03 August 2011

The Twenty-Second Georgia

The waiting for the 22nd Georgia was tense on 2 July 1863, as they listened to the sounds of battle on their right. It would shortly be their turn to march across the field and strike the Union line.

The 22nd Georgia was organized between May and August of 1861. This was an experienced unit by the time the Army of Northern Virginia began its march north to Pennsylvania. The men were a part of the newly formed third Corps of AP Hill.

Ambrose Wright
As the 22nd began their march to Gettysburg on 1 July 1863. They were without a brigade commander. Brigadier General Ambrose Wright was sick and had to find shelter, which he did at a house along the Chambersburg Pike. The men from Georgia went into camp the night of the first about 2 miles from Gettysburg.

By 7 the next morning Wright caught back up with his men. Ordered out to the Confederate left flank along Seminary Ridge, the men were in position before noon. Wright's men had the Florida brigade of David Lang on its right, and Brigadier General Carnot Posey's Mississippian on the left. At noon Wright was informed there would be an echelon attack made once General James Longstreet's Corps were in place on the right. The men of the 22nd heard the opening sounds of the 2 July battle about 4 pm. Then the men waited for their turn to enter the fight which didn't come for two hours. Wright's men lined up; from the left the 48th Georgia, 3rd Georgia and then the 22nd, they marched out onto the field about 6:15 pm.

half section spherical case shot
The 22nd came under heavy artillery fire as soon as they left the tree line on Seminary Ridge. They marched through tall grass into the Union's 15th Massachusetts and 82nd New York. The Union men who had been hidden, rose from the grass and fired a staggering volley into the men from Georgia. The Rebel yell was heard as they continued on, out flanking the 82nd and pushing the Massachusetts men in. Union Colonel George Hull Ward of the 15th was mortally wounded. Wright's men moved next on Brown's artillery. Brown's men opened on the Georgian's with spherical case shot. This ripped big holes through the Georgians ranks, but they continued on, dressing their lines as they moved. Wright's men forced Brown to limber up, making for the rear they lost two guns.

It was about this time that Wright found both his flanks exposed. Lang's Floridians had stopped near the base of Cemetery Ridge to reform their lines, and Posey's men still hadn't advanced. Wright's men continued their surge forward, reaching within 50 yards of the stonewall in front of the Copse of Trees. The 22nd moved to within a point blank range of the 7th Michigan and the 59th New York behind the wall.

The 22nd Georgia found a gap in the Union line to the left of the 59th New York. Aiming for this spot many of them crossed the wall and headed for the crest of Cemetery Ridge. It was at this moment that the 13th Vermont rushed onto the field from the Tanneytown Road. The men of the 22nd Georgia fired a round into the on coming Vermonters. Instead of returning fire, the 13th charged into the Georgians with bayonets fixed. It was such a surprise attack, that many of the Confederates fell to the ground, surrendering as the Vermonters passed over them.

With the Floridians falling back on their right flank, and no troops moving up on the left, Wright's men began falling back. Their losses as they retreated were heavy. After making their way back to Seminary Ridge, Wright's troop regrouped. Wright found only one of his regimental commanders still in line and half of the brigade dead, wounded or missing. The night of 2 July 1863 was spent caring for the wounded and trying to get some sleep.

The morning of 3 July 1863 found the Georgians waiting again. They watched as Pickett, Pettigrew and Trimble's men advanced across the open field toward the Union line in the afternoon. Wright's men moved forward about 550 yards to cover Pickett's retreat. Following the retreat they formed behind Wilcox's Brigade, in support should the Union make a follow up attack.

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