Robertson’s Brigade—At Gettysburg

Captain Smith’s Cannon

Devil’s Den, Slaughter Pen, Valley of Death and Little Round Top

5 o’clock July 2nd 1863

In the distance, right, Little Round Top seems to “erupt” as 3 union cannons fire away at attacking confederates moving up Houck’s ridge (left side of painting). Rebel infantry of the 4th and 5th Texas and 15th Alabama regiments attempt to reach the summit on the open south side of the rocky hill, while the 48th, 47th and 15th Alabama regiments attempt to take the wooded side (smoke rising through trees). None will succeed.

Commander: Brigadier General Jerome Robertson

Units: 3rd Arkansas, 1st Texas, 4th Texas, 5th Texas

Strength: 1734

Losses: 603 (152-313-138)—34.8%

The fabled Texas Brigade was reorganized after the Maryland campaign of 1862 with the removal of Georgia and South Carolina units and the addition of the 3rd Arkansas. The Texas nucleus remained and so did the brigade’s fighting abilities, which were the best in Lee’s army. The brigade, under General John Hood, crushed the Federal line at Eltham’s Landing on the Virginia peninsula and won further distinction at the battle of Gaines’s Mill, where it helped to finally breach the Federal line. The brigade helped spearhead the attack on General John Pope’s forces at Second Manassas. Although equally aggressive at the battle of Antietam, the brigade sustained heavy losses in the cornfield without anything to show for it. The brigade was not involved in the fight at Fredericksburg and was with Longstreet near Suffolk, so it missed the Chancellorsville campaign. The men were ready for a fight after so many months of inactivity.

Brigadier General Jerome Robertson had an unusual past. After losing his father at an early age, Robertson worked for a physician and ultimately went to medical school. His education was cut short by the War for Texas Independence. At the age of twenty, Robertson raised a company of Kentuckians and took them south to serve under Sam Houston. Robertson remained in Texas after the war, where he married and began a medical practice. An acclaimed Indian fighter, Robertson was elected to the Texas legislature and voted in favor of secession. He subsequently raised a company of volunteers and brought them to Richmond, where they became part of the 5th Texas. Elevated to colonel of the regiment in early June 1862, he fought in most of the regiment’s subsequent battles. Robertson finally assumed command of the brigade in the fall of 1862. Nicknamed “Aunt Polly,” because he cared so much about his men’s welfare, Robertson had proven himself to be a no-nonsense fighter who had won the respect of his Texans.

Many of the men grumbled when ordered to ford the armpit-deep Potomac River on June 26 while fully clothed and holding their guns and accoutrements over their heads. The grumbling stopped when the men were issued captured whiskey. The more temperate gave their share to their comrades, causing more than a few to become intoxicated. While most of the officers chose to look the other way, Colonel Van Manning of the 3rd Arkansas “ordered the sober ones to dunk the drunken ones in the creek to bring a reaction,” recalled Captain Miles Smith of the 4th Texas. Tongue in cheek, Smith wrote that the “Texas Brigade was in four states in one day. The State of Virginia, the State of Maryland, the State of Pennsylvania, and a state of drunkenness.” The sober soldiers enjoyed the beauty of the countryside. Private John West commented that the barns were “more substantially and carefully built and fitted out than any house I have ever seen in the country in Texas.”

The brigade reached Chambersburg on June 27. To Colonel Robert Powell of the 5th Texas, it was a “city of banners … a Union flag surrounded every house … every lady held a flag in her hand, varying in size from a postage stamp to a table cloth.” The women were less than congenial, as they “congregated on the sidewalks and did jeer and ridicule the Johnny Rebs, who received in return compliments equally gracious,” recalled Smith. Some of their scorn turned to horror when they realized who they were dealing with. At least one remarked, “They are the ones that have killed so many of our soldiers.” One woman smugly remarked, “Thank God, you will never come back alive.” This was answered by, “No, as we intend to go to Cincinnati byway of New York.”

Marching another mile north of the town, the men halted and went into bivouac with the rest of the division. The soldiers were most unhappy when they realized that their commissary wagons had not yet arrived. They finally arrived after dark, but the men were dismayed to find that they contained slender radons of rancid bacon and musty flour. This caused the men to reason that the “Federal soldiers that had marched through Virginia had taken, with the strong hand, whatever they wanted … not even offering to pay in greenbacks,” recalled Corporal Joseph Polley of the 4th Texas. Lee had issued strong orders against depredations on private property, but the men did not consider it a violation if they paid for the goods with Confederate script or if it was voluntarily offered. “No violence used, no threats of any kind made by any Confederate soldier, and none of the citizens complained of having been intimidated and robbed,” claimed Polley.

Polley awoke to a wondrous sight on June 28. “Every square foot of an acre of ground not occupied by a sleeping or standing soldier, was covered with choice food for the hungry. Chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese … scattered around in bewildering confusion and gratifying profusion … loaves of bread and chunks of corned beef, hams, and sides of bacon … bowls of yellow butter, demijohns of buttermilk, and other eatables too numerous to mention.”

The march resumed on June 30, and the brigade reached Fayetteville. It was to continue early the next day, but was delayed because Johnson’s Division and the Second Corps’s wagon train filled the road, so the men waited. The men were ordered to form into column when the last wagon passed. A frustrated Corporal Polley recalled that the men marched only about a hundred yards before being ordered to stop. No one wanted to sit down, because they expected the march to be resumed momentarily. “Nothing is so wearing on infantry as such halting process,” he wrote after the war. The subsequent march over the mountains in the dark was a tiring one. Colonel Powell of the 5th Texas noted that there was not nearly as much “hilarity” on this march, as the men understood that they would soon be in battle. The brigade was finally permitted to rest outside Cashtown at 2:00 A.M. on July 2. The men were awakened less than two hours later, as the officers conducted an inspection of every soldier’s arms and equipment. The final leg of the march to Gettysburg was exceedingly slow—only about six miles in four hours. The brigade finally reached the battlefield at about 9:00 A.M. During the last portion of its march, the brigade passed “the bloody shirts”—men who had been wounded the day before and were attempting to return to Virginia.

After completing a circuitous march to Warfield Ridge, General Robertson aligned his regiments, from left to right, as 3rd Arkansas–1st Texas–4th Texas–5th Texas. Many of the men were apprehensive when they looked across the wide swath of ground. “Hitherto, the Texans had fought on ground over which they could move rapidly in line, and where the enemy was accessible—where the terror caused by their dashing rush and swift oncoming counted large. Here at Gettysburg the foe lay concealed behind stone fences at the base of the ridge and mountains, or flat on the ground on a crest of ridge or mountain,” noted Corporal Polley.

Reilly’s battery opened fire from its position in the front of the brigade. The enemy guns replied, “knocking out a man here and there,” according to Private A. C. Sims of the 1st Texas. John Wilkerson of the 3rd Arkansas could look down the line “and see our men knocked out constantly … I don’t know how long we were held there under fire, but the time seemed endless,” he recalled. Private John West noted that the “infernal machines came tearing and whirring through the ranks with a most demoralizing tendency.” The losses were heaviest in the 4th Texas, which lost fifteen men to a single shell. Captain Decimus Barziza of that regiment found that these cannonades were exceedingly difficult for the men because “one has time to reflect upon the danger, and the utter helplessness of his present condition. The men are all flat on the ground, keeping their places in ranks, and as a shell is heard, generally try to sink themselves into the earth.” At the height of the shelling, a private stood up and, moving to the front of the 5th Texas, offered a prayer. Seeing the effect of this cannon fire, General Robertson moved the men to a safer location and ordered them to lie down. Colonel Manning (3rd Arkansas) calmed his men by walking among them, quietly saying, “Steady men, steady.”

General Hood ordered them to charge the enemy and take the heights at about 5:00 P.M. Colonel Phillip Work of the 1st Texas pointed to his regiment’s flag and yelled, “Follow the Lone Star Flag to the top of the mountain!” Almost immediately, commands to “Forward-Guide Right-March!” were heard, and off they went. The Federal artillery fire now increased, causing the line to move faster. As the brigade advanced, Robertson ordered it to throw down a rail fence in its front. Riding forward, he yelled, “We’re going in there, men. There’s a rail fence down there on the road. Grab it by the bottom rail and heave.” With this obstruction out of the way, the men swept across Emmitsburg Road. As the line rushed forward, it encountered a skirmish line composed of the tough 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters (Ward’s Brigade, Birney’s Division), who took their toll on the attackers. Private Mark Smither of the 5th Texas wrote home after the battle that “our men tumbl[ed] out of ranks at each step, knocked over by the Enemy’s sharpshooters who lined the side of the mountain.”

The brigade almost immediately ran into problems. After the war, Robertson complained that Law started his charge prematurely, “a full mile from the enemy’s line of battle.” Because Law’s Brigade had a head start and was moving so fast, Robertson’s men had to go from quickstep to a trot to keep up with the Alabamians. Another problem was Hood’s orders to Robertson, which were to “keep my right well closed on Brigadier-General Law’s left, and to let my left rest on the Emmitsburg Pike.” As his line of battle rushed forward, Robertson realized that Emmitsburg Road “[bore] sharply to the left … while Law on my right bore to the right.” Robertson knew that his brigade was too small to cover the desired space. Colonel Manning’s 3rd Arkansas stubbornly held his regiment’s left on Emmitsburg Road, while the 5th Texas linked up with Law’s Brigade on the right. The 4th Texas aligned with the latter regiment, but the next regiment in line, the 1st Texas, aligned with the right of the 3rd Arkansas. This caused a yawning gap to form in the middle of the brigade. Despite the fact that Robertson explained in his report that the “separation of my regiments … was remedied as promptly as the numerous stone and rail fences … would allow,” in reality, the two wings fought independently for the remainder of the day. Robertson admitted this later in his report, indicating that he tried to send the left wing to the assistance of the right, but when he realized that it was too heavily engaged, he tried to move the 4th and 5th Texas to the left. However, that too was impossible, as these two regiments had already encountered the enemy. He did not mention that the gap was partially filled by the arrival of the 44th and 48th Alabama (Law’s Brigade). Realizing that he could not supervise both diverging wings, Robertson sent a message to Law, asking him to look after the 4th and 5th Texas, while he stayed with the left wing. Equally concerning to Robertson was the fact that McLaws’s Division had not advanced on his left.

The left wing probably engaged the enemy first, just south of the Wheatfield. With the 3rd Arkansas on the left, in the Rose Woods, and the 1st Texas on the right, the two regiments swept forward. According to Colonel Phillip Work, Company I of the 4th Texas became separated from its regiment during the charge and joined the 1st Texas. The fact that both flanks hung in the air did not seem to bother either regimental commander at this time. Up ahead were regiments from Ward’s Brigade (Birney’s Division, III Corps). With a yell, the two regiments charged the Federal line, which opened fire. A volley suddenly tore into the 3rd Arkansas’s vulnerable left flank. The 17th Maine of de Trobriand’s Brigade (Birney’s Division) had just sprinted to a stone wall on the edge of the Wheatfield to cut down the 3rd Arkansas’s left flank. Colonel Manning ran to the left and ordered the three companies there to change position to face this new threat. But the din of battle was so great that none heard his command, so Manning had to physically push the men into position. Up against the 86th New York, 20th Indiana, and 99th Pennsylvania of Ward’s Brigade in his front, and the 17th Maine on its left flank, Manning wisely broke off the attack and pulled his men back to safety. He stretched out his regiment to about double its original length, hoping that he would find the vulnerable flank of the enemy, and charged again, but the results were the same. The 3rd Arkansas’s repulses are easy to understand, given that its 479 men were up against about 1300 of the enemy.

Coming up on the right of the 3rd Arkansas, the 1st Texas was exposed to a devastating artillery fire from Smith’s battery on Houck’s Ridge. According to Private A. C. Sims of the 1st Texas, “we loaded and fired, the front rank on their knees and the rear standing.” They found a measure of safety when they reached a stone wall at the base of the triangular field. Fortunately for the Texans, Smith’s cannon could not depress their barrels enough to fire into them as they crouched behind the wall. The Texans opened fire on Smith’s gunners and silenced the battery. The men now jumped over the wall and dashed toward the guns. All was confusion. First the men heard orders to retreat, which the regiment began to do. Then the order was quickly countermanded. “No one seemed to know whence it came, nor from whom,” recalled Private James Bradfield. “It cost us dearly, for as we lay in close range of their now double lines, the enemy poured a hail of bullets on us, and in a few minutes a number of our men were killed or wounded.” The 124th New York closely watched these events while stationed atop Houck’s Ridge. According to Captain Charles Weygant of the regiment, the Texans advanced to within fifty yards of the battery, when the Federal troops opened fire. The “crash of riflery [sic] perceptibly thinned their ranks and brought them to a stand … it seemed to paralyze their whole line.” The Texans soon recovered, and continued forward.

Upon the command of its officers, the 124th New York let out a cheer and charged into the 1st Texas, driving it back about two hundred yards to a rail fence. Here the Texans rallied and held their ground, inflicting terrible losses on the New Yorkers. Help was on the way, as Benning’s veteran brigade moved up behind the Texans and opened fire on the New Yorkers, forcing them back to their original position on Houck’s Ridge. Not knowing that the 1st Texas was in front of them, the 20th Georgia opened fire. The 1st Texas’s flag bearer quickly moved to an open area and waved his flag until the firing stopped.

Colonel Work (1st Texas) was initially relieved when the 15th Georgia arrived to support his regiment. This relief quickly changed to frustration, as the Georgians barreled forward and “commingled” with his troops. Despite the efforts of both commanding officers, the regiments could not be separated and fought most of the day together. With the threat from the 124th New York dissipated, both regiments stormed toward Smith’s battery on Houck’s Ridge. Private James Bradfield insisted that no orders to charge were given. “Without awaiting orders, every man became his own commander and sprang forward toward the top of the hill at full speed.” The charge was successful, and several of Smith’s guns were captured. During this melee, the two commingled regiments were joined by the 20th Georgia and the 44th Alabama (Law’s Brigade), who took on the 124th New York, 4th Maine, and 99th Pennsylvania, often in hand-to-hand combat.

Over to the left, Colonel Manning’s 3rd Arkansas was still not making any progress. General Robertson now ordered Colonel Work to leave two companies on Houck’s Ridge and move the rest of his regiment to the left to support the 3rd Arkansas. Manning was also relieved to see the 11th and 59th Georgia of Anderson’s Brigade form on his endangered left flank. Just at that moment, a shell exploded almost in Manning’s face, knocking him senseless. Despite these reinforcements, the Federal troops in this sector were just too strong to be displaced, and every attack failed. The persistence of these attacks caused the 3rd Arkansas to lose more men than any other regiment in the brigade, save one. Eventually, the growing pressure on the Federal line was so great that Ward’s Brigade and the 17th Maine were finally forced to fall back.

The first-person accounts of the 1st Texas survivors are confusing after this point. There is, however, ample evidence from the 15th Georgia that two regiments continued to advance to the Wheatfield, where they slugged it out with the newly arrived 5th New Hampshire of Cross’s Brigade (Caldwell’s Division, II Corps), but were forced back. The two regiments were later pushed farther back by the arrival of Brooke’s Brigade of the same division. Worried about his ability to withdraw his regiment, Colonel Work ordered the color bearer and several men to maintain their position, while the rest of the regiment was ordered to the rear. It did not work out like Work had intended, as the men refused to leave their beloved flag. These men continued to fire away at the newly arrived Federal reinforcements. Soon after, the 1st Texas and the 3rd Arkansas were ordered to Devil’s Den on the right, where they opened fire on the Federal troops on Little Round Top. One soldier from the 3rd Arkansas merrily sang, “Now let the wide world wag as it will, I’ll be gay and happy still!” as he methodically loaded his gun and fired it at the Federal troops on the hill. The men replenished their supplies of ammunition by rifling through the pouches of fallen soldiers.

While the left of the line was engaged with several regiments from Ward’s and de Trobriand’s Brigades, the right of the line, consisting of the 4th and 5th Texas, drove toward Little Round Top. To the right of the 5th Texas was the 4th Alabama of Law’s Brigade. About a quarter mile from Little Round Top they encountered skirmishers from the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters, who occupied thick undergrowth. So tenacious were the skirmishers that the Texans had to stop and reform their ranks before charging. Although the skirmish line was finally pushed back, it bought valuable time for the Federals. All the while, artillery played upon the ranks of the Texans, causing many casualties. Advancing another two hundred yards, Major John Bane of the 4th Texas believed that he had finally encountered the Union line. These troops were probably from the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters making another stand, along with skirmishers from Vincent’s Brigade. The men leaped a low stone fence and rushed the sharpshooters, forcing them to retreat.

The three regiments were now alone at the base of Little Round Top. Near the summit, the men could see the 16th Michigan, 44th New York, and 83rd Pennsylvania (Vincent’s Brigade) taking cover behind rocks. The two Texas regiments were aligned directly in front of the first two regiments. Moving slowly up the hill, the officers found it increasingly difficult to keep anything that resembled an orderly line of battle. The hill was just too steep and studded with numerous large rocks and other obstructions. “The huge rocks form [ed] defiles through which not more than 3 or 4 men could pass abreast, thus breaking up our alignment and rendering its reformation impossible,” wrote Lieutenant Colonel K. Bryan of the 5th Texas in his official report. So steep were some areas that West (4th Texas) thought that “a mountain goat would have reveled” in them. Still, the men moved on. Halting his men, Bryan ordered them to open fire on the enemy. The Federal troops returned the fire, which Bryan likened to “being showered like hail upon us.”

Private J. Mark Smither of the 5th Texas wrote home after the battle that “nothing daunted … our boys … until they had arrived within 25 steps of the works on finding that the plan of scaling the heights was impossible, for we could hardly have gone over them if there had been no Yankees there.” Private William Fletcher noted that “we stopped advancing, without orders as far as I was concerned, as I had heard none.” Smither related how his comrades “immediately took shelter, Indian fashion, behind rocks and trees and commenced popping away at the Yankees whenever they showed their heads … the Yankees … pouring volley after volley down on us with frightful effect.” The men were in an impossible situation. They could not advance, and to raise their heads invited having them shot off by the Federal troops above them. Jonathan Stevens of the same regiment honestly recalled after the war that “for the first time in the history of the war, our men began to waver. We [were] suffering terribly.”

Realizing that they were not making progress, but taking additional casualties with each moment they remained on the side of the hill, the officers pulled their men back to the woods at its base. According to Major J. C. Rogers, who took command of the 5th Texas after its colonel and lieutenant colonel had been wounded, he pulled his men back only when the withdrawal of the other regiments left his flanks unguarded.

Another charge was ordered, but it too met with defeat. Three regiments charging a steep hill against a similar size force, protected by cover, is folly. Yet the Texans and Alabamians never gave up. The veterans of Robertson’s Brigade realized an impossible situation when they saw it, and began streaming back down the slope, despite their officers’ orders to “halt.” While resting in the woods, the 48th Alabama arrived and formed on the left of the 4th Texas. Another charge was ordered. This time, four Confederate regiments stormed Vincent’s three well-positioned ones. The 5th Texas stormed up the hill, getting farther than it had on its first two attempts. A courier for General Law scrambled up the hill and told Major Rogers, “General Law presents his compliments and says hold the place at all hazards.” Rogers roared back, “Compliments, hell! Wiho wants compliments in such a damned place as this? Go back and ask General Law if he expects me to hold the world in check with the Fifth Texas Regiment.” Rogers apparently obeyed the order, for Private Val Giles saw him mount a log and “begin a Fourth of July speech. He was a little ahead of time, for that was about six thirty on the evening of July 2nd.” All was chaos. “Every fellow was his own general. Private soldiers gave commands as loud as the officers. Nobody paid attention to either,” recalled Giles. Actually, the din of battle was so loud that few could hear beyond a few feet.

Polley explained the hellish conditions on the hill:

Their fire [Federal artillery] and that of our own batteries, and the constant roar and rattle of thousands of muskets, made the earth tremble beneath our feet, while the fierce, angry shriek, the strident swirl of grape and canister as they tore hurtling through the air and broke like a wave from the ocean of death upon that devoted spot, the hissing bullets, and their “spat” as they struck rock, tree or human flesh—all this, with the shouts and imprecations, the leaping to and fro and from boulder to boulder of powder-begrimed men, seemingly gone wild with rage and excitement, created a scene of such indescribable, awe-inspiring confusion.

This attack should have ended like the others, except for the fact that the 48th Alabama appeared to have flanked Vincent’s right-most regiment, the 16th Michigan, while the 4th Texas hit its front. Before long, the Michiganders were streaming to the rear. It looked like the Texans and Alabamians would finally take the hill. Colonel Strong Vincent rushed over to rally his men, but was mortally wounded as he shouted encouragement while standing on a large rock.

Help was on the way. Before the Confederates could exploit the breach in the Federal line, the 140th New York (Weed’s Brigade, Ayres’s Division, V Corps) arrived and smashed into the Texans and Alabamians. The fight was now at close quarters, but the Confederates were at a disadvantage and forced to fall back yet again. The officers could see that further attacks were futile, as their men were exhausted, their ranks were decimated, the Federal position was all but impregnable, and enemy reinforcements were now arriving.

A bitter Smither told his mother, “now it was to be expected that our men having tried it and seeing the impossibility of taking the place would have refused to have gone in again, but no they tried it a second and third time and formed to go in a 4th time when night came on forced us to abandon the fight.” Another private from the regiment, Rufus Felder, wrote home that “it seemed like madness in Lee to have attempted to storm such a position. He came very near loosing [sic] his whole army by it.” The 5th Texas had the dubious honor of having sustained the brigade’s greatest losses—52%.

Nightfall ended the bloodletting. Fletcher recalled orders to prepare to charge the hill once again. “The order shook me, and my feelings were indescribable; in fact, I had a bad case of cowardly horror.” Common sense prevailed and the attack was never launched. One of the casualties was General Robertson, who was wounded above his knee and unable to walk.

At about 2:00 A.M. on July 3, the 1st Texas and 3rd Arkansas moved to the right, where they rejoined the two Texas regiments. The exhausted men threw themselves down in front of Little Round Top and caught whatever sleep they could, given the continual moans and groans of the wounded. Fearing an attack by the enemy, the men were awakened to erect breastworks. By dawn, Major John Bane of the 4th Texas could report that they stood two feet high. The brigade remained in this position through July 3. The only event of any importance was the skirmishing in their front. Several men were killed or wounded during the sharp-shooting that occurred during the day. Several were also wounded during the grand cannonade that preceded Pickett’s charge, when, according to Fletcher, “the guns were not elevated enough and were doing fine work on our position. The bursting and flying pieces of shell and rock put us in a panic condition.”

At about 3:00 P.M., Colonel Work was ordered to move his 1st Texas south to help repel an anticipated cavalry charge. As the column approached the Bushman house, the men were ordered to tear down part of a fence that obstructed their passage. Proceeding another two hundred yards or so, the regiment took position behind a stone wall on the edge of the Bushman Woods. Here the men deployed in one line. Given the large area to cover and the losses the day before, Sims called it a “skirmish line.” Captain George Hillyer from the 9th Georgia (Anderson’s Brigade) noted that the 1st Texas did not have “men enough to have more than about one to every five or six steps.” Several units were thrown out to the left and right to protect the flanks. On the left, some of the men took down a “staked and ridered” fence and rebuilt it, attaching it to the stone wall. Reilly’s battery also joined the regiment, deploying about 250 yards in the Texans’s rear. Hardly had the men completed building the breastwork than the 1st West Virginia of Farnsworth’s cavalry brigade charged. One unknown Texan recorded in his diary that the charge began about 4:30 P.M.

Thomas McCarthy vividly described the Federal cavalry charge:

We formed behind a Bunch of Timber in our front between it and us, being an open field for Two Hundred yards [.] The ground trembled as they came, they rode down our skirmishers & charged us, and in a few seconds were on us, our Boys arose and pitched in to them. They went through us cutting right & left [.] The Firing for a few minutes was front, rear & towards the flanks [.] In a few minutes, great numbers of riderless horses were galloping around & and others with riders on were trying to surrender, a fusilade of shot 7 shell from Rileys [sic] Battery passed a couple of feet above our heads.

Private W. T. White of the 1st Texas noted that “they formed line of battle in plain view of us and charged. We held our fire until they were within fifty or sixty yards of us, when, taking deliberate aim, we fired on them, bringing down many men and horses. Instead of continuing the assault, which probably would have resulted in our capture, they retreated to their original starting point, reformed, and recharged, with the same result as before.” Many of the cavalrymen continued their charge. “All of the boys had fired off their pieces, and Yankees would not give them time to load, so the boys were using the butts of their guns.” Private James Hendrick agreed, stating that some of the Federal cavalrymen came “up [with] in ten steps of the regiment. Some of the regiment knocked them off of their horses with rocks. We killed a great many of them and captured over one-hundred prisoners. They could not break our lines.”

The reprieve was short-lived, for within a few minutes, the 18th Pennsylvania galloped toward the Texans’s position. The result was the same, and many horses trotted away with empty saddles. Private White noted, “having repulsed the second charge, we felt that we could almost whip all the cavalry the enemy had, and from that time on, for about two hours, they continued making demonstrations against us.”

During the evening of July 3, the brigade was ordered to move by the right flank to its original jump off position on Warfield Ridge. Here the men remained through July 4, finally retreating from Gettysburg late that night.

One of the toughest brigades in either army, Robertson’s Brigade was not effectively utilized on July 2. The problems began almost immediately, when the brigade broke into two separate and independent wings, fighting separately throughout the remainder of the day. Although outnumbered, the left wing fought well and eventually captured three cannon from Smith’s battery. The right also did as well as could be expected, given that it was assigned the impossible task of storming Little Round Top. That the two Texas regiments almost captured the heights is a testament to their fighting abilities.

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