July 2, 1863
Colonel Moses Lakeman barely knew brevet Brigadier General Hiram Berdan, the commanding officer of the Union’s Sharpshooters Regiments, but their paths crossed on July 2, 1863.
At the request of Major General Daniel Sickles, Berdan sent 100 sharpshooters toward a copse known as Pitzer’s Woods along Seminary Ridge at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was early in the morning, and Gen. Sickles wanted to probe for the location and strength of the Confederate Army he knew was before him.
The sharpshooters led the way, but Lakeman and the 3rd Maine Infantry Regiment, now numbering fewer than 200 men, were close behind.
Within half an hour, the work of the two units pivoted the outcome of the three-day battle.
Col. Lakeman later sends an account of the battle to Maine Adjutant General John Hodsdon, reporting that his soldiers "… were chosen to open the engagement on the left of the line on the 2nd inst. And the heroic daring displayed by them, when confronting ten times their number, is the source of universal admiration by the commanding General, and throughout the entire Corps."
The effective fighting by the 3rd Maine and by Berdan’s sharpshooters with their Spencer repeating rifles prompted Confederate General Cadmus Wilcox to estimate that his 10th and 11 Alabama regiments were up against two Union regiments.
Lakeman and Berdan knew better. They ordered their men to make a fighting retreat to Union lines.
Once there, they informed Gen. Sickles about the Confederate movements. Sickles processed that information, assessed the ground occupied by his troops – the 3rd Corps of the Union Army – and ordered the army forward to the higher ground of the Peach Orchard.
The 3rd Maine continued to fight through the day and the regiment’s numbers dwindled to fewer than 100 soldiers.
Col. Lakeman supplied a list of the battle casualties to the Kennebec Journal, and praised his regiment to Hodsdon, "the heroic daring displayed by them, when confronting ten times their number, is the source of universal admiration by the commanding General, and throughout the entire Corps."
- Why would Lakeman send his battle casualty report to the newspaper rather than to the Adjutant General?