Saturday, July 1st – 11:00 a.m.
The Ambush at Hunterstown
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 Hunterstown Road is 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 has Company A act as a small shock force and establishes contact with the Confederate Cavalry. After smacking them around and getting their fight up, Custer retreats drawing the southerners with him in pursuit.
As Custer retreated he drew the Confederate 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 Saturday morning experience the thrill of thundering hooves, the whinny of horses and the shouts of cavalry commands while viewing Ambush at Hunterstown cavalry battle at the 154th Gettysburg Battle Anniversary Reenactment.
Saturday, July 1st – 5:00 p.m.
Perrin’s Attack – Capturing Seminary Ridge
This constantly changing First Day action recreates the gallant initial defense and eventual retreat of Union forces from the western and northern outskirts of Gettysburg, to the final defensive Federal position on Cemetery Ridge on July 1st. The initial day in itself ranks as the 12th bloodiest battle of the Civil War. The Confederates would roust the Federals and secure Seminary Ridge on the first day and then use it as a staging area for assaults on Union positions on the second and third days of the fight at Gettysburg.
The Battle of Gettysburg began with Confederate troops approaching from Cashtown attacking the Federal troops on McPherson Ridge, just west of town. The attack began along Chambersburg Pike when members of General A.P. Hill’s Corp began probing the Federal line on McPherson Ridge. Largely outnumbered, the Union forces fight valiantly to hold the high ground on McPherson, Seminary and Oak Ridge. The attack continued in the southern-central area of Seminary Ridge in late afternoon, where Col. Abner M. Perrin prominently mounted on horseback ordered his South Carolina brigade to advance rapidly against withering fire without pausing to fire. Perrin was prominently on horseback leading his men but miraculously was untouched. He directed his men to the weak point in the breastworks on the Union left, a fifty-yard gap between Biddle’s left-hand regiment, the 121st Pennsylvania, and Gamble’s cavalrymen, attempting to guard the flank. Perrin broke through, enveloping the Union line and rolling it up to the north as Scales’s men continued to pin down the right flank.
By 4:30 p.m., the Union position on Seminary Ridge was untenable, and the men could see the Eleventh Corps retreating from the northern battle, pursued by masses of Confederates. Doubleday ordered a withdrawal east to Cemetery Hill. As the Federals were overrun by the Confederate forces in the afternoon, they were chaotically driven back through town. Thousands of Union soldiers were captured as they made their way to Cemetery Hill to rally the troops and make their historically defining two day stand. Enjoy an entire day of reenactment events while experiencing this major battle at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 1st at the 154th Gettysburg Anniversary Battle Reenactment.
Sunday, July 2nd – 11:00 a.m.
Farnsworth’s Fatal Charge
On the morning of July 3rd, Union Calvary Corps Commander Major General Alfred Pleasanton, ordered two of his brigades to the left flank of the Union army. He ordered Merritt’s and Kilpatrick’s division to move to the area southwest of Little Round Top. By this time, the only brigade available in Kilpatrick’s division was that of Brigadier General Elon J. Farnsworth.
At approximately 1:00 p.m., about the time of the massive Confederate artillery barrage beginning Pickett’s Charge, Farnsworth and his 1,925 troops took up a position in a line south of the Bushman farm. The Bushman Farm is located along South Confederate Avenue near the intersection of Emmitsburg Road at the base of Big Round Top. On the Confederate line to the east of Emmitsburg Road, only confederate infantry and artillery troops were involved in the July 3rd action. The four brigades of Hoods Division, under the command of Laws, had occupied the area from Round Top, through Devils Den, and back to Emmitsburg Road since the battle on July 2nd. Brig. General Law had the 1st Texas Infantry facing Farnsworth. They were soon reinforced by the 47th Alabama infantry and then the 1st South Carolina artillery.
Kilpatrick had little experience in commanding cavalry, and he demonstrated that by ordering and attack on fortified infantry positions in a piecemeal fashion. Merritt went in first with his 6th Pennsylvania cavalry fighting dismounted because of the ground and fortifications. Anderson’s Georgian’s easily repulsed them. It should have been obvious that the rebel defenders were dug in behind fortified stone fences and piles of fence rails. Mounted cavalry were even easier targets for the infantry rifles and within the sights Confederate artillery batteries. Accounts vary but it was later reported that Kilpatrick dared or shamed Farnsworth into making the charge that Farnsworth knew would be suicidal. Farnsworth was down to only ten troopers when he was felled by five bullets from the murderous fire.
While the Third Day cavalry action at East Calvary Field was considered a positive turning point for the U.S. Cavalry in the American Civil War, Kilpatrick’s ill-advised and poorly executed cavalry charge is remembered as the low point in history for the U.S. Cavalry. It also marked the final significant hostilities at Gettysburg. Enjoy this exciting cavalry action at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 2nd, at the 154th Gettysburg Battle Anniversary reenactment as cavalry, infantry and artillery take to the field and stimulate all your senses in Farnsworth’s Fatal Charge.
Sunday, July 2nd – 4:00 p.m.
The Wheatfield – A Bloody Harvest
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 2nd, and determinedly traveled 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 2nd, 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 causalities of 1,394 and the Union 3,125, which was not a typical ratio of causalities 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 The Wheatfield at the Gettysburg 154th Anniversary Reenactment on Sunday, July 2nd at 4:00 p.m.
Monday, July 3rd
10:00 a.m. – Clash at Fairfield
Fairfield had already been the site of combat on June 21, 1863 when the 14th Virginia. Cavalry had used Monterey Pass to conduct a raid near Fairfield. During the march north into Pennsylvania General Lee had retained several brigades to guard the mountain passes as he advanced through the Shenandoah and Cumberland Valleys and to scout Federal positions. One of these veteran cavalry brigades was led by Brigadier General William Edmonson “Grumble” Jones. General Jones more than earned his nickname — he was generally crabby, short-tempered, and prone to complaining. On July 3rd, Jones’ brigade reached Cashtown, only five miles from the Confederate line along Seminary Ridge, and halted for breakfast. Later that morning, as plans for Pickett’s Charge were being made, a note arrived from Confederate commander General Robert E. Lee requesting that a cavalry force be sent at once to the vicinity of Fairfield to form a line to the right and rear of the Confederate line of battle.
As the Confederate artillerists scrambled to get ready for the cannonade that preceded the grand infantry assault known as Pickett’s Charge, Jones’ men continued their march toward Fairfield. Along the way, the troopers encountered shaken teamsters from Stuart’s supply train, who reported the presence of Union cavalry in the area.
That morning, Union Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt, commander of the reserve brigade of Buford’s 1st Cavalry Division, had heard reports of the presence of a slow moving and unguarded Confederate wagon train near Fairfield. If Merritt’s men could capture the wagon train and hold the town of Fairfield, they could block Confederate access to Fairfield Gap, the shortest escape route for Lee’s army toward Hagerstown, Maryland.
The troopers anticipated the fun of ransacking an unguarded Confederate supply train. After the Federals had initial success against the 7th Virginia Cavalry, a rude surprise awaited them on the Cashtown/Orrtanna Road in the form of an entire brigade of Confederate cavalry coming at them. Union resistance quickly collapsed as the overwhelmed Federal troops were captured in masses. The Yankees suffered fifty percent casualties. Jones’ troops pursued the retreating Federals three miles to Fairfield Gap, but was unable to catch their quarry. The Yankees re-grouped in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Jones then camped near Fairfield and kept the road open for Lee’s retreat. Jones’ troops then provided a rear guard as the Army of Northern Virginia fled across the Potomac River. The Federals had squandered a prime opportunity that day. Had Meritt dispatched a more significant force, Lee’s path of retreat would have been blocked and the war may not have gone on for two more years.
To compliment your 154th living history experience don’t miss this significant Fairfield cavalry battle, Clash at Fairfield, at 10 a.m. on Monday, July 3rd, at the Gettysburg 154th. Anniversary Civil War Battle Reenactment.
Monday July 3rd – 1:30 p.m.
Cushing’s Battery – A Valiant Stand (Segment of Pickett’s Charge)
“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, Cushing and Stannard swiftly rose to the challenge and repulsed the Confederate assault to the heart of the Union. The Battle of Gettysburg was over.
Lt. Alonzo Cushing, age 22, was already battle tested when he commanded Battery A of the 4th U.S Artillery at the center of the Federal line on cemetery ridge on the third day at Gettysburg. He was very seriously wounded three times rallying his troops at the height of the Confederate advance, continuing to command until fatally wounded. Cushing was a true American hero. Cushing’s battery location is memorialized today at The Angle. Cushing was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2013.
The Copse of Trees or The Angle unquestionably became the symbolic “High Tide of the Confederacy.” Experience this epic battle action at 1:30 p.m. on Monday July 3rd, at the 154th Gettysburg Anniversary Battle Reenactment.
Last update 2/16/17