Company H and the National Flag of the 75th Ohio at Gettysburg

Tom Elmore

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The Ohio History Connection Library and Archives in Columbus has an ornate roster of Company H, 75th Ohio. Attached to the lower right of the roster is a white star, bearing a handwritten inscription: “Star from Gettysburg flag.” See attached two photographs.

The 75th Ohio was overrun at the base of Cemetery Hill on the evening of July 2 by the Louisiana brigade of Brig. Gen. Harry T. Hays. Among the four Federal flags claimed by Hays that night was one captured by Private Holmes N. Willis of Company I, 8th Louisiana. Some of the men from the 8th tore pieces from this flag as trophies, but the larger part was recovered and presented to Hays as likely representing the banner of the “57th Ohio” – most probably a transposition of 75. Forward to 1890, when Hays’ widow wanted to return the flag to the survivors of the regiment.

The question naturally arises as to whether the star attached to the Company H roster came from the remnant of the flag that was presumably passed to the survivors of the regiment by Mrs. Hays. If so, it had followed a fascinating journey.

Lieutenant Joseph Warren Jackson of Company I, 8th Louisiana recalled the twilight attack on July 2: “We ‘fotched up’ at a stone fence behind which Mr. Yank had posted himself and he did not want to leave – but with bayonets and clubbed guns we drove them back, by this time it was dark and we couldn’t tell whether we were shooting our own men or not. Some of our men went on up to the battery … Willis had a hand to hand fight with a Yank and took his colors away from him.” Jackson’s description suggests the 75th lost its colors further up the hill. The attached map fixes the time at around 7:50 p.m., as the light was rapidly dimming (sunset was at 7:32).

Sources:
-Official Report of Harry S. Hays.
-July 10, 1863 letter of Capt. A. L. Gusman, commanding 8th Louisiana, to Harry S. Hays.
-July 16, 1890 letter of A. S. Graham to George T. Hodges, Department Commander of the Louisiana and Mississippi G.A.R., which was forwarded to the Adjutant General of the G.A.R., published in the Journal of the Twenty-Third Annual Session of the National Encampment, G.A.R., 1889 (a typewritten version of this letter and the Gusman letter were provided to me by N. Wayne Cosby in 2013).
-The Gettysburg Campaign – a Louisiana Lieutenant’s Eye-Witness Account, ed. by Merl E. Reed, Pennsylvania History, vol. XXX, April, 1863, no. 2, pp. 181-191.

CivilWarOhioHistorSocH75OHRosterA.JPG


CivilWarOhioHistorSocColumbusH75OHB.JPG


CemHill1952 002.jpg
 
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bayonet

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Don't know if that map is correct. The space between the 17th CT and 75th Ohio was not that big. But we do know large parts of the 75th Ohio broke and ran with their tails between their legs wetting themselves running up the Hill. Yes my GG Grandfathers 17th CT held firm forcing the Rebs to go around them totally disrupting the assault leading to its failure!
 

Tom Elmore

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That's a separate discussion on the location of the 17th Connecticut. My contention is that it moved to the position shown (17 CN) rather than to the immediate right of the 75th Ohio, which in that case would have left about a 100 yard gap for the 8th Louisiana and other Tigers to pass through. One reason drawing me to that conclusion is indeed the fact the 17th did not break, and thus it would be hard to imagine how their opponents so readily circumvented them. Those blue dots falling back include the tiny 54th and 68th New York, and the larger 153rd Pennsylvania. Actually some members of the 75th Ohio stayed put, as shown, based on some accounts.
 

bayonet

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Been to that location many times and even slept on the spot of the 17th CT in a sleeping bag (NPS Police didn't patrol that area much). I doubt the gap between the 75th Ohio and 17th CT was even 100 yards based on where their monuments are. But the distance of the 17th from the 41st NY and 33rd Mass was much greater.
 

Tom Elmore

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Been to that location many times and even slept on the spot of the 17th CT in a sleeping bag (NPS Police didn't patrol that area much). I doubt the gap between the 75th Ohio and 17th CT was even 100 yards based on where their monuments are. But the distance of the 17th from the 41st NY and 33rd Mass was much greater.
Monuments are not always in the right spot; even the veterans had bitter fights over their positioning. The 17th CT monument may be in the right spot for July 3, but not for the night of July 2 in my opinion.
 

bayonet

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🤔Interesting that you say that since it is the bottom of the hill and their positions were at the bottom of the hill. Plus possibly the same road is there the Brickyard Lane. So you base your opinion on?
 

Tom Elmore

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🤔Interesting that you say that since it is the bottom of the hill and their positions were at the bottom of the hill. Plus possibly the same road is there the Brickyard Lane. So you base your opinion on?
Here are five reasons to start with:

(Official Report of Maj. A. G. Brady, 17th CT) "… 7 p.m., when we were ordered to the extreme right, behind a stone wall on each side of the lane, below the battery opposite the cemetery entrance."

1. Where the 17 CT monument is now located is not on the extreme right. It was, however, on the extreme right in the position I place it, because the 41st New York and 33rd Massachusetts were deployed at the time in the fields in front.

2. There are not two stone walls currently on either side of the lane where the 17 CT monument is located, but there are two such stone walls further to the right.

3. The 17 CT monument is directly below Battery I, 1st New York, which is not opposite the cemetery entrance.

(Carroll’s Brigade at Gettysburg, by Charles C. Callahan, Lt. Col., 4th Ohio, National Tribune, March 19, 1891) "When Carroll’s brigade made their charge … forming on the left of the 17th Conn. About three companies of the 4th Ohio overlapped the 17th … the 4th Ohio was soon moved to the left."

4. Carroll’s brigade monuments on East Cemetery Hill would be far out of place if the 17th CT had stood where its monument is located. However, Callahan’s account squares nicely with where I place the 17th. It is beyond doubt that Carroll’s men took prisoners from the 21st North Carolina, which would be impossible if they were located behind or to the left of the 17 CT monument.

(From the 17th Conn., by 1st Lt. A. W. Peck, Co. D, 17th Conn., National Tribune, July 16, 1891, p. 3) "I very well recollect when they [Carroll’s brigade] came in from our right and dropped in the grass in our rear."

5. Peck of the 17th agreed with Callahan. So the same argument applies as in no. 4 above.
 

bayonet

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On your #2 the area has changed so much to include the school and parking lot built to the front plus that stone wall ain't much of a stone wall (at least not now) and runs almost all the way to Culps Hill. The bottom of the Hill narrows out where the 41st NY was so the 17th CT was truly at the bottom of the Hill. Even if their monument was at the far left of their position there is no way it is 300 yards from the 75th Ohio right flank, not 200 yards and I doubt even 100 yards. Bottom line the mass majority if not all of the 75th Ohio broke and ran creating the gap for some Rebs to get thru and storm the heights.
As far as #4 remember this action happened as darkness fell and much of the fighting was into the early evening (silly Rebs launching an assault at 8pm, what were they thinking!) which accounts for much confusion even today as to who did what and where.
Another note the map above has made the 68th NY & 153 PA (what was left of them) magically disappear?! Depending on what Map you read or what report you read some place those 2 Regiments between the 17th CT & 41st NY. If so then the 17th was further left then what you state.
Whatever the poor 17th CT ended up unfortunately dumped in the "Unlucky" 11th Corp better known as the "Flying Dutchmen".
 

Tom Elmore

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The advance was probably timed to negate the effectiveness of the Federal artillery. If the 17th Connecticut had been near to the 75th Ohio, some of Hays' men would have had to go around them and reform behind them to attack the hill, then avoid them on the retreat, yet so far as I know there is no participant on either side who supports that scenario. Here's my interpretation of the positioning before the attack showing the other Union regiments at the base of the hill. My later map does not identify units once they broke and disintegrated like the 54th, 68th and 153rd.

CemHill1945 001.jpg
 

bayonet

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OK I give up, where the heck you get that map from? I see it's dated July 1945. What the Heck! Oh now I noticed the first map here is dated July 2 1952. The 17th CT (not CN) was not behind the 41st NY. At this point "whatever", it was dark, confused, and everyone has there opinions (now and back then) and opinions are like you know what and we all got one!:bounce: Done, out here!
 

Tom Elmore

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OK I give up, where the heck you get that map from? I see it's dated July 1945. What the Heck! Oh now I noticed the first map here is dated July 2 1952. The 17th CT (not CN) was not behind the 41st NY. At this point "whatever", it was dark, confused, and everyone has there opinions (now and back then) and opinions are like you know what and we all got one!:bounce: Done, out here!
1945 is military time for 7:45 p.m. and 1952 is 7:52 p.m. The 17th is not behind the 41st, correct; what I was trying to show was that the 17th was divided behind the two stone walls, front and back as Maj Brady states. I try to base my opinions on what the participants said, so I can't ignore the tie in between Carroll's brigade and the 17th.

Here's another map depicting the situation at 8:15 p.m. (2015), which attempts to illustrate what Lt. Col. Callahan of the 4th Ohio referred to as his right companies overlapping the 17th. The latter map is a finished version done by Hal Jespersen, of my original draft map.
 

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Lubliner

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The ensuing discussion was enlightening regardless of the differences of opinion. These actually helped in closer inspection and more thorough follow up. Thank you both for a dispassionate debate.
Lubliner.
 

jameswoods

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In 2003 Gettysburg Magazine published my article discussing this very subject. Entitled "The 17th Connecticut and 41st New York: A Revisionist History of the Defense of East Cemetery Hill", it examined the first person accounts and Official Records reports of the participants and how they were interpreted by Harry F. Pfanz in his "Gettysburg: Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill" (1993) and John Archer's "The Hour was one of Horror: East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg" (1997).

As noted in the article, both authors, referencing the same primary sources, interpreted the accounts quite differently:

"For example, Pfanz believes that just before the Confederate attack, Colonel Harris’ brigade was deployed in the following manner: the 107th Ohio, half way down the slope behind the rail fence that stretched between the Baltimore Pike and Brickyard Lane; next, the 25th Ohio (on the 107th’s right) making an angle south along Brickyard Lane; next, a gap of about 75 yards; next, the 75th Ohio and on the immediate right of the 75th, the 17th Connecticut.

Archer’s deployment has the 107th and a thinned-out 25th Ohio occupying the fence between the Baltimore Pike and the Brickyard Lane; on the 25th’s immediate right, the 75th Ohio and 17th Connecticut, both facing east along Brickyard Lane. Archer does not show a gap between the 25th​ and 75th​ Ohio regiments.

The two authors’ perspectives regarding the deployment of von Gilsa’s brigade is even more at odds. Dr. Pfanz shows the 153rd Pennsylvania on the 17th Connecticut’s right flank, next the 68th, 54th and 41st New York regiments in that order. Mr. Archer, on the other hand, shows the 54th New York sandwiched in between the 17th Connecticut and 68th New York, but facing north (perpendicular to the line along Brickyard Lane). The 153rd Pennsylvania is on the 68th New York’s right flank and the 41st New York on the 153rd’s right. [1]

Archer wrestled with the problem of correctly identifying the positions taken by Harris’ and von regiments along Brickyard Lane. He noted that relying on monument placement alone was problematic because, “…(1) the monuments do not reflect subsequent or [previous] shifts within a brigade line; (2) a monument need not indicate the same time period as another marker only yards away; (3) clearly, site adjustments were made to allow for the construction of modern avenues…” [2] While recognizing that the regimental positions identified on Bachelder’s map of the 2nd​ Day are consistent with the placement of monuments, and for that reason incur the same liabilities enumerated, Archer nevertheless decided to rely on Bachelder’s map’s identification of regimental positions for his overview.

The question, then, is what should the student of the battle conclude when faced with such different interpretations? Perhaps, at minimum, recognition that if such accomplished historians, mining the same source documents, can so dramatically disagree about what that material means, then also recognize that things on which they do agree may also need reexamination. I submit that one of those things is the position taken by the 17th Connecticut just before the Confederate attack. The 17th​ may very well have been much farther to the right than either author has been willing, apparently, to contemplate. In order to make this case, it will be necessary to quote extensively from the primary source material on which all of us who were not there must ultimately rely.
"

The article ran to five double column pages and analyzed "The 17th Connecticut-75 Ohio Defense Scenario" as well as "The Seventeenth Connecticut-41st New York Defense Scenario" and concluded the latter the most persuasive description of what actually happened. The attached was used to illustrate the three different perspectives.



[1] The Hour was one of Horror, East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg, Archer, 47;
Gettysburg, Culp’s Hill & Cemetery Hill, Pfanz, 238, 249;
Although variously known as Winebrenner’s Lane or the “Old Shippensburg Road”, for the purpose of
this study I have accepted Pfanz’s and Archer’s designation “Brickyard Lane” for the lane occupied by
Harris’ and von Gilsa’s brigades.
[2] The Hour was one of Horror, East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg, Archer, 80.

IMG_6199.JPG
 

Tom Elmore

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Jameswoods I think you are absolutely correct in your interpretation and placement of the Federal units and in fact your article influenced and changed my thinking on this very subject with regard to Federal positions at the base of the hill. It's clear that the 41st New York in falling back formed on either side of the 17th Connecticut, and their presence would be very problematic with the scenario that the 17th Connecticut was to the immediate right of 75th Ohio (with regard to anyone from Hays' left reaching Wiedrich's battery). The subsequent arrival of Carroll with the 4th Ohio to the left and left rear of the 17th Connecticut as noted above just reinforces and clinches the case beyond any reasonable doubt in my estimation. My hat's off to you for successfully challenging the conventional interpretations of historians of the caliber of Pfanz.

My own twist is that the tiny 54th New York vainly tried to extend to cover the gap with the 75th Ohio when Early's attack commenced. The latter advance came as a surprise to the defenders at the base of the hill, who were initially redeployed to confront the threat posed by Johnson's right (Jones's brigade) against the northern base of Culp's Hill. That's why the 17th Connecticut was sent to the "extreme right," and also why the 33rd Massachusetts had already pushed forward into the field (and whose skirmishers were nearly cut off by Avery/Godwin's advancing left regiment - 57th North Carolina).
 

infomanpa

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1945 is military time for 7:45 p.m. and 1952 is 7:52 p.m. The 17th is not behind the 41st, correct; what I was trying to show was that the 17th was divided behind the two stone walls, front and back as Maj Brady states. I try to base my opinions on what the participants said, so I can't ignore the tie in between Carroll's brigade and the 17th.

Here's another map depicting the situation at 8:15 p.m. (2015), which attempts to illustrate what Lt. Col. Callahan of the 4th Ohio referred to as his right companies overlapping the 17th. The latter map is a finished version done by Hal Jespersen, of my original draft map.
A finished version of your maps! Hopefully, we will see more, as well as publication.
 

bayonet

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Well to briefly jump back in, we will never know 100% of what truly happened. The fact that it became dark, some units broke, some didn't, reinforcements became intermingled with other units. It was a mess. Heck having done night time operations in the military myself no matter how well the training, things can go array. Me & my fellow squad member were almost ripped apart by machine gun fire on a live fire training exercise at night because our Sergeant got confused. Another guy got shrapnel in his face thanks to another Sergeant who got confused. This after we practiced it twice already dry firing and then blanks!
Bottom line my Great Great Grandpappys 17CT held their ground and didn't break, the assault failed, the Union won the Battle and the War. GOD SAVE THE UNION!!!!!
 

rob63

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This is getting a little off in the weeds, but it is related to this particular fight, monuments, and the inaccuracies in the historical records.

I was looking for information related to the fight on Houck's ridge by Hobart Ward's brigade when I came across the fact that Private Oliver Rood of the 20th Indiana Regiment won the Medal of Honor for capturing the flag of the 21st North Carolina on July 3rd. I came across this tidbit on a webpage dedicated to the monument of the IN regiment, as well as confirmed it on a MOH website.

https://gettysburg.stonesentinels.com/union-monuments/indiana/20th-indiana/

https://mohmuseum.org/medal_of_honor/rood-oliver-p/

That led me to dig through the official records and I verified that both of those websites accurately reflect what is written in the official records.

This makes no sense at all if you know the positions of those regiments during the battle!

I found the answer in a letter written by Oliver Rood to the editor of a newspaper. He begins it by noting that he was a member of the 14th Indiana at the time of the battle of Gettysburg, but was later transferred to the 20th Indiana. I will include the letter as it makes interesting reading for its own sake.

My only point in all of this is simply that what seem like basic facts in the records can be very misleading at times and I appreciate the effort of everyone involved in trying to make sense of something so basic as where the regiments were actually located!

Oliver Rood Letter to Editor.jpeg
 

Tom Elmore

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Giving full due to the 17th Connecticut, I think they accomplished the lion's share of stopping the 21st North Carolina cold. Carroll's brigade came late to the party and no doubt helped finish the fight, but they collected the bulk of the prisoners and flag of the 21st North Carolina (probably off the ground) as spoils, while also taking most of the credit.
 

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