Special Edition: 150 Years Ago Today
Countless volumes have been written about the Civil War’s most pivotal and bloody battle, and without doubt, countless others will yet be written. My short posts will not rehearse that history, but it is my goal to acquaint readers with the important role a small band of men from Connecticut played in the fighting at Gettysburg.
At Uniontown, MD, the 166 men of the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry rose from their slumbers, fixed their breakfasts, and drank their coffee, completely unaware that twenty miles north, Buford’s Union cavalry was fighting desperately to delay the advance of A. P. Hill’s infantry on McPherson Ridge until Federal infantry could arrive to carry on the developing battle.
The Fourteenth marched to Taneytown, a distance of about six miles. There is no evidence to suggest any sense of urgency, for upon their arrival at Taneytown, the regiment fell out and rested for about two hours. News had not yet come from Gettysburg that a full scale battle was being fought, that their comrades in the First and Eleventh Corps were getting the worst of it, and that Maj. Gen. John Reynolds of the First Corps had been killed.
About midday, messengers dispatched from Gettysburg arrived at Taneytown on thoroughly winded horses and reported to Maj. Gen. Meade, whose headquarters was just east of the town. Meade immediately ordered Maj. Gen. Hancock to ride to Gettysburg and take temporary command of all Union forces until Meade was able to get there. The men of the Seconds Corps, including the Fourteenth Connecticut, still taking their noontime rest, were no doubt astonished when they saw their commanding general riding furiously northward out of Taneytown, urging them forward with all haste to meet the enemy at Gettysburg.
Immediately they were on their feet. They formed in ranks in the road and set off, their pace quickened by the dire news that spread quickly among them. It was a long, hot, urgent march that afternoon of Wednesday, July 1st. Imagine their growing concern as the thump of artillery became louder and more constant, and as survivors of the day’s fighting straggled southward telling their stories of woe and defeat.
About eight o’clock in the evening, the men were told to camp for the night beside the road. They were only about two or three miles south of Gettysburg, probably just north of where the Taneytown Road crosses US15 today. But much needed sleep was not to be had, for no sooner had they eaten their suppers and laid out their blanket rolls, than they were ordered to stand picket duty in the woods to the east toward the Baltimore Pike.