July 1863 - The Battle of Gettysburg & Ancestor Capt Groff

captgroff-1891Joseph Groff of Frederick, MD, at age 40 enlisted on August 20, 1861 as a 1st Lt. of Co. “B” 1st Potomac Home Brigade of the Maryland Infantry Regiment of Union volunteers. After serving at Harper’s Ferry, by February 10, 1863 he was given the rank of captain.

End of June 1863 — The First Regiment Potomac Home Brigade of Maryland lead by Colonel William P. Maulsby and the 115th New York Volunteers lead by Colonel J. H. Ketcham were making a long and painful march from Baltimore, via Frederick City to reach Gettysburg, PA. They arrived at 8 a.m. on Thursday, July 2nd.

The battles had started earlier on Wed., July 1, 1863, the Union cavalry patrols were on the roads northwest of Gettysburg watching for any Confederate troops. It was then that shots were fired on the Union troops, west of Gettysburg along the Chambersburg Pike. The Union soldiers were outflanked and driven back to Seminary Ridge and to higher ground. That first day alone saw thousands of Northern troops killed, injured or taken prisoner. The second day of fighting centered in the areas south of Gettysburg (Little Round Top, Culp’s Hill, Cemetery Hill, and Devil’s Den). Again the push of the Rebels kept the Yankees in place. Near midnight of July 2nd, a skirmish between both sides broke out as soldiers from both sides tried to get water for their canteens at Spangler’s Spring which was near Culp’s Hill.

In the early morning hours of Friday, July 3, 1863, Colonel Maulsby’s regiment (First Potomac Home Brigade of Maryland) were selected to engage the enemy within the woods. The woods were entered and the enemy engaged then driven back behind a stone wall, which was nearly parallel with the turnpike.

During the battle, while leading his men at Spangler’s Spring, Capt. Joseph Groff was wounded by a bullet in the right foot. However, there was no time to remove the bullet, only time enough to put a dressing over the wound. The regiment had 80 men killed or wounded and their ammunition was in short supply. The Brigade Commander of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, Henry H. Lockwood, wrote in his report, “I cannot too strongly comment the courage and good conduct of every officer and man engaged in this fearful enterprise.

There would be continuous fighting on both sides during the day. The Confederacy with Pickett’s Charge would see that there was tremendous fighting by both sides for many hours. Gunfire, cannons and hand to hand fighting continued until the Union reinforcements arrived and the Confederates withdrew. It rained all day of July 4th and then on the 5th, General Lee retreated his remaining Northern Virginia Army southward. The casualties for both sides were about 50,000 men over those three bloody days.
The regiment marched with the Army of the Potomac in pursuit of General Lee as far as the Potomac River, when it was then assigned to guarding the line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
Capt. Joseph Groff was given permission to return to his home in Frederick, since it was so close to Gettysburg, to have a surgeon remove the bullet. This would offer him the time to mend his wound. He returned to his company and active duty by September 2, 1863. However, within the next year the effect of hours of explosives had caused deafness in Joseph’s ears. He was also unable to do physical labor after a year. By September 6, 1864 (even while the war still waged on), Joseph was released from his three year military service and then honorably discharged in Washington, D.C. in December, 1864.

NOTE: Capt. Groff kept the bullet that was removed from his leg and it has been handed down to his descendants, through his first son, William’s side of the family. Also handed down was the Colt revolver Capt. Groff used during the Civil War.

Source: The 1890 written recollections of Capt. Joseph Groff of Frederick, MD.

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