Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Gettysburg – Peach Orchard

While part of McLaw's division were fighting in the Wheatfield, more of his men were fighting at the Peach Orchard. McLaws was to move forward to capture the high ground around the orchard, and then assist Hood in rolling up the Union right. The Federals were along the Emitsburg Road, but did not have enough men to adequately cover that line. Leading McLaw's assault was William Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, famous for their gallant defense of Fredericksburg. At their head rode Barksdale himself, mounted on a horse with his sword in hand and his long white hair flowing in the wind. As the Mississippians advanced they took hits from Federal artillery fire, but they closed their ranks and rushed towards the Yankee infantry. Having twice their numbers, they were able to smash through the Federal defense. The rest of the Peach Orchard line soon crumbled. But Barksdale's glorious charge eventually stalled. The Mississippians could only advance so far without becoming very disorganized, and Barksdale himself was wounded, hit in the left knee, and then had his foot hit by a cannon ball. A third shot in the chest knocked him from his horse. He was left on the field for dead, and was later captured and died in a Union field hospital.

Sickle's advanced position had turned out into a disaster. Devil's Den was captured, Little Round Top was severally pressed and the Peach Orchard lost. It appeared that his decision might cost the Federal army the battle. During the fighting, an artillery shot hit him the right knee. Strangely enough, the horse he was riding did not spook. He was helped down and his wounded was dressed. Turning over his command over his command to Davis Birney, he was taken to the rear to have his leg amputated. An experienced politician, he insisted on being taken to Washington, and began a public relations campaign to ensure that every one believed that he saved the day for the Union. In this he was successful, not being court marshelled because of his wound and eventually receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions.


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