Reports of Brig. Gen. Romeyn B. Ayres, U. S. Army, commanding Second Division.
HDQRS. SECOND DIVISION, FIFTH ARMY CORPS.
July 28, 1863.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit a report of the operations of this division in the battle of Gettysburg, Pa.
The division was marched forward on the night of July 1 and 2 on the Gettysburg and Hanover road, and was formed in line of battle in rear of and facing that road, the First Division on the right. Later in the day it was marched to the left and center, and massed there. In the afternoon, the enemy's attack on the left of our position being developed, the division, preceded by the First Division, was marched to the support of our troops engaged, the Third Brigade being placed in position on the general line of battle upon a rocky hill (usually called Round Top hill) of great importance, facing the Emmitsburg and Gettysburg pike. This brigade was ordered to hold this hill, which duty it performed well and effectually.
The First and Second Brigades were placed on the general line, to the right of the Third, and, shortly after, these two brigades were ordered to advance and carry a point some 250 yards in advance, whence the enemy were annoying our line, that point offering facilities for his sharpshooters, &c., being wooded and rocky. This order was immediately put into execution, the brigades crossing the intermediate swampy ground rapidly, and forming on the left of a division of the Second Corps, the First Brigade in rear of and supporting the Second Brigade. Immediately the troops became actively engaged with the enemy in the woods, the line being now nearly at right angles to the line of the Third Brigade, the general line of battle.
After some time, perceiving the troops on my right moving to the rear of my regiments, I sought information for its cause. General Caldwell, commanding next me, informed me repeatedly that his troops were being relieved by fresh ones, they being out of ammunition, &c. I then determined to move forward and sweep through and occupy the woods in my front, and gave the preparatory orders therefor, when I found that all the troops on my right had gone, and a large force of the enemy was coming down on my rear from the right. I immediately ordered the two brigades to fact about and move to the right and rear, and form on the general line of battle on the right of the Third Brigade. This order was at once executed. Some little delay occurred, owing to other troops ordered up to our support as we arrived on the line. Subsequently these two brigades were massed in the woods, in rear of the Third.
When I withdrew the two brigades, the fight was virtually over, the enemy having failed to break the general line of battle. The division remained in this last position, till we took up the line of march in pursuit of the enemy on the 5th instant, save that the First Brigade made a reconnaissance on the 4th.
The troops behaved with great gallantry on this occasion, and although, as the accompanying report of casualties shows, the losses were terrible, no one thought of retiring till the order was given.
The brigade commanders Col. H. Day, First Brigade, Col. S. Burbank, Second Brigade, and, after the fall of General Weed and Colonel O'Rorke, Colonel Garrard, Third Brigade performed their duties with coolness and gallantry.
My staff performed their duties with intelligence and gallantry, and have my sincere thanks. I name them in the order of rank, viz: Capt. H. L. Chipman, Eleventh U.S. infantry, acting assistant inspector-general; Capt. George Ryan, Seventh U.S. Infantry, acting assistant adjutant-general and chief of staff; First Lieut. William H. Powell, Fourth U.S. Infantry, acting aide-de-camp; First Lieut. J. A. Sayles, Fifth Vermont Infantry, aide-de-camp; Second Lieut. Louis McL. Hamilton, Third U.S. Infantry, aide-de-camp. Capt. A.L. Thomas, assistant quartermaster; Capt. E. Knowledge, commissary of subsistance, volunteers; Asst. Surg. C. Wagner, U.S. Army, surgeon-in-chief; Lieut. W. W. Swan, Seventeenth U.S. Infantry, ordinance officer, and Second Lieut. George L. Choisy, Fourteenth U.S. Infantry, ambulance officer, also performed the duties of their several offices with great zeal and efficiency.
In the death of Brig. Gen. Stephen H. Weed, volunteers, and captain Fifth U.S. Artillery, the service lost a distinguished and gallant soldier. Col. P.H. O'Rorke, One hundred and fortieth New York Volunteers and first lieutenant U.S. Engineers, was a brave and valuable officer.
I inclose reports of brigade commanders. The list of casualties is now in your hands.Very respectfully, your obedient servant.
R. B. AYRES, Brigadier-General, Commanding.
[to] Col. FRED. T. LOCKE, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Fifth Corps.