Sears Greene, an austere 62-year-old Rhode Islander who commanded a veteran brigade of New Yorkers, the 3d Brigade of the XII Corps’ 2d Division.

Strengthening the Union left at the expense of the right “nearly proved a calamity to the whole army,” Colonel Lewis R. Stegman of the 102d New York, in Greene’s brigade, later wrote. “It was a suicidal move.” Meade had taken a risky gamble that his right was secure for the day, even though Confederate batteries had just exchanged fire with Federal artillery on Culp’s Hill between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. Greene, however, approached the predicament calmly.

As a descendant of Nathanael Greene, George Washington’s second-in-command, and as the father of two Union soldiers and a Federal naval officer, Greene seemed to have Yankee blue in his blood. He had graduated second in his class from the U.S. Military Academy and afterward spent 13 years in uniform. For the next 25 years, he worked as a civil engineer, rising to the top ranks of his profession before the Civil War drew him back into the army.

At ease, Greene looked more like a kindly preacher than a soldier, but he could conjure up a fierce gaze that, coupled with his commanding voice, made subordinates scramble. One of his soldier sons, Francis Vinton Greene, described him as “a very strict disciplinarian” who demanded “unquestioning obedience to his orders.” In essence, he demanded that his troops respect him, and they did. Eventually he even won their affection.

When Greene first arrived at Culp’s Hill early on the morning of July 2, he immediately realized his position demanded breastworks. Disregarding the objections of his division commander, Brigadier General John Geary, Greene ordered construction to begin. Captain Jesse H. Jones of the 60th New York noted that the men took to the task eagerly because they “instinctively felt that a life and death struggle was impending, and that every help should be used.” Fortunately, the hillside yielded ample supplies for their work. The result was an imposing rampart of wood, stones, and earth that would give Confederate attackers few targets.

The breastworks offered a measure of security, but the fact remained that Greene’s troops on the hill’s ridge held an incredibly vulnerable and tenuous position. When the other five XII Corps brigades headed south in response to Meade’s order just before 7:00 p.m., Greene’s five regiments — a total of just 1,350 men — had to occupy all the vacated works. As dusk set in, Greene ordered his 60th, 78th, 102d, 137th, and 149th New York to stretch out in a line one man deep, with one foot of space between the men. The fortified trenches were nearly half a mile long, and as Green inspected them, he wondered if he had enough manpower to hold his ground.

It was already too late to do anything more than wonder, however. By 7:15 p.m. skirmishers led by Lieutenant Colonel John C.O. Redington of the 60th New York spotted Confederates crossing Rock Creek, near the foot of Culp’s Hill. As the drab butternut-and-gray mass approached, the skirmishers fired a few volleys and raced up the rocky, wooded hill for the safety of the breastworks. As they frantically leapt over the works, Greene dispatched a courier to XI Corps commander Major General Oliver O. Howard and to Brigadier General James S. Wadsworth of the I Corps’ 1st Division with an urgent plea for reinforcements.

The Confederate advance was long overdue. Miscommunication and vacillation had plagued General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia all day. Lee had planned for Longstreet’s First Corps to attack the Federal left while Lieutenant General Richard Ewell’s Second Corps hit the Union right. He later amended the plan so that Longstreet would attack after Ewell first made a feint. Ideally, Ewell’s display would then expand into a full assault. This scheme, originally set to unfold in the morning, was postponed until the late afternoon because Longstreet failed to move.

As dusk settled in, Ewell launched an entire division at Greene’s single understrength brigade. Three brigades of Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Louisiana troops under the command of Major General Edward Johnson waded through Rock Creek and stormed up the rise through the near-darkness created by the canopy of leaves that blocked the fading sun. Johnson’s fourth brigade, the famed Stonewall Brigade commanded by Brigadier General James Walker, had been engaged with Union forces to the east on Brinkerhoff Ridge. Walker had orders to rejoin the division as soon as possible, but he deemed it more prudent to protect the division’s flank and rear with his tired-out troops.

Random shots rang out as the Confederates approached the top of Culp’s Hill. Federals crouched anxiously behind their bulwarks, listening to the ominous footfalls in the woods. Suddenly, the lead Confederate ranks appeared out of the shadows, and Greene’s officers ordered the New Yorkers to open fire. “Out into the night like chain-lightning leaped the zig-zag line of fire,” recalled the 60th New York’s Captain Jones. Scores of Southerners dropped as the New Yorkers’ burst of flame and lead found its mark. Rebel officers pulled their shocked troops back into the woods to regroup.

For the adrenaline-charged Union troops, the respite was brief. Their shaken attackers reorganized quickly and opened fire from behind large rocks and trees. But it soon became clear that with the Federals heavily entrenched on high ground and shrouded in darkness and smoke, Johnson’s men could not capture the hill with long-range fire. The order to charge came again.

About 8:00 p.m., Confederates from Virginia and Maryland under the command of Brigadier General George H. Steuart assaulted Greene’s extreme right. Holding the position were the 456 men of Colonel David Ireland’s 137th New York, a hefty regiment by mid-war standards. As the Confederate fire intensified, the 71st Pennsylvania arrived to reinforce the hill. Greene immediately posted them to Ireland’s right, momentarily slowing Steuart’s momentum. Strangely, however, the 71st stayed on the line only long enough to exchange several volleys with the Confederates, then withdrew suddenly at the height of the attack. Such an unintelligible retreat left the Union right, as Greene put it, “in a very critical position.”

About this time, units from the I and XI Corps began to reach Culp’s Hill. The 14th Brooklyn, 6th Wisconsin, and 147th New York arrived first. Greene sent the 147th New York into the heart of his lines the 6th Wisconsin, under the command of Colonel Rufus Dawes, to take and hold the breastworks to the 137th New York’s right and the 14th Brooklyn to Ireland’s immediate aid.

Ireland, whose men had been fielding fire from three sides, desperately moved his line through the dark, smoky air behind a traverse of stacked wood, rocks, and brush that stood perpendicular to the brigade line. His new position faced the attackers and temporarily kept them at bay, but he needed more men to hold it. The Federal reinforcements arrived just in time to help stop Steuart’s determined troops. Even though they gained part of the vacant Union works, the attacking Virginians and Marylanders were unable to push through the thin, defiant line.

Meanwhile, the fighting raged on all along the line. On Greene’s left, six regiments of Virginians under the command of Brigadier General John Marshall Jones tangled with the 60th and 102d New York. In the center, Brigadier General Francis R. Nicholls’s five Louisiana regiments stormed the works in front of the 78th and 149th New Yorkers. With help from the 82d Illinois, 45th New York, and 61st Ohio of Howard’s XI Corps, however, Greene’s troops on the left and at the center held fast. The Confederates made four separate charges between 7:00 and 10:00 p.m., but each met the same bloody end.

Though 755 men from the I and XI Corps bolstered the five New York regiments, Greene never had more than 1,350 troops in line to face 4,000 to 5,000 Confederates. He maintained his bristling defense of the hill by using his limited resources wisely, rotating troops to and from the battle line to restock their cartridge boxes and clean their weapons. The eager Union troops cheered on their comrades as they raced back and forth, pushing each other to greater and greater heights of fervor and determination. Greene rode up and down the line, showing no regard for his personal welfare.

About 10:00 p.m., the Confederate attacks ceased, though sporadic musket fire continued for some time. At the same time, Union Brigadier General Thomas Kane’s 2d Brigade of the 2d Division returned and was followed soon by the other XII Corps units. For the second time that day, a Union flank had bent but not broken. The left flank had been severely pressed on Little Round Top, but Chamberlain and his 20th Maine had stood firm. Now the right flank had been tested, and it too had been saved by a small, gutsy force and a gallant leader.

Fire opened up again about 4:00 a.m. the next day as the Confederates tried one last time to take Culp’s Hill. But lacking a demonstration by Longstreet on the Union left, and with the entire Union XII Corps back in place on the hill, three more Confederate attacks proved fruitless. Ewell withdrew his frustrated forces late in the morning, and tired Federal soldiers fetched water down at Rock Creek. There, they tallied the awesome price their foes had paid trying to unseat them. Greene reported 391 dead Rebels immediately in front of his works. His men found another 150 corpses on the creek’s banks and roughly 2,000 muskets strewn all over the hill. Adding the 130 prisoners captured, Greene estimated the Confederate losses at 2,400, including several officers. By contrast, the 3d Brigade’s losses amounted to a mere 307 killed, wounded, and missing.

Greene’s service as a field commander did not end at Gettysburg. The aging general fought on until a Confederate bullet struck him in the face at the Battle of Wauhatchie, Tennessee, in October 1863. Though he briefly returned to the battlefield in 1865, his duty had been served. He was breveted a major general of volunteers before he marched in the Grand Review of the Armies in Washington just after the war. He performed his last act as an officer as a member of a courts-martial panel, on which he served until early 1866.

After the war, Greene returned to civil engineering and worked diligently to compile his proud family’s genealogy. He lived until 1899 — a vigorous old warhorse until the end.

The magnitude of Greene’s heroic defense of Culp’s Hill cannot easily be overstated. Had Ewell’s forces overwhelmed the small Union force, the Federal rear would have been exposed to direct attack, and the Army of the Potomac, with Confederates already in place in its left and center fronts, would then have been encircled. The fight that Greene’s stalwart men put up on the night of July 2 ranks among the best of any Civil War brigade. Anything less than their tireless, courageous effort would have given the Confederates victory. Greene offered his troops his “hearty commendations for the good rendered their country.” Greene also credited Slocum, who had seen the danger in leaving the hill unprotected, with “having saved the army from a great and perhaps fatal disaster.”

Although Greene credited others for the victory, he was the true hero. Since his reentry into the army as the 60th New York’s colonel in January 1862, his hard-driving style had brought him much praise and a promotion. He had led a division at Antietam in September 1862, skillfully managing limited resources to give his men every advantage possible. At Gettysburg Greene remained conspicuous, constantly moving along his lines to encourage his besieged troops.

Greene’s most important contribution at Gettysburg was his early-morning decision to construct breastworks. At that point in the war, many officers on both sides still opposed their use. Confederate General John Bell Hood, for example, felt they “would imperil that spirit of devil-me-care independence and self-reliance” that supposedly helped make Confederate troops effective. Some thought breastworks diminished soldiers’ courage. Not Greene he believed human lives were too important to be sacrificed to bravado and unproved theories.

Without the protection of breastworks, Greene’s heavily outnumbered brigade probably would have been swept from the hill, to the great peril of the Union army. Under Greene’s direction, the works were perfectly located, and constructed not only to protect the defenders but also to conceal them. Thus the 4,000 to 5,000 attackers did not know their enemy was a mere 1,350 men. Greene’s 25 years as an engineer, designing and building railroads and waterworks such as the Central Park Reservoir in New York City, had paid off. And his aggressive leadership style made him the ideal man to lead the defense of Culp’s Hill.

Joshua Chamberlain became a national hero after the Battle of Gettysburg. Glory, however, did not immediately come to George Sears Greene. Part of the reason for Greene’s relative obscurity is that even his fellow Rhode Islanders were slow to lionize him. They reserved most of their adulation for another native of their state, the equally devoted but less skilled Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, partly because Burnside had marched off to war in 1861 in command of Rhode Islanders. Greene, on the other hand, was employed in New York when the war broke out, and he received his commission in 1862 from the Empire State’s governor, Edwin Morgan. Consequently, he led New York troops almost exclusively during the war. Still, the main factor in Greene’s passage into obscurity may well have been that Meade did not properly credit Greene or his scrappy New York troops in his official report on the Gettysburg Campaign.

Slocum waged a lively campaign to correct that oversight. On December 30, 1863, he wrote a letter to Meade proclaiming, “the failure of the enemy to gain possession of our works was due entirely to the skill of General Greene and the heroic valor of his troops.” Meade’s failure to acknowledge that fact in his report, the letter continued, was an “injustice which not even time can correct.” Meade agreed that Greene’s efforts were heroic and countered that he did not properly credit the Rhode Island general only because his subordinates had misinformed him. He made some meek attempts to have the record changed, but with little effect.

Others had immediately realized the importance of Greene’s efforts and had never forgotten it. At an 1888 ceremony to dedicate a monument to the 3d Brigade, Longstreet gave Greene and his New Yorkers “the credit of having successfully prevented the Confederates from turning Meade’s right flank.” Longstreet, a friend of Greene’s in the antebellum U.S. Army and a circumstantial enemy at Gettysburg, left Greene that day in 1888 with the highest praise: “There was no better officer in either army.”

This article was written by Eric Ethier and originally published in the December 1997 issue of Civil War Times Magazine. For more great articles, be sure to subscribe to Civil War Times magazine today!

How These Elite Civil War Marksmen Changed the Face of Warfare

Artist Don Troiani depicts some of Berdan's men, wearing green uniforms, using their skills at cover and concealment to turn back the advance of Maj. Gen. John B. Hood's Division on July 2, 1863, at Gettysburg. (Troiani, Don, b.1949 Private Collection/Bridgeman Images)

Doug Wicklund and Michael G. Williams
July 2019

Sharpshooters wore camo and hefted state-of-the-art rifles with longer, flatter trajectory

The green-clad soldiers waited patiently in the shadows of the Pennsylvania woods. Their uniforms blended into the summer foliage, and the deep shade prevented the bright sun from reflecting on the barrels of their deadly rifles. It was a warm day in early July 1863. As the marksmen positioned just south of the town of Gettysburg scanned their surroundings for signs of Confederate forces, they drained their canteens and waited for the enemy to appear. The soldiers were members of Berdan’s Sharpshooters, an elite infantry unit equipped with fine breechloading percussion rifles—the Sharps Model 1859. The Rebels learned soon enough to fear this enemy.

At the start of the conflict , Hiram Berdan, a 36-year-old New Yorker and nationally known marksman, believed his greatest contribution to the war effort would be the formation of a sharpshooting regiment made up of the best riflemen in the Northern states. After receiving formal approval from military authorities, Berdan opened regional competitions to decide who could join his ranks.

Colonel Hiram Berdan, a prewar marksmanship champion, decided in 1861 to recruit the best riflemen in the Northern states to create a sharpshooting regiment. (Library of Congress)

In the summer of 1861, Berdan’s recruiters scoured the Northern states for qualified candidates. At the July 1863 Battle of Gettysbur g, in fact, the 2nd Regiment had representatives from Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Men were given plenty of incentives to join the unit. Berdan offered enlistment bonuses and even compensation for those shooters who brought their personal target rifles. The distinctive uniforms they would wear was another advantage: dark green caps, trousers, and coats, essential in helping them blend in with the scenery while operating among trees and brush.

Acceptance, however, was hardly guaranteed. To qualify as a sharpshooter, all prospects had to place 10 consecutive shots inside a 10-inch circle (roughly the size of a dinner plate) from 200 yards at rest (or 100 yards off hand) without the aid of a telescopic sight. Ultimately, some 2,000 marksmen qualified. As early as August 1861, they were assembled into what became the 1st and 2nd United States Sharpshooters.

At first, Berdan wasn’t certain what weapon he wanted his men to carry. He had initially placed an order with Brig. Gen. James W. Ripley, head of the U.S. Army Ordnance Department, for 750 Springfield rifles, which Berdan felt would serve in an interim capacity until a first-class alternative weapon became available. Then, while the sharpshooters were in training at Fort Corcoran in Washington, D.C., a former gold miner and hunter named Truman Head joined their ranks. Given his West Coast background, the men quickly dubbed the new recruit “California Joe.”

“There is a new man here in my company that is all attention,” one sharpshooter wrote in his diary. “He is a craggy old monument from California and can shoot better than many as he was a bear hunter. He favors…an old Sharps and has told all that will hear that he will obtain a newer edition to fight rebels shortly.”

The M-1859 Sharps rifle had several advantages: a breechloading design, accuracy, reliability, and a rapid rate of fire. (Heritage Auctions)

An outstanding marksman, Joe was disgusted with the old, cast-off guns that many of his fellow sharpshooters had been issued—mostly worn-out Halls rifles and smoothbore muskets. True to his word, he eventually bought the M-1859 Sharps. Berdan got to fire the rifle, and immediately ordered a thousand for his men. Because of a production backlog at the Sharps factory, though, he also arranged for a consignment of M-1855 Colt revolving rifles.

The men—to put it mildly—hated the Colt, finding it inaccurate, unreliable, and unsafe in the event of a chain fire (the accidental simultaneous discharge of all rounds in the weapon’s cylinder). After constant demands for a replacement, the Army replaced the detested revolving rifles for the M-1859 Sharps. In May 1862, the men finally had their new guns and, by June, a shipment of 200,000 cartridges.

Three features made the M-1859 Sharps such a fine instrument: loading design, action, and ammunition. The brainchild of Connecticut gunsmith Christian Sharps, his latest model was an outgrowth of his original 1848 concept for a percussion lock breechloader. At a time when most firearms loaded through the muzzle—utilizing an awkward combination of ball, powder charge, and ramrod—a gun that loaded from the breech offered numerous advantages, especially for the sharpshooter.

As true during the Civil War as it is today, sharpshooters depended on coverage and concealment. Standing a rifle on its butt and fumbling with powder, ball, and ramrod could betray one’s location to the enemy. Loading from the muzzle was an even more difficult procedure to perform from a prone position.

The breechloading design, on the other hand, enabled shooters to reload effortlessly regardless of how they were situated. They could load the single-shot Sharps while standing, kneeling, or prone, sending up to 10 well-aimed rounds downrange every minute—nearly triple a muzzleloader’s rate of fire.

The falling-breechblock action was another valuable element of the gun’s design that enabled the soldiers to reload quickly. A lever attached just forward of the trigger guard internally raised and lowered a rectangular chunk of metal known as a breechblock.

When closed, this piece sealed the rifle’s chamber and, upon firing, effectively transferred the recoil to the weapon’s stock.

The Sharps did not make use of a metal cartridge with a built-in primer, but it did use a unique cartridge that consisted of a bullet attached to a powder charge wrapped in paper or thin linen, and the consolidated round saved time during loading. The powerful .52-caliber, roughly one-ounce Sharps projectile left the muzzle at a scorching 1,200 feet per second, compared to the muzzle-loading Pattern 1853 Enfield’s 900 feet per second. The result was a flatter long-range flight trajectory along with a bit of surprise. As one Confederate soldier observed of the rifle’s supersonic round, “the [Sharps] bullet got to you before the report, but if it was a muzzleloader the report got to you before the ball.”

A double-set trigger system included a ‘hair trigger’ that increased accuracy. The Sharps was, indeed, a firearm built for discerning and deadly shooters.

Berdan’s men were soon able to test their breechloaders in battle. At Malvern Hill, Va., on July 1, 1862—the final clash in the Seven Days Battles—their pinpoint fire destroyed in only 10 minutes the 1st Richmond Howitzers of Colonel William Barksdale’s Brigade. “We went in a battery and came out a wreck” a Confederate gunner later wrote. “[W]e came out with one gun, ten men and two horses, and without firing a shot.”

The sharpshooters figured prominently again at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. In the devastating fighting in and around the Cornfield, the 2nd had 13 officers killed and wounded, as well as 54 enlisted men killed, wounded, or missing.

Volunteers for Berdan's unit had to undergo rigorous sharpshooting trials to prove their skills. In this image from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan and other officers watch the testing. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

One of those slain was 2nd U.S. Adjutant Lewis C. Parmelee, who took command of the regiment when Colonel Henry Post was wounded. When fired upon by Rebel troops after exiting the Cornfield, the 2nd “returned fire and the Confederates started to break, leaving ‘guns, knapsacks and everything that impeded their progress on the ground beside their dead and wounded comrades,’” writes Civil War historian Jim Woodrick, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

According to Woodrick, Parmelee seized a flag from a wounded enemy color-bearer and attached it to his sword to rally his men. He had advanced only a few steps, however, before he was struck down by gunfire, reportedly hit at least five times.

“[W]e shot our rifles today fiercely,” one sharpshooter wrote in his diary that day. “I saw Parmelee fall.”

Parmelee was one of nine members of the regiment to be buried on the battlefield after the battle, though his family later had his remains reinterred elsewhere.

The role Berdan’s men played in the Union victory at Gettysburg may well have been their most defining moment. During the critical fighting on July 2, the two regiments were part of Brig. Gen. J.H. Hobart Ward’s 2nd Brigade in the 1st Division of

Maj. Gen. Dan Sickles’ 3rd Corps. Ward was responsible for the extreme left of the Army of the Potomac’s defenses, and when Colonel John Buford’s cavalry was dispatched about noon to Westminster, Md., to “refit and reshoe” their mounts, Ward sent out eight companies of the 2nd Regiment to the southwest of his position.

Major Homer Stoughton, the 2nd’s commander, reported after the battle that he had been instructed by Berdan to place his men on Big Round Top, what he called Sugar Loaf Hill. He placed four companies straddling a crossroad whose trace today occupies Slyder Lane one in a ravine at the base of the hill and one on the brow of the hill, with “videttes” overlooking the ravine. Stoughton kept the two other companies in reserve, though they would be brought forward soon enough.

According to Gettysburg licensed battlefield guide Gary Kross, writing in Blue & Gray magazine: “The Sharpshooters usually deployed in no larger a group than ‘cells,’ where four men were responsible for each other during combat….The ‘videttes’ referred to by Stoughton on Big Round Top would have been comprised of a number of ‘cells’ in strategic positions along the western slope of the hill.”

A group of 15 men from several companies that had moved forward enough on Big Round Top witnessed the early-afternoon arrival of infantry of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s First Corps on the southern end of the battlefield, as well as the arrival earlier of Confederate artillery. When two Rebel scouts were captured, Adjutant Seymour F. Norton was able to report back to his superiors the escalating Confederate presence.

When Confederate artillery began moving into position on the southern end of Seminary Ridge, some of the batteries were placed immediately in front of members of Stoughton’s skirmish line. A few sharpshooters crept through the woods and deployed behind a stone wall before unleashing a quick salvo on a North Carolina battery under Captain James Reilly.

That seemingly minor disruption affected the preparations of Evander Law’s Alabama Brigade ultimately headed for Little Round Top. Without informing his regimental commanders of his intent, Law detached about 200 men from five of his companies to seek out and confront the unseen force that had just fired on Reilly’s guns. The sharpshooters, however, had already pulled back up Big Round Top, and, according to Kross, the 200 detached Alabamians would miss the Confederates’ subsequent attack.

The advance on the Union left by Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood’s Division began about 4 p.m. Almost immediately, Stoughton’s sharpshooters opened fire, followed quickly by Union artillery. Several Confederates later wrote of the devastation wreaked upon them by the Federal marksmen. “We advanced through a field about half a mile before we reached the…foot of the mountain,” wrote a member of the 5th Texas, “our men tumbling out of ranks at every step, knocked over by the enemy’s sharpshooters.”

Private John C. West of the 4th Texas, Company E, recalled in a letter written to his young son shortly after the battle: “When the command was given to charge[,] we moved forward as quickly as we could….Yankee sharpshooters were on the higher mountains, so as to have fairer shots at our officers. On we went yelling and whooping…minnie [sic] bullets and grape shot were as thick as hail, and we were compelled to get behind the rocks and trees to save ourselves.”

A soldier of the 4th Alabama recalled the chilling death of a comrade during the advance at the hands of a sharpshooter: “Taylor Darwin, Orderly Sergeant of Company I, stopped, quivered, and sank to the earth dead, a ball having passed through his brain.”

By nightfall July 2, Federal forces had withstood the repeated attacks on Little Round Top and the Army of the Potomac’s vulnerable left flank, setting the stage for its victory the following day. Stoughton’s 2nd Sharpshooters regiment had disrupted the Confederates long enough to allow other Union units to fill what had been a glaring gap in the defenses along Little Round Top, most notably Colonel Strong Vincent’s 3rd Brigade in Maj. Gen. George Sykes’ 5th Corps and the 20th Maine Infantry under Colonel Joshua Chamberlain.

According to Colonel Berdan’s after-action report, 450 of his marksmen were engaged during the battle, expending 14,400 rounds of ammunition and suffering fewer than 30 total casualties.

Gettysburg was Berdan’s last time in the field with his elite unit. He was soon promoted to division command, only to resign his commission in early 1864. That December, the two regiments were merged into one force, but Berdan’s men never again had the sort of impact they’d had at Gettysburg, a prime example of what was possible when used in the role for which they had been created.

Nevertheless, Berdan’s Sharpshooters hold a distinguished honor in our nation’s history. Although military units with a similar purpose had been in use by armies in Europe, and American armies had adopted the use of isolated marksmen, Berdan’s was the first organized unit to wear camouflage and wield breechloading rifles in combat. Furthermore, their exploits as mobile marksmen—the “squirrel hunter of the war,” according to one of their own officers—set the stage for the eventual and critical military recognition of the scout-sniper in modern warfare.

Doug Wicklund is a senior curator at the NRA’s National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Va. Michael Williams is a freelance writer, and an NRA and Maryland State Police certified firearms instructor.

Tools of the Trade

First designed by Christian Sharps in 1848, and slightly updated in 1863, the Model 159 Sharps rifle was rugged, accurate, and capable of firing 8-10 rounds per minute. The breechloading, single-shot rifle (converted post-Civil War to fire self-containing metallic cartridges) remained in production through the 1880s and became the preferred weapon of the Western Plains buffalo hunters (the 1874 Sharps, in several calibers, became renowned as “Old Reliable.”

Manufacturer: Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company, Hartford, Conn.

The Sharps’ lever-action, vertical sliding wedge breechblock was sturdy, practical, and effective. (Courtesy of Michael G. Williams)

Length: 47 inches (9 inches shorter than 1861 Springfield rifle-musket Sharps carbine was 39 inches)

Weight: 9.5 pounds (0.5 pounds heavier than 1861 Springfield rifle-musket)

Caliber: .52 (1861 Springfield rifle-musket was .58-caliber)

Ammunition: “Paper” (waxed linen)-wrapped cartridges (lead bullet & 50 grains black powder)

Ignition: Percussion cap (or “Sharps pellets”—Sharps’ patented similar system)

Action: Lever-activated “falling block” (vertical sliding breechblock)

Rate of Fire: 8–10 rounds per minute (vs. muzzle loader 1861 Springfield rifle-musket’s 3 rpm)

Muzzle Velocity: 1,200 feet per second (slightly “supersonic” vs. 1861 Springfield rifle-musket’s 1,000 fps)

Sights: Barrel-mounted, open “ladder” sight

Effective Range: 500 yards (800–1,000 yards with skilled marksmen)

Bayonet: Standard triangular “socket” bayonet (none for carbine version)

Government Cost: $40 ($1,142 in today’s dollars)

Union Army Purchased 1861–65: 9,141 (80,512 carbine versions—meanwhile the U.S. government purchased 1 million Springfield rifle-muskets during that time). The $40 purchase price included for each weapon: one thong and one brush (for barrel cleaning—the Sharps had no ramrod) one wrench and screwdriver one cartridge stick (as a form for hand-rolling paper-wrapped cartridges) one extra cone and one extra primer spring. In addition, one ball-mold (for casting lead bullets) was provided for every five weapons. –Jerry Morelock

A Tight Spot

Berdan’s Sharpshooters rushed into an open field ahead of the main assault on Stonewall Jackson’s troops at the Deep Cut during the Second Battle of Bull Run. Keeping up a steady fire, they managed to repel Confederate skirmishers, but provoked Jackson’s men to fire back from the cover of a trace of an unfinished railroad and became pinned along a dry creek bed. George Albee of Company G, who was wounded during the action, returned to the spot after the war and placed a signboard on a tall cedar post to mark the location of his company during the attack. Although the pole has been replaced several times over the years since, a present sign occupies the same spot as the original at the Manassas National Battlefield Park. –Melissa A. Winn

2nd Florida Infantry Regiment

Major Call, Captains Charles F. Flagg and R. G. Jerkins, and Lieutenants A. C. Butler, Thomas A. Perry, Henry J. Pooser and David S. Reynolds were killed.

Lieutenant Colonel Pyles, Captains W. D. Ballantine, William E. McCaslin, Walter R. Moore, and M. J. C. Musgrove and Lieutenants Thomas M. Brown, A. M. Carlisle, David L. Dunham, J. R. Kimbrew, John B. O’Neal, John Parker, George E. Pooser, A. J. Stewart, J. J. Thompson, Harrison Tillinghast, Lew Williams and Clayborne L. Wright were wounded.

Battles of Gaines’ Mill and Frasier’s Farm
Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam)
Battle of Fredericksburg
Battle of Chancellorsville
Gaines Farm
Battle of Gettysburg

The regiment brought 242 men to the field and was commanded by Major Walter R. Moore until he was wounded, then by Captains William Ballantine and Alexander Mosely and Adjutant Raymond Reid. It took part in Longstreet’s assault of July 2 and supported Pickett’s Charge of July 3.

The regiment lost Captains Elliott L. Hampton, R. G. Jerkins and William E. McCaslin, Lieutenants George E. Pooser, H. F. Riley and P. Shealy, and 17 enlisted men killed.

Major Walter R. Moore, Captains William Ballantine, Julian Betton, James H. Johnson, Alexander Mosely, John Day Perkins and Patrick P. L. Todd, Lieutenants William A. Ball, David L. Dunham, Jesse Dupree, John W. Hall, Joseph M. Tolbert and William B. Watson and 73 enlisted men were wounded, and 11 men were missing.

Of the wounded officers, Major Moore, Captains Ballantine, Johnson, Mosely and Perkins and Lieutenants Ball, Dunham and Watson were captured. Watson died in captivity on February 23, 1864 at Johnson’s Island.

July 2. Formed line in forenoon in the eastern border of these woods. Advanced at 6 P. M. and assisted in forcing the Union line on the Emmitsburg Road and by rapid pursuit compelled the temporary abandonment of several guns. At the foot of the slope met fresh Union forces and the line on its right retiring it also fell back. The color bearer of the 8th Florida fell and its flag was lost.

July 3. Ordered to join Wilcox’s Brigade on its left and conform to its movements. Supported artillery until Longstreet’s column started and then advanced in aid of his assault. But dense smoke hiding his oblique course the Brigade moved directly forward. In the gap caused thereby a strong force struck its left flank capturing about half of the 2nd Florida and its colors.

July 4. In line here and at dark began the march to Hagerstown.

9th Massachusetts Battery

There are three monuments to the Ninth Massachusetts Battery on the Gettysburg battlefield. The main monument is on Wheatfield Road (Sickles Avenue at Excelsior Field tour map). A position marker is at the Trostle Farm. A second position marker is in Zeigler’s Grove just north of the Bryan Farm. (Hancock Avenue at Ziegler’s Grove tour map). The State of Massachusetts dedicated all three in 1885.

Captain John Bigelow commanded the battery at Gettysburg. He was wounded on July 2nd. Lieutenant Richard S. Milton then took command. The 9th Battery brought 110 men to the field. They served six 12-pounder Napoleons. The battery was part of Artillery Reserve, 1st Volunteer Brigade.

Bugler Charles W. Reed received the Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg on July 2nd when he rescued his wounded captain from between the lines.

Main monument on Wheatfield Road

From the front of the Wheatfield Road monument:

Ninth Mass.

Captain Bigelow
July 2, 1863.
Killed Wounded
2 Officers 1
3 Non-comm officers 6
5 Enlisted men 13
10 Total 20
80 Horses

Looking north from Wheatfield Road. The roof of the Trostle barn is visible to the upper left of the left wheel of the right cannon. The cannons are 12 pounder Napoleons.

From the tablet on the rear of the Wheatfield Road monument:

9th Massachusetts Battery
Capt. John Bigelow
1st position left gun Wheatfield Road
4:30 to 6 p.m. July 2, 1863.

Shelled Confederate Batteries on
Emmitsburg Road also the enemy around
Rose Farm buildings. Enfiladed with
canister Kershaw’s Brigade C.S.A.
moving across field in front from Em-
mitsburg Road to woods on left where
battle was raging in front of Round Tops.

By ‘prolonge firing’ retired before
Kershaw’s skirmishers and Barksdale’s
Brigade C.S.A. 400 yards.

2nd position angle of stone wall near
Trostle’s House where the Battery was
halted by Lieut. Colonel McGilvery and
ordered to hold enemy in check until line
of artillery could be formed 560 yards in
the rear. Was without support and hemmed
in by stone wall. Enemy closed in on flanks.
Men and horses were shot down when finally
overcome at 6:30 p.m. Lieut.-Colonel McGilvery
had batteries unsupported in position near
the Weikert House covering opening in lines
between Round Tops and left of 2nd Corps 3/4
mile occasioned by withdrawal of Graham’s

8 p.m. the enemy finally repulsed.

Location of the main monument

The main monument to the 9th Massachusetts Battery is on the north side of Wheatfield Road east of Sickles Avenue. (39°48󈧆.2″N 77°14󈧴.8″W)

Monument on the Trostle farm

Monument to the 9th Massachusetts Battery at the Trostle Farm

The position marker is in the form of an ammunition chest.

From the monument by the Trostle Farm:

2nd position
6 p.m. July 2, 1863.

Ninth Mass. Battery
Capt. Bigelow

“By prolongue retired firing”
from the crossroads 400 yds. distant
without infantry support before
Barksdale’s Confed. Brigade.
Final stand made across this road.

Location of the monument on the Trostle Farm

The monument to the 9th Massachusetts Battery on the Trostle farm is south of Gettysburg on the north side of United States in front of the Trostle house. (39°48󈧉.9″N 77°14󈧤.9″W)

Monument in Ziegler’s Grove

Monument to the 9th Massachusetts Battery in Ziegler’s Grove

From the monument in Ziegler’s Grove:

Ninth Mass. Battery
Capt. Bigelow
July 3d and 4th 1863.
Two guns
Lt. Milton comdg.
Only officer and guns effective after engagement on Trostle’s farm, July 2nd, 1863

Location of the monument in Ziegler’s Grove

The monument to the 9th Massachusetts Battery in Ziegler’s Grove is along Hancock Avenue is south of Gettysburg on the east side of Hancock Avenue in Ziegler’s Grove just past the Bryan Farm. (39°48󈧽.6″N 77°14󈧉.5″W)

Law’s Brigade

The monument to Law’s Brigade is southwest of Gettysburg on South Confederate Avenue. (South Confederate Avenue tour map) A marker showing the brigade’s position on July 2nd is on Warren Avenue south of Little Round Top. (Big Round Top or Little Round Top tour map)

Law’s Brigade arrived on the battlefield on July 2nd after a long, hot march and were assigned the right flank of Longstreet’s attack. When General Hood was wounded early in the assault Law took over the division as senior brigade commander, but the transition went poorly. It took time for Law to find out Hood was wounded, he did not notify his senior colonel to take over his brigade, and neither brigade nor division received firm direction.

The result was that the Confederate assault lacked coordination and there was no support to consolidate and exploit the initially succesful assults that overran Devil’s Den and almost took Little Round Top. Law’s Brigade had seized an advanced position but failed to deliver the knockout blow that Lee hoped for.

Lee had wished to include Hood’s Division in the great attack on July 3rd but it was decided that it had been too badly battered on the 2nd. Law’s Brigade, now under Colonel James L. Sheffield of the 48th Alabama Infantry, easily defended its position against encroaching Union skirmishers and a spectacular but hopeless cavalry charge led by Union Brigadier General Elon Farnsworth.

Monument to Law’s Alabama Brigade at Gettysburg

From the monument

July 2. Left New Guilford 25 miles distant at 3 A.M. Arrived and formed line 50 yards west of this about 4 P.M. and advanced against the Union positions. The 4th 15th and 47th Regiments attacked Little Round Top and continued the assault until dark. The 44th and 48th assisted in capturing Devil’s Den and 3 guns of the 4th New York Battery.

July 3. Occupied the breastworks on west slope of Round Top. The 4th and 15th Regiments assisted at 5 P. M. in repulsing cavalry led by Brig. Gen. E. J. Farnsworth in Plum Run Valley.

July 5. About 5 A.M. began the march to Hagerstown Md.

Present about 1500 Losses about 550

Location of the monument to Law’s Brigade

The monument is south of Gettysburg on the west side of South Confederate Avenue. It is about 300 feer south of the picnic area and 250 feet north of the State of Alabama monument. (39°47󈧒.1″N 77°15󈧒.9″W)

Position marker on Warren Avenue

Marker to Law’s Alabama Brigade at Gettysburg

From the marker

Army of Northern Virginia
Longstreet’s Corps Hood’s Division
Law’s Brigade

4th 15th 44th 47th 48th Alabama Infantry

July 2. Arrived on the field about 4 P. M. and advanced against the Union positions. The 4th 15th and 47th Regiments attacked Little Round Top and continued the assault until dark. The 44th and 48th assisted in capturing Devil’s Den and 3 guns of Smith’s 4th New York Battery.

Location of the position marker

The position marker is south of Gettysburg in the saddle between Big and Little Round Top. It is on the southwest side of Warren Avenue about 160 feet northwest of the intersection with South Confederate Avenue/Sykes Avenue/Wright Avenue.

See more on the infantry regiments of Law’s Brigade in the Civil War

About Evander Law

Brigadier General Evander McIver Law commanded the brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg. Law was born in Darlington, South Carolina, the descendent of Revolutionary War veterans. Law graduated from the South Carolina Military Academy in 1856 and taught history at the Kings Mountain Military Academy. In 1860 he moved to Tuskegee, Alabama to start a military high school.

When Alabama seceded from the United States Law joined the militia. In April of 1861 he became a captain in the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment, and was quickly promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. The regiment went to Virginia and fought at the Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), where the regiment’s colonel was killed and Law was wounded in the arm. When Law returned to the regiment in October of 1861 he was promoted to colonel. In May of 1862 he took command of his brigade as senior colonel, leading it through the Peninsula Campaign, the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) and at Sharpsburg (Antietam). In October he was promoted to brigadier general and given permanent command of the brigade.

Law went west with Longstreet’s 1st Corps only to become caught up in its command politics. Law was blamed for poor performance at Lookout Valley and at Campbell Station. He was just one of several general officers arrested or court-martialled by the end of the campaign. Only a meeting with the wounded Hood in Richmond prevented Law from resigning from the army, but he began the Overland Campaign under arrest in the rear. He finally returned to command of his brigade at the Battle of Cold Harbor but was immediately severely wounded in the head. He would not return to the Army of Northern Virginia, commanding cavalry in South Carolina to the end of the war.

2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment

Attacked at dawn by Hooker’s Federal First Corps, Hood’s Division counterattacked in the cornfield. The regiment drove back the 6th Wisconsin and nearly captured six guns of a Federal battery that had been abandoned by their crews. The 2nd Mississippi lost 27 men killed and 127 wounded. The wounded included Colonel Stone, Lt. Colonel Humphreys and Major Blair. Lieutenant William C. Moody took command as the highest ranking unwounded officer.

On the evening of the 16th, Law’s Brigade advanced from the fields in front of the Dunkard Church to a position in the East Woods, on either side of the Smoketown Road, where it supported the skirmishers of Wofford’s Brigade in resisting the advance of Seymour’s Brigade.

The engagement ceased at dark. At 10 P. M. the Brigade was relieved by Trimble’s Brigade of Ewell’s Division, and withdrawn to the woods west of the Dunkard Church.

From the second brigade tablet:

Law’s Brigade advanced from the woods at the Dunkard Church at 7 A.M. and relieved Trimble’s Brigade across the Smoketown Road south of this point. Gradually gaining ground to the left, its center on the open ground and its right in the East Woods, it assisted in repulsing the advance of Ricketts’ Division, First Corps. Supported on the right by the 21st Georgia of Trimble’s Brigade and the 5th Texas of Wofford’s Brigade, it advanced to the northeast corner of Miller’s Cornfield and the woods adjacent, from which it was dislodged by the advance of the Twelfth Corps. It withdrew to the fields south of the Dunkard Church and was not again engaged.

Battle of Gettysburg (day 1)

The regiment was commanded by Colonel John M. Stone and was in the second brigade in the line of march to move toward Gettysburg. They ran into Federal cavalry northwest of town and deployed into line of battle, slowly pushing forward until encountering Union infantry. Colonel Stone was wounded crossing a fence along the Chambersburg Pike and Lieutenant A.K. Roberts was killed trying to capture the flag of the 56th Pennsylvania. A Federal gun and limber was captured on the Chambersburg Pike. Every field officer but two became a casualty and Major Blair took command.

The regiment again moved forward in a flank attack, part of it advancing through the Railroad Cut that paralleled the Chambersburg Turnpike. But Federal troops charged the Cut and enfiladed the regiment. There was a vicious fight for the regiment’s colors. All of the color guard were killed or wounded, the colors themselves pierced a dozen times and the flagstaff hit and splintered. The flag was finally taken from Color Corporal William Murphy, who was in the process of ripping the flag from the shattered staff.

The fighting briefly ended as Major Blair handed his sword to Lieutenant Colonel Rufus Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin and surrendered 7 officers and 225 men of the 2nd Mississippi.

Battle of Gettysburg (day 2)
Battle of Gettysburg (day 3)

Sixty survivors of the regiment took part in Pickett’s Charge, led by Lt. Colonel Humphreys. Only one man made it back from the charge unwounded.

The official casualties for the regiment at Gettysburg list 56 men killed and 176 wounded, No mention is made of the large number of men captured at the Railroad Cut on July 1. Colonel Stone was wounded but would resume command of the regiment. Lt. Colonel Humphreys was killed, and Major Blair was captured. Captain John Buchanan was wounded and captured and Lieutenant Moody, who had commanded the regiment at Sharpsburg when all higher ranking officers had become casualties, was wounded in the leg and captured on July 3.

The Battle of Gettysburg

Even after Hood's men had taken Devil's Den, the fighting raged along a stone wall between Rose's Woods and the southern edge of the Wheatfield and among the trees on the stony, tree-covered hill along the Wheatfield's western edge. Third Corps units occupied the stone wall Fifth Corps brigades manned the stony hill. Brig. Gen. George T. Anderson's brigade and the 3rd Arkansas Regiment attacked the troops behind the wall. "Aim low!, boys! make every shot tell!" cautioned officers of the 17th Maine behind the wall, and they repelled the Confederates' first attacks. After reforming, Anderson's men attacked again, and the brigades of Brig. Gens. Joseph B. Kershaw and Paul J. Semmes of McLaws's division advanced on their left against the Wheatfield from the west. The Fifth Corps troops, fearing that they would be flanked on their right, fell back behind the Wheatfield Road. Their retreat exposed the Third Corps line south of the Wheatfield to a flank attack, and its troops fell back. The Confederates advanced to the edge of the field. where Capt. George Winslow's New York battery held them at bay for a critical few minutes.

At the opening of the fight Meade ordered that Brig. Gen. John C. Caldwell's division, which had been posted on the left of the Second Corps, be sent to the aid of Sykes. Caldwell's division reached the Wheatfield Road on the north side of the Wheatfield as the Confederates drove the Third and Fifth Corps from their positions on its southern and western sides. Caldwell's brigades formed quickly along the road, some doing so in such haste that their rear ranks were to the front. They charged through the ripe wheat and the surrounding woods, driving the Confederates back. Three brigade commanders, Col. Edward F. Cross and Brig. Gen. Samuel K. Zook of Caldwell's division and Brig. Gen. Paul Semmes of McLaws's division fell with mortal wounds.

(click on image for a PDF version)
As more Confederate troops entered the battle, the fighting spread north from Little Round Top and Devil's Den to Rose's Woods and the Wheatfield. The hard-pressed Union 3rd Corps is reinforced by troops of the 5th Corps who help to hold Sickles's advanced line.

Caldwell's men had but brief success, The repulsed Confederate brigades reformed quickly and counterattacked, this time with the help of Brig. Gen. William T. Wofford's Georgia brigade. Wofford's Georgians had helped break the Union line at the Peach Orchard and were sweeping victoriously down the Wheatfield Road on Kershaw's left. Caldwell's men, who had given their all, fell back in some disorder. Union commanders gained time by sending Col. Jacob B. Sweitzer's brigade into the Wheatfield to delay the Confederate assault, and Sweitzer's men did their futile task well. In hand-to-hand fighting, a Confederate soldier bayoneted Col. Harrison H. Jeffords, commander of the 4th Michigan Regiment, as he tried to save his colors from capture. Since only a relatively few men were bayoneted in this war, Jeffords achieved a rare if unwanted distinction.

(click on image for a PDF version)
By 5:30 P.M. Confederate troops of Anderson, Kershaw and Semmes had driven the Union defenders from the Wheatfield. They were in turn counterattacked by Caldwell's division of the Union 2nd Corps and forced back. But Caldwell's success was undone by the attack of Barksdale and Wofford, which crushed the Union position at the Peach Orchard and outflanked the Union troops in the Wheatfield area, forcing them to retreat.

As Caldwell attacked, the Army of the Potomac's two brigades of Regular Army infantry, troops of Brig. Gen. Romeyn B. Ayres's division of the Fifth Corps, approached the Wheatfield from the east. They paused at the field's edge and saw Caldwell's men falling back. It became their task to delay the Confederate assault until the retreating troops and units from the reserve could set up a defensive position on the ridge line just north of Little Round Top. The Regulars did their job, but in doing so took 800 casualties. The attacking Confederates reached Plum Run at the base of Little Round Top but could go no farther. A brigade of Pennsylvania Reserves, including a company from the Gettysburg area, charged them there and drove them back across the Wheatfield. By this time it was dark. The Union forces occupied Round Top, and fighting ended there for the day.



When darkness came and the fighting died, dead and wounded abounded in the cockpit between Little Round Top and the Peach Orchard. Some wounded crawled to Plum Run, drank, perhaps, but could not cross it. They reddened its water with their blood and died along its banks. After the moon appeared and it was quiet, a Confederate soldier posted west of the Wheatfield serenaded all within hearing with hymns. He closed with a rendition of "When This Cruel War Is Over" and received cheers and applause from nearby men in blue.

The 16th Vermont Infantry, a nine months regiment, was raised as a result of President Abraham Lincoln's call on August 4, 1862, for additional troops due to the disastrous results of the Peninsula Campaign.

It was recruited in Windsor and Windham Counties, the two southernmost counties in the state, and rendezvoused in the following towns:

    , Co. A, recruited by Asa G. Foster. , Co. B, Robert B. Arms. , Co. C, Asa G. Foster. , Co. D, David Ball. , Co. E, Alvin C. Mason. , Co. F, Henry F. Dix. , Co. G, Harvey N. Bruce.
  • Felchville, Co. H, Joseph C. Sawyer.
  • Williamsville, Co. I, Lyman E. Knapp. , Co. K, Samuel Hutchinson.

On September 27, 1862, the officers listed above met at Bellows Falls and elected Wheelock G. Veazey, of Springfield, colonel, Charles Cummings, of Brattleboro, lieutenant colonel, and William Rounds, of Chester, major.

The regiment rendezvoused at Brattleboro on October 9, and was mustered into the United States service on October 23, with 949 officers and men. The left Brattleboro on October 24, and arrived in Washington, D.C. on the morning of October 27, going into camp near the other four regiments that were then formed into the 2nd Vermont Brigade.

The regiment marched to Munson Hill on October 30, then to Hunting Creek on November 5, where it remained until December 12. It next served on picket duty near Fairfax Court House until January 20, 1863, where it participated in the repulse of Stuart's cavalry on December 29, 1862. The regiment was next stations at Union Mills from March 24 to June 1, then Bristoe Station, Catlett's Station and Manassas until June 15, when it returned to Union Mills.

On June 25, the brigade was assigned as the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, I Corps, and ordered to form the rear guard of the Army of the Potomac as it marched north after Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The 16th marched with the brigade from Wolf Run Shoals on June 25, crossed the Potomac river on June 27, at Edward's Ferry, and moved north through Frederick City and Creagerstown, Maryland. It was drawing near Gettysburg on July 1, when the 12th and 15th regiments were detached to guard the corps trains. The two regiments accompanied the corps trains to Rock Creek Church, near the battlefield. The remaining regiments of the brigade arrived on the battlefield at Gettysburg after dark on the first day of the battle, and camped in a wheat field to the left of Cemetery Hill.

On July 2, the brigade helped reinforce picket lines along Cemetery Ridge that were threatened by an attack by Confederate General A. P. Hill.

The 13th, 14th and 16th Vermont regiments played a pivotal role in the Union repulse of Pickett's Charge on the afternoon of July 3. The 13th and 16th regiments flanked James L. Kemper's brigade as it approached the copse of trees on Cemetery Ridge, then the 16th wheeled about, and joined by the 14th, stopped the advance of Cadmus M. Wilcox's brigade, capturing hundreds of Virginians. Lieutenant George Benedict, an aide to Brigadier General George J. Stannard, related General Abner Doubleday's reaction, saying he "waved his hat and shouted: 'Glory to God, glory to God! See the Vermonters go it!'" [1]

After the battle, due to Brigadier General George J. Stannard's wounding, Colonel Veazey assumed command of the brigade, and it participated in the pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia across the Catoctin mountains to Middletown, Maryland, then back over South Mountain, through Boonesboro, to Williamsport by July 14. On the previous day, a picket detail of 150 from the 16th participated in a skirmish with rebel pickets, in which two soldiers were wounded. This was the last known action of the brigade.

The 14th, 15th and 16th regiments marched to Harper's Ferry, across South Mountain again, and camped near Petersville, near Berlin. On July 18, the regiment was released, took a train from Berlin to Baltimore. It reached New York City on July 20. After spending a few uneventful days in that riot-torn city, assisting with security, the regiment continued its trip home, arrived in Brattleboro on July 21, and mustered out on July 30.

Like the other regiments in the 2nd Vermont Brigade, dozens of newly discharged members from the 14th regiment enlisted again, predominantly in the regiments of the 1st Vermont Brigade, and the 17th Vermont Infantry.


The 2nd Rhode Island Infantry Regiment was organized in June 1861 in Providence. The regiment was initially assigned to the IV Corps of the Army of Northeastern Virginia (later became the Army of the Potomac) and saw its first combat action at the First Battle of Bull Run. The IV Corps later became the VI Corps of the Army of the Shenandoah, and the 2nd Rhode Island participated in several fights in the Shenandoah Valley. The regiment was mustered out of service at Providence on July 13, 1865.

The Second was Rhode Island's fighting regiment. It fired the opening volley at First Bull Run, and was in line at the final scenes of Appomattox. It arrived at Washington, June 22, 1861, and after a few weeks encampment there, marched to the field of First Bull Run. It was then in Burnside's Brigade, of Hunter's Division. Burnside opened that fight with the First Rhode Island deployed as skirmishers, and the Second advancing in line of battle. Its casualties in that engagement aggregated 98 in killed, wounded and missing among the killed were Colonel Slocum, Major Sullivan Ballou, and two captains. During the Peninsular campaign it served in Palmer's (3d) Brigade, Couch's (1st) Division, Fourth Corps this division was transferred in October, 1862, to the Sixth Corps as Newton's (3d) Division. The regiment, under Colonel Rogers, distinguished itself in the hard-fought battle of the Sixth Corps at Salem Heights, May 3, 1863, in which action it lost 7 killed, 68 wounded, and 6 missing. At the Wilderness, it lost 12 killed, 66 wounded, and 5 missing and at Spotsylvania, 15 killed, 32 wounded, and 6 missing. In the final battle of the Sixth Corps—at Sailor's Creek, April 6, 1865—the regiment displayed remarkable fighting qualities, engaging the enemy in an action so close that men were bayoneted, and clubbed muskets were freely used. The original regiment was mustered out June 17, 1864, the recruits and reenlisted men left in the field were organized into a battalion of three companies, to which five new ones were subsequently added in the fall and winter of 1864–5.

Organized at Providence June, 1861. Left State for Washington, D. C., June 19. Attached to Burnside's Brigade, Hunter's Division, McDowell's Army of Northeast Virginia, to August, 1861. Couch's Brigade, Division of the Potomac, to October, 1861. Couch's Brigade, Buell's Division, Army Potomac, to March, 1862. 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 4th Army Corps, Army Potomac, to September, 1862. 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 6th Army Corps, Army Potomac, to October, 1862. 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 6th Army Corps, to March, 1864. 4th Brigade, 2nd Division, 6th Army Corps, to July, 1864. 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 6th Army Corps, Army Potomac and Army Shenandoah, Middle Military Division, to December, 1864. 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 6th Army Corps, Army Potomac, to July, 1865. [1]

Under the first call of the President of the United States for additional troops to serve three years or during the war, the Second Regiment of Rhode Island Volunteers was organized. The work of enlistment was spiritedly prosecuted under an order from Governor Sprague, and Camp Burnside was established on the Dexter Training Ground, in Providence. The command of the Regiment was given to Colonel Slocum, promoted from Major of the First Rhode Island, an officer of great personal bravery, who had gained reputation in the Mexican War. Colonel William Goddard, of the Governor's Staff, was detailed temporarily to act as Lieutenant-Colonel, who on being relieved was temporarily succeeded by General Charles T. Robbins. At the request of Colonel Slocum, Colonel Christopher Blanding assisted in drilling the Regiment. To add to the comfort of the men, a thousand rubber blankets were presented to them by the firm of A. & W. Sprague. Many other tokens of interest and regard were also received by officers and men, and the citizens of Lonsdale made a liberal donation to the hospital department.

An elegant stand of colors was presented to the Regiment by the ladies of Providence, through Colonel Jabez C. Knight. The ceremonies of the occasion were appropriate and impressive. The colors were assigned to Company D, Captain Nelson Viall, who had served with honor in Mexico. All things being in readiness, the Regiment struck their tents at 2 o'clock, P. M., June 19, 1861, and marched to Exchange Place, where, in the presence of a large crowd of spectators, a short and spirited address was delivered by Bishop Thomas M. Clark, who also invoked the Divine blessing. Resuming their march to Fox Point, they embarked on board the steamer State of Maine, and the Battery accompanying the Regiment, under Captain William H. Reynolds, on board the steamer Kill von Kull.

On the morning of June 22, the Regiment, accompanied by Governor Sprague, Hon. John R. Bartlett, Secretary of State, and Bishop Clark, arrived in Washington, warmly welcomed, and encamped in Gales' Woods, near Camp Sprague. On the 26th, the First and Second regiments, with their respective batteries, paid their respects to President Lincoln, by whom they were reviewed. While in camp, the Regiment was brigaded with the First Rhode Island, 71st New York, 2nd New Hampshire, and the two Rhode Island batteries.

In this brigade, commanded by Colonel Burnside, they marched to the Battle of Bull Run, leading the column. On that sanguinary and disastrous field, it was the first, with Captain Reynolds battery, to engage, and fought the enemy forty-five minutes without support, losing 28 men killed, 56 wounded, and 30 missing among the former, Colonel Slocum, Major Sullivan Ballou, and Captains Levi A. Tower and Samuel J. Smith. The men stood up bravely under a heavy fire from the rebel batteries, but to no purpose. The color company was a conspicuous mark, and the regimental colors were completely riddled by balls. Dr. James Harris, Surgeon of the Regiment, was unceasing in the performance of his professional duties through the day, often exposed to danger on the field, and always having words of cheer for the wounded and dying. After the retreat commenced, he remained at his post, and gave himself up a prisoner, rather than be separated from those who so much needed his attention. The death of the brave Colonel Slocum, left the Regiment in the command of Captain Frank Wheaton, of the United States Army, then acting Lieutenant-Colonel, to the Colonelcy of which he was subsequently promoted. Captain Viall, on the fall of Major Ballou, assumed the duty of a field officer, and was afterward promoted to Major of the Regiment. Captain William H. P. Steere received the commission of Lieutenant-Colonel in the same. In retiring from the field, the Regiment preserved its order, and on returning to Washington established temporary quarters at Camp Clark.

It subsequently occupied Camp Sprague, and removed thence to Camp Brightwood, where it remained till March, 1862, occupied in drilling, picket service, clearing away forests, and building Fort Slocum- a worthy monument to the memory of its revered commander.

On the 26th of March, the Regiment moved with the Army of the Potomac, to enter upon the campaign of the Peninsula. During the siege of Yorktown, it was constantly employed in picket and other important duties. On the evacuation of that place by the rebels, it formed a part of Stoneman's advance in pursuit, and participated in the capture of Fort Magruder, at Williamsburg, saving a regiment that had been badly cut up by unwisely drawing upon it the fire of the fort at eight hundred yards distance. It continued with the advance of Stoneman during its operations on the Pamunky and Chickahominy Rivers, was the first to take possession of White House, took part in the battles of Mechanicsville and Seven Pines, and at Turkey Bend was detached with the 7th Massachusetts, to guard Turkey Bend Bridge, and remained there till Porter's corps crossed. After the Battle of Malvern Hill, when the army fell back to Harrison's Landing, the regiment was assigned to the rear as a cover. On the 5th of July, it was in position on the west side of James River, opposite City Point, occupied in throwing up breastworks. When the Army of the Potomac withdrew from the Peninsula, the Regiment proceeded to the vicinity of Yorktown, where it remained a week destroying earthworks, and August 29 it embarked for Alexandria, where it landed September 1.

It shared the fortunes of Pope's Bull Run campaign, was in position at Elk Mountain on the 17th of September, during the Battle of Antietam, and subsequently, after performing a variety of fatiguing duties, marched with Franklin's corps to a position in front of Fredericksburg. In the assault upon that city, December 14, it acted with spirit and efficiency. In the preliminary movements of Franklin's corps, this Regiment was the first to cross the river, in face of a heavy body of rebel infantry and artillery, and deploying as skirmishers, drove in their pickets- a movement executed with the coolness and precision of a regimental drill. Here, Colonel Wheaton was ordered to the command of a brigade that had been under the command of General Howe, and the command of the Regiment devolved on the gallant Colonel Nelson Viall, who received his commission on the field. This he subsequently resigned, and the temporary command of the Regiment fell to Lieutenant-Colonel Goff, an able and highly esteemed officer. He was succeeded by Colonel Horatio Rogers, Jr.,transferred from the 11th R. I. Volunteers.

After the battle of the 14th, Colonel (now General) Wheaton received from the Regiment the gift of a superb sword, belt and silver spurs, as a testimony of their regard for him as an officer. In the "mud expedition" that followed this attack on Fredericksburg, the Second Rhode Island participated. It subsequently went into winter quarters, and was employed in picket duty and the usual camp routine. On the 2nd and 3 May 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville was fought. On the morning of the 3rd, the Regiment supported General Gibbon's division in carrying Salem Heights, near Fredericksburg, having two men slightly wounded. In the storming of Marye's Heights, on the afternoon of the same day, the most terrible portion of the conflict, and in some sense a separate, independent battle, the Regiment, led by Colonel Rogers, performed deeds of conspicuous valor. At a critical moment, it largely contributed towards checking the enemy when our forces were being driven on the right, and saved a New Jersey regiment, hotly pressed, from annihilation and probable capture. The battle of Gettysburg, Pa., July 1, 2 and 3, next followed. In reaching this field of Union triumph, so dearly purchased, the Regiment made good time, and toward night of the second day, having marched about thirty miles, it took position on the field of battle on the extreme left, as a portion of Sedgwick's reserve. During the whole of the 3rd, though not directly engaged, it was constantly moving, under a storm of shells, to different parts of the field, in support of points hardly pressed, losing one man killed and three wounded, and on the following day was on picket on the further edge of the battle field. In pursuit of the retreating rebels, the Regiment had a picket skirmish at Williamsport, July 12, in which three men were wounded. Continuing its march back into Virginia, the Regiment made camp near Warrenton, July 25, having marched, going and returning, nearly three hundred miles.

On the 9th of October, following the Battle of Gettysburg, the rebel General Lee put his army again in motion, to turn the right flank of the forces under Meade, and make a push for Washington but the falling back of the Federals upon Centreville and Chantilly completely checkmated his purpose. At this point, the 6th Corps, including the Second Rhode Island, occupied the extreme right of the line. In the advance of the Union forces upon Rappahannock Station, November 7, which resulted in the rout of the enemy and the capture of 1600 prisoners, the Regiment was held in reserve and in another successful advance across the Rapidan, November 26, it participated. A quiet winter at Brandy Station intervened, when on the 4th of May, 1864, the Army of the Potomac began the grand movement that ultimated in the capture of Richmond. The marching and fighting of the succeeding four or five weeks, to reach the Chickahominy, comprises a part of the history of the Regiment.

In the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania Court House, and all along the succession of flank movements, it bore an honorable and conspicuous part, and in the sanguinary Battle of Cold Harbor, a few days before its term of service expired, added another to the laurels won on other fields. On the 11th of June, the three-years' men, under the command of Colonel S. B. M. Bead, returned to Providence, and on the 17th were mustered out of service. By order of Governor Smith, they were received by the Division of Militia under the command of Major General Olney Arnold, and escorted to Howard Hall, where a bountiful collation had been provided, and a formal State reception took place. Colonel Read was wounded in the head and leg, May 12, on the third day of the battle of Spotsylvania Court House, and was promoted from Lieutenant-Colonel on the 1st of June following, for gallant conduct in the battles of the campaign in which he had participated up to that date.

At the date of the mustering out of the first three-years' men, Companies A, B and C, comprising recruits enlisted from time to time, conscripts and re-enlisted veterans, remained in the field before Petersburg. Wishing to preserve to the close of the war the identity of a Regiment that had served so faithfully and bravely, Governor Smith authorized a reorganization, dating from the muster out of the original Regiment. Companies D, E, F, G and H, were recruited and sent forward, and regimental relations were once more established, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Elisha H. Rhodes, brevetted Colonel April 2, 1865, for gallant services before Petersburg.

On the 6th of July, 1864, General Early, with a portion of the rebel advance, crossed the Potomac, near Antietam, into Maryland, and made a raid on Washington. The Sixth Army Corps, including the Second Rhode Island, and Batteries C, D and G, were hurried to the defense of the Capital, and reached there just in season to save the city, and to aid in driving the enemy, who had approached within shelling distance, back into the valley of the Shenandoah. The pursuit of the rebels was continued, first under General Wright, and then under General Sheridan, who had been appointed to the command of the Department. In the Battle of Winchester, September 19, the Regiment behaved with great gallantry, and had nine men wounded, one mortally.

After this battle the Regiment was detailed as part of the garrison of Winchester, to protect it against guerrillas, as well as to escort trains to the front. It was there when the Battle of Cedar Creek, October 19, was fought, and remained until December 1, when it rejoined the Army of the Potomac, and passed the winter of 1864 and 1865 in doing siege duty in the trenches in front of Petersburg, Va. The Regiment was engaged in all the skirmishes that took place during this period, the most important of which were Hatcher's Run, December 10, 1864 Hatcher's Run, February 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th, 1865 Fort Fisher, Va., March 25, and Fort Stedman, same day. In the attack on Petersburg, April 2, 1865, the Regiment took a prominent and important part. The night before, the 6th Corps was massed in front of Fort Fisher, ready for the assault. Just at daybreak, Sunday morning, the lines advanced under a heavy fire, and carried the enemy's main lines by storm. The Second Rhode Island started in the second line, but were the first to reach the works, and planted its colors on the parapet. The enemy fled in great confusion, after their lines were pierced. Lieutenant Frank S. Halliday, acting Adjutant of the Regiment, with a small party, carried a rebel fort mounting two guns, and turned them upon the enemy. The whole affair was a glorious success, and caused the evacuation of the city on Monday morning, April 3. In the Battle of Sailors' Creek, Thursday following the above, April 6, the Regiment displayed great prowess. About 5 o'clock, P. M., the division to which it was attached, advanced on the enemy's lines, and the Second Rhode Island attacked a part of the Naval Brigade, commanded by officers of the late rebel fleet. The Regiment charged to within a few feet of their lines, when it met a severe flank fire, which forced it to retire. The action as so close that men were bayoneted, and knocked down with the butts of muskets. In the confusion, the colors of the Regiment were captured, but were quickly retaken. The place where it charged was swampy, with water at least three feet deep, but the men pushed gallantly forward, and regained all the ground lost, causing the enemy to flee in great confusion, who left a part of their wagons in Federal hands. The loss was severe in officers and men, but there was a proud satisfaction in knowing that the efforts of the Regiment hastened the surrender of Lee and his army. Captain Charles W. Gleason and Lieutenant William H. Perry, both gallant officers, were killed. They were loved and respected by the Regiment. They entered the service as enlisted men at the beginning of the war, and by merit rose to their positions as officers. In this battle the conduct of officers and men was in the highest degree commendable. The new men, who went into action for the first time, fought-like veterans.

After the fall of Richmond, and the surrender of the rebel Northern Army, under Lee, the Regiment left that city for Washington, D. C., May 24, was mustered out of the United States service at Hall's Hill, Va., July 13, and left for Providence on the 15th. It reached its destination by the train from New York at 12 o'clock, midnight, July 17, accompanied by the 11th and 58th Massachusetts regiments, bound to Readville. The regiment was received with the cheers of waiting friends, the salute of the Marine Artillery, and the presented arms of Company A, Pawtucket Light Guard, Captain M'Cloy. After the reception, they formed and were escorted to Washington Hall, where they partook of an ample collation, prepared by L. H. Humphreys, under the direction of Captain Henrie Crandall.

The Regiment had often been severely depleted by sickness, and by losses upon the battlefield. After the Battle of Malvern Hill in 1862, it could number only 250 effective men. It numbered on its return, 345 officers and men. Under general orders from the War Department, General Meade directed, March 7, 1865, the names of the following battles in which the Regiment had borne a meritorious part, to be inscribed upon its colors, viz:

First Bull Run Salem Heights, Petersburg, Yorktown, Gettysburg, Fort Stevens, Williamsburg, Rappahannock Station, Opequan, Malvern Hill, Wilderness, Hatcher's Run, Antietam, Spottsylvania, Sailors' Creek, Fredericksburg, Cold Harbor, Appomattox, Marye's Heights. [2]

Watch the video: GETTYSBURG- Pickett (October 2022).

Video, Sitemap-Video, Sitemap-Videos