Numbers 212. Report of Major Arthur T. Lee, Second U. S. Infantry.
GENERAL HOSPITAL, FIFTH ARMY CORPS, Near Gettysburg, Pa.,
July 4, 1863.
SIR: I have the honor to report for the information of the colonel commanding Second Brigade, Fifth Army Corps, the action of the Second Regiment U. S. Infantry in the battle of July 2. About 3. 30 a. m. the regiment marched from its place of bivouac, 5 miles from Gettysburg, advancing right in front by flank, and took position near Gettysburg, about 1 1/2 miles southeast of the town. Twenty men from the regiment were thrown forward as skirmishers into a body of woods, beyond which and to the right could be seen the enemys pickets. After a skirmish of nearly two hours, during which there was considerable firing and some casualties, the line was marched by a flank movement to the left and rear some 2 miles, where the command rested until about 5 p. m., at which time I was ordered to march my regiment by the right flank in the direction of heavy cannonading on the left of our line of battle. We were advanced some distance, when the Second Brigade was brought into line, my regiment on the right, to advance down a steep hill and across a marsh about 50 yards wide, ankle-deep and miry, which I did at double-quick, under a severe fire of sharpshooters from the left, right, and front. Passing the marsh, we reached a rocky and much-exposed elevation of ground, from which we drove, by our rapid advance, a body of sharpshooters through a belt of woods, which we entered. We were then ordered to halt, which we did, taking shelter behind a low stone wall. We could not then advance, as column after column of our infantry was moving across a rye-field in our front, the columns moving perpendicularly to our lines and engaging the enemy on our left. When these columns, one after one, had returned from the field, with the exception of one, which was retiring, my regiment was ordered to advance over the wall and wheel to the left through said field. After having made a half-wheel, we discovered the enemy moving rapidly to outflank us on our right, when the regiment was halted, and ordered to commence firing. The firing was carried on rapidly for some time, and sharply returned by the enemy. A fresh column of the enemy at this time appearing upon our right, we were ordered to retire. The word was scarcely given when three lines of the enemy, elevated one above the other on the slope to our right, poured in a most destructive fire, almost decimating my regiment and cutting off the color-staff, causing the colors to fall into the hands of the color-bearer. We retired slowly to the shelter of the woods, recrossed the stone wall, rocky rising ground, and marsh in as good order as the ground would admit, under a most withering fire from sharpshooters on the left and a column of the enemys infantry, which suddenly appeared upon our right and rear, enfilading our whole line, and a perfect storm of shot and shell. Reaching our line of battle on the crest of the hill, and finding myself unable longer to keep the field, from loss of blood, flowing from a wound which I received in the rye-field before we commenced retiring, by advice of a surgeon on the ground I retired, and the command of the regiment devolved upon Captain McKee. During my participation in this action with the regiment, the men