Article by Capt. Hillyer in the Athens [Ga.]Southern Banner Newspaper, 23 July, 1863

Actual photo of Captain George Hillyer

This newspaper article is from The Athens Southern Banner, 29 July 1863. It was submitted by Junius Hillyer, father of Capt. George Hillyer, 9th Regiment of Georgia Infantry, to the paper. I have made no corrections as to spelling, punctuation, or opinions expressed, as this was a letter from a son to his father. I have, however, added [ ] (brackets) beside somethings for clarification of archaic words, or confusing terminology, etc. To me, since it was a letter and not a plan to publish an article, it reveals that after the defeat at Gettysburg, the spirit of the Army of Northern Virginia was still very high, not broken. The letter contains some liberties with events, but were probably true as the Captain perceived them. It is very easy, with the luxury of 14 decades passage of time (arm-chair quarter-backing), to see inaccuracies or overstatements in it. To do Capt. Hillyer justice, it needs to be judged on his perception of events as he lived them. Casualties received on 2 July, 1863 were 189 of 340 engaged in the Wheatfield. I do not have a casualty report for actions the next day as the 9th was one of the regiments sent in to reinforce Baughman's Battery on the Confederate right flank, from a cavalry attack by Farnsworth's New York and Vermont Cavalry .

(article by Jeffery Wert) online entitled "All the Powers of Hell Were Waked To Madness" at: Click HERE! Contains events involving the 9th and Farnsworth's Federal Cavalry.

Capt. Hillyer's Official Gettysburg Report is HERE!
Capt. Hillyer's portrait is HERE!

Transcribed 8/04/02 by Neal Griffin. The Athens Southern Banner article reads:

Letter from Captain George Hillyer.
I send you for publication the enclosed letter from my son, Capt. George Hillyer. It will be interesting to a great many persons who have friends in the 9th regiment. Permit me to state that it was written hurriedly on many scraps of paper with a pencil, under circumstances of great personal discomfort, and without any expectation of its publication. Junius Hillyer.

July 11th, at Sundown.
My Dear Father-The army is at this time encamped in line of battle stretching away from the Potomac river to and beyond Hagerstown expecting and preparing for an attack from the enemy. Of all the circumstances of our position and situation, I must not speak; for the long line of our communications is liable to raids by the enemy's cavalry, and our mails liable to capture. Our Brigade had an encounter yesterday beyond our lines, on the other side of Antietam river, where we were sent by Gen. [J.E.B.] Stuart, where we [Anderson's Brigade] lost 200 men killed and wounded. [the battle of Funkstown, Md.] My Regiment, the 9th, lost some of its best men killed, and two excellent officers wounded. The regiment behaved as steadily as on dress parade. The 59th, from some cause, fell back, which exposed the flank of the 11th, and in sucession of the 7th, 8th and finally of the 9th, when I was compelled to give the order to retire, which was slowly and sullenly obeyed. It was reported--I do not know the fact--that the reason the 59th fell back, was that our artillery, by some mismanagement was firing into them. In my company Rains was wounded, (a flesh wound in the shoulder) and Jasper McGaughley lost his left leg below the knee. Capt. Scott, Lieutenants Arnold, Early and Morrow, and Anderson Reese are up to this time safe--I am informed that our cousin, Lieutenant Hillyer of the 3d Georgia is also unhurt.--Major McDaniel was seriously wounded in the abdomen--I fear mortally. He bore himself manfully in all the battles and endures his sufferings like a hero. He was left in comfortable quarters at a private house in Funkstown, and will, I fear, fall into the hands of the enemy.
July12th--I wrote the above yesterday morning, sitting by a tree at the Surgeon's quarters, where I had gone weary and exhausted, to get a little medicine--having some fever--and to try to get some rest, which I greatly need. I was interrupted by an order for the Hospital to be moved to the place selected by the Division surgeon, in anticipation of the coming battle. I got in one of our ambulances and rode out to the place selected, turning over for the time, the command of the regiment to Captain Webb. It is now noon, and there are no signs of the enemy in our front. Our men are busily engaged throwing up entrenchments on the line about a mile off, in view of where I am now writing. I hope to be well enough to go back to my post when the time of need comes. My earnest wish is, to be with my regiment in every time of trial. You must not blame me if I go back to the battle to-morrow. I have no fear or dread when in the line of my duty. The enemy seem reluctant to attack us here, and it may be that he does not intend doing so at all--knowing that the want of subsistence will soon compell Lee to cross the river. The enemy suffered more at Gettysburg than we did, and although we failed to drive him from the Gibralta he had chosen on the mountains, yet our infantry did all along the line get access to his, and his losses were greater than ours. The truth is, the battle was like Sharpsburg and Murfreesboro in its results, though far more extensive and sanguinary than either. Our position here is comparitively an open country, and if Mead attacks us the chances are very great that we will destroy his army. The fight which my regiment had with the enemy's cavalry at the battle of Gettysburg, (about which I wrote you in a former letter,) has given us much eclat in all part of the army. We charged upon and dispersed double our number of cavalry in an open field and chased them around its fences and adjacent woods, killing and wounding a great many. While flying from my regiment, they ran into the fire of several other regiments and became so entangled that but few escaped. I should be rejoiced more than I can possibly express, if I could see you to talk of my regiment and brigade and division, and of the fate and deeds of my brave comrades and of my own adventures. To write it, would be situated as I am, impossible--At the battle of Gettysburg, where Longstreet's corps was engaged on the 2d, our Division (Hood's) began the attack, and for near two hours sustained the shock of battle alone. After we had penetrated several hundred yards into the enemy's lines, our flanks were, of course, very much exposed. My regiment is the extreme left of the division, and my company the extreme left of the Regiment, so that the position of my company was the worst of all. For nearly an hour the enemy were on three sides of us, and a battery of sixteen guns enfilading us with grape. If it had not been for the shelter of rocks and trees behind which we fought, not one of us would have escaped. I changed the front of the three left companies so as to face the enemy every way, and we held the enemy at bay until the flank was relieved by the coming up of McLaws' division. By this time our division had whipped and dispersed two lines of the enemy, which they had successively encountered, and just about the time McLaws came up, the enemy strongly reinforced his whole line. But half an hour's hard fighting caused them to retreat again. It was now (nearly??) sundown. But simultaneously from all along our line, there went up a yell only such as our army can give when rushing on the foe. True, we were wearied and exhausted, and our ranks were thinned by the long contest, but we went forward as best as we could through the rocky woods in which we had been fighting, across the disputed valley, up the hill beyond (the enemy all the while falling and flying before us for mare than a halfmile,) when we came to a long open ravine, beyond which rose a steep rocky ridge, some hundred and fifty feet high, everywhere crowned with artillery. I saw the cannon belching forth volumns of smoke all along the summit, but heard no report from them--the roar of musketry and the shouts of our men drowned out every other sound. We did not pause or hesitate a moment, but advanced after emerging from the timber one or two hundred yards, to the very foot of the hills, and within a stone's throw of the cannon. During this charge, I saw our men falling in large numbers, and the enemy's infantry who were retreating before us, suffered very heavily, particularly as they went up the hill. I saw the ground ploughed and torn by grape shot and shell--still I heard no distinct sound so great was the roar and din of battle. If we had been fresh, we would have taken the hill, but when we got to the foot of it and saw how steep it was, and how much our ranks were thinned, all seemed at once to perceive that the desperate effort must fail, and we turned and retired to a selected line in the woods. Do not think me vain, I will say that I am proud of my regiment, and of my brigade, and of my division, and I am proud of my company, and of all these I am justly proud. I am sorry we could not take the hill, but have no self accusation for the failure, for I went as near the enemy's guns as any other man, and at the foot of the hill fired my rifle at the cannoniers. When we dressed our line in the woods, and prepared to renew the conflict, I had scarcely eighty men in the regiment, and it was found that 244 out of 349 had been disabled. I had command of the regiment by the fall of senior officers since about the time McLaws' Division joined us. Thus ended the battle for that day--The next day, in the battle of Friday, we were detached and fought the enemy's cavalry. In a letter like this, I must omit many incidents, of which I would like to speak. And I have referred only to the movements of Longstreet's corps, and particularly of Hood's division--of what transpired around me and what I saw. Of the position and events in front of Ewell and A.P. Hill, I know little more than you do. For the satisfaction of friends at home I will add that we brought off and decently buried every man that was killed in the regiment. Our wounded, except the few who were too badly hurt to be moved, we had brought off and cared for. Poor Jack Giles (I know how much you respected and esteemed his father) had his leg torn off by a shell just before we began to advance. He was about ten steps from me at the time; I went to him, and at once saw by his countenace and his extreme prostation, that he would die. I asked him what I must tell his father and his mother, in case I should live to see them--Shells were tearing the trees and ground around us, but the heroism of his spirit triumphed even in that dreadful hour. His reply was simple and calm--"Capt., tell my father and mother I died for my country". May God rest his soul, and temper this second great grief to his aged parents. He was the only one of our boys who were killed, that I saw before death after they were struck. All the rest of my company that were killed, Rodgers, Atkinson and Stephens and Ragan, were good soldiers and much esteemed. My heart is deeply afflicted with sorrow when I think of them and of their far distant friends--Jasper McCaughey, who was wounded and lost his leg on the 10th, in the fight at Funkstown, was left in a hospital in Williamsport. I saw him yesterday, the 13th. He seemed to mind it very little, and I think he will do well. Ephraim Prince--wounded at Gettysburg--poor fellow could not be moved. He was shot through both thighs, one of which was broken. Jack McDaniel was wounded across the back, injuring his spine, and he could not be moved, though his wound is not thought to be mortal. Both these were left in the field hospital near Gettysburg, and have fallen into the hands of the enemy. Their friends will of course be anxious about them. But I have little doubt the enemy will treat them kindly. We left ample nurses, supplies, and physicians with them. Bill Brown and John Perkins were sent out on horseback to forage for the hospital and unluckily were captured . Jim Conner and Wilson Woodruff are also thought to be prisoners, as they are missing. Our other wounded--a list of whom has been published--were, at last accounts doing well. They have all been sent forward to Staunton and Winchester. I heard from Major McDaniel three days after he was wounded, and he was better and hoped to do well. I wonder why somebody don't go to puffing [publicizing, or writing about with the purpose of making known] the 9th regiment. It is one of the best and steadiest on the continent. But no pains having been taken to noise it in the newspapers, I suppose people at home know very little about it.
your son,
George Hillyer

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