Lane’s Brigade at Gettysburg

    In Their Own Words
    Lane’s Brigade
    At Gettysburg
    Captain P.C. Carleton, 7th N.C.T.
    Major Joseph A. Engelhard, Pender’s Division
    Brigadier General James Lane
    Major General Isaac Trimble
    The Landmark, Statesville, N.C.
    August 31, 1893
    Captain P.C. Carlton, of Statesville, who, as a member of the 7th N.C. 
    Regiment, Lane’s Brigade, participated in the Battle of Gettysburg, July 
    3, 1863, has furnished the Landmark for publication the following 
    interesting war literature.
    On the morning of the 3rd July, 1863, the division of my corps occupied 
    the same positions as on the 2nd July.  I was directed to hold my line 
    with Anderson’s Division, and the half of Pender’s, now commanded by 
    General Lane, and to order Heth’s Division, commanded by Pettigrew, 
    and Lane’s and Scales’ Brigades, of Pender’s Division, to report to Lt. 
    General Longstreet as a support to his corps in his assault on the enemy’s 
    lines.  As the troops were filing off into their positions, Major General 
    Trimble reported to me for the command of Pender’s Division, and took 
    the command of the two brigades destined to take part in the assault.  
    At 1:00 our artillery opened and for two hours rained an incessant storm 
    of missiles upon the enemy’s line.  The effort was marked along my front, 
    driving the enemy entirely from his guns.
    The assault was then gallantly made—Heth’s Division and Trimble’s two 
    brigades on the left of Pickett, Anderson had been directed to hold his 
    division ready to take advantage of any success which might be gained by 
    the assaulting column or to support it if necessary, and to that end Wilcox 
    and Perry were moved forward to eligible positions. The assault failed, and 
    after almost gaining the enemy’s works, our troops fell back in disorder.  
    The enemy made no attempt to pursue.
    Extract from the report of Pender’s Division
    Major Joseph A. Englehard
    During the morning of the 3rd July, General Pender received an order from 
    Lt. General Hill to report in person with the two brigades forming his second 
    line to the right to Lt. General Longstreet as a support to Pettigrew. General 
    Longstreet ordered him to form in the rear of the right of Hill’s Division, 
    commanded by General Pettigrew.  Having executed this order, General 
    Lane was relieved of the command by Major General Trimble, who acted 
    under the same orders given to General Lane.  The two brigades then formed 
    as a support to Pettigrew, with Lowrance on the right, after suffering no little 
    from the two hours’ exposure to the artillery fire which preceded the attack, 
    advanced within close supporting distance of Pettigrew’s line, General Trimble, 
    with a portion of his own men and taking immediate command of the movement.
    The line moved forward through the woods into the open field, about one 
    mile, in full view of the fortified position of the enemy, exposed to a 
    murderous artillery fire, front, rear, and enfilade and musketry fire from the 
    left.  The line moved handsomely and firmly forward.  The division in front 
    gaining ground to the right, uncovered the left of Lane’s Brigade, which 
    caused it to advance more rapidly than the rest of the line.  This was 
    checked by an order from General Trimble.
    When within a few hundred yards of the enemy’s works, the line in front 
    being entirely gone, the division moved rapidly up, connecting with the troops 
    on the right, still stubbornly contesting the ground with the enemy, reserving 
    their fire until within easy range and then opening with telling effect, driving 
    the artillerists from their guns, completely silencing the guns and breaking 
    the line of support formed on the crest of the hill.  All the guns in the immediate 
    front of the division were silenced, and the infantry had fallen behind their 
    second and third lines of defense, advancing in an oblique direction, the 
    extreme right of which had reached the works, was compelled to fall back, 
    exposing the line to a very heavy fire from that direction, immediately on the 
    flank, and a large column of infantry appearing on the left, that flank also 
    became exposed.  The two extreme left regiments of Lane’s Brigade, under 
    Colonels Avery and Perrin, advanced, some minutes after the rest of the line 
    had given way and fallen back under orders.
    The gallantry and impetuosity of the brigades of the division engaged drew 
    from their veteran and wounded commander the highest compliments, as it 
    earned the admiration of all who witnessed it.
    Lane’s veteran troops advanced with that enthusiasm and firmness which 
    had characterized them on every field, under the immediate supervision of 
    their brigade commander.  The division was reformed under orders from 
    General Trimble, by General Lane, just in the rear of the artillery, and upon 
    the same ground where it had rested before making the attack and in this 
    position, remained until the enemy fell back on the night of the 4th July.
    Extract from General Lane’s Report of the Battle of Gettysburg
    Next morning the skirmishing was very heavy in front of Thomas and Perrin, 
    requiring, at times, whole regiments to deploy and resist this enemy back, 
    which was always done most gallantly.  While this was going on, I was 
    ordered by General Hill, through Captain Hill, to move in person to the right 
    with the two brigades forming my second line and to “report to General 
    Longstreet as a support to Pettigrew”.  General Longstreet ordered me to 
    form in the rear of the right of Heth’s Division, commanded by Pettigrew.  
    Soon after I had executed this order, putting Lowrance on the right, I was 
    relieved of command by Major General Trimble, who acted under the same 
    orders that I had received.  Heth’s Division was much larger than Lowrance’s 
    Brigade and my men, who were its only support, and there was consequently 
    no second line in the rear of their left.  
    Now, in command of my brigade, I moved forward to the support of 
    Pettigrew’s right, through the woods in which our batteries were planted 
    and through an open field in full view of the enemy’s fortified position and 
    under a murderous artillery and infantry fire.  As soon as Pettigrew’s 
    command gave back, Lowrance’s Brigade and mine, without ever having 
    halted, took position on the left of the troops which were still contesting 
    the grounds with the enemy.  My command moved forward more handsomely.  
    The men reserved their fire in accordance to orders until within good range of 
    the enemy and then opened with telling effect, repeatedly driving the enemy 
    from their pieces, completely silencing the guns in our front and breaking 
    the line of infantry which was formed on the crest of the hill.  We advanced 
    to within a few yards of the stone wall, exposed all the time to a heavy, 
    raking artillery fire from the right.  My left was here very much exposed, 
    and a column of infantry was thrown forward in that direction which enfiladed 
    my whole line.  This forced me to withdraw my brigade, the troops on my 
    right already having done so.  We fell back as well as could be expected 
    and immediately reformed in rear of the artillery as directed by General 
    Trimble and remained there until the following morning.  
    I cannot speak too highly of my brigade in this bloody engagement.  
    Both officers and men moved forward with a heroism unsurpassed, giving 
    the brigade inspector and the rear guard nothing to do.  Our great loss 
    tells too sadly of the gallant bearing of my command—660 out of a total 
    of 1356, including ambulance corps and rear guard.  
    General Trimble being wounded I was again thrown in command of this 
    division, and with Lowrance’s brigade and my own, under Col. Avery, 
    moved back to the rear of Thomas and Perrin on the 4th.
    Extract from General Trimble’s Report on the Third Day’s Fight at Gettysburg
    On the morning of the third, I had been put in command, by an order of 
    General Lee, of two of the brigades of General Pender, who had been wounded.  
    These were both of North Carolina troops commanded by J.H. Lane and Alfred 
    M. Scales.  On taking command of the troops, entire strangers to me, and 
    wishing as far as I could to inspire them with confidence, I addressed them 
    briefly, ordered that no gun should be fired until the enemy’s line was broken, 
    and that I would advance with them to the farthest point.  
    When the charge commenced about 3:00 p.m., I followed Pettigrew about 
    150 yards in the rear, a sufficient distance to prevent the adverse fire raking 
    both ranks as we marched down the slope.  Notwithstanding the losses as 
    we advanced, the men marched with the deliberation and accuracy of men 
    on drill.  I observed the same in Pettigrew’s line.  When the latter was within 
    100-150 yards of the Emmetsburg Road, they seemed to sink into the earth 
    under the tempest of fire poured upon them.  We passed over the remnant 
    of their line and immediately after some one close on my left sang out “Three 
    cheers for the Old North State!”  Both brigades sent up a hearty shout and I 
    said to my aid  “Charley, I believe these fine fellows are going into the enemy’s 
    They did get to the road and drove the opposite line from it.  They continued 
    there some minutes, discharging their pieces at the enemy. The loss here 
    was fearful.  I knew that no troops could long endure it.  I was curious to know 
    how things went on with the troops on our right, and taking a quick but deliberate 
    view of the field over which Picket had advanced, I perceived that the enemy’s 
    fire seemed to slacken there and some squads were falling back on the west 
    side of the Emmetsburg Road.  By this I inferred that Pickett’s division had 
    been repelled and if so, it would be a useless exercise of life to continue the 
    contest.  I therefore did not attempt to rally the men who (moved?) back from 
    the fence.  
    As I followed the retiring line on horseback at a walk to the crest of Seminary 
    Ridge, under the unceasing discharge of grape, shell and musketry, I had cause 
    to wonder how any one could escape wounds or death.  
    On reaching the summit of the ridge, I found the men had fallen into line behind 
    some rude defenses.  I said “that is right, my brave fellows, stand your ground 
    and we will presently give these chaps as they have given us”, for by all the rules 
    of warfare, the Federal troops should, as I expected they would, march against 
    our shattered columns and seek to cover our army with an overwhelming defeat.
    In turning over the command to General Lane, I used some expressions of 
    commendation for the gallant behavior of these men, but I am sure I did not use 
    the profane terms which General Lane quotes my language.
    Being severely weakened and unable to follow the army in retreat, I made no 
    report of the battle in terms of killed and wounded.  General Lane and General 
    Scales have done this, which shows the fearful loss in these two brigades in the 
    charge of July 3.
    In a published letter to Hon. Jno. W. Daniel of Virginia, General Trimble says:
    My men were the last to leave the field or the charge.  This I knew, as I rode in the 
    line between the two brigades from the start down to the Emmetsburg Road, 
    passing over the wreck of Heth’s Divison (Pettigrew’s).  Before my line recoiled 
    under a concentrated fire from my front and left, I looked to my right where 
    Pickett’s men had been seen to advance and beheld nothing but scattered 
    remnants of that splendid line.
    When we reached the Emmetsburg Road, the terrible fire, right in their faces, 
    with their comrades melting away around them, our line slowly began to yield, 
    or rather ceased to advance beyond the road.  It was there that I still sat on my 
    horse, wounded, and at the road, that my aide Charlie Grogan said “General, the 
    men are falling back, shall I rally them?”  Before replying, I looked again to my 
    right, for the effect of Pickett’s charge, but could see nothing but a few men in 
    squads moving to the rear and of a considerable distance from the Emmetsburg 
    Road.  It was there, after a brief but deliberate view of the field, that I said “No, 
    Charley, the best thing these brave fellows can do is get out of this.”  So 
    marching my horse, from which I had alighted with the help of Grogan, we 
    followed at a walk our men to the rear, who marched back sullenly and slowly 
    in almost as good order as they had advanced, and I halted them on the summit 
    of Seminary Ridge. On the presumption that the enemy would pursue me, I here 
    prepared for defense, and feeling faint from my wound, turned over command to 
    General Lane.  
    Thus I am sure that my command continued the contest some time after Pickett’s 
    force had been dispersed, not that we fought better, but because as a second line 
    we did not reach the enemy quite as soon as the troops on our right, but 
    maintained our ground after they had been driven back.  Pickett’s men were nearer 
    the enemy at the start and did bare the brunt bravely, but they were no the only 
    “heroes of Gettysburg”.
    Extract From the Published Letter of General Lane To Which Trimble Refers
    When General Trimble ordered us forward, we advanced and took our position on 
    the left of the troops that were fighting, and when the right of my brigade was 
    within a short distance of the stone fence that was used by the enemy as a 
    breastwork—my brigade was now on the extreme left of the attacking line—one 
    of General Longstreet’s staff came dashing through a hot fire with orders from 
    General Longstreet to move my company rapidly to the left, as the enemy had 
    thrown out a flanking force in that direction, which was already pouring a destructive 
    fire into it.  On ordering Col. Avery, of the 33rd N.C. Regiment, which was the left 
    of my command, to face to the left for the purpose of meeting this flanking column 
    of the enemy, he said “My God, General!  Do you intend rushing your men into 
    such a place unsupported and when the troops on the right are falling back?”  
    Seeing that it was useless to sacrifice so many brave men, I ordered my command 
    back, in accordance from orders from General Trimble, who was leaving the field 
    wounded, I formed in the rear of our artillery.
    After I encountered General Trimble on the battlefield, I was ordered to reform my 
    command in the rear of our artillery.  I did not see him again, nor was I aware he 
    had been wounded, until one of his staff officers rode up with the following message:  
    “General Trimble sends his compliments to General Lane, and wishes him to take 
    charge of the division as he has been wounded.  He also directs me to say that if 
    the troops he had the honor to command today for the first time could not take 
    that position, all hell could not take it.”  The above is the substance and as well 
    as I can recollect, the words of the message as delivered, and General Trimble 
    certainly knew well of what he spoke, as we fought over open ground and the 
    general rode into action accompanied by his own staff and that of the division—
    the whole party continuing near the (hue of fire closers?) during the active advance.
    Transcribed by Christine Spencer, June 2008

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