The monument to Heth’s Division of the Third Corps is southwest of Gettysburg on West Confederate Avenue. (Tour map: West Confederate Avenue – Pt. 2) It was commanded at the Battle of Gettysburg by Major General Henry Heth (USMC ’47), a career army officer from Virginia.
Heth’s Division started the Battle of Gettysburg when it marched from Cashtown in the morning of July 1st and ran into Union cavalry at Marsh Creek. Lee had ordered Heth to avoid a general engagement, but skirmishing with cavalry did not count.
But suddenly infantry from the Army of the Potomac was tearing into Heth’s two lead brigades. Brigadier General James Archer was captured, as was part of Davis’ Brigade. Lee reached the front and gave his blessing to the developing battle when Confederate reinforcements appeared on the Union flank and rear, and Heth’s Division found itself in the center of the first day’s fighting.
The division’s casualties were heavy and on July 2nd it was held in reserve. Heth himself narrowly escaped a serious head wound. Paper padding an aide had placed in his new hat to help its fit probably saved Heth’s life, but he was out of the battle. Brigadier General J. J. Pettigrew took over the division.
On July 3rd the rested division took part in the attack that would be known as Pickett’s Charge. Led by Pettigrew, it again took heavy casualties, giving the division the highest losses of any at Gettysburg.
Heth’s Division had one last bit of bad luck in the campaign. Pettigrew and the division were the rear guard as Lee’s Army made its way to safety across the swollen Potomac. Before they could cross, Union cavalry made a wild attack. It had little result other than mortally wounding Pettigrew, one of the most promising younger officers in the army.
From the monument:
First Brigade Brig. Gen. J. J. Pettigrew
Col. J. K. Marshall
Second Brigade Col. J. M. Brockenbrough
Third Brigade Brig. Gen. James A. Archer*
Col. B. D. Fry
Col. S. G. Shepard
Fourth Brigade Brig. Gen. Joseph R. Davis
Four Batteries Lieut. Col. John J. Garnett
July 1. The Division moved at 5 A. M. from Cashtown toward Gettysburg. About 3 miles from town the advance met the Union Forces. Archer’s and Davis’ Brigades moved forward on the right and left of the turnpike were soon engaged. The Brigades were forced to retire with heavy loss. After resting for an hour the Division was advanced in line of battle to the right of the pike and met with stubborn resistance. Rodes’ Division Second Corps appeared on the left and formed a line at right angles. The Union troops retired to a wooded hill in the rear and finally gave way. The Division bivouacked on the ground won.
July 2. The Division in the morning was relieved by Anderson and held in reserve.
July 3. The Division occupied the position of the day before and was ordered to report to Lieut. Gen. Longstreet to unite in the attack on the Union centre. The assault was made and failed. The Division returned to its former position.
July 4. At night the Division took up line of march.
*Archer’s middle initial is “J,” not “A” as on the monument.