2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Battle of Gettysburg - Wednesday, July 1, 1863
Gettysburg's Railroad Cut

Gettysburg's Railroad Cut
Some of the most ferocious fighting on Day 1 of the battle occurred in the unfinished bed of a railroad cut running just north and almost parallel to the Chambersburg Pike. While the Union's Iron Brigade drove back CSA General James J. Archer's Brigade on the southern side of the pike, the nephew of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Confederate Brigadier General Joseph R. Davis, marched in the direction of the area north of the town just above the cut and south of Oak Hill. His brigade of Mississippi and North Carolina regiments pushed across the open, gently undulating ground driving the stubborn northerners in their front. As they progressed, the men in gray on moved towards the tempting shelter of the railroad cut. Lt. Colonel Rufus DawesWhile the Confederates strove to establish themselves behind what seemed like ready-made breastworks, the 6th Wisconsin, the 14th Brooklyn & the 95th New York, positioned to the south of the cut determined to take this newly won position from them.

Lieutenant Colonel Rufus R. Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin led his men over open ground that helped to slow this Confederate onslaught and trapped over 200 gray clad soldiers in their dubious shelter. As can be seen in the picture above, much of the cut was far too deep to allow sight of the approaching enemy, a field of fire, or the chance to easily scale the banks. What appeared to be a safe haven from which to fight would become a snare, trapping many a Southern man.

Despite the Union success however, many men in blue breathed their last on this day. The 6th Wisconsin lost about 170 of their 420 men, 95th NY and 6th WI monumentswhile the 14th Brooklyn lost 128, and the 95th New York suffered 115. [9, C] Steven W. Sears, in his excellent book on the Gettysburg Campaign, relays one particular incident that underscores the suffering of even those who succeeded. He notes that, Colonel Rufus Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin wrote a letter to his fiancée shortly after the battle. In that letter, he laments, "Our bravest and best are cold in the ground or suffering on beds of anguish. One young man, Corporal James Kelley of Company B, shot through the breast came staggering up to me before he fell and, opening his shirt, to show the wound said, Colonel, won't you write to my folks that I died a soldier?" [G] The Iron Brigade, of which the 6th Wisconsin was a part, lost a staggering 1,212 of 1,883 men on July 1st alone.

84th NY or as they preferred, the 14th BrooklynThe 14th Brooklyn would fight at varying locations on each of the three days of the battle including the prolonged, tumultuous struggles on Culp's Hill. Their contributions on July 2 and 3rd resulted in the 14th becoming one of the few Union regiments on the field to claim to have taken part in serious action each day of the battle. Confederate General Davis' men would also fight again as they crossed the nearly mile long fields of the Bliss Farm to take part on July 3rd in the tragic Pickett / Pettigrew Charge.

Click here for a panoramic view of the Railroad Cut and the monument to the 14th Brooklyn mentioned on the inscription of their Culp's Hill Monument pictured here.