Page images

actually attained the crest. One who did not know results, so coming, would have been quite as likely to have supposed that our line there had been carried and captured by the enemy—so many gray Rebels were on the crest-as to have discovered the real truth. Such mistake was really made by one of our officers, as I shall relate.

General Meade rode up, accompanied alone by his son, who is his aide-de-camp, an escort, if select, not large for a commander of such an army. The principal horseman was no bedizened hero of some holiday review, but he was a plain man, dressed in a serviceable summer suit of dark blue cloth, without badge or ornament, save the shoulderstraps of his grade, and a light, straight sword of a General or General staff officer. He wore heavy, high-top boots and buff gauntlets, and his soft black felt hat was slouched down over his eyes. His face was very white, not pale, and the lines were marked and earnest and full of care.

As he arrived near me, coming up the hill, he asked in a sharp, eager voice: “How is it going here?" "I believe, General, the enemy's attack is repulsed," I answered. Still approaching, and a new light began to come in his face, of gratified surprise, with a touch of incredulity, of which his voice was also the medium, he further asked: “What! Is the assault already repulsed?” his voice quicker and more eager than before. “ It sir," I replied. By this time he was on the crest, and when his eye had for an instant swept over the field, taking in just a glance of the whole the masses of prisoners, the numerous captured flags which the men were derisively flaunting about, the fugitives of the routed enemy, disappearing with the speed of terror in the woods-partly at what I had told him, partly at what he saw, he said, impressively, and his face lighted: “ Thank God.” And then his right hand moved as if it would have caught off his hat and waved it; but this gesture he suppressed, and instead he waved his hand, and said “Hurrah!” The son, with more youth in his blood and less rank upon his shoulders, snatched off his cap, and roared out his three “ hurrahs” right heartily. The General then surveyed the field, some minutes, in silence. He at length asked who was in command-he had heard that Hancock and Gibbon were wounded-and I told him that General Caldwell was the senior officer of the Corps and General Harrow of the Division. He asked where they were, but before I had time to answer that I did not know, he resumed: “No matter; I will give my orders to you and you will see them executed.” He then gave direction that the troops should be reformed as soon as practicable, and kept in their places, as the enemy might be mad enough to attack again. He also gave directions concerning the posting of some reinforcements which he said would soon be there, adding: “If the enemy does attack, charge him in the flank and sweep him from the field; do you understand.” The General then, a gratified man, galloped in the direction of his headquarters.

Then the work of the field went on. First, the prisoners were collected and sent to the rear. “ There go the men," the Rebels were heard to say, by some of our surgeons who were in Gettysburg, at the time Pickett's Division marched out to take position- “ There go the men that will go through your d-d Yankee lines, for you." A good many of them did “ go through our lines for us,” but in a very different way from the one they intended—not impetuous victors, sweeping away our thin lines with ball and bayonet, but crestfallen captives, without arms, guarded by the true bayonets of the Union, with the cheers of their conquerors ringing in their ears. There was a grim truth after all in this Rebel remark. Collected, the prisoners began their dreary march, a miserable, melancholy stream of dirty gray, to pour over the, crest to our rear. Many of the officers were wek dressed, fine, proud gentlemen, such men as it would be a pleasure to meet, when the war is over. I had no desire to exult over them, and pity and sympathy were the general feelings of us all upon the occasion. The cheering of our men, and the unceremonious handling of the captured flags was probably not gratifying to the prisoners, but not intended for taunt or insult to the men; they could take no exception to such practices. When the prisoners were turned to the rear and were crossing the crest, Lieut. Col. Morgan, General Hancock's Chief of Staff, was conducting a battery from the artillery reserve, towards the Second Corps. As he saw the men in gray coming over the hill, he said to the officer in


command of the battery: “See up there! The enemy has carried the crest. See them come pouring over! The old Second Corps is gone, and you had better get your battery away from here as quickly as possible, or it will be captured.” The officer was actually giving the order to his men to move back, when close observation discovered that the gray-backs that were coming had no arms, and then the truth flashed upon the minds of the observers. The same mistake was made by others.

In view of the results of that day—the successes of the arms of the country, would not the people of the whole country, standing there upon the crest with General Meade, have said, with him: “Thank God?"

I have no knowledge and little notion of how long a time elapsed from the moment the fire of the infantry commenced, until the enemy was entirely repulsed, in this his grand assault. I judge, from the amount of fighting and the changes of position that occurred, that probably the fight was of nearly an hour's duration, but I cannot tell, and I have seen none who knew. The time seemed but a very few minutes, when the battle was over.

When the prisoners were cleared away and order was again established upon our crest, where the conflict had impaired it, until between five and six o'clock, I remained upon the field, directing some troops to their position, in conformity to the orders of General Meade. The enemy appeared no more in front of the Second Corps; but while I was engaged as I have mentioned, farther to our left some considerable force of the enemy moved out and made show of attack. Our artillery, now in good order again, in due time opened fire, and the shells scattered the Butternuts,” ás clubs do the gray snow-birds of winter, before they came within range of our infantry. This, save unimportant outpost firing, was the last of the battle.

Of the pursuit of the enemy and the movements of the army subsequent to the battle, until the crossing of the Potomac by Lee and the closing of the campaign, it is not my purpose to write. Suffice it that on the night of the 3rd of July the enemy withdrew his left, Ewell's Corps, from our front, and on the morning of the 4th we again occupied the village of Gettysburg, and on that national day victory was proclaimed to the country; that foods of rain on that day prevented army movements of any considerable magnitude, the day being passed by our army in position upon the field, in burying our dead, and some of those of the enemy, and in making the movements already indicated; that on the 5th the pursuit of the enemy was commenced-his dead were buried by us—and the corps of our army, upon various roads, moved from the battlefield.

With a statement of some of the results of the battle, as to losses and captures, and of what I saw in riding over the field, when the enemy was gone, my account is done.

Our own losses in killed, wounded and missing I estimate at twenty-three thousand.' Of the "missing" the larger proportion were prisoners, lost on the ist of July. Our loss in prisoners, not wounded, probably was four thousand. The losses were distributed among the different army corps about as follows: In the Second Corps, which sustained the heaviest loss of any corps, a little over four thousand five hundred, of whom the missing were a mere nominal number; in the First Corps a little over four thousand, of whom a great many were missing; in the Third Corps four thousand, of whom some were missing; in the Eleventh Corps nearly four thousand, of whom the most were missing; and the rest of the loss, to make the aggregate mentioned, was shared by the Fifth, Sixth and Twelfth Corps and the cavalry. Among these the missing were few; and the losses of the Sixth Corps and of the cavalry were light. I do not think the official reports will show my estimate of our losses to be far from correct, for I have taken great pains to question staff officers upon the subject, and have learned approximate numbers from them. We lost nó gun or flag that I have heard of in all the battle. Some small arms, I suppose, were lost on the ist of July.

The enemy's loss in killed, wounded and prisoners I estimate at forty thousand, and from the following data and

& Final returns stated the loss às 23,049, as follows: First Corps, 3,897 killed and wounded, 2,162 missing; Second Corps, 3,991 and 389; Third Corps, 3,622 and 589; Fifth Corps, 1,976 and 211; Sixth Corps, 212 and 30; Eleventh Corps, 2,291 and 1,510; Twelfth Corps, 1,016 and 66; Artil. lery Reserve, 230 and 12; Cavalry, 445 and 407. See 43 War Records, 187.-T. L. L.

for the following reasons: So far as I can learn we took ten thousand prisoners, who were not wounded-many more than these were captured, but several thousands of them were wounded.

I have so far as practicable ascertained the number of dead the enemy left upon the field, approximately, by getting the reports of different burying parties. I think his dead upon the field were five thousand, almost all of whom, save those killed on the first of July, were buried by us—the enemy not having them in their possession. In looking at a great number of tables of killed and wounded in battles I have found that the proportion of the killed to the wounded is as one to five, or more than five, rarely less than five. So with the killed at the number stated, twentyfive thousand mentioned. I think fourteen thousand of the enemy, we nded and unwounded, fell into our hands. Great numbers of his small arnis, two or three guns, and forty or more—was there ever such bannered harvest ?-of his regimental battle-flags, were captured by us. Some day possibly we may learn the enemy's loss, but I doubt if he will ever tell truly how many flags he did not take home with him. I have great confidence however in my estimates, for they have been carefully made, and after much inquiry, and with no desire or motive to overestimate the enemy's loss.

The magnitude of the armies engaged, the number of the casualties, the object sought by the Rebel, the result, will all contribute to give Gettysburg a place among the great historic battles of the world. Tiat General Meade's concentration was rapid-over thirty miles a day was marched by some of the Corps—that his position was skilfully selected and his dispositions good; that he fought the battle hard and well; that his victory was brilliant and complete, I think all should admit. I cannot but regard it as highly fortunate to us and commendable in General Meade, that the enemy was allowed the initiative, the offensive, in the main battle; that it was much better to allow the Rebel, for his own destruction, to come up and smash his lines and columns upon the defensive solidity of our position, than it would have been to hunt him, for the same purpose, in the woods, or to unearth him from his rifle-pits. In this man

« PreviousContinue »