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Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Battle of Gettysburg: Day Two, The Battle Rages

After Union and Confederate troops clashed on July 1st and Northern troops retreated, the stage was set for the second day of battle at Gettysburg.

Union lines (the fish hook) were
established  on hills & ridge
lines south of the town.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee drew up plans for the next day's battle.  Previous attacks on the ends of Union lines have been effective in previous engagements.  Disorganized, fleeing men take with them the chaos needed to win victory on Northern soil and force the Union to sue for peace. Lee's plans had specific times for his Generals to start their attacks...

The main attack on the Union southern lines was planned to start at 11:00 am with an artillery bombardment.  The plan was for  General James Longstreet to send forces against Little Round Top and adjacent Big Round Top, which were thought to be unoccupied, to outflank the far left of  the Union lines.  General John Bell Hood and General Lafayette Mclaws' men were to "roll up" the end of the line and push Union troops toward the middle of the three and a half mile stretch of blue.

Confederate General Richard S. Ewell was ordered to start a diversionary attack on Culp's Hill upon hearing Longstreet's artillery bombardment.  His job was to keep Union troops busy while the main attack was underway on the opposite end of the Union lines.  If circumstances permitted, Ewell had orders to take the hill.

As Park Rangers stressed throughout their tours, "Plans look great on paper."

General Longstreet's attack started at 4:00 pm.  His delay allowed Union troops time to get to Little Round Top and form their lines.  After the artillery bombardment, men in grey started forward.

Imagine wave after wave of men in grey charging up the hill, screaming....

General Mclaws' troops attacked Little Round Top repeatedly, shifting to the right to attack the very end of the Union line.

Ranger Brian demonstrates a
flanking assault with Eric &
Adam, that will push them
back onto adjacent soldiers.

The statue of General Governeur
K. Warren surveying the terrain
from Little Round Top on the
left of the photo.

Out numbered by Southern troops and and out of ammunition, Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain sent the men of the 20th Maine charging down hill with fixed bayonets.  The advancing men repulsed the Rebels and took prisoners.

Confederate General Hood &
his men met stiff resistance at
Devil's Den, within sight of
Little Round Top.

Outnumbered & rapidly losing
men, Union troops withdrew.

Union General Daniel E. Sickles, a politician from New York was not a trained soldier. He commanded  of the 3rd Corps and made a bad decision.  Sickles left his assigned position advanced 10,000 men too far forward, to slightly higher ground, leaving Little Round Top undefended and cut himself off from the rest of the Union Army.

The newly created, thinly manned line in the Peach Tree Orchard created an upside down V, called a salient. This type of defensive line does not hold against assaults.

A furious General Meade went to the Peach Tree Orchard and told General Sickles that his troops were in the wrong place.  General Sickles said he'd move them.  General Meade pointed to the massing Confederate troops and told his subordinate, "They will not let you."

Ranger Jarrod describes the
battle to our group while
Adam & Eric look on.

At 5:00 pm General Mclaws' men rushed the Union line in the Peach Tree Orchard, and it broke. General Meade sent in reinforcements from units along Cemetery Ridge.  Fighting was ferocious, and Rebel forces were repulsed.   Among the many casualties from this part of the battlefield was General Sickles.  He was wounded and lost his right leg.

At 6:00 pm, Confederates attacked the center of the Union lines.  

General Winfield Scott Hancock's position was weakened by the loss of men he'd sent to the Peach Tree Orchard.  While his remaining men fought tenaciously, Rebel troops surged onto Cemetery Ridge. The First Minnesota was pressed into service and charged the enemy with fixed bayonets. Eighty percent of the Minnesotans were killed or wounded during their counter attack, giving General Hancock time to reform his lines and repulse the Rebels.

The Confederate attack on Culp's
 Hill began in earnest at 7:00 pm.

Ranger Jim walks us through
July 2nd's battle.

The Rebels had some initial success.  Greene's men were outnumbered and outflanked by Confederate General George E. Steuart's troops.  Union soldiers fighting from the cover of the breastworks General George S. Greene had constructed the previous day fell back and continued the fight.  Rebels were holding positions on the lower part of the hill.  The hours long battle was confused and would resume the following day.

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