Golden Thread "Cheer less, boys and fight more" - Wofford's Brigade at Gettysburg

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Tom Elmore

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Laura,

Yes, and the sentence that you have highlighted in bold must be a reference to Wofford's brigade, which came in on their right as described. Zook and Kelly had just forced back the 7th and 3rd South Carolina of Kershaw's brigade from the Stony Hill (where the current road makes a loop). Part of the right wing (Companies C, F and G) of the 140th Pennsylvania extended into the field north of the loop, facing south, and first observed the approach of Wofford's brigade coming from the Peach Orchard toward their right rear, which they initially presumed to be friendly troops. Coming under fire, likely by the skirmish line of the 3rd Georgia Battalion, they realized it was the enemy and the right wing pulled back to the wood line, facing west, to counter the new threat, but Zook's position was rendered untenable by Wofford's advance, and they hastily fell back to the stone wall along the Wheatfield Road, before continuing their retreat. Not all of them made it - some were wounded and/or captured. However, the 57th New York, being in the second line, had a head start on the rest of the brigade.
 

Tom Elmore

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Revised map depicting the brigades of Wofford and Barksdale at 6 p.m. on July 2, prior to their advance. The 3rd Battalion was probably not deployed yet in front of the brigade; it is anyone's guess where they were at this moment, but the far left of the brigade looks promising. That gap in both brigades is surmised, as it was to leave open a path that passed through the woods.
 

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Tom Elmore

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Attached map depicts Wofford's brigade entering the Wheatfield at 7:05 p.m., July 2. The 18th Georgia and remnants of Kershaw's brigade have encountered the 4th Michigan at close range, precipitating a hand-to-hand combat. The other two regiments of Sweitzer's brigade will also face Confederates closing in from three directions. The right wing of Burbank's Regulars are also caught in the open, exposing their right wing to a terrible cross-fire. Anderson's Georgians and the 15th Georgia under Benning are making their final, successful advance. Caldwell's Federal division of four brigades are done for the day and are scattered over the field in retreat. Wofford's two Legions are proceeding toward Lt. Walcott's Massachusetts battery near the Weikert house (just off the right edge of the map). But Crawford's Pennsylvania Reserves on Little Round Top and the lead elements of the Federal Sixth Corps will soon blunt the Confederate's last advance of the day.
 

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Malingerer

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Guys, this has been one of my favorite threads in a long while. While it's still active, I wanted to get your opinions on the Coffman and Graham monograph on the Phillip's Legion infantry battalion. Thanks in advance.
 
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lelliott19

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@Tom Elmore I'm assuming that this part of John Coxe's account of the 2nd SC coincides with the 7:05 pm map? ....apparently, Kershaw's brigade was pretty happy to see Wofford's birgade when they arrived at this point :thumbsup:

"….it wasn’t long before the Federal infantry in great force advanced to the rim of the bluff and began to pour lead down upon us; but they soon found out that bullets go uphill with death in their songs as well as downhill, so they dared not rush down upon us. It soon became evident, though, that they were taking steps to flank us at both ends…..

We fought in that position for nearly half an hour, when to our surprise, the thunder and roar of the Federal cannon and musketry in our front suddenly stopped, and the next moment we heard a tremendous Rebel cheer, followed by an awful crash of small arms, coming through the woods on our left front and from the direction of the peach orchard. Then one of our officers shouted and said, “That’s help for us! Spring up the bluff, boys!” And we did so. Meanwhile the crashes of small arms and Rebel yells on the left increased. As we reached open ground over the bluff, we saw the Federal artillery we had charged deserted and an almost perfect Confederate line of battle just entering the woods, hotly engaged and driving the Federal infantry.

“Who is that?” shouted an officer. But before we had time to think of getting an answer an officer galloped from the right of his advancing line and ordered us to join his right and go forward. And that officer was Brig. Gen. William T Wofford…… And indeed the trying emergency had come. Semmes had fallen on the right and Barksdale had fallen on the left, while the predicament of Kershaw in the center has already been described. From his position in reserve on the pike Wofford plainly saw the death struggle of Kershaw’s men, cut off as they were and fighting against such frightful odds, and it was said at the time, that he asked McLaws for permission to go to our relief as many as three times before it was granted."


Account of John Coxe, Co B, 2nd South Carolina, Kershaw’s Brigade, McLaws Division, Longstreets Corps. From Confederate Veteran, Volume 21, pages 433-436.
 
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Tom Elmore

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Laura,
Both the 6:55 and 7:05 maps show the 2nd South Carolina, whose position was established from John Coxe's account. It cannot be seen well on the 6:55 map, but Kelly and the 140th PA of Zook are at the bluff (also known as the Stony Hill and the Loop). The 3rd and 7th South Carolina had been on the right of the 2nd, but were forced back as Kershaw's account so vividly described, and at this time (6:55) are regrouping around the Rose place. It is not given much attention, but the 2nd South Carolina and no doubt some men from the other regiments of Kershaw's brigade and perhaps that detachment from the 50th Georgia held Kelly and Zook in check at the Stony Hill until Wofford came up, then joined the right flank of the 18th Georgia, per Captain Lemon's map. It's possible that Private Coxe and Captain Lemon were quite near to one another as they entered the Wheatfield.
 
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lelliott19

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@Tom Elmore What division, brigade, or regiment of Union infantry was Wofford's engaging described in Pvt Coxe's account? Or was the Union infantry just withdrawing due to their arrival on the field?

As we reached open ground over the bluff, we saw the Federal artillery we had charged deserted and an almost perfect Confederate line of battle just entering the woods, hotly engaged and driving the Federal infantry.
Continuing Pvt Coxe's account:

"……When Wofford ordered us to join his right and rush forward, a tremendous Rebel yell went up from our powder choked throats. Wofford took off his hat and, waving it at us, turned back and charged along his line to the left. And here was seen how the right sort of officer can inspire his men to accomplish next to superhuman results. Always Wofford rode right along with his men during a fight, continually furnishing examples and cheering them with such words as, “Charge them boys.” The wonder was that he wasn’t killed. He had many “close calls,” but survived the war many years.

Those who saw it said they never saw such a fine military display as Wofford’s brigade as it advanced from the pike. He went right for those Federal cannons that were firing at us. Nor did it take him long to reach those batteries and smash them even before the gunners had time to turn their guns upon him. Rushing over the artillery, he kept right on and tackle the Yankee infantry in the woods beyond. And his assault was so sudden and quickly executed that the Federal lines of infantry were smashed and gave way at every point in Wofford’s way; and as the remnant of Kershaw’s Brigade combined with Wofford’s splendid body of men, rushed along through the woods, all the Federal supports met the same fate of their first line. It became a regular rout; and while the panic-stricken enemy fell by the scores and hundreds, Wofford lost only a few men.


Emerging from the woods on the opposite side, we drove the enemy across a wheat field and on to the western slopes of little Round Top, up which they scampered in great disorder. While crossing the wheat field, I looked along our line both ways, but saw no other troops. At that time, and while putting on a cap for another shot, a bullet from little Round Top tore open my right coat sleeve from wrist to elbow, but I wasn’t hurt much. At the farther edge of the wheat field, we were met by shots from Federal cannon on the apex of little Round Top, but all went high over us.

Of course every one of us expected to go right on and capture the famous hill, which at that time seemed easy to do; but Wofford, seeing that night was near and that there were no supports on right or left or in the rear, ordered a halt, and after surveying the hill through his field glasses, ordered us to about-face and fall back across the wheat field and into the woods from which we had so recently driven the enemy."

Account of John Coxe, Co B, 2nd South Carolina, Kershaw’s Brigade, McLaws Division, Longstreets Corps. From Confederate Veteran, Volume 21, pages 433-436.
 
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Podad

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There may not be any additional information that has not already shared. The attachment is information I got from a tour guide at Gettysburg prior to visiting in 2009. I don't remember his name since he didn't state it on the message. I was planning to hire him when we got to the Battlefield. But when I tried to reserve him he was booked for the time frame I had available. We hired someone else instead.

Note the attachment is two pages
 

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Chattahooch33

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Guys, this has been one of my favorite threads in a long while. While it's still active, I wanted to get your opinions on the Coffman and Graham monograph on the Phillip's Legion infantry battalion. Thanks in advance.
One of my favorites of all time for what that's worth.
 

rpkennedy

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@Tom Elmore What division, brigade, or regiment of Union infantry was Wofford's engaging described in Pvt Coxe's account? Or was the Union infantry just withdrawing due to their arrival on the field?

As we reached open ground over the bluff, we saw the Federal artillery we had charged deserted and an almost perfect Confederate line of battle just entering the woods, hotly engaged and driving the Federal infantry.
Continuing Pvt Coxe's account:

"……When Wofford ordered us to join his right and rush forward, a tremendous Rebel yell went up from our powder choked throats. Wofford took off his hat and, waving it at us, turned back and charged along his line to the left. And here was seen how the right sort of officer can inspire his men to accomplish next to superhuman results. Always Wofford rode right along with his men during a fight, continually furnishing examples and cheering them with such words as, “Charge them boys.” The wonder was that he wasn’t killed. He had many “close calls,” but survived the war many years.

Those who saw it said they never saw such a fine military display as Wofford’s brigade as it advanced from the pike. He went right for those Federal cannons that were firing at us. Nor did it take him long to reach those batteries and smash them even before the gunners had time to turn their guns upon him. Rushing over the artillery, he kept right on and tackle the Yankee infantry in the woods beyond. And his assault was so sudden and quickly executed that the Federal lines of infantry were smashed and gave way at every point in Wofford’s way; and as the remnant of Kershaw’s Brigade combined with Wofford’s splendid body of men, rushed along through the woods, all the Federal supports met the same fate of their first line. It became a regular rout; and while the panic-stricken enemy fell by the scores and hundreds, Wofford lost only a few men.


Emerging from the woods on the opposite side, we drove the enemy across a wheat field and on to the western slopes of little Round Top, up which they scampered in great disorder. While crossing the wheat field, I looked along our line both ways, but saw no other troops. At that time, and while putting on a cap for another shot, a bullet from little Round Top tore open my right coat sleeve from wrist to elbow, but I wasn’t hurt much. At the farther edge of the wheat field, we were met by shots from Federal cannon on the apex of little Round Top, but all went high over us.

Of course every one of us expected to go right on and capture the famous hill, which at that time seemed easy to do; but Wofford, seeing that night was near and that there were no supports on right or left or in the rear, ordered a halt, and after surveying the hill through his field glasses, ordered us to about-face and fall back across the wheat field and into the woods from which we had so recently driven the enemy."

Account of John Coxe, Co B, 2nd South Carolina, Kershaw’s Brigade, McLaws Division, Longstreets Corps. From Confederate Veteran, Volume 21, pages 433-436.
I'm not Tom but I may be able to answer you. As Wofford advanced and linked up with the remnants of Kershaw's line, Caldwell's Division was pulling out of the Wheatfield leaving Sweitzer's Brigade alone with their line bending back on itself. After fighting in hand-to-hand combat, Sweitzer's men retreat (this is when Colonel Harrison Jeffords is bayonetted to death).

At the far end of the Wheatfield and in the Rose Woods were the Regulars of Ayres' Division who would face attacks from the front and the flank by Wofford and elements from Kershaw's, Semmes', Anderson's, and Benning's Brigades which forced them to retreat. This line of Confederates would march out of the woods and face the slope of Little Round Top where they would face a charge by the Pennsylvania Reserve Division and a Sixth Corps Brigade which would cause the Confederates to withdraw back to the woods and Wheatfield.

Ryan
 
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Tom Elmore

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Passing through the Wheatfield, the left of Wofford's brigade, their ranks now considerably thinned and scattered, bore down upon Battery C, Massachusetts Artillery, commanded by First Lieutenant Aaron F. Walcott, which was posted on a slight rise of ground near the John T. Weikert buildings. The Georgians on the right reached the stone wall that ran along the eastern edge of the Wheatfield and quickly drove the Federals from behind it into the valley of Plum Run at the western foot of Little Round Top. Captain Lemon wrote, "At this point we became aware of a battery of the enemy's guns on our left which had been firing into us during our advance across the wheat. Our left wing flew into them and captured them in less time than it takes to tell of it." A little further to the captain's left, E. H. Sutton of the 24th Georgia recalled, "There was a battery in our front just across a little rocky, swampy vale." Sutton did not quite reach the battery. Just beyond it to the east was a portion of the 12th U.S. Regulars, which had just fallen back from the Wheatfield, and close beyond them to the east was the large 139th Pennsylvania of Col. David Nevin's brigade of the Sixth Corps, which was joined on their right by the 93rd Pennsylvania and 62nd New York.

W. George, a member of Company E, 139th Pennsylvania, provided his perspective in an article published in, The National Tribune, February 11, 1909: "The yelling and exultant foe, following after [the Federals] in pursuit, seemed to be as much broken up and in disorder as were our men in retreat. It did not, indeed, appear as if they had in sight sufficient men to form a solid line of battle had they been in that order, and their fire was no so heavy as was usually experienced in meeting their lines." At this time, Wofford's men and the few soldiers from other Confederate brigades in their midst were recalled. It was a timely order, since they were greatly outnumbered by fresh Federal troops, who were simultaneously advancing as the Confederates were pulling back. Moving forward, Nevin's brigade touched elbows with the Pennsylvania Reserves on their left. The 93rd Pennsylvania gathered in 25 prisoners, while the 139th Pennsylvania brought in another 20 or so; among those who were compelled to surrender was E. H. Sutton.
 
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MBuehner

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Does anybody have information on what Wofford's instructions were before the brigade stepped off? I'm pretty sure he didnt file an after action report.

I'm curious if his right turn into the wheat field was a question of battlefield exigence, if he was ordered to bail out Kershaw, or if he was preemptively ordered to turn right and finish off Caldwell and seize the wheat field.

They are subtle differences, but its a very interesting moment in the battle. Lee's orders, which Longstreet and McLaws definitely understood (as they discussed them repeatedly) were to attack 'up Emmitsburg Road'. Barksdale did exactly that, which rolled up the Union center and set off a chain of events that pierced and nearly broke the Union center when (some of) Anderson's brigades joined in. Wofford's role in this was important, as he essentially sprung Barksdale loose by hitting Humphrey's left. IE- Wofford exploited a seam between Union commands and dislocated forces to his right and to his left.

But this gave Wofford an option- he could continue to support embattled Kershaw on his right, or he could follow the larger battleplan and wheel left to support Barksdale. I suspect that the flow of the battle dictated that he wheel right, but I wonder if McLaws or Longstreet actually ordered him to do so.

Its really a question of establishing just why only 1 of the 8 brigades Longstreet brought to battle actually attacked up Emmitsburg Road. Most of the reason is simply- there wasnt any choice, the Union troops were in their front and had to be attacked. But something else seemed to be going on as well. Theres a post-bellum tendency to assume LRT was a primary objective, but that just wasnt the case at all. Troops seemed to flow there because it was a commanding position, but nobody at the time really thought it would command the field the way the legend grew. Certainly not enough to ignore Lee's orders and abandon the attack up Emmitsburg Road.

I think whatever the answer is, is fascinating. It seems to me likely that the Condeferates in general, once the battle started, were just willing to strike whatever Union forces they could find, whereever they were, and it turned into a battle by brigade with little or no coordination. Some of the brigades worked together well, but they did it tactically, without much sense of larger purpose. Had Wofford swept around with Barksdale and up the road, it would have been a VERY interesting turn of events. There was a real opportunity to roll up Hancock.
 

Tom Elmore

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MBuehner, your comments go to the heart of the matter, and I also think you have answered some of your own questions. For instance, much depended upon the initial alignment and direction of movement of any brigade, but an encounter with the enemy would instantly take precedence, and this certainly applies to Wofford's brigade, whose men must have been just as startled to find Sweitzer's brigade so close when they emerged from the woods bordering the west side of the Wheatfield, as the Federals were to find themselves facing the wrong way in front of a large Confederate command. Close combat was inevitable at that moment. Finding part of Kershaw's 2nd South Carolina still intact just prior to entering the woods could not have been planned, but Wofford took immediate advantage to have them support his right flank.

Although the right wing of the brigade concerned itself with Sweitzer, the left wing of the brigade, and the skirmishers in front of the left wing, did not change their direction. We know this from multiple sources, including a wounded Federal (140 PA?) lying prone near the center or northeast quadrant of the Wheatfield, from two soldiers of the Phillips' Legion who were afterwards captured along the northern edge of the Wheatfield, from Sutton of the 24 GA, and even, if I recall correctly, Tillie Pierce at the Weikert place, in addition to Federal sources from Nevin's brigade and the battery in front of Weikert's that was overrun. In essence Wofford's brigade was split in two, and each wing engaged in its own separate fight.

As for Wofford's decision to bear left or right prior to entering the Wheatfield, I think having aligned on the Wheatfield Road at the outset, then retained the same alignment in relation to that road until reaching the Wheatfield, is the clearest indication of his intentions to continue moving east and not bear left to join Barksdale. Both McLaws and Longstreet personally watched Wofford's brigade as it marched off, and clearly found no fault with its direction. Wofford was soon connected on his right with Kershaw, but he probably saw nothing recognizable off his immediate left flank except perhaps for a few Federals - Tilton's brigade, for instance. Better to stick with a clear goal of extending a known Confederate line, I suppose, then march off independently into the unknown with both flanks open. Besides, Barksdale would have been repulsed by the time Wofford reached him, leaving Wofford to contend with Willard's brigade, but without the benefit of Alexander's strong supporting artillery line at the Emmitsburg Road, which would have had to withhold fire as Wofford closed upon Willard. Still, I suspect that Wofford would have broken Willard, and thus the Federal line, at sunset, but there were yet more Federal reinforcements coming up, for instance, Robinson's division of the First Corps, and Lockwood from the Twelfth Corps, who could have helped seal off Wofford's penetration at that point.
 

MBuehner

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Thanks Tom!

Good point that Wofford advanced aligned with the Wheatfield Road to the southeast. Its a bit odd, as Wofford was supposed to be Barksdale support and not Kershaws... although, again, Kewshaw was screaming for help and Semmes was badly positioned to provide it. That being said, Barksdales 21st Mississippi would have been capturing federal batteries on Woffords immediate left. Wofford, Mclaws, and Longstreet must have at least wondered if Barksdale was going to have a problem when the gap opened by turning Wofford south. I still wonder if there was a deliberate decision by Longstreet to forget the drive up the Emmitsburg Road and try to finish off the Union troops in front of him and call it a day.
 
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lelliott19

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I believe that Rhett and Gilbert are being used to describe the same battery. Captain Rhett had commanded the South Carolina battery at previous battles but at Gettysburg, Lt. Gilbert commanded the unit. It was Rhett's Battery commanded by Gilbert.
Ryan
Another interesting account from a member of Parker's Battery* that also references Rhett's Battery and Wofford's Infantry Brigade at Gettysburg:

......This I will pass over and introduce the reader at once into the stirring scenes of Gettysburg, where, I claim, the Parker Battery played a part conspicuously brilliant, and one which deserves to be recorded in the annals of the great war between the States. With the First Corps, under Longstreet, it was not our fortune to reach the battlefield until the afternoon of Thursday, the 2d of July, when was made our first advance, amidst circumstances that were indeed grand and thrilling. On the slope of a wooded hill our infantry were forming for a charge. Federal infantry were thick in front of them, assisted by artillery, which poured a storm of shrapnel into our ranks. Rhett's Battery, of our battalion, was already blazing away from the crest of the hill, and they were said to have lost thirty men in as many minutes; but we were as yet at its base.

"Cannoneers, mount! Forward." Quickly we rushed between the already moving cannon wheels, and nimbly sprang into our seats, - all except John Hightower, who missed his hold, and the great heavy weight rolled over his body**. Did we halt? No! Not if your brother falls by your side must you heed his dying wail! This is the grim discipline of war.

Never shall I forget the scene presented on this hill, which was about opposite the since famous Round-Top mountain. The Federal shrapnel rattled like hail through the trees around us, while our infantry, which was preparing to charge, swayed backward and forward, in and out, like a storm-cloud vexed by contrary winds. There is an awful pause. One of our men trembles and cowers. Like lightning, [Capt. William Watts] Parker's sword circles the coward's head, and he learns there is danger in the rear as well as in front!

"Give it to them, boys!" said one of the infantry.
"We'll do it!" I responded.
"Ah, I see you are of the right grit," said he.
This compliment he paid me, I imagine, because I smiled in his face in my answer, marching close up to the muzzle of my piece.....

....Fire! Fire! Fire! And each gun is discharging its leaden terrors into the ranks of the foe! But now comes the brave infantry. Wofford, of Georgia, his hat off and his bald head shining in the sun, dashes through our battery, followed by his brigade. Out flashed Captain Parker's sword, while the words "Hurrah for you of the bald head!" issued instantly from his lips. "Hurrah for you of the bald head!" was repeated by the cannoneers, while the charging Georgians swept down the hill side, driving the retreating foe to the protection of the opposite hill.

Away we gallop down a contiguous road, and take an advanced position. Still the word is ever, "Fire! Fire! Until the sun sets upon the field of strife. As the shadows of coming night are falling around us, the flames leap out from our guns in lovely contrast. "Oh! Captain, this is beautiful!" said one of our sentimental soldiers.


Source: Royall W. Figg, Where Men Only Dare to Go or the Story of a Boy’s Company (C.S.A.) by an ex-boy. Richmond 1885. p.p.138-140

*Richmond "Parker's" (Virginia) Battery; Captain William W. Parker (3 x 3" Rifle, 1 x 10 lb. Parrott)
** John A Hightower, age 18, run over by the cannon carriage, suffered a broken femur with shortening of the leg. Being unfit for field duty, he was detailed for duty as a clerk in the Treasury Department and the Auditor's Dept.
 
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lelliott19

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Passing through the Wheatfield, the left of Wofford's brigade, their ranks now considerably thinned and scattered, bore down upon Battery C, Massachusetts Artillery, commanded by First Lieutenant Aaron F. Walcott, which was posted on a slight rise of ground near the John T. Weikert buildings. The Georgians on the right reached the stone wall that ran along the eastern edge of the Wheatfield and quickly drove the Federals from behind it into the valley of Plum Run at the western foot of Little Round Top.
Walking over the battlefield afterwards, infantryman Robert Carter of the 22nd Massachusetts (Tilton's Brigade) noted:

“Masses of Kershaw’s and Wofford’s brigades had been swept from the muzzles of the guns, which had been loaded either with double-shotted, or spherical case, with fuses being cut to one second, to explode near the muzzles. They were literally blown to atoms. Corpses strewed the ground at every step. Arms, heads, legs and parts of dismembered bodies were scattered all about, and sticking among the rocks and against the trunks of trees, hair, brains, entrails, and shreds of human flesh still hung, a disgusting, sickening, heart-rending spectacle to our young minds.”
Source: Gottfried, Bradley. The Artillery of Gettysburg, Cumberland House Publishing, Nashville TN 2008, p.126​

Does anyone have Bradley Gottfried's book? Wondering about his source for this quote? Did Robert Carter (22nd MA) leave a diary or is it from a later source/article?
 
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