Report of Capt. Henry C. Coates, First Minnesota Infantry (excerpt)
At daybreak the next morning the enemy renewed the battle with vigor, on the right and
left of our line, with infantry, and about 10 oclock A.M., opened upon the centre,
where we were posted, a most terrible fire of artillery, which continued without
intermission until 3 oclock P.M., when heavy columns of the enemys infantry
were thrown suddenly forward against our position. They marched resolutely in the face of
a withering fire up to our line, and succeeded in planting their colors on one of our
batteries. They held it but a moment, as our regiment with others of our division rushed
upon them the colors of our regiment in advance and retook the battery,
capturing nearly the entire rebel force who remained alive. Our regiment took about 500
prisoners. Several stands of rebel colors were here taken. Private Marshall Sherman, of
Company C, captured the colors of the Twenty-eighth Virginia Regiment.
William Lochren's Narrative of the First Regiment (excerpt)
July 3, 1863
In the morning of July 3rd we were joined by Company F, and by all men of the regiment who were detailed about brigade, division or corps headquarters, and Capt. Nathan S. Messick was in command. The morning opened bright and beautiful, with firing near the Little Round Top, and with a sharp fight on the right near Culp's Hill, where the enemy was forced back from positions gained the evening before. Soon after sunrise we were moved to our place in our brigade in the front line, passing Stannard's new brigade of Vermont troops as it was taking position to the left of our division under a sharp artillery fire from the enemy, which was turned on us also. The Vermont Brigade consisted of full regiments in new uniforms, and was therefore noticeable in contrast with the thinned regiments, in dusty garments, of the Second Corps. Reaching our place in the line, we made a slight barricade of stones, fence rails and knapsacks filled with dirt a little over knee-height, and, lying down behind it, many were soon asleep. During the forenoon there was a slight skirmish in our front, in which some buildings used for cover by Confederate sharpshooters were burned. But suddenly, about one o'clock, a tremendous artillery fire opened along Seminary Ridge, all converging upon the position of the Second Division of the Second Corps. It was at once responded to by our artillery, whose position was on ground a little higher to the rear of our position. About one hundred and fifty pieces of each side were in action, firing with great rapidity, the missiles from both sides passing over us, except those of the enemy, which stuck or burst at or in front of our line. We had been in the many battles, and thought ourselves familiar with the roar of artillery, and the striking and bursting of its missiles, but nothing approaching this cannonade had ever greeted our ears. In the storm of shells passing over us to the position of our artillery, where caissons were struck and burst every few moments, it did not seem that anything could live at that place. But our own artillery was served as rapidly, and we had the satisfaction of detecting the sound of bursting caissons on the enemy's side very frequently. Men will grow accustomed to anything; and before the two hours of this furious cannonade were ended some of the most weary of our men were sleeping. At length our artillery ceased to reply. We were surprised at this, thinking that we excelled the enemy in this arm. The Confederate fire appeared to increase in volume and rapidity for a few minutes, and then stopped at once. We well knew what was to follow, and were all alert in a moment, every man straining his eyes toward the wood, three-fourths of a mile distant, from which the Confederate infantry began to emerge in heavy force, forming two lines, with a supporting force in rear of each flank. We then estimated the forces was over 20,000 men, though Confederate accounts reduce the number to 15,000. Moving directly for our position, with firm step and in perfect order, our artillery soon opened upon them with terrible effect, but without causing any pause, and we could not repress feelings and expressions of admiration at the steady, resolute style in which they came on, breasting that storm of shell and grape, which was plainly thinning their ranks. When about sixty rods distant from our line our division opened with musketry, and the slaughter was very great, but instead of hesitating, the step was changed to double-quick, and they rushed to the charge. But whether because Hancock here wheeled Stannard's Vermont Brigade to enfilade their right flank in passing, or from some other cause, their front opened at this time, and perhaps one-fourth of the force on Pickett's right here deflected further to their right, and were met and disposed of by the Gallant Vermonters. The remainder of the charging force at the same diverged or changed its direction to its left, and, passing from our front diagonally, under our fire and that of Hall's Brigade to our right, charged the position held by Webb's Second Brigade of our division, forcing back the Sixty-ninth and Seventy-first Pennsylvania regiments, and capturing Cushing's Battery, which had swept them with canister. Bust as soon as Pickett's force had passed our front, our brigade (Harrow's) ran to the right for the threatened point, passing in rear of Hall's Brigade, which, as soon as uncovered, wheeled to the right to strike the enemy's flank. So that, by the time the Confederates had captured Cushing's Battery, our brigade, mingled with Webb's, was in front of it is a strong, though confused, line at a few rods distance. Just here we were jointed by Capt. Farrell with Company C of our regiment, the division provost guard, who had promptly obeyed Gibbon's order to join the regiment in resisting this attack. The fire from both, so near to each other, was most deadly while it lasted. Corp. Dehn, the last of our color guard, then carrying our tattered flag, was here shot through the hand, and the flagstaff cut in two. Corp. Henry D. O'Brien of Company E instantly seized the flag by the remnant of the staff. Whether the command to charge was given by the general officer I do not know. My impression then was that it came as a spontaneous outburst from the men, and instantly the line precipitated itself upon the enemy. O'Brien, who then had the broken staff and tatters of our battle flag, with his characteristic bravery and impetuosity sprang with it to the front at the first sound of the word charge, and rushed right up to the enemy's line, keeping it noticeably in advance of every other color. My feeling at the instant blamed his rashness in so risking its capture. But the effect was electrical. Every man of the First Minnesota sprang to protect its flag, and the rest rushed with them upon the enemy. The bayonet was used for a few minutes, and cobble stones, with which the ground was well covered, filled the air, being thrown by those in the rear over the heads of their comrades. The struggle, desperate and deadly while it lasted, was soon over. Most of the Confederates remaining threw down their arms and surrendered, a very few escaping. Marshall Sherman of Company C here captured the colors of the Twenty-eighth Virginia Regiment. Our men were at once most kind and attentive to the three or four thousand captured Confederates, giving them refreshments from canteens and haversacks. Our loss in killed and wounded in this day's fight was seventeen. Among the killed was Capt. Nathan S. Messick, our commander; also Capt. Wilson B. Farrell, who succeeded to the command on the fall of Capt. Messick, both most gallant and capable officers. Our color guard had suffered severely in the battle. When the charge on July 2nd was ordered, Sergt. Ellet P. Perkins, who had seized the colors at Antietam when Sam. Bloomer was wounded and had borne them bravely through every intermediate battle, still carried them. He and two corporals of the color guard succeeding him in carrying the colors were struck down in that charge. Corp. Dehn, the last of the color guard, carried the flag that night, and in the repelling of Pickett's charge, until wounded in the hand when the flagstaff was cut in two as stated. Corp. O'Brien, who then seized the flag, received two wounds in the final melee at the moment of victory; but the flag was grasped by Corp. W.N. Irvine of Company D. The staff was spliced by the staff of a Confederate flag on the battlefield, and so carried till the regiment was mustered out, and still remains with the same splice in the capitol at St. Paul. With the repulse of Pickett's charge the serious fighting of the battle of Gettysburg ended. The command of the First Regiment devolved upon Capt. Henry C. Coates, who appointed Lieut. William Lochren acting adjutant. Gen. Hancock was severely wounded in this last day's battle, as was also Gen. John Gibbon, our division commander, one of the most able and gallant leaders on the field.
Minneapolis, Feb. 1, 1890