Heth’s Division at Gettysburg
Following on from my recently-painted Union I Corps and 1st Cavalry Division, I’ve finally completed my first major Confederate formation: Major General Harry Heth’s 2nd Division of A.P. Hill’s III Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.
Heth (pronounced ‘Heath’) was an aggressive, if somewhat rash commander, who was promoted to command the division in late May 1863, just over a month before Gettysburg. His role in the Battle of Gettysburg was to be a controversial one, as it was his actions that precipitated the great battle, against the orders of his friend Robert E Lee.
Heth recorded in his memoirs that he sent two brigades into the town of Gettysburg to search for shoes for his men, but historians cast doubt on that story, as General Ewell’s II Corps had recently passed through the town and would have picked any Union depots clean; a fact that Heth was aware of.
Whatever the reason for his actions, the fact remains that on the morning of 1st July 1863, Heth sent two of his four brigades (Davis’ and Archer’s) on a reconnaissance-in-force down the Chambersburg Pike toward Gettysburg. This force encountered Buford’s Union 1st Cavalry Division west of the Lutheran Seminary and deployed into battle-formation. As the battle intensified, Heth’s two leading brigades were repulsed by freshly-arrived elements of Reynolds’ Union I Corps, forcing Heth to throw in his remaining two brigades and call upon A.P. Hill for support…
General Lee’s orders to ‘not engage until the rest of the army was in position’ were soon forgotten, as A.P. Hill committed first his corps artillery reserve, then Pender’s 3rd Division and then Anderson’s 1st Division to the escalating engagement, while calling upon Ewell to bring his II Corps down from the north, to strike the Union force’s northern flank. The Union I Corps meanwhile, was being reinforced by XI Corps and XII Corps and the rest of Meade’s Army of the Potomac was hurrying to the scene… The situation was now completely out of Lee’s control and the greatest battle of the war was underway, thanks to Harry Heth…
Having precipitated the battle, Heth’s actions during the day continued to be questionable. Nobody could doubt his bravery, but he continued to mount piecemeal attacks with his division and failed to coordinate with neighbouring divisions. He was eventually knocked senseless by a spent bullet that struck his head and command of his division passed to General Pettigrew for the remainder of the four-day battle. On 3rd July the division formed a large part of ‘Pickett’s Charge’ and by the end of the battle had suffered truly horrific casualties, the worst of any Confederate division engaged at Gettysburg at 3,373 men dead, wounded and missing. As a consequence, the division was ordered to lead the retreat back to Virginia.
Following his recovery, Heth returned to command his division and briefly commanded III Corps following A.P. Hill’s death in 1865.
As can be seen, this division, in common with other Confederate divisions, was considerably stronger than the Union equivalent. Confederate divisions were typically four or even five brigades strong and also included an organic artillery battalion. Union divisions by contrast, typically had two or three brigades and all artillery was massed in the Corps artillery reserves, to be distributed to divisions as required.
The division’s 1st Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General J. Johnston Pettigrew, consisted of the 11th, 26th, 47th and 53rd North Carolina Regiments and was the strongest in the division at 2,581 men, equating to 13 bases in Fire & Fury. The brigade, along with the rest of the division, would also play a part in ‘Pickett’s Charge’ on the 3rd. 56% of these men (1,450) would be dead, wounded or missing by the end of the battle.
Pettigrew himself took command of the division following Heth’s wound on 1s July, with command of the brigade passing to Colonel J. K. Marshall of the 53rd North Carolina Infantry.
Depending on which source you believe, Colonel J. M. Brockenbrough’s 2nd Brigade, consisting of the 22nd, 40th, 47th and 56th Virginia Regiments, was the weakest in the division, weighing in at only 971 men or 5 bases in Fire & Fury. However, some other sources show the brigade as being almost exactly twice as strong, at 1,840 men. This does tend to suggest that someone along the line has made a mathematical error. However, the casualty figures for Brockenbrough’s Brigade (175 men killed, wounded and missing) are very low when compared to the other brigades in the division, even though they were in the same engagements. This does tend to suggest that the lower strength figure is the more likely.
Along with Brockenbrough’s brigade, Archer’s 3rd Brigade was very weak as a consequence of earlier engagements. The brigade, consisting of the 5th & 11th Alabama Regiments, 1st Tennessee Provisional Regiment and 7th & 14th Tennessee Regiments, had only 1,197 men, equating to 6 bases in Fire & Fury.
Davis’ 4th Brigade, consisting of the 2nd, 11th & 42nd Mississippi and 55th North Carolina Regiments, was very strong with 2,241 men present, equating to 11 Fire & Fury bases. I’ve arbitrarily given them a Mississippi state flag to break up the monotony.
The 2nd Division’s organic artillery support was provided by Lieutenant Colonel John J. Garnett’s Artillery Battalion. In reality this consisted of four batteries, each of four guns, equating to two model guns in Fire & Fury. Half of these guns were obsolete, bronze smoothbore M1838 or M1841 12pdr Howitzers (not to be confused with the more modern 12pdr ‘Napoleon’), which was still an excellent weapon for close-in canister fire and could throw an explosive shell a reasonable distance, but severely lacked long-range hitting power. For long-range work, the other half of the battalion was equipped with iron 10pdr Parrot Rifles, which complemented the smoothbore weapons, in that it made up for its lack of short-range canister power with excellent long-range accuracy firing solid shot.
All three of A.P. Hill’s divisional artillery battalions were similarly equipped with 12pdr howitzers and 10pdr Parrot Rifles, while the Corps Artillery Reserve had another 36 guns of varying types and calibres. In the event on 1st July, Garrett’s battalion was a very long way behind the head of the column and the Corps Artillery Reserve actually deployed first to support Heth’s attack on Seminary Ridge.
Models & Painting
All figures are from the superlative 10mm ACW range by Pendraken Miniatures, painted by Yours Truly. As I’m very much a ‘uniform man’ when it comes to painting, I HATE painting ‘random dress variations’ with a passion, so wasn’t looking forward to doing these. I was also unsure as to what proportion should be grey and what proportion should be ‘butternut’ and other shades of brown/civvies. My limited book collection didn’t provide much information and internet discussions seemed contradictory, with many people saying ‘mostly butternut/brown’ and others saying that recent research shows that ‘butternut’ is largely a myth, caused by grey uniform exhibits in museums turning brown through age (I’ve seen this happen to green Napoleonic uniforms turning blue and blue items turning pale buff…).
In the end I decided to hedge my bets and go for a roughly 50/50 split of grey and brown. There were about 100 infantry to paint, so I split them into three batches and painted the first batch of jackets in darker greys, the second batch in light greys and stone shades and the third batch in brown, russet and sandy shades. Trousers, hats and blanket rolls were then painted in a hotchpotch of colours. Once that was done, I mixed them all up and based them (hence why they’re all in firing poses).
I was surprised to discover that I actually enjoyed painting them, though they do take around twice as long as the Union figures to paint! 🙁