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[381] Slocum, after reconnoitering, reported that the ground in his front was unfavorable; whereupon, the attack was countermanded. The enemy not being yet ready, the morning wore out and the day wore on with the usual skirmishing and picket-firing at intervals along the front, with occasional shots from batteries on one side or the other; but nothing approaching a great battle.

At 3 P. M.--Sedgwick's weary corps having just arrived-Sykes was ordered to move the 5th corps over from our right to our left, while Meade rode out to see it properly posted on the left of the 3d; the 6th resting in reserve behind them. He now found that Sickles (who was very eager to fight, and seems to have suspected that Meade was not) had thrown forward his corps from half to three-fourths of a mile; so that, instead of resting his right on Hancock and his left on Round Top, as he had been directed to do, his advance was in fact across the Emmitsburg road and in the woods beyond, in the immediate presence of half the Rebel army. Meade remonstrated against this hazardous exposure, which Sickles considered within the scope of the discretion allowed him, but said he would withdraw, if desired, from the ridge lie then occupied to that behind it, which Meade indicated as the proper one. Meade replied that he apprehended that no such withdrawal would be permitted by the enemy; and, as he spoke, the Rebel batteries opened, and their charging columns came on.

Lee had ordered Longstreet to attack Sickles with all his might, while Ewell should assail Slocum on our right, and Hill, fronting the apex of our position, should only menace, but stand ready to charge if our troops facing him should be withdrawn or seriously weakened to reenforce either our left or our right.

Sickles's new position was commanded by the Rebel batteries posted on Seminary ridge in his front, scarcely half a mile distant; while magnificent lines of battle, a mile and a half long, swept up to his front and flanks, crushing him black1 with

1 “Agate” [Whitelaw Reid], of The Cincinnati Gazette, gives the following incident of this sanguinary fray:

Let me give one please of the fight — fit type of many more. Some Massachusetts batteries--Capt. Bigelow's, Capt. Phillips's, two or three more under Capt. McGilvry, of Maine--were planted on the extreme left, advanced now well down to the Emmitsburg road, with infantry in their front — the first division, I think, of Sickles's corps. A little after 5, a fierce Rebel charge drove back the infantry and menaced the batteries. Orders are sent to Bigelow on the extreme left, to hold his position at every hazard short of slicer annihilation, till a couple more batteries can be brought to his support. Reserving his fire a little, then with depressed guns opening with double charges of grape and canister, he smites and shatters, but cannot break the advancing line. His grape and canister are exhausted, and still, closing grandly up over their slain, on they come. He fails back on spherical case, and pours this in at the shortest range. On, still onward, comes the artillery-defying line, and still he holds his position. They are within six paces of the guns — he fires again. Once more, and lie blows devoted soldiers from his very muzzles. And, still mindful of that solemn order, he holds his place, they spring upon his carriages, and shoot down his horses! And then, his Yankee artillerists still about him, he seizes the guns by hand, and from the very front of that line drags two of them off. The caissons are farther back-five out of the six are saved.

That single company, in that half-hour's fight, lost 33 of its men, including every sergeant it had. The captain himself was wounded. Yet it was the first time it was ever under fire! I give it simply as a type. So they fought along that fiery line!

The Rebels now poured on Phillips's battery, and it, too, was forced to drag off the pieces by hand when the horses were slot down. From a new position, it opened again; and at last the two reenforcing batteries came up on the gallop. An enfilading fire swept the Rebel line; Sickles's gallant infantry charged, the Rebel line swept back on a refluent tide — we regained the lost ground, and every gun just lost in this splendid fight.

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Sickles (6)
George G. Meade (5)
H. W. Slocum (2)
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