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[382] heavy loss, and struggling desperately to seize Round Top at his left.

Meade regarded this hill as vital to the maintenance of our position, and had already ordered Sykes to advance the 5th corps with all possible haste to save and hold it. A fierce and bloody struggle ensued; for the enemy had nearly carried the hill before Sykes reached it; while Humphreys, who, with one of Sykes's divisions, had been posted in the morning on Sickles's right, was in turn assailed in front and flank, and driven back, with a loss of 2,000 out of 5,000 men. Ultimately, as Sickles's corps fell back in disorder to the ground from which he should not have advanced, Hancock closed in from the right, while parts of the 1st, of the 6th, and a division of the 12th corps, were thrown in on the enemy's front, and they in turn were repelled with loss; falling back to the ridge to which Sickles had advanced, and leaving our line where Meade had intended to place it.1

1 The Richmond Enquirer has the following account of this fight by an eye-witness on the Rebel side, writing from Hagerstown on the 8th:

About the middle of the afternoon, orders were issued to the different commanders to prepare for a general attack upon the enemy's center and left. Longstreet was to commence the movement, which was to be followed up on his left in quick succession by the respective divisions of Hill's corps. As Anderson's division, or at least a portion of it, took a conspicuous part in this movement, I have ascertained, and now give you, the order of its different brigades: On the extreme right of Anderson's division connecting with McLaws's left, was Wilcox's brigade, then Perry's, Wright's, Posey's, and Mahone's. At half-past 5 o'clock, Longstreet commenced the attack, and Wilcox followed it up by promptly moving forward; Perry's brigade quickly followed, and Wright moved simultaneously with him. The two divisions of Longstreet's corps soon encountered the enemy posted a little in rear of the Emmitsburg turnpike, which winds along the slope of the range upon which the enemy's main force was concentrated. After a short but spirited engagement, the enemy was driven back upon the main line upon the crest of the hill. McLaws's and Hood's divisions made a desperate assault upon their main line; but, owing to the precipitate and very rugged character of the slope, were unable to reach the summit. The enemy's loss on this part of the line was very heavy. I have heard several officers say that they have never seen the enemy's dead cover the ground so thickly, not even at the first Fredericksburg fight, as they did on that portion of the field over which McLaws's troops fought. While the fight was raging on our right, Wilcox and Wright, of Anderson's division, were pressing the enemy's center. Wilcox pushed forward for nearly a mile, driving the enemy before him and up to his very guns, over and beyond his batteries, several guns of which he captured, and nearly up to the summit of the hill. Wright had swept over the valley, under a terrific fire from the enemy's batteries, posted upon McPherson's heights, had encountered the enemy's advance line, and had driven him across the Emmitsburg pike to a position behind a stone wall or fence, which runs parallel with the pike, and about 60 or 80 yards in front of the batteries on the heights, and immediately under them. Here, this gallant brigade had a most desperate engagement for fifteen or twenty minutes; but charging rapidly up the almost perpendicular side of the mountain, they rushed upon the enemy's infantry, behind the stone wall, and drove them from it at the point of the bayonet. Now concentrating their fire upon the heavy batteries (20 guns) of the enemy on the crest of the heights, they soon silenced them, and, rushing forward with a shout, soon gained the summit of the heights, capturing all the enemy's guns, and driving their infantry in great disorder and confusion into the woods beyond.

We now had the key to the enemy's stronghold, and, apparently, the victory was won. McLaws and Hood had pushed their line well up the slope on the right; Wilcox had kept well up on his portion of the line; Wright had pierced the enemy's main line on the summit of McPherson's heights, capturing his heavy batteries, thus breaking the connection between their right and left wings. I said that, apparently, we had won the victory. It remains to be stated why our successes were not crowned with the important results which should have followed such heroic daring and indomitable bravery. Although the order was peremptory that all of Anderson's division should move into action simultaneously, Brig.-Gen. Posey, commanding a Mississippi brigade, and Brig.-Gen. Mahone, commanding a Virginia brigade, filed to advance. This failure of these two brigades to advance is assigned, as I learn upon inquiry, as the reason why Pender's division, of Hill's corps, did not advance — the order being, that the advance was to commence from the right, and be taken up along our whole line. Pender's failure to advance caused the division on his left — Heth's — to remain inactive. Here we have two whole divisions, and two brigades of another, standing idle spectators of one of the most desperate and important assaults that has ever been made on this continent--15,000 or 20,000 armed men resting on their arms, in plain view of a terrible battle, witnessing the mighty efforts of two little brigades (Wright's and Wilcox's; for Perry had fallen back overpowered), contending with the heavy masses of Yankee infantry, and subjected to a most deadly fire from the enemy's heavy artillery, without a single effort to aid them in the assault, or to assist them when the heights were carried. Perry's brigade, which was between Wilcox and Wright, soon after its first advance, was pressed so heavily as to be forced to retire. This left an interval in the line between Wright and Wilcox, and which the enemy perceiving, lie threw a heavy column into the gap then made, deploying a portion of it on Wilcox's left flank, while a large force was thrown in rear of Wright's right flank. The failure of Posey and Mahone to advance upon Wright's left enabled the enemy to throw forward a strong force on that flank, and to push it well to his rear along the Emmitsburg pike. It was now apparent that the day was lost — lost after it had been won — lost, not because our army fought badly, but because a large portion of it did not fight at all.

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