Tarheels During the Civil War

Friday, February 18, 2011

George H. Steuart Official Report for the Gettysburg Campaign Part II

Brigadier General George H. Steuart official report on the Battle of Gettysburg, PA, July 1-3, 1863.

Headquarters Steuart's Brigade,
September 2, 1863.

Captain: I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by my brigade in the battle of Gettysburg:
We reached the battle-field of July 1 toward evening of that day, and, marching through a part of the town and along the Gettysburg and York Railroad, formed a line of battle to the northeast, our front facing the south and our left wing in  a skirt of woods. The Fourth and Second Brigades were on our right, the Stonewall on our left. We slept on our arms that night.
At about 3 p.m. the following day, the enemy's and our own batteries opened fire, and the shelling was very heavy for several hours. The brigade, however, suffered but little, being protected by the woods and behind rising ground. Our pickets, which had been stationed 300 yards in front of our line  the night previous, were relieved at about 5 o'clock by four companies of skirmishers from the Twenty-third Virginia, and shortly afterward the brigade was formed in line of battle and moved forward. 
The hill where the enemy was strongly entrenched, and from which we were ordered to drive him, lay in a southwesterly direction from our position, and accordingly our left wing was obliged to swing around by a right half-wheel , and the brigade thus formed front toward the west by south. The enemy's skirmishers fell back rapidly as we advanced through the fields and across Rock Creek, they suffering slightly, and inflicting little or no injury. The right wing of the brigade crossed the creek considerably in advance of the center and left-wing, owing to the fact that the order to move by a right half-wheel was not immediately understood on the left, and also to the greater number of natural obstacles to be overcome by that part of the brigade. The slope of the hill above referred to at the point where the brigade crossed the creek commences about 50 feet from the bank, and, being thickly wooded, the charge of our right wing was made under great disadvantages. The Third North Carolina and First Maryland Battalion, which were now entirely separated from the rest of the brigade, advanced up the hill, however, steadily toward the enemy's breastworks, the enemy falling slowly back. Our loss was heavy, the fire being terrific and in part a cross-fire.
The order was now given by the major-general commanding to advance our left wing as rapidly and as steadily as possible, which was done as soon as the regiments composing it could be hurried across the creek. The left of the brigade now rested very near one line of the enemy's breastworks, which extended up the hill at right angles to the creek and then parallel with it on the summit. The enemy's attention being called more especially to our right, this fortification was not occupied in force. The Twenty-third Virginia accordingly, under Lieutenant-Colonel [S.T] Walton, immediately charged the work, and scattered the enemy which was behind it. This regiment then filed to the right, until it reached the portion of the breastworks which was at right angles to the part first captured. Forming in line on the flank and almost in rear of the enemy, there stationed, it opened fire upon them, killing, wounding, and capturing quite a number. The Thirty-seventh and Tenth Virginia and First Maryland Battalion then came to the assistance of the Twenty-third Virginia, and fully occupied the works. The Third North Carolina still maintained its former exposed position, although its ammunition was nearly exhausted, notwithstanding the fact that the men had sought to replenish their cartridge-boxes from those of the wounded and dead. The First North Carolina, which had been kept in reserve, was at this crisis led by Lieutenant McKim to its support.
The brigade, with the exception of the two North Carolina regiments, was then formed in line of battle between the captured breastwork and a stone wall on the left of and parallel to it, from which position it was enabled to open a cross-fire upon the enemy, doing considerable execution. More, however, might have been done had not the impression at this time prevailed that we were firing upon our friends, and the fire been discontinued at intervals. To ascertain the true state of the case, the Tenth Virginia, under Colonel [E.T.H.] Warren (which was on our extreme left, and had formed a line at  and perpendicular to the stone wall above referred to), changed front forward to the wall, and then moved by the left flank along it until it was supposed the regiment had gained the enemy's rear, when it opened fire, and drove that part of the enemy's line back.
Finding, however, the enemy in its own rear, as evinced by their fire, the regiment was compelled to change front to the rear and perpendicular to the wall, from behind which it repulsed a bayonet charge made by a regiment of the enemy which emerged from a wood on the left of the stone wall. The enemy not renewing the attack, the brigade was ordered back to the works, where it was formed in line of battle, the First Maryland Battalion on the right and Tenth Virginia on the left, the North Carolina regiments still remaining outside the breastworks. This reconnaissance, as well as the reports of scouts and the statements of prisoners, gave us the assurance that we had gained an admirable position. We had been but a short time behind the breastworks when at least two regiments advanced from the woods to the left of the works, and opened fire upon us, but they were soon driven back.
The prisoners and wounded were sent a little to the rear, and our sufferers received such attention as could be given them by Dr. [D.] Snowden, assistant surgeon of the Maryland Battalion.
The whole command rested from about 11 p.m. till about daylight, [3d], when the enemy opened a terrific fire of artillery and a very heavy fire of musketry upon us, occasioning no loss to the brigade, excepting the First Maryland Battalion and Third North Carolina, which in part alternated positions behind the breastworks. The First North Carolina, with the exception of four companies which had been stationed as a picket on the other side of the creek, was at this time formed to the left of the brigade.
At about 10 a.m. the Tenth Virginia was ordered to deploy as skirmishers, and clear the woods on our left of the enemy's skirmishers. This was done, and the enemy was discovered in the woods, drawn up in line of battle, at not over 300 yards from the west of the stone wall.
The brigade then formed in line of battle at right angles to the breastwork in the following order: Third North Carolina, First Maryland Battalion, Thirty-seventh Virginia, Twenty-third Virginia,and First North Carolina, and charged toward the enemy's second breastworks, partly through an open field and partly through a wood, exposed to a very heavy fire of artillery and musketry, the latter in part a cross-fire. The left of the brigade was the most exposed at first, and did not maintain its position in line of battle. The right, thus in advance, suffered very severely, and, being unsupported, wavered, and the whole line fell back, but in good order. The enemy's position was impregnable, attacked by our small force, and any further effort to storm it would have been futile, and attended with great disaster, if not total annihilation.
The brigade rallied quickly behind rocks, and reformed behind the stone wall which ran parallel to the breastworks, where it remained about an hour, exposed to a fire of artillery and infantry more terrific than any experienced during the day, although less disastrous. Ultimately, in accordance with orders from the major-general commanding, the brigade fell back to the creek, where it remained during the rest of the day, nearly half of it being deployed as skirmishers.
During the night, the enemy advanced their line some distance beyond the breastworks, but were driven back to them again. Toward midnight, the brigade, with the rest of the division, recrossed the creek, and, passing to the rear of the town, occupied and intrenched itself on the crest of the hill where the enemy had been posted on the first day of the engagement.
It affords me the greatest pleasure to say that the officers and men of the brigade, with a few exceptions of the latter, conducted themselves most gallantly, and bore the fatigue and privations of several days in a soldierlike manner.
The commanding officers of the different regiments of the brigade - Colonel Warren, Tenth Virginia; Lieutenant-Colonel Walton, Twenty-third Virginia; Major Wood, Thirty-seventh Virginia; Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, First North Carolina; Major Parsley, Third North Carolina, and Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert, First Maryland Battalion Infantry, who was dangerously wounded the evening of the 2d, his successor, Major [W.W.] Goldsborough, also severely wounded next morning, and Capt. J.P. Crane, upon whom the command of the battalion finally devolved-- handled their regiments with great skill and manifested the utmost coolness.
The following officers and non-commissioned officers are mentioned in the regimental reports as deserving of great praise for their coolness and bravery: Adjt. T.C. James, Third North Carolina, dangerously wounded; Lieut. R.H. Lyon, Company H, Third North Carolina; Lieut. R.P. Jennings, Company E, Twenty-third Virginia; Sergt. Thomas J. Betterton, Company A, Thirty-seventh Virginia, who took a stand of colors and was severely wounded.
To the officers serving on my staff - Capt. George Williamson, assistant adjutant-general, First Lieut. R.H. McKim, aide-de-camp, whose duties kept them constantly with the brigade; Maj. George H. Kyle, commissary of subsistence Maryland troops, who was always with me when his other duties would allow, and Mr. John H. Boyle, volunteer aide - I am greatly indebted for valuable assistance rendered, and of whose gallant bearing I cannot too highly make mention.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Geo. H. Steuart,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.
Capt. R.W. Hunter,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Johnson's Division.

Series I Vol. XXVII (Part II) Ch. XXXIX. Pgs. 509-512.

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