P-2: Pee Dee Artillery Group
The Rotograph Postcard
What These Trees Witnessed
The Pee Dee Artillery, commanded by Lt. William E. Zimmerman, was third in line of the 5 batteries which comprised Pegram’s Battalion in their position on Seminary Ridge, modern West Confederate Avenue. In the morning of July 3, a brigade of four regiments of Virginia troops, commanded by Col. John Brockenbrough, was deployed in a line to the west of the three southernmost batteries of Pegram’s Battalion (in order, the Pee Dee Artillery, Crenshaw’s Battery, and the Fredericksburg Artillery).
The three batteries all took part in the massive cannonade of 150 guns that fired away for about an hour (noon to 1 PM) at the center of Cemetery Ridge in an unsuccessful attempt to weaken the Union center. At the conclusion of the cannonade, Brockenbrough’s Brigade, which stood on the left flank of the three Confederate divisions which were to attack, marched through these batteries and headed toward Cemetery Ridge.
Colonel Brockenbrough was not at his fighting best at Gettysburg. On July 1, his regiment had failed to take an effective part in the Confederate attacks on McPherson’s and Seminary Ridges, and his timidity would be on further display on July 3. When Brockenbrough’s Brigade was about halfway to the Emmitsburg Road, the 8th Ohio, led by Lt. Col. Franklin Sawyer, marched to the unsupported left flank of Brockenbrough’s Brigade, and fired onto the Virginians. A succeeding charge by the Buckeyes and 126th New York sent the rebel brigade reeling. In the censorious words of Bradley Gottfried, “Demoralized by their high losses and poor leadership, many of Brockenbrough’s men surrendered or fled. The careless decision to align a small and inherently suspect brigade on the column’s left flank proved a costly mistake.” (1)
John Brockenbrough resigned from the army soon after Gettysburg when a junior officer was promoted ahead of him. The poor colonel is memorialized on our webpage, “Trees of Shame”, dedicated to those who underperformed at the battle of Gettysburg.
(1) Gottfried, Bradley M. The Maps of Gettysburg. California: Savas Beatie, 2007. P. 250.
A remarkable postcard, published by the Rotograph Company (a German company with offices and facilities in New York City), shows a scene of West Confederate Avenue taken from just north of the Pee Dee Artillery. Seven witness trees can be identified in the image on the postcard, 6 of them appearing in no other known photograph (not yet discovered, anyway). Two of the seven trees are on the west side of West Confederate Avenue, the reminder on the east side.
Go to Trees #5 and #6
Go to Tree #7
Go to Tree #8
Go to Tree #9
Go to Tree #11
Goto Tree #12