OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 27, Part 2 (Gettysburg Campaign) page 220- 223
No. 407. Report of Brig. General William F. Smith, U. S. Army, commanding First Division, of operations June 26-July 15.
HDQRS. FIRST DIVISION, DEPT. OF SUSQUEHANNA, Greencastle, Pa., July 18, 1863.
Major: I have to report that, in obedience to orders from the general commanding, I assumed command of the troops south of the Susquehanna and in the vicinity of Harrisburg on Friday, June 26, and was busily engaged until Tuesday, 30th, in strengthening the defenses at Bridgeport, opposite the city of Harrisburg, and at Marysville, to protect the bridges of the Pennsylvania and Northern Central Railroads. On Sunday, a rebel cavalry force, with a section of artillery, came to our picket line near Oyster Point, and drove in our cavalry pickets, but did not succeed in moving the infantry pickets .
On Monday, I sent the regular cavalry, under Lieutenant [Frank] Stanwood, on the Carlisle road, and he engaged and drove in the pickets of the enemy, but was obliged to retire under a fire of artillery which was opened on him. On Tuesday, learning that the rebel infantry had left Carlisle, the cavalry was ordered forward, and found the enemy at Sporting Hill. General Ewen, New York militia, in command of the Twenty-second and Thirty-seventh New York State Militia, went forward to support Lieutenant Stanwood, and a section of Landis’ battery, under the direction of Lieutenant Muhlenberg, was immediately ordered up. The enemy was found in position, and attacked about 4 p. m.
The artillery arrived on the ground about 5 p. m., and soon silenced the fire on the enemy. General Ewen’s command was ordered forward to occupy Carlisle, but did not march until the next morning . Captain Boyd, First New York Cavalry, with 120 men, was also ordered by the Trindle Spring Road, via Churchtown, to Carlisle. He stopped at Chuchstown, and entered Carlisle on the morning of July 1.
Colonel Brisbane, commanding the Pennsylvania Brigade, was ordered to move on Carlisle by the mud road at daylight, but owing to a want of transportation, did not to move until about 9 a. m. I visited the headquarters to receive instructions and make arrangements for supplies and transportation, and, recrossing the river, the remainder of the command, under Brigadier-general Knipe, U. S. Volunteers, was directed to march as far as practicable and encamp, and to move at an early hour in the morning.
The Eleventh New York Artillery, under Colonel Forbes, refused to march under certain pleas, and the, matter was referred to General Couch. This delayed my starting till 3. 30 p. m., and finally, leaving orders with General Knipe to carry out the instructions with reference to the refractory regiment, I left to join the advance. Hearing rumors on the road of a large cavalry force in the vicinity, I sent out scouts on the cross-road, and ousted on, entering Carlisle at sunset.
General Ewen had passed through the town on the Baltimore turnpike about 1 and 1/2 miles, and, while going on to examine his position, word came from my scouts that a large cavalry force of the enemy was in the immediate vicinity, on the York road, and, turning back, before I entered the village, their guns had opened on us. The road for several miles back of us was filled with stragglers from the brigades of General Ewen and Colonel Brisbane, and the men with me were wearied with a long march to which they were unused. Under these circumstances, I determined to content myself till morning with simply holding the town, but before I could get a line of skirmishers out, a summons was sent by General Fitzhugh Lee to surrender the town, or send out the women and children . I sent an answer that the women and children would be notified to leave. In less than half an hour, another message was sent to the purport that, if not surrendered, the town would be burned. The answer was returned that one answer had already been given. Then sent a volunteer aide, Mr. Ward, of Harrisburg, to communicate with General Knipe, and order him to march at 3 a. m., and to report to General Couch the position of affairs. In the meantime the enemy opened a battery on the town, to which, by my orders, our artillery did not reply, as I demand the fire too inaccurate, and wished to save my ammunition.
About 11 o’clock I sent another volunteer aide-de-camp, Mr. James Dougherty, to try and get to General Knipe with orders to move immediately. Mr. Dougherty was captured and his orderly wounded and about 12 m. a third and last summons came to surrender, to which the reply was given that the message had been twice answered before. About i o’clock the firing ceased, with the exception of three guns about 3 a. m., soon after which reports came in that the enemy was moving off on a country road which came into the turnpike about 2 and 1/2 miles from Carlisle, and by daylight there was nothing opposed to us . The casualties were 12 wounded, none fatally.
Thursday [July 2] the entire command was put in near the barracks, which had been burned during the night, and on Friday a train of provisions came up to Carlisle . The supplies which we could draw from the citizens were extremely limited, though every disposition to aid us was manifested. General Knipe’s command having joined me on Friday [July3], the whole command was put in a motion at 6 a. m. on Saturday [July4] for Mount Holly, where we were detained for two hours by the arrival of about 2, 000 prisoners, paroled on the battle-field, and sent under a flag of truce toward Carlisle .
Wishing to prevent the enemy from getting information of our strength, I was forced to accept the prisoners, subject to the decision of the Government, and turn the rebel escort back. The Thirty-seventh New York Militia Regiment was left at Mount Holly to watch the Baltimore road, and the command moved toward Pine Grove. A most furious rain-storm set in, which raised the creeks, carried away bridges, and made the march toilsome in the extreme.
The command of General Ewen was left at Laurel Forge, to cover the entrance to the narrow valley, and also watch a road leading over the mountain to Bendersville. The remainder of the force was concentrated at Pine Grove Furnace, the Eight New York State Militia being ordered to hold the pass to Bendersville from Pine Grove. On Sunday, General Knipe was ordered with his command to hold the cross-roads from Mount Holly to Cashtown and Pine Grove to Bendersville, while General Ewen crossed the mountain to the Mount Holly and Cashtown road, holding the pass in his rear, and being within a mile of Genera; Knipe’s command. Colonel Brisbane, with the Pennsylvania Brigade, was holding a by-road from Pine Grove to Cashtown.
A cavalry scout, under Lieutenant Stanwood, was sent up Mountain Creek Valley, in the direction of the pass from Chambersburg to Gettysburg, through which it was supposed the enemy would send his trains, if he were defeated. Lieutenant Stanwood drove in the pickets a couple of miles from the turnpike, but had not sufficient force to press on. Captain Boyd joined me at Pen Grove, having followed the rear guard of the enemy to Fayetteville, on the Gettysburg and Chambersburg road, capturing prisoners. He was directed to pass by Bendersville, in the direction of Cashtown, to try and ascertain the movements and position of the enemy. He fell in with them, and captured eight wagons and -prisoners. During the day a small provision train came up, which was very acceptable, as it was impossible to subsist the troops from the country. A scout from General Meade also came through, giving the information the enemy was retiring; and latter in the day, Captain West, a volunteer aide and assistant on the Coast Survey, returned having successfully opened communications with General Meade on Saturday from Mount Holly.
On Monday morning I marched the brigade by three different roads, concentrating at Newman’s Pass behind Cashtown. We were, however too late intercept the trains which had gone that route. Tuesday morning, I was proposing to enter the Cumberland Valley and follow down the mountains toward Boonsborough, when an order came from General Meade to march to Gettysburg, which order was shortly after countermanded, with permission to do as I had proposed.
The command was then marched to Altodale, and an officer sent to Chambersburg, to try and procure supplies, as my trains had failed to overtake me. A small supply being procured, the troops were marched on Wednesday to Waynesborough where I found General Neill, with a brigade of infantry and one of cavalry, and eight pieces of artillery.
Here I was forced to wait for my trains to come up, but sent a cavalry scout to communicate with General Meade, west of South Mountain. Thursday was spent in waiting for rations to come up, and for instructions from General Meade. On Friday, I was ordered by him to occupy the enemy to the best advantage, and at be ready to join the Army of the Potomac or General Couch, as circumstances might require.
Colonel McIntosh was at once ordered with his brigade of cavalry and four guns to feel the enemy along the Antietam below Leitesburg, which he did in the most skillful manner, driving his cavalry pickets across the creek upon their infantry and artillery supports. The cavalry was supported in this movement by tow regiments of Pennsylvania militia, under Colonel Frick, at Ringgold and Smithsburg, and one regiment, Forty-third New York Volunteers, from General Neill’s command, posted near Leitesburg.
On Saturday, hearing that rebels had ordered a miller on Marsh Run to grind wheat all night for them, Colonel Brisbane, with two regiments of Pennsylvania militia, was ordered, if possible, to intercept the wagons going for the flour, and destroy the grain if he could not bring it off. These regiments were supported by the Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, of General Neill’s command. From 2 prisoners captured at the mill, we learned that the enemy had fallen back to Hagerstown.
Colonel Brisbane’s command was left at Waynesborough, with orders to march at daylight, and the rest of the troops were moved to Leitersburg, excepting the command of Colonel Frick, which was ordered from Ringgold to Chewsville. During the night an order came for General Neill to join the Army of the Potomac at once, and, as no instruction were sent to me, I ordered Colonel Brisbane to remain at Waynesborough, to guard my communications, and moved with what force I had with me to Cavetown.
After positing my troops there, I reported in person to General Meade, and recommended to him to divide my command among the old division of the Army of the Potomac before the anticipated battle. Under the supposition that this was to be done, I ordered Colonel Brisbane to Hagerstown, and moved with the rest of the command to the Boonsborough turnpike near Beaver Creek. General Meade declined to distribute the militia, and I remained until Wednesday morning, when I received orders to send the New York State militia home, via Frederick, and these necessary orders were given. The Pennsylvania militia were concentrated at Hagerstown, under Colonel Brisbane, who was appointed military governor, with instructions to watch the ford at Williamsport and Falling Waters.
Before closing, I must call to the remembrance of the general commanding the force that I moved without a quartermaster or commissary, without supply trains, some regiments even being without haversacks, and with no adequate transportation of the cooking utensils of the men, and must pay the proper tribute to the general behavior of the troops during long marches, in rainy weather and without sufficient food.
The rugged mountain roads left many of them barefooted, but the greater portion of the command seemed animated by a desire to do all that was required in the service of their country. Colonel Brisbane deserves special mention for the manner in which he managed and led his command, and I earnestly recommend him to notice. Captain Boyd, First New York Cavalry, also did gallant service with his small force. I am much indebted to Captain M. A. Reno, U. S. Cavalry, who acted as my chief of staff; to Lieutenant Muhlenberg, my chief of artillery; to Lieut, Rufus King, Fourth U. S. Artillery, and to Lieutenant Johnson, U. S. Cavalry, for their services. To my own aides-Lieutenants [Matthew] Berry and [Campbell] Tucker, and the following gentlemen, who were volunteer aides:Colonel McCormick, Captains P. C. F. West and Lamborn, Lieuts. Samuel Carey, F. Rogers, and – Evans, and Mr. Ward –
I am indebted for zealous and defatigable service. Dr. John Neill, medical director of the division, was particularly watchful and efficient in the discharge of his duties.
Wm. F. SMITH,