From the

Bucktail Rifles



Bivouac 1 Bucktail Rifles, P. R. C.

Near Marsh Run, Va.

July 6th, 1863


Our Regiment has stacked arms for a few hours rest, and while here I shall endeavor to give you and account of our participation in the battle of Gettysburg.  Early as the 18th of June, the Army of the Potomac was passing our camp at Fairfax Station, and it soon became evident that our Division would soon again be connected with Hooker’s Army.  Accordingly, on the 25th ult., we were not in the least surprised to receive orders to pack knapsacks and prepare to leave at short notice.  Taking up our line of march, about 3 ½ PM, toward the upper Potomac, arriving at a point near Vienna, about two o’clock the same night, where we were joined by the 3rd brigade, under command of the gallant Col. Fisher of the 5th Regt., P. R. V. C.  I will not attempt to describe the remainder of our march to Edwards’ Ferry, where we crossed the Potomac for the fifth time, thence through Maryland, striking the Pennsylvania line near Hanover.  Suffice to say that after tramping ten days and three nights, marching upwards of 160 miles, we arrived near Gettysburg, where our progress was brought to a halt by the close proximity of the rebel invaders.  The gallant John F. Reynolds had lost his life and been repulsed the day before, with the 1st and 11th Corps, who were waiting for reinforcements when the remainder of the army came.  Shortly after our arrival the different Divisions moved upon the enemy, ours, the 5th Corps taking position on the left of the centre.  The rebels had a beautiful position, selected with unusual care, and at the first glance it really seemed more than doubtful whether they could be driven from it.  There were stonewalls and rocks in profusion, behind which were posted the Butternuts, as thick as flies in Spring time; but then we all knew what would be the consequence if defeated, and each man made up his mind to do or die.


Syke’s Division of Regulars, the pride of the army, were first hurled against the Rebel hordes, but sorry to say they proved unequal to the task, and were driven back with a heavy loss, the rebels closely at their heals.  Then our Division, the Penna. Reserves, who have often proven by deeds on may a bloody field, their valor, where brought up, just as the enemy had gained the top of the hill on which were stationed our batteries.  Already the artillerymen had left their pieces, and things did indeed look dubious, but with a cheer and a “REMEMBER REYNOLDS!” (who was our first Brigadier, and was worshipped by the men), with bayonets fixed, went in.  Now the rebel line wavers, as if astonished at the boldness of the men, which is quickly noticed by the officers who urge the boys on by personal deeds of daring, then they break and fly, while volley after volley is poured into them by the men, who are fighting for their homes and all that is dear to them; the grape and canister flies thick as hail among them.  On, on, still on they go, until every inch of ground lost by Regulars is re-gained, when night put an end to hostilities.  It was here we lost our star, Col. Charles Frederick Taylor, who had only worn the eagles a few weeks, and had God only spared him to us longer he would soon have been tendered a Brigadier General’s Commission.  His loss is deeply felt by all the members of his regiment, and his connection with the Bucktail Rifles will long be remembered, while many a soldier’s tear will be dropped to his memory by the lads who composed his command.  Lt. Colonel Niles too received a wound in the leg, so the command devolved to Maj. Hartshorn, a young but gallant officer, who is always to be found where bullets fly thickest.  We held our position on the 3rd until about three o’clock when Gen. Crawford ordered an advance.  Two companies, of our Regt., F and I, were deployed as skirmishers, under command of Capt. Wolff of our Company, and carefully advanced in the woods and among the rocks, behind which were posted the rebel sharpshooters.  The 1st, 2nd, 6th and 11th regiments followed with fixed bayonets and soon the engagement again became general, shell and canister again flying in profusion.  It soon became evident that this was too slow a mode of conquering, and the skirmish line went in on almost a charge, the consequence of which was the capturing of three time our number in prisoners.  The Rebs again left leaving us masters of the field.  During the whole night the Greybacks could be heard erecting fortifications in our front, and we all anticipated hot work on the morrow, the glorious 4th, but judge of our surprise upon making an advance next day to find the bird had flown, proving conclusively that while he can fight on nigger soil, he can’t hold a candle to the Union army in Penn’a.  The loss is general and line officers was severe – eleven killed and wounded, among the latter your friend Capt. McDonald of Company G.  Our Company was unusually lucky, only loosing three wooded, viz: Privates Everell Chadwick, breast; Sam’l Hollenbach, face; Wm. F. Rehr, leg. 


I might relate to you many incidents which would prove interesting to your readers but for want of time and space I will leave a majority for my next letter.  Of course men can’t do without eating under any circumstances, but it was rough when we were compelled to live on State prison fare – hard tack and water, with a very small piece of raw pork by way of variety.  After charging up the hill among the rebel sharpshooters we came upon a big bag of boiled beef and rebel pan cakes, and as they were ours by right of lawful conquest, we invited what rebels were there to seat themselves and there we enjoyed an excellent meal while the cannon from the hills kept up an continuous roar!


I met Lt. Tubbs of Co. H. 11th Regt. who tells me he has only 7 men left out of 28.  In the 81st I did not learn the casualties entire, but heard that Capt. Pryor was again wounded. 


We are after the Rebs as fast as possible and by the time this reaches you we will doubtless have had another fight.  Now is the time to go in, and if the militia only pushes ‘em hard there is a prospect of this “cruel war” being over before long.  We are now on the borders of Maryland, and the next fight will, I think, be in the vicinity of Hagerstown, Md.


There is no estimating the loss on either side, the rebels losing, in my opinion, two to our one, while there is any number of prisoners.  Our Regiment captured a beautiful stand of colors with the whole color guard, while the 6th Reserve captured one brass Napoleon 24 pdr. gun.


I was surprised at our treatment through a portion of the State; while we appeared to be a curiosity to the dutchmen who flocked to the road to gaze upon our columns in wonder, they never forgot to charge the boys three prices for anything in the eating line!  Of course there were exceptions, and these consisted of pure patriotic people who would not take a cent of pay but gave freely of all they had.  Is this right?  Shame on those who had the brass to ask such an exorbitant price as fifty cents for a loaf of bread to the poor soldier.


We have no mail since leaving Fairfax, hence don’t known anything of the outer world.  Our mail is said to be captured, which I hope will not prove true, as I am no doubt interested therein.


But with my best wishes to all

                        I am yours






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Jack Sterling

October, 2003