Some of the most ferocious fighting on Day 1 of the battle occurred in the unfinished bed of a railroad cut
running just north and almost parallel to the Chambersburg Pike. While the Union's Iron Brigade drove back CSA General James J.
Archer's Brigade on the southern side of the pike, the nephew of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Confederate Brigadier
General Joseph R. Davis, marched in the direction of the
area north of the town
just above the cut and south of Oak Hill. His brigade of Mississippi and North Carolina regiments
pushed across the open, gently undulating ground driving the stubborn northerners in their front. As they progressed, the men in
gray on moved towards the tempting shelter of the railroad cut.
While the Confederates strove to establish themselves behind what
seemed like ready-made breastworks, the 6th Wisconsin, the 14th Brooklyn & the 95th New York, positioned to the south of the
cut determined to take this newly won position from them.
Lieutenant Colonel Rufus R. Dawes
of the 6th Wisconsin led his men over open ground that helped to slow this Confederate onslaught and trapped over 200 gray clad
soldiers in their dubious shelter. As can be seen in the
picture above, much of the cut was far too deep to allow sight of the approaching enemy, a field of fire, or the chance to easily
scale the banks. What appeared to be a safe haven from which to fight would become a snare, trapping many a Southern man.
Despite the Union success however, many men in blue breathed their last on this day. The 6th Wisconsin lost about 170 of their 420
the 14th Brooklyn lost 128, and the 95th New York suffered 115.
Steven W. Sears, in his excellent book on the
Gettysburg Campaign, relays one particular incident that underscores
the suffering of even those who succeeded. He notes that, Colonel Rufus Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin wrote a letter to his fiancée
shortly after the battle. In that letter, he laments, "Our bravest and best are cold in the ground or suffering on beds of
anguish. One young man, Corporal James Kelley of Company B, shot through the breast came staggering up to me before he fell and,
opening his shirt, to show the wound said, Colonel, won't you write to my folks that I died a soldier?"
[G] The Iron
Brigade, of which the 6th Wisconsin was a part, lost a staggering 1,212 of 1,883 men on July 1st alone.
14th Brooklyn would fight at varying locations on each of the three days of the battle including the prolonged, tumultuous struggles
on Culp's Hill. Their contributions on July 2 and 3rd resulted in the 14th becoming one of the few Union regiments on the field to
claim to have taken part in serious action each day of the battle. Confederate General Davis' men would also fight again as they
crossed the nearly mile long fields of the Bliss Farm to take part on July 3rd in the tragic Pickett / Pettigrew Charge.
Click here for a panoramic view of the Railroad Cut and the monument
to the 14th Brooklyn mentioned on the inscription of their Culp's Hill Monument pictured here.