Monday, July 1, 2013

July 1-2, 1863: Battle of Gettysburg, Part One

In June 1863, the soldiers of New Jersey's nine-months regiments were mustered out of federal service and returned home.  The 31st NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment's Company G, under the command of Captain Benjamin F. Howey, and Company I ["The Belvidere Infantry Company"], under the command of Captain Richard     Drake, arrived in Belvidere by train from Trenton on June 28.  They were welcomed at the depot by Captain George Washington Tunis and his Warren Guards.  Led by the Belvidere Brass Band and Captain Hendrickson's Band of Martial Music, the veterans were escorted to Garret D. Wall Park where they were welcomed with speeches. 
Meanwhile, opposing armies marched into Pennsylvania.  On July 1, Federal cavalry commanded by Brigadier General John Buford attacked an advancing column of Confederate infantry at Gettysburg, Pa.   The Confederates were seeking shoes, food and other supplies from Gettysburg and Hanover, Pa.  and had not planned to be in battle.  General Buford noticed his men were on the high ground with an excellent field of fire so he attacked. 
Troops from the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Federal Army of the Potomac rushed toward Gettysburg without stopping.  The main fight began on July 2.
The Confederate counter-attack on the Federal lines did not start at dawn on July 2, which was a pleasant surprise to the Union troops who had arrived in Gettysburg after a long, forced march.  However, once the attack began, it was very fierce.  General Daniel Sickles was in a hurry to get his Union Third Corps into the fight so he ordered his troops forward - ahead of the remainder of the Federal line. Sickles' advance placed his troops across the Emmittsburg Road  and into the woods - in an area occupied by half of the Confederate forces.  
Men of the 7th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment came under heavy artillery fire on their position at an orchard near Trostle's Lane. the 7th NJ had been assigned to give support to Union artillery batteries there.  The Confederate artillery were firing down on them from the top of Seminary Ridge.
Jacob Cole, of Paterson, a 16-year old veteran who served in Elmer Ellsworth's Fire Zouaves [11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment] at the First Battle of Manassas [or Bull Run], was serving in Company A, of the 57th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  Cole recalled in his 1906 autobiography Under Five Commanders, "When about four o'clock p.m., the order came to move, the Fifty-Seventh fell in, filed left, went into the woods and was soon under fire.  As we pushed forward, a bullet struck my right arm and passed through it.  As we charged into the wheat field a shell exploded and shattered my right leg and killed two of my comrades.  when I was shot in the arm, the feeling was the same as though I had been struck on the elbow - a feeling of numbness came into my arm - and I turned to the comrade  by my side and asked him why he had hit me.  He said, 'I did not hit you, but you have been shot and you had better go to the rear.'  Shortly after I was injured by the shell.
"After my leg was shattered, I fell down, laying for a few minutes unconscious, and when I came to my senses, I found I was surrounded by the enemy, and a rebel officer was standing over me with one foot on my wounded leg.  I pleaded with him to step off my wounded leg. He said in answer to my pleadings, drawing his sword, 'You damn Yankee.  I will cut your heart out.'  And as he raised his sword, a ball came from the direction of Little Round Top and cut him through the throat, and he fell beside me dead."  Cole was later carried by Confederate soldiers to a small knoll overlooking Emmittsburg Road from where he witnessed the third day of battle and the famous "Pickett's Charge."
Colonel Robert McAllister's 11th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment was in the apple  orchard/wheat field area when Mississippi troops began to advance on it.  As Colonel McAllister, of Oxford Furnace, pointed his sword toward the advancing rebel soldiers to order his men to open fire, he was shot in the left leg by a Minnie ball and was hit in the right foot by a piece of artillery shell.  He gave his order to open fire just prior to being carried to the rear for medical treatment.  
McAllister reported, "We (the Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers) were in front of the apple orchard at the Smith house, along the Emmittsburg Road.  During this heavy artillery firing - we not being actively engaged - I ordered my men to lie down.   the shot and shell played over our heads and through the apple trees in our rear, carrying the branches through the air like chaff.  The gunners and horses of our artillery  were rapidly cut down.  If the destruction of life could have been left out of mind, I would have considered the scene grand beyond description.  So exciting was it that I could not keep lying down.  I had to jump up and watch the grand duel.  In about half an hour, the artillery ceased and the first charge of the rebel infantry was made in my front.  We prepared to receive the charge.  I ordered my men to 'Fire.' I was on the right of my regiment.  As the rebels advanced, our pickets came into our lines, and we received the charge.  I was wounded while passing from the right to the center of my regiment - severely wounded by a minie ball passing through my left leg and a shell striking my right foot.  I did not see a single man in the regiment flinch or show the least cowardice under that terrific cannonading of the fierce charge which we met."
John Schoonover, of Oxford Furnace, McAllister's Adjutant, had his horse shot out from under him during the artillery barrage.  He reported, "A few minutes to the command, 'FIRE,' Major Kearney, then standing near me, on the left of the line, was struck by a Minnie ball and mortally wounded in the knee, and was immediately carried to the rear; at this moment, Battery K, United States Artillery, then stationed a short distance to the left and front of the regiment, opened a rapid fire. I then passed rapidly to the right of the regiment, in order to inform the Colonel of the absence of the Major, and learned that he, too, had been wounded and taken to the rear.  I immediately notified Captain [Luther] Martin, the senior officer present, that he was in command of the regiment, and again passed to the left of the line, when an order was received from Brigadier General [Joseph Bradford] Carr to slightly change the front by bringing the left to the rear; this being executed, the entire regiment opened an effective fire upon the advancing line of the enemy.  At this point, word was conveyed to me that both Captains Martin and [Dorastus] Logan were wounded and being carried to the rear.  A moment later, Captain [Andrew Hiram] Ackerman [of Belvidere] fell dead by my side.  The two former were killed before they reached a place of safety; and in justice to the memory of these three officers, permit me to bear witness to their unexceptional good conduct. Ever to the front, distinguished for personal bravery, they leave behind them a spotless record.
"By this time, Captain [W.H.] Lloyd had also been wounded, and Captain [William] Dunning being absent assisting the colonel to the rear, I assumed command of the regiment.  The fire of the enemy at this time was perfectly terrific; men were falling on every side; it seemed as if but a few minutes could elapse before the entire line would be shot down, yet the galling fire was returned with equal vigor.  Slowly and stubbornly the regiment fell back, keeping up a continual fire upon the line of the enemy which was still advancing, until more than one-half     its number had been either killed or wounded.  Up to this time, both officers and men nobly did their duty, but the ranks becoming so decimated, and mingled with wounded men, and the line in the rear, and having a short time previous been struck with a piece of shell in the breast, I found it impossible, under the circumstances, to longer keep the line together..."
Copyright 1997-2013: Jay C. Richards

No comments:

Post a Comment