Report of Col. William F. Perry, Forty-fourth Alabama Infantry.
NEAR FREDERICKSBURG, VA.,
August 8, 1863.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the regiment under my command in the battle of Gettysburg, Pa., on July 2:
It occupied the place of the second battalion in the line formed by the brigade on the heights, which ran parallel with and fronting the enemy’s position. Having advanced with the brigade down the long slope and through the intervening meadow, it was detached from its place in the line, by order of General Law, and by a flank move-merit was brought to the extreme left of the brigade.
When at a short distance from the stone fence near the base of the mountain, General Law informed me that he expected my regiment to take a battery which had been playing on our line from the moment the advance began. This battery was situated, not on the mountain itself, but on a rugged cliff which formed the abrupt termination of a ridge that proceeded from the mountain, and ran in a direction somewhat parallel with it, leaving a valley destitute of trees and filled with immense bowlders between them. This valley, not more than 300 paces in breadth, and the cliff on which their artillery was stationed, were occupied by two regiments of the enemy’s infantry.
The direction of the regiment after crossing the stone fence was such that a march to the front would have carried it to the right of the enemy’s position. It was, therefore, wheeled to the left, so as to confront that position, its left opposite the battery, and its right extending toward the base of the mountain. This movement was executed under fire, and within 200 yards of the enemy. The forward movement was immediately ordered, and was responded to with an alacrity and courage seldom, if ever, excelled on the battle-field. As the men emerged from the forest into the valley before mentioned, they received a deadly volley at short range, which in a few seconds killed or disabled one-fourth their number. Halting without an order from me, and availing themselves of the shelter which the rocks afforded, they returned the fire. Such was their extreme exhaustion—having marched without interruption 24 miles to reach the battle-field, and advanced at a double-quick step fully a mile to engage the enemy—that I hesitated for an instant to order them immediately forward. Perceiving very soon, however, that the enemy were giving way, I rushed forward, shouting to them to advance. It was with the greatest difficulty that I could make myself heard or understood above the din of battle. The order was, however, extended along the line, and was promptly obeyed. The men sprang forward over the rocks, swept the position, and took possession of the heights, capturing 40 or 50 prisoners around the battery and among the cliffs.
Meanwhile the enemy had put a battery in position on a terrace of the mountain to our right, which opened upon us an enfilading fire of grape and spherical case shot. A sharp fire of small-arms was also opened from the same direction. This was not destructive, however, owing to the protection afforded by the rocks. Soon the enemy appeared moving down upon our front in heavy force. At this critical moment, General Benning’s brigade of Georgians advanced gallantly into action. His extreme right, lapping upon my left, swarmed over the cliffs and mingled with my men. It was now past 5 p.m. The conflict continued to rage with great fury until dark. Again and again the enemy in great force attempted to dislodge us from the position and retake the battery, in each case with signal failure and heavy loss.
Lieutenant-Colonel [John A.] Jones, Major [George W.] Cary, and Lieutenant [W. P.] Becker, acting adjutant, behaved with great coolness and courage. I abstain from mentioning by name others who deserve special commendation, because the list would be so long as to confer little distinction on any single individual, and because injustice might be done to others, whose good conduct escaped my observation.
The regiment lost: Killed, 24; wounded, 66; missing, 4.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM F. PERRY,
HENRY S. FIGURES,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Law’s Brigade.