Behind The Stonewall

The Triangular Field - Gettysburg Pennsylvania



About what you are looking at...

5 PM, July 2nd, 1863.  The viewer is positioned on the road on top of Devil’s Den.  Uphill, using the monument of the 124th New York Infantry (with a statue of its Colonel on top) as a point of reference, the viewer can see the crest of Houck’s Ridge.  Immediately on the other side, and to the right a bit (south) is Devil’s Den, where the ridge encounters Plum Run and the area known as The Slaughter Pen.  To the left, and over the crest, is Plum Run Valley, known as the Valley of Death, and on the other side of this small valley is Little Round Top.  Looking down the slope of the ridge, opposite the monuments, the viewer can see the stone wall which runs parallel to the road, and marks the base of the inverted triangle which shapes the “Triangular Field”.  The stone walls reach the apex of the triangle at the bottom of the hill.  It was from the woods at the bottom of the hill that the Confederates of Hood’s Division emerged, and began their assault on Ward’s Brigade.

The road you see pretty much marks the line of a portion of Brigadier General J. H. Hobart Ward’s Brigade (in order, from left to right while viewing the crest of the ridge, 99th Pennsylvania, 20th Indiana, 86th New York, 124th New York, and the 4th New York Artillery Battery [Smith’s].  A 5th Regiment of Ward’s Brigade, the 4th Maine Infantry Regiment, was stationed just north of the “Slaughter Pen, on the floor of the Plum Run Valley, beside the rocks and boulders of Devil’s Den.  Other elements were detached, and operating independently under Col. Hiram Berdan as “Berdan’s Sharpshooters", comprised of the 3rd Maine and the 1st and 2nd United States Sharpshooters), of Major General David B. Birney’s 1st Division, of Major General Daniel E, Sickles’ Third Corps, Army of the Potomac. 

Opposing them on this hot, humid late afternoon were the brigades of Brigadier General J. B. Robertson (3rd Arkansas, 1st Texas, 4th Texas, and the 5th Texas Infantry Regiments) and Brigadier General Henry L. Benning (2nd Georgia, 15th Georgia, 17th Georgia, and the 20th Georgia Infantry Regiments) and Brigadier General George T. Anderson (7th Georgia, 8th Georgia, 9th Georgia, 11th Georgia, and 59th Georgia Infantry Regiments), and Brigadier General Evander M. Law (4th Alabama, 15th Alabama, 44th Alabama, 47th Alabama, and 48th Alabama Infantry Regiments)  of Hood’s Division, Longstreet’s First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. 

Just before 5 PM, elements of Robertson’s Brigade appeared at the bottom of the Triangular Field.  The 1st Texas entered the bottom of the field, and the 3rd Arkansas, on their left went up outside the field.  Both regiments were turned and withdrew.  About the same time, the 4th Maine, below the rocks of Devil’s Den was fending off the attack of the 44th and 48th Alabama. 

The Texans reformed and came on again, but this time, Col. Ellis of the 124th New York, at the urging of his 2nd in command, Major Cromwell, counter-charged the Texans.  Advancing down hill they routed the Texas men until about 100 feet from the wall, the Texans turned and presented fire.  Nearly a quarter of the New Yorkers went down, including Major Cromwell, and Colonel Ellis.  As they finished their withdrawal back up the hill, Benning’s Brigade arrived on the scene, and began the climb up through the Triangular Field.  At this point, Ward had moved the 99th Pennsylvania from his right flank (near the Wheatfield) to his left, just past Smith’s 4th New York Battery.  Getting reinforcements from another brigade, Ward’s men fought a desperate action, clinging tenaciously to the crest of Houck’s Ridge.  For more than an hour, charge, and counter-charge repeated, often involving hand-to-hand fighting, or bayonet charges, until finally, with a coordinated push, Benning on the right, and Anderson on the left, pushed up and over the crest, breaking Ward’s line, and capturing three of Smith’s guns.  Ward withdrew across the valley to Cemetery Ridge, north of Little Round Top.  Devil’s Den was secured, and the Confederate assault could continue onward to Little Round Top.

W. G. Davis

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