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Three Bullets at Gettysburg

In 1903, James Monroe “Roe” Reisinger was asked to describe the wounds he received at the Battle of Gettysburg. On the first day of the fight, he served as one of the color corporals for his regiment, the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry. In his statement, excerpted here, he references the McPherson farmhouse, barn and fencing, Sgt. Samuel Peiffer, Cpl. Samuel Barnes and a surgeon, only identified as Brown, at Augur General Hospital in Alexandria, Va.

Carte de visite by Mathew B. Brady of Washington, D.C. Faye and Ed Max Collection.
Carte de visite by Mathew B. Brady of Washington, D.C. Faye and Ed Max Collection.

“We became engaged at about two o’clock in the afternoon of July first, 1863, just west of the McPherson barn. I was wounded at the first or second fire from the enemy, being struck in the right foot by an ounce ball, which shattered the bones of the instep leading to the base of the second tow and lodged in the ball of the foot. This wound was so severe that for fully ten minutes after the battle I could not put the foot to the ground, but went on crutches. When I was struck, Color-Sergeant Peiffer (who was killed later in the battle) and some of the color corporals urged me to go to the rear. As we were very hotly engaged, I refused. I tried my wounded foot and finding I could stand on my heel, I kept my place in the ranks.

We fought for some time at the fence, then charged over it for some distance, but running into a strong force we fell back to the fence and made a stand there. Some troops came in on our left flank and we had orders to fall back, which we did in good order till past the McPherson house, where we again made a stand. We again pushed back to the fence and again made a fight there. The enemy came on in such heavy force that we again had to fall back to the house.

At this time few of the color-guard were left. Sergeant Peiffer, though shot through the arm was still able to keep up the flag. Just as we passed the house this second time, I was shot with ball weighing over an ounce, in the back of the right leg, above the knee. It went deep into the flesh, back of the knee. The ball was battered against the bone. This second shot knocked me to the ground and one of the Color-Corporals (I think it was Barnes) helped me to my feet. As we were being forced back beyond the house toward the Seminary, I was again wounded with a round ounce ball in the right hip, the bullet passing through the lower part of the hip and lodging in the flesh of the thigh, near the surface and close to the scrotum. I fell and was unable to rise. At the time I received this last wound I was so weak that I could hardly bring my gun to my face to fire.

The McPherson Barn, circa 1900. Library of Congress.
The McPherson Barn, circa 1900. Library of Congress.

I am able to speak definitely of the weight and character of the bullets that struck me, from the fact that all three of them lodged and were subsequently extracted at the following dates: That in the hip, on July 10th, 1863, by an army surgeon at the field hospital in the Catholic Church in Gettysburg; that in the foot, when at home on furlough from Pittsburgh Hospital, in May, 1864; that in the knee, by Surgeon Brown, of Augur General Hospital, in July, 1864.”

Reisinger recovered from his wounds and later served in the Veteran Reserve Corps and the 114th U.S. Colored Infantry. In the latter regiment, he ranked as a first lieutenant.

Reisinger received the Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg four years after he gave his statement. He died in 1925 and is buried in his hometown of Meadville, Pa.

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