Lt. General James "Old Pete" Longstreet
Early in the morning General Lee and his staff planned out the days' attacks. Without Jeb Stuart's cavalry present to see what Meade was doing, and now with the woods and heights of the Union fish hook to prevent his observing the Union units on the field, and with Ewell's reluctance to take any initiative, Lee revised his battle plans. He now would threaten both Union flanks, Ewell from the north, and Longstreet from the southwest. Ewell was to make a demonstration against Meade's right, north and east of the town, to be converted into a real attack if the opportunity offered, while Longstreet, making the main effort, would attack diagonally up the Emmitsburg road, a maneuver which Lee mistakenly believed would result in rolling up Meade's line. General A.P. Hill's job was to attack on the center, mainly with artillery fire, to keep the enemy occupied.
Longstreet argued with Lee about the plan. He thought that going south around the Round Tops and swinging in from the southeast behind and over the Round Tops was a better idea. Lee would hear none of it, and insisted on his plan to attack the left flank of the Union line and take the hills head on.
Maj. General John B. Hood
Maj. General Layfayette McLaws
Longstreet relayed the battle plans to generals Hood and McLaws, who protested Lee's plan also. Longstreet told them that he had argued with Lee all morning and they were to follow their orders, and that he could do nothing more about it. General Hood rode off angry and frustrated. Throughout the morning and most of the afternoon, both sides were positioning their troops. Union Major General Dan Sickles further upset the Confederate program, which was already badly disarranged by Longstreet's delay in moving his troops into their starting points.
Maj. General Daniel E. Sickles
Sickle's 3rd corps had been assigned to the Union left on Cemetery Ridge, his own left flank to rest on Little Round Top, the Union anchor on the south. Sickle's thought he saw a better position about three quarters of a mile to the front of Little Round Top, and after sending out a strong reconnaissance group to probe the Confederate position, became convinced that he was right. Without Meade's permission, Sickle's moved his entire corps forward around 1 P.M., and took position at the Peach Orchard, his right division extended northward along the Emmitsburg road, his left at an obtuse angle, extended southeastwards to the vicinity of the Devil's Den, an area of huge boulders. The result of this move: Little Round Top unoccupied, both of his own flanks and Hancock's left on Cemetery Ridge exposed, and Meade's plan of defense sadly upset.
Union position looking west through Peach Orchard
Union view from Peach orchard looking
southeast. Big Round Top in Background.
View looking south through Peach orchard
The Confederates were slow to take advantage of the Union weakness. Longstreet, already short Pickett's division, was unwilling to attack until Law's brigade of Hood's division arrived. Law's brigade, after a twenty-four mile forced march, reached Herr's Ridge around noon, but the men had to be given thirty minutes rest. Longstreet then consumed three and a half more hours in marching and countermarching west of Seminary Ridge. So it was about 4:30 in the afternoon when he finally began his attack, which was badly conceived and launched in fragments without having good ground reconnaissance. He found one of Sickle's divisions directly in front of him. Furthermore, Hood was not permitted to work around the south of the Round Tops, as he wished to do. However, when fully launched, the Confederate attack was fierce, and the Union troops were again close to disaster. Little Round Top would unquestionably have been captured by the Reb's had it not been for the alertness of Brig. General Warren, Chief engineer of the Union Army, who finding the hill undefended, moved troops to it's summit and signaled Meade's headquarters of the situation.
Brig. General Gouverneur K. Warren
Looking from the Valley of Death southward at Little Round Top. It was on this slope that Gen. Warren positioned troops and the signal corps.
Note the extremely rocky slope, which made it very difficult to attack from this side
Panoramic view from summit slope of Little Round Top. The Union had a view of the entire battlefield from this point.
Top photo looking left is view west towards Devil's Den. Looking center is view northwest, Wheatfield and Peach Orchard are just beyond the line of trees on near ridge. Bottom photo looking right is view north towards Cemetery Hill.
Seminary Ridge is in far background, the tree line running the entire length of the shot.
The road that is visible runs through the Valley of Death, between Little Round Top and Devil's Den ridge.
Heavy casualties on both sides fell in this valley.
The rocks that are strewn throughout the valley and on this slope made excellent cover for sharpshooters.
Sickle's corps was being decimated in the Peach Orchard. It was so badly shot up that it would never again be used as an entity. Sickles himself was badly wounded, having his right leg shattered and eventually losing it, and the bloody fighting spread over the landscape until it engulfed the Rose buildings, the Wheatfield, Devil's Den, the Valley of Plum Run and the slopes of Little Round Top. The battle of the Wheatfield was a slaughter to the Union. The ground changed hands several times over the course of a few hours, and the Union had managed to push the Rebels back over the stony hill westward toward the Rose house, but they soon were overwhelmed by the Confederate attack and withdrew back through the Wheatfield only to be slaughtered from three sides.
Union position looking southwest, just northwest of the Wheatfield and just southeast of the Peach Orchard
View looking south to Wheatfield
(gap between trees)
Union view from eastern edge of the Wheatfield looking west toward Confederate position.
Rose Woods visible in background.
View from south end of the Wheatfield at edge of Rose Woods looking across the Valley of Death at Little Round Top.
Confederate view from western edge of the Wheatfield looking east towards Union position.
Plum Run, a small stream that runs from the south bending east in front of Devil's Den and through the Valley of Death, was renamed "Bloody Run", because it flowed red with the blood of so many killed or wounded lying in or near it.
View from "Bloody Run" looking westerly towards Devil's Den.
Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain
On Little Round Top, the Confederates could not advance up the rocky slope, due to its' harsh terrain and the Union troops pouring musket and cannon fire down on them from the heights, tried another approach. They used a flanking maneuver to their right, on the Union left flank. They charged up the hill through the woods. This would become one of the more famous battles of the day. Waiting for them on the southern slope was Col. Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine regiment. Chamberlain had been placed there shortly after the attack began on the front slope to guard the left flank of the Union line. They were the extreme left flank of the Union line, and if they failed to hold off an attack, the Confederates certainly would have captured the hill. Chamberlain's orders were to "hold 'til the last". Meaning, hold at all cost until the last man. 385 determined men of the 20th Maine were charged by about 850 Alabamians from the 15th and 47th Alabama. The fight grew hotter as the Rebs made repeated uphill assaults against the Maine boys, each time being beaten off into the thick woods. Despite this, Confederate pressure did not let up. Hand-to-hand fighting developed, but the Maine boys held firm. Great heroism and dedication were displayed on both sides. Chamberlain kept his men well in hand, prepared to meet each new attack, and the 'Bamians were repeatedly able to rally and move forward. But finally, the limits of endurance were reached. Battered by both the 83rd Pennsylvania and the 20th Maine, the Alabamians fell back. The Confederates wavered, thirsty, and exhausted. Meanwhile, having fired over 20,000 rounds, the 20th Maine was nearly out of ammunition. Realizing that another Confederate attack might succeed, Chamberlain called his officers together one last time. He ordered a charge down the hill, sweeping the Rebs to their left toward the front slope of the hill. Chamberlain screamed "bayonets!" and the 20th Maine began their infamous brave charge down the hill. Beginning from the left, the men rose from their places and stormed forward sweeping to their right. Covering the 30 yards or so which separated them from the Confederates in less than a minute, they threw the enemy into confusion, who fell back hotly pursued by the determined Yanks. The Rebs came under fire from the U.S. sharpshooters as they fled down the hill. They were closely pursued by Chamberlain's victorious men, who took over 400 prisoners. From start to finish, the fight for Little Round Top had taken little more than an hour. In one of the hottest combats in American history, the 20th Maine had suffered about 30 percent casualties while the 15th and 47th Alabama had been shattered, losing upwards of 40 percent of their men. Chamberlain was later awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor for his defense of Little Round Top. (more of the Battle of Little Round Top HERE)
View of southern face of Devil's Den
Rocks to the left of the pathway walk that runs up are same as in painting (above).
View of southeast face of Devil's Den
View from the top of Devil's Den looking southeast towards Little Round Top.
One of the most widely recognized and often published photographs on the subject of Gettysburg, this melancholy view of a dead Confederate youth laying behind a stone barricade at Devil's Den was taken on July 6, 1863 by photographer Alexander Gardner and his team. Gardner later published the photograph accompanied by a lavish description of his discovery of the dead soldier, who he described as a sharpshooter, and speculation on his final moments in the sniper's nest. It was not until 1975 when "Gettysburg: A Journey In Time" by author-historian William Frassanito was published, that this apparent "hoax" by Gardner was uncovered. This scene was actually posed by Gardner and his associates by carrying the corpse into this position and dressing up the scene with the relics of war scattered about the area. Gardner's chief photographer, Timothy O'Sullivan, took several photos of the scene and then left the area. This area is located on the top of Devil's Den on the southwest side, Little Round Top is visible over top the stone wall in background.
View of left flank of 20th Maine position
View of center position of 20th Maine
View of right flank of 20th Maine
Confederate view, east of the Wheatfield, looking at Rose Farm buildings southeast towards Little Round Top (in background).
Mistakes of the second day
Around 7:30 or 8:00 that evening came the attacks on Cemetery Hill and Culp's hill. The attack on Cemetery Hill was fierce and the Confederates did manage to get a foot-hold on the ground but were beaten back quickly suffering heavy losses on both sides. But the attack on Culp's Hill was brutal. The battle lasted well into the night. Both sides went back and forth taking control of the hill. A small stream with a spring in the midst of it, known as Spangler's Spring, became a focal point for both sides. A terrible slaughter was suffered by the Union here. Sharpshooters hidden in the rocks along with massed troops in the woods opened up a deadly fire upon the Union troops as they entered the open field near the spring. Needing water badly, it is rumored that a truce was called to allow both sides to fetch water from the spring. (click here for story of truce) Heavy losses were taken by both sides and the battle ended in a stalemate. The Union still controlled the top and west side of the hill, with the Confederates claiming the north, east and south side.
View of gorge area were spring is.
The well is to the left of the road on right side of view
(person in red shirt at well)
The Spangler Spring Well.
View looking east from the well (across the road) at the rocky hillside
Summit of Culp's Hill
Observation Tower stands on peak.
Union view looking east at Culp's Hill from Cemetery Hill
Losses were heavy on both sides that day, but when the sun had set and the two sides rested on their arms, the Union position on Cemetery Ridge was intact, although Longstreet's divisions held all the ground in front of the Union, including Devil's Den, the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard. The Union controlled the high ground of the Round Tops, Cemetery Ridge and Culp's hill and remained in their fish hook position. General Meade gathered his Union commanders at the Leister House which was the Union headquarters.
The Leister House was used by General Meade and his officers. The house is located on the east side of Cemetery Ridge along the Taneytown road. The house suffered musket and shell damage from the artillery barrage and attack on Cemetery Ridge on July 2 and 3.
Holes in the wood siding and shed behind the house are still visible today.
Below, the house in 1863 just days after the battle. Note the dead horses in the road to the right.
General Meade and his officers discussed plans for the next day. At this conference it was decided that the army would stay to fight it out on the same line. The practicability of attacking was ruled out by all commanders except General Howard, who advised watchful waiting until about 4 P.M. the next day, but favored a counterattack then if the Confederates had not resumed the offensive. At the close of the meeting, General Meade remarked to General Gibbon, who was temporarily in command of Hancock's 2nd Corps, said that "if Lee should again attack on the 'morrow, it will be on the front of the 2nd corps", the center of the Union line. Both sides regrouped that night and prepared for the bloodiest day yet to come.
Battle For The Peach Orchard
and The Wheatfield
This map shows the Union charge through the Peach Orchard and the Wheatfield shortly after the Confederate attack began between 4 and 4:30 P.M.
This map shows the Confederate counterattack about 5:30 P.M.
This map shows the Union retreat back through the Peach Orchard and Wheatfield, to Cemetery Ridge shortly after the Confederate counterattack around 5:30 P.M.
Battle For Little Round Top
On the eastern side of Culp's Hill, between the crest and Rock Creek, there is a deep, broad gorge in which there is a small spring called, after a local farmer, Spangler's Spring. A source of clean, cool water, the spring is partially responsible for the marshiness of Spangler's Meadow.
There was much heavy fighting on Culp's Hill the evening of July 2, particularly in the vicinity of Spangler's Spring. That night, according to many accounts, men of both armies sought water from the spring. As they crawled through the darkness, they often encountered, but pointedly ignored each other. A fine touching tale, the story of the Spangler's Spring truce often surfaces as an example of the basic humanity of men even when locked in the throes of battle. Unfortunately, it's completely untrue. The men who sneaked down to the spring to fetch water on that hot, humid night opened fire on each other repeatedly and enthusiastically, and skirmishing in the vicinity of the spring continued until dawn. The origins of the story about the truce are obscure, but the romantic tale appears to have begun to circulate about 20 years after the battle, when interest in it was rising, while the passions generated by the war were falling.
Located at the southern end of Culp's Hill, Spangler's Spring is adjacent to one of the few open pasture areas in this part of the battlefield. This natural spring provided a steady supply of clear water to refresh farmer and animal alike for many years prior to the battle. With throats parched after their long trek to Gettysburg, Union soldiers of the Twelfth Army Corps relished the water of Spangler's Spring as they gathered on the wooded slopes of Culp's Hill on July 2. These thirsty troops constructed log and earthen barricades on the hillside before they were marched away to support the crumbling Union left flank at the Peach Orchard. Later that same night, the Confederates of
Brig. General "Maryland" Steuart's Brigade occupied those abandoned breastworks and also used the spring to fill their canteens. The Union counterattack early the following morning placed the spring in no man's land. Because it lay in front of the reversed line, the thirsty southerners could not get back to it without running the risk of being shot by Union infantrymen who lay not more that 50 feet away. The spring site was reoccupied by Union troops late on the morning of July 3rd, finally denying it's use to the southerners.
Legends sprouted soon after the battle that temporary truces were called between the sides so that men from both armies could fill their cups and canteens from this spring. This legend, no doubt, sprung from the stories told by some of the veterans who visited the battlefield years after the war when tales of cooperation between soldiers of both sides were popular. It is doubtful, when looking back at the historic evidence, that this actually occurred because of the location of the spring and the vicious fighting that raged around it. Yet, the legend of those temporary truces declared at Spangler's Spring is still very strong today. The fame of Spangler's Spring and its legend eventually led to damage from so many visitors who trampled its banks and destroyed the stone covers. To preserve the spring, the United States War Department constructed a permanent stone and concrete cover over it in 1895, with a small metal trap door to gain access to its waters. A metal dipper was provided for visitors to quench their thirst as the soldiers had done years before. This practice was halted soon after administration of the battlefield was assigned to the National Park Service. Due to the possibility of ground water contamination, the waters of Spangler's Spring are no longer available for public consumption.
Battle For Culp's Hill And Spangler's Spring
Day Two Morning
Lee's Plan For Attack
Union And Confederate Positions
At The End Of The Second Day
Confederates attack from this side moving towards this position and to the right
Confederates attack this side of the slope, working their way around to the right and behind where they met the 20th Maine
Devil's Den this direction
1863 Photo of Little Round Top
" Bayonets ! Charge !" ...
( click on thumbnails )
East Cemetery Hill
( click on thumbnail )
Union line runs this way, then fish hooks to the right at Cemetery Hill (approx. 2 1/2 miles)
Center of Union position at Cemetery Hill from Little Round Top.
(click on thumbnail)
click on thumbnails:
1: East slope of Devil's Den
2: From top of Devil's Den looking down
3: From top of Devil's Den looking up
4: From Little Round Top looking at Devil's Den
Behind position looking left to right
In front of 20th Maine position near center
Meade's Council of War.
Field where Union slaughter took place near the spring looking from Confederate hiding positions in rocks on hillside
Rocks on hillside where Confederate sharpshooters hid. Picture on right is where a Confederate carved his name and unit into the rock
Rock where Confederate sharpshooter carved his name and unit into. If you pour water on it, it becomes more visible. Name and unit read:
A L CobLe
1st N C REG
( click on thumbnail )