Calamity at Gettysburg – Company E, 11th North Carolina

Posted on Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Francis Ostwalt (Co. E) was captured in Pickett's Charge. (Courtesy of Thomas McAnear)

 

Calamity at Gettysburg

Company E, 11th North Carolina

  June 30 – July 15, 1863

Thomas Venner

On June, 30th, 1863 the men of the 11th North Carolina settled down for the night, unaware of what would occur the next day, July 1st. The Tar Heel soldiers were well fed, pleased with their presence in a Northern state, and ready for whatever the morrow’s events would bring. But they were completely ignorant of war’s terrible agony, as their only experience with combat had been the small-scale fight at White Hall, NC.

 The Carolinians were led by Col. Collet Leventhorpe, who was assisted by Maj. Egbert Ross. Leventhorpe’s second-in-command, Lt. Col. William Martin was in Raleigh, NC on a medical furlough. The regiment’s senior line officer was Cpt. Mark Armfield (Co. B), however because of his age-related infirmities, Cpt. Frank Bird (Co. C) had assumed wing command; Maj. Ross led the right wing and Cpt. Bird the left wing.

Company E was commanded by Cpt. William J. Kerr, a 32-year-old, hard-drinking, hard-fighting coach maker from Charlotte. Kerr was assisted by lieutenants John Clanton and William Rozzell, and 1st Sgt. David McDonald. Captain Kerr had 56 officers and riflemen at his disposal, and Co. E’s position within the regiment was as part of the left wing.

The next day, July 1, 1863 the 11th NC Regiment moved forward, along with its brother formations in Pettigrew’s Brigade. That afternoon Pettigrew’s men pushed forward onto McPherson’s Ridge and crashed into the Iron Brigade, possibly the toughest fighting unit in the Union army. The Iron Brigade was composed of westerners from Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. These fellows had a threatening reputation. They were easy to identify, all the men wore sturdy black hats, and they caused immense pain whenever confronted by the Confederates. The Iron Brigade had mauled the Stonewall Brigade at Brawner’s Farm, battered Lawton’s Brigade at Sharpsburg, and had dismembered Archer’s Brigade on the morning of July 1st. They had been told to hold McPherson’s Woods, and the rough-and-tumble black hats planned to do just that.

Pettigrew’s Tar Heels slammed into the Iron Brigade with the 26th NC on the left and the 11th NC on the right. The 26th NC squared up against the 24th MI and these two extra-ordinarily large regiments battered each other until both units had been bled dry. On the 26th’s right, the 11th NC faced off against the 19th IN. The Hoosiers had about 275 veteran riflemen to the Tar Heel 600. Colonel Leventhorpe’s left wing matched up against the Indiana men while the right wing had little in front of them. This misbalance in numbers would eventually prove to favor the Southerners.

The Hoosiers slugged it out with the Carolinians, who had moved to within less than 100 feet of the Indiana riflemen. Hoosier volleys felled scores of Tar Heels in the 11th’s left wing, just as Carolina musketry knocked Indiana men to the ground. Both formations stood solidly for over thirty minutes before Col. Leventhorpe and his right wing commander were able to wheel the unopposed companies around to flank the Hoosier’s right. During this awful thirty minutes, in Co. E, both lieutenants went down, plus the first sergeant, and two dozen more.

Finally, the pressure from the right wing’s flanking move broke the Indiana line and the black hats were driven from the field. But the cost had been horrendous, hundreds of Tar Heels were casualties, and Cpt. Kerr’s formation was left with just 26 survivors, and every man shell-shocked by what had just taken place. That evening Kerr’s men buried their dead; Sgt. John Goodman, Pvt. James Clark, Pvt. Ezekiel Helms, and Pvt. Reuben Yaunts; and helped carry over twenty of their brothers to the regiment’s field hospital.

 

Company E Casualties

Muster Roll – July 1, 1863

Gettysburg Campaign

Name

Rank

Remarks
Clanton, John B.

1st Lt.

Wounded, 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Rozzell, William F.

2nd Lt.

Wounded, 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
McDonald, David W.

1st Sgt.

Wounded, 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Goodman, John E.

Sgt.

Killed, 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Cathey, William C.

Cpl.

Wounded (left arm amputated), 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Hartgrove, William W.

Cpl.

Wounded (left thigh), 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Puckett, Julius J.

Cpl.

Wounded (right leg), 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Bass, James A.

Pvt.

Wounded (left arm), 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Bird, William L.

Pvt.

Wounded (right leg), 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Brimer, John

Pvt.

Wounded (leg), 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Christy, James F.

Pvt.

Wounded (right leg), 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Clark, James A.

Pvt.

Killed, 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Dixon, William W.

Pvt.

Wounded, 7/1/63 at Gettysburg.
Hartgrove, Richard D. S.

Pvt.

Wounded (thigh), 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Helms, Ezekiel T.

Pvt.

Killed, 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Hill, James W.

Pvt.

Wounded (leg), 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Lewis, Lindsay

Pvt.

Wounded (right foot), 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
McQuay, William H.

Pvt.

Wounded, 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Neal, George A.

Pvt.

Wounded (left arm amputated), 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Puckett, William C.

Pvt.

Wounded (left thigh), 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Richey, William F.

Pvt.

Wounded, 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Rievs, William, R.

Pvt.

Wounded, 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Walker, Levi L.

Pvt.

Wounded, 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Wingate, James

Pvt.

Wounded, 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Wingate, Thomas

Pvt.

Wounded, 7/1/63 at Gettysburg
Yaunts, Reuben C.

Pvt.

Killed, 7/1/63 at Gettysburg

Captain Kerr did what he could to rally his men but the company was shattered; almost half of the men were buried or at the field hospital; the rest were in shock. But their travails had not ended, two days later Gen. Robert E. Lee had another task for the surviving Tar Heels—Pickett’s Charge.

Company E formed into the 11th NC’s battle line and crossed the open field, advancing towards the Union positions on Cemetery Hill. Yank artillery raked the Bethel Regiment long before the Southerners got within rifle range, but once the Carolina men reached Emmitsburg Rd, veteran Northern infantrymen volleyed into Leventhorpe’s men.

Nearly all of Cpt. Kerr’s men were still in some form of malaise and when these first volleys ripped into their line and felled more of their comrades, most were content to take cover in the security of the sunken road. Only a few, possibly less than a handful; including Privates; John Bradley, James McQuay, Francis Ostwalt, and Edward Williamson, advanced beyond the safety of Emmitsburg Rd., and joined Col. Leventhorpe’s small band of resolute followers. Few ever returned. James McQuay was killed, Williamson and Bradley were pinned down and captured some forty yards from the stone wall, and Francis Ostwalt crawled towards the Union lines and actually took shelter at the base of the stone wall. He was captured there, possibly the 11th NC Tar Heel to have advanced the farthest.

 

Company E Casualties

Muster Roll – July 3, 1863

Gettysburg Campaign

Name

Rank

Remarks
Bradley, John L.

Pvt.

Captured, 7/3/63 at Gettysburg
Finger, John

Pvt.

Wounded (neck), 7/3/63, at Gettysburg
Hartline, David L.

Pvt.

Wounded (right foot), 7/3/63
Jameson, Thomas J.

Pvt.

Wounded, 7/3/63 at Gettysburg
Martin, William

Pvt.

Wounded, 7/3/63  at Gettysburg
McLure, Cyrus A.

Pvt.

Wounded, 7/3/63
McQuay, James

Pvt.

Killed, 7/3/63 at Gettysburg
Ostwalt, Francis

Pvt.

Captured, 7/3/63 at Gettysburg
Williamson, Edward Y.

Pvt.

Captured, 7/3/63 at Gettysburg

The next day, July 4, 1863, Lee gave the order to retreat. The 11th’s surgeons crowded as many wounded men as they could into the regiment’s wagons and then were forced to abandon the rest. In Co. E, there were 27 wounded men to put into two wagons, forcing the doctors to make the agonizing decision of who got to go, and who was left behind. A few wounded men walked away from the hospital and accompanied the retreating regiment, but ten men had to be abandoned. Two of Cpt. Kerr’s men, William McLellan and John Mitschka could not bear to leave their wounded brothers behind and remained behind with the wounded. These two, along with the wounded were captured on July 5th when the Union army took possession of the field hospitals.

 

Company E Casualties

Muster Roll – July 5-7, 1863

Gettysburg Campaign

Name

Rank

Remarks
Clanton, John B.

1st Lt.

Captured, 7/5/63 at Gettysburg field hospital.

Died of wounds, 7/28/63

Rozzell, William F.

2nd Lt.

Captured, 7/5/63 at Gettysburg field hospital.

Died of wounds, 7/10/63

Cathey, William C.

Cpl.

Captured, 7/5/63 at Gettysburg field hospital
Bird, William L.

Pvt.

Captured, 7/5/63 at Gettysburg field hospital
Hill, James W.

Pvt.

Captured, 7/5/63 at Gettysburg field hospital
McLellan, William

Pvt.

Captured, 7/5/63 at Gettysburg
McQuay, William H.

Pvt.

Captured, 7/5/63 at Gettysburg.

Died of wounds, 7/7/63

Mitschka, John

Pvt.

Captured, 7/5/63 at Gettysburg
Neal, George A.

Pvt.

Captured, 7/5/63 at Gettysburg field hospital
Richey, William F.

Pvt.

Captured, 7/5/63 at Gettysburg field hospital.

Died of wounds, 7/9/63

Walker, Levi L.

Pvt.

Captured, 7/5/63 at Gettysburg field hospital
Wingate, James

Pvt.

Captured, 7/5/63 at Gettysburg field hospital

Captain Kerr led 13 men back to Williamsport, MD, however he lost three more in the frantic confusion of Falling Waters (Jones Jameson, Hugh McCorkle, and Cyrus McLure). The company’s two wagons had been reduced to one, as Teamster, Alexander Stone was also captured. William Kerr had just ten survivors and one teamster when the 11th NC reached the safety of the defenses at Orange Court House, VA.

Company E

Muster Roll – July 15, 1863

Gettysburg Campaign

Name

Rank

Remarks
Kerr, William J.

Cpt.

 
Carmick, John

Sgt.

 
Rozzell, James T.

Sgt.

 
Wilson, Robert L.

Sgt.

 
McDonald, John H.

Cpl.

 
Alexander, James F.

Pvt.

 
Bass, Burton

Pvt.

 
Beatty, John W.

Pvt.

 
Belk, William A.

Pvt.

 
Smith, David J.

Pvt.

 
Walker, James H.

Pvt.

 
 

Detached Duties

Pool, George S.

Pvt.

TDY – Teamster

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses to
“Calamity at Gettysburg – Company E, 11th North Carolina”

  • Kenneth Luckey says: October 15th, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    William F. Rozzell was my great grand uncle. I still live on Rozzell land, Mecklenburg Co. NC

  • Peri Duncan says: October 18th, 2015 at 3:23 am

    Hi Ken,

    I don’t know if you will ever see this, butI am your cousin. I traced William F. Rozzell’s grave to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA, and had a VA headstone placed near his grave in the Confederate section.

  • Philip Sheppard says: October 2nd, 2016 at 1:18 am

    I never knew the circumstance of the capture of my great-great-grandfather, George Alexander Neal, until now. Thanks so much for the information. George lied about his age (he was only 15 when he enlisted – and still was when he was wounded and captured at Gettysburg).

    I own a drop-leaf table that he made after the war. He is buried at Paw Creek Presbyterian Church Cemetery near where he (and I) grew up and raised a family in western Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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