And we’re back! Ready to jump into day two of the battle of Gettysburg? Great, let’s do it. When we last checked in, both sides were settled in for the night; the Union troops were advantageously positioned on both Cemetery Ridge and McPherson’s Hill with the Confederate camp keenly aware of their opposition’s wise tactic.
Overnight both sides had received reinforcements which bolstered confidences all around. The first move of the day went to Confederate General Robert E. Lee who ordered General James Longstreet to attack the Union’s left flank. The assumption was that the maneuver would come as a surprise since the Union would be preoccupied with the Confederates which were in plain sight on Culp’s Hill. Longstreet wasn’t convinced as to the effectiveness of this strategy and took his time getting to the attack position only to arrive and find that an entire Union corp was in the way! They had no choice but to fight. Around the same time, Lee ordered General Ewell to “make a demonstration” against the main Union line which would prevent their opposition from shifting troops to the south to reinforce their lines.
The attack on the main Union line began with an artillery bombardment which was executed under the leadership of Confederate General Hood. This progressed into very bloody fighting including oftentimes hand-to-hand combat as the Confederates fought their way through Devil’s Den and onwards to Little Round Top. It was here that they ran into the 20th Maine under the leadership of Union General Joshua Chamberlain. The Confederates charged the 20th Maine three times only to be beaten back each. This led to their retreat to Little Round Top during which time Chamberlain ordered his men to fix bayonets and sweep the rebels from the Hill.
Meanwhile, the other attack had turned extremely bloody also as the Confederates pushed their way through an easily overwhelmed Union line. However, the rebels were eventually forced to withdraw after the Union received reinforcements. Around the same time, Confederate General Richard Anderson began his attack on the Union lines within the center of Gettysburg. Unfortunately, this section of the Union had thinned out his lines to reinforce other areas receiving the brunt of the Confederate attacks. The rebels had initial success of taking over however, it was short lived as the 1st Minnesota regiment arrived and effectively held back the rebels while giving the Union Generals time to successfully strategize.
The last attack of the day was executed at 7pm. It was the “demonstration” that Lee had ordered Ewell to make. As with much of the Confederate’s attacks that day, it began with some success however, Union reinforcements left the rebels at a disadvantage and eventually led to their retreat. While Lee came close to breaking Union lines, he ultimately failed to do so on this second bloody day of battle. Casualties were very high with both sides losing approximately 10,000 men each. Shaken by this realization, Union Generals called a meeting to vote on remaining at Gettysburg or withdrawing. It was unanimous – stay and fight.
Whew! We’ve relived two of the three days of the battle of Gettysburg but it isn’t over yet. There is one more day to go but you’re going to have to wait until next week to find out what happens. Make sure to check back Tuesday morning bright and early!