No. 85. — Report of Lieut. James J. Smith, 69th New York Infantry.
HDQRS. SIXTY-NINTH REGIMENT, NEW YORK VOLS.,
August 5, 1863.
LIEUTENANT: In compliance with notice from brigade headquarters, I beg leave to submit the following report of the part this regiment took in the action near Gettysburg, Pa.:
We arrived near Gettysburg on the evening of July 1, having marched from Uniontown, Md.
About 10 a.m. July 2 we were placed in position in line of battle, forming at the time part of the second line, the Twenty-eighth Massachusetts Volunteers, of our own brigade, being immediately in our front. The regiment was engaged during the morning and up to 5 p.m. in taking down fences, &c., sometimes under a heavy artillery fire.
At 5 p.m. we received orders to move rapidly to the left, to a point about 2 miles distant, and at the base of a rocky and precipitous hill, occupied by our troops, then attacked by the enemy in strong force. Marching by the flank, we moved up to and across a corn-field and entered a wood, on each side of which was all open corn-field, that on the left occupied by our troops (I think some of the Fifth Corps), one regiment of which I recognized as the Fourth U.S. Infantry. After the line was formed, we moved forward until we met the enemy, who were posted behind large bowlders of rock, with which the place abounded; but after our line delivered one or two volleys, the enemy were noticed to waver, and upon the advance of our line (firing) the enemy fell back, contesting the ground doggedly. One charge to the front brought us in a lot of prisoners, who were immediately sent to the rear. Our line moved forward (still firing), I should judge, not less than 200 yards, all the time preserving a good line and occupying the most advanced part of the line of battle, when we came suddenly under a very severe fire from the front, most probably another line of battle of the enemy; we also about this time got orders to fall back. We had scarcely got this order when we were attacked by the enemy on our right flank in strong force, and extending some distance to the rear, evidently with the intention of surrounding us. It was impossible after falling back to rally the men, as the enemy’s line extended down to the corn-field that we had to cross; also there was no line immediately in rear of us to rally on; also in consequence of the small number of men in our regiment falling back in double-quick time, and the great confusion that prevailed at the time we crossed the corn-field. I collected about one dozen of our men together, and was informed that the division was reforming on the ground that we occupied in the morning. Arriving on the ground where the division was forming, I reported to Colonel Brooke, Fifty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, then commanding division.
It was here I was informed for the first time of the wounding of Capt. Richard Moroney, who commanded the regiment on entering the field, and I take great pleasure in saying that I can testify to the able manner in which he managed our little battalion as our commanding officer during the engagement and up to the time of receiving his wounds. After most of the division were collected together, we got orders to move to the right, to occupy a certain part of the field, near where we were posted previous to going into action. We reached the said place about 10 p.m., and got into position for the night.
Next morning the line was advanced to the front and left under a heavy artillery fire. Most of the day engaged in throwing up earthworks and strengthening our position.
About 1 p.m. the enemy advanced a strong column against the line, but were repulsed with great loss, many of the men throwing down their arms and coming in as prisoners.
On the morning of July 4, Lieutenant O’Neil reported to me, he having been absent without leave, keeping with him 7 or 8 enlisted men, since July 2, the time of the engagement. Charges have been preferred against him.
I beg leave to report that this regiment entered the field with officers and 69 enlisted men, and that we lost during the action 5 men killed, 1 officer and 13 men wounded, and 6 men missing.
In conclusion, I will state that, with the single exception that I have made above, I feel proud to say that all the officers and men engaged in the action acted as good soldiers and brave men.
I have the honor to be, lieutenant, very respectfully, yours, &c.,
JAMES J. SMITH,
1st Lieut. and Adjt., Comdg. Sixty-ninth Regt. New York Vols.
Lieut. W. S. BAILEY,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., Second Brig., First Div., Second Corps.
from Official Records, Series 1, Volume 27, Part 1