Numbers 153. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Merrill, Seventeenth Maine Infantry.
BATTLE-FIELD OF GETTYSBURG, PA., July 5, 1863.
SIR: In compliance with orders from brigade headquarters, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part sustained by the Seventeenth Regiment Maine Volunteers under my command in the battle of Gettysburg: On the morning of July 2, we broke camp at Emmitsburg at 4. 30 o'clock, and marched toward Gettysburg, arriving upon the battlefield about 10 o'clock. Already the pickets of both armies were busily engaged, and with our brigade we were at once draw up in line of battle, facing the pike leading to Gettysburg, where we rested under arms for an hour. Soon after this the line was changed, and we were moved forward and placed in a new position, supporting a line of skirmishers thrown toward the front by this brigade. About 4 p. m., the brigade of General Ward having become actively engaged with the enemy on our left, I was ordered by Colonel De Trobriand to march my regiment to connect with and support the line of General Ward, on his right. The regiment at once moved by the left flank, and, crossing an interval between the two brigades, our line was formed behind a stone wall, which afforded a strong position. We opened fire upon the enemy, then within 100 yards of us. The contest became very severe, the enemy at times being driven back by our line, and then by superior numbers compelling us in turn to give way. The ground was hotly contested, but we held our position till, finding the right of my regiment outflanked and exposed to murderous fire from the enemy's re-enforcements, I was obliged to form a new line, changing the right wing of the regiment into position at a right angle with the left. This movement was executed in go order, under a heavy fire from the advancing foe. In this position we continued the fight, checking the enemy till, receiving orders to retire, we fell back across a wheat-field in our rear to the edge of the woods. At this point, Major-General Birney rode upon the field and directed our line to advance. With cheers for our gallant commander, the regiment moved quickly forward, and pouring into the enemy volley upon volley, their advance was checked. The contest was now of a most deadly character, almost hand to hand, and our loss was very severe. In the color guard of 10, but 3 escaped uninjured. Our Ammunition being exhausted and fresh troops having arrived to take our places, we were ordered to withdraw from the field, which we did in good order. A new line was then formed but a short distance to the rear, where we bivouacked for the night. At early dawn (July 3) the regiment was drawn up in line of battle in the same position held by us on the previous forenoon. At 1 p. m., the enemy opening upon the whole line of our army a heavy artillery fire, and advancing to break through the position held by the right, we were ordered to proceed to re-enforce General Doubleday. Proceeding at the double-quick, we were soon placed in line, supporting the Ninth Michigan Battery. Throughout the terrible attack of the enemy, we were exposed to a severe artillery fire, and suffered heavy loss of officers and men. After dark, the regiment was