Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Gettysburg - Wheatfield

While Hood's first brigades were fighting for Devil's Den Little Round Top, more troops were fighting over a Wheatfield. Sickles had reinforced his jagged line with troops from Sykes V Corps. Southern troops advanced against the Federal line, and were met with bursts of cannon and musketry. They began to get around the Federal left flank, but as the Union troops began to fall back the Confederates lost their momentum, exhausted from their charge.

Capture of the Wheatfield
With Hood's attack stalled Longstreet ordered McLaws' division forward forward, and some of his troops struck the area of the Wheatfield. The seasoned Confederate veterans were at first driven back but came on again, pressing the Federals back. Meade had brought up a division from Hancock's line, and sent it into the Wheatfield as reinforcements. One of these soldiers, Major Peter Nelson of the 66th New York, wrote the fight:
Very soon we were under fire of musketry, but, nothing daunted, we pressed steadily forward through wheat-fields, woods, over rail fences 10 feet high, stone walls, ditches, deep ravines, rocks, and all sorts of obstructions, every one of which had served as cover for the enemy, and from which a murderous fire was poured upon us as we advanced, but without avail, as nothing could stop the impetuosity of our men, who, without waiting to lead or even fix bayonets, rushed eagerly forward at a run, their cry being constantly, Forward! Charge! ... Arrived at a rocky ridge about 300 yards from where we commenced our victorious advance, we halted, taking the movement from the right, and engaged the enemy at short range. ... By this time, owing to the distance we had advanced in line of battle at a run, and the irregularity of the ground we had advanced over, we were in a deplorable state of confusion; men from every regiment in the division were intermingled with ours in one confused mass. While personally engaged in endeavoring to reform the regiment, and obtain something like order, I perceived the right of the line retiring. On inquiring the cause, I earned that the enemy had turned our right flank; also that all the senior officers of the brigade were either killed or wounded. In accordance with instructions received previous to entering the engagement, to regulate our movement by the right, I gave orders to retire...
As the sun was setting the Confederates were pushing through the Wheat Field after the retreating Federals. It appeared, on this portion of the field at least, that Lee might have won a victory in Pennsylvania.
Confederate in the Wheatfield


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