Behind The Stonewall

General Bufords and General Reynolds Statues

On McPherson's Ridge - Gettysburg Pennsylvania



About what you are looking at...

(July 1, 1863 - morning) The viewer is standing on McPherson's Ridge, first line of defense of two brigades (Devin and Gamble) of the Cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, fighting dismounted, on July 1st.  Starting with the equestrian statue (Major General John Fulton Reynolds, Commander of the Left Wing, Army of the Potomac) as a reference point, the viewer will be looking east toward the town of Gettysburg.   The road coming toward the viewer is the Chambersburg Pike (modern US Rte. 30) as it crests Seminary Ridge near the position of Lee's Headquarters after the first day's battles.  The Lutheran Theological Seminary can be seen to the right (south) of the pike, and the Cupola from which Brigadier General John Buford (First Cavalry Division, Army of the Potomac) anxiously sought signs of the approach of the Army of Northern Virginia (from the west) and the Infantry of Ist Corps, Army of the Potomac (from the south) is the light colored object just above the tree-line.  As the pan scans toward the south, the McPherson barn, last surviving building of the McPherson farm stands along the pike, with Herbst's woods in the background (scene of Reynolds' death later in the morning, and the counter-attack by the Iron Brigade of Colonel Solomon Meredith.)    Panning more to the southwest, the viewer can see the rear of the statue of Brigadier General John Buford, portrayed as he was looking west toward the advancing Confederates coming off Herr's Ridge, and behind that, the building which is the "West End Guide Station" of the National Park Service.  Looking west along the Chambersburg Pike the viewer sees Herr's Ridge, and in the far distance, the ridge of South Mountain, over which the Army of Northern Virginia advanced.  Between McPherson Ridge, and Herr's Ridge, in the low area is Willoughby Run, a small, shallow stream a few feet in width.  Herr's Ridge was the location where Buford's advanced units first tangled with the infantry of Davis's Brigade of Mississippians (Heth's Division, Hill's Corps [Third], Army of Northern Virginia).  The cannons in this scan are the approximate position of Calef's Battery (three sections of two guns each), which opened fire at the first sign of Confederate troops on Herr's Ridge, and later took on the artillery of Maj. W. J.Pegram's Artillery Battalion of about 20 guns.  Buford formed his line on McPherson's Ridge between 8 and 9 AM, placing 2 regiments south of the Chambersburg Pike, one between the Chambersburg Pike and the Unfinished Railroad Cut (which generally runs nearly parallel to the Chambersburg Pike) and one north of the cut to complete Gamble's Brigade.  Devin's Brigade was formed on the right of Gamble, all four regiments filling a line running north to the Mummasburg Road.  They were engaged with the Confederates in full battle for about an hour from 9:30 to 10:30 AM when relieved by the 1st Division (Brigadier General James Wadsworth) of the Ist Corps, Army of the Potomac.  The bright white object in the far tree line to the north is the Peace Light Memorial on Oak Hill.  The Union line ran north almost to that point.  The Confederates of the 1st Division, (Brigadier General Harry Heth) Third Corps (Major General Ambrose P. Hill) Army of Northern Virginia advanced in line of battle from Herr's Ridge, down the slope to Willoughby Run, and then up the slope to Buford's waiting troopers on McPherson's Ridge.  Buford's men were armed with carbines, which were most likely the single shot, breech loading kind.   Still, their rate of fire initially had the Confederates convinced they were facing at least a division of infantry, not two brigades of cavalry.  Keep in mind, roughly 1,200 men were in each of those  Union brigades, and one quarter of them would be sent to the read to hold the horses of the others, leaving about 900 men to man the lines in each brigade.

Meredith's Division relieved Buford about 10:30, and fought for over an hour before retiring to it's new line in front of the trees along Seminary Ridge. As that happened, though, several regiments of Davis' (Brigadier General Joseph R. Davis, nephew to Confederate President Jefferson Davis) Mississippi Brigade attacked in line of battle, and the concerted effort forced the brigade  of Brigadier General Lysander Cutler (2nd Brigade, 1st Division, Army of the Potomac) to retreat back to a small ridge in front of the trees to the east.  That is Oak Ridge.   Hall's Maine Battery (six guns) replaced Calef's battery, and continued the artillery duel with Pegram's Battalion. As the Union line was retiring to its next line of defense, some of the Mississippi regiments tried to flank the Union lines by sneaking up the Unfinished Railroad Cut.  Taking shelter in its depths, they were trying to get behind the Union lines.  Unfortunately for the Confederates, they were noticed.  Re-forming south of the Chambersburg Pike, the 14th Brooklyn (84th New York Infantry - a Zouave Unit), and the 95th New York of Cutler's Brigade, and the 6th Wisconsin of Meredith's Iron Brigade swung north of the Chambersburg Pike and advanced on the railroad cut.  In it, the 2nd and 42nd Mississippi, and the 55th North Carolina were bunched up.  After a bloody assault, which included the scaling of fences on both sides of the pike, the 42nd Mississippi and the 55th North Carolina were routed, and the 2nd Mississippi was forced to surrender.  (While Dawes accepted the surrender
of the 2nd, the men from that regiment who escaped the action in the railroad cut were re-formed into the regiment, given new colors, and continued to fight at Gettysburg and beyond as the 2nd Mississippi.)

W. G. Davis


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