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PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2009 1:32 pm 
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Fellow Sharpshooters

Brian’s discovery of the Dyer Pettijohn’s post-War speech opens a number of questions for us who comprise the OCD Anonymous contingent of USSS researchers. Major Stoughton assigned Pettijohn as the acting lieutenant of an 11 man detail (selected from companies in the 2nd USSS) and ordered him to scout the country south of Devils Den for the enemy. Pettijohn and his entire command was captured during the opening minutes of Evander Law’s brigade assault.

My comrades and I have engaged in numerous debates of where Pettijohn’s detail (Bushman farm lane, a ridge line adjacent to the lane on the east side of Confed Ave, Bushman Hill, etc.) was situated when Law’s brigade swarmed over the ridge and initiated it’s assault. One of the problems I have with Pettijohn and Fairbanks accounts are that they both were recorded years after the battle. The issue of memory contamination in post-War accounts has always posed a problem for those of us interested in getting a clear idea of what happened on the battlefield. Another factor influencing memory is the tendency for persons to unconsciously, or consciously, protect their own ego for errors of judgment they made (an example of the later tendency can be Hiram Berdan’s Post-War boasts about his role in the Pitzers Wood affair). Finally there is the literal memory problem called the ‘fog of War’—where the participant is only able to view/understand the battle from their own narrow perspective. Pettijohn had a very active early War life, and portrays himself as energetic, adventurous and a bit of a scamp—all the attributes of a good sharpshooter.

This is Pettijohn’s post War account of how he was captured: On the 2nd day of July, 1863, near the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, we contacted the army of General Lee who was marching on the city of Washington. My particular command - the sharpshooters - were thrown out in front of the left wing of our army, and directly between General Sickles' and General Longstreet's Corps. That part of the battlefield is undulating ground, interspersed here and there with groves of timber and with an occasional rock as large as a hay stack. About one o'clock on that day the enemy infantry advanced and as we were in his immediate front, we were soon actively engaged. The rebel line as it advanced was anything but straight, but was in rather a zigzag formation, but on they came. While we were paying some attention, and not without effect, to the enemy troops in our immediate front and to our left, another regiment of "Johnnies" came up through a grove of timber on our right until they were within easy pistol range before we discovered their presence. When I saw that if they continued to advance our retreat to our line of battle would be cut off, and when they still came on, I realized that our position was hopeless. We were skirmishers out in front of the main body of troops and being practically surrounded by the enemy we were at his mercy. Thinking that discretion was the better part of valor, I jumped into a low spot of ground behind a large rock. Two of my boys who were with me at the time thought to escape to our lines by running. I heard the commander of the rebel regiment call out to them to "halt," which they failed to do. He then ordered his men to fire and a rattle of musketry was the response. I learned after coming back from the South that on the next day when our army reoccupied that part of the battlefield, those boys were found at that place - one was dead and the other badly wounded. Although a dozen bullets had struck him, hopes were first entertained for his recovery, but he dies in about a week. After the war I was told that the part of the battlefield which was occupied by my command during the battle was thoroughly searched for me, but without results, and for a very good reason. I was marching, as a prisoner of war, to the tune of "Dixie," in the general direction of Richmond.

This is Pvt. Charles Fairbanks (Co. 'E'-2nd USSS) account (page 49):Gen. Sickles placed our regiment in front of the line of battle, and moved his whole corps to the front and right of ‘Little Round Top’, near the peach orchard on the Emmitsburg road. This was about 1 o’clock p.m. About 2:30 pm a detail of sharpshooters was called for, to advance in front of the skirmish line, and eleven men from my regiment, including myself was detailed, and moved forward to draw the enemy’s fire and reveal their whereabouts, as nothing could be seen of them in our front.

Advancing about one-third of a mile, over a knoll and down into a ravine, the rebels, Longstreet’s Corps, began their desperate charge. Three lines of battle appeared in our front and left flank so suddenly that all of us that had been detailed were captured….Ira Carr, Ledrue M. Rollins, and Corporal H.C. Congdon of my company were captured with me, also George W. Dimond of Company H, whom I knew very well, and with whom I bunked during my captivity, haring with him part of my woolen blanket, which hardly covered us both. I had thrown all my luggage away in order to keep up with my company on the march of July 1st.


Finally, I have included Maj. Homer R. Stoughton after action report: On the morning of July. 2,. I was placed in line on the extreme left of the Third Corps, remaining there for nearly one hour, when the colonel commanding instructed me to place my command in a position to cover a ravine near Sugar Loaf hill, which I did by putting Company H on the brow of the hill, with vedettes overlooking the ravine, and Company D in the ravine near the woods, to watch the enemy's movements in that direction. Companies A, E, G, and C formed a line perpendicular to the cross-road that intersects with the Emmitsburg pike. Companies B and F, I held in reserve.

I remained in this position until about 2 p.m., when General Ward directed that I should deploy my regiment across the ravine and through the woods on the right, and advance. I moved forward to a brook some 200 yards beyond a second cross-road running perpendicular to the Emmitsburg pike, and intersecting with it in front of Sugar Loaf hill. I sent forward scouts to reconnoiter the ground. I then rode out perhaps the distance of half a mile, and discovered the enemy's skirmishers advancing on my right, which, being unsupported by any connection with skirmishers on my right, I was compelled to withdraw to protect my flank. In this position we had but little time to wait. The enemy's skirmishers advanced to the top of the hill in our front, and immediately after they placed a battery directly in our front, and being too far for our range, I sent forward a few men under cover of woods on the left, and silenced one piece nearest us.

The enemy then advanced a line of battle covering our entire front and flank. While they were advancing, the Second Regiment did splendid execution, killing and wounding a great many. One regiment broke three times, before it would advance. I held my position until their line of battle was within 100 yards of me and their skirmishers were pushing my right flank, when I ordered my men to fall back, firing as they retired. My left wing retreated-up the hill and allowed the enemy to pass up the ravine, when they poured a destructive fire into his flank and rear.

Here Adjutant Norton, with about a dozen men, captured and sent to the rear 22 prisoners. Special mention should be made of this officer for his coolness and bravery during this day's engagement.
The right wing fell back gradually until they mingled with the regiments composing the Second Brigade, and remained till night, when the brigade was relieved.

In this day's action were wounded Capts. E. T. Rowell (acting major), J. McClure, and A. Buxton. Our loss was 28 killed, wounded, and missing. Among the missing was Lieut. D. B. Pettijohn, Company A.


Pettijohn’s ‘Lost Patrol’ sharpshooters:

Company E
Pvt. Charles Fairbanks,
Pvt. Ira Carr,
Pvt. Ledrue M. Rollins,
Cpl. H.C. Congdon

Company H
Pvt. George W. Dimond

Company A
Acting Lt. Dyer Pettijohn

Thanks to Fairbank's book, we can identify 6 of the 12 men assigned to Lt. Pettijohn's detail. Another two men, unidentified by Pettijohn, attempted to flee back and were cut down-one was KIA, the other mortally wounded-and subsequently died in US hospital. Who were the remaining men? James Mero Matthews journal identifies two men from Co. D. who were captured---were is unclear if they were part of the scouting detail or lost during the retreat/subsequent actions with 3rd AC lines?

The men who comprised the detail is very interesting. 1/3 come from Co. E. I don't recall exactly the arrangement of the companies placed on the Slyder Farm defensive line--I believe Co. D-ME occupied the far right flank-while F was the far left-Co. B. across Plum Run and perpendicular to the Slyder Farm line. Unfortunately Stoughton's AAR isn't very helpful. He doesn't give a specific timeline when he ordered Pettijohns detail (unidentified in the AAR) to advance and what position he wanted Pettijohn to occupy. Stoughton writes that he personally rode 1/2 mile beyond the 2nd USSS line but it is not clear if talked with Pettijohn in his advanced position or gave him any specific orders.

Both Pettijohn and Fairbanks indicate that once they occupied the assigned position that they remained there until captured. Pettijohn suggests the detail engaged Law's troops, while Fairbanks does not. Both consistently state that the CSA advance was rapid and they were captured quickly. At this time, the 1st Texas (close to the Bushman farm buildings, was advancing at the double quick step-around 165 steps per minute. Because the length of stride increases from common time, to quick time to double quick, we can calculate how much time it took Law's brigade and others cover the distance between the ridge and 2nd USSS positions. Another factor is terrain features, the contrast between the long slope across the Bushman Farm to the flat, swampy ground near the foot of BRT. These features caused formations to become irregular-observed by Pettijohn to be a 'zigzag'. Pettijohn mentions a CSA regiment coming up on his right flank 'in the woods'. Another clue.

Gregery Coco's book about the aftermath of Gettyburg, he devotes a chapter to the recovering dead US soldiers from the battlefield for internment. He mentions that many years after the war 4 bodies of USSS were found buried at the Slyder Farm. It is not clear if they were indeed USSS and what finally happened to the bodies...most likely buried in the Unknown section of the GNMC. Was one of them the unidentified USSS killed with Pettijohn??

Pettijohn’s detail comprised of nearly 1/10th the 175 to 125 man strength of the 2nd USSS on 7/2/63. But we hardly know anything about the events leading up to their loss?

HELP WANTED: Has anybody identified the rest of the men in Pettijohn’s detail, and what company they came from? Does anybody have photos of the men identified by Fairbanks? Do we have any diaries, memoirs, geneological refereces about/by them? Anybody have information as to the exact position occupied by Acting Lt. Pettijohn’s command when they were captured? Primary sources (original letters, memoranda, official reports) a must. I appreciate your support.

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess-USSS


Last edited by Bill Skillman on Fri May 22, 2009 9:20 am, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 3:23 pm 
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Bill,

I have photos of Ira Carr as well as George Diamond on the hard-drive of my ruined laptop, so whenever I get my files pulled I'll send them your way. There is also a photo of Dyer Pettijohn on the website that published his prison account; judging from the clothing and composition it was likely taken during the war or shortly thereafter. My roommate was gracious enough to allow me to use his computer while he's at work, so if I have any free time I'll use this favor to see if I can dig up any more online references to the capture of the scouting party.

We may have to go to Gettysburg ourselves with all of the accounts, period maps, etc. and spend a few hours tromping around to get a good feel for this. I know that last April our visit was way too short but seeing the land cleared near the Slyder Farm was a bit of inspiration; being able to see landmarks and terrain mentioned in the accounts will help out a lot.

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Randolph Mess, U.S. Sharpshooters


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 9:18 pm 
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Here are the two pictures I have of PettiJohn

Image

Image

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 9:20 pm 
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And the best images of Fairbanks I have from the author.

Image

Image

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 1:49 pm 
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Bill,

I'm in discussions with one of Dyer Pettijohn's descendants to get some further information about his service. She's already sent me a "Life & Times" of Pettijohn which included excerpts from the published history of the 1st Company Minnesota Sharpshooters (Co. A, 2nd U.S.S.S.). In these there is mention that the regiment was posted 1/2 a mile in advance of Devil's Den on the extreme left of the Federal line. The Sharpshooters began firing at the advancing confederates at roughly 600 yards and did not fully retreat until they were within 50 yards.

"In advance" of Devil's Den could mean a lot of things especially when we consider which way the regiment was facing but I believe that their final position was indeed in and around the area of Slyder Farm as we've discussed. If the regiment was facing roughly south-east this makes sense.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 10:21 am 
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Dave and Brian,

Thank you both for your contributions to this post. I especially appreciate the photographs of both Dyer Pettijohn and Charles Fairbanks--it is nice to have a face to go with the names of the participants; and so far, the only two men who have left us a written record of the 'lost patrol'.

Brian's comment has reminded me to check the photocopies I made of the original Co. A. 2nd USSS company books from the Archives. I will try to post the information before leaving on vacation. However, if memory serves me, the book entry will likely confine it's comments about the men who became casualties or were captured from Co. A. on 7/2/63.

I really don't want to broaden this discussion beyond the 'Lost Patrol' itself. The dispostion and actions of the 2nd USSS on July 2nd could easily fill an entire section (with side-bar subsections) of the forum. Granted, it is a great topic. However, I'd like respondents to confine their research to this small and largely forgotten episode in the larger story that took place that day on the Union left flank.

Brian, check your calendar for May-June. In light of the extensive restoration/timbering that has occurred since our visit last April, a Randolf Mess 'rambling-history tour' would be a very good idea indeed.

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess-USSS


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 12:09 pm 
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I believe that one of the members of the scouting party on July 2nd was
Grove T. Scribner of Co. H, 2nd USSS. In Vermont and the Civil War, A History of the Part Taken by the Vermont Soldier and Sailors in the War for the Union 1861-1865 by G. G. Benedict Vol. II, published by the Free Press Association, Burlington, VT in 1888 it says on page 766 "Scouts were called for and Sergeant Scribner of company H and Corporal H. C. Congdon of company E and 15 picked men were sent out to reconnoitre. Adjutant Norton accompanied them and they went out to the Emmitsburg road, scouted down it for a short distance without discovering any enemy, and returning reported the fact to to Captain Cooley of General Sickles's staff, who rode out to meet them. Soon after General Sickles advanced his line to take up his new position. Longstreet's lines were then deploying in the woods back of the Emmitsburg road, and in their advance soon after, Corporal Congdon and Ira Carr, two of the scouting party who had remained too long on the pike, were cut off and captured."

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:27 pm 
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Dan Wambaugh and myself spent several hours tracing the steps of the 2nd Regiment and the scouting party at Gettysburg this past weekend. Being able to walk the terrain and compare the various accounts left by members of the scouting party was valuable in helping us formulate a number of possible scenarios of what may have played out on July 2nd. Though it may take some time, I plan on researching this further and will hopefully have an article for everyone's consideration.

One thing that I have already done is compile a list of men who I believe were members of the scouting party. This was done with the help of service records gained from Civil War Data Systems, Inc. as well as descriptions from the known accounts.

- 2nd Lt. Dyer B. Pettijohn, Co. A. Captured.
- Pvt. Benjamin Hamlet, Co. A. Wounded, left leg amputated, died 7/20/63.
- Pvt. John Dolson, Co. A. Shot three times, died 9/3/63.
- Pvt. William Mason, Co. A. Captured.
- Cpl. Henry C. Congdon, Co. E. Captured.
- Pvt. Chas. Fairbanks, Co. E. Captured.
- Pvt. Ledrue Rollins, Co. E. Captured.
- Pvt. Ira Carr, Co. E. Captured.
- Sgt. Grove T. Scribner, Co. H. Escaped.
- Cpl. George Diamond, Co. H. Captured.
- Pvt. Wilman Allard, Co. H. Wounded and captured.
- Lt. Seymour Norton, Co. E. Acting adjutant, accompanied scouting party but returned to regt.

Something very interesting to me is the number of men who were outright captured. Pettijohn's account notes two men tried to make good their escape to the regiment but were shot down by the advancing Confederates. These two men could have been Ben Hamlet and John Dolson, with Dolson being the man that Pettijohn says was shot through the body several times. If the scouting party ended up somewhere in the vicinity of Warfield Ridge, several hundreds of yards in advance of the regiment, retreating across a VERY open expanse of land (Bushman and Slyder farm properties) would not have been a wise choice. Second, if some of the men had attempted a retreat only to see Hamlet and Dolson shot down, they may have surrendered in order to prevent further casualties.

These are just theories at this point but I hope to polish the research a bit and get something definitive on paper. If anyone here has accounts related to the scouting party/capture as told by any of the soldiers above, please don't hesitate to share! Since I do plan on writing a research paper on this any help would be greatly appreciated and all due credit given.

Until then I'll be at work on this to the best of my abilities!

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Brian White
Wambaugh, White, & Company
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Randolph Mess, U.S. Sharpshooters


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 8:17 pm 
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I thought I knew the name "John Dolson" from somewhere. Below is a link to the story of how Dolson's body was sent to North Carolina by accident after his death in September 1863.

http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/1852452/

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 10:05 am 
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Fellow Sharpshooters;

Brian, my kudos to you and Dan for outstanding research! In the spring of 2007, Charles Pursur, who for the past 15 years has patiently been identifying all of the North Carolina troops buried in the Oakwood cemetery, phoned me 'out of the blue' to report his discovery of Pvt. Dolson's remains. Charles described how he had been puzzling over the grave of a Pvt. John Dolton of the 2nd North Carolina Infantry--a man who did not exist in the regimental records. Charles heard from a researcher in New York who informed him "I think you have a Yank buried down there'. Their combined research finally revealed that the body was that of Pvt. John Dolson of Minnesota's Co. 'A' 2nd USSS. Until Brian's contribution above, I did not suspect at that time that Dolson was a member of Pettijohn's 'lost patrol'. It is also likely that he was the one Pettijohn identified as being mortally wounded as he attempted to flee.

Although I wasn't able to attend the rededication of Dolson's grave I suggested to Charles that he contact Co. C. and the North Carolina SUVCW camps to see if they could. I was deeply gratified to learn some of Co. C.'s fellows stopped, on their return from South Carolina, to pay their respects and commemorate Pvt. Dolson's sacrifice.

http://www.berdansharpshooters.com/dols ... index.html

One more piece to the puzzle solved.

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess-USSS


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