A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Glorious First

On this day in history, the first of July, 1863, the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, "Northampton's Own," along with several thousand heavily armed friends, came to the aid of Buford's cavalry north and west of Gettysburg, Penn., where it took its stand on Blocher's Knoll, now called Barlow's Knoll.  The 153rd was part of von Gilsa's brigade in Barlow's division of Howard's XI ("Dutch") Corps.

Barlow's Division was supposed to delay Ewell's advance down the Harrisburg Road long enough for von Steinwehr's Division to complete the fortifications on the fall back position on Cemetery Hill.  His "advanced" position to the knoll is often regarded as a blunder; but may have been the best move available given the situation of the moment.  Had the knoll been occupied by rebel artillery, it would have rolled up the right of I Corps and led to disaster.  See here for an appraisal. 

In the map to the left, note the position of the 153rd Penn. at the tip of the salient, ready to be enveloped on both sides. 

It should be noted that the 153rd first met battle at Chancellorsville, where it was positioned on the very far right of the US lines, and were first to be hit by Stonewall Jackson's surprise attack.  Nonetheless, they fired one volley in good order before von Gilsa ordered them to withdraw lest they be enveloped.

The development of the battle is shown in the map below.  You will notice that Barlow had only a skirmish line to link up with (68th NY) because Krzyzanowski (known as "General Consonants" among the soldiers) was resting his men before bringing them into line.  Had Krzyzanowski advanced a half hour earlier or Devin's cavalry not withdrawn from the right flank a half hour earlier, the position might have held a great deal longer than it did. 

As it was, it was because of the battering that his corps took in this fight that Ewell decided it was not "practicable" to take Cemetery Hill later that day; so we may have the 153rd Pennsylvania to thank for at least some of that. 

The 153rd is second from the right on Barlow's line, minus two companies forward as skirmishers.

monument to the 153rd stands on Barlow's Knoll today to mark the position of the regiment, photographed here by Margie:

When Barlow's and Ames' Divisions finally broke, they pulled back in disorder through town to retire on the previously planned fallback position on Culp's Hill, where they spent the second day. 

The Bugler, as he is known locally, stands also atop the Civil War monument in Centre Square in Easton, PA:

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