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- Jan 16, 2015
At daybreak on July 1, Major General Richard H. Anderson’s division left its bivouac near Fayetteville, Pennsylvania and marched eastward toward South Mountain, making frequent halts along the way. The division arrived on the outskirts of the battlefield just as the firing “began to slacken” (around 5 p.m.), according to two soldiers of the 48th Mississippi and 8th Florida. By sunset, four brigades of the division were encamped in the woods skirting Herr Ridge, which earlier that day had been occupied by the other two divisions of Hill’s corps. Anderson’s fifth brigade, under Wilcox, was detached along with a battery to a mill on Marsh Creek to guard the right flank of the army against a Federal advance from the south. The next morning, July 2, the division moved to their battle positions along Seminary Ridge, the order of march for that day being: Wilcox, Lang, Wright, Posey and Mahone. Now working backwards, let’s examine the deployment of the division from extant sources.
On the morning of July 1, Mahone’s brigade led the division eastward from Fayetteville, Pennsylvania. Nearing Gettysburg in the late afternoon, they filed to the right (south) of the Chambersburg Pike, and from there moved closer to the front and into a column formation just before sunset, posting the 41st Virginia as a picket. Normally the brigade would be in the rear of the column the next day, and such was evidently the case. At 8 a.m. on July 2, as Captain Charles Waddell of the 12th Virginia noted, orders came to drop off any unnecessary baggage and assume a light marching posture. Then they marched two miles to McMillan woods, which suggests an arrival time between 9 and 10 a.m. Later they would move further into the woods. (Sources: Diary of John Simmons Shipp, Company G, 6th Virginia, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond; Charles E. Waddell, Company A, 12th Virginia, Brockenbrough Library, Museum of the Confederacy; Journal of James Eldred Phillips, Company G, 12th Virginia, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond; William Mahone, Under Both Flags, by George M. Vickers; William H. Stewart, 61st Virginia, ibid)
Posey’s brigade, preceding Mahone’s men, marched at 9 a.m. on July 2, as reported by Colonel Baker of the 16th Mississippi, reaching their assigned place about 10 a.m., according to First Sergeant James J. Kirkpatrick of the same regiment. That place would be a safe distance behind the caissons of Confederate artillery batteries posted along the ridge, in an open space with the McMillan woods on their immediate left and another body of trees to their right. (Sources: Official Report of Samuel E. Baker, 16th Mississippi; The Gettysburg Experience of James J. Kirkpatrick, Gettysburg Magazine, issue 8, Company C, 16th Mississippi; Frank H. Foote, 48th Mississippi, Marching in Clover: A Confederate Brigade’s Tramp from the Rappahannock to Gettysburg, Philadelphia Weekly Times 5, no. 33, October 8, 1881)
On July 1, the brigade commanded by Colonel David Lang, the smallest in Lee’s army, brought up the rear of Anderson’s division on the march to Gettysburg, following just behind Wilcox. Normally it would have led the division the next day, but Wilcox having been detached on the evening of July 1, the latter was assigned the lead instead when it rejoined the division in the morning. Lang’s men eventually took position along the eastern edge of Spangler woods, but it’s unlikely they entered those woods immediately, since a few of their soldiers were wounded by Federal overshots directed at Wilcox in their right rear. (Sources: Official Report of David Lang; Diary of Lt. William Pigman, 8th Florida)
According to Brigadier General Wilcox, his brigade left its picket post along Marsh Creek after sunrise on July 2 and moved back to the Chambersburg Pike, turning eastward. Along the path were the resting divisions of McLaws and Hood. After collecting the rest of the division at Herr Ridge, Wilcox presumably continued along on the pike, turning southward into the depression just west of the Seminary, crossing the Fairfield road and then passing the Emanuel Pitzer farm, the movement being screened from Federal view by Seminary Ridge. (Sources: Official Report of Cadmus M. Wilcox; Letter from Wilcox dated March 26, 1877, Southern Historical Society, vol. IV, no. 3, Richmond, Virginia; Yankee Rebel, The Civil War Journal of Edmund DeWitt Patterson, 9th Alabama)
My first map attachment shows the deployment of Anderson’s division at the estimated time of ten minutes past 10 a.m. on July 2. This neatly segues into the imminent encounter between Wilcox and a Federal reconnaissance force consisting of four companies from the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters, backed by the 3rd Maine regiment. Although best discussed separately, I include a second draft map, my version of the moment that fight erupted (at 10:15 a.m.), and also a unique perspective from a soldier who evidently observed it unfolding from a vantage point a short distance to the west:
About ten o’clock in the morning, while on our way to the field of our observation, we noted a Yankee regiment marching in line of battle through the woods, evidently making a reconnaissance. The woods in that section are free of undergrowth and I could see them plainly. They did not go very far before they found what they were looking for in the shape of a competent number of “Rebels” who opened fire on them. (John Zachary Holladay Scott, Confederate Soldier 1861-1865, Georgia Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Atlanta: 1995-2000, p. 137)
-Official Report of Richard H. Anderson.
-Diary excerpt from Lt. J. R. Boyle, 12th South Carolina.
-Memoirs of the Civil War, by Capt. William W. Chamberlaine, staff of CSA Third Corps artillery.
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