Turning the Union Right Flank on Culp’s Hill on July 2

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
After reviewing the following sources, the narrative appears to be fairly consistent that the small 23rd Virginia, assisted by the left companies of the 1st Maryland Battalion, turned the right of the 137th New York posted in the breastworks, and (with or without help) soon drove the 137th New York back toward the extension built previously (as shown on the attached map).

The second, or fall-back, position of the 71st Pennsylvania in Spangler's lane also appears rather clear. The real mystery and essential question posed to readers is the first position of the 71st Pennsylvania, when it was supporting the 137th New York. It was not in the works, because the 37th Virginia encountered no opposition there. It also does not appear to have connected (at right angles) with the right of the 137th. Therefore, to me, the only plausible solution is along the wall. First, the wall was initially an easy path to follow, leading near the right of the 137th. Second, the 71st would be facing toward the enemy and its skirmishers sent forward would be gobbled up by the advancing 37th Virginia, which would soon make an appearance directly in front of the 71st and subsequently could threaten its right and rear as described by Col. R. Penn Smith. Finally, the 71st could quickly fall back to Spangler’s lane without further loss, using the wall as a guide.

Source Accounts:

The 71st Pa. Vols. reported to Captain Huston [Horton?], who placed the regiment at the works on right of the [137th] New York Vols. It remained in that position but a few minutes, but moved off without orders from General Greene. (John B. Bachelder, Statement of Capt. Charles P. Horton, General Greene’s A. A. [Assistant Adjutant] General, Bachelder Papers, III:1989)

Having arrived on the ground, I could find no general to report to who had command of any one portion of the troops. An adjutant-general directed me to proceed to the front, assuring me that all was safe on either flank. Arriving at the front I became engaged with the enemy on my front. At the same time he attacked me on my right and rear. I immediately ordered my command to retire to the road in my rear, when I returned to camp against orders. I lost 3 officers and 11 enlisted men. (Official Report of Col. R. Penn Smith, 71st Pennsylvania) [Commentary: As Assistant Adjutant General, Capt. Charles P. Horton was a key staff officer under Brig. Gen. Greene. Note that, according to Smith, Horton did not personally place the 71st into position. The road in his rear was likely Spangler's lane – see Col. Fowler’s comment below. The three officers and most, if not all, of the 11 enlisted men were captured while deploying as skirmishers.]

On reaching the [Baltimore] Pike was met by a staff officer, representing himself as coming from General Greene, with orders to advance over the rugged grounds towards Rock Creek. Skirmishers were thrown out, and the regiment advanced cautiously, when suddenly a shot disclosed the fact that it was in the presence of a strong force of the enemy. Lieutenants [Byron C.] Davis [Company F] and [Stiles H.] Boughton [Company I], and Adjutant Hutchinson, in charge of the skirmishers, 19 in number, fell into the enemy’s hands. The command was at once withdrawn to a position parallel to the pike, and dispositions made to meet an attack. But the enemy failing to advance, and believing that the order which had been received was unauthorized by the officer from whom it purported to come, Colonel Smith led his men back to the ground which he had vacated. (History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, by Samuel P. Bates, vol. 2, p. 797) [Commentary: The command was probably withdrawn to Spangler's lane. The remark questioning Horton’s authority appears to be a gratuitous excuse, but it is conceded that the 71st was on unfamiliar ground and directed by an unknown staff officer who apparently failed to provide specific instructions or personal guidance.]

At this time the California Regiment, Colonel Smith, reported to assist me. He was ordered into position on the right of Ireland’s regiment. They soon fell back and were withdrawn – the commanding officer saying that he had received orders from his commanding general to retire – leaving our right in a very critical position. (Official Report of Brig. Gen. George S. Greene) [Commentary: There is no corroborating evidence that Col. Smith received orders to retire from either Brig. Gen. Webb or Maj. Gen. Hancock.]

A regiment from Howard’s corps [actually 71st Pennsylvania from Hancock’s corps] was placed on Ireland’s right. This regiment, without specially being attacked, was marched to the rear by its colonel, when an attack upon it was imminently probable, much to the disgust of his men, it is reported. (George S. Greene, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, III:317)

Baker’s [71st] Pennsylvania regiment formed on our right and remained a short time, but left without my knowledge. (Col. Edward Fowler, 14th Brooklyn, Bachelder Papers, III:1638)

The heroic [Lt. Col. Simeon T.] Walton approached [a staff? officer in the 1st Maryland Battalion] and … [said] “Well, I shan’t wait for orders any longer, but will charge the works if I lose every man in my regiment. Take the responsibility and charge with your left at the same time.” … [We] dashed at the breastworks, cleared them in a moment … and instantly wheeling to the right opened a destructive enfilading fire upon the enemy who still remained in the breastworks, which compelled them to fall back.” (Civil War Memoirs of Washington Hands, 1st Maryland, Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville) [Commentary: While the 1st Maryland Battalion was pinned down for several minutes, the 50 or so men comprising the 23rd Virginia at that time came up and joined their left.]

Seeing that a portion of the [works] was not occupied in force, my regiment charged it and scattered the force behind it, and then filed up to the right until it reached the portion which was at right angles to the part first captured. Forming in line on the flank and almost in rear of the enemy in possession, here we soon succeeded in driving them off, killing, wounding and capturing a goodly number. (Lt. Col. Simeon T. Walton, 23rd Virginia, Supplement to the Official Records.)

About 7:30 p.m. the enemy advanced on our right flank. At this time I ordered Company A, the right-flank company, to form at right angles to the breastworks, and check the advance of the enemy, and they did for some time, but, being sorely pressed, they fell back a short distance to a better position. (Official Report of Col. David Ireland, 137th New York)

After crossing the works we attempted to form right angles, when looking back over the route we came I saw a solid line of Yankees. “Let’s charge them,” I said to Major Clint Wood. “Why, they are our men,” he said, and being nearly night it was hard to tell … further investigation assured us they were Yankees and Wood gave the order to fire. They retreated. We pursued them on a swift run. (The War Story of a Confederate Soldier Boy, by Oliver Taylor, account of George C. Pile, Company A, 37th Virginia, box 14, item 9, MS Division Conf. Collection, Tenn. State Library and Archives, Brake Collection, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, Carlisle, PA) [Commentary: The “solid line of Yankees” may refer to the 71st Pennsylvania rather than the 137th New York, which was spread out in a thin line.]
 

Attachments

Last edited:

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
The summit may be a good position, but it raises questions:

1. Why would the regiment face east, while the heavy firing was occurring off their left flank?
2. Many large boulders in that vicinity would either disrupt Smith's line, or else block his field of fire, yet no mention of them.
3. Smith's front was initially quiet, but he says he first engaged the enemy in his front.
4. Smith then said he was attacked on his right and rear, which makes absolutely no sense. Maybe left and rear in that position.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

infomanpa

Sergeant Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Location
Pennsylvania
The summit may be a good position, but it raises questions:

1. Why would the regiment face east, while the heavy firing was occurring off their left flank?
2. Many large boulders in that vicinity would either disrupt Smith's line, or else block his field of fire, yet no mention of them.
3. Smith's front was initially quiet, but he says he first engaged the enemy in his front.
4. Smith then said he was attacked on his right and rear, which makes absolutely no sense. Maybe left and rear in that position.
Good points to think about. Besides the advantageous high ground where I marked it, I like that the 71st would have been more closely connected to the 137th. Perhaps their line would have been more angled toward the firing? Would the boulder line really have affected the line of fire? The crest of ridge appears to be about 100 feet to the rear of the boulder line and it would also appear that the men would have been a few feet higher than the boulders. Regarding the lack of reporting these rocks, I would think that it would have been likely that they wouldn't have seen them in the darkening skies. Anyway, another place to check out on my next field trip!

Here is a picture from east of the boulder line:
Capture.JPG
 

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
Thanks! My thoughts exactly. Angling the 71st Pennsylvania somewhere off the right of the 137th New York would incorporate most of the accounts. I am troubled that the prominent stone wall would not be mentioned by participants, so am compelled to discard my initial assessment. But given the extant accounts of Cols. Walton and Ireland, clearly the left of the 71st Pennsylvania was not anchored to the far right of the 137th New York in the trenches.
 

jameswoods

Private
Joined
Jul 29, 2015
Tom,

It was interesting to compare Col. Warren’s report (taken from the Supplement to the ORs) to General Steuart’s synopsis of Warren’s report found in the ORs. Significantly, Steuart neglected to include Warren’s explicit reference to reforming on the southern side of the stone wall after receiving the famous bayonet attack from the 137th New York.

Consequently, the following is my understanding of the sequence of events occurring on lower Culp’s Hill and the significance of which side of the stone wall the 10th Virginia occupied during the hours between 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM, July 2

To begin:

The small 23rd Virginia, moving up from Rock Creek, joined the 1st Maryland on its left and in doing so, succeeded in driving the 137th’s Company A out of the works previously occupied by McDougall’s brigade. Company A reformed at a second position between those works and the stone wall and was then relieved by the 71st Pennsylvania (the California Regiment) which took a position perpendicular to the 137th New York’s line but, critically, did not physically connect with it. (As you have noted, had the 71st Pennsylvania taken position behind the stone wall, Colonel Smith would not have failed to mention it.) The 71st’s left flank faced the works occupied by the 23rd Virginia which, alerted to its presence by the capture of their skirmishers, opened fire. At the same time, the 37th and 10th Virginia coming up on the 23rd’s left pitched in, taking the 71st in front and rear. However, instead of coming in from the northeast as shown on your map, I believe these two Virginia regiments came into the fight from the southeast (see attached).

(Steuart’s brigade attacked in an en echelon manner due to its being on the extreme left of the Division’s sweeping arc of an advance. Steuart reported that, “The right wing of the brigade crossed the creek considerably in advance of the center and left wing, owing to the fact that the order to move by a right -wheel was not immediately understood on the left.”)

Thoroughly rattled at the prospect of being caught up in another Chancellorsville-like debacle and fearful that the troops he had been sent to support would desert him if he stayed, Colonel Smith, 71st Pennsylvania, decided to get out while he could. (Smith thought he was relieving 11th Corp, troops). Smith acknowledged in his report that after retiring to the road he then, “...returned to camp against orders.”

Colonel Ireland, 137th New York, reported that after the 71st Pennsylvania fell back uncovering his right, the 137th was, “...fired upon heavily from three sides-from the front of the works, from the right, and from a stone wall in our rear. Here we lost severely in killed and wounded. At this time I ordered the regiment back to the line of works of the Third Brigade, and formed line on the prolongation of the works....” [the prolongation referred to has often been referred to as a “traverse”. Before the men of Kane’s brigade (on Greene’s right) decided to continue the construction of breastworks across the hollow they occupied, Greene had traced out the course of the line of works for his brigade which brought them back at almost a right angle from where Kane’s position started. The exact location of this, as it turned out, extremely important appendage/prolongation/traverse is not now known for certain, as all traces of it has disappeared. Some have speculated that it extended to and a short distance beyond the rock on which the 14th Brooklyn’s tablet is placed, about fifty yards down from General Geary’s monument.

Ireland also reported that “...Captain Gregg, in command of a small squad of men, charged with the bayonet the enemy that were harassing us most, and fell, mortally wounded, leading and cheering his men.” The enemy referred to was the 10th Virginia which had, with the 37th Virginia on its right, continued its advance past the unoccupied breastworks to attack the 137th. According to Col. Warren, 10th Virginia, his command had moved by the flank along the stone wall on its north side when he was, “…compelled to change front to the rear and perpendicular to the wall, in which position I received a bayonet charge made by one of the enemy’s regiments which suddenly emerged from the woods to my left and front…”

Witnessing the 137th New York’s sudden and rapid change of position and fearing it would open his right flank to the enemy, Colonel Barnum, 149th New York, reported, “...At about 8 p.m. the enemy gained a hill on the right flank of our position. Seeing the regiment on my right give way, I attempted to change the front of the three right companies to resist him. The order was understood by the line officers for the regiment to fall back, which it proceeded to do in good order, but was brought to the right-about before getting 3 rods away, and again put in the trenches.…”

Left unmentioned by Colonel Barnum was that the 149th was apparently brought back to the breastworks through the efforts of a 1st Corps officer on the staff of General Cutler. General Cutler reported that Captain Kellog was quite active and credited him with, “...moving and placing re-enforcements to the right on the night of the 2d, when the enemy were making strenuous efforts to turn our right flank, and for having cut down with a saber a cowardly field officer of another corps who was endeavoring to march his men out of the trenches, and for keeping the men in their position.”

Colonel Dawes, 6th Wisconsin, observed the incident and recalled seeing Captain Kellog, “...driving back in the night on Culp’s Hill a Col. whom, he would probably have shot, if he had persisted in running away.” Possibly alluding to this particular dereliction, Colonel Barnum reported that, “...With a single exception among the officers, and but very few among the men, all performed their duty to my entire satisfaction...The exceptions I have noted, and the delinquents will be properly disciplined.”

This incident serves to confirm that the 6th Wisconsin was in the immediate vicinity at the time the 149th fell back and further fixes the position of both the 6th Wisconsin and 14th Brooklyn at this time. These two regiments had been dispatched to the right by General Greene as support for that wing, Greene writing, “...As soon as I received orders to occupy the entrenchments, I applied to Wadsworth and received two regiments, which were placed in rear of my right, behind the points b and d, but sufficiently in the rear to support any part of the line…As soon as Ireland’s movement was seen-or, rather, heard, for it was dark-I brought up the reserve, which checked any further advance of the enemy on the right.” Greene’s Battles and Leaders sketch of the “Breastworks At Culp’s Hill” identified the traverse as stretching between points b and d. (attached)

According to Colonel Dawes, 6th Wisconsin, his regiment, “…received no fire until we neared the breastworks, when the enemy who had possession of them, lying on the lower side, and who were completely surprised at our sudden arrival, rose up and fired a volley at us, and immediately retreated down the hill [into Pardee Field]. This remarkable encounter did not last one minute. We lost two men, killed-both burned with the powder of the guns fired at them. The darkness and the suddenness of our arrival caused the enemy to fire wildly. We had recaptured the breastworks on our front, and the Fourteenth Brooklyn, which came in on our right, also got possession of the works. We remained here until midnight....” In a letter to Bachelder, Dawes said that some of the Confederates evicted from the “breastworks” were from the 10th Virginia. [Also note, “enemy lying on the lower side”, i.e., the southern side of the stonewall]

Colonel Warren had reported that the 10th Virginia was north of the stone wall when the regiment turned back the 137th New York’s bayonet charge but, “….thinking he [the enemy] was in force in that direction. I changed my position to the south side of the stone wall facing west,” [my italics]

Also, Colonel Dawes’ use of the term “breastworks” is misleading. Dawes apparently believed that the stone wall wrested from the 10th Virginia was part of the breastworks constructed by the 12th Corps (which were actually farther east and still occupied by the Confederates). Dawes was also incorrect in stating that the 14th Brooklyn occupied a portion of the stone wall on the 6th Wisconsin’s right. The 14th had instead moved back toward the 137th New York’s position.

Concerning their part in the action, Colonel Fowler, 14th Brooklyn, wrote, “...On arriving on the right, we received a fire from inside of our lines, and, it then being quite dark I was placed in a trying position to determine if we were being fired on by our friends, or if the enemy had penetrated inside of our line. I formed the Regiment facing the fire, and sent out a scout, (Cox of I Co.), to reconnoiter, who returned and reported it to be the 10th Virginia and, as their fire continued, I directed a volley to be fired into them, which at once silenced them.”

Colonel Fowler, 14th Brooklyn, wrote that after seeing the 71st Pennsylvania “advancing on his right and front” (actually retiring) and having the 14th fire a volley in the general direction of the 10th Virginia, he then, “...advanced the 14th up to the rifle pits to relieve a regiment said to be out of ammunition, and on reaching the pits, I found that there were already two lines of battle there....” It is more than likely that the two lines of battle seen by Fowler supporting the 137th New York were the ones just drawn up by the 61st Ohio and 157th New York (these two regiments would later move past the 137th New York and blunder into the Confederate occupied works). The “rifle pits” referred to was, most likely, the traverse occupied by the 137th at this time.

Finding that the 137th New York had adequate support (the two lines he had seen there), Colonel Fowler returned the 14th Brooklyn briefly to the brigade line on the upper hill (no sooner having arrived there, he was sent back again to relieve the 137th New York where they remained until shortly after sunrise).

Having received word that the breastworks had been recaptured (probably by Fowler), the 61st Ohio and 157th New York moved out from behind the 137th New York and entered into the ground between the stone wall and the breastworks which were still in Confederate hands. Unfortunately for these two hapless regiments, they were caught between two fires; the Confederates occupying the breastworks opened up on them only to have the 6th Wisconsin to their right rear behind the stone wall answer in kind.

Caught in a crossfire and retreating as fast as possible, the 61st Ohio and 157th New York were gone only minutes in time before the 29th Pennsylvania, Kane’s brigade, 12th Corps, attempted to reoccupy the very same breastworks. According to General Kane, “...On entering the wood, within 200 paces of our breastworks, we were met by a sharp fire, which we supposed to come from the First Brigade, misled by the darkness. The men were, therefore, ordered not to reply, but withdrawn to the turnpike....”

Colonel Rickards, 29th Pennsylvania, reported that his regiment was in the advance and were, “…fired on by a heavy force from behind a stone wall, at a distance of 25 paces, killing Lieutenant Harvey, Company K, and 3 men, and wounding 10 men....” [my italics] Apparently, the 10th Virginia had, instead of falling back into the captured breastworks, reformed on the northern side of the wall as an extension of General Steuart’s brigade line after retreating from the 6th Wisconsin’s surprise assault.

Equally unwilling to accept the idea that the entrenchments were occupied by the enemy, Rickards reported that he, “...about-faced the regiment, and marched back about 100 yards; halted the regiment, and then rode back to the wall, and called to those behind it, telling them who I was, and was answered by a heavy discharge of musketry. I returned to my regiment, and found an order directing me to march my regiment to the pike, where I found the other two regiments of the brigade....”

General Steuart was apparently unsure whether the report of an incursion on his left (the 29th] Pennsylvania’s) was a separate affair or part of the intrusion on his center by the 157th New York and 61st Ohio, which may explain why Steuart used the phrase “at least two” in his report to describe the number of Federal regiments probing his line on the night of the 2nd.

All this occurring in black dark with very little skyline observable through the trees made it difficult for the participants to know exactly where they were except in relation to two distinct structures; the breastworks and the stone wall. However, the added information regarding the 10th Virginia‘s position at the stone wall during the fighting does shed some additional light on an admittedly confusing sequence of events.
 

Attachments

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
It's instructive and helpful to have different interpretations. I believe we are now in fair agreement with the advanced position of the 71st and the sequence of events involving the 23rd Virginia pushing back Company A of the 137th New York. I surmise that when the men of the 137th New York subsequently fell back (in no particular order), it initiated a temporary panic in the right companies of the 149th New York, and it suggests that at least a portion of the 137th did not halt at the extension when falling back. It also opens the door to direct involvement by the 6th Wisconsin, which otherwise should have been mainly supporting the 137th, one would think, although being on higher ground was susceptible to Confederate small-arms fire that overshot the 137th. However, I would consider any Confederates who approached close could be driven back east toward the captured works as well as south or southeast toward the stone wall. I believe we agree on the general position of the 6th Wisconsin, but now better appreciate the Capt. John A. Kellogg connection.

I seem to be missing the source on Fowler moving up to the "rifle pits" and finding them already occupied by "two lines of battle." Would you mind sharing that source? Tying in the 61st Ohio and 157th New York there is an interesting conjecture. But if I recall correctly, the one good source that I know of from the 157th does not describe an initial position being taken behind friendly troops.

While Greene's aide, Lt. John G. Cantine, was leading the 14th Brooklyn forward into position (presumably in a column), he and Col. Fowler were nearly taken prisoner (per Fowler in The Bachelder Papers, 1:549). Fowler stated that at that time there were no [friendly] troops in his front, "nothing but the enemy." That tells me that the 14th Brooklyn was moving to the right of the 137th New York, beyond the extension. After driving off the 10th Virginia, it would then appear that the 14th Brooklyn returned and formed on the right of the 6th Wisconsin. Sources fairly concur that the 137th New York was relieved around 10 p.m., about the time Cobham/Kane's brigade came up following their ambush in Spangler's lane.
 

infomanpa

Sergeant Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Location
Pennsylvania
Tom,

It was interesting to compare Col. Warren’s report (taken from the Supplement to the ORs) to General Steuart’s synopsis of Warren’s report found in the ORs. Significantly, Steuart neglected to include Warren’s explicit reference to reforming on the southern side of the stone wall after receiving the famous bayonet attack from the 137th New York.

Consequently, the following is my understanding of the sequence of events occurring on lower Culp’s Hill and the significance of which side of the stone wall the 10th Virginia occupied during the hours between 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM, July 2

To begin:

The small 23rd Virginia, moving up from Rock Creek, joined the 1st Maryland on its left and in doing so, succeeded in driving the 137th’s Company A out of the works previously occupied by McDougall’s brigade. Company A reformed at a second position between those works and the stone wall and was then relieved by the 71st Pennsylvania (the California Regiment) which took a position perpendicular to the 137th New York’s line but, critically, did not physically connect with it. (As you have noted, had the 71st Pennsylvania taken position behind the stone wall, Colonel Smith would not have failed to mention it.) The 71st’s left flank faced the works occupied by the 23rd Virginia which, alerted to its presence by the capture of their skirmishers, opened fire. At the same time, the 37th and 10th Virginia coming up on the 23rd’s left pitched in, taking the 71st in front and rear. However, instead of coming in from the northeast as shown on your map, I believe these two Virginia regiments came into the fight from the southeast (see attached).
I like where you indicated the location of the 71st PA on your map. It fits my belief that it was on the crest of a ridge.
 

jameswoods

Private
Joined
Jul 29, 2015
Tom.

My notes say I got that reference from the History of the Fighting Fourteenth by C. V Tevis and D. R. Marquis, page 138. Unfortunately, I no longer have a copy in my possession but that should be where the reference to the "rifle pits" and "two lines" is to be found. Another reference to the 14th's move to support the 137th New York after firing in the direction of the 10th Virginia is in the Bachelder Papers, Vol. 3, 1638 "...we were ordered into the entrenchments to relieve Col. Ireland."

I think Dawes, 6th Wisconsin, may have been under the impression that the 14th took a position on his right after the 6th drove the 10th Virginia off, but I don't think the evidence is there to support him on this. Fowler makes no mention of doing anything more than loosing a volley in the general direction of the 10th Virginia before moving off to relieve the 137th New York.

Also, if the 6th Wisconsin is in possession of the stone wall close to if not at the juncture of Spangle's lane (following their seizing it from the 10th Virginia), the 29th Pennsylvania's movement up that lane later should have been uncontested, suggesting the ambush occurred elsewhere..
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
By the way, when Col. Ireland speaks of being fired upon by Confederates at the stone wall, I imagine he is referring to his position within the extension. Because looking over the elevation contours, as confirmed by Google Earth measurements, nearly his entire position east of there in the trenches (built by Cobham and McDougall) cannot be seen from anywhere along the stone wall, from what I can tell.
 
Last edited:

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
Interpreting Dawes' account of advancing to the stone wall (vice breastworks) is certainly plausible, but another scenario may be introduced for consideration. If the 137th New York was indeed temporarily routed and did not immediately occupy the traverse (also known as the extension) in significant numbers, but the pursuing Confederates did (or at least came up close to them), one can imagine that Dawes' charge may refer to driving them back from the traverse eastward or southeastward down into the adjacent lower ground, not necessarily southward into Pardee field. Then it seems likelier that the 37th Virginia was mainly involved rather than the 10th Virginia. This scenario does not involve the stone wall and having to weave a complicated explanation that incorporates the actions of the 10th Virginia and the accounts of the 14th Brooklyn, which includes identifying a new site for the ambush of the 29th Pennsylvania (which I recall having read about). It accepts Dawes' claim that the 14th Brooklyn came up on his right, just not at the stone wall.
 

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
Restating the question: Did the 137th New York fall back and immediately occupy the traverse/extension of the works?

The answer appears to be yes and no, depending on the source:

Yes: [The enemy] made a strong attack on my front and right, forcing back the [137th] to the traverse on the right, where they reformed in good order and maintained their position. (Address of Brig. Gen. George S. Greene, New York at Gettysburg, 1:864, July 3, 1893)

Yes?: At this time I ordered the regiment back to the line of works … and formed on the prolongation of those works, and there held the enemy in check until relieved by the Fourteenth New York … and [Kane’s] brigade. (Official Report of Col. David Ireland, 137th New York)

No: A murderous fire was opened on us, and our regiment was ordered to fall back to the left. Owing to the darkness and the nature of the ground, considerable confusion ensued in executing this movement, but as soon as beyond the reach of the fire in their rear the men rallied, charged back with a cheer, drove out the rebels, and resumed their position in the trenches, which they held until relieved by Gen. Kane’s brigade. (July 6 letter from Lt. Samuel B. Wheelock, commanding Company I and acting Adjutant, 137th New York, Civil War Newspaper Clippings, New York Military Museum, http://www.dmna.state.ny.us/historic/reghist/civil/infantry/137thInf/137thInfCWN.htm) [commentary: Kane's brigade relieved the 137th in the traverse/extension of the works. To charge and resume their position in this trench implies they began west of it.]

No?: At about 8 p.m. the enemy gained a hill on the right flank of our position. Seeing the regiment on our right give way, I attempted to change the front of the three right companies to resist him. (Official report of Col. H. A. Barnum, 149th New York) [commentary: As it was dark, Barnum would not "see" the regiment on his right (137th) give way until it was probably falling back quite close to him. Or to put it another way: If the 137th stopped at the traverse/extension on his immediate right, there should have been no need for Barnum to change the front of his three right companies.]

For the sake of argument, if we assume no, many pieces of this puzzle then appear to fall rather neatly into place:

The 6th Wisconsin, joined by the 14th Brooklyn on their right constituted the reserve described by Brig. Gen. Greene in rear of the traverse/extension. [from post #6 above.]

"As soon as Ireland’s movement was seen – or rather, heard, for it was dark – I brought up the reserve [which Greene had previously identified as two regiments from Wadsworth], which checked the enemy on the right." (George S. Greene, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, vol. III:317) [commentary: The two regiments would be the 6th Wisconsin and 14th Brooklyn. Greene also admits that he did not see Ireland's retrograde movement.]

The 6th Wisconsin advances toward the traverse/extension and drives back the enemy, which had been pursuing the 137th New York. [as suggested in post #11]

Meanwhile, Lt. Cantine leads the 14th Brooklyn around to the right and dealt with the Confederates posted near the west end of the stone wall. [per the reference in post #7]

The 137th New York returns to the traverse/extension per Lt. Samuel B. Wheelock of the 137th New York. At this time, Wheelock wrote: "Captain [Joseph H.] Gregg, of Company I, fell mortally wounded while bravely leading his men back to the trenches." [commentary: Gregg initiated a bayonet charge upon the 10th Virginia, which essentially ended the fighting on this night.]

The 14th Brooklyn resumes position behind and in support of the 137th New York (which occupies the traverse/extension) until the arrival of Kane's brigade around 10 p.m. The 6th Wisconsin is sent northward to reinforce the right wing of the 102nd New York. (Official Report of Capt. Lewis R. Stegman, 102nd New York)
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
The Union flanks, both right on Culps Hill and, and left on LRT, but, to me, seem to have been the results of independent action by men on the spor, rather than careful planning by higher commands and, as a result were little noted byb more senior commanders at the time.
 

jameswoods

Private
Joined
Jul 29, 2015
Tom,

A credible hypothesis but it does beg some additional questions.

If the 137th NY was pushed back from the traverse and the 6th Wisconsin, in turn, saved the day by forcing the 10th Virginia back over it (admittedly a real breastwork, not a stone wall mistaken for one as I have suggested) and beyond approximately 100 yards back to the stone wall,
why would it have been necessary for Captain Gregg to launch a desperate bayonet attack at this point? To do so would require him
and his company to either go over or around the traverse. And why a bayonet charge? With the immediate threat taken care
of by the 6th Wisconsin, Captain Gregg and his men should have had time to reload before charging down at the 10th Virginia.
Also, Colonel Dawes, 6th Wisconsin, mentioned the 14th Brooklyn helping out on his right, but doesn't mention a bayonet attack
(which would be understandable if it had occurred at an earlier time before the 6th's involvement). And, according to Colonel
Warren,10th Virginia, he repelled a bayonet charge at the stone wall.

A bayonet attack would also seem to makes more sense if undertaken to give the regiment time to establish themselves at the
traverse and would explain the choice of cold steel (the 137th New Yorkers being temporarily out of ammunition, having just
discharged their weapons without time to reload).

Also, according to Lt. Wheelock, the rebels had "...succeeded in turning our right flank and gained a position behind a stout wall
directly in our rear, and not more than a hundred yards distant. A murderous fire was opened upon us, and our regiment was ordered
to fall back to the left. Owing to the darkness and the nature of the ground, considerable confusion ensued in executing this
movement; but as soon as beyond the reach of the fire in their rear the men rallied, charged back with a cheer, drove out the rebels,
and resumed their position in the trenches, which they held until relieved by Gen. Kane's brigade...Capt. Gregg, of Co. I, fell mortally
wounded while bravely leading his men back to the trenches."

The above could just as well be interpreted as confirming that the rebels (10th Virginia) upon establishing themselves at the stone
wall stayed there, continuing to fire in the direction of the 137th NY while the New Yorkers "got beyond the reach of their fire" [a
short distance behind the traverse] "charged back with a cheer" [to the traverse] "drove out the rebels" [suppressed their fire] "and
resumed their position in the trenches" [the traverse was in effect, an extension of Greene's breastworks and were part of the
breastworks from which they had just been driven].

The timing and approximate location of Capt. Gregg's impromptu bayonet charge, "while bravely leading his men back to the
trenches" are key elements in sorting out this sequence of events; before or after the 6th Wisconsin's advance? At the traverse
or at the stone wall?







.
 

lelliott19

Brigadier General
Moderator
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
I got that reference from the History of the Fighting Fourteenth by C. V Tevis and D. R. Marquis, page 138. Unfortunately, I no longer have a copy in my possession but that should be where the reference to the "rifle pits" and "two lines" is to be found.
No problem. Here's a link to the book for those participating in this discussion:
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
It is admittedly impossible to readily reconcile all of the existing accounts on both sides. Some questions certainly arise with the following rough timeline, but it is my current hypothesis of how the battle unfolded:

-1945. 1 MD BN is stopped in front of the works by 137 NY. 23 VA arrives and joins the left of 1 MD BN.

-1950. 23 VA charges over the works, attacks right flank (Company A) of 137 NY, and almost immediately is joined by the three left companies (B, E and G) of 1 MD BN. Meanwhile 37 VA arrives at the works and pressures 71 PA in their front and right front, with 10 VA still moving up toward the works.

-1955. 71 PA driven back to Spangler Lane (and will soon depart). The right of 137 NY comes under increasing pressure from 23 VA and three companies of 1 MD BN, but elements of the 37 VA moving up to the south summit of Culp's Hill will decisively tip the scales in the Confederates' favor.

-2000 to 2010. 137 NY collapses and falls back to and then beyond (west of) the traverse, pursued by some of the more aggressive soldiers of 23 VA, three companies of 1 MD BN, but particularly the 37 VA, some of whom I conjecture proceed down the stone wall to move the 137 NY along by enfilading the traverse. The three right companies of the 149 NY fall back a short distance as well. About this time, members of the 37 VA also repulse the remnant of 157 NY to the west and capture its flag. The remaining companies of 1 MD BN, relieved of the pressure from 137 NY, move up and occupy the works.

-2020. 6 WI charges to the traverse, pushing back the more aggressive Confederates of 37 VA, 23 VA and 1 MD BN, who rejoin the rest of their respective commands near the southern summit behind them. Note this scenario does not involve the 10th Virginia at all, which I suppose has halted upon reaching the stone wall beyond where they went over the works. A relative lull in the fighting ensues. Jones' brigade to the north begins to slowly fall back toward Rock Creek, ending his fight for the night.

-2030. 10 VA now moves cautiously westward along the north side of the stone wall.

-2038. Moonrise.

-2050. 29 PA of Kane/Cobham marches north along Spangler Lane and is ambushed by 10 VA. 14 Brooklyn, approaching from the west, halts and sends two scouts to investigate the source of the firing - one is captured, the other reports their opponent is 10 VA.

-2055. Alerted, 10 VA changes front to the rear, into a position perpendicular to the stone wall facing generally westward, but still on the north side of the stone wall.

-2100-2010. 10 VA fends off an attack by the 14th Brooklyn to their left front. 137 NY relieves 6 WI in the traverse and a bayonet charge led by Captain Gregg of the 137 NY against the immediate front of 10 VA is repulsed. Kane's brigade is regrouping along the Baltimore Pike.

-2120. 10 VA moves to the south side of the stone wall, still perpendicular to the wall, but is not actively engaged. 6 WI moves off to join the right wing of 102 NY further north in the trenches.

-2140. 10 VA withdraws to join the left of Steuart's brigade north of Spangler's Spring, where it will confront Colgrove.

-2200. Arrival of the brigades of Colgrove and McDougall. Kane's brigade is coming into position on Greene's right, relieving 137 NY in the traverse.

The more complicated piece involves the movement and actions of 10 VA, but giving Warren's report more weight, I concluded they did not have a major confrontation with 6 WI, but rather 37 VA was the primary opponent of 6 WI. Putting some members of the 37 VA near the west end of the stone wall also dovetails with the 157 NY encounter in which the latter lost their flag. The lull separating these actions is also critical, and is mentioned in a very detailed account by Washington Hands of 1 MD BN, as occurring soon after the rest of 1 MD BN moved up to occupy the works. Hands used the lull to determine Herbert had been wounded, collect casualty reports from his company commanders, and report to Steuart. I figure it took him a half hour (or 2020 to 2050) to run these errands. Just after he returned to the trenches the fight broke out again.
 
Last edited:

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
To further amplify the 10th Virginia's role, as described by Col. E. T. H. Warren, only two separate actions are indicated that revolve around the stone wall, the first to drive part of a Federal line back, then after changing front to the rear and perpendicular to the wall, to repulse an attack from their left front to include a bayonet charge. I have chosen to regard the former as the repulse of Kane's 29th Pennsylvania, and the latter the combined attack of the 14th Brooklyn and Gregg's (137th New York) bayonet charge. If, on the other hand, other accounts along with historian explanations are included, the 10th Virginia, with about 200 enlisted men, performed nearly superhuman feats that night, in the following order:
-Pressured the right flank of the 71st Pennsylvania, compelling it to withdraw.
-Moved along the wall to help drive away the 137th New York.
-Repulsed an attack by the 6th Wisconsin (per Dawes).
-Ambushed the 29th Pennsylvania.
-Repulsed an attack by the 14th Brooklyn (per Fowler).
-Repulsed a bayonet attack by the 137th New York. Then, moving to north of Spangler's Spring,
-Helped repulse separate probes by McDougall's and Colgrove's brigades.

Meanwhile, the 37th Virginia, with about 240 enlisted men, merely occupied the southern summit of Culp's Hill, where it helped drive back the 137th New York from its initial position, and later was somehow involved in repelling the tiny 157th New York. I have trouble relegating the larger 37th Virginia to such a minor role, in comparison with the 10th Virginia.

So I have given the 37th Virginia the bulk of the credit for pressuring the 71st Pennsylvania, then moving to the top of the southern summit in force to drive back the 137th New York, with some members aggressively pursuing to the traverse and along the stone wall. Now it may be that the 6th Wisconsin did more than just drive away Confederates from the traverse, in fact going well beyond to the stone wall, but the 6th only sustained four casualties in doing so, which does not imply a vigorous defense by the enemy, which would be expected of a well posted force behind the stone wall, and which is another major reason why I don't think the 10th Virginia was there at that time, aside from the disconnect with Warren's account. We also have to account for the lull in the battle. It seems to me that the 10th Virginia moved along the wall during a lull, but certainly the 14th Brooklyn marched forward during a quite period until an enemy volley rang out. However, when the 157th New York ran into the enemy, the entire hillside was ablaze.
 
Last edited:

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
In the overall history of the Battle of Gettysburg, Day 2(and, ultimately, the campaign, itself)the confederate attack(demonstration) on Culps Hill, failed in its primary function of preventing Union forces there to be withdrawn to protect the Union Left Flank from Lee[s main assault by Longstreet.

It is my understanding that the terrain features of the estern and southern approaches to attack the Hill, were not conducive for large scale maneuvers and assault, thus Ewell could not bring to bear on his targets enough men to be effective in a timely manner. Like the attacks on LRT, the vital point of the attacks were fought by small unit actions rather than Larger.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

jameswoods

Private
Joined
Jul 29, 2015
For what its worth, I believe the attached 12 "detail" maps of the action on Culp's Hill capture the sequence of events occurring there on the night of July 2nd between the hours of 8:30 PM and 9:45 PM that most closely integrates the accounts we've been discussing.

Of course, the times are approximate but, again, conform as best I can make out to be the times associated with related events happening elsewhere on the field.

If some of the bulleted numbers appearing on the maps are not addressed in the accompanying text it is because the associated activity was not pertinent.
 

Attachments

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
Thank you, Jameswoods for the maps. Trying to keep an open mind about this subject, I am making one major concession that changes quite a bit of my previous thinking. It involves the timing and location of the ambush of the 29th Pennsylvania from Kane/Cobham's brigade. I now concede that the ambush must have taken place further east along the stone wall (see attached map) at about 9:30 p.m. on July 2. I surmise their opponent was the 37th Virginia rather than the 10th Virginia, the latter regiment at that hour being presumably behind the works north of Spangler's Spring.

Exactly where the ambush took place is, I believe, resolved by two accounts in particular. Captain Stork of the 29th wrote of entering the woods "bordering a piece of meadow land," which I take to mean what we now call Pardee field. Col. Rickards, Jr. of the 29th wrote, "On attempting to enter the woods in which our breastworks were, we were fired on by a heavy fire from behind a stone wall which divided the field and wood" (Bachelder Papers, 1:154). Knowing that the 29th returned to the Baltimore Pike and moved up Spangler lane (per another source), I think we can deduce that the 29th had previously been at the eastern edge of the field, moving up the southern slope of Culp's Hill (in the usual column of four's) to resume its former place behind the western end of the stone wall, when the Confederates unleashed a brutal volley that broke the stillness and came as a complete surprise and shock to the 29th. A projected return path of the 29th to Greene's right is shown on the map.

So now I have to scrap my earlier assessment that the first action of the 10th Virginia involved firing south from the western end of the stone wall against the 29th Pennsylvania. Then, who was the 10th's opponent? The only candidates I can think of would have been the 71st Pennsylvania, 157th New York or 14th Brooklyn, unless Col. Warren is turned around and had actually fired northward toward the traverse. Back to the drawing board. Stay tuned.
 

Attachments

Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top