Reports & Narratives

Home

Winona 1851-1861 
        Dakota Era
        Pioneer Era
        Eve of  War
        Questions
        Bibliography

Road to Gettysburg
        Company K
         Questions

July 1, 1863
        Reports
       Company K
 

July 2, 1863
        The Historians
        Company K
        Reports
 

July 3, 1863
        Reports
        Company K
        Newspapers

July 4, 1863
        Reports
        Company K
        Newspapers 
        Questions

Manuscripts

        Reports

        Letters
              Carpenter
              Goddard
              Marvin
             Jane Ely
             Charles Ely

        Diaries
              Marvin

        Newspaper

NYC & Brooklyn
        Reports
        Company K

1ST Minnesota & 20th Maine

Acknowledgements & Credits
        Bibliography
        Links

St. Patrick's Day,
March 17, 1863

Company K Roster
1861-1864

User's Guide

 

 

BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG – July 2 and 3, 1863.

 

Report of Capt. Henry C. Coates, First Minnesota Infantry.

 

HEADQUARTERS FIRST REGIMENT MINNESOTA VOLUNTEERS, BATTLE-FIELD, NEAR GETTYSBURG, PA., July 5, 1863.

 

YOUR EXCELLENCY: I have the honor herewith to transmit to you a brief statement of the movements of this regiment since leaving Falmouth, Va.

On Sunday evening, June 14, we struck tents and moved about five miles towards Stafford Court-House, when we were ordered back on picket at Sedgwick’s Crossing, below Falmouth. At 3 o’clock of the morning of the 15th we were withdrawn and moved again towards Stafford’s Court-House, our corps forming the rearguard of the army. We reached Acquia creek, near Dumfries, that night, - twenty-eight miles, - and on the next day marched to Fairfax Station, and on the 19th to Centerville. Up to this the weather had been very hot, and the men suffered severely from the hard marching. On the 20th we were detailed to guard the train, and marched in a severe rain to Gainesville, reaching that place after midnight. On the next day we went to Thouroughfare Gap, where we were kept upon picket duty until the 25th, when we took up the line of march for the Potomac. The regiment was shelled by the enemy at Haymarket; one man was wounded, and Colonel Colvill’s horse killed under him. We reached Gum Spring on that night, twenty-two miles, and at noon of the next day arrived at Edwards Ferry, on the Potomac, which we crossed in the night, and bivouacked near our old camp.

On the 27th we marched to Sugar Loaf Mountain, and on the next day reached the Monocacy, near Frederick City, Maryland. On the 29th we made a march of thirty-one miles, to Uniontown, near the Pennsylvania line, where we found the pickets of the enemy, and laid over one day for stated muster. On the 1st of July we marched within two miles of this place, where we found portions of the army, who had been in the battle of that day. About 3 o’clock on the morning of the 2d inst. we were ordered into position in the front and about the centre of our line, just to the left of the town. The battle commenced at daylight and raged with fury the entire day. We were under a severe artillery fire, but not actively engaged until about 5 o’clock P.M., when we were moved to support Battery C, Fourth U.S. Artillery. Company F had been detached from the regiment as skirmishers, and Company L as sharpshooters. Our infantry, who had advanced upon the enemy in our front and pushed him for awhile, were in turn driven back in some confusion, the enemy following them in heavy force.

To check them, we were ordered to advance, which we did, moving at double quick down the slope of the hill, right upon the rebel line. The fire we encountered here was terrible, and although we inflicted severe punishment upon the enemy and checked his advance, it was with the loss in killed and wounded of more than two-thirds of our men who were engaged. Here Captain Muller of Company E, and Lieutenant Farrar of Company I, were killed; Captain Periam of Company K, mortally wounded; Colonel Colvill, Lieutenant Colonel Adams, Major Downie, Adjutant Peller, and Lieutenants Sinclair, Company B, Demarest, Company E, De Gray, Company G, and Boyd, Company I, were severely wounded. Colonel Colvill is shot through the shoulder and foot, Lieutenant Colonel Adams is shot through the chest, and twice through the leg, and his recovery is doubtful. Fully two-thirds of the enlisted men engaged were either killed or wounded. Companies F, C, and L, not being engaged here, did not suffer severely on this day’s fight. The command of the regiment now devolved upon Capt. Nathan S. Messick.

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 o’clock A.M., opened upon the centre, where we were posted, a most terrible fire of artillery, which continued without intermission until 3 o’clock P.M., when heavy columns of the enemy’s 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.

Our entire regiment, except Company L, were in this fight, and our loss was again very severe. Captain Messick, while gallantly leading the regiment, was killed early. Capt. W.B. Farrell, Company C, was mortally wounded and died last night. Lieutenant Mason, Company D, received three severe wounds, and Lieutenants Harmon, Company C, Heffelfinger, Company D, and May, Company B, were also wounded. The enemy suffered terribly here, and is now retreating.

Our loss of so many brave men is heartrending, and will carry mourning into all parts of the state. But they have fallen in a holy cause, and their memory will not soon perish. Our loss is 4 commissioned officers and 47 men killed; 13 officers and 162 men wounded, and 6 men missing, - total 232 – out of less than 330 men and officers engaged. I send herewith a list of killed and wounded.

Several acts of heroic daring occurred in this battle; I cannot now attempt to enumerate them. The bearing of Colonel Colvill and Lieutenant Colonel Adams in the fight of Thursday was conspicuously gallant. Heroically urging on the attack they fell nearly at the same moment (their wounds completely disabling them), so far in the advance that some time elapsed before they were got off the field. Major Downie received two bullets through the arm before he turned over the command to Captain Messick. Color Sergt. E. P. Perkins, and two of the color guard successively bearing the flag, were wounded in Thursday’s fight. On Friday Corporal Dehn, of Company A (the last of the color guard), when close upon the enemy, was shot through the hand, and the flag staff cut in two; Corp. Henry D. O’Brien, of Company E, instantly seized the flag by the remnant of the staff and waving it over his head rushed right up to the muzzles of the enemy’s muskets. Nearly at the moment of victory he too was wounded in the hand, but the flag was instantly grasped by Corp. W. N. Irvine, of Company D, who still carries its tattered remnants. Company L, Captain Berger, supported Kirby’s battery throughout the battle, and did very effective service. Every man in the regiment did his whole duty. With great respect , I am, your obedient servant,

H. C. Coates

 

Captain, Commanding First Regiment Minnesota Volunteers.

His Excellency, Alexander Ramsey,

Governor of the State of Minnesota

 

 

 

Report of Captain Henry C. Coates, First Minnesota Infantry

 

NEAR ELLIS’S FORD, Va., Aug. 3, 1863

SIR: Pursuant to circular of this date, I respectfully submit the following statement of the part taken by this regiment in the late battle near Gettysburg, Pa.:

About 3 o’clock on the morning of July 2, we were ordered into position near the centre of our line of battle, to the left of the town. The battle commenced at daylight, and raged with fury the entire day. We remained under a severe artillery fire, but were not actively engaged until about 5 P.M., when we were moved to support Battery C, Fourth U. S. Artillery. Company F was about this time detached from the regiment as skirmishers, and Company L as sharpshooters. Our infantry in front of us had advanced upon the enemy and pushed him for awhile, but were in turn driven back in some confusion, the enemy following in heavy force. To check the enemy, we were ordered to advance, which we did, moving at double-quick down the slope of the hill right upon the rebel line. The fire we encountered here was terrible, and, although we inflicted severe punishment upon the enemy, and stopped his advance, we there lost in killed and wounded more than two-thirds of our men and officers who were engaged.

Here Captain Muller, of Company E, and Lieutenant Farrar, of Company I, were killed; Captain Periam, of Company K, mortally wounded. Colonel Colvill, Lieutenant Colonel Adams, Major Downie, Adjutant Peller, and Lieutenants Sinclair, Company B; Demarest, Company E; De Gray, Company G; and Boyd, Company I, were severely wounded.

The command of the regiment now devolved upon Captain Nathan S. Messick, and we were moved again to the right, near the position first occupied by us, where we slept on our arms during the night.

At daybreak the next morning the enemy renewed the battle with vigor on the right and left our line with infantry, and about 10 A.M. opened upon the centre, where we were posted, a most severe fire of artillery, which continued without intermission until 3 P.M., when heavy columns of the enemy’s infantry were thrown suddenly forward against our position. They marched resolutely in the face of a withering fire up to our lines, and succeeded in planting their colors on one of our batteries. The point of attack was to the right of our position, and held by the Second Brigade of our division (Second Division, Second Army Corps.) As the enemy approached, we were moved by the right flank to oppose them, firing upon them as we approached, and sustaining their fire, together with the fire of batteries which they had brought up to within short range. The fighting here was desperate for a time. At length the regiment and others closed in upon the enemy, and nearly the whole of the rebel force which remained alive were taken prisoners. About 500 were captured by this regiment; also the colors of the Twenty-eight Virginia Regiment, taken by Private Marshall Sherman, of Company C.

The regiment here again lost severely. Capt. Nathan Messick, while gallantly leading the regiment, fell early in the action. Capt. W. B. Farrell, Company C, was mortally wounded, and died on the following day. Lieutenants Mason and Heffelfinger, Company D, Harmon, Company C, and May, Company B, were wounded.

The enemy did not recover from this repulse, and the battle was now won. The entire regiment, excepting Company L, was in this last fight. This company had been detached as sharpshooters, to support Kirby’s Battery, where it did very effective service. Every man in the regiment did his whole duty.

The accompanying list of killed and wounded shows the severity of our loss.

Your obedient servant,

H. C. Coates

Captain, Commanding Regiment

Lieut. F. W. Haskell,

Acting Assistant Adjutant General

 

 

RETURN OF KILLED, WOUNDED AND MISSING OF THE FIRST MINNESOTA REGIMENT VOLUNTEERS AT THE BATTLE NEAR GETTYSBURG, PA., JULY 2 AND 3, 1863.

 

OFFICERS KILLED AND SINCE DEAD OF WOUNDS

Company G – Capt. N. S. Messick, died July 3.

Company C – Capt. Wilson B. Farrell, died July 3.

Company E – Capt. Louis Muller, killed July 2.

Company K – Capt. Joseph Periam, died July 7.

Company I – Second Lieutenant Farrar, killed July 2.

Commissioned officers killed, five.

 

COMMISSIONED OFFICERS WOUNDED

Col. William Colvill, Lieut. Col. Charles P. Adams, Maj. Mark W. Downie, Captains William Harmon and Thomas Sinclair; Lieutenants John Peller (adjutant), C. B. Heffelfinger, Charles H. Mason (died Aug. 18, 1863), David B. Demarest (died July 30, 1863) and James De Gray.

 

ENLISTED MEN KILLED AND SINCE DEAD OF WOUNDS

Company A – Corporals Julius Edler, died July 2d James Keyes, died July2d; Joseph Schmucker, died July 2d; Peter Marx, died July 29th; Timothy Crawley, died July 29th; Sergt. Henry C. Wright, died July 6th; Privates John G. Wilson, died July 2d; Warren Wagner, died July 6th; John F. Miller, died July 2d; John Hauser, died July 2d; Clark Brandt, died July 21st.

Company B – Sergt. Samuel B. Nickerson, killed July 2d, Privates William F. Bates, killed July 2d; August Koenig, killed July 2d.

Company C – First Sergt. H. H. Howard, died July 3d, Sergt. Wade Lufkin, died July 3d; Corp. Aaron Greenwald, died July 3d; Private John Ellsworth, died July 3d.

Company D – Privates Charles E. Baker, died July 2; Joseph H. Prime, died July 2; Alonzo C. Hayden, died July 3d; George Grandy, died July 5th; Marcus A. Past, Irving Lawrence, died July 7th; William R. Allen, died July 18th.

Company E – First Sergt. Joseph G. Trevor, died July 2; Privates John W. Davis, died July 2d; Norman Fowler, died July 2d; Israel Jackins, died July 2d; Isaac L. Taylor, died July 2d.

Company F – Sergt. Philip R. Hamlin, died July 3d; Corp Leonard Squire, died July 3d.

Company G – Corporals George P. Sawyer, died July 2d; John Strothman, died July 2d; Phineas Dunham, died July 17th; Privates Joseph Sisler, died July 2d; Jerome B. Farnsworth, died July 28th.

Company H – First Sergt. James Ackers, died July 2d; Sergt. W. H. Wykoff, died July 2d; Corp. John H. Essencey, died July 2d; Privates John Clauser, died July 2d; Kellian Drondt, died July 2d; Reinhald Hess, died July 2d.

Company I – Sergt. Oscar Woodard, died July 2d; Private Philander C. Ellis, died July 2d; Joseph Frey, died July 2d, Byron Welch, died July 2d, Edwin Paul, died July 14th, Corp. William N. Peck, died July 21st.

Company K – Privates Randolph Wright, died July 3d, Leslie P. Gore, died July 24th, Jacob Geisreiter, died July 2d; Augustus H. Smith, died July 2d; David Taylor, died July 2d; Henry C. Winters, died July 2d; Israel Durr, died July 4th, Peter Vosz, died July 3d.

Company L – Private Sylvester Brown, died July 3d.

Total enlisted men killed or died from wounds, fifty-eight.

 

 

 

William Lochren's Narrative of the First Regiment

On June 6th the quiet was broken by Hooker, who threw a part of Sedgwick’s Sixth Corps across the Rappahannock, at Franklin’s old crossing, about two miles below our position, laying pontoons and moving a considerable body of troops to that place, in readiness to cross in force. Although this brought on a heavy artillery fire, and some collision of infantry at the point of crossing, it caused no breach of the peace at our position. Hooker remained inactive for several days, and on June 10th, Gen. Couch, our corps commander, was transferred to the new department of the Susquehanna, and Maj. Gen. Hancock was promoted from command of our First Division to that of the corps. Although Couch was highly esteemed, Hancock was extremely popular. In personal appearance he was matchless, and in splendid horsemanship, dash and bravery, quick apprehension of advantages and emergencies in battle, and in every trait that marks a capable and great commander, the judgment of the army indorsed the epithet of McClellan, and the Second Corps gladly greeted its "superb" commander, and felt secure that, under his leadership, its glories would increase. Brig. Gen. William Harrow also succeeded to the command of Sully’s Brigade. The gallant Thirty-fourth New York Regiment, which had served with us from Camp Stone, and, by its steady bravery on every battlefield at our side, had won our highest regard, left us on June 9th, its term of enlistment (two years) having expired. The First Minnesota accompanied it to the station, and parted with rousing cheers but sincere regret. On June 13th it became evident that Lee, disregarding Hooker’s menace, was pushing large bodies of troops beyond our right, in the direction of the upper Potomac, or Shenandoah Valley. Hooker’s natural wish to take advantage of Lee’s extended line, and strike his flank and rear, was overruled by the ever-baleful interference of Stanton and Halleck, in their morbid dread for the safety of Washington, and he was required to move his army to the vicinity of that place. On that night Sedgwick was withdrawn to the north side of the Rappahannock, and the next day a large part of the army moved northward. The First Minnesota packed everything, in readiness to march, and remained behind as rear guard. On the evening of June 14th we marched about five miles northward, when we were faced about, marched back to the river, and placed on picket. Just about daylight on June 15th we were called in, and set out again on the same road, halting, at 9 A.M., at Stafford Court House. At 2 P.M., under a broiling sun, we started again, and halted after passing Acquia creek a couple of miles. A large number of men succumbed on the march to the extreme heat. At 3 A.M. of the 16th the march was resumed, and Dumfries reached at 7 A.M., where a halt was made for breakfast. Going on, we crossed the Occoquan at 6 P.M., and bivouacked on its bank. Leaving there the next morning, we reached Sangster’s Station, on the Orange & Alexandria railroad, soon after seven, several men being disabled by sunstroke. Here we were near Alexandria. On June 19th we marched southward to Centreville. On the next morning, some men of the second Corps, including, perhaps, a few from our regiment, got into an altercation with the sutler of the Ninth Massachusetts Battery, resulting in a rush upon his tent and general confiscation of his effects. A couple of pieces of artillery, run out to quell the riot, were instantly captured, run down a hill and overturned. The men then rapidly dispersed to their regiments, and there was no time for inquiry into the affair, as the army was in readiness to move. On that day (June 20th) the regiment crossed the bull run battlefield to Gainseville, and on the next day reached Thoroughfare Gap, where we remained until June 25th, guarding the pass and furnishing details to guard trains. In the forenoon of that day we left Thoroughfare Gap, our division being the rear guard, and impeded by large trains in front. On reaching Haymarket, a couple of miles on our way, we were severely shelled by a horse battery, which, with a lot of the enemy’s cavalry, came through the gap after we left. There were several killed and wounded in the division, and col. Colvill’s horse was killed under him. A large number of non-combatants were with us, regarding the rear as the place of safety. The panic among them was ludicrous, and the men shouted with glee as the crowd of sutlers, surgeons, chaplains and negro servants broke and rushed, in terror and disorder, from the vicinity of the rapidly bursting shells. "De’il tak the hind most!" was evidently the guiding sentiments, as, with all speed, they went ahead, ridding themselves of all encumbrances. A strong skirmish line soon drove away the battery, and we passed on the Gum Springs, where we bivouacked. On June 26th we crossed the Potomac at Edwards’ Ferry, and halted near our old camp. Leaving this place late in the afternoon of the next day, we passed through Poolesville and Barnesville, halting, near midnight, at the foot of Sugar Loaf Mountain, and sending one hundred and sixty men on picket. On Saturday, June 28th, we passed Urbana, and halted on the Monocacy, in view of Frederick City. This beautiful valley seemed filled with troops, artillery and wagon trains. Here the news that Hooker had resigned and that Meade was in command, caused a momentary depression, soon changed to elation by a rumor that McClellan was to be restored to command, - a rumor that he was on his way to join us cheering us at Gettysburg a few days later. Early on June 29th we crossed the Monocacy, our division taking the advance of the corps. About three hours on the road, we came to a considerable creek, crossed by fording something more than knee-deep, and having a timber, hewn on top, crossing it, on rough stone supports on each side of the road, for pedestrians. To allow the men to cross on these timbers would impede the march, and col. Charles H. Morgan, the efficient inspector general of the corps, remained here, directing each regimental to march his command right through the water. The direction was given to Colvill as we approached, and followed by his command, "Close order. March!" But a few of the men and line officers scurried across on the timbers, losing no time, and saving themselves from scalded feet in the long day’s march before them. Morgan became angry, and having some further trouble with the Fifteenth Massachusetts Regiment which followed next behind, and being groaned by that regiment when he passed our brigade at a halt shortly after, and believing that act of in subordination to come from our regiment, he caused Col. Colvill to be placed in arrest. This act produced a strong feeling of resentment in the men, who felt that their colonel was most unjustly dealt with. The day’s march continued until 9 P.M., covering thirty-three miles, when we halted near the Pennsylvania line, soon after passing through Uniontown, Md. The day was extremely hot, the roads dusty, and at the halt the men were so exhausted that most of them dropped at once on their blankets, without attempt to make coffee or do more than nibble a little hardtack and raw pork. The writer had scarcely lain down by the side of Lieut. Heffelfinger, who, with Col. Colvill, messed with him, when he was called by the adjutant to go out with a picket detail, and vividly remembers his feeling that exhaustion had reached its limit. But there was no help, and gathering the grumbling detail, of which Capt. Thomas Sinclair took command, we went about three miles further and established the picket line, and spent the seemingly very long night there. Early in the morning we were called in, but not so early but that I had enjoyed a substantial breakfast at a farmhouse near by, and procured such supply fresh bread, butter, milk and other substantials as made a relishing breakfast for Colvill and Heffelfinger, when on our return we found them still asleep. While eating it they seemed to realize that worse things might happen than to have a messmate sent out on picket after such a fatiguing march. During that day (June 30th) the regiment remained quiet, and the companies made out their bimonthly muster rolls, on which so many were never to draw pay. In the forenoon of July 1st the heavy sound of distant artillery soon put us on the march toward it. We turned back to Uniontown, where we took a road to the right, and by four o’clock, the roar of conflict increasing as we drew nearer, we began to meet the crowd of cowards and camp followers, fleeing in terror, with their frightened tales of utter defeat and rout. As most of the soldiers wore the crescent badge of the eleventh Corps, which was held in little respect since Chancellorsville, they received but taunts and jeers from the sturdy veterans of the Second Corps. Hancock had left us about noon, hurrying on to the battlefield, where he had been directed to assume command and where he selected the ground and made dispositions for the continuance of the battle. We halted three or four miles south of Gettysburg, between eight and nine o’clock, placing a strong picket and erecting slight barricade defenses, as it was known that the Confederates, as well as federals, were assembling from different directions. At a quarter before six on the morning of July 2nd we arrived on the battlefield, and the Second Corps was placed in position on the line to the left of the cemetery, being joined on its left by Sickles’ Third Corps, which extended that line to the vicinity of the Little Round Top. For some reason the First Minnesota Regiment was not placed in this line, but apparently in reserve, a short distance to the rear. Early in the morning, just after we reached the battlefield, Col. Colvill was relieved from arrest, and assumed command of the regiment, and Company L (sharpshooter) was detailed to support Kirby’s Battery near the cemetery, and did not rejoin us during the battle. While lying here one man was killed, and Sergt. O. M. Knight of Company I was severely wounded by shells from the enemy. Some time after non Sickles advanced the Third Corps half a mile or more, to a slight ridge near the Emmitsburg road, his left extending to Devil’s Den, in front of and near the base of Little Round Top, and Company F (Capt. John Ball) was detached as skirmishers, and sent in that direction. Soon after, the remaining eight companies of the regiment, numbering two hundred and sixty-two men (Company C was also absent, being the provost guard of the division,) were sent to the centre of the line just vacated by Sickles' battle in the peach orchard half a mile to the front, and witnessed with eager anxiety the varying fortunes of that sanguinary conflict, until at length, with gravest apprehension, we saw Sickles' men give way before the heavier forces of Longstreet and Hill, and come back, slowly, at first, and rallying at short intervals, but at length broken and in utter disorder, rushing down the slope, but the Trostle House, across the low ground, up the slope on our side, and past our position to the rear, followed by a strong force - the large brigades of Wilcox and Barksdale - in regular lines, moving steadily in the flush of victory, and firing on the fugitives. They had reached the low ground, and in a few minutes would be at our position, on the rear of the left flank of our line, which they could roll up, as Jackson did the Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville. There was no organized force near to oppose them, except our handful of two hundred and sixty-two men. Most soldiers, in the face of the near advance of such an overpowering force, which had just defeated a considerable portion of an army corps, would have caught the panic and joined the retreating masses. But the First Minnesota had never yet deserted any post, had never retired without orders, and desperate as the situation seemed and as it was, the regiment stood firm against whatever might come. Just then Hancock, with a single aid, rode up at full speed, and for a moment vainly endeavored to rally Sickles' retreating forces. Reserves had been sent for, but were too far away to hope to reach the critical position until it would be occupied by the enemy, unless that enemy were stopped. Quickly leaving the fugitives, Hancock spurred to where we stood, calling out, as he reached us, "What regiment is this?" "First Minnesota," replied Colvill. "Charge those lines!" commanded Hancock. Every man realized in an instant what that order meant, - death or wounds to us all; the sacrifice of the regiment to gain a few minutes time and save the position, and probably the battlefield, - and every man saw and accepted the necessity for the sacrifice, and, responding to Colvill's rapid orders, the regiment, in perfect line, with arms at "right shoulder shift," was in a moment sweeping down the slope directly upon the enemy's centre. No hesitation, no stopping to fire, though the men fell fast at every stride before the concentrated fore of the whole Confederate force, directed upon us as soon as the movement was observed. Silently, without orders, and almost from the start, double-quick had changed to utmost speed; for in utmost speed lay the only hope that any of us would pass through that storm of lead and strike the enemy. "Charge!" shouted Colvill, as we neared their first line; and with leveled bayonets, at full speed, we rushed upon it; fortunately, as it was slightly disordered in crossing a dry brook at the foot of a slope. The men were never made who will stand against leveled bayonets coming with such momentum and evident desperation. The first line broke in our front as we reached it, and rushed back through the second line, stopping the whole advance. We then poured in our first fire, and availing ourselves of such shelter as the low banks of the dry brook afforded, held the entire force at bay for a considerable time, and until our reserves appeared on the ridge we had left. Had the enemy rallied quickly to a counter charge, its great numbers would have crushed us in a moment, and we would have made but a slight pause in its advance. But the ferocity of our onset seemed to paralyze them for the time, and although they poured upon us a terrible and continuous fire from the front and enveloping flanks, they kept at respectful distance from our bayonets, until, before they added fire of our fresh reserves, they began to retire, and we were ordered back. What Hancock had given us to do was done thoroughly. The regiment had stopped the enemy, and held back its mighty force and saved the position. But at what sacrifice! Nearly every officer was dead or lay weltering with bloody wounds, our gallant colonel and every field officer among them. Of the two hundred and sixty-two men who made the charge, tow hundred and fifteen lay upon the field, stricken down by rebel bullets, forty-seven were still in line, and not a man was missing. The annals of war contain no parallel to this charge. In its desperate valor, complete execution, successful result, and in its sacrifice of men in proportion to the number engaged, authentic history has no record with which it can be compared. Col. Fox, in his very carefully prepared work on "Regimental Losses in the American Civil War," says, at page 68, speaking of the Second Corps in this battle, "The fighting was deadly in the extreme, the percentage of loss in the First Minnesota, Gibbon's Division, being without an equal in the records of modern warfare."

In another place (page 26) he notes that Gen. Hancock, in speaking of this charge, is reported to have said, "There is no more gallant deed recorded in history. I ordered these men in there because I saw I must gain five minutes time. Reinforcements were coming on the run, but I knew that before they could reach the threatened point the Confederate, unless checked, would seize the position. I would have ordered that regiment in if I had known that every man would be killed. It had to be done, and I was glad to find such a gallant body of men at hand willing to make the terrible sacrifice that the occasion demanded."

The wounded were gathered in the darkness by their surviving comrades and sent to the field hospitals, and the fragment of the regiment lay down for the night near the place from which it ad been moved to support the battery. One incident connected with Company F, which had been detached before the charge, may be mentioned. Its position brought it on the flank of Sickles' retreating forces and of the pursuing enemy, and, rallying upon a fence, it poured its fire into the enemy just before the charge of the regiment. From Confederate accounts it would appear that the Confederate general, Barksdale, was killed by this fire; though by some it has been claimed that he was killed by Private William W. Brown of Company G while we were holding the Confederate force in check at the close of the charge. 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. On July 4th we remained on the battlefield, in a drenching rain, burying our dead, and expecting a renewal of the fight; but, aside from alight skirmishing and artillery firing, the day passed quietly. On July 5th it was known that the enemy was retreating, and in the afternoon we moved to Two Taverns, and the next day to Taneytown, Md. On July 7th we made a long march to Frederick City, passing the aristocratic Seventh New York Militia Regiment, which the scare had brought that far, but which had been kept well out of danger. It had to bear, with meekness, all manner of jibes and jeers from the lines of dusty veterans. From this time on till July 13th we had crossed the South Mountain; and, passing near the old battlefield of Antietam, on that day confronted the enemy at Jones' Cross-roads, near Williamsport. They day was rainy, and was spent in bringing up the army, as the enemy was behind strong field-works. In the night following Lee succeeded in crossing the Potomac, and the pursuit was at an end. On July 15th the Second Corps marched to near Sandy Hook, and on the 18th it crossed the Potomac into Harper's Ferry, and, without pausing, crossed the Shenandoah, passing up around the foot of Loudon Heights into the beautiful Loudon Valley, following mainly the route traveled by us the year before, except that our division marched into and nearly through Manassas Gap when it was reached, driving out the Confederates who occupied it. The movement of the army was regulated considerably by the parallel movements of the Confederates, and continued somewhat deviously during the balance of July, on the last day of which we were near the Rappahannock, and not far from Kelly's Ford.

NEW YORK AND BROOKLYN

We remained there, engaged in picket and fatigue duties, until August 15th, when we were surprised by an order that the First Minnesota, Seventh Michigan and Eighth Ohio regiments march to Bealton and take cars for Alexandria, with the rumor that we were to go to New York and enforce the draft. We marched in the afternoon, the entire division turning out under arms to salute us on parting. Bealton was reached about dark, and Alexandria after midnight. We stayed there till August 20th, when we all went on board the ocean steamer Atlantic, which lay at anchor until the next morning. In the night, in some unexplained way, Lieut. August Kreuger of our regiment fell from the steamer and was drowned. The ship was so crowded that he was mot missed till we were under way the next day, and his fate was learned and his body found by Chaplain Conwell, who returned from New York to look after him. Gen. S. S. Carroll commanded the troops sent, and Lieut. Myron Shepard of our regiment was detailed as one of his aids, and remained on his staff after we returned to the army. On August 22nd we were on the ocean, a rolling sea bringing sea-sickness to many. On the 23rd, in the morning, we entered New York harbor, and landed and camped on Governor's Island, where we remained till August 28th, when we were crossed over to Brooklyn and camped on Washington Park. No draft riots occurred, and the veterans received much flattering attention and many kindnesses from the good people of Brooklyn, and on September 4th were feasted by the ladies of Carlton Avenue M.E. Church in fine style. On September 6th we crossed the ferry and marched through a part of New York City, taking the steamer Empire City for Alexandria, which, after a pleasant trip, was reached on the afternoon of September 8th. We remained there until the 2nd, when we took up our march for the front, rejoining our brigade beyond Culpepper on the 16th, and finding Maj. Gen. G.K. Warren in command of the corps during Gen. Hancock's convalescence. On October 3rd Commissioners Jefferson P. Kider and Solomon Snow received the votes of the regiment for the state election a month later. On October 4th Maj. Mark W. Downie, wounded at Gettysburg, returned and assumed command of the regiment.

CLOSING

Glancing over what I have written, I feel satisfied of its accuracy, for I have spared no care or pains. But I have felt cramped by limits of space, though all that could be allowed, in view of the necessity of crowding the narratives and rosters of all Minnesota troops into one volume of reasonable size. I feel that this narrative will very inadequately convey to its reader any just conception of this regiment, whose perfection in discipline and in the execution of every movement of company and battalion tactics and care for personal appearance made it a favorite and model regiment in camp or on review, and whose espirit du corps, pride in its reputation as a regiment, and the chivalric, soldierly feeling pervading all ranks would never brook thought of defeat or disgrace, and never permitted it to hesitate or falter on any occasion. The regiment can scarcely be pictured to the understanding without portrayal of the men who impressed their personal characteristics upon it. Such officers as Messick, Farell, Periam, Coates, Sinclair, Muller, Heffelfinger, Maginnis, Searles and May, and such enlisted men as Marvin, Burgess, Tirrell, Perkins, Taylor, Trevor, Irvine and hosts of others who, for want of space, cannot even be named. I find I have hardly made mention of Dr. W. H. Morton, one of the most skillful surgeons of the army, who became medical director of our division, and died from disease contracted in the service; or of his able successor, Dr. J. B. Le Blond, who joined us in the spring of 1862, and continued till the muster-out of the battalion; or of our second chaplain, Rev. F. A. Conwell, who joined us after Antietam, and was especially devoted in caring for the sick and for the wounded on every battlefield; or of Anson Northup, our wagonmaster, whom no obstacles could stop, nor any regard for red tape prevent from furnishing needed articles to the men, if such articles were in the wagons. The Indian outbreak of 1862 took him from us to render efficient service against the savage foe. I am aware that some of my statements - of losses, for instance - occasionally disagree with official tables. But I have examined all these, so far as yet published in the "Rebellion Records," and my statements here vary from them only in the cases where, from recollection, confirmed by reliable memoranda made at the time, I am satisfied that the official tables are wrong. To cite an instance: "Rebellion Records," vol. 27, part 1, page 176, received since this narrative, except this closing paragraph, was written, gives the number of officers killed at Gettysburg at three. Yet every survivor of the regiment knows that Capt. Nathan S. Messick, Wilson B. Farrell and Louis Muller, and Lieut. Waldo Farrar died on the field. The aggregate of killed, wounded and missing at Gettyburg is there given as two hundred and twenty-four. Capt. Coates' report of that battle to the governor of the state, which (with some typographical errors) will be found in "Neill's History of Minnesota" (4th ed.), pp. 740-745, was written on the battlefield, on July 5, 1863, by myself, then the acting adjutant of the regiment, and states the loss correctly (page 744), four commissioned officers killed, and the aggregate loss as two hundred and thirty-two. The six then reported as missing were afterward ascertained to have been killed or wounded. I may add that the aggregate of men there reported as engaged in the battle, three hundred and thirty, included Companies C and F, both of which were engaged with the regiment on July 3rd, but neither of which were in the charge made by the regiment on July 2nd. The report of Capt. Coates, of Aug. 3, 1863, which appears in vol. 27, part 1, "Rebellion Records," pages 424, 425, is manifestly condensed from the report written by me on July 5th, as a comparison of its language with that of the latter in "Neill's History" conclusively shows. The report of Gen. Hancock in the same volume, written while he was wounded and absent from the corps, in its reference to our charge, shows that his memory was at that time indistinct and at fault. (See page 371.) He speaks of meeting a regiment of the enemy, and head of whose column was about passing an unprotected interval of our line and adds,

"The First Minnesota Regiment coming up at this moment, charged the rebel regiment in handsome style, capturing its colors and driving it back in disorder. I cannot speak too highly of this regiment and its commander in its attack, as well as in its subsequent advance against the enemy, in which it lost three-fourths of the officers and men engaged."

Hancock was with us but a moment when he ordered our charge. It is possible that at that moment a skirt of brush and trees to our right may have hidden from his view a considerable part of the Confederate force which we had seen come down the opposite slope and met in our charge. Instead of "coming up at this moment," we had stood at the same spot for hours watching Sickles' battle and his defeat. It is not strange that, with all the responsibility and unintermitting work and vigilance that devolved on Gen. Hancock during the three days of battle, and his severe wounding on the last day, he should have a confused recollection of this incident when he wrote that report. Later, the facts were recalled to his memory, and the entire situation was well understood by him, as is indicated by his remarks mentioned by Col. Fox, and already quoted. But I have reached my limit, and must close abruptly. The fame and glory of the regiment need not be dwelt on. It is known throughout the country, and especially to all the people of this state, whose appreciation of its valor and services has been shown in the ovations given to the survivors by the various cities and towns on the occasions of their annual reunions. Every member justly regards his own connection with the regiment as the highest honor of his life, - the one thing respecting himself to which his own posterity will always refer with greatest pride. May our state always send forth such regiments whenever its safety, or the safety or honor of our beloved country, shall call its sons to arms.

Minneapolis, Feb. 1, 1890

 

 

 

ROSTER OF FIELD AND STAFF OFFICERS OF THE FIRST REGIMENT

 

 

NAMES AGE MUSTERED MUSTERED REMARKS

IN OUT

Colonels

Willis A. Gorman 46 April 29, 1861 Oct. 1, 1861 Brig. Gen. 1st Brig, 2nd Div, 2nd Corps

Napoleon J. T. Dans 39 Oct. 2, 1861 Feb. 3, 1862 Brig Gen., 3rd Brig 2nd Div, 2nd Corps, wounded at Antietam

Alfred Sully Feb. 3, 1862 Sept. 26, 1862 Brig Gen 1st Brig 2nd Div, 2nd Corps, Brevet Maj. Gen., Brevet Brig Gen. USA

George N. Morgan Sept. 26, 1862 May 5, 1863 Capt. Co. E. Maj. Lieut. Col., resigned; Brevet Brig. Gen.

William Colvill May 6, 1863 May 4, 1864 Capt. Co F, Maj. Lt. Col.; wnd. Glendale and Gettys; Bvt. Brig Gen.

Lieutenant Colonels

Stephen Miller 45 April 29, 1861 Sept. 16, 1862 Col. 7th Minn. Vols., Brig Gen., Gov. of Minnesota

Charles Powell Adams Sept. 26, 1862 May 4, 1864 Capt. Co H, Maj. wnd. Bull Run, Malvern, Antietam, Gettys; Bvt. Brig Gen.

Majors

William H. Dike 47 April 29, 1861 Oct. 22, 1861 Resigned.

Mark W. Downie 25 May 6, 1863 May 4, 1864 Q.M., 1st lt. And Capt. Co. B, wnd. Gettysb'g; Lt. Col. 1st Batt.

Adjutants

William B. Leach 27 April 29, 1861 Feb. 23, 1862 1st Lt. Co. H, Capt. And A. A. G. Dana's Brigade.

John N. Chase 26 Oct. 22, 1861 1st Serg. And 1st Lieut. Co. E, Capt. Co. H.

Josias R. King 29 July 10, 1862 1st Serg., 2nd and 1st Lieut, Co. A, Capt Co. G; wnd. Savage Station.

John Peller 31 Jan. 14, 1863 May 4, 1864 Sergt. Maj. 2nd Lieut. Co. A; 1st Lieut; wnd Gettysburg

Quartermasters

George H. Woods April 29, 1861 Aug. 13, 1861 Pro. Capt. And C.S.U.S.A., Lt. Col. And Chf. C.S. Sheridan's Corps

Mark A. Hoyt Jan. 1, 1862 Resigned '62.

Francis Baasen July 10, 1862 May 4, 1864

Surgeons

Jacob H. Stewart April 29, 1861 Captured at Bull Run; Exam. Surg. at St. Paul

William H. Morton Feb. 1, 1862 June 23, 1863 Med. Director 2nd Div, 2nd Corps; resigned from disability

John B. Le Blond May 4, 1864 Asst. Surg., Surg. 1st Battalion

Assistant Surgeons

Chas. W. Le Boutillier 34 April 29, 1861 Captured at Bull Run; Surg. 9th Minn. Volunteers

Daniel W. Hand July 23, 1861 Brigade Surgeon, Charge of hospital

Edmund J. Pugsley Aug. 29, 1863 Aug. 15, 1863 Cashiered.

Peter Gabrielson Feb. 17, 1864 May 4, 1864

Chaplains

Edward D. Neill 37 April 29, 1861 July 13, 1862 Resigned; private secretary to Pres. Lincoln and Johnson

F. A. Conwell 48 Oct. 15, 1862 May 4, 1864

Sergeant Majors

C. Edward Davis April 29, 1861 2nd Lieut. Co. I, 1st Lieut. Co. A; Capt. Co. E

Edward S. Past April 29, 1861 Wounded at Antietam; discharged for disability

David A. Coflin April 29, 1861 1st Lieut. Co. A, Oct. 7, 1863

Albert S. Davis April 29, 1861 1st Lieut. Co. A March 4, 1864

John W. Pride April 29, 1861 May 4, 1864 Re-enlisted in 1st Battalion

Quartermaster Sergeants

William Smith April 29, 1861 Nov. 17, 1861 Discharged.

Aaron Greenwald April 29, 1861 Resigned and transferred to Co. C; killed at Gettysburg

T. A. Wood April 29, 1861 May 4, 1864 Company F.

Commissary Sergeants

J. Mahoney April 29, 1861 Feb. 1863 Discharged.

Matthew M. Standish April 29, 1861 Resigned and transferred to Co. D May 8, 1863

Jacob Marty April 29, 1861 Promoted 1st Lieut. Oct. 3, 1863

Frank Dickinson April 29, 1861 May 4, 1864 Corp. Co. G

Hospital Stewards

James Kirkman April 29, 1861

G. F. Marble April 29, 1861 Company C

C. A. Brooks 22 June 1861 June 12, 1863 Promoted Hospital Steward U.S.A.

Chas H. Spear April 29, 1861 May 4, 1864 Corp. Co. G

Principal Musicians

Henry O. Fifield Aug. 16, 1863 Company C.

Ezra D. Haskins Aug. 16, 1863 Company G.