The Unconquered, 1st Tennessee Color Bearer at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863

The Unconquered, 1st Tennessee Color Bearer at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863

By: Don Troiani


Editions and Sizes

10 Signed & Numbered Canvases - 35" x 24"

* Required Fields



Early on the morning of July 1st General Henry Heth started his Division from around Cashtown to Gettysburg to find a much needed supply of shoes. The battle-hardened brigade of General James J. Archer’s Tennessee and Alabama troops would lead the way.

After marching about three miles Archer’s column discovered Federal cavalry in a field off to their right front. The 5th Alabama Battalion marching at the front of the brigade, and two companies of the 13th Alabama were ordered out to form a skirmish line. The order for the colors to be uncased was given and the brigade moved forward on the road in column; the cavalry falling back exchanging fire with the gray clad skirmishers.

Driving the Federals back within about a mile and a half of Gettysburg, Archer found Gamble’s dismounted cavalry drawn up across the Chambersburg Pike. Confederate artillery was brought up and put into position, and opened fire on the Federals.

Archer’s brigade, marching in column of fours to the right of the road halted and faced left into line of battle, and was ordered to load. Deployed from left to right was the 7th Tennessee, 14th Tennessee, 1st Tennessee, and the 13th Alabama.

About 9’oclock the order “Forward” was passed down, and the gray line advanced as Federal shells fell among them right of the line. Lieutenant John Calef, commanding Company A, 2nd U.S. Artillery, closely watched the Rebel advance, remarking their battle-flags looked redder and bloodier than he had seen them before. Calef ordered his gunners to aim at the Confederate flags. Advancing down a gradual slope into a valley escaping artillery fire, and driving the dismounted cavalry away the 1st Tennessee, and the 13th Alabama shifted right to silence the Federal guns. Crossing a clear stream about three feet wide, and knee deep the 1st Tennessee advanced through a copse of trees running up a ravine. Spreading out in a fan shape as it neared the top of the ridge they encountered the 7th Wisconsin of the Iron Brigade where a vicious fight erupted. The Black Hats charging them in column, the Tennesseeans laid on their backs to load and whirled over to fire. The fight lasted about 30 minutes when the 19th Indiana hit the 1st Tennessee on its right flank. Seeing this, the order was given to fall back. The Tennessee boys fell back across the creek with Federal all around them, a number being captured.

William Murray of the 19th Indiana reported “The Tennessee color bearer broke through the lines and run up a slope, and then turned and shook the flag at our troops and disappeared from sight.” Murray shot at the Reb twice as others eager to capture a Confederate flag, but the Tennesseean eluded his pursuers and escaped.

The 1st Tennessee color bearer was Wiley Woods of Co. F, “The Salem Invincibles.” Woods also was the man on July the 3rd in the Pickett-Pettigrew charge who took his Regiment’s colors to the stonewall at the angle where he and the flag were captured.