previous next

The 20th Maine at Little Round Top.1

by H. S. Melcher, 20TH Maine regiment.
The Confederate force designated to take possession of Little Round Top appears to have been Robertson's brigade, consisting of the 1st, 4th, and 5th Texas and the 3d Arkansas; and Law's brigade, consisting of the 4th, 44th, 48th, 47th, and 15th Alabama, both of Hood's division. The former was to assault in front, while Law's brigade was to attack in the rear of the hill [see p. 318]; but Robertson, finding he could not cover the entire front with his brigade, detached the 44th, 48th, and 4th Alabama from Law's brigade about the time they arrived at the foot of Round Top in their advance and connected them with Robertson's line, then well in front of Little Round Top. This left the 47th and 15th Alabama to carry out the flanking movement alone, which they did, passing up the southern side of Round Top, and halting some ten minutes on the crest for rest. This halt proved fatal to the success of their undertaking, as it enabled our brigade (Vincent's) [315] to reach Little Round Top in time to resist their advance.2

Resuming their march, these two regiments passed down the north-easterly side of Round Top and advanced across the wooded depression between the hills to charge up the rear of Little Round Top and sweep off Vincent's brigade, then fiercely engaged with Robertson's Texans and the three regiments of Law's brigade that had been assigned to his command, who were trying to get possession from the front. But just here these two Alabama regiments met the 20th Maine, which was the left regiment of Vincent's brigade, and also the left of the whole Army of the Potomac, and, to conform to the crest of the hill, was bent back at about right angles with the line of the rest of the brigade. This was fortunate, for in their advance the 47th Alabama, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Bulger, struck our regiment squarely in front and opened a murderous fire on our unprotected line, as we had just got into position, and had no time to throw up breastworks. At the same time the 15th Alabama, commanded by Colonel William C. Oates, numbering 644 men and 42 officers, moved around to attack us in flank and rear. Our colonel, Chamberlain, met this movement by putting the right wing of the regiment into single rank to resist the 47th, and bent back the five left companies of the regiment at a right angle.

Our regiment numbered 358 men, but as Company B, numbering 50 men, had been sent out to “protect our flank,” we had 308 men in line to resist the furious assault of these two strong regiments, outnumbering us more than 3 to 1. The conflict was fierce, but necessarily brief, as it was a question of only a short time when every man must fall before the superior lire of our enemy.

When 130 of our brave officers and men had been shot down where they stood, and only 178 remained,--hardly more than a strong skirmish line,--and each man had fired the 60 rounds of cartridges he carried into the fight, and the survivors were using from the cartridge-boxes of their fallen comrades, the time had come when it must be decided whether we should fall back and give up this key to the whole field of Gettysburg, or charge and try and throw off this foe. Colonel Chamberlain gave the order to “fix bayonets,” and almost before he could say “charge!” the regiment leaped down the hill and closed in with the foe, whom we found behind every rock and tree. Surprised and overwhelmed, most of them threw down their arms and surrendered.

Some fought till they were slain; the others ran “like a herd of wild cattle,” as Colonel Oates himself expressed it. In their flight they were met by Company B, Captain Morrill, which we supposed had been captured, but now attacked so vigorously that over one hundred of the fugitives were compelled to surrender.

Lieutenant-Colonel Bulger, commanding the 47th, was wounded, and fell into our hands, with over three hundred prisoners and all the wounded.

The 20th Maine returned with its prisoners to the original position, and staid there until ordered forward in the early evening to Round Top.

1 condensed from the “Lincoln County news,” Waldoboro, Maine, march 13th, 1885.--editors.

2 Vincent's brigade appears to have been sent by General Sykes to occupy the position to the left, or southward, of Little Round Top, between it and Round Top, about the same time that Colonel O'Rorke with the 140th New York and Hazlett's battery, the advance of. Weed's brigade, at the call of Warren was hastening up the northern slope of Little Round Top to seize the crest.--editors.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Waldoboro, Maine (Maine, United States) (1)
Gettysburg (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Alabama (Alabama, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1885 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: