Behind The Stonewall

The Peach Orchard - Gettysburg Pennsylvania



About what you are looking at...

Using the first white-wrapped peach tree on the left as a point of reference, the viewer will note that the line of three trees extending away points directly at Big Round Top, with the flatter crest of Little Round Top just visible above the tree line to its left.    That view is looking generally southeast.  A turn to the right, looking directly into the orchard is looking south.  Scanning more to the right the viewer will see, looking west, the Wheatfield Road which crosses the Emmitsburg Road (which can be seen running north (to the right) of this view, with the barn of the Sherfy Farm very visible to the right of the 68th  Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment Monument.  The Emmitsburg Road heads north disappearing in the distance near the Codori Farm.  The road on the other side (west) of Emmitsburg Road is now called Millerstown Road, and it rises up the western slope of Warfield Ridge, cresting it at the edge of Pitzer’s Woods, before curving a bit towards the south and coming toward the viewer at the Peach Orchard.  It is out of these woods that McLaw’s Division of Longstreet’s First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, marched on July 2nd at approximately 4:30 PM.   As the viewer is looking between the tree on the right, and the monument on the left with a statue on it (141st Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment), McLaws Division spread from right to left this way:  Brigadier General William Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade (13th, 17th, 18th and 21st Mississippi Infantry Regiments), and staggered behind Barksdale was the brigade of Brigadier General W. T. Wofford’s Georgians (16th, 18th, 24th Georgia Infantry Regiment, Cobb’s and Phillips Georgia Legions), both of these brigades on the right or north side of the Millerstown Road.  On the left, or south side of Millerstown Road, the Brigade of Brigadier General J. B. Kershaw’s South Carolinians (2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th, 15th South Carolina Regiments, 3rd South Carolina Battalion) was just in front of the Georgia Brigade of Brigadier General P. J. Semmes (10th, 50th, 51st, 53rd Georgia Infantry Regiments).  Opposing Barksdale was the Pennsylvania Brigade of Brigadier General Charles K. Graham (57th, 63rd, 68th, 105th, 114th, 141st Pennsylvania Infantry Regiments), of Major General David B. Birney’s 1st Division, of Major General Daniel E. Sickles Third Corps, Army of the Potomac.  Sickles Second Division under the command of Brigadier General A. A. Humphreys took up a line along the Emmitsburg Road to the north, nearly to the buildings of the Codori Farm.  It was a thin line.  Stretching down the Wheatfield Road (which at the time of the battle was little more than a lane which ran along the north edge of the Wheatfield leading down to Plum Run) were several artillery batteries, and in the Peach Orchard itself, were two Pennsylvania Batteries and a New York Battery.  The position, which is actually an elevation which commands the area around it for nearly a mile in all directions, was literally bristling with artillery.   It was one of the primary objectives of the attack, so the Confederates could place their artillery there. 

Prior to the onset of the Confederate attack, a spirited artillery duel began between the guns of the Army of Northern Virginia, under Colonel E. Porter Alexander, aligned on the crest of Warfield Ridge and the guns of Union artillery chief Brigadier General Henry Hunt.  It was “...the severest and bloodiest artillery fight…” Alexander had seen.  And he was surprised at the abilities of the Union gunners, and the way they stood to their guns.  Outnumbered by the 54 guns of the Confederates, the Union gunners played havoc with the advancing men of Hoods and McLaws Divisions of Longstreet’s Corps. 

When the assault began, about 5 PM, Barksdale and Wofford swept over the Peach Orchard and the left flank of Humphreys’ line along Emmitsburg Road.  Shortly before that, Kershaw and Semmes were moving across an open field to the Emmitsburg Road, with Kershaw on the left, his brigade straddling the Rose Farm lane, a few hundred yards south of the Peach Orchard.  Kershaw’s left regiments went across the open field just on the other side of the Peach Orchard, and when fully exposed to the Artillery along the Wheatfield Road, made a left wheel and advanced on the artillery.  At a crucial moment, a mix-up in instructions caused these regiments to wheel to the right, and advance directly east into the woods on the west side of the Wheatfield.  The Union gunners, having been driven from their guns, returned and played havoc with the remainder of Kershaw’s South Carolinians, and the Georgians of Semmes brigade.  Barksdale and Wofford advanced to relieve Kershaw and Semmes, by driving through the Peach Orchard, and north of it, to sweep astride the Wheatfield Road, and remove the Union artillery there.  The attack was successful.  The Union artillery withdrew with the collapse of the left of Humphreys, and Graham’s brigade in the Peach Orchard. 

W. G. Davis

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