The 76th New York
How it Opened the Fight on the
First Day at Gettysburg

By: M.M. Whitney, Lieutenant, Co. C, 76th NY

Published in the National Tribune
July 21, 1887

Editor National Tribune: 

In one of your late issues C. W. Cook made the statement that the 76th N.Y. opened the ball at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. I am provoked to see that Serg't Wm. W. Schooley, Co. G, 143d Pa., should write a contradiction to Cook's statements, which were true. Now, to settle matters and give the exact facts, I will give Comrade Schooley some points, based as they are upon orders and the records of the battle.

"Forward-Double quick!" was the command given. Down the hill toward the enemy the column swept. The 76th N.Y., being in the advance, was obliged to remove fences as they led the army through fields, gardens and yards. When within two miles of town gen. Cutler commanding our brigade-consisting of the 76th N.Y, 14th N.Y. (Brooklyn), 7th Ind., 56th Pa., 95thth and 147th N.Y.-was ordered to make an oblique movement to the left across the fields to the ridge near the Seminary, west of the town, where the enemy was already engaging the cavalry forces under Gen. John Buford.

Gen. Cutler, with three regiments-76th N.Y., 147th N.Y. and 56th Pa.-immediately formed his line of battle. He had no sooner formed than he was engaged by a vastly superior force of the enemy advancing in two lines at short range. This was the first body of confederates seen by the Federals. Orders were given to open fire, and for 30 minutes no body of men ever withstood a more terrible shower of lead.

This position was held with a spirit and bravery never excelled, until Gen. Wadsworth ordered the command to fall back on the next ridge. At the moment of going into action the 76th N.Y. numbered 348 men all told, and in 30 minutes lost 169 officers and men, lacking but five of being half of its number. No other regiment was engaged until we had received a severe baptism of blood. Serg't Schooley, 143d Pa., had better post himself better upon facts before making statements he cannot verify nor substantiate.

I do not wish to fight the battles over again, nor do I wish to claim laurels undeserved, nor will I permit one of our well earned feathers to be plucked from our helmet. My comrades are my brothers, and the warmest sympathy of my heart is for them who shared the terrible ordeal of that battle of battles. If Serg't Schooley should still doubt my statement, I will refer him to some of the cavalry command, who will satisfy him that our regiment was the first that lifted the burden of death and responsibility from their tried position. Comrade Schooley desires not to be "left out in the cold." I can assure him it was hot enough for me that day-so hot that I would never have a chill should I sit astride the North Pole for six months. If Comrade Schooley will visit the old battleground he will find a tablet with the following inscription: "this was the right of the First Army Corps, and from this hill the 76th N.Y. Vols. Opened the battle on July 1st, 1863."

-M.M. Whitney, Lieutenant, Co. C, 76th N.Y., 471 Pa. Ave, Washington, D.C.

Transcribed by Conrad Bush. 

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