Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 02/November/General A. P. Hill's Report of the Battle of Gettysburg

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Southern Historical Society Papers: Volume 2, Number 5  (1876)  by Ambrose Powell Hill
General A. P. Hill's Report of the Battle of Gettysburg
Southern Historical Society Papers, November 1876

General A. P. Hill's Report of Battle of Gettysburg.

[We present the following report from General A. P. Hill's own autograph MS., which is, so far as we know, the only copy extant, unless there is one in the "archive office" at Washington. Its importance and value will be appreciated.]

REPORT.

Headquarters Third Army Corps

Colonel—I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the Third Army Corps during and subsequent to the battle of Gettysburg:

On the morning of the 29th of June the Third Corps, composed of the divisions of Major-Generals Anderson, Heth and Pender, and five battalions of artillery, under command of Colonel R. L. Walker, was encamped on the road from Chambersburg to Gettysburg, near the village of Fayetteville. I was directed to move on this road in the direction of York, and to cross the Susquehanna, menacing the communications of Harrisburg with Philadelphia, and to co-operate with General Ewell, acting as circumstances might require. Accordingly, on the 29th I moved General Heth's division to Cashtown, some eight miles from Gettysburg, following on the morning of the 30th with the division of General Pender, and directing General Anderson to move in same direction on the morning of the 1st of July. On arriving at Cashtown, General Heth, who had sent forward Pettigrew's brigade to Gettysburg, reported that Pettigrew had encountered the enemy at Gettysburg, principally cavalry, but in what force he could not determine. A courier was then dispatched with this information to the General Commanding, and to start Anderson early; also to General Ewell, informing him, and that I intended to advance the next morning and discover what was in my front. On the first of July, at five o'clock, Heth took up the line of march, with Pegram's battalion of artillery, followed by Pender, with McIntosh's battalion of artillery—Colonel Walker, with the remainder of the artillery, being with Anderson.

About three miles from Gettysburg, his advance brigade, Archer's, encountered the advance of the enemy. Archer and Davis were thrown into line, and, with some pieces of artillery from Pegram, the enemy were steadily driven back to the wooded hills this side of Gettysburg, where their principal force (since ascertained to be the 1st and 11th Corps) was disposed to dispute our further advance. Heth's whole division was now thrown into line: Davis on the left of the road; Archer, Pettigrew and Brockenbrough on the right, and Pender formed in his rear; Thomas on the left, and Lane, Scales and Perrin on the right. Pegram's and McIntosh's battalions of artillery were put in position on the crest of a hill over-looking the town of Gettysburg. Heth's division drove the enemy, encountering a determined resistance. About half-past two o'clock the right wing of Ewell's corps made its appearance on my left, and thus formed a right angle with my line. Pender's division was then ordered forward—Thomas' brigade being retained in reserve—and the rout of the enemy was complete, Perrin's brigade taking position after position of the enemy, and driving him through the town of Gettysburg. The want of cavalry had been and was again seriously felt. Under the impression that the enemy were entirely routed my own two divisions exhausted by some six hours' hard fighting—prudence led me to be content with what had been gained, and not push forward troops exhausted and necessarily disordered, probably to encounter fresh troops of the enemy. These two divisions were bivouacked in the positions won, and Anderson, who had just come up, was also bivouacked some two miles in rear of the battle-ground. The results of this fight were, for the Third Corps, two pieces of artillery and 2,300 prisoners, and the almost total annihilation of the First Corps of the enemy. Major-General Heth was slightly wounded. Brigadier-General Archer was taken prisoner by the enemy. Brigadier-General Scales was also wounded. Pettigrew's brigade, under its gallant leader, fought most admirably, and sustained heavy loss.

On the morning of the 2d July, Anderson was ordered forward to the front, and relieved Heth's division, extending to our right and along a crest of hills which faced the Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg, and extending to the right ran nearly parallel to the Emmetsburg road. On the second, then, my position was this: Pender's division occupying the crest from the Theological Seminary, extending to the right, and joined by Anderson, who carried on the line, almost entirely covering the whole front occupied by the enemy, Heth's division (now commanded by General Pettigrew) in reserve. Colonel Walker had distributed his artillery along this line in the most eligible positions. The corps of General Longstreet (McLaw's and Hood's divisions) was on my right, and in a line very nearly at right angles to mine. General Longstreet was to attack the left flank of the enemy, and to sweep down his line and I was directed to co-operate with him with such of my brigades from the right as could join in with his troops in the attack. Hood, on the extreme left, commenced the attack about two o'clock; McLaws about half-past five. Soon after McLaws moved forward, General Anderson moved forward the brigades of Wilcox, Perrin and Wright in echelon. The charge of these three brigades was very gallantly made, and pressed on until Wilcox's right became separated from McLaws' left. Wilcox and Wright drove the enemy from their intrenchments, inflecting very heavy loss upon them. Wilcox's brigade succeeded in capturing eight pieces of artillery, and Wright's brigade about twenty. The enemy threw forward heavy reinforcements, and no support coming to these brigades, the ground so hardly won had to be given up, and the brigades reoccupied their former positions in line of battle. The three brigades lost heavily in this attack.

On the morning of the 3d the divisions of my corps occupied the same positions as on the 2d. The reserve batteries were all brought up and put in position along the crest of the ridge facing the enemy's line. In addition, the battalion of Colonel Alexander, of Longstreet's corps, was put in position in front of the right wing of Anderson's division and on the ground won by Wilcox and Wright. I was direcred to hold my line with Anderson's division and the half of Pender's, now commanded by General Lane, and to order Heth's division, commanded by Pettigrew, and Lane's and Scales brigades, of Pender's division, to report to Lieutenant-General Longstreet as a support to his corps in the assault on the enemy's lines. As the troops were filing off to their positions, Major-General Trimble reported to me for the command of Pender's division, and took the command of the two brigades destined to take part in the assault.

At one o'clock, our artillery opened, and for two hours rained an incessant storm of missiles upon the enemy's line. The effort was marked along my front, driving the enemy entirely from his guns.

The assault was then gallantly made. Heth's division and Trimble's two brigades 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; and to that end, Wilcox and Perrin were moved forward to eligible positions. The assault failed, and after almost gaining the enemy's works, our troops fell back in disorder. The enemy made no attempt to pursue. Major-General Trimble, Brigadier-General Pettigrew and Colonel Fry (commanding Archer's brigade) were wounded while most gallantly leading their troops. The troops resumed their former positions and remained thus until the night of the 4th, when the march was taken towards Hagerstown by Fairfield and Waynesboro'. At Hagerstown we lay in line of battle from the 7th to the night of the 13th, when I moved my corps in the direction of the pontoon bridge at Falling Water. Being the rear guard of the army, such dispositions as were necessary were made to repel any advance of the enemy. Anderson's Division crossed without molestation, and Pender's was in the act of crossing when the enemy made their appearance.

A small body of cavalry charged Pettigrew's brigade, and were annihilated. Only two of our men were killed, but, unfortunately for the service, one of these was the gallant and accomplished Pettigrew. Subsequently the enemy pushed on vigorously, and I directed General Heth to retire his troops and cross the river. In doing this some loss was sustained, principally in stragglers and not exceeding 500, composed of men from the various brigades of the army. Two pieces of artillery were broken down on this night march and abandoned. Colonel Walker brought off three guns captured on the field at Gettysburg. On the 21st the march was resumed towards Culpeper courthouse. On the 23d, Wright's brigade, under Colonel Walker, was left to guard Mannassas Gap, until relieved by General Ewell. The brigade was attacked whilst there by an overwhelming force of the enemy, but stubbornly held its ground until relieved by Ewell's corps, when it marched with him to Culpeper. General Ewell speaks in high terms of the admirable conduct of this brigade. Continuing the march on the morning of the 24th, at Newby's cross-roads a brigade of the enemy's cavalry attempted to arrest our march. Heth's division (his own and Pender's) was leading. General Benning's brigade of Longstreet's corps was also along and rendered prompt and valuable assistance. The enemy were soon put to flight in confusion, and no more annoyance occurred to Culpeper courthouse.

On the 1st of August, Anderson's division was sent out on the road to Brandy to repel some of the enemy's cavalry, who had driven back our own cavalry, and were quite near the courthouse. This was handsomely done by Mahone's brigade and Perry's and with but trifling loss. The total loss in the Third Corps, from the crossing of the Potomac to its recrossing, was 849 killed, 4,289 wounded, and 3,844 missing—total 8,982. The larger portion of those reported missing were killed or wounded on the 3d; but the field being within the enemy's fire, we are not able to separate the lists.