15th Alabama Infantry Regiment: Battle of Gettysburg Report

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15th Alabama Infantry Regiment: Battle of Gettysburg Report

Gettysburg Battle Report:

Report of Col. William C. Oates, Fifteenth Alabama Infantry.

August 8, 1863.
Sir: I have the honor to report, in obedience to orders from brigade
headquarters, the participation of my regiment in the battle
near Gettysburg on the 2d ultimo.

My regiment occupied the center of the brigade when the line of
battle was formed. During the advance, the two regiments on my
right were moved by the left flank across my rear, which threw me
on the extreme right of the whole line. I encountered the enemy's
sharpshooters posted behind a stone fence, and sustained some loss
thereby. It was here that Lieut. Col. Isaac B. Feagin, a most excellent
and gallant officer, received a severe wound in the right knee,
which caused him to lose his leg. Privates [A.] Kennedy, of Company
B, and [William] Trimner, of Company G, were killed at this
point, and Private [G. E.] Spencer, Company D, severely wounded.

After crossing the fence, I received an order from Brig.-Gen.
Law to left-wheel my regiment and move in the direction of the
heights upon my left, which order I failed to obey, for the reason
that when I received it I was rapidly advancing up the mountain, and
in my front I discovered a heavy force of the enemy. Besides this,
there was great difficulty in accomplishing the maneuver at that
moment, as the regiment on my left (Forty-seventh Alabama) was
crowding me on the left, and running into my regiment, which had
already created considerable confusion. In the event that I had
obeyed the order, I should have come in contact with the regiment on
my left, and also have exposed my right flank to an enfilading fire
from the enemy. I therefore continued to press forward, my right
passing over the top of the mountain, on the right of the line.

On reaching the foot of the mountain below, I found the enemy in
heavy force, posted in rear of large rocks upon a slight elevation
beyond a depression of some 300 yards in width between the base of
the mountain and the open plain beyond. I engaged them, my right
meeting the left of their line exactly. Here I lost several gallant
officers and men.

After firing two or three rounds, I discovered that the enemy were
giving way in my front. I ordered a charge, and the enemy in my
front fled, but that portion of his line confronting the two companies
on my left held their ground, and continued a most galling fire upon
my left.

Just at this moment, I discovered the regiment on my left (Forty-seventh
Alabama) retiring. I halted my regiment as its left reached
a very large rock, and ordered a left-wheel of the regiment, which
was executed in good order under fire, thus taking advantage of a
ledge of rocks running off in a line perpendicular to the one I had
just abandoned, and affording very good protection to my men. This
position enabled me to keep up a constant flank and cross fire upon
the enemy, which in less than five minutes caused him to change
front. Receiving re-enforcements, he charged me five times, and
was as often repulsed with heavy loss. Finally, I discovered that
the enemy had flanked me on the right, and two regiments were moving
rapidly upon my rear and not 200 yards distant, when, to save
my regiment from capture or destruction, I ordered a retreat.

Having become exhausted from fatigue and the excessive heat of
the day, I turned the command of the regiment over to Capt. B. A.
Hill, and instructed him to take the men off the field, and reform the
regiment and report to the brigade.

My loss was, as near as can now be ascertained, as follows, to wit:
17 killed upon the field, 54 wounded and brought off the field, and 90
missing, most of whom are either killed or wounded. Among the
killed and wounded are 8 officers, most of whom were very gallant
and efficient men.

Recapitulation.--Killed, 17; wounded, 54; missing, 90; total, 161.

I am, lieutenant, most respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. C. OATES,
Col., Comdg. Fifteenth Alabama Regt.

Lieut. B. O. Peterson,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-Gen.

Source: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I. Vol. 27, Part II, Serial No. 44

Recommended Reading: Twilight at Little Round Top: July 2, 1863: The Tide Turns at Gettysburg (Hardcover). Description: Glenn LaFantasie's history graphically absorbs the reader in his superb and detailed study of two regimental commanders, Colonel William C. Oates and Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain, and their climatic clash at the Battle of Little Round Top at Gettysburg. Continued below...

In addition, LaFantasie, applying the regiments’ soldiers’ experiences from diaries, letters and memoirs, enables the reader to envision, in detail, the struggles and horrors that the two regiments endured at the Battle of Little Round Top. It is a handsome addition to my library.
 

Recommended Reading: Brigades of Gettysburg: The Union and Confederate Brigades at the Battle of Gettysburg (Hardcover) (704 Pages). Description: While the battle of Gettysburg is certainly the most-studied battle in American history, a comprehensive treatment of the part played by each unit has been ignored. Brigades of Gettysburg fills this void by presenting a complete account of every brigade unit at Gettysburg and providing a fresh perspective of the battle. Continued below...

Using the words of enlisted men and officers, the author-well-known Civil War historian Bradley Gottfried-weaves a fascinating narrative of the role played by every brigade at the famous three-day battle, as well as a detailed description of each brigade unit. Organized by order of battle, each brigade is covered in complete and exhaustive detail: where it fought, who commanded, what constituted the unit, and how it performed in battle. Innovative in its approach and comprehensive in its coverage, Brigades of Gettysburg is certain to be a classic and indispensable reference for the battle of Gettysburg for years to come.
 

Recommended Reading: Gettysburg Requiem: The Life and Lost Causes of Confederate Colonel William C. Oates, by Glenn W. LaFantasie. Booklist: This excellent, scholarly biography deals with a man best known as Joshua Chamberlain's principal opponent on Little Round Top on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Like his famous opponent, the 15th Alabama Regiment's commander, William C. Oates, knew the art of the infantry officer. Born when much of his native Alabama was still frontier, he survived six wounds, including the loss of his right arm. After the war, he was a distinguished and eventually wealthy lawyer and state politician as well as a thoroughly unreconstructed rebel with a notoriously hot temper. Continued below…

Yet he made a scandal at the end of his career when, at a state constitutional convention, he advocated no racial limitations on voting rights… A valuable addition to the Civil War shelves. About the Author: Glenn W. LaFantasie is the Frockt Family Professor of Civil War History and the Director of the Center for the Civil War in the West at Western Kentucky University. He is the bestselling author of Twilight at Little Round Top. He has also written for several magazines and newspapers, including American History, North & South, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, The New York Times Book Review, America's Civil War, Civil War Times Illustrated, and The Providence Journal.

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