July 1, 1863
General Reynolds was too exposed.
But that is where Eleventh Corps Commander,
General Howard’s aide found him.
As much a target as any private,
Reynolds was unaffected.
Quickly gave the aide the message:
Get the Eleventh Corps to the assistance of the First
as rapidly as possible.
As the 56th Pennsylvania and 76th New York scrambled
across the railroad cut and
hurried into formation.
General Cutler, with them, surveyed the ground
to their front.
“Is that the enemy?”
Still running into position, the 56th could clearly
see Davis’ advancing troops
(Because of a swell in the ground,
the 76th could not)
Not long after Cutler inquired as to the
Colonel John Hoffman of the 56th ordered
his still running men to fire a volley
towards the 55th North Carolina of Davis Brigade
which was advancing on their right front.
Cutler called to Hoffman
not to fire until the enemy was
His order was cut short by a return volley
by the North Carolinians,
killing and wounding many
in the 56th Pennsylvania
as well as killing Cutler’s horse.
The 56th fired again.
Perhaps with bellies full of cherries,
the 76th New York was still forming up.
Their commander, Major Grover,
ordered them not to fire until the enemy
was in view.
They were receiving fire on their left flank
from the 2nd Mississippi,
many boys did not make it into position.
It would not take long for the 55th North Carolina
to appear in their front.
When they did,
the 76th released a volley.
As the 55th advanced closer,
their commander, Colonel Connally took hold of
the colors, and raced out in front of his men.
While the 56th Pennsylvania was introduced
to the 2nd Mississippi,
the 147th New York, after receiving their orders,
quick-stepped across the Chambersburg Pike,
though the field to the railroad cut and filed
into it and up the other side.
Still out of view of the Rebels, they ran
across the adjoining wheatfield
and up the western slope
of McPherson’s Ridge,
advancing 300 yards to the left front
of the 56th Pennsylvania and 76th New York.
A rail fence running east and west, parallel with
the rail road cut, split the regiment
The rail road cut separated the 147th from Hall’s Battery.
The 42nd Mississippi, now to the front
of the quickly coming Yankees,
could see them forming up,
coming to the ready.
Before the New Yorkers could get
a shot off,
the 42nd fired into them.
The ranks of the 147th thinned
as men, guns still cold,
fell dead and wounded all up and down the line.
“Fire through the wheat!”
The regiment dropped where they stood.
Rising only to fire,
then dropping again into the tall wheat
But many would drop, never to rise again.
As the three Union regiments
and the three Confederate regiments
Hall’s Battery was also pounding away,
but was little match for Pegram’s guns.
Meredith’s Brigade advanced to Gamble’s position en echelon.
At the 45 degree angle.
The 2nd Wisconsin still leading.
Some units paused to reload.
Reynolds, still exposed, received word
of a strong Rebel force
moving ahead of the main Confederate line.
He rode into Herbst Woods with two staff officers
As he exited through the opposite side
of the clump of trees,
he could see that the advancing
Rebels would threaten the left flank of
Cutler’s brigade, to the right,
unless Meredith came quickly.
Turning his mount around,
he rode back through woods
to the advancing 2nd Wisconsin, leading them
up McPherson’s Ridge.
In a line of battle, the 2nd Wisconsin entered the trees
to the calling of Reynolds
“Forward men! Forward for God’s sake,
and drive those fellows out of the woods!”
A few more paces and they nearly stumbled into the
1st Tennessee of Archer’s Brigade
50 yards to their front.
It was then that nearly 300 veteran Tennessee boys
learned their fate.
In their front was no militia,
no dismounted cavalry.
This was the damned black hat boys!
The First Corps!
but they let go a volley
killing many in black felt hats.
The 2nd Wisconsin did not break and run.
Many other regiments may have.
Not these boys.
They wavered on their left flank,
shifted slightly to the right.
Reynolds rode over, then up and down their line.
The commander of three corps,
now leading a single regiment.
But one man,
even the god-like Reynolds
could not hold this line.
Support was needed.
Where is the 7th Wisconsin?
Further on the Confederate left,
to the right of the 2nd Wisconsin and the
the 13th Alabama of Archer’s Brigade
chose their target:
Calef’s remaining section.
Two guns still posted south of Herbst Woods
with only a spattering of dismounted
The Alabamians charged for the guns
Here was their glory
So early today.
The battery section commander, Pergel,
fired a shot or two more at the 1st Tennessee,
then seeing that he and his boys would soon
and surely be overrun by the 13th Alabama,
limbered up and quickly pulled out.
The 13th Alabama’s glory rolled off and
over Seminary Ridge.
Upon realizing that support was sorely needed
for the 2nd Wisconsin,
Reynolds rode off in search of
the 7th Wisconsin.
The thick woods prevented him from
seeing much more than trees.
He had to leave this cover and move out
into the open.
Coming upon a slight rise,
he could see the rest of
Meredith’s Brigade coming in support.
The 13th Alabama of Archer’s Brigade,
with the 2nd Wisconsin to their front left,
were suddenly faced with the 7th Wisconsin
coming through the woods directly
in their front.
Company F of the 13th was ordered to fire
at the man on the horse.
30 yards. Behind the advancing regiment.
The company fired.
The man fell.
He slumped in his saddle.
Falling, his foot caught in the stirrup,
as his horse still trotted a few more steps,
he was dragged the last several yards.
Reynolds was dead.
A single orderly was by his side,
thinking he may still be alive.
He pulled him to a safer location.
There was no blood.
He’s only stunned.
A spent shot must have
knocked him unconscious.
He’s not dead.
He dragged him over the crest of the rise
out of the range of fire.
A few members of Reynold’s staff
had gathered around the still body.
He isn’t dead.
Captain Mitchell spoke to him,
“General, are you in pain?”
A smile. Slight.
But he smiled. He did!
And a gasp. He needs air!
My God, he is alive!
Captain Baird, after loosening the General’s clothes,
looking for a wound
discovered blood from behind Reynold’s right ear.
This was serious.
He grabbed a canteen to give the General some water.
But his eyes glazed lifeless.
His body limp.
There would be not another breath
to pass these lips
It was finished.
Death had done its work upon their hero.
He was dead.
The 19th Indiana and the 24th Michigan
now joined the battle to the left of the
two Wisconsin regiments.
En route, they passed this massing of staff officers
gathering around they could not tell what.
No time to stop.
A few men from the 14th Brooklyn took the honor
of litter bearers for the
taking his body behind enemy lines
to Seminary Ridge.
North of Chambersburg Pike, McPherson’s Ridge
The 76th New York, carrying the right flank of
the entire division
even through thick building smoke
that the 55th North Carolina
directly to their front,
greatly extended past
their own dangling right flank.
Colonel John Connally, the 55th’s commander, could
clearly see this as well and ordered all to fix bayonets.
Also for his left companies to wheel right
to fire on the flank of the 76th.
Was it perpetual motion?
Unable to halt, the wheel turned into a dash,
rebel yell screaming,
Connally rushed to
the front of the left companies.
Charging, bayonets thrust forward
seemed to come up from nowhere.
At their head, vigorously waving the flag,
calling his boys forward.
Another volley from the 76th and Connally fell,
His now second in command at his side,
Connally could not go on.
Gave the colors to him,
saying with the prideful spirit of competition,
“Don’t let the Mississippians
get ahead of you.”
To the front,
and now to the right,
Bold and arrogant. Like a cold slap,
the 2nd Mississippi charged the
56th Pennsylvania, just to the 76th’s left.
They came fast and powerful.
Came fighting and seized the 56th’s colors,
capturing their pride as well.
All in the same breath,
like a hard cresting wave,
the charge waned, returning down the slope.
The Pennsylvanians held for now.
McPherson’s Ridge, South of Chambersburg Pike
One of the last orders Reynolds gave
before he fell
was for the 14th and 95th New York
to be placed just south of the Chambersburg Pike,
directly across form Hall’s Battery.
With the McPherson Farm to their backs.
The 14th New York to the left,
The 95th New York to the right.
Since brushing away a few Rebel skirmishers
in their front,
they have been unengaged.
While, on either side, great battles raged.
Just south of these two waiting regiments,
the 2nd Wisconsin was engaged with the 1st Tennessee.
and now the 13th Alabama had wheeled left
to pour enfilade fire on the Wisconsin Boys,
balls flying from two sides,
entering bodies from two angles.
As the 13th Alabama’s flank was exposed to the front,
the 7th Wisconsin entered Herbst’s Woods
to the aide of their Wisconsin brothers.
Coming in nearly square on top of the 13th.
The cover of trees was thick.
Mixed with humid clinging smoke
and typical chaos of battle,
discerning who was who was no easy task.
Confusion set in along with dreadful fear
of firing upon their own men.
The 7th Wisconsin hesitated in firing
(though so few rifles had been loaded
since no one issued the orders to do so)
An officer of Reynold’s staff rode up
to Lt. Colonel John Collis,
the second in command.
or let’s sort this all out?
Collis fired back, “Halt?
It is now too late to halt!”
Had they been spotted?
The staff officer then rode down the line
to the 7th’s Colonel,
ordering them forward.
A now moot point.
To the left of the 7th Wisconsin,
and 200 yards behind them,
the 19th Indiana,
guns fully loaded
(praise be to last night’s picket duty).
A newly made regimental flag was cased up,
and ordered not to be flown in whatever action
But spunk overtook the color bearer,
with the help of another,
he encased the colors,
running to the front of the regiment
in defiance of all.
The first Rebel volley pierced the flag,
adding glory now to courage.
The 19th emptied their muskets
in immediate return.
To the 19th Indiana’s left and 200 yards behind,
the 24th Michigan advanced up the
eastern slope of McPherson’s Ridge.
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