Battery A 2nd US Arty at Gettysburg

Calef receiving orders from Buford at GettysburgOn a warm, peaceful, summer’s evening in June 1894, a fifty-two-year-old U.S. Artillery Officer stood on the veranda of Gettysburg’s Spring Hotel, enjoying an after supper cigar. A distant line of trees, held his gaze, for there, thirty-one years before, he had witnessed a Confederate infantry brigade emerge and menacingly transform itself into a double battle line of gray.

Stirred by old memories, and with the intention of locating his battery’s original battle position, the old soldier decided to take a stroll.

Passing along a lane choked with weeds, he eventually came to the Chamberburg Pike. From there he trudged steadily on toward McPherson’s Ridge. He had walked for a quarter of a mile without meeting another soul, or seeing any living thing. The only sound he heard was the mournful croaking of a frog’s chorus, and he found the night’s comparative silence deeply oppressive. As he neared the crest of McPherson’s Ridge, a ghostly pale spectre loomed in front of him. It was the stark white monument dedicated to Hall’s Second Maine Battery. This battery had relieved his own during the battle, and its marker now stood on a position that had originally been held by one of his sections.

After a few minutes meditation, he crossed over the pike and saw—picked out by the moonlight—his name engraved on a cast-iron sign:


The night’s quiet solitude, a gentle blend of ‘perfect peace and tranquillity,’ contrasted sharply with his memories of the awful ‘pandemonium’ of over thirty years before…..

Twenty-one-year-old, Second Lieutenant John Calef, was Battery A’s commander during the entire Gettysburg campaign. Recalling the period he later referred to as ‘whirling days for a boy such as I was’ he wrote, ‘In setting out on this campaign, I succeeded to the command of my battery…the Captain of which, Tidball, being in charge of the Brigade of Horse-batteries.  The event influenced me in declining a transfer to the Ordnance Department, a transfer that would have given a different aspect to my entire military career.’

After the Battle of Chancellorsville, the Army of the Potomac had returned to its camps opposite Fredericksburg; while the Army of Northern Virginia returned to its fortifications just beyond the town. However, that wily old grey fox, Robert E. Lee, was soon planning his next move.
Leaving A. P. Hill’s corps to keep the Federals occupied at Fredericksburg; Lee set the corps of Richard Ewell and James Longstreet in motion up the south side of the Rappahannock River to cross the Blue Ridge into the Shenandoah Valley. From here the Confederates moved down the valley and crossed the Potomac, advancing into the Cumberland Valley.

Joe Hooker, still in command of the Union forces, was notified of enemy movement in the Cumberland Valley; and ordered his cavalry (two divisions—about 7,900 troopers, supported by a brigade of five horse batteries of thirty guns) out to make a ‘reconnaissance in force’ beyond the Rappahannock River. Two brigades of infantry supported this force.

Crossing the river at Beverly Ford on June 6th the blue troopers and horse-batteries encountered their gray counterparts—under the command of Jeb Stuart. The ensuing ‘Battle of Brandy Station’ allowed the Federal troopers and artillery to penetrate the Confederate screen and gain information regarding Lee’s positions.

After the battle the Union Cavalry Corps were joined by Stahl’s division (under the command of recently promoted Judson Kilpatrick), which had arrived from the Shenandoah Valley, bringing the strength of the corps up to 13,144 men (including the horse-artillery).

Meanwhile, Lee’s army marched from Fredericksville to Winchester—a distance of over one hundred miles—arriving on June 13th 1863.

On June 14th Battery A, accompanied by its official commander, Captain John Tidball, acting in his new detached role as commander of the Artillery Reserve’s Horse Artillery Brigade, arrived at Warrenton Junction. Here the Battery relieved Robertson’s battery, (1st Brigade, Artillery Reserve). Later the same day they joined General John Buford’s cavalry division.

On the 15th Buford’s command marched from Warrenton Junction to Bristoe Station; going into bivouac at midday. On the 16th it marched from Bristoe Station to Bull Run; spending the night near the old battlefield. Battery A were now formally assigned to Col. William Gamble’s Cavalry Brigade.

The next day the march continued on to Aldie Va—Calef remembered it as being ‘very fatiguing.’

On the 18th Gamble’s brigade and Battery A were sent out on a reconnaissance mission, in the direction of Snicker’s Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Gamble’s cavalry skirmishers met those of the enemy, commanded by Thomas Munford, near the bridge over Goose Creek; and started to drive them towards Philomont. The battery’s right section, under Lieutenant John Roder,  and the left, under First Sergeant Joseph Newman, clattered across the bridge and took position on the town side of the creek. Calef posted the remaining section on a nearby hill, which allowed the guns to enfilade the road leading to the bridge from the north side. ‘The objective,’ wrote Calef, ‘was to cover [the] retreat in case our troops were obliged to fall back.’

The Union skirmishers succeeded in driving the enemy troopers to Philomont; pushing them on through the streets and beyond the town a short distance. Here they met stiff opposition and were forced to retire back to the Goose Creek bridge.

The object of the expedition was to locate General Lee’s latest position. Munford, though pushed by Gamble, succeeded in holding him back from the approaches to Snicker’s Gap, to the east of which lay Marse Robert’s headquarters, situated in the Shenandoah Valley. Thwarted Gamble’s command returned to their camp at Aldie.

The next day Lieutenant Roder’ section was posted on a piece of high ground overlooking the roads leading to Aldie from the north. Newman’s section relieved Roder’s at dusk on the 20th.
At 4 a.m. on Sunday, June 21st, Buford advanced his entire command to Middleburg—Battery A relieved Lt. Fuller’s in positions to the right and left on the north-side of town.

 At 8 a.m. Buford’s and David Gregg’s division moved out from Middleburg. Buford’s objective was to advance to a town called, rather symbolically, Union; from there he would attempt to turn the left flank of Jeb Stuart’s cavalry, which had concentrated at Upperville. Meanwhile, General Gregg’s advance along the Upperville pike, was as a feint—intended to keep Stuart’s attention directed toward his front, and away from Buford’s movement.

Buford made little progress, due to the boggy condition of the terrain and the strength of the Confederate positions. Gregg was, therefore, forced to turn his feint into a serious attack. This action only succeeded in pushing Stuart’s troops to the outskirts of Upperville; where they made a determined stand.

When Buford was no more than a mile from Upperville, he saw a large force in front of General Gregg, who appeared to be outnumbered. Buford decided to ride to the rescue. His troopers struck a brisk trot, but numerous obstructions, in the shape of ditches and stone fences, stood in their way, and getting badly out of shape their advance was slowed. While in this predicament, Buford discovered a wagon train to his right— with what he thought to be a small guard—marching at a fast trot, and apparently making for Ashby’s Gap. He turned the head of his column toward them, and very soon became engaged with what turned out to be a ‘superior force.’ The enemy brought four twelve-pounder guns into position, and made some ‘excellent practise’ on the head of  Buford’s regiments as they came up. However, the gunners were driven from their pieces, which would have fallen into Union hands, but for two ‘impassable’ stone fences. The Rebs then came up in ‘magnificent style’ from the direction of Snickersville, and for a time threatened Buford with overwhelming numbers.

At this point (about 1.00 p.m.), Battery A was ordered to leave its position at Middleburg and rush to the front; where it joined the main body of the Union force. Posted as their support was the Fourth Pennsylvania Cavalry, under the command of Lt.-Col. William Doster. Referring to the artillery company as ‘Tidball’s battery,’ he described the position as being ‘on the rising ground on the right of the road, in full view of the town [Upperville] and of the enemy.’ According to Calef, ‘Roder’s section was thrown in the extreme advance posted on the right of the road, and opened on the enemy’s cavalry on the left of the road while they were charging ours.’

The Confederates were soon checked, and driven back into the edge of the woods. Here they reformed, and charged with ‘great force’ at the Union cavalry, which, being heavily outnumbered, fell back.

To cover the retreat the other two sections were ordered into position on the left of the road. As soon as the Confederates saw them coming out of the woods skirting the road they cried, “Charge that battery!” The Rebs tried to take the guns by advancing on the battery’s left flank. But, Calef’s guns, firing a dozen or so shots, effectively checked the attempted movement. Calef then snapped out the following command, “Change front forward on the left piece. MARCH!” He executed this change of front to counter any charge by the enemy, should they manage to gain his left flank.

The Confederates were eventually pushed back by the efforts of Battery A and a ‘terrific carbine fire’ by ‘the brave Eighth Illonois and Third Indiana Cavalry.’ At this point the battery lost its support troops, as the Fourth Pennsylvania Cavalry  were moved  forward to the support of the First Maine Cavalry, who had been ordered ‘to charge and drive the enemy from and beyond the town.’

As the Confederates withdrew Buford’s rear guard appeared. This timely arrival forced the Confederates to retreat through Upperville in the direction of the Asby Gap. The Federal cavalry again charged and drove them on the north side of the town. Nightfall put an end to further aggressive operations for the day. The battery was finally allowed to bivouac with the rest of Buford’s command near the town, after having been engaged for approximately four hours.

In his memoirs W. W. Blackford, Jeb Stuart’s adjutant, wrote, ‘The improvement in the cavalry of the enemy became painfully apparent in the fights around Upperville. It was mainly in their use of dismounted men, and in their horse artillery… [Also] around Upperville the fields were much closed by stone fences which greatly favoured dismounted troops.’

The next day Buford’s command returned to its old camps at Aldie. During the late afternoon a Confederate force attacked the rear guard. Battery A quickly went into position; but the alarm was soon over and it returned to camp. However, it was given orders to remain ready to turn out at a ‘moment’s warning.’

The battery remained in camp, without anything of note occurring, until June 26th, when Buford’s command broke camp and after a ‘long and severe’ march arrived in Leesburg—where it bivouacked for the night.

The next morning the division headed for the Potomac as the advance guard of The Army of the Potomac, crossing the river on the upper pontoon bridge at Edward’s Ferry. They forded the Monocacy River near the Aqueduct Bridge; bivouacking at Petersville Ma.

Buford grumpily describes the march as being over ‘almost impassable roads, crossing the Monocacy near its mouth by a wretched ford.’ His command bivouacked on the east side of the mountains, three miles from Jefferson, being halted there by ‘the whole train of [Kilpatrick’s] division blockading the road through the mountains.’

Continuing the march the next morning, the command passed through Jefferson and, according to John Calef, ‘into the beautiful Middletown Valley.’
Calef found the march through the farming districts of Western Maryland, ‘An agreeable contrast to the deserted wastes of Virginia, and both officers and men found acceptable additions to their messes in the way of milk, butter, eggs and chickens.’

The weather was warm and charming, and from the pastoral scenes before our eyes it was hard to believe that a fratricidal was abroad in the land. The farmers were harvesting their first crop of sweet-scented hay, and as they strolled up to the fences to gaze at this invasion of “My Maryland” I remember drawing comparisons with Lieutenant Roder… between war and peace, and remarking how satisfactory it must be to go to bed at night without the liability of having one’s head shot off the next day.

Buford decided to make camp in the Valley, for the purpose of ‘shoeing and refitting.’

On June 29th Buford detached his Reserve Brigade, and it sent to Mechanicstown. The First and Second Brigades moved through Boonsborough, Cavetown, and Monterey Springs; and finally made camp near Fairfield. Calef later described the march as being ‘very long and fatiguing,’ adding ‘[the] horses [were] very much used up.’

The Fairfield camp, as Buford was later to discover, was within a short distance of ‘a considerable force of the enemy’s infantry.’ An angry John Buford later reported that, ‘the inhabitants knew of my arrival and the position of the enemy’s camp, yet not one of them gave me a particle of information, nor even the fact of the enemy’s presence. The whole community seemed stampeded, and afraid to speak or to act, often offering as excuses for not showing some little enterprise, “The rebels will destroy our houses if we tell anything.”  Had anyone given me timely information, and acted as guide that night, I could have surprised and captured or destroyed this force, which proved next day to be two Mississippi regiments of infantry and two guns.’

Buford’s two brigades moved out very early the next morning, and headed for Gettysburg, via Fairfield.

At Fairfield Buford’s advance ran into the hitherto mysterious Confederate force. Buford became determined ‘to feel it and drive it, if possible.’ Unfortunately, ‘after a little skirmishing,’ he found that ‘the artillery would have to be necessarily used.’  He decided not to ‘disturb’ the enemy any further, ‘for fear cannonading from that quarter might disarrange the plans of the general commanding.’ The town was four or five miles west of the route assigned to him, and he thought it prudent not to bring on an engagement so far from the road he was expected to be following. He, therefore, immediately turned his column toward Emmitsburg; and without ‘serious molestation,’ was soon on the assigned road and moving toward  Gettysburg; where, there was ‘reason to suppose, [he] should find some of [Kilpatrick’s] cavalry.’

Calef very much enjoyed the journey to Gettysburg. Recalling the beauty of the countryside, he later wrote:

‘As we passed beyond Mason’s and Dixon’s line into Pennsylvania…the well-tilled fields waved on every hand with the ripening grain of early honest toil. The industrious husbandman drove his fat, sleek horses, and cattle grazed on every hill. The well-kept fences and the huge red barns, so characteristic of this part of Pennsylvania, the modest family dwelling near by, with its accompanying outbuildings, showed that the blighting breath of war had not passed over this peaceful region. The scenes before us afforded a refreshing change from the devastated ‘Old Dominion’ we had left, where the country, many times traversed by the contending armies, had become reduced almost to desolation and starvation. The remaining habitations, few and far between, were the abode of sickly looking women and children, who gazed vacantly at our passing columns, and men and fences were conspicuous by their absence, the former being either in Lee’s army or scouting with Mosby, the latter had long since been consumed for camp fires.

‘Comedy is sometimes mixed up with the tragedy of war, and anything that will vary the monotony of a tedious march is quickly seized upon by the weary trooper. It was just as we were nearing the end of the long, hot, dusty march that brought us to Gettysburg that there approached from a byroad a citizen mounted on small, thin, white horse, and their general appearance caused Roder and myself to exchange amused glances. It was Gambrinus mounted on Rozinante, borrowed for the occasion. His rubicund face and rotund figure suggested an origin which was confirmed by his salutation of  “How you vas, shentlemans?” and we knew we had caught our “Pennsylvania Dutchman.” Roder, himself of German origin, quickly fell into the man’s familiar tongue and our companion was at once at ease. Recalling that we had smiled at the appearance of his mount, he informed us that he had splendid horses hid down in the “woots, and those dammed rebels don’t get them sometimes.” Just then a couple of straggling cavalrymen came dashing by, the clang of their sabres, mingled with the squeaking of the chickens they had foraged, their horses blinding and choking us with their dust. Indignantly ordering them to halt, I inquired what command they belonged to and read them a lesson on propriety, which, I fear, was lost, as they dug their spurs into their horses and were off again in their mad gallop to kick up dust in someone else’s eyes. To our Teutonice friend, thinking they were hurrying off after the rebels reported to be just on the other side of Gettysburg, called out in his enthusiasm and approval: “That’s right fellers; goes in and knocks down everything what comes before you,” upon which we informed him, as soon as we finished laughing that those were of the kind that “lived to fight another day.”

‘About a mile from [Gettysburg],’ wrote Captain William L. Heermance of the Sixth New York Cavalry, ‘we were met by the young girls of the place, who, dressed in white with red and blue ribbons, formed along the road; and as we rode by they sang their patriotic songs, that made the blood flow quicker in our veins, as we thought of those at home, and that we were there to defend Northern soil.’

As Buford’s command entered the town later that afternoon, they met the Confederates, who were also advancing into the town. Buford ordered a charge, and ‘as each man drew his rein tighter,’ remembered Captain Heermance, ‘we charged through Gettysburg, the small force of Confederates there retreating before us.’ This charge drove the Confederates back, preventing them from gaining a foothold in the town.
The Rebs withdrew toward Cashtown, posting pickets approximately four and a half mile from Gettysburg.

Writing thirty years later, John Calef relived the victorious Union force’s entry into Gettysburg:

On reaching the town of Gettysburg there was evidence of much excitement…such was the joy of the people at the appearance of Buford and his veterans that the city presented a gala-day appearance. The school children, dressed in white and carrying bouquets and wreaths of flowers, were assembled on the corners of the streets singing patriotic songs, among which I recall the Battle Cry Of Freedom and Cheer Boys, Cheer. It was a touching and pathetic sight, which recurred to me the next day when, the dogs of war had been let loose and shells were bursting over their innocent heads. As I was passing through the town at the head of my battery, a little miss came into the middle of the street and in a very coy and diffident manner presented me with an immense bouquet.

Passing through Gettysburg we halted for the night on the ground between Seminary Ridge and Willoughby’s Run. My guns…were unlimbered and placed in readiness for action for the enemy were in our front. But as this precaution had often before been adopted, we of the artillery were not imbued with the idea that a great battle was pending, though it seems that General Buford was of the impression that they would be upon us in the morning, “booming with skirmishers three deep.”

Another Union officer, Major John L. Beveridge of the Eighth Illinois Cavalry, recalled the deceptive calm and peace of the Gettysburg bivouac:

It was a bright, beautiful afternoon. The sunlight danced on the hill-tops and dallied with the foliage of the plain. The green landscape was dotted here and there, with patches of grain, yellowing for the harvest. The cattle were feeding lazily in the fields. Peace, and the prosperity that accompanies peace, reigned. All was quiet and still. There was no sound or sign of war, save the bugle-call, the trappings of the horses, the accoutrements of the men, and the guns of the artillery. Yet, knowing an armed foe—a brave, bold, daring, determined, desperate enemy—was in our front, few miles to the west, every precaution was taken to prevent surprise.’

Having received reports suggesting that Hill’s Corps were only three miles from the town, Buford placed strong cavalry pickets about a mile and a half along the Carlisle road. He wrote, ‘I can’t do much just now. My men and horses are fagged out. I have not been able to get any grain yet. It is all in the country, and the people talk instead of working. Facilities for shoeing are nothing. Early’s people seized every shoe and nail they could find.’

The night of the 30th was busy and exhausting for Buford’s troops. As had been the case at Fairfield, no valuable, or even reliable, information could be gleaned from the local population. However, ‘the untiring exertions of many different scouting parties,’ reported Buford proudly, provided ‘information of the enemy’s whereabouts and movements,’ that helped gain time to prevent the Confederates from getting control of the town before the rest of the Union army could ‘get up.’

 ‘The morning [of July 1st] dawned, the sun rose in splendour over the eastern hills; no cloud dimmed the sky; no fog obscured the valley,’ observed the lyrical John Beveridge. The temperature during the day would range from seventy-two degrees Fahrenhieght at 7 a.m., to seventy-six degrees at 2 p.m.—and it would still be seventy-six degrees at 9 p.m. The attacking Confederate force under General Heth would number seven thousand, four hundred and sixty one men. While, Buford’s command only totalled two thousand, seven hundred and forty eight men—and it must be remembered that one in four of the Union cavalrymen would be ‘horse-holders.’ Battery A started the day with seventy-five men.

A large number of officers and men had gone up to Gettysburg to visit the town and socialize with its citizens. ‘For eighteen months, explained Calef, ‘we had camped, marched, countermarched, and fought in the enemy’s country. Nowhere had friends welcomed us; everywhere had foes confronted us. All Gettysburg, all loyal Pennsylvanians, were that morning our kith and kin. Once again we were among friends.’

Buford was confident his was master of the situation, ‘By day light…I had gained positive information of the enemy’s position and movements, and my arrangements were made for entertaining him until General Reynolds could reach the scene.’

About eight o’clock in the morning, the officer commanding the squadron on front line picket duty, gave Colonel Gamble, who was encamped at the Seminary, ‘notice that the enemy, consisting of infantry and artillery, in column, were approaching his pickets from the direction of  Cashtown, with deployed skirmishers in strong force, about three miles distant.’ Gamble immediately relayed this information to Buford; who replied by issuing orders calling for instant readiness to fight.

Colonel Gamble’s brigade, including Battery A, was about one thousand, six hundred strong. Gamble placed this force in an ‘admirable line of battle’ about one mile in front of the Seminary, ‘the right resting on the railroad track and the left near the Middletown or Fairfield road, the Cashtown road being a little to the right of the centre, at right angles with the line.’ Three squadrons of cavalry, with some troopers dismounted, were rushed to the front. There, with the original pickets, who were being driven back by fire from the enemy’s artillery and skirmishers, they were deployed as skirmishers.

At first light Battery A’s youthful commander had been blissfully unaware of the proximately of the enemy. After eating his breakfast he had called for his horse to be brought to him; and was just about to ride into town to ‘make a hasty inspection,’ and acquire ‘some purchases for [the officer’s mess],’ when a messenger from Gamble galloped up to his tent. The cavalry orderly hurriedly explained to the artillery officer that the Rebs were rapidly advancing toward the Union lines, and that Calef’s orders were to ‘prepare for action at once.’

‘In an incredibly short time,’ claimed Calef, ‘our bivouac was broken and baggage and caissons sent to the rear.’ Having been given orders from Gamble to select his own position. Calef decided to go into battery approximately six hundred yards in front of the ground he had occupied during the night. The  ‘pioneer party,’ had already levelled the intervening fences, as well as the one in front of the position.

Calef moved the battery  forward to the selected position , which he considered was a good one for artillery—with the possible exception of the railway cut near the right flank. The cut was to exercise ‘quite an influence,’ during the progress of the battle.

After posting the battery, Calef noticed General Buford and staff on the Cashtown Pike—which was close to his position. Putting spur to horse, Calef lost no time in reporting to him for further instructions. With Buford was General John Reynolds (and his staff), who having been informed by Buford early in the morning of the movements of the enemy, had rushed forward in advance of his troops and was now conferring with the cavalry general as to ‘the lay of the land and other military points of pressing interest.’ It was part of General Buford’s plan of ‘entertainment’ to cover as large a front as possible with Calef’s battery—his only artillery. He hoped this would deceive the enemy into believing they faced a superior force of muskets and more than just one artillery battery; thereby introducing a crucial, time saving, element of caution into their advance. He, therefore, ordered Calef to resite his guns in positions which would strengthen the proposed tactic. Two guns were, therefore, placed on the right side of the Cashtown Pike, two on the left and the remaining two still further to the left—where the Eighth New York Cavalry was covering the left flank.

Calef placed First Sergeant Joseph Newman, commanding the left section, on the immediate left of the road, and Sergeant Charles Pergel, commanding the center section, still further to the left. It was just at the right of the Pergel’s guns, in a corner of the woods, that General Reynolds was killed a few minutes later. Just as Pergel’s guns got into position, the roar of the enemy’s skirmishers opening up on the Union pickets—who were retiring—was heard. At that very moment John Roder’s section opened up on the right of the Pike, his left piece being the opening Union artillery piece of the battle.  His fire was directed against a Rebel column just beyond Willoughby’s Run—where the Federal cavalry, dismounted, were ‘stoutly resisting the advance of Hill’s infantry.’ Newman’s section now opened, which attracted enemy counter battery fire. The four guns were soon ‘hotly engaged with Pegram’s and McIntosh’s battalions of artillery,’ numbering between twenty-seven and thirty pieces.

Even after many years had passed, Calef remembered the situation clearly, ‘The enemy’s infantry advanced rapidly, and the musketry and artillery fire soon became extremely warm.’ The Confederates had ‘cautiously approached in column on the road, with three extended lines on each flank;’ In reply, Gamble, according to Buford, ‘moved off proudly to meet [the enemy], and the two lines soon became hotly engaged, we having the advantage of position, he of numbers.’

Calef realising that his battery was ‘so greatly out numbered…directed the firing to be made slowly and deliberately.’ He also kept Buford aware of what was happening in front of his position. It was at this stage of the battle that Calef first became aware that the ‘demonic whir-r-r of the rifled shot, the ping of the bursting shell and the wicked zip of the bullet, as it hurried by, filled the air.’

While riding over to his guns on the far left, Calef met Buford; who had just completed an inspection of the field. The General, mounted on his war-horse ‘Grey Eagle,’ was calmly smoking his pipe—his only companion, at this point, was a bugler.

The Cavalry Commander quickly briefed the young artillerist on the current situation.

Our men are in a pretty hot pocket, but, my boy, we must hold this position until the infantry come up; then you withdraw your guns in each section by piece, fill up your limber chests from the caissons and wait my orders.

Just as Buford finished speaking, a shell burst dangerously close to the group, causing the horses to rear in fright. Fortunately, the three riders and their mounts escaped injury.

‘By this time the wounded were being brought to the rear and temporary field hospitals were established in the vicinity of the Seminary. Here also were my caissons.’ wrote Calef.

In the meantime, Gamble’s skirmishers who had been ‘fighting under cover of trees and fences, were sharply engaged, did good execution, and retarded the progress of the enemy as much as could possibly be expected, when it is known they were opposed by three divisions of Hill’s corps.’ After they had checked and retarded the Confederate advance for several hours, they were ordered to fall back to a ‘more secure and better sheltered’ position, about two hundred yards from the first line of battle. Buford later reported that the brigade ‘had to be literally dragged back’ from their forward line; and ‘then most reluctantly did it give up the front. A portion of the Third Indiana found horse-holders, borrowed muskets, and fought with the Wisconsin regiment that came to relieve them.’ Buford was recorded as saying; “I’ll be dammed if I can’t whip a little corner of hell with that First Brigade!”

However, the Infantry of the First Corps had started to arrive; and they were able to relieve Gamble’s beleaguered brigade, ‘in its unequal contest with the enemy.’

While Gamble was engaged on the left of the line, ‘Old Tommy’ Devin’s brigade, on the right, ‘had its hands full.’ The Confederates had advanced on Devin by four roads, but, he was able to check and held each column, until the leading division of the Eleventh Corps came to his relief.
Gamble’s brigade had done all that Buford had asked of it, and the General gave it high praise in his official report. However, he reserved his most fulsome complements for Battery A:

Tidball’s battery, commanded by Lieutenant Calef…fought on this occasion as is seldom witnessed. At one time the enemy had a centric fire upon this battery from twelve guns, all at short range. Calef held his own gloriously, worked his guns deliberately with great judgement and skill, and with wonderful effect upon the enemy.

Calef had not expected a major battle that day, and his part in the holding action had been hot work. But, withdrawing from the present line, and the rest of the days fighting, would prove to be still harder and bloodier challenges.

As soon as the First Corps relieved the cavalry line of battle, and Hall’s battery had come up, Calef started to withdraw Battery A. He first ordered the left section to retire by piece and join the caissons. He then rode over to the other guns to supervise their withdrawal. As he was giving the order to the non-commissioned officer in charge of the centre section, First Sergeant Newman, ‘a shell burst under the horses of one of the pieces, killing or disabling four out of the six.’ Calef immediately sent back for a limber from one of the caissons, but before it could arrive, Newman, ‘by strenuous exertions, drew off  the piece with one team.’ The Confederate infantry’s charge had brought them so close to the section’s position it was impossible to take off all the harness; two sets of the four sets were, however, later recovered by Newman.

Riding over to Sergeant Pergel’s section, Calef discovered that the enemy, in a ‘double line of battle in gray,’ had emerged from the McPherson’s Woods in front, and were rapidly advancing on the guns. ‘It was Archer’s brigade,’ recalled Calef later, ‘and their battle-flags looked redder and bloodier in the strong July sun than I had ever seen them before. At those flags the firing was directed.’ Pergel had already opened, and ‘the gunners succeeded in making excellent’ and ‘well-directed shots.’ Aided by the carbines of the two hundred dismounted troopers of the Eight New York Cavalry, the section managed to check the charge made by the Thirteenth Alabama Infantry. This threw Archer’s lines into ‘some confusion’ and stalled his advance, causing the brigade to divide; which did material damage to the Confederate forward movement on that part of the field. However, as the woods, just two hundred yards away on the the section’s right flank, were now teeming with enemy infantry, and its cavalry support was small, Calef decided it would be prudent to withdraw the guns, instead of waiting until the enemy came within canister range.

As the battery was limbering up Meredith’s Brigade of Wadsworth’s Corps ‘swept by on the run’ and relief had arrived at last on that part of the line. The charging Union infantry brigade managed to overlap Archer’s front, and, making a partial wheel to the right, caught the Confederates as they were moving by a flank to gain the tactical object of that part of the field—‘a tongue of the woods.’ Archer, and a part of his brigade, was captured.

Meanwhile, General Buford discovered that General Davis’ Mississippi Infantry Brigade was using the unfinished railway cut as a rifle-pit. He therefore, sent for one of Roder’s guns to enfilade it and drive them out. Roder took his right piece to the cut and opened with canister, which had the desired effect, driving the Confederates in great confusion. As he was bringing the piece into battery, the Rebs seeing it, charged forward, crying, “There is a piece—let’s take it!” As soon as the gun was unlimbered, Corporal Robert S. Watrous, (Chief of Piece) bringing up a round of canister, was shot in the leg by a minnie bullet, and dropped to the ground. Private Thomas Slattery, the Number Two, ‘with commendable presence of mine,’ snatched the ammunition from the hands of the fallen corporal and got it in the gun just as the enemy were rushing forward to capture it. Some of the Rebs were so close to the piece when it was fired ‘they were literally blown away from the muzzle.’ The devastating effect of this round saved the piece from falling into the hands of the covetous enemy.

At the same time the Sixth Wisconsin Infantry, changing front and assisted by the Fourteenth Brooklyn and Ninety-Fifth New York Infantry, charged the railway cut and captured a part of Davis’ Mississippi Brigade—one of their trophies being the colours of the Second Mississippi Infantry.

Robert Watrous’ shattered leg had to be amputated, but he survived the operation; and became a respected citizen of the town of Mystic, Connecticut.
The other guns of the battery had been assembled with their caissons near the Seminary. However, before the chests could be filled, General Wadsworth personally ordered the battery to the front again, to take the place of Hall’s ‘which had in a very short time, been placed hors de combat.’ Hall’s support had fallen back, leaving the artillerymen to face a furious fire from the enemy in the railway cut, who, using the cut as a defence, had shot down Hall’s horses, and killed and wounded many of his men. It was against these Confederates that the canister from Roder’s gun had been fired with success.

Writing thirty years later, Calef found it ‘impossible to forget the appearance of that field.’

The ridge we were to occupy was the one my guns had so peacefully peeped over the afternoon before. Now how changed was my camping-ground, over which the men from Wisconsin and New York had charged Davis’ brigade. Crossing the Cashtown pike, the guns in ‘column of pieces’ threaded their way through the dead and dying and came into battery on the crest. It was one of those momentous lulls in the storm when scarcely a shot could be heard, and it seemed as though both sides had retired to their corners, awaiting the call of ‘time.’  The field, however, presented a true battle-picture, and such as one sees occasionally portrayed on canvas, but which, seen in all the horrors of its reality, can never be effaced from the memory. Here was one gun of Hall’s with the horses all lying down dead in harness. Another unlimbered and pointing toward our line, left in that position by the cannoneers, who lay dead or dying beside it. Still another with cannoneers making Herculean efforts to get it off the field, which was thickly strewn with the dead and dying infantrymen of Cutler’s brigade, who had cleared the railway cut at such a sacrifice of life. The Sixth Wisconsin alone lost one hundred and sixty men, killed and wounded, in this charge. The wounded begged us not to run over them, and I cautioned my men to drive carefully. We were greeted with a shower of bullets on reaching the crest, and I found my battery without support of any kind and not a skirmisher between the guns and the enemy. ..In this spot I had most men wounded, and by musketry…

The infantry was being reformed in the rear and it was with great difficulty that General Wadsworth got forward some troops to act as supports on the other side of the railway cut.

As soon as my guns reopened their fire, little white puffs of smoke could be seen fringing the western hills across Willougby’s Run, and each puff represented a gun of Pegram’s and McIntosh’s battalion of artillery of Hill’s corps, thirty-six in all, to oppose which my six were no match. As long as the guns were in our front it was a fair fight, but Rodess, of Ewell’s corps, was now getting into position on our right flank, and having seized the key-point of the field, Oak Knoll, posted Carter’s battalion of artillery (sixteen guns) there, which opened a terrific enfilading fire on the First Corps line, the projectiles skipping in a playful manner between my line of guns and their limbers.

Illustrating how indifferent horses become to the noise and turmoil of battle and the attachment and care of the trooper for his beast, I recall that in the midst of all this firing my drivers secured a lot of oats, left on the field by Hall’s battery, and fed them to their horses, who ate them with as much relish and as little concern as though they were at the picket-rope, merely raising their heads while munching their grain if a shell burst near, some of them being killed while munching their grain.

While Battery A was being pounded by the enemy, artillery Colonel Charles S. Wainwright was engaged in violent argument with General Wadsworth. ‘Wadswoth was much provoked at my not allowing Hall to bring his battery back at once,’ confided Wainwright to his diary, ‘and finding Tidball’s Horse Battery near by had ordered it into position. Lieutenant Calef…refused to go on the grounds it was not a proper place for a battery; Wadsworth ordered him to the rear under arrest; and the battery was posted by the second in command.’

The latter part of the Colonel’s account is inaccurate, as Calef definitely stayed with the battery for the rest of the day; and there were no serious repercussions from any disagreement with Wadsworth. In the heat of his dispute with Wadsworth, Wainwright probably misheard the story of Calef’s orders, and his confusion resulted in the garbled diary entry.

Buford, who was also with the group of officers near the Seminary, asked Wadsworth to relieve Battery A. Wadsworth passed the request on to Wainwright; who ‘ordered [Capt. Gilbert] Reynolds’ [battery] out there.’ However, Wainwright ‘requested’ that Reynold’s battery must not be required to support Wadsworth; this was granted, on condition that Wainwright stayed with the Battery.

Wainwright, who believed the assigned position to be ‘an ugly place,’ moved off with Reynolds’guns, but left the caissons behind for safety. He found Battery A on a knoll across a road to the front, roughly the same place that Hall’s had occupied; and was engaged, as that officer’s had been, ‘with a Rebel battery on the high ridge to the west.’ Reynolds’ battery moved into a position in the rear of Calef’s guns, so that they could be withdrawn—here they discovered Hall still cutting out his dead horses. Almost at once the Confederates opened another battery at close range from the left. This battery’s enfilading fire completely swept the position. At this point Reynolds had an eye shot out by a case-shot —Wainwright came close to losing a leg by another—and the command of his battery fell to Lieutenant George Breck. Both the enemy batteries continued to fire effectively and the two Union ones were so completely at the angle of a cross fire, that they were both forced to withdraw—No matter what General Wadsworth had to say about the matter!

Wainwright ordered both batteries across the Cashtown road, to a position approximately two hundred yards to the south, ‘where they would be sheltered by the wood from the Rebel battery up the road, and [could safely] engaged the new one.’ Battery A beat Reynolds’ in changing position, which ‘chagrined’ Wainwright ‘a little.’  ‘Though,’ he admitted, ‘it could not be expected that the crack battery of the army should have been outdone.’ He officially relieved Battery A soon after, just as Buford had requested.

Wainwright later noted that ‘changing [position] had been hot work,’ and ‘several of the men and horses of both batteries were knocked over.’
After the First Corps’ initial success in partially driving back the enemy and making heavy captures of prisoners, the Confederates brought up fresh troops, and attacked General Abner Doubleday’s command. Doubleday’s troops fought bravely enough, but were outnumbered and forced to fall back. Seeing the Union troops retiring, and realising their need of ‘assistance,’ Buford immediately rushed Gamble’s brigade to Doubleday’s left, and ‘dismounted it in time to render great assistance to the infantry, and to check and break the enemy’s line.’ Gamble’s troopers found partial shelter behind a low stone fence, where they were in short carbine range of the enemy. ‘The enemy being close upon us we opened a sharp and rapid carbine fire,’ wrote Gamble in his battle report. Buford described Gamble’s fire as being ‘perfectly terrific.’

Ordered to join his ‘legitimate command,’ Calef discovered Gamble’s dismounted brigade behind the stonewall, ‘contending against McGowan’s brigade of Lane’s division, which was stealing a march on our left flank to seize the Emmitsburg road.’  Gamble’s carbines killed and wounded so many of McGowan’s first line; it was driven back on the second. The battery played its part in the action, as Calef noted, ‘In this position the battery made some excellent shots, but my ammunition being nearly exhausted, the firing was very deliberate.’

‘Our men kept up the fire,’ wrote Gamble, ‘until the enemy in overwhelming numbers approached so near that, in order to save my men and horses from capture, they were ordered to mount and fall back rapidly to the next ridge, on the left of the town… The stand we made against the enemy prevented our left flank from being turned, and saved a division of our infantry.

Calef always believed that this small action had been unfairly overlooked. ‘Gamble lost heavily, but the importance of the gallant stand made by this handful of dismounted troopers has never been properly recognised, for had Lane reached the Emmitsburg road his position on the flank and rear of the First Corps would have seriously compromised the retrograde movement of that corps, then being executed, toward Cemetery Hill.’
Shortly after this, Buford moved his command to the Union extreme left, ‘to watch and fight the enemy should he make another attack.’ He then went to Cemetery Hill for observation. While there, General Hancock arrived, and ‘in a few moments he made superb disposition to resist any attack that might be made.’

Buford’s division bivouacked that night on the left of the Union line, its pickets extending almost to Fairfield.

‘The zeal, bravery, and good behaviour of the officers and men on the night of June 30 and during July 1 was commendable in the extreme,’ reported Buford. ‘ A heavy task was before us; we were equal to it, and shall all remember with pride that at Gettysburg we did our country much service.’
John Calef as a young cadetBattery A, on Calef’s own admission, ‘had a hard, hot, exhausting day of it. Fighting first with the cavalry and then with the infantry, and after it was all over most of the men dropped from sheer weariness and some of them were soon asleep.’

As they lay around the guns, resting and awaiting instructions about camping, General Buford rode up and reined in long enough to say, addressing himself to the rank and file: “Men, you have done splendidly. I never saw a battery served so well in my life.”  This recognition of their services by their general was ample compensation to those brave men for the hardships of the day.

The battle had been ‘a very severe one’ for the battery; it lost twelve men badly wounded, and thirteen horses killed. ‘All behaved nobly,’ noted Calef in his battle report.

I took notice particularly of the coolness and intrepidity of the chiefs of sections during the hottest of the firing. Lieutenant Roder behaved very handsomely, showing himself equal to every emergency. Being short of officers, First Sergeant Newman and Sergeant Pergel each commanded a section. Of the other non-commissioned officers, Sergeants [Michael] Quinn, [James] Callanan, [Charles] Crittenden, [John] Brothers, [Malachi] Killern, and [Robert S.] Watrous deserve mention, the latter losing a leg. The battery did well, and I was highly gratified by the compliments paid it by General Buford, commanding division, and Colonel Gamble, commanding brigade to which the battery was attached.

Calef was awarded the rank of brevet Captain for gallantry and good conduct during the battle of Gettysburg and in the campaign from the Rapidan to Petersburg.

The next morning, Colonel Thomas C. Devin’s horsemen were reconnoitring in rear of the enemy’s right, when Berdan’s Sharpshooters became engaged with ‘a division of the enemy advancing to feel [the Union] lines’ in front of his position. Devin immediately dismounted and deployed two squadrons in support of  the Sharpshooters, and formed his brigade into line on the left of  Gamble’s brigade.

The attack commenced directly in front of where Battery was parked. At approximately ten o’clock Gamble ordered Calef to take the battery to the front and select a position for the guns. Calef rode out about a quarter of a mile and selected the only rising ground he could find in his immediate front. Returning with the battery, he placed it in position ready to commence firing. Due to the heavy toll of causalities from the previous day’s fighting, the battery had only enough cannoneers to field five guns. However, as Calef later noted, ‘Notwithstanding the severe work of the first, every one showed himself ready for a continuation on the morning of the second.’

Battery A’s support, formed in a line of battle to the right of the battery, was the Fifth Michigan Infantry, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel John Pulford. Deployed immediately in front of the battery, were Berdan’s Sharpshooters, who had fallen back to the position under pressure from the advancing Confederates. Calef recalled that they were using their knapsacks as a cover and rest for their rifles. The battery was in this position for ‘a very few minutes’ and without opening, when the order came to withdraw at around 10.30 a.m. While it was in position ‘Gen[eral] Dan Sickles and Staff rode through [the] battery to the front as if reconnoitring the ground.’

Pulford says it was ‘about 1.00 p.m.’ when he was ordered to the front to support ‘Tidball’s battery.’  This is curiously at variance with all the other reports and memoirs; he further reports that he stayed in the position ‘about one hour’ before being ordered to rejoin his brigade.
After withdrawing, Calef was ordered to follow Gamble’s brigade ‘and march with it to Taneytown M[arylan]d, for supplies and forage.’  The battery reached Taneytown at about 4.00 p.m., and went into camp.

On July 3, the battery—issued one day’s forage—moved out with Buford’s command to Westminster; to guard the army’s supply trains. On Independence Day the command marched from Westminster to Union Bridge. The next day the march took them to Frederick; where they obtained forage, and went into camp near the city.

At 4.00 a.m. on July 6, the whole division (the Reserve Brigade having rejoined the night before) marched out toward Williamsport. Their objective was the destruction of Robert E. Lee’s ambulance and supply trains, which were reported to be crossing the Potomac into Virginia.

In charge of the seventeenmile long train of wagons and ambulance was Confederate cavalry general, Brigadier-General John D. Imboden. Early on the morning of July 6, he received intelligence of the approach of Buford’s command. He immediately posted his twenty-two pieces of artillery on the hills that partially concealed the town of Williamsport. He dismounted his own command, a brigade of  ‘independent’ cavalry to support them. He then ordered the wagons to be formed up defensively, and armed as many of the drivers and other non-combatants as he could find, with the guns of the wounded.

At about 5.00 a.m., Buford’s troopers discovered and ‘drove in’ Imboden’s pickets near Saint James’ College. General Merritt’s brigade, with Graham’s battery, was put in position on the right, Gamble’s brigade on the left, and Devin’s brigade on the left rear as reserves. Gamble’s brigade was then ordered to engage the enemy on the left of the Boonsborough road. The Third Indiana Cavalry was ordered to capture and destroy a train of seven wagons of the enemy on the left, on the Downsville road, which was successfully accomplished, making prisoners of the drivers and those in charge of the train.

As Buford was able to ‘handsomely’ drive the Confederates to within half a mile of the trains at Williamsport, he made preparations to capture the town. However, the Confederates counter attacked striking at the First Brigade. Gamble dismounted most of his troopers and posted them under shelter in line of battle. Battery A, now capable of manning only four guns, was placed in the same position, supported by the mounted men. Gamble waited until the Rebels, who were many times his superior in numbers, came within short carbine range, and then—in a repeat of the Gettysburg action—opened—doing ‘terrible execution.’ Calef, also, commenced firing on the enemy; his guns were credited by Gamble as having done ‘excellent execution.’

At one point in the action the Rebel’s skirmishers advanced on John Roder’s section, which had been detached for the purpose of shelling the enemy’s sharpshooters—who had possession of the buildings near the position. The enemy was repulsed ‘by the timely use of canister,’ ‘Which,’ reported Calef, ‘also rallied our line of skirmishers, so that we were enabled to hold our position for the remainder of the day.’

The massed fire of carbine and cannon forced the Rebel pickets back onto their reserve. Unfortunately, the ‘gallant’ Major Medill, Eighth Illinois Cavalry, who commanded the line of dismounted men, was mortally wounded during the action.

The Confederates made no direct attack on Merritt’s front, but were ‘so obstinate that he could not dislodge them without much sacrifice.’ They did, however, attempted to turn the Union right with a brigade of infantry. Merrit ‘most admirably foiled’ this manoeuvre.

‘While our hottest contest was in progress,’ wrote Buford ‘General Kilpatrick’s guns were heard in the direction of Hagerstown, and as they grew nearer, I sent word to him to connect with my right for mutual support. The connection was made, but was of no consequence to either of us. Just before dark, Kilpatrick’s troops gave way, passing to my rear by the right, and were closely followed by the enemy.’

Gamble held his position, but, by now it was getting dark and his brigade was nearly out of ammunition—as was Merritt’s—and the whole command was outnumbered. Therefore, Buford ordered Devin to relieve Gamble and a portion of Merritt’s troops. Having been relieved, Gamble and Merritt fall back to Jones’ Cross-Roads, in the direction of Boonsborough; which Gamble’s brigade and Battery A reached about midnight, and where they bivouacked for the night. The unexpected delay was caused by Kilpatrick’s cavalry division having been driven back in confusion from the direction of Hagerstown, completely blockading the road in Gamble’s rear, making it impassable for several hours. Devin’s brigade, being posted as Buford’s rear guard, held their ground until the road to the Antietam River was clear.

‘The expedition had for its object the destruction of the enemy’s trains,’ wrote Buford. ‘This, I regret to say, was not accomplished. The enemy was too strong for me, but he was severely punished for his obstinacy. His casualties were more than quadruple mine.’

On the 7th the command marched to Boonsborough, and took up a position just outside of town. The Confederates shelled the rear of the column. Calef’s battery was ordered to remain in position all night. Meanwhile, Merritt’s Reserve Brigade, having camped well in advance on the Hagerstown road, had ‘a successful cavalry brush, with the Reb’s advance.’

At 8.00 a.m. the next day, the Confederates were reported to be advancing along the Hagerstown road. Buford ordered Gamble’s brigade to take position on the crest of the ridge on the right of the road to Hagerstown, about 1½ miles from Boonsborough. Gamble dismounted his men, and they were ‘thrown out to the front and in the strip of woods on the right of the road.’

Battery A was placed in position in the centre of the line, on the right of the road, supported by mounted men. According to Calef, ‘it soon opened with good effect on a column of the enemy advancing down the pike.’ But, before the battery could fire more than two of its guns, the enemy replied with its own batteries. ‘In this position,’ continued Calef, ‘some good firing was done at a rebel battery posted near a barn on left side of pike; which obliged it to take up a new position.’ The Confederates, supported by their artillery fire, moved forward in an attempt to drive in the Union skirmishers. However, after ‘a sharp contest’, they were unable to budge the Union troops from their positions. Battery A, with its supports, remained in position for about three hours. However, as the Rebs were working their way round to the Union left—in order to gain possession of the Williamsport pike—Gamble ordered his command to fall back to the right of the town.

Kilpatrick’s division was relieved on the left and placed on the right, but was unable to dislodge the enemy from the woods. As a result, Gamble’s brigade was ordered to reoccupy the ground it had just left!

Going forward with the cavalry Battery A was placed in position under ‘a heavy fire.’ Lt. Calef:

The enemy’s batteries had in the meantime, under good cover, worked up very close to our position. The enemy’s sharpshooters had also gained possession of a stone barn, from which it was necessary to dislodge them before we could advance. Lieutenant Roder was detached with one piece for this purpose. Scarcely had he fired the first shot, when a rebel battery opened on him about 1,000 yards in front. Their first shot severely wounded one man and killed one horse. I placed the remainder of the battery in position as soon as possible, and opened. The enemy having obtained accurate range of my position, the fire was extremely warm. By well-directed shots, however, they were driven, and as our skirmishers advanced, I took up a more advanced position with my battery, and opened again, but being nearly out of ammunition, only a few rounds were fired at their retreating cavalry.

Gamble ordered three-quarters of his brigade to dismount, and then sent them forward to drive the enemy out of the woods in front. This, they ‘accomplished rapidly’ under heavy cannon and muskets fire—Buford leading the advance line of dismounted skirmishers in person! They drove the enemy three miles, and across Beaver Creek, on the Williamsport / Funkstown road. While Gamble’s dismounted men drove the Rebs across the creek, ‘General Kilpatrick with two squadrons of his command,’ wrote Gamble, ‘galloped down the road within a short distance of the enemy; halted, looked at each other, and retired.’

As it was nearly dark, the pursuit was brought to a halt, and the command was ordered to withdraw to its old camp.
At 4.00 p.m. on the 9th Buford division attacked the enemy and ‘drove him handsomely about [two] miles.’ During the engagement Battery A took up three successive positions; opening each time. The last position was held throughout the night, with the horses kept in their harness.

Attacking the Confederates at 8.00 a.m. the next day, Buford’s division advanced in line of battle; Reserve Brigade on the right, First Brigade in the centre and on both sides of the road, and the Second Brigade on the left—while Battery A opened with ‘good effect’ on the enemy’s skirmishers, who were in a strong line. Lt. Calef:

As our skirmishers advanced, I took up a second position, and shortly after a third, with one section. No sooner had I opened with this section, than eight guns of the enemy opened from the ridge beyond, about l,000 yards, and a very short distance from Funkstown… As soon as I discovered their force, I sent back for the other section immediately—also [sending] word to General Buford—and for the moment withdrew my guns under cover. Here I had one horse killed.

The blue cavalry drove the Confederates rapidly, under a heavy fire of artillery and musketry, into and through Funkstown; and back into the entrenchments beyond Antietam. However, the Union advance was checked by a ‘heavy’ ‘and ‘much superior force’ of infantry and artillery. Not only did the Rebs block the advance, they also came out and ‘gave battle.’

The Federals then took up a defensive position on the heights above the town. There, according to Gamble’s official battle report, Battery A’s guns ‘did good execution.’ Calef:

The enemy’s batteries withdrew to a position on the right of Funkstown, from which they attempted to prevent, by a warm fire of artillery, our farther advance up the pike. As soon as my other section came up, I occupied the next ridge beyond, just abandoned by the enemy. Here I remained about four hours engaged with the enemy’s batteries. Their sharpshooters had gained possession of all the buildings and outhouses on the edge of town, and succeeded in opening a warm fire on our skirmishers and my cannoneers.

The Confederates tried hard to dislodge the Federals from their position, but were deigned the heights as so long as Buford’s ammunition lasted. However, ammunition is not inexhaustible and Buford received no help or support from nearby Union infantry units.
‘Howe’s [infantry] division of the sixth Corps was in easy supporting distance,’ Buford later noted, ‘but had no orders to aid me.’ Gamble’s own report is less terse:

Our infantry finally arrived to within half a mile in our rear, and although we were hard pressed by the enemy, and nearly all our ammunition expended, the infantry pitched their shelter-tents, and commenced cooking and eating, in spite of repeated and urgent requests to the commanding officer of the infantry to occupy our excellent position and relieve us. When our ammunition was expended, we were ordered by General Buford to fall back. The Rebels then occupied our position, and our infantry afterward had to retake it, with the unnecessary loss of several killed and wounded.

Retreating from their elevated position, Buford’s command made camped for the night. Battery A bivouacking near to its position of the previous night. In summing up the day’s engagement, Calef wrote, ‘in this engagement, notwithstanding the fire was very hot, I had only one man wounded and one horse killed.’

On the afternoon of the 11th, the First and Second Brigades, with Battery A (the Reserve Brigade being again detached), marched out from Boobesborough and headed for Bakersville—where they went into position.

During the next day—a Sunday—Buford’s pickets got to within 800 yards of the Confederates entrenchments at Downsville. However, back at camp Calef’s Company was ‘stampeded by the return of a reconnoitring party from Colonel Devin’s brigade; [and] quickly got ready to move to the front, but later in the day unharnessed when the cause of the alarm was discovered.’

On the 13th, Calef’s gun crews and drivers were still in the same position; when for a second time they were ‘alarmed by the sound of firing as if between pickets on [the] right and front. [The] battery got ready for action, expecting an immediate attack; [but it] proved to be infantry firing off their muskets to clean them; consequently [the horses were] unharnessed.’

On Tuesday the 14th at 7.00 a.m. Buford ordered his division to advance toward Falling Water, but, at 7.30 it was discovered that the enemy had retreated during the previous night. ‘The few remaining scouts were run into the rear guard of Lee’s army,’ wrote Buford, ‘which was soon seen in front of Kilpatrick, who had advanced from the north. Kilpatrick was engaged. I sent word to him that I would put my whole force in on the enemy’s rear and flank, and get possession of the road and bridge in their rear.’

Gamble takes up the story:

[My] brigade marched rapidly toward Falling Waters, and when near there observed a division of the enemy entrenched on a hill, covering the approaches to the ford. While the brigade was moving round to flank and attack the enemy in rear, to cut them off from the ford and capture them all, in connection with the other two brigades of the First Cavalry Division, which we could easily have accomplished, I saw two small squadrons of General Kilpatrick’s division gallop up the hill to the right of the rebel infantry, in line of battle behind their earthworks, and, as any competent cavalry officer of experience could foretell the result, these two squadrons were instantly scattered and destroyed by the fire of a Rebel brigade, and not a single dead enemy could be found when the ground there was examined a few hours afterward. This having alarmed the enemy, he fell back toward the ford before we could get round to his rear. We, however, with our dismounted men, attacked him in flank on rough ground, and had a sharp carbine engagement, taking about 511 prisoners, 61 of whom, together with 300 stand of arms, were turned over to an officer of Kilpatrick’s division by mistake; also a 3-inch Parrott gun, captured from the enemy by the Eighth New York Cavalry, which was afterward sent by General Kilpatrick to the camp of this brigade, where it properly belonged.

Merritt and the Reserve brigade came up in time to take the advance before the enemy had entirely crossed the ford and made many captures. Unfortunately, this last burst of aggression was not enough to undo the harm caused by Kilpatrick’s bungled advance. As Buford later, sadly, reported, when the Union troopers finally got to the river they found ‘the enemy’s bridge was protected by over a dozen guns in position and sharpshooters on the Virginia side. As our troops neared the bridge, the enemy cut the Maryland side loose, and the bridge swung to the Virginia side.’ With the cutting of the bridge, Lee’s army finally pulled itself away from Buford’s frustrated grasp.

The next day the command marched from Bakersville to Berlin, Maryland; where Battery A was relieved from Buford’s command, to ‘refit and recruit.’ But, Calef and his men didn’t cross over the Potomac into Virginia and reach Warrenton Junction until Sunday July 19th. Here they went into their final camp of the Gettysburg Campaign.

SPECIAL NOTICE: Over the next few weeks I will be migrating all the existing information about Battery A from this site to one decated to the subject. See Battery A 2nd US Artillery link in Blogroll.


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  • Light Company A, 2nd U.S. Artillery

    If anyone has any information about the Civil War service of Light Company A, Second U.S. Artillery, please contact me via this site. I am particularly interested in individual members of the battery - officers, non-commissioned officers or privates. SPECIAL NOTICE: Over the next few weeks I will be migrating all the existing information about Battery A from this site to one decated to the subject. See Battery A 2nd US Artillery link in Blogroll below.
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