The Memoirs of Lt. James Gildea
...................as he recalls Battery L's involvement at Gettysburg
We pushed on as rapidly as men could in a blazing July sun and marched all night with only one hour rest arriving just at day break on the extreme right of the line and were pushed into a wheat field in front of Jubal Early who occupied the (our) right of the town.
In this field you could not raise your head above the wheat without hearing a dozen sharp shooter's bullets whistle by they being in the top of the trees across the creek. We were left here after they had withdrawn our support and skirrmishers through the negligence of Capt. Martin, who had commanded Battery "C" I st Massachusetts and who became Chief of Artillery on the promotion of Weed, After they discovered that we had not been withdrawn, Weed sent back and we moved to the center on the Baltimore Pike and in the rear of the 2nd Corps until the afternoon of July 2nd and held in reserve as we were the latest to arrive. All the Corps being now up except the 6th which was expected to arrive soon.
As we were very tired from 24 hour march, we were all asleep in a short time and did not arouse until the heavy cannonading at 4 PM which brought everyone to his feet. Genf. Dan E. Sickles, commanding the 3rd Corp. having arrived before us had been ordered by Meade to carry his Corp from the left of the line on Cemetery Ride and continue it to Round Top as far as his line would reach This he failed to do but at the ravine between the ridge and Little Round Top. he curved his line at an obtuse angle to the front and out into the wheat field on the flank of the Devil's Den. Longstreet, who was opposite to his line, saw Sickles mistake. struck his line on flank and rear, doubled them up like a drove of sheep, compelling them to fall back and abandon their artillery Also Martin's & Watson's batteries of our Corps which had moved down and who went into position under Sickles' orders to try and stop the riot.
We came behind them and taking fire arrived on the file in the rear of Little Round Top. Could not find the Chief, Capt. Martin, to direct us where to go.
Captain Gibbs told me to accompany him and we rode out in front where we found Genl. Sykes with about 1200 regulars. As we rode up to the General, Captain Gibbs requested to know where he was wanted as he could not find the Chief. Syke looked around for a moment, replied, "Captain choose your own position to cover this front. I leave it to yourself'. As we turned, Gibbs said, " , you place the left on the side of that slope, I will place the right here and you take the center. Place them about fifty yards in the rear and do not fire a shot until we are all captured".
After showing Guthrie his location and going to my own, I found the ground covered with scrub and brush which I directed them men to cut down so as to give a clear view to the front. While engaged in this, Corpl. John W. Craig said, "Lieutenant, what troops are those coming up behind us"? As there was considerable smoke and haze in the air, I could not see very clear and as the road was sunken so that nothing was to be seen but their guns and flag, which was furled up, I mistook it for an Irish Flag and I replied that it must be the 9th Mass., Col. Cass's old command, I did not look further but the head of the column swung around us and came on the regulars who did not see them until they received a volley which sent the remainder of them up to my section where they formed a support.
This was Wilcox's Division, who having driven the 3rd Corps back to the Baltimore Road, were try to find their way back to their own lines and having opened a passage through the regulars now swing out in front and not more than 70 or 80 feet from the front of our four advanced guns.
Seeing how things were, I directed my men to carry canister to the left section as the rapid fire now going on would soon exhaust the supply in the limbers, the caissons not being yet up.
As soon as our boys opened double shot canister (54, 4 oz. ball) the rebs dropped on their face behind the rocks which were here in plenty and never raised until driven out by the charge of the 9th Penna. Reserves, Col. Fisher, Commdg. When Fisher passed my guns, he became a little excited for fear that the rebs would get our front guns before he arrived, so his men fired one volley through our men by which 2 of our men, Harri'son Massie and Asa Kline were wounded. Lieutenant Guthrie yelled to him to charge or cease firing, so he advanced and drove the rebs out of their holes which ended the fight there.
When Fisher charged, I looked back for the first time and found 6 lines of battle in the rear of my guns The Sixth Corps had arrived and Genl. Sedgwich was standing between the two' guns. When I saluted him he remarked that we had got work and done splendid by holding the ground against such a force. An opinion which our Corps Commander. Genl. Sykes, corroborated that night by sending for Gibbs and told him he should have the credit of saving that Part of the line in his official report. Our General did not allow an Army correspondent in this Corps. He wanted only a wax officer record.
pg. 87 We could only use the 3 guns as one of the right sections could not be fired on account of the rocks around it caused hot recoil and jumped straight up, but we fired 90 rounds of canister in that little fight and although under fire of shot and shell and bullet, all the next day we took no active part but lay there to meet a charge which we never received after that.
The next morning opened up with heavy artillery fire from the rebs and during the early part of the day a good deal of cavalry fighting on our left fiank. I forgot to mention above that just after we ceased firing, we had lost our best fhend in the Army, Geni. S.H. Weed. He was standing in Griffins Battery "13", 5th USA, Lieut. Charles Hazlet of Zanesville, Ohio, Commdg. . and the rebel sharp shooters in the Devil's Den just in front of Round Top on which the battery was placed had a clear sweep of the hill and all in it. He was there with his brigade and was shot just above the heart. As he fell, Hazlett caught him and leaned over to receive his dieing words. Just then a bullet struck the Lieutenant in the forehead and he fell dead across the General. There was also Hied here Genl's. Zook and O'Roark and Gen]. G. K Warren was wounded.
In the afternoon came the struggle for the possession of Cemetery Hill. While forming for this, one of their crack batteries was sent to our left to try and dislodge Battery "D" off Round Top as that battery had caused considerable trouble to their lines. The rebs took position and opened but did not hold on long as Lieut. Sam People of Weed's Battery who had been orderly of Griffin before his promotion and the best shot in the regular army was up there. His own battery being disabled the day before with the 2nd Corps.
The other 5 guns were managed by officers who had all been some time officers of artillery and the way they poured into that rebel battery was a sight worth seeing. They got out of that a flying but on the retreat Sam dropped a shell into the lead team and huddled them up in a pile and as they were in a ravine going down hill, he upset every piece and their men had to abandon it and fly.
From where we stood on the side of Round Top, we could see the whole of Pickett's men deeply on Seminary Ridge and start for our line and mark the effect of the fire of our guns on Cemetery Hill. Battery "D" dropped every shot they fired into the right flank of their line and demoralized them some although they kept on and carried the hill with all the guns placed on it and I believe would have held it if Caffoll's little brigade which was on the flank of the 2nd Corps had not charged them just then and shook them so that they started for the rear. They tried it twice again but when the rebs failed the first time they never succeeded in getting as far up the second. So they failed to reach our lines and the fight was over to a great extent.
The glorious fourth of July was spent in skirmishing and filling the rebel position by advancing our fines and on the morning of the 5th. Just as we were starting in pursuit of Lee, we received the joyful news of the surrender of Vicksburg. Our Corps moved through Emmitsburg, MD and across South Mountain towards the Antietam Battle Field. In crossing South Mountain our Corps commander ordered that the infantry should help to drag the artillery to the top and a regiment reported to Capt. Gibbs for that duty but we went up with out assistance or double teaming although we broke every spare wheel we had before we reached Boonsboro. As we reached Antietam Creek the whole Corps was thrown into line and thus advanced until we found the enemy at Falling Waters. Here we found Lee's forces entrenched in one of the strongest positions of the war. The ground rose, terrace after terrace, from our front to the river bank and as Lee's army, not withstanding his severe loss, was still more numerous than ours. Meade did not order an attack.
Next morning, Lee having crossed with most of his force into Virginia, we advanced and captured his rear guard with four guns. Lee moved up the Shenandoah and we followed, or paralleled, on the east side of the blue ridge until we reached Thoroughfare Gap. Here we had a small engagement, called Wapping Heights in which our Battery came in as support. Before this we had camped at Goose Creek and then I was ordered before a board, examined and mustered in as 2nd Lieut. to date of commission, May 6th, 63 ~ The next place where we struck the rebs was at Rappahannock Station where they had a strong redoubt to protect the R.R. Bridge. Genl. Bartlet of the 6th Corps led the charges and we were in support. He carried it on the run, captured everything in it before we could fire a shot. After this we moved up the river to Beverly Ford where we went into camp.
While in camp, the draft not at New York occurred and as the Ohio Brigade of the 12th Corps and the regulars of the 2nd Division of our Corps were sent to suppress it. We expected and were anxious to with them but instead Battery "D" 5th USA "our old comrades" went there. After resting a while, the army advanced to Culpepper Court House. While there, suture supplies were very scarce. Tobacco was selling at $5.00 per pound, ten cents per chew, There was only one suture for the whole army and he was at army headquarters.
I got up a petition which was signed by all the officers near us to*allow our suture, a refugee from this town, to bring down some of our men. I pledging myself to see it sold at one dollar per pound. The Provost Marshall General signed it for 3000 lbs. and I sent it to Wilberham who was in Washington. In a few days he came bringing about 7000 lbs. He had greased the palm of some one in charge of trains and this more than doubled his present. I would not allow any man more than one plug and sold out in five hours the whole lot form which he cleared about $2500. 1 got an outfit for my trouble.