THE STRUGGLE FOR “ROUND TOP.”BY E. M. LAW, MAJOR-GENERAL, C. S. A.
MORE has been written concerning the battle of Gettysburg than any other “passage of arms” between the Federal and Confederate troops during the civil war. The engagement of the 1st of July, brought on by accident, on the part of the Confederates at least, in which two corps of the Federal army under General Reynolds were defeated and driven through Gettysburg by portions of Hill’s and Ewell’s corps, has been often and fully described by the officers on both sides. Ewell’s attack on the Federal right in the vicinity of Culp’s Hill on the 2d of July, and Longstreet’s advance upon the Federal left on the same day, so far as relates to one division of the latter’s command (McLaws’s), have been detailed with equal minuteness by those engaged. The magnificent charge of Pickett’s division on the Federal center on the third day has been the theme of a host of writers who deemed it an honor to have stood in the lines of blue by which that charge was repelled, and those who, on the other hand, through it no less an honor to have shared the fortunes of the town and shattered columns of gray which only failed to accomplish impossibilities.
But concerning the operations of Lee’s extreme right wing, extending to the foot of Round Top, little or nothing has been written on the Confederate side. This part of the line was held by Hood’s division of Longstreet corps, and was really the key to the whole position of Gettysburg. Here some of the most stubborn fighting of that desperate battle was done, and here a determined effort of the Federal cavalry to reach the right rear of the Confederate army on the 3d of July was frustrated-an attempt which, if successful, must have resulted disastrously to that army.
The meagerness of the details of the operations referred to may be accounted for by the fact that General Longstreet personally superintended the left of his line, consisting of McLaws’s division of his own corps, supported by R. H. Anderson’s division of Hill’s corps, and hence knew comparatively little from personal observation of the movements of Hood’s division; and, also, that General Hood was wounded early in the engagement on the 2d of July, and, relinquishing the command of the division, could not report its subsequent operations. As senior brigadier, I succeeded to the command of Hood’s division, and directed its movements during the engagements of the 2d and 3d of July. But owing to the active and constant movements of our army for some weeks after the battle, I was only able to obtain the reports of brigade commanders a very short time previous to being ordered to the army of General Bragg at Chickamauga. This prevented me from making a report at the time, and it was afterward neglected.
The facts stated in this paper are therefore many of them published for the first time. It remains for the impartial reader to decide whether they do not constitute an important part of the history of the most memorable battle of the war; for Gettysburg was the turning-point in the great struggle. Together with the fall of Vicksburg, which occurred simultaneously with the retreat of Lee’s army toward the Potomac, it inspired the armies and people of the North with fresh courage and stimulated anew the hopes of ultimate success which were visibly flagging under an almost uninterrupted series of reverses to the Federal arms in Virginia, extending over a period of nearly two years. On the other hand, it was at Gettysburg that the right arm of the South was broken, and it must always stand out in Confederate annals as in the history of a brave and kindred people stands
“Flodden’s fatal field,
Where shivered was fair Scotland’s spear,
And broken was her shield.”
When the fight began at Gettysburg on the 1st of July, three brigades of Hood’s division were at Greenwood on the Chambersburg road and on the west side of South Mountain. My own brigade, with Bachman’s battery, was at New Guilford, some miles south of Greenwood, watching our right flank. At 3 o’clock on the morning of the 2d, under orders from General Longstreet, I moved as rapidly as possible toward Gettysburg, and arrived there shortly before noon, having marched the intervening distance of twenty-four miles in that time. On my arrival I found the other brigades of Hood’s division resting about a mile from the town, on the Chambersburg road. In a short time after my brigade came up, the division was moved to our right (south), traversing the angle between the Chambersburg and Emmitsburg roads, following McLaws, who was in advance. Pickett’s division had not yet come up. We moved very slowly, with frequent halts and deflections from the direct course-the latter being necessary to conceal our movements from the Federal signal station on Little Round Top.
At length, after many vexatious delays, Hood’s division was pushed forward until it uncovered McLaws, and soon reached the Emmitsburg road in front of Round Top. Here our line of battle was formed at an acute angle with the road, the right being in advance of it, between the road and the mountain, and the left extending across and in rear of the road. The formation was in two lines, Law’s Alabama and Robertson’s Texas brigades in front, supported, at a distance of about 200 yards, by the Georgia brigades of Benning and G. T. Anderson. McLaws’s division extended the line to our left, with a similar formation. The Artillery Battalion, composed of Reilly’s, Latham’s, Garden’s, and Bachman’s batteries, twenty guns in all, were disposed at advantageous points upon the ridge occupied by the line of infantry. There were no signs of Federal cavalry or troops of any kind on our right. As a precautionary measure, however, a regiment was detached from Anderson’s brigade and stationed at Kern’s house, half a mile down the road toward Emmitsburg. It was now past 4 o’clock in the afternoon and our troops were in position for the attack. The flank movement by which they came into position is referred to in the following dispatch from the Federal signal station on Little Round Top: “To General Meade-4 o’clock P. M. The only infantry of the enemy visible is on the extreme [Federal] left; it has been moving toward Emmitsburg.” It will thus be seen that the movement, in spite of our precautions, was not unobserved.
The Confederate line of battle occupied a ridge, partly wooded, with a valley intervening between it and the heights held by the Federal troops in front. The position occupied by the Federal left wing in front of us was now fully disclosed to view, and it was certainly one of the most formidable it had ever been the fortune of any troops to confront. Round Top rose like a huge sentinel guarding the Federal left flank, while the spurs and ridges trending off to the north of it afforded unrivaled positions for the use of artillery. The puffs of smoke rising at intervals along the line of hills, as the Federal batteries fired upon such portions of our line as became exposed to view, clearly showed that these advantages had not been neglected. the thick woods which in great part covered the sides of Round Top and the adjacent hills concealed from view the rugged nature of the ground, which increased fourfold the difficulties of the attack.
How far up the slope of Round Top the Federal left extended we could not tell, as the woods effectually concealed from view everything in that quarter.
In order to gain information upon this important point, I sent out a detail of six picked men as scouts, with instructions to move as rapidly as possible to the summit of Round Top, making a detour to their right, and “feeling” down from that point, to locate the left of the Federal line. The entire absence of Federal cavalry on our right, as well as other indications leading to the same conclusion, convinced me that the Federals, relying upon the protection of the mountain, considered their flank secure; that it was therefore their most vulnerable point. Impressed with this view, I further instructed the scouts when they reached the summit to observe carefully the state of affairs on the other side, and send a “runner” back to me with such intelligence as they might be able to gain. A few moments after they had started, I saw in the valley, some distance to our right, several dark figures moving across the fields from the rear of Round Top in the direction of the Emmitsburg road. These on being captured proved to be Federal soldiers, who seemed surprised at our sudden appearance in that quarter, and who, on being questioned, stated that they had surgeon’s certificates and were “going to the rear.” They indicated “the rear” by pointing toward Emmitsburg, and in reply to the question where they came from, they said from the “medical train behind the mountain” — referring to Round Top. They also stated that the medical and ordnance trains “around the mountain” were insecurely guarded, no attack being expected at that point; and that the other side of the mountain could be easily reached by a good farm road, along which they had just traveled, the distance being a little more than a mile. On my way to convey this information to General Hood, I met a messenger from my scouts, who had reached the crest of Round Top. He reported that there was no Federal force on the summit, and confirmed in every particular the statements of the prisoners I had just captured. If there had previously been any question in regard to the policy of a front attack, there now remained not a shadow of doubt that our true point d’appui was Round Top, from which the Confederate right wing could be extended toward the Taneytown and Baltimore roads, on the Federal left and rear.
I found General Hood on the ridge where his line had been formed, communicated to him the information I had obtained, and pointed out the ease with which a movement by the right flank might be made. He coincided fully in my views, but said that his orders were positive to attack in front, as soon as the left of the corps should get into position. I therefore entered a formal protest against a direct attack, on the ground: 1. That the great natural strength of the enemy’s position in our front rendered the result of a direct assault extremely uncertain. 2. that, even if successful, the victory would be purchased at too great a sacrifice of life, and our troops would be in no condition to improve it. 3. That a front attack was unnecessary,-the occupation of Round Top during the night by moving upon it from the south, and the extension of our right wing from that point across the enemy’s left and rear, being not only practicable, but easy. 4. That such a movement would compel a change of front on the part of the enemy, the abandonment of his strong position on the heights, and force him to attack us in position. General Hood called up Captain Hamilton, of his staff, and requested me to repeat the protest to him, and the grounds on which it was made. He then directed Captain Hamilton to find General Longstreet as quickly as possible and deliver the protest, and to say to him that he (Hood) indorsed it fully. Hamilton rode off at once, but in about ten minutes returned, accompanied by a staff-officer of General Longstreet, who said to General Hood, in my hearing, “General Longstreet orders that you begin the attack at once.” Hood turned to me and merely aid, “You hear the order?” I at once moved my brigade to the assault. I do not know whether the protest ever reached General Lee. From the brief interval that elapsed between the time it was sent to General Longstreet and the receipt of the order to begin the attack, I am inclined to think it did not. General Longstreet has since said that he repeatedly advised against a front attack and suggested a movement by our right flank. He may have thought, after the rejection of this advice by General Lee, that it was useless to press the matter further.
Just here the battle of Gettysburg was lost to the Confederate arms. It is useless to speculate upon the turn affairs might have taken if the Confederate cavalry had been in communication with the rest of the army, and if General Stuart had kept General Lee informed, as he should have done, of the movements of the Federal army. In considering the causes of the Confederate failure on that particular field, we must take the situation just as we find it. And the situation was as follows: The advance of the two armies encountered each other on the 1st of July. An engagement ensued in which the Confederates were victorious. The Federal troops retired through Gettysburg and took position along the height east of the town-a position which, if properly defended, was practicably impregnable to a direct attack.
The whole matter then resolves itself into this: General Lee failed at Gettysburg on the 2d and 3d of July because he made his attack precisely where his enemy wanted him to make it and was most fully prepared to receive it. Even had he succeeded in driving the Federal army from its strong position by a general and simultaneous assault along the whole front (which was the only possible chance of success in that direction), he would have found his army in very much the same condition in which Pyrrhus found his, when, after driving the Romans from the field of Asculum he exclaimed, “Another such victory, and I am undone!”
The failure of General Ewell to seize Cemetery Hill and adjacent positions, on the evening of July 1st, has been frequently assigned as one of the causes of our loss of the battle. It is very doubtful whether General Ewell could have occupied those heights had he made the attempt, for General Pleasonton has asserted very positively that, on the night of the 1st of July, “we [the Federals] had more troops in position than Lee.” And General Lee qualified his instructions to General Ewell to seize the heights by the words “if practicable.” Under the circumstances, the fact that General Ewell did not seize them is very strong presumptive evidence that it was not practicable.
The two armies being face to face on the 2d of July. and setting aside all question of a retreat by either, General Lee’s alternative of a direct attack was a movement by his right flank to the Federal left and rear. The first promised nothing but desperate fighting, heavy loss. and probable failure. The second certainly promised nothing worse, with the probabilities all in favor of a “fair field and a free fight,” and that was all his army asked. Referring to this suggested movement upon the Federal left flank, General Pleasonton, who commanded the Federal cavalry at that time, has expressed the opinion that it was impracticable, and has stated further that he “had two divisions of cavalry, one in rear of the Federal position and one on Lee’s right flank,” to prevent it. If the cavalry had been there, as he states, they would not have amounted to even a single “ounce of prevention,” as far as the movements of our infantry were concerned. But if there was a division, or even a single picket-post of cavalry, either Federal or Confederate, on our right flank, at any time on the 2d of July, it was kept most persistently out of sight, as my scouts, who were sent out in all directions, failed to find it. Our order of attack-issued as soon as the two divisions of Longstreet’s corps came into position on the line already described-was, that the movement should begin on the right, my brigade on that flank leading, the other commands taking it up successively toward the left. It was near 5 o’clock P. M. when we advanced to the attack. the artillery on both sides had been warmly engaged for about fifteen minutes, and continued to fire heavily until we became engaged with the Federal infantry, when the Confederate batteries ceased firing to avoid injury to our own troops, who were then, for the most part, concealed by the woods about the base of Round Top and the spurs to the north of it. General Hood was severely wounded in the arm by a shot from the Federal artillery as we moved into action.
Advancing rapidly across the valley which separated the opposing lines,-all the time under a heavy fire from the batteries,-our front line struck the enemy’s skirmishers posted along the farther edge of the valley. Brushing these quickly away, we soon came upon their first line of battle, running along the lower slopes of the hills known as Devil’s Den, to our left of Round Top, and separated from the latter by Plum Run valley. The fighting soon became close and severe. Exposed to the artillery fire from the heights in front and on our left, as well as to the musketry of the infantry, it required all the courage and steadiness of the veterans who composed the Army of Northern Virginia-whose spirit was never higher than then-to face the storm. Not one moment was lost. With rapidly thinning ranks the gray line swept on, until the blue line in front wavered, broke, and seemed to dissolve in the woods and rocks on the mountain-side. The advance continued steadily, the center of the division moving directly upon the guns on the hill adjoining Devil’s Den on the north, from which we had been suffering so severely. In order to secure my right flank, I extended it well up on the side of Round Top, and my brigade, in closing to the right, left a considerable interval between its left and the right of the Texas brigade of Robertson. Into this interval I threw Benning’s Georgia brigade, which had up to that time occupied the second line. At the same time seeing a heavy Federal force on Robertson’s left, and no Confederate troops having come up to extend our line in that direction, Anderson’s Georgia brigade, till then also in the second line, was thrown out on that flank.
Thus disposed, the division continued to move forward, encountering, as it ascended the heights around the battery on the spur and to the right and left of it, a most determined resistance from the Federal troops, who seemed to be continually reënforced. The ground was rough and difficult, broken by rocks and bowlders, which rendered an orderly advance impossible. Sometimes the Federals would hold one side of the huge bowlders on the slope until the Confederates occupied the other. In some cases my men, with better view and to deliver their fire with greater effect. One of these, Sergeant Barbee of the Texas brigade, having reached a rock a little in advance of the line, stood erect on the top of it, loading and firing as coolly as if unconscious of danger, while the air around him was fairly swarming with bullets. He soon fell helpless from several wounds; but he held his rock, lying upon the top of it until the litter-bearers carried him off.
In less than an hour from the time we advanced to the attack, the hill by Devil’s Den opposite our center was taken, with three pieces of the artillery that had occupied it. The remaining piece was run down the opposite slope by the gunners, and escaped capture.
In the meantime my brigade, on the right, had swept over the northern slope of Round Top, cleared it of the enemy, and then, making a partial change of front to the left, advanced upon Little Round Top, which lay in rear of the spur on which the battery had been taken. this change of direction soon exposed it to a flank attack on the right by fresh troops (Vincent’s brigade), rendering it necessary to retire it to the general line.
While our center and right wing were engaged as I have described, Anderson’s brigade, on the left, was subjected to great annoyance and loss by movements of the enemy upon its left flank, being frequently compelled to change the front of the regiments on that flank to repel attacks from that direction.
Up to this time I had seen nothing of McLaws’s division, which was to have extended our left and to have moved to the attack at the same time. I therefore halted my line, which had become broken and disorganized by the roughness of the ground over which it had been fighting, and placing it in as advantageous a position as possible for receiving any attack that the Federals might be disposed to make, I hurried back to the ridge from which we had originally advanced. I found McLaws stilling position there, his troops suffering considerably from a severe fire of artillery from the opposite hills. I was informed by General Kershaw, who held the right of his division, that although he understood the general instructions that the forward movement was to be taken up from the right, he had not yet received the order to move, from his division commander. I pointed out the position of Hood’s division, and urged the necessity of immediate support on its left. General Kershaw requested me to designate the point on which his right flank should be directed, and promptly moved to the attack, the movement being taken up by the whole division.
When Hood’s division first attacked, General Meade, alarmed for the safety of his left wing, and doubtless fully alive to the importance of holding so vital a point as Round Top and its adjacent spurs, commenced sending reënforcements to the threatened points. We encountered some of these in our first advance, and others were arriving as McLaws came up on our left. In its advance this division extended from the “Peach Orchard” near the Emmitsburg road, on its left, to the ” Wheat-field” north of the hill on which we had captured the Federal battery, where its right wing connected with my left. As McLaws advanced we again moved forward on his right, and the fighting continued in “see-saw” style-first one side and then the other gaining ground or losing it, with small advantage to either, until dark.
At the close of the engagement Hood’s division held the hill where the battery had been taken and the ridge to its left-our right extending across Devil’s Den and well up on the north-western slope of Round Top. During the night this line was strengthened by the construction of a breastwork of the loose stones that abounded all along the positions occupied by the troops, and the light of the next morning disclosed the fact that the Federal troops in front of us had improved their time in the same way. In fact, all through the night we could hear them at work as the rocks were dropped in place on the works, and no doubt they heard us just as distinctly, while we were engaged in the same life- preserving operation.
Though the losses had been severe on both sides, comparatively few prisoners had been taken. But early in the night, in the confusion resulting from the fight over such rugged ground, and the darkness of the wooded mountain-side, men of both armies, in search of their hands in the most advanced positions which we had reached and had been compelled to abandon. Among these latter was Colonel Powell of the 5th Texas regiment, who was shot through the body and afterward died. Powell was a stout, portly man, with a full beard, resembling, in many respects, General Longstreet, and the first impression of his captors was that they had taken that officer. Indeed, it was asserted positively by some of the prisoners we picked up during the night that Longstreet was badly wounded and a prisoner in their hands. and they obstinately refused to credit our statements to the contrary.
Early in the morning of the 3d two of my batteries, Latham’s and Garden’s, were sent to Colonel ( afterward General) E. P. Alexander, who commanded our artillery in the center, to assist in the cannonade of the Federal position south of Cemetery Hill, preparatory to the assault of General Pickett’s division at that point; and about 9 o’clock A. M. General Longstreet came over to my position on the right, and instructed me to be ready to renew the attack on our front. Under the circumstances that then existed, such an attack would have been simply madness. I have already described the difficult nature of the ground in our front. These difficulties were greatly increased by extemporized breastworks of rock all along the Federal line, which afforded good protection for their infantry, and were fully manned by a force much superior to our own. On the other hand, we had been weakened in the desperate attack of the preceding evening by losses amounting to one-fourth of the whole force carried into action. More than two thousand officers and men of our division had been killed and wounded, among them Generals J.B. Anderson and G.T. Robertson, and about one-half of the field-officers of the various regiments. McLaws’s division, on our left, had suffered nearly as severely, General Barksdale of that division being killed and General Semmes mortally wounded.
The cannonade in the center soon began, and presented one of the most magnificent battle-scenes witnessed during the war. Looking up the valley toward Gettysburg, the hills on either side were capped with crowns of flame and smoke, as 300 guns, about equally divided between the two ridges, vomited their iron hail upon each other. Dense clouds of smoke settled over the valley, through which the shells went hissing and screaming on their errand of death. Numbers of these from opposite directions exploded midway over the valley, apparently with venomous impatience, as they met each other in mid-air, lighting up the clouds with their snake-like flashes.
While this grand artillery duel was progressing, and before our infantry had moved to the attack, a new danger threatened us on the right. This was the appearance of Kilpatrick’s division of cavalry, which moved up on that flank and commenced massing in the body of timber which extended from the base of Round Top westward toward Kern’s house, on the Emmitsburg road. Reilly’s and Bachman’s batteries were ordered to change front to the right so as to bear upon this position, and at once opened fire upon the cavalry, which retired beyond the wood and out of sight. In order to protect my flank more fully, I withdrew the 1st Texas regiment of Robertson’s brigade from the main line, and placed it in position midway between Round Top and the Emmitsburg road, With skirmishers extending from its left and connecting at right angles with the extreme right of the main line on the slope of the mountain. I also detached the 7th and 8th Georgia regiments of Anderson’s brigade, and sent them to the support of the 9th, which had been stationed at Kern’s house. About the time these dispositions were completed, Colonel Black, of the 1st South Carolina Cavalry, reported to me with about 100 men who had been gathered up from the medical trains, most of them partly of horse artillery. Hart’s guns were stationed on the Emmitsburg road, and the cavalry extended the right flank beyond that road. This new flanking line was formed at right angles to the main line, and crossed the Emmitsburg road near Kern’s house.
One brigade of the Federal cavalry (Merritt’s) moved across the road and deployed a strong line of dismounted skirmishers in front of Colonel Black’s command, which was too weak to offer any effectual resistance. Hart’s guns, however, were well handled, and did good service as long as the enemy remained in reach of them. To meet this flanking movement, I had to extend the 7th and 8th Georgia regiments to the right, and heavy skirmishing continued as the lines developed, with occasional efforts of the Federals to break through, until about half-past three o’clock P. M., when my two regiments were stretched out to a bare line of skirmishers.
It is not an easy task to operate against cavalry with infantry alone on an extended line, and in an open country where the former, capable of moving much more rapidly, can choose its own points of attack and can elude the blows of its necessarily more tardy adversary. But Merritt’s brigade was now dismounted and deployed as skirmishers, and I lost no time in taking advantage of this temporary equality as to the means of locomotion. Detaching the two remaining regiments of Anderson’s brigade(11th and 59th Georgia)from the main line, I moved them rapidly to our extreme right, now about a mile from Kern’s house, attacked Merritt’s reserve, and then, changing front to the left, struck his skirmish-line “on its end” and “doubled it up” as far as the Emmitsburg road. This reduced my front to manageable dimensions and left some force at my disposal to meet any concentrated attack that the cavalry might make.
I had just returned to the position occupied by our artillery, which was in the angle formed by the main and flanking lines, when Farnsworth’s cavalry brigade charged the line held by the 1st Texas regiment. It was impossible to use our artillery to any advantage owing to the “close quarters” of the attacking cavalry with our own men- the leading squadrons forcing the Federal right wing, overlapped the 1st Texas on its left, and, striking the skirmish-line only, rode through it into the open valley in rear of our main line on the spurs of Round Top. When I first became satisfied, through information from the Texas skirmishers, that Farnsworth’s brigade was massing in their front, the 9th Georgia regiment was ordered from Kern’s house to the support of the batteries, the former position being now safe, as the other four regiments of Anderson’s brigade were concentrated near that point. Hearing the firing and knowing its cause, the 9th Georgia came up at a run, just as the 1st Vermont Cavalry rode through our skirmish-line, led by General Farnsworth in person. Instead of moving directly upon our batteries, the cavalry directed its course up the valley toward Gettysburg, passing between the position of our artillery and our main line. Watching the direction they had taken, I sent Lieutenant Wade, of my staff, rapidly across the valley in advance of them, with orders to detach the first regiment he should come to on the main line and send it down on a run to “head them off” in that direction. He was also ordered to follow the line to the extreme right and direct Colonel Oates (15th Alabama) to strengthen his flanking skirmish-line and to close up the gap on the left of the 1st Texas where the cavalry had broken in.
Farnsworth and his cavalry in the meantime were riding in gallant style, with drawn sabers and unopposed, up the valley. As they approached Slyder’s house, and as I stood intently watching them, I saw a ragged Confederate battle-flag fluttering among the trees at the foot of the opposite ridge, and the men with it soon after appeared, running out into the open ground on the farther side of the valley. It was the 4th Alabama regiment, Law’s brigade, which had been taken from the main line and sent down by Lieutenant Wade. The men opened fire as they ran. The course of the cavalry was abruptly checked and addles were rapidly emptied. Recoiling from this fire, they turned to their left and rear, and directed their course up the hill toward the position occupied by our batteries. Bachman’s battery promptly changed front to its left, so as to face the approaching cavalry, and, together with its infantry supports, opened a withering fire at close range. Turning again to their left, Farnsworth and the few of his men who remained in their saddles directed their course toward the point where they had originally broken in, having described by this tim almost a complete circle. But the gap where they had entered was now closed, and receiving another fire from that point, they again turned to the left and took refuge in the woods near the base of Round Top. When the last turn to the left was made, about half a dozen of their number separated from the main body and escaped by “running the gauntlet” to the right of the 1st Texas regiment. Farnsworth, with his little handful of gallant followers, rode upon the skirmish-line of the 15th Alabama regiment, and, pistol in hand, called upon Lieutenant Adrian, who commanded the line, to surrender. The skirmishers in return fired upon him, killing his horse and wounding Farnsworth in several places.
General Longstreet, aware of the danger that threatened our right from the attack of Kilpatrick’s division, came over to my position late in the afternoon and expressed his satisfaction at the result and the promptness and good conduct of the troops engaged. We had all day held our front line, gained the evening before, and with troops drawn from that line had repulsed General Kilpatrick on our right flank. It seemed to us on the Confederate right that there was at least one little spot of “silver lining” in the cloud that hung so darkly over the field of Gettysburg after the disastrous charge of Pickett.
Late in the afternoon of July 3d I was ordered to withdraw the division from the lines it had held since the evening of the 2d to the ridge near the Emmitsburg road, from which it had advanced to the attack on that day. McLaws’s division, which had held the line to our left during the day, retired first, and I ordered my brigade commanders to take up the movement from left to right. The courier who delivered the order to General Benning holding the left of the division, in designating the position to which he was to retire, pointed to the line McLaws had just abandoned. Benning, supposing that McLaws had been moved for the purpose of reënforcing our line on some other part of the field, dispatched Colonel DuBose with the 15th Georgia regiment in that direction. McCandless’s Federal brigade had, in the meantime, advanced to the ground previously held by McLaws, and attacked the 15th Georgia when it attempted to take up that position. Colonel DuBose made a gallant but fruitless attempt to hold his ground, expecting support from the other regiments of his brigade, reënforced by Nevin’s, he was driven back with considerable loss. He retired from one position to another, fighting as he retreated, and finally succeeded in extricating his regiment and rejoining his brigade. The loss of the 15th Georgia in this affair was very heavy, including 101 prisoners, besides the killed and wounded. In the meantime General Benning, having received a second order to retire, withdrew the remainder of his brigade without loss. The other brigades were quietly withdrawn, the Federals making no advance. We remained in our new position across the Emmitsburg road until near daylight on the 5th, when we took up our march with the rest of the army toward Fairfield Gap and the Potomac.
Law, Evander M., The Struggle for “Round Top”, in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 3 The Tide Shifts, pp 318-330. Castle, a division of Book Sales, Secaucus, NJ. ISBN 0-89009-571-X
Downloaded and edited from the ehistory pages, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, The Ohio State University. https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/battles/vol3/318