Lane's Brigade at Gettysburg

Thomas' Legion
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History of Lane's Brigade at Battle of Gettysburg

Lane's Brigade at Gettysburg--Summary of Reports by Lane, 1892

(Cover Note On Gen. James H. Lane's Letterhead)
Gen. James H. Lane.
Prof. Civil Engineering and Drawing.
Alabama Polytechnic Institute.
Auburn, Ala. March 15, 1892.

Mr. M.S. O'Donnell,
Boston, Mass.

Dear Sir:

Yours of the 11th inst. just received. As soon as I have the time to copy, it will afford me pleasure to give you some of the official facts about my North Carolina Brigade in the battle of Gettysburg.

Yours very respectfully,

James H. Lane. 

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Lane's N. Carolina Brigade in the battle of Gettysburg.

From Brig. Genl. Jas. H. Lane's Report

x x x On the morning of the 1st July, we moved from South Mountain, Pennsylvania through Cashtown in the direction of Gettysburg & formed line of battle in rear of the left of Heth's division, about three miles from the latter place to the left of the turnpike, in the following order: Seventh, Thirty-seventh, Twenty-eighth, Eighteenth, & 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, & 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 & at right angles to our line of battle, to protect our flank, which was exposed to the enemy's cavalry: Pettigrew's & Archer's brigades were in the first line immediately in our front. We were soon ordered forward again after taking this position, the Seventh being instructed to move as skirmishers by the left flank. In advancing

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we gained ground to the right & on emerging from the woods in which Pettigrew's brigade had been formed, I found that my line had passed Archer's, & that my entire front was unmasked. We then moved about a mile, & as the Seventh regiment had been detained a short time, Col. Barbour threw out forty men under Capt. Hudson, to keep back some of the enemy's cavalry which had dismounted, & were annoying us with an enfilade fire. We moved across this open field at a quick time, until a body of the enemy's cavalry & a few infantry opened upon us from the woods, subsequently occupied by Pegram's battalion of artillery, when the men gave a yell & 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 referred to, & my left was a short distance from the Fairfield road. On passing beyond the stone-fence & into the peach orchard near McMillan's house, I was ordered by Genl. Pender not to advance further unless there was another general forward movement. As I could see

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nothing at that time to indicate such a movement & 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 & next day, before the heavy artillery firing commenced, I ordered the Thirty-third & Eighteenth regiments to the left of Colonel Garnett's battalion of artillery, that they might be better sheltered, & at the same time be out of the enemy's line of fire. In the afternoon I was ordered by Genl. Pender to take possession of the road in my front with my skirmishers, if possible. Fresh men were thrown forward, & the whole, under Major O.N. Brown of the Thirty-seventh, executed the order very handsomely, driving the enemy's skirmishers & 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 second day. After a portion of the army on our right (I suppose they were some of Anderson's troops) had driven the enemy some distance,

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Genl. Pender rode from the left of my line to the right of his division. About sunset I was informed by Capt. Norwood, of Genl. Thomas's Staff, that Genl. Pender had been wounded, & that I must take command of the division & 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 afterwards informed by Major Whiting, of Genl Rodes's Staff, that Genl. Rodes would advance at dark, & that he wished me to protect his flank. I did not give him a definite answer then as I had sent [ ] to notify Genl. Hill of Genl. Pender's fall, & to receive instructions. On being notified, however, by Genl. Ewell, that his whole command would move on the enemy's position that night, commencing with Johnson's division on the left, I told Maj. Whiting that I would act without awaiting instructions from Genl. Hill. I at once ordered forward Thomas's brigade & McGowan's (then commanded by Col. Perrin) to form an obtuse angle with Ransom's brigade

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which was the right of Rodes's first line, leaving an interval of one hundred paces. I, at the same time, determined to support these two brigades with Scales's & my own, commanded respectively by Colonels Lowrance & Avery, should there be any occasion for it. I subsequently received orders from Genl. Hill, through Capt. Starke, corresponding with what I had already done. Rodes's right advanced but a short distance beyond the road which was held by my skirmishers, when the night attack was abandoned, & Rodes's front line occupied the road - Thomas & Perrin extending the same with their commands, the right of Thomas' brigade resting a short distance from an orchard near a brick dwelling & barn. Next morning the skirmishing was very heavy in front of Thomas & Perrin, requiring, at times, whole regiments to be deployed to resist the enemy & drive them back, which was always most gallantly done. While this was going on, I was ordered by Genl. Hill, through Capt. Hill, to move in person to the right with the two brigades

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forming my second line (Lane's & Scales') & to "report to General Longstreet as a support to Pettigrew." Genl. Longstreet ordered me to form in rear of the right of Heth's division, commanded by Genl. Pettigrew. Soon after I had executed this order, putting Lowrance on the right, I was relieved of the command of the division by Major Genl. Trimble, who acted under the same orders that I had received. Heth's division was much longer than Lowrance's brigade & my own (Lane's) which were its only support & there was consequently no second line in rear of its left. Now, in command of my brigade (Lane's) I moved forward to the support of Pettigrew's right, through the woods in which our batteries were planted, & through an open field about a mile in full view of the enemy's fortified position, & under a murderous artillery & infantry fire. As soon as Pettigrew's command gave back, Lowrance's brigade & my own, (Lane's) without ever having halted, took position on the left of the troops which were still contesting the ground with the enemy. My command (Lane's) never moved forward more hand-

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somely. The men reserved their fire in accordance with orders, until within good range of the enemy, & then opened with telling effect, repeatedly driving the cannoneers from their pieces - completely silencing the guns in our immediate front & 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 much exposed, & a column of 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 Genl. Trimble, & remained there until the following morning. I cannot speak too highly of my brigade in this bloody engagement. Both officers & men moved forward with a heroism unsurpassed, giving the brigade [inspector] & his rear guard nothing to do. Our great loss tells but too sadly of the gallant bearing of my command - Six hundred & sixty (660)

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out of an effective total of thirteen hundred & fifty five (1355) including ambulance corps & rear guard - our loss on the 1st & 2nd being but slight. Genl. Trimble being wounded, I was again thrown in command of the division, & with Lowrance's brigade & my own, under command of Col. Avery, moved back to the rear of Thomas & Perrin on the 4th. There was skirmishing at intervals that day, & 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.


Genl. Trimble being seriously wounded & captured, made no official report of this battle. The following, however, is an extract from a publication of his, since the war, about the Third day's fight:

On the morning of the 3rd I had been put in command, by order of Genl. Lee, of two of the brigades of Genl. Pender who had

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been wounded. These were both of North Carolina troops, commanded by J.H. Lane & Alfred M. Scales. On taking command of these troops, entire strangers to me, & wishing as far as I could to inspire them with confidence, I addressed them briefly - ordered that no gun should be fired until the enemy's line was broken, & that I should advance with them to the farthest point. When the charge commenced, about 3.P.M., I followed Pettigrew (Heth's division) about one hundred & fifty yards in rear a sufficient distance to prevent the [adverse] fire raking both ranks as we marched down the slope. Notwithstanding the losses as we advanced, the men marched with the deliberation & accuracy of men on drill. I observed the same in Pettigrew's line. When the latter was within one hundred, or one hundred & fifty yards of the Emmettsburg road, they seemed to sink into the earth under the tempest of fire poured into them. We passed over the remnant of their line, & immediately after some one close by my left sang out, "Three cheers for the

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Old North State," when both brigades sent up a hearty shout, on which I said to my aid, "Charley, I believe those fine fellows are going into the enemy's line."

They did get to the road & drove the opposing line from it. They continued there some minutes, discharging their pieces at the enemy. The loss here was fearful, & I knew that no troops could long endure it. I was anxious to know how things went on with the troops on our right, & taking a quick but deliberate view of the field over which Pickett had advanced, I perceived that the enemy's fire seemed to slacken there, & men in squads were falling back on the West side of the Emmettsburg road. By this I inferred that Pickett's division had been repulsed, & if so, that it would be a useless sacrifice of life to continue the contest. I therefore did not attempt to rally the men who begun to give back from the fence. As I followed the retiring line, on horseback at a walk, to the crest

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of Seminary Ridge, under the increasing discharge of grape, shell, & musketry, I had cause to wonder how any one could escape wounds or death. On reaching the summit of the ridge, I found the men had fallen into line behind some rude defences. I said, "That is right, my brave fellows; stand your ground, & we will presently serve these chaps as they have us." For, by all the rules of warfare, the Federal troops should (as I expected they would) have marched against our shattered columns, & sought to cover our army with an over whelming defeat

"As Genl. Pender was killed, & Genl. Trimble who succeeded to the command, very badly wounded, the report of the divison was, by order of Genl. Lee, made by Maj. Englehard."

The following are extracts from the official report of Maj. Joseph A. Engelhard, who was the A.A.G. of Penderson's [believe he meant to write Pender's] divison:

Late in the afternoon of this day (the 3rd)

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during the attack of Lieut Genl. Longstreet's Corps & a portion of Maj. Genl. Anderson's division upon the enemy's left, Maj. Genl. Pender, having ridden to the extreme right of the command, to advance his division should the opportunity offer, received a severe wound in the leg from a fragment of a shell, which subsequently proved fatal.


The command of the division devolved upon Genl. Lane, who, upon being informed by Lt. Genl. Ewell that he would move upon the enemy's position at dark, ordered the brigades of Genl. Thomas & Col. Perrin forward to the road occupied by the skirmishers, so as to protect the right flank of Genl. Rhodes' division, supporting these two brigades with his own, commanded by Col. C.M. Avery, Thirty-third North Carolina troops, & Scales', commanded by Col. W.L.J. Lowrance, Thirty-fourth North Carolina troops, who, although wounded on the 1st, had reported for duty. The night attack was subsequently abandoned, but these two brigades (Thomas' & Perrins') remained in their advanced position during the night & the next day keeping a continuous & heavy skirmish

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with the enemy, compelling his advance to remain close under the batteries of Cemetery Hill, the brigades of Lane & Scales forming a second line. During the morning of the 3rd Genl. Lane received an order from Lt. Genl. Hill to report in person, with the two brigades (Lane's & Scales') forming his second line to the right, to Lt. Genl. Longstreet as a support to Pettigrew. Genl. Longstreet ordered him to form in rear of the right of Heth's division, commanded by Genl. Pettigrew. Having executed this order, Genl. Lane was relieved of the command by Maj. Genl. I.R. Trimble, who acted under the same orders given Genl. Lane. The two brigades (Lane's & Scales') then formed as a support to Pettigrew, with Lowrance on the right, after suffering no little from the two hours' exposure to the heavy artillery fire, which preceeded the attack on the 3rd, advanced in close supporting distance of Pettigrew's line. Genl. Trimble, with portions of his own & Genl. Pender's Staff being with & taking immediate command of the movement. The line moved forward through the woods into the open field, about one mile in full view of the fortified position of

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the enemy, exposed to a murderous artillery & infantry fire in front, a severe artillery fire from the right, & an enfilade fire of musketry from the left. The line moved handsomely & firmly forward. The division in front gaining ground to the right, uncovered the left of Lane's brigade which caused it to advance more rapidly than the rest of the line. This was checked by a prompt order from Genl. Trimble. When within a few hundred yards of the enemy's ranks, the line in front being entirely gone, the division moved rapidly up, connecting with the troops on the right, still stubbornly contesting the ground with the enemy, reserving their fire until within easy range, & then opening with telling effect, driving the artillerists from their guns, completely silencing them, & breaking the line of support formed on the crest of the hill. All the guns in the immediate front of the division were silenced, & the infantry had fallen back beyond their second & third line of defence, when the division advancing in an oblique direction, the extreme right of which had reached the works, was

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compelled to fall back, the troops on the right having already gone, exposing the line to a very deadly fire from that direction immediately on the flank, & a large column of infantry appearing on the left, that flank became exposed. The two extreme left regiments of Lane's brigade, under Colonels Avery & Barry, advanced some minutes after the rest of the line had given way, & fell back under direct orders.

The gallantry & impetuosity of the (Lane's & Scales') brigades of the division engaged in this attack drew from their veteran & wounded commander the highest compliments, as it won the admiration of all who witnessed them. Lane's veteran troops advanced with that enthusiasm & firmness which had characterized them on every field which has made the soil of Virginia historic, under the supervision of their brigade commander. And the brigade of Genl. Scales, yet weak from the terrible loss it sustained at Chancellorsville, & one half of the remaining numbers killed or wounded in the attack on the 1st, including the brigade commander,

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& all field officers save one, who was wounded in this attack, yet moved forward with characteristic gallantry, & its right touched the enemy's line of works & gave way only when the whole force on the right was gone, & the enemy from numerous batteries crowning every height was decimating its reduced ranks.

In this attack Maj. Genl. Trimble was severely wounded near the enemy's works in the leg which necessitated amputation, & in the retreat to the Potomac, unfortunately fell into the hands of the enemy. X X X X

The division was reformed in accordance with orders from Genl. Trimble, by Genl. Lane, just in rear of the artillery & upon the same ground where it had rested before making the attack, & in this position remained until the army fell back on the night of the 4th of July. X X X

Extract from the official report of Lt. Genl. A.P. Hill.

X X On the morning of the 3rd the divisions of my corps occupied the same positions as

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on the 2nd. The reserve batteries were all brought up & put in position along the crest of the ridge facing the enemy's line. In addition the battalion of Col. Alexander of Longstreet's Corps, was put in position in front of the right wing of Anderson's division, & on the ground won by Wilcox & Wright. I was directed to hold my line with Anderson's division & the half of Pender's, now commanded by Genl. Lane, & to order Heth's division, commanded by Pettigrew, & Lane's & Scales' brigades, of Pender's division, to report to Lieut. Genl. Longstreet as a support to his corps in the assault on the enemy's lines. As the troops were filing off to their positions, Maj. Genl. Trimble reported to me for the command of Pender's division, & took the command of the two brigades (Lane's & Scales') destined to take part in the assault.

At one o'clock, our artillery opened, & for two hours rained an incessant storm of missiles upon the enemy's line. The effect was marked along my front, driving the enemy entirely from his guns. The assault was then gallantly made. Heth's division & Trimble's two brigades

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(Lane's & Scales') on the left of Pickett. Anderson had been directed to hold his division ready to take advantage of any success which might be gained by the assaulting column, or to support it if necessary: & to that end, Wilcox & Perrin were moved forward to eligible positions. The assault failed, & after almost gaining the enemy's works, our troops fell back in disorder. The enemy made no attempt to pursue. X X X

Extract from the official report of Gen. R.E. Lee.

X X Genl. Ewell (on the 2nd) had directed Genl. Rodes to attack in concert with Genl. Early, covering his right, & had requested Brig. Genl. Lane, then commanding Pender's division, to cooperate on the right of Rhodes. When the time of attack arrived, Genl. Rhodes not having his troops in position, was unprepared to cooperate with Genl. Early, & before he could get in readiness the latter had been obliged to retire from want of expected support on his right. Genl. Lane was prepared to give the assistance required of him & so informed Genl. Rodes; but the latter

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deemed it useless to advance after the failure of Early's attack.


The general plan was unchanged: Longstreet, reinforced by Pickett's three brigades, which arrived near the battle field during the afternoon of the 2nd, was ordered to attack the next morning, & Genl. Ewell was directed to assail the enemy's right at the same time. The latter during the night reinforced Genl. Johnson with two brigades from Rhodes & one from Early's division. Genl. Longstreet's dispositions were not completed as early as was expected, but before notice could be sent to Genl. Ewell, Genl. Johnson had already become engaged, & it was too late to recall him. The enemy attempted to recover the works taken the preceding evening, but was repulsed, & Genl. Johnson attacked in turn. After a gallant & prolonged struggle, in which the enemy was forced to abandon part of his entrenchments, Genl. Johnson found himself unable to carry the strongly fortified crest of the hill. The projected attack on the

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enemy's left not having been made, he was enabled to hold his right with a force largely superior to that of Genl. Johnson, & finally to threaten his flank & rear, rendering it necessary for him to retire to his original position about one P.M. Genl. Longstreet was delayed by a force occupying the high, rocky hills on the enemy's left, from which his troops could be attacked in reverse as he advanced. His operations had been embarrassed the day previous by the same cause, & he now deemed it necessary to defend his flank & rear with the divisions of Hood & McLaws. He was therefore reinforced by Heth's division & two brigades (Lane's & Scales') of Pender's, to the command of which Maj. Genl. Trimble was assigned. Genl. Hill was directed to hold his line with the rest of his command, afford Genl. Longstreet further assistance if requested, & avail himself of any success that might be gained. A careful examination was made of the ground secured by Longstreet, & his batteries placed in positions which it was believed

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would enable them to silence those of the enemy.

Hill's artillery & part of Ewell's, was ordered to open simultaneously, & the assaulting column to advance under cover of the combined fire of the three. The batteries were directed to be pushed forward as the infantry progressed, protect their flanks, & support their attacks closely. About 1 P.M. at a given signal, a heavy cannonade was opened & continued for about two hours with marked effect upon the enemy. His batteries replied vigorously at first, but towards the close their fire slackened perceptibly, & Genl. Longstreet ordered forward the column of attack, consisting of Pickett's & Heth's divisions, in two lines, Pickett on the right. Wilcox's brigade marched in rear of Pickett's right to guard his flank, & Heth's was supported by Lane's & Scales' brigades under Genl. Trimble. The troops moved steadily on under a heavy fire of musketry & artillery, the main attack being directed against the enemy's left-center. His batteries reopened as soon as they appeared. Our own having nearly exhausted

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their ammunition in the protracted cannonade that preceded the advance of the infantry, were unable to reply, or render the necessary support to the attacking party. Owing to this fact, which was unknown to me when the assault took place, the enemy was enabled to throw a strong force of infantry against our left (Lane's brigade) already wavering under a concentrated fire of artillery from the ridge in front & from Cemetery Hill on the left. It finally gave way, & the right, after penetrating the enemy's lines, entering the advance works, & capturing some of his artillery, was attacked simultaneously in front & on both flanks, & driven back with heavy loss. The troops were rallied & reformed, but the enemy did not pursue. A large number of brave officers & men fell or were captured on this occasion.

Source: Auburn University Archives and Manuscripts Department

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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...

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