The Second Delaware Regiment during the Gerrysburg Campaign
On Aug. 15, 1863, Col. William P. Baily, commander of the Second Delaware, submitted a report of the regiment’s activities from June 29 to July 26. That included the approach to, the battle of, and the retreat from the town of Gettysburg in southcentral Pennsylvania (see “War of the Rebellion Official Records,” Volume 27, Part 1, pages 402-405).
• “June 29 — broke camp located near Frederick, Md., and marched across the Monocacy River Bridge, passed through Mount Pleasant, Liberty, Union Bridge, Johnsville and Middletown, and reached a short distance beyond Uniontown, Md. — a total of 35 miles.”
• “July 1 — passed through Taneytown after crossing the line into Pennsylvania; halting within five miles of Gettysburg and threw up breastworks of rails and dirt until about midnight. We had marched 14 miles this day.”
• “July 2 — Brigade commander Col. John Brooke ordered a move toward Gettysburg, and the Second Delaware was placed in a line of battle. At 4:30 p.m., the regiment moved half a mile to the left, and faced the enemy” (Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia).
“Col. Brooke ordered the line forward, and moved briskly [across the Rose farm “Wheatfield”] in face of a heavy fire from an enemy occupying an advantageous position upon the brow of a hill. The Second Delaware opened fire, and advanced rapidly [with fixed bayonets] up the ascent, driving him from his position, capturing a number of prisoners, among whom were two commissioned officers.
“The enemy attempted to rally and regain the ground he had lost, but was held in check. He then made a strong demonstration on our right flank, and the regiment was in danger of being outflanked when orders were received to fall back.
“In this engagement our loss was severe. Regretfully, Lt. H.W. Ottey of Company B and Lt. George G. Plank of Company E were killed in the discharge of their duty on July 2.”
• “July 3 — At 4 a.m., we received orders to fall in and form a line of battle behind the crest of a hill [Cemetery Ridge]. The enemy immediately opened his artillery batteries with great vigor upon this position at a range of about 1,500 yards.
“The colonel commanding then ordered the line about 60 yards to the front, where we threw up breastworks. At 9 a.m., Capt. John Evans of Company A was detailed with 30 men to picket in our front.
“During the day, we captured and sent in 64 prisoners, chiefly from North Carolina and Georgia regiments. The enemy kept up a constant and rapid fire of shot and shell upon our position from 5 a.m. until 4 p.m.
“In the action on July 3 [during Pickett’s Charge], we suffered more casualties. [A total of 87 out of a 230-man force for the two days].”
• “July 4 — Buried our dead, and brought in our wounded from the field. On July 5, it was discerned that the enemy had retreated from his position the previous night; therefore, at 3 p.m., we took up a line of march and halted at the village of Two Taverns.”
• “July 7 — Resumed our march to Taneytown, and continued on July 8 in a heavy storm to the banks of the Monocacy River. On July 9, we passed through Frederick, Jefferson, Burkittsville, and Crampton’s Gap in South Mountain [in Maryland].”
• “July 10 — Passed through Keedysville, and on July 11 reached Jones’ Cross-Roads where we met the enemy’s pickets. On July 12, we were ordered to throw up breastworks while it was raining heavily.”
• “July 13 — Expected an attack from the enemy at any moment. On July 14, we moved forward and deployed as skirmishers, but discovered the enemy had crossed the Potomac River during the night.”
From July 15 through July 26, the Second Delaware and the rest of the Army of the Potomac marched southward into Virginia. President Abraham Lincoln’s desire that another battle would be fought in Maryland that would have ended the war was foiled once Lee’s army was able to escape across the river.
Although Maj. Gen. George G. Meade’s Union Army of the Potomac was the victor at Gettysburg, the war continued, with great loss of life over the next two years. For more on the Second Delaware, see John E. Pickett, “The Crazy Delawares: A Short History of the Second Regiment Delaware Volunteers.”
Tom Ryan is the author of the award-winning “Spies, Scouts & Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign” and “Essays on Delaware during the Civil War,” of which signed copies are available at Bethany Beach Books, at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, and at Allison’s Card Smart in Milford. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.tomryan-civilwar.com.
By Tom Ryan
Special to the Coastal Point