September 22, 2019 by Mel
And here we are…the last full day of our 2019 American adventure. I have to say I’m sat here with that mixed ‘end of holiday’ feeling, the one where you don’t want to leave but at the same time are ready to get back home. Just so we didn’t miss any of our plans we continued our CD Auto tour of the Gettysburg battlefield.
Summary of Day 2
During the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 2, 1863) Confederate Gen.Robert E. Lee attempted to capitalize on his first day’s success. His Army of Northern Virginia launched multiple attacks on the flanks of the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade. The assaults were unsuccessful, and resulted in heavy casualties for both sides.
After a delay to assemble his forces and avoid detection in his approach march, Lt. Gen.James Longstreet attacked with his First Corps against the Union left flank. His division under Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood attacked Little Round Top and Devil’s Den. To Hood’s left, Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws attacked the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard. Although neither prevailed, the Union III Corps was effectively destroyed as a combat organization as it attempted to defend a salient over too wide a front. Gen. Meade had to rush as many as 20,000 reinforcements from elsewhere in his line to resist these fierce assaults. The attacks in this sector concluded with an unsuccessful assault by the Confederate Third Corps division of Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson against the Union center on Cemetery Ridge.
That evening, Confederate Second Corps commander Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell turned demonstrations against the Union right flank into full-scale assaults on Culp’s Hill and East Cemetery Hill, but both were repulsed.
The Union army had occupied strong defensive positions, and resulting in heavy losses for both sides, but leaving both sides essentially unchanged. Lee’s hope of crushing the Army of the Potomac on Northern territory was dashed, but undaunted, he began to plan for the third day of fighting.
Summary of day 3
On July 3, Lee, having failed on the right and the left, planned an assault on Meade’s center. A 15,000-man strong force under the command of General George Pickett was organised. Prior to the charge, Lee ordered a massive bombardment of the Union positions. The 10,000 Federals answered the Confederate artillery onslaught, and for more than an hour the guns raged in the heaviest cannonade of the Civil War.
At 3 p.m., Pickett led his force into no-man’s-land and found that Lee’s bombardment had failed. As Pickett’s force attempted to cross the mile distance to Cemetery Ridge, Union artillery blew great holes in their lines. Meanwhile, Union infantry flanked the main body of “Pickett’s charge” and began cutting down the Confederates. Only a few hundred Virginians reached the Union line at the high water mark (the angle). In less than an hour, more than 7,000 Confederate troops had been killed, wounded or captured.
Both armies, exhausted, held their positions until the night of July 4, when Lee withdrew. The Army of the Potomac was too weak to pursue the Confederates, and Lee led his army out of the North, never to invade it again. The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point in the Civil War, costing the Union 23,000 killed, wounded, or missing in action. The Confederates suffered some 25,000 casualties. On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address during the dedication of a new national cemetery at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg. The Civil War effectively ended with the surrender of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in April 1865 at Appomattox Court House.
We started today as the tour had left off a couple of days ago. Starting at Stop 7 Warfield Ridge. Looking over the Warfield you can see the areas where Sickles has been notoriously out of position.
Stop 8 – Little Round Top
This is one of the most famous parts of the battle. It was at Little Round Top the Chamberlain conducted his famous ‘charge bayonets’, driving the Confederates down the hill and maintaining control of the high ground.
Unofficial Stop – Devils Den
The fighting around Devils Den was bloody and intense. It is the site of a very famous, albeit false, photos of the civil war. The picture depicts a dead sharpshooter at a prime position.
The reality is somewhat disturbing. Wanting to make a more profitable scene, the photographer dragged the dead body of a soldier some 40yards from a different position and placed it in the rocky post so as to stage to picture. Even the press back then could not be relied upon !!
Stop 9 – The Wheatfield / Plum Run
The area of the wheatfield saw many dead and wounded soldiers from both sides. It was not uncommon for confederate soldiers to take the shoes and weapons of Union dead who had fallen behind enemy lines. One soldier who lay injured in the Wheatfield said that during the night he had heard a rustling coming near to him through the wheatfield, he saw many wild hogs tearing at the flesh of the dead bodies. When they came near him he continued to stab at them to save himself.
Stop 10 – Trostle Farm
The Trostle Farm area was where Brig. Gen. Barksdale mounted one of the great charges of the war. Barksdale ordered his men to charge from the woods to attack the men under Union Gen. Sickles. It was at this fight that Gen. Sickles leg was shattered and later amputated (the bones of which he saved and donated to the Armed Forces Medical Museum). It was also the charge that dealt a fatal blow to Barksdale. He insisted that his sword be returned to his wife with a message that he had died on the battlefield defending the cause.
Stop 11 – The Pennsylvania Monument and the First Minnesota Monument
It is impossible to go to the battlefields of Gettysburg and not see the Pennsylvania Monument. It is by far the largest monument and is a fitting tribute to the home State of Gettysburg.
The First Minnesota monument brings back memories of when Lee and I were involved in reenacting the Civil War. This was our unit, hats off to the boys of the First.
Stop 12 – Spangler Spring
A much needed point for the soldiers during the battle was that of Spanglers Spring. It is the only natural spring in the area.
It is in this area that a messenger was killed trying to get a note back to the town to a Civilian by the name of Jennie Wade. The note was from Jack Skelley, the sweetheart of Jennie. Jack had been wounded a couple of days before the battle and had been sending a message back to Jennie via a messenger. Jennie was at her home in Gettysburg as the fighting started. As she was kneading bread at a dough box she told he mother “If there is anyone in this house that is to be killed today, I hope it is me as Georgia has that little baby.” No sooner had she said this than a stray bullet passed through the front door of the house and into her back and out through her front. She was the only civilian casualty of the battle. What the note intended for Jennie said, no one will ever know. Jack Skelley also does a couple of days later.
Stop 13 – Culps Hill
The oldest general fighting at Gettysburg, Gen George Greene (known as “Pop” Greene) ordered his men to build entrenchments that contributed to the successful defense of the crucial Union right flank on Culps Hill.
Stop 14 – East Cemetery Hill
On the evening of July 2, troops of the Confederate Second Corps charged Cemetery Hill. At the summit, in fierce hand to hand combat, Union forces drove the Confederates back and held the position. Col. Isaac Avery of North Carolina was mortally wounded in the fighting on Cemetery Hill. As he lay dying, he managed to write a note to his father saying “Major, Tell my father I died with my face to the enemy.”
Stop 15 – The High Water Mark
On the 3 July saw the culmination of the battle of Gettysburg with the infamous ‘Picketts Charge’. Knowing this was going to be a disastrous charge, it was one order that Longstreet did not want to give but had no choice as it was on Robert E Lees orders. Looking out over the area from the Union point of view by the corpse of trees, you can visualise the oncoming Confederates. It must have been a terrifying sight to see, three brigades advancing upon you. The artillery pounded into them and the fighting ensued. More than half of the division was lost in that single charge.
Summary of our thoughts
Looking at the battle as a whole of the third day, if the fighting on Culps Hill, East Cavalry field and the renewed attacks against Little Round Top all coordinated at the same time as Picketts Charge, as Gen. Lee has intended, the outcome may have been different. However, poor communication, misinterpreted orders and missed opportunities meant that the attacks went in piece meals and Longstreet never resumed his attack on Little Round Top. This meant that Picketts Charge was doomed to fail before it had even begun.
Looking back on the second day, again some poor communication and misinterpreted orders meant that the Confederates missed an opportunity with Sickles out of position. After coming to the Gettysburg battlefield three times now, I have often thought that Sickles had made the right choice in advancing forward to a higher elevation, but the more I come back and see and read about the battle, it is very clear that Sickles nearly cost the Union the second day and a lot of Union soldiers died on that second day needlessly not only his own troops but also the First Minnesota who started with 262 men and charged into a confederate brigade of over 1500 men. The reason for this is that Sickles was way out of position and there was a massive gap in the Union line and they were the only spare troops at the time. They ended the charge with only 47 men alive that saved the day in time for the Irish Brigade to come and support.
All in all, Gettysburg has yet again been a fantastic part of our adventure and I dare say we will be back again somewhen in the future.
I hope you have enjoyed our adventure. If so please Like, Share and Comment.