MARCHING TO GETTYSBURG
A first person account
by Enos J. Budd, 1st Sgt, Co. F, 15th NJVI
From the upcoming book "WAR STORIES" by Bill Styple
Published here with his permission
"The Rappahannock again," said Adjutant Halsey, as I entered his tent, when our regiment was camped on the hill near the river. "Our First N. J. Brigade will move across to-morrow." And the morrow at sunrise found the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 15th New Jersey Volunteers under General A. T. A. Torbert, and some other regiments, about the middle of June, 1863, down by the river, below Fredericksburg, covered by artillery.
The "Johnnies" began firing from the earthworks on the opposite side as soon as the pontoon trains appeared and our artillery opened on their works. And, while they were lying low to escape shot and shell a part of our brigade and other regiments were rowed over in pontoons, and charged the earthworks at the point of the bayonet, and the enemy there were taken prisoners. Our engineers completed the pontoon-bridge, over which the balance of our men marched across, and advanced over the valley-following the 15th as skirmishers.
A halt was ordered; and General Torbert made a reconnoissance, and sent his report through General Wright and General Sedgwick to General "Joe" Hooker. The night was a beautiful; fine night-hardly a gentle breeze stirred, and the starry firmament was radiant with shining lights. A drum, far in our rear, rolled off the single call to "Fall in!" and our bugle band were tooting themselves for a blow.
Presently the good old tune of "Yankee Doodle" echoed and re-echoed from hilltop to hilltop.
Lieutenant-Colonel E. L. Campbell, of our regiment, was officer of our line of skirmishers, and as he came by us he remarked, "Orderly, the old tune sounds well, but it means work for us!"
"Very well, Colonel," I replied, "but hark! we are going to have a reply from the other side;" and the sounds from the "Johnnies" band gave us "Down in Dixie." The night passed pleasantly under the influence, for a time, of music and counter-music, and we all agreed that we would rather hear the bands blow than the high-key sounds of the bullets.
Morning came, the 15th was relieved and we fell back, and took our rations of coffee, hardtack and pork. During the next night we all recrossed the river, but before we could get the pontoons loaded sunrise came on us. Not a shot from the enemy! They had left the vicinity of Fredericksburg as fighting ground. We marched up through our old camps. They were deserted and the Army of the Potomac had moved. The First New Jersey Brigade was now alone left to bring up the rear and cover the movements of our army. Through the deserted camps we marched left in front with loaded rifles, and came to the Potomac Creek Hospital, where we halted. Here a skirmish line was deployed on the hills, which kept back Colonel Mosby's observers. All day long we sent train after train of supplies to Aquia Creek, and about sundown General Torbert gave us orders to fire all the tents and structures. The lurid flames enveloped all of the historic Potomac Creek, and as the embers were sinking to ashy states a single boom from our battery broke the stillness of the shades of evening. The bugle sounded the "recall" and "fall in."
The night was dark and our march was over the corduroy roads. Our boys found many impediments in their steps, and as commandant of the company and orderly sergeant I ordered the men to lock arms. By so doing they were kept in good order, though this was our third sleepless night. At about 10 o'clock we filed into a lot near Stafford Court House and Colonel Penrose said, "Men, you can have only one hour to sleep."
I ordered my men to stack arms, and selecting a comrade who had stolen some sleep, I placed him on guard and ordered the rest to sleep behind the gun-stacks. Stretching myself on the ground at the head of the company, I enjoined the guard to wake me in forty minutes. Then immediate slumber took me to the realm of rest, and for a time all thought of war and conflict was gone.
How rapid the current of dream thought. I was at my home with my mother by the waters of our beautiful lake high up in the mountains of New Jersey, a little boy again. I was at the old school-house, which seemed just the same, taking my share of all the whippings. I was on the plains, among the Indians and among the Mormons and the whole-souled, adventuresome men of the Pacific slopes. I was among the Mexicans and among the Apaches of Arizona and New Mexico. I was among the Arkansonians and the vicissitudes of a suspected spy. I was at home again and among the New Jersey volunteers in the battle of the Rebellion. I went on in future state and saw come to his front line a very gray looking man.
Some of my comrades inquired, "Orderly, who is that gray looking man?" I looked and answered: "That is General Robert E. Lee."
"Orderly, draw your rifle on him, you can hit him; he is our greatest enemy."
"Yes, boys," I said, "I could put a bullet in his breast, but it would be murder; besides he is the noblest of all our enemies and his life is our gain." I saw the carnage of battle after battle and was carried to the rear on stretchers, and a cloud came before my vision. I seemed to rise up, up, and the stars of the universe were brilliant and beautiful. I felt happy, but some force brought me downward. I glanced over all our broad lands and our starry flag was everywhere. The earth received me with a jar, and I opened my eyes and found the guard shaking me to wakefulness.
I said "Charlie," did I strike hard?" He remarked: "No, orderly, but you have been snoring for the last ten minutes like a mule-team." I now was fully awake but very tired. After ordering the guard to start the fires I was about to wake our men, when an artilleryman rode up and said: "Colonel, where is the General's headquarters? I have a man dressed as a citizen and he must be one of Mosby's spies."
The fire was now beginning to show light and the rows of shining guns in close column by division showed the position of our brigade. I answered the captain: "The general is somewhere around the guns back there. You hold your man twenty minutes and we will be on the move. Then you can turn him over." I woke my men and we soon had some coffee. At the set time the brigade bugler sounded "Fall in." The Confederate citizen was taken with us, and tramped under a guard on our march.
It was a hot June sun, and toward night many of our men became exhausted, but with little rest we arrived at Dumfries in good order. The next day we came up with our Sixth Corps near Fairfax, and soon we were marching double-quick. At Manchester we were allowed a little rest. But some time during the night of July 1 a horseman rode to General Sedgwick with orders to reach Gettysburg as soon as he could the next day. It was the next day, July 2, and we were moving by 4 o'clock A. M.
When we came to the broad roads every movement of our corps was in perfect precision. Infantry and artillery intermingled, and at a double-quick. It was a reality-"going to battle"-never pictured, and seldom if ever before experienced with the same endurance.
At the head of our Sixth Corps was Uncle John Sedgwick, as the men always called him, with his staff, the General riding his famous black horse, and following at interval distance was General Wright and his staff, followed by General A. T. A. Torbert, his staff, and then our brigade. After us came the remainder of our First Division, followed by a number of batteries of siege guns. Then followed the Second Division, with a number of batteries, after which the Third Division with batteries and the wagons belonging to the corps, the commander of each regiment at the head of his column.
When the black horse at our head trotted the order of "Double-quick!" went down the line of 30,000 men almost simultaneously, and the movement that followed was a beautiful sight. The bright guns of our infantry at our right shoulder shift reflected in the sunlight with sparkling, undulating motions. The rumbling of the cannon and the caissons was like distant thunder, and many citizens of Maryland looked at us as we passed in silent wonder.
The first ten miles is made. The black horse walks, and we come down to common time. Colonel McMahon wheels his horse out of line beside his chief, and reins him up covered with foam.
As we come by him he says: "Boys, you are doing splendidly. You can march down all of our horses." Our boys answered with a cheer. All the brigade bands played us cheering music, and the men were soon rested.
Again the black horse is on the trot, and the 30,000 are thundering the double-quick. Thus our famous march and when we crossed the line near Lisleton we knew we were on Pennsylvania soil. Here the old and the young, women and men, girls and boys, stood along the streets with pails of water to give us as we passed. Here the people were glad to see us and cheered us. The roar of cannon was now loud and plain. Captain Lewis Van Blarcom had been assigned temporarily to my company and as we passed on without halting he said: "Orderly, I think our double-quick to the north will soon be ended."
I replied: "I agree with you, Captain. See, from the hill over there rises smoke. We are none too soon."
We were meeting the wounded and the bleeding coming out of the fight, and the stubborn roar of the guns indicated a red-hot time around and back of the hill. The Sixth Corps filed in near the hill, the 15th New Jersey in front. General Wright rode down the line by us and said: "Men, we will try and give you a little rest."
Thus ended this fighting corps' greatest double-quick. We had come over thirty-five miles and it was now 1 o'clock, for I looked at my watch. We had started for a little coffee, not having had any breakfast. But before it simmered an aide-de-camp rode up to Colonel Penrose.
The Colonel jumped on his horse and sang out: "Fall in, 15th Jersey! Take arms! Shoulder arms! Right-face! Double-quick! March!" and to the front we went by Little Round Top. Many of the 15th men were religiously inclined, but for once, during this 2nd day of July, 1863, there was tall swearing in Company F.
I looked back. Chaplain Haines was following on a trot, and I am sure he thought-"Coffee!"
We found the enemy trying to swing round and to the top of Round Top as we arrived at the base of the hill. The fighting was desperate to our left and in our front. The prisoners were surprised to see our red crosses on the ground. General Warren halted us, and gave orders to Colonel Penrose to charge the Johnnies' right if they swung around any further, and called for a detail of men to help get a battery on the summit. The assistance was not long in placing our cannon on the high hill, and when they opened on the rebel lines a cheer from our brave soldiers, fighting hand to hand the desperate foe (wondering why the militia fought so well) sounded high above the roar of the guns, from around Little Round Top, Devil's Hole and around our battle lines.
It was a glorious sound to our army, and destroyed all the hopes of the enemy. They fell back and gave up their herculean efforts. The tide of battle had turned. General Lee had lost his opportunity by over-confidence in himself and his veterans. The arrival of the Sixth Corps in time decided the offensive movements of the Confederates as failures.
We now marched to the front line on the right of Devil's Hole, the enemy falling back, leaving their dead and wounded in our lines. Here the field of carnage was only for soldiers and surgeons to behold. Friends and foes intermingled in death. Horses dead and maimed, cannon and caissons shattered and batteries left without horses to draw them. In the morning General Lee made his reconnoissance, and the 15th New Jersey was recalled and joined our brigade, lying in support of the Second and Third Corps. General Lee had concluded to get out of surrounding difficulties, for he well knew that the Army of the Potomac would not be long in attacking him, now that all its corps were present.
At about 10 o'clock the Confederate artillery opened on us in double force, our line of cannon returned their fire, and for many hours the thunder of battle artillery continued to shake the hills around Gettysburg. I have been in many battles, but have never heard such continuous peals from cannoneering. The Confederate shells landed among us, burst over us, and their broken fragments seemed to surround us. Never did men take quietly such shelling as did our Union lines of battle. Our boys were wounded and killed, but never a murmur, except to desire to go forward.
Our cannon suddenly ceased firing, but the Johnnies flew a few more shells in our lines to complete, as they supposed, our annihilation. I stood up on a large rock to view the next move. It was cleared land in our front and to the right as far as I could see. I did not wait long before I saw a large body of Confederates come up over the rising ground, and then another large body followed; still in their right-rear another large body. They appeared to be moving in echelon. I said: "Boys, General Lee is going to charge us with his whole army." On the Johnnies came in splendid lines. It was a beautiful sight. I thought it was for the movement a manoeuver for Fourth of July parade. Our two lines of battle in front of us were fully prepared to receive the visitors, and we were prepared with our bayonets fixed to assist them. Not a shot had been fired from our side since the new movement began.
The enemy moved on a double-quick with a cheer. Now they were in good range for grape, shrapnel and canister, and our reserved artillery opened on them, sweeping whole ranks into eternity. The men in our front also began their deadly fire, and before those noble and brave men got within call of our lines three-fourths were dying or dead. As a friendly breeze raised the smoke of battle, the field in our front showed the dreadful accuracy of our fire.General Meade came riding down the lines with his staff, and the rank and file greeted him with three cheers. We all knew General Lee would not advance further to battle, but what the next move would be on this 3rd of July, 1863, we could not conceive. Our lines remained the same during the night, and the 4th of July we buried many of the dead. General Lee began moving for home the night of the 3rd, after the disastrous defeat of his charging columns.
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