Last Artillery Shots on July 4

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Tom Elmore

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The sun appeared briefly on the horizon at 4:36 a.m. on July 4, before being enveloped by a thick overcast that foreshadowed a rainy day. Occasional artillery shots were exchanged in the morning, according to Captain William W. Chamberlaine, a member of the Third Corps artillery staff. While riding near a battery of Richmond Howitzers at the Seminary, a shell burst very close to Chamberlaine.

CSA:

One breach-loading Whitworth cannon of Captain William B. Hurt’s battery on Oak Hill threw a number of solid bolts into the center of the Union lines, about 2.3 miles away. The first round landed just in front of the 97th New York of Brig. Gen. Henry Baxter’s brigade, which was posted near Ziegler’s Grove. A few others followed in close proximity. A round struck the rails piled up in front of the nearby 90th Pennsylvania as a protective barrier, wounding several with splinters. The remaining veterans of the regiment jumped to their feet with a primal urge to flee, but they soon regained their composure and settled back down amid the laughter, and no doubt derisive comments, of their comrades in the brigade. Their reaction illustrates the unique psychological effects of a howling Whitworth round.

Around 10:30 a.m., two pieces in Captain Basil Manly’s battery were directed to open with shell against a reconnaissance in force made to the eastern edge of the Peach Orchard (and probably to the Rose buildings) by Col. Hannibal Day’s small Regular brigade of the Fifth Corps, with Brig. Gen. Joseph J. Bartlett’s brigade of the Sixth Corps in support. Confederate skirmishers helped oppose Day as well. The Federals soon withdrew after incurring some casualties, including one man wounded in the 3rd U.S. Infantry and three more in the 4th U.S. Infantry. Manly’s guns may have fired the last Confederate artillery rounds in the battle.

USA

Over in the Federal lines, Brig. Gen. Alexander Hays was still obsessed over the annoying and deadly Confederate skirmishers at the Bliss buildings. Although the barn and house had been reduced to smoldering ruins after being intentionally burned down on the morning of July 3, Brig. Gen. William Mahone’s Virginians still found them an attractive position from which to harass the Federals.

Five bronze Napoleons held the western edge of Ziegler’s Grove on this day, comprising two guns of the 9th Massachusetts battery under Lieutenant Milton, which had been badly battered in front of the Trostle residence on July 2, and three others from the equally bruised Batteries F and K, 3rd U.S. Artillery, commanded by Lieutenant John G. Turnbull. These guns had relieved Battery I, 1st U.S. in Ziegler’s Grove after the grand Confederate assault the previous day. Now the “commander of the line in front” (most likely Hays) requested the guns dislodge the enemy sharpshooters at the barn. Two or three well-directed shells silenced the Confederates for the time being. However, the firing did not sit well with General George G. Meade. He soon rode up (his headquarters at the Leister cottage was less than 400 yards away) with his staff, “full of wrath, inquiring by whose order the firing was done.” They may have been the last identified artillery shots fired on the Union side.

At noon, Meade’s displeasure notwithstanding, it is recorded that several Union batteries fired a national salute to mark Independence Day. A line of rapidly approaching thunderstorms soon unleased a downpour that put an end to the artillery’s involvement in the battle, and only a few remaining skirmisher shots interrupted nature’s own display of power.

Sources:
-Thomas L. Elmore, A Meteorological and Astronomical Chronology of the Gettysburg Campaign, The Gettysburg Magazine, issue 13 (July 1995).
-William W. Chamberlaine, Memoirs of the Civil War (Washington DC: Press of Byron S. Adams, 1912, p. 73.
-Isaac Hall, History of the Ninety Seventh Regiment New York Volunteers, (Utica, NY: Press of L. C. Childs and Son, 1890), p. 146.
-Official Reports of Capt. Basil Many, Capt. Andrew Sheridan of the 3rd U.S. and Capt. Julius W. Adams, Jr. of the 4th U.S.
-https://civilwartalk.com/threads/movements-of-generals-brig-gen-alexander-hays.156020/
-History of the Ninth Massachusetts Battery, by Levi W. Baker (Framington, MA: Lakeview Press, 1888), pp. 82-83.
-Bachelder Papers, III:1973.
-Thomas L. Elmore, Independence Day: Military Operations at Gettysburg, The Gettysburg Magazine, issue 25 (July 2001).
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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What a great thread for today, missed it in April. Reading this it's even more surprising that tourists began arriving, the ghouls. Relief workers, soldiers, medical staff and civilians all mention them, most with bitterness. It's always surprised me none of them were killed or wounded.
 
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MikeyB

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The sun appeared briefly on the horizon at 4:36 a.m. on July 4, before being enveloped by a thick overcast that foreshadowed a rainy day. Occasional artillery shots were exchanged in the morning, according to Captain William W. Chamberlaine, a member of the Third Corps artillery staff. While riding near a battery of Richmond Howitzers at the Seminary, a shell burst very close to Chamberlaine.

CSA:

One breach-loading Whitworth cannon of Captain William B. Hurt’s battery on Oak Hill threw a number of solid bolts into the center of the Union lines, about 2.3 miles away. The first round landed just in front of the 97th New York of Brig. Gen. Henry Baxter’s brigade, which was posted near Ziegler’s Grove. A few others followed in close proximity. A round struck the rails piled up in front of the nearby 90th Pennsylvania as a protective barrier, wounding several with splinters. The remaining veterans of the regiment jumped to their feet with a primal urge to flee, but they soon regained their composure and settled back down amid the laughter, and no doubt derisive comments, of their comrades in the brigade. Their reaction illustrates the unique psychological effects of a howling Whitworth round.

Around 10:30 a.m., two pieces in Captain Basil Manly’s battery were directed to open with shell against a reconnaissance in force made to the eastern edge of the Peach Orchard (and probably to the Rose buildings) by Col. Hannibal Day’s small Regular brigade of the Fifth Corps, with Brig. Gen. Joseph J. Bartlett’s brigade of the Sixth Corps in support. Confederate skirmishers helped oppose Day as well. The Federals soon withdrew after incurring some casualties, including one man wounded in the 3rd U.S. Infantry and three more in the 4th U.S. Infantry. Manly’s guns may have fired the last Confederate artillery rounds in the battle.

USA

Over in the Federal lines, Brig. Gen. Alexander Hays was still obsessed over the annoying and deadly Confederate skirmishers at the Bliss buildings. Although the barn and house had been reduced to smoldering ruins after being intentionally burned down on the morning of July 3, Brig. Gen. William Mahone’s Virginians still found them an attractive position from which to harass the Federals.

Five bronze Napoleons held the western edge of Ziegler’s Grove on this day, comprising two guns of the 9th Massachusetts battery under Lieutenant Milton, which had been badly battered in front of the Trostle residence on July 2, and three others from the equally bruised Batteries F and K, 3rd U.S. Artillery, commanded by Lieutenant John G. Turnbull. These guns had relieved Battery I, 1st U.S. in Ziegler’s Grove after the grand Confederate assault the previous day. Now the “commander of the line in front” (most likely Hays) requested the guns dislodge the enemy sharpshooters at the barn. Two or three well-directed shells silenced the Confederates for the time being. However, the firing did not sit well with General George G. Meade. He soon rode up (his headquarters at the Leister cottage was less than 400 yards away) with his staff, “full of wrath, inquiring by whose order the firing was done.” They may have been the last identified artillery shots fired on the Union side.

At noon, Meade’s displeasure notwithstanding, it is recorded that several Union batteries fired a national salute to mark Independence Day. A line of rapidly approaching thunderstorms soon unleased a downpour that put an end to the artillery’s involvement in the battle, and only a few remaining skirmisher shots interrupted nature’s own display of power.

Sources:
-Thomas L. Elmore, A Meteorological and Astronomical Chronology of the Gettysburg Campaign, The Gettysburg Magazine, issue 13 (July 1995).
-William W. Chamberlaine, Memoirs of the Civil War (Washington DC: Press of Byron S. Adams, 1912, p. 73.
-Isaac Hall, History of the Ninety Seventh Regiment New York Volunteers, (Utica, NY: Press of L. C. Childs and Son, 1890), p. 146.
-Official Reports of Capt. Basil Many, Capt. Andrew Sheridan of the 3rd U.S. and Capt. Julius W. Adams, Jr. of the 4th U.S.
-https://civilwartalk.com/threads/movements-of-generals-brig-gen-alexander-hays.156020/
-History of the Ninth Massachusetts Battery, by Levi W. Baker (Framington, MA: Lakeview Press, 1888), pp. 82-83.
-Bachelder Papers, III:1973.
-Thomas L. Elmore, Independence Day: Military Operations at Gettysburg, The Gettysburg Magazine, issue 25 (July 2001).

Thanks for posting. I'm curious if you might have any knowledge- aside from a few guns firing a salute for independence day, were there any other Union celebrations for independence day at Gettysburg? Did the men get extra whisky rations? Fireworks? Rockets? Or was everyone too busy burying the dead and on edge?
 

Tom Elmore

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Thanks for posting. I'm curious if you might have any knowledge- aside from a few guns firing a salute for independence day, were there any other Union celebrations for independence day at Gettysburg? Did the men get extra whisky rations? Fireworks? Rockets? Or was everyone too busy burying the dead and on edge?
Both armies were exhausted after three days of heavy fighting. Burying the dead was the major pastime, and some of the skirmishing was rather brisk and deadly. Most of the rank and file not involved in either of those activities were catching up on much needed rest. Whenever an enemy was close at hand, celebratory moods (and humor in general) disappeared. Besides, more impressive than any fireworks ever seen on the American continent to that date had occurred the previous day (the grand cannonade).
 
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lelliott19

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Thanks Tom for this great summary of the artillery activity on July 4 at Gettysburg
reconnaissance in force made to the eastern edge of the Peach Orchard (and probably to the Rose buildings) by Col. Hannibal Day’s small Regular brigade of the Fifth Corps, with Brig. Gen. Joseph J. Bartlett’s brigade of the Sixth Corps in support.
Am I correct in assuming that the skirmishers opposing this movement would have been those of McLaws' division? He described his new line on the evening of July 2 after his line was ordered back by Longstreet: "......and I formed a new line, running from the peach orchard diagonally towards Round Top, from which it was concealed by the mass of woods in our front, which was held as far as halfway across the wheat field by my skirmishers." What would that line have looked like? Location wise? Is there an accurate map somewhere that would show this position?
 
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rebracer

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There is an excellent documentary (can be found on youtube) called The Retreat from Gettysburg. It really should be viewed to get a full understanding of what was put in motion and occurred immediately after the fighting stopped on the 3rd and on in to the morning of the 4th. I must say I was shocked to find out how lacking my knowledge was of how the army left Gettysburg and escaped back to Virginia. The shear scope of men, animals and wagons is hard to comprehend with wagon trains being as much as 50 miles long.

Many think that with the fall back after the Charge a switch was flipped to off on July 3rd. I cant recommend this documentary enough.
 
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LoyaltyOfDogs

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There is an excellent documentary (can be found on youtube) called The Retreat from Gettysburg. It really should be viewed to get a full understanding of what was put in motion and occurred immediately after the fighting stopped on the 3rd and on in to the morning of the 4th. I must say I was shocked to find out how lacking my knowledge was of how the army left Gettysburg and escaped back to Virginia. The shear scope of men, animals and wagons is hard to comprehend with wagon trains being as much as 50 miles long.

Many think that with the fall back after the Charge a switch was flipped to off on July 3rd. I cant recommend this documentary enough.
Is this the one, @rebracer?
 

redbob

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The two breech loading Whitworths were part of Hardaway's Alabama Artillery and were located about where the Peace Monument is now. While the Whitworths were known for it's range and accuracy, the pieces themselves were relatively fragile and were often in need of repair. Their explosive rounds were relatively ineffective due to their rather small explosive charges and their solid shot (bolts) were often the rounds of choice. Due to the whistling/shrieking sounds that the hexagonal shaped rounds made when they were flying through the air, their real strength may have been more psychological than actual.
Artillery08110911_s (2).jpg
 
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JerseyBart

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great article!!! I am just as interested in pre-battle information and retreat/post battle in town as I am the battle itself.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Yes, thats the one! I learned so much from this and I honestly can't comprehend the size of the wagon trains.

Yes, I had the same reaction. Back when I first joined here someone started a discussion on Imboden's train of wounded. That it was 17 miles long was really hard to wrap my head around. It still is.
 
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