Day 2: July 2, 1863 - Overview
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Copyright © 2007 Brian Williams.
Last Modified: 02/10/2007.