Numbers 60. Report of Lieutenant Colonel George F. McFarland, 151st Infantry.

March 15, 1864.


On the morning of July 1, 1863, at 8 a. m., the One hundred and fifty-first Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, under my command, moved from its bivouac on George Spangler’s farm, about 6 miles from Emmitsburg, Md., and the same distance from Gettysburg, Pa. The First Brigade, Third Division, First Army Corps, to which it belonged, taking a northeasterly course, crossed Marsh Creek and marched up the left bank of a small stream (Willoughby’s Run), debouching about a mile southwest of Gettysburg on the Hagerstown road, where it formed in line of battle, at 10. 30 a. m., on the left flank of the First Corps. The One hundred and fifty-first Pennsylvania, being on the left of the brigade, formed the extreme left of the corps. Our arrival at this point was greeted by the booming of cannon, Buford’s cavalry, dismounted, with some artillery having engaged the enemy-the advance of Pender’s division of A. P. Hill’s corps-a short time previous.

Without delay the brigade advanced obliquely to the right, over a small open hollow, to the edge of a ridge west of the Theological Seminary. Here, by the order of General Rowley, knapsacks were unslung, after which we advanced to the top of the ridge. About the same time, General Reynolds having been killed, General Doubleday, our division commander, took command of the corps, General Rowley of the division, and Colonel Biddle, of the One hundred and twenty-first Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, of the brigade. All firing now ceased for perhaps an hour, when, about noon, the enemy opened on our right. As this was a flank fire, we were soon ordered back into the hollow. Here, guarding the batteries, we were subject to a constant fire of shot and shell for two hours and a half, frequently changing our position.

About 2 p. m. the One hundred and fifty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers was detached from the brigade by General Rowley, and ordered to take a position behind a fence running along the south end of the seminary grove. Shortly after this it occupied a temporary breastwork made of rails, stumps, &c., by the Second Brigade, Second Division, through the west edge of the grove, and parallel with the seminary. By this time a line of battle was forming in our front, which soon after advanced to the ridge west of the seminary, occupied earlier in the day. In this line there was a gap or interval left immediately in our front between the balance of our own brigade and General Meredith’s brigade, of the First Division, on the right. Into this interval the One hundred and fifty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers was ordered by General Rowley in person, and, crossing the breastwork behind which it lay, it advanced and closed the interval.

The position of the regimental was now such that a little more than one-half of its left wing extended beyond the strip of woods on the ridge directly west of the seminary. The enemy greeted me with a volley which brought several of my men down, ere I had halted in position. Having previously cautioned the men against excitement and firing at random, and the enemy being partly concealed in the woods on lower ground than we occupied, I did not order them to fire a regular volley, but each man to fire as he saw an enemy on which to take a steady aim. This was strictly observed, and during the next hour’s terrific fighting many of the enemy were brought low. I know not how men could have fought more desperately, exhibited more coolness, or contested the field with more determined courage than did those of the One hundred and fifty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers on that ever-memorable day. But the fire of the enemy, at least two to one, was very severe and destructive, and my gallant officers and men fell thick and fast. This was especially true after he, while moving to outflank the forces on my left, suffered very heavily from our deliberate oblique fire; for exasperated, no doubt, by this, his fire was now concentrated upon us. Notwithstanding this, the regiment held its ground and maintained the unequal contest until the forces both on my right and left had fallen back and gained a considerable distance to the rear.

Then, finding that I was entirely unsupported, exposed to a rapidly increasing fire in front, and in danger of being surrounded, I ordered the regiment to fall back, which it did in good order, to the temporary breastwork from which it had advanced, the enemy following closely, but cautiously. Here I halted, with fragments of Meredith’s brigade on my right and portions of the Twentieth New York State MilitiaOne hundred and twenty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, and One hundred and forty-second Pennsylvania Volunteers, on my left. An unknown mounted officer brought me the flag of this latter regiment to know whether it was mine. The colonel having already fallen, I ordered it to be placed on my left, and portions of the regiment rallied around it and fought bravely.

We now quickly checked the advance of the enemy. In fact, having the advantage of breastworks and woods, our fire was so destructive that the enemy’s lines in front were broken, and his first attempt to flank us greeted with such an accurate oblique fire that it failed. But in a second attempt, made soon after, he gained our left flank, moving in single file and at double-quick. Up to this time the officers and men under my command had fought with the determined courage of veterans, and an effectiveness which the enemy himself respected and afterward acknowledged (to me in conversation while a prisoner in their hands). Not a man had left the ranks, even to carry a wounded comrade to the rear. But the regiment had lost terribly, and now did not number one-fourth of what it did two hours earlier in the day. The enemy, on the contrary, had increased, and was now rapidly forming on my left. All support had left both flanks and were already well to the rear. Hence I ordered the shattered remnants of as brave a regiment as ever entered the field to fall back, and accompanied it a few paces.

Then stopping, perhaps 20 paces from the seminary, I turned, and, stooping down, examined the condition of the enemy in front. At this instant, 4. 20 p. m., I was hit by a flank fire in both legs at the same instant, which caused the amputation of my right leg, and so shattered my left that it is now, at the end of eight and a half months, still unhealed and unserviceable. I was carried into the seminary by Private [Lyman D.] Wilson, of Company F, the only man near me, and who narrowly escaped, a ball carrying away the middle button on my coat-sleeve while my arm was around his neck.

The regiment, passing on, had gained the north end of the seminary, and was fortunately covered from the flank fire (volley) which wounded me. It moved through the town to Cemetery Hill, where 8 officers and 113 men answered to roll-call next morning, though 21 officers and 446 men had gone into the fight. Two captains remained, one of whom (Captain Owens, of company D) commanded the regiment during the second and third days of the battle. It participated in the glorious repulse of the enemy’s final charge on the left center on the evening of the third day, and was complimented in an order you (General Doubleday) issued the next day. Adjutant Allen and several men were wounded, and Lieutenant Trexler, of Company K, killed. It is with pleasure that I refer to the bravery and efficiency of the officers and the heroic, self-sacrificing spirit manifested by the men of the One hundred and fifty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers. I regret the loss of the many gallant patriots who lost their lives or received honorable scars in its ranks; but I rejoice it was in the battle of Gettysburg and in defense of human freedom and republican institutions. Of course, you have a detailed statement of the losses of my regiment. I will add, however, that by the 6th of July 173 wounded officers and men were collected in the seminary hospital, where I lay, from it alone, while many others were in other hospitals or had perished on the field. As you doubtless have an official report, and this is prepared for your own gratification, I have written freely and more at length than otherwise. I have stated nothing, however, but what I know or have good reason to believe to be correct, and consequently hope this report may correspond to or agree with other reports and observations you may have collected.

Respectfully submitted.

Major General A. DOUBLEDAY.

from Official Records, Series 1, Volume 27, Part 1, Pages 326-329