Anderson’s Second Attack and the Federal’s Last Stand at the Devil’s Den

Tom Elmore

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photo: @infomanpa https://civilwartalk.com/threads/devils-den-from-the-bottom-up.171473/#post-2241175
After regrouping Anderson’s Georgians advanced a second time, only to find a new force of Federals (Tilton and Sweitzer) posted in their left front. The 17th Maine and Ward’s brigade held their ground for the time being. The 4th Maine launched a successful counterattack to reclaim Smith’s guns at Devil’s Den, but it was a forlorn move against overwhelming odds. Attached map shows the situation at 5:40 p.m.

No sooner was the line formed than the foe attacked our front” – Colonel William S. Tilton

Skirmishers then came from the front and said the rebels were following. In a moment they were among the boulders … There was no recoil on either side but an unflinching exchange of deadly fire” – Edwin C. Bennett, Company E, 22nd Massachusetts.

The skirmishers came running in … A shot – one – two – three – and then … the line blazed forth … Across the run, the indistinct forms of masses of men … were dimly visible and moving up with defiant yells” – Private Robert G. Carter, 22nd Massachusetts.

We had hardly formed when the enemy attacked us. The brigade after some sharp fighting compelled him to fall back from our front” – Colonel Joseph Hayes, 18th Massachusetts.

A rebel line of battle emerged with that peculiar Indian yell that was very familiar” – Corporal Thomas H. Mann, Company I, 18th Massachusetts.

I threw the left of the Thirty-second to the rear until that regiment was on a line with the First Brigade. … Not long after this the attack commenced briskly … I broke those regiments [62nd Pennsylvania and 4th Michigan] to the left and rear into column behind the Thirty-second to support it” – Colonel Jacob B. Sweitzer.

The rebels drove them [our skirmishers] in to the edge of the woods … when we opened fire upon them … drove them back” – Colonel George L. Prescott, 32nd Massachusetts.

The enemy came rushing down the declivity before us and the Thirty-second was soon hotly engaged” – Lieutenant Colonel Luther Stephenson, 32nd Massachusetts.

Enemy … covering themselves partially under the hither bank of the little stream. They were … driven back from our immediate front ... into the wood from whence they came” – Francis J. Parker, 32nd Massachusetts.

General Anderson … sent … directions to change the front of the three left companies so as to face the enemy on our flank” – Captain George Hillyer, 9th Georgia.

I … advanced to the ledge of rocks from which we had previously been dislodged … the Eleventh Georgia Regiment joined to my left … the Fifty-ninth Georgia … occupied the line with my command” – Colonel Van H. Manning, 3rd Arkansas.

Without hesitation, [Colonel] Walker drew his small remaining force from the nest of boulders in the gorge, hastily got it into line and charged home with the bayonet upon [the] men who had entered the battery and drove them out in a force encounter. Assisted by the 99th Pennsylvania in keeping off the Confederates from the gorge side of the hill, and by the 124th New York on his right” – Commissioner(s) of the 4th Maine.

My command on the brow of a hill, overlooking a deep ravine interspersed with large boulders” – Major John W. Moore, 99th Pennsylvania.

Above us then, quite twenty feet, on the edge of the rock stood a line of blue coated [soldiers] firing straight down on our line which had become broken in passing over and around the huge boulders” – William R. Houghton, Company G, 2nd Georgia.

Our fire … staggered and disorganized [the Confederates] so that they took to the shelter of the rock for some time” – C. F. Fasnacht, 99th Pennsylvania.

Several ineffectual efforts upon the part of both the commanders of the Fifteenth Georgia and myself [were made] to separate the men of the two regiments” – Lieutenant Colonel P. A. Work, 1st Texas.

Sources:
-Official Reports of Col. William S. Tilton, Col. Van H. Manning, Lt. Col. P. A. Work, Maj. John W. Moore.
-Musket and Sword, by Edwin C. Bennett, Boston: Coburn Publishing Co., 1900.
-Reminiscences of the Campaign and Battle of Gettysburg, by Robert G. Carter, War Papers, MOLLUS, 1902; reprint, Broadfoot Publishing Company, Wilmington, NC: 1992.
-Private journal of Col. Joseph Hayes, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
-Fighting with the Eighteenth Massachusetts, the Civil War Memoir of Thomas H. Mann, ed. by John J. Hennessy, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000.
-Supplemental Report of Col. Jacob B. Sweitzer, Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, ed. by Janet B. Hewitt, Noah A. Trudeau, Bryce A. Suderow, Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1995.
-George L. Prescott Papers, on file at Gettysburg National Military Park.
-A Sketch Giving Some Incidents During the Service of The Thirty-second Regiment Massachusetts Infantry, by General Luther Stephenson.
-The Story of the Thirty-Second Regiment Massachusetts Infantry, by Francis J. Parker, Colonel, Boston: C. W. Calkins & Co., Publishers, 1880.
-The Battle of Gettysburg, by George Hillyer, Address Before the Walton County Georgia Confederate Veterans, August 2nd, 1904, From the Walton Tribune.
-Maine at Gettysburg, Report of the Maine Commissioners.
-Two Boys in the Civil War and After, W. R. Houghton and M. B. Houghton, Montgomery, AL: The Paragon Press, 1912.
-Historical Sketch by C. F. Fasnacht, delivered at dedication of 99th Pennsylvania monument, July 2, 1886.
 

Attachments

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GAH

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Tom... have enjoyed your discussions around the Wheatfield action... In reviewing the map attached to this post (which has De Trobriand's other two regiments off the field (re: 5th MI and 110th PA)... I would like your thoughts on what De Trobriand wrote in several sources regarding Tilton's brigade... De Trobriand indicated that Tilton withdrew first and left his right flank uncovered and subsequently he had to leave the Stoney Hill with his two regiments ?

I would have to go back and check, but I think both Imhof and Laino interpreted the action that way (RE; early Tilton withdrawal uncovering De Trobriand's right flank]... Or is there a timing issue here, I see your map is labeled 5:40 pm; did a brigade uncover De Trobriand's flank before the action your discussing... But again I would like your thoughts... thanks George
 

Tom Elmore

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Tom... have enjoyed your discussions around the Wheatfield action... In reviewing the map attached to this post (which has De Trobriand's other two regiments off the field (re: 5th MI and 110th PA)... I would like your thoughts on what De Trobriand wrote in several sources regarding Tilton's brigade... De Trobriand indicated that Tilton withdrew first and left his right flank uncovered and subsequently he had to leave the Stoney Hill with his two regiments ?

I would have to go back and check, but I think both Imhof and Laino interpreted the action that way (RE; early Tilton withdrawal uncovering De Trobriand's right flank]... Or is there a timing issue here, I see your map is labeled 5:40 pm; did a brigade uncover De Trobriand's flank before the action your discussing... But again I would like your thoughts... thanks George
George,

I have been reviewing the sources on this topic. I am rather confident that DeTrobriand's men in the vicinity (excepting 17th Maine of course) departed when Tilton and Sweitzer first went into position, based on a few credible sources representing the two latter brigades, who also dispute Bachelder's maps on this very point. A recent thread also addressed it.

As for the retreat of Sweitzer and Tilton, Sweitzer claims Tilton fell back first, while Tilton claims Sweitzer fell back first:

Sweitzer - "Then the First Brigade commenced running and then I received orders from General Barnes to fall back, too ..." (Sweitzer, Supplement to the Official Records)

Tilton - "I first refused my right but Col. Sweitzer of 2nd brigade on my left having retired I was forced to fall back ..." (William S. Tilton Diaries)

In this dispute, I am inclined to believe Tilton fell back first since the imminent threat at that moment was Kershaw's advance, and Tilton's men saw that threat from a distance and were closest to it. Sweitzer's rear regiments were likely not even aware of Kershaw's approach.

DeTrobriand's 17th Maine was compelled to depart once Tilton and Sweitzer had gone, but did so in a more organized manner.
 
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GAH

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Tom... I appreciate your response... I will review the previous threads on this topic [from earlier this year]... I also need to dig deeper and try and find out who/what De Trobriand was responding to in the rebuttal letter in the New York Herald (Mar 1864) when he stated that a fifth Corps brigade abandoned his right flank and subsequently he was being flanked by the enemy [this was after he stated he repulsed two attempts by the enemy in front of 5th MI/110th PA]... De Trobriand was also consistent on this topic in both his report and his memoirs [1866]; or was he consistently muddled in his thinking as to what happened while with these regiments on the Stoney Hill ??? G...
 

lelliott19

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Excerpt from the Address of Gen. (then Lt Col) Luther Stephenson at the Dedication of the 32nd Massachusetts Regiment Monument on Gettysburg Battlefield, September 8, 1894 as published in Daily Kennebec Journal. (Augusta, ME), September 17, 1894, page 4.
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<Extensive omission including introductory remarks and descriptions of earlier engagements in which the regiment was involved>
1621566746275.png


1621567265505.png

<End of excerpt; Link to entire article>

DeTrobriand's 17th Maine
I'm curious about the position of Winslow's Battery D/1st NY shown on your map above. Were they firing over the heads of 17th Maine?
 
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lelliott19

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Here's another interesting account by Oscar W. West (H/32nd MA) as published in The National Tribune., November 22, 1906, page 8.
1621569076682.png

It's quite lengthy so I wont snip and paste it here, except for the title. Instead, I'll just provide a link to the entire article. He has Kemper's brigade mentioned where it clearly should be Wofford and he quotes a lot of what Stephenson said at the dedication of the monument, but there are still some nuggets that make it a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the fighting on this part of the field. Here's the LINK
 

Tom Elmore

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Tom... I appreciate your response... I will review the previous threads on this topic [from earlier this year]... I also need to dig deeper and try and find out who/what De Trobriand was responding to in the rebuttal letter in the New York Herald (Mar 1864) when he stated that a fifth Corps brigade abandoned his right flank and subsequently he was being flanked by the enemy [this was after he stated he repulsed two attempts by the enemy in front of 5th MI/110th PA]... De Trobriand was also consistent on this topic in both his report and his memoirs [1866]; or was he consistently muddled in his thinking as to what happened while with these regiments on the Stoney Hill ??? G...
Even the battlefield bronze plaque agrees with the sources who claim 5 MI and 110 PA departed on Tilton and Sweitzer's arrival. With very few exceptions, these battlefield plaques are known for their accuracy, if brevity. Quoting from the one on DeTrobiand's brigade: "the 5th Michigan and 110th Penna held the summit commanding a ravine in front and east of the Rose buildings until relieved by 2 brigades of 5th Corps, when they retired through the Wheatfield ..."

Clearly the retreat of Tilton and Sweitzer imperiled DeTrobriand's 17th Maine. Incidentally, one 17th Maine source noted that DeTrobriand had at one time sent orders for the 17th Maine to fall back, but the regiment declined to obey, believing they could hold their strong position at the stone wall along the south border of the Wheatfield for a while longer.
 

Tom Elmore

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Laura,

We can deduce Winslow's guns were firing over the heads of the 17th Maine based on their respective positions, but it's also nice to have source confirmation: "From the position of the battery and of the infantry supporting, it was deemed best for a time to fire solid shot into the woods over our troops, who were fighting in front, under protection of a stone wall." (Official Report of Capt. George E. Randolph, commanding Artillery Brigade, Third Corps)
 

Lubliner

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I see one regiment, the 3MI over at the Rose Farm alone. This regiment is not mentioned in any of the given excerpts, yet appears on the far right beyond support, especially with the retreat of Sweitzer and Tilton. Is there any activity with this regiment? They had a clear line toward the 9th Georgia guarding the extreme left of the confederates. Is this the order made by Anderson for Hillyer to change front and guard the flank due to the 3MI?
Lubliner.
 

Tom Elmore

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The 3rd Michigan was deployed as skirmishers and would fall back to the Peach Orchard upon Kershaw's advance. Presumably they were continually skirmishing with Kershaw's skirmishers who were likely on the map but are not shown (I have yet to figure out their deployment). The "bigger picture" here is the action about to engulf the Third Corps line at the Peach Orchard beyond the northern edge of this map.

Hillyer's description of the refusing of the left companies is somewhat difficult to comprehend. I recall that Hillyer stated that he took command of the regiment not long before Kershaw's advance, so I have assigned his description to Anderson's second attack. I don't think the 9th Georgia was expecting to encounter a sizable fresh force to their front and left and perhaps their initial alignment was more toward the northeast, but no matter how they aligned, they were forced to make adjustments along their exposed left flank given the volume of fire coming from Tilton and Sweitzer's 32nd Massachusetts. Given Sweitzer's column arrangement, I'm not sure if his back two regiments were even engaged, which is reinforced by their silence on this subject.
 
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