Honoring Sgt William Finacey

Joined
Jun 7, 2021
I'm not sure if this is the place to post this, or if Sgt Finacey is mentioned in other threads, but here goes. Corrections are welcomed. How else will I learn anything?

Sgt. Finacey, Co H, 72d Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, obeyed his orders. He is the only color sergeant I could find listed in his regiment who died on July 3, 1863. His death notice is found in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, July 20, 1865. He was 27 years old and left behind a wife and children. Other spellings of his name include Finecy and Finnessey.

Below is Col. Haskell's account of the heroism of Color Sergeant William Finacey as quoted from his famous eye-witness account of Pickett's charge. Watching the Confederates breach the Angle and desperate for the Union troops just behind the crest of the hill to move forward and stop their advance, he writes-

"Pistols flash with the muskets. My “Forward to the wall” is answered by the Rebel counter-command, “Steady, men!” and the wave swings back. Again it surges, and again it sinks. These men of Pennsylvania, on the soil of their own homesteads, the first and only to flee the wall, must be the first to storm it. “Major—, lead your men over the crest, they will follow.” “By the tactics I understand my place is in rear of the men.” “Your pardon, sir; I see your place is in rear of the men. I thought you were fit to lead.” “Capt. Sapler, come on with your men.” “Let me first stop this fire in the rear, or we shall be hit by our own men.” “Never mind the fire in the rear; let us take care of this in front first.” “Sergeant, forward with your color. Let the Rebels see it close to their eyes once before they die.” The color sergeant of the 72d Pa., grasping the stump of the severed lance in both his hands, waved the flag above his head and rushed towards the wall. “Will you see your color storm the wall alone?” One man only starts to follow. Almost half way to the wall, down go color bearer and color to the ground—the gallant sergeant is dead. The line springs the crest of the solid ground with a great roar, heaves forward its maddened load, men, arms, smoke, fire, a fighting mass. It rolls to the wall—flash meets flash, the wall is crossed—a moment ensues of thrusts, yells, blows, shots, and undistinguishable conflict, followed by a shout universal that makes the welkin ring again, and the last and bloodiest fight of the great battle of Gettysburg is ended and won."
 

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
The 72nd Pennsylvania was just in front of the tip of the spear represented by Pickett's attack, so in my estimation it took great courage just to hold their ground. Based on my research, the 72nd did not go forward until other Federals, pressing to and through the copse to augment the remnant of the 69th Pennsylvania holding on there, took the stone wall beyond and proceeded to roll up the Confederates to the left and right along the wall, which ended the stalemate and turned the tide of the assault.

My attached map of 3:06 p.m. illustrates the moment Hall's men pushed forward to help the beleaguered few of the 69th Pennsylvania who continued to hold the copse against overwhelming odds. Hall's counterattack to the copse, incidentally, was personally ordered by General Hancock at 3:04 p.m.
 

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Joined
Jun 7, 2021
This is a fantastic map. I have always struggled to understand why the 71st and 72d Pennsylvania were criticized by some for what appears to my non-military and untrained eye to be a straightening of the Union line. It was not my intent to criticize the soldiers of the 72d, but I have always been moved by the bravery of this particular color bearer, who all alone, followed orders and gave up his young life. For all I know the refusal of the Major and the Captain to advance was appropriate, and by your description it sounds like it was, but the Sgt followed orders, like so many thousands of men in the ranks that day, and died.

Do you have an estimation of how many Confederates actually made it over the wall or how long they were there before being completely overwhelmed? Also, from beginning to end, how long did the charge last?

I very much appreciate the map!
 

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
As for how many made it over the wall, see https://civilwartalk.com/threads/over-the-wall-on-july-3.146976/#post-1834843

According to my calculated timeline, Pickett's division stepped off at 2:47 p.m. Garnett's men reached the stone wall (south of the Angle) at 3:03 p.m., Armistead's men at 3:05 p.m., and the Virginians fell back from (or were captured at) the wall beginning at 3:16 p.m. Lang and Wilcox to the south were repulsed about 3:22 p.m.

Pettigrew's men at or near the Emmitsburg road commenced to retreat at 3:11 p.m., but a considerable number remained in the road depression until they were rounded up as prisoners beginning around 3:17 p.m.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
So it really was about a half hour. It sounds like you have done a time/motion study?
We visited Gettysburg in 2015 and I've been obsessed with reading about it ever since. Thank you for the link. I'm going to work my way through all the old threads so I'm not asking old questions!
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
I'm not sure if this is the place to post this, or if Sgt Finacey is mentioned in other threads, but here goes. Corrections are welcomed. How else will I learn anything?

Sgt. Finacey, Co H, 72d Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, obeyed his orders. He is the only color sergeant I could find listed in his regiment who died on July 3, 1863. His death notice is found in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, July 20, 1865. He was 27 years old and left behind a wife and children. Other spellings of his name include Finecy and Finnessey.

Below is Col. Haskell's account of the heroism of Color Sergeant William Finacey as quoted from his famous eye-witness account of Pickett's charge. Watching the Confederates breach the Angle and desperate for the Union troops just behind the crest of the hill to move forward and stop their advance, he writes-

"Pistols flash with the muskets. My “Forward to the wall” is answered by the Rebel counter-command, “Steady, men!” and the wave swings back. Again it surges, and again it sinks. These men of Pennsylvania, on the soil of their own homesteads, the first and only to flee the wall, must be the first to storm it. “Major—, lead your men over the crest, they will follow.” “By the tactics I understand my place is in rear of the men.” “Your pardon, sir; I see your place is in rear of the men. I thought you were fit to lead.” “Capt. Sapler, come on with your men.” “Let me first stop this fire in the rear, or we shall be hit by our own men.” “Never mind the fire in the rear; let us take care of this in front first.” “Sergeant, forward with your color. Let the Rebels see it close to their eyes once before they die.” The color sergeant of the 72d Pa., grasping the stump of the severed lance in both his hands, waved the flag above his head and rushed towards the wall. “Will you see your color storm the wall alone?” One man only starts to follow. Almost half way to the wall, down go color bearer and color to the ground—the gallant sergeant is dead. The line springs the crest of the solid ground with a great roar, heaves forward its maddened load, men, arms, smoke, fire, a fighting mass. It rolls to the wall—flash meets flash, the wall is crossed—a moment ensues of thrusts, yells, blows, shots, and undistinguishable conflict, followed by a shout universal that makes the welkin ring again, and the last and bloodiest fight of the great battle of Gettysburg is ended and won."
His death notice appears July 20, 1863- not 1865 - in the Philadelphia Public Ledger. My typo.
 
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