Tuesday, July 02, 2013
Battle of Gettysburg Day Two
After a lengthy delay to assemble his forces and avoid detection in his approach march, Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet attacked with his First Corps against the Union left flank. His division under Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood attacked Little Round Top and Devil's Den. To Hood's left, Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws attacked the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard. Although neither prevailed, the Union III Corps was effectively destroyed as a combat organization as it attempted to defend a salient over too wide a front. Gen. Meade rushed as many as 20,000 reinforcements from elsewhere in his line to resist these fierce assaults. The attacks in this sector concluded with an unsuccessful assault by the Third Corps division of Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson against the Union center on Cemetery Ridge. That evening, Confederate Second Corps commander Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell turned demonstrations against the Union right flank into full-scale assaults on Culp's Hill and East Cemetery Hill, but both were repulsed. The Union army had occupied strong defensive positions, and Meade handled his forces well, resulting in heavy losses for both sides but leaving the disposition of forces on both sides essentially unchanged. Lee's hope of crushing the Army of the Potomac on Northern territory was dashed, but undaunted, he began to plan for the third day of fighting.
Lee's sweeping attack on the Union left was better suited to the fast-moving skills of the late Stonewall Jackson, mortally wounded by friendly fire at Chancellorville. Longstreet, a competent & brave but cautious officer, had not favored engaging the enemy at Gettysburg. Longstreet took the wrong road to his attack point & had to backtrack. The attack itself should have been initiated farther on the Union left, which was very weak & may have opened up the command & supply area behind Cemetary Ridge, a situation Lee's missing cavalry would have uncovered. Still the attack nearly succeeded. The fighting in & around Devil's Den, a rocky outgrowth of Cemetary Ridge, was some of the most ferocious hand-to-hand combat of the entire war.
An evening attack on the Union Right at Culp's Hill also failed, as Union defenses were too strong. Periodic shooting continued there through the night into Day 3 with Confederate & Union soldiers hunkered down in close proximity. Fresh water was scarce. The battle for Culp's resumed in the morning, initiated by Union artillery in advance of Lee's own schedule. The Rebels & Federals in that sector threw everything they had at each other, but the Fed prevailed, both side suffering massive casualties. There were mistaken orders given to Federal units & the Rebel units should have withdrawn earlier as the outcome became clear.
Labels: Civil War Sesquicentennia