Editor’s Note: In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Christine Comiskey has provided a unique and fascinating viewpoint on this pivotal City War battle.
Comiskey, the president of Georgetown Historical Society, has transcribed the series of articles written by Gettysburg veteran Richard R. Foster, as published in the Georgetown Advocate, 1889. The Daily News will present this memoir in two parts, published today and tomorrow.
Foster fought in the 19th Massachusetts Infantry, Company C. He was only 19 years old at the time of the battle. A large portion of Company C was made up of men from Newburyport, Newbury, West Newbury, Georgetown and Rowley.
Gettysburg is the largest battle ever fought on American soil. The three-day battle (July 1-3, 1863), was a major turning point in the war. The Confederacy saw its “High Tide” reached at Gettysburg, ending in the South’s devastating defeat of Pickett’s Charge. Foster was one of the soldiers who witnessed that charge.
Foster’s narrative picks up on July 2, 1863, on Cemetery Ridge. The 19th Massachusetts had thus far only watched the battle from a distance. However, things were about to change …
The men were doing splendidly and we were getting intensely interested when our position as spectators was suddenly interrupted by the command “Attention!” from Col. Devereaux., and away we started on the double quick along the Ridge towards Round Top, followed closely by the 42nd N.Y. The right flank of the 3rd corps was probably about a half mile from us when we started; when nearly opposite it we turned to the right and made straight toward the retreating troops. Seeing that there was going to be hot work I unclasped my empty knapsack and let it drop, and went in with nothing but canteen and cartridge box; we crossed Plum Run, beyond which there was a slight ridge running diagonally to the road … here we lay down to await the coming of the rebels (their bullets were already with us), and form a rallying point for the retreating and sorely pressed troops. The smoke was so dense that we could see but a short distance, as the fugitives came out of it we called upon them to fall in on our flanks; some of the men were taking it quite coolly, walking along dragging their muskets while they loaded, and then stopping to fire; others seemed to have lost their wits and rushed to the rear like mad. We had quite a line formed when from out of the smoke came the pursuers, so close onto the pursued that they almost intermingled; our little line opened on them and checked the foremost a little, until a cannon battery was run forward and opened on us, when, being also subjected to a heavy enfilading fire, the regiment commenced falling back, firing as it went; just as it reached some bushes a line was met, having on their caps the red Maltese cross, coming through; our line fell back through these bushes.