Battery at Gettysburg

Sergeant Leander McChesney, 1st New Jersey Artillery

Sergent Leander McChesney, First New Jersey Artillery HISTORY OF BATTERY B, 1ST N.J. ARTILLERY. (ill. page 66)

Gettysburg, July 2nd, 1863

An Exerpt from the Battery History

July 2nd, Battery B. was moved to the front early in the morning and placed in position on second line near base of Little Round Top. At 9:30 a.m. the Battery was moved to the front and left, and placed in line on rich to left of Trostle house. On our right was an Orchard containing cherry trees, that were soon be bereft of fruits. To our right and rear, the house where General Sickles had his headquarters. The forenoon was passed in quietness, except now again the crack of some skirmishers rifles on our right front.

Shortly before noon Berdan’s sharpshooters advance to the Fairfield Road, on our left, passing the Peach Orchard and disappearing over the ridge on Emmitsberg Road. It was but a short time until they were heavily engaged, and another regiment was sent to their support. Details of infantry were tearing down the fences and front. At about 2 p.m. the enemy appeared, driving our skirmishers before them over the ridge in front, but far to our left. General Sickles ordered Capt. Clark to take position with his battery near Sherfy Peach Orchard. He opened fire, using shell and shrapnel, firing slowly with good effect, about six rounds from each gun, at the enemy, who were advancing in column, their front covered by a cloud of skirmishers, and crossing the Emmitsberg Road 1400 yards distant.

The fire of the Battery drove them back to cover of the woods, after which the Battery, in double column, advanced to within 50 yards of the Emmitsberg Road. At that time General Sickles, Birney and Hunt met in conference at the Peach Orchard. Ames’ Battery was coming up on a try. In passing the position vacated by Battery B. the enemy opened hot fire on them, from battery placed in position near the Emmitsberg Road, 1400 yards distant. The generals Road off immediately after this fire opened. Capt. Randolph ordered Capt. Clark to go back and attack the enemy’s battery’s. The command was given, ” right reverse, trot,” almost before the line had straightened, and the order was given, ” action, right,” and instantly around with the guns and down went the trails. Before getting into position Rensalear Casselman was shot out of his saddle. He sleeps with the unknown dead. General Sickles said to Capt. Clark, “hold this position while you have a shot in your limbers or a man to work or guns.” The battery opened with shell and case shot, firing slowly, first by gun, next by section, then by half battery, and once or twice by battery.

The Capt. gave every order in a clear, ringing voice that could be heard above the roar of the battle. He passed from gun to gun directing the fire of each, character of missile and time of fuse. As soon as he was satisfied with the effect of battery fire he gave the order, “fire at will,” and from that moment our six Parrott guns poured a stream of shell and shrapnel into the enemy’s batteries, and not we alone, for Smith’s Battery got in position on our left at the Devil’ s Den, and Ames’ Battery got in action at the angle of the Peach Orchard. The enemy brought other batteries into action on left of Emmitsberg Road. Three minutes after going into action Tom Post’s head was shot off, and the horses became very restless under the enemy’s artillery fire. Some were killed and wounded.

In less then 30 minutes the enemy’s fire slackened, one of their limbers blew up, and at almost the same moment one of their guns was dismounted. At this Billy Riley jumped astraddle of Clairville’s gun and began cheering. The cheer was taken up by the infantry, and followed the line to right and left, until response was heard to our cheers from the Devil’s Den to the Peach Orchard. Shortly after this the enemy ceased firing. When it commenced our only line was a thin one of skirmishers. During its continuance Ward’s Brigade went into line with it s left on Little Round Top. On Ward’s right and to our left was DeTrobriand’s Brigade, with Winslow’s Battery in the wheatfield in his rear. And our rear for support was the 68th, 114th and 141st Pennsylvania regiments. Grant was in the orchard with 2nd New Hampshire, 63rd Pennsylvania, and later in the day, all regiments supporting us were put in on his line. At the Peach Orchard the line formed a right angle, and ran parallel with the Emmitsberg Road to the Rogers house, and was held by Brewster’s and Carr’s Brigade of Humphrey’s Division. Turnbull’s Battery on right, Seeley’s in the center and Randolph’s on left about in front of Sherfy’s house. Burling’s brigade in reserve. Such was the formation of our line of battle.

Excerpt from:

Written by Michael Hanifen
Pages 67 to 70
Longstreet House
Originally printed, Ottawa, Illinois, 1905
Reprinted, Hightstown, NJ, 1991

Report of Capt. A. Judson Clark,
Battery B, First New Jersey Light Artillery
O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] — Gettysburg Campaign

August 14, 1863.

Chief of Artillery, Third Corps.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this battery in the engagement near Gettysburg, July 2:

Early on the morning of July 2, the battery was moved to the front, and placed in the second, near the left, of the line of batteries. About 9.30 a.m. the battery, by your orders, was moved to the front and left, and placed in line on the rise of ground midway between General Sickles’ headquarters and the peach orchard, on the Emmitsburg road, where we remained until about 2 p.m. At this time the enemy’s infantry was discovered passing in column across the Emmitsburg road to our left and front, and distant about 1,400 yards, and, by direction of General Sickles, I placed my battery in position, and opened fire upon their position, using shell and case shot, firing very slowly and apparently with good effect, as, after some 6 or 7 rounds, the columns had entirely disappeared, and no more were seen to pass that point.

Nothing more transpired until about 3 p.m. (at this time the battery was in line at the foot of the next slope, near the peach orchard), when a rebel battery, which had just been placed in position near a house on the Emmitsburg road, about 1,400 yards to our front, opened fire on my position, and I was ordered by you to go back and attack the battery. This I did, using shell and case shot, and, after a pretty short fight, silenced the battery, but only for a short time, when they opened again, as did other batteries which they had brought into position on my right. From this time until night the fire from them was rapid and severe.

About 3.30 p.m. the enemy’s infantry commenced moving down from our front and right in strong columns, under cover of a heavy artillery fire, and the fire soon became sharp and obstinate. I immediately opened on them with shell and case shot, but although the fire seemed very destructive, opening large gaps in their ranks, it only temporarily checked them, and they pressed steadily on. I continued firing case and shell, however, at the column, and, later in the fight, into the woods on my immediate front and left, in which the enemy were pushing our troops, that seeming to be at the time the main point of their attack.

About 6.30 p.m. another of the enemy’s columns commenced moving across my front, and distant about 350 yards, when I began firing canister, doing great execution, throwing the column wholly into confusion, and causing it to seek shelter behind the slope of a hill just beyond them. By this time our infantry on both sides had fallen back, as had also several batteries, when, having no supports, I deemed it best to retire, which I did, to near the ground occupied the previous evening. In the battle of the following day the battery was not engaged.

I was obliged to leave one caisson and one caisson body on the field for the want of horses to bring them off, but subsequently recovered them.

My loss in men was as follows: One man killed, 16 men wounded, and 3 missing, 2 of whom are known to be prisoners. I had 17 horses killed, and 5 disabled so badly that I was obliged to abandon them.

Of the conduct of the officers and men, I can only say that it was in the highest degree commendable for courage and bravery.

I am, captain, your obedient servant,
Captain First New Jersey Artillery, Comdg. Battery B.