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4th New York Battery - Gettysburg Report

Report of Captain James E. Smith, Fourth New York Battery.


July 20, 1863.

SIR: I have the honor to report the participation of the Fourth New York Battery, under my command, during the battle of Gettysburg, July 2. In compliance with instructions received from you, I placed two sections of my battery on a hill (near the Devil's Cave) on the left of General Birney's line, leaving one section, together with caissons and horses, 150 yards in the rear. The Fourth Maine Regiment was detailed as support, forming line in rear under cover of a hill. On my left, extending half way to the Emmitsburg road, was a thick wood, in which I requested Lieutenant Leigh, aide-de-camp to General Ward, to place supports. He informed me that a brigade had already been placed there, but this must have been a mistake. About 2. 30 p. m. the enemy opened fire on my right and front from several guns, directing a portion of their fire upon my position. I was ordered by one of General Ward's aides to return their fire, which order I complied with. Twenty minutes later I discovered the enemy was endeavoring to get a section of light 12-pounder guns in position on my left and front, in order to enfilade this part of our line, but I succeeded-in driving them off before they had an opportunity to open fire. Soon after, a battery of six light 12-pounders marched from the woods near the Emmitsburg road, and went in battery in the field in front, about 1, 400 yards distant. A spirited duel immediately began between this battery and mu own, lasting nearly twenty minutes, when Andrerson's brigade, of Hood's division, Longstreet's corps (rebel), charged upon us. The rebel battery then left the field, and I directed my fire upon the infantry. At this time I requested the officer in command of the Fourth Maine Regiment to place his regiment in the woods on my left, telling him I could take care of my front, but my request was not complied with. I used case shot upon the advancing column until it entered the woods, when I fired shell until they emerged from the woods on my left flank, in line of battle 300 yards distant; then I used canister with little effect, owing to numerous large rocks, which afforded excellent protection to their sharpshooters. I saw it would be impossible for me to hold my position without assistance, and therefore called upon my supports, who gallantly advanced up the hill and engaged the enemy. Fighting became so close that I ordered my men to cease firing, as many of the Fourth Maine had already advanced in front of the guns. I then went to the rear, and opened that section of guns, firing obliquely through the gully, doing good execution. At this time the Sixth New Jersey Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Gilkyson commanding, and Fortieth New York Regiment, Colonel Egan commanding, came to our support. These regiments marched down the gully, fighting like tigers, exposed to a terrific fire of musketry, and, when within 100 yards of the rebel line, the Fourth Maine, which still held the hill, were forced to retreat. Very soon afterward the Fortieth New York and Sixth New Jersey Regiments were compelled to follow. I then ordered my remaining guns to the rear. When I left three guns on the hill (one having been sent to the rear disabled). I was under the impression we would be able to hold that position, but, if forced to retreat, I suspected my supports would save the guns, which, however, they failed to do. I could have run my guns to the rear, but suspecting to use them at any moment, and the position difficult of access, I thought best to leave them for awhile. Again, I feared if I removed them the infantry might mistake the movement for a retreat. In my opinion, had supports been placed in the woods, as I wished, the hill could not have been taken. I conducted my command to a field near the Baltimore turnpike, three-quarters of a mile from Third Corps headquarters, and encamped for the night, reporting three guns for service next morning to Captain Clark, acting chief of artillery. I regret to report the loss of @ brave men, viz, Coral. John A. Thompson and Private Isaiah Smith, and the wounding of 10 privates, many severely. Eleven horses were killed and disabled. Three 10-pounder Parrot guns and gun-carriages (supposed to have been taken from the field by the Twelfth Corps) were lost. The non- commissioned officers and privates conducted themselves throughout the day with commendable bravery. Total amount of ammunition, expended, 140 rounds. I trust no blame will be attached to me for the loss of my guns. I did that which in my judgment I thought best.

I am, captain, your most obedient servant,


Captain, Commanding Fourth New York Battery.


Chief of Artillery, Third Corps.

  ©2005 Richard McCoy. View Copyright Info or learn more About the Author.