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The breastworks at Culp's Hill.

I. By Jesse H. Jones, Captain, 60th N. Y. V.

The Second Division of the Twelfth Corps camped on the night of the first day under the shadow of Little Round Top. About 6 o'clock the next morning it was marched over from that point, which was then the extreme left of our line, and posted on Culp's Hill, its left forming a right angle with the right of General Wadsworth's division of the First Corps. Our brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General George S. Greene and comprising five New York regiments, the 60th, 78th, 102d, 137th, and 149th, was on the left of the division, and our regiment, the 60th, was on the left of the brigade. This regiment was largely composed of men accustomed to woodcraft, and they fell to work to construct log breastworks with unaccustomed heartiness. All instinctively felt that a life-and-death struggle was impending, and that every help should be used. Culp's Hill was covered with woods; so all the materials needful were at our disposal. Right and left the men felled the trees, and blocked them up into a close log fence. Piles of cordwood which lay near by were quickly appropriated. The sticks, set slanting on end against the outer face of the logs, made excellent battening. All along the rest of the line of the corps a similar defense was constructed. Fortunate regiments, which had spades and picks, strengthened their work with earth. By 10 o'clock it was finished.

At 6 o'clock in the evening General Meade, finding himself hard pressed on the left, and deeming an attack on the right wing improbable at so late an hour, called for the Twelfth Corps. Our brigade was detailed to remain and hold the lines of the corps. Word was brought from the officer in charge of our pickets that the enemy was advancing in heavy force in line of battle, and, with all possible celerity, such dispositions as the case admitted of were made. The brigade was strung out into a thin line of separate men as far along the breastworks as it would reach. The intention was to place the men an arm's-length apart, but, by the time the left of the brigade had fairly undoubled files, the enemy was too near to allow of further arrangements being made.

In a short time the woods were all flecked with the flashes from the muskets of our skirmishers. Down in the hollow there, at the foot of the slope, you could catch a glimpse now and then, by the blaze of the powder, of our brave boys as they sprang from tree to tree, and sent back defiance to the advancing foe. With desperation they clung to each covering. For half an hour they obstructed the enemy's approach.

The men restrained their nervous fingers; the hostile guns flamed out against us not fifteen yards in front. Our men from the front were tumbling over the breastwork, and for a breathless moment those behind the breastwork waited. Then out into the night like chain-lightning leaped the zigzag line of fire. Now was the value of breastworks apparent, for, protected by these, few of our men were hit, and feeling a sense of security, we worked with corresponding energy. Without breastworks our line would have been swept away in an instant by the hailstorm of bullets and the flood of men. The enemy worked still farther around to our right, entered the breastwork beyond our line, and crumpled up and drove back, a short distance, our extreme right regiment. They advanced a little way, but were checked by the fire of a couple of small regiments borrowed for the emergency from General Wadsworth, and placed in echelon.

General Meade hardly mentioned this affair at the breastworks in his original report of the battle, and those who were there think justice has never been done in the case,1 and that what was there achieved has never been adequately apprehended and stated by any writer.

The left of our brigade was only about eighty rods from the Baltimore turnpike, while the right was somewhat nearer. There were no supports. All the force that there was to stay the onset was that one thin line. Had the breastworks not been built, and had there been only the thin line of our unprotected brigade, that line must have been swept away like leaves before the wind, by the oncoming of so heavy a mass of troops, and the pike would have been reached by the enemy. Once on the pike, the Confederate commander would have been full in the rear of one-third of our army, firmly planted on the middle of the chord of the are upon which that portion was posted. What the effect must have been it is not needful to describe. The least disaster would have sufficed to force us from the field.

During the night our commanders brought back the remainder of the corps, and, stumbling upon the enemy's pickets, found out what had taken place, something of which until that moment they had been entirely unaware.


II. by George S. Greene, Brevet-Major-General, U. S. V.

The breastworks on Culp's Hill referred to in the foregoing article were constructed under my immediate direction. Orders were given to throw up breastworks as soon as the troops came on the line. The approximate shape of the line at first held by the entire corps and afterward by my single brigade was this:


When Meade ordered the whole of the Twelfth Corps from Culp's Hill to reenforce his left, Slocum ordered my brigade to remain and “occupy the breastworks thrown up by the corps.” The rest of the corps moved off just before dusk (about 7 P. M.) I immediately extended my men to the right to comply with the order as far as possible. Ireland's regiment (the 149th N. Y.), which was on my right, occupied the intrenchments vacated by Kane's brigade, his left at b, and a regiment from Howard's corps was placed on Ireland's right. This regiment, without being specially attacked, was marched to the rear by its colonel, when an attack upon it was imminently probable, much to the disgust of his men, as reported. As soon as I received orders to occupy the intrenchments, I applied to Wadsworth and received two regiments, which were placed in rear of my right, behind the points b and d, but sufficiently in the rear to support any part of the line.

The movement of the 149th Regiment had hardly been made when the regiment on picket was driven in by a vigorous attack by Johnson's division of Ewell's corps, which was continued with great perseverance. The enemy finally extended their left to cover Ireland's right, which had been left in the air by the desertion of the Pennsylvania regiment from Howard's corps. Ireland was forced back and rallied his regiment behind the traverse, b d, which had been built to protect my right, and which now served its purpose. As soon as Ireland's movement was seen — or, rather, heard, for it was dark — I brought up the reserve, which checked any further advance of the enemy on the right. Very soon after this movement, Kane, with his brigade, arrived and took post on the right of my reserve, and the enemy ceased their attacks, after about three hours continuous fighting.

As the troops marched out, General Kane followed the First Brigade of the Second Division toward the left. When the column arrived at the Baltimore pike the First Division followed the staff-officer sent to conduct it toward the left. The Second Division marched down the pike to the rear. Kane, hearing the firing on my position, inquired as to their destination, and, not being satisfied, took the responsibility of returning to the fight, and immediately countermarched; as he came near the position which had been occupied by the First Division, the enemy's pickets fired on him, and this being heard by me, I sent an officer to conduct Kane in by the safer route of the turnpike. He arrived about 10 o'clock P. M., just after the enemy had been repulsed on my right. His presence tended to render the enemy cautious, and they rested on their arms till morning. The First Brigade (Candy's) of the Second Division arrived at Gulp's Hill about 1 A. M., long after the fighting had ceased. General Williams, who commanded the Twelfth Corps, and General Slocum, who commanded the right wing, having been advised of the enemy's position, the artillery was placed in position before daylight, and after a heavy bombardment, the infantry, by a gallant and successful charge, drove the enemy from the position they had occupied in the night in the lines of the First Division.

The attack on my front, on the morning of the 3d of July, was renewed by Johnson's division simultaneously with our attack on the enemy in our lines on our right, and was conducted with the utmost vigor. The greater part of their heavy losses were sustained within a few yards of our breastworks. His adjutant, Major Watkins Leigh persisted in riding up to the very front of our lines, pushing his men to an assault on my works, where both horse and rider were killed, pierced simultaneously with several bullets. About fifty of the men got too near to our lines to retreat, and threw down their arms, ran up close to our works, threw up their handkerchiefs or white rags, and were allowed to come unarmed into our lines. Shaler's and Canda's brigades were sent to our support and took part in the defense of our lines on the morning of July 3d. By 10 A. M. the fighting ceased, and at 1 P. M. the enemy had disappeared from our front, and our men went to Rock Creek for water.

Of the disastrous consequences to the Union army, had Lee succeeded in penetrating our lines and placing himself square across the Baltimore pike in rear of the center and right wing of the entire army, there can be no question. Fortunately it was averted by the steady and determined courage of the five New York regiments above named, The assailants were Johnson's division of Ewell's (Second) Corps, consisting of twenty-two regiments, organized into four brigades — Steuart's, Nicholls's, Jones's, and Walker's — the latter being the famous “Stonewall Brigade,” first commanded by Stonewall Jackson.

To the discernment of General Slocum, who saw the danger to which the army would be exposed by the movement ordered, and who took the responsibility of modifying the orders which he had received, is due the honor of having saved the army from a great and perhaps fatal disaster. [318]

At close quarters on the First day at Gettysburg.

1 On the 25th of February, 1864, General Meade made the following substitution in his official report:

The detachment of so large a portion of the Twelfth Corps, with its temporary commander, Brigadier-General A. S. Williams, left the defense of the line previously held to the remaining brigade of the Second Division, commanded by Brigadier-General Greene, who held the left of the Twelfth Corps, now become the extreme right of the army. The enemy, perceiving the withdrawal of our troops, advanced and attacked General Greene with great vigor, who, making a gallant defense, and being soon reenforced by portions of the First and Eleventh corps, contiguous to him, succeeded in repulsing all the efforts of the enemy to dislodge him.

Also, on the same day, in reply to a letter from General Slocum on the subject, General Meade wrote in part:

I am willing to admit that, if my attention had been called to the services of Greene's Brigade in the pointed manner it now is, I would have given it credit for this special service.


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