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Home > Civil War Sesquicentennial > Edward N. Whittier Transcript

Edward N. Whittier Transcript

Head quarters 5th Battery Maine Vols
August 2nd 1863
General,

I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the battery in the Battle of Gettysburg July 1st, 2nd & 3rd 1863; the expenditure of ammunition; & the loss in killed, wounded & taken prisoner.

At a few minutes past two P.M. July 1st, orders were received by Captain Stevens to change position from the left to the right of the Seminary building & relieve Lt. Stewart’s Battery, B. Co. 4th U.S. Artillery.  The ground occupied was on the left of the Chambersburg Turnpike; the pieces were aligned with the left, thrown in front of the Seminary and opened fire with spherical case & shell at 800 yards on the enemy advancing on our direct front.

After they were repulsed when within canister range by the use of double charges, the guns were turned to the right on the columns advancing across the turnpike, and marching to our left & in the face of the most destructive fire that could be put forth from the three batteries in position, the enemy succeeded in dislodging the infantry posted in the grove covering the our left flank, driving in the cavalry & completely enfilading our line.

Then by order of Gen. Wadsworth Commanding 1st Division 1st Corps the battery was limbered up and passing through the town, occupied the knoll to the right and rear of Cemetery Hill, thus holding one of the most important, if not the most important positions on the whole line. A regular fire was maintained until dark to prevent the enemy occupying the ground in front.

During the night temporary earth works, by the direction of Captain Stevens, were constructed, which proved on the two days following to be of the greatest service in covering the men & pieces.

Early on the morning of July 2nd, the sharpshooters posted in the houses & barns on the outskirts of the town and in the cover of the fences began to be very annoying & were only partially dislodged by our skirmishers sent out to oppose them & while observing movements of the enemy towards our right, Captain Stevens received his wound & the command of the battery devolved upon me.

In the afternoon, a battery of 20 pdr. Parrotts 1400 yards to our right opened an enfilading fire on Cemetery Hill, both very destructive and annoying. In concert with 8 rifled pieces we commenced firing & in less than 40 minutes had the satisfaction of exploding four (4) of their limbers & forcing them to withdraw the battery.         

For our successful participation in this engagement we received the congratulations of Brig. Gen. Ames, Comm’dg Div. 11th Corps – Just at night they again attempted to maintain a battery in the same position but were again driven off.

My attention was called soon after sunset to considerable activity on the part of the enemy, near the edge of the town & at early dusk, I made out their line of battle forming at a distance of 1000 yards and immediately opened up with the whole battery with spherical case & before the movement was discovered from Cemetery Hill. The projectiles exploded with perfect accuracy & with visible effect, temporarily checking them.

At first their line was formed directly in our front (the battery being to the rear & right of Cemetery Hill nearly 500 yds). As they advanced the line wheeled to the right & became exposed to an enfilading fire from our position, and the more direct as they advanced. When within 600 yards I opened with canister & fired before they were repulsed of 46 rounds. In connection with the batteries on the Hill operating on the enemy’s front, soon had the satisfaction of seeing the line of their fire begin to recede & finally cease to be effective.

The attack, led by a La. Brigade was repulsed entirely by artillery, the infantry support belonging to the 11th Corps affording but little assistance.

In withdrawing my left piece, the ammunition being exhausted, four of the six horses were killed immediately on coming out of cover & of the two remaining, one died in harness 20 minutes later.

I mention this that you may judge of the nature of the fire to which we were exposed & under which the pieces were served rapidly and accurately, as the ground testified the next morning. 19 dead Rebels belonging to the La. Brigade were found in one small place.

It was after the enemy had retired that, the ammunition being exhausted, I withdrew the battery to the road & reported to Col. Wainwright, Chief of Artillery, 1st Corps & by his direction refilled the chests and at 9:30 P.M. reoccupied the position & passed the night there.

Early the next morning engaged the enemy’s battery again posted 1400 yards on our right & for and hour and a half responded rapidly without any loss on our part, the earthworks protecting the men from several of the enemy’s projectiles which lodged there.

We then ceased firing & with the exception of changing front several times during the heaviest firing while the enemy attempted to break through or right held by the1st Div.1st Corps & the 12th Corps & changing front to the left in the afternoon during the enemy’s attack on our center, the battery remained inactive though, tho’ suffering quite severely in the heavy cannonade by which the battery was enfiladed & from the nature of the ground necessarily.

I deeply regret, General, that I have to include in the list of the wounded Captain G. L. Stevens shot through both legs & Lt. Chas. O. Hunt shot in the thigh on the 1st near the Seminary – both wounded in the active discharge of their duties.

I beg to be allowed to assure you, General, that tho’ the battery, by this 1st & 2nd day’s engagement & by the battle at Chancellorsville had been deprived of the services of four experienced and gallant officers it in nowise tarnished the reputation it has earned on several well-fought fields. 1st Serg’t Lorrin E. Bundy as Chief of right-half battery, Serg’t J.W. White as Chief of the left-half battery, in the 2nd & 3rd day’s engagements, evinced quite as plainly as before, when they earned their promotions, bravery & discretion in the highest degree.

Sullivan Luce, act’g Corporal, killed by a fragment of a shell on the 3rd, had on many occasions won the commendations of his commanding officer for soldierly & gallant conduct.

List of Men
Killed, Wounded & Taken Prisoner  
[See image page 5]
I have the honor to be –
General
With due respect, your most ob’t serv’t
E. N. Whittier, 1st Lt. Commanding Battery

Brig. Gen. J. L. Hodsdon
Adj. Gen. State of Maine
Augusta, Me.