III Corps Movement
by John Rincon
The movement of III Corps, Army of the Potomac, to the Peach Orchard Line on 2 July 1863
What were the merits of III Corps move to the Peach Orchard line on 2 July 1863? That question has been debated for years. We all have our opinions. Naturally we all think ours is correct. What did happen, what didn't happen, what could have happened, are favorite topics for many to discuss. However, one aspect to the debate many times gets overlooked. That is how III Corps maneuvered from its position along South Cemetery Ridge to what we now commonly call the Peach Orchard line. I have researched and studied
that question for more years than I care to admit. The following tour may be able to provide some guidance for those who walk the southern part of the battlefield to better understand when, where, and how, III Corps Brigades maneuvered on day two. It has taken me the better part of a decade to have enough confidence to share my interpretations as to how I think the brigades of Dan Sickles moved to their final positions. Am I one-hundred percent accurate? That is seriously in doubt. I would like to think I have done my homework and paid my dues walking the field to the point I have a high comfort level this interpretation has a certain credibility. As with any tour (for lack of a better term,) most times it is advantageous to walk the ground with a good map. When I initially put this tour together I had a rudimentary hand drawn map keyed to this information. Obviously for this application that is not feasible. I therefore have revised the tour to be used if necessary without a map. I would however strongly suggest that a map of the southern part of the field be available when you use this information.
I hope in some small way this makes your time on the field more enjoyable while providing information you may not have had previously. Happy tramping.
1. Geary's Division position @ 4:30 AM July 2nd (12th Corps) Running from Weikert lane south to the John Munshower Farm. On the Bachelder maps it's indicated that some of Geary's Division is on the western slope of LRT extending to the area of present day Warren Avenue.
2. de Trobriand's Brigade (Birney) position @ 10AM. East of Sedgwick Avenue, along the high ground. The brigade was posted south of the Weikert Farm to the John Munshower Farm. de Trobriand reached the field from Emmitsburg MD, on the early AM of July 2nd. He arrived with Winslow's artillery battery, that parked in or near the Wheatfield. de Trobriand stated in the book he wrote after the war, that, “This position was as strong as the confederate position at Fredericksburg.” The “high ground” is actually a narrow ridge line which extends south and levels off close to present day Wheatfield Road.
3. de Trobriand's position @ 1PM. This was just south of the old Trostle Lane
that has in the past couple of years been interpreted by the NPS. My gut feeling
is that the brigade was situated for the most part on the “plateau” of high
ground south of the original lane and approximately 200-250 yards ESE of the
4. de Trobriand's position @ 2PM. Located at the western fence line delineating the Wheatfield from the Stony Hill. *Winslow's guns are already parked in the Wheatfield.
5. de Trobriand's position @ 3:30 PM. Final position in Rose Woods prior to Longstreet's attack. de Trobriand's position is on the Stony Hill area west of the Wheatfield, along the current park road that is referred to as the “Loop.” Two of de Trobriand's regiments, the 110th PA and the 5th MI are positioned at the bottom of hill's SW slope. The 40th NY and the 17th ME are on the top of the hill facing west. The Stony Hill is actually a very short ridge which levels off to the north as it intersects the Wheatfield Road. Most maps indicate the 5th MI at the bottom of the hill and posted to the SE of the 110th PA. However my research indicates it was just the opposite. With the 110th NW of the 5th position with half the 110th regiment in an open field and half in Rose Woods.
6. Graham's Brigade (Birney) position on the evening of July 1st to 9AM July 2nd. Position taken from Birney's report on the battle. Graham was located to the north of de Trobriand's Brigade's original position. There had been at least five infantry regiments rotating in the Peach Orchard sector from Approx. 11AM through 1PM, most from either Ward's or Graham's Brigade's. Graham is ordered to the Peach Orchard Salient AFTER the reconnaissance in Pitzer's Woods takes place. Even though Graham's Brigade came to epitomize Sickles move forward its occupation was achieved with little note from the rest of the army.
7. Graham's position between 1 and 2 PM. Located along both the Emmitsburg and Wheatfield Roads facing west and south. This became the Peach Orchard salient.
8. Ward's Brigade (Birney) position on the evening of July 1st. Located in the “V” between United States Avenue and the original Trostle Lane. The brigade was probably in one of the orchards that Weikert had on his property, just to the WSW of the house.
9. Ward's position @ 1PM July 2nd. Located at the eastern end of the Wheatfield, south of Wheatfield Road. Birney orders Ward into the Wheatfield area around noon. From this position Ward was ordered to send out troops for a reconnaissance to the woods to the west of Emmitsburg Road. The 3rd ME and contingent of Berdan's SS's were the troops who had the fire-fight with Wilcox's Alabamians then forming into line as the confederate left.
10. Between 12 and 1PM. The contingent of Ward's Brigade (Berdan's SS's. with the 3rd ME) sent to Pitzer's Woods took what could be called a circuitous route. The troops first moved south on the Emmitsburg Road to the Philip Snyder Farm where they used the farm lane running through Warfield Ridge Woods to head in a NNW direction. They then crossed the open fields of the Flaharty property and entered the south end of Pitzer's Wood's. This is where they engaged elements from Wilcox's Brigade that were going into position as the Confederate extreme right. *The 20th IN and the 99th PA were sent west of the Peach Orchard as support for these troops.
11. Ward finally concentrates his brigade in the Wheatfield between 1:30 and 2:15PM.
12. Ward places his brigade en masse on Houck's Ridge between 2:45 and 3:15PM. Smith's four artillery pieces are placed on Houck's Ridge AFTER Ward's infantry are posted. Ward's positioning to the southeast of de Trobriand (essentially to de Trobriand's
left rear) leaves the brigades unable to communicate or support each other effectively, if at all.
13. Brewster's Brigade (Humphreys) position @ 1AM July 2nd. Located directly north of the Weikert home in the open fields west of present day Hancock Avenue.
14. Carr's Brigade (Humphreys) position @ 1AM July 2nd. Located just to the north of Brewster's position.
15. Brewster and Carr are ordered to move approx. 300 yards east of Emmitsburg Road. @ 1PM. Humphreys becomes concerned with the gap that is created between his division and Caldwell's Division of the 2nd Corps. In this position Carr's brigade is in front of Brewster's (further west) at a 200 yard interval.
16. Brewster and Carr are ordered to march to the Wheatfield to man LRT. They start their march south until the order is rescinded. They then march back to their positions held at 1PM. They are finally ordered to the Emmitsburg Road line @ 3:30PM. THIS movement of Humphreys Division to the Emmitsburg Road is THE movement witnessed and remembered by a number of people long after the war.
17. Burling's Bigade (Humphreys) position @ 1PM. The location of the brigade was in the open field west of Trostle Woods.
18. Buford's Cavalry Division's main position through, and until 9:30 AM. In Plum Run Valley. Buford also had videttes in the Peach Orchard area (probably his reserve for the picket line.) He used that sector as a springboard for troops patrolling further west and south.
19. Burling's approx. position in the AM. This notation is not in chronological order. The position was between Randolf's artillery pieces parked along Weikert lane and Brewster's Brigade north of Weikert's.
20. Randolf's guns' position @ 3:30 PM. Smith came up to Gettysburg with Burling's brigade on the evening of the 1st. Smith was parked along Weikert Lane with his guns running eastward towards the Taneytown Road.
21. Winslow's guns parked in the Wheatfield as of 10 AM. Winslow marched to Gettysburg with de Trobriand from Emmitsburg MD.
22. The III Corps artillery position early on the AM of the 2nd. Randolf commanded the III Corps artillery. According to Randolf, the guns were parked close to the Taneytown Road. *At the end of Randolf's parked artillery line was the AOP's Artillery Reserve.
Please keep in mind that III Corps units positioned along Sedgwick and Hancock Avenues are somewhat difficult to place due to the extensive excavation that was needed to build those two avenues. NOTE; present day United States Avenue takes a drastic turn to the left (ENE) as it passes the Trostle home. The original Trostle lane ran straight from the house in an ESE direction to intersect Weikert Lane in Weikert Woods. This is an important fact to remember when establishing the left of McGilvary's “Plum Run Artillery Line” which was pieced together later in the afternoon.
This concludes the tour of III Corps movements throughout 2 July 1863.
Copyright © 2009 John Rincon.
If you have comments, please contact John Rincon at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published online: 07/05/2009.