Summary – Battle of Gettysburg Day 2

Summary – Battle of Gettysburg Day 2. July 2, 1863, is often described as a draw. Although the Army of Northern Virginia gained control of Devil’s Den, The Wheatfield, and The Peach Orchard, the Army of the Potomac retained the high-ground at Little Round Top and Cemetery and Culp’s Hills. Click to read a chronological summary of the Battle of Gettysburg:

Prelude Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Aftermath

 

Last Update: December 7, 2018 (4:49 pm)

Battle of Gettysburg Day 2 – What Is This?

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This is a deliberately terse and dense summary of the Battle of Gettysburg Day 2 – July 2, 1863. You are reading my study notes — re-cast as sentences — from multiple bicycling adventures in Gettysburg National Military Park. I am using these and other notes to study for the Licensed Gettysburg Battlefield Guide Exams.

I hope these notes help you to build a “mental framework” for understanding books that you read or tours that you take. For deeper study, I encourage you to peruse Civil Work Cycling’s annotated bibliographies, here and here.

On the other hand, for something more basic than these notes on the Battle of Gettysburg Day 2, please refer back to Battle Summary – Prelude (under July 2) and the Civil War Trust’s animated map of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Disclaimer: Civil War Cycling’s battle summaries intend to be accurate, but not so precise that they trigger hot debates about the timing of military actions and the position of military units. In our effort to present broad themes, we try to side-step the controversies and exceptions that make it difficult for the general reader to understand the battle.

Areas for Improvement: This notebook will be improved for “completeness” and clarity through time. It is currently very infantry-centric and could be expanded to consider artillery and cavalry, for example.

Study Tips – Battle of Gettysburg Day 2

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To understand Gettysburg battlefield events for July 2, it helps to start with a mastery of two things. First, be able to identify generals as either Federal (Union) or Confederate. Second, know the names of locations of land formations and roads labeled on the following map.

Gettysburg July 2 – Places to Know

Meade – Federal (Union)

  • Newton (replaced Doubleday)
  • Hancock
  • Sickles
  • Sykes
  • Sedgwick (reserve)
  • Howard
  • Slocum

Lee – Confederate

  • Hill
    • Pettigrew (Heth wounded)
    • Pender
    • Anderson
  • Ewell
    • Rodes
    • Early
    • Johnson
  • Longstreet
    • Hood
    • McLaws
    • (Pickett had not yet arrived)

Who’s Who? Battle of Gettysburg Day 2

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Nutshell Summary – Battle of Gettysburg Day 2

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Battle of Gettysburg Day 2
Union Fishhook Formation

Reinforcements for both armies arrived through the night. By the morning of July 2, Meade’s Union Army of the Potomac had established a strong, three-mile long fishhook formation south of town. Its right flank was anchored on Culp’s Hill on the east. The battle line for the Battle of Gettysburg Day 2 bent to the west along Cemetery Hill, and then the shank continued south along Cemetery Ridge to Little Round Top.

This defensive position gave the Union a high ground advantage. It also provided convenient paths within the fishhook’s interior to reinforce lines. Meade set up his headquarters at the Leister house on the eastern slope of the ridge, on Taneytown Road. His equestrian monument  is nearby.

On the Confederate side, Lee’s army was solidly in control of the town of Gettysburg. Confederate units wrapped around from the Union right to the Union center. The Confederate right flank did not yet extend through Warfield Ridge, which is the southern part of Seminary Ridge, but Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s Corps would be in position by 4:00 P.M., later than Lee had wanted.

Battle of Gettysburg Day 2
Sickles Salient Formation (Approximation)

In the early afternoon, without authorization from Meade, Union Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles directed 10,000 3rd Corps soldiers to advance from the north side of Little Round Top to slightly higher ground along Emmitsburg Road, about 1,200 yards to the west. Sickles’ line bulged to the west with its apex in the Sherfy Peach Orchard at Emmitsburg Road. The action thinned the Union line and exposed Sickles’ left (Maj. Gen. David B. Birney) and right (Brig. Gen. Andrew Humphreys) to flanking attacks. It also caused gaps in the Union line near Codori Farm and left undefended Little Round Top. Alarmed and angry, Meade ordered Sykes’ 5th Corps (and portions of other corps) to reinforce Sickles, which weakened the Union right on Culp’s Hill.

At about 4:00 P.M., Longstreet had marched his corps from Herr’s Ridge to Warfield Ridge and he was ready to attack (without Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s division). Lee’s original plan for the Battle of Gettysburg Day 2 was for Longstreet to attack Meade’s left, Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill the center, and Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell the right (at Culp’s Hill). Notably, Longstreet argued for a defensive posture that involved going around the Union left in an effort to fight from the Union backside, but Lee overruled him. Bad information about the location of the Union left and unauthorized movements by Sickles, however, resulted in Longstreet being surprised to find Sickles within 600 yards of the Confederate army.

Union Cannon on Emmitsburg Road at The Peach Orchard. The cannon are facing west.

When Maj. Gens. John B. Hood and Lafayette McLaws’ divisions (of Longstreet’s corps) arrived at Warfield Ridge, Sickles’ line prevented the Confederates from rolling-up the Union left via Emmitsburg Road, as Lee had ordered. Instead, Longstreet attacked Sickles’ corps head-on. Beginning at about 4:00 P.M., Longstreet led three divisions in a three hour assault that was executed in waves of roughly thirty minute increments.

Maj. Gen. John B. Hood’s division attacked the east-west swath of land that included Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, The Wheatfield and Rose Woods. Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws’ division attacked The Peach Orchard shortly thereafter. (Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett’s division would not be engaged until the next day.) Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson (A. P. Hill’s corps) pressed the half-mile gap near the Union Center.

Lee had ordered Ewell to begin a simultaneous attack or “demonstration” on the Union right when he heard Longstreet’s attack begin. At about 4:00 P.M., Confederate artillery on Benner’s Hill opened fire on Cemetery Hill from the northeast, but Union artillery effectively countered and silenced the attack. For the most part, Ewell’s attack on the Union right flank did not begin until nearly 8:00 P.M., hours after Longstreet launched his attack of Union left and Hill the Union center.

Confederate Maj. Gen. Jubal Early (Ewell’s Corps) ordered two brigades to attack Howard’s 11th Corps on Cemetery Hill. Attacking from the north and east, they held the hill for a short time, but were quickly repulsed by 2nd and 11th Corps Union reinforcements.

Confederate Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson’s division (Ewell’s Corps) captured portions of lower Culp’s Hill by about 9:00 P.M., but these gains were lost once Union reinforcements returned to the area. In the end, the breastworks built by Union soldiers under the command of Brig. Gen. George S. Greene (3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 12th Corps) held-off about 4,500 Confederates to their 1,300 Federals.

At about 10:00 P.M., the fighting on July 2 had ended. It would resume again early the next morning, with a Union assault against Confederates positions in the Culp’s Hill area.


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Detailed Summary – Battle of Gettysburg Day 2

1. Attack on the Union Left Flank

Cheat-Sheet for the Battle of Gettysburg Day 2

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Battle of Gettysburg Day 2
Modern-Day Sickles Avenue Approximates Sickles’ Line

This cheat-sheet  on the “Battle of Gettysburg Day 2” summarizes “common knowledge” that I drew from several sources; see Civil War Cycling’s Gettysburg Reading List. I relied heavily on two books by Bradley M. Gottfried. One was The Maps of Gettysburg (New York: Savas Beatie, 2010) and the other was Brigades of Gettysburg (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2012). All mistakes are mine.

The Confederates attacked in overlapping (en échelon) waves, roughly as follows:

Devil’s Den and Little Round Top (Battle of Gettysburg Day 2)
  • At about 4:00 P.M., Longstreet attacked at Devil’s Den and slammed into Little Round Top within thirty minutes. (The swale between Devil’s Den and Little Round Top is called The Slaughter Pen.)
  • Confederate Attack Target: Sickles’ Far Left
  • Confederate Attacking Brigades:
    Maj. Gen. John B. Hood’s Division of Longstreet’s Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. Evander M. Law’s Brigade (AL)
    – Brig. Gen. Jerome Robertson’s Brigade (TX, AK)
    – Brig. Gen. Henry Benning’s Brigade (GA)
  • Union Defending Brigades:
    Maj. Gen. David B. Birney’s 1st Division of Sickles’ 3rd Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. J. Hobart Ward, 2nd Brigade (IN, ME, NY, PA, U.S. Sharpshooters)
    – Col. P. Regis De Trobriand, 3rd Brigade (ME, MI, NY, PA)
    Brig. Gen. James Barnes’ 1st Division of Sykes’ 5th Corps:
    – Col. Strong Vincent, 3rd Brigade (ME, MI, NY, PA)
    Brig. Gen. Romeyn B. Ayres’ 2nd Division of Sykes’ 5th Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. Stephen H. Weed, 3rd Brigade (NY, PA)
  • Farms in Attack Zone: Bushman, Slyder
  • Approximate Duration: 2 hours
The Wheatfield and Rose Woods (Battle of Gettysburg Day 2)
  • By 4:30 P.M., the fighting rolled along Sickles’ line from the south — through The Wheatfield and Rose Woods (and Stony Hill, which is in Rose Woods).
  • Confederate Attack Target: Sickles’ Left
  • Confederate Attacking Brigades:
    Maj. Gen. John B. Hood’s Division of Longstreet’s Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. Jerome Robertson’s Brigade (TX, AK)
    – Brig. Gen. Henry Benning’s Brigade (GA)
    – Brig. Gen. George T. Anderson’s Brigade (GA)
    Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws’ Division of Longstreet’s Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw’s Brigade (SC)
    – Brig. Gen. Paul J. Semmes’ Brigade (GA)
  • Union Defending Brigades:
    Brig. Gen. John C. Caldwell’s 1st Division of Hancock’s 2nd Corps:
    – Col. Edward E. Cross, 1st Brigade (NH, NY, PA)
    – Col. Patrick Kelly, 2nd (Irish) Brigade (MA, NY, PA)
    – Brig. Gen. Samuel K. Zook, 3rd Brigade (NY, PA)
    – Col. John R. Brooke, 4th Brigade (CT, DE, NY, PA)
    Maj. Gen. David B. Birney’s 1st Division of Sickles’ 3rd Corps:
    – Col. P. Regis De Trobriand, 3rd Brigade (ME, MI, NY, PA)
    Maj. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys’ 2nd Division of Sickles’ 3rd Corps:
    – Col. George C. Burling, 3rd Brigade (NH, NJ, PA)
    Brig. Gen. James Barnes’ 1st Division of Sykes’ 5th Corps:
    – Col. William Tilton, 1st Brigade (MA, MI, PA)
    – Col. Jacob Sweitzer, 2nd Brigade (MA, MI, PA)
    Brig. Gen. Romeyn B. Ayres’ 2nd Division of Sykes’ 5th Corps:
    – Col. Hannibal Day, 1st Brigade (U.S. Regulars)
    – Col. Sidney Burbank, 2nd Brigade (U.S. Regulars)
  • Farms in Attack Zone: Rose
  • Approximate Duration: 1-2 hours
The Peach Orchard (Battle of Gettysburg Day 2)
  • Starting around 6:00 P.M., Longstreet attacked the Union line farther north, moving west toward Sickles’ center — through The Peach Orchard.
  • Confederate Attack Target: Sickles’ Center
  • Confederate Attacking Brigades:
    Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws’ Division of Longstreet’s Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw’s Brigade (SC)
    – Brig. Gen. Paul J. Semmes’ Brigade (GA)
    – Brig. Gen. William Barksdale’s Brigade (MS)
    – Brig. Gen. William T. Wofford’s Brigade (GA)
  • Union Defending Brigades:
    Maj. Gen. David B. Birney’s 1st Division of Sickles’ 3rd Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. Charles K. Graham, 1st Brigade (PA)
    Maj. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys’ 2nd Division of Sickles’ 3rd Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Carr, 1st Brigade (MA, NH, PA)
    – Col. William R. Brewster, 2nd “Excelsior” Brigade (NY)
    – Col. George C. Burling, 3rd Brigade (NH, NJ)
  • Farms in Attack Zone: Sherfy, Trostle
  • Approximate Duration: 1.5 hours
The Union Center at Cemetery Ridge (Battle of Gettysburg Day 2)
  • By 7:00 PM, Hill attacked Sickles’ right flank and threatened the Union center. The Confederate division under Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson penetrated Cemetery Ridge briefly, only to be repulsed by Union reinforcements.
  • Confederate Attack Target: Sickles’ Right
  • Confederate Attacking Brigades (north of Codori Barn):
    Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson’s Division of Hill’s Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. Ambrose R. Wright’s Brigade (GA)
    – Brig. Gen. Carnot Posey’s Brigade (MS)
  • Confederate Attacking Brigades (south of Codori Barn):
    Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws’ Division of Longstreet’s Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. William Barksdale’s Brigade (MS)
    Anderson’s Division of Hill’s Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox ‘s Brigade (AL)
    – Col. David Lang’s (Perry) Brigade (FL)
  • Union Defending Brigades (north of Codori Barn):
    Brig. Gen. John Gibbon’s 2nd Division of Hancock’s 2nd Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. William Harrow, 1st Brigade (MA, NY only)
    – Brig. Gen. Alexander Webb, 2nd Brigade (PA)
    – Col. Norman J. Hall, 3rd Brigade (MA, MI, NY)
    Brig. Gen. Alexander Hays’ 3rd Division of Hancock’s 2nd Corps:
    – Col. Samuel S. Carroll, 1st Brigade (IN, OH, WV)
    – Col. Thomas A. Smyth, 2nd Brigade (CT, DE, NJ, NY)
  • Union Defending Brigades (south of Codori Barn):
    Brig. Gen. John Gibbon’s 2nd Division of Hancock’s 2nd Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. William Harrow, 1st Brigade (ME, MN only)
    Brig. Gen. Alexander Hays’ 3rd Division of Hancock’s 2nd Corps:
    – Col. George L. Willard, 3rd Brigade (NY)
  • Farms in Attack Zone: Klingel, Codori, Bliss
  • Approximate Duration: 1 hour
Little Round Top (Through the Valley of Death, Battle of Gettysburg Day 2)
  • Shortly before 8:00 P.M., having gained control of The Wheatfield, Confederates from Longstreet’s Corps drove southeast to rush Little Round Top, but they were repulsed by Union reinforcements.
  • Confederate Attack Target: Little Round Top from the northwest
  • Confederate Attacking Brigades:
    Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws’ Division of Longstreet’s Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw’s Brigade (SC)
    – Brig. Gen. Paul J. Semmes’ Brigade (GA)
    – Brig. Gen. William T. Wofford’s Brigade (GA)
    Maj. Gen. John B. Hood’s Division of Longstreet’s Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. George T. Anderson’s Brigade (GA)
  • Union Defending Brigades (including reserves):
    Brig. Gen. James Barnes’ 1st Division of Sykes’ 5th Corps:
    – Col. Strong Vincent, 3rd Brigade (ME, MI, NY, PA)
    Brig. Gen. Romeyn B. Ayres’ 2nd Division of Sykes’ 5th Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. Stephen H. Weed, 3rd Brigade (NY, PA)
    Brig. Gen. Samuel W. Crawford’s 3rd Division of Sykes’ 5th Corps:
    – Col. William McCandless, 1st Brigade (PA)
    Brig. Gen. Horatio G. Wright’s 1st Division of Sedgwick’s 6th Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. Joseph J. Bartlett, 2nd Brigade (ME, NY, PA)
    Brig. Gen. Frank Wheaton’s 3rd Division of Sedgwick’s 6th Corps:
    – Col. David J. Nevin, 3rd Brigade (NY, PA)
  • Farms in Attack Zone: J. Weikert
  • Approximate Duration: < 30 minutes

The Confederate attack on the Union left flank lasted about four hours. It ended around 8:00 P.M.. 

Devil’s Den

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Battle of Gettysburg Day 2 – Confederates attack the Union left at Devil’s Den and ultimately control the area.

Devil’s Den is a rocky area at the southern end of Houck’s Ridge and west of Little Round Top. Its large boulders are igneous (molten) rock formed about 200 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Gettysburg Basin. The area was named “Devil’s Den” before the Civil War (and may have been named after a large snake that lived here).

Devil’s Den, looking southwest from Little Round Top. Sickles Avenue winds around these boulders and into Rose Woods.

On July 2, Brig. Gen. Henry Benning’s Brigade from Georgia (about 1,300 men in Hood’s division) was supposed to attack Little Round Top. Instead, Benning hit the Union line farther west at Devil’s Den, along with two other brigades from Hood’s division — Brig. Gen. Evander Law’s Brigade from Alabama and Brig. Gen. Jerome Robertson’s Brigade from Texas and Arkansas.

Devil’s Den, looking north toward the Sickles Witness Tree.

Early in the attack, Hood was wounded by an overhead artillery explosion. His left arm was badly mangled and permanently compromised, though not amputated. Law assumed command to replace the injured Hood, but the chaos of the battlefield resulted in confused communications and an ill-coordinated attack.

Devil’s Den view of Little Round Top, looking northeast.

Nonetheless, after changing hands three times, Devil’s Den was finally taken by the Confederates. At the Battle of Gettysburg Day 2, the Confederates overpowered Union artillery and U. S. Sharpshooters on Sickles’ far left flank, which was anchored at Devil’s Den. The Confederates captured three out of four cannon from Smith’s New York Battery. In the end, Lee’s army retained control of that rocky landscape until the Battle of Gettysburg when the Army of Northern Virginia retreated back to Virginia.

Recommended Map by the Civil War Trust:

Little Round Top

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Battle of Gettysburg Day 2 – Confederates attack Little Round Top but are repulsed.

Not long before Confederates attacked Little Round Top, Brig. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren, Chief Engineer of the Army of the Potomac, noticed that Sickles’ unauthorized advance away from Little Round Top seriously weakened the Union line. Its left flank was exposed and hanging. In the late afternoon of July 2, Confederates from Alabama and Texas (Hood’s division, Longstreet’s corps) attacked Little Round Top, but not before Warren and officers from Maj. Gen. George Sykes 5th Corps quickly assembled a countering force on the hill.

Warren Statue at the top of Little Round Top, looking northwest to Houck’s Ridge beyond Crawford Avenue. Devil’s Den is out of view, on Warren’s left.

One Union hero was Col. Strong Vincent and his 3rd Brigade (Barnes’ 1st Division, 5th Corps). When Vincent, a Harvard graduate, heard from Warren’s messenger that the army desperately needed to defend Little Round Top, Vincent rushed his brigade to the hill. Acting without orders, he risked court-martial.

Another hero of Little Round Top was Col. Joshua Chamberlain, who led the 20th Maine for Vincent’s brigade on the Battle of Gettysburg Day 2. Chamberlain was a multi-lingual professor from Bowdoin College. He was so appalled by the southern rebellion that he petitioned the governor of Maine to give him a military assignment. Low on ammunition and determined to save the Union far left flank, Chamberlain ordered the 20th Maine to “fix bayonets” and charge down Little Round Top. (His brothers John and Tom were fighting with him.) The desperate charge stunned Confederates, and thinking the Union numbers were largely than they actually were, surrendered.

Little Round Top, looking east from Houck’s Ridge and Rose Woods. Crawford Avenue cuts across the photograph.

Chamberlain’s Confederate counter-part was Col. William Oates, the commander of the 15th Alabama. Oates and his brother, John, arrived at Gettysburg with their regiment after a forced twenty-five-mile march. They found themselves attacking Little Round Top before a group of Oates’ men could return to their unit with water. Like Chamberlain, William Oates would become governor of his home state after the Civil War. Although the 20th Maine was out-numbered ten to one, Chamberlain’s daring maneuvers ultimately forced the 15th Alabama to surrender. The far left flank of the Union line held.

Beyond Warren, Vincent, and Chamberlain – of course — there were many heroes from New York and Michigan who repulsed the Confederates from Alabama and Texas on July 2. One was Col. Patrick O’Rorke (140th New York), an Irish-American immigrant from Rochester, New York, who was shot in the neck while attacking down the slope, just after having rushed his regiment to the top of the hill. Two others were Gen. Stephen Weed and his artillery lieutenant, Charles Hazlett. Both men died on Little Round Top after the herculean accomplishment of getting a brigade — and artillery pieces — up hill.

Recommended Map by the Civil War Trust:

The Wheatfield and Rose Woods

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Battle of Gettysburg Day 2 – Confederates attack through Rose Farm and ultimately gain control of The Wheatfield.

From Little Round Top and Devil’s Den, Confederates from Texas, Arkansas, and Georgia (in Hood’s division, Longsteeet’s corps) pressed north and west into The Wheatfield. On July 2, this was a twenty-acre field of chest-high wheat that was ready for harvest by the John Rose family. Control of “The Bloody Wheatfield,” as it came to be called, changed hands five or six times in less than three hours.

The Wheatfield, looking south from Wheatfield Road. Can you spot the 27th Connecticut Monument?

Ultimately, Union troops pushed the Confederates back south into Rose Woods, which in 1863 was home to grazing cattle (and much less wooded than it is today). Night fell on the Battle of Gettysburg Day 2 with about 4,000 soldiers (wounded and dead), carpeting the field while wild farm animals roamed for food.

The names of park roads in Rose Woods identify some of the Union commanders whose regiments fought there. From Sickles’ 3rd Corps, Col. P. Regis De Trobriand positioned his 3rd Brigade (Birney’s Division) along what is now Detrobriand Avenue. From Caldwell’s Division of Hancock’s 2nd Corps, Col. John R. Brooke (4th Brigade) and Col. Edward E. Cross (1st Brigade) positioned their troops along Brooke and Cross Avenues.

After climbing Houck’s Ridge on Ayres Avenue, we turn to ride mostly west into Rose Woods.

Curiously, the 5th New Hampshire commander, thirty-one-year-old Col. Cross, usually wore a red bandanna. But on July 2, he wore black instead. Cross explained to his superior officer that this would be his last battle. True to his prediction, Cross died on July 3 from his thirteenth wound of war.

Recommended Maps by the Civil War Trust:

The Peach Orchard

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Battle of Gettysburg Day 2 – Confederates attack Sickles’ weak salient formation at The Peach Orchard and the Union line collapses back to Cemetery Ridge.

A Confederate view of The Peach Orchard. We are looking northeast from Longstreet Observation Tower over the Emmitsburg Road.

Sickles’ unauthorized salient (an angle formation) initially extended from Devil’s Den on his left flank, to the Sherfy Peach Orchard at its apex, and then bent northeast toward Cemetery Ridge on his right flank.

But even with reinforcements rushed from other corps (especially Sykes’ 5th Corps), the thin and weakened Union line could not hold. The controversy over Sickles’ actions is the main story for the Battle of Gettysburg Day 2. Sickles’ salient at The Peach Orchard collapsed under an assault by Georgians under Brig. Gen. William Wofford and Mississippians under Brig. Gen. William Barksdale. Both brigades were part of McLaws’ division, Longstreet’s corps.

Barksdale was a colorful character from Tennessee, a slave owner who charged into The Peach Orchard on a white horse without a hat (and long white hair flying, though he was only forty-one). Barksdale sustained mortal wounds to his left knee, left foot, and chest. He died on July 3 at the Hummelbaugh house, a field hospital on modern-day Pleasonton Avenue.

Union cannon and Monuments at the Trostle Farm on modern-day United States Avenue.

Capt. John Bigelow’s 9th Massachusetts Battery (part of Lt. Col. Freeman McGilvery’s 1st Brigade, Artillery Reserve) covered the Union retreat until its line gave way, too. Bigelow was wounded. Sickles’ right leg was destroyed by a cannonball near the Trostle Barn. So as not to alarm his troops, Sickles is said to have puffed on a cigar as he was loaded onto a litter.

A New York City politician, Daniel E. Sickles was a controversial figure even before the war. He was the first person in the United States to be acquitted of murder on the grounds of temporary insanity. In Lafayette Square (Washington, D.C.), Sickles shot to death Philip Barton Key II – the son of the author of The Star Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key – for his affair with Sickles’ much younger wife. The iron fence from Lafayette Square was later brought by Sickles to Soldiers’ National Cemetery, where it continues to stand today.

Although Sickles won the Medal of Honor for his service at Gettysburg, and although he sponsored a bill in 1895 to create Gettysburg National Military Park, no bust or statue honors Sickles at Gettysburg. During his lifetime, there were plans to include a bust of Sickles within the five-columned enclosure of the New York Excelsior Brigade Monument, but the work was never completed, allegedly because the funds were embezzled.

Recommended Map by the Civil War Trust:

The Union Center at Cemetery Ridge

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Battle of Gettysburg Day 2 – Confederates attack gaps in the Union Center but are repulsed.

Union cannon on Cemetery Ridge facing west toward the Confederate line and Codori Barn. Seminary Ridge is in the distance.

In review, the attack sequence went like this: Confederate Maj. Gen. John B. Hood’s division (of Longstreet’s Corps) attacked Devil’s Den and Little Round Top. They drove north and west to The Wheatfield and Rose Woods, where the back-and-forth fighting was fierce. Next, Confederate Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws’ division (also of Longstreet’s Corps) overran The Peach Orchard. Sickles’ salient collapsed and the 3rd Corps retreated to Cemetery Ridge with the support of Union artillery.

Confederate Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson (A. P. Hill’s corps) then unleashed four brigades from Seminary Ridge. Their target was Sickles’ right flank and a gap in the Union center line. When the Confederate attack reached Emmitsburg Road, it passed both sides of the Codori Barn.

On the north side of the barn, Brig. Gen. Ambrose Wright’s Georgians crossed Emmitsburg Road only to be repulsed by portions of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon’s 2nd Division (Hancock’s 2nd Corps). Brig. Gen. Carnot Posey’s Mississippians marched behind Wright and closer to the Bliss Farm farther north. Posey’s advance was blocked by Ohio soldiers in  Brig. Gen. Alexander Hays’ 3rd Division of Hancock’s 2nd Corps.

On the south side of the barn, Brig. Gen. Cadmus Wilcox’s Alabamians and Col. David Lang (Perry’s Brigade) of Floridians attacked a gap in the Union line at Cemetery Ridge. They would have broken the Union center had it not been for the sacrificial charge of the 1st Minnesota, led by Col. William Colvill. The regiment was part of Brig. Gen. William Harrow’s 1st Brigade, Gibbons’s 2nd Division, Hancock’s 2nd Corps. Notably, the 1st Minnesota suffered the highest percentage of casualties (59 percent) of any Union regiment at Gettysburg. [1]

Now, it was Brig. Gen. William “Dorsey” Pender’s turn to attack from the north end of Seminary Ridge. Pender commanded one of Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill’s divisions, which was positioned near Hagerstown Road (modern-day Fairfield Road) and not far from the Lutheran Seminary and Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army headquarters.

July 2 Afternoon Confederate Attack

Unfortunately for the Confederates, a shell fragment from Union artillery on Cemetery Ridge struck Pender in the thigh, incapacitating him. Brig. Gen. James H. Lane assumed command, but Pender’s division of men from the Carolinas and Georgia did not attack effectively under new leadership. Also, confused communications in the brigade to Pender’s right (Virginians commanded by Brig. Gen. William Mahone, in Anderson’s – not Pender’s — division) marked the effective end of the Confederate assault along the ridge. Lee’s rolling attack on the Union left and center had petered out.

Despite the collapse of the Sickles’ salient from Emmitsburg Road back to Cemetery Ridge, Meade’s Union army restored its fishhook formation, anchored again at Little Round Top in the south and extending north to the hills east of Taneytown Road.

[1] Charles Teague, Gettysburg By the Numbers (Gettysburg, PA: Adams County Historical Society, 2006), 38.

Little Round Top (Through the Valley of Death)

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Battle of Gettysburg Day 2 – Confederates attack Little Round Top from the northwest, but are repulsed in The Valley of Death.

View of The Valley of Death, Looking Northwest from the Summit of Little Round Top

In one last gasp to destroy the Union left flank on July 2 (shortly before 8:00 P.M.), and bolstered by having gained control of The Wheatfield, Confederates from Georgia and South Carolina rushed southeast toward Little Round Top. This short burst of fighting mania in what is now called The Valley of Death was over in less than thirty minutes, as Union Maj. Gen. George Sykes’ 5th Corps and parts of Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick’s 6th Corps blocked the advance.

 

2. Attack on the Union Right Flank

Cheat-Sheet for the Battle of Gettysburg Day 2

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This cheat-sheet lists “common knowledge” that I drew from several sources; see Civil War Cycling’s Gettysburg Reading List. I relied heavily on two books by Bradley M. Gottfried. One was The Maps of Gettysburg (New York: Savas Beatie, 2010) and the other was Brigades of Gettysburg (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2012). All mistakes are mine.

Cemetery Hill
  • At about 4:00 PM, Confederate artillery on Benner’s Hill open-fired for a short time. At about 8:00 PM, Ewell ordered Early’s infantry division to attack from the northeast.
  • Confederate Attack Target: Cemetery Hill
  • Confederate Attacking Brigades:
    Maj. Gen. Jubal Early’s Division of Ewell’s Corps:
    – Col. Isaac Avery’s (Hoke) Brigade (NC)
    – Brig. Gen. Harry Hays’ Brigade (LA)
  • Union Defending Brigades:
    Brig. Gen. Adelbert Ames’ (Barlow) 1st Division of Howard’s 11th Corps:
    – Col. Leopold von Gilsa, 1st Brigade (NY, PA)
    – Brig. Gen. Adelbert Ames, 2nd Brigade (CT, OH)
    Brig. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr’s 2nd Division of Howard’s 11th Corps:
    – Col. Charles Coster, 1st Brigade (NY, PA)
    – Col. Orland Smith, 2nd Brigade (MA, NY, OH)
    Maj. Gen. Carl Schurz’s (Schimmelfennig) 3rd Division of Howard’s 11th Corps:
    – Col. George von Amsberg, 1st Brigade (IL, NY, OH, PA)
    – Col. Wladimir Krzyzanowski, 2nd Brigade (NY, OH, PA, WI)
  • Approximate Duration: 2-3 hours
Culp’s Hill
  • At about 8:00 PM, Ewell ordered Johnson’s infantry division to attack from the east.
  • Confederate Attack Target: Culp’s Hill
  • Confederate Attacking Brigades:
    Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson’s Division of Ewell’s Corps:
    – Brig. Gen. George Steuart’s Brigade (MD, NC, VA)
    – Col. Jesse Williams’ (Nicholls) Brigade (LA)
    – Brig. Gen. John M. Jones’ Brigade (VA)
  • Union Defending Brigades:
    Maj. Gen. James Wadsworth’s 1st Division of Reynolds/Doubleday’s 1st Corps.
    – Brig. Gen. Solomon Meredith, 1st Brigade, “Iron” (IN, MI, WI)
    – Brig. Gen. Lysander Cutler, 2nd Brigade (IN, NY, PA)
    Brig. Gen. Thomas Ruger’s 1st Division of Slocum/Williams’ 12th Corps.
    – Col. Archibald McDougall, 1st Brigade (CT, MD, NY, PA)
    – Brig. Gen. Henry Lockwood, 2nd Brigade (MD, NY)
    – Col. Silas Colgrove, 3rd Brigade (IN, MA, NJ, NY, WI)
    Brig. Gen. John Geary’s 2nd Division of Slocum/Williams’ 12th Corps.
    – Col. Charles Candy, 1st Brigade (OH, PA)
    – Col. G. A. Cobham (Kane), 2nd Brigade (PA)
    – Brig. Gen. George Greene, 3rd Brigade (NY)
  • Approximate Duration: 2-3 hours
Overview

On July 2, Confederates attacked the Union right at Cemetery and Culp’s Hills. Culp’s Hill was the “barb” and Cemetery Hill was the “bend” of the Union fishhook formation. They are about one-half mile apart and separated by a swale and a knoll (Stevens’ Knoll). About two miles to the south and along the Union fishhook “shank” was Little Round Top.

The attack started at 4:00 P.M. when Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell’s Confederate artillery shelled Cemetery and Culp’s Hills from Benner’s Hill, roughly one-half-mile northeast. The Confederate battalion was led by Maj. Joseph W. Latimer, a teenager from Virginia for whom Latimer Avenue was named. Latimer died from his Gettysburg wounds. Union artillery responded in kind and the guns on Benner’s Hill were not effective.

Ewell’s infantry attack started at about 8:00 P.M. along two fronts. Confederate Maj. Gen. Jubal Early attacked Cemetery Hill and almost took the hill but for lack of reinforcements from Maj. Gen Robert E. Rodes’ division (and the quick arrival of Union reinforcements). Confederate Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson attacked Culp’s hill and captured part of lower Culp’s Hill (a consequence of 12th Corps troops being shifted earlier in the day in support of Sickles’ 3rd Corps).

At about 10:00 P.M., the fighting on July 2 had ended. Despite being outnumbered by more than three-to-one, Brig. Gen. George S. Greene’s 3rd Brigade (2nd Division, 12th Corps) built breastworks that effectively kept Confederates from breaching Culp’s Hill for the entire battle.

It would resume again early the next morning, with a Union assault against Confederate positions in the Culp’s Hill area.

Cemetery Hill

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Battle of Gettysburg Day 2 – Confederates attack Cemetery Hill from the east but are forced to withdraw.

Cemetery Hill is the high-ground south of town that 11th Corps Union commander Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard grabbed early on July 1 and retained for the duration of the battle.

East Cemetery Hill, looking east from Union artillery positions on Baltimore Street

For three days, Cemetery Hill remained secure under the leadership of these 11th Corps division commanders:

  • Gen. Adelbert Ames (1st, replaced the wounded Barlow)
  • Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr (2nd)
  • Maj. Gen. Carl Schurz (3rd)

At around twilight on July 2, Confederate Col. Isaac E. Avery’s Brigade and Brig. Gen. Harry T. Hays’ brigade (both from Early’s Division) attacked the northeast side of Cemetery Hill. Avery’s North Carolinians and Hays’ “Louisiana Tigers” smashed into Ames’ German Americans and men from Connecticut, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. They fought hand-to-hand with Union gunners, and gained the hill for a short while, but the Confederates retreated when 2nd and 11th Corps Union reinforcements arrived (and Confederate reinforcements from Rodes’ division did not).

Union artillery on East Cemetery Hill, facing southeast to see Culp’s Hill. Wainwright and Slocum Avenues are faintly visible.

Avery died on Cemetery Hill, but not before writing a note to his father. (Of fifteen siblings, three Avery brothers would die in the war.) A legend is told that Confederate soldiers stole walnut planks from the Henry and Catherine Garlach House on Baltimore Street. They wanted to make a coffin for Avery. (The wounded Union Brig. Gen. Alexander Schimmelfennig would still have been hiding at the Garlach house, since July 1!) The Confederates were forced to abandon the wood during their retreat, and the story continues that the walnut was used to build a coffin for the only civilian to die at Gettysburg, Mary Virginia “Jennie” Wade.[2] 

Union artillery was posted all along this hill and into neighboring Stevens’ Knoll to the south. The knoll was named after Captain Greenlief T. Stevens, who commanded the  5th Maine Battery (1st Corps). Pvt. John Chase, a gunner for the battery, was left for dead on thte knoll. (In the above photograph, the knoll is directly about the leftmost cannon, in the distance.) Chase was badly wounded by a Confederate shell from Benner’s Hill. His body was riddled with shrapnel. He lost his right arm, left eye. Two days later, the private woke-up in a stack of dead bodies, moaned, and startled another soldier; almost immediately, Chase is alleged to have asked, “Did we win the battle?” Although he was taken to a hospital, Chase was not expected to live. But the twenty-year-old man survived into his early seventies until his death in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1914.

A place of great carnage and suffering, Cemetery Hill became the site of the first U.S. battlefield to become a national cemetery. Soldiers’ National Cemetery was dedicated in November, 1863. President Lincoln spoke here. In later years, so did Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes (1878), Theodore Roosevelt (1904), Calvin Coolidge (1928), Herbert Hoover (1930), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1934), and Dwight D. Eisenhower (1955). The cemetery shares its southern border with Evergreen Cemetery, established in 1854, and under the care of Peter and Elizabeth Thorn.

Today, Cemetery Hill boasts two equestrian monuments. One is Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock. The other is Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard.

Recommended Map by the Civil War Trust:

[2] Gabor and Jake Boritt, Gettysburg Battlefield Auto Tour, (n.p.: Right to Rise, Boritt Films, LLC, 2010), Audio Tour Stop 14.

Culp’s Hill

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Battle of Gettysburg Day 2 – Confederates attack Culp’s Hill but can only (temporarily) capture abandoned trenches on the lower hill near Spangler’s Spring.

Latimer’s Artillery Battalion bombarded Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum’s 12th Corps infantry on Culp’s Hill (the “barb”). The Confederates did not follow-up immediately with an infantry assault, however. This meant that the hill remained secure even as Slocum executed Meade’s orders to send help to the Union left. Sickles’ 3rd Corps line was collapsing under the weight of Longstreet’s assault. It was about 6:30 P.M..

A gaping hole was created when Slocum diverted to Cemetery Ridge his 1st division (under Alpheus S. Williams, then Thomas H. Ruger) plus two-thirds of his 2nd division (under John Geary). George S. Greene’s lone brigade of about 1,400 soldiers remained behind to protect the summit of Culp’s Hill. Greene spread his line thin (over one-half mile) to adjust for the loss.

Culp’s Hill is in the distance. We are looking east from Stevens’ Knoll on Slocum Avenue, not far from East Cemetery Hill.

Today, Greene’s Brigade has several monuments along the northern half of Slocum Ave, starting near the intersection of Slocum and Williams Ave and finishing at the peak of the hill. From south to north, they are: 137th, 149th, 78th & 102nd, and 60th New York, and the George S. Greene Bronze Statue. Greene’s Corps Commander, Maj. Gen. Slocum has an equestrian monument that stands in Stevens’ Knoll on the western slope of Culp’s Hill.

By the time that Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson’s Confederate division (Ewell’s Corps) marched southwest over Rock Creek to the east side of Culp’s Hill (near modern-day West Confederate Avenue), the Union far right had been vacated and the fish-hook “barb” severely thinned. (Today, this would be the southern two-thirds of Slocum Avenue.) But the Confederates would not discover the Union hole until after their failed attempt to take the hill straight-on.

When Johnson’s Brigades attacked Culp’s Hill from the northeast, it was night. Union sharpshooters picked their marks from the dense and dark woods. On Greene’s left, reinforcements from the 1st and 11th Corps bolstered Greene’s defense. The breastworks that Greene had ordered built into the earth proved impenetrable even to an attacking force three times Greene’s size. The 137th New York was outnumbered seventeen to one and surrounded on three sides,[3] but executed a successful charge similar to the 20th Maine on Little Round Top – without bayonets! The fighting was brutal. According to Gabor Boritt, one regimental flag was pierced by eighty-one bullet holes.[4]

Ewell’s attack was repulsed. The Union victory is partly credited to Greene’s leadership and civil engineering skills. (At age sixty-two, Greene was the oldest Union officer serving at Gettysburg and cousin to Revolutionary War hero, Nathaniel Greene.)

Starting the climb up Culp’s Hill on Slocum Avenue from Spangler’s Spring.

Nonetheless, in the late hours of July 2, the Confederates took some ground southeast of Culp’s Hill. George H. Steuart’s Brigade of Confederates from Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia claimed the area that had been vacated by Williams and Ruger. When Slocum’s troops returned that evening (ironically, without having been of much help to Sickles), Williams ordered Ruger to occupy Spangler’s Spring. In the morning, they would try to flank Steuart, who was camped between Spangler’s Spring and Culp’s Hill, mid-way along modern day Slocum Avenue.

Recommended Map by the Civil War Trust:

[3] Gabor and Jake Boritt, Gettysburg Battlefield Auto Tour, (n.p.: Right to Rise, Boritt Films, LLC, 2010), Audio Tour Stop 13a.

[4] Ibid. 

 

Aftermath – Battle of Gettysburg Day 2

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In summary, Lee had three Corps commanders at Gettysburg. On July 2, James Longstreet and A. P. Hill attacked the Union left flank in the late afternoon. Richard S. Ewell attacked the Union right flank in the evening (at Cemetery and Culp’s Hills). Lee’s army captured Devil’s Den, The Wheatfield, and The Peach Orchard. Those victories destroyed Meade’s 3rd (Sickles) Corps. Nevertheless, Meade’s army retained a strong defensive position; it held Culp’s Hill, Cemetery Hill, Cemetery Ridge, and the Round Tops. Overall, the Federals suffered a 47 percent higher casualty rate than the Confederates.[5]

As yet, neither army had brought its entire force to bear on the fight for Gettysburg. On the Union side, Meade held Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick’s 6th Corps in reserve for most of the battle. These soldiers arrived the afternoon of July 2 after an intense thirty-plus-mile march from Maryland. A former teacher and career military men, Sedgwick was known affectionately as “Uncle John.” He died the following year (May, 1864) at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. Sedgwick was the highest ranking federal officer to die in the Civil War. (At Gettysburg, he was outranked only by Meade and Slocum.)

On the Confederate side, Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett’s division (of Longstreet’s Corps) had not yet arrived on the battlefield. They were camped a few miles northwest of Gettysburg, near Marsh Creek, a tributary of the Monocacy River that flows south through Frederick Country, Maryland, to meet the Potomac River at Virginia and DC. Pickett’s division would have a major role in the fighting on the next day’s fighting (Friday, July 3, 1863).

According to Noah Andre Trudeau, July 2’s battle casualties (killed, wounded, captured, and missing) were roughly as follows:

Union:10,000
Confederate:6,800

Source: Noah Andre Trudeau, Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002), p. 421.

Battle of Gettysburg Day 2 Results: The Confederates gained control of Devil’s Den and fields to the west of Cemetery Ridge, but the Union fishhook formation held firm.

[5] 47 percent is based on Trudeau’s casualty numbers, solving for x: 6,800 + 6,800(x) = 10,000. See Noah Andre Trudeau, p. 421.

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