The 71st Pennsylvania at Gettysburg
The 71st Pennsylvania was commanded at the Battle of Gettysburg by Colonel Richard Penn Smith. It brought 331 men to the field, losing 21 killed, 58 wounded and 19 missing.
On July 2nd the regiment played a support role in turning back Wright's Georgia Brigade, recapturing one of the guns of Brown's Rhode Island Battery that had been abandoned in front of the stone wall south of the Copse of Trees.
That evening the 71st was detached and sent to support the defence of Culp's Hill. They were led in the darkness to a position in the saddle between the upper and lower summits of the hill, where they engaged in a brief firefight. Then, remarkably, Smith pulled the regiment out and marched it back to Cemetery Ridge, remarking that he would not see his men murdered. He even mentions in his official report that he did so without orders, but there seems to have been no reprecussions.
It was moving from the frying pan into the fire. The 71st was at the Angle, the zigzag in the stone fence on Cemetery Ridge that was the focal point for Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd. Eight companies manned the forward stone wall and the remaining two were at the rear wall of the zigzag.
The regiment held its ground through the barrage preceding the charge and until Pickett's Virginians were within pistol shot of the wall. But at that point most of the eight companies of veteran Pennsylvanians decided that the position could not be held, and fell back. They did so in good order and reformed a short distance up the hill in line with the two companies that had been at the rear wall.
The regiment continued the fight from there, in the open and taking heavy casualties, while the fate of the charge hung in the balance. Union reinforcements poured in from all sides and the few Confederates who had made it over the wall did so unaided. Finally the balance turned, and the 71st surged forward to their original position and Pickett's Charge came to its bloody end.
Private John E. Clopp of Company F was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on July 3rd at Gettysburg, when he captured the flag of the 9th Virginia Infantry, “wrestling it from the color bearer.”