On July second, 1863 Confederate soldiers from Louisiana made an evening attack just after dusk, something rarely done during the Civil War. Their goal was to break the Union line on E. Cemetery Hill, cross Baltimore Pike and capture the Yankee position in Evergreen Cemetery. This accomplished, the Union Army would be split in two and defeated each in turn.
The Louisiana soldiers crossed over the ground behind the Jennie Wade House as they advanced toward their goal at the top of the hill. The rebel “yell” could clearly be heard as they drove the Yankees from the wall. The road was crossed and the cemetery captured. Victory would surely be theirs!
But where were their supporting comrades? The troops to the right and left flank had not advanced because of the darkness and the Louisiana “Tigers” desperately held their hard fought soil.
Then slowly more and more Union soldiers appeared on the scene, being sent back from other parts of the battlefield. Without enough manpower to hold the position, they slowly fell back foot by foot, yard by yard. Back across the road, across the wall and down the slope. Confederate soldiers lay dead and dying on E. Cemetery Hill. If only they had a few more men, victory would have been theirs.
Back in the 1960’s, back when tours were less formal, other stories could still be told. It was only one hundred years after the battle and people who had talked to old veterans were still alive telling stories they had been told earlier in the century.
During this period a tale was told about the retreat of Louisiana soldiers. It seems that as they slowly moved back down the hill from the stone wall, they had gone about two hundred yards when they came to a small group of five Confederate soldiers hiding in a grove of pine, tulip and locust trees. These men had begun the attack on E. Cemetery Hill but once the firing began, their bravery faltered and they chose to linger to the rear. Eventually they took shelter among the trees. Cowardly they lay low, hugging the ground, as their brave comrades advanced, some to their death.
Imagine the anger and disgust of the brave troops returning from the fight, still thinking about how close victory had been, “If only we had a few more men.” Suddenly finding these five hiding soldiers, their contempt must have been out of control. No one will ever know how many shots were fired or by who, but in an instant it is said that a few Louisiana soldiers lay dead.
Check back next month for the remainder of the story by Joseph Svehla, Author of Vol. III “Raising Your Spirits”
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