“ At this time our gallant Fowler, who, during the vigorous shelling which preceded our advance, had jokingly cried, “Dodge the big ones, boys…”
Sergeant Major C. Frederick Betts
For most of the veterans of the Seventeenth Connecticut, Gettysburg would be the battle remembered best. Many of the soldiers of the regiment were stung by the criticism leveled towards the XI Corps after Gettysburg, and most wanted a chance to prove their critics wrong.
On July 1st they got their chance, only to watch as the events of Chancellorsville seem to repeat themselves. Once again the regiment was split, 4 companies being detached and sent over Rock Creek to the right. Once again the men of the Seventeenth found themselves outnumbered and outflanked, and once again they saw a beloved Lt. Colonel killed early in the action.
Retreating and re-grouping on Cemetery Hill with the survivors of the I and XI Corps, they moved to East Cemetery Hill. There, on the evening of July 2nd, they held their ground against the Louisiana Tigers in a nasty little fight in the dusk. It was here that Company E’s commanding officer, Captain Henry Burr—recently exchanged after being captured at Chancellorsville—“got hunk” by capturing a Confederate soldier near the stone wall at the base of East Cemetery Hill.
The regiment withstood the Confederate bombardment of July 3rd, spending much of the day trading shots with sharpshooters in town. On July 4th, a small detachment of the Seventeenth moved into town, and discovered the Confederates had retreated from Gettysburg.
For more information, read Connecticut Yankees at Gettysburg by Charles Hamblin [Ed. by Walter L. Powell]. Kent, OH: Kent State UP, 1993.
For more about the Seventeenth at East Cemetery Hill, read The Hour Was One of Horror – East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg by John M. Archer. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1997. See also “The 17th Connecticut and 41st New York: A Revisionist History of the Defense of East Cemetery Hill” by James A. Woods in Issue 28 of the Gettysburg Magazine for a thought-provoking look at where the regiment really was located (and it is not where the monument stands!).