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General Meade, therefore, resolved to try to seize Gettysburg, and accordingly gave the necessary orders for the concentration of his different columns there. Under the new auspices the army brightened, and moved on with a more elastic step towards the yet undefined field of conflict.
The Ist Corps, General Reynolds, already having the advance, was ordered to push forward rapidly, and take and hold the town, if he could. The rest of the Army would assemble to his support. Buford's Cavalry co-operated with this corps, and on the morning of the 1st of July found the enemy near Gettysburg and to the West, and promptly engaged him. The First Corps having bivouacked the night before, South of the town, came up rapidly to Buford's support, and immediately a sharp battle was opened with the advance of the enemy. The First Division (Gen. Wadsworth) was the first of the infantry to become engaged, but the other two, commanded respectively by Generals Robinson and Doubleday, were close at hand, and forming the line of battle to the West and North-west of the town, at a mean distance of about a mile away, the battle continued for some hours, with various success, which was on the whole with us until near noon. At this time a lull occurred, which was occupied, by both sides, in supervising and re-establishing the hastily formed lines of the morning. New Divisions of the enemy were constantly arriving and taking up positions, for this purpose marching in upon the various roads that terminate at the town, from the West and North. The position of the First Corps was then becoming perilous in the extreme, but it was improved a little before noon by the arrival upon the field of two Divisions of the Eleventh Corps (Gen. Howard), these Divisions commanded respectively by Generals Schurz and Barlow, who by order posted their commands to the right of the First Corps, with their right retired, forming an angle with the line of the First Corps. Between three and four o'clock in the afternoon the enemy, now in overwhelming force, resumed the battle, with spirit. The portion of the Eleventh Corps making but feeble opposition to the advancing enemy, soon began to fall back.
Back in disorganized masses they fled into the town, hotly pursued, and in lanes, in barns, in yards and cellars, throwing away their arms, they sought to hide like rabbits, and were there captured, unresisting, by hundreds.
The First Corps, deprived of this support, if support it could be called, outflanked upon either hand, and engaged in front, was compelled to yield the field. Making its last stand upon what is called "Seminary Ridge," not far from the town, it fell back in considerable confusion, through the South-west part of the town, making brave resistance, however, but with considerable loss. The enemy did not see fit to follow, or to attempt to, further than the town, and so the fight of the 1st of July closed here. I suppose our losses during the day would exceed four thousand, of whom a large number were prisoners. Such usually is the kind of loss sustained by the Eleventh Corps. You will remember that the old "Iron Brigade" is in the First Corps, and consequently shared this fight, and I hear their conduct praised on all hands.
In the 2nd Wis., Col. Fairchild lost his left arm; Lieut. Col. Stevens, was mortally wounded, and Major Mansfield was wounded; Lieut. Col. Callis, of the 7th Wis., and Lieut. Col. Dudley, of the 19th Ind., were badly, dangerously, wounded, the latter by the loss of his right leg above the knee.
I saw "John Burns," the only citizen of Gettysburg who fought in the battle, and I asked him what troops he fought with. He said: "O, I pitched in with them Wisconsin fellers." I asked what sort of men they were, and he answered: "They fit terribly. The Rebs couldn't make anything of them fellers."
And so the brave compliment the brave.
was touched by three bullets from the enemy, but not seriously wounded.
But the loss of the enemy to-day was severe also, probably in killed and wounded, as heavy as our own, but not so great in prisoners.
Of these latter the "Iron Brigade" captured almost an entire Mississippi Brigade, however.
Of the events so far, of the 1st of July, I do not speak
from personal knowledge. I shall now tell my introduction to these events.
At eleven o'clock A. M., on that day, the Second Corps was halted at Taneytown, which is thirteen miles from Gettysburg, South, and there awaiting orders, the men were allowed to make coffee and rest. At between one and two o'clock in the afternoon, a message was brought to Gen. Gibbon, requiring his immediate presence at the headquarters of Gen. Hancock, who commanded the Corps. I went with Gen. Gibbon, and we rode at a rapid gallop, to Gen. Hancock.
At Gen. Hancock's headquarters the following was learned: The First Corps had met the enemy at Gettysburg, and had possession of the town. Gen. Reynolds was badly, it was feared mortally, wounded; the fight of the First Corps still continued. By Gen. Meade's order, Gen. Hancock was to hurry forward and take command upon the field, of all troops there, or which should arrive there. The Eleventh Corps was near Gettysburg when the messenger who told of the fight left there, and the Third Corps was marching up, by order, on the Emmetsburg Road— Gen. Gibbon-he was not the ranking officer of the Second Corps after Hancock-was ordered to assume the command of the Second Corps.
All this was sudden, and for that reason at least, exciting; but there were other elements in this information, that aroused our profoundest interest. The great battle that we had so anxiously looked for during so many days, had at length opened, and it was a relief, in some sense, to have these accidents of time and place established. What would be the result? Might not the enemy fall upon and destroy the First Corps before succor could arrive?
Gen. Hancock, with his personal staff, at about two o'clock P. M., galloped off towards Gettysburg; Gen. Gibbon took his place in command of the Corps, appointing me his acting Assistant Adjutant General. The Second Corps took arms at once, and moved rapidly towards the field. It was not long before we began to hear the dull booming of the guns, and as we advanced, from many an eminence or opening among the trees, we could look out HC XLIII (12)
upon the white battery smoke, puffing up from the distant field of blood, and drifting up to the clouds. At these sights and sounds, the men looked more serious than before and were more silent, but they marched faster, and straggled less. At about five o'clock P. M., as we were riding along at the head of the column, we met an ambulance, accompanied by two or three mounted officers-we knew them to be staff officers of Gen. Reynolds-their faces told plainly enough what load the vehicle carried-it was the dead body of Gen. Reynolds. Very early in the action, while seeing personally to the formation of his lines under fire, he was shot through the head by a musket or rifle bullet, and killed almost instantly. His death at this time affected us much, for he was one of the soldier Generals of the army, a man whose soul was in his country's work, which he did with a soldier's high honor and fidelity.
I remember seeing him often at the first battle of Fredericksburg-he then commanded the First Corps—and while Meade's and Gibbon's Divisions were assaulting the enemy's works, he was the very beau ideal of the gallant general. Mounted upon a superb black horse, with his head thrown back and his great black eyes flashing fire, he was every where upon the field, seeing all things and giving commands in person. He died as many a friend, and many a foe to the country have died in this war.
Just as the dusk of evening fell, from Gen. Meade, the Second Corps had orders to halt, where the head of the column then was, and to go into position for the night. The Second Division (Gibbon's) was accordingly put in position, upon the left of the (Taneytown) road, its left near the South-eastern base of "Round Top ”—of which mountain more anon-and the right near the road; the Third Division was posted upon the right of the road, abreast of the Second, and the first Division in the rear of these two— all facing towards Gettysburg.
Arms were stacked, and the men lay down to sleep, alas! many of them their last but the great final sleep upon the earth.
Late in the afternoon as we came near the field, from some slightly wounded men we met, and occasional strag
glers from the scene of operations in front, we got many rumors, and much disjointed information of battle, of lakes of blood, of rout and panic and undescribable disaster, from all of which the narrators were just fortunate enough to have barely escaped, the sole survivors. These stragglers are always terrible liars!
About nine o'clock in the evening, while I was yet engaged in showing the troops their positions, I met Gen. Hancock, then on his way from the front, to Gen. Meade, who was back toward Taneytown; and he, for the purpose of having me advise Gen. Gibbon, for his information, gave me quite a detailed account of the situation of matters at Gettysburg, and of what had transpired subsequently to his arrival.
He had arrived and assumed command there, just when the troops of the First and Eleventh Corps, after their repulse, were coming in confusion through the town. Hancock is just the man for such an emergency as this. Upon horseback I think he was the most magnificent looking General in the whole Army of the Potomac at that time. With a large, well shaped person, always dressed with elegance, even upon that field of confusion, he would look as if he was "monarch of all he surveyed," and few of his subjects would dare to question his right to command, or do aught else but to obey. His quick eye, in a flash, saw what was to be done, and his voice and his royal right hand at once commenced to do it. Gen. Howard had put one of his Divisions Steinwehr-with some batteries, in position, upon a commanding eminence, at the "Cemetery," which, as a reserve, had not participated in the fight of the day, and this Division was now of course steady. Around this Division the fugitives were stopped, and the shattered Brigades and Regiments, as they returned, were formed upon either flank, and faced toward the enemy again. A show of order at least, speedily came from chaos--the rout was at an end-the First and Eleventh Corps were in line of battle again-not very systematically formed perhaps→ in a splendid position, and in a condition to offer resistance, should the enemy be willing to try them. These formations were all accomplished long before night. Then some con