The Story of Iverson's Pits

frontrank2

Captain
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Oct 10, 2012
Location
Mt. Jackson, Va
On July 1, 1863, the men of Alfred Iverson's North Carolina Brigade had arrived at Gettysburg and were preparing to outflank the Union First Corps at Oak Hill. This spot was the northernmost point of Seminary Ridge. They were formed into their line of battle and advanced towards a line of trees about 300 yds. away. The Brigade was made up of the 5th, 12th, 20th, and 23rd North Carolina Infantries. To their left front was a low stone wall but they paid it no mind, they were confident in their success. They believed that they were about to crash through the woods and roll up the flank of the Yankees on the other side.

Suddenly, a vast sheet of flame erupted from the stone wall. Some Federal soldiers,who were crouched down behind the wall, could not believe their good fortune at having an entire Confederate Brigade served up to them on a platter, so they burst over the top of the wall and let loose a withering volley at the unsuspecting rebels. Unfortunately for the Confederates, Iverson, their commander, had not deployed an advance line of skirmishers in order to prevent any surprises. Hundreds of North Carolinians fell in straight lines just as they had marched. In the days after the battle, they were buried in an unmarked mass grave, virtually in the same spots where they fell. For years after, the farmer who owned " Iverson's Pits " claimed that his wheat grew the tallest in that part of his field.

Fighting on the Ridges by Dale Gallon. Gettysburg, PA, July 1, 1863 - Iverson’s Brigade & the Union First Corps.
iversons.jpg
 

Miles Krisman

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 15, 2012
Another account of the North Carolinian attack:


When Iverson started forward around 2:30 P.M., things went awry at once. He too, committed the unpardonable sin for a Brigadier General of not going forward with his troops. With the words "Give them hell," he sent his men ahead while he himself stayed in the rear, where he was unable to correct what soon proved to be a fatally flawed alignment. Worse, Iverson ordered his men forward without reconnoitring the ground ahead or putting out skirmishers. Thus "Unwarned, unled as a brigade, went forward Iverson's deserted band to its doom," wrote the scribe of the North Carolina regiments. With the retreat of O'Neal's Brigade, Iverson's left flank was exposed to Federal fire. Iverson's men veered toward a stone wall, and Union Brigadier General Henry Baxter's entire brigade rose up from behind it and ambushed the surprised Confederates, pouring in a deadly fire at point-blank range. In the initial volley, about 500 men of Iverson's men fell in a straight line. It was perhaps the most intense one-sided minute of slaughter in the War. The Federal forces poured volley after volley into Iverson's brigade. Iverson's advances was slowed then stopped. Seeing an opportunity, the Federal brigade of Brigadier General Henry Baxter counterattacked taking over 400 prisoners from Iverson's Brigade. Many North Carolinians who didn't fall in the first volleys waved white handkerchiefs and were quickly taken prisoner. This brigade was at the time spoken of as having behaved badly, owing to a mistake of General Iverson who reported to General Rodes, in the midst of the fight, that one of his regiments had raised the white flag and gone over in a body to the enemy. The only foundation for this report was that two of his regiments were almost entirely surrounded in consequence of the giving way of the Alabama brigade and the concentration of the enemy at that point, and were all either killed or captured almost to a man. The gallant resistance, however, which they made may be shown by a statement coming from General Rodes himself: that, riding along behind where their line had been, he thought he observed a regiment lying down, as if to escape the Yankee fire. On going up, however, to force them into the fight, he found they were all corpses.[1] A Captain rallied some of the remaining men of the Brigade and led them until the Federals had been chased through Gettysburg. At that point General Iverson attached his remnants to General Ramseur's command. For the rest of the battle, he was without authority, and his men were not again engaged.[2]


[1] Richmond Daily Dispatch – February 22, 1864

[2] Richmond Daily Dispatch – February 22, 1864
 

frontrank2

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Forum Host
Joined
Oct 10, 2012
Location
Mt. Jackson, Va
Another account of the North Carolinian attack:


When Iverson started forward around 2:30 P.M., things went awry at once. He too, committed the unpardonable sin for a Brigadier General of not going forward with his troops. With the words "Give them hell," he sent his men ahead while he himself stayed in the rear, where he was unable to correct what soon proved to be a fatally flawed alignment. Worse, Iverson ordered his men forward without reconnoitring the ground ahead or putting out skirmishers. Thus "Unwarned, unled as a brigade, went forward Iverson's deserted band to its doom," wrote the scribe of the North Carolina regiments. With the retreat of O'Neal's Brigade, Iverson's left flank was exposed to Federal fire. Iverson's men veered toward a stone wall, and Union Brigadier General Henry Baxter's entire brigade rose up from behind it and ambushed the surprised Confederates, pouring in a deadly fire at point-blank range. In the initial volley, about 500 men of Iverson's men fell in a straight line. It was perhaps the most intense one-sided minute of slaughter in the War. The Federal forces poured volley after volley into Iverson's brigade. Iverson's advances was slowed then stopped. Seeing an opportunity, the Federal brigade of Brigadier General Henry Baxter counterattacked taking over 400 prisoners from Iverson's Brigade. Many North Carolinians who didn't fall in the first volleys waved white handkerchiefs and were quickly taken prisoner. This brigade was at the time spoken of as having behaved badly, owing to a mistake of General Iverson who reported to General Rodes, in the midst of the fight, that one of his regiments had raised the white flag and gone over in a body to the enemy. The only foundation for this report was that two of his regiments were almost entirely surrounded in consequence of the giving way of the Alabama brigade and the concentration of the enemy at that point, and were all either killed or captured almost to a man. The gallant resistance, however, which they made may be shown by a statement coming from General Rodes himself: that, riding along behind where their line had been, he thought he observed a regiment lying down, as if to escape the Yankee fire. On going up, however, to force them into the fight, he found they were all corpses.[1] A Captain rallied some of the remaining men of the Brigade and led them until the Federals had been chased through Gettysburg. At that point General Iverson attached his remnants to General Ramseur's command. For the rest of the battle, he was without authority, and his men were not again engaged.[2]


[1] Richmond Daily Dispatch – February 22, 1864

[2] Richmond Daily Dispatch – February 22, 1864
Lee wanted nothing to do with Iverson after Gettysburg. Lee removed him from the ANV, and he went to Georgia and served as a brigade commander of cavalry. It seems he performed somewhat better down there. :wink:
 

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
William J. Mann of the Second Company Richmond Howitzers (Captain David Watson's battery) wrote: "We got upon the field just before sun down [July 1] and went into position. The field was covered with dead men all around us and the Yankees in full retreat. General Rhodes [sic] who was sitting on his horse right by our guns, told one of his aides to go out in the field and order a line of men into the fight. His aide returned in a few minutes and said they are all dead men."

Among the casualties in that line was W. J. O'Daniel, Company H, 23rd North Carolina. He was struck in the left cheek with a buck shot. It happens that the 88th Pennsylvania was partially armed with .69 smoothbore “buck and ball” weapons.

The flag of the 20th North Carolina was captured by the 97th New York. Colonel Wheelock took hold of the banner and waved it defiantly until General Baxter ordered the colors to the rear. Wheelock replied, "my regiment captured these colors and will keep them." When Baxter ordered him under arrest, Wheelock called over the captain of his right company and placing the staff in his hands, ran his sword through the flag, tearing it from the staff. As Wheelock waved the torn portion and the captain the staff, a minie ball struck the captain in the forehead and he fell dead. Wheelock kept the staff, while the torn portion was afterwards retaken by the 45th North Carolina. On the retreat, Wheelock took refuge in the home of Carrie Sheads, who hid his sword and the flag staff. Wheelock afterwards returned to claim the items. This flagstaff, on which hung part of the flag, was returned 50 years later to J. D. Irwin, reportedly the former color bearer of the 20th from whom it was taken. [George W. Grant, 88th Pennsylvania account; Official Report of the 45th North Carolina; letter of John Ferguson to Kate, July 11, 1863; New York Times, July 2, 1913]

Colonel Daniel Harvey Christie of the 23rd North Carolina was wounded in the attack and taken to the Jacob Hankey farmhouse up the Mummasburg Road, along with his Lieutenant Colonel, Robert D. Johnston, and Major Charles C. Blacknall. Christie died on July 17 in Winchester and is interred in the Stonewall Cemetery there.
 

Warren

Private
Joined
Oct 27, 2014
For years after the battle that farmer (Forney?) reported that his black hired hands absolutely refused to be out in the fields when dusk fell because they were convinced it was haunted. Prior to the 1970's when the interest in battlefield hauntings sparked the Ghost Tours craze, Iverson's Pits was the only location on the battlefield that was reputed to be haunted dating back to the time right after the battle.

The Sachs Bridge was the next location rumored to be haunted but it had not been reported as such until many years after the battle.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
One of the worst, if not the worst story of the battle. You get sick, hearing high casualty rates elsewhere. Union and Confederate- it was an awful battle. Iverson's Brigade, all those men over carelessness, hate this story as much now as the first time I heard it. Who was it who reported they were marching so beautifully forward that day, when they fell their feet were perfectly aligned? They said it was just chilling for another soldier to witness.
 

Warren

Private
Joined
Oct 27, 2014
One of the longtime haunting stories centers around reports that at night and from a distance across the fields passersby have allegedly seen what they've described to be hundreds of white handkerchiefs fluttering just above the ground with the field often enveloped in a mist. Other reports were described as hundreds of vague, soft white spots of light seen at a distance but then just disappear as witnesses have approached the field to investigate. It was these 'sightings' that Forney's black hired hands claimed as proof for their belief that the fields were haunted.

These supernatural sightings are occasionally still reported to this day, with increased frequency leading up to and just after July 1st every year.
 

JEB

Private
Joined
Jul 16, 2014
Location
Baltimore
I believe the construction of the park roads relocated the stone wall that concealed Baxter's troops .

Today the wall seems pretty small for all those troops to have hid behind . My understanding is the original location ran along the ridgeline east of the present location .

Its hard to imagine Iverson's brigade marching across Forney's field on a 400 yard front without any skirmishers .
 

Northern Light

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Jul 21, 2014
Iverson's behaviour that day was inexcusable. Too drunk to lead his men, he sent them to their fate alone. Lee banished him from the ANV and he ended up in Georgia, where he captured Stoneman.
This shows the attack. The road where the US forces are is Doubleday Avenue.

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580720_489642824407486_1381444263_n.jpg
 

CheathamHill

First Sergeant
Annual Winner
Joined
Oct 4, 2013
The account of these 5 minutes in Trudeau's book is gut wrenching. Probably the most brutally quick and severe slaughter of the entire 3 days of the battle..and that's saying a lot. It would sure be something to see that, morbid yes, but seeing that many drop in an 8 second period must have had quite the effect on witnesses.
 
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