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69th Pennsylvania Volunteers at Gettysburg

During the battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 near the angle on Cemetery Ridge, the 69th Pennsylvania and five companies from the 71st Pennsylvania were deployed. At 3:00 p.m. that afternoon they became the focal point for Brigadier General Richard Garnett and Lewis Armistead's attacks. Garnett's Virginians were the first to hit the Federal line, followed quickly by Armistead's men.

With the entire area engulfed in smoke and deafening noise, men from the 69th and 71st Pennsylvania soon found rifles against their chests and flames from the muzzle flares burned their clothes. The Confederate musket fire was frightfully effective. Colonel Dennis O'Kane, commander of the 69th Pennsylvania, was shot through the chest. A miniƩ ball struck Lieutenant Colonel Martin Tschudy in the bladder and he fell dead. A bullet struck Private William Hayes in the head and he toppled. Under the weight of the attack the 69th's right flank refused its line and Company D held the enemy at bay with clubbed muskets. The 69th's historian later recounted:

". . . Corporal [Hugh] Bradley, of this company [D], a powerful man, was using his piece as a club very effectively, but was overpowered by numbers and had his skull crushed by a blow from a musket in the hand of a rebel."

Another Confederate from the 28th Virginia lunged at the Federals with his bayonet. After half an hour of bloody fighting the Confederates retreated. The 69th Pennsylvania was the only Union regiment near the angle which did not break. For their determination they were later nicknamed "The Rock" of Gettysburg. In a space of not more than seven feet square a war correspondent counted seven dead. Three were piled on top of one another. Bodies were strewn everywhere and Union soldiers counted approximately forty-two Confederate dead at the Angle.

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