19 Jul 105th PA “Wildcats” at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863
by Jared Mike
The 105th Pennsylvania Infantry was officially mustered into service on September 9 1861. With the majority of the companies coming from Jefferson, Clarion and Clearfield Counties, the regiment was called the “Wildcats” and the name stuck. (Rep Hiram Payne of McKean County once made the remark “I represent more territory, more bears, more wolves, more porcupines, and more wildcats than any five members of this convention”. The entire northwest part of the state was then known as the “Wildcat District”.) With many men from the 3-month 8th Pennsylvania and armed with the .577 Springfield Rifle Musket, the regiment gained a reputation of strict discipline and hard fighting. The Battle of Chancellorsville took out another 83 men and officers, including their Colonel, Amor McKnight, who was killed. Lt Col. Calvin Craig would be promoted to Colonel, as all three regimental officers would be new to their positions.
Craig would lead his 274 strong regiment to Gettysburg on July 1st, arriving around 19:00 (no daylight savings time in 1863) after a relatively easy march (minus their Brigade Commander Charles Graham, who was leading a blocking force near Emmitsburg). The brigade would rest in the fields south of the George Weikert Farm until daybreak; in which they were placed into line and ordered into Trostle Woods, then into the fields south of the Trostle Farm. The 63rd PA was sent forward west of the Emmitsburg Road to the skirmish line, with the 105th moving forward around 10:30-11:00. Companies A, F, D, I and C were in direct support and the rest of the regiment acted as a reserve. Sgt Robert Doty, F Company, was shot in the head and killed along the Emmitsburg Road near the Joseph Sherfy House. He was the first casualty of the battle for the “Wildcats”. The regiment would return to the rest of the Brigade around 12:00. By 14:00, the Brigade moved northwest to the fields east of the Sherfy Farm. The 105th formed on the right of the Brigade, with their left slightly behind the 57th PA and the right straddling the Trostle Farm Lane. The 114th PA was off to their left. Confederate artillery began firing around 15:00 and over the next few hours shells crashed around. Craig said he lost 12 men during the bombardment preceding the infantry attack that afternoon.
Col. Craig would notice around 18:00 (He claims 16:00) enemy forces advancing from behind the Sherfy House and to its left. Barksdale’s Mississippians were making their attack and soon Capt. George Randolph (3rd Corps Artillery Chief) asked for support. The 114th PA and the 57th PA moved toward the Emmitsburg Road and seeing a gap on the 57th’s right, Craig ordered his “Wildcats” forward. They would cross the road and move a short distance beyond, their left slightly northward of the Sherfy House. The 13th and 18th MS of Barksdale’s Brigade were firing into the 57th PA and the 105th opened on them. The fight was desperate as Wilcox’s Brigade emerged on the 105th’s front right heading toward Union forces to their north. The exception was the 8th AL, which lagged behind and was in the rear of the 18th MS, moving slightly northeast. Most of Barksdale’s Mississippians overcame the short but determined stand of Graham’s Brigade on the 105th’s left. This forced Craig to shift his line from facing west to south and he slowly withdrew to Trostle Lane. Even with the remains of the 57th PA helping they were badly outnumbered. Yet the regiment traded shots with the Mississippians.
Col. Craig would write July 28th: “We rallied some eight or ten times after the balance of the brigade had left us, and the boys fought like demons. Their battle-cry was ‘Pennsylvania'”. The fight was dire as the commanding officers (a Captain, 1st Lt or 2nd Lt) for Companies A, B, E, F, G, H and K were wounded by now. Capt. John Conser of Company H was hit by a spent ball in the head and thought killed but came out with only a splitting headache. Col. Craig and Lt Col Jacob Greenawalt were slightly wounded in their foot and leg, respectively. Pvt Samuel Fulmer of Company F was hit in the leg and soon in enemy lines. A Confederate soldier nearly bayoneted him but an officer knocked the gun out his hand, thus saving Fulmer’s life. Later, the flag went down and Pvt Amizi Parks, Company E, picked up and raised the flag aloft. Pvt Cassius McCrea, Company A, had to hide the company guidon from being captured as Barksdale’s men were extremely close.
They would eventually link up parts of Humphreys’s Division but pressure from two sides forced the Federals to retire. The 105th PA eventually fell back to a spring slightly south and around 300 yards west of the Codori Farm. After rallying they would move forward, the fresh 13th VT already advancing. Craig’s men would help recapture some artillery pieces that the 13th VT moved passed, one belonging to Lt. Weir’s Battery C, 5th U.S. Light Artillery. July 3rd would see the 105th PA in support during the Bombardment and the Grand Charge. The regiment would participate in the pursuit of the Confederate Army back into Virginia. Major Levi B. Duffy would write to his wife on July 3rd: “I am quite well but much exhausted……I send you a kiss on a rose bud I plucked on the field yesterday while the battle was raging. It grew around the carnage.” The regiment suffered heavily in its fight as the losses were 12 killed and 114th wounded (8 mortally) with only 5 captured or missing. Craig would write after the battle: “The regiment never fought better in the world, and had all the rest fought like this regiment, our loss would not have been so great…. I have full confidence in my men, and I believe that they have confidence in their officers, that they will not ask them to do anything that they are afraid to do themselves. This is what makes soldiers.”
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