Unknown to Davis' men, three yankee regiments had responded to their success by moving from their position along McPherson's Ridge to face north toward the railroad cut. Spearheaded by the Iron Brigade's 6th Wisconsin, these regiments counter-attacked toward the cut,
The 6th Wisconsin's fire caused the Confederate line to sway and bend. Recovering, the survivors made for the natural protection of the railroad cut. The sudden reversal of fortune disordered Davis' Brigade, Part of the difficulty was due to leadership. Both the colonels and lieutenant-colonels of the 2nd Mississippi and 55th North Carolina were casualties. Seven of nine field officers were also casualties by 1200 hours.
Worse, inexperienced brigade commander Joe Davis had lost control of his men during their abortive pursuit. Consequently, men of the 2nd and 42nd Mississippi poured into the presumed shelter of the railroad cut where they stood, recalled Major John Blair who commanded the 2nd Mississippi at this point, "jumbled together without regard to regiment or company,"
With the Federal counter-attack approaching the cut, Davis ordered a retreat. The lack of officers plus the chaos of battle caused the order to be imperfectly understood. Some men retired while others remained in the cut. In places the cut was so deep that the rebels could fire only with great difficulty. Yet enough were able to wield their muskets effectively so that In the course of a 175 pace advance, the 6th Wisconsin lost 180 men.
A small group of Wisconsin soldiers occupied the cut's eastern side and opened a telling enfilade fire. New Yorkers overran the western end. A Federal colonel approached the cut at a point where it was about four feet deep and looked down to see "hundreds of rebels." Union soldiers shouted out to the trapped men of the 2nd and 42nd Mississippi, "Throw down your muskets! Down with your muskets!"
As the rebels began to surrender, a desperate was taking place for the colours of the 2nd Mississippi. The Confederate colour bearer relates, "My color guards were all killed or wounded in less than five minutes, and also my colors were shot more than a dozen times, and the flag staff was hit and splintered two or three times. Just about that time a squad of soldiers made a rush for my colors and our men did their duty. They were all killed or wounded, but they still rushed for the colors with one of the most deadly struggles that was ever witnessed during any battle In the war. They still kept rushing for my flag and there were over a dozen v^ dk - -
The outbreak of war prevented the completion of the Gettysburg and Hanover Railroad's line west of Gettysburg. It was a mixture of grades and cuts, designed to smooth the route. During the battle the cuts would become first a false safe-haven and later an obstruction to the Confederate forces.
shot down like sheep, in their madly rush for the colors...Over a dozen men fell killed or wounded, and then a large man made a rush for me and the flag. As I tore the flag from the staff ho took hold of me and the color. The firing was still going on and kept up for several minutes after the flag was taken from me."
About 600 Confederates in the railroad cut were captured. The remainder of the Brigade retired in considerable disorder to Herr Ridge, Overall, the Brigade was so shaken, that Heth judged it inadvisable to place it in the battle line for the rest of July 1.
Referring to the spirit of the army in July 1863, Major-General Heth recalled, "There was not an officer or soldier in the Army of Northern Virginia, from General Lee to the drummer boy, who did not believe...that it was able to drive the Federal army into the Atlantic Ocean."
The combats during the morning of July 1 chastened Heth and the brigadiers involved In his after-action report, Heth referred to the debacle of Archer's and Davis' Brigades with the words, "The enemy had now been felt, and found to be in heavy force in and around Gettysburg."
Heth still had two uncommitted brigades. But, under orders not to bring on a general engagement, he remained on the defensive. Mcintosh's Battalion arrived and deployed alongside Pegram's batteries and both batteries kept up a desultory Are for the remainder of the morning.
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