On July 2nd, Major General Daniel Edgar Sickles moved his Third Corps from his assigned location along Cemetery
Ridge to what he saw as a more favorable position. He did so without approval from the General commanding. Shifting west to what he
considered "commanding ground", he positioned his men along a ridge which extended northwest from the boulder covered
heights of the Devil's Den, along the southern end of a wheat field, through a peach orchard, and then bending back to follow north
along the Emmitsburg Road. Although General Sickles would forever fiercely defend his actions, his movement left a gap between the
right of his Corps' line and the left end of Major General Winfield Scott Hancock's 2nd Corps which remained on Cemetery Ridge as
Confederates drove back the men of the 3rd Corps in a series of vicious fights, Major General Sickles sat mounted on his horse near
the Trostle Barn. As the battle raged, a 12 pound cannon ball screamed through the air and shattered the General's right leg, nearly
tearing it completely off. Hearing rumors that his men thought he was dead and wishing to maintain what morale he could, he asked an
officer to light a cigar and place it in his mouth. He calmly puffed on his cigar as he was carried from the field. Soldiers reported
that the General saluted them or waved his hat as he was carried by.
About one half hour later, Federal surgeons amputated the General's right leg just above the knee. His amputated leg, which the General
insisted be saved, is now on display at the
National Museum of Health and Medicine.
In the first picture above, if you look closely, you can see a cannonball hole in the brick just above the shed roof on the right side
of the barn.
Years after the war, in December of 1894,
then United States Congressman Daniel Sickles sponsored bill H.R. 8096. The signing of this bill into law a few months later in
February of 1895 by President Grover Cleveland established the battle grounds as the Gettysburg National Park. General Dan Sickles
frequently walked the fields of Gettysburg during the post war years to visit with the veterans and to once again tread upon the
ground that he helped to preserve. Regardless of the varying opinions of the impact of his actions on July 2, 1863, because of his
efforts, we can today enjoy the beauty of the park and ponder the events which occurred here. In the Library of Congress picture to
the left, you can see General Sickles standing on the ground of the Trostle farm near the location of his wounding. With him are
Generals Joseph Carr and Charles Graham who served under him during the battle.
What of the men of General Sickles' Corps?
The 3rd Corps' would suffer horrendous losses during their struggle to hold their ground. The 141st Pennsylvania's commander,
Colonel Henry Madill, would claim the loss of 72% of his men. His comment that, "Among the severely wounded, and who have since
died, were the color-bearers and all of the color guard" underscored the savagery. In all, they would suffer 149 casualties of
their original 209 men.
Although the 141st PA would
endure perhaps the highest percentage of casualties, other regiments would tally greater numbers. Suffering the greatest loss, the
26th Pennsylvania, fighting near the Codori Farm would go into battle with 365 men. When the mantle of night descended, they would
count 30 men killed, 176 wounded and 7 missing, or a total of 213 casualties (58% of their men).
Other regiments sacrificed likewise. The 20th Indiana counted 156 casualties. The 68th Pennsylvania suffered 152. The 40th New York
lost 150 and the 11th New Jersey, 153. This grim ledger would go on as no 3rd Corps regiment was spared. The 115th Pennsylvania claimed
the lowest total loss at 24 men.
According to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, during the three days that became the Battle of Gettysburg, the
Union 3rd Corps would suffer 593 men killed, 3,029 injured, and 589 missing or captured. As Colonel Madill correctly noted, some of
those initially counted as injured would later die from their wounds.