Ward's brigade's withdrawal from Rose's Woods

jameswoods

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Jul 29, 2015
On another thread, a discussion of Tilton's and Sweitzer's activity in the Rose's Woods led to a question regarding the direction of Ward's Brigade's retreat from Rose's Woods and Houck's Ridge. Some studies of the action, e.g., Gottfried's The Maps of Gettysburg depict the retreat in an easterly direction, the troops spilling off Houck's Ridge toward Little Round Top. However, both Captains Winslow (D, 1st NY) and Smith (4th NY) reported seeing the brigade falling back into the Wheatfield (Smith being very specific).

So, how did the brigade evolve from a general NW/SE axis at the start of the conflict to one in an W/E axis as it retreated into the Wheatfield? It's a little complicated but, in my opinion, the 17th Maine of de Trobriand's brigade had a lot to do with it. It acted as an immovable gate post allowing the regiments of Ward's brigade to swing back under the Confederate assault instead of being swept out of the woods and off the ridge into Plum Run valley.

Maps are indispensable in describing such an action but for one that lasted almost two hours, with the introduction of a number of different actors at different times, quite a number of individual maps are needed to do the job properly. For example, in the 4:00 PM to 4:46 PM timeframe there are
24 maps identifying the changes occurring (generally) in 5 minute intervals.

The maps have been "clipped" from a larger study of the battlefield so you will have to ignore the bulleted numbers that are not pertinent to this part of the story. To start:

4:02 PM: The brigade, as shown, had been in position since 2:30 PM. At this time, the 4th Maine is moved to the valley, leaving its Co. F on the hill.
4:15 PM: The 99th Pennsylvania is sent to the left as the three regiments of Burling's brigade take position at the Wheatfield's stone wall.
4:20 PM: The 99th Pennsylvania takes up supporting position as the 6th New Jersey is detached from Burling's brigade and moves to the left. The 3rd Arkansas and 1st Texas enter Rose's woods.
4:25 PM: The 20th Indiana posts two companies on its right flank; the 8th New Jersey leaves the WF and joins the defense of Stony Hill. The 6th New
Jersey takes up a position to the right of Smith's two guns in the valley.
4:30 PM: The 3rd Arkansas draws its left wing back moving forward as the 1st Texas nears triangular field (one company in woods at left).
4:35 PM: The 124th NY advances against the 1st Texas (the 17th Maine takes position abandoned by 115th Pennsylvania at the stone wall).
4:40 PM: The 20th Indiana and 86th New York advance, driving the 3rd Arkansas back.
4:45 PM: Stopping the 124th New York in mid field, the 1st Texas detaches its Company G into Rose Woods to face threat posed by 86th New York.
4:50 PM: Reinforced on their right by the 15th Georgia (Benning's Brigade), the 3rd Arkansas and 1st Texas force the 20th Indiana and 86th New York to fall back; the 124th New York also falls back, to the right of Smith's battery.
4:55 PM: The 3rd Arkansas advances against the 20th Indiana while the combined 1st Texas/15th Georgia moves against the 86th and 124th New York. The 4th Maine falls back as one of Smith's guns is sent to the rear.
5:00 PM: The 4th Maine advances from the valley up the ridge to retake three of Smith's abandoned guns. Anderson's brigade enters Rose's Woods.
5:05 PM: The 99th Pennsylvania advances to the support of the 4th Maine and Smith's guns. The 59th Georgia extends past the right of Ward's line.
5:10 PM: Fire from the 17th Maine forces the 59th Georgia to refuse its left companies.
5:15 PM: The 99th Pennsylvania and 4th Maine fall back. The 59th Georgia falls back.
5:20 PM: Ward's left wing regiments continue to move back. The 3rd Arkansas advances past the 59th Georgia; the combined 1st Texas and 15th Georgia face the 124th New York and 4th Maine.
5:25 PM: Ward's brigade continues to be pushed back into the NE corner of Rose Woods.
5:30 PM: The 6th New Jersey advances against the 2nd Georgia. The 59th Georgia advances.
5:35PM: Ward's brigade, supported on its right by the 17th Maine, is now on an west/east axis. The 59th Georgia joins the 3rd Arkansas on its left.
5:40 PM: The 6th New Jersey retreats on the brigade's immediate left.
5:42PM: The brigade crosses the fence line into the Wheatfield (east of the 17th Maine).
5:44 PM: The Brigade retreats in front of Winslow's guns.
5:46 PM: Ward's brigade exits the field.

1611066490927.png

A disclaimer: These maps are my interpretation of what happened. Whenever there is a great collision, whether between vehicles or armies, eyewitnesses will often disagree about what they saw. So it is when analyzing primary source documents; often contradictions or seeming contradictions obscure the truth of the situation. We amateur, as well as professional (those making money), historians do the best we can knowing that, without having been there personally, we can't be certain.

Jim
 

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dennmorr

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Dec 22, 2016
Location
Montour Falls, N.Y.
Hi Greg,
It is actually a diograph I posted on MHO about 10 years ago. I am flattered that you believed it was a painting! I have generally used John Imhof and Phil Laino as my guide and that is how I composed Ward's exit. When I saw some of Jim's maps on the Wheatfield thread I suggested he post because I was curious.
 
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rob63

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 13, 2012
Location
PA, but still a Hoosier
Thank you to the op for all of the information, I am very interested in the movements of this brigade. I have what may be a stupid question; I see numbers on all of the maps, but don't see anything that specifies what the numbers refer to. What am I missing?
 

jameswoods

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Joined
Jul 29, 2015
The maps were "cut out" from larger maps from a book I published 1n 2013 depicting the movement and positioning of Union and Federal troops during the 24 hours of the 2nd Day's battle. The circled numbers identify specific actions which were explained in accompanying text, the idea being to chronologically track each regiment and battery during the course of the day. As I noted in my disclaimer, and as borne out by the discussions on this forum, how one person interprets source documentation will often differ from others assessing the same data. A lot happened during those 24 hours and mapping the action helps identify activity that may have been coincidental as well as sequential.

For example, on the 4:02 PM map the #2 notes the position taken up by two guns of Hart's battery; the #3 notes the movement of Burling's brigade.

Hope that helps.

Jim
 

Gettysburg Greg

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Jun 6, 2010
Location
Decatur, Illinois
Hi Greg,
It is actually a diograph I posted on MHO about 10 years ago. I am flattered that you believed it was a painting! I have generally used John Imhof and Phil Laino as my guide and that is how I composed Ward's exit. When I saw some of Jim's maps on the Wheatfield thread I suggested he post because I was curious.
Thank you, Sir, I have loved that piece of work for many years. I have looked for the artist's name several times. No wonder I couldn't find you. I have posted my then and now version to several fb Gettysburg groups and it is always a popular posts that gets lots of likes and comments. I hope that is alright with you. I will be sure to credit you in the future.
 
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