“The Devil’s To Pay” – First Day Struggle at Willoughby Run
Thursday, July 4, 11:00 a.m.
Early in the morning on July 1st Confederate General Henry Heth moved toward Gettysburg from Cashtown on the Chambersburg Pike in search of supplies. Heth’s entire division was mustered for the march when one of his brigade’s had returned and reported a sizeable force of Union cavalry near Gettysburg. After exchanging a few shots with a Union cavalry picket post near Marsh Creek, Heath believed he may be facing some local militia and a small Union force as he approached Herrs Ridge, Willoughby Run, McPherson’s Ridge and Seminary Ridge. This belief was short-lived. Heath discovered the Rebels were facing General Buford’s dismounted cavalry who had been sent forward to McPherson’s Ridge and to Willoughby Run in order to stall the Confederate advance. Colonel William Gamble’s brigade of Buford’s division, supported by Lt. John H. Calef’s U.S. Battery with their breech loading carbines, did a fine job of delaying the Confederate approach. The Rebels were stalled – but only for a short period. The intense fighting of the First Day was just beginning.
Two brigades, commanded by General Archer & Davis, pressed slowly ahead crossing Willoughby Run. On Seminary Ridge from the cupola of Schmucker Hall, General Buford was watching his men being pushed back from Willoughby Run when General John Reynolds, riding ahead of his First Corps coming up in support, asked Buford to hold out until his troops arrived. “The devil’s to pay”, exclaimed Buford. Then he simply replied, “I reckon I can.” At the end of the first day’s battle, locations west of Gettysburg such as Herrs Ridge, McPherson’s Woods, Willoughby Run, The Railroad Cut, Iverson’s Pits, Oak Hill, Schmucker Hall and Seminary Ridge would be etched into American history. The Union forces were eventually driven back through the town, but the First Day delaying action that held the line gave Union reinforcements enough time to arrive and secure the strategic advantage on Cemetery Ridge. Later First Day actions on the eastern and northern ground of the First Day will be continued at 6 p.m. during the engagement Crossroads of Destiny. Experience this exhilarating ‘The Devil’s To Pay’ action as the battle begins at 11 a.m. on Thursday, July 4, at the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment.
Editors Note: Schmucker Hall on the Lutheran Seminary campus is the most important and historic privately owned building in Gettysburg. In conjunction with the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary Commemoration Schmucker Hall is undergoing a complete restoration and will be formally dedicated and re-opened on July 1st as the Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum. The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee is proud to include the Schmucker Hall restoration project as one of five local event beneficiaries for this year’s 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment.
“Crossroads of Destiny” – The Federal Retreat from Seminary Ridge
Thursday, July 4, 6:00 p.m.Thursday, July 4, 6:00 p.m.
The outnumbered Union Cavalry of John Buford fought through the morning of the First Day to slow the Confederate advance. They fought mounted and dismounted by forming a line, firing, and then pulling back. One of the first Union Infantry units to reach the field in support was Reynold’s 1st Corp, which included the Iron Brigade. The 1st Corps initially defeated Heth’s infantry and drove them back. After an approximately one hour battle, with heavy losses on both sides, the Confederates managed to push the 1st Corps back.
By 3 p.m., the Confederates were attacking along a broad front extending from the Fairfield Road to Oak Hill and beyond. On the Union right toward Oak Hill and Barlow’s Knoll, some units held their ground. Other units retreated and began to run through the streets and alleys of Gettysburg. Actions at Willoughby Run, Herbst Woods, the Railroad Cut, Iverson’s Pits, Oak Hill, Barlow’s Knoll, and the Brickyard would be etched in First Day infamy forever.
By 4 p.m. the entire Union line on Seminary Ridge had collapsed and the Army of Northern Virginia marched into Gettysburg from the west and north. The Union 1st and 11th Corps retreated through town to Cemetery Ridge, which is to the south and east of Gettysburg. They had lost nearly 9,000 men in the First Day’s fighting.
At the end of the First Day’s fighting, total casualties totaled approximately 15,000 with 9,000 Union and 6,000 Confederate. The First Day at Gettysburg ranked as the 23rd largest battle of the Civil War with over 49,000 troops engaged. The First Day was more than just a prelude to the Second and Third days. Experience troops from both sides pouring in the Chambersburg Pike and retreating through the town of Gettysburg during Crossroads of Destiny – The Federal Retreat From Seminary Ridge, on Thursday, July 4 at 6 p.m. at the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment.
“Springing the Trap” – Ambush at Hunterstown (Cavalry Battle)
Friday, July 5, 11:00 a.m.
It all began with Custer ordering elements of the 6th and 7th Michigan cavalry to dismount and move south on foot beyond and below the ridge, along both sides of the Hunterstown Road east of Gettysburg. These troops, hidden by the wheat fields, inconspicuously moved forward to the Felty Farm where the units marksmen took cover in the large bank barn on the west side of the road. The Felty’s barn was large enough to conceal Lieutenant A.C.M. Pennington’s 2nd U.S. Battery. Meanwhile the men of the 7th Michigan formed undetected in the tall wheat east of the Hunterstown Road, to form a cross fire with the 6th Michigan.
Young Custer had set the perfect trap. He led approximately sixty mounted men of Company A, 6th Michigan, on a daring charge toward the Confederates. Since the Hunterstown Road was tightly flanked on both sides with post and rail fences, it is impossible for more than one company to move along the road at a gallop. Realizing this, Custer had Company ‘A’, act as a small shock force and established contact with the Confederate Cavalry. After smacking them around and getting their fight up, Custer retreats drawing the southerners with him in pursuit. As the retreat ensued, Custer drew the CSA cavalry back north towards the ambush that was waiting east and west of the Hunterstown Road at Felty’s farm. The horses of Cobb’s Legion raced in the summer air, nose to tail with Company A, up the narrow Hunterstown Road, all-the-while bouncing between the fences which hemmed them in. They were so caught up in the chase that they fell like a hungry mouse right into the trap; which was released on them as soon as Custer’s cavalry cleared the waiting crossfire. On Friday morning at 11 a.m., experience the thrill of thundering hooves, the whinny of horses and the shouts of cavalry commands while viewing “Springing The Trap - Ambush at Hunterstown” cavalry battle at the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Reenactment. The Battle will be followed by an always pleasing close-up Cavalry Review.
“A Bloody Harvest” – The Wheatfield
Friday, July 5, 6:00 p.m.
On the morning of July 2, 1863 the Confederate forces were jubilant. They had driven the enemy from the field and now occupied the town of Gettysburg. General Robert E. Lee decided to remain at Gettysburg to defeat the defending Federal force, now deployed on high ground south and east of town. Deciding on a Napoleonic flanking maneuver against the Union troops, Lee ordered an attack, with General Longstreet’s 1st Corps engaging the Federals on Little Round Top, and General Ewell’s 2nd Corps hitting the Federals on Cemetery and Culp’s Hills as a diversion.
General Longstreet’s troops had not arrived yet on the morning of July 2, and determinedly traveled surreptitiously in a counter-march to avoid detection. As a result, Dan Sickles, commander of the Union 3rd Corps, ordered his men off the rocky hill and positioned them in fields and knolls in the shadow of the Round Tops. He believed the Confederates would not attack his men on high ground; rather, Lee was probably going to skirt around the Union forces and run toward Washington.
When General Longstreet’s troops arrived at Gettysburg on the afternoon of July 2, he was amazed to find men in blue in the Peach Orchard that ran along the Emmitsburg Road. Sickles had deployed most of his men there, leaving a brigade under Regis DeTrobriand in a wheat field and another in Devil’s Den, under the command of Hobart Ward.
Longstreet launched his troops against the Federals, hoping to gain the high ground of Little Round Top before Union General George Meade discovered that his flank was void of protection. Soon Sickles found himself in desperate trouble and as Devil’s Den fell, he asked for reinforcements for the Wheatfield. General John Caldwell’s division of the Union 2nd Corps was dispatched in reply. Caldwell’s division consisted of four brigades, commanded by Colonels Cross, Kelly, Brooke, and Brigadier General Samuel Zook. These troops were immediately engaged in fierce, hand-to-hand combat as the Wheatfield became enveloped in smoke and musketry. Six times the field changed hands in just over two hours as Cross and Zook fell mortally wounded, and Kelly’s Irish Brigade rushed to the stony ridge to stop their foes in gray. Men from Georgia and South Carolina collided with men from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, and Ireland, leaving many dead and wounded in their wake.
The Wheatfield extracted a gruesome toll of death and carnage for both sides. The Confederates suffered casualties of 1,394 and the Union 3,125 – which was not a typical ratio of casualties for attackers to defenders. This small expanse of agricultural ground would long be remembered by veterans as a name unique in the history of warfare given the unwavering furiousness of this fight. Experience this violent struggle in Bloody Harvest at the Wheatfield at the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment on Friday, July 5 at 6 p.m.
“Twilight Tactical” – Night Fire (Non-Public)
Friday, July 5, 8:00 p.m.
“We Have No Time” – Stuart Arrives On The Battlefield (Cavalry Tactical)
Saturday, July 6, 11:00 a.m.
Once the lead division of the Army of Virginia reached Pennsylvania, General Stuart’s cavalry had been ordered to hook up with General Ewell and report the position of the Union Army. On June 28, Stuart crossed the Potomac and captured a Union supply train of 140 wagons and then made his way toward Baltimore, and then Carlisle where he burned the Carlisle Barracks. Late in the afternoon of July 2nd, Stuart finally reached the Gettysburg Headquarters of General Lee largely being unaware the battle had begun the day before without him.
Lee had been left blind to the strength and movement of the Federal Army and expressed his displeasure with Stuart. After the battle Stuart received significant criticism from the southern press, but historians have failed to agree whether Stuart did not follow orders or that Lee had issued orders that were far too vague.
When Stuart arrived in Gettysburg on the afternoon of July 2, he left Wade Hampton to cover the left rear of the Confederate battle line causing Hampton to engage General George Armstrong Custer at Hunterstown. Stuart was then ordered to get to the enemy’s rear and disrupt its line of communications during Pickett’s Charge. The action was repulsed by Gregg and Custer at East Cavalry Field about three miles east of Gettysburg. During the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg, Stuart was successful in screening the rear of the army against aggressive Union cavalry and escorted thousands of wagons, wounded men and supplies over difficult rain soaked roads across the Potomac River to the safety of Virginia.
Although normally battle action is determined beforehand in detail, tacticals provide reenactors the opportunity to perform living history field demonstrations with less scripted restrictions. Commanders will be able to act and react to actions unfolding in front of them on the field. Although “tacticals” are not normally open to the public, providing more leeway to the cavalry during this loosely scripted engagement should create a sense of excitement and anticipation for both the spectators and the troops. The scenario will conclude with a Cavalry Grand review. If you have never witnessed a “tactical” – experience “We Have No Time – Stuart Arrives on the Battlefield” at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 6th at the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment.
“Hold the Line” – Gallant Rally at the Klingle Farm
Saturday, July 6, 1:00 p.m.
On July 2, Major General Daniel Sickles marched his Third Corp from the base of Little Roundtop, across the Wheatfield, to the D.F. Klingle Farm and the Sherfy Peach Orchard located on the east side of Emmitsburg Road. Sickles made the march against orders and almost caused a Federal disaster in the process. By moving forward from the Federal line, Sickles exposed his corps to enfilading fire during a massive attack from Longstreet’s corp.
As Confederate General William Barksdale’s Mississippi brigade overpowered two Union regiments placed just west of the Sherfy house, it was evident that Sickles delicate line could no longer be held. The Excelsior Brigade of New York regiments, positioned along Emmitsburg Road, fought back furiously and temporarily blocked the Mississippians. The 73rd New York infantry raced to fill the gap and met Barksdale’s men head on. As the Confederates moved forward, Union General A.A. Humphreys fought a stubborn withdrawal by slowing pulling his men back and having them turn and fire at the rapidly advancing Confederates. As the Third Corps line fell apart, the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge was exposed, vulnerable and hung in the balance.
The valiant delaying action at the Klingle Farm and Peach Orchard allowed Generals Meade and Hancock time to position their troops and stop the Confederate onslaught. Hancock led Col. George Willard’s brigade of his Second Corps to meet Barksdale’s advancing line just west of Plum Run. He then rallied the 1st Minnesota Regiment to strike the tired Alabamians. Meade also led Union troops from the First and Second Corps into the melee to halt the Confederate advance. Although General Longstreet would later write that on July 2nd the men of his corps had done “the best three hours of fighting done by any troops on any battlefield” it had not been enough to secure victory and shatter the very precarious Federal defensive line on Cemetery Ridge.
Don’t miss the moment at Gettysburg when Major General Daniel Sickles insubordinately moved his Third Corps to a position one mile in front of the Union line, where it was virtually destroyed and exposed the Federal Army on Cemetery Ridge to attacks from multiple sides. Sickles lost his leg at Gettysburg, and despite his questionable battle actions, was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Experience this exciting engagement on Saturday, July 6, 1:00 p.m. at the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment.
“Thundering Hell – East Cemetery & Culp’s Hill
Saturday, July 6, 6:00 p.m.
On July 1st, the outnumbered Federal forces that retreated from the fields west and north of town arrived on Cemetery Hill, the position chosen by Union Eleventh Corps General Oliver O. Howard as the rallying point for the Union army. General George Meade sent Major General Winfield S. Hancock to take command of the Federal forces in Gettysburg until Meade could arrive. General Hancock ordered that the Federal line be extended right to Culp’s Hill and left to Cemetery Ridge.
After pursuing the Federal forces through the town of Gettysburg on the afternoon of July 1, Ewell had extended his line from the streets of Gettysburg eastward to Rock Creek at the northeastern base of Culp’s Hill. Ewell was ordered by Lee to “press those people and secure the hill.” Due to the fact that Rodes and Early’s divisions were exhausted from fighting earlier in the day, and Johnson was not expected to arrive until nightfall, Ewell delayed in attacking Cemetery and Culp’s Hill. This would prove to be a strategic blunder.
Ewell’s demonstration against East Cemetery Hill on July 2 began at 4 p.m. at the sound of Longstreet’s guns on Seminary Ridge. The four batteries on Benner’s Hill, 1400 yards from East Cemetery Hill, were commanded by 20-year-old Major Joseph W. Latimer. The Confederates well directed fire provided deadly results to Federal forces on East Cemetery Hill for approximately three hours. But the overpowering firepower from Union positions on Cemetery and Culp’s Hill soon shattered many of Latimer’s batteries and forced the remnants to retire out of range. In the final moments of action the youthful Major Latimer was fatally wounded. The Union barrage left only one battery to cover Johnson’s infantry when the Confederate advance of Culp’s and East Cemetery Hill was ordered at 7 p.m.
The Union strength on Culp’s Hill had been diminished earlier in the day on July 2nd when Williams and Geary’s divisions were ordered to move south and help repulse Longstreet’s attack. Only Brigadier General William Greene’s brigade was left behind to defend the Union position. They scraped up loose dirt, rocks, logs and fence rails to make low breastworks. Greene’s brigade now had no troops to his right to defend the mile long hill that had been defended by 10,000 Union soldiers earlier in the day. Greene, the oldest man in either army, extended his line, and then pulled his flank back at a right angle to face it south while the rest of the line faced east.
Dusk was approaching on July 2 when the Confederates under General Johnson attacked the thin Union line. Although Union reinforcements were sent back to reinforce Greene by Wadsworth, Howard, and Hancock, the Confederates under Stuart finally drove the defenders out from many of their trenches after fierce hand to hand combat. At approximately 9:30 p.m. on the second day the fighting ceased due to darkness. Without knowing it Johnson was only two hundred yards from the Baltimore Pike – the Union right flank, the location of Union supply trains and the Union lifeline to Baltimore and Washington. This was an important Confederate misjudgment because the Federal 12th Corps was ordered back to Culp’s Hill later that night to reinforce the Union line.
At 4:30 a.m. on July 3, five Union batteries opened up a deadly fire on Johnson’s position that had been bolstered by Rodes and Early. Because of inferior positions and dense woods Johnson’s artillery could not effectively counter fire. The artillery fire ceased in approximately half an hour and the Confederates renewed their assault toward reinforced and fortified Union positions on this critical third day. Johnson’s troops attacked three times and each attack failed. For seven long hours the battle continued with tremendous carnage as Confederate forces attempted to sweep up the densely wooded hill. By counterattacking two Federal brigades finally pushed Stuart’s men out of their captured fortifications. At 11 a.m. the Confederates gave up the field after suffering terrible losses. Johnson lost 30% of his division while the Federal losses on Culp’s Hill were only 8% due to superior defensive numbers and fortifications. It is a fateful irony that Wesley Culp of the 2nd Virginia fell at a place overlooking the home where he was born.
The artillery and infantry action at Gettysburg on Culp’s and East Cemetery Hill was a critical and deadly encounter that raged for two days. Watch this action come alive with extensive pyrotechnics and the re-creation of the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse on Saturday, July 6th at the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment.
“Come On You Wolverines” – East Cavalry Field
Sunday, July 7, 11:00 a.m.
Although there were many other significant cavalry actions on the bloody fields of Gettysburg, a large cavalry action three miles east of Gettysburg on July 3rd is one of the most recognized. Today it is known as East Cavalry Field located just north of the Hanover Road. At approximately 2:30 p.m. Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart and Union General David M. Gregg, for a span of three hours, engaged in a series of charges and counter charges that resulted in one of the most ferocious cavalry battles in the annals of American history.
General Stuart and three brigades of cavalry reached the Gettysburg area on the afternoon of July 2 from Carlisle. On July 3, Lee sent Stuart with four brigades to guard the Confederate left and to be in position for the attack on Cemetery Ridge – Pickett’s Charge. While attempting to skirt the Union right flank Stuart meet two brigades of Union cavalry commanded by Brig. General Gregg three miles east of Gettysburg on the Rummel Farm.
The battle opened up with dismounted skirmishing and ended with violent charges and counter charges with intense frontal impact. After several hours of indecisive and intermediate range shooting, Stuart decided that he needed to sweep aside the Federal horsemen if he was to be any help to Lee during the simultaneous Confederate frontal assault on Cemetery Ridge. Confederate cavalry led by Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee and Chambliss charged again and again only to be repulsed by Union cavalry led by Custer, McIntosh and Miller. The southern horsemen were accustomed to Union cavalry normally withdrawing in the face of their mounted charges. That did not happen at Gettysburg. Stuart tried one last time to break through by sending in the bulk of Wade Hampton’s brigade. The cry of ‘Come On You Wolverines” was heard over and over as Custer and Col. Charles H. Town led the 1st Michigan Cavalry into the fray. The well coordinated attacks, flank attacks and strategic execution repeated by the Federal cavalry during this engagement finally convinced Stuart’s brigades to withdraw to Cress Ridge while Gregg’s cavalry remained in possession of the field.
With the conclusion of this engagement one of the largest cavalry battles of the war was considered a draw. Stuart had been thwarted and any attempt to obtain Confederate cavalry assistance from the rear of Cemetery Ridge had been cut off by this valiant action.
On Sunday morning, July 7th thrill to the sight and sounds of this exciting cavalry battle featuring mounted, dismounted and cavalry as well as thundering artillery. The battle of East Cavalry Field will be immediately followed by the always popular Grand Cavalry Review. Viewing these magnificent horses with troops engaged in this epic battle is an experience at the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment you will never forget!
“The High Water Mark” – Pickett’s Charge
Sunday, July 7, 3:30 p.m.
“Pickett’s Charge” Just the mention of those two words brings forth a flood of visual and sensory perceptions. Steaming humidity, ripe rye fields, lush green pastures, thundering cannon, suffocating smoke and row upon row of Confederate soldiers advancing across open fields into the face of a Federal inferno on Cemetery Ridge.
At precisely 1:07 p.m. – a field piece from the Washington Artillery, posted near the Peach Orchard, opened up the greatest cannonade in the annals of American history. It was a signal for the entire Confederate artillery line to let loose their terrific blast. It was a volcanic eruption for almost two hours with Confederate artillery pounding the Federal position on Cemetery Ridge in an attempt to soften the Federal center for the pending frontal assault. Correspondent Samuel Wilkenson of the New York Times, was at Meade’s headquarter and reported, “the Confederate shells burst and screamed as many as six a second and made a very hell of a fire that amazed the older officers – men were cut in two and horses died still fastened by their halters.” It is difficult to even comprehend 140 Confederate guns and 100 Federal guns belching fire, smoke, destruction and death.
Approximately two hours later Colonel Porter Alexander observed from his position near the Peach Orchard that the Federal guns had slackened fire and his own supply of ammunition was running low. He sent word to Pickett who in turn rode over to Longstreet, who had persistently opposed Lee’s plan. Longstreet merely nodded approval and Picket saluted saying “ I am going to move forward, sir.” With those words spoken, the Confederate infantry, three divisions totaling 12,000 men, majestically advanced from the woods on Seminary Ridge, across the open valley toward 6,000 troops on Cemetery Ridge. Because General Hunt had earlier ordered a partial cessation of Federal guns, to cool them and conserve ammunition, the Confederates were received by a fearful hurricane of missiles that included solid shot, shrapnel, spherical-case, shell, canister and every other invention of warfare at the time.
At a terrible cost in human life, the Federal line was broken at the “Copse of Trees” when determined Confederate forces crashed into Union troops at the Angle and forced them back over the ridge. For a moment of high suspense, victory hung trembling in the balance. Union troops under Webb, Harrow, Hays, and Stannard swiftly rose to the challenge and repulsed the Confederate assault to the heart of the Union. The Battle of Gettysburg was over. “The Copse of Trees” or “The Angle” unquestionably became the symbolic High Tide of the Confederacy.
Very seldom do you have this once in a lifetime opportunity to experience such an artillery barrage and vast number of troops reenacting one of the most famous battles in the history of the world. Your experience will be enhanced with extensive pyrotechnics and the burning of the Bliss Barn. Don’t miss this lifetime memory during The High Water Mark – Pickett’s Charge on Sunday, July 7, 3:30 p.m. at the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment.