Monday, October 22, 2012

Lt. Colonel George Arrowsmith - 157th New York

Lt. Colonel George Arrowmsmith (157th NY) related by John Applegate

     “There are many heroes in American history who have won national fame. There are many others whose reputations are more circumscribed, but who were just as brave, just as patriotic, just as self-sacrificing. The last may be counted by the hundreds of thousands who, at the call of the President for volunteers, went forth from the counting-house, the farm, the workshop to engage in deadly strife with the enemies of our country. Many were young men of rare promise, talented, cultured and brave, and who might have attained high national distinction in civil or military life, but were cut down in battle at the very threshold of their career. As observed by President Lincoln in a compliment to the character and intelligence of regiments arriving in Washington at the beginning of the civil war, they contained individuals quite competent to discharge the functions of the highest executive office of the nation. I propose to speak of one of these gallant heroes, a youth of brilliant promise, cut down in the morning of life; a soldier of this republic, who entered the field to die, if need be, for the honor of its flag, with no expectation of a return to peaceful pursuits until the object of the war had been accomplished.

Washington, D. C, July 27th, 1863.
Mr. Editor:

As several incorrect reports have been madewith reference to the death of Lieutenant-
Colonel Arrowsmith, I thought it would be gratifying to his friends to know all the particulars just as they are. The morning of the day on which the battle occurred, the regiment marched from Emmetsburg, a distance of ten miles, reaching Gettysburg very much worried. The greatly superior numbers against which the First Corps were contending made it necessary for the Eleventh to be thrown promptly forward. Without stopping for rest we were moved through the town upon the double quick and placed in position behind Dilger's Battery, which was soon engaged by three batteries of the enemy. While lying there the numerous shot and shell thrown among us rendered our horses so unmanageable we both dismounted and sent them to the rear. After the rebel batteries had been silenced the whole brigade was thrown forward. Soon after reaching the position assigned us I was ordered by General Schimmelfenning to move over some distance to the right and attack the enemy, who were then driving the Second Brigade of our Division. This order I proceeded at once to execute. In order to get my regiment into position to do effective service, I found it necessary to move up to within fifty yards of the enemy, who by the time I reached my position had placed a whole brigade in line to resist my attack. The attack was made, Colonel Arrowsmith occupying his proper position on the right, encouraging his men and faithfully and gallantly doing his whole duty, while I gave my attention to the centre and left. We had been fighting but a short time, when, upon looking to the right, I discovered that the Lieutenant-Colonel was missing. I moved at once to the right and found him lying upon his back, badly wounded in the head, breathing slowly and heavily, and evidently insensible. As my presence along the line was more necessary that he had fallen, I could stop but a moment, and returned to my position. The men were falling rapidly and the enemy's line was taking the form of a semi-circle, evidently with the design of surrounding us, at the same time concentrating the fire of their whole brigade upon my rapidly diminishing numbers. An enfilading fire from a battery upon our left was also doing fearful execution. I had looked around several times to see if some support would not be sent, or an order for retreat. Neither came. The last time I looked I saw one of General Schimmelfenning's aides about half way across the field, taking the saddle off his horse and running back, and I learned from some of my wounded men who fell before we reached our position, that the same aide came out a short distance and hallooed to me to retreat. I, however, heard no order. Seeing that we were likely to be all shot down or taken prisoners, I ordered a retreat. From the wounded left on the field I learned that the Lieutenant-Colonel died shortly after the retreat. An attempt was made to bring him off, but the proximity of the enemy and the hot firing prevented. Lieutenant-Colonel Arrowsmith died, as every true soldier would wish to die, at his post, gallantly fighting for his country. A brave man, a skillful officer, possessing a keen sense of honor, generous to a fault, bound to him by a long personal attachment formed and ripened in the various relations of teachers and pupils, associate teachers and fellow officers, I mourn his loss as that of a brother, and offer to the family and friends of the lamented hero my warmest and tenderest sympathy.
I am, sir, with great respect,
Your obedient servant,
P. P. Brown, Jr., Col. 157th N. Y. Vols.”

     It is idle to speculate upon what he might have been had his life been spared. We accept him with admiration and gratitude for what he was. Enlisting as a mere boy, without rank, he was at once unanimously chosen by his fellow volunteers as the commandant of the company. In one year, for merit, he was promoted to the office of Assistant Adjutant-General upon the staff of General Tower, upon the recommendation of the Division Commander, General Ricketts. Without leaving the army, he was elevated to the field office of Lieutenant-Colonel by the Governor of New York, who was thus prompted by the fame of the soldier, and was only restrained from appointing him Colonel by his generous refusal to accept the position over a friend. On the eve of Gettysburg his comrades urged his
higher promotion, with flattering testimonials from persons of distinguished military rank, but here was ended his rising career. It was an honorable death, and his epitaph is briefly written: a sterling soldier, a true patriot, and a brave man.” - From Reminiscences and Letters of George Arrowsmith of New Jersey by John Applegate, 1893

     Lt. Colonel Arrowmsith graduated from Madison College (now Colgate) in 1859 and became a member of the New York Bar in 1860. He was indeed a bright young, but very generous and unassuming mind. Beloved by his men as much if not more than his family in many ways, this young man was only 24 years old at the time of his death at Gettysburg on July 1st, 1863. At the age of 24, in the prime of his youth, he led 410 men into battle with the coolness of an officer twice his time in age and experience fearlessly laying down his life in that terrible maelstrom of death and destruction that would forever be known as the Battle of Gettysburg.

Lt. Colonel George Arrowsmith

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