Report of Col. Hiram Berdan,
Commanding First and Second U.S. Sharpshooters at the
Battle of Gettysburg.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST U.S. SHARPSHOOTERS,
July 29, 1863
Capt. F. BIRNEY,
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the Sharpshooters at the battle near Gettysburg:
On the morning of July 2, I received instructions from the division commander to assume command of the First and Second Regiments of Sharpshooters, and to report direct to division headquarters. In accordance with instructions received, I posted the Second Regiment, Major Stoughton commanding, on our left, to act as flankers, and the First Regiment on our front.
About 7.30 a.m. I received orders to send forward a detachment of 100 sharpshooters to discover, if possible, what the enemy was doing. I went out with the detail, and posted them on the crest of the hill beyond the Emmitsburg road, and where they kept up a constant fire nearly all day upon the enemy in the woods beyond until they were driven in, about 5 p.m., by a heavy force of the enemy, after having expended all their ammunition.
As it was impossible with this force to proceed far enough to discover what was being done by the enemy in the rear of this woods, I reported the fact to Major-General Birney, and about 11 a.m. I received an order from him to send out another detachment of 100 sharpshooters farther to the left of our lines, and to take the Third Maine Volunteers as support, with directions to feel the enemy, and to discover their movements, if possible.
I moved down the Emmitsburg road some distance beyond our extreme left and deployed the sharpshooters in a line running nearly east and west, and moved forward in a northerly direction parallel with the Emmitsburg road. We soon came upon the enemy, and drove them sufficiently to discover three columns in motion in rear of the woods, changing direction, as it were, by the right flank. We attacked them vigorously on the flank, and from our having come upon them very unexpectedly, and getting close upon them, we were enabled to do great execution, and threw them for a time into confusion. They soon rallied, however, and attacked us, when, having accomplished the object of the reconnaissance, I withdrew under cover of the woods, bringing off most of our wounded, and reported about 2 o'clock to Major-General Birney the result of our operations and discoveries.
The Second Regiment was deployed in front of the Second Brigade, by order of General Ward, and moved forward to a favorable position, where they held the enemy's skirmishers in check and did good execution, breaking the enemy s front line three times, and finally fell back as the enemy advanced in heavy force, remaining in action with the remainder of the brigade during the engagement. The balance of the First Regiment, under the immediate command of Captain Baker, moved forward to the right of the peach orchard, on the right of the First Brigade, where they had a splendid chance for execution, the enemy coming forward in heavy lines. I relieved them from time to time as they exhausted their ammunition.
On the 3d, a detachment of about 100 sharpshooters was sent, under command of Captain Baker, as sharpshooters, to cover the front of the Sixth Corps. They remained there all day, constantly firing, and toward night advanced, driving the enemy's skirmishers some distance, and capturing 18 prisoners. The balance of the command was moved toward the right with the rest of the division, to the support of some batteries, where nothing of importance occurred.
On the morning of the 4th, the Second Regiment was deployed in the field in front of our position on the 3d, and advanced, driving the enemy's skirmishers to the edge of the woods, which position they held until relieved at 7.30 p.m. by a New Jersey regiment, having been under heavy picket firing all day.
The entire command, with very few exceptions, behaved most gallantly.
I desire to make special mention of Colonel Lakeman and Major Lee, of the Third Maine Regiment, for their services on the reconnaissance, in which the Third Maine was used as a support to the detachment of sharpshooters.
I desire to make special mention also of Captain Nash, who rendered invaluable assistance in the reconnaissance referred to, and behaved most gallantly; also of Major Stoughton and Captain Baker, for their judgment and skill in handling their troops under fire; also Lieutenant Norton, acting adjutant of the Second Regiment, who displayed great bravery, and who with a small squad captured and sent to the rear 22 prisoners on Thursday.
We went into action with about 450 rifles. During the three days, we expended 14,400 rounds of ammunition.
Our total loss was:
Commissioned officers: 2 killed 7 wounded 1 missing 10 total
Enlisted men: 10 killed 52 wounded 17 missing 79 total
I trust that the sharpshooters lost none of their reputation at Gettysburg. Though operating in small detachments, and with other troops, and in such extensive engagements, their deeds may not have been so conspicuous as on some former occasions where the whole force was used together.
I have the honor to be, captain, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding U.S. Sharpshooters
Report of Lieut. Col. Casper Trepp, First U.S. Sharpshooters,
Battle of Gettysburg
HDQRS. FIRST REGIMENT U.S. SHARPSHOOTERS,
July 29, 1863.
Capt. JOHN M. COONEY,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Second Brig.
CAPTAIN: In accordance with directions received from headquarters Second Brigade, to report the part taken by my command in the action at Gettysburg, Pa., I have the honor to report as follows:
Early in the morning of July 2, this regiment was posted so, and with instructions, to protect the left flank of the Third Corps. Soon thereafter the dispositions were changed, and I received an order to send 100 men on a reconnaissance in front of the right of the Third Army Corps. This detachment I conducted in person, and deployed them. The command was given to Capt. John Wilson, a very efficient officer, and I returned to the regiment. I then received another order for 100 men for a reconnaissance. Following the aide-de-camp, I conducted this second detachment directly to and followed the road in plain view of the enemy. This detachment might have been marched from the original position to a point where the engagement took place perfectly concealed from view of the enemy and without loss of time. As we marched, the enemy must have seen every man from the time we reached the road until we entered the woods on the Fairfield road, giving the enemy time enough to counter-maneuver. The enemy gained yet more time by reason of the Third Maine, Colonel Lakeman, who supported us, halting on the Emmitsburg road, according to his instructions.
All this time we were marching or halting in plain view of the enemy. For this violation of rules of secret expeditions we paid dearly, for when we entered the woods, advancing as skirmishers, we met the enemy's skirmishers very soon after crossing the road. The position of the companies of my regiment was, D and E on the left, F and I on the right, Third Maine as reserve. We drove the enemy about 300 yards, when he made a stand behind a rail fence. The firing was very brisk for about ten minutes, during which time we maintained our position. Col. H. Berdan then gave the order to fall back, firing, which was done in good order, the enemy pursuing a short distance.
This command was collected and formed on the Emmitsburg road, having lost 1 commissioned officer killed, 2 officers wounded, and 16 enlisted men killed, wounded, and missing.
With the balance of this command, I was then posted as a support to Capt. J. H. Baker's line of skirmishers from this regiment, in front of the center of the Third Army Corps.
On examining the ammunition of my detachment, I found that we had not more than about 5 rounds per man. At the time the heavy cannonading began, Col. H. Berdan ordered this detachment to fall back to the Position of the morning.
As Capt. J. H. Baker is now wounded and absent, I am unable to furnish the details concerning the detachment under his command, but I am informed that he took his Position without order, following the instincts of the true soldier, the sound of the firing, and that at one time, when the enemy pushed his skirmish line to and across the road, he charged with part of his command on the enemy, driving them across the field.
I have to call especial attention to the good behavior of this officer in all the engagements, and I would respectfully recommend him for decoration or honorable mention. The same of Privates Martin V. Nichols and William H. Nichols, Company H, who distinguished themselves on this and on former occasions by bravery and intelligence.
This part of the line lost 3 killed and 5 wounded.
The part of the line under Capt. John Wilson maintained its position for nearly the entire day, and until the ammunition was expended, and only after it was repeatedly called to fall back behind Brigadier-General Carr's brigade it did so, the enemy following in line of battle.
This part of the line lost 1 commissioned officer wounded, 2 enlisted men killed, and 11 wounded.
When the brigade was relieved, we joined, and encamped with them.
July 3.--Capt. J. H. Baker was detached with the Fifth Army Corps, with Companies C, I, and K. The service they performed was to protect batteries. On this occasion, Corporal [Wellington] Fitch, of Company C, distinguished himself by making a bold reconnaissance alone which resulted in capturing a squad of rebel sharpshooters that greatly annoyed our artillery.
The rest of the regiment was sent to a point more to the right, where the First Army Corps was posted. Nothing occurred to be mentioned.
July 4.--the regiment was sent on picket, but was soon recalled. While so posted, we lost 3 men wounded.
In the afternoon Capt. John Wilson went with 100 men on a reconnaissance. Nothing reported to have happened worthy to be mentioned.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Comdg. First U.S. Sharpshooters.
Report of Maj. Homer R. Stoughton, Second U.S. Sharpshooters.
Battle of Gettysburg
HDQRS. SECOND REGIMENT U. S. SHARPSHOOTERS,
July 27, 1863.
Capt. JOHN M. COONEY,
A. A. G., Second Brig., First Div., Third Army Corps.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the operations of the Second U.S. Sharpshooters at Gettysburg, Pa., as follows:I have the honor to remain, your obedient servant,
On the morning of July. 2,. I was placed in line on the extreme left of the Third Corps, remaining there for nearly one hour, when the colonel commanding instructed me to place my command in a position to cover a ravine near Sugar Loaf hill, which I did by putting Company H on the brow of the hill, with vedettes overlooking the ravine, and Company D in the ravine near the woods, to watch the enemy's movements in that direction. Companies A, E, G, and C formed a line perpendicular to the cross-road that intersects with the Emmitsburg pike. Companies B and F, I held in reserve.
I remained in this position until about 2 p.m., when General Ward directed that I should deploy my regiment across the ravine and through the woods on the right, and advance. I moved forward to a brook some 200 yards beyond a second cross-road running perpendicular to the Emmitsburg pike, and intersecting with it in front of Sugar Loaf hill. I sent forward scouts to reconnoiter the ground. I then rode out perhaps the distance of half a mile, and discovered the enemy's skirmishers advancing on my right, which, being unsupported by any connection with skirmishers on my right, I was compelled to withdraw to protect my flank. In this position we had but little time to wait. The enemy's skirmishers advanced to the top of the hill in our front, and immediately after they placed a battery directly in our front, and being too far for our range, I sent forward a few men under cover of woods on the left, and silenced one piece nearest us.
The enemy then advanced a line of battle covering our entire front and flank. While they were advancing, the Second Regiment did splendid execution, killing and wounding a great many. One regiment broke three times, and rallied, before it would advance. I held my position until their line of battle was within 100 yards of me and their skirmishers were pushing my right flank, when I ordered my men to fall back, firing as they retired. My left wing retreated-up the hill and allowed the enemy to pass up the ravine, when they poured a destructive fire into his flank and rear.
Here Adjutant Norton, with about a dozen men, captured and sent to the rear 22 prisoners. Special mention should be made of this officer for his coolness and bravery during this day's engagement.
The right wing fell back gradually until they mingled with the regiments composing the Second Brigade, and remained till night, when the brigade was relieved.
In this day's action were wounded Capts. E. T. Rowell (acting major), J. McClure, and A. Buxton. Our loss was 28 killed, wounded, and missing. Among the missing was Lieut. D. B. Pettijohn, Company A.
On the 3d instant, the Second Regiment was not engaged, with the exception of about a dozen volunteers, who went out to the front of the breastworks of the First Army Corps, to silence one of the enemy's guns, which was accomplished, losing I killed and 1 wounded.
On the 4th instant, I was ordered to move forward to the Emmitsburg pike, a few hundred yards to the left of the cemetery, and to deploy four companies to skirmish through the field to the woods in front. The enemy was driven back to his earthworks, about 150 or 200 yards from his first position. We held this position through the day, under a sharp fire from his sharpshooters.
The regiment sustained a loss this day of 3 killed and 8 wounded. Among the wounded was Lieutenant Law, Company E.
At 7.30 p.m. I was relieved by a New Jersey regiment, of the Sixth Corps, and rejoined the brigade.
HOMER R. STOUGHTON,
Major, Commanding Second U.S. Sharpshooters.