Gettysburg Battle Report: Davis's Brigade

No. 553.--Reports of Brig. Gen. Joseph R. Davis, C. S. Army, commanding brigade and Heth's division.


MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my brigade in the battle of July 1, at Gettysburg:

Early on the morning of the 1st, I moved in rear of Archer's brigade with three regiments of my command (the Eleventh Mississippi being left as a guard for the division wagon train) from camp on the heights near Cashtown, by a turnpike road leading to Gettysburg. When within about 2 miles from town, our artillery was put in position, and opened fire. I was ordered to take position on the left of the turnpike, and, with the right resting on it, press forward toward the town.

About 10.30 o'clock a line of battle was formed--with the Forty-second Mississippi, Col H. R. Miller commanding, on the right; Fifty-fifth North Carolina, Col. J. K. Connally commanding, on the left, and Second Mississippi, Col. J. M. Stone commanding, in the center--skirmishers thrown forward, and the brigade moved forward to the attack.

Between us and the town, and very near it, was a commanding hill in wood, the intervening space being inclosed fields of grass and grain, and was very broken. On our right was the turnpike and a railroad, with deep cuts and heavy embankments, diverging from the turnpike as it approached the town. On the high hill the enemy had artillery, with infantry supports. The line of skirmishers advanced, and the brigade moved forward about 1 mile, driving in the enemy's skirmishers, and came within range of his line of battle, which was drawn up on a high hill in a field a short distance in front of a railroad cut. The engagement soon became very warm. After a short contest, the order was given to charge, and promptly obeyed. The enemy made a stubborn resistance, and stood until our men were within a few yards, and then gave way, and fled in much confusion, but rallied near the railroad, where he again made a stand, and, after desperate fighting, with heavy loss on both sides, he fled in great disorder toward the town, leaving us in possession of his commanding position and batteries.

After a short interval, he again returned in greater numbers, and the fight was renewed, and, being opposed by greatly superior numbers, our men gave way under the first shock of his attack, many officers and men having been killed or wounded, and all much exhausted by the excessive heat; but the line was promptly formed, and carried to its former position, and, while there engaged, a heavy force was observed moving rapidly toward our right, and soon after opened a heavy fire on our right flank and rear.

In this critical condition, I gave the order to retire, which was done in good order, leaving some officers and men in the railroad cut, who were captured, although every effort was made to withdraw all the commands. This was about 1 p.m. About 3 p.m. a division of Lieutenant-General Ewell's corps came up on our left, moving in line perpendicular to ours, and the brigade was again moved forward, and, after considerable fighting, reached the suburbs of the town, into which the enemy had been driven. The men, being much exhausted by the heat and severity of the engagement, were here rested, and about sunset were ordered to bivouac about 1 mile to the rear.

In this day's engagement the losses in men and officers were very heavy; of 9 field officers present, but 2 escaped unhurt. Colonel Stone, of the Second Mississippi, and Colonel Connally, of the Fifty-fifth North Carolina, were both wounded while gallantly leading their men in the first charge. Lieut. Col. M. T. Smith, of the Fifty-fifth North Carolina, a gallant and efficient officer, was mortally wounded. Major Belo, of the same regiment, was severely wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel Moseley and Major Feeney, of the Forty-second Mississippi, were both severely wounded. A large number of the company officers were killed or wounded.

It is due to the gallantry of a few brave men to state that the Second and Forty-second Mississippi, under the lead of Lieutenant [A. K.] Roberts, of the Second Mississippi, dashed forward, and, after a hand-to-hand contest, in which the gallant Roberts was killed, succeeded in capturing the colors of a Pennsylvania regiment. A number of prisoners were captured, the Forty-second Mississippi taking 150; other regiments perhaps as many or more.

I am indebted to the members of my staff for the prompt and efficient manner in which they discharged their duties. My aides-de-camp (Lieutenant [Henry B.] Estes and Captain Lowry) had their horses killed. Capt. W. T. Magruder and Lieut. T. C. Holliday and Cadet James D. Reid were all in action, and rendered valuable service.

I am, major, your obedient servant,


Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Maj. R. H. FINNEY,

Assistant Adjutant-General.



August 22, 1863.

MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of Major-General Heth's division in the battle of July 3, at Gettysburg:

On the evening of the 2d, this division, under command of Brig. Gen. J. J. Pettigrew (Major-General Heth having been wounded in the engagement of the 1st), moved to the front, and was formed in line of battle, with Archer's brigade on the right, commanded by Col. B. D. Fry (Brigadier-General Archer having been wounded and captured on July 1); Colonel Brockenbrough's brigade on the left; Pettigrew's, commanded by Col. James K. Marshall, of the Fifty-second North Carolina, on the right center, and Davis' on the left center, immediately in the rear of our artillery, which was in position on the crest of a high ridge running nearly parallel to the enemy's line, which was on a similar elevation and nearly 1 mile distant, the intervening space, excepting the crests of the hills, being fields, intersected by strong post and rail fences. In this position we bivouacked for the night.

Early on the morning of the 3d, the enemy threw some shells at the artillery in our front, from which a few casualties occurred in one of the brigades. About 9 a.m. the division was moved to the left about a quarter of a mile, and in the same order of battle was formed in the rear of Major Pegram's battalion of artillery, which was posted on the crest of a high hill, the ground between us and the enemy being like that of our first position.

About 1 p.m. the artillery along our entire line opened on the enemy, and was promptly replied to. For two hours the fire was heavy and incessant. Being immediately in the rear of our batteries, and having had no time to prepare means of protection, we suffered some losses. In Davis' brigade, 2 men were killed and 21 wounded. The order had been given that, when the artillery in our front ceased firing, the division would attack the enemy's batteries, keeping dressed to the >ar44_651> right, and moving in line with Major-General Pickett's division, which was on our right, and march obliquely to the left.

The artillery ceased firing at 3 o'clock, and the order to move forward was given and promptly obeyed. The division moved off in line, and, passing the wooded crest of the hill, descended to the open fields that lay between us and the enemy. Not a gun was fired at us until we reached a strong post and rail fence about three-quarters of a mile from the enemy's position, when we were met by a heavy fire of grape, canister, and shell, which told sadly upon our ranks. Under this destructive fire, which commanded our front and left with fatal effect, the troops displayed great coolness, were well in hand, and moved steadily forward, regularly closing up the gaps made in their ranks. Our advance across the fields was interrupted by other fences of a similar character, in crossing which the alignment became more or less deranged. This was in each case promptly rectified, and though its ranks were growing thinner at every step, this division moved steadily on in line with the troops on the right. When within musket-range, we encountered a heavy fire of small-arms, from which we suffered severely; but this did not for a moment check the advance.

The right of the division, owing to the conformation of the ridge on which the enemy was posted, having a shorter distance to pass over to reach his first line of defense, encountered him first in close conflict; but the whole division dashed up to his first line of defense--a stone wall--behind which the opposing infantry was strongly posted. Here we were subjected to a most galling fire of musketry and artillery, that so reduced the already thinned ranks that any further effort to carry the position was hopeless, and there was nothing left but to retire to the position originally held, which was done in more or less confusion. About 4 p.m. the division reached the line held in the morning, and remained there thirty hours, expecting an attack from the enemy. No demonstration was made on any part of our line during that or the following day, on the night of which we began our retreat to Hagerstown.

In the assault upon the enemy's position, the coolness and courage of officers and men are worthy of high commendation, and I regret that the names of the gallant men who fell distinguished on that bloody field have not been more fully reported.

In this assault, we are called upon to mourn the loss of many brave officers and men. Col. B. D. Fry, Thirteenth Alabama, commanding Archer's brigade, and Col. James K. Marshall, of the Fifty-second North Carolina, commanding Pettigrew's, were wounded and taken prisoners while gallantly leading their brigades. The number killed and wounded was very great, and in officers unusually so, as may be seen from the fact that in Archer's brigade but two field officers escaped, in Pettigrew's but one, and in Davis' all were killed or wounded. Brigadier-General Pettigrew had his horse killed, and received a slight wound in the hand.

Not having commanded the division in this engagement, and having been exclusively occupied by the operations of my own brigade, this report is necessarily imperfect, and I regret that I am unable to do full justice to the division.

I am, major, your obedient servant,




Assistant Adjutant-General.