As an author for Osprey, one of the aspects I most enjoy is the discretion I get when it comes to designing battle scenes. Many climactic moments from July 2, 1863, deserved to be illustrated, but one of my choices for The Battle of Gettysburg 1863: The Second Day came rather easily. Our book required a scene that depicted the intense fighting that occurred within the Joseph Sherfy peach orchard.

Author Tim Orr, as GNMP ranger, in 2000Author Tim Orr, as GNMP ranger, in 2000


In some ways, my decision to focus on the Peach Orchard goes back a few decades. Back in the 1990s, when I worked as a ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park, my supervisor, Eric Campbell, helped me understand the importance of the orchard as a terrain feature that defined the combat of July 2. An excellent mentor and an even better tour-leader, Eric firmly believed the story of the Peach Orchard directed the flow of the action. Later on, in an essay published in 2008, Eric laid out his case. He argued, “No single area more heavily influenced the events of the second day of the battle than did the Peach Orchard. Indeed the orchard, and the surrounding terrain, affected nearly every phase of the battle, from the creation of the opposing battle lines and battle plans that morning, to the tactical level of troop movements and combat in the afternoon and early evening.”[1] All this made sense to me. Thus, to help readers fully appreciate the story of the Second Day in the year 2023, I made certain that my talented illustrator, Steve Noon, created a scene that immersed readers within the orchard itself. In Steve’s version, we are right on the front lines, surrounded by the peach trees, enveloped in the noise and confusion of battle, and confronting an enemy that seems to possess boundless energy. It is an iconic moment from Day 2.



At approximately 6.15 p.m., Brig. Gen. William Barksdale’s Mississippi brigade broke through the center of Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles’s line at the Joseph Sherfy Peach Orchard and engaged Brig. Gen, Charles Graham's Pennsylvania brigade.

Eric Campbell made another other point in his 2008 essay that is worth mentioning. Union withdrawal from the orchard did not doom the Army of the Potomac. Despite the fact that Maj. Gen. Dan Sickles imperiled the Union line by advancing his corps out to the orchard in violation of his orders, the Union soldiers who fought with him—those from the 3rd Corps and from other corps sent to Sickles as reinforcements—fought with aplomb. In their stubborn defense of the orchard, they saved the Army of the Potomac by making it impossible for the Confederates to capitalize upon Sickles’s error. Eric concluded, “Despite their defeat and excessive casualties, however, the actions of these officers and men, in the end, helped achieve a Union victory. Although driven from their original positions, they had fought on and, along with other reinforcements sent to Sickles’s aid, assisted in repulsing a major Confederate assault, along with the eventual construction of a new and stronger Union battle line on Cemetery Ridge. Thus, the sacrifice of these officers and men was not in vain.”[2]

Eric Campbell

Eric Campbell (The American Battlefield Trust. Photo was taken by Rob Shenk)

Eric Campbell’s conclusion helped me define another characteristic of Steve Noon’s illustration. The focal point should be one of the Union regiments that put up a stubborn fight and paid the price for it. To me, that choice selected itself. Out of 354 officers and men, the 2nd New Hampshire lost 193 killed or wounded on July 2. In the space of an hour, it lost twenty-two killed outright, 137 wounded (twenty-two of whom later died), and thirty-six captured or missing. The forlorn defense made by this regiment represented an act to be admired. To my knowledge, no artist had ever depicted the 2nd New Hampshire’s valiant stand within the Sherfy orchard.

The Confederate infantry attack against the 2nd New Hampshire began at 5 p.m., and the unfortunate regiment found itself in a precarious position. Initially, it was wedged into the apex of Sickles’s salient, facing a crossfire from the west and south. The regimental commander, twenty-one-year-old Col. Edward Lyon Bailey, remembered how the Peach Orchard “appeared to be almost moving in the windage of hurtling metal.” He later recalled, “it seemed as if not a square inch of its area was free from the flight of death-dealing missiles that were crossing it at all angles.”[3]

Colonel Edward Bailey

Colonel Edward Bailey (

This crossfire forced the Union regiments on either side of the 2nd New Hampshire to withdraw, leaving the Granite Staters alone to face the firepower of two approaching enemy brigades. Without support, Bailey’s regiment was in a tight fix. No one told him that he could have ordered a retreat. (At that moment, no one could have authorized a retreat, because, a few minutes earlier, Bailey’s acting brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Charles K. Graham, had been captured.)

Bailey believed he ought to hold the orchard at all hazards, but he knew he could not keep his regiment in that dangerous position in the orchard’s southwest corner. Accordingly, he decided to reposition his regiment so that it faced Brig. Gen. William Barksdale’s Mississippi brigade, which was coming from the west, and then if his men repulsed the onslaught, they could deal with Brig. Gen. Joseph Kershaw’s South Carolinian brigade, which was coming from the south. Bailey ordered his regiment to execute a parade-ground maneuver, shifting his companies to the rear. His regiment fell back over the crest of the hill and took up a position on the east slope of the orchard.

In this new position, Bailey devised a reverse-slope defense. That is, his regiment took up a new line behind the crest of the orchard, with his men training their rifles at the top of the rise. When the men of the 21st Mississippi came over it, Bailey planned to have them volley-fire at close range.

In falling back to the new position, the 2nd New Hampshire became disordered. With a few minutes of respite before the enemy struck, Bailey told his company commanders to rectify their alignment. He shouted, “On the center, dress!” One of his company commanders, Captain Henry N. Metcalf, did exemplary work getting the line dressed. When completed, Metcalf turned around and saw Bailey smiling at him. Metcalf asked, “How does that line suit you, Colonel?” Bailey was proud of his men for the promptness with which they reformed their line. Replying to Metcalf, he said, “Excellent! Excellent!” Metcalf returned to his company and briefly spoke to Corporal William H. Piper. He said, “A good line that, Henry!” A second later, a bullet struck him in the head and killed him.[4]

Capt. Henry N. Metcalf

Capt. Henry N. Metcalf (Library of Congress)

That’s the moment Steve has depicted here. Readers can see Metcalf, Bailey, and Piper speaking in the rear of the line of battle as the 21st Mississippi crests the rise in the center of the orchard. The engagement is about to heat up again. Captain Metcalf will be killed in a few seconds.

Thus, what we don’t see is all the bloodshed that followed. The 2nd New Hampshire paid an enormous price for its futile attempt to hold the orchard. After the war, Private Martin Haynes of Company A described the furious combat that occurred when his regiment slugged it out with the 21st Mississippi:

It was close, stubborn and deadly work—this last stand of the Second. . . . There were no Union troops upon the left of the Second, and those upon its right were being forced back and northward from it. The angle was smashed, and everything going to the rear[.] . . . Nearly three-fifths of the Second Regiment were down, and the men still left, planted amid their dead and wounded comrades, were standing up to their work as steadily and unflinchingly as though not a man had been hit. . . . But it was only a waste of lives for a handful of men to remain alone and unsupported in such a slaughterpen.[5]

Another soldier, Private John H. Burrill of Company A, narrated events at the time with a little less poetry. He wrote his fiancée, Ella Forristall, a few days after the battle: “You will want me to tell you of the battle. It was awful. Language will not convey an idea. . . .  We drove them [meaning Kershaw’s men], but what is that? They have turned back and are on our right flank. We have to fall back [to where we are now.] They pour an awful fire into us. Men dropped fast. They could not stand it. We were forced to yield our ground.”[6]

When he realized that no reinforcements were coming to his position, Bailey ordered his regiment to march to the rear. Amazingly, his men did not panic. The survivors left the field in good order. By 6:30 p.m., the Mississippians had conquered the Peach Orchard. The 3rd Corps line was broken.

The events that led to the patching up of the Union line is a story for another day; however, it is worth reminding readers about the human cost of the battle. On July 5, the day after the Army of Northern Virginia began its retreat, the men of the 2nd New Hampshire returned to the Peach Orchard and the sights and sounds of the aftermath filled a thousand nightmares. The survivors scoured the area for their wounded and dead, trying to recover as many of their fallen comrades as they could. The orchard looked awful. All the trees had been smashed and no one had buried the dead. Private John Burrill told his parents: “Out of curiosity after the rebs left, I went over the field before the men were buried, and such a sight I never wish to see again. Then men had turned black, their eyes were swollen out of their heads and they were twice their natural size. The stench of the field was awful. Dead men were as thick as you may well believe.” Writing to his fiancée, Burrill added some additional details:

I went over the battlefield before the men were buried and they lay awful thick I assure you. I have been over other fields but never one like this. In one place I counted 16 in a spot no larger than your kitchen. It was a hard sight. They had turned black and were swollen to twice their natural size. . . . In going over, I saw one man who did not look like the rest. He was not black or swollen. He was alive. He could move one of his hands a little. I went up to him and saw the top of his head was blown off. I gave him a little water—got some help—put him on a blanket and carried him to an old barn where he would get attention. He was about as hard a looking man as I ever saw and I have seen many. I have seen men torn in pieces in almost every shape and mind nothing about it, but not so with this one.[7]

2nd Lieutenant Edmund Dascomb

2nd Lieutenant Edmund Dascomb Martin Haynes, A History of the Second Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry 

The survivors of the 2nd New Hampshire found wounded barely clinging to life. Among that group, they found twenty-five-year-old 2nd Lieut. Edmund Dascomb of Company G. Dascomb hailed from Hillsborough, New Hampshire, and had recently graduated from Tufts College (now Tufts University). Although Dascomb suffered from partial blindness in one eye, the army allowed him to enlist, and despite this disability, he thrived in the army. He fought at his regiment’s first two engagements, Bull Run and Williamsburg. At the latter action, he suffered wounds that forced him into convalescence. After his recovery, Dascomb rejoined his unit and accompanied it during its three-month furlough in New Hampshire. Being a political activist, he campaigned for the Republican gubernatorial candidate, delivering a speech in Manchester that “carried the audience by storm,” or so remembered the regimental historian. Dascomb spoke to his audience, articulating his own opinions about fighting for the cause: “Some must go to the rescue [of our country]. Then why not I? It may cost me much suffering, and my life even. But what are these compared to the object to be maintained? To build the ship [of state] many lives were sacrificed; and now to saver her from an untimely wreck, shall my life be counted too dear? . . . Country first; self after country is saved.” When Dascomb went back to the front, he did so with an officer’s commission.

Dascomb did not recover from the wound he received at Gettysburg. He had been on the field for three days with no medical care. When his comrades found him, they rushed him to a field hospital—likely the Michael Fiscel farm—but he died there on July 13. That autumn, grave diggers laid him to rest in the Soldier’s National Cemetery. After Dascomb’s death, his classmates from Tufts published a volume of his wartime poetry. One of these missives was a farewell poem, a sendoff to friends, family, country, and perhaps even to generations unborn. It’s called, “The Dying Volunteer”:

I am dying, brother, dying,

‘Mid the wounded and the slain,

And around me forms are lying

Which will never strive again: Much I would but cannot tell thee,

Of a home I cherished dear,

Of the friends I’ve left behind me,

Who will shed the silent tear.


I am dying, brother, dying,

See how fast my life blood flows,

And I feel my soul is hieing

Where in death t’will find repose;

Farewell father, sister, mother.

Farewell all my friends so dear,

Farewell, world, I seek another,

Gasped the dying Volunteer.[8]


2nd Lieutenant Charles Vickery

2nd Lieutenant Charles Vickery (Vickery: Martin Haynes, A History of the Second Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry)

The survivors of the 2nd New Hampshire also found twenty-two-year-old 2nd Lieutenant Charles Vickery of Company I. On July 2, Vickery had been shot in the spine. Later that evening, someone—likely Confederate troops—moved him to the nearby Abraham Trostle farm. While inside, on July 3, Vickery suffered another wound, struck in the chest by a piece of grapeshot which crashed through the roof of the barn. Vickery did not recover from his wounds and he succumbed on July 11. Vickery had recently married a woman named Ellen N. “Nettie” Pritchard. (July 2, 1863, was their five-month anniversary.) According to a soldier from the 2nd New Hampshire, when Vickery died, the last word he uttered was, “Nettie.” This letter explains what happened:

August 12, /63

Point Lookout, Md.

Mrs. Vickery

Dear Madam,

I have but just returned to the Regt having been kept away much longer than anticipated. Your letter was handed to me which I now hasten to answer. The battle took place on the afternoon of the 2nd of July. Our regt advanced about one mile. We laid there awhile when the rebs pressed us so hard we got the order to fall back & Charlie was hit just as we got the order. It was minnie ball it struck him in the small of his back [and] it remained in him, could not be taken out. I asked him several times if he was in any pain [and] he always answered that he was not. He thought he would get well, spoke several times about being sent to Philadelphia & then have you come out there to see him. The last time he spoke of it was the day before he died. The surgeon heard it. He went to Charlie & told him it was impossible for him to live but a few days, but Charlie did not think so. I asked him if he had any words to send to you. He said he would write himself in a few days, and that he felt so well [that] he was most sure he could. On the afternoon of the 10th he began to fail and after dark he could not speak & did not know me for about three hours. About 10 in the evening he spoke your name once & I immediately bent over him, his lips moved for a moment but no sound escaped him. After that he did not know me but failed rapidly until a few moments past one in the morning of the 11th when he died. He was loved and respected by the whole Co. for his many good qualities & I feel that I have lost a very close friend. We got a box made and I marked a board & put [it] at the head of the grave. . . .  The Captain informs me that he has sent his things to you but I have a picture of yourself, a piece of silver money which Charlie carried with him sometimes & a knife which I will send to you. . . . If I can do anything for you I shall be at your service.

With regret I remain,

Yours Truly,

Samuel H. Oliver[9]

Nettie Pritchard Vickery

Nettie Pritchard Vickery (

Nettie Vickery recovered her husband’s remains, and she buried them in Merrill Cemetery in Manchester, New Hampshire. Nettie Vickery never remarried. She died in 1927 at age eighty-seven.

Few survivors from the 2nd New Hampshire suffered as much mental anguish as Col. Bailey. Despite his stellar record of command, he never received a promotion to brigadier general. Later in the war, he received two additional combat wounds, but he remained in the army until October 1893, when he was dismissed for “conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman.” Specifically, Bailey was accused of borrowing money from other officers and never returning it, and also of chasing a prostitute in Boise City, Idaho, while in uniform. He died in 1930 at the age of eighty-eight.

In the battle’s aftermath, Bailey tried to convey the valor of his regiment, honoring the fallen who had died under command. Few can doubt the sincerity of his words:

This battalion entered the fight with a firm determination to do or die, and the long list of fallen comrades, already submitted, will show how well it kept that resolution. Where all did so well it would be invidious to make comparisons. Let it suffice to say that they did their part as becomes sons of the old Granite State. For our fallen braves, who have so gloriously perished fighting for their country, we drop a comrade’s tear.[10]

At long last, some testament to the bravery of the sons of the Granite State has finally appeared in the form of Steve Noon’s art. It reminds readers of the importance of the Peach Orchard and high human cost to defend it.

Find out more in The Battle of Gettysburg 1863 (2): The Second Day


[1] Eric A. Campbell, “The Key to the Entire Situation: The Peach Orchard, July 2, 1863,” in D. Scott Hartwig, ed., The Most Shocking Battle I Ever Witnessed: The Second Day at Gettysburg (Gettysburg, PA: Gettysburg National Military Park, 2008), 147.

[2] Ibid., 199.

[3] National Tribune, May 8, 1913.

[4] Martin A. Haynes, A History of the Second Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry in the War of the Rebellion (Lakeport, NH: Privately Printed, 1896), 180.

[5] Ibid, 181.

[6] John Henry Burrill, July 6 and 13, 1863, John Henry Burrill Papers, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[7] Ibid.

[8] “Selections from the Poetical Composition of E. Dascomb,” 2nd New Hampshire vertical file, Gettysburg National Military Park Library, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

[9] Jeffrey J. Kowalis, Died at Gettysburg! “No Prouder Epitaph Need Any Man Covet”: Illustrated Biographies of the Union Casualties at Gettysburg (East Windsor, NJ: Longstreet House, 1998), 85-87.

[10] United States War Department, The War of the Rebellion: The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Ser. 1, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 1880-1901), 573-575.