2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Battle of Gettysburg - Thursday July 2, 1863
CSA General William Barksdale & Union Colonel George Willard

The field of General William Barksdale's Charge

Mississippi Monument at Gettysburg

A short time earlier on July 2, 1863, an anxious Mississippi Brigadier General finally heard the words for which he had impatiently waited. Receiving his orders, General William Barksdale road out in front of his men and thundered, "Attention, Mississippians! Battalions forward! Dress to the colors and Forward to the foe! Onward, Brave Mississippians! For Glory!"

As Brigadier General William Barksdale's unrelenting, hammering assault surged ever forward, fewer Federal units blocked their path. The Mississippians had crushed Major General Daniel Sickles' advanced blue line and was moving relentlessly northeast towards the main Cemetery Ridge line. Refusing to stop to reorganize his men, he ordered his officers to continue driving the Federals. On Cemetery Ridge, the ubiquitous Major General Winfield Scott Hancock viewed with cool concern the advancing Confederate flags. Looking for men to stem the onrushing gray tide, he ordered forward his 3rd Division's 3rd Brigade. Commanded by Colonel George Willard, these men had earlier in the war been captured en mass at Harpers Ferry and were eager to cleanse their record and restore their honor.

Confederate General William BarksdaleIn his official report, Colonel James M. Bull would describe the brigade's charge. "The line advanced over declining ground, through a dense underbrush extending to the base of the hill previously mentioned, in as good order as the circumstances of the case would admit of, at which place {the base of the hill} the alignment, without stopping, was partially rectified. Contrary, as is evident, to the expectations of the brigade commander, the rebels in considerable force were found in this underbrush. They fired upon the brigade as it advanced, which fire was returned by a portion of the brigade without halting. Many fell in the charge through the woods." [5]

 As the Northern troops surged forward to meet the crisis, the mounted General Barksdale continued to lead his men forward. A conspicuous target on horseback, the Southern General was shot from his horse and would later die in a Union field hospital behind the lines he had so bravely lead his men in the quest to take. To a courier, Brigadier General William Barksdale said, "I am killed! Tell my wife and children that I died fighting at my post." Now, without their leader, the game but disorganized and exhausted Southerners were not able to maintain their progress forward in the face of the charge of this fresh Union brigade. Desire alone could not sustain the men in gray.

The Hummelbaugh HouseDespite their success on these fields, Colonel Willard's men would suffer for their efforts as well and not just from the mounting casualties. The men of his brigade would watch on in horror gallant Colonel would die on this field. An artillery shell, screaming from the Confederate lines, tore off part of their Colonel's head. [A, G] But, having checked the Confederate advance, Willard's men withdrew back to the ridge from whence they came. Brigadier General Alexander Hays, Commander of Hancock's 3rd Division would later say of Colonel Willard and the 3rd Brigade, "Col. G. L. Willard, One hundred and twenty-fifth New York Volunteers, commanding the Third Brigade, was early in the day withdrawn from the division by the major-general commanding (Hancock), and took a prominent part in the engagement on our left.

Colonel George Willard MarkerThe history of this brigade's operations is written in blood. Colonel Willard was killed, and next day, after the brigade had rejoined the division, his successor, Col. Eliakim Sherrill, One hundred and twenty-sixth New York Volunteers, also fell. Col. Clinton Dougall MacDougall, One hundred and eleventh New York Volunteers, and Maj. Hugo Hildebrandt, Thirty-ninth New York Volunteers, were each severely wounded, leaving the brigade in command of a lieutenant-colonel. The loss of this brigade amounts to one-half the casualties in the division. The acts of traitors at Harpers Ferry had not tainted their patriotism." [5] Pictured here is the small marker, just north of the Trostle Farm, near where Colonel George Willard lost his life on July 2, 1863.