Never Imagined Such a Rain of Bullets: The 134th New York and the Brickyard Fight at Gettysburg

    Colonel Charles Coster's First Brigade of the Second Division of the XI Army Corps went into action at Gettysburg late on the afternoon of July 1st tasked with the desperate mission of holding back General Richard Ewell's assault, buying time to allow the fractured First and Third Divisions of the corps to retreat from the field. Tasked with a forlorn hope, Coster marched through the center of Gettysburg and deployed to the northeast side of town with roughly 900 men from the 27th Pennsylvania, 134th New York, and 154th New York regiments. Coster arrayed his men in a single line running from Stratton Street downhill to Stevens Run and through the Kuhn family brickyard. The German 27th Pennsylvania held the brigade left and was supported by the four guns of Captain Lewis Heckman's Battery K of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery, the 154th New York held the center, the the 134th held the brigade right. 

    Coster's position would quickly be assailed by two Confederate brigades: Colonel Harry Hays all Louisiana brigade (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th regiments) which struck from the north and Colonel Isaac Avery's North Carolinians consisting of the 6th, 21st, and 57th regiments which struck from the east. The ensuing engagement became known as the Brickyard Fight, as it took place amongst the three brick kilns owned by the Kuhn family. Coster's men took position along a fence facing north and withheld their fire until the Confederates had closed to within a hundred yards of their position."Coster's brigade was hardly in position before the enemy, double its number, attacked," historian Harry Pfanz wrote. The 27th Pennsylvania and 134th both fought hard, but broke under the pressure; Coster ordered a withdrawal but the order did not reach the center of his line which left most of the 154th New York caught up in the maelstrom and captured. "The cost of the brief delaying action was enormous, on the order of 550 casualties," Pfanz concluded.

Corporal Lewis Campbell, Co. H, 134th New York Volunteer Infantry

    Lieutenant Colonel Allan H. Jackson of the 134th New York was among those who witnessed the hefty cost up close. His regiment lost 37 men killed, 154 wounded, and 95 men missing, nearly all of whom were captured when the brigade collapsed. Writing home after the battle, he could scarce describe the horrors he had witnessed during the brickyard fight. “I never imagined such a rain of bullets,” he wrote. “My poor regiment was horribly cut to pieces on the 1st. Every officer in it was wounded except myself and four others. Young Palmer, acting Adjutant, was killed. Captain Olcott is reported so likewise, and over 50 of the men. A much larger number were wounded and taken prisoners on the field. Out of 400 whom I carried into the engagement I can now muster but 100.”

    To further explore the story of the Brickyard Fight, today's post features two letters written by members of the 134th New York regiment in the days following the engagement. The first was written by Second Lieutenant Benjamin F. Sheldon who commanded Co. B and the second was written by Orderly Sergeant William H. Howe of Co. H. Both letters appeared in the Schenectady Republican newspaper in July 1863 and are followed by the lengthy casualty list provided by Colonel Jackson. 

 

134th New York monument at Gettysburg
(William E. Rogers)

Second Lieutenant Benjamin F. Sheldon, Co. B, 134th New York Volunteer Infantry:

Against three regiments out of our brigade, the 27th Pennsylvania, 154th New York, and our own regiment, the 134th, there were two whole brigades of Rebel infantry designated as the "Louisiana Tigers." Evidently, they deemed themselves sufficiently strong for us as they advanced upon us in splendid style; but, if this was the idea they embraced, they were a little mistaken in their notion, as our boys certainly gave them to understand that free soil was no place for traitors to the time honored flag of our fathers.

Among those who are worthy of mention as the heroes of that day, we may mention one well known to our Schenectady friends in the person of Sergeant Henry P. Glen. He fought with determined resistance until unable to fight longer from a wound which he received in the hottest of the fight, and even then, he did not leave the field until I ordered him to the rear. As he was passing to the rear in obedience to my order, another ball from the foe passed through the upper portion of his body and he fell with his face to the ground, a corpse. We may also mention another instance which occurred during the raging of the storm.

Lt. Col. Allen H. Jackson
134th New York

Our Lieutenant Colonel, Allen H. Jackson, being in command of the regiment in consequence of our loved Colonel Charles Coster acting as Brigadier General of our brigade, in the absence of its commander, General Adolphus Bushbeck, displayed great coolness and determination, not leaving the field until he saw the last of his boys making for a more secure position. Then when making for the same place, finding himself surrounded by the "grey jackets" of the South, he ventured to secure himself in one of the houses of the town where he was fortunate enough to obtain a hiding place for two days and nights from the "Rebs." Not feeling at home, however, in his place of security, and desiring to be with his gallant boys as soon as possible, he determined upon making his escape without further delay. Feeling thus, he, together with a private in Co. C, by the name of Levi More, who had also secreted himself in the same place, set to work upon their perilous resolve—passing through the streets of the place in disguise and braving a shower of bullets from our men until they had passed safely into the ranks of the Union hosts.

I myself was slightly wounded in the arm and taken prisoner by them but managed to make my escape. On the second day of the fight commenced one of the grandest artillery conflicts perhaps ever witnessed on the continent. For hours the heavens were dim with smoke, and naught could be seen above us but the smoky billows coursing their way beneath the blue arched canopy, save when the missiles from the booming guns carried on the outset of their journey the propelling fire. Flash after flash was to be seen in all directions as the maddened cannoneers applied the fire to their well-aimed pieces and sent the heralds of death on their way to the opposite ranks.

 

One of two 134th New York guide flags that were captured during the Battle of Chancellorsville. 

Orderly Sergeant William H. Howe, of Co. F, 134th New York Volunteer Infantry:

    When we got to Gettysburg we went right in the fight and through kind Providence I was spared to come out safe, without a scratch. Our regiment and the 154th fought Stonewall Jackson's brigade and the Louisiana Tigers, only our two regiments against these two brigades, the best troops the Rebels have. They fired grape and shell at us and we let them get about 60 yards from us, and then we gave them a volley, but they drove us and when we fell back, they killed a great many of our boys. We fought not over 100 yards from the town. The first volley they fired they shot Jake Trask through the breast, and he laid right over and died in five minutes after. Poor Jake!

They took me prisoner and then made me dress the wounds of our boys there. Our first day's fight I was taken prisoner, and there I had to stay right by the battlefield and our men firing shell down there. John Kennedy was taken prisoner and taken to Richmond, and our First Lieutenant, Otis Guffin, was wounded and will probably die. Our regiment numbers now 75 men. The last accounts our company numbers about 20 men; they are with Co. A.

Colonel Charles R. Coster
134th New York

I am now at the 11th Corps Hospital waiting on our boys, but will join my regiment in a day or so and take command of Company F. When we went in the fight our Lieutenant Colonel Allen Jackson had command of our regiment. When our men retook the town, I left with the wounded and got away from the Rebels; I could not bear the idea of going on to Richmond. Our boys were killed all around me, and I escaped without a scratch. Oh, what a great battle this has been, and how many of our poor boys killed. All our men killed were buried where they fell, and in a nice place too, by the fence in a pasture. Our poor Sergeant Jacob Trask was buried in a nice place by himself. He died a brave soldier and a good man and will be remembered by his comrades. Send word to Bill Ostrom and tell him where he can get Dave Proper's body. He was buried by a brick yard near the gas house. Any of the citizens can tell him where they will find him.

Our boys are all buried by one another. I pray God I may never see another such a battlefield. There was at one time about 150 pieces of artillery firing all the afternoon. Our regiment was at one time supporting a battery when they were firing at Stuart's cavalry. Our regiment was on the march for twenty days, and we marched over 220 miles. I think this fight will use up the rebel army. They lost three to our one in this battle. Our cannons piled them in heaps. I heard this morning that our regiment had gone to Baltimore to do Provost duty. I am going to join the regiment when I can hear where they are. These names I give you of the killed and wounded are those I have seen. There are more but I do not know who they are until I get to the regiment.

Private William B. Alverson, Co. D, 134th New York Volunteer Infantry
(Image courtesy of Wartime Collectables)

 

Colonel Jackson sends to the Schenectady Republican the following list of killed, wounded and missing of the 134th Regiment N. Y. Volunteers, July 1st, 2d and 3d, at the battle of Gettysburg:

Company A.—WOUNDED—Lieut. G. W. Bishop. KILLED—Corporal P. S. Palmer, Privates John B. Becker, George Chapman, William Hubner, John A. Tolles, Cicero Tolles.--6. WOUNDED.—Corporals Wm. H. Cain, james E. Kettle, Geo. H. Veer, Rudolph Zubler; Privates James Armstrong, Frederic Auer, Lionel Chapman, G. H. Chapman, C. H. Clute, Aaron Green, W. W. Moon, G. A. Peasley, Frederick Smith, Jerome Van Benscoten, Andrew Van Voast, Harmon Weasels, Fred. L. Erhardt.—17;—

Missing.—Sergeants Andrew W. Kelly, Joseph McGraw; Corporals Franklin Robinson, Isaac McGraw, James A. Tulloch; Privates I. V. V. Bohanan, Calvin H. Beebe, John Bradt, Herbert Heddin, Wm. J. McMurrain, Thos. Marshall, James McCann, Geo. Nicklas, Charles Roumans, Philip Ernest. Musician Thomas Hinley.—6.

 

Company B.—Wounded.—Lieut. B. F. Sheldon, slightly. KILLED—Sergeant Lucius Mead, Corporals Henry Peek, James A. Ferguson; Privates Leroy Hawkins. A. K. Van Zandt, Stephen A. Miles—16. WOUNDED—Sergt. John J. Carroll, Corporal Wm. G. Wilkie, Sergt. Henry P. Glen; Privates Garrett Bradt, Robert Harbison, Benj. Johnson, Joseph Jessup, Anthony Lyall, David Lambert, William Rector, H. Van Patten, Geo. O. Van Epps, Harrison Van Epp—14. Missing—Sergt. James R. Mailer; Privates Geo. Ashton, I. Beverly, F. L. I. Dighens, A. Harmon, M. E. Jones, Ed. Kelly, Ransom Moore, D. Robinson, Cornelius Petiker, A. Van Vranken, R. Wessels, Phineas Neal.— 13.

 

Captain Solyman G. Hamlin, Co. C, 134th New York Volunteer Infantry
Captured July 1, 1863

Company C.—MISSING.—Capt. S. G. Hamlin. KILLED.—Privates Harvey Brown, Jno. A. Manchester, Riley Van Slyke, Edwin Van Dyke—4. WOUNDED—Sergt. Wm. H. Wilson; Corporals Geo. H. Warner, Orin Warner, James H. Swarthout, John L. Hyney; Privates Charles B. Allen, Joseph C. Bradt, Abram D. Clark, Cyrus Guffin, Joseph E. Multer, Ebenezer Rifenburg, Pelet Witbeck, Alonzo McKee—18. MISSING—Benj. Dye, Charles Gunther, Riley Gardiner, John H. Holmes, Charles Hiney, John F. Marsh, Leonard Rasue, William Powers, Washington J. Underhill, Pelet Witbeck, Isaac Warner, Minor Wolford.

 

Company D.—KILLED—Henry J. Palmer. Privates C. Cosgrove, S. Sweet, I. Watson.

Wounded.—Alonzo Parslow, W. W. Armlin, W. H. Brazee, W. Bevens, R. Cain, A. Chichester, R. H. Stafford, A. Rhinehart, T. V. Thomas, Daniel Teater, G. H. Winewright. MISSING—H. Teater, E. Reynolds, H. I. Tiffany, I. Babcock, L. F. Stanton, I. Brownell, H. W. Meeker, S. Weidman, Michael Hubbard, James Driscoll, J. Barry, A. Sagendorf, J. Jackson, J. W. Vrooman, T. S. Vrooman, W. Finch.

 

Private Amenzo Cady
Co C, 134th New York

Company E.—KILLED.—Corporal David W. Creighton, Private Hiram Wilber.—

WOUNDED—Corporal Stephen E. Bellar, E. Dingman, J. P. Nichols, Charles Ellenon, G. H. Whitbeck, A. L. Vrooman, James M. Weed, David Reed, Elias Thompson, P. C. Wilber, Leman Rull, Wm. L. Reid, Philip Daney, Stanton Champlin. MISSING—Sergt. C. G. Tyler, Corporal James Murphy, Privates Miles Eggleston, Jesse A. Crasper, Geo. Craw, Leander Gavitt, H. G. Mattice, Dewitt Van Loan, Lorenzo D. Burchard.

 

Company F.—Lieut. J. W. Kennedy, missing. Killed.—SERGT. J. Trask; Privates D. S. Proper, John Hyatt, L. Van Arnum, Charles Keller; Samuel Swales.

Wounded.— SERGT. H. Cramer, Alex. J. McMillan, Privates H. Auten, J. Myers, Wm. H. White, C. Helderbrant, C. Kohn, H. Battenger, T, Miller, Ben. Carroll, M. Hogan, J. Halpin.—

Missing.—1st Sergt. Wm. S. Howe, J. Fehr, Wm. H. Robinson, F. Piatto, D. W. Young, Edward Cooper, Esau Jones.

 


Company G.—Lieuts. Otis Guffin, Charles Taylor, wounded. KILLED—Corporal Geo. W. Douglas, Private William Slater. WOUNDED—Sergt. Martin Jones, Sergt. George W. Guernsey, Corporal Robert Vaughn, Charles Parris, Orlando Sperbeck, Cyrus B. Wightman, James Brownlee, James Guffin, R. S. Hummel, Lawrence King, George Mickel, Wm. O. Gorman, Daniel Palmatier. Missing.— Asher D. Bice, Alonzo Driggs, W. W. Earls, David Haner, Martin S. Lake, Jno. H. Parmlee, Barney Roney, Nelson R. Scripture, Martin G. Zeh.

 

COMPANY H.—Lieut. W. E. Rockwell, missing. KILLED—Private Jesse P. Chamberlain. Wounded.—Sergt. Ezra S. Ackley, Corporals Robert O. Seaman, Henry Preston, Privates Daniel A. Bradt, James H. Barkhuff, Robert D. Corl, Wm. Colton, Daniel Caton, John E. Dougall, Alanson Lester, Henry Rockwell, Andrew J. Wasson, John Connell, Geo. M. Reagles. MISSING—Privates Michael Knights, Peter Van Antwerp, Geo. Bennett.

 

COMPANY I.—Capt. W. Olcott, and a prisoner. KILLED—Privates Nathan Nichols, J. Jennings. WOUNDED—Sergt. J. Jones, Corporals A. Brand, Wm. Tallarday, Privates P. Friend, J. Ham, J. H. Bunt, W. Welitz, J. C. Spore, J. H. Miller, E. Houghtaling. MISSING.—Corporal Houghtaling, Privates J. Cater, P. Connolly, W. Morenus, J. Wayman, W. N. Earls, T. Quinn, J. Mace, A. Salisbury, E. Dennison.

Private William N. Earl
Co. I, 134th New York
Killed in action July 1, 1863

COMPANY K.—Lieut. Chas. Gutland, missing. KILLED—Sergeant Christian Bentz, Privates Wm. Martin, Joseph Smith, John Sehelkopf. WOUNDED—Sergt. Charles L. S. Ball, Corporals Peter Bieber, Chas. Baldus, Privates Wm. H. Baker, John Buler, Jacob Gaiser, John Grinnim, Oliver Hetten, Fred. Knust, Peter Link, Theodore Schmer, John Rherwish, John Rhode, Adam Schwaizma, George Tigert, John Wagner. MISSING.— Edward Holmes, Joha Keller, Charles Runge.

 RECAPITULATION.—Officers killed, 1; men killed, 36; officers wounded, 6; men wounded, 148; officers missing, 5; men missing, 90.

Aggregate loss, 279.

 

Sources:

Letter and casualty list from Lieutenant Colonel Allen Jackson, 134th New York Volunteer Infantry, Schenectady Republican (New York), July 1863

Letter from Second Lieutenant Benjamin F. Sheldon, Co. B, 134th New York Volunteer Infantry, Schenectady Republican (New York), July 1863

Letter from Orderly Sergeant William H. Howe, Co. F, 134th New York Volunteer Infantry, New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center

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