General Lane: Account of Battle of Gettysburg

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Report of Brig. Gen. James H. Lane, C. S. Army, commanding brigade
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign


August 13, 1863.

Assistant Adjutant-General, Pender's Light Division.

        MAJOR: I have the honor to report that, on the morning of July 1, we moved from South Mountain, Pa., through Cashtown, in the direction of Gettysburg, and formed line of battle in rear of the left of Heth's division, about 3 miles from the latter place, to the left of the turnpike, in the following order: Seventh, Thirty-seventh, Twenty-eighth, Eighteenth, and Thirty-third North Carolina Regiments, the right of the Seventh resting on the road. After marching nearly a mile in line of battle, we were ordered to the right of the road, and formed on the extreme right of the light division.
        Here I ordered the Seventh Regiment to deploy as a strong line of skirmishers some distance to my right and at right angles to our line of battle, to protect our flank, which was exposed to the enemy's cavalry. Pettigrew's and Archer's brigades were in the first line, immediately in our front. We were soon ordered forward again after taking this position, the Seventh Regiment being instructed to move as skirmishers by the left flank. In advancing, we gained ground to the right, and, on emerging from the woods in which Pettigrew's brigade had been formed. I found that my line had passed Archer's, and that my entire front was unmasked.
        We then moved forward about a mile, and as the Seventh Regiment had been detained a short time, Colonel Barbour threw out 40 men, under Captain [D. L.] Hudson, to keep back some of the enemy's cavalry, which had dismounted and were annoying us with an enfilade fire. We moved across this open field at quick time until a body of the enemy's cavalry and a few infantry opened upon us from the woods subsequently occupied by Pegram's battalion of artillery, when the men gave a yell, and rushed forward at a double-quick, the whole of the enemy's force beating a hasty retreat to Cemetery Hill.
        My right now extended into the woods above referred to, and my left was a short distance from the Fairfield road. On passing beyond the stone fence and into the peach orchard near McMillan's house, I was ordered by General Pender not to advance farther unless there was another general forward movement. As I could see nothing at that time to indicate such a movement, and as one of the enemy's batteries on Cemetery Hill was doing us some damage, I ordered the brigade back a few yards, that the left might take shelter behind the stone fence.
        We remained in this position that night; and next day, before the heavy artillery firing commenced, I ordered the Thirty-third and Eighteenth Regiments to the left of Lieutenant-Colonel Garnett's battalion of artillery, that they might be better sheltered and at the same time be out of the enemy's line of fire.
        In the afternoon, I was ordered by General Pender to take possession of the road in my front with my skirmishers, if possible. Fresh men were thrown forward, and the whole, under Maj. O. N. Brown, of the Thirty-seventh, executed the order very handsomely, driving the enemy's skirmishers, and occupying the road along our entire front. With the exception of the gallantry displayed by our skirmishers, nothing of interest occurred in my command on the 2d.
        After a portion of the army on our right (I supposed they were some of Anderson's troops) had driven the enemy some distance, General Pender rode from the left of my line to the right of his division. About sunset, I was informed by Captain [William] Norwood, of General Thomas' staff, that General Pender had been wounded, and that I must take command of the division, and advance, if I saw a good opportunity for doing so. At that time the firing on the right was very desultory, the heavy fighting having ended.
        I was soon afterward informed by Major [H. A.] Whiting, of General Rodes' staff, that General Rodes would advance at dark, and that he wished me to protect his right flank. I did not give him a definite answer then, as I had sent you to notify General Hill of General Pender's fall, and to receive instructions.
        On being notified, however, by General Ewell that his whole command would move on the enemy's position that night, commencing with Johnson's division on the left, I told Major Whiting that would act without awaiting instructions from General Hill. I at once ordered forward Thomas' brigade and McGowan's, then commanded by Colonel Perrin, with instructions to Colonel Perrin to form an obtuse angle with Ramseur's brigade, which was the right of Rodes' first line, leaving an interval of 100 paces. At the same time, I determined to support these two brigades with Scales' and my own (commanded, respectively, by Colonels Lowrance and Avery), should there be any occasion for it. I subsequently received orders from General Hill, through Captain [W. N.] Starke, corresponding with what I had already done. Rodes' right advanced but a short distance beyond the road which was held by my skirmishers when the night attack was abandoned, and Rodes' front line occupied the road, Thomas and Perrin extending the same with their commands, the right of Thomas' brigade resting a short distance from an orchard, near a brick dwelling and barn.
        Next morning, the skirmishing was very heavy in front of Thomas and Perrin, requiring at times whole regiments to be deployed to resist the enemy and drive them back, which was always most gallantly done. While this was going on, I was ordered by General Hill, through Captain [F. T.] Hill, to move in person to the right, with the two brigades forming my second line, and to report to General Longstreet as a support to Pettigrew. General Longstreet ordered me to form in rear of the right of Heth's division, commanded by General Pettigrew. Soon after I had executed this order, putting Lowrance on the right, I was relieved of the command of the division by Major-General Trimble, who acted under the same orders that I had received. Heth's division was much larger than Lowrance's brigade and my own, which were its only support, and there was consequently no second line in rear of its left.
        Now in command of my own brigade, I moved forward to the support of Pettigrew's right, through the woods in which our batteries were planted, and through all open field about a mile, in full view of the enemy's fortified position, and under a murderous artillery and infantry fire.
        As soon as Pettigrew's command gave back, Lowrance's brigade and my own, without ever having halted, took position on the left of the troops which were still contesting the ground with the enemy. My command never moved forward more handsomely. The men reserved their fire, in accordance with orders, until within good range of the enemy, and then opened with telling effect, repeatedly driving the cannoneers front their pieces, completely silencing the guns in our immediate front, and breaking the line of infantry which was formed on the crest of the hill. We advanced to within a few yards of the stone wall, exposed all the while to a heavy raking artillery fire from the right. My left was here very much exposed, and a column of the enemy's infantry was thrown forward in that direction, which enfiladed my whole line. This forced me to withdraw my brigade, the troops on my right having already done so. We fell back as well as could be expected, reformed immediately in rear of the artillery, as directed by General Trimble, and remained there until the following morning.
        I cannot speak in too high terms of the behavior of my brigade in this bloody engagement. Both officers and men moved forward with a heroism unsurpassed, giving the brigade inspector and his rear guard nothing to do.
        Our great loss tells but too sadly of the gallant bearing of my command-660 out of an effective total of 1,355, including ambulance corps and rear guard, our loss on the 1st and 2d being but slight.
        General Trimble being wounded, I was again thrown in command of the division, and, with Lowrance's brigade and my own (under Colonel Avery), moved back to the rear of Thomas and Perrin on the 4th. There was skirmishing at intervals that day, and at dark we commenced falling back in the direction of Fairfield, Capt. W. T. Nicholson, of the Thirty-seventh, being left in command of the skirmishers from my brigade.
        We formed line of battle at Hagerstown, Md., on the 11th, and threw up breastworks along our entire front.
        Next day, the light division was consolidated with Heth's, and the whole being put under the command of General Heth, I again returned to the command of my brigade.
        On the 13th, we lost 1 man killed in the works and had 27 skirmishers captured. The skirmishers were taken by a body of the enemy that advanced from a point of woods under cover of stone fences and an orchard.
        The retreat from Hagerstown the night of the 13th was even worse than that from Gettysburg. My whole command was so exhausted that they all fell asleep as soon as they were halted--about a mile from the pontoon bridge at Falling Waters. Just as we were ordered to resume our march, the troops of Heth's division that occupied the breastworks in our rear as a rear guard were attacked by the enemy's cavalry. I at once ordered my command to fix bayonets, as our guns were generally unloaded, and moved down the road after General Thomas, but was soon halted by General Heth's order, and subsequently made to take a position in line of battle, to allow those brigades that were engaged to withdraw. I threw out a very strong line of skirmishers along our whole front, under Lieutenant [James M.] Crowell, of the Twenty-eighth, with instructions not to fire until the enemy got close upon him, and to fall back gradually when he saw the main line retiring toward the river. The Eighteenth Regiment, under Colonel Barry, was deployed to the right as skirmishers, and Colonel Avery had supervision of the right wing, so as to enable me to be apprised of the movements of the enemy more readily. As soon as the other brigades withdrew, a large force moved to our right, and as our left was also threatened, I lost no time in falling back, which was done in excellent order.
        Our thanks are due to Lieutenant Crowell and the officers and men under him for the stubbornness with which they contested every inch of ground against the enemy's mounted and dismounted cavalry, thereby enabling us to effect a crossing without the brigade being engaged. Lieutenant Crowell's command was the last organized body to cross the bridge.
        Our loss in bringing up the rear was 6 wounded and 38 missing. Our entire loss in the trans-Potomac campaign was 731.
        Colonel Avery, of the Thirty-third, who continued at his post after he had been bruised by a shell, refrains from making special allusion to any one in his command, as they all gallantly discharged their duties.
        Colonel Barbour, of the Thirty-seventh, refers to his heavy loss as sufficient evidence of the gallantry of his command. The loss of such officers as Lieutenants [William] Doherty, [Iowa] Royster, John P. Elms, and W. N. Mickle, who nobly discharged their duties, will be severely felt.
        Colonel Barry, of the Eighteenth, is proud of his command, which acted throughout the campaign in a manner satisfactory to him and creditable to themselves.
        Colonel Lowe, of the Twenty-eighth, was wounded, and had to leave, but Lieutenant-Colonel Speer speaks in high terms of the bravery of his officers and men during the whole of that desperate and hard-fought battle. He alludes to Adjt. R. S. Folger as having acted with great gallantry throughout the engagements, and also to Captains [T. J.] Linebarger, [E. G.] Morrow, [John W.] Randle, and [Thomas T.] Smith, and Lieutenant [E. T.] Thompson, who were wounded while gallantly leading their companies to the charge.
        Captain [John McLeod] Turner, commanding the Seventh, was wounded in front of his command while gallantly leading it forward, and was left on the field. Captain [James G.] Harris then assumed command, and is well pleased with the gallant bearing of the old Seventh, which was surpassed by none.
        Lieut. Oscar Lane, my aide, and my two couriers--George E. Bar-ringer and A. R. Joyce, privates from the Twenty-eighth--were very efficient both on the march and in action, and again bore themselves well under fire.



Recommended Reading: Brigades of Gettysburg: The Union and Confederate Brigades at the Battle of Gettysburg (Hardcover) (704 Pages). Description: While the battle of Gettysburg is certainly the most-studied battle in American history, a comprehensive treatment of the part played by each unit has been ignored. Brigades of Gettysburg fills this void by presenting a complete account of every brigade unit at Gettysburg and providing a fresh perspective of the battle. Continued below...

Using the words of enlisted men and officers, the author-well-known Civil War historian Bradley Gottfried-weaves a fascinating narrative of the role played by every brigade at the famous three-day battle, as well as a detailed description of each brigade unit. Organized by order of battle, each brigade is covered in complete and exhaustive detail: where it fought, who commanded, what constituted the unit, and how it performed in battle. Innovative in its approach and comprehensive in its coverage, Brigades of Gettysburg is certain to be a classic and indispensable reference for the battle of Gettysburg for years to come.

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Recommended Reading: General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse (624 pages). Editorial Review (Publishers Weekly): You cannot say that University of North Carolina professor Glatthaar (Partners in Command) did not do his homework in this massive examination of the Civil War–era lives of the men in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Glatthaar spent nearly 20 years examining and ordering primary source material to ferret out why Lee's men fought, how they lived during the war, how they came close to winning, and why they lost. Glatthaar marshals convincing evidence to challenge the often-expressed notion that the war in the South was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight and that support for slavery was concentrated among the Southern upper class. Lee's army included the rich, poor and middle-class, according to the author, who contends that there was broad support for the war in all economic strata of Confederate society. Continued below...

He also challenges the myth that because Union forces outnumbered and materially outmatched the Confederates, the rebel cause was lost, and articulates Lee and his army's acumen and achievements in the face of this overwhelming opposition. This well-written work provides much food for thought for all Civil War buffs.

Recommended Reading: Gettysburg, by Stephen W. Sears (640 pages) (November 3, 2004). Description: Sears delivers another masterpiece with this comprehensive study of America’s most studied Civil War battle. Beginning with Lee's meeting with Davis in May 1863, where he argued in favor of marching north, to take pressure off both Vicksburg and Confederate logistics. It ends with the battered Army of Northern Virginia re-crossing the Potomac just two months later and with Meade unwilling to drive his equally battered Army of the Potomac into a desperate pursuit. In between is the balanced, clear and detailed story of how tens-of-thousands of men became casualties, and how Confederate independence on that battlefield was put forever out of reach. The author is fair and balanced. Continued below...

He discusses the shortcomings of Dan Sickles, who advanced against orders on the second day; Oliver Howard, whose Corps broke and was routed on the first day; and Richard Ewell, who decided not to take Culp's Hill on the first night, when that might have been decisive. Sears also makes a strong argument that Lee was not fully in control of his army on the march or in the battle, a view conceived in his gripping narrative of Pickett's Charge, which makes many aspects of that nightmare much clearer than previous studies. A must have for the Civil War buff and anyone remotely interested in American history.


Recommended Reading: ONE CONTINUOUS FIGHT: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 (Hardcover). Description: The titanic three-day battle of Gettysburg left 50,000 casualties in its wake, a battered Southern army far from its base of supplies, and a rich historiographic legacy. Thousands of books and articles cover nearly every aspect of the battle, but not a single volume focuses on the military aspects of the monumentally important movements of the armies to and across the Potomac River. One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 is the first detailed military history of Lee's retreat and the Union effort to catch and destroy the wounded Army of Northern Virginia. Against steep odds and encumbered with thousands of casualties, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee's post-battle task was to successfully withdraw his army across the Potomac River. Union commander George G. Meade's equally difficult assignment was to intercept the effort and destroy his enemy. The responsibility for defending the exposed Southern columns belonged to cavalry chieftain James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart. If Stuart fumbled his famous ride north to Gettysburg, his generalship during the retreat more than redeemed his flagging reputation. The ten days of retreat triggered nearly two dozen skirmishes and major engagements, including fighting at Granite Hill, Monterey Pass, Hagerstown, Williamsport, Funkstown, Boonsboro, and Falling Waters. Continued below...

President Abraham Lincoln was thankful for the early July battlefield victory, but disappointed that General Meade was unable to surround and crush the Confederates before they found safety on the far side of the Potomac. Exactly what Meade did to try to intercept the fleeing Confederates, and how the Southerners managed to defend their army and ponderous 17-mile long wagon train of wounded until crossing into western Virginia on the early morning of July 14, is the subject of this study. One Continuous Fight draws upon a massive array of documents, letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and published primary and secondary sources. These long-ignored foundational sources allow the authors, each widely known for their expertise in Civil War cavalry operations, to describe carefully each engagement. The result is a rich and comprehensive study loaded with incisive tactical commentary, new perspectives on the strategic role of the Southern and Northern cavalry, and fresh insights on every engagement, large and small, fought during the retreat. The retreat from Gettysburg was so punctuated with fighting that a soldier felt compelled to describe it as "One Continuous Fight." Until now, few students fully realized the accuracy of that description. Complimented with 18 original maps, dozens of photos, and a complete driving tour with GPS coordinates of the entire retreat, One Continuous Fight is an essential book for every student of the American Civil War in general, and for the student of Gettysburg in particular. About the Authors: Eric J. Wittenberg has written widely on Civil War cavalry operations. His books include Glory Enough for All (2002), The Union Cavalry Comes of Age (2003), and The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads and the Civil War's Final Campaign (2005). He lives in Columbus, Ohio. J. David Petruzzi is the author of several magazine articles on Eastern Theater cavalry operations, conducts tours of cavalry sites of the Gettysburg Campaign, and is the author of the popular "Buford's Boys." A long time student of the Gettysburg Campaign, Michael Nugent is a retired US Army Armored Cavalry Officer and the descendant of a Civil War Cavalry soldier. He has previously written for several military publications. Nugent lives in Wells, Maine.


Recommended Reading: Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage. Description: America's Civil War raged for more than four years, but it is the three days of fighting in the Pennsylvania countryside in July 1863 that continues to fascinate, appall, and inspire new generations with its unparalleled saga of sacrifice and courage. From Chancellorsville, where General Robert E. Lee launched his high-risk campaign into the North, to the Confederates' last daring and ultimately-doomed act, forever known as Pickett's Charge, the battle of Gettysburg gave the Union army a victory that turned back the boldest and perhaps greatest chance for a Southern nation. Continued below...

Now, acclaimed historian Noah Andre Trudeau brings the most up-to-date research available to a brilliant, sweeping, and comprehensive history of the battle of Gettysburg that sheds fresh light on virtually every aspect of it. Deftly balancing his own narrative style with revealing firsthand accounts, Trudeau brings this engrossing human tale to life as never before.

Recommended Reading: The History Buff's Guide to Gettysburg (Key People, Places, and Events) (Key People, Places, and Events). Description: While most history books are dry monologues of people, places, events and dates, The History Buff's Guide is ingeniously written and full of not only first-person accounts but crafty prose. For example, in introducing the major commanders, the authors basically call Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell a chicken literally. 'Bald, bug-eyed, beak-nosed Dick Stoddard Ewell had all the aesthetic charm of a flightless foul.' Continued below...

To balance things back out a few pages later, they say federal Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade looked like a 'brooding gargoyle with an intense cold stare, an image in perfect step with his nature.' Although it's called a guide to Gettysburg, in my opinion, it's an authoritative guide to the Civil War. Any history buff or Civil War enthusiast or even that casual reader should pick it up.

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