weakest portion of their line was Cemetery Hill
, and the point of greatest interest in connection with this battle is the story of our entire failure to recognize this fact.
The narrative may therefore pause while this neglected opportunity is pointed out.
There was one single advantage conferred by our exterior lines, and but one, in exchange for many disadvantages.
They gave us the opportunity to select positions for our guns which could enfilade the opposing lines of the enemy.
Enfilading fire is so effective that no troops can submit to it long.
Illustrations of this fact were not wanting in the events of this day. What has been called the shank of the Federal
fish-hook, extending south from the bend at Cemetery Hill
toward Little Round Top
, was subject to enfilade fire from the town and its flanks and suburbs.
That liability should have caused special examination by our staff and artillery officers, to discover other conditions which might favor an assault.
There were and are others still easily recognizable on the ground.
The salient angle is acute and weak, and within about 500 yards of its west face is the sheltered position occupied by Rodes
the night of July 2d, which has already been mentioned.
From nowhere else was there so short and unobstructed an approach to the Federal
line, and one so free from flank fire.
On the northeast, at but little greater distance, was the position whence Early
's two brigades the evening before had successfully carried the east face of the same salient.
Within the edge of the town between these two positions was abundant opportunity to accumulate troops and to establish guns at close ranges.
As long as Gettysburg
stands and the contour of its hills remains unchanged, students of the battle-field must decide that Lee
's most promising attack from first to last was upon Cemetery Hill
, by concentrated artillery fire from the north and assaults from the nearest sheltered ground between the west and northeast.
That this was not realized at the time is doubtless partly due to the scarcity of trained staff and reconnoitring officers, and partly to the fact that Ewell
had discontinued and withdrawn the pursuit on the afternoon of the 1st, when it was about to