More on 15th Alabama’s Line of Advance

Here is an extract from the 1878 edition of the Southern Historical Society Papers  from Colonel William C. Oates, Commander of the 15th Alabama Regiment during the Battle of Gettysburg’s second day.  He writes about the advance up ‘Round Top Mountain.’

“…When crossing the little run we received the first fire from the Federal infantry, posted behind a stone fence near the foot of Round Top mountain. Our line did not halt, but pressing forward drove our enemy from the fence and up the side of the mountain. Just at this point General Law marched the Forty-fourth and Forty-eighth regiments by the left flank across my rear to the support of Robertson’s Texas brigade, which was said to have been hard pressed at that time and unable to advance further without reinforcements. This left my regiment on the extreme right flank of Lee’s army, and as I advanced up the mountain side my right was soon exposed to a flank fire from Federal skirmishers, which I promptly met by deploying my right company at short distance. I continued to advance straight up the southern face of Round Top. My men had to climb up, catching to the bushes and crawling over the immense boulders, in the face of an incessant fire of their enemy, who kept falling back, taking shelter and firing down on us from behind the rocks and crags that covered the mountain side thicker than grave stones in a city cemetery. My men could not see their foe, and did not fire, except as one was seen here and there, running back from one boulder to another. In this matter I pressed forward until I reached the top and the highest point on top of Round Top. Just before reaching this point, the Federals in my front as suddenly disappeared from my sight as though commanded by a magician. From the top of the mountain a Federal soldier could not be seen, except a few wounded and dead ones on the ground over which we had advanced. Here I halted and permitted my men to lie down to rest.”

We have stated repeatedly that Oates only thought he was climbing Big Round Top on the way to his confrontation with the 20th Maine on the south side of Little Round Top. There is a ridge on the west side of Big Roundtop that we call, for good reason, “Sharpshooters’ Ridge,” that rises from the Slyder Farm’s field on the slope of the ridge, all the way to the current intersection of Warren, Wright, Sedgwick, and South Confederate  Avenues.  When he writes of the men crawling over large boulders, he was writing about these:

[You can click on the image and see it enlarged for greater detail.]

These are on the left side of South Confederate Avenue as it climbs up Sharpshooter’s Ridge on the west side of Big Round Top, just before you reach the parking area for the climb top the actual summit of Big Round Top.

W. G. Davis

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