In his official report of the Battle of Gettysburg, Brigadier General George Pierce Doles credits his July 1, 1863 success to his subordinates, listing them by name. It seems that Doles himself deserves some of that credit. On that day, Doles' brigade, comprised of the 4th, 44th, 12th, and 21st Georgia regiments, was the extreme left of the of the Confederate line. When Barlow's Division threatened the left flank of his brigade, Doles executed a wheel to face the threat. He joined in the attack by Gordon's brigade - without waiting for orders. He tackled the 2nd brigade 3rd Division (Krzyzanowski's) and drove it from the field, despite having only 3/4 of his 1300 men in position to participate. When the 157th NY threatened his right flank, Doles successfully executed a change of front - changing the front of two regiments 90 degrees and moving the left regiment to the extreme right of the brigade. As far as is known, Doles never called for reinforcements.
It's important to note that Doles had no formal military training - he was the son of a tailor, and at the outbreak of the war, was working as a bookkeeper. And yet, these technical maneuvers, which would have proved difficult under the best circumstances, seem to have been flawlessly executed. Of Doles' performance that day, GNP Ranger Matt Atkinson wrote: "....possibly no brigadier general distinguished himself on July 1, 1863, more than George Doles."
Doles brigade sustained 219 casualties of 1323 brought into the fight or 16%. Lt. Thomas M. Hightower (D/21GA) explained the low casualty rate this way: “The reason was that we routed them at the beginning and kept them going and they did not have much time to shoot at us except when they were running and then not with much judgment.”
This account of Doles' brigade in the Gettysburg campaign, originally published in the Chronicle & Sentinel (Augusta, Ga.,) was reprinted in the Milledgeville, Georgia Southern Recorder.
Army of Northern Virginia,
August 12, 1863
Mr. Editor: --
In compliance with my promise, I will now, as I have a day of leisure, essay to give you an account of our Pennsylvania campaign.
[Excerpt covering the march into Pennsylvania, Camp at Chambersburg, Carlisle, descriptions of the countryside and inhabitants, and the advance toward Gettysburg]
We had arrived within five or six miles of Gettysburg, when the boom of cannon was heard. It was not long ere couriers could be seen hurrying past the column as we were marching. Wagons, Quartermasters and cavalry were seen halted by the roadside, or hurrying to the rear of the glorious "foot cavalry," as Jackson's corps used to be called. The cry is soon heard, "fight ahead men, the cavalry Quartermasters [and] doctors are going to the rear." The roar of cannon is more constant. Onward we march with a quick step. "Close up" runs along the line. The lame and halt soon want passes to go to the rear. "Forward men! forward!" General Hill has reached the vanguard of the Army of the Potomac, now transferred to the interior of Pennsylvania, and is driving it back towards Gettysburg.
We hurry on, and soon we are drawn up in line upon the high hills north of the town. In a few minutes, General Robt. E. Rodes, that excellent officer and patriotic gentleman has his division in proper line to advance. Lt. Gen. Ewell, "old Dick" as the boys call him, is riding around to look out the proper position for the division of his corps, and watching the movements of the enemy. Our lines are formed and our artillery placed in position. Our brigade is moved forward and occupies a position between the Washington and Baltimore pikes. We are now in an open field. The town is in full view in front or South of us.
Here we are permitted to halt and rest for a short time. We have been marching very fast for at least twelve miles; the day is exceedingly hot, but the enemy can be seen darkening every hill and vale in our front, and it is no time now to talk about fatigue.
Let us, while we are halted, look around and see where we are, and by what we are surrounded. To our right, on a range of high hills, we see the enemy strongly posted. In four or five lines, we see those who so lately had stood upon the banks of the Rappahannock river and defiantly asked over us. Now they are in the interior of one of their largest States contesting with us the passage into one of their towns.
Hill is now pressing the enemy back. But strong reinforcements are being sent forward to those heights to check his advance. He has driven the enemy back some three or four miles. Gen. Iverson's brigade, of our division, is now put in to assist him. He has to strike the enemy where he is best prepared to receive the shock. Gen. Iverson has a hard time. The reinforcements are pushed in to meet him, and he is forced back with great loss. But he shows to the enemy that every inch of ground is to be hotly contested. The enemy is advancing on the line of our right.
Gen. Daniels' brigade of our division is now moved up to check the Federal advance. Gen. Daniels' brigade of brave North Carolina troops for the first time come into battle array. For the first time, they are ordered forward to meet the enemy. Nobly they advance! They drive the Yankee hirelings before them. The enemy falls back. But they rally. Fresh troops have moved up to their assistance. Again they press our line. Now comes the tug. Volley after volley poured into our ranks. One of our most gallant officers, Brig. Gen. Ransom, now advances with his command. His too, is a brigade of North Carolinians. Up they go; Ransom leading them. About half bent forward on his horse with his hat in his hand. A noble looking fellow. The brigade is up to the fence. Now they open fire. The blue coats waver, reel and fall back. "Forward" is shouted, and the brave North Carolinians charge up to the fence and up to the enemy's reformed lines.
For some distance the foe has been driven across the hill; but now he has reformed upon the massed troops upon the heights. Our line is now forced to stand. A brigade of gallant Alabamians, Gen. Rodes' old brigade, now commanded by Col. Oneal, advances. Forward they move with a cheer, but they are forced to move back. They are soon, however, reformed and again ready to move forward. But the time has come for us to forsake the hill to our right and look to our left. Here the Federals are forming in double columns. The ever vigilant Rodes, and the keen eyed Doles have discovered it. The order has already come for us to move to the left.
[To be continued]
O.R., SERIES I, VOLUME XXVII/2., Report of Brig. Gen. George Doles, C. S. Army, commanding brigade https://www.civilwarhome.com/dolesgettysburgor.html
Letter: Captain (or Major?) James W. Beck (K/44GA) to Editor, Southern Recorder (Milledgeville, Ga.), September 15, 1863, pp, 1-2.
"General George Doles’ Georgia Brigade on July 1," Matt Atkinson, Gettysburg National Military Park, Seminar 10, Essay 9. http://npshistory.com/series/symposia/gettysburg_seminars/10/essay9.pdf
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