Colonel Robert Bruce Ricketts was, at the time of the Civil War, an artillery officer in the 43rd Pennsylvania (1st light artillery as he refers to it) and Captain of Batteries F and G at the battle of Gettysburg. Below is his memoir of the battle as written by him in 1893.Captain Ricketts
My command at Gettysburg [on July 2, 1863] consisted of Batteries “F & G” First Pennsylvania Light Artillery—Battery “G” having been attached to my original command, Battery “F,” a few weeks before the battle—the two organizations forming one full six gun Battery. We were attached to the Artillery Reserve, Army o f the Potomac, and marched with that command on the morning of July 2d from Taneytown to Gettysburg arriving on the field about noon. At 4:00 p.m. I was ordered by Captain Huntington, to whose Brigade of the Artillery Reserve my Battery was attached, to report to Colonel C.S. Wainwright, who commanded the line of Artillery on East Cemetery Hill. We moved up the Taneytown road by Gen. Meade’s Headquarters, halted for a short time behind Cemetery Hill, and then moved up the Baltimore Pike and relieved Cooper’s Battery, “B” 1st Penna. Light Artillery, on East Cemetery Hill. My position was in front of where the observatory now stands with my left [artillery] piece near the stone wall-on my left over the stone wall was Wiednick’s New York Battery with, I believe, six guns; on my right, down the hill was Reynold’s “L,” 1st New York Battery with, I think, six guns. All o f the above three Batteries, Wiednicks, Reynolds and mine had, as I remember it, 10 pounder regulation rifled guns. Behind my Battery was Stewart’s Battery, “B” 4th U.S. Artillery, with four 12 pounder smooth-bore guns-two of his guns were on the Baltimore Pike facing the town and two were in rear of the two right guns of my battery facing to our front. After going into position we were engaged with the enemy’s artillery during the afternoon until Johnson’s [Confederate] Division formed on Benner’s Hill for the attack on Culp’s Hill. We opened on them as soon as they appeared on the hill and continued the fire as they advanced down the hill to Rock Creek and into the woods at the foot o f Culp’s Hill. When they got into the woods between Rock Creek and Culp’s Hill, our fire was guided by the smoke of [their] musketry fire rising above the trees. At about dusk, and while we were still firing on Johnson’s troopsEarly’s Division [the Louisiana Tigers]-which had formed in a depression running from the town to Rock Creek-suddenly appeared in our front and with the “rebel yell” charged directly on East Cemetery Hill. They were at once under the fire o f Wiednick’s, Reynolds’ and my Battery from East Cemetery Hill and of Steven’s Maine Battery on Culp’s Hill which had an en filading fire on them. As far as my Battery was concerned, we opened at once with double-shotted canister and although it was the dusk o f the evening and the smoke o f the guns made it quite dark, I do not think that any o f the enemy who charged in our immediate front were able to reach our guns. Our infantry were, however, driven back through the Batteries and Wiednick’s Battery was compelled to [retreat]. The left flank of my Battery was then completely exposed and the enemy who had climbed the hill in front of Wiednick’s Battery were able to reach the stone wall on the left of my Battery. They fired directly down the line o f the guns, but fortunately they could not see in the darkness that the ground fell away from my left piece toward the right o f the Battery. I remember well the roar o f the torrent o f bullets as they passed over our heads. My men behaved splendidly in this great emergency. Soon after I went into position, Colonel Wainwright said to me, “If a charge is made on this point you will not limber up and escape under my circumstances, but fight your Battery as long as you can.” I repeated this order to my officers and men, and I do not remember ever to have heard of any member of my command having failed to do his whole duty. Only once, for a moment, when the Infantry were falling back through the Battery, some o f my men gave back, but were instantly rallied with the cry “Die on your own soil boys before you give up your guns.”Some of the men resorted to hand to hand fighting in the left of the Battery reaching as far as the 3d Gun from the left, my men fighting with handspikes, hammer stones and pistols. I devoted my energies to keeping up the fire from as many guns as we could and in going along the guns I suddenly came upon a group, iust in rear of the 3d Gun from the left. The group consisted of Lieut. C.B. Brockway, acting Sergeant Stratford, and a confederate soldier who was on the ground. Strat ford had a musket [held as a club] which was on the point of falling [on the Confederate] when I seized it and probably saved the poor fellow’s life. I do not, however, remember now what became o f him. The story as told by Brockway afterwards was that the confederate demanded Stratford’s surrender when Brockway, who was near and forgetting he had a sword, picked up a stone and struck him on the head. Stratford seized the man’s musket and fired wounding him severely and then clubbed the musket and would no doubt have brained him i f I had not caught the gun at that moment. At about this time and near the same place, James H. Riggin, the Guidon bearer [our flag], staggered against me and fell with the cry “help me Captain.” When we found him after the fight he was dead and the sleeve o f the right arm of my coat was covered with the brave fellow’s blood. We afterward learned that in a personal encounter with a Confederate officer who had attempted to capture the Battery Guidon-which was planted near the Second Gun from the left-[Riggin] had shot the officer with his revolver, but at the same moment the staff of the Guidon was shot in two and poor Riggin was shot through the body. Three o f my men, Francis Reid, Oscar G. Lanaber and John M. Given, commoners on the left piece, were carried away as prisoners. [Given was wounded and died in the hands of the enemy. The other two were afterwards exchanged.] The situation had now become really desperate -Stewart with his two 12 pounder guns on the Pike was firing canister, sweeping the ground that had been occupied by Wiedrick’s Battery. There was nothing left on East Cemetery Hill to resist the onslaught of the enemy but the hand-full of brave men of my Battery but even with the favoring circumstances of the dusk of the evening, the smoke of the guns and the lay of ground, they were becoming exhaustedand would soon have been overcome-but just at this time-probably the most critical moment during the Battle of Gettysburg-Carroll’s Brigade of the 2d Army Corps, sent in on the run by Genl. Hancock, arrived and passing by the right of my Battery and down the hill opened fire and the enemy retired.I never knew how long the fight lasted on the evening o f the 2nd, but I remember that after everything had become quiet the full moon was just above Culp’s Hill.
- R. Bruce Ricketts September 10, 1893