Federal Line

Walk about 30 yards from the von Kleiser/34th Massachusetts position to the graveled service road where it leaves the parking lot and passes through a gate in the fence into the pasture. Notice the 54th monument due east across the interstate highway. Colonel Jacob M. Campbell, commander of the Pennsylvanians, reported on his regiment's charge as the battle climaxed.

. . . my regiment . . . took position on the left of the First West Virginia and in the extreme left of the line of battle. We remained in this position, partly shielded from the fire of the enemy by the crest of a hill in front until, observing the regiment on my right making a charge in the absence of orders, presuming it proper to imitate their example, I ordered the Fifty-fourth also to charge, which was done with alacrity and spirit. Advancing beyond the crest of the hill, a rapid, vigorous, and, as I believe, effective fire was for some time kept up on the enemy, and every effort made by them to advance on the front occupied by my regiment and resolutely resisted and proved abortive, although we sustained a galling and destructive fire, in which many of my men were killed and wounded. The enemy, however, pressed forward his right, which extended some distance beyond our left, and was rapidly flanking me in that direction despite the most determined resistance, when my attention was called to the fact that the regiment on my right . . . had given away, and the enemy advancing at almost right angle with my line and extending beyond the rear and right of my regiment. A few minutes only would be required to completely surround my regiment, and in the absence of any appearance of advancing support I was reluctantly compelled to order my command to retire. This was done in as good order as the circumstances would allow, two stands being made by a portion of the command before passing beyond musket-range, and the whole of it finally rallying and forming at a point indicated by the Colonel commanding the brigade. Walk 50 yards north along the service road until you reach a hedge line. This was the location of five companies from the Ist West Virginia. The 34th Massachusetts with the 1st West Virginia were pushed back through this area, and Col. George D. Wells recalled, . . . The Rebel line advanced, until I could see, above the smoke, the battle flags on the hill where the artillery had been posted. I ordered a retreat, but they either could not hear or would not heed the order. I was finally obliged to take hold of the color bearer, face him about, and tell him to follow me, in order to get the regiment off the field. They fell back slowly, firing in retreat, and encouraging each other not to run.

But the Rebels were coming on at the double quick, and concentrating their whole fire upon us. I told the men to run, and get out of fire as quickly as possible, and rally behind the first cavalry line found to the rear. The colors were halted several times, by different officers, in positions where it was impossible to make a stand, and would only start again at my direct order. I felt much relieved on receiving an order from Gen. Sullivan, who was conspicuous on the field, that the line would be formed on the ridge, and no stand made before it was reached. I directed the color bearer to march directly there, without halting; and, after getting out of fire, rode to the rear, and went round into the pike, and towards the front, looking for stragglers. I saw none; and, meeting the colors, found most of the regiment with them.

Captain Charles J. Rawling of the 1st West Virginia continued the account. The order was given to fall back . . . in rear of the former position, where, being exposed to a withering fire of musketry and canister, was for a short time thrown into confusion; rallying . . . took position on Rudes Hill.
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page created 20 December 1999

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