Day 2: July 2, 1863 - Sickles Advances
Lee awoke early July 2nd and surveyed the Union line from
Seminary Ridge. He observed that the Union line, anchored at Cemetery Hill, did
not extend very far south along Cemetery Ridge. Seizing upon the opportunity,
Lee ordered General Longstreet (who was just
arriving on the field) to move on the left flank of the Union line. Lee's
suspicions were confirmed when Captain Johnston returned from
a recon and reported that the Little Round Top and Big Round Top along with a
sizable southern stretch of Cemetery Ridge were unoccupied (there is actually
considerable debate as to whether Johnston actually reached
The plan called for Longstreet (who had arrived
from the northwest along Chambersburg Pike) to march his two divisions (Hood
) south and then to attack
Emmitsburg Road to strike
the southern Union flank on Cemetery Ridge. A.P. Hill's Corps
would then follow with an attack on the Union center. Finally, Ewell's
Corps was to assault Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill from the north once Longstreet
began the fight. Longstreet's movement needed to go undetected
and called for a circuitous route. He had to first march back up Chambersburg
Pike to the northwest and then turn south behind Seminary Ridge. By the time
Longstreet had reached his destination in Biesecker's Woods
opposite Emmitsburg Road, it was already 15:30. Longstreet placed
Hood on the right facing Big Round Top and McLaws
on the left facing Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet expected the
ridge to be relatively vacant, but found General Daniel
had positioned itself along Emmitsburg Road.
Earlier that morning, Meade
had ordered Sickles'
III Corps to take position on the Union's left flank along Cemetery Ridge. Upon
noticed that the ridge was little more than a slight incline and very
vulnerable. He realized that a small elevation about 1/2 mile to the west on
which stood a peach orchard, provided a better position.
unsure of the awkward position, requested for
take a look and provide his opinion. Instead,
BG Henry J. Hunt
(the army's artillery chief) to survey the position and offer advice to
Hunt agreed with Sickles
that the small hill (the Peach Orchard) and the ridge stretching to the north
would be very beneficial to the enemy - all the more reason to occupy it. Hunt
went on further to suggest
Sickles to send
out skirmishers to determine if Confederates occupied the woods (Pitzer's
Woods) across Emmitsburg Pike. Probing the woods,
men immediately ran up against a sizable force (General Cadmus Wilcox's
brigade of A.P. Hill's Corps - Longstreet's
Corps had yet to arrive). Seizing the opportunity,
to march and occupy the Peach Orchard before the Confederates could seize it.
commander, realized that
actually exposed himself by marching 1/2 mile in front of the Union line.
finally realized that the immediate threat lay to the south when he heard the
sounds of enemy artillery.
(which had been held in reserve) to support
position. The VI Corps
would then be held in reserve in its place. Sensing the vulnerability of
departed for Sickles'
position. Upon arriving,
and questioned him as to why he occupied such an awkward position.
that he had gained the favorable higher ground, but
countered, "General Sickles,
this is in some respects higher ground than that of the rear, but there is
still higher in front of you, and if you keep on advancing you will find
constantly higher ground all the way to the mountains!" By this time, it was
too late to withdraw the
McLaws and Hood
arrived to find Sickles'
the Peach Orchard to the northeast and extending to the Devil's Den. Hood
reasoned that since the situation had changed, he would instead swing up and
around the Round Tops and attack the Union rear along Cemetery Ridge. Hood
disobeyed strict orders to attack along Emmitsburg Road (where Lee
and Longstreet believed there were minimal Union troops).
Day 2: July 2, 1863 - Round Tops and Devil's Den
came upon the
Union's southern flank only to find
Corps in force along Emmitsburg Road. The Union's
southern flank had been anchored in Devil's Den - this left the two Round Tops
unoccupied. Hood sent word to Longstreet to
press a change of orders and swing around further to the south. Instead, Longstreet
replied that Lee's orders were clear and called for Hood
to attack up Emmitsburg Road. Twice again Hood asked Longstreet
to reconsider the situation - the third time officially protesting the order
(something he had never done in his career), but every time he was denied.
Given to common sense, but in complete disregard of orders, Hood
ignored Longstreet and marched eastward to attack Devil's Den
and up the Big Round Top.
Hood's division consisted of four brigades (BG Jerome B. Robertson
supported by BG George T. Anderson on the left, with BG
Evander Law supported by BG Henry L. Benning on
the right). Law's 15th Alabama and the 47th Alabama
Regiments were charged with clearing Big Round Top of Union troops. Earlier,
Sickles had positioned the Union
2nd U.S. Sharpshooters at the foot of Big Round Top and this same
unit contested the Confederate approach. After climbing and hard fighting,
Colonel William C. Oates' 15th Alabama Regiment
forced the 2nd U.S. to
retreat up and over the hill. After finally reachin the top, Oates
surveyed his position and let his men rest for a few minutes. Oates'
position was 305 feet above the battlefield and provided excellent coverage of
the immediate area. Oates noticed very few Union troops on
Little Round Top except a small number of Union signalmen who were observing
Confederate troops movements.
As his men rested, Captain L.R. Terrell of Law's
staff arrived (to Oates' surprise, he had somehow managed to
climb the hill on horseback). Terrell brought news that
General Hood had been wounded and BG Law was
now in command. Law's orders were to immediately assault
Little Round Top and secure a foothold in the Union's southern flank. Oates
moved to occupy Little Round Top and encountered no resistance at all and in
fact was joined by Law's 4th Alabama and Robertson's
4th and 5th Texas Regiments. To Law's left, Benning
and Anderson attacked Devil's Den. But, just as Oates
began to climb Little Round Top's southern slope, it came under what Oates
recalled as "the most destructive fire I ever saw."
Law's Brigade came upon Colonel
Brigades who had arrived just 10 minutes earlier. Oates'
Regiment had ran up against Colonel Joshua
20th Maine .
(These two regiments are focused because they are the absolute anchor of both
army's flank - to turn Chamberlain's
Regiment would be to lose Little Round Top and possibly the Union's left
flank). Chief engineer Gouverneur Warren
(who had been sent by Meade
to survey the area) ordered Captain James
NY Battery above the Devil's Den to fire a shell into the
area just north of Big Round Top. As
Warren stated, "The motion revealed to me the
glistening of gun barrels and bayonets of the enemy's line of battle, already
formed and far outflanking the position of any of our troops."
Warren now realized that the key lie with Little
Round Top and immediately requested troops to be positioned on the hill.
Sickles, at this time, was being attacked by McLaws
and could not spare any extra units, but
Meade had ordered
Corps to reinforce
Sickles' position. Lt. Ranald S.
Mackenzie (an aid of Warren) finally found
Sykes and notified him of the impending
ordered BG James Barnes'
Division to occupy Little Round Top. At the front of
Barnes' Division was Colonel
Vincent's Brigade followed by
20th Maine of
Vincent's Brigade would be awarded the Medal of
Honor for his following actions.
Oates' Regiment ascended Little Round Top at
nearly the same time that Chamberlain's
Regiment began positioning itself. When
Chamberlain's Regiment first observed Oates,
the 20th Maine opened
fire and sent the 15th Alabama scurrying for cover. Then, Oates
regrouped and ordered a rush up the hill towards
Chamberlain's position. Oates managed
to threaten to Chamberlain's
left flank, so the 20th Maine
left flank was ordered to withdraw so that the Regiment formed a "V". Over and
over Oates rushed Chamberlain's
position and threatened to overwhelm the Regiment. But, as the
20th Maine's men were expending their last ammunition,
Chamberlain ordered to fix bayonets and prepare to
charge. Before the Confederates were able to assess the situation,
Chamberlain's Regiment came charging down Little
Round Top and overwhelmed Oates' Regiment. Oates,
unable to maintain his position, ordered a retreat off the hill. BG Stephen H.
Weed's Brigade soon reinforced the Union position
on Little Round Top and forced the Confederate attackers off the hill.
The Confederates were now able to attack Little Round Top from the southwest,
men (reinforced by Stephen H. Weed's
Brigade) were able to secure the hill. The Union had suffered 780 casualties
THE DEVIL'S DEN
The Devil's Den was an enormous collection of boulders
and rocks that were occupied by Captain James E.
NY Battery and BG Hobart
Ward's Brigade. Hood attacked
Devil's Den with Benning's and Anderson's
Brigades. The 1st Texas and 15th Georgia charged
Smith's Battery and nearly overwhelmed it when the
124th NY under command of Major James
Cromwell led a counterattack.
Cromwell was instantly killed and relieved by Col.
Augustus Van Horne Ellis
who was also killed. The fighting in the Devil's Den was confused and desperate
as both sides struggled to occupy the mass of boulders. Eventually, the
Confederates managed to capture three of
Smith's guns and occupy the Den and the ridge
Day 2: July 2, 1863 - The Wheatfield
For more detailed information on the Wheatfield visit The Wheatfield and Stony
at 16:30, after Hood's Brigades took over Devil's Den, Kershaw
and Anderson attacked along Rose's Woods and the Wheatfield.
The Union III Corps
supported by the V Corps
defended the Peach Orchard and along Emmitsburg Road. Anderson,
Kershaw, and Semmes Divisions attacked along
the Peach Orchard and the Wheat Field. The
realizing that they were being outflanked, withdrew to the Wheatfield Road. At
this point, Capt. George
held off the Confederate advance for several minutes. The fighting was fierce
and three brigade commanders, Col. Edward E.
BG Samuel K. Zook
Division, and BG Paul Semmes of McLaw's
Division were killed in the fighting.
had earlier specified that BG John C.
Division of the II Corps
to be sent to reinforce Sykes'
position. At about 17:30,
just as the Confederates drove the
III and the
from their positions. Caldwell's
Division had barely arrived to reinforce the position (in fact the division
arrived with with the rear ranks forward) when it came under heavy attack. It
was enough to drive the Confederates temporarily back.
The Confederates soon counter-attacked - led by BG William T. Wofford
's GA Brigade. The Confederates broke the Union line at the Peach Orchard and
began attacking down Wheatfield Road - outflanking
Division which now now fell back in disorder. As the Confederates continued
their attack, Col. Jacob B.
Brigade was sent into the Wheatfield to halt the Confederate advance. Fierce
hand-to-hand fighting resulted but
unable to hold the Wheatfield.
men were forced to retreat, two brigades of BG Romeyn B.
Division entered east of the Wheatfield. They sought to delay the Confederates
long enough so that the retreating Union could set up defensive positions on
the ridge line just north of Little Round Top (the same ridge where
been placed to begin with). In delaying the Confederates, the Union brigades
took over 800 casualties. The Confederates reached Plum Run at the base of
Little Round Top, but were unable to advance any further. A brigade of
charged the Confederates and drove them back across the Wheatfield, but by this
time it was dark.
At about 17:00, Kershaw's SC
Brigade attacked the Stony Hill (located between the Peach Orchard and the
Wheatfield). Thirty cannons of the Union
III Corps and the Artillery Reserve were tasked
with holding this section and were positioned along Wheatfield Road.
Barnes' Division had set itself on the Stony Hill
facing westward. As Kershaw's Brigade neared the line and
while taking heavy fire, someone erroneously ordered the Brigade to parallel
the Union position - exposing its flanks to the Union line.
BG William Barksdale's Brigade followed by Wofford's
Brigade, comprised of McLaw's left flank. The two brigades
charged directly into the Union position at the Peach Orchard and along
Emmitsburg Road. Barkdale's Brigade broke through just north
of the Peach Orchard, while Wofford's Brigade attacked the
Peach Orchard. The III Corps
defenders in the Orchard had been facing south firing into Kershaw's
Brigade when Wofford attacked. Realizing the exposed position,
the 2nd NH Regiment
was ordered to retreat, but only after staggering casualties (21 of its 24
officers and nearly half of its men were casualties).
The artillery placed in the Peach Orchard were
forced to limber and retreat along with the guns placed behind Wheatfield Road.
The pieces were unlimbered near the Trostle House and ordered to hold on until
Union artillery could be placed on Cemetery Ridge. These guns were also soon
overrun and had 3 of its guns captured.
Barksdale swung left to attack the remaining Union units under
the command of BG Andrew A. Humphreys.
Division had been left exposed and saw the line all around it disappear. BG
Cadmus M. Wilcox's Brigade of Anderson's
Division followed on Barksdale's left and attacked
Humphreys' Brigade was unable to hold its position
and was also forced to retreat towards Cemetery Ridge.
watched the battle from horseback near the Trostle farm when a stray cannonball
grazed his right knee. His leg was later amputated.
Day 2: July 2, 1863 - Culp's Hill
16:00, Ewell opened fire with artillery from batteries near
the Seminary and atop Benner's Hill. These were soon silenced by the
overwhelming Union artillery presence on Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill. MG
Henry W. Slocum's
was positioned on Culp's Hill and had spent considerable time erecting
breastworks there. During the fighting on Cemetery Hill,
most of the XII Corps
except BG George S. Greene's
Brigade from Culp's Hill to reinforce the position. (Actually, most of
never arrived to the fighting).
The attack began at 20:00 as Johnson
's Division attacked from the east.
Brigade stretched from Culp's Hill and then southward to the lower portion of
the hill. The Union brigade faced eastward against Johnson's 3
Brigades who had forded Rock Creek and began ascended the hill. BG George Steuart's
Brigade comprised the left flank of the attack and occupied the unoccupied
breastworks on the lower hill. Darkness fell and Steuart's men
fumbled their way toward
was in a very precarious position until reinforcements were rushed from
which had been positioned on the western slope of the hill and
XI Corps units
from Cemetery Ridge.
Throughout the darkness, Johnson's Division was unable to
determine the force they were opposing. Unknown to Johnson
Brigade was the only unit on the Union's right.
Day 2: July 2, 1863 - Cemetery Hill
Soon after the fighting
began on Culp's Hill, BG Harry T. Hays' and Col. Isaac Avery's
Brigades of Early's Division attacked Cemetery Hill from
Winebrenner's Run just south of town. The advance took place at dusk, just as
the sun began to set. Cemetery Hill was defended by Col. Andrew L.
Col. Leopold von Gilsa's
Bridages of Barlow's
The artillery that had been amassed on Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill opened fire
as the Confederates approached. The ground that the Confederates had to cross
was especially difficult and took over an hour to cross. Despite heavy fire
from the Union Batteries, the Confederates continued their climb upward -
routing a Federal line that had positioned itself near the base. As the
Confederates ascended the hill and the angle steepened, they found that the
Union Batteries could not lower their guns to take aim. With this respite, Avery
's men charged forward and attacked
Brigade who became overwhelmed and was sent fleeing.
who was nearby and witnessing the fleeing units, immediately dispatched two
Regiments to plug the gap that appeared near the top. The Confederates had
nearly overrun the Union Batteries and were in hand-to-hand combat with the
gunners themselves. Outnumbered and exposed, the remaining Confederates
retreated down the hill.
had pulled the two reinforcing Regiments from his line, it left a gap exposing
the PA Battery of Capt. Bruce
This gap was exploited by Hays' Brigade and soon much of the
Brigade poured through. Several guns of
were captured and Hays found himself temporarily contesting
the heights. Since darkness had fallen, Hays could not tell
which units were around him. A unit had fired upon his Brigade, but he was
reluctant to return fire. Only after the third volley did Hays
realize that the units were Col. Samuel Sprigg
Brigade of the Union's II Corps.
Brigade, under orders of
marched through the night towards the sounds of battle. As
he fired into Hays' Brigade. By the time Hays
had realized the threat, it was too late. Cut off and exposed, Hays'
men were forced to retreat back down the hill.
' Division had tried to participate in the attack, but by the time it had
finished maneuvering, darkness had completely engulfed the battle. Once the
fighting ended, Williams'
Divisions of XII Corps
returned to Culp's Hill to halt the Confederate advance.
Copyright © 2007 Brian Williams.
Last Modified: 02/10/2007.