Behind The Stonewall

Little Round Top (Just Below The Summit) - Gettysburg Pennsylvania

About what you are looking at...

This image is taken from a position just below what is known as the “military crest” of Little Round Top.  One definition of that term is that while persons on the actual crest could be silhouetted against the sky, those on the military (lower) crest could not.  Additionally, it marks a line of defense above which artillery cannot be depressed enough to aim at attackers on the lower slope.  In this case however, the artillery was unable to shoot down on the attackers, but instead, was fired across the valley at Confederate artillery and troops on Houck’s Ridge and Devil’s Den.  The roar of the cannons heartened the thin line of Union soldiers tasked with defending this hill, as the left flank of the Army of the Potomac.

Looking out across Plum Run Valley, just to the left of the tall evergreen tree, the viewer is able to see Houck’s Ridge, with a near line of trees.  Just on the other side of those trees is the Wheatfield, and beyond that a large open expanse going up the hill to the Peach Orchard and the Emmitsburg Road.   In the very far distance is South Mountain, the eastern wall of the Cumberland Valley.  Placing the evergreen tree on the left of the frame, the viewer is now looking northwest at the north end of Houck’s Ridge, the Wheatfield Road, and the Weikert Farm.  Scanning farther to the right the viewer will see the trees which cover the lower end of Cemetery Ridge, and the upper (northern) end of the west face of Little Round Top.  Scan around to the left now, about 180 degrees, and look at the southern end of Houck’s Ridge, which culminates in the large jumble of boulders known as Devil’s Den.  The area of Plum Run Valley between the viewer and Devil’s Den is known as “The Valley of Death”, and the area on this side of Devil’s Den is where the 44th and 48th Regiments of Alabama Infantry belonging to the Brigade of Brigadier General Evander Law, of Hoods Division, Longstreet’s First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, ran into the buzz-saw of Union artillery and the 4th Maine Infantry Regiment, turning the area into the “Slaughter Pen”.

Scanning around to the left, the viewer can begin to see the nearly sheer face of the upper crest of Little Round Top.  This marked the line of defense of the 44th New York Infantry to the right, and the 16th Michigan nearly straight uphill.  These two regiments, belonging to Strong Vincent’s 3rd Brigade of Brigadier General James Barnes First Division, of Major General George Sykes Vth Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, were supported by a single battery (Hazlett’s Battery D, 4th United States Artillery) on top, and two other regiments on the other side of the 44th New York, the 83rd Pennsylvania, and the 20th Maine, in positions out of sight around the hill.

With the large bare tree on the left of the frame, the viewer will see the position where Colonel O’Rorke led the 140th New York down the hill at mid-point of the battle, in an effort which, while stopping the assault of Robertson’s Texans, and Law’s Alabamians, cost the dashing O’Rorke his life. 

Finally, the area between the large bare tree and the tall evergreen will show the area across which Brigadier General Samuel Wiley Crawford led the Pennsylvania Reserve Brigade of Col. William McCandless on a sweep down off Little Round Top, (from right to left) across Plum Run Valley astride the Wheatfield Road, and driving them back, forced the remnants of Wofford, Semmes, Kershaw and G. T. Anderson’s Brigades to retreat to the west side of the Wheatfield. 

W. G. Davis

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