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The Struggle at Gettysburg

February 13, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

The 114th Pennsylvania Infantry, also known as the Collis Zouaves, were a distinguished Army of the Potomac (AOP) regiment with a long battle record during the American Civil War.  They fought at all the major battles in the eastern theatre: Shenandoah Valley Campaign, Cedar Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg1, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg.  The enlisted men were recruited in the summer of 1862 out of the Philadelphia region and surrounding counties.  The American Zouave (pronounced zoo-ahh-vah) military units were patterned after the fighting French Zouaves, and they were considered elite AOP units. They were known for their precision on the drill field and for their ornate and distinctive uniforms.

The 114th PA had one of the best regimental bands in the AOP; for this reason and due to their reduced size from war casualties both before and during Gettysburg, and because AOP Commander George Meade was a Philadelphian, he made the regiment his provost guard of field headquarters for the last two years of the war. At this time, I now introduce you to Thomas M. Hoyle, a Sergeant in the 114th PA and the great-great-grandfather of my second cousin. Hoyle was listed as a "Musician" in the company band for the First Delaware prior to joining the Zouaves. He most probably was a talented musician in the renowned Zouave band. I have included a daguerreotype photo of him standing at attention and outfitted in his colorful Zouave uniform consisting of white gaiters, baggy red pants, blue sash, short blue jacket with red trim, and topped off with a white turban and red fez. Quite a handsome fellow.  He was present for duty at the now famous "Peach Orchard" during the Battle of Gettysburg.  He saw and felt the full fury of one of the most fierce Confederate charges executed during the entire Civil War and lived to tell about it. It has been passed down through the ages as "Barksdale's Charge". 

As General Barksdale readied his men and peered through the trees at Pitzer's Woods, he could see that the Peach Orchard was occupied by artillery and the Pennsylvanian infantry from Graham's brigade. This was the weakest point of Major General Sickles' unauthorized salient line of battle, now vulnerable to a flank attack. At 5:30 pm, Barksdale received orders to begin the attack. Barksdale shouted, "Attention, Mississippians! Battalions, Forward! Dress to the colors and Forward to the foe! Onward, Brave Mississippians, for Glory!", and in a fashion bordering a spectacle, the brigade was launched with the Rebel Yell echoing from within the woods.  One Union colonel who witnessed it described it as "the grandest charge ever made by mortal man".  At the head of the Mississippi troops rode General Barksdale, his hat off with his long gray-white hair streaming from behind.2  The irresistible tide of the South's finest fighters rolled forward, past the Sherfy property, and crushed the Peach Orchard salient as Yankee muskets and cannon tore away at the steamrolling butternut line.  One Union soldier noted, "Nothing we could do seemed to confuse or halt Barksdale's veterans ... nothing daunted Barksdale and his men ... [they] just came on, and on, and on."  The 114th PA, positioned between the Sherfy barn and farmhouse, felt the full impact of the charge, and after fierce fighting, fell back north up the Emmitsburg Road and then east to a field just north of the Trostle Farm Lane and headed for Cemetery Ridge.  Even during this orderly retreat there was no respite. While crossing the open field, an exploding shell landed nearby two Zouaves assisting a wounded comrade.  All three were killed instantly.  Other red and blue uniformed Zouaves fled to the barn and lost their lives during close-range fighting inside and later during the conflagration of that structure. As Barksdale's charge surged, three of the four Mississippian regiments wheeled left to the northeast and pushed a Union division further back across Plum Run. "Will nothing stop them?" one Union soldier asked himself.  Another confessed that, "For the moment, I thought the day was lost."  The 21st Mississippi regiment, on Barksdale's right flank, angled off from the rest of the brigade and rampaged several Union batteries, including Bigelow's 9th Massachusetts Battery at the Trostle farm.3

"Advance, advance! Brave Mississippians, one more charge and the day is ours", Barksdale barked to his three regiments advancing toward Plum Run. But the attack slowed as the shredded, disordered lines began to fatigue.  A southern soldier recalled that his comrades in arms were "now covered with dust and blackened with the smoke of battle, with ranks depleted by shot and shell, and faint from exhaustion." After advancing almost a mile to Plum Run, Wilcox's Brigade on Barksdale's left flank, were counterattacked by the "forlorn hope" of the 1st Minnesota.4  As Major General Hancock viewed his ordered delaying action by the Minnesotans from atop Cemetery Ridge, he ordered Colonel Willard's Brigade forward to stem the seemingly inexorable tide of the Mississippi Brigade commanded by the fiery William Barksdale.  In 1862, Willard's New Yorkers had been captured at Harpers Ferry and later paroled.  They were now eager to atone for their humiliation and restore their honor.  And this they did with heavy musketry fire and the point of the bayonet as they drove the Rebels back away from Plum Run. Colonel Willard was killed during this ferocious fighting.5  As a conspicuous target mounted on his horse, Barksdale suffered a bullet hit above the left knee followed by a cannonball shot that nearly took off his left foot.  Then another musket ball struck the left side of his chest which knocked him off his horse. Left for dead by his men, he was later carried on a litter to a Union hospital, where he died before dawn the next morning. Fiery to the bitter end, as he lay dying in a field hospital, he boasted to the Union surgeons caring for him, "Hancock had better watch his back, Old Peter (Longstreet) has a surprise for you in the morning!".  As for the 114th PA, many Zouaves had been captured during the melee at the Sherfy farm and the adjacent Peach Orchard. Out of 312 engaged Zouave combatants, nearly one hundred men had been killed or wounded in action with sixty missing in action.  In the battle's aftermath, members of the 20th Maine found charred bodies and skeletons in the ruins of the burned-out Sherfy barn.  Also found on the grounds surrounding the farm were many corpses, both blue and gray.  But scattered in between, were the bright red hats and trousers of the fallen 114th.  On July 3rd, following the battle at the Peach Orchard, the 114th was deployed along side of the "Philadelphia Brigade", under command of Brigadier General Alexander Webb, at the "Angle" to help thwart the advance of another famous charge at Gettysburg - Pickett's Charge.

The 114th Pennsylvania monument, located between the Sherfy barn and farmhouse on Emmitsburg Road, depicts a bronze statue of a Zouave loading his rifle atop a seven foot tall granite base. General Sickles' Third Army Corps diamond badge is at the foot of the statue. The base of the monument was dedicated on July 2nd, 1886 by the State of Pennsylvania and the statue was dedicated on November 11, 1888, after its addition to the base. The north side of the base reads: Erected by the surviving members of 114 Regt. Penna. Vols. to mark the position held by that organization on the second day of the memorable battle fought on this field .... and in memory of that command, who here laid down their lives in defense of their country’s flag.  An epic Struggle indeed on July 2, 1863, at Mr. Sherfy's Peach Orchard, by some patriots from Philadelphia and some gallant men from Mississippi.

Note1: On December 13, 1862 at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Colonel Collis rallied his 114th PA troops by grabbing the colors at a critical moment as the Union artillery on Prospect Hill was about to be overtaken.  This action saved the guns and also won Collis the Medal of Honor. Years later Collis commissioned the German painter Carl Röchling to depict this scene in a painting.

Note2: See below the Don Trioani print, Barksdale's Charge

Note3: Be sure to watch out for my upcoming blog post on The Sound and the Fury at Gettysburg (The Cannoneers at Trostle Farm).

Note4: Be sure to watch out for my next and fourth of five blog posts on The Bravery at Gettysburg (The Gallant Charge of the 1st Minnesota at Gettysburg).

Note5: The marker to where Willard fell can be seen in the photo below. 


For some absorbing anecdotes concerning the Army of the Potomac, see Dr. Timothy Orr's blog: Tales from the Army of the Potomac.

My full Gettysburg gallery of photographs can be found at D.W. Orr Gettysburg Gallery.


D W Orr

Environmentalist, Historic Preservationist, Weimaraner Companion, Blogger, and Photographer

Harford County, Maryland

February 13, 2016

114th Pennsylvania Monument 1114th Pennsylvania Monument 1

114th Pennsylvania Infantry Monument - Background: Sherfy Farm House

114th Pennsylvania Infantry Monument114th Pennsylvania Infantry Monument114th Pennsylvania Infantry Monument

 114th Pennsylvania Infantry Monument

114th Pennsylvania Monument 4114th Pennsylvania Monument 4

114th Pennsylvania Infantry Monument

The Zouave Uniform worn by Thomas M. Hoyle - Corporal, Company E, 114 PA Infantry - Present and on duty at Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863

Pennsylvania Memorial - "Thos M Hoyle" name engraved as Corporal under Co. E on plaque on exterior north facing wall of memorial

Battery F, Penn Light ArtilleryBattery F, Penn Light Artillery The Peach Orchard

Sherfy House & FarmSherfy House & Farm      Sherfy Farm: Barn and House - 114th Pennsylvania Monument is located in left center between the barn and house - Barksdale's Charge was over these grounds

Battlefield Landscape 16Battlefield Landscape 16

Horizon showing Barksdale's Charge: L-R, Sherfy Barn, Fire Zouaves, 15 NY Battery (foreground), Excelsior Brigade, Penn Memorial, Clark's Battery, Trostle Farm

Sherfy BarnSherfy Barn

Sherfy Barn

Battlefield Landscape 4Battlefield Landscape 4 Plum Run - middle foreground. To the right is where the 1st Minn charged. Left middle is marker to where Willard fell (at the base of the second tree from the left)

Pennsylvania Memorial MonumentPennsylvania Memorial Monument

Pennsylvania Memorial honoring those state natives who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg

72nd Pennsylvania Monument 572nd Pennsylvania Monument 5 The Philadelphia Brigade's Position on Day 3 during Pickett's Charge 

72nd Pennsylvania Monument 472nd Pennsylvania Monument 4

72nd Pennsylvania Monument - Philadelphia Brigade - Located near "The Angle" on Day 3 during Pickett's Charge 

71st Pennsylvania Monument - Located at "The Angle"71st Pennsylvania Monument - Located at "The Angle"

71st Pennsylvania Monument - Philadelphia Brigade - Located at "The Angle" on Day 3 during Pickett's Charge

Barksdale ChargesBarksdale Charges

 Barksdale's Brigade Advances - The 114 PA at Sherfy Farm (Map courtesy of NPS)

Barksdale's ChargeBarksdale's Charge

 Painting of Barksdale's Charge by Don Troiani - Left Background: Sherfy's Barn; Right Background: Sherfy's Farmhouse

Цифровая репродукция находится в интернет-музее Gallerix.ru 114th PA at the Battle of Fredericksburg.  Shows Colonel Collis rallying the troops with colors in hand. Painting by Carl Rochling.


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