58th New York Infantry Volunteers 
Partial Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies


Many lengthy OR documents contain a very small portion of the 58th New York Infantry. Instead of ignoring these documents, that portion of this regiment was taken out and placed in an abridged version.

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O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXV/1 [S# 39]
APRIL 27-MAY 6, 1863.--The Chancellorsville Campaign.
No. 252.--Report of Maj. Gen. Carl Schurz, U.S. Army, commanding Third Division, with correspondence, &c.

 

        Immediately east of Talley's farm, where General Devens had his headquarters, General McLean's left connected with my right, consisting of the Seventy-fourth Pennsylvania and the Sixty-first Ohio, of General Schimmelfennig's brigade, deployed in line of battle on the road, having an embankment in their front and the thickest kind of pine undergrowth immediately in their rear; on their left the Sixty-eighth New York, of the same brigade, also in line of battle; the sharpshooters of the brigade in the little piece of woods between the two roads east of the open field flanking the line; the Eighty-second Illinois and the One hundred and fifty-seventh New York behind General Schimmelfennig's left, in second line, connecting with General Schimmelfennig's left; the One hundred and nineteenth New York, of my Second Brigade, occupying the southern border of the little piece of woods above mentioned; then Dilger's battery; the Fifty-eighth New York in the church grove; behind the interval the Seventy-fifth Pennsylvania, and farther to the left the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin, in second line, and the Eighty-second Ohio still farther back, as above stated. On the left of Captain Dilger's battery commenced Colonel Buschbeck's brigade, part of which was deployed in the rifle-pits; Captain Wied-rich's battery, from which two pieces had been detached to General Barlow's brigade, stood near Colonel Buschbeck's right on high ground. On the left of Colonel Buschbeck, General Barlow's brigade, with one section of Captain Wiedrich's battery. Farther to the left, troops of other corps. A rifle-pit was constructed, running north and south, on the west of the eminence east of Dowdall's Tavern. The Reserve Artillery, which arrived in the course of the day, was placed on that eminence.
        This position was, in my humble opinion, a good one to move from if the army had followed up the offensive, which, no doubt, had originally been contemplated. As a defensive position it presented a front only moderately strong to resist a parallel attack coming from the south. I say moderately strong, as the line, especially on our right, was very thin, and we had no general reserve. But if this position was intended to protect the right and rear of the army, a look at the map will show that it lacked some of the most essential requisites. Our right wing stood completely in the air, with nothing to lean upon, not even a strong échelon, and with no reliable cavalry to make reconnaissances, and that, too, in a forest thick enough not to permit any view to the front, flank, or rear, but not thick enough to prevent the approach of the enemy's troops. Our rear was at the mercy of the enemy, who was at perfect liberty to walk right around us through the large gap between von Gilsa's right and the cavalry force which was stationed at Ely's Ford, and which, at all events, had no considerable power of resistance. If it was really the intention that we should act on the defensive and cover the right and rear of the whole army, our right ought to have been drawn back toward the Rapidan, to rest on that river, at or near the mouth of Hunting Run, the corps abandoning so much of the Plank road as to enable it to establish a solid line. As we were actually situated, <ar39_652> an attack from the west and northwest could not be resisted for any length of time without a complete change of front on our part. To such a change, especially if it was to be made in haste, the formation of our forces was exceedingly unfavorable.

...

        In the absence of orders, but becoming more and more convinced that the enemy's attack would come from the west and fall upon our right and rear, I took it upon my own responsibility to detach two regiments from the second line of my Second Brigade, and to place them in a good position on the right and left of the Ely's Ford road, west of Hawkins' farm, so as to check the enemy if he should attack our extreme right and penetrate through the woods at that point. This was subsequently approved by you. The regiments I selected were the Seventy-fifth Pennsylvania and the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin. The Seventy fifth Pennsylvania had to relieve the pickets of the Second Brigade, and was replaced by the Fifty-eighth New York. The Eighty-second Ohio I placed at some distance behind the left of the Fifty-eighth New York. The disposition of my troops was then as shown on Diagram No. 3, and, no orders reaching me, it remained so until the battle commenced. With these exceptions, no change was made in the position occupied by the corps.

...

        It was nearly 6 o'clock when we suddenly heard a sharp artillery and musketry fire on our extreme right. I at once ordered all regiments within my reach to change front. The One hundred and nineteenth New York I took out of its position in the woods, facing south, and formed it near the junction of the Plank road and the old turnpike, facing west. The Sixty-eighth New York received the order to occupy the western edge of the same piece of woods, the southern border of which had been occupied by the One hundred and nineteenth. On the right of the One hundred and nineteenth formed the One hundred and fifty seventh New York, then the Eighty-second Illinois, and farther to the right the Eighty-second Ohio, the latter receiving from me the order to cover the left of the Fifty-eighth New York, to fire one volley if the enemy should break through the woods in front, and then to make a bayonet charge. The Fifty-eighth New York and the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin, on the extreme right, remained as they were, under the immediate command of Colonel Krzyzanowski. Captain Dilger, commanding my battery, drew his pieces back to the high ground, near Wiedrich's battery, and opened upon the columns of the enemy as soon as they showed themselves on the old turnpike.
        To change the front of the regiments deployed in line on the old Turnpike road was extremely difficult. In the first place, they were hemmed in between a variety of obstacles in front and dense pine brush in their rear. Then the officers had hardly had time to give a command when almost the whole of General McLean's brigade, mixed up with a number of Colonel von Gilsa's men, came rushing down the road from General Devens' headquarters in wild confusion, and, worse than that, the battery of the First Division broke in upon my right at a full run. This confused mass of guns, caissons, horses, and men broke <ar39_655> lengthwise through the ranks of my regiments deployed in line on the road. While this was going on, several men of the Seventy-fourth Pennsylvania, which formed my extreme right, were shot from behind, the enemy having already penetrated into the woods immediately in the rear of our original position. It was evident that under such circumstances it was an utter impossibility to establish a front at that point. The whole line deployed on the old turnpike, facing south, was rolled up and swept away in a moment. If the regiments had remained as they were at first formed, in column on the open field, it would have been easy to give them a correct front by a simple wheeling, and the turmoil on the road would not have disturbed them. As it was, the Seventy-fourth Pennsylvania and the Sixty-first Ohio Regiments, which I had counted among the best I had, and which had never been guilty of any discreditable conduct, could do nothing but endeavor to rally behind the second line.
        This second line, as above described, had changed front, and was formed behind a rise of ground between the church grove and the woods, from which the enemy was expected, but every evolution was attended with the greatest difficulty, as the scattered men of the First Division were continually breaking through our ranks.
        In my extreme right, where the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin and the Fifty-eighth New York stood, things wore a similar aspect. A short time after the attack had commenced, a large number of men of the First Brigade, First Division, came running back through the woods, the enemy following closely on their heels. Captain [Frederick] Braun, commanding the Fifty-eighth New York, fell from his horse, mortally wounded, immediately after having deployed his regiment. The enemy was, however, received at that point with great firmness. The Fifty-eighth New York, a very small regiment, exposed to a flanking fire from the left, where the enemy broke through, and severely pressed in front, was pushed back after a struggle of several minutes. The Twenty-sixth Wisconsin, flanked on both sides and exposed to a terrible fire in front, maintained the unequal contest for a considerable time. This young regiment, alone and unsupported, firmly held the ground where I had placed it for about twenty-minutes; nor did it fall back until I ordered it to do so.

...

                                                            C. SCHURZ,
                                                                    Major-General, Comdg. Third Division, Eleventh Army Corps.

                                                            Maj. Gen. O. O. HOWARD,
                                                                    Commanding Eleventh Army Corps.


O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
No. 253. -- Reports of Maj. Gen. Carl Schurz,
U. S. Army, commanding Third Division.

                                                            HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, ELEVENTH CORPS,
                                                            August 20, 1863.

GENERAL: On the part taken by my division in the actions of July 2 and 3, I have the honor to submit the following report:
        By the losses sustained in the battle of July 1, the Third Division was reduced to an effective force of about 1,500 men. A large number of officers were killed, wounded, or missing, many regiments being under the command of captains. General Schimmelfennig being still in his hiding place within the lines of the enemy, Colonel von Amsberg, of the Forty-fifth New York, commanded my First Brigade.
        The position of the Third Division was behind the stone walls inclosing the cemetery on the northwest side, an orchard separating it from the first houses of the town. I had five regiments deployed in the first line, five in column in the second, connecting on my left with the Second Division, and on my right with the First. My skirmishers were from 300 to 500 yards in front, and a detachment in a group of houses near the cemetery.
        The enemy made no attack in the forenoon of July 2. We observed his artillery moving on the ridges west, north, and east of Gettysburg, and taking position.
        About 4 p.m. the enemy opened upon us from his batteries, the artillery on Cemetery Hill replying with great spirit. The fire continued for about two hours. Although the cannonade was fearful and many projectiles fell into our battalions, not a man belonging to the Third Division, unless wounded, left the ranks. After the cessation of the cannonade, the enemy made a heavy attack upon the left wing of the army, which resulted in a complete repulse.
        Between 6 and 7 p.m. the enemy made a demonstration upon our right wing. As soon as the firing commenced, you ordered me to send one of my brigades to the support of General Ames, commanding the First Division. I took the First Brigade, Colonel von Amsberg <ar43_731> commanding, out of its position, filling its place behind the stone wall with the reserve regiments of the Second Brigade. One of the five regiments of the First Brigade (Seventy-fourth Pennsylvania) was left with General Ames to strengthen his right wing. The remaining four were directed toward a strip of woods on the right of the First Division, in which the firing had become very heavy, and where, according to the reports of some staff officers of the First Corps, immediate aid was needed. Two regiments (the One hundred and fifty-seventh New York and the Sixty-first Ohio) were guided by one of these officers, while two others (the Eighty-second Illinois and Forty-fifth New York) were led by the chief of my staff, Lieutenant-Colonel Otto, of the Fifty-eighth New York. It had meanwhile become quite dark, the direction of the fight being indicated by nothing but the sound of the musketry. The regiments entered the woods with the greatest determination, and drove the enemy from our rifle-pits, of which at several points he had already gained possession.
        It is my pleasant duty to mention as especially deserving, the names of Lieutenant-Colonel Otto, who superintended this operation with great judgment and courage, and of Lieutenant-Colonel Salomon, of the Eighty-second Illinois, who displayed the highest order of coolness and determination, under very trying circumstances.
        At 9 o'clock the enemy was repulsed at that point, and no further demonstration made. While this was going on, between 8 and 9 p.m., we suddenly heard a rapid musketry fire on the eminence immediately east of the cemetery, where Captain Wiedrich's battery stood. You ordered me to take two regiments across the road to the aid of that battery. This order was executed by two regiments of the Second Brigade, the One hundred and nineteenth and Fifty-eighth New York, headed by Colonel Krzyzanowski, commanding Second Brigade. I at once hastened with my whole staff toward the threatened point, driving back stragglers with our swords as we went. To my great surprise, we found a general melee in the battery itself, the enemy's infantry having already gotten possession of some of the guns. The cannoneers were defending themselves valiantly. Our infantry made a vigorous rush upon the intruders, and, after a short but very spirited hand-to-hand fight, succeeded in driving them down the hill.
        I cannot refrain from speaking of the conduct of the officers and men on that occasion with the greatest satisfaction.
        The regiments, thus scattered among other commands, were withdrawn during the night, and returned to their former positions.
        In the action of July 3, no part of my command but my skirmishers was engaged. During the memorable cannonade of the afternoon, my men behaved with the same firmness which they had exhibited on the preceding day.
        At daybreak on July 4, the Fifty-eighth New York, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Otto, entered the town of Gettysburg, the enemy having retreated, and took over 280 prisoners, among whom were several commissioned officers.
        At 8 a.m. Colonel Krzyzanowski, with the One hundred and nineteenth New York and the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin, made a reconnaissance toward the ridge opposite our right; and took 47 additional prisoners. He was called back without having found the enemy. On the 5th, we marched to Emmitsburg.
        A report exhibiting the heavy losses my division suffered in the <ar43_732> three days' battle has already been submitted to you. (*) It bears ample testimony that my men in that battle fought with bravery, and never yielded without necessity.
        I am, general, most respectfully, yours,

                                                            C. SCHURZ,
                                                                    Major-General, Commanding Third Division.

                                                            Major-General HOWARD,
                                                                    Commanding Eleventh Corps.


O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
No. 260. -- Report of Maj. Benjamin A. Willis,
One hundred and nineteenth New York Infantry.

...

Late in the evening (about 9 p.m.) the enemy made a most desperate charge upon a battery supported by the First Division of our corps. They rushed forward with incredible fierceness, driving back the First Division in disorder, and actually reached the guns (one of which our men had already spiked) and demanded a surrender, but the commander of the battery and his brave cannoneers did not yield. Then you, seeing the critical position of affairs, and well knowing how soon the enemy would possess himself of the battery and the commanding heights if not forced back, called upon our regiment and the Fifty-eighth New York Volunteers, also of your brigade, to fall in and advance against them. It is needless for me to say, general, for you led us in person, with what alacrity the regiment responded, and with what determination it moved forward, and with what courage it met the foe, and, in conjunction with the gallant Fifty-eighth, drove him back, saved the position, and thus secured the whole army from irreparable disaster. Here ends the second day's struggle.

...

                                                            BENJAMIN A. WILLIS,
                                                                    Maj., Comdg. 119th Regt., New York Vols.

                                                            Col. W. KRZYZANOWSKI,
                                                                    Comdg. Second Brigade, Third Division, Eleventh Corps.