1863 : 4th Michigan Faces Action at Gettysburg’s Wheat Field; Colonel Harrison Jeffords Dies, the Only Officer to be Bayoneted During Battle

July 2, 2018 all-day

Painting of the Battle of the Wheatfield, Gettysburg, July 2, 1863

After being pushed to limit by the confederate onslaught, the 4th Michigan regiment secured the “Wheatfield “.   During this time there was major action on Stony Hill. The Union forces under Zook were overrun by Confederate troops. This left the Michigan 4th’s flank unprotected.

As the 4th Michigan advanced the color bearer shouts out “Colonel I’ll be damned if I don’t think we are faced in the wrong way! The rebs are up there in the woods behind us, on the right!” The Confederate infantry attacked.

The 4th Michigan pivoted rearward folding on it’s center to address this new threat. The 4th Michigan upon having to defend itself on two fronts had to retreat. As they were leaving the field the color bearer dropped the colors and ran from the field. The 4th Michigan’s standard was captured.

Colonel Harrison Jeffords seeing this rallied his remaining troops and rushed to save the colors. Colonel Jeffords was bayoneted by a Confederate infantryman as he reclaimed the 4th’s flag. Colonel Harrison Jeffords died of his wound on July 3, 1863.

Colonel Jeffords, a 26 year old attorney from Dexter, Michigan, was the only officer to be bayoneted on either side during the Civil War. His words as he was bayoneted were ” Mother, Mother , Mother”.

After fierce fighting the 4th lost it’s colors. This valiant attempt to save the flag stemmed the tide of the Confederate attack allowing the Union forces to effect a solid defense behind the “Wheatfield.” This saved the day for the Army of the Potomac.

Source : History of the 4th Michigan Infantry Regiment

For more reading, see The 4th Michigan Infantry in the Civil War, by Martin N. Bertera and Kim Crawford. Also available online.

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