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The Stonewall Brigade at Gettysburg – Part Three: Maelstrom on Culp’s Hill

By Austin Williams, 5th Virginia Co. A

Note: The following is part three of a four-part series on the actions of the Stonewall Brigade at Gettysburg. Previous installments covered the initial skirmishing around Wolf’s Hill and the action on Brinkerhoff’s Ridge on July 2. A final epilogue will address the fate of the brigade’s flags during the battle.

The dark air lay heavy and humid as Lieutenant Alfred M. Edgar of Company E of the Twenty-Seventh Virginia picked his way cautiously around the boulders and trees littering the southeastern slope of Culp’s Hill. The blazing heat of July 2 had lessened somewhat after the sun dipped below the western horizon, but the humidity remained, spreading a heavy mist through the low ground along Rock Creek at the base of the heights. A few hours after midnight on July 3, Edgar and 75 men from the Stonewall Brigade went forward as pickets while the rest of the brigade caught a few brief moments of rest. Although the misty air muffled the air somewhat, as Edgar and his men made their way forward, they could plainly hear the rattling of artillery pieces being rolled into place and the tramp of Union soldiers in great numbers moving into position for the coming day’s fight.1

Lt. Alfred M. Edgar, Co. E of the Twenty-Seventh Virginia

Edgar dropped to his stomach and began carefully crawling forward. Undetected, he made his way to within hearing distance of the Union picket line and thought he heard a Union officer command “fall in the Seventh Massachusetts.” More likely, he actually heard an officer of the Second Massachusetts, whose skirmishers had sparred with the Stonewall Brigade on the slopes of Wolf’s Hill the previous morning. Company F of the Second Massachusetts had been deployed on a mission identical to Edgar’s own; feel for the enemy position and report back. In the confused blackness, two members of the Twenty-Third Virginia, part of Steuart’s Brigade, stumbled into the Massachusetts men’s picket line and one was captured. The Second Massachusetts skirmishers took 23 prisoners that night, including a captain, but Edgar and his men escaped safely. He sought a superior officer to relay what his pickets had learned but could not locate one in the darkness.2

The Massachusetts soldiers Edgar encountered had arrived at Culp’s Hill late in the morning of July 2 after Union commander George G. Meade recalled the XII Corps and V Corps from their extended position east of Wolf’s Hill. Williams’ Division, including the Second Massachusetts, joined the other XII Corps division around Culp’s Hill. Around this time, Major General Henry W. Slocum was placed in command of the entire Union right flank and devolved command of XII Corps to Brigadier General Alpheus S. Williams. The commander of the brigade containing the Second Massachusetts, Brigadier General Thomas H. Ruger, became acting commander of Williams’ Division and Colonel Silas Colgrove, whose Twenty-Seventh Indiana had also skirmished with the Stonewall Brigade early on July 2, took over command of Ruger’s Brigade. The division took up positions on Culp’s Hill to the right of the XII Corps division led by Brigadier General John W. Geary.

Lying southeast of the town of Gettysburg, the summit of Culp’s Hill rises some 180 feet above Rock Creek, which runs along the hill’s eastern base. About 400 yards south of the hill’s peak lies a second summit, almost 100 feet lower than the peak. This lower spur is separated from the main summit by a narrow saddle that cuts across the hill from east to west. In 1863 heavy oak and chestnut timber covered the hill’s slopes, while the ground beneath was clear and free of undergrowth. The steep terrain was further broken by numerous rocky outcroppings and huge boulders, which one Union soldier described as looking like “hundreds of sleeping elephants” scattered amidst the trees.3

When the XII Corps arrived on Culp’s Hill on July 2, Geary called together his brigade commanders and sought his subordinates’ opinion regarding the construction of breastworks. The general stated that he himself did not favor the idea as he believed “it unfitted men for fighting without them.” One of Geary’s brigade commanders, former regular U.S. Army officer Brigadier General George S. Greene, replied that preserving the lives of his men was more important to him than any theory and that his brigade would entrench regardless of orders.4

Union Breastworks on Culp’s Hill

Thus, up and down the Union line, the men spent much of July 2 improving their positions. A captain in one of Greene’s regiments, the Sixtieth New York, recalled the construction process; “Right and left the men felled the trees and blocked them up into a close log fence. Piles of cordwood which lay nearby were quickly appropriated. The sticks, set slanting on end against the outer face of the logs, made excellent battening…. Fortunate regiments, which had spades and picks, strengthened their work with earth.” Where they could, soldiers adjusted their lines to incorporate the hill’s rocks and boulders. The portion of Greene’s line held by the One Hundred and Forty-Ninth New York, for instance, crowned a low escarpment that allowed the unit’s muskets to dominate the slopes to their front.5

Most of the XII Corps, however, soon left their freshly constructed fortifications. As the July 2 Confederate attack on the Union flank at Little Round Top intensified and the right flank at Culp’s Hill remained quiet, nearly the entire corps was withdrawn and sent to reinforce the opposite flank. Thus only a single brigade, Greene’s New Yorkers, remained in the corps’ breastworks when Major General Edward Johnson launched his Confederate division at the hill late on July 2. Thoroughly outnumbered, Greene was forced to draw back his right flank, allowing the Confederates of Brigadier General George H. Steuart’s brigade to overrun the XII Corps breastworks on the lower spur of Culp’s Hill. With the Stonewall Brigade still occupied by the Union cavalry on Brinkerhoff’s Ridge, however, Johnson could not exploit his gains before darkness brought an end to the fighting.6

Drive Them Out at Daylight

Throughout the night, both sides moved additional forces to Culp’s Hill in anticipation of renewed combat on July 3. Johnson ordered Brigadier General James A. Walker to march the Stonewall Brigade from its position near Brinkerhoff’s Ridge, leaving a portion of the Second Virginia to maintain pickets along the Hanover Pike. The Virginians behind on Johnson’s left, about 30 yards downhill from the captured breastworks occupied by Steuart’s men and with the brigade’s left flank resting on Rock Creek. To the right of Steuart’s Brigade, Nicholl’s Brigade and Jones’ Brigade maintained the positions halfway up the slope of the main hill that they had held at the conclusion of the previous day’s fighting. Staff officers, meanwhile, were busy bringing up additional men from Rodes’ Division and Early’s Division to add further weight to Johnson, which had been the most successful of the Second Corps’ July 2 attacks. When they arrived at around 4 a.m., Daniel’s Brigade and O’Neal’s Brigade formed to the right of the Stonewall Brigade, behind Nicholl’s and Jones’ Brigades respectively. His division in place, Johnson issued orders to renew the attack at first light, although the details of his plan went unrecorded.7

Meanwhile, the remainder of the Union XII Corps had hurried back to Culp’s Hill after darkness brought an end to the fighting around Little Round Top, only to discover a significant portion of their breastworks now in enemy hands. Greene’s men retained their line of breastworks on the eastern slope of the main hill, his left near the summit and his right ending just before the saddle separating the main hill from the spur. To the right of Greene, Geary deployed the brigade commanded by Brigadier General Thomas L. Kane at almost a right angle to Greene’s line. Geary’s right flank consisted of two regiments of Colonel Charles Candy’s brigade, while the rest of Candy’s regiments formed behind Greene as a divisional reserve.8

Ruger’s Division had approaching its former position from the south, until its skirmish line bumped into Lieutenant Edgar and the other Confederate pickets arrayed on the southern slope of the spur. On the division’s right, Colgrove’s Brigade reoccupied the vacant portion of their breastworks in McAllister’s Woods, separated from the base of Culp’s Hill by an open, marshy meadow containing Spangler’s Spring. Ruger formed the brigade led by Colonel Archibald L. McDougall near the Baltimore Pike, on high ground to the west of McAllister’s Woods. Behind them, Williams deployed much of the corps’ artillery and positioned a brigade along the Baltimore Pike to act as a corps reserve. Altogether, approximately 11,200 Union soldiers would square off with the roughly 9,600 men under Johnson’s command.9

General Slocum had directed Williams to “drive them out at daylight,” but in Williams’ opinion this order was “more easily made than executed.” As Ruger’s Division would need to cross open fields to attack the Confederate left flank on the spur, Williams instead planned for the main assault to be made by Geary’s Division, supported by feints from Ruger’s infantry and heavy artillery fire from the right of the corps. This fire would come from three batteries on Powers Hill and McAllister’s Hill, with an additional two batteries just west of the Baltimore Pike. Their muzzles directed north, these guns commanded the entire valley of Rock Creek and could enfilade any Confederate force facing Geary. The guns along the Baltimore Pike included ten smoothbore Napoleons whose canister could shred any Confederate attack coming south across the meadows towards the Pike.10

Few men slept well on the slopes of Culp’s Hill that night. One Connecticut soldier in McDougall’s Brigade recalled how his sleep was constantly interrupted by firing along the picket line.  At each outbreak of firing the men would leap to their feet, officers shouting commands to form line of battle. Then, just as quickly as it started, “the pattering fire along the picket line gradually slackening, would finally die out altogether, and all… would again stench themselves out to rest, only to be rousted again shortly by a similar alarm.”11

Warmly Engaged Along My Entire Line

Just before the first faint streaks of light, hushed commands from Union officers formed dark lines of men, massed for the planned attack. As the earliest hints of dawn, sometime between 3:30 a.m. and 4 a.m. depending on the account, battery commanders gave the signal to fire and flame lept out of the barrels of almost two dozen guns. Williams had arranged for the guns to fire constantly for fifteen minutes, after which his infantry would advance. As the minutes ticked by, the guns poured forth “a most furious fire.” The Union soldiers along the Baltimore Pike watched in awe as the artillery “began its thunders, sending solid shot, shell, and cannister over the heads of the men in our infantry line, into the woods among the rebel masses.”12

With dense mist further restricting the already limited visibility, the guns fired not at any specific target, but sought to take the Confederate left of the Stonewall Brigade and Steuart’s Brigade in a crossfire. The Confederates, however, were largely protected by the captured breastworks and the reverse slope of the spur. Though Steuart called it a “terrific fire of artillery,” he noted that only his rightmost regiments, partially exposed on the lower summit of Culp’s Hill and without the protection of breastworks, were affected by the bombardment.13

After a quarter hour of thunder, the Union guns fell silent, the signal for Geary’s infantry to begin their attack. On right flank of the division, the men of one of Candy’s regiments received orders to commence firing. With the sun still below the eastern horizon, the men protested that “we can see no rebs to fire at.” Their company commander shrugged and responded, “our orders are to keep firing continually and without intermission through these trees in our front.”14

Geary would later report that his division’s attack was “most furious” and that it “staggered the enemy, by whom it was seemingly unexpected.” Hardly any of Geary’s subordinate commanders, however, made any mention in their reports or post-war histories of conducting an attack. In reality, Geary’s attack was over before it began, as, with the rumble of the last artillery shells still echoing off the hills, Johnson launched his own assault. Williams’ plan to retake the breastworks on the spur was quickly abandoned, as his corps soon had all they could handle preventing any further Confederate advances.15

Kane’s Brigade, in the center of Geary’s line, braced for the renewed Confederate attack. General Kane had been severely sick for several weeks, only rejoining his unit via ambulance the previous day. His health swiftly failed him, however, and he relinquished command to his senior subordinate, Colonel George A. Cobham of the One-Hundred and Eleventh Pennsylvania. Quickly abandoning the planned Union attack, Cobham ordered his regiments to withdrawal 50 yards to gain the protection of a ledge of rocks and a short traverse line of breastworks Greene’s men had constructed the previous day to protect their flank. The brigade’s left flank thus connected with the end of Greene’s breastworks, while the right rested on a stone wall that cut across the slope of the spur about 30 yards south of the breastworks all the way to Rock Creek. The three Pennsylvanian regiments braced for the coming Confederate attack across the saddle.16

Attack of Steuart’s Brigade on the Morning of July 3

They had only moments to wait. Steuart’s Brigade came charging out of the misty morning darkness, “yelling in their peculiar style.” Although prisoners would later explain that Steuart’s men attacked in multiple lines, to the Union soldiers it looked like a single massed column of Confederate troops bearing down on them in the dim light. Union officers shouted desperate commands and suddenly Steuart’s attack was met “at every point by the unswerving line and deadly fire.” The sudden wall of musket fire checked Steuart’s advance and drove his men behind the shelter of the saddle’s rocks and trees, from which they began to return fire.17

Firing down the slope at Steuart’s lines on the opposite side of the saddle, some of Kane’s men failed to adjust their aim to account for firing downhill, their shots thus passing harmlessly over their targets. The colonel of a Pennsylvania regiment noticed that each volley by his men was marked with a corresponding shower of clipped leaves from the branches above the Confederate lines. He began pacing up and down his line, ordering his men to aim for the rebels’ knees to better account for the change in elevation.18

Twenty minutes after they had ceased firing, the Union artillery opened up again, hurling shot and shell towards the left flank of Steuart’s Brigade. A Union soldier supporting the batteries recalled “the sharp and almost continuous reports of the twelve pounders, the screaming, shrieking shell that went crashing through the tree tops; the deadened thud of the exploding shell; the whizzing sound of the pieces as they flew in different directions.” While the Union guns exploded with this renewed barrage, the Confederate guns remained silent. The ground around Culp’s Hill prevented Johnson from bringing his guns closer to the fight and any artillery fire from the north side of Rock Creek would risk falling among Johnson’s own men. After the battle a member of the Thirty-Third Virginia bitterly complained that “we could not get any artillery near enough to do any good.”19

On the far right of Geary’s position, the ranks of the One Hundred and Forty-Seventh Pennsylvania, part of Candy’s Brigade, began the day facing a shallow wooded ravine with a triangular, uncultivated open field beyond. The field sloped upward towards the timbered crest of the spur, where Steuart’s Confederates were exchanging shots with Kane’s Brigade. Seeking to gain the protection of the wooded ravine and improve their field of fire, the Pennsylvanians advanced into the narrow depression. Realizing that their position allowed them to fire in the flank of any further Confederate advance on Kane’s men, at around 5 a.m. the regiment charged across the small field and seized the stone wall. From this protected position, they let loose volley after volley into Steuart’s lines, causing considerable casualties and havoc. Exposed and alone at the wall, they could stay for only a short time and soon fell back to the wooded ravine. The field across which the One Hundred and Forty-Seventh Pennsylvania had charged would henceforth be known as Pardee Field, named after the unit’s commander.20

With Kane’s line refusing to budge, a crossfire of Union artillery, and the Pennsylvanians enfilading his ranks, it was likely around this time that Steuart called upon Walker for assistance. Neither Walker nor Steuart recorded the details of the Stonewall Brigade’s advance, with Walker simply stating that upon Steuart’s request for assistance, the brigade “moved up in support and I became warmly engaged along my whole line.” According to the reports of Walker’s regimental commanders, portions of the Stonewall Brigade occupied part of the captured breastworks, from whence they likely exchanged fire with Kane’s Brigade and the One Hundred and Forty-Seventh Pennsylvania and Fifth Ohio of Candy’s Brigade on Kane’s right.21

Among the first members of the Stonewall Brigade to fall from the fire of Kane and Candy’s men was Private Henry D. Gilliland. Hailing from the rugged Appalachian Mountains west of the Shenandoah Valley, Gilliland had enlisted in March 1862 as part of the second wave of Confederate volunteers. During his unit’s first charge early in the morning of July 3, Gilliland was shot in the breast and fell dead. He was left unburied on the field.22

On the right end of Stonewall Brigade’s line, the Fourth Virginia extended past the captured breastworks and so lacked their protection. The regiment found itself on the western slope of the spur’s crest, where they faced Kane’s Brigade across the saddle to their left and, to the right, Greene’s Brigade in their breastworks on the higher summit of Culp’s Hill. Walker reported that this part of his line “suffered very heavily,” while Major William Terry of the Fourth Virginia asserted that his regiment was “exposed to a heavy and destructive fire of shot, shell, and musketry, from which the regiment sustained a heavy loss in killed, wounded, and missing.”23

Maj. William W. Goldsborough, First Maryland Battalion

Alongside the Fourth Virginia in this exposed position were the First Maryland Battalion and the Third North Carolina, the right flank of Steuart’s Brigade. Major William W. Goldsborough, leading the First Maryland, made his way down the line at one point to check on his rightmost company. Huddled with the company’s commander, who reported that his unit was suffering heavy casualties, the pair were soon joined by Major William M. Parsley, commanding the Third North Carolina to the right of the Marylanders. Parsley, speaking hyperbolically, reported that his exposed unit had been almost annihilated. He told Goldsborough that he had only 19 men left. Just as he spoke, a man fell dead at the feet of the three officers. “And now,” he said, “I have but eighteen.”24

After almost an hour holding this exposed flank and with their cartridge boxes emptying, Walker ordered the Fifth Virginia to the Fourth Virginia’s assistance. Cresting the summit of the spur, the Fifth Virginia immediately found itself in a vortex of fire. While Kane’s Brigade was the most immediate threat on the opposite side of the saddle, the rightmost regiments of Greene’s Brigade could obliquely fire at the Virginian’s exposed flank. Referencing Greene’s position, one of Steuart’s staff officers reported that the right of Steuart’s Brigade and the Stonewall Brigade was commanded “by the works on the crest of the hill to our right, whence a galling fire was poured into our ranks.”25

We Could have Stood as Long as the Rebs Chose to Show Themselves

The men of the One Hundred and Thirty-Seventh New York and the One Hundred and Forty-Ninth New York held the right end of Greene’s line and were the ones pouring that galling fire into the flank of the Fifth Virginia. Just before daybreak, Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Randall of the One Hundred and Forty-Ninth New York had walked down his regiment’s portion of the breastworks with a bottle of whiskey, offering each officer a sip in turn. He told each of his subordinates that it may be the last drink they would have together and that he hoped it would sustain them in doing their duty. Just as the last officer emptied the bottle, Steuart’s Brigade commenced the Confederate attack on Kane’s men and Randall ordered his men to the breastworks.26

Greene’s troops, who had held these lines alone against almost an entire division the previous night, had rapidly become well-versed in fighting from behind their works. The fortifications provided excellent protection, with the greatest risk being to the head or upper body. The green logs placed atop the breastworks to protect the men’s’ heads while firing, however, occasionally caused bullets to glance off them at unpredictable angles to strike the men behind the works. A member of the One Hundred and Forty-Ninth New York described the appearance of Greene’s men in the trenches, “Their clothes ragged and dirty, their faces black from smoke, sweat and burnt powder, their lips cracked and bleeding from salt-petre in the cartridge bitten by them, and… loading and firing for dear life.”27

Scene behind the Breastworks on Culp’s Hill, Morning of July 3, 1863

The Fifth Virginia had likely been holding the lower summit for only a short time when they heard loud cheers coming from the Union lines. Geary had retained over half of Candy’s Brigade in reserve and, with ammunition beginning to run low among his frontline regiments, Geary began to rotate in his fresh regiments starting around 6 a.m. The Twenty-Ninth Ohio advanced to relieve the One Hundred and Thirty-Seventh New York opposite the Fifth Virginia in “splendid style,” cheering as they advanced at a run. The Ohio men held their fire until they had reached the safety of the breastworks, passing through the New Yorkers and resuming fire with hardly a pause. Under the cover of the Ohio regiment’s fire, the One Hundred and Thirty-Seventh withdrew a short distance to a protected hollow behind Greene’s lines.28

To their left, the One Hundred and Forty-Ninth New York was similarly relieved by their cheering supports, the New Yorkers retreating under the new regiment’s fire until they too had reached the safety of the hollow. Once there, Randall proposed three cheers for the regiment’s colors, which had been shot through several times during the morning’s fight. The men gave the cheers “with a tiger,” after which they gave three cheers “for the gallant Randall.” The men were then directed to clean their rifles, “which were so foul that a ball could not be driven home without difficulty, and the barrels so hot as to be painful to the touch.”29

This rotation of units would occur throughout the rest of the day up and down the lines of Greene’s and Kane’s brigades and would be central to the ultimate Union victory at Culp’s Hill. A member of the One Hundred and Thirty-Seventh New York described how the process worked; “A regiment would use up their ammunition in about two hours, when another one would relieve them and they fall back to the hollow where the balls would whistle over their heads. They would clean their guns and get some more ammunition and be ready to relieve another regiment… In this way we could have stood as long as the rebs chose to show themselves below.” After the battle, General Greene noted that his brigade’s breastworks held no more than 1,300 men at a time, but that throughout the day some 3,105 men had rotated through the front lines. Each renewed Confederate attack on Greene’s already strong position would face fresh troops with replenished ammunition.30

A Murderous Fire

Although his plans for an assault by Geary’s Division had been derailed by Johnson’s attack, the second part of Williams’ original plan for the XII Corps continued tragically on.  Throughout the morning, Ruger’s Division would launch a bloody series of piecemeal feints from their positions along the Baltimore Pike and McAllister’s Woods. Sideshows to the primary action on Culp’s Hill proper, this fighting around Spangler’s Spring was confused and poorly documented. An accurate timeline of actions is nearly impossible to reconstruct, with different participants putting the same attack as early as 5:30 a.m. or as late as 11 a.m. Only by putting those accounts in context with other simultaneous events can the historian begin to develop a plausible account of these actions south of Culp’s Hill.

The crisis triggered by the Confederate invasion of the north had drawn to Gettysburg men who never expected to see serious combat. In June 1863, Brigadier General Henry H. Lockwood received orders to march north with his two regiments of Maryland home guard from their sleepy positions on the lower Potomac. While passing through Baltimore, they were joined by the One Hundred and Fiftieth New York from the city’s defenses. Sent west to guard rail lines, Lockwood’s ad hoc command became attached to the XII Corps as an independent brigade. When Williams positioned his troops in the early hours of July 3, he directed the two regiments of Lockwood’s Brigade then present to form battle lines along the Baltimore Pike in support of the artillery batteries.31

View from near the Baltimore Pike, facing northeast. The trees to the left are Culp’s Hill, while Wolf’s Hill is visible in the right background. The First Potomac Home Brigade attacked along the left edge of this image.

From their position along the Pike, the men of the First Potomac Home Brigade watched the Union field artillery bombard the Confederate lines on Culp’s Hill. The oddly named regiment had originally been formed to protect the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad along the Potomac and later supported supply lines for Union troops in the Shenandoah Valley. The regiment surrendered as part of the Harper’s Ferry garrison in 1862 and, after being formally exchanged, had joined Lockwood’s command on the lower Potomac. Their ranks largely untouched by combat, the regiment of between 700 and 800 men was nearly twice the size of the average Union regiment at Gettysburg.32

At around 5 a.m., Lockwood received orders, likely from Williams or Ruger, to deploy a regiment to engage the enemy in the woods on the northern side of the Baltimore Pike. He selected the First Potomac Home Brigade, under Colonel William P. Maulsby, and personally led the regiment across the road and into the dense woods. Passing to the left of the swampy ground around Spangler’s Spring, the solitary Union regiment skirted along the southern slope of the spur, charging directly into the left flank of the Confederate position.33

When Steuart ordered his columns forward that morning, he had dispatched the First North Carolina to shield his right flank from any threats emanating from the south. The regiment’s commander sent four of his companies across Rock Creek to establish a skirmish line on Wolf’s Hill, while the remaining six companies occupied the woods and boulders along the southeastern base of Culp’s Hill. Their attention was initially held by a few companies of skirmishers that Colgrove’s Brigade had deployed at the edge of McAllister’s Woods across the marshy meadow. The sudden advance of the Marylanders, however, threatened to punch through the thin line of Confederate skirmishers. To Confederate commanders, it appeared the enemy was attempting to turn their left flank and enfilade the captured breastworks. Walker ordered the Second Virginia, still missing the two and a half companies previously detailed to picket the Hanover Road, to support the First North Carolina and keep the flank of Johnson’s Division clear. Colonel John Q. A. Nadenbousch sent Lieutenant John S. Harrison and his Company D across Rock Creek to reinforce the North Carolinians on Wolf’s Hill and threw the rest of his command into the woods north of Spangler’s Spring in preparation for the Union attack.34

Keeping their left within the cover of the timber, the right half of the Marylanders’ dense battle line spilled into the open meadow as the regiment advanced. In the dim morning light, they could just make out a stone wall cutting through the trees ahead. This was the eastern end of the same stone wall from which the One Hundred and Forty-Seventh Pennsylvania briefly enfiladed Steuart’s attack on Kane’s Brigade. Crouched behind the wall and among the captured breastworks, the First North Carolina and Second Virginia poured a “severe musketry fire” into the First Potomac Home Brigade. The right half of the Second Virginia opened an oblique fire on the Federal line, while sharpshooters from Lieutenant Harrison’s company on the other side of Rock Creek enfiladed the blue-clad ranks.35

Just 30-35 feet from the stone wall, Colonel Maulsby halted his regiment’s advance and straightened his lines, momentarily disrupted by the regiment’s advance over the broken ground at the base of Culp’s Hill. Colonel Nadenbousch used the brief pause to send two of his companies about 60 yards to the left and rear, to a bend in Rock Creek where they had a clear view of the right flank of the Marylanders’ line. His men falling around him, Maulsby had just shouted the command to fix bayonets in anticipation of a charge on the wall when word suddenly reached him to withdraw. At the time, he believed the order was to prevent his men from accidently firing on Federal troops advancing on his left. If so, this may refer to the charge of the One Hundred and Forty-Seventh Pennsylvania across Pardee Field or possibly to the advance of the Twentieth Connecticut of McDougall’s Brigade, which moved forward around this time to harass Steuart’s attack and help direct Union artillery fire. Reflecting years later, however, Maulsby judged the order was given to save his command from the “murderous fire to which it was exposed.”36

The attack of the raw Marylanders against the Second Virginia and First North Carolina lasted less than a half an hour. Yet, as the commands to cease fire and march to the rear rang out along the line, the First Potomac Home Brigade had paid a devastating price for their feint against the Confederate flank. While the probe was barely mentioned by his superiors, Maulsby noted in his official report that “the number of lamented dead and suffering wounded attest the severity of this engagement.” Of the 739 men who marched forward from the Baltimore Pike, 23 were killed, 80 fell wounded, and one was likely captured.37

It Is Murder, But It Is the Order

While the Second Virginia and First North Carolina had been sufficient to beat back the attack of a single, if oversized, Union regiment, they would be insufficient if Ruger attacked with his entire division. At just about the time that the Marylanders launched their attack, however, additional reinforcements were arriving to bolster Johnson’s forces. Two regiments of Smith’s Brigade, the Forty-Ninth Virginia and the Fifty-Second Virginia, reported to Johnson at around 5 a.m. They were met by Major Henry K. Douglas, a former member of the Second Virginia now serving on Johnson’s staff. Eager to get the fresh men into the fight quickly, Douglas rode up to Brigadier General William Smith, a 67-year-old who had recently been elected for the second time as governor of Virginia. Sacrificing protocol for expediency, Douglas asked Smith to temporarily turn command of the brigade over to him so that he could lead them to the correct position. Smith assented and his small brigade began marching to join the Second Virginia.38

Maj. Henry K. Douglas, Staff of Johnson’s Division

Meanwhile, across the swale in McAllister’s Woods, the men of Colgrove’s Brigade had been exchanging scattered fire with the First North Carolina and Second Virginia since dawn. From their lines, the Federals found themselves exposed to the “fire of myriads of sharpshooters from our front and our right flank across the creek.” As soon as it was light enough to see, Colgrove dispatched skirmishers from the Third Wisconsin and Second Massachusetts forward to the belt of timber at the edge of the meadow to help suppress the Confederate marksmen. Crouched behind the skirmish line, Captain Julian W. Hinkley of the Third Wisconsin used a pair of field glasses to help spot targets for his sharpshooters.39

Behind his line of skirmishers, Colgrove positioned his regiments in McAllister’s Woods, partially protected by the breastworks the brigade had constructed the previous day. The Third Wisconsin and Second Massachusetts faced the meadow, while the Thirteenth New Jersey was bent back at a right angle with half of the regiment facing the meadow and the other facing Rock Creek. Earlier that morning Colgrove had shifted his own regiment, the Twenty-Seventh Indiana, to occupy breastworks facing Rock Creek on the brigade’s right flank. Although posted in advance of the rest of their division, Colgrove’s men were well supported by the artillery on Power’s Hill and McAllister’s Hill.40

Some two hours into the day’s fighting, General Ruger received orders, most likely from Williams, to probe the Confederate left with two regiments. Such a limited effort, similar to the attack by the First Potomac Home Brigade, would be consistent with Williams’ overall plan to conduct feints on the Confederate flank with Ruger’s Division. Rather than convey the orders himself, however, Ruger sent a staff officer. Either the staff officer made a mistake or Colgrove misunderstood Ruger’s intent, which the general claimed after the battle was that an attempt should only be made after ascertaining the strength of the opposing enemy by advancing first with skirmishers.41

To Colgrove, however, it was clearly impractical to send skirmishers out into the open meadow against Confederates protected by trees, rocks, breastworks, and the stone wall running across the northern edge of the swale. He claimed the advance of Federal troops at a right angle to his line, possibly a reference to the aborted attack of the First Potomac Home Brigade, limited any advance across the meadow to no more than two regiments. The nuance of Ruger’s intent or the connection to Williams’ broader plan was lost. Colgrove heard the order as a command to charge directly across the open ground and recapture the breastworks on the far side. He asked the staff officer to repeat the order again and then a third time. Colgrove pulled on his nose, a personal tick he exhibited whenever deep in thought, and muttered to himself “It cannot be done, it cannot be done. If it can be done, the Second Massachusetts and Twenty-Seventh Indiana can do it.”42

Lieutenant Colonel Charles R. Mudge, commanding the Second Massachusetts, was incredulous when he received the order to charge. “Are you sure this is the order?” he asked. When assured it was, he replied, “Well, it is murder, but it is the order.” Turning to his men he shouted “Up, men, over the works! Forward, double-quick!”43

The Twenty-Seventh Indiana, meanwhile, was struggling to get into position to attack. Colgrove likely selected the Twenty-Seventh because it was his own regiment and he either trusted them the most or did not want to show favoritism by excusing his own men from the dangerous task. The Hoosiers, however, were on the flank of the brigade, facing the wrong way and with the Thirteenth New Jersey between them and their objective. The Indiana men expected their sister regiment to move out of the way, but the Thirteenth never received orders to do so, possibly due to Colgrove’s inexperience as a brigade commander. The two regiments “ran pump into each other,” recalled a member of the Twenty-Seventh Indiana. “For a brief space they were intermingled upon the same ground, in some confusion.”

Colgrove came running over to straighten out the mess. He shouted to his men, “Twenty-Seventh, charge! Charge those works in your front!” Acting regimental commander Lieutenant Colonel John R. Fesler added his voice to the din and the regiment leapt forward over the breastworks with a “wild, prolonged shout.”44

With the Twenty-Seventh Indiana lagging a little behind and obliquing to the right of the Second Massachusetts, the two regiments advanced swiftly down the slight slope from McAllister’s Woods towards the meadow. For the first 100 yards their path was covered by oak and hickory saplings, partially shielding them from the sporadic fire of the Second Virginia. At the base of some of the young trees lay the bodies of several men of the Second Massachusetts killed during the morning’s skirmishing.45

As they broke out of the trees into the open, the volume of musket fire from the Virginians began to increase. At the point where Colgrove’s men attacked, the meadow was about 100 yards wide, with soft, boggy ground. A small ditch cut across the middle of the swale, draining into Rock Creek on the east side of the meadow. The ground on the far side of the ditch grew rose more sharply and several boulders jutted above the grass just before the far tree line.46

In that tree line, concealed behind the rocks and among the breastworks, Colonel Nadenbousch had widely dispersed the men he still had on the west side of Rock Creek. Prepared to contest every inch of ground until reinforcements could be brought up, the Virginias fired “with a rapidity and precision that materially delayed and disconcerted the enemy.” As the Federals neared the middle of the meadow, the Second Virginia let loose a volley. On the other side of Rock Creek, Nadenbousch’s skirmishers lying concealed in the grass rose up, firing directly into the right flank of the Twenty-Seventh Indiana.47

The effect of the volley was startling. To the major of the Twenty-Seventh Indiana, it appeared as if his three right companies had been knocked down in a single instant. To those in the rear watching the Hoosiers’ advance, “it almost appeared that a crevasse had opened in the earth and swallowed the regiment, bodily.” The volley left only one or two members of the regiment’s nine-man color guard still standing. Recovering from the shock of the abrupt fire, the Indiana veterans closed ranks and pushed forward. To the men watching their advance, the regiment appeared to advance “under a perfect hail of balls, men and officers falling at every step.”48

To the left of the Hoosiers, the Second Massachusetts had made better progress. Emerging into the meadow with a cheer, the regiment charged through terrible fire, moving across the open ground as quickly as the boggy terrain would allow. Lieutenant Colonel Mudge, on foot and waving his sword as he cheered his men forward, was struck by a Confederate ball and fell dead halfway across the meadow. The regiment’s colors toppled down as the color bearer was struck. A man picked up the flag, only to be shot down as well. A third soldier picked up the colors as the regiment surged forward into the cover of the trees. Driving the Confederate defenders back before them, the Second Massachusetts overran a portion of the breastworks, the same section they themselves had constructed the previous day.49

Scarcely a Man Could Live to Gain the Position

Meanwhile, Douglas had arrived with Smith’s Brigade in the rear of the Second Virginia. As he formed the fresh troops in line of battle, someone pointed out to Douglas that he was the sole officer still on horseback. No sooner had Douglas ordered the brigade to begin marching at the left oblique into position when a dozen Union soldiers appeared a couple hundred yards up the spur of Culp’s Hill to the right. Puffs of smoke, the rattle of muskets, and Douglas fell from his horse, a ball having smashed into his left shoulder, lodging part of the major’s coat and shirt under his clavicle and briefly paralyzing his arm. Smith paused for a moment to check on Douglas before advancing forward with his brigade.50

Smith’s Brigade advanced in a sudden rush as the firing swelled to a new crescendo. The orders Smith shouted were “not in the conventional forms prescribed by Hardee, Upton, or Gilham,” according to a Confederate staff officer, but his men understood his intent and advanced with “a sprint and a vim.” Cries of “Hurrah for Governor Smith!” rang out from the dry throats of the Virginians and North Carolinians in the sector as the fresh troops streamed into the fight.51

After recovering from the shock of the initial Confederate volley, the Twenty-Seventh Indiana advanced a short distance further into the storm of fire. “The air,” recalled one Indiana soldier, “was alive with singing, hissing, and zipping bullets.” Momentum quickly drained from the charge and it ground to a halt as men stopped to fire their muskets. The final member of the unit’s color guard slumped to the ground, the regiment’s flag falling from his hands. The unit’s adjutant snatched them up and, unable to spare a man to carry the colors, he planted the flag staff in the meadow’s soft ground.52

1880s view from the position of the Second Virginia, and later Smith’s Brigade, from behind the stone wall. The trees on the left mark McAllister’s Woods, while those on the right are the base of Culp’s Hill. Power’s Hill is visible in the middle background.

Colgrove called it “one of the most terrible fires I have ever witnessed.” “At every volley of the enemy,” he recounted, “gaps were being cut through [the Twenty-Seventh Indiana’s] ranks. It became evident to me that scarcely a man could live to gain the position of the enemy.” He hurriedly ordered his regiment to fall back to the breastworks in McAllister’s Woods. Facing to the rear, the shattered unit marched back across the meadow in an orderly but rapid retreat.53

The Second Massachusetts now found itself alone and without support, clinging to its toehold in the breastworks. “From behind every tree and rock,” recalled one man, “the enemy poured an overwhelming fire.” Yet another color bearer had been killed and ten of the regiment’s officers were lying on the field dead or wounded. Without support to their right, Smith’s advancing Confederates began to press the battered regiment’s flank. Furthermore, as the Massachusetts soldiers had advanced across the swale, they had borne slightly to the left, blocking the troops in their rear from supporting them with musket fire. His men about to be overrun, the major of the Second Massachusetts ordered the regiment to retire.54

Smith’s Confederates came roaring out of the trees after the retreating Federals. Smith was in the lead of his men, his voice audible over the cacophony of battle. “Reckless of shot and shell, with sword in hand, pointing at the enemy,” observed one Confederate officer, “he harangued each regiment, as it double-quicked past into the arena of blood and fire.” He sent the Forty-Ninth Virginia forward against Colgrove’s retiring men, supported by the Fifty-Second Virginia. From across Rock Creek, the Second Virginia’s sharpshooters continued to sweep the meadow with their enfilading fire.55

The Second Massachusetts, however, still had some fight left in it. Rather than retire directly back, the regiment moved at an oblique farther to the west, uncovering the front of Colgrove’s Brigade and allowing the Third Wisconsin, Twenty-Seventh Indiana, and a portion of the Thirteen New Jersey to pour volleys into Smith’s advancing ranks. The Second Massachusetts, upon reaching a ruined stone wall, wheeled back to face their pursuers and opened fire again. A Union observer noted “I never saw a finer sight than to see that regiment, coming back over that terrible meadow, face about and form in line as steady as if on parade.”56

Smith’s confident advance now found itself checked by an explosion of fire from their front and enfilading fire from the Second Massachusetts. The Union artillery along the Baltimore Pike, carefully positioned to prevent any Confederate advance southward, now swept the meadow with canister fire. A captain in the Thirty-First Virginia recalled it as “the most deadly fire of musketry and cannon I was ever under.” The commander of the Fifty-Second Virginia pleaded for Smith to either order a charge or allow them to fall back to the cover of the trees, for they could not stay exposed in the meadow. Colgrove reported that while his brigade’s first volley had halted Smith’s advance, at his second volley the Confederates broke and ran for the protection of the trees, their dead and wounded littering the meadow. The Forty-Ninth Virginia lost around 40 percent of its manpower in the aborted charge.57

Whether Ruger had ever intended Colgrove to make a serious attack or not, the effort had been futile from the start. “The regiments were a handful against the mass of enemy opposite,” judged one Massachusetts soldier, “even without any regard to their formidable position.” The Second Massachusetts advanced into the meadow with 316 men, while the Twenty-Seventh Indiana had fielded 339 men. In the assault, the Hoosier regiment recorded 112 men killed or wounded, while the Massachusetts unit suffered the loss of 136 men. Although Smith’s assault on Colgrove’s position served little purpose, his brigade had been critical in repulsing the threat to Johnson’s flank. But the Second Virginia had held their ground until the arrival of Smith’s men and the enfilading fire from the Stonewall Brigade skirmishers across Rock Creek played a key role in repulsing the Twenty-Seventh Indiana in particular.58

Of note, the exact timing of these events is open to interpretation. Ruger reported that he ordered Colgrove to attack at 10 a.m. Elements of Colgrove’s report and the regimental history of the Third Wisconsin similarly suggest the attack occurred later in the morning. Prominent Gettysburg historian Harry Pfanz adopts this later time in his treatment of the fighting on Culp’s Hill. However, Colgrove’s report also states his attack occurred roughly two hours after dawn, putting it closer to 6 a.m. The report of the Second Massachusetts claimed their attack was at 5:30 a.m. and the unit’s regimental history states 7 a.m.59

Although these times vary widely, when put in context of other related events, the earlier time estimates appear more accurate. Colgrove reported that, just before his advance, he noted loud cheering to his left. While Union troops cheered throughout the morning as fresh regiments rotated into the firing line, the fact that Colgrove specifically made note of the cheering suggests it may have been the very first relief of Kane and Greene’s troops by some of Candy’s regiments around 6 and 7 a.m. Colgrove also mentioned that just prior to his attack, elements of McDougall’s Brigade had advanced into the woods at the foot of Culp’s Hill and formed a line nearly at right angles to his own. This does not match any movement recorded for McDougall’s men, but may match the charge of the Potomac Home Brigade, which would have been clearly visible to Colgrove across the meadow. He did not separately make mention of the Maryland troops, suggesting he may have mistaken then for McDougall’s Brigade. This, then, would put Colgrove’s attack soon after the repulse of the First Potomac Home Brigade, which occurred between five and six in the morning.60

The view from the Confederate perspective supports an earlier time as well. The Second Virginia reported being replaced in the breastworks by Smith’s Brigade at 7 a.m.. While accounts from Smith’s Brigade do not specify a time for their actions near Spangler’s Spring, they do record Smith counter-attacking and driving back a body of Union troops that threatened Johnson’s flank. This most likely refers to dislodging the Second Massachusetts from the captured breastworks and the subsequent Confederate counterattack on Colgrove’s men in McAllister’s Woods. Multiple Confederate first person accounts, including the wounded Major Douglas, indicate Smith’s Brigade launched its counterattack immediately upon reaching the field. As will be discussed later, Smith’s Brigade also made further movements on July 3 that seem to have occurred later in the morning. Taken together, both Union and Confederate accounts best support Colgrove’s attack occurring closer to 6 or 7 a.m. then the later times cited by Ruger and used by Pfanz.61

Impossible That Any Can Live Fifteen Minutes Longer

While the Second Virginia parried threats to the Confederate flank, the remainder of the Stonewall Brigade remained locked in combat with Geary’s Division. Just before 8 a.m., Johnson’s men redoubled their attempts to sweep the Federals off Culp’s Hill. Nicholls’ Brigade, to the right of the Stonewall Brigade and Steuart’s Brigade, had not yet made a serious attack on Greene’s breastworks, which were nearly 30 or 40 feet higher in elevation than that portion of the Confederate line. They entered the attack in earnest around eight in the morning, just as Walker and Steuart sent their men forward in renewed charges on Kane’s Brigade. Geary later reported that the Confederates massed “all the force against us that the ground would admit, pressed forward with an evident determination to carry the position at all hazards.”62

Attack of the Stonewall Brigade at Culp’s Hill

With the Twenty-Seventh Virginia, Lieutenant Edgar urged his men forward into what he described as “the most destructive fire that has ever been during the war.” Earlier in the day much of the Union fire had been too high, passing over the Virginian’s heads. With the enemy having now found the correct range, “minnie balls and shells came lower and execute their work more fatally. Even the very air seems thick with the missiles of death, from the small arms as well as from the artillery. It seems impossible that any of us can live fifteen minutes longer exposed to so much fire.” Nearby, “the whole hillside” above Major Goldsborough’s Marylanders and the Fifth Virginia “seemed enveloped in a blaze… and the balls could be heard to strike the breastworks like hailstones upon the roof tops.”63

Geary’s men stood firm as the Confederate wave smashed into their lines. As the Confederate attack neared one of Candy’s regiments, “the well-aimed rifles of the boys in blue invariably sent leaden hail into his ranks, cutting his advancing columns down with frightful carnage.” In the thick of the fighting, Colonel Cobham briefly forgot his role as a brigade commander. After several bullets whizzed just past his head, the officer borrowed a musket and, taking careful aim, fired at a cluster of rocks from whence the offending shots originated. After the fighting concluded, his men found a dead Confederate among the rocks with a bullet hole through his skull.64

A skilled deer hunter in civilian life, First Sergeant Caster G. Malin of the One Hundred and Eleventh Pennsylvania was justifiably proud of his marksmanship. From his position in Kane’s lines, he spotted repeated puffs of smoke from the rocks down in the saddle where members of the Stonewall Brigade were taking cover. He took careful aim and squeezed the trigger, only to see another puff of smoke from the rocks. Frustrated, he aimed and fired again and again and again, only to be taunted by continued puffs of smoke. The annoyed sergeant walked out to the rocks after the battle concluded, where he discovered five dead Confederates piled behind the rock where he had shot them each in turn.65

With the Confederate attack reaching a crescendo, additional Union reinforcements streamed into the fight. Wadsworth’s Division of the Union I Corps, whose units had been decimated in the desperate fighting of July 1, held the quiet western face of Culp’s Hill. A little after 8:30 a.m., Wadsworth dispatched the Fourteenth New York State Militia and the One Hundred and Forty-Seventh New York to support Geary. They were allocated to support Kane’s line, which was facing the brunt of the attack by the Stonewall Brigade and Steuart’s Brigade. The Fourteenth New York State Militia, also called the Fourteenth Brooklyn and the Eighty-Fourth New York, still retained its early war chasseur-style militia uniform, with a red cap, short blue jacket, red vest, and red pantaloons. The unit’s “tidy and smart appearance” and reputation as a “bully fighting unit” attracted a few curious onlookers from among Greene’s troops resting behind the lines before the gaudy New Yorkers advanced to the firing line.66

Following their clash with the Second Virginia earlier that morning, the men of the First Potomac Home Brigade spend a couple hours resting in the grass near the Baltimore Pike. Just before 8 a.m. General Slocum rode by leading the final regiment of Lockwood’s Brigade, the First Eastern Shore Maryland Infantry, which had just arrived on the field. Slocum called for the regiment to follow him as the Marylanders leapt to their feet. Along with Lockwood’s other regiment, the One Hundred and Fiftieth New York, the column made its way up Culp’s Hill and formed behind Greene’s lines.67

Geary made quick use of the fresh troops, rotating them into the firing line so that “several already overworked regiments of my division were allowed a much needed respite for their energies.” With Lockwood’s men coming up, the two regiments on loan from I Corps soon returned to their command. An additional brigade of reinforcements, Shaler’s Brigade from the VI Corps, marched up the back slope of Culp’s Hill around 8:45 a.m. Geary, however, was instructed to use the VI Corps men only if absolutely necessary and, for now, they formed in the rear of Kane’s position.68

His men formed in the hollow behind the summit of Culp’s Hill, Lockwood ordered the One Hundred and Fiftieth New York forward to relieve the center-left of Greene’s line. To their right Lockwood deployed the newly arrived First Eastern Shore. The unit’s colonel and several members of the regiment were slaveholders and, when the regiment had been ordered to occupy Virginia’s Eastern Shore in 1861, some members of the unit had defected and now fought elsewhere on Culp’s Hill with the Confederate First Maryland Battalion. In fact, the man carrying the colors of the First Eastern Shore at Gettysburg was a cousin to the color bearer of the Confederate First Maryland. Having spent their two years of service assigned to quiet guard duty along the Chesapeake, the Marylanders had not seen combat prior to Gettysburg.69

The untested regiment advanced with a shout up the steep slope to the summit of Culp’s Hill. Confused about which regiment he was supposed to relieve, Colonel James Wallace led half of his regiment straight forward, while the unit’s lieutenant colonel took the other half of the regiment several hundred yards to the left. As soon as Wallace’s companies crested the brow of the hill, they became exposed to musket fire, likely from Nicholl’s Brigade and the right flank of the Stonewall Brigade. Finding themselves in the open level ground behind the breastworks of the One Hundred and Forty-Ninth New York, Wallace halted his men. Believing the enemy was about to rush the works, Wallace quickly ordered his men to fire a volley over the New Yorkers’ heads. The New Yorkers’ commander, believing the Marylanders were firing on his men, angerly ordered Wallace to cease fire. Wallace claimed that the First Eastern Shore’s timely volley checked the enemy advance. The veteran New Yorkers, however, saw things differently, claiming the raw Marylanders had advanced to only within about 25 yards of the breastworks and fired a single ineffectual, panicked volley into the treetops before scampering away.70

Lt. Randolph McKim, Staff Officer for Steuart’s Brigade

With the Confederate assaults failing to make progress in the face of a constant rotation of fresh Union units, Johnson committed another of his reserve brigades. After spending the morning waiting in reserve behind Nicholl’s Brigade, orders now rang out for the Alabama regiments of O’Neal’s Brigade to advance. The fresh troops marched forward in “fine style, under a terrific fire of grape and small-arms” along the northern slope of the spur, advancing to support the imperiled right flank of the Stonewall Brigade and Steuart’s men. As they crested the spur, the Union position before them had the appearance of a “log fort” atop a mountain, from which poured a “murderous fire” from the right flank regiments of Greene’s line.71

Having been engaged for several hours, the Stonewall Brigade was running troublingly low on ammunition. Throughout the morning, the men had salvaged what they could from the wounded and dead on the field, but additional ammunition was needed. Since heading to the rear meant leaving the protection of the breastworks, rocks, and trees, Lieutenant Edgar reported that a handful of the “most fearless men” in the brigade made the dash to return with several boxes of ammunition. Lieutenant Randolph McKim, one of Steuart’s staff officers, took three men with him to the rear to bring up ammunition for the men in the captured breastworks. Returning to the base of Culp’s Hill, the men dumped the cartridges out on blankets and slung the blankets between fence rails. Running the gauntlet to reach the safety of the works, McKim felt the searing pain of a ball glazing his shoulder. Another round went through his haversack and ripped the back off of a bible he was carrying in his pocket. Soon after delivering his cargo, the officer was struck a third time by a spent shell in the back.72

With Union reinforcements entering the fight and ammunition running low, the Confederate attack ground to a halt. His men exhausted, Walker ordered the Stonewall Brigade to fall back some distance behind the lines to rest, clean their muskets, and refill their cartridge boxes. Behind them, the North Carolinians of Daniel’s Brigade advanced to replace the Virginians on the firing line but did not press the attack. For now, the fury of the morning Confederate attack settled down into a constant, lower volume of musket fire between the lines.73

A Bullet was Sure to Come Unpleasantly Near

While the rest of the Stonewall Brigade rested, the Second Virginia continued its action on Wolf’s Hill. After the arrival of Smith’s Brigade, Colonel Nadenbousch shifted the entirety of his regiment across Rock Creek to reinforce Lieutenant Harrison and his skirmishers. The Federals in McAllister’s Woods noted an increase in the number of skirmishers on the eastern bank of the stream soon after their repulse of Smith’s attack as the Second Virginia took up positions. Nadenbousch ordered Captain William W. Randolph of Company C, supervising the left wing of the regiment, to push his men forward and take possession of the heights.74

From the rocks and trees of Wolf’s Hill, the Second Virginia could direct fire on the right and rear of Colgrove’s Brigade. The Thirteenth New Jersey and Twenty-Seventh Indiana found themselves particularly exposed. The breastworks facing Rock Creek had been hastily constructed and were not very high, therefore “it required utmost watchfulness not to expose the person above them, while a rifle ball was liable to come through in many places.” A member of the Thirteenth New Jersey recalled that “whenever a head was projected above the breastworks a bullet was sure to come unpleasantly near it.”75

View from near Spangler’s Spring looking across Rock Creek (marked by the dark area cutting across the center of the image) towards the Zephaniah Taney farmhouse, with Wolf’s Hill in the background. McAllister’s Woods begins to the right of the image.

The Twenty-Seventh Indiana, who had themselves skirmished with the Stonewall Brigade on Wolf’s Hill the previous morning, found themselves pinned down behind their breastworks. One soldier recalled that the “rockey ledges on the hill… were really somewhat behind us, and the sharp-shooters with which they were infested had a raking fire along our line, rather from our rear.” The Hoosier’s primary protection came from the foliage of McAllister’s Woods, which at least concealed them from the Virginian marksmen. The leaves did little, however, to stop bullets and “stray shots would find their way to us, from several directions, at almost any time and without provocation.”76

Even as they sought cover from the Confederate skirmishers, Colgrove’s men heard the plaintive cries for water and help from the men wounded during the failed charge across the meadow. Unable to bear the cries any longer, a member of the Twenty-Seventh Indiana clambered over the breastworks and ran forward with a stretcher to bring back some of the wounded. He had not made it 30 feet before he crumpled in a heap at the foot a tree, a Confederate bullet having smashed through his head.77

The men of Colgrove’s command pleaded for someone to do something about Nadenbousch’s men at Zephaniah Taney’s house. Firing from behind the stone farm building and through its windows and doors, the Second Virginia men had almost “perfect protection from the bullets of our riflemen,” complained a Union infantryman, “while they caused many a poor fellow on the union side to bite the dust.” In response to their appeals, Lieutenant Charles Winegar, commanding Battery M of the First New York Artillery, came down to study the problem. He advanced one of his Parrot rifles from Power’s Hill to just across the Baltimore Pike from where he judged it could get a good shot at the stone building. The gun’s first shot scored a direct hit, sending dust and splinters flying and prompting a prolonged cheer from Colgrove’s long-suffering men. A handful of shells followed, nearly demolishing the structure, while the Union infantry observed with satisfaction that “the frightened rebels left on the double quick.” However, as soon as the artillery fire ceased, Nadenbousch’s soldiers made their way back to the ruins and soon resumed their harassment of Colgrove’s line.78

After the battle Colgrove reported that “during the whole day my entire line was exposed to the enemy’s sharpshooters, and quite a number in all the regiments were killed and wounded by them.” The Twenty-Seventh Indiana, already cut to piece in their charge across the swale, lost another four men killed and 15-20 men wounded from the Second Virginia’s rifles. Helpless to do much but hunker behind their breastworks, Colgrove’s men could not understand why Union infantry was not sent to clear the Confederates off Wolf’s Hill.79

Exercise your Discretion, Colonel

What they did not realize is that help had indeed been dispatched. Earlier that day a VI Corps brigade, under the command of Brigadier General Thomas H. Neill, was dispatched to reinforce the XII Corps around Culp’s Hill. At some unspecified time during the morning, General Slocum directed Neill to take two of his regiments to the extreme right, cross Rock Creek, and prevent the enemy from turning the Union flank. Wolf’s Hill was occupied at this time only by the Second Virginia and a handful of North Carolinians, who were in no position to threaten the flank of the Federal army. Regardless, the Seventh Maine and Forty-Third New York soon found themselves deploying skirmishers at the southern base of Wolf’s Hill.80

Lt. Col. Seldon Connor, Seventh Maine

With his two regiments advancing from the Baltimore Pike up the steep slope, Neill and his staff rode alongside Lieutenant Colonel Seldon Connor of the Seventh Maine. Reaching the brow of a slight elevation near the foot of the hill, the officers spotted the John Taney farmhouse on the main hill beyond. Neill was just ordering Connor to have his men advance to the house when Confederate skirmishers let loose a sharp volley from in and around the building. Turning his horse to the rear, Neill shouted back to his subordinate “Exercise your discretion, Colonel Connor; I will bring up the rest of the brigade.”81

With the Forty-Third New York advancing on his right, Connor ordered his men forward down the open slope at their front. About 100 yards down the slight decline lay a stone wall on Jeremiah Taney’s farm where Connor hoped to obtain some protection for his men. As the Union line surged forward, a Virginia marksman took careful aim and Captain W. H. Gilfillan of the Forty-Third New York dropped dead. Reaching the wall, the Maine and New York infantry opened fire on the Second Virginia and deployed skirmishers on both flanks to begin to press the Confederates back.82

Soon, Neill arrived with enough additional troops to overwhelm Nadenbousch’s undersized command. The Forty-Ninth New York crashed into the woods to the left of the Seventh Maine, extending the Federal line towards Rock Creek. To the right, the Sixty-First Pennsylvania deployed on the steep southern spur of Wolf’s Hill, giving them the distinction of forming the right flank of the Army of the Potomac’s infantry. Four companies of the Pennsylvania soldiers extended in a picket line farther to the right, linking up with Union cavalry around Brinkerhoff’s Ridge to the east.83

Most likely in response to the advance of Neill’s men, additional Confederates were dispatched to augment the Second Virginia’s outnumbered skirmishers on Wolf’s Hill. Although a time was not specified, at some point in the morning Smith received orders to move his command across Rock Creek. By this time, his third regiment, the Thirty-First Virginia, had rejoined the brigade. Smith left the Forty-Ninth Virginia to hold the wall near Spangler’s Spring and marched his other two regiments across the creek. Reaching the far bank, they formed line of battle and advanced to the southeast, likely in the direction of the woods near the Zephaniah Taney house.84

If this movement was in response to Neill’s Brigade, however, Smith’s men were never needed. Neill advanced his command no further, never seriously challenging the Second Virginia’s hold on Wolf’s Hill. Instead, the Federals maintained their positions on the Jeremiah Taney Farm and exchanged sporadic skirmish fire. “Through the day,” recalled Colonel Connor, “there was only an occasional shot, whenever the sharpshooters on either side saw the slightest opportunity to make one.” The threat from Neill contained, the Second Virginia was free to continue its daylong harassment of Colgrove’s men west of Rock Creek.85

Pvt. John Wesley Culp, Second Virginia Company B

The fighting on Wolf’s Hill, a sideshow to a sideshow, was relatively bloodless compared to the intense combat experienced elsewhere on the field on July 3. The Seventh Maine lost seven men wounded, two of whom later died of their wounds. In addition to the slain Captain Gilfillan, the Forty-Third New York lost one man killed, two wounded, and one missing. The remainder of the Neill’s Brigade reported three men wounded and one missing.86

The Second Virginia, meanwhile. reported several men wounded, but only one killed. John Wesley Culp had been born in Gettysburg and his cousin owned the farm after which Culp’s Hill received its name. When the carriage maker for whom Wesley worked moved the business to Virginia, Wesley moved with it. He chose to stand with his adopted neighbors when war broke out and enlisted in Company B of the Second Virginia. Major Douglas had, in fact, been Wesley’s first captain and had to acquire a special cut-down musket for the diminutive Wesley to carry. Family lore claims that Wesley found an opportunity to visit his sister and other relatives prior to July 3. While the details are unrecorded, Wesley fell dead sometime during that day’s fighting, within sight of his family’s property. His body, falling somewhere on Wolf’s Hill, was never found.87

All We Have Been Through in the Past is Child’s Play

The rest of the Stonewall Brigade, meanwhile, was busily occupied in cleaning their muskets and refilling cartridge boxes after a morning of hard fighting. General Johnson came upon the unit and angrily asked a soldier, “What brigade is this?” “Stonewall, sir,” came the reply. “Where is your commander?” asked the furious general. “What in the ____ are you doing here?” The soldier pointed towards Walker and the two generals sent some time discussing the situation. Johnson, preparing his division to make another push to take Culp’s Hill, ordered Walker to march his brigade to the right and renew the assault.88

Walker hurriedly reformed his brigade and marched them to a point about 400 yards to the right of where they had fought earlier that morning. There, they replaced Nicholl’s Brigade, which had unsuccessfully thrown itself against Greene’s entrenchments during the 8 a.m. assault. Now, just less than two hours later, the Stonewall Brigade would attempt to storm one of the strongest parts of the Union line on Culp’s Hill. The ground here was steeper than where the brigade had attacked earlier in the day. Greene’s breastworks lay some 30 to 40 feet above the point from which the Stonewall Brigade’s attack commenced.89

In the breastworks, the One-Hundred and Forty-Ninth New York had rotated back into the fortifications. Geary’s Division had expended an incredible amount of ammunition thus far that morning and orders went up and down the line for the men to hold their fire until they saw a target and could take deliberate aim. Soon after the order had been given, one New York soldier rose, waited a moment, and then raised his musket and fired. Infuriated at having his order ignored, Lieutenant Colonel Randall ran over and asked the man if he had seen anything to fire at. “Yes,” replied the man. “Where?” demanded Randall. “Right there,” the soldier said, pointing to a point down the slope. As the smoke from the soldier’s musket cleared, Randall could make out the Stonewall Brigade’s line advancing through the trees. “Give them hell boys,” the officer shouted, “give it to them right and left!”90

Advance of the Twenty-Ninth Pennsylvania during the final Confederate assault on Culp’s Hill

Alongside the One-Hundred and Forty-Ninth New York were a mixture of regiments from Candy’s, Lockwood’s and Greene’s Brigades. The attack came just before some of Candy’s regiments were about to be relieved by Greene’s men. The constant rotation of units in and out of the trenches makes it difficult to determine the exact composition and location of the Federal units at 10 a.m. Likely to the left of the New Yorkers lay the Twenty-Eighth Pennsylvania, the First Potomac Home Brigade, and the Seventh Ohio. The unit to their right was most likely the One-Hundred and Thirty-Seventh New York. The Twenty-Ninth Ohio was just returning from being sent to support Candy’s two regiments at Pardee Field and would enter the breastworks at one point in the fight, possibly replacing the One Hundred and Forty-Ninth New York. Up and down the Union line, muskets were leveled atop the breastworks and a wall of lead smashed into the Stonewall Brigade’s advance up the steep slope.91

On the receiving end of that lead, Lieutenant Edgar and his men in the Twenty-Seventh Virginia were shocked by the awesome power of the Federal fire. “We veterans had thought we had been through much danger before and been exposed to powerful artillery and fearful infantry fires, and some frightful destruction of human life,” recalled Edgar. “But as we hear the terrific and deafening roar of their cannons and the men cut down as grain before the sickle, we concluded that all we have been through in the past is nothing but child’s play compared to this and slides into utter insignificance.” To the men of the Stonewall Brigade, the “dense smoke and stifling smell of powder” gave the impression that they were attacking into the very gates of Hell.92

Cpt. John Welsh, Twenty-Seventh Virginia Company B

Elsewhere in the Twenty-Seventh Virginia, Corporal John H. Hart had taken up the colors and was urging the regiment forward. The 23-year-old had been wounded just two months before in the Battle of Chancellorsville, but had recovered sufficiently to accompany his regiment in the march north. Now, a bullet struck him in the hand where he was carrying the regimental battle flag, the banner tumbling forward until another man picked it up.Nearby, Hart’s company commander, Captain John W. P. Welsh, was leading his men up the slope when he suffered what he described in a letter to his wife as a “severe flesh wound to my right hip.” Due to the quirks of fate all too common in this civil strife, John had a brother, James, who fought for the Union in an Illinois regiment. Corporal Hart, his hand bleeding, carried Captain Welsh from the battlefield and stayed with him as the pair attempted to make their way back to Virginia. They would be captured ten days later in Maryland but Welsh survived only a few days in captivity before dying of his wounds on July 15. Corporal Hart survived his time in Union prison and, upon his release, returned Captain Welsh’s bible and haversack to his commander’s widow. The captain’s brother, James, would survive the war.93

Up the slope, Greene, Lockwood, and Candy’s men were loading and firing as quickly as they could. Colonel Maulsby reported that his Marylanders “poured upon the enemy a direct and deliberately aimed fire.” At one point along the lines, a soldier was seen standing on the bank a few feet to the rear of the breastworks, looking for something to shoot at. He raised his musket and aimed, but before he could fire “a sound was heard like a blow given upon fresh meat.” He stood motionless for a moment and then the musket tumbled to the ground. The soldier remained upright a moment longer before tipping forward “like a falling tree.” A ball had entered the soldier’s head at the bridge of his nose and smashed out the back of his skull.94

Midway through the fight, the One-Hundred and Forty-Ninth New York learned that one of the newly-arrived regiments from Shaler’s Brigade was made up of men from an adjacent New York county. The men gave a cheer, as this was the first time they had encountered their neighbors since leaving home. As one of the regiment’s captains was leading a cheer, cap in hand, a ball struck his uplifted arm, shattering the bone and crippling the arm for life. Lieutenant Colonel Randall rushed to the wounded officer and was stooping over to check on him when he was struck in the left breast and arm himself. Although at the time his men feared the wound was fatal, Randall would ultimately survive. The unit’s senior captain took temporary command of the regiment.95

Confederate attack on Culp’s Hill. The rocks in the foreground can still be found near the position of the Seventy-Eight and One Hundred and Second New York.

Although the precise order of the Stonewall Brigade’s regiments was never recorded, the Fifth Virginia was likely on the right of the line, as they had been earlier that morning in the fighting at the saddle. They found themselves now in a “murderous and enfilading fire” on the steep slopes of Culp’s Hill. That enfilading fire may have come from the Sixty-Sixth Ohio, one of Candy’s regiments. Just before 6 a.m., the regiment had advanced outside of Greene’s breastworks and taken up a perpendicular position from which they could enfilade the Confederate attackers. Although Jones’ Brigade held the Confederate right and could have forced the single regiment back by threatening the Ohioans’ own flank, the steep slope here made an assault nearly impossible. Jones’ skirmishers near the base of the hill harassed the Federals, but the Sixty-Sixth Ohio was able to hold its exposed position throughout the day. Their volleys would smash into the Stonewall Brigade’s right flank throughout its attack.96

Its right facing the threat of the Sixty-Sixth Ohio, the Stonewall Brigade’s left flank was only marginally better. In addition to the Stonewall Brigade, Johnson hurled Daniel’s Brigade and Steuart’s Brigade forward against Kane’s line at the saddle. Although the three units attacked simultaneously, they did not present a single unified mass. A gap of perhaps several hundred yards existed between Daniel’s men and the Stonewall Brigade, screened by a thin line of skirmishers from the Second North Carolina Battalion. Furthermore, Daniel’s Brigade did not advance much beyond the line of captured breastworks, leaving most of the assault to Steuart and Walker’s commands.97

As the minutes ticked by and the Stonewall Brigade stalled midway up the hill with minimal support on its flanks, Lieutenant Edgar recalled that the “firing from the enemy gets heavier and the carnage and bloodshed more frightful. The wounded and dying are literally heaped up around us and their groans and cries for help and mercy rise above the roar of battle.” As the young lieutenant urged his men to keep up their fire, Edgar saw one of his friends crumble to the ground at the officer’s feet. The wounded man fixed his eyes on Edgar, imploring him for help. Unable to abandon his duties to render assistance, Edgar watched while his friend slowly bled to death in front of him.98

The Hardest Battle We Ever Had

On the left of the Stonewall Brigade, the Thirty-Third Virginia surged forward in a push to overrun the works at their front. Men began dropping left and right. Captain William Powell, commanding Company A, suffered a severe leg wound. He made his way back to a field hospital, but would never return to active duty with the regiment. Nearby, Captain George R. Bedinger of Company E fell dead “perhaps farther in advance of the line of battle than any other officer or man.”99

Above the Union breastworks, the colors of the One Hundred and Forty-Ninth New York flapped defiantly. Bullets had snapped the flag’s shaft twice already. Each time, the color sergeant had spliced the pole back together using splints from a cracker box and straps from his knapsack. As the Confederates surged nearly up to the works, a first sergeant, possibly First Sergeant James W. Menifee of the Thirty-Third Virginia Company H, lunged for the colors. He was shot down two feet from the banner, five bullets riddling his body. After the battle, the New Yorkers counted 81 bullet holes in the flag and seven in the flag’s shaft.100

Menifee’s Company H was in the thick of the fighting, making up a third of the regiment’s fatalities. Afterwards, Corporal Benjamin F. Coffman recounted the grim toll, judging in a letter home, “I think it was the hardest battle we ever had.” In addition to First Sergeant Menifee, Coffman watched Privates William Jenkins and Haley Morris shot dead before him. When Sergeant John W. Rosenberger fell dead as well, Coffman dug through the man’s pockets and removed his personal effects to send to Rosenberger’s widow. As the fighting drew to a close, the severely wounded Sergeant John P. Hite was near death and could not be moved. Private David C. Hite stayed with John and they were both captured. John Hite would die on July 5, while David would remain in captivity until exchanged in early 1864. He would be killed during the Battle of Third Winchester later that year. All told, the small company lost at Gettysburg four killed and 14 wounded, four of those mortally.101

Left to right, Capt. William Powell, Capt. George R. Bedinger, Sgt. John P. Hite, and Pvt. David C. Hite, all of the Thirty-Third Virginia

With the Thirty-Third Virginia being cut to pieces and unable to breach the Union line, Walker rushed the Fourth Virginia to their assistance. The Virginians charged forward, led by Major William Terry, “who gallantly led his regiment almost to the breastworks of the enemy.” Union soldiers recalled the Confederate surge reaching almost 15 yards from their works. There, however, they were met with a “most galling and deadly fire,” according to a sergeant in the Seventh Ohio. “The line of battle halted, and being unable to advance, could not retreat, but sought shelter behind rocks and trees… this midway position was exceedingly disastrous…”102

Unable to crack the Union fortifications, the Stonewall Brigade’s line began to falter. First the left of the line began to give way, then the rest of the brigade. According to Walker, “the fire became so destructive that I suffered the brigade to fall back to a more secure position, as it was a useless sacrifice of life to keep them longer under so galling a fire”. He ordered the brigade to retreat about 300 yards down the slope before reforming his line.103

Col. William Creighton, Seventh Ohio

Much of the Fourth Virginia and portions of the other regiments, however, were pinned down too close to the Union lines to either advance or retreat. Someone in the Fourth Virginia raised a white flag to surrender. Private John McKee of Company I asked his commander, Captain Givens B. Strickler, if he could shoot the man, but Strickler suggested he throw rocks instead. A few well-aimed stones from McKee and the white rag was withdrawn.104

Surrender, however, soon became the only option. Seeing a white flag in front of his regiment, Colonel William R. Creighton ordered his men to cease fire and called out to the sheltering Confederates, “Come in!” Some 78 members of the Stonewall Brigade, mostly from the Fourth Virginia, rose up from behind the rocks and trees and began to make their way towards the Federal lines. Many of the men were wounded and had to be helped over the works by the Ohio soldiers. Private McKee, having only moments before threatened to shoot a comrade considering surrender, made his way with the other prisoners up to the breastworks. A Union soldier reached out for him, saying, “Gim-me-your hand, Johnny Reb; you’ve give’ us the bulliest fight of the war.”105

Maj. Benjamin Leigh, Staff of Johnson’s Division

As members of the Stonewall Brigade began to surrender, one of Johnson’s staff officers sought to intervene. Major Benjamin W. Leigh had been among those who carried Jackson from the field at Chancellorsville, shielding the general with his body when Jackson’s stretcher was placed on the ground. Now, he spurred his horse forward, seeking to prevent the surrender. “On his splendid mount he pushed up toward our line,” recounted an Ohio soldier, “with singular disregard for his personal safety, until well within reach of our Springfield rifles. As he advanced, the firing from the Confederates broke out with renewed vigor, and was promptly and cordially met by us from the brow of the hill. Down went horse and rider to rise no more.” The major was hit by a dozen bullets and died instantly.106

When Major Terry reformed his regiment at the base of Culp’s Hill, he could muster only one-fourth of the men he commanded at the beginning of the day’s fighting. Some 87 members of the Stonewall Brigade had been captured, 61 of whom were from the Fourth Virginia. The majority of the Virginians appear to have been captured by the Seventh Ohio, who recounted the capture of 78 Confederates, including three captains and four lieutenants. Although their names were not recorded, these officers were most likely from the Fourth Virginia and included Captain Givens B. Strickler of Company I, Captain George B. McCorkle and First Lieutenant Chifton C. Burks of Company H, Captain William P. F. Lee of Company B, First Lieutenant Robert C. Vaughan and Second Lieutenant William B. Carder of Company D, and Second Lieutenant Christian S. Kinzer of Company L.107

Pvt. Samuel Wilhelm, Fourth Virginia Company I, was among those who surrendered on the slope of Culp’s Hill.

Hit particularly hard was Captain Strickler and Private McKee’s Company I, the celebrated Liberty Hall Volunteers. The company was almost wiped out in the fighting, losing one killed, four wounded, and sixteen captured. Their comrades in Company H had 18 men captured, including both of the company’s senior officers. The regiment’s losses were made all the worse by the fact that many of the seriously wounded would fall into enemy hands in the coming days as the Confederate army made its way back to Virginia.108

The Fourth Virginia was not the only unit to have men surrender in front of Greene’s fortifications. The fire of the One Hundred and Forty-Ninth New York slackened when a white flag appeared at their front and several companies of Confederates came forward to surrender. After they threw down their muskets, they were permitted to come over the entrenchments into Union lines. Five men surrendered to the Twenty-Ninth Ohio and a contingent of 52 Confederates from the “Stonewall Division” surrendered to a captain in the One Hundred and Thirty-Seventh New York. The fluttering white flags, handkerchiefs, and even pieces of paper marked the beginning of the men’s journey to northern prison camps.109

All Had Been Done That It Was Possible to Do

To the left of the Stonewall Brigade, the assault by Steuart and Daniel’s Brigade had also failed. Steuart’s troops had advanced in column of regiments against Kane’s men, “who poured into them so continuous a fire that when within 70 paces their columns wavered and soon broke to the rear.” As the Confederates fell back, Geary’s troops surged forward with wild cheers of victory, driving the grey-clad lines back and forcing back Johnson’s left flank. After nearly six hours of continuous combat, the Federal ranks overran the Confederate positions on the lower crest of Culp’s Hill. The original line of XII Corps breastworks were once again in Union hands.110

Johnson ordered no further assaults. “The enemy,” he determined, “were too securely intrenched and in too great numbers to be dislodged by the force at my command… all had been done that it was possible to do.” At around noon, the Stonewall Brigade was ordered forward a final time, but this was only to prevent any further Union advances in the Culp’s Hill sector. Walker’s men kept up a desultory fire with Union skirmishers for the remainder of the day, while the battle reached its climatic conclusion a little to the west as the Army of the Virginia made a final, futile effort to crack the Union line in Pickett’s Charge.111

Lieutenant Edgar had survived the ordeal and now found himself overcome with exhaustion. He hadn’t eaten anything since the previous night. “We are so weak and broken down” he stated, “that we can scarcely stand up because of the intense excitement and danger.” Knowing his parents, sister, and brother would become concerned for his safety upon hearing of the battle, Edgar sat down to compose a letter informing them that he had escaped the clash unharmed.112

In the afternoon, two Maryland officers from Steuart’s Brigade came by the Stonewall Brigade’s position looking for food. General Walker gave them two stale biscuits and was chatting with the men when a Union prisoner from a Pennsylvania regiment was brought by under guard. The prisoner, a recent immigrant from Germany who spoke poor English, would only tell the general that he belonged to the “Oonan” army. Walker, still bristling from the mauling his men had faced that day, supposedly spat back “It is too bad to think that such men as we have around us should be butchered by the miserable mercenary devils of which this is a fair specimen. Sometimes I am half inclined to show the wretches no quarter.”113

The Second Virginia rejoined their comrades at about 8 p.m. At around midnight, the Stonewall Brigade and the rest of Johnson’s Division abandoned their positions along the base Culp’s Hill and marched west through the town of Gettysburg. Before bivouacking that night, rations were cooked and brought to the famished men. By dawn, they had formed line of battle on the heights northwest of Gettysburg, bracing for a Federal counterattack that would never come. Rain that began late in the day of July 4 turned into a downpour as darkness fell. By eleven p.m., the men of the Stonewall Brigade wearily formed their marching columns and set off through the night and rain southwest towards the town of Fairfield. Just over a week later, they would cross back into Virginia early in the day on July 13.114

Culp’s Hill after the battle, showing the effect of musket fire on the trees.

They left behind a shattered landscape, silent witness to the intensity of the fighting. A Union solider gazing down the slope of Culp’s Hill observed that “unexploded shells were half buried in oak trees, the branches of which were cut and bruised by others; and the trunks of nearly all were scarred so thickly with bullet marks fourteen or fifteen feet above the ground, that scarcely an inch between them of untouched bark remained.” A full five years after the battle the scars of battle remained plainly visible; “the moss on the rocks was discolored in hundreds of places where the bullets had struck… stumps and trees were perforated with holes where leaden balls had since been dug out.”115

The human toll was grimmer still. As Union skirmishers had advanced late in the day on July 3, they encountered the Confederate wounded left behind on the slopes of the hill. “The poor, haggard creatures, limp from loss of blood, seemed to be jammed in between the rocks,” described one Wisconsin soldier. “As the dusk stole on and the stillness of night, the moans, entreaties and piteous cries of the poor, mangled men and boys… filled the air with most dolorous sounds.”116

In the days following the battle, the men of the Stonewall Brigade wrote letters home grappling with their losses. Sergeant John Garibaldi of the Twenty-Seventh Virginia’s Company C informed his wife that, “Our loss is pretty heavy. There was thirteen out of our company killed and wounded. Henry Gilliland was killed dead on the field. William Lawson was killed, David and Lee Gilbert were badly wounded, John Hepler was slightly wounded and the Captain [Charles L. Haynes] and Lieutenant [William T.] Clark.”117

In the Thirty-Third Virginia, Private Thomas G. Read of Company I described to his wife the death of Read’s company commander, Captain George C. Eastham during the skirmishing of July 2. He bemoaned that a member of his company, Private Henry T. Brown, had been wounded and left on the field. “Whether he was killed, or taken prisoner afterwards we have not yet heard… there were some seven others in our Comp. wounded, but they are all said to be across the river, & I suppose on their way home, nine of our field officers were hurt, & I think only six were killed out of the Regt.”118

Gettysburg Marker for the Stonewall Brigade

The strength of the Union position and the protection of the breastworks had made the victory relatively cheap. The XII Corps suffered only 204 men killed, with another 878 wounded or captured. Geary’s Division, numbering just less than 4,000 had, during the fight, expended some 277,000 rounds of ammunition. Union details gathered Confederate arms abandoned on the field. Candy’s Brigade picked up some 1,500 small arms, mostly imported British Enfield rifled muskets. Two Enfields found after the battle made their way into the collection of the Gettysburg National Military Park. The broken stock of one is carved “Wm F Beatty/Staunton Rifles,” and was carried by Corporal William F. Beatty of Company G of the Fifth Virginia. The other is a complete musket and has “J.B.O./2nd VA Stonewall Brigade” carved on its stock.119

Confederate casualties were much higher than those suffered by their Union counterparts. Johnston reported 1,823 casualties, but this number omits the men of Daniel’s, Smith’s, or O’Neal’s Brigades who joined the fight on July 3 and for which we lack detailed casualty figures. The July 3 fighting at Culp’s Hill was the longest sustained fighting of the entire Battle of Gettysburg. For over seven hours, as one Ohio soldier recalled, “the musketry was one continued roll, interspersed at intervals by the crash of the artillery.” All that fire and bloodletting accomplished little, with the Union recovering all the ground lost on July 2. Worse still for the Confederates, the fighting on Culp’s Hill concluded some two hours before Lee was ready to launch Pickett’s Charge against the Union center.120

General Walker praised the conduct of his troops, reporting that “officers and men of the brigade behaved in a manner worthy their high reputation.” In maintaining that reputation, the Stonewall Brigade paid the price of 35 of its members killed, while another 208 men were wounded at Gettysburg. Many of the wounded, however, had to be abandoned and fell into enemy hands when the Army of Northern Virginia retreated south. After their recovery, they would be reunited in northern prison camps with the 87 of their comrades captured during the fighting. The Second Virginia, having been spared the brutal combat on the slopes of Culp’s Hill, had the lightest casualties, their unit’s sole fatality being Gettysburg native John Wesley Culp. The Fourth Virginia suffered the most, losing nearly as many captured as they did killed and wounded. Though the Twenty-Seventh Virginia suffered only 47 causalities, they had entered the battle with only 129 men in the ranks. Overall, the brigade’s losses were fully one fourth of the men who had marched into Gettysburg on the evening of July 1 spoiling for a fight.121

Having returned safely to Virginia, a former member of the Fourth Virginia took the opportunity to visit his old command. Shocked at the mauling the regiment had suffered at Gettysburg, he wrote to his wife that “the whole regt. is about 1/3 larger” than the company in which he had enlisted in 1861. “The contrast,” he wrote, “almost makes me sad.”122

A few weeks after the battle, Sergeant Daniel Sheetz of the Second Virginia provided perhaps the most telling analysis of battle of Gettysburg and the road that still lay ahead for the Stonewall Brigade. “I can not say that I am enjoying myself at all at this time,” he wrote. “I am too much worried down from the march that we had in the yankee states… it was the hardest times that we had since the war [began]. I was in good hopes that the war would soon be over, but it don’t look much like it at this time.”123


Endnotes

 

  1. Alfred M. Edgar, My Reminiscences of the Civil War with the Stonewall Brigade and the Immortal 600 (Charleston, WV: 35th Star Publishing, 2011), p. 131.
  2. Edgar, p. 131;Official Records of the War of the Rebellion. Series 1, Volume 27, Part 1. Washington: War Department, War Records Office, 1897, p. 817. Further citations from the Official Records will be abbreviated “OR ser.[Number]:v.[Number]:pt.[Number], p. [Number]”.
  3. Harry W. Pfanz, Gettysburg: Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), p. 111; New York Monuments Commission, In Memoriam, George Sears Greene: Brevet Major-General, United States Volunteers (Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Company, 1909), p. 82; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 856; Edwin E Bryant, History of the Third Regiment Wisconsin Veteran Volunteer Infantry (Madison, WI: Veteran Association of the Third Wisconsin Infantry, 1891), p. 192.
  4. George K. Collins, Memories of the 149th Regiment New York Volunteer Infantry (Syracuse, NY: n.p., 1891), p. 137.
  5. Jesse H. Jones “The Breastworks at Culp’s Hill” in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, vol. III (New York, NY: The Century Co. 1884), p. 316; Pfanz, p. 299.
  6. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 856-857; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 504.
  7. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 521; Pfanz, p. 288-290.
  8. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 827-828.
  9. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 780; Pfanz, p. 287; New York Monuments Commission, Final Report of the Battlefield of Gettysburg, vol. I (Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Company, 1902), p. 69.
  10. Pfanz, p. 284; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 775.
  11. John W. Storrs, The Twentieth Connecticut: A Regimental History (Ansonia, CT: Press of the Naugatuck Valley Sentinel, 1886), p. 91.
  12. John P. Nicholson, Pennsylvania at Gettysburg: Ceremonies at the Dedication of the Monuments Erected by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, vol. I (Harrisburg, PA: William Stanley Ray, 1914), p. 575; New York Monuments, In Memoriam, p. 88; Storrs, p. 91.
  13. Bryant, p. 191; New York Monuments, In Memoriam, p. 88; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 510-511.
  14. Joseph A. Moore, Address on the Three Days’ Operations of the One Hundred and Forty-Seventh P.V.V.I. at Gettysburg, July 1, 2, and 3, 1863 (Harrisburg, PA: Meyers Printing and Publishing House, 1889), p. 11.
  15. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 828.
  16. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 844-849, 852 and 855; Pennsylvania at Gettysburg, vol. I, p. 602.
  17. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 847; Pennsylvania at Gettysburg, vol I, p. 220-221, 575-576 and 603.
  18. Pennsylvania at Gettysburg, vol. I, p. 221.
  19. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 828; Pfanz, p. 288; New York Monuments, Final Report Vol. I, p. 68; Benjamin Franklin Coffman to Euphemia Coffman, July 12, 1863, Personal Collection of Thomas Laurencelle, formerly available from http://221b.org/FiguresAtGettysburg/letter1.html.
  20. Moore, p. 11-12; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 836.
  21. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 519, 521, and 526.
  22. Lowell Reidenbaugh, 27th Virginia Infantry (Lynchburg, VA: H. E. Howard, 1993), p. 146.
  23. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 519 and 522.
  24. William W. Goldsborough, The Maryland Line in the Confederate Army, 1861-1865 (Baltimore, MD: Press of Guggenheim, Weil, & Co., 1900), p. 106.
  25. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 526; Randolph McKim, A Soldier’s Recollections (New York, NY: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1910), p. 200.
  26. Collins, p. 140.
  27. Collins, p. 143-144.
  28. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 843 and 867.
  29. Collins, p. 140-141.
  30. Pfanz, p. 298-299; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 858.
  31. State of Maryland Gettysburg Monument Commission, Report of the State of Maryland Gettysburg Monument Commission to his Excellency E. E. Jackson, Governor of Maryland, June 17th, 1891 (Baltimore, MD: W. K Boyle & Sone, 1891), p. 55; New York Monuments Commission, Final Report of the Battlefield of Gettysburg, vol. III (Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Company, 1902), p. 1039-1040.
  32. Maryland Commission, p. 54 and 56.
  33. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 804 and 807.
  34. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 511 and 521; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 813; Pfanz, p. 330.
  35. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 521; Pfanz, p. 292.
  36. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 793-794, 804, and 806; Maryland Commission, p. 57-58; Storrs, p. 92-93.
  37. Maryland Commission, p. 31.
  38. John W. Bell, Memoirs of Governor William Smith of Virginia: His Political, Military, and Personal History (New York, NY: Moss Engraving Company, 1891), p. 53; Henry K. Douglas, I Rode with Stonewall (St. Simons Island, GA: Mockingbird Books, Inc, 1983) p. 241.
  39. Pfanz, p. 331; Bryant, p. 192; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 813, 817, and 824.
  40. Bryant, p. 191; Brown, p. 377 and 380; Samuel Toombs, New Jersey Troops in the Gettysburg Campaign, From June 5 to July 31, 1863 (Orange, NJ: Evening Mail Publishing House, 1887), p. 273.
  41. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 781; Byrant, p. 193.
  42. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 813; Brown, p. 379; Toombs, p. 272.
  43. Alonzo H. Quint, The Record of the Second Massachusetts Infantry, 1861-1865 (Boston, MA: J. P. Walker, 1867), p. 180.
  44. Brown, p. 380.
  45. Brown, p. 380-381.
  46. Brown, p. 381-382.
  47. Bell, p. 52; Brown, p. 382; Bryant, p. 193.
  48. Brown, p. 382 and 384; Bryant, p. 193.
  49. Quint, p. 180-181; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 817.
  50. Douglas, p. 241-242.
  51. Bell, p. 52-53.
  52. Brown, p. 382-385.
  53. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 814; Brown, p. 383.
  54. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 817; Bryant, p. 193; Toombs, p. 273.
  55. Bell, p. 53; Pfanz, p. 348.
  56. Quint, p. 181; Toombs, p. 273; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 817.
  57. Pfanz, p. 338; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 814; New York Monuments, Final Report Vol. I, p. 70.
  58. Quint, p. 180-181; Bryant, p. 193-194; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 814-815.
  59. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 781, 813-814, 817; Bryant, p. 194-195; Quint, p. 180.
  60. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 813.
  61. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 489 and 522; Douglas, p. 241-242; Pfanz, p. 338 and 348; Bell, p. 52-53.
  62. Pfanz, p. 288-289; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 829.
  63. Edgar, p. 131-132; Pfanz, p. 290.
  64. Moore, p. 12; Pfanz, p. 305.
  65. Pfanz, p. 304-305.
  66. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 287 and 829; Pfanz, p. 305; Collins, p. 144.
  67. Maryland Commission, p. 58; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 808.
  68. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 829; Pfanz, p. 324.
  69. Pfanz, p. 307; Maryland Commission, p. 49 and 75; L. Allison Wilmer, J. H. Jarnett, and George W. F. Vernon, History and Roster of Maryland Volunteers: War of 1861-5, Prepared under the General Assembly of Maryland (Baltimore, MD: Press of Guggenheim, Weil, & Co., 1898), p. 606.
  70. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 809 and 863; Maryland Commission, p. 26; Collins, p. 143.
  71. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 519 and 593.
  72. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 530; McKim, p. 184-185.
  73. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 519 and 526 and 528.
  74. Toombs, p. 274; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 522.
  75. Brown, p. 386; Toombs, p. 274.
  76. Brown, p. 386.
  77. Toombs, p. 274.
  78. Toombs, p. 274-275; Pfanz, p. 331; Storrs, p. 94; Brown, p. 387.
  79. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 814; Brown, p. 386-387.
  80. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 761.
  81. Maine Gettysburg Commissioners’ Executive Committee, Maine at Gettysburg: Report of Maine Commissioners (Portland, ME: Lakeside Press, 1898), p. 432-433.
  82. Maine Committee, p. 433 and 457; New York Monuments, Final Report Vol. I, p. 334.
  83. Abraham T. Brewer, History of the Sixty-First Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865 (Pittsburgh, PA: Art Engraving & Printing Co., 1911), p. 64; Pfanz, p. 462.
  84. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 489-490.
  85. Maine Committee, p. 457.
  86. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 181; Maine Committee, p. 438; Brewer, p. 69.
  87. Pfanz, p. 328; John Overton Casler, Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade (Girard, KS: Appeal Publishing Company, 1906), p. 182; Douglas, p. 242; James I. Robertson, The Stonewall Brigade (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991), p. 207.
  88. Pfanz, p. 313; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 519.
  89. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 526; Pfanz, p. 288.
  90. Collins, p. 141.
  91. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 806, 837, 843, and 867; New York Monuments, Final Report Vol. I, p 70.
  92. Edgar, p. 131-132.
  93. Jeffery D. Wert, A Brotherhood of Valor: The Common Soldiers of the Stonewall Brigade, C.S.A., and the Iron Brigade, U.S.A. (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2000), p. 270; Reidenbaugh, 27th Virginia, p. 149 and 183.
  94. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 806; Collins, p. 143-144.
  95. Collins, p. 142 and 147; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 868-869.
  96. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 526; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 828 and 844.
  97. Pfanz, p. 312-313; McKim, p. 205.
  98. Edgar, p. 133.
  99. William Powell, Diary, 1863, “Cowan’s Auctions,” Accessed December 12, 2012, https://www.cowanauctions.com/auctions/item.aspx?ItemId=6599; Casler, p. 182 and 295-296; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 530.
  100. New York Monuments, Final Report Vol III, p. 1019; Collins, p. 141; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 868; Lowell Reidenbaugh, 33rd Virginia Infantry (Lynchburg, VA: H. E. Howard, 1987), p. 133. Although no details are available regarding Menifee’s death to confirm that he was the man who attempted to seize the New Yorker’s flag, a review of unit rosters indicates the was the only first sergeant in the Stonewall Brigade killed at Gettysburg. Since the Thirty-Third Virginia attacked nearly to the breastworks and in the vicinity of the One Hundred and Forty-Ninth New York, Menifee is the most likely candidate for the sergeant described by the New Yorkers.
  101. Benjamin Coffman to Euphemia Coffman, July 12, 1863; Reidenbaugh, 33rd Virginia, p. 124-126, 134, and 140.
  102. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 519 and 522; Pfanz, p. 323; Lawrence Wilson, “Charge Up Culp’s Hill,” Washington Post, July 9, 1899.
  103. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 519, 522, and 526.
  104. Wentz, p. 270.
  105. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 841; Wilson; Pfanz, p. 325
  106. Pfanz, p. 326; Wilson; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 830 and 841.
  107. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 519; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 841; Complied Service Records of Givens B. Strickler – Fourth Infantry, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Virginia, Record Group 109; National Archives, Washington, D.C.; Complied Service Records of George B. McCorkle – Fourth Infantry, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Virginia, Record Group 109; National Archives, Washington, D.C.; Complied Service Records of Chifton C. Burks – Fourth Infantry, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Virginia, Record Group 109; National Archives, Washington, D.C.; Complied Service Records of William P. F. Lee – Fourth Infantry, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Virginia, Record Group 109; National Archives, Washington, D.C.; Complied Service Records of Robert C. Vaughn – Fourth Infantry, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Virginia, Record Group 109; National Archives, Washington, D.C.; Complied Service Records of Willam B. Carder – Fourth Infantry, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Virginia, Record Group 109; National Archives, Washington, D.C.; Complied Service Records of Christian S. Kinzer – Fourth Infantry, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Virginia, Record Group 109; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  108. Given B. Strickler, “Liberty Hall Volunteers, Company I, Fourth Va. Infantry”, in Washington and Lee University Historical Papers, No. 6 – 1904 (Lynchburg, VA: J. P. Bell Company, 1904), p. 117 and 121; John W. Busey and Travis W. Busey, Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg: A Comprehensive Record, vol. 1 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc, 1977), p. 1475-1476 and 1478.
  109. Collins, p. 142-143; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 830, 843 and 867.
  110. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 830.
  111. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 504-505, 519, and 528.
  112. Edgar, p. 133-134.
  113. Robertson, p. 207.
  114. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 505, 519, 522, 522, 528; Edgar, p. 134; Pfanz, p. 271.
  115. New York Monuments, Final Report Vol III, p. 1038; McKim, p. 200-201.
  116. Bryant, p. 203.
  117. John Garibaldi to Sarah Garibaldi, July 10, 1863, Manuscript #284, John Garibaldi Civil War Papers, Virginia Military Institute Archives, https://archivesspace.vmi.edu/repositories/3/archival_objects/371.
  118. Thomas Griffin Read to Martha White Read, July 11-12, 1863, “Manuscripts of the Civil War: Read Family Correspondence,” University of Notre Dame Rare Books and Special Collections, accessed February 9, 2011, https://rarebooks.nd.edu/digital/civil_war/letters/read/5015-16.shtml.
  119. Pfanz, p. 351; OR ser.1:v.27:pt.1, p. 837; Eric Mink, “Weaponry of the Stonewall Brigade,” The Stonewall Brigade, https://www.stonewallbrigade.net/weaponry-of-the-stonewall-brigade/.
  120. Pfanz, p. 351; New York Monuments, In Memoriam, p. 88; J. Hamp SeCheverell, Journal History of the Twenty-Ninth Ohio Veteran Volunteers, 1861-1865 (Cleveland, OH: n.p., 1883), p. 71.
  121. OR ser.1:v.27:pt.2, p. 341; Wert, p. 270.
  122. Wert, p. 271.
  123. Wert, p. 271.

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