March Speeds of Union Infantry in the Gettysburg Campaign

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
The following 51 examples from 26 listed Union brigades were extracted from the participants themselves, often from diaries, journals or letters written at the time. The brigades represent every corps in the Army of the Potomac. The average speed works out to 1.87 miles per hour (MPH), although these examples are considered optimal marches. By that I mean, excluded are days when marching was severely inhibited by oppressively hot weather, thick mud from heavy rains, or other delays, such as impediments from wagon train movements. However, keep in mind that adverse conditions were common during the campaign.

My previous assessment of Confederate infantry march speeds is here: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/ma...-the-gettysburg-campaign.180972/#post-2349734

Too much should not be made of data comparisons between the armies given the sample size and other variables. The Confederates passed through hostile territory and had to exercise a stricter march discipline. Enroute to Gettysburg the Federals apparently traveled over flatter terrain east of the South Mountain range. Other factors influencing march speed included road quality (macadamized pikes versus back country dirt roads) and hour of the day (night and early morning marching at relatively cooler temperatures was easier). An intangible factor was the motivation of soldiers once they learned their army was heavily engaged at Gettysburg, which inevitably quickened their pace. Band music also helped stave off fatigue and perked up the men of both armies when employed, while Union troops were likewise inspired by passing through friendly towns under the eye and encouragement of loyal citizens.

Examples, in ascending order:
June 27: 1.60 MPH, 12 miles in 7.5 hours (Harrow’s brigade)
June 28-29: 1.60 MPH, 40 miles in 25 hours (Paul’s brigade)
June 30: 1.60 MPH, 20 miles in 12.5 hours (Day’s brigade)
June 25: 1.63 MPH, 24.5 miles in 15 hours (Ward’s brigade)
June 27: 1.63 MPH, 16 miles in 9.8 hours (Fisher’s brigade)
June 29: 1.63 MPH, 24.5 miles in 15 hours (Neill’s brigade)
June 17: 1.64 MPH, 9 miles in 5.5 hours (Greene’s brigade)
June 29: 1.67 MPH, 20 miles in 12 hours (DeTrobriand’s brigade)
June 30: 1.67 MPH, 20 miles in 12 hours (Fisher’s brigade)
July 1-2: 1.68 MPH, 42 miles in 25 hours (Fisher’s brigade)
June 29: 1.69 MPH, 22 miles in 13 hours (Von Gilsa’s brigade)
July 7: 1.70 MPH, 20 miles in 11.75 hours (Nevin’s brigade)
June 18: 1.71 MPH, 12 miles in 7 hours (Greene’s brigade)
June 13: 1.72 MPH, 25 miles in 14.5 hours (Coster’s brigade)
July 8: 1.74 MPH, 20 miles in 11.5 hours (Brooke’s brigade)
July 7: 1.75 MPH, 21 miles in 12 hours (Vincent’s brigade)
June 28: 1.76 MPH, 13.2 miles in 7.5 hours (Coster’s brigade)
June 29: 1.76 MPH, 22 miles in 12.5 hours (Schimmelpfennig’s brigade)
June 26: 1.78 MPH, 16 miles in 9 hours (Torbert’s brigade)
June 29: 1.78 MPH, 22.3 miles in 12.5 hours (Coster’s brigade)
July 5: 1.78 MPH, 8 miles in 4.5 hours (Brooke’s brigade)
July 7: 1.78 MPH, 33 miles in 18.5 hours (Schimmelpfennig’s brigade)
June 14: 1.80 MPH, 9 miles in 5 hours (Ward’s brigade)
July 1-2: 1.80 MPH, 34.7 miles in 19.3 hours (Bartlett’s brigade)
July 9: 1.80 MPH, 9 miles in 5 hours (Bartlett’s brigade)
June 26: 1.81 MPH, 32.5 miles in 18 hours (Weed’s brigade)
July 7: 1.87 MPH, 36.5 miles in 19.5 hours (Krzyzanowski’s brigade)
June 25: 1.87 MPH, 29 miles in 15.5 hours (DeTrobriand’s brigade)
July 6: 1.88 MPH, 30 miles in 16 hours (Bartlett’s brigade)
June 28-29: 1.90 MPH, 38 miles in 20 hours (Smith’s brigade)
June 13: 1.92 MPH, 12.5 miles in 6.5 hours (Smith’s brigade)
July 15: 1.92 MPH, 25 miles in 13 hours (Vincent’s brigade)
June 29: 1.92 MPH, 30 miles in 15.6 hours (Brooke’s brigade)
June 29: 1.96 MPH, 24.5 miles in 12.5 hours (Paul’s brigade)
July 1-2: 1.97 MPH, 35.4 miles in 18 hours (Russell’s brigade)
July 1-2: 1.98 MPH, 33.7 miles in 17 hours (Nevin’s brigade)
June 24: 2.0 MPH, 8 miles in 4 hours (Stannard’s brigade)
June 27: 2.0 MPH, 15 miles in 7.5 hours (Nevin’s brigade)
June 28: 2.0 MPH, 9 miles in 4.5 hours (Paul’s brigade)
July 1: 2.0 MPH, 4 miles in 2 hours (Vincent’s brigade)
June 29: 2.0 MPH, 22 miles in 11 hours (Ames’ brigade)
June 29: 2.03 MPH, 33.5 miles in 16.5 hours (Kelly’s brigade)
July 1-2: 2.06 MPH, 36 miles in 17.5 hours (Neill’s brigade)
July 1-2: 2.09 MPH, 33.5 miles in 16 hours (Torbert’s brigade)
July 1-2: 2.12 MPH, 36 miles in 17 hours (Shaler’s brigade)
July 1-2: 2.12 MPH, 34 miles in 16 hours (Eustis’ brigade)
June 25: 2.27 MPH, 25 miles in 11 hours (Coster’s brigade)
June 30: 2.28 MPH, 23.3 miles in 10.2 hours (Vincent’s brigade)
June 28: 2.29 MPH, 16 miles in 7 hours (Smith’s brigade)
June 29: 2.29 MPH, 32 miles in 14 hours (Willard’s brigade)
June 30: 2.30 MPH, 23 miles in 10 hours (Torbert’s brigade)

Other comments:

-Some idea of the effect of a wagon train on march speed comes from Fisher’s brigade, which averaged 1.63, 1.67 and 1.68 MPH on three typical marches, but just 1.15 MPH on a day when it was assigned to follow the wagon train as a guard.

-The epic forced march of the large Sixth Corps to Gettysburg over a 17-19 hour period on July 1-2 at an overall speed of 1.97 MPH was calculated by averaging twelve separate accounts, no two of which completely agree on the exact time and distance involved.

-On July 14, a few thousand Federal prisoners being marched through the Shenandoah Valley on their way to Richmond made 23.5 miles in 12.75 hours, for a rate of 1.84 MPH. (Diary of Sgt. John Boudwin, 13th Massachusetts, Navarro College Archives, Corsicana, Texas)

-On the morning of July 1, Von Gilsa’s brigade moved from Emmitsburg to Gettysburg, covering 10 miles in about four hours, for a rate of 2.5 MPH; however, the last few miles were ran at the double-quick. The latter is officially calculated at 109 yards per minute (which may be achieved theoretically over relatively short distances, but in practice seems to have fallen far short of the goal, which is hardly surprising for exhausted soldiers carrying a heavy burden.)
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
The following 51 examples from 26 listed Union brigades were extracted from the participants themselves, often from diaries, journals or letters written at the time. The brigades represent every corps in the Army of the Potomac. The average speed works out to 1.87 miles per hour (MPH), although these examples are considered optimal marches. By that I mean, excluded are days when marching was severely inhibited by oppressively hot weather, thick mud from heavy rains, or other delays, such as impediments from wagon train movements. However, keep in mind that adverse conditions were common during the campaign.

My previous assessment of Confederate infantry march speeds is here: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/ma...-the-gettysburg-campaign.180972/#post-2349734

Too much should not be made of data comparisons between the armies given the sample size and other variables. The Confederates passed through hostile territory and had to exercise a stricter march discipline. Enroute to Gettysburg the Federals apparently traveled over flatter terrain east of the South Mountain range. Other factors influencing march speed included road quality (macadamized pikes versus back country dirt roads) and hour of the day (night and early morning marching at relatively cooler temperatures was easier). An intangible factor was the motivation of soldiers once they learned their army was heavily engaged at Gettysburg, which inevitably quickened their pace. Band music also helped stave off fatigue and perked up the men of both armies when employed, while Union troops were likewise inspired by passing through friendly towns under the eye and encouragement of loyal citizens.

Examples, in ascending order:
June 27: 1.60 MPH, 12 miles in 7.5 hours (Harrow’s brigade)
June 28-29: 1.60 MPH, 40 miles in 25 hours (Paul’s brigade)
June 30: 1.60 MPH, 20 miles in 12.5 hours (Day’s brigade)
June 25: 1.63 MPH, 24.5 miles in 15 hours (Ward’s brigade)
June 27: 1.63 MPH, 16 miles in 9.8 hours (Fisher’s brigade)
June 29: 1.63 MPH, 24.5 miles in 15 hours (Neill’s brigade)
June 17: 1.64 MPH, 9 miles in 5.5 hours (Greene’s brigade)
June 29: 1.67 MPH, 20 miles in 12 hours (DeTrobriand’s brigade)
June 30: 1.67 MPH, 20 miles in 12 hours (Fisher’s brigade)
July 1-2: 1.68 MPH, 42 miles in 25 hours (Fisher’s brigade)
June 29: 1.69 MPH, 22 miles in 13 hours (Von Gilsa’s brigade)
July 7: 1.70 MPH, 20 miles in 11.75 hours (Nevin’s brigade)
June 18: 1.71 MPH, 12 miles in 7 hours (Greene’s brigade)
June 13: 1.72 MPH, 25 miles in 14.5 hours (Coster’s brigade)
July 8: 1.74 MPH, 20 miles in 11.5 hours (Brooke’s brigade)
July 7: 1.75 MPH, 21 miles in 12 hours (Vincent’s brigade)
June 28: 1.76 MPH, 13.2 miles in 7.5 hours (Coster’s brigade)
June 29: 1.76 MPH, 22 miles in 12.5 hours (Schimmelpfennig’s brigade)
June 26: 1.78 MPH, 16 miles in 9 hours (Torbert’s brigade)
June 29: 1.78 MPH, 22.3 miles in 12.5 hours (Coster’s brigade)
July 5: 1.78 MPH, 8 miles in 4.5 hours (Brooke’s brigade)
July 7: 1.78 MPH, 33 miles in 18.5 hours (Schimmelpfennig’s brigade)
June 14: 1.80 MPH, 9 miles in 5 hours (Ward’s brigade)
July 1-2: 1.80 MPH, 34.7 miles in 19.3 hours (Bartlett’s brigade)
July 9: 1.80 MPH, 9 miles in 5 hours (Bartlett’s brigade)
June 26: 1.81 MPH, 32.5 miles in 18 hours (Weed’s brigade)
July 7: 1.87 MPH, 36.5 miles in 19.5 hours (Krzyzanowski’s brigade)
June 25: 1.87 MPH, 29 miles in 15.5 hours (DeTrobriand’s brigade)
July 6: 1.88 MPH, 30 miles in 16 hours (Bartlett’s brigade)
June 28-29: 1.90 MPH, 38 miles in 20 hours (Smith’s brigade)
June 13: 1.92 MPH, 12.5 miles in 6.5 hours (Smith’s brigade)
July 15: 1.92 MPH, 25 miles in 13 hours (Vincent’s brigade)
June 29: 1.92 MPH, 30 miles in 15.6 hours (Brooke’s brigade)
June 29: 1.96 MPH, 24.5 miles in 12.5 hours (Paul’s brigade)
July 1-2: 1.97 MPH, 35.4 miles in 18 hours (Russell’s brigade)
July 1-2: 1.98 MPH, 33.7 miles in 17 hours (Nevin’s brigade)
June 24: 2.0 MPH, 8 miles in 4 hours (Stannard’s brigade)
June 27: 2.0 MPH, 15 miles in 7.5 hours (Nevin’s brigade)
June 28: 2.0 MPH, 9 miles in 4.5 hours (Paul’s brigade)
July 1: 2.0 MPH, 4 miles in 2 hours (Vincent’s brigade)
June 29: 2.0 MPH, 22 miles in 11 hours (Ames’ brigade)
June 29: 2.03 MPH, 33.5 miles in 16.5 hours (Kelly’s brigade)
July 1-2: 2.06 MPH, 36 miles in 17.5 hours (Neill’s brigade)
July 1-2: 2.09 MPH, 33.5 miles in 16 hours (Torbert’s brigade)
July 1-2: 2.12 MPH, 36 miles in 17 hours (Shaler’s brigade)
July 1-2: 2.12 MPH, 34 miles in 16 hours (Eustis’ brigade)
June 25: 2.27 MPH, 25 miles in 11 hours (Coster’s brigade)
June 30: 2.28 MPH, 23.3 miles in 10.2 hours (Vincent’s brigade)
June 28: 2.29 MPH, 16 miles in 7 hours (Smith’s brigade)
June 29: 2.29 MPH, 32 miles in 14 hours (Willard’s brigade)
June 30: 2.30 MPH, 23 miles in 10 hours (Torbert’s brigade)

Other comments:

-Some idea of the effect of a wagon train on march speed comes from Fisher’s brigade, which averaged 1.63, 1.67 and 1.68 MPH on three typical marches, but just 1.15 MPH on a day when it was assigned to follow the wagon train as a guard.

-The epic forced march of the large Sixth Corps to Gettysburg over a 17-19 hour period on July 1-2 at an overall speed of 1.97 MPH was calculated by averaging twelve separate accounts, no two of which completely agree on the exact time and distance involved.

-On July 14, a few thousand Federal prisoners being marched through the Shenandoah Valley on their way to Richmond made 23.5 miles in 12.75 hours, for a rate of 1.84 MPH. (Diary of Sgt. John Boudwin, 13th Massachusetts, Navarro College Archives, Corsicana, Texas)

-On the morning of July 1, Von Gilsa’s brigade moved from Emmitsburg to Gettysburg, covering 10 miles in about four hours, for a rate of 2.5 MPH; however, the last few miles were ran at the double-quick. The latter is officially calculated at 109 yards per minute (which may be achieved theoretically over relatively short distances, but in practice seems to have fallen far short of the goal, which is hardly surprising for exhausted soldiers carrying a heavy burden.)
This just enhances the impressive accomplishment of the VI Corps in its 30+ mile march to Gettysburg starting late on July 1. Add in not only the distance covered, but that much of it occurred during the night. Those speeds sustained over an 18 hour or so period are downright astonishing. There are many better books on the battle than Tucker's, but his account of the march is a great story.
 
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