Gettysburg Last Day of Battle
Chapter 20 (July 3, 1863)
Many narrow escapes were made during this battle. James P. Ulrich’s gun stock was shattered while he held it in his hand. After the last charge on the right of our line by the rebels about 10 o’clock A. M., everything became very quiet. Both armies, nearly exhausted by the hard work of our marches and the three days battle, soon fell asleep. About 1:30 P. M. a signal gun was discharged; then a reply from the other side, after which was experienced one of the greatest artillery duels of the war.
About 300 cannons belched forth death and destruction everywhere. The air was full of screeching and bursting shells. This was kept up for about one hour and a half. The very earth trembled during this time.
While the artillery duel was in progress Picket’s rebel division was getting ready for their famous charge. This charge lasted scarcely an hour, and during this time Picket’s division was almost wiped off the face of the earth. This was the last charge made on the battlefield of Gettysburg. The battle closed about 3 P. M. The combat over and won, Gettysburg has gone into history as the greatest battle of modern times. General Slocum, with his head uncovered, rode along our lines soon after the enemy had been repulsed and said, “Boys, you did bully.” He was cheered by every regiment as he passed along.
During the battle word was sent along the line that General McClellan was on his way from Carlisle with 20,000 militia. This certainly was inspiring news, but, as we found later, this was not correct.
General Couch had command of these troops, but they were too late to take part in the battle. The official loss of both armies were as follows:
Entire loss in both armies
While the army received the plaudits of the people of the North, resolutions were passed by Congress, and the President sent a message of praise to the officers and men of the Army of the Potomac, for the great battle so nobly fought and won. This was all very nice, but what of the homes made desolate by the death of over 6,000 brave men, and over 28,000 poor wounded fellows, many of whom died, others eking out a miserable existence the balance of their lives? Can any form an idea of the vast amount of suffering in thousands of homes?
A few little incidents that happened before during and after the battle. While in camp at Harrisburg before joining the regiment, John Mull, of Company G, received a furlough for a short time for the purpose of visiting his family, and while home he went out gunning and while so engaged the hammer of his gun accidentally caught a brush, exploded the cap and shot off the index finger on his right hand. On our way up the pike from Littlestown, on July 1st, Cal Parks and Mull got into a quarrel about some trivial matter, when Parks, who was a very rapid talker, said in Dutch, “Du daitshed besser hame ga un di finger opp sheesa.” [“You would better go home and shoot your finger off.”] Mull replied in his slow way, “Well, won ich miner opp gashosha hop sheesed du diner au opp,” [“Well, if I shot mine off then you would shoot yours off also.”] and sure enough, the first man wounded in the company was Cal Parks with his index finger of the right hand shot off at the same joint. When Parks was wounded Jere Moyer said: “Cal, you’re wounded.” Parks replied, “Tell me something I don’t know,” and started up the hill toward the hospital.
The long haired yellow dog that followed the company from Maryland was with us all thru the Gettysburg battle and when a shell dropped near us and exploded, the dog, who had found a cool place under the rocks, would come forth and bark at the bursting shells. The dog stayed with us until our return march thru Maryland when he left us and we never saw anything of him again.
Sergeant Reuben A. Howeter, of Company H, who had been a theological student at Missionary Institute of Selinsgrove, was the first man the writer saw killed at Gettysburg. He was a fine fellow and beloved by all who knew him.
Samuel May, who was a shyster and of whom I made mention in my Chancellorsville chapter, tried the same game of quit at Gettysburg. Someone close by the writer fired his musket off so close to my ear as to make it very uncomfortable. I turned and saw Sam May with a companion going up the hill as fast as he could in the rear of his company. I told Captain Byers, who was back of me at the time, about them going back. He used some pretty strong language and started after them right in the midst of the fight. When he got near them he commanded them to halt, which they did. They were at once ordered back to their company and Captain Byers told them in the presence of their company officer, Captain Mackey, that they had been making fun of Company G, calling the men cowards, conscripts, etc., and that now while Company G was standing like a rock these men were trying to run away. Byers further told their captain that if they attempted to get away again that he would turn the fire of Company G upon them. After this we never received any more taunts from them.