The Union digs in

The Union digs in

Rising over Gettysburg on the morning of July 2, 1863, the sun unveiled carnage of indescribable proportions.

Some 3,000 American soldiers wearing blue or gray uniforms lay lifeless on the battlefield. One soldier likened the mounds of dead to sheaves of wheat.

Somewhere amid the anguished cries of the wounded and the silence of the dead, Pvt. Michael Link of Reading lay, sightless and desperately clinging to life. A single bullet, remarkably, had penetrated both eyes the day before.

Lt. Col. George F. McFarland, commander of the 151st Infantry Regiment, had a leg amputated on the battlefield.

In 1862, Bernville Borough Council had offered $50 to each resident who enlisted in military service. Fifteen men accepted and were assigned to Company H of the 151st infantry.

Pvt. Kleinginna, a Swedish immigrant from Bernville, had been killed in the opening engagement with the 26th North Carolina regiment.

Sgt. J. W. Yeager and Pvt. Jared Heck were wounded, and Cpl. H. B. Nunnemaker had been captured.

Pvt. Alfred D. Staudt, another Bernville resident who’d been wounded, would recall his misfortune in his diary.

“I shot five times,” Staudt wrote, “then I were shot threw (sic) my left arm and in my left leg.”

2nd Lt. Charles P. Potts of Pottsville, a member of Company K, had been captured and taken to a holding area a mile northwest of Gettysburg. A passage in his diary suggested an ominous fate for the Union.

“The rebs were held in check,” he wrote, “but I think they will be able to drive our men on the morrow.”

The 46th Pennsylvania Infantry

A view west from Culp Hill, where the 46th Pa were stationed for much of the battle.

For all the blood that had been spilled, the first day’s fighting ended in a stalemate of sorts Union forces entrenched on the high ground around Gettysburg and Confederate units occupying the town.

Still, Gen. Robert E. Lee was confident his Confederate troops would prevail on the second day of battle.

Over the objection of his corps commanders, Lee ordered an attack on positions on Cemetery Ridge and Culp’s Hill opposite ends of the Union’s fish hook shaped line of defense.

The 46th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, which included Berks County troops, would distinguish itself in the second day’s battle.

A view of Little Round Top at Gettysburg Battlefield after the battle, 1863.

Its commander, Lt. Col. James Levan Selfridge, had been born in Reading in 1824.

After graduating from Lafayette College, he joined the family business, Lehigh Transportation Co. of Philadelphia. When he enlisted in Company A of the 1st Pennsylvania Infantry, the Washington Grays, he had his own brokerage firm in Bethlehem.

Selfridge, who earned praise for his role in the Battle of Antietam 10 months earlier, had but 350 of the unit’s original 1,000 troops as it arrived in Gettysburg.

Too few in numbers to act as its own unit, the 46th was merged with the 12th Corps, Division 1.

Wearing 12th Corps red star emblem on their uniforms, the 46th dug in behind wood and earthen barricades, known as breastworks, on Culp’s Hill.

That afternoon, Selfridge was ordered to move the unit to reinforce the Union line on Cemetery Ridge.
The Union digs in