James A. Hall
July 11, 1863
On the morning of July 1, 1863, Major General John Reynolds orders Captain James Hall, of Damariscotta, to place the six guns belonging to Maine’s 2nd Battery into a forward position along the Chambersburg Pike, just outside the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Gen. Reynolds order is uncommon. Artillery units were seldom placed at the front of a battle; certainly not as far forward as Hall’s men now stand, and never without enough infantry to protect them.
But, aside from a few infantrymen on loan from the 16th Maine Volunteer Regiment, the 2nd Maine is alone.
With the unexpected presence of large numbers – thousands – of Confederate infantry, the Maine men are told to hold their position until reinforcements can arrive.
That is the order, and the 2nd Maine Battery stands its ground.
Hall, later, credits his men.
"The boys fought like the D~~~~~ - Never better," he writes.
Hall does not mention that the Battery leaves one gun behind when they withdraw, and that he, with one sergeant and a limber, return and retrieve the gun later in the day.
By the time the order comes for the 2nd Maine Battery to withdraw, Hall has only three guns in working condition, and most of his horses have been shot or bayonetted
The exploits of the 2nd Maine Battery draw the attention of the press.
On July 9, a friend of Maine Adjutant General John Hodsdon sends him newspaper clippings from the New York Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Inquirer reports: "Among the many brilliant doings of our troops, and worthy of special mention, is the manner in which the men of Hall’s Second Maine battery managed to regain two guns that were taken from them. Early in the morning of the 1st, and before sufficient infantry had arrived to support them, the rebels succeeded in capturing the two guns spoken of. The pieces so captured were kept closely watched, and the remaining four pieces so maneuvered as to gradually near the party working the captured pieces. Soon a favorable opportunity arrived. No infantry being handy, the gallant Mainites, unarmed, charged upon the two pieces, and after a regular ‘fisticuff’ fight, not only regained their guns but managed to secure most of the party having them in their possession."
Hall writes that, "On Wednesday and Thursday we were engaged on Cemetery – Hill and suffered only slightly."
They are positioned on the extreme left of the Artillery line where another of his guns is disabled by the force of a recoil. On July 3, the 2nd Maine Battery endures a massive Confederate artillery barrage yet suffers no casualties.
Afterwards, Hall adds, "We are in line of battle and momentarily expecting a battle, although at times I think Lee has escaped."
He is correct. Lee escapes, and most of his army retreats to Virginia.
Hall is later promoted several times, and ends the War as a Brevet Brigadier General.
- How does the Philadelphia Inquirer article differ from Hall’s account?
- Were you surprised to see the term "fisticuffs" used in the 1860s?
- What is a "limber?" Why did Hall not spell out the word "devil?"