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General Robert E. Lee, as war took its toll.
General Robert E. Lee
This part of my site will be used to document the part in which the 18th Georgia Regiment of Volunteer Infantry played, at the Battle of Gettysburg.

The battle of Gettysburg, (July 1-3, 1863)was actually comprised of several smaller battles. On the second day of the battle (July 2, 1863), some of the most desparate fighting took place in the "Wheatfield". As will be documented here, the 18th Georgia Regiment of Volunteer Infantry, would take part in a confused, complex battle in the Peach Orchard and Wheatfield, as they were ordered in as part of General Wofford's Brigade, in support of the attack then underway by Generals Anderson and Kershaw.


"THE GRANDEST CHARGE THAT WAS EVER MADE BY MORTAL MAN"

The first day of the battle at Gettysburg, saw another victory for the Army of Northern Virginia and General Lee. General Lee wanted to ensure the victory would be total, by making preparations for the next day's battle. His soldiers had rolled up the Union line on the first day and he was anxious to be ready to follow that vistory with another. When he consulted with his Corps commanders, later that evening...he found them to be less enthusiastic about their chances. Even so, he had made up his mind to go on the offensive, telling his "Old War Horse", General James Longstreet, that "If the enemy is there tomorrow, we must attack him."

General Lee planned to have General Longstreet's troops assault the Army of the Potomac's left flank, with General A.P. Hill lending support. While usually clear in all aspects of his planning, General Lee was still uncertain how he could best use General Ewell's corps. In the morning of July 2, 1863, he would meet with General Ewell and plan a concurrent show of force to be made as a demonstration, while General Longstreet made his move on the Union left.

It was not until about noon that General Hood's division had its last brigade arrive on the field. Then, General Longstreet set his men in motion. General Lafayette McLaws noticed Union singnal flags atop the knobby hill known as "Little Round Top" and reported this to his Corp commander. Knowing that the Confederate soldiers could not pass this way without being noticed, they turned the corps and tried for a more concealed route. There was a mix up in the troop movement and Hood's Division overtook and became gnarled with that of McLaws. By the time this mix up was corrected, it was late afternoon and General Lee's plan had still not been put into motion.

General McLaws finally deployed his troops adjacent to the Peach Orchard and faced Union troops who had somehow extended their lines far past where they had earlier been spotted. Not knowing the true Union disposition, Generals Lee and Longstreet ordered General McLaws forward. Later, General Longstreet would admit he thought the troops of General McLaws faced only a "regiment of infantry and a battery of artillery" in his front.


Just as he was to order his troops forward, General McLaws was ordered to wait for the sound of firing, confirming that General Hood's attack had begun. It would not be until 4:00 PM that General Hood's men would be in place to begin, moving forward and striking the Union position at "Devil's Den" and on towards the "Little Round Top". Not long after the battle began, General Hood fell wounded and had to be carried from the field. His Division, while confused...continued the battle without him. However, the Union position was being reinforced and men from the 17th Maine were behind a stonewall on the southern side of the Wheatfield, placing the Confederates assaulting the "Devil's Den", under an enfilading fire.

The Union position in the "Wheatfield" was growing stronger. The 8th New Jersey and 115th Pennsylvania of Burling's brigade would be sent in to cover the gap between the 5th Michigan and 17th Maine. The 8th New Jersey would take a position on the right of 115th Pennsylvania, which itself would be on the right of the boys from Maine. Still more Union troops moved in as Barnes's division of the 5th corps (minus Vincent's brigade, which had gone to Little Round Top) was marching towards the Stony Hill.


Wheatfield Placard at Gettysburg
Wheatfield Placard at Gettysburg
General James Barnes, USA
General James Barnes, USA
The timely arrival of the 8th New Jersey and 115th Pennsylvania was made just as Confederate General Anderson's brigade of Hood's division was coming forward, moving through "Rose Woods" toward the "Wheatfield".

General Anderson commanded his brigade, made up of the 9th Georgia; 8th Georgia; 11th Georgia; and the 59th Georgia, to come to the aid of the 3rd Arkansas. Who, at the time was then assaulting the "Devil's Den". The 59th Georgia was assigned to this part of the attack, while the 11th Georgia would assault primarily the 17th Maine, protected behind the stone wall. The 8th Georgia hit the regiments recently entering the Union line.


The 9th Georgia began receiving flanking fire from Union troops on the Stony Hill. To combat this the commander of the 9th, Captain George Hillyer, refused his left three companies and continued the assault on the 8th New Jersey.

The 8th New Jersey was receiving heavy attacks on both its front and flank, from the 8th Georgia and 9th Georgia regiments of General Anderson's brigade, and quickly gave way. Now, with its flank unprotected, the 115th Pennsylvania, also began to give. The 8th New Jersey would continue to fall back to its original position near "Trostle's Woods", but the 115th would halt in the "Wheatfield" giving support to Union artillery, which were now firing rapidly towards the advancing Georgians in "Rose Woods".

Meanwhile, the 17th Maine, who no longer had the support on their flank, were barely repulsing the Georgians on their front and after being orderd to do so by Union Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Merrill, refused its line and bent back into the "Wheatfield". From this unprotected position, they would still resist the Confederate's advance.


The men of the 11th Georgia, continued bearing down on Lieutenant Colonel Merrill's Union troops. There were numerous casualties on both sides and the Union soldiers stubbornly held on to their position. General Anderson knew that without support, his assault was futile. He withdrew slightly and waited for support to be sent from General McLaws's division.

During the withdrawl, General Anderson was wounded severely enough to be taken from the field. Lieutenant Colonel William Luffman succeeded to command, and continued the withdrawal.

The day had worn on very slowly. It was now only about 5:30 PM and General Longstreet's corps had begun its assault, only just a little over an hour before. With General Anderson's slight withdrawl, the "Wheatfield" became quiet, while the fighting mounted around them. However, the fight for the "Wheatfield" was soon to grow even more intense.

General Anderson, CSA
General George T. Anderson, CSA
Union General Barnes' 5th Corps had gotten in position on the Stony Hill, just at the moment things were beginning to calm down. Musketry and even artillery firing had ceased to a strange and eery quietness. Then, three Confederate guns broke the stillness as a predetermined signal to order General McLaws to advance, the assault of the "Wheatfield" would now begin... again... in earnest.

Confederate General Joseph Kershaw, commanding his brigade of South Carolinian troops, had been waiting to advance for about two hours by the time the orders came. Although General Kershaw's orders were to wheel to the left and strike the federal line somewhere near the Peach Orchard, he had been studying the battlefield and knew that there was a federal force on what he aptly named the Stony Hill. General Kershaw made the decison to strike the troops on the "Stony Hill" first, before turning his attention to the Federals on his left, near the "Peach Orchard".

Having expected support from General Barksdale's Mississippi troops and not receiving it, General Kershaw then decided that he would divide his own forces to cover the absence of General Barksdale's delayed troops. Wheeling the 8th regiment, 3rd Battalion, and 2nd regiment of South Carolinian troops toward the "Peach Orchard", to strike the sparsely defended Union line there, while the 7th and 3rd South Carolina would move east to strike the regiments on the "Stony Hill".


General Joseph Kershaw, CSA
General Joseph Kershaw, CSA
Crossing the Emmitsburg Road and, upon reaching the Rose farmyard, General Kershaw's troops split into two groups: the left wing moving against the "Peach Orchard" and the right wing...accompanied by General Kershaw himself, advanced against the "Stony Hill". There was some confusion over a troop movement, ordered by General Kershaw, which mistakenly disengaged the left wing of his force from the "Peach Orchard" and resulted in the left wing being taken under fire, by Union batteries in the "Wheatfield", firing right into their flank with a devastating affect.

Meanwhile General Kershaw's right wing moved forward to the attack. General Anderson's brigade in "Rose's Woods", seeing the advance.... again resumed its offensive. As General Kershaw moved in from the west, his troops were able to strike the 118th Pennsylvania, on Union Colonel Tilton's right, flanking the Union troops. Countering this advance, Colonel Tilton refused the 118th's line. Finding his position untenable, Colonel Tilton found General Barnes and requested permission to withdraw to "Trostle's Woods" to protect his flank. General Barnes immediately granted this request.


Union Colonel Tilton's withdrawal had created a huge hole in the Union line, uncovering the flanks of every federal troop on the "Stony Hill" and forcing the withdrawal of the 110th Pennsylvania and 5th Michigan. Even the 17th Maine, who had so stubbornly resisted the efforts of General Anderson's brigade up to this point, faced too much pressure and began to fall back. Because of Colonel Tilton's and General Barnes's decision, the whole federal line, although retreating in good order, was on the verge of collapse.

As the withdrawing Union troops came across the "Wheatfield" towards the protection of "Trostle's Woods", Union artillery were busy firing away. General Anderson's skirmishers were beginning to venture into the field itself, but the main body of General George T. Anderson's brigade... stayed in the woods for protection from the rapidly firing Union gunners, who were using case and solid shot.

Marker for Anderson's Brigade at Gettysburg
Marker for Anderson's Brigade at Gettysburg
As General Kershaw's regiment worked their way down the east slope of the "Stony Hill", they were able to put some well-placed fire on the Union guns. To avoid having their guns captured, the Union artillerymen...limbered up and withdrew.

General Birney, the Union Third Corps Commanding General, sent in to the fray to try and reestablish the Union line, met the men of the 17th Maine as they crossed the field and got to the "Wheatfield" road. General Birney, trying to rally the Union soldiers, rode in front of the regiment and ordered a charge as a delaying action. Which they did, checking the advance of Confederate General Anderson's troops.

General Birney, in an attempt to strengthen his emboldened position, went back to "Trostle's Woods" and ordered the 5th Michigan forward, into the "Wheatfield". There, the 17th Maine and the 5th Michigan stood, trying to hold their line until reinforcements could arrive. The roar of battle was deafening and the action became hand to hand, all along the line. Casualties were heavy on both sides, the 17th Maine reporting seven out of ten men in their color guard were either wounded or killed. The 17th Maine would suffer 35 percent casualties, the 5th Michigan over 40 percent casualties.


Major General Winfield S. Hancock, USA
Major General Winfield S. Hancock, USA
A few minutes before, seeing the disaster happening at the "Wheatfield", Major General Winfield Scott Hancock had his men alerted on the southern end of Cemetery Ridge. He knew that reinforcements were needed and sent Colonel Edward Cross, forward saying, "Colonel, this day will bring you a star." To this, General Hancock's brightest and bravest Colonel replied "No general, this is my last battle". Within minutes, Cross would set off at the head of his brigade to meet his fate in the "Wheatfield".

This was as a part of General Caldwell's Division which once before been ordered forward but had returned to Cemetery Ridge when he noted the 5th Corps was already moving up as reinforcements. Now, he was again ordered forward, but now in support of the 5th Corps. His division was made up of four brigades: Cross's Brigade, General Zook's brigade, Colonel Brookes' brigade and Colonel Kelly's Irish brigade.

It was as the Irish Brigade, marched off for what could be their last battle, the famed Father William Corby stood upon a rock and gave absolution to the whole brigade. To be sure, the men of Caldwell's division knew that the battle ahead was not going to be easy.


Hurried, General Caldwell's division was forced to enter the battle piecemeal. As a brigade formed up, they were immediately sent forward. Colonel Cross's brigade was the first to go in, moving swiftly towards "Rose's Woods" and General Anderson's awaiting troops. Part of Cross's brigade, the 5th New Hampshire and part of the 148th Pennsylvania were able to gain cover from "Rose Woods" as they advanced. However, the 61st New York and also the 81st Pennsylvania, had no such cover and had to advance straight across the field under an intense fire.

Colonel Cross, able to halt General Anderson's troops and push his brigade back slightly, before his advance stalled, had his premonition come true as he was shot down. His last known words were, "I did hope I should see peace restored to our distressed country. I do think the boys will miss me. Say goodbye to all." Succeeding to command was Colonel McKeen.

At the time Colonel Cross was mortally wounded, General Zook was preparing his advance from the "Wheatfield" road towards the "Stony Hill". However, he soon ran into masses of Barnes's troops reforming in "Trostle's Woods". General Zook's brigade made up of the 66th New York, 52nd New York, 140th Pennsylvania, moved forward as the 57th New York was held in reserve.

Colonel Richard P. Roberts,commander of the 140th Pennsylvania...in an attempt to rally his men and prepare them for the fight to come shouted, "Men of the 140th, recollect that you are now defending your own soil, and are fighting to drive the invader from your own homes and firesides. I shall expect you to conduct yourselves as if in the presence of your wives, you sisters, and your sweethearts, and not disgrace the flag you bear or the name of Pennsylvania!"

Battle Map of the Wheatfield
Battle Map of the Wheatfield
It was not long after they started their advance, General Zook' brigade were engaged in a desperate battle with General Kershaw's men on the Stony Hill. They quickly scrambled up the wooded heights. While leading his brigade up the slope, General Zook was shot off his horse and fell mortally wounded. As he turned to his aide, Lieutenant Josiah Favill, he said, "It's all up with me, Favill." Union General Caldwell had lost his second brigadier with in a matter of minutes.

General Samuel Zook, USA
General Samuel Zook, USA
Kelly's men, unlucky throughout the war thus far, stepped into the Wheatfield, no cover available to them, counting on their extreme courage to see them through this fight. Aligned to their right was the 116th Pennsylvania, followed by the 28th Massachusetts, 63rd New York, 69th New York, and the 88th New York was on their left flank.

Kershaw's two regiments were now being hit from both sides at once. Kelly's Irish brigade hit them on the right and Zook's brigade hit them on the left. General Kershaw would later proclaim, "I have never been in a hotter place." Confederate reinforcements from Semmes brigade came up on General Kershaw's right, to help out against the Irish Then General Kershaw bent the line of the of the 7th South Carolina back, but soon realized the pressure more than his men could withstand. Slowly but surely, the Union soldiers were pushing General Kershaw's South Carolinians back.

Colonel John R. Brooke's brigade, held in reserve along the Wheatfield road, was sent in to the fray as Colonel Cross' men were running low on ammunition and their advance had stalled. Generals Semmes and Anderson were beginning to flank the Irish brigade. Help was badly needed and General Caldwell ordered Brook's brigade forward.


General Paul J. Semmes, CSA
General Paul J. Semmes, CSA
Brooke's brigade soon came to the relief of Cross' brigade, and with parts of Cross's brigade joining his fresh advancing troops, quickly reached Rose Wood's. His troops hit General Anderson's line and drove him back across the western branch of Plum Run and out of the woods. Included in Brooke's brigade were the 145th Pennsylvania, 27th Connecticut, 53rd Pennsylvania, 64th New York, and the 2nd Delaware. As General Anderson's line began to retreat Brooke's advancing Federals were able to hit General Paul Semmes brigade, which had fallen in on the right of Kershaw. It was not long after that they too began to retreat, as the Union troops swiftly climbed the Stony Hill. Seeing that both flanks were being turned, General Kershaw was forced to fall back. General Caldwell's Union division had triumphed, and had driven the gallant Confederates back.

Even as they were retreating, General Anderson's brigade was giving trouble on to General Caldwell unprotected left flank. Seeking assistance from the General Barnes of the 5th Corps, he was given help from Sweitzer's brigade. Sweitzer's men then advanced from Trostles Woods, into the field to support Brooke's left flank.


On the north slope of Little Round Top, the brigades of Colonels Sidney Burbank's and Hannibal Day's, began to advance across the valley towards the now heavy fighting going on in the Wheatfield. They halted at the stone wall on the eastern edge, but were unable to enter the fight as Brooke's brigade, and then Sweitzer's brigade, were moving perpendicularly across their front.

General Caldwells men were now nearly in charge of the field. However, as General Kershaw was not quite licked yet and his spirits were high, as he remarked in recalling the sight of advancing Coonfederate soldiers coming to his aid as he emerged from Rose Woods: "I saw Wofford coming in splendid style."


Here, I have provided an excerpt from General Joseph Kershaw's official report of the battle to his commanding general, General Lafayette McLaws describing the advance of General Wofford's and his Georgian Brigades:

Report of Brig. Gen. J. B. Kershaw, C. S. Army, commanding brigade,
McLaws' division
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign

HEADQUARTERS KERSHAW'S BRIGADE, Near Chattanooga, October 1, 1863.

Maj. J. M. GOGGIN, Assistant Adjutant-General

"On emerging from the wood, I saw Wofford coming in in splendid style.

My left wing had held the enemy in check along their front, and lost no ground. The enemy gave way at Wofford's advance, and, with him, the whole of my left wing advanced to the charge, sweeping the enemy before them, without a moment's stand, across the stone wall, beyond the wheat-field, up to the foot of the mountain. At the same time, my Fifteenth Regiment, and part of Semmes' brigade, pressed forward on the right to the same point. Going back to the stone wall near my rear, I found Colonel Aiken in position, and at the stone building found the Third South Carolina and the regiment of Semmes' brigade. I moved them up to the stone wall, and, finding that Wofford's men were coming out, I retained them at that point to check any attempt of the enemy to advance."

Battle Map of the Peach Orchard
Battle Map of the Peach Orchard

General William Barksdale's Mississippi troops had been delayed by the batteries in front of his jump off point, but had finally began their advance. He pushed his men quickly towards the Peach Orchard, crashing into the Union positions and driving everything in front of them. He then turned them to the northeast, began to sweeping away the Union brigades of Graham and Humphreys's division who were posted along the Emmitsburg Road. Supporting General Barksdale's advance was General William Tatum Wofford's brigade of Georgians. Accompanying the Georgians was none other than General Longstreet himself, who it seems diverted General Wofford's brigade to support General Anderson's men near the Stony Hill, instead of having him follow Barksdale.

As General Wofford's Georgians were always ready for any test, the 16th, 18th, and 24th regiments, along with Philip's and Cobb's legions advanced swiftly through the now cleared Peach Orchard straight for Union General Zook's open flank.

When Wofford hit the unprotected Union flank, the weary and badly worn federal troops began to break. The deciding moment in the contest for the Wheatfield fight had finally come. Unable to withstand the onslaught of the fresh Georgian troops, the northerners troops hurriedly withdrew in disorder. The troops of Kelly's famed Irish brigade confused and their fear of being surrounded was such that some units were ordered to break ranks and it was every man for themselves.

General William T. Wofford, CSA
General William T. Wofford, CSA

As General Wofford's brigade advanced, it rallied the the whole Confederate line as General Kershaw's left wing, the 8th, 3rd battalion, and 2nd South Carolina joined in, as well as much of Semmes and Anderson's brigades. It seemd that all of Confederate effort was squarely concentrated against the Union forces in the Wheatfield.

Wofford's Brigade Marker
Wofford's Brigade Marker

A Union officer would later comment of General Barksdale's 1,600 troops and General Wofford's 1,300 charging Georgian's advance on the Peach Orchard position as "the grandest charge that was ever made by mortal man."

Union Colonel Tilton, whose troops were stationed in Trostle's woods facing west, again left the field early. Faced with the advancing Georgians, they failed to even try to demonstrate or feint action to check the advance. They simply faded from the field.

Now unsupported, Brooke's troops were also forced to fall back. Pressure on his left flank as General Anderson troops returned in their advance accompanied by Semmes Confederate troops against his front and flank, Brookes lost all hope of holding on to his hard fought ground. It was not long before his troops were also swept up in the route.

However, not all of the Union commanders were ordering their men from the field. Union commander Jacob Sweitzer reacted swiftly to try and check the Confederate advance. He the troops of the 4th Michigan and the 62nd Pennsylvania to confront the coming storm of Wofford, Kershaw, and Semmes, and left the 32nd Massachusetts to fend off Anderson's men.


General John C. Caldwell, USA
General John C. Caldwell, USA
General Caldwell was back near the lines formed by Burbank and Day's men, still at the eastern stone wall. As Kelly and Zook's men began to run out of the woods across the field, an aide remarked to the General, "General, you had better watch out, the line in front is giving way." General Caldwell simply replied that the troops were only being relieved by fresh troops. Watching the paniced Union soldiers and still quite worried, frantically spoke up again to the General, saying "I don't care what any one says, those troops in the front are running away." This caught the attention of General Caldwell and General Ayres, who he had been conferring with, and they both moved off to attend to their men.

With most of Sweitzer's brigade now shifted to meet Semmes, Wofford and Kershaw head on, General Ayres now directed Colonel Burbank to move his regulars from behind the stonewall and into the Wheatfield. He was to wheel to the left and hit General Anderson's troops. Colonel Burbank moved his men as he was ordered, sending in the 17th US, 11th US, 10th US, 7th US, and the 2nd US. However, with Sweitzer's men breaking, he had not the support to maintain pressure and effect any real damage on the hard fighting Confederates.

Soon, Colonel Burbank was also forced to withdraw from the Wheatfield. Colonel Hannibal Day's brigade of regulars, was now all that stood in the way of the advancing Confederates. However, unlike Colonel Burbanks bold advance, Colonel Day ordered his troops to fall back, fighting across the Plum Run Valley. The Confederates now controlled and swept through the Wheatfield.

It seemd to the Confederates in the Wheatfield that the whole war was to be decided here, in this part of the battlefield. Confederate artillerist, Colonel E.P. Alexander later stated that while viewing the retreating Union soldiers as he hurried his battalions through the Peach Orchard, "When I saw their line broken and in retreat, I thought the battle was ours…I rode along my guns, urging the men to limber to the front as rapidly as possible, telling them we would 'finish the whole war this afternoon.'"

While it seemed to some that total victory was theirs, General Longstreet was not as enthusiastic and sure as most. He could see troops from the Union 5th Corps were still arriving on Little Round Top, and still thousands of troops from the Union 6th corps were still arriving every minute. Knowing the Union soldiers would be ordered to counterattack, the "Old Warhorse", General James Longstreet, ordered his tired but faithful troops to fall back into the Wheatfield.

General Wofford, among others, was both surprised and angered by General Longstreet's decision. What he and the rest did not realize. the Union forces disposition was improving by the minute. As General Longstreet's men pulled back to the Wheatfield, Colonel William McCandless's brigade of Pennsylvania reserves, were advancing and would soon check Generals Anderson, Semmes, and Kershaw. Union General Frank Wheaton was also advancing his troops and was about to check General Wofford's Georgians. Behind these blue clad soldiers, were still more and more reinforcements...coming up quickly to plug the gaps made by the fleeing Union soldiers who had been run from the Wheatfield and the Peach orchard.

General Meade, commanding Genreral of the Army of the Potomac, had brilliantly considered the situation and had made just the right moves at just the right time. He was pouring reinforcements over the northern slope of Little Round Top, saving the day and probably the entir battle, at that moment.

The fight in the Wheatfield was finally over. The Confederates had won the field, but the Union stioll held the high and critical areas. The 2nd Day of gettysburg had come to an end. General Wofford's brigade of Georgians, like all those who had battled here in the Peach Orchard, the Wheatfield and the surrounding Rose' and Trostle's Woods, could now get some much need rest. Feeling as though they had given it their best and not knowing what the third day of the battle was about to bring...they laid on their weapons that nigh, assured of their places in History. There in that hell, known as the Wheatfield.

General Kershaw's losses numbered 630 killed, wounded and missing.

Genral Semmes' losses numbered 430 killed, wounded and missing.

Genral Wofford's Georgians lost 334 killed, wounded, and missing.

Union losses at the Wheatfiled numbered 3,215 killed, wounded or missing.