No. 87. — Report of Maj. St. Clair A. Mulholland, 116th Pennsylvania Infantry.
IN CAMP, SANDY HOOK, MD.,
July 17, 1863.
SIR: In accordance with section 742, paragraph 36, page 107, Revised Army Regulations, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my command in the action at Gettysburg, Pa., July 2 and 3:
After a long and fatiguing march, we arrived on the evening of the 1st instant within about 3 miles of Gettysburg, and by order of General Caldwell, our division commander, encamped for the night in a neighboring field. Shortly after daybreak on the morning of the 2d, in compliance with orders received, the brigade of which my regiment has the honor of being a part moved up to a field within sight of the enemy’s pickets. Our division was deployed in mass in column of regiments, my regiment being placed in the front line. Here we stacked arms, and ordered the men to rest. We remained in this position during the forenoon of the 2d instant. Heavy firing was heard at intervals on our right during the day, although everything remained quiet in the vicinity of my command until about 3 p.m.
About this time firing commenced on our left, I think about three-fourths of a mile distant. The firing had continued about an hour when orders came for us to fall in. We at once took arms, and were marched by the left flank toward the scene of action. After marching nearly 1 mile, and the division being in line of battle, we advanced to support (I think) a portion of the Third Army Corps, which was then engaged. The brigade to which we are attached advanced in line of battle, left in front, gallantly led by Col. P. Kelly, of the Eighty-eighth New York Volunteers. As we advanced, portions of the Third Corps retired, passing through the intervals of our line.
Having entered a dense woods, we began to ascend a hill, where large bowlders of rocks impeded our progress, notwithstanding which we advanced in good order. We soon came within sight of the enemy, who occupied the crest of the hill, and who immediately opened fire at our approach. Our brigade returned the fire with good effect. After firing for about ten minutes, the order was given to advance, which the brigade did in excellent style, driving the enemy from their position, which we at once occupied. We took many prisoners at this point, hundreds of the enemy laying down their arms and passing to the rear. We found the position which our foes had occupied but a few moments before thickly strewn with the dead and wounded. Here we again opened fire, the enemy having rallied to oppose our farther advance.
After being engaged for about twenty minutes and the enemy having been re-enforced, the division began to retire in good order. At this time the division was completely outflanked by the enemy, who had formed a line facing the right flank of our brigade. This line was formed along the edge of a wheat-field, about a quarter of a mile in rear of our brigade. This field we had to cross to get to the rear. In doing so, we encountered the full sweep of the enemy’s fire, which at this point was most destructive. Many of the division fell before this terrible fire.
After passing to the rear, I found Colonel Brooke, Fourth Brigade, forming the division in a field adjoining the Second Division hospital; he told me he had orders from General Caldwell to that effect. I then halted what remained of my command, and rendered all the assistance I could in gathering together members of the Second Brigade.
Shortly after dark we were again marched to the front, and placed in the same position that we had occupied in the morning. Here we lay on our arms all night, and were awakened at daybreak by the sound of the enemy’s cannon. Major-General Hancock passed along early in the day, and moved our line a little forward, in order that we might have a better range and our fire be more effective, should the enemy attack us. We immediately commenced to intrench our new position, and by 11 a.m. had quite a formidable breastwork thrown up. All this forenoon we could see the enemy preparing to attack us. Several batteries were placed in position opposite our line, and everything indicated that an attack was intended.
About noon the attack commenced by a most terrific shelling of our lines by the enemy, but, thanks to our earthworks and the inaccurate aim of the gunners, none of my command were injured. After shelling our position for about two hours, the fire of the artillery somewhat slackened, and a heavy force of rebel infantry was seen advancing upon our works. At this moment our artillery, which up to this time had remained almost silent, opened with terrible effect upon the advancing lines, tearing great gaps in their ranks and strewing the field with dead and wounded. Notwithstanding the destructive fire under which they were placed, the enemy continued to advance with a degree of ardor, coolness, and bravery worthy of a better cause, until, reaching a ravine which ran parallel with our line, about midway between us and their artillery, they halted, being under cover and no longer exposed to our fire. They halted but to surrender. Finding, I presume, that their ranks were too much thinned to think of charging our works, knowing the heavy loss they would sustain in attempting to reach their own lines again, and thinking discretion the better part of valor, they laid down their arms and surrendered almost to a man. Perceiving the failure of their infantry to carry our position, the enemy again opened their batteries, but, after another hour’s fire, withdrew, leaving us victors of the field.
During the day’s fighting the heat was very great, and the men, being exposed and having neither shelter nor water, suffered intensely. Soon after sunset the same evening the rain commenced to descend in torrents, wetting every one, filling the rifle-pits, and making us most uncomfortable. But my command was ever hopeful, and bore the fatigue and suffering incidental to a great battle with the cheerfulness that ever characterizes the true soldier.
The sun rose on the morning of the 4th instant and found us victors of every part of the field. We remained in the same position until the afternoon of this day, when my command, with the division, formed line, and marched to the village of Two Taverns, where we encamped for the night.
In closing my report, I cannot refrain from mentioning the cool and gallant bearing of my command. Of the officers it is almost useless for me to speak. Every one did his duty in a manner that excited my warmest admiration and gratitude. Were I to mention any one in particular it would be but showing injustice to the rest, as each one tried to excel the other in deeds of gallantry and daring. Of the enlisted men, I feel happy in mentioning the names of Color Sergt. Abraham T. Detweiler, Sergt. Thomas Detweiler, Company A, and Private Jefferson Carl, Company C, as having especially distinguished themselves in the action of the 2d instant.
Our casualties during the three days’ continuance of the fight were 2 men killed, 12 wounded, and 1 officer (Capt. John Teed) and 7 enlisted men missing.
Your obedient servant,
ST. CLAIR A. MULHOLLAND,
Major, Comdg. 116th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
Capt. THEO. W. GREIG,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
from Official Records, Series 1, Volume 27, Part 1