As the XI Corps fled in panic through the town of Gettysburg toward the fall-back position on Cemetery Hill, General Howard sent forward one of his reserve brigades to try and hold off the Confederate troops on their heels. The brigade of Col. Charles Coster was chosen for this task.
150 years ago right now, Coster’s small brigade went into position on the north end of town. They were outnumbered at least 2-to-1 as the Confederate brigades of Brig. General Harry Hays and Col. Isaac Avery closed in.
They put up a stiff fight for less than 15 minutes before they too, were forced to withdraw. Half of the brigade became casualties, many of them captured by the Confederates.
One of the casualties was Sgt. Amos Humiston of the 154th New York Infantry who became something of a national celebrity after a photo of his now-fatherless children was found on his then-unidentified body. The photo was reprinted in papers all across the country in what turned out to be a successful effort to identify him. It was one of the touching, human stories of the war.