ON June 30th, at Taneytown, General Meade received information that the enemy was advancing on Gettysburg, and corps commanders were at once instructed to hold their commands in readiness to march against him. The next day, July 1st, Meade wrote to Reynolds that telegraphic intelligence from Couch, and the movements reported by Buford, indicated a concentration of the enemy's army either at Chambersburg or at some point on a line drawn from that place through Heidlersburg to York. Under these circumstances, Meade informed Reynolds that he had not yet decided whether it was his best policy to move to attack before he knew more definitely Lee's point of concentration. He seems, however, soon to have determined not to advance until the movements or position of the enemy gave strong assurance of success, and if the enemy took the offensive, to withdraw his own army from its actual positions and form line of battle behind Pipe Creek, between Middleburg and Manchester. The considerations probably moving him to this are not difficult to divine. Examination of the maps [see page 266 [not included]] will show that such a line would cover Baltimore and Washington in all directions from which Lee could advance, and that Westminster, his base, would be immediately behind him, with short railroad communication to Baltimore. It would, moreover, save much hard marching, and restore to the ranks the thousands of stragglers who did not reach Gettysburg in time for the battle. From Westminster—which is in Parr's Ridge, the eastern boundary of the valley of the Monocacy—good roads led in all directions, and gave the place the same strategic value for Meade that Gettysburg had for Lee. The new line could not be turned by Lee without imminent danger to his own army, nor could he afford to advance upon Baltimore or Washington, leaving the Army of the Potomac intact behind and so near him; — that would be to invite the fate of Burgoyne. Meade, then, could safely select a good "offensive-defensive line" behind Pipe Creek and establish himself there, with perfect liberty of action in all directions. Without magazines or assured communications, Lee would have to scatter his army more or less in order to subsist it, and so expose it to Meade; or else keep it united, and so starve it, a course which Meade could compel by simple demonstrations. There would then be but two courses for Lee,—either to attack Meade in his chosen position or to retreat without a battle. The latter, neither the temper of his army nor that of his Government would probably permit. In case of a defeat Meade's line of retreat would be comparatively short, and easily covered, whilst Lee's would be for two marches through an open country before he could gain the mountain passes. As Meade believed Lee's army to be at least equal to his own, all the elements of the problem were in favor of the Pipe Creek line. But Meade's orders for July 1st, drawing his corps toward the threatened flank, carried Reynolds to Gettysburg, and Buford's report hastened this movement. Reynolds, who probably never received the Pipe Creek circular, was eager for the conflict, and his collision with Heth assuming the dimensions of a battle, caused an immediate concentration of both armies at Gettysburg. Prior to this, the assembling of Meade's army behind Pipe Creek would have been easy, and all fears of injuring thereby the morale of his troops were idle; the Army of the Potomac was of "sterner stuff" than that implies. The battle of July 1st changed the situation. Overpowered by numbers, the First and Eleventh corps had, after hard fighting and inflicting as well as incurring heavy losses, been forced back to their reserve, on Cemetery Hill, which they still held. To have withdrawn them now would have been a retreat, and might have discouraged the Federal, as it certainly would have elated the Confederate troops; especially as injurious reports unjust to both the corps named had been circulated. It would have been to acknowledge a defeat when there was no defeat. Meade therefore resolved to fight at Gettysburg. An ominous dispatch from General Halleck to Meade, that afternoon, suggesting that whilst his tactical arrangements were good, his strategy was at fault, that he was too far east, that Lee might attempt to turn his left, and that Frederick was preferable as a base to Westminster, may have confirmed Meade in this decision.
In pursuance of his instructions, I had that morning (July 1st) reconnoitered the country behind Pipe Creek for a battle-ground. On my return I found General Hancock at General Meade's tent. He informed me that Reynolds was killed, that a battle was going on at Gettysburg, and that he was under orders to proceed to that place. His instructions were to examine it and the intermediate country for a suitable field, and if his report was favorable the troops would be ordered forward. Before the receipt that evening of Hancock's written report from Cemetery Hill, which was not very encouraging, General Meade received from others information as to the state of affairs at the front, set his troops in motion toward Gettysburg, afterward urged them to forced marches, and under his orders I gave the necessary instructions to the Artillery Reserve and Park for a battle there. The move was, under the circumstances, a bold one, and Meade, as we shall see, took great risks. We left Taneytown toward 11 P. M., and reached Gettysburg after midnight. Soon after, General Meade, accompanied by General Howard and myself, inspected our lines so far as then occupied, after which he directed me to examine them again in the morning, and to see that the artillery was properly posted. He had thus recognized my "command" of the artillery; indeed, he did not know it had been suspended. I resumed it, therefore, and continued it to the end of the battle.
At the close of July 1st Johnson's and Anderson's divisions of the Confederate army were up. Ewell's corps now covered our front from Benner's Hill to the Seminary, his line passing through the town—Johnson on the left, Early in the center, Rodes on the right. Hill's corps occupied Seminary Ridge, and during the next morning extended its line from the Seminary south nearly to the Peach Orchard on the Emmitsburg road; Trimble—vice Pender, wounded—on the left; Anderson on the right; Pettigrew—vice Heth, wounded—in reserve. Of Longstreet's corps, McLaws's division and Hood's— except Law's brigade not yet up—camped that night on Marsh Creek, four miles from Gettysburg. His Reserve Artillery did not reach Gettysburg until 9 A. M. of the 2d. Pickett's division had been left at Chambersburg as rear-guard, and joined the corps on the night of the 2d.
It had not been General Lee's intention to deliver a general battle whilst so far from his base, unless attacked, but he now found himself by the mere force of circumstances committed to one. If it must take place, the sooner the better. His army was now nearly all on the ground, and delay, whilst it could not improve his own position, would certainly better that of his antagonist. Longstreet, indeed, urged General Lee instead of attacking to turn Meade's left, and by interposing between him and Washington and threatening his communications, to force him to attack the Confederate army in position; but General Lee probably saw that Meade would be under no such necessity; would have no great difficulty in obtaining supplies, and—disregarding the clamor from Washington—could play a waiting game, which it would be impossible for Lee to maintain in the open country. He could not advance on Baltimore or Washington with Meade in his rear, nor could his army subsist itself in a hostile region which would soon swarm with additional enemies. His communications could be cut off, for his recommendation to assemble even a small army at Culpeper to cover them and aid him had not been complied with.
A battle was a necessity to Lee, and a defeat would be more disastrous to Meade, and less so to himself, at Gettysburg than at any point east of it. With the defiles of the South Mountain range close in his rear, which could be easily held by a small force, a safe retreat through the Cumberland Valley was assured, so that his army, once through these passes, would be practically on the banks of the Potomac, at a point already prepared for crossing. Any position east of Gettysburg would deprive him of these advantages. It is more probable that General Lee was influenced by cool calculation of this nature than by hot blood, or that the opening success of a chance battle had thrown him off his balance. Whatever his reasons, he decided to accept the gage of battle offered by Meade, and to attack as soon as practicable. Ewell had made arrangements to take possession of Culp's Hill in the early morning, and his troops were under arms for the purpose by the time General Meade had finished the moonlight inspection of his lines, when it was ascertained by a reconnoitering party sent out by Johnson, that the hill was occupied, and its defenders on the alert; and further, from a captured dispatch from General Sykes to General Slocum, that the Fifth Corps was on the Hanover road only four miles off, and would march at 4 A. M. for Culp's Hill. Johnson thereupon deferred his attack and awaited Ewell's instructions.
General Lee had, however, during the night determined to attack the Federal left with Longstreet's corps, and now instructed Ewell, as soon as he heard Longstreet's guns, to make a diversion in his favor, to be converted, if opportunity offered, into a real attack.
Early on the morning of July 2d, when nearly all the Confederate army had reached Gettysburg or its immediate vicinity, a large portion of the Army of the Potomac was still on the road. The Second Corps and Sykes, with two divisions of the Fifth, arrived about 7 A. M., Crawford's division not joining until noon; Lockwood's brigade—two regiments from Baltimore—at 8; De Trobriand's and Burling's brigades of the Third Corps, from Emmitsburg, at 9, and the Artillery Reserve and its large ammunition trains from Taneytown at 10:30 A. M. Sedgwick's Sixth Corps, the largest in the army, after a long night march from Manchester, thirty-four miles distant, reached Rock Creek at 4 P. M. The rapidity with which the army was assembled was creditable to it and to its commander. The heat was oppressive, the long marches, especially the night marches, were trying and had caused much straggling.
All this morning Meade was busily engaged personally or by his staff in rectifying his lines, assigning positions to the commands as they came up, watching the enemy, and studying the field, parts of which we have described in general terms. We now refer the reader to the map [p. 299 [not included]] to aid our further description of some necessary even if tedious details. Near the western base of Cemetery Hill is Ziegler's Grove. From this grove the distance nearly due south to the base of Little Round Top is a mile and a half. A well-defined ridge known as Cemetery Ridge follows this line from Ziegler's for 900 yards to another small grove, or clump of trees, where it turns sharply to the east for 200 yards, then turns south again, and continues in a direct line toward Round Top, for 700 yards, to George Weikert's. So far the ridge is smooth and open, in full view of Seminary Ridge opposite, and distant from 1400 to 1600 yards. At Weikert's, this ridge is lost in a large body of rocks, hills, and woods, lying athwart the direct line to Round Top, and forcing a bend to the east in the Taneytown road. This rough space also stretches for a quarter of a mile or more west of this direct line, toward Plum Run. Toward the south it sinks into low marshy ground which reaches to the base of Little Round Top, half a mile or more from George Weikert's. The west side of this broken ground was wooded through its whole extent from north to south. Between this wood and Plum Run is an open cleared space 300 yards wide—a continuation of the open country in front of Cemetery Ridge; Plum Run flows south-easterly toward Little Round Top, then makes a bend to the south-west, where it receives a small stream or "branch" from Seminary Bidge. In the angle between these streams is Devil's Den, a bold, rocky height, steep on its eastern face, and prolonged as a ridge to the west. It is 500 yards due west of Little Round Top, and 100 feet lower. The northern extremity is composed of huge rocks and bowlders, forming innumerable crevices and holes, from the largest of which the hill derives its name. Plum Run valley is here marshy but strewn with similar bowlders, and the slopes of the Round Tops are covered with them. These afforded lurking-places for a multitude of Confederate sharp-shooters whom, from the difficulties of the ground, it was impossible to dislodge, and who were opposed by similar methods on our part; so that at the close of the battle these hiding-places, and especially the "Den" itself, were filled with dead and wounded men. This kind of warfare was specially destructive to Hazlett's battery on Round Top, as the cannoneers had to expose themselves in firing, and in one case three were shot in quick succession, before the fourth succeeded in discharging the piece. A cross-road connecting the Taneytown and Emmitsburg roads runs along the northern base of Devil's Den. From its Plum Run crossing to the Peach Orchard is 1100 yards. For the first 400 yards of this distance, there is a wood on the north and a wheat-field on the south of the road, beyond which the road continues for 700 yards to the Emmitsburg road along Devil's Den ridge, which slopes on the north to Plum Run, on the south to Plum Branch. From Ziegler's Grove the Emmitsburg road runs diagonally across the interval between Cemetery and Seminary ridges, crossing the latter two miles from Ziegler's Grove. From Peach Orchard to Ziegler's is nearly a mile and a half. For half a mile the road runs along a ridge at right angles to that of Devil's Den, which slopes back to Plum Run. The angle at the Peach Orchard is thus formed by the intersection of two bold ridges, one from Devil's Den, the other along the Emmitsburg road. It is distant about 600 yards from the wood which skirts the whole length of Seminary Ridge and covers the movement of troops between it and Willoughby Run, half a mile beyond. South of the Round Top and Devil's Den ridge the country is open, and the principal obstacles to free movement are the fences — generally of stone—which surround the numerous fields.
As our troops came up they were assigned to places on the line: the Twelfth Corps, General A. S.Williams,— vice Slocum, commanding the right wing,—to Culp's Hill, on Wadsworth's right; Second Corps to Cemetery Ridge—Hays's and Gibbon's divisions, from Ziegler's to the clump of trees, Caldwell's to the short ridge to its left and rear. This ridge had been occupied by the Third Corps, which was now directed to prolong Caldwell's line to Round Top, relieving Geary's division, which had been stationed during the night on the extreme left, with two regiments at the base of Little Round Top. The Fifth Corps was placed in reserve near the Rock Creek crossing of the Baltimore pike; the Artillery Reserve and its large trains were parked in a central position on a cross-road from the Baltimore pike to the Taneytown road; Buford's cavalry, except Merritt's brigade (then at Emmitsburg), was near Round Top, from which point it was ordered that morning to Westminster, thus uncovering our left flank; Kilpatrick's and Gregg's divisions were well out on the right flank, from which, after a brush with Stuart on the evening of the 2d, Kilpatrick was sent next morning to replace Buford, Merritt being also ordered up to our left.
The morning was a busy and in some respects an anxious one; it was believed that the whole Confederate army was assembled, that it was equal if not superior to our own in numbers, and that the battle would commence before our troops were up. There was a gap in Slocum's line awaiting a division of infantry, and as some demonstrations of Ewell about daylight indicated an immediate attack at that point, I had to draw batteries from other parts of the line — for the Artillery Reserve was just then starting from Taneytown — to cover it until it could be properly filled. Still there was no hostile movement of the enemy, and General Meade directed Slocum to hold himself in readiness to attack Ewell with the Fifth and Twelfth, so soon as the Sixth Corps should arrive. After an examination Slocum reported the ground as unfavorable, in which Warren concurred and advised against an attack there. The project was then abandoned, and Meade postponed all offensive operations until the enemy's intentions should be more clearly developed. In the meantime he took precautionary measures. It was clearly now to his advantage to fight the battle where he was, and he had some apprehension that Lee would attempt to turn his flank and threaten his communications,—just what Longstreet had been advising. In this case it might be necessary to fall back to the Pipe Creek line, if possible, or else to follow Lee's movement into the open country. In either case, or in that of a forced withdrawal, prudence dictated that arrangements should be made in advance, and General Meade gave instructions for examining the roads and communications, and to draw up an order of movement, which General Butterfield, the chief-of-staff, seems to have considered an order absolute for the withdrawal of the army without a battle.
These instructions must have been given early in the morning, for General Butterfield states that it was on his arrival from Taneytown, which place he left at daylight. An order was drawn up accordingly, given to the adjutant-general, and perhaps prepared for issue in case of necessity to corps commanders; but it was not recorded nor issued, nor even a copy of it preserved. General Meade declared that he never contemplated the issue of such an order unless contingencies made it necessary; and his acts and dispatches during the day were in accordance with his statement. There is one circumstance pertaining to my own duties which to my mind is conclusive, and I relate it because it may have contributed to the idea that General Meade intended to withdraw from Gettysburg. He came to me that morning before the Artillery Reserve had arrived, and, therefore, about the time that the order was in course of preparation, and informed me that one of the army corps had left its whole artillery ammunition train behind it, and that others were also deficient, notwithstanding his orders on that subject. He was very much disturbed, and feared that, taking into account the large expenditure of the preceding day by the First and Eleventh corps, there would not be sufficient to carry us through the battle. This was not the first nor the last time that I was called upon to meet deficiencies under such circumstances, and I was, therefore, prepared for this, having directed General Tyler, commanding the Artillery Reserve, whatever else he might leave behind, to bring up every round of ammunition in his trains, and I knew he would not fail me. Moreover, I had previously, on my own responsibility, and unknown to General Hooker, formed a special ammunition column attached to the Artillery Reserve, carrying twenty rounds per gun, over and above the authorized amount, for every gun in the army, in order to meet such, emergencies. I was, therefore, able to assure General Meade that there would be enough ammunition for the battle, but none for idle cannonades, the besetting sin of some of our commanders. He was much relieved, and expressed his satisfaction. Now, had he had at this time any intention of withdrawing the army, the first thing to get rid of would have been this Artillery Reserve and its large trains, which were then blocking the roads in our rear; and he would surely have told me of it.
Still, with the exception of occasional cannonading, and some skirmishing near the Peach Orchard, the quiet remained unbroken, although Lee had determined upon an early attack on our left. He says in his detailed report that our line extended "upon the high ground along the Emmitsburg road, with a steep ridge [Cemetery] in rear, which was also occupied"; and in a previous "outline" report he says: "In front of General Longstreet the enemy held a position [the salient angle at the Peach Orchard] from which, if he could be driven, it was thought our artillery could be used to advantage in assailing the more elevated ground beyond, and thus enable us to gain the crest of the ridge." It would appear from this that General Lee mistook the few troops on the Peach Orchard ridge in the morning for our main line, and that by taking it and sweeping up the Emmitsburg road under cover of his batteries, he expected to "roll up" our lines to Cemetery Hill. That would be an "oblique order of battle," in which the attacking line, formed obliquely to its opponent, marches directly forward, constantly breaking in the end of his enemy's line and gaining his rear. General Longstreet was ordered to form the divisions of Hood and McLaws on Anderson's right, so as to envelop our left and drive it in. These divisions were only three miles off at daylight, and moved early, but there was great delay in forming them for battle, owing principally to the absence of Law's brigade, for which it would have been well to substitute Anderson's fresh division, which could have been replaced by Pettigrew's, then in reserve. There seems to have been no good reason why the attack should not have been made by 8 or 9 A. M. at the latest (but see p. 351), when the Federal Third Corps was not yet all up, nor Crawford's division, nor the Artillery Reserve, nor the Sixth Corps, and our lines were still very incomplete. This is one of the cheap criticisms after all the facts on both sides are known; but it is apt for its purpose, as it shows how great a risk Meade took in abandoning his Pipe Creek line for Gettysburg on the chances of Lee's army not yet being assembled; and also, that there was no lack of boldness and decision on Meade's part. Indeed, his course, from the hour that he took command, had been marked by these qualities.
A suggestive incident is worth recording here. In the course of my inspection of the lines that morning, while passing along Culp's Hill, I found the men hard at work intrenching, and in such fine spirits as at once to attract attention. One of them finally dropped his work, and, approaching me, inquired if the reports just received were true. On asking what he referred to, he replied that twice word had been passed along the line that General McClellan had been assigned to the command of the army, and the second time it was added that he was on the way to the field and might soon be expected. He continued, "The boys are all jubilant over it, for they know that if he takes command everything will go right." I have been told recently by the commander of a Fifth Corps battery that during the forced march of the preceding night the same report ran through that corps, excited great enthusiasm amongst the men, and renewed their vigor. It was probably from this corps—just arrived—that the report had spread along the line.
On my return to headquarters from this inspection General Meade told me that General Sickles, then with him, wished me to examine a new line, as he thought that assigned to him was not a good one, especially that he could not use his artillery there. I had been as far as Round Top that morning, and had noticed the unfavorable character of the ground, and, therefore, I accompanied Sickles direct to the Peach Orchard, where he pointed out the ridges, already described, as his proposed line. They commanded all the ground behind, as well as in front of them, and together constituted a favorable position for the enemy to hold. This was one good reason for our taking possession of it. It would, it is true, in our hands present a salient angle, which generally exposes both its sides to enfilade fires; but here the ridges were so high that each would serve as a "traverse" for the other, and reduce that evil to a minimum. On the other hand it would so greatly lengthen our line—which in any case must rest on Round Top, and connect with the left of the Second Corps—as to require a larger force than the Third Corps alone to hold it, and it would be difficult to occupy and strengthen the angle if the enemy already held the wood in its front. At my instance General Sickles ordered a reconnoissance to ascertain if the wood was occupied.
About this time a cannonade was opened on Cemetery Hill, which indicated an attack there, and as I had examined the Emmitsburg Ridge, I said I would not await the result of the reconnoissance but return to headquarters by way of Round Top, and examine that part of the proposed line. As I was leaving, General Sickles asked me if he should move forward his corps. I answered, "Not on my authority; I will report to General Meade for his instructions." I had not reached the wheat-field when a sharp rattle of musketry showed that the enemy held the wood in front of the Peach Orchard angle.
As I rode back a view from that direction showed how much farther Peach Orchard was to the front of the direct line than it appeared from the orchard itself. In fact there was a third line between them, which appeared, as seen from the orchard, to be continuous with Cemetery Ridge, but was nearly six hundred yards in front of it. This is the open ground east of Plum Run already described, and which may be called the Plum Run line. Its left where it crosses the run abuts rather on Devil's Den than Round Top; it was commanded by the much higher Peach Orchard crests, and was therefore not an eligible line to occupy, although it became of importance during the battle.
As to the other two lines, the choice between them would depend on circumstances. The direct short line through the woods, and including the Round Tops, could be occupied, intrenched, and made impregnable to a front attack. But, like that of Culp's Hill, it would be a purely defensive one, from which, owing to the nature of the ground and the enemy's commanding position on the ridges at the angle, an advance in force would be impracticable. The salient line proposed by General Sickles, although much longer, afforded excellent positions for our artillery; its occupation would cramp the movements of the enemy, bring us nearer his lines, and afford us facilities for taking the offensive. It was in my judgment tactically the better line of the two, provided it were strongly occupied, for it was the only one on the field from which we could have passed from the defensive to the offensive with a prospect of decisive results. But General Meade had not, until the arrival of the Sixth Corps, a sufficient number of troops at his disposal to risk such an extension of his lines; it would have required both the Third and the Fifth corps, and left him without any reserve. Had he known that Lee's attack would be postponed until 4 P. M., he might have occupied this line in the morning; but he did not know this, expected an attack at any moment, and, in view of the vast interests involved, adopted a defensive policy, and ordered the occupation of the safe line. In taking risks, it would not be for his army alone, but also for Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington. Gettysburg was not a good strategical position for us, and the circumstances under which our army was assembled limited us tactically to a strictly defensive battle. But even a strictly defensive battle gained here would be, in its results, almost as valuable as an offensive one with a brilliant victory, since it would necessarily be decisive as to both the campaign and the invasion, and its moral effect abroad and at home, North and South, would be of vast importance in a political as well as a military sense. The additional risks of an offensive battle were out of all proportion to the prospective gains. The decision then to fight a defensive rather than an offensive battle, to look rather to solid than to brilliant results, was wise.
After finishing my examination I returned to headquarters and briefly reported to General Meade that the proposed line was a good one in itself, that it offered favorable positions for artillery, but that its relations to other lines were such that I could not advise it, and suggested that he examine it himself before ordering its occupation. He nodded assent, and I proceeded to Cemetery Hill.
The cannonade there still continued; it had been commenced by the enemy, and was accompanied by some movements of troops toward our right. As soon as I saw that it would lead to nothing serious, I returned direct to the Peach Orchard, knowing that its occupation would require large reinforcements of artillery. I was here met by Captain Randolph, the corps chief of artillery, who informed me that he had been ordered to place his batteries on the new line. Seeing Generals Meade and Sickles, not far off, in conversation, and supposing that General Meade had consented to the occupation, I sent at once to the reserve for more artillery, and authorized other general officers to draw on the same source. Here, perhaps, I may be allowed to say en passant that this large reserve, organized by the wise forethought of General McClellan, sometimes threatened with destruction, and once actually broken up, was often, as at Malvern Hill, and now at Gettysburg, an invaluable resource in the time of greatest need. When in 1864, in the Rapidan campaign, it was "got rid of," it reconstituted itself, without orders, and in a few weeks, through the necessities of the army, showing that "principles vindicate themselves."
"When I arrived Birney's division was already posted on the crest, from Devil's Den to the Peach Orchard, and along the Emmitsburg road, Ward's brigade on the left, Graham's at the angle, De Trobriand's connecting them by a thin line. Humphreys's division was on Graham's right, near the Emmitsburg road, Carr's brigade in the front line, about the Smith house, Brewster's in second line. Burling's, with the exception of Sewell's 5th New Jersey Regiment, then in skirmish order at the front, was sent to reenforce Birney. Seeley's battery, at first posted on the right, was soon after sent to the left of the Smith house, and replaced on the right by Turnbull's from the Artillery Reserve. Randolph had ordered Smith's battery, 4th New York, to the rocky hill at the Devil's Den; Winslow's to the wheat-field. He had placed Clark on the crest looking south, and his own ("E," 1st Rhode Island) near the angle, facing west. The whole corps was, however, too weak to cover the ground, and it was too late for Meade to withdraw it. Sykes's Fifth Corps had already been ordered up and was momentarily expected. As soon as fire opened, which was just as he arrived on the ground, General Meade also sent for Caldwell's division from Cemetery Ridge, and a division of the Twelfth Corps from Culp's, and soon after for troops from the Sixth Corps. McGilvery's artillery brigade soon arrived from the reserve, and Bigelow's, Phillips's, Hart's, Ames's, and Thompson's batteries had been ordered into position on the crests, when the enemy opened from a long line of guns, stretching down to the crossing of the Emmitsburg pike. Smith's position at Devil's Den gave him a favorable oblique fire on a part of this line, and as he did not reply I proceeded to the Den. Finding the acclivity steep and rocky, I dismounted and tied my horse to a tree before crossing the valley. My rank, brigadier-general, the command being that of a lieutenant-general, gave me a very small and insufficient staff, and even this had been recently cut down. The inspector of artillery, Lieutenant-Colonel Warner, adjutant-general, Captain Craig, my only aide, Lieutenant Bissell, my one orderly, and even the flag-bearer necessary to indicate my presence to those seeking me, were busy conveying orders or messages, and I was alone; a not infrequent and an awkward thing for a general who had to keep up communications with every part of a battlefield and with the general-in-chief. On climbing to the summit, I found that Smith had just got his guns, one by one, over the rocks and chasms, into an excellent position. After pointing-out to me the advancing lines of the enemy, he opened, and very effectively. Many guns were immediately turned on him, relieving so far the rest of the line. Telling him that he would probably lose his battery, I left to seek infantry supports, very doubtful if I would find my horse, for the storm of shell bursting-over the place was enough to drive any animal wild. On reaching the foot of the cliff, I found myself in a plight at once ludicrous, painful, and dangerous. A herd of horned cattle had been driven into the valley between Devil's Den and Round Top, from which they could not escape. A shell had exploded in the body of one of them, tearing it to pieces; others were torn and wounded. All were stampeded, and were bellowing and rushing in their terror, first to one side and then to the other, to escape the shells that were bursting over them and among them. Cross I must, and in doing so I had my most trying experience of that battle-field. Luckily the poor beasts were as much frightened as I was, but their rage was subdued by terror, and they were good enough, to let me pass through scot-free, but "badly demoralized." However, my horse was safe, I mounted, and in the busy excitement that followed almost forgot my scare.
It was not until about 4 P. M. that Longstreet got his two divisions into position in two lines, McLaws's on the right of Anderson's division of Hill's corps, and opposite the Peach Orchard; Hood's on the extreme Confederate right and crossing the Emmitsburg road. Hood had been ordered, keeping his left on that road, to break in the end of our line, supposed to be at the orchard; but perceiving that our left was "refused" (bent back toward Devil's Den), and noticing the importance of Round Top, he suggested to Longstreet that the latter be turned and attacked [see p. 322]. The reply was that General Lee's orders were to attack along the Emmitsburg road. Again Hood sent his message and received the same reply, notwithstanding which he directed Law's brigade upon Round Top, in which movement a portion of Robertson's brigade joined; the rest of the division was thrown upon Devil's Den and the ridge between it and the Peach Orchard. The first assaults were repulsed, but after hard fighting, McLaws's division being also advanced, toward 6 o'clock the angle was broken in, after a resolute defense and with great loss on both sides. In the meantime three of Anderson's brigades were advancing on Humphreys, and the latter received orders from Birney, now in command of the corps (Sickles having been severely wounded soon after 6 o'clock near the Trostle house), to throw back his left, form an oblique line in his rear, and connect with the right of Birney's division, then retiring. The junction was not effected, and Humphreys, greatly outnumbered, slowly and skillfully fell back to Cemetery Ridge, Gibbon sending two regiments and Brown's Rhode Island battery to his support. But the enemy was strong and covered the whole Second Corps front, now greatly weakened by detachments. Wilcox's, Perry's, and Wright's Confederate brigades pressed up to the ridge, outflanking Humphreys's right and left, and Wright broke through our line and seized the guns in his front, but was soon driven out, and not being supported they all fell back, about dusk, under a heavy artillery fire.
As soon as Longstreet's attack commenced, General Warren was sent by General Meade to see to the condition of the extreme left. The duty could not have been intrusted to better hands. Passing along the lines he found Little Round Top, the key of the position, unoccupied except by a signal station. The enemy at the time lay concealed, awaiting the signal for assault, when a shot fired in their direction caused a sudden movement on their part which, by the gleam of reflected sunlight from their bayonets, revealed their long lines outflanking the position. Fully comprehending the imminent danger, Warren sent to General Meade for a division. The enemy was already advancing when, noticing the approach of the Fifth Corps, Warren rode to meet it, caused Weed's and Vincent's brigades and Hazlett's battery to be detached from the latter and hurried them to the summit [see p. 298]. The passage of the six guns through the roadless woods and amongst the rocks was marvelous. Under ordinary circumstances it would have been considered an impossible feat, but the eagerness of the men to get into action with their comrades of the infantry, and the skillful driving, brought them without delay to the very summit, where they went immediately into battle. They were barely in time, for the enemy were also climbing the hill. A close and bloody hand-to-hand struggle ensued, which left both Round Tops in our possession. Weed and Hazlett were killed, and Vincent was mortally wounded — all young men of great promise. Weed had served with much distinction as an artillerist in the Peninsular, Second Bull Run, and Antietam campaigns, had become chief of artillery of his army corps, and at Chancellorsville showed such special aptitude and fitness for large artillery commands that he was immediately promoted from captain to brigadier-general and transferred to the infantry. Hazlett was killed whilst bending over his former chief, to receive his last message. Lieutenant Ritten-house efficiently commanded the battery during the remainder of the battle.
The enemy, however, clung to the woods and rocks at the base of Round Top, carried Devil's Den and its woods, and captured three of Smith's guns, who, however, effectively deprived the enemy of their use by carrying off all the implements.
The breaking in of the Peach Orchard angle exposed the flanks of the batteries on its crests, which retired firing, in order to cover the retreat of the infantry. Many guns of different batteries had to be abandoned because of the destruction of their horses and men; many were hauled off by hand; all the batteries lost heavily. Bigelow's 9th Massachusetts made a stand close by the Trostle house in the corner of the field through which he had retired fighting with prolonges fixed. Although already much cut up, he was directed by McGilvery to hold that point at all hazards until a line of artillery could be formed in front of the wood beyond Plum Run; that is, on what we have called the "Plum Run line." This line was formed by collecting the serviceable batteries, and fragments of batteries, that were brought off, with which, and Dow's Maine battery fresh from the reserve, the pursuit was checked. Finally some twenty-five guns formed a solid mass, which unsupported by infantry held this part of the line, aided General Humphreys's movements, and covered by its fire the abandoned guns until they could be brought off, as all were, except perhaps one. When, after accomplishing its purpose, all that was left of Bigelow's battery was withdrawn, it was closely pressed by Colonel Humphreys's 21st Mississippi, the only Confederate regiment which succeeded in crossing the run. His men had entered the battery and fought hand-to-hand with the cannoneers; one was killed whilst trying to spike a gun, and another knocked down with a handspike whilst endeavoring to drag off a prisoner. The battery went into action with 104 officers and men. Of the four battery officers one was killed, another mortally, and a third, Captain Bigelow, severely wounded. Of 7 sergeants, 2 were killed and 4 wounded; or a total of 28 men, including 2 missing; and 65 out of 88 horses were killed or wounded. As the battery had sacrificed itself for the safety of the line, its work is specially noticed as typical of the service that artillery is not infrequently called upon to render, and did render in other instances at Gettysburg besides this one.
When Sickles was wounded Greneral Meade directed Hancock to take command of the Third as well as his own corps, which he again turned over to Gibbon. About 7:15 P. M. the field was in a critical condition. Birney's division was now broken up; Humphreys's was slowly falling back, under cover of McGilvery's guns; Anderson's line was advancing. On its right, Barksdale's brigade, except the 21st Mississippi, was held in check only by McGilvery's artillery, to whose support Hancock now brought up Willard's brigade of the Second Corps. Placing the 39th New York in reserve, Willard with his other three regiments charged Barksdale's brigade and drove it back nearly to the Emmitsburg road, when he was himself repulsed by a heavy artillery and infantry fire, and fell back to his former position near the sources of Plum Run. In this affair Willard was killed and Barksdale mortally wounded. Meanwhile the 21st Mississippi crossed the run from the neighborhood of the Trostle house, and drove out the men of Watson's battery ("I," 5th United States), on the extreme left of McGilvery's line, but was in turn driven off by the 39th New York, led by Lieutenant Peeples of the battery, musket in hand, who thus recovered his guns, Watson being severely wounded.
Birney's division once broken, it was difficult to stem the tide of defeat. Hood's and McLaws's divisions—excepting Barksdale's brigade—compassed the Devil's Den and its woods, and as the Federal reinforcements from other corps came piecemeal, they were beaten in detail until by successive accretions they greatly outnumbered their opponents, who had all the advantages of position, when the latter in turn retired, but were not pursued. This fighting was confined almost wholly to the woods and wheat-field between the Peach Orchard and Little Round Top, and the great number of brigade and regimental commanders, as well as of inferior officers and soldiers, killed and wounded on both sides, bears testimony to its close and desperate character. General Meade was on the ground active in bringing up and putting in reinforcements, and in doing so had his horse shot under him. At the close of the day the Confederates held the base of the Round Tops, Devil's Den, its woods, and the Emmitsburg road, with skirmishers thrown out as far as the Trostle house; the Federals had the two Round Tops, the Plum Run line, and Cemetery Ridge. During the night the Plum Run line, except the wood on its left front (occupied by McCandless's brigade, Crawford's division, his other brigade being on Big Round Top), was abandoned; the Third Corps was massed to the left and rear of Caldwell's division, which had reoccupied its short ridge, with McGilvery's artillery on its crest. The Fifth Corps remained on and about Round Top, and a division [Ruger's] which had been detached from the Twelfth Corps returned to Culp's Hill.
When Longstreet's guns were heard, Ewell opened a cannonade, which after an hour's firing was overpowered by the Federal artillery on Cemetery Hill. Johnson's division then advanced, and found only one brigade— Greene's—of the Twelfth Corps in position, the others having been sent to the aid of Sickles at the Peach Orchard. Greene fought with skill and determination for two or three hours, and, reenforced by seven or eight hundred men of the First and Eleventh corps, succeeded in holding his own intrenchments, the enemy taking possession of the abandoned works of Geary and Ruger. This brought Johnson's troops near the Baltimore pike, but the darkness prevented their seeing or profiting by the advantage then within their reach. When Ruger's division returned from Round Top, and Geary's from Rock Creek, they found Johnson in possession of their intrenchments, and immediately prepared to drive him out at daylight.
It had been ordered that when Johnson engaged Culp's Hill, Early and Rodes should assault Cemetery Hill. Early's attack was made with great spirit, by Hoke's and Avery's brigades, Gordon's being in reserve; the hill was ascended through the wide ravine between Cemetery and Culp's hills, a line of infantry on the slopes was broken, and Wiedrich's Eleventh Corps and Ricketts's reserve batteries near the brow of the hill were overrun; but the excellent position of Stevens's 12-pounders at the head of the ravine, which enabled him to sweep it, the arrival of Carroll's brigade sent unasked by Hancock,—a happy inspiration, as this line had been weakened to send supports both to Greene and Sickles,— and the failure of Rodes to cooperate with Early, caused the attack to miscarry. The cannoneers of the two batteries, so summarily ousted, rallied and recovered their guns by a vigorous attack — with pistols by those who had them, by others with handspikes, rammers, stones, and even fence-rails — the "Dutchmen" showing that they were in no way inferior to their "Yankee" comrades, who had been taunting them ever since Chancellorsville. After an hour's desperate fighting the enemy was driven out with heavy loss, Avery being among the killed. At the close of this second day a consultation of corps commanders was held at Meade's headquarters. I was not present, although summoned, but was informed that the vote was unanimous to hold our lines and to await an attack for at least one day before taking the offensive, and Meade so decided. [Continuation on p. 369.]
1. Lieutenant O. S. Barrett, in a pamphlet sketch of the "Old Fourth Michigan Infantry" [Detroit, 1888], relates a similar occurrence in the Second Corps. He says:
"We arrived at Hanover, Pennsylvania, on the afternoon of July 1st. . . . An aide-de-camp came riding along, saying, 'Boys, keep up good courage, McClellan is in command of the army again.' Instantly the space above was filled with the hats and caps of the gratified soldiers. . . . I knew this was untrue myself, but it served its purpose, as intended."—EDITORS.
2. Before the Committee on the Conduct of theWar General Warren testified that he went to Little Ronnd Top "by General Meade's direction." In a letter dated July 13th, 1872, General Warren says:
"Just before the action began in earnest, on July 2d, I was with General Meade, near General Sickles, whose troops seemed very badly disposed on that part of the field. At my suggestion, General Meade sent me to the left to examine the condition of affairs, and I continued on till I reached Little Round Top. There were no troops on it, and it was used as a signal station. I saw that this was the key of the whole position, and that our troops in the woods in front of it could not see the ground in front of them, so that the enemy would come upon them before they would be aware of it. The long line of woods on the west side of the Emmitsburg road (which road was along a ridge) furnished an excellent place for the enemy to form out of sight, so I requested the captain of a rifle battery just in front of Little Round Top to fire a shot into these woods. He did so, and as the shot went whistling through the air the sound of it reached the enemy's troops and caused every one to look in the direction of it. This 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; so that the line of his advance from his right to Little Round Top was unopposed. I have been particular in telling this, as the discovery was intensely thrilling to my feelings, and almost appalling. I immediately sent a hastily written dispatch to General Meade to send a division at least to me, and General Meade directed the Fifth Army Corps to take position there. The battle was already beginning to rage at the Peach Orchard, and before a single man reached Round Top the whole line of the enemy moved on us in splendid array, shouting in the most confident tones. While I was still all alone with the signal officer, the musket-balls began to fly around us, and he was about to fold up his flngs and withdraw, but remained, at my request, and kept waving them in defiance. Seeing troops going out on the Peach Orchard road. I rode down the hill, and fortunately met my old brigade. General Weed, commanding it, had already passed the point, and I took the responsibility to detach Colonel O'Rorke, the head of whose regiment I struck, who, on hearing my few words of explanation about the position, moved at once to the hill-top. About this time First Lieutenant Charles E. Hazlett of the Fifth Artillery, with his battery of rifled cannon, arrived. He comprehended the situation instantly and planted a gun on the summit of the hill. He spoke to the effect that though he could do little execution on the enemy with his guns, he could aid in giving confidence to the infantry, and that his battery was of no consequence whatever compared with holding the position. He staid there till he was killed. I was wounded with a musket-ball while talking with Lieutenant Hazlett on the hill, but not seriously; and, seeing the position saved while the whole line to the right and front of us was yielding and melting away under the enemy's fire and advance, I left the hill to rejoin General Meade near the center of the field, where a new crisis was at hand." EDITORS.
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