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Home > Civil War Sesquicentennial > Charles B. Merrill 17th at Gettysburg Transcript

Charles B. Merrill 17th at Gettysburg Transcript

Headquarters 17th Maine Reg’t vols
Battlefield of Gettysburgh
July 5 1863

Capt Ben M. Pratt
A.A. Gen’l

Sir,

In compliance with orders from Brigade Head Qr’s I have the honor to submit the following report of the part sustained By the 17th Maine Vols. under my command in the Battle of Gettysburg.

On the morning of July 2nd we broke camp at Emmitsburg at ½ past 4 o’clock and marched towards Gettysburg: arriving upon the battle field about ten, we found the pickets of both armies busily engaged, we were at once drawn up in line of battle facing the “pike” leading to Gettysburg, where we rested under arms for an hour; soon after this, the line was changed and were we moved forward and placed in a new position supporting a line of skirmishers thrown towards the front of the Brigade,

About 4 P.M. the Brigade of Gen’l Ward having become actively engaged with the enemy on our left, I was ordered by Col. De Trobriand to march my Reg’t to connect with, and support the line of Gen’l Ward on his right. The Reg’t at once moved by the left flank, and crossing an interval between the two brigades, our line was formed behind a stone wall, which afforded a strong position. – We opened fire upon the enemy, then within one hundred yards of us: the contest became very severe, the enemy at times being driven back by our line, and then by superior numbers compelling us in turn to give way. The ground was hotly contested, but we held our position, ‘till finding the right of our Reg’t outflanked, and exposed to a murderous fire from the enemy’s reinforcements, I was obliged to form a new line, changing the right wing of the Reg’t, into a position at a right angle with the left. This movement was executed in good order, under a heavy fire from the advancing foe, in this position we continued the fight, checking the enemy, till receiving orders to retire we fell back across a wheat field in our rear, to the edge of our woods. 

At this point Gen’l Birney rode upon the field, and directed our Reg’t to advance.

With cheers for our gallant Commander the Reg’t moved quickly forward, and pouring into the enemy volley after volley their advance was checked.  The contest was now of a most deadly character, almost hand to hand, and our loss was very severe.

In the Color Guard of ten, but three escaped uninjured; our ammunition being exhausted, and fresh troops having arrived to take our places we were ordered to withdraw from the field, which we did in good order.

A new line was formed but a short distance to the rear, where we bivouacked for the night.

At early dawn (July 3rd) the Reg’t was drawn up in line of battle in the same position held by us on the previous forenoon.  At one P.M. the enemy opening upon the whole line of our Army a heavy Artillery fire, and advancing to break through the position held by the “right” we were ordered to proceed to reinforce Gen’l Doubleday.  Proceeding at the “double quick” we were soon placed in line supporting the 9th Michigan Battery. Throughout the terrible attack of the enemy, we were exposed to severe Artillery fire and suffered heavy loss of officers and men.

After dark the Reg’t was sent to the front on Picket duty where we remained all night.

Much attention was given by our men to the care of the wounded left on the Field.

July 4th  The Reg’t was occupied nearly all day in throwing up earthworks expecting a renewal of the attack by the enemy: on July 5 we moved into our present position.

It is with sadness that I am compelled to report the loss of several valuable Line Officers:  Lieut. Dyar Com’dg Co. G was instantly killed in the engagement on the 2nd inst., while Capt. Flagg was carried from the field mortally wounded. Adjutant C. W. Roberts, a gallant soldier was seriously wounded in the leg, requiring amputation.

Throughout these engagements both officers and men of my command behaved with gallantry, and their conduct was worthy of the cause in which they were engaged and the noble Division to which they belong. Many of the men were without shoes, the whole Command had been without rations for nearly twenty four hours; and after the long and tedious march from “Camp Sickles” were poorly fitted for the labors they were called upon to perform.

Our gratitude is due to Almighty God for the success with which He has crowned our exertions.

The list of casualties herewith annexed, shows the severity of the contest in which the Reg’t participated.

List of Casualties in the Engagements of
July 2nd and 3rd 1863

Killed  Wounded  Missing 

Officers 1         7           
Men      17       105          2
           -----     ------         --
            18      112          2

Aggregate Loss 132

I have the honor to remain
your obedient Servant,
Charles Benj’n Merrill
Lieut. Col. Comm’dg

17th Maine Reg’t Vols.