the 137th NY Infantry Monument at Culp's Hill on the Gettysburg battlefield
The 137th NY Infantry Monument at Culp's Hill on the Gettysburg Battlefield.

Civil War - Newfield at Gettysburg

On July 1, 1863, some Union and Confederate troops ran into each other near the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The ensuing battle would be the greatest battle fought in this hemisphere and would mark the turning point of the Civil War. At Gettysburg, local men fought and died to preserve the Union. A letter from Lt. Samuel Wheelock of Company I in the 137th N. Y. Volunteers and dated July 6, 1863, was published in the Ithaca Journal telling the experiences of the unit during the Battle of Gettysburg. The 137th was part of the Twelfth Corps assigned the task of anchoring the far right of the Union line at Culp's Hill.

137th infantry Newfield at Gettysburg Civil War Veterans
Martin Smith Capt. Joseph Gregg The Draft

 

 

 

Camp of the 137th Reg't N.Y. Vols.
Littletown, Pa., July 6, 1863

"The Army of the Potomac, advancing in three columns, by different roads, began skirmishing with the rebels soon after crossing the Pennsylvania line. The advance, consisting of the First and Eleventh corps, along with Buford's cavalry, came up with Ewell's corps, 30,000 strong, about three miles beyond Gettysburg, on the Chambersburg turnpike, and a heavy engagement took place on the 1st of July. As the rest of the army was not within supporting distance, our forces were compelled to fall back to the heights east of the town. During the battle Gen. Reynolds was killed , and our loss in killed and wounded was heavy. To compensate for this, the First corps captured a large number of prisoners, including General Archer and his whole brigade of ragamuffins.--- During the night the balance of the army arrived on the ground, and took position in the line of battle. Our corps, the Twelfth, was halting for dinner about five miles from the field of conflict, and immediately hurried to the front, taking position on the left of the line, and slept on our arms during the night. Early the next morning we changed our position to the extreme right of the line; occupying the ridge of a hill [Culp's Hill] overlooking the town of Gettysburg, and commenced throwing up temporary breastworks. These were soon completed , and carefully concealed by branches and leaves to deceive the enemy. At precisely 4 P. M., the thundering of artillery on the left announced the opening of the engagement, which soon spread along the whole length of the line. The enemy came on in their usual style, massing their forces against those portions of our line which they thought to be weakest, and charged upon our batteries and entrenchments with fury of despair. The left was hard pressed, and brigade after brigade was drawn from the right to its assistance, until our brigade alone was left to defend the breastworks previously occupied by the whole division. Our regiment and the 149th were posted to guard the line of intrenchments thrown up by Kane's brigade, thus scattering our small force over a distance four times greater than that originally occupied by us. Just as this disposition of our troops was made, firing on our front announced the advance of the rebels. The pickets made a gallant stand and then fell back to the trenches. The approach of the enemy was met by a rapid and deliberate fire from our men, who stoutly maintained their position until it became so dark that we could no longer discover the movements of the enemy. Then, taking advantage of our want of support on the right, a body of rebels succeeded in turning our right flank and gained a position behind a stone wall directly in our rear, and not more than a hundred yards distant. A murderous fire was opened upon us, and our regiment was ordered to fall back to the left. Owing to the darkness and the nature of the ground, considerable confusion ensued in executing this movement; but as soon as beyond the reach of fire in their rear, the men rallied, and charged back with a cheer, drove out the rebels, and resumed their position in the trenches, which they held until relieved by Gen. Kane's brigade.

Thus ended, on the right wing, the engagement of the 2d. It was a close and bloody struggle.--- Our loss in officers and men was heavy. Capt. Gregg, of Company I, fell mortally wounded [Gregg, from Newfield is buried in the Bank Street Cemetery] while leading his men back to the trenches. He behaved throughout with admirable courage and coolness, and his company feel deeply the loss they have experienced in his death. Capt. Barrager, Lieuts. Hallett, Van Amburg, Beecher and Douglass were wounded---Lieuts. Hallett and Van Amburg mortally.

Early in the morning we were again in the trenches, and the conflict was resumed with additional vigor. The assault of the enemy upon our left having been repulsed, the troops that had been withdrawn from our position were returned, the breastworks were fully manned, and for nearly six hours the rattle of musketry was incessant. Not an instant did the firing cease, but as fast as those in the field exhausted their ammunitiion, fresh regiments would come rushing up, cheering and with flags flying to relieve them. Opposite to us was Stonewall Jackson's old corps, commaned by Ewell, who fully maintained their hard-earned reputation for fighting, by holding their ground for six hours against a storm of lead that plowed through their ranks, causing every man to bite the dust who had the temerity to show himself from behind the trees and rocks in our front. About 9 A. M., a white flag was seen fluttering from some rocks in front of us. Instantly the firing ceased, and a body of rebels, about fifty in number, sprang forward, threw down their arms, and surrendered to Capt. Silas Pierson, of Co. K. They declared themselves conscripts [draftees], and unable longer to endurethe murderous fire from our men, had determined to throw themselves upon our clemency rather than trust to the mercy of their own commanders, should they be compelled to fall back. This forcibly illustrates the despotism that exists in the rebel army.

The firing then became less rapid, and the enemy soon retired, leaving a few sharpshooters to annoy our men. During the day and night occasional shots were exchanged, but on the morning of the 4th of July the battlefield was clear, save of the dead and the dying. The spectacle was hideous. The ground was strewn with the bodies of the dead, and few from which life had not yet departed. The number of victims bore undisputable testimony to the cool and accurate firing of our men. Over two thousand stand of arms were collected from the field in front of our division

 

Content provided by Gary Emerson

Source: Ithaca Journal, July 15th, 1863.