July 1, 1863 - First Day
"P.S. Tell them I was hit face toward them - no Reb saw my back."
Pvt. J. Henry Blakeman, U.S.A.
17th Connecticut Infantry, Eleventh Corps
Battlefield letter to his mother
On July 1, 1863, Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard positioned two divisions of his Union Eleventh Corps across these fields. The 5,200 men formed a line from Oak Ridge on your left, to Barlow Knoll where you are standing, to the Harrisburg Road on your right. Two months earlier at Chancellorsville the Eleventh Corps had run from the enemy. Hence they would be tested again.
About 3:00 p.m., Confederate cannon opened fire on the Union line, followed by a lightning attack from Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon's and George Dole's Georgians who streamed out of the trees in front of you. Several Union regiments broke and fled, while others made valiant stands. Pvt. G. W. Nichols of the 61st Georgia wrote, "We advanced with our accustomed yell, but they stood firm until we got near them."
By 4:15 p.m., the entire Union line here was retreating in confusion through town to Cemetery Hill behind you. There Union officers rallied their men and prepared to make a stand. At the end of the first day, the dead, wounded, and missing of the Eleventh Corps numbered 3,000.
The Barlow-Gordon Story
Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon, whose Georgia soldiers swept the Federals from this hill, later wrote of a personal encounter here with an enemy general:"In the midst of the wild disorder in the ranks, and through a storm of bullets, a Union officers was seeking to rally his men for a final stand. He, too, went down, pierced by a minie ball. Riding forward with my rapidly advancing lines, I discovered that brave officer lying on his back, with the July sun pouring its rays into his pale face....
"Quickly dismounting and lifting his head, I gave him water from my canteen, asked his name and the character of his wounds. He was Major-General Fancis C. Barlow, of New York, and of Howard's Corps. The ball had entered his body in front and passed out near the spinal cord, paralizing him in legs and arms. Neither of us had the remotest though that he could possibly survive....
"I summoned several soldiers who were looking after the wounded, and directed them to place him upon a litter and carry him to the shade."
Fifteen years later, Gordon, now a U.S. Senator, was attending a dinner in Washington, D.C., when he learned that a "General Barlow" was also attending. Introducing himself to Barlow, he was stunned to learn it ws the same one he had met at Gettysburg. Each man believed the other had been killed in the war. "Thenceforward," wrote Gordon, "the friendship between us, which was born amidst the thunders of Gettysburg, was greatly cherished by both."