Franklin will do his best. At 3 p.m. things looked better, and at 3.40 p.m. Gibbon's and Meade's divisions are badly used up, and unimportant fighting is going on in front of Howe's and Brooks' divisions.
From General Meade's report it seems that he had great difficulty in getting his command into position to assault the hill. The time occupied for that purpose was from 9 a.m. till 1.15 p.m. In consequence of the smallness of his division, and the absence of immediate and available supports, he was forced to make frequent halts, for the purpose of protecting his flanks and silencing the enemy's artillery; but, once in position, his division moved forward with the utmost gallantry. He broke the enemy's line; captured many prisoners and colors; crossed the road that ran in the rear of the crest, and established himself at the desired point on the crest; and, had he been able to hold it, our forces would have had free passage to the rear of the enemy's line along the crest. The supports which the order contemplated were not with him, and he found himself across the enemy's line, with both flanks unprotected. He dispatched staff officers to Generals Gibbon and Birney, urging them to advance to his right and left, in support of his flanks; but before the arrival of these divisions he was forced to withdraw from his advanced position, with his lines broken. These two divisions met his division as it was retreating, and by their gallant fighting aided materially in its safe withdrawal. An unsuccessful effort was made to reform the division, after which it was marched to the rear and held in reserve.
General Meade and his troops deserve great credit for the skill and heroism displayed on this occasion. Their brave efforts deserved better success, which, doubtless, would have attended them had be been well supported.
No further attempt was made to carry this point on the crest. Stoneman's two divisions [Birney's and Sickles'] were conspicuous in their successful resistance of the enemy, when he endeavored to take advantage of the disorganization attending the retreat, from our extreme advance, of Meade's division.
I beg to refer to the report of General Stoneman for a correct understanding of the movements of these two divisions. General Doubleday's division performed good service in resisting the attack of the enemy on our extreme left. The accompanying report of General Reynolds will give more in detail the work of Generals Meade's, Doubleday's, and Gibbon's troops.
The Sixth Corps, the strongest and one of the most reliable in the army, commanded by General W. F. Smith, was not seriously engaged in any attack during the day, as is stated in his report. Neither was in division of General Burns, of the Ninth Corps, which was under the command of General Franklin at this time.
The report of General Franklin will give the movements of the left grand division more in detail, including the cavalry division of Brigadier-General Bayard.
It may be well to state that, at 10.30 a.m., I sent Captain P. M. Lydig,* of my staff, to General Franklin, to ascertain the condition of affairs in his front, as I was anxiously expecting to hear that the hill near Hamilton's had been carried. Captain Lydig's written statement is as follows:
I found General Franklin in a grove of trees, in the center of his command, and, on delivering the message, I was informed by him that Meade was very hotly engaged, and that his men were by that time pretty generally engaged. He also added, I think, that Birney had orders to support them. I them inquired if any of General Smith's
*See the statement in full of this officer, p.127.