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(1863) Battle of Gettysburg
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AustinG
Reading
PA USA
Posts: 18
151st Pennsylvania Infantry
Posted on: 1/11/2020 9:05:09 PM

Your vision is obscured. Your nostrils are filled with the sulphric taste of gunpowder. The blasting of musket fire rattles your head and overwhelms your ears. By some miracle you hear the order from you commanding officer. "Fall back!" You look to your left and you see your Lt.Col. peering under the thick smoke blanketing the landscape. He then is thrown backwards by two minie balls that just struck his two legs. The man next to you has just been shot in the head, falling into you before lying on the ground motionless. You then are forced back into town as you retreat to the ridge, preparing for the battle that is to come.

The 151st Pennsylvania Infantry was mustered in as a 9 month regiment in November 1862. The inexperienced regiment came under artillery barrage at Chancelorsville, with part of the unit momentarily breaking. The only casualties were caused by a small skirmish at The Battle of The WIlderness. About 15 men were killed, wounded or missinng. For three days in July, 367 of the 478 men would be killed, wounded, or captured.

The 151st pursued the Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania, part of Reynold's 1st Corps. The regiment soon marched to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to assist John Buford's cavalry in the fight against Lee's army. The unit moved to Seminary ridge, constructing very rough entrenchments on the hill. The unit then moved forward to McPherson's ridge, plugging a hole in the Union line. The Iron Brigade had been defending the ridge. As a result, they were very relieved to see what they thought was an entire brigade reinforcing them. The Hardee Hat boys pulled back to Seminary ridge. Soon the 151st were alone, defending the bloody ridge. They were severely exposed on the left, suffering extraordinary casualties on all sides. They allowed the entirety of the 1st corps to pull back to Seminary ridge in relative safety. They soon also pulled back to the crude fortifications they had previously constructed around the Seminary. They valiantly attempted to hold their ground, but it was in vain. For unbeknownst to them, the units to their left had pulled back through the town of Gettysburg. They again, were alone holding the line as the 1st Corps fell back to the last ridge, Cemetery Ridge. Again, they were suffering heavy casualties from their exposed left. They were under constant pressure from the fresh Carolinians of A.P. Hill. As Lt.Col. McFarland (then in command because the Col. had fallen ill from a typhoid fever outbreak that left over 100 men out of commision.) peered below the thick smoke, he was struck in both of his legs simultaneously. A Private Lyman Wilson of Co. F carried the officer to the Seminary, then in use as a hospital. Minie balls came so close to the pair that one of McFarland's cuff buttons was sheared off. The Lt.Col. was captured when the ridge fell into enemy hands. Eventually, the 151st was forced back from their positions. They too fled through the streets of Gettysburg.

When they returned to Cemetery Ridge, they were placed on the left flank of the II Corps, right smack in the middle of the line. They were told much the same thing as Col. Chamberlain of the 20th Maine in the 1993 movie Gettysburg. It was the safest point on the line. That rang true for two days. On the third day, they were at the center of the ill-fated Pickett's Charge. A large group of Confederates were sheltering to the right of a group of Vermont units. In a few moments, two already bloodied units threw themselves into the sheltered Rebels. One of these units was the 151st PA. The Confederates soon made their way to their own lines, battered by the stiff U.S. defense.

"At Gettysburg, they won, under the brave M'Farland, an imperishable fame. They defended the left front of the First Corps against vastly superior numbers; covered its retreat against the overwhelming masses of the enemy at the Seminary, west of the town, and enabled me, by their determined resistance, to withdraw the corps in comparative safety. This was on the first day. In the crowning charge of the third day of the battle, the shattered remnants of the One Hundred and Fifty-first Pennsylvania, with the Twentieth New York State Militia [alternate name of 80th New York], flung themselves upon the front of the rebel column, and drove it from the shelter of a slashing in which it had taken shelter from a flank attack of the Vermont troops. I can never forget the services rendered me by this regiment, directed by the gallantry and genius of M'Farland. I believe they saved the First Corps, and were among the chief instruments to save the Army of the Potomac, and the country from unimaginable disaster."

— Abner Doubleday

The 151st lost 77% of their fighting strength at the battle, their only major engagement of the war. The unit's enlistments ended on July 27, 1863. Under a month after their bloodying. The regiment came to be called "The school teacher's regiment" after the war, due to the large amount of school teachers present in the regiment. These kinds of stories are what make military history so interesting. Individual and herd bravery, that is what I'm in this for.
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"Those are regulars, by god!" -Not Phineas Riall, in reference to not Winfield Scott's Brigade
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4557
151st Pennsylvania Infantry
Posted on: 1/13/2020 2:34:09 PM

Thanks for that, Austin.

Gettysburg cost the lives of seventy six members of that regiment : 54 killed outright, and 22 died from wounds.

Only the 24th Michigan suffered greater loss of life in the Federal 1st Corps.

Perhaps the 100 men who were laid low with typhoid considered themselves lucky....mind you, that might be complacent of me : that disease was a huge killer of soldiers on both sides.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

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