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The battle of Gettysburg--the high-water mark of the Civil War

After the battle — a sharpshooter

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Feeling for Lee's army Battery D, Second United States Artillery, Going into Action, June 5, 1863. This was part of the reconnaisance in force under Sedgwick, whom Hooker ordered to cross three miles below Fredericksburg on June 3d and find out if Lee's army still held its old position. The cavalry had brought in reports of some new movement by the Army of Northern Virginia, and Hooker believed that another invasion of the North was impending. It was imperative that this should be checked at once. Every effort was made to discover the real position of the Confederates in order to give battle. Lee, on his side, was equally anxious for a decisive engagement. The victory at Chancellorsville had elated the Confederacy with hopes of early recognition by Europe. Exaggerated reports of disaffection at the North led the Government at Richmond to urge an immediate advance. Lee promptly complied. His strongest hope was that he might draw Hooker into a position where the Federals could be advantageously attacked and a blow struck that would end the war. So cleverly was Lee's movement masked by the resistance of Hill's Corps to Howe's division of the Sixth Corps on June 5th that Sedgwick was deceived into reporting that the greater portion of Lee's force still held their old positions.

The North again threatened: Culpeper, Va., before Gettysburg

It was this Virginia village (seventy-five miles from Washington, on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad) that Lee chose as the point of concentration for his forces preparatory to his last daring invasion of the North, which ended at Gettysburg. Culpeper was no stranger to war's alarms. Two brigades of Pleasonton's cavalry were sent off by Hooker on June 7th to definitely determine Lee's position. Riding in the direction of Culpeper, they ran into a similar force of the Confederates under Stuart, which proved too strong for the Federals. The encounter left no doubt in Hooker's mind that Lee was preparing for an aggressive movement either against Washington or into Maryland. On June 13th it was clear that Lee was massing his forces in the direction of Culpeper. Hooker at once began throwing his lines out toward Culpeper, with the purpose of keeping abreast of Lee by advancing south of the Blue Ridge — and the race for the Potomac was on. This picture was taken in November, 1863, when Culpeper was occupied by the Federals.

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Culpeper, Virginia.

Sparring before Gettysburg

Culpeper Court House


 
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The high-water mark of the Confederacy: the little town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Just as we see it here, the Confederates first saw Gettysburg. Down these roads and past these houses they marched to the high-water mark of their invasion of the North. It was quite by accident that the little town became the theater of the crucial contest of the Civil War. On the morning of June 30th Heth's division of General D. H. Hill's Corps was marching upon the town from the west. It came on confidently, expecting no resistance, meaning only to seize a supply of shoes much needed by the footsore Army of Northern Virginia, which had marched triumphantly from Culpeper to the heart of Pennsylvania. Between Heth's men and their goal lay two brigades of Federal cavalry under Buford. Riding into the town from the opposite direction came Major Kress, sent by General Wadsworth to get these same shoes for his division of the Federals. Before the tavern Kress found Buford and explained his errand. “You had better return immediately to your command,” said Buford. “Why, what is the matter, General?” asked Kress. At that instant a single gun boomed in the distance, and Buford, mounting, replied as he spurred his horse to the gallop, “That's the matter.” The world had never seen a finer body of fighting men than Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, then massing rapidly toward Gettysburg. More than seventy-three thousand five hundred strong they came, every man a veteran, contemptuous of adversaries whose superior numbers had never yet been made to count completely against them. In the center of the panorama rises Cemetery Ridge, where the defeated First and Eleventh Federal Corps slept on their arms on the night of July 1st, after having been driven back through the town by the superior forces of Hill and Ewell. The lower eminence to the right of it is Culp's Hill. At the extreme right of the picture stands Round Top.

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The crisis brings forth the man Major-General George Gordon Meade and Staff. Not men, but a man is what counts in war, said Napoleon; and Lee had proved it true in many a bitter lesson administered to the Army of the Potomac. At the end of June, 1863, for the third time in ten months, that army had a new commander. Promptness and caution were equally imperative in that hour. Meade's fitness for the post was as yet undemonstrated; he had been advanced from the command of the Fifth Corps three days before the army was to engage in its greatest battle. Lee must be turned back from Harrisburg and Philadelphia and kept from striking at Baltimore and Washington, and the somewhat scattered Army of the Potomac must be concentrated. In the very first flush of his advancement, Meade exemplified the qualities of sound generalship that placed his name high on the list of Federal commanders.

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Gettysburg — where stirring deeds brought forth immortal words This is Gettysburg, the sleepy little Pennsylvania town that leaped into the focus of the world's eye on those scorching death-ridden days of July, 1863, and down the street comes swaying in cadenced steps a marching regiment. We are looking at them just as the inhabitants, gathered here in their quaint old costumes, saw them. Here are the defenders returned again to the place whose name spells victory and glorious memories on their tattered battle-flags. It is the 19th of November, 1863. Lincoln is here to speak those glowing words that every schoolboy knows, and dedicate the National Cemetery, where lie the Blue and Gray, and where their children's children make yearly pilgrimages.

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We cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Abraham Lincoln, on November 19, 1863, four months after this battle, in his Gettysburg address.

The military operations of the American Civil War were carried on for the most part south of the Mason and Dixon line; but the greatest and most famous of the battles was fought on the soil of the old Keystone State, which had given birth to the Declaration of Independence and to the Constitution of the United States.

Gettysburg is a quiet hamlet, nestling among the hills of Adams County, and in 1863 contained about fifteen hundred inhabitants. It had been founded in 1780 by James Gettys, who probably never dreamed that his name thus given to the village would, through apparently accidental circumstances, become famous in history for all time.

The hills immediately around Gettysburg are not rugged [235]

Robert E. Lee in 1863 It was with the gravest misgivings that Lee began his invasion of the North in 1863. He was too wise a general not to realize that a crushing defeat was possible. Yet, with Vicksburg already doomed, the effort to win a decisive victory in the East was imperative in its importance. Magnificent was the courage and fortitude of Lee's maneuvering during that long march which was to end in failure. Hitherto he had made every one of his veterans count for two of their antagonists, but at Gettysburg the odds had fallen heavily against him. Jackson, his resourceful ally, was no more. Longstreet advised strongly against giving battle, but Lee unwaveringly made the tragic effort which sacrificed more than a third of his splendid army.

[236] or precipitous; they are little more than gentle swells of ground, and many of them were covered with timber when the hosts of the North and the legions of the South fought out the destiny of the American republic on those memorable July days in 1863.

The village is the radiating point of several important roads, known by the names of the respective towns to which they lead. The one leading directly into the town from the north is known as the Carlisle road. It passes through the village and deflects to the southeast, becoming the Baltimore turnpike. East of the Carlisle road is the Harrisburg road, and west of it the Mummasburg road. This latter crosses a wooded ridge known as Oak Hill, and this hill became the center of operations on the first day of the battle. West of the village about half a mile a Lutheran theological seminary is situated on a ridge which extends north and south and is called Seminary Ridge. Directly south of Gettysburg, almost parallel with Seminary Ridge and about a mile from it, lies Cemetery Ridge. Three miles from the town, Cemetery Ridge culminates in a bold, rocky peak, with steep, rugged slopes several hundred feet in height, which is called Round Top. North of Round Top, and quite near it, is a similar peak about half as high, called Little Round Top. About five hundred yards west of Little Round Top another rugged peak, known as the Devil's Den, rises from the lowland marshes at the junction of a small creek which runs along the western base of Cemetery Ridge, and is known as Plum Run, with a smaller tributary. The Devil's Den is about one hundred feet lower than Little Round Top, and its slopes are covered with huge boulders and seamed with crevasses. The largest of these pits, and the one from which the hill took its name, is on the slope facing toward Little Round Top, and formed a natural breastwork of solid rock.

The valley between Cemetery Ridge and Seminary Ridge was rolling farm-land, with cultivated fields and orchards [237]

Hancock, “the superb” Every man in this picture was wounded at Gettysburg. Seated, is Winfield Scott Hancock; the boy-general, Francis C. Barlow (who was struck almost mortally), leans against the tree. The other two are General John Gibbon and General David B. Birney. About four o'clock on the afternoon of July 1st a foam-flecked, charger dashed up Cemetery Hill bearing General Hancock. He had galloped thirteen miles to take command. Apprised of the loss of Reynolds, his main dependence, Meade knew that only a man of vigor and judgment could save the situation. He chose wisely, for Hancock was one of the best all-round soldiers that the Army of the Potomac had developed. It was he who re-formed the shattered corps and chose the position to be held for the decisive struggle.

[238] spreading across the landscape. At the southern end of the valley to the west of Round Top the lowland was covered with heavy timber, and the ground was strewn with huge rocks. Near the northwestern base of the Devil's Den there was a broad wheat-field, with the grain ripening in the summer sun. A short distance to the north of the wheat-field, on a slight elevation, stood the farmhouse and barns of the Trostle farm. To the west and slightly to the south of the Trostle farm the land rises gradually to a low hill which stands midway between the Trostle farm and the crest of Seminary Ridge. On the eastern slope of this hill, and reaching to its crest, there was an extensive peach orchard. The western side of the orchard bordered on the broad Emmitsburg road, which stretched away from Gettysburg to the southwest to Emmitsburg, a short distance over the Maryland line. A mile and a half west of Gettysburg flows Willoughby Run, while at about the same distance on the east and nearly parallel to the run flows a somewhat larger stream called Rock Creek. Between Rock Creek and the northern extremity of Cemetery Ridge is situated Culp's Hill, on whose sides the armies in blue and gray struggled heroically during the three days fight. The area of the entire battle-ground is something over twenty-five square miles, all of which may be seen at a glance from any one of the five observatories which have since been erected on the ground by the Government.

Lee's army was flushed with victory after Chancellorsville and was strengthened by the memory of Fredericksburg. Southern hopes were high after Hooker's defeat on the Rappahannock, in May, 1863, and public opinion was unanimous in demanding an invasion of Northern soil. On the other hand, the Army of the Potomac, under its several leaders, had met with continual discouragement, and, with all its patriotism and valor, its two years warfare showed but few bright pages to cheer the heart of the war-broken soldier, and to inspire the hopes of the anxious public in the North. [239]

Mute pleaders in the cause of peace

There was little time that could be employed by either side in caring for those who fell upon the fields of the almost uninterrupted fighting at Gettysburg. On the morning of the 4th, when Lee began to abandon his position on Seminary Ridge, opposite the Federal right, both sides sent forth ambulance and burial details to remove the wounded and bury the dead in the torrential rain then falling. Under cover of the hazy atmosphere, Lee was getting his whole army in motion to retreat. Many an unfinished shallow grave, like the one above, had to be left by the Confederates. In this lower picture some men of the Twenty-fourth Michigan infantry are lying dead on the field of battle. This regiment--one of the units of the Iron Brigade — left seven distinct rows of dead as it fell back from battle-line to battle-line, on the first day. Three-fourths of its members were struck down.

Confederate dead after Gettysburg.

Dead of the Twenty-fourth Michigan Infantry, the iron brigade, after Gettysburg.


 
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Leaving General Stuart with ten thousand cavalry and a part of Hill's corps to prevent Hooker from pursuing, Lee crossed the Potomac early in June, 1863, concentrated his army at Hagerstown, Maryland, and prepared for a campaign in Pennsylvania, with Harrisburg as the objective. His army was organized in three corps, under the respective commands of Longstreet, Ewell, and A. P. Hill. Lee had divided his army so as to approach Harrisburg by different routes and to assess the towns along the way for large sums of money. Late in June, he was startled by the intelligence that Stuart had failed to detain Hooker, and that the Federals had crossed the Potomac and were in hot pursuit.

Lee was quick to see that his plans must be changed. He knew that to continue his march he must keep his army together to watch his pursuing antagonist, and that such a course in this hostile country would mean starvation, while the willing hands of the surrounding populace would minister to the wants of his foe. Again, if he should scatter his forces that they might secure the necessary supplies, the parts would be attacked singly and destroyed. Lee saw, therefore, that he must abandon his invasion of the North or turn upon his pursuing foe and disable him in order to continue his march. But that foe was a giant of strength and courage, more than equal to his own; and the coming together of two such forces in a mighty death-struggle meant that a great battle must be fought, a greater battle than this Western world had hitherto known.

The Army of the Potomac had again changed leaders, and George Gordon Meade was now its commander. Hooker, after a dispute with Halleck, resigned his leadership, and Meade, the strongest of the corps commanders, was appointed in his place, succeeding him on June 28th. The two great armies--Union and Confederate--were scattered over portions of Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. Both were marching northward, along almost parallel lines. The Confederates [241]

The first day's toll The lives laid down by the blue-clad soldiers in the first day's fighting made possible the ultimate victory at Gettysburg. The stubborn resistance of Buford's cavalry and of the First and Eleventh Corps checked the Confederate advance for an entire day. The delay was priceless; it enabled Meade to concentrate his army upon the heights to the south of Gettysburg, a position which proved impregnable. To a Pennsylvanian, General John F. Reynolds, falls the credit of the determined stand that was made that day. Commanding the advance of the army, he promptly went to Buford's support, bringing up his infantry and artillery to hold back the Confederates.

McPherson's woods At the edge of these woods General Reynolds was killed by a Confederate sharpshooter in the first vigorous contest of the day. The woods lay between the two roads upon which the Confederates were advancing from the west, and General Doubleday (in command of the First Corps) was ordered to take the position so that the columns of the foe could be enfiladed by the infantry,while contending with the artillery posted on both roads. The Iron Brigade under General Meredith was ordered to hold the ground at all hazards. As they charged, the troops shouted: “If we can't hold it, where will you find the men who can?” On they swept, capturing General Archer and many of his Confederate brigade that had entered the woods from the other side. As Archer passed to the rear, Doubleday, who had been his classmate at West Point, greeted him with “Good morning! I'm glad to see you!”

[242] were gradually pressing toward the east, while the Federals were marching along a line eastward of that followed by the Confederates. The new commander of the Army of the Potomac was keeping his forces interposed between the legions of Lee and the Federal capital, and watching for an opportunity to force the Confederates to battle where the Federals would have the advantage of position. It was plain that they must soon come together in a gigantic contest; but just where the shock of battle would take place was yet unknown. Meade had ordered a general movement toward Harrisburg, and General Buford was sent with four thousand cavalry to intercept the Confederate advance guard.

On the night of June 30th Buford encamped on a low hill, a mile west of Gettysburg, and here on the following morning the famous battle had its beginning.

On the morning of July 1st the two armies were still scattered, the extremes being forty miles apart. But General Reynolds, with two corps of the Union army, was but a few miles away, and was hastening to Gettysburg, while Longstreet and Hill were approaching from the west. Buford opened the battle against Heth's division of Hill's corps. Reynolds soon joined Buford, and three hours before noon the battle was in progress on Seminary Ridge. Reynolds rode out to his fighting-lines on the ridge, and while placing his troops, a little after ten o'clock in the morning, he received a sharpshooter's bullet in the brain. The gallant Federal leader fell dead. John F. Reynolds, who had been promoted for gallantry at Buena Vista in the Mexican War, was one of the bravest and ablest generals of the Union army. No casualty of the war brought more widespread mourning to the North than the death of Reynolds.

But even this calamity could not stay the fury of the battle. By one o'clock both sides had been greatly reenforced, and the battle-line extended north of the town from Seminary Ridge to the bank of Rock Creek. Here for hours the roar [243]

Federal dead at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863 All the way from McPherson's Woods back to Cemetery Hill lay the Federal soldiers, who had contested every foot of that retreat until nightfall. The Confederates were massing so rapidly from the west and north that there was scant time to bring off the wounded and none for attention to the dead. There on the field lay the shoes so much needed by the Confederates, and the grim task of gathering them began. The dead were stripped of arms, ammunition, caps, and accoutrements as well — in fact, of everything that would be of the slightest use in enabling Lee's poorly equipped army to continue the internecine strife. It was one of war's awful expedients.

Seminary ridge, beyond Gettysburg Along this road the Federals retreated toward Cemetery Hill in the late afternoon of July 1st. The success of McPherson's Woods was but temporary, for the Confederates under Hill were coming up in overpowering numbers, and now Ewell's forces appeared from the north. The First Corps, under Doubleday, “broken and defeated but not dismayed,” fell back, pausing now and again to fire a volley at the pursuing Confederates. It finally joined the Eleventh Corps, which had also been driven back to Cemetery Hill. Lee was on the field in time to watch the retreat of the Federals, and advised Ewell to follow them up, but Ewell (who had lost 3,000 men) decided upon discretion. Night fell with the beaten Federals, reinforced by the Twelfth Corps and part of the Third, facing nearly the whole of Lee's army.

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The Price of victory: death and carnage at Gettysburg.

Such scenes as these marked every one of the detached battle-fields at Gettysburg. The second picture is a result of the first day's fighting near McPherson's Woods, through which the Iron Brigade swept with the cry, “We've come to stay!” The first picture was taken near the spot where the First Minnesota was sacrificed to stem the advance of the Confederates after their victory at the Peach Orchard. Hancock, while patching up a second line to protect Sickles' retreating troops, saw a heavy column of Confederates emerge from a clump of trees and advance toward a weak point in his line. Dashing up to Colonel Colvill, Hancock shouted: “Do you see those colors? Take them!” And the First Minnesota, in five minutes, captured the colors and stemmed the advance. Of the 262 officers and men who obeyed that order, half a hundred lay dead on the field and 174 others were wounded. The regiment's total mortality from that charge was 75, more than 28 per cent. of the number engaged — the highest known short of an Indian massacre. The Federals lost at Gettysburg 3,063 killed, 14,492 wounded, and 5,435 missing (Fox's figures). The Confederate loss was 3,903 killed, 18,735 wounded, and 5,435 missing (Livermore's figures). Total loss on both sides, 51,053.

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Gettysburg: near the spot where the First Minnesota was sacrificed to stem the advance of the Confederates after their victory at the Peach Orchard.

The men who “came to stay” at Gettysburg: results of the first day's fighting at McPherson's Woods.

Where a shell dropped

Near the bloody angle


 
[246] of the battle was unceasing. About the middle of the afternoon a breeze lifted the smoke that had enveloped the whole battle-line in darkness, and revealed the fact that the Federals were being pressed back toward Gettysburg. General Carl Schurz, who after Reynolds' death directed the extreme right near Rock Creek, leaving nearly half of his men dead or wounded on the field, retreated toward Cemetery Hill, and in passing through the town the Confederates pursued and captured a large number of the remainder. The left wing, now unable to hold its position owing to the retreat of the right, was also forced back, and it, too, took refuge on Cemetery Hill, which had been selected by General O. O. Howard; and the first day's fight was over. It was several hours before night, and had the Southerners known of the disorganized condition of the Union troops, they might have pursued and captured a large part of the army. Meade, who was still some miles from the field, hearing of the death of Reynolds, had sent Hancock to take general command until he himself should arrive.

Hancock had ridden at full speed and arrived on the field between three and four o'clock in the afternoon. His presence soon brought order out of chaos. His superb bearing, his air of confidence, his promise of heavy reenforcements during the night, all tended to inspire confidence and to renew hope in the ranks of the discouraged army. Had this day ended the affair at Gettysburg, the usual story of the defeat of the Army of the Potomac would have gone forth to the world. Only the advance portions of both armies had been engaged; and yet the battle had been a formidable one. The Union loss was severe. A great commander had fallen, and the rank and file had suffered the fearful loss of ten thousand men.

Meade reached the scene late in the night, and chose to make this field, on which the advance of both armies had accidentally met, the place of a general engagement. Lee had come to the same decision, and both called on their outlying [247]

Gettysburg: the carnage of bloody angle Trostle's House, Sickles' headquarters at the beginning of the second day. The house stood some distance back from the Emmitsburg road, overlooking the Peach Orchard, from which the Confederates finally drove the sturdy men of the Third Corps. Whether or not it was a tactical error for Sickles to post his command along the road so far in advance of the line is a subject of discussion. The result cost many lives, and nearly lost to the Federals the key to their position. Back from the Peach Orchard Sickles' men were driven, past Trostle's House, where Bigelow's Ninth Massachusetts battery made its glorious stand, and near which Sickles himself lost his leg. All the way back to Round Top the ground was strewn with dead.

[248] legions to make all possible speed to Gettysburg. Before morning, nearly all the troops of both armies had reached the field. The Union army rested with its center on Cemetery Ridge, with its right thrown around to Culp's Hill and its left extended southward toward the rocky peak called Round Top. The Confederate army, with its center on Seminary Ridge, its wings extending from beyond Rock Creek on the north to a point opposite Round Top on the south, lay in a great semicircle, half surrounding the Army of the Potomac. But Lee was at a disadvantage. First, “StonewallJackson was gone, and second, Stuart was absent with his ten thousand cavalry. Furthermore, Meade was on the defensive, and had the advantage of occupying the inner ring of the huge half circle. Thus lay the two mighty hosts, awaiting the morning, and the carnage that the day was to bring. It seemed that the fate of the Republic was here to be decided, and the people of the North and the South watched with breathless eagerness for the decision about to be made at Gettysburg.

The dawn of July 2d betokened a beautiful summer day in southern Pennsylvania. The hours of the night had been spent by the two armies in marshaling of battalions and maneuvering of corps and divisions, getting into position for the mighty combat of the coming day. But, when morning dawned, both armies hesitated, as if unwilling to begin the task of bloodshed. They remained inactive, except for a stray shot here and there, until nearly four o'clock in the afternoon.

The fighting on this second day was chiefly confined to the two extremes, the centers remaining comparatively inactive. Longstreet commanded the Confederate right, and opposite him on the Union left was General Daniel E. Sickles. The Confederate left wing, under Ewell, was opposite Slocum and the Union right stationed on Culp's Hill.

The plan of General Meade had been to have the corps commanded by General Sickles connect with that of Hancock and extend southward near the base of the Round Tops. [249]

Gettysburg: in the Devil's Den Upon this wide, steep hill, about five hundred yards due west of Little Round Top and one hundred feet lower, was a chasm named by the country folk “the Devil's Den.” When the position fell into the hands of the Confederates at the end of the second day's fighting, it became the stronghold of their sharpshooters, and well did it fulfill its name. It was a most dangerous post to occupy, since the Federal batteries on the Round Top were constantly shelling it in an effort to dislodge the hardy riflemen, many of whom met the fate of the one in the picture. Their deadly work continued, however, and many a gallant officer of the Federals was picked off during the fighting on the afternoon of the second day. General Vincent was one of the first victims; General Weed fell likewise; and as Lieutenant Hazlett bent over him to catch his last words, a bullet through the head prostrated that officer lifeless on the body of his chief.

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Sickles found this ground low and disadvantageous as a fighting-place. In his front he saw the high ground along the ridge on the side of which the peach orchard was situated, and advanced his men to this position, placing them along the Emmitsburg road, and back toward the Trostle farm and the wheat-field, thus forming an angle at the peach orchard. The left flank of Hancock's line now rested far behind the right flank of Sickles' forces. The Third Corps was alone in its position in advance of the Federal line. The Confederate troops later marched along Sickles' front so that Longstreet's corps overlapped the left wing of the Union army. The Northerners grimly watched the bristling cannon and the files of men that faced them across the valley, as they waited for the battle to commence.

The boom of cannon from Longstreet's batteries announced the beginning of the second day's battle. Lee had ordered Longstreet to attack Sickles in full force. The fire was quickly answered by the Union troops, and before long the fight extended from the peach orchard through the wheat-field and along the whole line to the base of Little Round Top. The musketry commenced with stray volleys here and there — then more and faster, until there was one continuous roar, and no ear could distinguish one shot from another. Longstreet swept forward in a magnificent line of battle, a mile and a half long. He pressed back the Union infantry, and was seriously threatening the artillery.

At the extreme left, close to the Trostle house, Captain John Bigelow commanded the Ninth Battery, Massachusetts Light Artillery. He was ordered to hold his position at all hazards until reenforced. With double charges of grape and canister, again and again he tore great gaps in the advancing line, but it re-formed and pressed onward until the men in gray reached the muzzles of the Federal guns. Again Bigelow fired, but the heroic band had at last to give way to the increased numbers of the attack, which finally resulted in a hand-to-hand [251]

Gettysburg: the unguarded link Little Round Top, the key to the Federal left at Gettysburg, which they all but lost on the second day — was the scene of hand-to-hand fighting rarely equaled since long-range weapons were invented. Twice the Confederates in fierce conflict fought their way near to this summit, but were repulsed. Had they gained it, they could have planted artillery which would have enfiladed the left of Meade's line, and Gettysburg might have been turned into an overwhelming defeat. Beginning at the right, the Federal line stretched in the form of a fish-hook, with the barb resting on Culp's Hill, the center at the bend in the hook on Cemetery Hill, and the left (consisting of General Sickles' Third Corps) forming the shank to the southward as far as Round Top. On his own responsibility Sickles had advanced a portion of his line, leaving Little Round Top unprotected. Upon this advanced line of Sickles, at the Peach Orchard on the Emmitsburg road, the Confederates fell in an effort to turn what they supposed to be Meade's left flank. Only the promptness of General Warren, who discovered the gap and remedied it in time, saved the key.

[252] to-hand struggle with a Mississippi regiment. Bigelow was wounded, and twenty-eight of his hundred and four men were left on the bloody field, while he lost sixty-five out of eighty-eight horses, and four of six guns. Such was one of many deeds of heroism enacted at Gettysburg.

But the most desperate struggle of the day was the fight for the possession of Little Round Top. Just before the action began General Meade sent his chief engineer, General G. K. Warren, to examine conditions on the Union left. The battle was raging in the peach orchard when he came to Little Round Top. It was unoccupied at the time, and Warren quickly saw the great importance of preventing its occupation by the Confederates, for the hill was the key to the whole battle-ground west and south of Cemetery Ridge. Before long, the engineer saw Hood's division of Longstreet's corps moving steadily toward the hill, evidently determined to occupy it. Had Hood succeeded, the result would have been most disastrous to the Union army, for the Confederates could then have subjected the entire Union lines on the western edge of Cemetery Ridge to an enfilading fire. Warren and a signal officer seized flags and waved them, to deceive the Confederates as to the occupation of the height. Sykes' corps, marching to the support of the left, soon came along, and Warren, dashing down the side of the hill to meet it, caused the brigade under Colonel Vincent and a part of that under General Weed to be detached, and these occupied the coveted position. Hazlett's battery was dragged by hand up the rugged slope and planted on the summit.

Meantime Hood's forces had come up the hill, and were striving at the very summit; and now occurred one of the most desperate hand-to-hand conflicts of the war — in which men forgot that they were human and tore at each other like wild beasts. The opposing forces, not having time to reload, charged each other with bayonets — men assaulted each other with clubbed muskets — the Blue and the Gray grappled in [253]

Gettysburg: the second day's fight.

The battle of Gettysburg was a crescendo of carnage — each day marked by a special climax more dramatic and deadly than the preceding one. That of the second day was the struggle for Little Round Top. It began with the thrilling charge by Longstreet's men of Hood's division. Turning Ward's flank, on they swept from Devil's Den up the ravine between the Round Tops, confident that Little Round Top was undefended. Near the crest Vincent's brigade, posted in the nick of time by General Warren, burst upon them with the bayonet. Up and down the slope the struggling lines undulated, broken rapidly by the trees and boulders into single-handed combats; men and muskets in a moment were scattered all about. Just as Vincent's right was about to be overwhelmed, the 140th New York came upon the crest, led by the gallant young Colonel O'Rorke, who fell dead at the first volley. The regiment, rallied by Vincent, held their ground, but there Vincent, too, was killed. Meanwhile Hazlett's regular battery had dragged its guns with great difficulty to the crest, where Generals Weed and Hazlett soon fell together. Colonel Rice, of the Forty-fourth New York (now in command in place of Vincent), had repulsed the assaults on his right and center. There was a lull, during which the Confederates stole around from the woods and fell with fury on the left of the line. Here Chamberlain's regiment, the Twentieth Maine, rapidly swinging around the rear of the mountain to meet the attack, was forced over the crest. Rallying, they drove back the Confederates in their turn. Twice more the struggling men fought back and forth over the summit, strewing the slopes with the fallen. Then a brigade of the Pennsylvania reserves and one from the Fifth Corps dashed over the hill. Chamberlain's brave men who were left greeted the reenforcements with a shout, dashed forward in a final charge, and drove the Confederates through the valley between the Round Tops. The Twentieth Maine had lost a third of its men and spent its last round of ammunition.

Gettysburg: the battle-field amid the trees: the second day's fight

Gettysburg: the wooded slope of little round top


 
[254] mortal combat and fell dead, side by side. The privates in the front ranks fought their way onward until they fell, the officers sprang forward, seized the muskets from the hands of the dying and the dead, and continued the combat. The furious struggle continued for half an hour, when Hood's forces gave way and were pressed down the hillside. But they rallied lied and advanced again by way of a ravine on the left, and finally, after a most valiant charge, were driven back at the point of the bayonet.

Little Round Top was saved to the Union army, but the cost was appalling. The hill was covered with hundreds of the slain. Scores of the Confederate sharpshooters had taken position among the crevasses in the Devil's Den, where they could overlook the position on Little Round Top, and their unerring aim spread death among the Federal officers and gunners. Colonel O'Rourke and General Vincent were dead. General Weed was dying; and, as Hazlett was stooping to receive Weed's last message, a sharpshooter's bullet laid him — dead — across the body of his chief.

During this attack, and for some hours thereafter, the battle continued in the valley below on a grander scale and with demon-like fury. Here many thousands were engaged. Sickles' whole line was pressed back to the base of the hill from which it had advanced in the morning. Sickles' leg was shattered by a shell, necessitating amputation, while scores of his brave officers, and thousands of his men, lay on the field of battle when the struggle ceased at nightfall. This valley has been appropriately named the “Valley of death.”

Before the close of this main part of the second day's battle, there was another clash of arms, fierce but of short duration, at the other extreme of the line. Lee had ordered Ewell to attack Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill on the north, held by Slocum, who had been weakened by the sending of a large portion of the Twelfth Corps to the assistance of the left wing. Ewell had three divisions, two of which were commanded by [255]

Gettysburg: the second day's fighting.

When General Warren discovered the defenseless condition of Little Round Top, he spied the division of Brigadier-General James Barnes marching to the relief of their comrades fighting along the Emmitsburg road. Warren, on his own responsibility, rode over to General Barnes and detached Vincent's brigade, hurrying it back to guard Little Round Top. It was not long before the men of the Forty-fourth New York were engaged in a fierce hand-to-hand combat with the determined Confederates of Hood, worming their way from tree to tree and boulder to boulder, in a running fight up the slope. The men of the Forty-fourth New York were among the finest in the service; they were enlisted from every county in their native State, and were selected in accordance with strict requirements as to fitness. The average age of the regiment was twenty-two; its heaviest battle loss (one hundred and eleven), occurred in the defense of Little Round Top at Gettysburg. The ground seemed impregnable, but the Southerners, rushing on from their victory at “the Bloody Angle,” climbed the slopes in such a desperate onslaught that the Federals, not having time to load, advanced to repel the attack with the bayonet. The hillside after the battle was literally strewn with the dead and wounded. To the prompt and brave work of Vincent's brigade, in which fought the Forty-fourth New York, was due, in part, the fact that Little Round Top was not taken in that first assault. The repulse of the Confederates gave the Federals time to bring up a battery and strengthen the position against the repeated charges of the afternoon.

Gettysburg: men who held Little Round Top: the Forty-fourth New York.

Gettysburg: where the second day's attack ended


 
[256]

Generals Early and Johnson. It was nearly sunset when he sent Early to attack Cemetery Hill. Early was repulsed after an hour's bloody and desperate hand-to-hand fight, in which muskets and bayonets, rammers, clubs, and stones were used. Johnson's attack on Culp's Hill was more successful. After a severe struggle of two or three hours General Greene, who alone of the Twelfth Corps remained on the right, succeeded, after reenforcement, in driving the right of Johnson's division away from its entrenchments, but the left had no difficulty in taking possession of the abandoned works of Geary and Ruger, now gone to Round Top and Rock Creek to assist the left wing.

Thus closed the second day's battle at Gettysburg. The harvest of death had been frightful. The Union loss during the two days had exceeded twenty thousand men; the Confederate loss was nearly equal. The Confederate army had gained an apparent advantage in penetrating the Union breastworks on Culp's Hill. But the Union lines, except on Culp's Hill, were unbroken. On the night of July 2d, Lee and his generals held a council of war and decided to make a grand final assault on Meade's center the following day. Against this decision Longstreet protested in vain. His counsel was that Lee withdraw to the mountains, compel Meade to follow, and then turn and attack him. But Lee was encouraged by the arrival of Pickett's division and of Stuart's cavalry, and Longstreet's objections were overruled. Meade and his corps commanders had met and made a like decision — that there should be a fight to the death at Gettysburg.

That night a brilliant July moon shed its luster upon the ghastly field on which thousands of men lay, unable to rise. Many of them no longer needed help. Their last battle was over, and their spirits had fled to the great Beyond. But there were great numbers, torn and gashed with shot and shell, who were still alive and calling for water or for the kindly touch of a helping hand. Nor did they call wholly in vain. Here and [257]

The ground that was regained The indomitable photographer, Brady, in his famous duster, is sitting amid the battered trees on Culp's Hill, whose scars mark the scene of the recent crucial contest. The possession of the hill at nightfall of July 2d encouraged Lee to renew the general assault next day. This was the extreme right of the Federal position. Hancock, arriving on the afternoon of the first day, had seen its importance and sent a shattered brigade of Doubleday's First Corps to hold it. The marvelous fighting of Longstreet's men on the 2d had laid low 6,000 Federals before the Round Tops at the Federal left, and by nightfall Johnson's division of Ewell's Corps drove the defenders of Culp's Hill from their entrenchments. But Ewell, owing to the darkness, did not perceive the value of his new position. A short musket-shot beyond Culp's Hill, the artillery reserves and the supply trains of the Union army lay almost unprotected. At daylight of the 3d, Johnson's lines were attacked by the Second Massachusetts and the Twentieth Indiana, but these regiments were almost annihilated. But after seven hours of fighting the Confederates retreated.

[258] there in the moonlight little rescuing parties were seeking out whom they might succor. They carried many to the improvised hospitals, where the surgeons worked unceasingly and heroically, and many lives were saved.

All through the night the Confederates were massing artillery along the crest of Seminary Ridge. The sound horses were carefully fed and watered, while those killed or disabled were replaced by others. The ammunition was replenished and the guns were placed in favorable positions and made ready for their work of destruction.

On the other side, the Federals were diligently laboring in the moonlight, and ere the coming of the day they had planted batteries on the brow of the hill above the town as far as Little Round Top. The coming of the morning revealed the two parallel lines of cannon, a mile apart, which signified only too well the story of what the day would bring forth.

The people of Gettysburg, which lay almost between the armies, were awakened on that fateful morning--July 3, 1863--by the roar of artillery from Culp's Hill, around the bend toward Rock Creek. This knoll in the woods had, as we have seen, been taken by Johnson's men the night before. When Geary and Ruger returned and found their entrenchments occupied by the Confederates they determined to recapture them in the morning, and began firing their guns at daybreak. Seven hours of fierce bombardment and daring charges were required to regain them. Every rod of space was disputed at the cost of many a brave man's life. At eleven o'clock this portion of the Twelfth Corps was again in its old position.

But the most desperate onset of the three days battle was yet to come — Pickett's charge on Cemetery Ridge — preceded by the heaviest cannonading ever heard on the American continent.

With the exception of the contest at Culp's Hill and a cavalry fight east of Rock Creek, the forenoon of July 3d [259]

The height of the battle-tide Near this gate to the local cemetery of Gettysburg there stood during the battle this sign: “All persons found using firearms in these grounds will be prosecuted with the utmost rigor of the law.” Many a soldier must have smiled grimly at these words, for this gateway way became the key of the Federal line, the very center of the cruelest use of firearms yet seen on this continent. On the first day Reynolds saw the value of Cemetery Hill in case of a retreat. Howard posted his reserves here, and Hancock greatly strengthened the position. One hundred and twenty Confederate guns were turned against it that last afternoon. In five minutes every man of the Federals had been forced to cover; for an hour and a half the shells fell fast, dealing death and laying waste the summer verdure in the little graveyard. Up to the very guns of the Federals on Cemetery Hill, Pickett led his devoted troops. At night of the 3d it was one vast slaughter-field. On this eminence, where thousands were buried, was dedicated the soldiers' National Cemetery.

[260] passed with only an occasional exchange of shots at irregular intervals. At noon there was a lull, almost a deep silence, over the whole field. It was the ominous calm that precedes the storm. At one o'clock signal guns were fired on Seminary Ridge, and a few moments later there was a terrific outburst from one hundred and fifty Confederate guns, and the whole crest of the ridge, for two miles, was a line of flame. The scene was majestic beyond description. The scores of batteries were soon enveloped in smoke, through which the flashes of burning powder were incessant.

The long line of Federal guns withheld their fire for some minutes, when they burst forth, answering the thunder of those on the opposite hill. An eye-witness declares that the whole sky seemed filled with screaming shells, whose sharp explosions, as they burst in mid-air, with the hurtling of the fragments, formed a running accompaniment to the deep, tremendous roar of the guns.

Many of the Confederate shots went wild, passing over the Union army and plowing up the earth on the other side of Cemetery Ridge. But others were better aimed and burst among the Federal batteries, in one of which twenty-seven out of thirty-six horses were killed in ten minutes. The Confederate fire seemed to be concentrated upon one point between Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top, near a clump of scrub oaks. Here the batteries were demolished and men and horses were slain by scores. The spot has been called “Bloody angle.”

The Federal fire proved equally accurate and the destruction on Seminary Ridge was appalling. For nearly two hours the hills shook with the tremendous cannonading, when it gradually slackened and ceased. The Union army now prepared for the more deadly charge of infantry which it felt was sure to follow.

They had not long to wait. As the cannon smoke drifted away from between the lines fifteen thousand of Longstreet's [261]

Gettysburg.

The Now-or-never Charge of Pickett's Men. When the Confederate artillery opened at one o'clock on the afternoon of July 3d, Meade and his staff were driven from their headquarters on Cemetery Ridge. Nothing could live exposed on that hillside, swept by cannon that were being worked as fast as human hands could work them. It was the beginning of Lee's last effort to wrest victory from the odds that were against him. Longstreet, on the morning of the 3d, had earnestly advised against renewing the battle against the Gettysburg heights. But Lee saw that in this moment the fate of the South hung in the balance; that if the Army of Northern Virginia did not win, it would never again become the aggressor. Pickett's division, as yet not engaged, was the force Lee designated for the assault; every man was a Virginian, forming a veritable Tenth Legion in valor. Auxiliary divisions swelled the charging column to 15,000. In the middle of the afternoon the Federal guns ceased firing. The time for the charge had come. Twice Pickett asked of Longstreet if he should go forward. Longstreet merely bowed in answer. “Sir, I shall lead my division forward,” said Pickett at last, and the heavy-hearted Longstreet bowed his head. As the splendid column swept out of the woods and across the plain the Federal guns reopened with redoubled fury. For a mile Pickett and his men kept on, facing a deadly greeting of round shot, canister, and the bullets of Hancock's resolute infantry. It was magnificent — but every one of Pickett's brigade commanders went down and their men fell by scores and hundreds around them. A hundred led by Armistead, waving his cap on his swordpoint, actually broke through and captured a battery, Armistead falling beside a gun. It was but for a moment. Longstreet had been right when he said: “There never was a body of fifteen thousand men who could make that attack successfully.” Before the converging Federals the thinned ranks of Confederates drifted wearily back toward Seminary Ridge. Victory for the South was not to be.

Pickett — the Marshall Ney of Gettysburg

Meade's headquarters on Cemetery Ridge


 
[262] corps emerged in grand columns from the wooded crest of Seminary Ridge under the command of General Pickett on the right and General Pettigrew on the left. Longstreet had planned the attack with a view to passing around Round Top, and gaining it by flank and reverse attack, but Lee, when he came upon the scene a few moments after the final orders had been given, directed the advance to be made straight toward the Federal main position on Cemetery Ridge.

The charge was one of the most daring in warfare. The distance to the Federal lines was a mile. For half the distance the troops marched gayly, with flying banners and glittering bayonets. Then came the burst of Federal cannon, and the Confederate ranks were torn with exploding shells. Pettigrew's columns began to waver, but the lines reformed and marched on. When they came within musket-range, Hancock's infantry opened a terrific fire, but the valiant band only quickened its pace and returned the fire with volley after volley. Pettigrew's troops succumbed to the storm. For now the lines in blue were fast converging. Federal troops from all parts of the line now rushed to the aid of those in front of Pickett. The batteries which had been sending shell and solid shot changed their ammunition, and double charges of grape and canister were hurled into the column as it bravely pressed into the sea of flame. The Confederates came close to the Federal lines and paused to close their ranks. Each moment the fury of the storm from the Federal guns increased.

“ Forward,” again rang the command along the line of the Confederate front, and the Southerners dashed on. The first line of the Federals was driven back. A stone wall behind them gave protection to the next Federal force. Pickett's men rushed upon it. Riflemen rose from behind and hurled a death-dealing volley into the Confederate ranks. A defiant cheer answered the volley, and the Southerners placed their battle-flags on the ramparts. General Armistead grasped the flag from the hand of a falling bearer, and leaped upon the [263]

Where Pickett charged The prelude to Pickett's magnificent charge was a sudden deluge of shells from 159 long-range Confederate guns trained upon Cemetery Ridge. General Meade and his staff were instantly driven from their headquarters (already illustrated) and within five minutes the concentrated artillery fire had swept every unsheltered position on Cemetery Ridge clear of men. In the woods, a mile and a half distant, Pickett and his men watched the effect of the bombardment, expecting the order to “Go forward” up the slope (shown in the picture). The Federals had instantly opened with their eighty available guns, and for three hours the most terrific artillery duel of the war was kept up. Then the Federal fire slackened, as though the batteries were silenced. The Confederates' artillery ammunition also was now low. “For God's sake, come on!” was the word to Pickett. And at Longstreet's reluctant nod the commander led his 14,000 Virginians across the plain in their tragic charge up Cemetery Ridge.

General L. A. Armistead, C. S. A. In that historic charge was Armistead, who achieved a momentary victory and met a hero's death. On across the Emmitsburg road came Pickett's dauntless brigades, coolly closing up the fearful chasms torn in their ranks by the canister. Up to the fence held by Hays' brigade dashed the first gray line, only to be swept into confusion by a cruel enfilading fire. Then the brigades of Armistead and Garnett moved forward, driving Hays' brigade back through the batteries on the crest. Despite the death-dealing bolts on all sides, Pickett determined to capture the guns; and, at the order, Armistead, leaping the fence and waving his cap on his sword-point, rushed forward, followed by about a hundred of his men. Up to the very crest they fought the Federals back, and Armistead, shouting, “Give them the cold steel, boys!” seized one of the guns. For a moment the Confederate flag waved triumphantly over the Federal battery. For a brief interval the fight raged fiercely at close quarters. Armistead was shot down beside the gun he had taken, and his men were driven back. Pickett, as he looked around the top of the ridge he had gained, could see his men fighting all about with clubbed muskets and even flagstaffs against the troops that were rushing in upon them from all sides. Flesh and blood could not hold the heights against such terrible odds, and with a heart full of anguish Pickett ordered a retreat. The despairing Longstreet, watching from Seminary Ridge, saw through the smoke the shattered remnants drift sullenly down the slope and knew that Pickett's glorious but costly charge was ended.

[264] wall, waving it in triumph. Almost instantly he fell among the Federal troops, mortally wounded. General Garnett, leading his brigade, fell dead close to the Federal line. General Kemper sank, wounded, into the arms of one of his men.

Pickett had entered a death-trap. Troops from all directions rushed upon him. Clubbed muskets and barrel-staves now became weapons of warfare. The Confederates began surrendering in masses and Pickett ordered a retreat. Yet the energy of the indomitable Confederates was not spent. Several supporting brigades moved forward, and only succumbed when they encountered two regiments of Stannard's Vermont brigade, and the fire of fresh batteries.

As the remnant of the gallant division returned to the works on Seminary Ridge General Lee rode out to meet them. His demeanor was calm. His features gave no evidence of his disappointment. With hat in hand he greeted the men sympathetically. “It was all my fault,” he said. “Now help me to save that which remains.”

The battle of Gettysburg was over. The cost in men was frightful. The losses of the two armies reached fifty thousand, about half on either side. More than seven thousand men had fallen dead on the field of battle.

The tide could rise no higher; from this point the ebb must begin. Not only here, but in the West the Southern cause took a downward turn; for at this very hour of Pickett's charge, Grant and Pemberton, a thousand miles away, stood under an oak tree on the heights above the Mississippi and arranged for the surrender of Vicksburg.

Lee could do nothing but lead his army back to Virginia. The Federals pursued but feebly. The Union victory was not a very decisive one, but, supported as it was by the fall of Vicksburg, the moral effect on the nation and on the world was great. The period of uncertainty was ended. It required but little prophetic vision to foresee that the Republic would survive the dreadful shock of arms. [265]

The man who held the center Headquarters of Brigadier-General Alexander S. Webb. It devolved upon the man pictured here (booted and in full uniform, before his headquarters tent to the left of the picture) to meet the shock of Pickett's great charge. In command of three Pennsylvania regiments (the Seventy-First, Seventy-Second, and One Hundred and Sixth) of Hancock's Second Corps, Webb was equal to the emergency. Stirred to great deeds by the example of a patriotic ancestry, he felt that upon his holding his position depended the outcome of the day. His front had been the focus of the Confederate artillery fire. Batteries to right and left of his line were practically silenced. Young Lieutenant Cushing, mortally wounded, fired the last serviceable gun and fell dead as Pickett's men came on. Wheeler's First New York Battery dashed up to take Cushing's place and was captured by the men of Armistead. Webb at the head of the Seventy-second Pennsylvania fought back the on-rush, posting a line of slightly wounded in his rear. Webb himself fell wounded but his command checked the assault till Hall's brilliant charge turned the tide at this point.

[266]

The golden opportunity The Potomac from Berlin Heights, July, 1863. Instead of a wall of steel in his rear, as might have happened, Lee met only open roads in his retreat after Gettysburg. After the failure of Pickett's charge, Lee and his generals began rallying their troops behind the guns as a protection against the counter-charge which all felt sure was bound to come. Hancock, lying in an ambulance, severely wounded, argued that as he had been struck by a ten-penny nail the Confederate ammunition must be exhausted. His deduction was correct, but although he summoned his waning strength to dictate an approval of the charge, should it be ordered, no advance was made. Meade could have sent forward an entire corps (Sedgwick's) which had not been engaged. By the afternoon of July 4th, Lee's shattered forces were in full retreat toward the Potomac, beyond which lay safety.

[267]

The leisurely pursuit Meade's army crossing the Potomac at Berlin, eighteen days after the battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln never ceased to regret that he had not gone in person to Gettysburg to push the pursuit of Lee. Not till July 5th did Meade put his army in motion to follow the Confederates, who had marched all afternoon and all night in the pouring rain, impeded with heavy trains of ammunition which might easily have been captured. Lee found the pontoon bridges which he had left at Falling Waters destroyed by a Federal raiding party sent by General French from Frederick, and drew up his army for the battle that he anticipated must be fought before recrossing the Potomac. Not till the night of July 13th did Meade determine upon an attack. Meanwhile Lee had gained the time necessary to repair his bridges and retreat into Virginia. Meade could not follow directly. Only after a long march through the neighborhood of Harper's Ferry did he get his army across. Before he could strike the Confederates again, Lee was strongly posted along the line of the Rapidan.

[268]

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