Page images
PDF
EPUB

PREPARATIONS FOR RENEWING TIIE STRUGGLE.

63

[ocr errors]

troops of his adversary present or near at hand, prudently awaited thu arrival of the rest of his army.'

When General Meade, at Taneytown, thirteen miles distant, heard of the (death of Reynolds, he ordered General Hancock, the junior of Howard in rank, to leave his corps with General Gibbons, hasten to Gettysburg, and assume the chief command, at the same time giving him discretionary power to offer battle where the advance of the army then was, or to withdraw the troops to the line of Pipe Creek. Hancock arrived just as the beaten forces were hurrying toward Cemetery Hill. He was satisfied with the new position chosen by General Howard, and so reported to General Meade. After assisting in forming a new battle-line with the troops then present, and turning over the command to General Slocum, who arrived with his corps (Twelfth) from Littlestown at sunset, Hancock returned to head-quarters late in the evening.

Fortunately for the cause, Howard had called early upon Sickles and Slocum for aid, and both had promptly responded by moving forward. The former, with his corps (Third), was near Emmettsburg, where he had been halted in the morning by a circular letter from General Meade, ordering the advance to fall back, and the whole army to form a line of battle along the general direction of Pipe Creek, between Middleburg and Manchester.? Howard informed Sickles of the death of Reynolds, and the peril of the troops. Sickles was perplexed for a moment. It was full three o'clock in the afternoon when the astounding news reached him. IIe could not communicate with Meade, ten miles distant, without a delay that might be fatal to the National advance, so he took the responsibility of pressing forward. Just as Howard had gained position on Cemetery Hill, Sickles's van came up and formed on the left, where it was joined by the whole corps before morning. Hancock, on his way back, met his own corps under Gibbons, which Meade had sent forward, and posted it a mile and a half in the rear of Cemetery Hill. When he reached head-quarters, at nine in the evening, he found Meade determined to make a stand at Gettysburg. He had given orders for the whole army to concentrate there, and was about leaving for the front. Both officers rode rapidly forward, and at one o'clock on the morning of the 2d," Meade made his head-quarters at the house of Mrs. Lydia

• July, 1863. Leister, on the Taneytown road, a short distance in the rear of Cemetery Hill. Only the corps of Sykes and Sedgwick were then absent.

1 See Lee's Report of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 31, 1863. In that report he says he had not intended to fight a general battle so far away from his base, but being "unexpectedly confronted by the Federal army, it became a matter of difficulty to withdraw through the mountains with the large trains."

2 Meade was satisfied that the main object of his forward movement, namely, the arrest of the invasion, was accomplished, and proposed to take a defensive position and await further developments of Lee's plans.

[graphic]

MEADE'S HEAD-QUARTERS.

64

POSITIONS OF THE OPPOSING ARMIES.

CONFEDERATE HEAD-QUARTERS. ?

The former, by a forced night march, arrived early in the inorning, and the latter at two o'clock in the afternoon.'

Lee, too, had been bringing forward his troops as rapidly as possible. He made his head-quarters on Seminary Ridge, at the house of the venerable Mary Marshall, where the Chambersburg road crosses the eminence, and on the morning of the 2d of July, a greater portion of the two armies con

fronted each other, both in a strong position, with the little vil lage of Gettysburg, and a valley not a mile in width, between them. Meade's army lay along rocky heights, forming two sides of a triangle, with its apex at Cemetery Hill, near the town, its shorter line bending back southeasterly over Culp's Hill to Rocky Creek,

and its longer line bending back south-southwest to Round Top. Howard's shattered corps, re-enforced by two thousand Vermont troops under General Stannard, occupied Cemetery Hill, supported by the divisions of Robinson and Doubleday, of the First, with Wadsworth's, of the same corps, on the right. This division joined Slocum's corps on Culp's IIill, which formed the right wing of the

army. On the left of Howard, the corps of Hancock and Sickles occupied the irregular ridge from Zeigler's Grove, on Cemetery Hill, to Round Top, the latter forming the extreme of the left wing. Sykes's corps was held in reserve. Slocum's corps, re-enforced by Lockwood's Marylanders, twenty-five hundred strong, comprised about ten thousand men. Sedgwick, with over fifteen thousand men, was yet many

miles

away. Lee's army then present occupied Seminary Ridge and the high ground to the left of Rock Creek, making an irregular curve along a line about five miles in length. His right, facing Sickles and IIancock, was composed of the divisions of Hood and McLaws, of Longstreet's corps. Hill's three divisions stretched from their left, so as to confront IIoward on Cemetery Hill; and Ewell's, forming the left wing, occupied the village and its vicinity, the divisions of Early and Johnson extending so as to menace Wadsworth and Slocum on Culp's Hill. Stuart's cavalry had not yet arrived from Carlisle, and Buford's so roughly handled the day before, was recruiting its

strength in the National rear. Such was the general disposition

of the two armies on the morning of the 2d of July, each having a large number of cannon in position.

[graphic]

6 1863.

i Sykes was not far from Hanover, twenty-three miles distant, when ordered to advance, and Sedgwick was at Manchester, more than thirty miles distant.

9 This was the appearance of Lee's head-quarters when the writer sketched it from the Chambersburg road. Inte in September, 1966. It was a substantial old stone house. Mrs. Marshall yet occupied it, and was then seventy-eight years of age.

3 See note 1, page 59.

PERILOUS SITUATION OF THE NATIONAL LEFT.

65

Both commanders were averse to taking the initiative of battle. Lee perceived the decided advantage in position which Howard had secured for the National army, it projecting like a wedge toward his center, with rocky acclivities along its front. Meade, feeling secure, had determined to leave to Lee the perilous movement of attack, if possible; and yet, early in the morning, observing Ewell stretching his line along the base of Culp's Hill, with batteries on heights in his rear, as if intending to attack, he was colistrained to propose an offensive movement by Slocum with his own and the corps of Sykes, when Sedgwick should arrive. He finally sent orders for Slocum to attack without Sedgwick, but that officer considered it not advisable, and was supported in that opinion by General Warren, the Engineerin-Chief. So the hours passed by with only a little skirmishing and now and then a shot from a battery, until late in the afternoon.

Lee, meanwhile, encouraged by the success of the previous day, and “in view of the valuable results that would ensue from the defeat of the army under General Meade," resolved to attack Sickles, who was holding the irregular ridge between Hancock and Round Top. Satisfied that a movement on him was in preparation, he had thrown a considerable portion of his corps forward to a slight elevation along the Emmettsburg road, his right, under General Humphreys, being several hundred yards in front of Hancock's left, with the line prolonged to the left by Graham's brigade of Birney's division, to a large peach-orchard belonging to John Scherfey, who lived near.” From that point Birney's line, formed by the brigades of De Trobriand and Ward, of his division, bent back obliquely toward Round Top, with a stony intervale behind it, and having some Massachusetts batteries on the extreme left. In this position Meade found Sickles between three and four o'clock in the afternoon. Sedgwick had arrived, after a march of thirty-five miles in nineteen hours, and been placed in

SCHERFEY'S HOUSE.3 reserve, and Meade had gone forward to superintend the posting of Sykes's troops on the left of Sickles, when he discovered the Third Corps well up toward the heaviest columns of the enemy, without flank supports. He deplored the perilous movement, and would probably have ordered Sickles back, had not the opening of the batteries of Lee and the pressing forward of his heavy columns to attack Sickles put an end to all deliberations. Meade could now do nothing better

[graphic]

1 Lee's Report

? General Birney sent out a regiment of sharpshooters, under Colonel Berdan, who advanced to a wood a mile beyond the Emmettsburg road, reconnoitering the Confederates. Berdan reported that the foe was moving in three columns, under cover of the woods, with the evident intention of turning the National left. It was this correct report which caused Sickles to advance his corps. The peach-orchard mentioned in the text was at an angle formed by the Emmettsburg road, and a cross lane from the Taneytown road, which entered it and ended there.

3 Scherfey's was a brick house, on the west side of the Emmettsburg rond, and, during the battle, was alternately in the possession of the National and Confederate troops. The family left the house when it was apparent that a battle was impending. The engraving is from a sketch made by the author in tbe autumn of 1866. The house, notwithstanding its exposed position, was very little injured.

VOL. III.-83

66

A STRUGGLE FOR LITTLE ROUND TOP.

than to give Sickles all possible support, for the battle was opened and the whole army was deeply concerned.

Lee had perceived this projection of Meade's left, and taken advantage of it. He had prepared to turn that flank of the National army, and now hoped to take its line in reverse, drive it from its strong position, and achieve a glorious victory. He directed Longstreet, his right-arm of dependence since Jackson's death, to make the attempt, while Ewell should attack Meade's right, and Hill menace his center, so as to prevent re-enforcements being sent to the left. Longstreet moved quickly and vigorously, under cover of heavy guns on Seminary Ridge and at other points. He sent his right division, under the dashing General Hood, to strike the salient of Sickles's bent line, at the peach-orchard, held by eight regiments of the divisions of Birney and Humphreys, and then to assail De Trobriand and Ward on the left, furiously. This was done effectively with the assistance of the left of McLaws, supported by Anderson. After a severe struggle, during which the tide of victory ebbed and flowed, the Confederates gained the keypoint at the peach-orchard. Sickles, who was in the front of battle, had called for re-enforcements, when Meade ordered General Sykes to furnish them. General Barnes's division of the Fifth Corps was sent forward; but nothing could then save the left, which had been fighting gallantly against odds, from being pushed back by the pressure of more than twenty-five thousand men hurled vigorously upon it. After a hard struggle, Hood's right pushed for the wooded hollow, between the peak known as Round Top and a rocky eminence of less altitude, called Little Round Top, on which Birney's left had rested, but was then uncovered. To secure this hill was of infinite importance to both commanders, and for its possession a severe struggle ensued. Meade, as we have seen, ordered Sykes forward to assist Birney in saving it, if possible.' Warren had just reached its summit when Birney's. line was bending and Barnes was advancing. He found the signal officers

at their rocky post folding their flags for flight. He ordered them to keep their signals waving, as if a host was behind them, and took the responsibility of detaching General Vincent's brigade and IIazlett's battery from Barnes's division, with the One Hundred and Fortieth New York in support, and hurrying them to the crown of Little Round Top. The cannon, dragged with great labor by hand up the steep, rocky acclivity, were speedily placed in battery behind hastily

thrown-up breast works of stones. These forces were there just in time to save the ridge from seizure by Hood's

[graphic]

SIGNAL-STATION ON LITTLE ROUND TOP.

i Sykes was tardy in sending help to Sickles. Birney sent an officer to him to urge him to send forward a division at once, as the peril was imminent. Sykes said " he wouid be up in time: that his men were making coffee and were tired.” It was an hour before they were up, when it was too late. -Birney's testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War.

2 Composed Sixteenth Michigan, Forty-fourth New York, Eighty-third Pennsylvania, and Twentieth Maine.

DEATH OF GENERALS VINCENT AND WEED.

67

Texans, who were at that moment scaling its rough slopes from the glen and among the huge masses of rocks on the bold western face of the hill. Never was there a wilder place for combat, and never was there a combat more fierce than was seen there, on that hot July evening, with blazing musketry, the clangor of steel as bayonets crossed in close and deadly strife, and hand-to-hand struggles with clubbed fire-arms and jagged stones. For half an hour this terrible conflict went on, when a charge from the Twentieth Maine, under Colonel Chamberlain, hurled the Texans from the hill. General Weed's brigade of Ayres's division of the Fifth Corps (to which Hazlett's battery belonged) had come up, and taken posi

THE DEVIL'S DEN, tion on Vincent's right, and the rocky citadel of the National left was secured, but at the cost of the lives of Generals Vincent and Weed, Lieutenant Hazlett, and scores of less prominent soldiers.'

During the struggle on the extreme left, there was also a fierce contest more toward the center, which assisted in securing Little Round Top to the Nationals. The brigades of Tilton and Sweitser, of Barnes's division, had been sent to the aid of Birney, and shared in the disaster that befell that line. When it fell back, the remainder of Sickles's corps (Humphrey's division and Graham's brigade) swung round back by the left, its right still clinging to the Emmettsburg road, the battery of Major McGilvray at the same time firing and falling back. Then Caldwell's division was advanced from Hancock's front to check the incoming Confederates, and a patch of open woods and wheat-fields, skirting a cross lane from the Taneytown to the Emmettsburg road, between the peach-orchard and Little Round Top, became a sanguinary battle-field. Caldwell advanced gallantly, with the brigades of Cross and Kelly in the front. Presently his second line, composed of the brigades of Brooke and Zook, were pushed forward. The strife was fierce, and in it Cross and Zook were mortally wounded, and

[graphic]

יו

· This little sketch shows a mass of rocks forming a sort of dark inclosure, which is called the Devil's Den. It gives a good idea of the masses of huge rocks among which the Confederates struggled up the steep slopes of Little Round Top. This heap was in front of Hazlett's battery, a little way down the hill.

? General Vincent was killed while urging on his men in the struggle, and General Weed was slain at Hazlett's battery, on the summit of Little Round Top. Seeing his commander fall, Lieutenant Hazlett hastened to his side. The expiring general seemed desirous of telling something, and, whilo Hazlett was bending over him with his ear near his lips, the bullet of a sharpshooter killed the lieutenant, and he fell upon the then dead body of his commander.

3 This was the gallant Colonel Edward E. Cross, of the famous "Fighting, Fifth" New Hampshire (see note 1, page 411, volume II.), who was now in command of a brigade. He was one of the most fearless and efficient officers in the army, and was greatly beloved by his troops. A few months before the battle of Gettysburg his regiment presented him an elegant sword, “ as a token of their affection and admiration of his character as an officer, after eighteen months' service under his command.” In a letter to the author, a month before the battle of Chancellorsville, speaking of an illustrated journal having an unpublished biographical sketch of him, he playfully said: “They are doubtless waiting, with commendable patience, for me to be killed. However, having received nine wounds in the present war, and three in other wars, I am not afraid of rebel bullets." He lived a few hours after receiving his fatal wound. His last words were: “I did hope I would live to see peace, and our country restored. I have done my duty. I think the boys will miss me. All my effects I give to my mother. Oh, welcome, Death! Say farewell to all.” Then his mind wandered. He commenced giving commands, when bo expired.

« PreviousContinue »