Tracking Hazlett’s Battery D, 5th US Artillery

Although we are constantly reading up on the Battle of Gettysburg, we think we have read only a pinch of what is available.  One thing that has caught our interest over the years is a question about Hazlett’s Battery D, 5th US Artillery, the unit that General Warren is said to have stepped down from his horse and helped the men muscle the guns over the boulders to get them into final position on the crest.  We have never read anything that explained where Hazlett’s guns got the powder bags and shot they fired from the 6 guns on the crest.

We have to start with Hazlett, but he was killed in action by the sniper behind Devil’s Den [see the earlier post on the Devils Den Sharpshooter].  So we had to track down the man who assumed command when  Hazlett was killed.  He was 1st Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Rittenhouse, from Berwick, Pennsylvania.  Rittenhouse commanded the Battery for the remainder of the war.

There is very little in the Official Records of the Civil War…just a brief passage from a letter/report written by Rittenhouse to the commander of his Artillery Brigade, Captain Augustus P. Martin, in which he states Hazlett’s death came about an hour after they opened fire from Little Round Top.  One wonders if that letter/report survived.

So we went looking for Rittenhouse and found him in The Gettysburg Papers.   Rittenhouse presented a paper to the Washington DC Commandery of MOLLUS on May 4, 1887.  In it we find rich detail about the locations and movements of the Battery on July 2nd.

We find the Battery on Baltimore Street near Powers Hill at about 4 PM when they were ordered to “to the left” to Little Round Top, probably by way of Blacksmith Shop Road.

As Hazlett approached the foot of the hill, he was ordered to move as rapidly as possible, the caissons were halted on the left, and ordered to a safer place, and the battery went up that rocky hill, through the woods on the east side, at a trot, with spurs and whips vigorously applied. I do not believe a piece barked a tree…In less time than it takes to tell it,  four guns were on the crest, where a rider would hardly go today; a few minutes later Hazlett got the fifth piece into position over huge rocks, and a little later he got the sixth piece fairly lifted into position by the cannoniers and the infantry. As each piece was unlimbered, it spoke for itself, for the country on the left and in front was full of rebels, with their battle flags flying, and coming so rapidly that it seemed impossible to stop them.”

So the caissons were ordered to the left, which would indicate down south on Taneytown Road.  Below is a copy of the 1868 Warren Map of the Little Round Top area: Detail of Warren 1868 map[from National Park Service, GNMP: Little Round Top: Cultural Landscape Report, Treatment & Management Plan, 2012., used with the kind permission of GNMP]

Note:  CLICK THE IMAGE FOR A CLEARER VIEW AND ENLARGMENT.

Key:

  • The yellow highlights over the Round Tops and Vincent’s Spur.
  • The red arrow on right at the entrance to the logging lane dividing the two Weikert Farms.
  • The the two blue arrows indicating the lane on the north edge of the Bricker Farm orchard.  The left arrow show the lane reaching the crest of Little Round Top.  Wheatfield Lane [now Road] is clearly just north of this lane.

We think the guns were raced up that lane.

From this map one can readily see where the third logging lane [missing from this map] should show, about half way between the two right hand arrows.  The caissons of Hazlett’s Battery were ‘safely’ tucked away there since there was little enough room on the crest for the six guns.  Hazlett would not have been stupid enough to put the caissons in the same lane he used to get up to the crest of Little Round Top as they would have blocked his avenue of escape.  Thus the middle lane is the likely spot for the battery’s caissons.

[Note:  Rittenhouse notes that on July 3rd, only 2 of the 6 guns could be used against Pickett’s Charge as there simply was not enough room, nor level ground to support more at the angle they needed.]

Frankly, I think there was no room up top for the limbers, but perhaps a chest was brought up. Up to 50 rounds of ammo were in each chest, adding to the 150 pound chest almost 500 pounds of weight, and enough powder bags at one pound per would add another 50 pounds. That is a lot of weight to hump up over the rocks after moving an 1800 pound gun up there. So we are left with a bucket brigade type of arrangement of handing the ammo and powder up the last few yards.

So, why are the caissons in the logging lanes important?

To be continued..

WGD

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