Tilton/Sweitzer/Anderson - What Happened?

jameswoods

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Jul 29, 2015
In a previous post it was proposed that Barnes’ two brigades (Sweitzer’s and Tilton’s) did not go into position in the northern part of Rose woods until after an unsuccessful attack by Anderson’s left wing regiments on the two deTrobriand’s and one Burling regiment (110th​ Pa., 5th​ Mi., 8th​ NJ) positioned at the base of Stony Hill.

I don’t agree, I think the preponderance of evidence indicates the two Fifth Corps brigades were in place before Anderson’s brigade entered Rose’s woods.

As noted in a previous post, and in Jorgensen’s “Gettysburg’s Bloody Wheatfield”, one of the problems with the former view is that it requires one to believe Vincent’s brigade (which led Barnes’ Division to the left) could get to Little Round Top and deploy into a defensive position before 4:45 PM while Sweitzer and Tilton could not move over level terrain a lesser distance to get into position before Anderson’s left wing regiments were first repulsed (between 5:10 Pm and 5:25 PM). What stopped them for that half hour? No good answer

Equally curious is the role the 40th​ New York played, or more to the point did not play, in repelling Anderson’s attack.

General Barnes noted that as his command, “...entered the wood, they passed over a line of troops, understood to be a portion of a brigade of the Third Corps; they were lying down upon the ground.” Though not identified by Barnes, these troops were members of the 40th New York, De Trobriand’s brigade as confirmed by Colonel Thomas Egan, who reported, “...At about 4 o’clock were relieved by a portion of the Fifth Corps, when I was ordered by Major-General Birney to move by the left flank through the woods across a field of wheat,…”

The unanswered question is: why would not the 40th New York have been pressed into service if their comrades a few hundred yards to the south were fighting for their lives? The obvious answer is: the fighting had not yet begun. And, by the time it did begin, the 40th​ New York had been relieved.

Additionally, it is pretty well established that Law’s brigade stepped off at about 4:00 PM and Robertson’s brigade a few minutes later. Benning’s brigade moved forward in support about twenty minutes after that and Anderson’s brigade, repeating the interval, stepped off at 4:40 PM.

By 5:00 PM Anderson’s brigade would have just entered Rose’s woods, driving the 5th​ Michigan skirmishers back toward the main line. By 5:05 PM the opposing sides would have been fully engaged.

I believe Tilton’s and Sweitzer’s brigades had entered the wood no later than 4:45 PM and were in position by 4:55 PM, ten minutes before coming under fire by Anderson’s command.

Ira C. Abbott, Colonel of the 1st Michigan, Tilton’s brigade, one of the regiments on the receiving end of the Confederate fire, recalled, “...Getting into position I ordered my men to lie down but was not allowed to remain long before the enemy appeared in our front...The enemy advanced in two lines of Battle and commenced firing at 40 rods. [From Abbott’s perspective, those two lines were the 9th​ and 8th​ Georgia, the 11th Georgia apparently too far away to his left front to be observed] They were replied to by each regt. except my own which I kept down to the ground until some of my officers thought I was losing time but the volleys passed over us and when they were within close range I ordered them to their feet and to fire by files which made dreadful confusion in their ranks and caused them to fall.”

A soldier in the 118th​ Pennsylvania on the right of the 1st​ Michigan recalled. “…The Rebs came down the hill in front of us in droves and we opened fire on them very lively. I loaded and fired 15 times. They were so thick that you could shut your eyes and fire and could hit them, and they jumped behind every tree and stump for cover and halted at the edge of the woods.”

On lower ground Colonel de Trobriand’s regiments, the 110th Pennsylvania and 5th Michigan, confronted the 9th and 8th Georgia. De Trobriand later wrote of his two regiments, “...When their assailants descended into the ravine and crossed the creek they were received, at a distance of twenty yards, with a deadly volley, every shot of which was effective. The assault broken, those who were on the opposite slope began a rapid fire at a range still very short.”

Burling’s hijacked regiment, the 8th​ New Jersey, received the attention of the left companies of the 11th​ Georgia. Though evenly matched in the number of muskets, the ferocity of the attack launched against a poorly positioned and no doubt demoralized 8th​ New Jersey quickly resulted in their withdrawal.

Historian Samuel Toombs described the fight between the 8th New Jersey and their rebel adversaries as a, “...sharp, severe and bloody struggle.” Toombs’ reference to a “sharp” engagement suggests that it was over rather quickly. In any case, according to Toombs, the 8th’s, “...ranks were rapidly thinned, and as they fell slowly back, their colors became entangled in a tree. The remnant of brave fellows rallied around them with cheers and re-formed to meet the advancing foe. At this point the Eighth was subjected to a severe musketry fire and sustained heavy losses. Colonel Ramsey was wounded, and the command devolved upon Captain John Langston, of Company K. A brigade of the Fifth Corps came into line and the Eighth was relieved.”

The 5th Corps troops referred to were the men of the 32nd Massachusetts, 62nd Pennsylvania and 4th Michigan who occupied the higher ground immediately above and behind the 8th New Jersey. It’s not surprising that Captain Langston thought the 5th Corps had just arrived, Colonel De Trobriand (to whom the 8th NJ had been lent) was unaware of their presence right up to the time they began their withdrawal at the time of Kershaw’s advance.

Captain Hillyer, commanding the 9th Georgia, reported that his left was exposed, “…to the fire of a flanking party of the enemy who were prompt to take advantage of the exposed condition of the flank. To meet this flanking party, I changed the front of the three companies....” Was this “flanking party” just the harassing fire of 3rd Michigan skirmishers or the more substantial fire of the 1st Michigan and 22nd Massachusetts (Tilton’s brigade) on the right of the 32nd Massachusetts and above and behind the 110th Pennsylvania? I incline toward the latter explanation.

Initially, only the 32nd​ Massachusetts of Sweitzer’s brigade was in position to participate (the 62nd​ Pennsylvania and 4th​ Michigan still facing west). The 32nd Massachusetts’ historian noted, “...We were hardly established in our position, such as it was, before the attack came, the enemy piling down in great numbers from the opposite slope and covering themselves partially under the hither bank of the little stream. They were received by a galling fire from the division....”

However, this state of affairs was soon rectified, Colonel Sweitzer, commanding brigade, reporting that, “...as there was no appearance of the enemy in front of the line formed by the Sixty-second Pennsylvania and Fourth Michigan, I directed them to change front to the left, and form lines in rear of the Thirty-second Massachusetts. During the execution of this order, the attack continued....”

This movement was noted by Lt. Reid of the 8th​ Georgia, “…On the left of our regiment, the bog turned to the left and along it was ranged the 9th Georgia, who were firing obliquely to their right with great effect at the men in our front... I chanced to look to the left. In the thin woods a reinforcing line of blue was marching. I could see only two colors, but I saw that the line reached far beyond each one of these. At about 70 yards their muskets were leveled, and the gleamed in the sun. I shall never forget how I was tied to gaze. A scythe of fire leaped forth, and the air all around me turned to hissing lead…”

Note the reference to the strength of the two regiments coming into line, more descriptive of the 62nd​ Pennsylvania and 4th​ Michigan than the relatively small 115th​ Pennsylvania and 8th​ New Jersey as has been suggested by some.

General Anderson had already instructed Captain Hillyer to refuse the 9th​ Georgia’s three left companies but quickly realized the potential danger if those reinforcing regiments decided to move against his left flank and immediately ordered the brigade to fall back. As reported by Colonel White, filing the brigade report, “…General [George T.] Anderson changed the front of the left wing of the Ninth Georgia Regiment…but soon found they could not hold the enemy in check. He then ordered the brigade to retire to the crest of the hill, in the edge of the timber, where the charge commenced. But a short time elapsed [my italics] before McLaws’ division came up on our left, when General Anderson ordered another advance, which was executed with spirit and loss to the enemy. In this charge, General Anderson was wounded....”

Captain Hillyer, 9th Georgia, recalled that, “...After McLaws Division came up on our left, our line thus reinforced, moved some distance to the front and down a declivity into a strip of meadow land, where a little brook ran parallel to our position. This little brook made a natural ditch some two or three feet deep, and in its meanderings with its grassy banks, made a fine natural rifle pit. We were quick to take advantage of the opportunity and occupied it.” The strip of meadow land probably refers to the grassy area in the sw corner of the Wheatfield previously fought over by the 11th Georgia against the 17th Maine…”.

This second charge, in support of Kershaw’s brigade (McLaws’ Division), was also noted by Maj. McDaniel, 11th​ Georgia, whose regiment had been actively engaged with the 17th​ Maine until Anderson had personally ordered him to join in the brigade’s retreat.

According to Maj. McDaniel, the initial, “… advance was made in good order, and, upon reaching the belt of woods in front, a vigorous fire was opened on the enemy, followed up by a vigorous charge, which dislodged them from the woods, the ravine, and a stone fence running diagonally with the line of battle. This formidable position was occupied by the Eleventh Georgia, and a galling fire opened upon the enemy’s front and flank, causing his line to recoil in confusion. At this juncture, Brigadier- General Anderson came in person…and ordered Colonel Little to withdraw the regiment to the crest of the hill, on account of a movement of the enemy in force upon the left flank of the brigade.”

To interpret the foregoing, I think the troops dislodged from the ravine were the 8th​ NJ and the troops he saw recoiling from the fence (running at an angle to his approach) were the left companies of the 17th​ Maine being refused to meet his attack. Also, the movement of the enemy in force upon the left flank of the brigade mentioned by Anderson could hardly have been anything other than a reference to the firepower of Tilton’s and Sweitzer’s brigades.

McDaniel, echoing Colonel White reported, “…After a short interval, a second advance was made to the stone fence [coincident no doubt with the arrival of Kershaw’s brigade on Stony Hill] but, after a furious conflict [with Caldwell’s 2nd​ Corp brigades], the failure of support on the right forced the brigade back a distance of 100 yards.”

Finally, according to McDaniel, the third advance, “…was made in connection with the entire line on that part of the field.…”
The start of this third advance involving the entire line was the one precipitated by Wofford’s brigade’s advance and occurred at approximately 6:55 PM.

So with all the documentation presenting a fairly cut and dried case for the second attack only occurring with the arrival of Kershaw’s brigade, why a second attack by Anderson’s brigade prior to the arrival of Kershaw’ brigade?

While not agreeing with the proposition, Jorgensen writes,”…The timing of the arrival of Barnes’ two brigades on Stony Hill has been difficult to determine because of the paucity of battle accounts dealing with their involvement in the first phase of the Wheatfield fight. They were in place either before or after Anderson’s first assault in the Wheatfield fight. The fact that there are no accounts from any of de Trobriand’s or Burling’s regiments that mention Tilton’s or Sweitzer’s men being present support the notion that they were not present during the opening action.”

In a prior post Tom Elmore made the same point, “…the left of the 32nd Massachusetts as first positioned would have been nearly upon the 110th Pennsylvania and 5th Michigan as I understand those two regiments to have been placed, and yet neither side mentions the presence of the other”.

Another point questions how Fifth Corp skirmishers could have been sent into the woods (presumably before becoming engaged) and not encounter any of Anderson’s troops unless, of course, the Georgians had already retreated 200 yards after fighting de Trobriand’s troops and been thrown back.

Major Rogers, 110th Pennsylvania, reported, “...The battle continued with a determination on both sides to conquer or die until 6 p.m., when the enemy in our front fell back, and the order to cease fire was given. This being done, I was ordered by a staff officer to fall back and give place to fresh troops, which was done....” These fresh troops were, of course, the men of Tilton’s brigade, 5th Corps and so answers the claim that they were unaware of the others presence. Also, as noted earlier, when the 8th​ New Jersey fell back, “…A brigade of the Fifth Corps came into line and the Eighth was relieved.”

But what if these fresh troops had just arrived and not taken part in the battle just concluded? An answer to that question may be found in a look at the number of effective muskets on each side and a comparison of losses inflicted. Could the 110th​ Pennsylvania, 5th​ Michigan and 8th​ New Jersey prevail over Anderson’s Georgians without the assistance of Tilton and Sweitzer?

Available muskets at start
and estimated losses

110th​ Pa. 136/45
5th​ Mi. 202/45
8th​ NJ 159/30
497/120

9th​ Ga.* 261/181
8th​ Ga. 276/100
11th​ Ga.** 138/ 65
675/346

* I estimate the 9th Georgia took about 45 casualties from artillery before getting to the woods and have reduced the 306 effectives at the start accordingly.

**As stated earlier, I believe the 11th​ Georgia (or at least the left wing of the 11th​ Georgia) was also involved in this combat but sustained most of its casualties fighting the 17th​ Maine. The 11th​ had 277 muskets at the start of the battle and probably lost no more than 65 of their 200 total loss fighting the 8th​ NJ. So, in line with my understanding of the 11th​ Georgia’s position vis-a-vis the 8th​ NJ, and for the purpose of this comparison, I have halved the strength of the 11th​ Georgia, i.e., to 138.

If, at the start of the contest the 9th​, 8th​ and 11th​ Georgia had 675 muskets in line, it’s hard to see how the three federal regiments with 497 muskets were not only able to able resist their attack but in doing so inflict three times as many casualties.
(Some have suggested that the 115th Pennsylvania (140/30) may have been moved out of Wheatfield to participate with the 8th New Jersey in this fight. This idea is attractive because it tends to help explain the apparent Federal success in defending the Stony Hill without the assistance of 5th Corp troops. Of course, there is no documentation whatever to support this idea and plenty to discredit it as demonstrated in earlier posts.)

I have included as attachments troop position maps to illustrate activity in Rose’s Woods and on Stony hill during the times discussed.


Jim
 

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Tom Elmore

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Jim, based on your assessment and maps, you show Tilton and Sweitzer firing over the heads of the 5th Michigan, 110th Pennsylvania and 8th New Jersey regiments during Anderson's attack. The problem is, I can find no source among the brigades of Tilton or Sweitzer that mentions or even intimates that they fired over the heads of friendly troops to reach the enemy. Quite the contrary:

-Robert G. Carter of the 22nd Massachusetts, in The Campaign and Battle of Gettysburg, wrote: "When we reached this gap in our line there were none of our own troops visible, and, although John B. Bachelder's map of Gettysburg shows the 22d Massachusetts at this point, being in support, and in rear of DeTrobriand's Brigade of the Third Corps, which had previously occupied this position, it is absolutely certain that it had been sent to our left just before or immediately on our arrival."

-Four Brothers in Blue, about the 22nd Massachusetts, and probably Carter's words again, restates the situation: "There was not, when we arrived, a soldier of DeTrobriand's in sight ... we did not halt in rear of any troops."

-In the History of the Corn Exchange Regiment (118th Pennsylvania) it is noted that Tilton's brigade was "farther advanced than any troops," and that they relieved a thin line of battle in front before Tilton's brigade sent forward their own skirmishers, which Anderson subsequently forced back.

-Sweitzer wrote that "there were other troops in the position the 32nd Pennsylvania then occupied, but they were withdrawn. Not long after this the attack commenced."

So I still contend that Tilton and Sweitzer relieved the 5th Michigan and 110th Pennsylvania about the same time as the 40th New York. Since we know that the 5th Michigan, 110th Pennsylvania and 8th New Jersey did engage the enemy in that position, I am compelled to conclude that they fought and repulsed the left of Anderson's brigade before the arrival of Tilton and Sweitzer, which in turn would have repulsed Anderson's second attack before Kershaw's approach compelled them to pull back.
 

jameswoods

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Tom,

The 5th Michigan did not withdraw until Kershaw's advance precipitated Tilton's and Sweitzer's abandonment of the wood. DeTrobriand, in his report, lauded their tenacity, "...The unflinching bravery of the Fifth Michigan, which sustained the loss of more than one half of its number without yielding a foot of ground deserves to be especially mentioned here with due commendation." According to de Trobriand, the Confederate attack had converged, "...on the angle of which I formed the summit, with the Fifth Michigan...and the One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania...the only two regiments left at that point." Apparently de Trobriand was not aware the 8th New Jersey was on the left of his line. He only became aware of Tilton's an Sweitzer's presence after Anderson's attack was thrown back.

Tellingly, de Trobriand complained that, "Had a sufficient force been there under my orders when the enemy gave up forcing our position, I would not have hesitated to try and break his line at that point; but two regiments from the Fifth Corps, sent there for my support having fallen back without engaging the enemy...I found myself in danger of being surrounded , and fell back out of the woods, where the enemy did not risk to follow us."

We can forgive de Trobriand for his disappointment with the withdrawal of Sweitzer's and Tilton's brigades without buying into his assertion that they had not engaged the enemy.

In other words, either the 5th Michigan was somehow integrated into the same line as occupied by the 32nd and 22nd Massachusetts or, during the course of the battle it did not notice that troops on the hill behind it were firing over their heads. Is there another option? It is not as if the 5th Michigan had left the scene after a first Anderson attack and before another one; unlike the 110th Pennsylvania and 8th New Jersey, they were there right up until Kershaw's attack, retreating with their Brigade commander into the Wheatfield.


Jim
 

Tom Elmore

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Jim,

The few 5th Michigan sources I have are rather vague on details of the regiment’s actual fighting: The Owosso Press article of July 18 by Albern K. Sweet; A. K. Sweet's Reminiscences; the Diary of Jeffery W. Perry; July 5 letter of Thomas D. Bailey to his mother; and some mentions in The Bachelder Papers. Do you have others that shed light on their actions?

Capt. J.C.M. Hamilton’s account of the 110th Pennsylvania sounds to me like that regiment repulsed a single strong Confederate attack and then retired on its own accord (abandoning the 5th Michigan?) to the woods north of the Wheatfield until relieved by Zook’s brigade in those woods, when it departed the field altogether.

Lt. Col. John Pulford of the 5th Michigan states that his regiment fought in the same position for two hours before joining the right of the 17th Maine in the Wheatfield (Bachelder Papers, 1:47). The inference is that the 5th pulled back into the Wheatfield, but after the 17th Maine fell back from the stone wall at the south edge of the Wheatfield, it took refuge in the woods north of the Wheatfield until it afterwards advanced behind Kelly – by 6:30 p.m. according to my reckoning. At that time the 5th Michigan presumably advanced from the same woods and joined the right of the 17th Maine – on the bluff in the Wheatfield previously held by Winslow’s battery – until relieved by Brooke’s advance.

Sweet wrote of driving the first enemy line back, which reformed and, aided by fresh troops, returned to the charge, after or during which the 5th Michigan retreated. I see three different ways to interpret Sweet’s account. Given the heavy casualties sustained (roughly 50 percent) by the 5th Michigan, I am inclined to believe they either: 1) participated in two separate heavy attacks at the same position; or 2) the first enemy line was actually a strong skirmish line; or 3) it meshes well with Capt. Hillyer’s (9th Georgia) account, in which his exposed left took a beating until he changed the front of his three left companies to deliver a more effective fire.

All of this hardly resolves the above discussion, but I’m putting it out there for comment.
 

lelliott19

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The few 5th Michigan sources I have are rather vague on details of the regiment’s actual fighting: The Owosso Press article of July 18 by Albern K. Sweet; A. K. Sweet's Reminiscences; the Diary of Jeffery W. Perry; July 5 letter of Thomas D. Bailey to his mother; and some mentions in The Bachelder Papers. Do you have others that shed light on their actions?
This may not help, but I enjoyed reading it and maybe it will shed some light, at least as far as the 5th Michigan is concerned?

From the 3d and 5th Infantry.
Their Part in the Battle of Gettysburg -- Their Heroic Bravery and Terrible Loss

[Although owing to the disarrangement of the mails, the following reaches us at a very late date, it would be unjust to these gallant regiments to omit the publication of an account of the special part borne by them in the late battle, which, with much other interesting matter which has died in the mail bags, comes to us from our friend G. W. W. -- Eds.]

Bivouac on the Battle Field,
near Gettysburg Pa. July 5, 1863,
Headquarters 3d Brigade.

On the first day of July, at 4 1/2 P.M., the 3d corps reached Emmettsburg, a village in Maryland of some considerable importance, about 2 1/2 miles from the line and about 10 miles from Gettysburg. This village is particularly known by its institute of learning, called the St. Joseph's Institution, and its Orphan Asylum, Infirmary, and Cloister, all of which the "Revelations of an Escaped Navie[?]" (Miss Bunkley) have made famous. We had the pleasure of visiting the different departments of the institution, through the kindness of the chief matron, an account of which visit we will give hereafter.

Hard fighting and heavy cannonading had been going on all day, July 1st, at Gettysburg, which we could distinctly hear, and the whole army of the Potomac moved rapidly to the latter place, with the exception of the 2d and 3d brigades, Gen. Birney's Division, 3d corps, which were left behind at Emmettsburg to guard the rear and the pass through the mountains, or hills at that place, through which rebel reinforcements were expected to come from Harper's Ferry, and other fords and ferries of the Potomac, to the assistance of their comrades at Gettysburg.

We of the 3d brigade had barely posted our pickets, and pitched our tents, and arranged ourselves for a comfortable night's sleep, when an order came to move at once, and reach, if possible, Gettysburg by daylight. This order reached us at 1 o'clock at night. The pickets were drawn in as rapidly as possible, and the troops got in readiness to move, but it was quite daylight before we were fairly underway. The roads were quite muddy, but we marched with great rapidity and arrived at the front at 8 o'clock where we found troops drawn up in battle array, momentarily expecting an attack.

We were posted a little in rear of the line of battle, and given a short time to rest and make some coffee. Scarcely had this been accomplished, when Gen. Sickles sent for the 3d and 5th Michigan Regiments to advance as skirmishers. The three left companies of the 3d were sent out, the balance of the regiment acting as a reserve to them. The right and left companies of the 5th also advanced as skirmishers, the remaining companies being a short distance in the rear as a support, advancing as the skirmishers advanced, and upon which the latter could fall back should the enemy advance in force.

The 3d skirmished in an open field and in a peach orchard, where their movements could be plainly seen. The gallant manner in which they maintained and conducted themselves, and the effectiveness of their shots, and their frequent advances upon the enemy, made them the admiration of all.

The 5th was placed in the very position where the rebels advanced in force, and never did this "war worn regiment" conduct itself in a more noble manner. For three long hours they stood under the most terrible and galling fire, maintaining their line and keeping the rebels in check with that bravery and hardihood[?] which only belongs to the hardiest veterans; and terrible was the loss they met with; for of the two hundred and thirty who went into the fight, eighteen were killed and eighty five wounded and most of the wounds are severe. Many of the men will never be able to enter the service again, but are disabled for life, or are rendered only suitable for the invalid corps. We only wonder that any could escape so terrible and continuous was the fire; but they stood like a stone wall, till they were relieved by another regiment. As they came off the field, the men that were left of them, less than one hundred, gathered around their old flag which they brought safely out, and give three hearty, rousing cheers. The Commanding General rode up to them and took off his hat and complemented them for their gallantry and bravery.

All this time, the fight was raging with the most terrific violence, and victory seemed to hang as if in a balance. At first, our lines would fall back and rally and advance and drive back the rebels, who would form and again advance, and so on for three times on either side, the lines giving and bending like forests shaken by the winds, and finally the "Old Iron Brigade" was called upon to advance once more. The remnant of the old 5th took its position in the line, and again advanced to the battle, and we held our position, driving the rebels till night set in, when we were relieved and fell back to a place of quiet where we could rest.

Never have we passed through so severe a battle and never has the 5th lost so many in any one battle in proportion to the number engaged. Lieut. Col. Pulford had his horse killed by two rifle shots and a piece of shell. Although twice wounded himself, he still maintained command of the regiment and is now unable to mount his horse or walk, except supported by someone. Major Mathews was also wounded, but still remains with his regiment. Although frequently urged and advised by the Surgeon in Chief to go to the hospital, still he will not, but is determined to remain with the regiment till the invaders are driven from the soil, or till there is nothing left of the regiment. There will be but little left of it when this campaign is over, for we now number only one hundred and ten guns, and the 3d only about one hundred and seventy-five.
[Source: Detroit Advertiser and Tribune, July 23, 1863, page 1.]
 
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Tom Elmore

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This may not help, but I enjoyed reading it and maybe it will shed some light, at least as far as the 5th Michigan is concerned? It is unsigned so it may be the source you mentioned as the July 5 letter of Thomas D. Bailey to his mother?

Bivouac on the Battle Field,
near Gettysburg Pa. July 5, 1863,
Headquarters 3d Brigade.

...The roads were quite muddy, but we marched with great rapidity and arrived at the front at 8 o'clock where we found troops drawn up in battle array, momentarily expecting an attack.

We were posted a little in rear of the line of battle, and given a short time to rest and make some coffee. Scarcely had this been accomplished, when Gen. Sickles sent for the 3d and 5th Michigan Regiments to advance as skirmishers. The three left companies of the 3d were sent out, the balance of the regiment acting as a reserve to them. The right and left companies of the 5th also advanced as skirmishers, the remaining companies being a short distance in the rear as a support, advancing as the skirmishers advanced, and upon which the latter could fall back should the enemy advance in force.

The 3d skirmished in an open field and in a peach orchard, where their movements could be plainly seen. The gallant manner in which they maintained and conducted themselves, and the effectiveness of their shots, and their frequent advances upon the enemy, made them the admiration of all.

The 5th was placed in the very position where the rebels advanced in force, and never did this "war worn" regiment conduct itself in a more noble manner. For three long hours they stood under the most terrible and galling fire, maintaining their line and keeping the rebels in check with that bravery and hardihood[?] which only belongs to the hardiest veterans; and terrible was the loss they met with; for of the two hundred and thirty who went into the fight, eighteen were killed and eighty five wounded and most of the wounds are severe. Many of the men will never be able to enter the service again, but are disabled for life, or are rendered only suitable for the invalid corps. We only wonder that any could escape so terrible and continuous was the fire; but they stood like a stone wall, till they were relieved by another regiment. As they came off the field, the men that were left of them, less than one hundred, gathered around their old flag which they brought safely out, and give three hearty, rousing cheers. The Commanding General rode up to them and took off his hat and complemented them for their gallantry and bravery.

All this time, the fight was raging with the most terrific violence, and victory seemed to hang as if in a balance. At first, our lines would fall back and rally and advance and drive back the rebels, who would form and again advance, and so on for three times on either side, the lines giving and bending like forests shaken by the winds, and finally the "Old Iron Brigade" was called upon to advance once more. The remnant of the old 5th took its position in the line, and again advanced to the battle, and we held our position, driving the rebels till night set in, when we were relieved and fell back to a place of quiet where we could rest.

Never have we passed through so severe a battle and never has the 5th lost so many in any one battle in proportion to the number engaged. Lieut. Col. Pulford had his horse killed by two rifle shots and a piece of shell. Although twice wounded himself, he still maintained command of the regiment and is now unable to mount his horse or walk, except supported by someone. Major Mathews was also wounded, but still remains with his regiment. Although frequently urged and advised by the Surgeon in Chief to go to the hospital, still he will not, but is determined to remain with the regiment till the invaders are driven from the soil, or till there is nothing left of the regiment. There will be but little left of it when this campaign is over, for we now number only one hundred and ten guns, and the 3d only about one hundred and seventy-five.
[Source: Detroit Advertiser and Tribune, July 23, 1863, page 1.]
Thanks, Laura! This is a new source to me and an important one for the details it contains. This line caught my attention: "they stood like a stone wall, till they were relieved by another regiment." The only relief I can think of would be Tilton's brigade. Had they fallen back at the same time as Tilton and Sweitzer, there would have been no relief.

When "called upon to advance once more" seems to fit very well with the scenario that they advanced from the woods north of the Wheatfield, into the Wheatfield, where they aligned on the right of the 17th Maine until relieved (I presume by the advance of Brooke's brigade into the Wheatfield).

Another important detail is the initial deployment of the left and right companies as skirmishers. In a standard alignment that would mean Companies A and B. The Owosso Press article states that Companies A, H and B were deployed as skirmishers under the command of Captains Wakenshaw and Generous. In fact, the writer of that article (Sweet) was one of the skirmishers, and based on his description, I would estimate they were in position out in front by around 3:20 p.m., just before taking artillery fire for roughly 30 minutes, at which point a Confederate infantry line appeared in the distance, headed their way.

By the way, Company H was recruited in Owosso County.
 
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Gettysburg Guide #154

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Both James Woods and Tom Elmore are to be complimented on their efforts in the above posts. Both have presented interpretations of the sequence events based on real evidence. Moreover, although they have reached different conclusions, neither said that the other was wrong. It is most refreshing to see a fact based debate. Well done gentlemen. Thanks also to elliott19 for contributing another primary source.

Like Scott Brown, I remain uncertain of the sequence of events. Perhaps even those who were present were uncertain of the what happened exactly when.
 

datameister

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Both James Woods and Tom Elmore are to be complimented on their efforts in the above posts. Both have presented interpretations of the sequence events based on real evidence. Moreover, although they have reached different conclusions, neither said that the other was wrong. It is most refreshing to see a fact based debate. Well done gentlemen. Thanks also to elliott19 for contributing another primary source.

Like Scott Brown, I remain uncertain of the sequence of events. Perhaps even those who were present were uncertain of the what happened exactly when.
Ah yes, "war stories". This is such an issue in breaking-down primary sources. At a Desert Storm reunion, five other guys and myself from the same tank battalion had to spend several hours and adult beverages to get everything sorted out, including a couple of myths (partially based on what happened and spread by campfire tales), I had cemented in my mind as facts. This was common in the group.

The "official" battalion report provides no help other than platitudes.

History is less like Newtonian Physics and more like Quantum Mechanics, which makes it all the more interesting I believe.

Nice work on this Gentleman!
 

rpkennedy

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Both James Woods and Tom Elmore are to be complimented on their efforts in the above posts. Both have presented interpretations of the sequence events based on real evidence. Moreover, although they have reached different conclusions, neither said that the other was wrong. It is most refreshing to see a fact based debate. Well done gentlemen. Thanks also to elliott19 for contributing another primary source.

Like Scott Brown, I remain uncertain of the sequence of events. Perhaps even those who were present were uncertain of the what happened exactly when.

In regards to the Wheatfield, even John Batchelder, who spoke to many veterans, had trouble figuring out the who/what/when on that part of the field. I think all of us who study Gettysburg in depth have our own interpretations but the evidence can be so conflicting that I'm not sure any of us will ever 100% agree on every detail.

Ryan
 
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lelliott19

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Thanks, Laura! This is a new source to me and an important one for the details it contains.
Great! Glad it is helpful.
Since the source is 'new' and potentially useful, I went back and edited the post to include the preliminary content that I had previously omitted. Also of note: In the article preface, the editor mentions the initials of the correspondent as G. W. W. Perhaps someone who is familiar with the 3rd and 5th Michigan regiments can provide the identity of G. W. W.?
 

Scott Brown

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In a previous post it was proposed that Barnes’ two brigades (Sweitzer’s and Tilton’s) did not go into position in the northern part of Rose woods until after an unsuccessful attack by Anderson’s left wing regiments on the two deTrobriand’s and one Burling regiment (110th​ Pa., 5th​ Mi., 8th​ NJ) positioned at the base of Stony Hill.

I don’t agree, I think the preponderance of evidence indicates the two Fifth Corps brigades were in place before Anderson’s brigade entered Rose’s woods.

As noted in a previous post, and in Jorgensen’s “Gettysburg’s Bloody Wheatfield”, one of the problems with the former view is that it requires one to believe Vincent’s brigade (which led Barnes’ Division to the left) could get to Little Round Top and deploy into a defensive position before 4:45 PM while Sweitzer and Tilton could not move over level terrain a lesser distance to get into position before Anderson’s left wing regiments were first repulsed (between 5:10 Pm and 5:25 PM). What stopped them for that half hour? No good answer

Equally curious is the role the 40th​ New York played, or more to the point did not play, in repelling Anderson’s attack.

General Barnes noted that as his command, “...entered the wood, they passed over a line of troops, understood to be a portion of a brigade of the Third Corps; they were lying down upon the ground.” Though not identified by Barnes, these troops were members of the 40th New York, De Trobriand’s brigade as confirmed by Colonel Thomas Egan, who reported, “...At about 4 o’clock were relieved by a portion of the Fifth Corps, when I was ordered by Major-General Birney to move by the left flank through the woods across a field of wheat,…”

The unanswered question is: why would not the 40th New York have been pressed into service if their comrades a few hundred yards to the south were fighting for their lives? The obvious answer is: the fighting had not yet begun. And, by the time it did begin, the 40th​ New York had been relieved.

Additionally, it is pretty well established that Law’s brigade stepped off at about 4:00 PM and Robertson’s brigade a few minutes later. Benning’s brigade moved forward in support about twenty minutes after that and Anderson’s brigade, repeating the interval, stepped off at 4:40 PM.

By 5:00 PM Anderson’s brigade would have just entered Rose’s woods, driving the 5th​ Michigan skirmishers back toward the main line. By 5:05 PM the opposing sides would have been fully engaged.

I believe Tilton’s and Sweitzer’s brigades had entered the wood no later than 4:45 PM and were in position by 4:55 PM, ten minutes before coming under fire by Anderson’s command.

Ira C. Abbott, Colonel of the 1st Michigan, Tilton’s brigade, one of the regiments on the receiving end of the Confederate fire, recalled, “...Getting into position I ordered my men to lie down but was not allowed to remain long before the enemy appeared in our front...The enemy advanced in two lines of Battle and commenced firing at 40 rods. [From Abbott’s perspective, those two lines were the 9th​ and 8th​ Georgia, the 11th Georgia apparently too far away to his left front to be observed] They were replied to by each regt. except my own which I kept down to the ground until some of my officers thought I was losing time but the volleys passed over us and when they were within close range I ordered them to their feet and to fire by files which made dreadful confusion in their ranks and caused them to fall.”

A soldier in the 118th​ Pennsylvania on the right of the 1st​ Michigan recalled. “…The Rebs came down the hill in front of us in droves and we opened fire on them very lively. I loaded and fired 15 times. They were so thick that you could shut your eyes and fire and could hit them, and they jumped behind every tree and stump for cover and halted at the edge of the woods.”

On lower ground Colonel de Trobriand’s regiments, the 110th Pennsylvania and 5th Michigan, confronted the 9th and 8th Georgia. De Trobriand later wrote of his two regiments, “...When their assailants descended into the ravine and crossed the creek they were received, at a distance of twenty yards, with a deadly volley, every shot of which was effective. The assault broken, those who were on the opposite slope began a rapid fire at a range still very short.”

Burling’s hijacked regiment, the 8th​ New Jersey, received the attention of the left companies of the 11th​ Georgia. Though evenly matched in the number of muskets, the ferocity of the attack launched against a poorly positioned and no doubt demoralized 8th​ New Jersey quickly resulted in their withdrawal.

Historian Samuel Toombs described the fight between the 8th New Jersey and their rebel adversaries as a, “...sharp, severe and bloody struggle.” Toombs’ reference to a “sharp” engagement suggests that it was over rather quickly. In any case, according to Toombs, the 8th’s, “...ranks were rapidly thinned, and as they fell slowly back, their colors became entangled in a tree. The remnant of brave fellows rallied around them with cheers and re-formed to meet the advancing foe. At this point the Eighth was subjected to a severe musketry fire and sustained heavy losses. Colonel Ramsey was wounded, and the command devolved upon Captain John Langston, of Company K. A brigade of the Fifth Corps came into line and the Eighth was relieved.”

The 5th Corps troops referred to were the men of the 32nd Massachusetts, 62nd Pennsylvania and 4th Michigan who occupied the higher ground immediately above and behind the 8th New Jersey. It’s not surprising that Captain Langston thought the 5th Corps had just arrived, Colonel De Trobriand (to whom the 8th NJ had been lent) was unaware of their presence right up to the time they began their withdrawal at the time of Kershaw’s advance.

Captain Hillyer, commanding the 9th Georgia, reported that his left was exposed, “…to the fire of a flanking party of the enemy who were prompt to take advantage of the exposed condition of the flank. To meet this flanking party, I changed the front of the three companies....” Was this “flanking party” just the harassing fire of 3rd Michigan skirmishers or the more substantial fire of the 1st Michigan and 22nd Massachusetts (Tilton’s brigade) on the right of the 32nd Massachusetts and above and behind the 110th Pennsylvania? I incline toward the latter explanation.

Initially, only the 32nd​ Massachusetts of Sweitzer’s brigade was in position to participate (the 62nd​ Pennsylvania and 4th​ Michigan still facing west). The 32nd Massachusetts’ historian noted, “...We were hardly established in our position, such as it was, before the attack came, the enemy piling down in great numbers from the opposite slope and covering themselves partially under the hither bank of the little stream. They were received by a galling fire from the division....”

However, this state of affairs was soon rectified, Colonel Sweitzer, commanding brigade, reporting that, “...as there was no appearance of the enemy in front of the line formed by the Sixty-second Pennsylvania and Fourth Michigan, I directed them to change front to the left, and form lines in rear of the Thirty-second Massachusetts. During the execution of this order, the attack continued....”

This movement was noted by Lt. Reid of the 8th​ Georgia, “…On the left of our regiment, the bog turned to the left and along it was ranged the 9th Georgia, who were firing obliquely to their right with great effect at the men in our front... I chanced to look to the left. In the thin woods a reinforcing line of blue was marching. I could see only two colors, but I saw that the line reached far beyond each one of these. At about 70 yards their muskets were leveled, and the gleamed in the sun. I shall never forget how I was tied to gaze. A scythe of fire leaped forth, and the air all around me turned to hissing lead…”

Note the reference to the strength of the two regiments coming into line, more descriptive of the 62nd​ Pennsylvania and 4th​ Michigan than the relatively small 115th​ Pennsylvania and 8th​ New Jersey as has been suggested by some.

General Anderson had already instructed Captain Hillyer to refuse the 9th​ Georgia’s three left companies but quickly realized the potential danger if those reinforcing regiments decided to move against his left flank and immediately ordered the brigade to fall back. As reported by Colonel White, filing the brigade report, “…General [George T.] Anderson changed the front of the left wing of the Ninth Georgia Regiment…but soon found they could not hold the enemy in check. He then ordered the brigade to retire to the crest of the hill, in the edge of the timber, where the charge commenced. But a short time elapsed [my italics] before McLaws’ division came up on our left, when General Anderson ordered another advance, which was executed with spirit and loss to the enemy. In this charge, General Anderson was wounded....”

Captain Hillyer, 9th Georgia, recalled that, “...After McLaws Division came up on our left, our line thus reinforced, moved some distance to the front and down a declivity into a strip of meadow land, where a little brook ran parallel to our position. This little brook made a natural ditch some two or three feet deep, and in its meanderings with its grassy banks, made a fine natural rifle pit. We were quick to take advantage of the opportunity and occupied it.” The strip of meadow land probably refers to the grassy area in the sw corner of the Wheatfield previously fought over by the 11th Georgia against the 17th Maine…”.

This second charge, in support of Kershaw’s brigade (McLaws’ Division), was also noted by Maj. McDaniel, 11th​ Georgia, whose regiment had been actively engaged with the 17th​ Maine until Anderson had personally ordered him to join in the brigade’s retreat.

According to Maj. McDaniel, the initial, “… advance was made in good order, and, upon reaching the belt of woods in front, a vigorous fire was opened on the enemy, followed up by a vigorous charge, which dislodged them from the woods, the ravine, and a stone fence running diagonally with the line of battle. This formidable position was occupied by the Eleventh Georgia, and a galling fire opened upon the enemy’s front and flank, causing his line to recoil in confusion. At this juncture, Brigadier- General Anderson came in person…and ordered Colonel Little to withdraw the regiment to the crest of the hill, on account of a movement of the enemy in force upon the left flank of the brigade.”

To interpret the foregoing, I think the troops dislodged from the ravine were the 8th​ NJ and the troops he saw recoiling from the fence (running at an angle to his approach) were the left companies of the 17th​ Maine being refused to meet his attack. Also, the movement of the enemy in force upon the left flank of the brigade mentioned by Anderson could hardly have been anything other than a reference to the firepower of Tilton’s and Sweitzer’s brigades.

McDaniel, echoing Colonel White reported, “…After a short interval, a second advance was made to the stone fence [coincident no doubt with the arrival of Kershaw’s brigade on Stony Hill] but, after a furious conflict [with Caldwell’s 2nd​ Corp brigades], the failure of support on the right forced the brigade back a distance of 100 yards.”

Finally, according to McDaniel, the third advance, “…was made in connection with the entire line on that part of the field.…”
The start of this third advance involving the entire line was the one precipitated by Wofford’s brigade’s advance and occurred at approximately 6:55 PM.

So with all the documentation presenting a fairly cut and dried case for the second attack only occurring with the arrival of Kershaw’s brigade, why a second attack by Anderson’s brigade prior to the arrival of Kershaw’ brigade?

While not agreeing with the proposition, Jorgensen writes,”…The timing of the arrival of Barnes’ two brigades on Stony Hill has been difficult to determine because of the paucity of battle accounts dealing with their involvement in the first phase of the Wheatfield fight. They were in place either before or after Anderson’s first assault in the Wheatfield fight. The fact that there are no accounts from any of de Trobriand’s or Burling’s regiments that mention Tilton’s or Sweitzer’s men being present support the notion that they were not present during the opening action.”

In a prior post Tom Elmore made the same point, “…the left of the 32nd Massachusetts as first positioned would have been nearly upon the 110th Pennsylvania and 5th Michigan as I understand those two regiments to have been placed, and yet neither side mentions the presence of the other”.

Another point questions how Fifth Corp skirmishers could have been sent into the woods (presumably before becoming engaged) and not encounter any of Anderson’s troops unless, of course, the Georgians had already retreated 200 yards after fighting de Trobriand’s troops and been thrown back.

Major Rogers, 110th Pennsylvania, reported, “...The battle continued with a determination on both sides to conquer or die until 6 p.m., when the enemy in our front fell back, and the order to cease fire was given. This being done, I was ordered by a staff officer to fall back and give place to fresh troops, which was done....” These fresh troops were, of course, the men of Tilton’s brigade, 5th Corps and so answers the claim that they were unaware of the others presence. Also, as noted earlier, when the 8th​ New Jersey fell back, “…A brigade of the Fifth Corps came into line and the Eighth was relieved.”

But what if these fresh troops had just arrived and not taken part in the battle just concluded? An answer to that question may be found in a look at the number of effective muskets on each side and a comparison of losses inflicted. Could the 110th​ Pennsylvania, 5th​ Michigan and 8th​ New Jersey prevail over Anderson’s Georgians without the assistance of Tilton and Sweitzer?

Available muskets at start
and estimated losses

110th​ Pa. 136/45
5th​ Mi. 202/45
8th​ NJ 159/30
497/120

9th​ Ga.* 261/181
8th​ Ga. 276/100
11th​ Ga.** 138/ 65
675/346

* I estimate the 9th Georgia took about 45 casualties from artillery before getting to the woods and have reduced the 306 effectives at the start accordingly.

**As stated earlier, I believe the 11th​ Georgia (or at least the left wing of the 11th​ Georgia) was also involved in this combat but sustained most of its casualties fighting the 17th​ Maine. The 11th​ had 277 muskets at the start of the battle and probably lost no more than 65 of their 200 total loss fighting the 8th​ NJ. So, in line with my understanding of the 11th​ Georgia’s position vis-a-vis the 8th​ NJ, and for the purpose of this comparison, I have halved the strength of the 11th​ Georgia, i.e., to 138.

If, at the start of the contest the 9th​, 8th​ and 11th​ Georgia had 675 muskets in line, it’s hard to see how the three federal regiments with 497 muskets were not only able to able resist their attack but in doing so inflict three times as many casualties.
(Some have suggested that the 115th Pennsylvania (140/30) may have been moved out of Wheatfield to participate with the 8th New Jersey in this fight. This idea is attractive because it tends to help explain the apparent Federal success in defending the Stony Hill without the assistance of 5th Corp troops. Of course, there is no documentation whatever to support this idea and plenty to discredit it as demonstrated in earlier posts.)

I have included as attachments troop position maps to illustrate activity in Rose’s Woods and on Stony hill during the times discussed.


Jim
Jim, can you point me to the accounts that have the entire 118th PA facing west?
 

jameswoods

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Scott,

Good catch. In my chapter on 4:55 PM referring to Tilton's deployment, I have the following:

1. Colonel Tilton’s report included a sketch illustrating the deployment of his brigade. The sketch shows the 22nd Massachusetts on the left (connecting with Sweitzer’s brigade), next the 1st Michigan, and on the right the 118th Pennsylvania. The right wing of the 118th is shown bent back at a right angle. Not having enough room to deploy the 18th Massachusetts in line, Tilton kept it in reserve behind the 1st Michigan. To the 118th’s right and rear, Colonel Tilton sketched a battery (Bigelow’s). To the 118th’s right front, Tilton sketched a picture of Rose’s house. Tilton wrote, “...The Second Brigade was on our left, but there being no infantry upon our right, I made a crotchet by refusing the right wing of my right battalion....”

See attached for corrected maps.

Jim
 

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lelliott19

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Perhaps someone who is familiar with the 3rd and 5th Michigan regiments can provide the identity of G. W. W.?
Since he refers the 5th MI as "we" and "our" I figure the writer is a member of the 5th MI. Couldn't stand not knowing, so had to go looking for possibilities.

Pvt Gilbert W. Worcester (A/5thMI) age 26; Oakland County
Lieut/Adjt. George W Waldron (C, F&S/5thMI) age 29; Saginaw County
Pvt. George W White (E/5thMI) age 22; St. Clair County
Capt. George W. Wilson (G/5thMI) age 28; St. Clair County
Pvt. George W. Wells (I/5thMI) age 18; Livingston County

I think it's pretty likely the account that appeared in the Detroit Advertiser and Tribune of July 23, 1863 was written by George W. Waldron who was Lieutenant and Adjutant. But he enlisted as a Pvt and I don't know when he was promoted to Adjutant. Anyone have access to Michigan records?
1610515728902.png
 

Tom Elmore

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Since he refers the 5th MI as "we" and "our" I figure the writer is a member of the 5th MI. Couldn't stand not knowing, so had to go looking for possibilities.

Pvt Gilbert W. Worcester (A/5thMI) age 26; Oakland County
Lieut/Adjt. George W Waldron (C, F&S/5thMI) age 29; Saginaw County
Pvt. George W White (E/5thMI) age 22; St. Clair County
Capt. George W. Wilson (G/5thMI) age 28; St. Clair County
Pvt. George W. Wells (I/5thMI) age 18; Livingston County

I think it's pretty likely the account that appeared in the Detroit Advertiser and Tribune of July 23, 1863 was written by George W. Waldron who was Lieutenant and Adjutant. But he enlisted as a Pvt and I don't know when he was promoted to Adjutant. Anyone have access to Michigan records?
View attachment 387534
Good work! Waldron was at Gettysburg and became 1st Lieutenant/Adjutant on January 25, 1863 according to the 5th Michigan records provided by @major bill

 

scotth

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Good work! Waldron was at Gettysburg and became 1st Lieutenant/Adjutant on January 25, 1863 according to the 5th Michigan records provided by @major bill

love the camaraderie and the real assistance and work that is evident on this forum, especially evident on this thread, echoing Gettysburg Guide #154
 

dennmorr

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Scott,

Good catch. In my chapter on 4:55 PM referring to Tilton's deployment, I have the following:

1. Colonel Tilton’s report included a sketch illustrating the deployment of his brigade. The sketch shows the 22nd Massachusetts on the left (connecting with Sweitzer’s brigade), next the 1st Michigan, and on the right the 118th Pennsylvania. The right wing of the 118th is shown bent back at a right angle. Not having enough room to deploy the 18th Massachusetts in line, Tilton kept it in reserve behind the 1st Michigan. To the 118th’s right and rear, Colonel Tilton sketched a battery (Bigelow’s). To the 118th’s right front, Tilton sketched a picture of Rose’s house. Tilton wrote, “...The Second Brigade was on our left, but there being no infantry upon our right, I made a crotchet by refusing the right wing of my right battalion....”

See attached for corrected maps.

Jim
Jim,
I am interested in your positioning of Ward's Brigade in the attached maps. I had always assumed their final position was parallel to Houck's ridge before they left the scene.
 

jameswoods

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Both Captains Winslow and Smith reported on the direction Ward's retreating regiments:

Captain Winslow reported, "...Having been just directed by General Birney, through an aide, to closely watch the movements and look for a route upon which I might withdraw in case it became necessary, I rode through the woods on my left, perhaps 200 yards in width, and found our line formed perpendicular to my own, instead of parallel, as I had supposed, facing from me and closely pressed by the enemy. This line soon fell back irregularly, but slowly, passing in front of and masking my guns.”

Captain Smith, 4th New York, states in his “A Famous Battery” that, “…After the ridge was under control of the Confederate infantry, the Federal infantry, which had formed the defense to this part of the line, instead of retiring in the direction of Little Round Top, naturally fell back into the woods occupied by the balance of Ward’s brigade.”

Colonel Egan, 40th New York, had been fighting on the left of Ward's brigade in the valley when his attempt to rescue Smith's abandoned three guns proved futile. He reported, "...discovering that they had gained ground upon my right, which threatened a flank movement, the regiments on my right having fallen to the rear and exposed us to a crossfire, I was compelled to fall back...and made a stand near the position occupied by Captain Winslow's battery...".

Jim
 

dennmorr

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Thanks Jim!
I am rethinking this. Do you have maps that center on that evolution? (That may be a bit off topic on this thread- but this might be a good topic for a new one)
 

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