Sunday, June 22, 2014

PLENTY OF FIREWORKS TO GO AROUND...

Lieutenant John D. Hill, Co. “F”, 107th N.Y. Inf.
Letter home after the battle of Gettysburg
(written in camp near Gettysburg, July 5, 1863.)

Lt. Hill on December 1, 1863 at Wartrace, Tennessee
...he was dead in less than six months.
Dear Friends,
                       It is with deep gratitude to the all wise being who has spared me that I seat myself to let you know that I am alive and well after again passing through one of the bloodiest battles of the war. When I last wrote you we were at Littlestown there we first heard of the rebels near approach. The next morning we started in the direction of Gettysburg and heavy cannonading was soon heard to the front and shortly afterwards the news came back that the first and eleventh corps has encountered a heavy force of the enemy near Gettysburg. We pressed on and were soon so near that we formed in line of battle in the woods, and marched some distance and then fell back more to the left and the regiment laid on their arms all night, supporting a battery. Our company was sent on picket. We were aroused early Thursday morning and again pushed on within a short distance of the rebel lines. The line of battle was then formed and we commenced throwing up breastworks. This was done along the whole line. At twenty minutes past four p.m. Thursday the ball opened with artillery and in less than half an hour it was one continual roar. The musketry soon commenced and it was almost a continual crash.

The rebel general, as usual, threw his whole force on one point, which was our left wing and seemed determined to break through which could have been a great disaster to us had he done so. Our corps occupied the right of the center which we held until nearly dark, but as all the fighting was on our left it was feared that the rebels would break and our corps was ordered up to their support. We filed out of the breastworks and marched up. The rebels got range of us as we marched out and poured and poured in the shell at a terrible rate. We reached the extreme left at dark and the rebels began to quiet down and we were ordered back to our place on the breastworks on the right of the center and what do you suppose happened? Nothing less than the rebels, who had quietly taken possession of the breastworks in our absence. We were fairly outwitted this time and we felt very much chagrined at the idea. Of course, we did not think it prudent to drive the rascals out in the night, so we fell back in a field and waited till morning. Our skirmishers raised a rumpus several times during the night so that we did not get much sleep. At daylight we fell back a little farther and our artillery opened on the breastworks and at every discharge seemed to say “Come out of those breastworks, you rebs.” It must have been a hot time for them for it was a perfect storm of shell, almost continually. Soon the infantry was sent in and regiment after regiment sent in their volleys, which made terrible havoc in the rebel ranks. The rebels held their position with bulldog tenacity for nearly eight hours, but finally had to give way to Yankee pluck and numbers, and at 11:30 we held our old positions in the breastworks. Our regiment was very lucky in the whole engagement, as we were left to support a battery, which was out of musket range. The 27th Indiana and the 2nd Massachusetts of our brigade suffered severely, losing nearly half of their men. We remained in support of the batteries until noon Friday and then took our place in the breastworks, where we played with the rebel sharpshooters at a distance, about three hours. The rebels shelled us a long time, but did not exactly get the range and most of the shells went over.

107th New York Monument at Gettysburg
The ground in front of our breastworks is completely strewn with rebel dead. In many places they would charge on a place by column closed in mass and seemed determined to carry it, but they met such a leaden storm that it proved an impossibility. There is no doubt but what we have whipped them in every sense of the word. Our corps was relieved at six on Friday night and went farther up to the right to the support of the cavalry, who had had a desperate engagement during the day with Stuart’s cavalry. The 4th of July dawned upon us and we expected a fight with the cavalry, but after scouring around the country a while we came back to our first position and passed the remainder of the day very quietly, not carrying for any particular celebration and were willing to dispense with fireworks in the evening, as we have had plenty such as it is during the last three days.

We were in the fight at Chancellorsville the 1,2, and 3d days of May, and at Gettysburg the 1,2, and 3d of July, being just two months between dates. Our regiment lost at Chancellorsville about 80 killed and wounded and missing, and only two wounded in this fight, so you can see we were very fortunate this time. This will doubtless prove to be as great a battle as has ever been fought during the war, and it seems as if we ought to whip them bad enough this time to make this the last one. We expect to follow the rebels, but as of yet are lying in line on the battlefield.
Love to all,
John D. Hill 

2nd Lieutenant John D. Hill, 107th New York Infantry was born in 1843.  He enlisted in Company F of the 107th New York Infantry in August 1862 as a Sergeant at the age of nineteen.  He was with the regiment at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and through Burnside's Mud March.  Just before Chancellorsville he was promoted to First Sergeant.  The unit suffered heavy losses at Chancellorsville, but Sergeant Hill continued to prove his skills in leadership on the battlefield.  In June of 1863 he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant of Company F, just in time for Gettysburg.  The unit supported a battery near the Baltimore Pike during much of the fight for Culps Hill on July 2 and 3.  The casualties at Gettysburg were light for the 107th New York, but they witnessed the carnage in detail as can be ascertained from Hill's letter above.


Lieutenant Hill and the 107th New York moved south with the rest of the Twelfth Corps to join General Sherman's army and the move on Atlanta, Georgia.  By May of 1864 the campaign was well under way on on the 25th of that month, the 107th met Confederates at New Hope Church.  The regiment was decimated and Lieutenant Hill was shot in the head and killed instantly, only twenty-one years old.  His men could not immediately remove him from the field and when they finally found him, he had been stripped of all his garments and belongings.  Finally on May 27, 1864, the young lieutenant was laid to rest.  

Captain Arthur Fitch of the 107th Remembered this of Lieutenant Hill when giving a dedicatory speech about his unit's action at New Hope Church..."The same tidal wave of death swept away his (Captain John Knox) second lieutenant, John Hill, quiet, modest, young, beloved of all. How well I remember his coming with a picket relief that first night at Gettysburg, and finding me overcome with fatigue and sound asleep (a dreadful dereliction of duty at such time), quietly awakened me and sent me with my picket guard to camp, without chiding or report to his superiors. I loved him from that hour."  Eventually, young Hill was disinterred and finally laid to rest in Marietta National Cemetery. 

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