Maj. Gen. A. DOUBLEDAY
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that, in accordance with orders received directly from yourself, at 11 o'clock a.m., July 1, I posted my brigade (One hundred and forty-third, One hundred and forty-ninth, and One hundred and fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers) between the two brigades of Wadsworth's division, upon the ridge in advance of Seminary Ridge, my right resting upon the Chambersburg or Cash-town road and left extending nearly to the wood occupied by General Meredith's brigade, with a strong force of skirmishers thrown well down the next slope, and the road held by a platoon of sharpshooters.
The skirmishers having to advance over an open field, without the slightest shelter, and under a hot fire from the enemy's skirmishers concealed behind a fence, did not stop to fire a shot, but, dashing forward at a full run, drove the rebel line from the fence, and held it throughout the day. As we came upon the field, the enemy opened fire upon us from two batteries on the opposite ridge, and continued it, with some intermissions, during the action. Our low ridge afforded slight shelter from this fire, but no better was attainable, and our first disposition was unchanged until between 12 and 1 o'clock when anew battery upon a hill on the extreme right opened a most destructive enfilade of our line, and at the same time all the troops upon my right fell back nearly a half mile to the Seminary Ridge.
This made my position hazardous and difficult in the extreme, but rendered its maintenance all the more important. I threw one regiment (One hundred and forty-ninth, Lieutenant-Colonel Dwight commanding) into the road, and disposed the others on the left of the stone building, to conceal them from the enfilading battery. My line thus formed a right angle facing north and west. Soon after, as the enemy's infantry was developed in heavy force upon the right, I sent another regiment (One hundred and forty-third, Colonel Dana) to the right of the One hundred and forty-ninth. At about 1.30 p.m. the grand advance of the enemy's infantry began. From my position I was enabled to trace their formation for at least 2 miles. It appeared to be a nearly continuous line of deployed battalions, with other battalions in mass or reserve. Their line being formed not parallel but obliquely to ours, their left first became engaged with the troops on the northern prolongation of Seminary Ridge. The battalions engaged soon took a direction parallel to those opposed to them, thus causing a break in their line and exposing the flank of those engaged to the fire of my two regiments in the Chambersburg road. Though at the longest range of our pieces, we poured a most destructive fire upon their flanks, and, together with the fire in their front, scattered them over the fields.
A heavy force was then formed in two lines parallel to the Chambersburg road, and pressed forward to the attack of my position. Anticipating this, I had sent Colonel Dwight (One hundred and forty-ninth) forward to occupy a deep railroad cutting about 100 yards from the road, and when they came to a fence within pistol-shot of his line he gave them a staggering volley; reloading as they climbed the fence, and waiting till they came within 30 yards, gave them another volley, and charged, driving them back over the fence in utter confusion.
Returning to the cut, he found that the enemy had planted a battery which perfectly enfiladed and made it untenable, and he was obliged to fall back to the road. Colonel Dana meanwhile had been engaged with the enemy directly in his front and preventing them from outflanking Colonel Dwight on the right, and Colonel Wister had been holding our original line, now the left front. Being wounded about this time and carried from the field, I cannot speak so definitely of the remainder of the action.
Colonel Wister (One hundred and fiftieth) assumed command of the brigade, and finding the enemy were advancing from the northwest, brought up his own regiment, and, making a new disposition, drove back that force. Again they advanced from the north, and, struggling over the railroad cut, came nearly to the road, but a vigorous bayonet charge drove them back. Another attack from the west was met by another change of front and repulsed. Colonel Wister being wounded, the command devolved on Colonel Dana, who continued to contest the position with varying fortunes until it was reported that the enemy had turned his left flank as well as his right. An officer who was sent to learn the truth of the report found the wood occupied by the enemy; this made a retreat necessary to prevent being completely surrounded, and the command fell back, making an occasional stand and fighting all the way to Seminary Ridge.
There a firm stand was made and a battery brought off; thence the retreat was continued through the town, in which the troops suffered heavily from the fire of the enemy, who already occupied the streets on both their flanks. Of the part taken by the remnant of my brigade in the battle of the 2d and 3d, report was made by Colonel Dana, commanding.
No language can do justice to the conduct of my officers and men on the bloody" first day; "to the coolness with which they watched and awaited, under a fierce storm of shot and shell, the approach of the enemy's overwhelming masses; their ready obedience to orders, and the prompt and perfect execution, under fire, of all the tactics of the battle-field; to the fierceness of their repeated attacks, or to the desperate tenacity of their resistance. They fought as if each man felt that upon his own am hung the fate of the day and the nation. Nearly two-thirds of my command fell on the field. Every field officer save one was wounded and disabled. Their names are to be found already in your general report. Not one of them left the field until completely disabled. Colonel Wister, while commanding the brigade, though badly wounded in the mouth and unable to speak, remained in the front of the battle, as did also Lieutenant-Colonel Huidekoper, commanding One hundred and fiftieth, with his right arm shattered and a wound in the leg, and Lieutenant-Colonel Dwight, commanding One hundred and forty-ninth, with a dangerous gun-shot wound through the thigh. Not being in possession of the regimental reports, I regret that I cannot do justice to the line officers who were particularly distinguished, and for the same reason I have been unable to give as complete an account of the action as I could have wished. To the courage and skill of regimental commanders is due in great measure the successful maintenance of the position.
The officers of my own staff present, and to whose bravery and intelligence high praise is due, were Lieutenant [John E.] Parsons, acting assistant adjutant-general, and Lieutenants Dalgliesh and Walters, aides-de-camp. The two latter served also under Colonel Wister and Colonel Dana while those officers commanded the brigade, and received from them the highest commendation.
Lieutenant Walters is especially praised for his gallantry in rallying and leading in repeated charges such portions of the troops as had become detached from their commands.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel 149th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
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