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Battle Descriptions for the July 5-8, 2018

155th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment

 Thursday, July 5th – 12:00 p.m.

North Of The Mason Dixon – Buford Probes The Rebel Position

Major General John Buford is best known for having played a major role in the First Day of the Battle of Gettysburg, especially on July 1, 1863 while in command of a division. On June 30, 1863, Buford led the 3,000 men of his First Cavalry Division into the town of Gettysburg looking for the enemy. Arriving before Confederate troops coming in the Chambersburg Pike from Cashtown reached Gettysburg, Buford set up defensive positions using Herr’s Ridge, McPherson Ridge and Seminary Ridge to his advantage. On the morning of July 1, Buford’s division was attacked by a Confederate division under the command of Major General Henry Heath. Buford’s mounted and dismounted men although greatly outnumbered, held out just long enough for Union reinforcements to arrive and take possession of higher ground on Cemetery Ridge.  The Battle of Gettysburg had begun.

See this opening battle North of the Mason Dixon on Thursday at 1200 at the 155th Gettysburg National Civil War Battle Reenactment.

Thursday July 5th – 6:00 p.m.

The Rebels Approach – PA Militia Opposes Gen. Early

On June 19, 1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee ordered Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell to march his corps into Pennsylvania ahead of the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia. Ewell was to advance his men toward the Susquehanna River, and if Harrisburg “comes within your means, capture it.” On June 26, Early’s men marched toward Gettysburg. Two miles from their camp, they burned Thaddeus Stevens’ Caledonia Furnace Iron Works

In answer to Lee’s threatened invasion of the North, several Pennsylvania militia troops were mobilized in late June to protect the Cashtown Pass area and the Cumberland Valley. On June 18, the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia mustered into duty with 743 officers and men. The regiment was commanded by 24-year-old Col. William W. Jennings, and was made up mostly of soldiers from the central part of the state, including one company of 56 students from Pennsylvania (now Gettysburg) College. A local cavalry unit, comprised of approximately 50 locals, mounted on their own horses and without uniforms, formed to join the fight.

Unaware of Early’s approach, on June 26, men from the 26th Pennsylvania went across the Marsh Creek Bridge, about three miles west of Gettysburg on the Chambersburg Pike, to form a picket line. They were unaware that Early was marching straight at them. The Pennsylvania Militia was quickly routed by the advancing Rebel Cavalry and abruptly retreated toward Gettysburg. With over three dozen militia already captured the order was given “every man to himself” and sent home. On his way home via the Baltimore Pike, local resident William Sandoe fired on Rebel troops when ordered to surrender and he was shot dead. He is often referred to as the first Federal casualty at The Battle of Gettysburg even though the incident occurred prior to the actual battle.

That evening General Early rode into town and made a list of demands of the citizens including flour, bacon, shoes and hats. Borough Council President David Kendlehart invited Early to search the shops for the supplies; but they found little. After torching the Rock Creek Bridge east of Gettysburg the Rebels rode toward York only to return a few days later for the great battle that was to come. The skirmish at Marsh Creek where raw Federal recruits and local militia were overwhelmed by veteran Confederates was the opening engagement to the war’s largest battle.  Experience The Rebels Approach re-created on Thursday 6PM at the 155TH Gettysburg National Civil War Battle Reenactment.

Friday, July 6th – 10:00 a.m.

Those Damn Black Hats – Assault On Seminary Ridge

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 his troops 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 Rebel brigades, commanded by General Archer & Davis, pressed slowly ahead crossing Willoughby Run. On Seminary Ridge from the still standing 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 battle action became extremely furious by the afternoon of the First Day, with one division of the First Corp made up of five regiments of troops from the mid west especially known for their hard core, determined fighting, in holding back the Rebel advance. They wore distinctive Black Hardee Hats and were called The Iron Brigade. The gallantry of the Iron Brigade came at a great cost. They would lose two thirds of their troops at Gettysburg. The Union forces were eventually driven back through the town, but the First Day delaying action by The Black Hats and other Federal troops, gave Union reinforcements enough time to arrive and secure the strategic advantage on Cemetery Ridge. Experience this exhilarating Those Damn Black Hats action as First Day action begins on Friday 10:00AM at the 155TH Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment.

Friday, July 6th – 4:00 p.m.

Springing The Trap – Ambush At Hunterstown

It all began with Brig. General George A. 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 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 had Company ‘A’, act as a small shock force and establish contact with the Confederate Cavalry.  After smacking them around and getting their fight up, Custer retreats drawing the southerners with him in hot 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 right into the trap; which was released on them as soon as Custer’s cavalry cleared the waiting crossfire. On Saturday morning at 11AM, 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 155TH Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment. See the cavalry close up to the spectator line after the battle.

Friday, July 6th – 6:00 p.m.

Thundering Hell” – East Cemetery Hill

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 was ordered by Lee to “press those people and secure the hill.” Due to the fact that Ewell thought they may be drawn into a trap, 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 4:00 p.m. at the sound of Longstreet’s guns on Seminary Ridge. The four batteries on Benners 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.

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 9:30PM on the second day the intense fighting ceased due to darkness.

At 4:30 a.m. on July 3rd, 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 11:00 a.m. the Confederates gave up the field after suffering terrible losses. Johnson lost thirty percent of his division while the Federal losses on Culp’s Hill were only eight percent due to superior defensive numbers and fortifications. It was 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 on for two days. Experience the thunder, smoke and fire of 75 blazing cannons Friday at 6:00PM, Thundering Hell – East Cemetery Hill at the 155TH Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment.

Saturday, July 7th – 11:00 a.m.

A Bloody Harvest – Battle of the Wheatfield

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.  No less than 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 – A Bloody Harvest at The Gettysburg 155TH Anniversary National Civil War Reenactment on Saturday at 11AM.

Saturday, 7th – 1:00 p.m.

We Have No Time – Stuart’s Calvary Arrives

Following the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, many blamed Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart for leaving General Robert E. Lee in the dark until the second day of the battle. Stuart was a West Point graduate who resigned his position in the U.S. Army to fight with his fellow Virginians. He first garnered experience out in the Western frontier where he met and aided Stonewall Jackson. Stuart had built a strong and very public reputation all over the South for his flamboyance, skill and valor on the battle field. Stuart’s cavalry arrived at Gettysburg two days late because felt he was carrying out his duty to General Lee in his quest toward Washington D.C.  This may explain Stuart’s prolonged arrival at Gettysburg and negligence in delivering obsolete or unhelpful intelligence to Lee about the Federals.  He claimed that he misread the order for him to stay near Lee and Gettysburg, run interference and gather intelligence and send it to the higher ranking officials. Instead of completing his mission, he covered hundreds of miles and missed most of the battle and the opportunity to potentially aid the Confederacy at Gettysburg.

Lee was upset with Stuart and Stuart felt privately shameful about it.  Despite some skepticism by historians, and there have been several accounts, it has been reported that upon arriving at Gettysburg Stuart offered Lee his resignation, to which Lee replied “We have no time.” Regardless of that quote ever being uttered, Stuart rode up to the battle on the Union’s flank and hoped to surprise attack the Union at Gettysburg. However by that time, the Union had developed an adequate cavalry to combat and hold off the Confederates, which they did when Stuart arrived and then later held off Stuart’s massive Confederate cavalry assault east of Gettysburg on the Third Day, preventing cavalry from coming in from the rear of the Union line during the Third Day Confederate assault.   To many, Stuart lost the battle and maybe even the war.  To others, he made an honest mistake at the worst possible time in his career and it may have cost him his life just months later at the Battle At Yellow Tavern.

See the cavalry close up after the battle when thrilling to hundreds of thundering hooves, the metallic clashing of swords, the report of cavalry pistols and bugle calls as Union and Confederate cavalry clash in We Have No Time – Stuart’ Cavalry Arrives, Saturday at 1PM, at the Gettysburg 155TH Anniversary National Civil War Reenactment.

Saturday, July 7th – 5:00 p.m.

Attack That Stone Wall – Anderson Attacks Federal Center

Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson graduated from West Point in 1842. He spent his entire pre-war career in the U.S. Army, earning a brevet to 1st Lieutenant for service in the Mexican War, and the permanent rank of captain by 1855. He resigned his commission on March 3, 1861 to join the newly formed Confederacy.  At Gettysburg, Anderson’s Division was third in line of march approaching the town from the west on July 1, so they arrived late and had little involvement in the First Day of the battle.

On July 2, the Second Day of battle, Anderson’s Division was ordered to attack near the Union center, following planned orchestrated attacks by Longstreet, Hood and McLaws. Anderson’s right was successful attacking Humphreys Federal Third Corp Division along the Emmitsburg Road. Anderson’s  center, penetrated the lightly defended Cemetery Ridge. The attack faltered when other Confederate troops and commanders moved haltingly and some did not move at all. Union reinforcements rushed to counter Wright and he was repulsed. Anderson was criticized for his command during the day of battle for having little effective control of his brigades. On July 3, Anderson’s brigades  participated in the waning minutes of Pickett’s Charge but were driven back.

History would reveal that Anderson’s men fought gallantly at Gettysburg when penetrating the Union Center as ordered. Robert E. Lee reinforced that opinion in 1868 as one of several possible reasons for his defeat at Gettysburg five years after the battle.  “As for Gettysburg, victory would have been won if he (Anderson) could have gotten one decided simultaneous attack on the whole line. This he tried his utmost to effect for three days, and failed. Longstreet & Hill could not be gotten to act in concert. Thus, the Federal troops were enabled to be opposed to each of our corps, or even divisions in succession. The imperfect, halting way in which his corps commanders fought the battle, gave victory finally to the foe.

That stone wall at the center would become etched in infamy the next day during Pickett’s Charge. Watch Andersons troops Attack That Stone Wall on Saturday at 5PM at the Gettysburg 155TH Anniversary National Civil War Reenactment.

 Sunday, 8th – 10:30 a.m.

Come On You Wolverines – East Cavalry Field

On July 3rd, General J.E.B. Stuart ordered the 1st VA Cavalry of Fitz Lee’s Brigade to make a mounted charge to drive a wedge between the Union lines at the Rummel Farm and Low Dutch Road.  Going around the end of the Union line and coming in from the rear, as the Confederate forces unleashed their Napoleonic frontal assault (Pickett’s Charge) on the Union Center, may have tipped the scales in favor of the Rebels. Stuart was unaware of the presence of the 1st and 7th Michigan over the ridge guarding the intersection of the Low Dutch and Hanover roads. General Gregg ordered a charge against the 1st VA regiment. Brig. General Custer placed himself at the head of the charge and with his saber drawn led the 7th Michigan in the charge. Custer stood and turned in his saddle, took off his hat, and shouted, “Come on, you Wolverines!”

To this point in the war the Confederate cavalry had maintained consistent superiority to their Federal counterparts. This Union victory not only prevented the Confederate cavalry from attacking and disrupting the rear of the Federal position prior Pickett’s Charge, it also signaled the beginning of Federal cavalry advancement for the duration of the war. Cavalry actions are always a crowd pleaser at the reenactment. Normally these reenactment equestrians salute the spectators with a close up Grand Review at the conclusion of each cavalry battle. Don’t miss Come On You Wolverines on Sunday morning at the 155TH Gettysburg Anniversary National Battle Reenactment.

Sunday, July 8th – 2:30 p.m.

High Tide At Gettysburg

 “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, commanded Battery A, 4th U.S Artillery, at the center of the Federal line on cemetery ridge, on the third day at Gettysburg. His crew was decimated and he was very seriously wounded three times at the height of the Confederate advance, continuing to rally his troops and command until fatally wounded. His position is memorialized at The Angle. Cushing was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2014.

The Copse of Trees or The Angle unquestionably became the symbolic High Tide of the Confederacy on northern soil. Experience this unforgettable and epic action on Sunday 2:30 at the 155TH Gettysburg Anniversary Battle Reenactment.

Last update: 4/19/18