Writing update – TENNESSEE VALOR: The 7th Tennessee Infantry at the Battle of Gettysburg: Part 1

Posted on Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

The 7th Tennessee lost over 160 men during the Gettysburg campaign out of about 280.

Writing update – TENNESSEE VALOR: The 7th Tennessee Infantry at the Battle of Gettysburg: Part 1

I am nearly 12,000 words into the chapter in which the 7th Tennessee takes part in what becomes known as Pickett’s Charge.

My goal has been to show what happened to Colonel John Fite’s fellows with as much detail as possible, as well as create a picture which is more accurate than mindless, Confederate soldiers running straight into Yankee guns. The boys in the 7th Tennessee were human; they knew what was probably going to happen, and very few wanted to squander their lives away in a futile effort. But Colonel Fite’s veterans were not slackers either. They knew what could happen to them, but yet they did go forward and carry out the orders Robert E. Lee had demanded of them, and what has become known as Pickett’s Charge. The result – 19 dead, 57 wounded, and 49 captured.

I have broken the assault down into four pieces: (1) West of Emmitsburg Road, (2) The Emmitsburg Road area, (3) from Emmitsburg Road to the Stone Wall, and (4) the retreat back to Seminary Ridge. I’ve tried to use as many sources as I can find; letters, journals, memoirs, official reports, and the Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldier:7th Tennessee Infantry Regiment.

Several patterns appeared among the soldiers listed as “captured”, and this I used as a way of differentiating where someone was located across this battlefield. When I could cross-reference this model with primary sources, than that made the positioning even better. My results are as follows:

 

(1)    West of Emmitsburg Road:

Wounded and died of wounds  =    4

Wounded                                          =24

(2)    Emmitsburg Road Area:

Killed                                                  =  1

Wounded and died of wounds      =  4

Wounded and captured                 =12

Captured                                           =12

(3)    Emmitsburg Road to the Stone Wall:

Killed                                                  =  7

Wounded and died of wounds      =  2

Wounded and captured                 =19

Captured                                           =35

Wounded and escaped                   =   2

(4)    Retreat back to Seminary Ridge:

Killed                                                  =  1

The next piece of knowledge I endeavored to secure was to create a numerical strength at each of the four locations. The July 3, 1863 muster reveals about 245 able-bodied men prepared to make the assault. Fortunately no 7th Tennessee soldier was injured during the pre-attack artillery bombardment, so when the order was given to ‘Advance’ the 7th moved out with this number.

As I noted in the “Walking Pickett’s Charge,” article, the 7th Tennessee had approximately 1225 yards to cross to reach the Stone Wall. All available information indicates Colonel Fite’s regiment was quite fortunate crossing nearly all of the ground between Seminary Ridge and the Emmitsburg Road fences. Compared to what happened to Pickett’s men, the few artillery rounds which struck near the 7th Tennessee did only slight damage. Artillery may have accounted for as many as 6 to 10 casualties. Thus, for the first 900 yards less than two dozen Tennesseans were lost from the formation. The casualties may have been but a handful or so, but these injured required help in getting back to the surgeon’s tent, where Doctor James Fite awaited the day’s ugly harvest.

The last 100 yards to the Emmitsburg Road put the Tennesseans within easy rifle range and the Federals unleashed their musketry. At this point the Tennesseans rushed to the first of the two (the western-most) fence bordering Emmitsburg Road. The Northerners’ volleys were savage and even though their range was from 250 – 300 yards, they knocked down up to 20 Tennesseans in the time it took the Southerners to run 100 yards (what, maybe 20-30 seconds?).

The following is a list (though not complete by any means) of the 7th casualties west of Emmitsburg Road:

5th Sgt. John Cheek (Co. A) – wounded, carried off.

4th Sgt John Williams (Co. A) – Wounded in left knee and right leg by artillery. Carried off, right leg amputated. Died of wounds Sept. 7, 1863.

Pvt. Benjamin Thackston (Co. B) – Wounded in neck. Carried off and placed in Richmond hospital.

Pvt. Thomas Brashnahan (Co. C) – Wounded in face and leg. Carried off. Captured at Greencastle July 5, 1863.

Pvt. Alfred Brown (Co. C) – Wounded slightly in arm. Carried off.

1st Lt. James Martin (Co. D) – Wounded in right arm and right foot. Carried off.

1st Sgt. Hart Harris (Co. D) – Wounded and carried off.

Pvt. William Hawkins (Co. D) – Wounded and carried off.

1st Lt. Robert Miller (Co. E) – Wounded in left leg and foot. Carried off.

4th Sgt. James Garrett (Co. E) – Wounded and carried off.

Pvt. Milton Brown (Co. E) – Wounded and carried off.

3rd Lt. Thomas Jennings (Co. F) – Wounded and carried off. Captured at Greencastle July 5, 1863.

Cpt. William Graves (Co. G) – Wounded and carried off.

5th Sgt. Richard Vaughn (Co. G) – Wounded in right thigh and carried off.

3rd Cpl. Thomas Sullivan (Co. G) – Wounded and carried off.

Pvt. William Oliver (Co. G) – Wounded slightly in leg while carrying the colors. Carried off.

Cpt. William Tate (Co. H) – Stunned by artillery fire and carried off.

3rd Lt. Furgeson Harris (Co. H) – Wounded in leg and other parts and carried off.

4th Sgt. John Williamson (Co. H) – Wounded in right thigh and carried off.

Pvt. John Simmons (Co. H) – Wounded in head and carried off. Died of wounds July 8, 1863.

3rd Sgt. John Jennings (Co. I) – Wounded and carried off.

Pvt. John Sullivan (Co. I) – Wounded and carried off.

Pvt. Albert Wilkerson (Co. I) – Wounded in left thigh and carried off.

3rd Lt. Mitchell Anderson (Co. K) – Mortally wounded. Carried off. Died of wounds

3rd Cpl. William Lane (Co. K) – Wounded and carried off.

Pvt. John Lane (Co. K) – Wounded and carried off. Captured at Greencastle July 5, 1863.

Pvt. James Moxley (Co. K) – Wounded and carried off. Died of wounds July 16, 1863.

Pvt. James Seat (Co. K) – Wounded in face and carried off. Captured at Greencastle July 5, 1863.

At this point the Tennesseans found they could not knock over the fence, so they had to go over the top rail, a situation placing them in terrible peril. The Yanks were putting up a steady stream of fire, basically meaning; if someone popped his head up above the fence line he was putting his noggin into a sheet of bullets.

Eventually Colonel Fite gave the command to climb over the fence and his boys followed, and suffered because of their dedication. Another 15 to 20 were struck by bullets in the few seconds it takes to mount a post and rail fence and drop to the other side.

These casualties are listed: (again this is not a complete list)

1st Sgt. James Winfrey (Co. A) – Killed near Emmitsburg Rd.

Pvt. James Donnell (Co. A) – wounded near E. Rd. and captured, sent to Pt. Lookout.

Pvt. William Bradley (Co. B) – Wounded in right leg, and captured. Exchanged July 20, 1863.

Pvt. James Hale (Co. B) – Wounded and captured. Paroled.

Pvt. William McGee (Co. B) – Wounded in head and captured. Paroled.

Pvt. Luther Ralston (Co. D) – Wounded and captured.

1st Sgt. John Puckett (Co. E) – Wounded in left arm (paralyzed) and captured.

Pvt. Frank Frazer (Co. E) – Wounded in left knee and captured. Died of wounds July 11, 1863.

Pvt. James Gray (Co. E) – Wounded in right arm and captured.

Pvt. Joseph Love (Co. E) – Wounded and captured. Died of wounds July 15, 1863.

2nd Lt. John Ingram (Co. G) – Wounded and captured.

Pvt. Hartwell Bradshaw (Co. G) – Wounded in right knee and captured. Died of wounds July 25, 1863.

Pvt. Andrew Foster (Co. G) – Wounded in right arm (amputated) and captured.

2nd Sgt. John Hamilton (Co. H) – Wounded in shin and captured. Paroled because of wound Sept. 4, 1863.

4th Cpl. Mead Anderson (Co. I) – Wounded in arm and captured. Paroled.

Pvt. Eli Smith (Co. I) – Wounded and captured.

Pvt. Henry Forbis (Co. K) – Wounded and captured. Died of disease as POW Nov. 6, 1863.

Pvt. William Johnson (Co. K) – Wounded and captured. Died of Wounds July 16, 1863.

Emmitsburg Road was sunken down nearly two feet below ground level, so it became a safe haven for anyone who chose to lie flat and not peek at the Federals. It also was a chaotic place, crammed with soldiers trying to keep from being hit, and by wounded who cried out for help, as well as spewing pools of blood. The noise would have been horrific; the constant gunfire from the Union riflemen, the sounds of moans and screams from the hurt, the sounds of bullets zipping just over the Tennesseans’ heads, and the noise of bullets slamming into the wooden timbers and rails. It would not have been a great place to be.

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One Response to
“Writing update – TENNESSEE VALOR: The 7th Tennessee Infantry at the Battle of Gettysburg: Part 1”

  • jim lemley says: July 7th, 2012 at 1:25 am

    albert v. wilkerson is buried in my hometown of springfield tn. his grandson a v wilkerson was a family friend of my mother until his death.

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