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