Member of the Year
- Jan 16, 2015
When Devil's Den was finally taken by the Confederates, Ward's line facing westward was flanked and they were compelled to fall back in a generally northerly direction, the only route still open to them. Based on Col. Egan's report, we know the 40th New York moved in a north-northwesterly direction to join onto the left of Winslow's Battery D, 1st New York in the Wheatfield. We also know that the bulk of the 20th Indiana, then on Ward's right, fell back toward the northeast corner of the Wheatfield, based on an account by Lt. Erasmus C. Gilbreath, who wrote that they met the 5th New Hampshire of Cross' brigade there. The attached map shows my interpretation of the rest of Ward's brigade (with the 6th New Jersey) moving to the rear (between the 20th Indiana and 40th New York), and I recall that the 86th claimed that that they retained some cohesion while falling back. We may also deduce that the 20th Indiana must have held up long enough to enable the 40th New York to pass behind them into the Wheatfield. Cross' brigade was just about to show up and file into line along the Wheatfield road, while Burbank and Day's Regulars were about to advance as well.Both Captains Winslow and Smith reported on the direction Ward's retreating regiments:
Captain Winslow reported, "...Having been just directed by General Birney, through an aide, to closely watch the movements and look for a route upon which I might withdraw in case it became necessary, I rode through the woods on my left, perhaps 200 yards in width, and found our line formed perpendicular to my own, instead of parallel, as I had supposed, facing from me and closely pressed by the enemy. This line soon fell back irregularly, but slowly, passing in front of and masking my guns.”
Captain Smith, 4th New York, states in his “A Famous Battery” that, “…After the ridge was under control of the Confederate infantry, the Federal infantry, which had formed the defense to this part of the line, instead of retiring in the direction of Little Round Top, naturally fell back into the woods occupied by the balance of Ward’s brigade.”
Colonel Egan, 40th New York, had been fighting on the left of Ward's brigade in the valley when his attempt to rescue Smith's abandoned three guns proved futile. He reported, "...discovering that they had gained ground upon my right, which threatened a flank movement, the regiments on my right having fallen to the rear and exposed us to a crossfire, I was compelled to fall back...and made a stand near the position occupied by Captain Winslow's battery...".