Opening Moves Along Oak Ridge on July 1

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Jan 16, 2015
Around noon on July 1, two Confederate artillery batteries attached to Major General Robert Rodes' division took position on the west slope of Oak Hill and opened fire on Federal lines to the south. A third battery under Captain Robert C. M. Page initially took position at the eastern foot of the hill but was compelled to fall back after sustaining heavy losses from Eleventh Corps artillery and skirmishers of Brigadier General Alexander Schimmelpfennig's 45th New York. At least one, perhaps two, sharpshooter battalions from Rodes' division were deployed near the Mummasburg road. Brigadier General Henry Baxter's Federal brigade was ordered northward along Oak Ridge. The 97th New York and 11th Pennsylvania led the way, preceded by two companies of the 97th detached as skirmishers. The latter first encountered resistance as they approached the Mummasburg road on the east side of the ridge. The remainder of the 97th and the 11th proceeded to the northern edge of Shead's wood on the west side of the ridge, where the 97th's skirmishers rejoined them. Map depicts the situation as of 12:30 p.m. on July 1.

"An order arriving from General Robinson, commanding division, before the brigade had halted, to send forward two regiments at once, the Eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel [Richard S.] Coulter, and the Ninety-seventh New York, Colonel [Charles] Wheelock, continued their march, moving to the front. The remaining four regiments were ordered forward in a very few moments" – Brigadier General Henry Baxter.

"I immediately sent out Companies A and F as skirmishers … soon drove them [the enemy] from their position, but they soon returned with a full force, our skirmishers falling back to the line of battle" – Colonel Charles Wheelock, 97th New York.

"My company (A) occupied the right flank of the regiment; I was ordered forward with … the first two companies [A and F], deployed as skirmishers and directed to move out … a few puffs of smoke from the other side announced the presence of a Confederate force. … to my left and rear the 11th Pennsylvania and 97th [New York] … took position just over the crest, at the northern edge of a piece of woods on the westerly slope … facing north, and a meadow covered with a luxuriant growth of timothy. The skirmish line here joined its regiment. The Eleventh Pennsylvania Regiment on the left, was soon advanced a few yards into the meadow, but was halted and a skirmish line from the right of the 97th commanded [by Captain Isaac Hall] was ordered across the field towards the Mummasburg road, to a high rail fence – 200 yards distant – running parallel to the formation of these two regiments; and in advancing, its left passed over the 11th Pennsylvania, still in the grass where it had been halted. … An advance line [of Confederate skirmishers] being lodged in a field of grain between the aforementioned fence and the [Mummasburg] road, its left resting in the road, which was sunken. … Our skirmish line advanced over the meadow, driving the enemy back, losing one man of Company F killed, and some others wounded" – Captain Isaac Hall, Company A, 97th New York.

"The Eleventh Pennsylvania and the Ninety-seventh New York, under the command of Colonel Coulter, were detached … and proceeding about a quarter of a mile to the right, formed on the right of [Brigadier] General [Lysander] Cutler. … A few minutes later, General Baxter moved with the balance" – Member of the 11th Pennsylvania.

"The Eleventh Pennsylvania and Ninety-seventh New York were at once pushed forward some distance beyond the railroad embankment to occupy the space [between Doubleday and Howard]" – Chaplain William H. Locke, 11th Pennsylvania.

"The skirmish line advanced, fronting towards Oak Hill, and now encountered a battalion of … sharpshooters … stretched along the lane at the foot of Oak Hill … then sought shelter behind fences, lying down awhile, but keeping up the contest with the enemy's sharpshooters … with our long-range Remington rifles effectively" – Members of the 45th New York.

"The 12th Massachusetts was moved north, and keeping Seminary [Oak] ridge on its left, marched [toward] the Mummasburg road" – Private James Beale, Company I, 12th Massachusetts.

"My brigade was drawn back to the east side of woods" – 2nd Lieutenant Sidney G. Cooke, 147th New York.

"We had but about 100 men to reform. … We formed a barricade of a rail fence in the timber on the ridge" – 2nd Lieutenant J. V. Pierce, Company G, 147th New York.

"[Positioned in] the woods on the brow of the hill [Oak Ridge]" – Captain John E. Cook, Company I, 76th New York.

"The batteries of Captain [William P.] Carter and Captain [Charles W.] Fry were ordered to a high point … to enfilade the enemy's lines and batteries … Captain [Robert C. M.] Page … ordered to retire to another position" – Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Carter, commanding artillery battalion.

"A courier dashed up with orders for the 3rd Ala. to support [Captain William P.] Carter's battery … on a wooded crest on our right. With the order 'right face' we were marched directly in rear of the guns" – Member of the 3rd Alabama.

-For a description of Rodes' sharpshooter battalions see:
-Official reports of Brig. Gen. Henry Baxter, Col. Charles Wheelock, Capt. John Cook, Lt. Col. Thomas H. Carter.
-History of the Ninety-Seventh Regiment New York Volunteers in the War for the Union, by Isaac Hall, Utica, NY: Press of L. C. Childs & Son, 1890; Iverson's Brigade, by Isaac Hall, National Tribune, June 26, 1884 and September 10, 1885.
-11th Pennsylvania, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, by Samuel P. Bates, I:257.
-The Story of the Regiment, by William Henry Locke, Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1868.
-Historical Sketch by Regimental Committee, 45th New York, New York at Gettysburg, I:378.
-The Statements of Time on July 1, 1863 at Gettysburg, Pa., by James Beale, Philadelphia, PA: 1897.
-The First Day at Gettysburg, by Sidney G. Cooke, War Talks in Kansas, November 4, 1897, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Kansas City, MO: 1906.
-Letters from the Front, The 147th New York at Gettysburg, New Yorkers in the Civil War, A Historic Journal, Volume 6, ed. by R. L. Murray.
-War Memories of an Old Hornet, Auburn University, Alabama, on file at Gettysburg National Military Park (unidentified soldier of the 3rd Alabama, possibly Private Micajah L. Stinson of Company D).