War of the Rebellion: Serial 043 Page 0445 Chapter XXXIX. THE GETTYSBURG CAMPAIGN.

Search Civil War Official Records

Numbers 111. Report of Captain Henry L. Abbott, Twentieth Massachusetts Infantry.


July 16, 1863.

SIR: I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by the Twentieth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers in the battle of Gettysburg, o July 2 and 3: In the first day's action {July 2

, the regiment was in the second line all day, lying down, and, though not firing a shot, met with some losses from the shot and shell which came through the first line when the enemy advanced at the close of the day to the position held by the Second Division of the Second Corps. Colonel Paul J. Revere was mortally wounded, and some 10 or 11 men were killed and wounded. Two companies had been previously sent out as skirmishers, some distance in front of our lines, under Captain Patten. I wish to mention this officer particularly for the most distinguished gallantry with which he held his position after losing a third of his command {10 men

, remaining on the field after he himself had been severely wounded, only retiring his command when our own advance had been driven back completely routed and the rebel line was close upon him. Second Lieutenant Cowgill was also wounded on this picket. After the repulse of the enemy on this night {the 2d

, the regiment was moved up into the front line, where, during the night, with a single shovel, they threw up a slight rifle-pit, a foot deep and a foot high. On the next day the regiment retained the same position. About 2 p. m. the enemy opened a terrific cannonade, lasting perhaps two hours. The regiment lost only 4 or 5 men by this fire, being sheltered more by the slight depression in the ground where the pit was dug than by the earth thrown up, which was too thin to stop anything more than a spent ball. After the cessation of the enemy's artillery fire. their infantry advanced in large force. The men were kept lying on their bellies, without firing a shot, until orders to fire came from Colonel Hall, commanding the brigade, the enemy having got within 3 or 4 rods of us, when the regiment rose up and delivered two or three volleys, which broke the rebel regiment opposite us entirely to pieces, leaving only scattered groups. When the enemy's advance was first checked by our fire, they tried to return it, but with little effect, hitting only 4 or 5 men. We were feeling all the enthusiasm of victory, the men shouting out, "Fredericksburg, " imagining the victory as complete everywhere else as it was in front of the Third Brigade, when Colonel Macy drew my attention to a spot some rods to the right of us, near a clump of trees, where the enemy seemed to have broken in. The regiment immediately got orders to face to the right and to file to the right, with the intention of forming a line at right angles with the original one; in other words, changing front to the right. The noise was such, however, that it was impossible to make any order heard. An order having been given, though it could not be heard, was naturally interpreted to be an order to retire and form a new line not outflanked by the enemy. The regiment accordingly retired some 2 rods, but in the most perfect order. Perceiving, however, that an