The 11th Corps at Gettysburg

                               The following National Tribune article was published on Dec. 12th, 1869. A

                          transcript was found with the assistance of the great staff at the GNMP library.

                                EDITOR NATIONAL TRIBUNE: The writer of this little article does not

                               claim for it absolute correctness in the minutest details, it being

                               penned mostly from memory, but endeavors to bring before all comrades of

                               the Army of the Potomac, especially the First Corps, a comprehensive

                               sketch of the fighting of the two divisions of the Eleventh Corps

                               pitched against Ewell's (old Stonewall) Corps until enveloped in right

                               flank and rear by numbers equaling two to one, according to the records

                               of the War Department.

 

                                I was an eye-witness to the unequal struggle of the Third and Second

                               Divisions (I name them in this order, as we marched left in front that

                               day, and went into action in that order) of my Corps for about two

                               hours, being detached from my regiment (74th PA) to headquarters of the

                               Third Division (Carl Shurz's) as second officer of the division Pioneer

                               company.

                               The Eleventh Corps camped during the night of June 30 to July 1 in and

                               around Emmitsburg, near the line between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

                               Breakfast was eaten before sunrise, and my Pioneer company, at the head

                               of the corps, immediately behind Gen. C. Schurz, was marching by the

                               first rays of the sun toward the most remarkably open and one of the

                               most stubbornly contested battlefields of the civil war. When within six

                               or seven miles of Gettysburg, about 10 a.m., the distant boom of cannon

                               informed us of an engagement going on, and not long afterward an Aid of

                               Gen. Howard brought orders to Gen. Schurz, upon which our men were put

                               into a double-quick, this gait being kept up to the battlefield, with

                               only short breathing intermissions.

 

                               As soon as we had passed the Round Tops, leaving them to our right or

                               east, part of the First Corps' fighting came into view due north,

                               Gettysburg being visible north-northeast. For quite a distance we had

                               heard the crackling fire of the infantry, and seeing the First Corps

                               heavily engaged, our men struck the long-winded dog trot, and went in

                               that style through the town, emerging on the Mummasburg road.

                               After passing Pennsylvania College I saw the enemy's infantry

                               outflanking the extreme right of the First Corps (the 12th Mass and

                               104th N.Y.) but their commanders changed their fronts from

                               west-northwest to due north. After my Pioneers were put to work to cut

                               down the post fences between the college and Hagy's house to let the

                               infantry and artillery into the fields north of the road, I naturally

                               turned my attention to the terrible but indescribably fascinating scene

                               on the east slope of Seminary Ridge. The rebel infantry was coming down

                               the Mummasburg road at a run, about 600 yards from me, and taking

                               shelter on the southwest side of the road in the ditch behind the fence,

                               fired into the exposed ranks of the 13th Mass and 104th N.Y., who stood

                               in an open meadow. I could see every man fall as he was hit by the enemy

                               (who lost hardly any in this unequal contest,), until of the original

                               line of blue was left only a thin line, with great gaps at that. My

                               heart bounded with joy when the skirmishers of the 157th and 45th N.Y.

                               of my division, drove the enemy out of the road and took those of them

                               prisoners that had taken shelter in McLean's red barn.

 

                               Right here I witnessed an artillery duel between Capt. Dilger's battery

                               of brass Napoleons of the Third Division, Eleventh Corps, which had

                               unlimbered its guns somewhat north of McLean's red barn on the slope of

                               the ridge. Within eight or ten minutes from the time that Capt. Dilger's

                               (Co. I, 1st Ohio L.A.) gunners got orders to demolish the rebel battery

                               they blew up two or three caissons and entirely disabled one or two of

                               the guns, without losing any of their own. Simultaneous with this work

                               was the charge of our men to capture the rebels hiding in the red barn,

                               and the remainder of the battery lumbered up and disappeared behind the

                               rounding of the ridge. Our line was then extended nearly due east as fast

                               as the regiment arrived until they reached beyond the Newville road

                               nearly to the Harrisburg road.

 

                               After my Pioneers had cut the fences for our division, I was ordered by

                               my Captain to take them to the corner of the college, he being ordered

                               to remain with the General. There I mounted a boxed post some eight feet

                               in hight [sic], and was thereby enabled to see the Newville and

                               Harrisburg pikes, and as far as my eye could reach I saw thousands of

                               Ewell's men come toward the rear and right flank of my corps, completely

                               enveloping it, preparatory to the murderous assault of both Hill's and

                               Ewell's Corps, numbering no less than 35,000 men, against the First

                               Corps and the Third (Schurz's) and Second (Barlow's) Divisions of the

                               Eleventh Corps, numbering in all not over 14,500 men.

 

                               During this comparative lull in the battle, also mentioned by the author

                               of the "Story of a Cannoneer" I kept asking my anxious heart, "Why does

                               Gen. Howard not shorten or refuse the line of my corps to face the new

                               brigades of Ewell's fresh corps, or bring up the First Division

                               (Steinwehr's) to protect the rear of the other two?"

 

                               I had seen troops come along north of the Round Tops, and was satisfied

                               they were the First Division, all good and tried men. A comrade of the

                               55th Ohio has assured me they were ordered to form behind the stone

                               walls of Cemetery Ridge, south of Gettysburg, entirely out of supporting

                               distance of their comrades one and one half miles north of town. I am

                               informed they were anxious and willing to come to our assistance. But

                               the "Why not" of the above two questions has never been publicly

                               answered by the General commanding that terrible evening of July 1,

                               1863.

 

                               I understand that he went up into the cupola of the college, from where

                               he could see every movement of two-thirds of Ewell's Corps; Iverson's

                               and Daniel's North Carolina and O'Neal's Alabama Brigades, and Rodes's

                               Division, being covered by Seminary Ridge.

 

                               A foreboding of the coming massacre kept me riveted to the spot, here

                               and there artillery and musketry fire opening at intervals of a few

                               seconds, then the volley from, an entire regiment on our extreme right

                               likely the 17th Conn., when all along the lines of the Eleventh and

                               First Corps the demon of battle is turned loose without stint or favor.

 

                               Thus I see my comrades murdered without them having any show for their

                               lives. What else can I call it, when they have to fight equal

                               numbers--nay superior--in front, and equal numbers in flank and rear?

 

                               I see rebel infantry enter the town (men of Hays' Louisiana and Hoke's

                               North Carolina Brigades), but the men of the two divisions are still

                               grimly trying to hold their ground. I am not able to come to their

                               assistance with my men, for they carry no arms. The wounded are coming

                               in constant streams across the fields toward me, until every room in the

                               large college is filled to overflowing.

 

                               The stretcher bearers are unable to get the severely wounded from the

                               field, for the pressure of such odds is driving the boys toward the west

                               side of town (the north is already occupied by the enemy), and getting

                               down I join with my men the movement to the rear. South of the college

                               grounds a stone bridge spans a brook. The arch is considerably elevated

                               above the surrounding level. Word is passed from man to man to not go

                               over the bridge but walk through the deep mire. Rebel infantry in the

                               houses east of it are raking it with their fire. Lieut. Roth, of my

                               company (K, 74th Pa.) scorns the idea of any rebel hitting him, and

                               marches over the bridge. A dull thud, and his reeling body sinks to the

                               earth before me; but I take through the mire.

 

                               As we get into town we find rebel infantry drawn across some streets,

                               and have to take through houses, yards, over fences, until at last we

                               reach Cemetery Hill. Gen. Schimmelpfennig (my old Colonel), commanding

                               the First Brigade, Third Division, is with the last of his men into

                               Gettysburg, and finds his retreat cut off by rebel infantry. He rides

                               through the hallway of a house, and turning his horse over to the owner,

                               hides among large ranks of cordwood, where he is supplied with food

                               until July 4, when he joins his command.

 

                               Hundreds of the men are captured in the streets of the city, among them

                               Capt. F. Irsch, with about 50 men of the 45th N.Y. The Major (V. Mitzel)

                               of my own regiment, with Lieut. Schroeder and several men, are forced to

                               surrender, with both officers escaping through the celebrated tunnel of

                               Libby Prison.

 

                               Thus did the two divisions of my corps have to fight July 1, 1863. The

                               losses of the 16 regiments are unknown to me, but those of my own

                               regiment I recollect approximately. The 74th Pa. went into the battle

                               with about 145 officers and men, (nearly 200, under command of Captain

                               Zeh, not being relieved from the division picket line at Emmitsburg when

                               we started for Gettysburg at daylight, and were held at Cemetery Hill

                               with the First Division), out of which it lost three officers killed, six

                               or seven wounded and two taken prisoners, and 63 men killed, wounded and

                               taken prisoner. My Colonel (V. Hartung) had his leg shattered by a

                               musket-ball early in the afternoon, and was nursed by a family of the

                               city for three or four weeks.

 

                               The charge of the Louisiana Tigers upon Cemetery Hill that night about

                               12 o'clock struck the right wing of my division, as also some other

                               troops, and Private Betz, of Co. I, 74th Pa. killed two rebels with his

                               musket; Betz measuring six feet two inches in hight [sic].

 

                               Why the First Division (Steinwehr's) was not placed north of the city,

                               to keep open for us our line of retreat, I have never been able to

                               learn. That a repulse was inevitable must have been apparent to the

                               commanding General, as the enemy's regiments were plainly visible to

                               him from the Cemetery, the northwest slope of Culp's Hill, and any

                               public building in the city. No; my poor comrades had to be sacrificed,

                               just as they were sacrificed at Chancellorsville two months previous.

 

                               ---LOUIS FISCHER, First Lieutenant, Pioneer Co., Third Division,

                               Eleventh Corps, Salem, Mo.

 

                               (NATIONAL TRIBUNE, 12 December, 1869)