Some observations on Dr. Bradley M. Gottfried's article To fail twice: Brockenbrough's Brigade at Gettysburg
Dr. Bradley M. Gottfried's article, which appeared in Issue 23 of Gettysburg Magazine, contains a number of pointed criticisms of the performance of Colonel John M. Brockenbrough and his men at the battle of Gettysburg. As the 55th Va. served in Brockenbrough's Brigade and constituted nearly a third of its strength, this may be an appropriate place to offer a defense of their conduct.
The author estimates the strength of Brockenbrough's Brigade at Gettysburg at “about a thousand muskets” (i.e. around 1,100 officers and men). This is an overestimate, which has implications when it comes to calculating the frontage it covered and the percentage of casualties it suffered. The official report of the brigade's actions at Gettysburg submitted by Colonel R. M. Mayo of the 47th Va. on August 13th 1863 states it commenced the battle with 800 muskets (i.e. around 880 officers and men)1. A study by Don Ernsberger in 2011 puts the strength of the brigade at just under 1,000 officers and men.
Dr. Gottfried refers to the brigade's “questionable behaviour” during the march north and bases this on letters written home by two soldiers, one from the 40th Va. and one from the 47th Va. These letters need to be read with care. Both men are simply describing depredations committed by the Confederate Army. They are not admitting that their brigade was responsible for these depredations. The road Brockenbrough's Brigade was on had been used by 50,000 other Confederate troops in the previous ten days.
1 Unpublished ‘Report of the part taken by Heth's (Old) Brigade [i.e. Brockenbrough's Brigade] in the Battles of Maryland and Pennsylvania’, submitted by Col. R. M. Mayo of the 47th Va., dated August 13th 1863. In the possession of the Museum of the Confederacy.