Chapter 19

by Christopher Rudolph © 2015

Chapter 19 – This poem, Charge of the 1st Minnesota at Gettysburg, focuses on how this regiment, led by Colonel Colvill, saved the Union center line on the 2nd Day of the Battle of Gettysburg. A gap had formed in the line due to General Sickles advancing his men about three quarters of a mile forward out into a Peach Orchard. General Winfield Scott Hancock needed more time to move troops over to fill the gap. To stall the advancing Confederate troops he ordered the 1st Minnesota to charge. They were outnumbered more than three to one. Only 47 out of 262 survived. Their heroism, however, bought the Union precious time and Union troops arrived to successfully strengthen the line. The line was never broken.

800px-William_Colvill 

     Colonel William J. Colvill                        Charge of 1st Minnesota

Chapter 19 – Charge of the 1st Minnesota at Gettysburg – 2nd Day

 

Union General Sickles

Took his III Corps fleeting

Out to the Peach Orchard

Commanding General Meade was seething

 

Sickles offered to Meade

To bring his men back

But rebels were already upon them

They must brace for the attack

 

III Corps had orders to guard

Where the Center Line wound

From Cemetery Ridge crest

Down to that Little Top Round

 

Now the III Corps stretched too thin

So, on their right flank grew

A widening gap between them

And General Hancock’s Corps II

 

Sickles’ men were taking a beating

Retreating in disarray

Sickles himself had lost a leg

Not going at all well today

 

For Confederate Rebels

Were on an offensive quest

To seize the undefended opening

On Cemetery Ridge Crest

 

This could be disastrous

For the Union line would split

Right down the middle

Whole battle they could lose it

 

Reinforcements were coming

Hancock needed ten minutes at least five

He looked around for soldiers to fight

Until more fresh troops arrived

 

Everything was in chaos

Smoke filled the air

Musket balls streaming

Soon Anderson’s brigades would be there

 

Hancock rode upon some soldiers

Already with fixed bayonets drawn

Guarding Battery C 4th US Artillery

He desperately needing their brawn

 

Hancock asked Colonel Colvill

In the moment of battle worst

“What regiment is this?”

Colvill replied, “Minnesota’s First!”

 

“Is this all the men we have?”

So few were the soldiers blue

Colonel Colvill replied

“We are now only two hundred-sixty two”

 

There was no alternative

Hancock the Superb

Ordered them to charge

That day at Gettysburg

 

“Advance Colonel, and take those colors!”

All knew their situation

They had just been ordered

On a suicide mission

 

But without hesitation

They descended towards Plum Run

Bayonets blazing flashing

Outnumbered more than three to one

 

They staggered the Alabamians

Stopped them in their tracks

Loading and firing and falling

Time now to give it back

 

But there were too many

Enveloped soon in gray

Still they needed to keep fighting

To keep the rebels at bay

 

Retreating was not an option

They desperately needed more time

To thwart General Cadmus Wilcox’ men

And save the Union line

 

Bayonets clashed with bayonets

Rebel yells did scream

Blood gushed and flowed

Forming a rippling reddish stream

 

Hancock stared in disbelief

He thought they’d last five minutes maybe ten

Still fighting like wild tigers

“These are mighty Minnesotan men”

 

Hancock then sent orders

The job for them was done

82nd NY reinforcements had arrived

Fall back from Plum Run

 

Forty-seven finally made their way

Carrying the wounded on their backs

Back to the Union Center Line

They had stopped the Rebel attack

 

Thermopylae brave heroes

1st Minnesota saved the line

These brave soldiers didn’t die in vain

For they had bought the Union precious time

 

Go to Chapter 20

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