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National Military Park
Preliminary Movements and Plans
Cannonade at Dawn: Culp's Hill and Spangler's Spring
Establishment of a Burial Ground
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STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
The situation in which the Confederacy found itself in the late spring of 1863 called for decisive action. The Union and Confederate armies had faced each other on the Rappahannock River, near Fredericksburg, Va., for 6 months, The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by Gen. R. E. Lee, had defeated the Union forces at Fredericksburg in December 1862 and again at Chancellorsville in May 1863, but the nature of the ground gave Lee little opportunity to follow up his advantage. When he began moving his army westward, on June 3, he hoped, at least, to draw his opponent away from the river to a more advantageous battleground. At most, he might carry the war into northern territory, where supplies could be taken from the enemy and a victory could be fully exploited. Even a fairly narrow margin of victory might enable Lee to capture one or more key cities and perhaps increase northern demands for a negotiated peace.
Confederate strategists had considered sending aid from Lee's army to Vicksburg, which Grant was then besieging, or dispatching help to General Bragg for his campaign against Rosecrans in Tennessee. They concluded, however, that Vicksburg could hold out until climatic conditions would force Grant to withdraw, and they reasoned that the eastern campaign was more important than that of Tennessee.
Both Union and Confederate governments had bitter opponents at home. Southern generals, reading in Northern newspapers the clamors for peace, had reason to believe that their foe's morale was fast weakening. They felt that the Army of Northern Virginia would continue to demonstrate its superiority over the Union Army of the Potomac and that the relief from constant campaigning on their own soil would have a happy effect on Southern spirit. Events were to prove, however, that the chief result of the intense alarm created by the invasion was to rally the populace to better support of the Union government.
Lee's plan of campaign was undoubtedly similar to that of his invasion which ended in the battle of Antietam in September 1862. He then called attention to the need of destroying the bridge over the Susquehanna River at Harrisburg and of disabling the Pennsylvania Railroad in order to sever communication with the west. "After that," he added, "I can turn my attention to Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington as may seem best for our interest."
Lee had suffered an irreparable loss at Chancellorsville when "Stonewall" Jackson was mortally wounded. Now reorganized into three infantry corps under Longstreet, A. P. Hill, and R. S. Ewell, and a cavalry division under J. E. B. Stuart, a changed Army of Northern Virginia faced the great test that lay ahead. "Stonewall" Jackson, the right hand of Lee, and in the words of the latter "the finest executive officer the sun ever shone on," was no longer present to lead his corps in battle.
The long lines of gray started moving on June 3 from Fredericksburg, Va., first northwestward across the Blue Ridge, then northward in the Shenandoah Valley. On June 9, one of the greatest cavalry engagements of the war occurred at Brandy Station. Union horsemen, for the first time, held Stuart's men on even terms. The Confederates then continued their march northward, with the right flank constantly protected by Stuart's cavalry, which occupied the passes of the Blue Ridge. Stuart was ordered to hold these mountain gaps until the advance into Pennsylvania had drawn the Union Army north of the Potomac. On June 28, Hill and Longstreet reached Chambersburg, 16 miles north of the Pennsylvania boundary. Rodes' division of Ewell's corps reached Carlisle on June 27. Early's command of 8,000 men had passed through Gettysburg on June 26 and on the 28th had reached York. Early planned to take possession of the bridge over the Susquehanna at Columbia, and to move on Harrisburg from the east. Lee's converging movement on Harrisburg seemed to be on the eve of success.
An unforeseen shift of events between June 25 and 28, however, threatened to deprive Lee of every advantage he had thus far gained in his daring march up the Shenandoah and Cumberland Valleys. The cavalry engagement between Stuart and Pleasonton at Brandy Station convinced Gen. Joseph Hooker, then in command of the Union Army, that the Confederate Army was moving northward. President Lincoln and General in Chief Halleck, informed of this movement, ordered Hooker to proceed northward and to keep his command between the Confederate Army and Washington. When he was refused permission to abandon Harpers Ferry, and to add the garrison of 10,000 men to his army, Hooker asked to be relieved of command. Gen. George G. Meade received orders to assume command of the army at Frederick, Md., on June 28, and he at once continued the march northward.
General Stuart, in command of the Confederate cavalry, had obtained conditional approval from Lee to operate against the rear of the Union Army as it marched northward and then to join Lee north of the Potomac. As he passed between Hooker's army and Washington, the unexpected speed of the Union Army forced Stuart into detours and delays, so that on June 28 he was in eastern Maryland, wholly out of touch with the Confederate force. The eyes and ears of Lee were thus closed at a time when their efficient functioning was badly needed.
In this state of affairs, a Confederate agent reported to Lee at Chambersburg, Pa., on the night of June 28, that the Union forces had crossed the Potomac and were in the vicinity of Frederick. With the entire Union Army close at hand and with many miles between him and his base, Lee decided to abandon his original plan and to concentrate for battle. He moved his army at once across the mountains to Cashtown, 8 miles from Gettysburg. Here, near Cashtown, he planned to establish his battle position. Rodes, then at Carlisle, and Early, at York, were at once ordered to this point.
THE TWO ARMIES CONVERGE ON GETTYSBURG. The men of Heth's division, leading the Confederate advance across the mountain, reached Cashtown on June 29. Pettigrew's brigade was sent on to Gettysburg the following day to obtain supplies, but upon reaching the ridge a mile west of the town, they observed a column of Union cavalry approaching. Not having orders to bring on an engagement, Pettigrew withdrew to Cashtown.
In the intervening 2 days since he had assumed command of the Union forces, General Meade had moved his troops northward and instructed his engineers to survey a defensive battle position at Pipe Creek, near Taneytown, in northern Maryland. Buford's cavalry, which had effectively shadowed Lee's advance from the mountaintops of the Blue Ridge, was ordered to make a reconnaissance in the Gettysburg area. It was these troops that Pettigrew's men saw posted on the roads leading into the town, Neither Lee nor Meade yet foresaw Gettysburg as a field of battle, Each expected to take a strong defensive position and force his adversary to attack.
A. P. Hill, in the absence of Lee, who was still beyond the mountains now took the initiative. At daybreak of July 1, he ordered the brigades of Archer and Davis, of Heth's division, to advance along the Chambersburg Road to Gettysburg for the purpose of testing the strength of the Union forces. As these troops reached Marsh Creek, 4 miles from Gettysburg, they were fired upon by Union cavalry pickets who hurriedly retired to inform their commander of the enemy's approach. In the meantime, Buford's division of cavalry had moved from their camp just southwest of Gettysburg to McPherson Ridge, a mile west of the town, Buford prepared to hold out against heavy odds until aid arrived. Thus subordinate field commanders had chosen the ground for battle.
It was 8 a. m.,July 1, when the two brigades of Archer and Davis, the former to the right and the latter to the left of the Chambersburg Road, deployed on Herr Ridge. Supported by Pegram's artillery, they charged down the long slope and across Willoughby Run against Buford's men. The cavalry had an advantage in their rapid-fire, breech-loading carbines. Dismounted, and fighting as infantrymen, they held their ground against the spirited attacks of Heth's superior numbers. At 10 o'clock timely aid arrived as troops from Gen. John F. Reynolds' First Infantry corps began streaming over Seminary Ridge from the south and relieved Buford's exhausted fighters. Calef's battery, one of whose guns had fired the first Union cannon shot at Gettysburg, was replaced by Hall's Maine artillery. But, in a few moments, Union joy at receiving aid was offset by tragedy. Reynolds, close to the front lines, was killed instantly by a sharpshooter's bullet.
The struggle increased in scope as more forces reached the field. When Archer's Confederates renewed the attack across Willoughby Run, Union troops of Meredith's Iron Brigade, arriving opportunely, struck the flank of the Confederates, routing them and capturing close to 100 men, including General Archer. Relieved from the threat south of the Chambersburg Pike, the 14th Brooklyn and 95th New York regiments shifted to the north of the Pike where the Confederates were overwhelming the Union defenders. With renewed effort, these troops, joined by Dawes' 6th Wisconsin, drove the Confederates steadily back, capturing 200 Mississippians in a railroad car. The Confederates then withdrew beyond striking distance, There was a lull in the fighting during the noon hour. The first encounter had given Union men confidence. They had held their ground against superior numbers and had captured Archer, a brigadier general, the first Confederate general officer taken since Lee assumed command.
THE BATTLE OF OAK RIDGE. While the initial test of strength was being determined west of Gettysburg by advance units, the main bulk of the two armies was pounding over the roads from the north and south, converging upon the ground chosen by Buford. Rodes' Confederates, hurrying southward from Carlisle to meet Lee at Cashtown, received orders at Biglerville to march to Gettysburg. Early, returning from York with Cashtown as his objective, learned at Heidlersburg of the action at Gettysburg and was ordered to approach by way of the Harrisburg Road.
Employing the wooded ridge as a screen from Union cavalry north of Gettysburg, Rodes brought his guns into position on Oak Ridge about 1 o'clock and opened fire on the flank of Gen. Abner Doubleday, Reynolds' successor, on McPherson Ridge. The Union commander shifted his lines northeastward to Oak Ridge and the Mummasburg Road to meet the new attack. Rodes' Confederates struck the Union positions at the stone wall on the ridge, but the attack was not well coordinated and resulted in failure. Iverson's brigade was nearly annihilated as it made a left wheel to strike from the west. In the meantime, more Union troops had arrived on the field by way of the Taneytown Road. Two divisions of Howard's Eleventh corps were now taking position in the plain north of the town, intending to make contact with Doubleday's troops on Oak Ridge.
Doles' Confederate brigade charged across the plain and was able to force Howard's troops back temporarily, but it was the opportune approach of Early's division from the northeast on the Harrisburg Road which rendered the Union position north of Gettysburg indefensible. Arriving in the early afternoon as the Union men were establishing their position. Early struck with tremendous force, first with his artillery and then with his infantry, against General Barlow. Soon he had shattered the entire Union force. The remnants broke and turned southward through Gettysburg in the direction of Cemetery Hill. In this headlong and disorganized flight General Schimmelfenning was lost from his command, and, finding refuge in a shed, he lay 2 days concealed within the Confederate lines. In the path of Early's onslaught lay the youthful Brigadier Barlow severely wounded, and the gallant Lieut. Bayard Wilkeson, whose battery had long stood against overwhelming odds, mortally wounded.
The Union men on Oak Ridge, faced with the danger that Doles would cut off their line of retreat, gave way and retired through Gettysburg to Cemetery Hill. The withdrawal of the Union troops from the north and northwest left the Union position on Mcpherson Ridge untenable. Early in the afternoon, when Rodes opened fire from Oak Hill, Heth had renewed his thrust along the Chambersburg Pike. His troops were soon relieved and Pender's division, striking north and south of the road, broke the Union line. The Union troops first withdrew to Seminary Ridge, then across the fields to Cemetery Hill. Here was advantageous ground which had been selected as a rallying point if the men were forced to relinquish the ground west and north of the town. Thus, by 5 o'clock, the remnants of the Union forces (some 6,000 out of the 18,000 engaged in the first day's struggle) were on the hills south of Gettysburg.
Ewell was now in possession of the town, and he extended his line from the streets eastward to Rock Creek. Studiously observing the hills in his front, he came within range of a Union sharpshooter, for suddenly he heard the thud of a minie ball. Calmly riding on, he remarked to General Gordon at his side, "You see how much better fixed for a fight I am than you are. It don't hurt at all to be shot in a wooden leg."
A momentous decision now had to be made. Lee had reached the field at 3 p. m., and had witnessed the retreat of the disorganized Union troops through the streets of Gettysburg. Through his glasses he had watched their attempt to reestablish their lines on Cemetery Hill. Sensing his advantage and a great opportunity, he sent orders to Ewell by a staff officer to "press those people" and secure the hill (Cemetery Hill) if possible. However, two of Ewell's divisions, those of Rodes and Early, had been heavily engaged throughout the afternoon and were not well in hand. Johnson's division could not reach the field until late in the evening, and the reconnaissance service of Stuart's cavalry was not yet available. General Ewell, uninformed of the Union strength in the rear of the hills south of Gettysburg, decided to await the arrival of Johnson's division. Cemetery Hill was not attacked, and Johnson, coming up late in the evening, stopped at the base of Culp's Hill. Thus passed Lee's opportunity of July 1.
When the Union troops retreated from the battleground north and west of the town on the evening of July 1, they hastily occupied defense positions on Cemetery Hill, Culp's Hill, and a part of Cemetery Ridge. Upon the arrival of Slocum by the Baltimore Pike and Sickles by way of the Emmitsburg Road, the Union right flank at Culp's Hill and Spangler's Spring and the important position at Little Round Top on the left were consolidated. Thus was developed a strong defensive battle line in the shape of a fish hook, about 3 miles long, with the advantage of high ground and of interior lines. Opposite, in a semi-circle about 6 miles long, extending down Seminary Ridge and into the streets of Gettysburg, stood the Confederates who, during the night, had closed in from the north and west.
The greater part of the citizenry of Gettysburg, despite the prospect of battle in their own yards, chose to remain in their homes. Both army commanders respected noncombatant rights to a marked degree. Thus, in contrast with the fields of carnage all about the village, life and property of the civilian population remained unharmed, while the doors of churches, schools, and homes were opened for the care of the wounded.
General Meade, at Taneytown, had learned early in the afternoon of July 1 that a battle was developing and that Reynolds had been killed, A large part of his army was within 5 miles of Gettysburg. Meade then sent General Hancock to study and report on the situation. Hancock reached the field just as the Union troops were falling back to Cemetery Hill. He helped to rally the troops and left at 6 o'clock to report to Meade that in his opinion the battle should be fought at Gettysburg. Meade acted on this recommendation and immediately ordered the concentration of the Union forces at that place. Meade himself arrived near midnight on July 1.
PRELIMINARY MOVEMENTS AND PLANS. The small college town of Gettysburg, with 2,400 residents at the time of the battle, lay in the heart of a fertile country, surrounded by broad acres of crops and pastures. Substantial houses of industrious Pennsylvania farmers dotted the countryside. South of the town and hardly more than a musket shot from the houses on its outer edge, Cemetery Hill rose somewhat abruptly from the lower ground. Extending southward from the hill for nearly 2 miles was a long roll of land called Cemetery Ridge. At its southern extremity a sharp incline terminated in the wooded crest of Little Round Top and a half mile beyond was the sugar-loaf peak of Big Round Top, the highest point in the vicinity of Gettysburg. Paralleling Cemetery Ridge, at an average distance of two-thirds of a mile to the west, lay Seminary Ridge, which derived its name from the Lutheran Seminary that stood upon its crest a half mile west of Gettysburg. In 1863, 10 roads radiated from Gettysburg, the one leading to Emmitsburg extending diagonally across the valley between Seminary and Cemetery Ridges.
By noon of July 2, the powerful forces of Meade and Lee were at hand, and battle on a tremendous scale was imminent. That part of the Union line extending from Cemetery Hill to Little Round Top was strongly held. Late in the forenoon, Sickles, commanding the Third Corps which lay north of Little Round Top, sent Berdan's sharpshooters and some of the men of the 3rd Maine Regiment forward from the Emmitsburg Road to Pitzer's Woods, a half mile to the west. As they reached the woods, a strong Confederate force fired upon them, and they hurriedly retired to inform their commander. To Sickles, the extension of the Confederate line southward meant that his left flank was endangered. He at once began moving forward to the advantageous high ground at the Peach Orchard, and by 3:30 p. m. his battle front extended from Devil's Den northwestward to the Orchard and northward on the Emmitsburg Road. In this forward movement, the strong position on the crest of Little Round Top was left unoccupied. This was the situation when Meade finally turned his attention from his right flank at Culp's Hill and Spangler's Springthe cause of his great concern throughout the forenoonto review Sickles' line.
Lee planned to attack, despite the advice of Longstreet who continually urged defensive battle. On July 2, Longstreet recommended that Lee swing around the Union left at Little Round Top, select a good position, and await attack. Lee observed that while the Union position was strong if held in sufficient numbers to utilize the advantage of interior lines, it presented grave difficulties to a weak defending force. A secure lodgment on the shank of the hook might render it possible to sever the Union Army and to deal with each unit separately. Not all of Meade's force had reached the field, and Lee thought he had the opportunity of destroying his adversary in the process of concentration. He resolved to send Longstreet against the Federal left flank which he believed was then on lower Cemetery Ridge, while Ewell was to storm Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill.
LONGSTREET ATTACKS ON THE RIGHT. In the execution of this plan, Longstreet was ordered to take position across the Emmitsburg Road and to attack what was thought to be the left flank of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. From his encampment on the Chambersburg Road, 3 miles west of Gettysburg, he started toward his objective, using Herr Ridge to conceal the movement from Union signalmen on Little Round Top. After marching to Black Horse Tavern on the Fairfield Road, he realized that his troops were in sight of the signal unit and at once began retracing his course. Employing the trees on Seminary Ridge as a screen, he marched southward again in Willoughby Run Valley, arriving in position on the Emmitsburg Road about 3:30 p.m. Immediately in front, and only 700 yards away, Longstreet saw Sickles' batteries lined up in the Peach Orchard and on the Emmitsburg Road. Col. E. P. Alexander, commanding Longstreet's artillery battalions, opened with full force against the Union guns. A moment later, Law's Alabama brigade stepped off, with Robertson's Texans on the left. They advanced east, then swung toward the north, with Devil's Den and the Round Tops in their path.
WARREN SAVES LITTLE ROUND TOP. Gen. G. K. Warren, Meade's Chief of Engineers, after reviewing Sickles' line with Meade, rode to the crest of Little Round Top and found the hill, "the key to the Union position," unoccupied except by a signal station. Warren was informed by the signalmen that they believed Confederate troops lay concealed on the wooded ridge a mile to the west. Smith's New York battery, emplaced at Devil's Den, immediately was ordered to fire a shot into these woods. The missile, crashing through the trees, caused a sudden stir of the Confederates "which by the gleam of the reflected sunlight on their bayonets, revealed their long lines outflanking the position." Warren realized Longstreet would strike first at Little Round Top and he observed, too, the difficulty of shifting Sickles' position from Devil's Den to the hill.
At this very moment, Sykes' Fifth Corps, marching from its reserve position, began streaming across Cemetery Ridge toward the front. Warren sought aid from this corps. In answer to his plea for troops, the brigades of Vincent and Weed sprinted to Little Round Top. Law's Alabama troops were starting to scale the south slope of the hill when Vincent's men rushed to the attack. Weed's brigade, following closely, drove over the crest and engaged Robertson's Texans on the west slope. The arrival of Hazlett's battery on the summit of the hill is thus described by an eyewitness: "The passage of the six guns through the roadless woods and amongst the rocks was marvelous. Under ordinary circumstances it would have been considered an impossible fear, but the eagerness of the men . . . brought them without delay to the very summit where they went immediately into battle." A desperate hand-to-hand struggle ensued. Weed and Hazlett were killed, and Vincent was mortally woundedall young soldiers of great promise.
While Law and Robertson fought on Little Round Top, their comrades struggled in the fields below. The Confederate drive was taken up in turn by the brigades of Benning, Anderson, Kershaw, Semmes, Barksdale, Wofford, Wilcox, Perry, and Wright against the divisions of three Federal corps in the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard, and along the Emmitsburg Road. Four hours of desperate fighting broke the Peach Orchard salient, an angle in the Union line which was struck from the south and the west. It left the Wheatfield strewn with dead and wounded, and the base of Little Round Top a shambles. Sickles' men had been driven back, and Longstreet was now in possession of the west slope of Big Round Top, of Devil's Den, and the Peach Orchard. Little Round Top, that commanding landmark which, in Confederate hands would have unhinged the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, still remained in Union possession.
CULP'S HILL. In the Confederate plan, Ewell on the left was directed to attack Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill in conjunction with Longstreet's drive. At the appointed time, the guns of Latimer's battalion on Benner's Hill, east of Gettysburg, opened a well-directed fire against the Union positions on East Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill, but the return fire soon shattered many of Latimer's batteries and forced the remnants to retire out of range. In the final moments of this action the youthful Major Latimer was mortally wounded.
About dusk, long after the artillery fire had ceased, Johnson's division charged the Union works on Culp's Hill. Although his right failed to make headway because of the steep incline and the strength of the Union positions, Steuart's brigade on the left had better luck. Here, on the southern slope of the hill, the Union works were thinly manned. An hour earlier, the divisions of Geary and Ruger had been called from these works to reinforce the Union center. Johnson, finding the works weakly defended, took possession of them but did nor press the attack further. Only a few hundred yards away on the Baltimore Pike lay the Union supply trains. Failure of Confederate reconnaissance here again was critically important. Thus passed another opportunity to strike a hard blow at the Union Army.
Closely timed with Johnson's assault, Early's infantry started a charge toward East Cemetery Hill. Seldom if ever surpassed in its dash and desperation, Early's assault reached the crest of the hill where the defenders, as a last resort in the hand-to-hand encounter, used clubbed muskets, stones, and rammers. Long after dark, Early's Louisiana and North Carolina troops fought to hold the crest of the hill and their captured guns. But the failure of Rodes to move out of the streets of Gettysburg and attack the hill from the west enabled Hancock to shift some of his men to aid in repelling Early's attack. Faced by these Union reserves, Early's men finally gave way about 10 o'clock and sullenly retired to their lines. The Union troops stood firm.
CANNONADE AT DAWN: CULP'S HILL AND SPANGLER'S SPRING. Night brought an end to the bloody combat at East Cemetery Hill, but this was not the time for rest. What would Meade do? Would the Union Army remain in its established position and hold its lines at all costs? At midnight Meade sought the advice of his Council of War in the east room of his headquarters. The corps commandersGibbon, Williams, Sykes, Newton, Howard, Hancock, Sedgwick, and Slocumwithout exception advised holding the positions established. Meade, approving, turned to the officer whose division held the Union center, and said, "Gibbon, if Lee attacks me tomorrow it will be in your front."
Despite this prediction, Meade took no unusual measures next day to fortify the center of his line. In fact, by morning he seemed convinced that the Confederate attack would continue against his left. Thus the strong forces there, three corps, were left in place. Hancock's Second Corps, holding the center, did strengthen the stone wall running along its front. And General Hunt, Chief of Artillery, brought up reserve batteries to hold in readiness for replacement of front line guns.
Meanwhile, important movements were occurring elsewhere on the field. Ruger's division and Lockwood's brigade, which had been called from their lines on the south slope of Culp's Hill the previous evening to buttress the weakened Federal forces on Cemetery Ridge, had counter-marched, under cover of darkness, to reoccupy their ground. Geary, who had misunderstood orders and had marched down the Baltimore Pike, had also returned to his works, Ruger's men, upon reaching the Pike, learned from scouts that their entrenchments south of Culp's Hill and at Spangler's Spring had been occupied by the Confederates. Ruger, resolving upon an attack at daybreak, organized his forces along the Pike. Powerful artillery units under Muhlenberg were brought into place along the road; Rigby's Maryland battery was stationed on Power's Hill, a prominent knoll a half mile to the south; and another battery was emplaced on McAllister Hill.
As dawn broke on July 3, Union guns on the Baltimore Pike opened with a heavy cannonade on Johnson's Confederates at Spangler's Spring. The heavily wooded area about the Confederate lines prevented them from bringing guns into position to return the fire. Union skirmishers began streaming across the field toward the Confederate entrenchments. The full force of Ruger's and Geary's divisions was soon committed. Throughout the forenoon the opposing lines exchanged extremely heavy fire.
It was about 10 o'clock that Ruger, believing that a flank attack might break the resistance of Johnson's men, ordered Col. Silas Colgrove to strike the Confederate left flank near the spring. The troops of the 2d Massachusetts and the 27th Indiana regiments started across the swale from the cover of the woods on the little hill south of the spring. A withering fire slowed their pace, but they charged on, only to have their ranks decimated by the Confederates in strong positions back of a stone wall. Colonel Mudge, inspiring leader of the Massachusetts regiment, fell mortally wounded. Forced to fall back, the men soon learned their efforts had not been in vain. On Ruger's and Geary's front the Confederates were now giving way and soon had retired across Rock Creek, out of striking range. By 11 o'clock, the Union troops were again in possession of their earthworks; again they could quench their thirst in the cooling waters of the spring.
LEE PLANS A FINAL THRUST. General Lee must have learned by mid-forenoon, after the long hours of struggle at Culp's Hill and Spangler's Spring, that his troops could not hold the Union works which they had occupied with so little effort the previous evening. He had seen, also, that in the tremendous battling during the preceding afternoon no important gains had been made at Little Round Top and its vicinity. Longstreet had gained the advantageous ridge at the Peach Orchard and had brought his batteries forward from Pitzer's Woods to this high ground in preparation for a follow-up attack. Wright's brigade, the last unit to move forward on July 2 in the echelon attack begun by General Law, had charged across the open fields at dusk and pierced the Union center just south of the copse of trees on Cemetery Ridge. Wright's success could not be pressed to decisive advantage as the brigades on his left had nor moved forward to his support, and he was forced to retire. Again, lack of coordination in attack was to count heavily against the Confederates.
The failure to make any pronounced headway on July 2 at Culp's Hill and Little Round Top, and the momentary success of Wright on Cemetery Ridge, doubtless led Lee to believe that Meade's flanks were strong and his center weak. A powerful drive at the center might pierce the enemy's lines and fold them back. The shattered units might then be destroyed or captured at will. Such a charge across open fields and in the face of frontal and flank fire would, Lee well understood, be a gamble seldom undertaken. Longstreet strongly voiced his objection to such a move, insisting that "no 15,000 men ever arrayed for battle can take that position."
Time now was the important element. Whatever could be done must be done quickly. Hood's and McLaws' divisions, who had fought bravely and lost heavily at Round Top and the Wheatfield, were not in condition for another severe test. Early and Johnson on the left had likewise endured long, unrelenting battle with powerful Union forces in positions of advantage. The men of Heth's and Pender's divisions had not been heavily engaged since the first day's encounter west of Gettysburg. These were the men, along with Pickett's division, whom Lee would have to count on to bear the brunt of his final great effort at Gettysburg.
LEE AND MEADE SET THE STAGE. Late in the forenoon of July 3, General Meade had completed his plan of defense. Another Confederate attack could be expected: "Where?" was still the question. General Hunt, sensing the danger, placed a formidable line of batteries in position on the crest of Cemetery Ridge and alerted others in the rear for emergency use. As a final act of preparation, Meade inspected his front at the stone wall, then rode southward to Little Round Top. There, with General Warren, he could see the long lines of massed Confederate batteries, a sure indication of attack. Meade rode back to his headquarters.
Lee, on his part, had spent the forenoon organizing his attack formations on Seminary Ridge. Having reached his decision to strike the Union center, he had ordered the movement of batteries from the rear to points of advantage. By noon, about 140 guns were in line from the Peach Orchard northward to the Seminary buildings, many of them only 800 yards from the Union center. To Colonel Alexander fell the lot of directing the artillery fire and informing the infantry of the best opportunity to advance.
Massed to the west of Emmitsburg Road, on low ground which screened their position from the Union lines, lay Gen. George Pickett's three brigades commanded by Kemper, Armistead, and Garnett. Pickett's men had arrived the previous evening from Chambersburg, where they had guarded Lee's wagons on July 1 and 2. As a division these units had seen little fighting. Soon they would gain immortality. On Pickett's left, the attacking front was fast being organized. Joseph Pettigrew, a brigadier, was preparing to lead the division of the wounded Major General Heth, and Maj. Gen. Isaac Trimble took the command of Pender. Nearly 10,000 troops of these two divisionsincluding such units as the 26th North Carolina whose losses on the first day were so heavy that the dead marked their advance "with the accuracy of a line at a dress parade"now awaited the order to attack. Many hours earlier, the Bliss farm buildings, which lay in their front, had been burned. Their objective on the ridge was in clear view. The brigades of Wilcox and Lang were to move forward on the right of Pickett in order to protect his flank as he neared the enemy position.
General Stuart, in the meantime, had been out of touch with Lee. Moving northward on the right flank of the Union Army, he became involved in a sharp engagement at Hanover, Pa., on June 30. Seeking to regain contact with Lee, he arrived at Carlisle on the evening of July 1. As he began shelling the barracks, orders arrived from Lee and he at once marched for Gettysburg, arriving north of the town the next day.
Early on July 3 he was ordered to take position on the Confederate left. This movement usually has been interpreted as an integral part of Lee's assault plan. But battle reports leave Stuart's role vague, except for covering the Confederate left. Doubtless he would have exploited any significant success achieved by the infantry assault.
Except for the intermittent sniping of sharpshooters, an ominous silence prevailed over the fields. The orders had now been given; the objective had been pointed our. Men talked of casual things. Some munched on hard bread, others looked fearfully to the eastward, where, with the same mixed feelings, lay their adversary.
Far to the south, on another crucial front, General Pemberton was penning a letter to General Grant asking terms for the surrender of Vicksburg. In Richmond, the sick and anxious Jefferson Davis looked hopefully for heartening word from his great field commander at Gettysburg. The outcome of this bold venture would count heavily in the balance for the cause of the Confederacy.
ARTILLERY DUEL AT ONE O'CLOCK. At 1 p.m. two guns of Miller's Battery, posted near the Peach Orchard, opened fire in rapid succession. It was the signal for the entire line to let loose their terrific blast. Gunners rushed to their cannon, and in a few moments the massed batteries shook the countryside. Firing in volleys and in succession, the air was soon filled with smoke and heavy dust, which darkened the sky. Union gunners on Cemetery Ridge waited a few minutes until the positions of the Confederate batteries were located; then 80 guns, placed in close order, opened fire. For nearly 2 hours the duel continued, then the Union fire slackened. Hunt had ordered a partial cessation in order to cool the guns and conserve ammunition.
Colonel Alexander, in position on the Emmitsburg Road near the Peach Orchard, could observe the effectiveness of his fire on the Union lines and also keep the Confederate troops in view. To him, it appeared that Union artillery fire was weakening. His own supply of ammunition was running low. Believing this was the time to attack, Alexander sent a message to Pickett who in turn rode over to Longstreet. General Longstreet, who had persistently opposed Lee's plan of sending 15,000 men across the open ground, was now faced with a final decision. Longstreet merely nodded approval and Pickett saluted, saying, "I am going to move forward, sir." He rode back to his men and ordered the advance. With Kemper on the right, Garnett on the left, and Armistead a few yards to the rear, the division marched out in brigade front, first northeastward into the open fields, then eastward toward the Union lines. As Pickett's men came into view near the woods, Pettigrew and Trimble gave the order to advance. Sons of Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi, comprising the brigades of Mayo, Davis, Marshall, and Fry in front, followed closely by Lane and Lowrance, now moved out to attack. A gap between Pickett's left and Pettigrew's right would be closed as the advance progressed. The units were to converge as they approached the Union lines so that the final stage of the charge would present a solid front.
CLIMAX AT GETTYSBURG. Billows of smoke lay ahead of the Union men at the stone wall, momentarily obscuring the enemy. But trained observers on Little Round Top, far to the south, could see in the rear of this curtain of smoke the waves of Confederates starting forward. Pickett finding his brigades drifting southeastward, ordered them to bear to the left, and the men turned toward the copse of trees. Kemper was now approaching on the south of the Codori buildings; Garnett and Armistead were on the north. Halted momentarily at the Emmitsburg Road to remove fence rails, Pickett's troops, with Pettigrew on the left, renewed the advance. Pickett had anticipated frontal fire of artillery and infantry from the strong Union positions at the stone walls on the ridge, but now an unforeseen attack developed. Union guns as far south as Little Round Top, along with batteries on Cemetery Hill, relieved from Confederate fire at the Seminary buildings, opened on the right and left flanks. As Pickett's men drove toward the Union works at The Angle, Stannard's Vermont troops, executing a right turn movement from their position south of the copse, fired into the flank of the charging Confederates. The advancing lines crumbled, re-formed, and again pressed ahead under terrific fire from the Union batteries.
But valor was not enough. As the attackers neared the stone wall they lost cohesion in the fury that engulfed them. All along the wall the Union infantry opened with volley after volley into the depleted ranks of Garnett and Fry. Armistead closed in, and with Lane and Lowrance joining him, made a last concerted drive. At this close range, double canister and concentrated infantry fire cut wide gaps in the attacking front. Garnett was mortally wounded; Kemper was down, his lines falling away on the right and left. Armistead reached the low stone fence. In a final surge, he crossed the wall with 150 men and, with his cap on his sword, shouted "Follow me!" At the peak of the charge, he fell mortally wounded. From the ridge, Union troops rushed forward and Hall's Michigan regiments let loose a blast of musketry. The gray column was surrounded. The ride of the Confederacy had "swept to its crest, paused, and receded."
Two of the divisions in the charge were reduced to mere fragments. In front of the Union line, 20 fallen battle flags lay in a space of 100 yards square. Singly and in little clumps, the remnants of the gray columns that had made the magnificent charge of a few minutes earlier now sullenly retreated across the fields toward the Confederate lines. Lee, who had watched anxiously from Spangler's Woods, now rode out to meet his men. "All this has been my fault," he said to General Wilcox who had brought off his command after heavy losses. "It is I that have lost this fight, and you must help me out of it in the best way you can." And again that night, in a moment of contemplation, he remarked to a comrade, "Too bad! too bad! Oh! too bad!"
CAVALRY ACTION. As the strength of Lee's mighty effort at The Angle was ebbing and the scattered remnants of the charge were seeking shelter, action of a different kind was taking place on another field not far distant. Early in the afternoon, Stuart's cavalry was making its way down the valley of Cress Run, 3 miles east of Gettysburg. The brigades of Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee, at the rear of the line of march, momentarily lost the trail and came out into open ground at the north end of Rummel's Woods, Stuart, soon learning of the mistake, attempted to bring them into line and to proceed southward. But at this point, Gen. D. M. Gregg's Union cavalry, in position along the Hanover Road a mile southeast, saw the Confederates. Gregg prepared at once to attack, and Stuart had no choice but to fight on this ground. As the two forces moved closer, dismounted men opened a brisk fire, supported by the accurate shelling of artillerists.
Then came the initial cavalry charge and countercharge. The Confederate Jenkins was forced to withdraw when his small supply of ammunition became exhausted. Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee, and Chambliss charged again and again, only to be met with the equally spirited counterattack of McIntosh. Custer's Michigan regiments assailed the front of the charging Confederate troopers, and Miller's squadron of the 3d Pennsylvania, disobeying orders to hold its position, struck opportunely on the Confederate left. The thrusts of the Union horsemen, so well coordinated, stopped the onslaught of Stuart's troopers. After 3 hours of turbulent action, the Confederates left the field and retired to the north of Gettysburg. The Union horsemen, holding their ground, had successfully cut off any prospect of Confederate cavalry aid in the rear of the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge.
Lee, as he looked over the desolate field of dead and wounded and the broken remnants of his once-powerful army still ready for renewed battle, must have realized that not only was Gettysburg lost, but that eventually it might all end this way. Meade did not counterattack, as expected. The following day, July 4, the two armies lay facing each other, exhausted and torn.
Late on the afternoon of July 4, Lee began an orderly retreat. The wagon train of wounded, 17 miles in length, guarded by Imboden's cavalry, started homeward through Greenwood and Greencastle. At night, the able-bodied men marched over the Hagerstown Road by way of Monterey Pass to the Potomac. Roads had become nearly impassable from the heavy rains that day, hindering the movements of both armies. Meade, realizing that the Confederate Army was actually retreating and not retiring to the mountain passes, sent detachments of cavalry and infantry in pursuit and ordered the mountain passes west of Frederick covered. Lee, having the advantage of the more direct route to the Potomac, reached the river several days ahead of his pursuers, but heavy rains had swollen the current and he could not cross. Meade arrived on the night of July 12 and prepared for a general attack. On the following night, however, the river receded and Lee crossed safely into Virginia. The Confederate Army, Meade's critics said, had been permitted to slip from the Union grasp.
ESTABLISHMENT OF A BURIAL GROUND. For the residents of Gettysburg the aftermath of battle was almost as trying as the 3 days of struggle that had swirled about them. The town's 2,400 inhabitants, and the nearby country folk, bore a heavy share of the burden of caring for the 21,000 wounded and dying of both sides, who were left behind when the armies moved on. Spacious rooms in churches and schools and hundreds of homes were turned over to the care of the wounded; and kindly folk from neighboring towns came to help those of Gettysburg in ministering to the needs of the maimed and shattered men.
Adequate attention to the wounded was an immediate necessity, but fully as urgent was the need of caring for the dead. Nearly 6,000 had been killed in action, and hundreds died each day from mortal wounds. In the earlier stages of the battle, soldiers of both armies performed the tasks of burying their fallen comrades, but the struggle had reached such large proportions and the scene of battle had so shifted that fallen men had come within enemy lines. Because of the emergencies of battle, therefore, hundreds of bodies had been left unburied or only partially covered. It was evident that the limited aid which could be offered by local authorities must be supported by a well-organized plan for disinterment of the dead from the temporary burial grounds on the field and reburial in a permanent place at Gettysburg or in home cemeteries.
A few days after the battle, the Governor of the Commonwealth, Hon. Andrew Curtin, visited the battlefield to offer assistance in caring for the wounded. When official duties required his return to Harrisburg, he appointed Attorney David Wills, of Gettysburg, to act as his special agent. At the time of his visit, the Governor was especially distressed by the condition of the dead, In response to the Governor's desire that the remains be brought together in a place set aside for the purpose, Mr. Wills selected land on the northern slope of Cemetery Hill and suggested that the State of Pennsylvania purchase the ground at once in order that interments could begin without delay. He proposed that contributions for the purpose of laying out and landscaping the grounds be asked from legislatures of the States whose soldiers had taken part in the battle.
Within 6 weeks, Mr. Wills had purchased 17 acres of ground on Cemetery Hill and engaged William Saunders, an eminent landscape gardener, to lay out the grounds in State lots, apportioned in size to the number of graves for the fallen of each State. Each of the Union States represented in the battle made contributions for planning and landscaping.
The reinterment of close to 3,500 Union dead was accomplished only after many months. Great care had been taken to identify the bodies on the field, and, at the time of reinterment, remains were readily identified by marked boards which had been placed at the field grave or by items found on the bodies. Even so, the names of 1,664 remained un known, 979 of whom were without identification either by name or by State. Within a year, appropriations from the States made possible the enclosure of the cemetery with a massive stone wall and an iron fence on the Baltimore Street front, imposing gateways of iron, headstones for the graves, and a keeper's lodge. Since the original burials, the total of Civil War interments has reached 3,706. Including those of later wars, the total number now is close to 5,000.
The removal of Confederate dead from the field burial plots was not undertaken until 7 years after the battle. During the years 1870-73, upon the initiative of the Ladies Memorial Associations of Richmond, Raleigh, Savannah, and Charleston, 3,320 bodies were disinterred and sent to cemeteries in those cities for reburial, 2,935 being interred in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond. Seventy-three bodies were reburied in home cemeteries.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania incorporated the cemetery in March 1864. The cemetery "having been completed, and the care of it by Commissioners from so many states being burdensome and expensive," the Board of Commissioners, authorized by act of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania in 1868, recommended the transfer of the cemetery to the Federal Government. The Secretary of War accepted title to the cemetery for the United States Government on May 1, 1872.
DEDICATION OF THE CEMETERY. Having agreed upon a plan for the cemetery, the Commissioners believed it advisable to consecrate the grounds with appropriate ceremonies. Mr. Wills, representing the Governor of Pennsylvania, was selected to make proper arrangements for the event. With the approval of the Governors of the several States, he wrote to Hon. Edward Everett, of Massachusetts, inviting him to deliver the oration on the occasion and suggested October 23, 1863, as the date for the ceremony. Mr. Everett stated in reply that the invitation was a great compliment, but that because of the time necessary for the preparation of the oration he could not accept a date earlier than November 19. This was the date agreed upon.
Edward Everett was the outstanding orator of his day. He had been a prominent Boston minister and later a university professor. A cultured scholar, he had delivered orations on many notable occasions. In a distinguished career he became successively President of Harvard, Governor of Massachusetts, United States Senator, Minister to England, and Secretary of State.
The Gettysburg cemetery, at the time of the dedication, was not under the authority of the Federal Government. It had not occurred to those in charge, therefore, that the President of the United States might desire to attend the ceremony. When formally printed invitations were sent to a rather extended list of national figures, including the President, the acceptance from Mr. Lincoln came as a surprise. Mr. Wills was there upon instructed to request the President to take part in the program, and, on November 2, a personal invitation was addressed to him.
Throngs filled the town on the evening of November 18. The special train from Washington bearing the President arrived in Gettysburg at dusk. Mr. Lincoln was escorted to the spacious home of Mr. Wills on Center Square. Sometime later in the evening the President was serenaded, and at a late hour he retired. Ar 10 o'clock on the following morning, the appointed time for the procession to begin, Mr. Lincoln was ready. The various units of the long procession, marshaled by Ward Lamon, began moving on Baltimore Street, the President riding horse back. The elaborate order of march also included Cabinet officials, judges of the Supreme Court, high military officers, Governors, commissioners, the Vice President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Members of Congress, and many local groups.
Difficulty in getting the procession under way and the tardy return of Mr. Everett from his drive over the battleground accounted for a delay of an hour in the proceedings. At high noon, with thousands scurrying about for points of vantage, the ceremonies were begun with the playing of a dirge by one of the bands. As the audience stood uncovered, a prayer was offered by Rev. Thomas H. Stockton, Chaplain of the House of Representatives. "Old Hundred" was played by the Marine Band. Then Mr. Everett arose, and "stood a moment in silence, regarding the battlefield and the distant beauty of the South Mountain range." For nearly 2 hours he reviewed the funeral customs of Athens, spoke of the purposes of war, presented a detailed account of the 3-days' battle, offered tribute to those who died on the battlefield, and reminded his audience of the bonds which are common to all Americans. Upon the conclusion of his address, a hymn was sung.
Then the President arose and spoke his immortal words:
A hymn was then sung and Rev. H. L. Baugher pronounced the benediction.
GENESIS OF THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. The theme of the Gettysburg Address was not entirely new. President Lincoln was aware of Daniel Webster's statement in 1830 that the origin of our government and the source of its power is "the people's constitution, the people's government; made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people." Lincoln had read Supreme Court Justice John Marshall's opinion, which states: "The government of the Union . . . is emphatically and truly a government of the people. . . . Its powers are granted by them and are to be exercised directly on them, and for their benefit." In a ringing anti-slavery address in Boston in 1858, Rev. Theodore Parker, the noted minister, defined democracy as "a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people." On a copy of this address in Lincoln's papers, this passage is encircled with pencil marks. But Lincoln did not merely repeat this theme; he transformed it into America's greatest patriotic utterance. With the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln gave meaning to the sacrifice of the deadhe gave inspiration to the living.
Rather than accept the address as a few brief notes hastily prepared on the route to Gettysburg (an assumption which has long gained much public acceptance), it should be regarded as a pronouncement of the high purpose dominant in Lincoln's thinking throughout the war. Habitually cautious of words in public address, spoken or written, it is not likely that the President, on such an occasion, failed to give careful thought to the words which he would speak. After receiving the belated invitation on November 2, he yet had ample time to prepare for the occasion, and the well-known correspondent Noah Brooks stated that several days before the dedication Lincoln told him in Washington that his address would be "short, short, short" and that it was "written, but not finished."
Quite opposite to Lincoln's feeling, expressed soon after the delivery of the address, that it "would not scour," the President lived long enough to think better of it himself and to see it widely accepted as a master piece. Early in 1864, Mr. Everett requested him to join in presenting manuscripts of the two addresses given at Gettysburg to be bound in a volume and sold for the benefit of stricken soldiers at a Sanitary Commission Fair in New York. The draft Lincoln sent became the third autograph copy, known as the Everett-Keyes copy, and it is now in the possession of the Illinois State Historical Library.
George Bancroft requested a copy in April 1864, to be included in Autograph Leaves of Our Country's Authors. This volume was to be sold at a Soldiers' and Sailors' Sanitary Fair in Baltimore. As this fourth copy was written on both sides of the paper, it proved unusable for this purpose, and Mr. Bancroft was allowed to keep it. This autograph draft is known as the Bancroft copy, as it remained in that family for many years. It has recently been presented to the Cornell University Library. Finding that the copy written for Autograph Leaves could not be used, Mr. Lincoln wrote another, a fifth draft, which was accepted for the purpose requested. It is the only draft to which he affixed his signature. In all probability it was the last copy written by Lincoln, and because of the apparent care in its preparation it has become the standard version of the address. This draft was owned by the family of Col. Alexander Bliss, publisher of Autograph Leaves, and is known as the Bliss copy. It now hangs in the Lincoln Room of the White House, a gift of Oscar B. Cintas, former Cuban Ambassador to the United States.
SOLDIERS' NATIONAL MONUMENT. As a fitting memorial to the Union dead who fell at Gettysburg, the Commissioners arranged for the erection of a monument in the center of the semicircular plot of graves. A design submitted by J. G. Batterson was accepted and the services of Randolph Rogers, a distinguished American sculptor, were secured for the execution of the monument. Projecting from the four angles of the gray granite shaft are allegorical statues in white marble representing War, History, Peace, and Plenty. Surmounting the shaft is a white marble statue representing the Genius of Liberty. Known as the Soldiers' National Monument, the cornerstone was laid July 4, 1865, and the monument dedicated July 1, 1869.
THE LINCOLN ADDRESS MEMORIAL. The "few appropriate remarks" of Lincoln at Gettysburg came to be accepted with the passing of years not only as a fine expression of the purposes for which the war was fought, but as a masterpiece of literature. An effort to have the words of the martyr President commemorated on this battlefield culminated with the inclusion in the act approved February 12, 1895, which established Gettysburg National Military Park, of a provision for the erection of such a memorial. Pursuant to this authority, the Park Commission erected the Lincoln Address Memorial, in January 1912, near the west gate of the national cemetery.
Over the years, the great interest of veterans and the public alike in the Gettysburg battlefield has been reflected in three outstanding anniversary celebrations. Dominant in the observance of the 25th anniversary in 1888 were the veterans themselves who returned to en camp on familiar ground. It was on this occasion that a large number of regimental monuments, erected by survivors of regiments or by states, were dedicated. Again, in 1913, on the 50th anniversary, even though the ranks were gradually thinning, the reunion brought thousands of veterans back to the battlefield. Perhaps the most impressive public tribute to surviving veterans occurred July 1-4, 1938, during the 75th anniversary of the battle. This was the last reunion at Gettysburg of the men who wore the blue and the gray. Although 94 years was the average age of those attending, 1,845 veterans out of a total of about 8,000 then living, returned for the encampment. It was on this occasion that the Eternal Light Peace Memorial was dedicated.
In 1895, the battlefield was established by Act of Congress as Gettysburg National Military Park. In that year, the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Associationfounded April 30, 1864, to commemorate "the great deeds of valor . . . and the signal events which render these battlegrounds illustrious"transferred its holdings of 600 acres of land to the Federal Government. In 1933, the park was transferred from the War Department to the Department of the Interior, to be administered by the National Park Service. Today, the park has some 30 miles of paved roads and an area of close to 3,000 acres. More than 1,400 monuments, tablets, and markers have been erected over the years to indicate the positions where infantry, artillery, and cavalry units fought. Hundreds of Federal and Confederate cannon are located on the field in the approximate positions of batteries during the battle. Field exhibits on the field describe important phases of the 3-day struggle.
In the Park Visitor Center, south of Gettysburg, you can see museum exhibits and the famous Gettysburg Cyclorama, as well as obtain additional information and publications about the battlefield.
Gettysburg National Military Park is administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Communications should be addressed to the Superintendent, Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pa.
The Gettysburg Campaign
CATTON, BRUCE, Glory Road. Doubleday & Co., Garden City, N.Y., 1952.
DOWDEY, CLIFFORD, Death of a Nation. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1958.
DOWNEY, FAIRFAX, The Guns at Gettysburg. David McKay Co., New York, 1958.
FREEMAN, D. S., Lee's Lieutenants, Volume III. Charles Scribners Sons, New York, 1944.
_______, R. E. Lee, Volume III. Charles Scribners Sons, New York, 1935.
MONTGOMERY, JAMES S., The Shaping of a Battle: Gettysburg. Chilton Co., Philadelphia, 1959.
RANDALL, JAMES G., Civil War and Reconstruction. D. C. Heath & Co., New York, 1937.
STACKPOLE, EDWARD J., They Met at Gettysburg. Eagle Books, Harrisburg, Pa., 1956.
STEWART, GEORGE R., Pickett's Charge. Houghton, Mifflin Co., New York, Boston, 1959.
TUCKER, GLENN, High Tide at Gettysburg. The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, 1958.
ANGLE, PAUL M., Editor, The Lincoln Reader. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, 1947.
APPLEMAN, ROY E., Editor, Abraham Lincoln from His Own Words and Contemporary Accounts. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1956.
RANDALL, JAMES G., Lincoln, The President, Volume II. Dodd, Mead & Co., New York, 1945.
Weapons and Tactics at Gettysburg
A variety of weapons was carried at Gettysburg. Revolvers, swords, and bayonets were abundant, but the basic infantry weapon of both armies was a muzzle-loading rifle musket about 4.7 feet long, weighing approximately 9 pounds. They came in many models, but the most common and popular were the Springfield and the English-made Enfield. They were hard hitting, deadly weapons, very accurate at a range of 200 yards and effective at 1,000 yards. With black powder, ignited by percussion caps, they fired "Minie Balls"hollow-based lead slugs half an inch in diameter and an inch long. A good soldier could load and fire his rifle three times a minute, but in the confusion of battle the rate of fire was probably slower.
There were also some breech-loading small arms at Gettysburg. Union cavalrymen carried Sharps and Burnside single-shot carbines and a few infantry units carried Sharps rifles. Spencer repeating rifles were used in limited quantity by Union cavalry on July 3 and by a few Union infantry. In the total picture of the battle, the use of these efficient weapons was actually quite small.
Those who fought at Gettysburg with rifles and carbines were supported by nearly 630 cannon360 Union and 270 Confederate. About half of these were rifled iron pieces, all but four of the others were smoothbore bronze guns. The same types of cannon were used by both armies.
Almost all of the bronze pieces were 12 pounders, either howitzers or "Napoleons." They could hurl a 12-pound iron ball nearly a mile and were deadly at short ranges, particularly when firing canister. Other bronze cannon included 24 pounder howitzers and 6 pounder guns. All types are represented in the park today, coated with patina instead of being polished as they were when in use.
Most of the iron rifled pieces at Gettysburg had a 3-inch bore and fired a projectile which weighed about 10 pounds. There were two types of these3-inch ordnance rifles and 10 pounder Parrotts. It is easy to tell them apart for the Parrott has a reinforcing jacket around its breech, The effective range of these guns was somewhat in excess of a mile, limited in part because direct fire was used and the visibility of gunners was restricted.
Two other types of rifled guns were used at Gettysburgfour bronze James guns and two Whitworth rifles. The Whitworths were unique because they were breech loading and were reported to have had exceptional range and accuracy. However, their effect at Gettysburg must have been small for one was out of action much of the time.
These artillery pieces used three types of ammunition. All cannon could fire solid projectiles or shot. They also hurled fused, hollow shells which contained black powder and sometimes held lead balls or shrapnel. Canister consisted of cans filled with iron or lead balls. These cans burst apart on firing, converting the cannon into an oversized shotgun.
Weapons influenced tactics. At Gettysburg a regiment formed for battle, fought, and moved in a two rank line, its men shoulder to shoulder, the file closets in the rear. Since the average strength of regiments here was only 350 officers and men, the length of a regiment's line was a little over 100 yards. Such a formation brought the regiment's slow-firing rifles together under the control of the regimental commander, enabling him to deliver a maximum of fire power at a given target. The formation's shallowness had a two-fold purpose, it permitted all ranks to fire, and it presented a target of minimum depth to the enemy's fire.
Four or five regiments were grouped into a brigade, two to five brigades formed a division. When formed for the attack, a brigade moved forward in a single or double line of regiments until it came within effective range of the enemy line. Then both parties blazed away, attempting to gain the enemy's flank if feasible, until one side or the other was forced to retire. Confederate attacking forces were generally formed with an attacking line in front and a supporting line behind. Federal brigades in the defense also were formed with supporting troops in a rear line when possible. Breastworks were erected if time permitted, but troops were handicapped in this work because entrenching tools were in short supply.
Like their infantry comrades, cavalrymen also fought on foot, using their horses as means of transportation. However, mounted charges were also made in the classic fashion, particularly in the great cavalry battle on July 3.
Cavalry and infantry were closely supported by artillery. Batteries of from four to six guns occupied the crests of ridges and hills from which a field of fire could be obtained. They were usually placed in the forward lines, protected by supporting infantry regiments posted on their flanks or in their rear. Limbers containing their ammunition were nearby. Because gunners had to see their targets, artillery positions sheltered from the enemy's view were still in the future.
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