Reports of Capt. Denis F. Burke, and Col. Patrick Kelly Eighty-eighth New York Infantry
From Captain Denis F. Burke (Note: Burke was very popular with his men. They even presented him with a horse. By the end of the war, the then Colonel Burke commanded the 88th. Denis Burke was a very dedicated Finney. After the war, he went to Ireland, got into a bit of trouble and was incarcerated. The U.S. Government got him out of jail in consideration of services rendered during the war.)
CAMP near Morrisville, Va.,
August 3, 1863
LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to forward the following report of the Eighty-eighth New York Volunteers during the action at Gettysburg, Pa., on July 2 and 3:
On the morning of the 2d, this regiment advanced in line, and took up position on the left of the town of Gettysburg, in conjunction with the other regiments of this brigade. We held this position until about 5p.m., when, the enemy having massed his forces on the left of our position, we were ordered to advance, and support the troops already in position there. We made our advance in brigade line of battle, being exposed during this time to a heavy fire of musketry and artillery. We steadily drove the enemy, charging repeatedly, and finally caused them to retreat in utter confusion, though we were opposed by a greatly superior force.
Both officers and men displayed the greatest gallantry and bravery, cheering and encouraging their comrades during the thickest of the fight. We drove the enemy for over half a mile through a thickly wooded and rocky country, and held our position until relieved by the Third Brigade.
The strength of the regiment entering the fight was 90 men, all told. Out of this number we lost 1 officer and 7 enlisted men killed, 1 officer and 16 men wounded, and 3 enlisted men missing, supposed killed.
I would beg to recommend to your notice for bravery and excellent conduct on the field the following named officers: Capt. Patrick Ryder, First Lieuts. Charles M. Granger and Thomas H. O’’Brien, and Second Lieut. Patrick J. McCabe; but the conduct of Adjt. William McClelland –– severely wounded, since dead –– deserves particular notice. At all times in the hottest part of the fight, he kept encouraging the men and inciting them to still greater deeds of valor –– a brave soldier and a good man, whom we can illy afford to spare.
Our division being outflanked on our right, we were ordered to fall back, which we did, and formed again to the left of the position we held in the morning and on the prolongation of our line.
We rested on our arms all night, and assisted, with the other regiments of the brigade, in throwing up breastworks, which we completed early on the morning of the 3d, and held until the close of the battle. The enemy shelled us at intervals during the morning, and at 10a.m. opened with a severity which good military judges have pronounced to be the severest artillery fire of the war. Under cover of his artillery, the enemy advanced and charged upon our lines, but was everywhere repulsed with terrific slaughter, and finally compelled to retire dismayed and routed. Numbers of the enemy threw down their arms, and rushing into our lines, surrendered as prisoners of war.
We were engaged in perfecting and repairing the breeches made in our breastworks on the evening of the 3d, and on the 4th in collecting arms and equipments left on the battle-field.
On the morning of the 5th, our pickets having discovered that the enemy was falling back, a reconnaissance was made and found that the enemy was in full retreat toward the Potomac.
We held our position until the evening of the 5th, details in the meantime being engaged in burying the dead and attending to the wants of the wounded left o the battle-field. We then moved in the direction of Frederick, Md., under orders from headquarters.
In conclusion, I am proud to say that the Eighty-eighth acted in this fight as it has always done on former occasions when it has met the enemy.
DENIS F. BURKE
From COL Patrick Kelly
(Note: Colonel Patrick Kelly led the brigade to Gettysburg where all of the three New York regiments mustered less than 100 men each. At Gettysburg all three of the New York regiments were brigaded together as one. Two companies with each regiment and they went in as one regiment along with the 28th Massachusetts. The whole brigade was less 700 men. They fought in the Wheatfield and at the Stony Hill in the northwest corner of the Wheatfield. They swept up the hill and ran into the 2nd and 7th South Carolina which they blasted away with a volley of buck and ball.)
Headquarters, Second Brigade, First Division,
Near Morrisville, Va., August 9, 1863.
MAJOR: I have the honor to forward the following report of the part taken by this brigade in the battle of Gettysburg, Pa., on July 2 and 3:
About 10 p.m. on the 1st, we arrived within 2 or 3 miles of Gettysburg; bivuoacked in an adjacent field; threw out on pickets, and at 4:30 o’clock next morning (2d), marched toward Gettysburg. Arriving on the heights near the village, and in view of the enemy’s pickets, we took a position in two lines on the right of the First Brigade, stacked arms, and allowed the men to rest.
About 3 p.m. the brigade, with the rest of the division, moved about half a mile to the left and forward. Were then ordered to take our original position, which we did.
About 5 p.m. received orders to march by the left flank, which we did, preceded by the First Brigade. Both brigades advanced in line of battle through a wheat-field into a wood, in which was a considerable quantity of very large rocks, behind which they poured into us a brisk fire while advancing. We, however, drove them a considerable distance, and sent a great many prisoners to the rear. After being, I should think, about three-quarters of an hour engaged, the troops on our left had retired, and the enemy pressing hard on that point, on going to the right of brigade I found the enemy forming line faced to our right along the edge of the wood. Finding myself in this very disagreeable position, I ordered the brigade to fall back, firing. We here encountered a most terrific fire, and narrowly escaped being captured. We, however, got out, reformed the brigade, and joined the division near the Second Division hospital. It was now after nightfall, and, soon after, we were moved to the front, and slept on our arms all night.
Early next morning (3d), we were ordered to throw up breastworks, behind which we remained all day, under probably, under probably the heaviest artillery fire ever heard, with a loss of only one man wounded.
The 4th and a portion of the 5th were spent in burying the dead, attending to the wounded, and collecting arms and equipments.
About 4:30p.m. on the 5th, marched off the battle-field to a place called Two Taverns.
Before closing this report, it gives me pleasure to say that both officers and men of this command have acted to my entire satisfaction during this engagement. Mentioning the names of a few would be doing injustice to the rest. The command took into action an aggregate of 530 men. The casualties are as follows:
Accompanying this, I forward the report of each regimental commander.
MAJ JOHN HANCOCK, Assistant Adjutant General.
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