Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force
Major Highlights for the Week
Wednesday July 1, 1863
BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG – DAY 1
At daybreak, Confederates of Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell Hill’s corps moved forward along the Chambersburg Pike searching for Union forces near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. About four miles west of the town, Confederates collided with Brigadier General John Buford’s Federal cavalry pickets. By 8 a.m., two Confederate brigades deployed across the Chambersburg Pike, at first opposed by Buford’s dismounted cavalry, and then by Major General John F. Reynold’s First Corps troops, who engaged them along Willoughby Run, McPherson’s Ridge, Herr Ridge and at an Unfinished Railroad Cut. At the Railroad Cut, a demi-brigade led by Colonel Edward Fowler of the 14th Brooklyn N.Y.S.M., led his regiment and the 95th New York to rescue other regiments from the brigade and an artillery battery that was cut off from the main force. They received assistance from the 6th Wisconsin Infantry who received the surrenders of approximately 300 Confederates.
Reynolds was shot and killed by an accidental discharge while on McPherson’s Ridge.
By the afternoon, two divisions of Major General Oliver O. Howard’s Eleventh Corps moved through town and attempted to repulse Confederates on Oak Ridge, to the north and west of the town. Howard’s troops were unable to hold the position and were swept through town to Cemetery Hill and Cemetery Ridge. Because of this, the First Corps was forced to retreat so they would not be outflanked.
Federal reinforcements arrived overnight allowing the Federal line to stretch from Spangler’s Spring and Culp’s Hill to the north, along Cemetery Ridge to Little Round Top on the south. The Confederate line stretched from the town south along Seminary Ridge to face the Union army.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee set up his headquarters for the Army of Northern Virginia in the morning, while Federal Major General George G. Meade arrived from Taneytown to set up the Army of the Potomac’s headquarters shortly after midnight.
Thursday July 2, 1863
BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG – Day 2
It was a long day of struggle, death, and then years of controversy. Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s corps to attack the Federal left while Lieutenant General Richard Ewell’s corps was to drive on the Cemetery and Culp’s Hills, but there were delays. Longstreet opposed the plan and the Confederate troops were reshuffled.
For the Federals, Major General Daniel E. Sickles, commanding the Third Corps, believed that the Confederate line threatened his flank, so he moved forward without permission to the Peach Orchard, Devil’s Den and along the Emmitsburg Road, forming an exposed salient. Major General Gouverneur K. Warren, the chief engineer for the Army of the Potomac, found the rocky crest of Little Round Top unoccupied by Federals and gathered brigades to defend it. After a bitter, heavy fight that involved a bayonet charge by the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment, the Federals were able to secure the heights.
Late that afternoon, Longstreet’s entire line went into action against Sickles’s exposed corps at the Wheatfield and Peach Orchard. Second Corps commander, Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, ordered Colonel William Colvill to send his 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment into a charge against Confederates led by Brigadier General Cadmus Wilcox. The charge was successful, though at great cost to the regiment, and succeeded in buying valuable time for the Federal’s to shore up their lines.
During the late evening hours, a Confederate attack by major General Edward Johnson’s division gained and held some of the lower works on Culp’s Hill, but were unable to gain the Hill due to the strength of the Federal Twelfth Corps with assistance from some First Corps regiments, including the 14th Brooklyn N.Y.S.M.
Friday July 3, 1863
BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG – DAY 3
In a little white cottage on Cemetery Ridge, Major General George G. Meade met with his corps commanders shortly after midnight to discuss the future of the army. It was decided to stay at Gettysburg and await the Confederate attack. Meade ordered more fortifications built on Cemetery Ridge and brought troops there from Culp’s Hill and elsewhere. Guns were moved up. There was a dawn artillery duel at Spangler’s Spring heavily and often, and eventually the Southerners retreated.
About 1 p.m., a thunderous artillery duel opened. Confederates began, answered by eighty Federal guns. For two hours the shelling continued. Believing the Union line to be weakening, the Confederates prepared to attack. Approximately 15,000 Confederates moved through the artillery and musketry fire across one mile of open fields and the Emmitsburg Road. When they reached the reinforced Federal lines near a Copse of Trees, units were broken and battle flags fell with the men. The Confederates retreated across the trampled fields to a sorrowing commander. The Battle of Gettysburg was now over.
The casualty figures were astounding. During the three-day battle, the Federals engaged approximately 85,000 men and sustained 3,155 killed; 14,529 wounded and 5,365 missing for a combined loss of 23,049. The Confederate strength was around 65,000 with 2,592 killed; 12,709 wounded and 5,150 missing for a total of 20,451.
Saturday July 4, 1863
VICKSBURG SURRENDERS; LEE RETREATS
On this Independence Day, Vicksburg, Mississippi was formally surrendered to Federal Major General Ulysses Grant, ending nearly two full months of a siege. About 29,000 Southern soldiers laid down their arms and marched out of the sorely tried city. A quiet Union army observed their departure Grant himself entered Vicksburg and watched the Stars and Stripes replace the Confederate flag on the courthouse. Naval vessels on the Mississippi River shrilled their whistles in celebration.
From Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a long wagon train of wounded and supplies began to head towards the Potomac River and back to Virginia in late afternoon. This was followed by Confederate infantry and artillery, pelted by the heavy rains that hit the area after the great battle. Federal Major General George G. Meade took this occasion to rest his weary Army of the Potomac, despite urging from Washington that he should lead his army in pursuit of the retreating Confederates.
Sunday July 5, 1863
The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia moved towards Hagerstown, Maryland in retreat from the Gettysburg Campaign, while Lee’s wagon trains went by way of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Federal Major General George G. Meade’s force again did not follow, although there was skirmishing by cavalry at Smithsburg, Maryland; Green Oak, Mercersburg, Fairfield, Greencastle, Cunningham’s Crossroads and the Caledonia Iron Works, Pennsylvania.
In Mississippi, following the surrender of Vicksburg, there were engagements at Birdsong Ferry and Bolton as Federal troops under Major General William T. Sherman once more turned toward the capital at Jackson and Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s army.
Monday July 6, 1863
Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s army continued to withdraw following the Gettysburg Campaign. Light fighting occurred at Boonsborough, Hagerstown and Williamsport, Maryland. There was still no major Federal pursuit in sight.
In Mississippi, Major General William T. Sherman, with a sizeable portion of Major General Ulysses Grant’s army, continued on towards Jackson to seek out General Joseph E. Johnston’s elusive Confederates. Fighting at Jones’s and Messinger’s ferries marked the day’s campaigning.
At Huntington, Indiana, the Knights of the Golden Circle, a Copperhead group, forced their way into the depot and seized guns and ammunition.
Tuesday July 7, 1863
Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of the Tennessee was now encamped around Chattanooga, Tennessee, after losing most of the state of Federal Major General William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland.
Federal forces reoccupied Maryland Heights on the north bank of the Potomac River at Harper’s Ferry. Skirmishing broke out at Downsville and Funkstown, Maryland, as well as at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. It was all part of the aftermath of the Gettysburg Campaign.
In Mississippi, skirmishing increased with fighting at Queen’s Hill and near Baker’s Creek, as well as farther north of the Vicksburg area at Ripley and Iuka.
Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of July 1-7, 1863
1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Participated in the Battle of Gettysburg.
2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Participated in Rosecrans Tullahoma Campaign in Middle Tennessee until July 7, 1863.
3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Participated in Siege of Vicksburg until July 4, 1863.
4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Participated in Siege of Vicksburg until July 4, 1863.
5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Participated in the Siege of Vicksburg until July 4, 1863.
6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Participated in Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley’s expedition in Dakota Territory until September 12, 1863.
7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Participated in Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley’s expedition in Dakota Territory until September 12, 1863.
8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Marched to Fort Ridgely for duty until June 5, 1864.
9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Participated in Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley’s expedition in Dakota Territory until September 12, 1863.
10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Participated in Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley’s expedition in Dakota Territory until September 12, 1863.
1st Regiment Minnesota Cavalry “Mounted Rangers” – Participated in Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley’s expedition in Dakota Territory until September 12, 1863.
Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry – Participated in Rosecrans Tullahoma Campaign in Middle Tennessee until July 7, 1863.
1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – On duty during siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, until July 4, 1863.
2nd Independent Battery, Minnesota Light Artillery – Participated in Rosecrans Tullahoma Campaign in Middle Tennessee until July 7, 1863.
3rd Battery, Minnesota Light Artillery – Participated in Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley’s expedition in Dakota Territory until September 12, 1863.
2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – Participated in the Battle of Gettysburg.