Saturday, February 05, 2011

Elisha Sweat - Gettysburg (3rd Great Grand Uncle)

14th Vermont Infantry

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
July 1-3, 1863

"Life In Camp"
Corporal John C. Williams
14th Infantry

July 1. Meade's army is again in motion this morning -- the 1st Corps, under Reynolds, taking the lead. Our brigade now belongs to the 3d Division, 1st army Corps, though for some reason we did not march with the division this morning, but remained about three hours' march in the rear; consequently we have not participated in to-day's fight.

We reached the scene of conflict about four o'clock in the afternoon, having been pressed forward with all possible speed for the last six miles, being in hearing of the battle. It was near eight o'clock before the brigade was in position, where we now are ready to participate in the battle which will doubtless be renewed in the morning.

I will here relate the particulars of to-day's fight: Gen. Reynolds on reaching Gettysburg found our cavalry engaged with the enemy on the Cashtown road, and immediately deployed the advanced division of his Corps, and the 11th Corps was to advance to his support. The enemy had been driven back, with the loss of a large number of prisoners, when Gen. Reynolds fell Mortally Wdd. The command then devolved upon Gen. Howard, and, the enemy being reinforced, he was obliged to withdraw his forces to the south side of Gettysburg, where they are now in position. Gen. Meade has not yet arrived.

July 2. Gen. Doubleday is now in command of the 1st Corps, and has denominated this the "flying brigade, " in consequence of the miraculous locomotion we have accomplished, and the forced march we have so nobly endured. After having marched for seven consecutive days, up to the hips in mud and water, with the rays of al almost vertical sun beating down upon our heads, and dropping down at the conclusion of each day's march on the water-soaked earth, with no covering to shelter us from the drenching rain, we are not well prepared for battle.

We have been reinforced by the 3d and 12th Corps. Gen. Meade arrived during the night, and has posted his troops in line of battle. The enemy's troops are now massed on a ridge about a mile from the one we occupy, and directly in front.

Noon. The firing from the artillery has been desultory all the morning, but no reply from the enemy.

Six o'clock in the evening. A severe engagement was brought on this afternoon by a furious attack of the enemy upon the 2d and 3d Corps, who, but for the timely arrival of the 5th Corps, would have been annihilated.

The 2d Vermont Brigade, with the exception of the 12th and 15th (these regiments having been detailed to guard the wagon train in the rear), has taken an important part in the engagement. Shortly after the battle opened, the left wing of the 13th Regiment was ordered forward as support to a battery, and a company of the 16th was sent out as a support to the skirmishers in front. In stationing them, Capt. A. G. Foster, A.I.G. on Gen. Stannard's Staff, was badly wounded.

Again, about half pas six in the afternoon, our line on the left center having become broken by a charge of the enemy, the brigade was ordered forward. The right wing of the 13th, under the command of Col. Randall, was in the advance, and on reaching the breach in the line was granted the privilege of making the effort to recapture the guns of Co. C, Regular Battery, which had just been captured by the enemy. This was accomplished by a charge of the five companies of the 13th, and in which charge Col. Randall had his horse shot from under him. Four guns of the battery were retaken, and two rebel field pieces with about eighty prisoners were captured in this charge.

The front line was thus re-established and is now held by this brigade. The assault on the left has bee gallantly repelled, the rebels retiring in confusion and disorder.

Eight o'clock in the afternoon. Another assault has been made on the right, but through the gallantry of the 11th Corps, the enemy was repulsed. Thus ends the battle of the second day.

July 3. The rebel Gen. Barksdale was brought into our lines during the night, Mortally Wdd. He was carried to a hospital, but soon expired. His hat and gloves are now in possession of Col. Nichols of the 14th.

Nine o'clock in the forenoon. The battle commenced very early this morning, a brisk fire being opened from the enemy's guns, and after a severe contest of about two hours a part of our line was regained, which had been abandoned yesterday to maintain other positions.

The 2d Vermont Brigade still remains in the front line, which was re-established yesterday. The enemy still holds his position, and fights desperately.

This is to be the eventful day. Here are two mighty armies, ready at the word of command to rush forward to mortal strife, each determined to maintain its cause. But how many brave men will, ere another day rolls around, be laid beneath the sod.

The operations of this day will doubtless decide the battle, and generals are to win imperishable renown. The nation's honor is being vindicated, and the fate of America is to be decided. The old Army of the Potomac is here ready to resist the onslaught of treason, and unless this desperate act of the rebels is checked the country is lost.

Six o'clock in the afternoon. The enemy opened a brisk fire of artillery from one hundred and twenty-five guns, on our left and center, about one o'clock, and this was shortly followed by an attack of infantry. This engagement lasted about five hours, raging at intervals upon our right, left, and center, and was the heaviest artillery fighting of the war. At the time of noting this the enemy is retiring, defeated, from the field, the assault upon our left resulting a great loss to them. Thus the battle for another day is ended -- and the questions naturally arrive, will be battle be resumed in the morning, and will the enemy attempt another assault upon our lines?

The 2d brigade has held the most important position in the whole line, -- and its movements, directed by Gen. Stannard have doubtless saved the day. The brigade has held the front line, in the center position, for about twenty-four hours, and during the spirited engagement of this afternoon a vigorous attack was made upon our position, by an overwhelming force of seventeen thousand rebels, whose charge was gallantly repelled by this brigade alone. The men were subjected some two hours to the severest cannonade of the battle, from one hundred and forty guns. The charge of the enemy was met with a warm reception by the Vermont boys. A charge was made upon the right of the brigade by a heavy infantry force, when a destructive fire from the 13th and 16th compelled a large share of the enemy to surrender prisoners of war. Another charge was made on our left, but the rebel force being badly cut to pieces by the fire of the 14th, a large portion were scooped into our lines.

The regimental colors of the 2d Florida and 8th Virginia regiments, and the battle flag of another rebel regiment, were taken by the 16th. These movements of the brigade were performed in the open field, under a heavy fire of shell, grape and musketry, and were executed with the promptness of veteran troops.

In the engagement of to-day, Orderly Sergeant Henry Vaughan, Private Geo. Baker, Co. B, were killed, and Orderly Sergeant Elisha F. Sweat, Co. K, 14th Regiment, who went from my town, was badly wounded in the head -- afterwards died.

The remains of these martyrs to the cause of freedom were brought home in October, and interred among their kindred.

Source: VermontCivilWar.Org Database

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