Say What Saturday: First Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson

Ole Miss

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“Who can write the history of a battle whose eyes are immovably fastened upon a central figure of transcendently absorbing interest — the dead body of an oldest born, crushed by a shell in a position where a battery should never have been sent, and abandoned to death in a building where surgeons dared not to stay?”
Samuel Wilkeson, father of Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson
Lt Wilkeson commanded Battey "G",.4th U. S. Artillery

A very sad story about a 19 year old soldier dying on the 1st day of the largest battle on the North American continent, just one of over 8,000 who perished in this horrendous fight.
Regards
David
 

Ole Miss

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Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson, commander of Battery G, U. S. Artillery was ordered to move his six 12-pounder Napoleons to a position now known as Barlow's Knoll. Wilkeson was hit soon after he had positioned his cannons, receiving a serious injury to his right leg which he amputated himself with a pocket knife. He was moved to the local poorhouse where he was left when the Confederates overran the XI Corps positions.

It was in this improvised hospital that Samuel Wilkeson found his deceased son. Wilkeson Sr. was a correspondent for the New York Times and was in Gettysburg to report about the battle. He wrote a mournful article published in the July 6, edition of the New York Times* and Bayard's sad plight was soon known nationwide.

Here is a brief excerpt from a letter to his daughter:
"...When he fell, his men put him in a blanket and carried into the rear into a low damp basement room in the county poorhouse, as wretched a place as well can be imagined…On the floor of the room where he was laid, I saw today a bloody mark about the size of a large man giving the outlines the human figure, that mark was made by Bayard as he lay six or eight hours dying from neglect and bleeding to death…After a while he became weak and suffered dreadful pains, moaning and groaning and calling loudly upon his father and his mother, writhing in tortures most horrible, and so continued till about 10 o'clock when he died."^

I have posted below a brief excerpt from Wilkeson's commander Official Report
Regards
David

Report of Major Thomas W Osborn, First New York Artillery, commanding the Artillery Brigade, 11th​ Artillery Corps

“...About 11 a. m. Lieutenant Wilkeson reached the field, and was ordered to report to General Barlow, commanding the First Division, which was engaged about three-fourths of a mile from the town and on the left of the York pike. The battery was assigned position by General Barlow, and when I reached the ground I found it unfortunately near the enemy’s line of infantry, with which they were engaged, as well as two of his batteries, the concentrated fire of which no battery could withstand. Almost at the first fire, Lieutenant Wilkeson was mortally wounded, and carried from the field by 4 of his men. The command of the battery now devolved upon Lieutenant Bancroft. By changing position several times, the battery maintained its relative position until the division fell back to the town, when it retired to Cemetery Hill. During this engagement the battery was separated into sections or half batteries, and its struggle to maintain itself was very severe and persistent.”

Battery Loses
2 KIA, 11 WIA, 4 MIA Total 17
Losses 31 Horses killed

Official Records of the Rebellion
Series 1, Volume XXVII, Part 1
Page 747-748

* Samuel Wilkeson’s Thrilling Word Picture Of Gettysburgh.
New York Times, July 6, 1863
http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/33817

^A July 6, 1863 Wilkeson to his daughter
RAAB Collection
https://www.raabcollection.com/civi...correspondence-famous-story-lieutenant-bayard
 

Belfoured

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Joined
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Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson, commander of Battery G, U. S. Artillery was ordered to move his six 12-pounder Napoleons to a position now known as Barlow's Knoll. Wilkeson was hit soon after he had positioned his cannons, receiving a serious injury to his right leg which he amputated himself with a pocket knife. He was moved to the local poorhouse where he was left when the Confederates overran the XI Corps positions.

It was in this improvised hospital that Samuel Wilkeson found his deceased son. Wilkeson Sr. was a correspondent for the New York Times and was in Gettysburg to report about the battle. He wrote a mournful article published in the July 6, edition of the New York Times* and Bayard's sad plight was soon known nationwide.

Here is a brief excerpt from a letter to his daughter:
"...When he fell, his men put him in a blanket and carried into the rear into a low damp basement room in the county poorhouse, as wretched a place as well can be imagined…On the floor of the room where he was laid, I saw today a bloody mark about the size of a large man giving the outlines the human figure, that mark was made by Bayard as he lay six or eight hours dying from neglect and bleeding to death…After a while he became weak and suffered dreadful pains, moaning and groaning and calling loudly upon his father and his mother, writhing in tortures most horrible, and so continued till about 10 o'clock when he died."^

I have posted below a brief excerpt from Wilkeson's commander Official Report
Regards
David

Report of Major Thomas W Osborn, First New York Artillery, commanding the Artillery Brigade, 11th​ Artillery Corps

“...About 11 a. m. Lieutenant Wilkeson reached the field, and was ordered to report to General Barlow, commanding the First Division, which was engaged about three-fourths of a mile from the town and on the left of the York pike. The battery was assigned position by General Barlow, and when I reached the ground I found it unfortunately near the enemy’s line of infantry, with which they were engaged, as well as two of his batteries, the concentrated fire of which no battery could withstand. Almost at the first fire, Lieutenant Wilkeson was mortally wounded, and carried from the field by 4 of his men. The command of the battery now devolved upon Lieutenant Bancroft. By changing position several times, the battery maintained its relative position until the division fell back to the town, when it retired to Cemetery Hill. During this engagement the battery was separated into sections or half batteries, and its struggle to maintain itself was very severe and persistent.”

Battery Loses
2 KIA, 11 WIA, 4 MIA Total 17
Losses 31 Horses killed

Official Records of the Rebellion
Series 1, Volume XXVII, Part 1
Page 747-748

* Samuel Wilkeson’s Thrilling Word Picture Of Gettysburgh.
New York Times, July 6, 1863
http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/33817

^A July 6, 1863 Wilkeson to his daughter
RAAB Collection
https://www.raabcollection.com/civi...correspondence-famous-story-lieutenant-bayard
And some people wonder why a key point in Hunt's 1862 "Directions" required a battery commander to object when his battery was being poorly positioned by a ranking infantry officer and to note the reasons.
 

rpkennedy

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Carlisle, PA
And some people wonder why a key point in Hunt's 1862 "Directions" required a battery commander to object when his battery was being poorly positioned by a ranking infantry officer and to note the reasons.
While Hunt's intentions were laudible, it's simply not realistic to expect a lieutenant or captain to stand up to and argue with a general officer. Not everybody is as forcible as Henry Hunt.

Ryan
 

rpkennedy

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It was probably a good position to help keep Doles at bay, but no one on the Federal side was evidently expecting the arrival of Early's division and his accompanying artillery.
I agree and I think that's what a lot of people don't think about when looking at Barlow's movement to the knoll. As a position, it's not bad when facing towards the threat from the northwest but that left its right dangerously in the air and Early's Division took advantage of that. And then it didn't help that Barlow was one of the first to go down which left the division rudderless at a critical time.

Ryan
 

Belfoured

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Joined
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While Hunt's intentions were laudible, it's simply not realistic to expect a lieutenant or captain to stand up to and argue with a general officer. Not everybody is as forcible as Henry Hunt.

Ryan
As a rule, probably, but there were incidents where a battery or section commander did just that. At Antietam, for example. Ultimately, of course, they had to follow orders and Hunt recognized that. His real intent was to get an organization in which artillery officers had control over deployment. And we all know about his disagreement with Hancock.
 

Belfoured

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I agree and I think that's what a lot of people don't think about when looking at Barlow's movement to the knoll. As a position, it's not bad when facing towards the threat from the northwest but that left its right dangerously in the air and Early's Division took advantage of that. And then it didn't help that Barlow was one of the first to go down which left the division rudderless at a critical time.

Ryan
True, although I'd add that the focus is on placing a battery, rather than the division - and to some extent the mission is to do that anticipating possible defects in the placement. Hindsight is 20-20, of course, but we know the results.
 

Ole Miss

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As I have only been to Gettysburg, I have to rely on maps. I believe you have to walk the terrain to understand any descriptions of a battle. I really don't know how exposed Wilkeson's battery would have been to the advancing Confederates.

I am hoping that @pamc153PA, @Tom Elmore, @Gettysburg Greg or others could describe this action in further detail.
Regards
David
 

Belfoured

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As I have only been to Gettysburg, I have to rely on maps. I believe you have to walk the terrain to understand any descriptions of a battle. I really don't know how exposed Wilkeson's battery would have been to the advancing Confederates.

I am hoping that @pamc153PA, @Tom Elmore, @Gettysburg Greg or others could describe this action in further detail.
Regards
David
The damage was done by a battalion of 12 Confederate guns at a range of about 1,000 yards from a slight elevation to the NE. Wilkeson's four guns were fully exposed, and were outmanned and outgunned by 3:1, to boot. When Lt. Bancroft assumed command of the four guns, he promptly moved them to a less exposed position off the crest. The other section of 2 guns under Lt. Merkle had been posted in an equally exposed position to the NW of the Almshouse and had been forced to retire by approaching infantry.
 

Tom Elmore

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Here's a draft map showing the situation just as Gordon was advancing, with Wilkeson having to simultaneously face both Doles and also three batteries (12 guns from Garber, Tanner and Green) from Lt. Col. Hilary P. Jones' artillery battalion, off the map toward the east-northeast (minus Carrington's battery of four guns, which advanced behind Gordon). When Jones opened his 12 guns it came as a complete surprise to Wilkeson and the rest of the Eleventh Corps north of town. One or both of Green's two Parrotts were put out of action early when mistakenly loaded with oversized Navy Parrott rounds, and afterwards one of Garber's Napoleons took a direct strike on the muzzle that rendered it permanently inoperable. As you can see, Doles' left might have been nicely enfiladed by Wilkeson had not Early and his artillery been there.
 

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Belfoured

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Here's a draft map showing the situation just as Gordon was advancing, with Wilkeson having to simultaneously face both Doles and also three batteries (12 guns from Garber, Tanner and Green) from Lt. Col. Hilary P. Jones' artillery battalion, off the map toward the east-northeast (minus Carrington's battery of four guns, which advanced behind Gordon). When Jones opened his 12 guns it came as a complete surprise to Wilkeson and the rest of the Eleventh Corps north of town. One or both of Green's two Parrotts were put out of action early when mistakenly loaded with oversized Navy Parrott rounds, and afterwards one of Garber's Napoleons took a direct strike on the muzzle that rendered it permanently inoperable.
Thanks. Nice work.
 

Ole Miss

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With the death of Lieutenant Wilekson, command of Battery G, 4th U. S. Artillery fell upon Lieutenant Eugene A. Bancroft. He fought well and saved his battery by retreating towards Gettysburg while covering the retreat of the XI Corps on the 1st day of battle. His Official Report is very interesting and detailed. I can tell the difference in reports from a year earlier after the Battle of Shiloh as they are more realistic, sans flowery descriptions, and more detailed.
Regards
David

Report of Lieut Eugene A. Bancroft, Battery G, Fourth U. S.
Artillery.
Near Warrenton Junction, Va.,
July 28, 1863.
"Sir: I have the honor to report the services of this battery since the 1st instant.
The battery, under the command of First Lieut. Bayard Wilkeson, Fourth U. S. Artillery, left camp, near Emmitsburg, Md., at 9 a. m. July 1, and marched to Gettysburg, Pa. When about 2 miles from the latter place, the order to trot was received, and, moving rapidly forward, the battery reached the town at 11 a. m.; passed directly through the village, and, turning to the right, in rear of our lines of batteries, moved about 1 mile through some fields, and immediately engaged the enemy. Leaving the left section, under Second Lieut. C. F. Merkle, on the south side of the York road, near the poor-house, the right and center sections took position on the north side of the road, and some distance eastward of the poor-house.
At this point, Lieutenant Wilkeson was struck in the right leg by a shot from the enemy’s artillery, and mortally wounded. After engaging two of the rebel batteries for about half an hour, these two sections retired a short distance, and a few minutes thereafter three of the pieces went into action on the left of their first position, to resist the advance of a line of the enemy’s infantry, firing spherical case and canister, until, our infantry giving way in great disorder, the want of support compelled me to withdraw the guns. On entering the road leading into the village, I was joined by the left section, under Lieutenant Merkle, and assumed command of the whole. Halting to fill the ammunition chests of the gun limbers, the battery then retired slowly through Gettysburg, and took position in the cemetery, on the south side of the village, at 5 p. m., whence I fired a few shell and solid shot at the enemy, but without eliciting any reply.
The casualties during the day were as follows, viz: Lieutenant Wilkeson, mortally wounded; Private [Charles F.] Hofer, killed; Corporal [John] Monroe and Privates [Ira C.] Bumpus, [William] Clark, Taffender, and [Edwin S.] Libby, severely wounded; Bugler [Charles A.] Lockwood, Corporal [Adolphus C.] Hardy, Privates [William] Curtis and [Frank E.] Jordan, missing; 12 horses killed.
On the 2d instant, the battery was ordered to take position in a field in the rear of the cemetery, facing the Baltimore road, where it remained until 4.30 p. m., when it went into action at the cemetery, the right and center sections engaging a rebel battery stationed on a hill east of the cemetery, and the left section the enemy’s batteries in front, to the north. The battery continued firing until 7 p. m., when the right and center sections were relieved, and, after filling the ammunition chests, retook the position occupied in the first part of the day, and were held in readiness to assist our infantry in holding the woods on the right.
The casualties this day were as follows: Privates [Charles C.] Converse, [Charles A.] Green, and [Philip] Kistner, slightly wounded; 8 horses killed.
On the 3d, in the morning, the left section rejoined the battery from the cemetery, where it had remained through the night.
At about 2 p. m., four guns being ordered into action, the right and center sections again took position in tlie cemetery, and engaged the enemy’s batteries and infantry until their final repulse at about 5 p. m.
The casualties this day were Private [Patrick] Hartney severely* and Sergeant [William] Leroy and Private [Alfred] Johnson slightly, wounded; 4 horses killed and 7 wounded.
Number of rounds of ammunition expended during three days :
Solid shot.................................................................. 616
Shells ...................................................................... 158
Spherical case ............................................................ 588
Canister.................................................................... 18
Total............................................................... 1,380
The non-commissioned officers and men of the battery who came under my immediate observation behaved themselves with great coolness and gallantry. Exposed for hours to the hottest fire of the war, there was no faltering, and every man did his duty, each contributing his quota to the grand result.
Lieutenant Merkle was detached with his section on the first day by order of Major Osborn. His report of the part taken by him in that day’s action is annexed herewith.
I have to report that Lieutenant Merkle fully sustained his previous reputation for coolness and bravery in the action of the 2d and 3d.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant
,"
E. A. BANCROFT,
First Lieut. Fourth U. S. Artillery, Comdg. Battery G, Lieut. W. H. Mickle,
A. A. A. 6r., Artillery 11th Corps, Army of the Potomac.
 

rpkennedy

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Thank you @Belfoured and @Tom Elmore for the comments and map. Was the left section of Battery G near the 17th CT?
Regards
David
Merkle's section was deployed across the York Road from the Almshouse. They got picked up when the rest of the battery was retreating back to Gettysburg while rallying elements of the Eleventh Corps took a stand along a line at the Almshouse.

Ryan
 

Belfoured

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
With the death of Lieutenant Wilekson, command of Battery G, 4th U. S. Artillery fell upon Lieutenant Eugene A. Bancroft. He fought well and saved his battery by retreating towards Gettysburg while covering the retreat of the XI Corps on the 1st day of battle. His Official Report is very interesting and detailed. I can tell the difference in reports from a year earlier after the Battle of Shiloh as they are more realistic, sans flowery descriptions, and more detailed.
Regards
David

Report of Lieut Eugene A. Bancroft, Battery G, Fourth U. S.
Artillery.
Near Warrenton Junction, Va.,
July 28, 1863.
"Sir: I have the honor to report the services of this battery since the 1st instant.
The battery, under the command of First Lieut. Bayard Wilkeson, Fourth U. S. Artillery, left camp, near Emmitsburg, Md., at 9 a. m. July 1, and marched to Gettysburg, Pa. When about 2 miles from the latter place, the order to trot was received, and, moving rapidly forward, the battery reached the town at 11 a. m.; passed directly through the village, and, turning to the right, in rear of our lines of batteries, moved about 1 mile through some fields, and immediately engaged the enemy. Leaving the left section, under Second Lieut. C. F. Merkle, on the south side of the York road, near the poor-house, the right and center sections took position on the north side of the road, and some distance eastward of the poor-house.
At this point, Lieutenant Wilkeson was struck in the right leg by a shot from the enemy’s artillery, and mortally wounded. After engaging two of the rebel batteries for about half an hour, these two sections retired a short distance, and a few minutes thereafter three of the pieces went into action on the left of their first position, to resist the advance of a line of the enemy’s infantry, firing spherical case and canister, until, our infantry giving way in great disorder, the want of support compelled me to withdraw the guns. On entering the road leading into the village, I was joined by the left section, under Lieutenant Merkle, and assumed command of the whole. Halting to fill the ammunition chests of the gun limbers, the battery then retired slowly through Gettysburg, and took position in the cemetery, on the south side of the village, at 5 p. m., whence I fired a few shell and solid shot at the enemy, but without eliciting any reply.
The casualties during the day were as follows, viz: Lieutenant Wilkeson, mortally wounded; Private [Charles F.] Hofer, killed; Corporal [John] Monroe and Privates [Ira C.] Bumpus, [William] Clark, Taffender, and [Edwin S.] Libby, severely wounded; Bugler [Charles A.] Lockwood, Corporal [Adolphus C.] Hardy, Privates [William] Curtis and [Frank E.] Jordan, missing; 12 horses killed.
On the 2d instant, the battery was ordered to take position in a field in the rear of the cemetery, facing the Baltimore road, where it remained until 4.30 p. m., when it went into action at the cemetery, the right and center sections engaging a rebel battery stationed on a hill east of the cemetery, and the left section the enemy’s batteries in front, to the north. The battery continued firing until 7 p. m., when the right and center sections were relieved, and, after filling the ammunition chests, retook the position occupied in the first part of the day, and were held in readiness to assist our infantry in holding the woods on the right.
The casualties this day were as follows: Privates [Charles C.] Converse, [Charles A.] Green, and [Philip] Kistner, slightly wounded; 8 horses killed.
On the 3d, in the morning, the left section rejoined the battery from the cemetery, where it had remained through the night.
At about 2 p. m., four guns being ordered into action, the right and center sections again took position in tlie cemetery, and engaged the enemy’s batteries and infantry until their final repulse at about 5 p. m.
The casualties this day were Private [Patrick] Hartney severely* and Sergeant [William] Leroy and Private [Alfred] Johnson slightly, wounded; 4 horses killed and 7 wounded.
Number of rounds of ammunition expended during three days :
Solid shot.................................................................. 616
Shells ...................................................................... 158
Spherical case ............................................................ 588
Canister.................................................................... 18
Total............................................................... 1,380
The non-commissioned officers and men of the battery who came under my immediate observation behaved themselves with great coolness and gallantry. Exposed for hours to the hottest fire of the war, there was no faltering, and every man did his duty, each contributing his quota to the grand result.
Lieutenant Merkle was detached with his section on the first day by order of Major Osborn. His report of the part taken by him in that day’s action is annexed herewith.
I have to report that Lieutenant Merkle fully sustained his previous reputation for coolness and bravery in the action of the 2d and 3d.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant
,"
E. A. BANCROFT,
First Lieut. Fourth U. S. Artillery, Comdg. Battery G, Lieut. W. H. Mickle,
A. A. A. 6r., Artillery 11th Corps, Army of the Potomac.
I hate to keep attributing developments to Hunt, but his September 1862 "Directions" were also very specific about what he wanted in action reports from the A of the P's artillery. The Gettysburg OR show that his requirements were being followed. There are a lot of battery reports and most contain at least some of the information he demanded. The same system never quite took hold in the Union artillery in the western theater - possibly due to the lack of a similar consistent, centralized organization.
 
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