Tuesday, June 11, 2013

July 2, 1863, Rose's woods, Gettysburg: It was 'the greatest blow the old 5th ever got'

George S. Gove of Raymond, N.H., was one of the stalwart soldiers who made the 5th New Hampshire Volunteers a crack Union regiment. He was wounded three times in the right shoulder, pretty much in the same place. He wrote regularly to his sister, Julia Parsons, and described these wounds.

After the Fifth's first battle, on June 1, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Va., he wrote: "A musket ball passed thro my left hand between the 3rd & little finger bones & then into my right arm below the shoulder, stopping against the bone & was taken out. My arm was not broken. . . . My wounds were very sore & painful for a day. I could not raise either arm not even feel myself. I can take care of myself very well now."

George S. Gove as an officer in the 5th.
At Fredericksburg, after the 5th's harrowing march toward Marye's Heights, Gove went beyond the Stratton House, where many of the Union attackers sought cover, to follow the colors. He advanced very near the Confederate firing line behind a stone wall. Here is how he described it to Julia:

"I had not held the flag more than half a minute, before I was hit in the shoulder by a piece of shell & knocked down. One of the two men was shot down. The other picked up the Banner & ran back to the house and fences. Most of our [regiment] -- what there was left -- had got behind the house and fences. I lay about 30 yds in front of them & about 30 yds from the rebel rifle pits.

"I was between two fires. It was horrible. The bullets flew over me like swarms of bees. They were continually striking all around me. Two bullets hit me, one in the back & one in the leg. They probably were spent balls & only bruised the skin, and then the shells which our batteries threw over burst over me and pieces from them kept falling all about me, I felt that any moment might be my last.

"I lay there over an hour. I did not dare to get up to go back. [When] our boys stopped firing & the rebs slacked theirs, I crawled back to the house."

Gove's letters are part of the Parsons Family papers at the University of New Hampshire. He wrote the following letter to Julia Parsons a week after being wounded for the third time, at the Battle of Gettysburg:

                                                                            U.S.A. Hospital,
                                                                            Chestnut Hill, Phila. Pa.
                                                                            Thursday July 9, 1863

Dear Sister

Here I am with a bullet hole in my arm made there the 2nd day of July at Gettysburgh. I believe I have not written since leaving Falmouth, but I cannot now give you an accounting of all our long weary marches thru Va. & up thru Maryland. The 25th of June we were at Thorofare Gap, Va. From there we made forced marches to Gettysburg.   

One day we marched over 30 miles. We got to Gettysburg the evening of July 1st. There had been fighting that day between [by] the 1st & 11th Corps. The next morning we took our position in the center. Till 3 oclock P.M. nothing happened to disturb the quiet except occasional picket fireing.

At 3 o’clock the 3rd Corps went forward on our left & the fight soon commenced. We remained inactive till 4½ o’clock & then moved over to the left of the 3rd corps & went in, soon found the rebels in the oak woods & the work became hot. We drove them at first, but they had the advantage of position & we had to pull back some. They picked off our men very fast from behind trees & rocks.

After fighting about an hour we were relieved by another brigade. Just before we were relieved, I was hit in my right arm, the ball entering close to the shoulder & about 2 [inches] from the old place, passing outside the bone & coming out on the backside. It is not a [serious] wound at all & has given me very little trouble thus far. It will probably take two months to heal.

For fighting men like George Gove,
the loss of Col  Edward E. Cross
at Gettysburg was a big blow. 
Co. K went into the fight with 13 men & had 2 killed & 7 wounded. We were color Co. & suffered worse on that account. One of our men was killed with the colors in his hands. Gilman Johnson came out unharmed. He is a lucky boy. The whole regt suffered severely, losing over 90 out of 160, but its greatest loss is Col. Cross. He was shot thru the bowels & died that night. He had been in command of the brigade & would have been a Brig. Gen. in a few days. It is the greatest blow the old 5th ever got.

The greatest fight was Friday [July 3], but of that I know nothing. I staid at the Hos. there till Monday & then walked 7 miles to Littletown & took the cars. We [were] all night on the road, arriving in Baltimore Tuesday morning. Here we got breakfast & had our wounds cleaned and took the cars to Philadelphia. Got supper & in the eve took the cars for this place. Chestnut Hill is a very pretty place & it is a splendid Hos. There are over 2000 patients here.  It is 9 miles from the city. A  R.R. to the city passes close to it. 

No furloughs are granted from here. It seems to be my luck every time to get into such a place. However I rather think I shall spend at least 30 days at home before I go back. I  shall stay here 2 or 3 weeks perhaps & then take leave go home, report to the regt where I am & when my wound is well go to the regt.

I wrote to Mother yesterday.  I have not rec a letter or paper or heard one word from N.H. for 4 weeks. We got no mail after leaving Falmouth – Write soon right away.  I am very anxious to hear from you.

My arm plagues me some about writing & it makes it ache.

Give my love to all.  Direct your letters to
                                                            U.S.A. Hospital Ward 44
       Chesnut Hill   Philadelphia, Pa

       Geo S. Gove

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