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 Day 2: July 2, 1863 - Overview
Day 2: July 2, 1863 - Overview
General Meade spent the second day of the battle fortifying and rearranging his Army along Cemetery Hill and Ridge. Two divisions of the Union III Corps, commanded by MG Daniel E. Sickles, would be placed on Cemetery Ridge and be anchored by Little Round Top (a hill that rose 150 feet above Plum Run). Sickles arrived at his assigned position on the morning of the July 2 and did not like what he saw. The terrain his Corps was to occupy along Cemetery Ridge rose little more than the level ground in front on it. The position held little defensive value and Sickles sought to vacate it and occupy a prominent hill to his west, which held a Peach Orchard. Sickles, sent a reconnaissance force ahead to determine if the enemy was in the woods to his front along Seminary Ridge. The Union force was repulsed by a large number of Confederates (Wilcox's Brigade of Anderson's Division) that were extending their line southward. Sickles decided to occupy this knoll and put his Corps about 2/3 mile in front of the Union line. The Corps anchored its left in Devil's Den and ran northwest through Rose's Woods, the Wheatfield, to form a salient on the knoll in the Peach Orchard. The line then ran northeast along Emmitsburg Road to the Codori farm.

Lee had received intelligence that the Union left was hanging in the air (he wasn't far from the truth) and was very vulnerable to attack. To exploit this opportunity, Lee sent Longstreet's, who had arrived with his Corps. Surprise meant stealth and required his Corps to march back up Chambersburg Pike from whence it came and head south for over 3 miles and then turn east to attack the Union's left flank...all the while trying to avoid Union detection. But, in trying to avoid detection and awaiting reinforcements, Longstreet did not reach his position and become ready to attack until 16:00.

Meade had heard the battle to the south and rode there himself to observe the situation. To his disbelief, he found Sickles' Corps exposed forward of the entire Union line in a position that seemed undefendable. By this time, it was too late for the Corps to reform back on Cemetery Ridge as Longstreet's Corps was now advancing. Sensing a precarious situation, Meade sent word to V Corps (that had been held in reserve) to move forward and reinforce the position.

Longstreet began the attack at about 16:30 with an artillery barrage on the Peach Orchard. Longstreet's Corps (McLaws to the left and Hood to the right) advanced in two waves with Hood's Division attacking the Round Tops and Devil's Den while McLaws' Division attacking through the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard. The Confederates crossed Big Round Top with little resistance but came to a halt on Little Round Top. Despite fierce fighting, the Union was unable to hold Devil's Den and were forced to vacate the position.

The fighting continued northwest along the line, through Rose's Woods, the Wheatfield, on the Stony Hill, and up to the Peach Orchard. By this time, the V Corps had arrived to reinforce the position, but failed to position themselves before the Confederate attack hit.

Attack and counterattack were made until about 18:00, Barksdale's and BG William T. Wofford's Brigades (McLaw's Division) and BG Cadmus M. Wilcox and Col. David Lang's Brigades (Anderson's Division) flanked the position at the Peach Orchard and sent the Union defenses in retreat. The Confederates reached as far as Plum Run before darkness fell and they were forced to halt the advance.

In the meantime, Ewell began the attack on the Union's right flank at about 16:00 with an artillery barrage. Earlier, Meade had removed the XII Corps from Culp's Hill in order to reinforce the fighting that raged on Cemetery Hill. This left only one Brigade commanded by BG George S. Greene to defend to Union's right. This left several of the breastworks unoccupied, but Greene managed to stretch his line along all of the upper hill.

By about 19:00, Ewell sent Johnson's Division to attack up Culp's Hill. Steuart's Brigade swung around the left and flanked Greene's right and occupied the lower portion of Culp's Hill. Jones' and Nicholls' Brigades attacked directly into Greene's fortified positions and were unable to break the defenses. Soon, reinforcements from XI Corps arrived from Cemetery Hill to secure the Union position, but by this time, darkness had fallen. The Confederates remained on the lower portion of Culp's Hill and Williams and Geary's Divisions of the XII Corps were sent to take up positions opposite Johnson's men. Johnson's three Brigades on Culp's Hill were reinforced by another four Brigades that were not involved in the day's fighting.

Once the fighting on Culp's Hill erupted, BG Hays' and Col Avery's Brigades (Early's Division) attacked Cemetery Hill from the north. Defending the heights behind substantial defenses were Col. Harris' and von Gilsa's Brigades. But, due to a shift in movement, the Union developed a gap in the line at exactly the wrong time. Both Confederate Brigades were able to exploit the gap and wreak havoc in the Union line. The Confederates were able to reach the artillery batteries before Union reinforcements from the XI and II Corps drove them off the heights.

By this time, darkness had fallen across the entire battlefield and the two armies ceased any major occurrences. The Union line had held and the Confederates had failed to gain any major successes.

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Copyright © 2007 Brian Williams.

Last Modified: 02/10/2007.

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