Contending for Big Round Top on the Night of July 2

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
1.png

Photo from @Gandycreek https://civilwartalk.com/threads/foto-friday.153985/page-2#post-1974149


Toward 9 p.m., Colonel Chamberlain deployed his 20th Maine as skirmishers and ascended Big Round Top, moving silently to conceal his strength. Meeting token resistance, the regiment suffered minor loss. Subsequently, a group of Confederate pickets led by a staff officer was tricked into surrendering by a picket of the 20th Maine. About an hour later, the 5th and 12th Pennsylvania Reserves moved up the rocky hill in scattered confusion, with shouting between officers. Drawing enemy fire, they hurriedly withdrew. After an interval with no further sign of the Reserves, Chamberlain applied to Colonel Rice for the 83rd Pennsylvania, which joined his right around midnight. Meanwhile, the 5th and 12th returned by a different route and reached the summit of Big Round Top close to midnight, but they did not establish a connection with the 20th Maine. Map depicts the situation at 10 p.m., when the Pennsylvania Reserves broke to the rear under Confederate picket fire.

The … little handful of men went up the hill. … Not wishing to disclose my numbers, and in order to avoid if possible bringing on an engagement in which we should certainly have been overpowered, I went on silently with only the bayonet … After I had fairly taken … [Big] Round Top with several prisoners and more loss to my command and had formed a strong line … one of Fisher’s regiments, commanded by Col. [George] Dare [5th Pennsylvania Reserves] came up … I asked him to form on my right, but as he was ‘right in front’ his attempt to ‘front’ faced him to the rear and while I was trying to face them about, the enemy hearing the confusion opened fire, and his regiment started like antelopes and went down the way they had come up … I then sent for the 83rd Penna.” – Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain, 20th Maine.

“We … started up the mountain, I being in command” – Colonel Joseph W. Fisher.

The skirmishers [20th Maine] went promptly to the top of the mountain [Big Round Top]; only an occasional shot was fired by the Confederates. The Fifth and Twelfth [Pennsylvania Reserves] advanced … The line upon advancing, in utter darkness, was almost immediately broken, and became confused by the rocky, precipitous, and difficult ground. Officers became separated from their men … when about one-third way up all order was lost. Officers and men of different companies and even of the different regiments became intermingled. The commanding officers of the brigade and regiments began calling to each other … The confusion was so great that officers and men of Fifth and Twelfth concluded to return to the position they had started from” – Colonel Martin D. Hardin, 12th Pennsylvania Reserves.

About 10 o’clock the [Pennsylvania] Reserves moved out [fell back], and the Twentieth [Maine] remained there alone about an hour, when Col. Chamberlain sent word to Col. Rice that he wanted the Eighty-third” – Captain A. M. Judson, Company E, 83rd Pennsylvania.

By a little ruse 34 men, claiming to belong to the 15th Ala. were taken prisoners without firing a gun … another company of the 20th [Maine] was sent to bring them in … as soon as the enemy found that a part of his picket-line had been captured he fired a volley … the two regiments of Pennsylvania Reserves that had come up behind us … moved by the about-face down the hill, and it was with difficulty that their commander was persuaded to return them again to our support” – Corporal E. S. Coan, color guard, 20th Maine.

Chamberlain [of the 20th Maine] had got up there [on Big Round Top], and his men captured a number of the enemy’s pickets by calling to them, ‘What are you doing down thar? Come up hyar.’ When they came up, they were quickly hustled down on our side of the mountain” – Lieutenant B. F. Rittenhouse, Battery D, 5th U.S. Artillery.

Twenty-three of them [the enemy] and one commissioned officer decoyed into our lines were captured by Lieut. [Henry F.] Sidlinger and five men” – Member of the 20th Maine.

Lieutenant Tom [Thomas L.] Christian, formerly of D Company, then on General [Evander] Law’s staff, was captured with twenty-two men of the brigade while posting them” – Adjutant R. T. Coles, 4th Alabama.

At night, this ridge … was strengthened by building a stone wall about halfway down the slope, wherever the rocks afforded no protection to the men” – Colonel Kenner Garrard, 146th New York.

As soon as it was dark enough, we went to work and gathered large stones and built a barricade, which afforded us some protection from the sharpshooters’ fire” – Thomas F. Walter, 91st Pennsylvania.

When fighting ceased we commenced to fortify our line and worked at least half the night” – Sergeant W. D. Porter, Company K, 155th Pennsylvania.

We lay on our arms during the restless night … with pickets on both sides exchanging just enough brisk musketry from time to time so as to prevent any real sleep from occurring” – Captain James L. Lemon, Company A, 18th Georgia.

Sources:
-July 6, 1863 letter of Col. Joshua Chamberlain to Brig. Gen. James Barnes, Civil War Times, June 2012, p. 39; Letter of Joshua L. Chamberlain to Bachelder, January 25, 1884, Bachelder Papers, II:993.
-Round Top Again, by Joseph W. Fisher, National Tribune, April 16, 1885.
-History of the Twelfth Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps, by Martin D. Hardin, New York: published by the author, 1890, pp. 154-155.
-History of the Eighty-Third Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, by A. M. Judson, Erie, PA: B. F. F. Lynn, Publisher, p. 69.
-Round Top, by E. S. Coan, National Tribune, June 4, 1885.
-The Battle of Gettysburg as Seen from Little Round Top, by Capt. B. F. Rittenhouse, Paper Read May 4, 1897, Commandery of the District of Columbia, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.
-Twentieth Regiment Infantry, Maine in the War for the Union.
-From Huntsville to Appomattox: R. T. Coles’s History of the 4th Regiment Alabama Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A., Army of Northern Virginia, ed. by Jeffrey D. Stocker, Knoxville: The University of Texas Press, 1996.
-Official Report of Col. Kenner Garrard.
-Thomas F. Walter, ‘Personal Recollections,’ part 5, http://freepages.military.rootsweb.com/~pa91/cwal5.html, 5/3/2003.
-Account of Sgt. W. D. Porter, Company “K,” 155th Pa. Volunteer Zouaves, by Bvt. Maj. D. Porter Marshall, 1888.
-“Feed Them the Steel,” Being, the Wartime Recollections of Capt. James Lile Lemon, Co. A, 18th Georgia Infantry, Mark H. Lemon, 2016.
 

Attachments

  • LittleRoundTop2200.pdf
    410.5 KB · Views: 19
Last edited by a moderator:

bdtex

Major General
★★ Sr. Moderator
Silver Patron
Annual Winner
Regtl. Quartermaster Chickamauga 2018 Vicksburg 2019
Joined
Jul 21, 2015
Location
Texas
When fighting ceased we commenced to fortify our line and worked at least half the night” – Sergeant W. D. Porter, Company K, 155th Pennsylvania.

We lay on our arms during the restless night … with pickets on both sides exchanging just enough brisk musketry from time to time so as to prevent any real sleep from occurring” – Captain James L. Lemon, Company A, 18th Georgia.
I can't imagine the exhaustion both sides felt that night in that part of the line.
 

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
Is it correct to say there were no stone walls (such as you see on LRT today) during the fighting of July 2?
Yes, I believe that is substantially correct. As exhausted as the 20th Maine was that night, I doubt few felt like putting up a stone barrier, but work was started by Garrard's men and some from Rice. More work was done at early light on July 3, but the final line did not take shape at many points until dawn, when additional work continued to put up and/or strengthen stone walls interconnecting the larger boulders on both Big and Little Round Top, including by the Confederates at the western base of Big Round Top. Those walls were further strengthened in the ensuing hours to a form that we can still recognize today. My maps (to follow) of 0630 and 1000 of July 3 will show some positions that can be traced by existing stone walls.
 
Last edited:

rpkennedy

Lt. Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
May 18, 2011
Location
Carlisle, PA
I have climbed Big Round Top only is the cooler weather. I would not want to experience it it the summer like they did during the battle.

When I was younger (about 20 or 21), I did climb it in the summer during one of the battlewalks. I was in pretty decent shape and that was one heck of a climb. I can't even imagine trying it now when it's above 60 degrees.

Ryan
 

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
I am anxious about McCandless on Plum Run being flanked by Benning at the Devil's Den. I know it was a dark night, and by 10 p. m. most of the wounded had been brought in (previous thread). So I am anticipating a July 3rd thread showing an early morning skirmish on the part of the field I named, and from the Round Tops.
Lubliner.
 

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
I am anxious about McCandless on Plum Run being flanked by Benning at the Devil's Den. I know it was a dark night, and by 10 p. m. most of the wounded had been brought in (previous thread). So I am anticipating a July 3rd thread showing an early morning skirmish on the part of the field I named, and from the Round Tops.
Lubliner.
You deserve a brevet promotion! It seems General Crawford shared your concerns after crawling out to his picket lines at midnight. How many division commanders at Gettysburg did that? He had his pickets drawn back just for the reason you stated. Skirmishing began at early dawn with Wofford's men on the opposite side of the Wheatfield and also with Benning's men behind boulders in the vicinity of Devil's Den.
 
Top