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SENTRY JOURNAL » American History, Battle, Civil War, Gettysburg, Joshua Chamberlain » July 2, 1863, Gettysburg Day 2: Little Round Top

July 2, 1863, Gettysburg Day 2: Little Round Top

Today marks day two of the battle of Gettysburg.  The following excerpt is from

“On July 2, 1863, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee ordered Lieutenant General James Longstreet to attack and roll up the Federal left flank. At the same time, Lieutenant General A.P. Hill’s corps would threaten the Union center to prevent Major General George Gordon Meade from reinforcing the Union left and would then continue the attack when Major General Richard Anderson’s brigades, holding the corps’ right, made contact with Longstreet. On the Confederate left, Lee instructed Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell to make diversionary attacks all along his front and then launch an all-out assault if practicable. If the plan succeeded, the Union army would topple helplessly from the positions it held atop the high ground south of Gettysburg, and the entire Civil War might be won in a day.”

The Union’s far left was held by the 20th Maine under the command of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.  Confederate forces had hoped to smash the far left and gain the high ground on Union forces.  From this position the Union would be forced from the battlefield. Below is a clip from the movie Gettysburg of the 20th Maine’s final charge to end the Confederate advance on Little Round Top.


The Confederate attacks came in waves, each more intense than the one before. At the height of the fighting, a Confederate bullet struck Chamberlain on his left thigh. Luckily the metal sword scabbard hanging at his side diverted the bullet, leaving him with only with a painful bruise. The colonel leapt to his feet and continued to encourage his men, directing the defense of the rocky hillside. The relentless Confederate assaults shredded Chamberlain’s ranks and the situation looked grim as ammunition began to run out.

Soldiers ransacked the cartridge boxes of the wounded and dead strewn on the hillside, but there was not enough to continue for much longer and that meager supply soon ran out. Chamberlain had not only been directing his men, but closely observing the southern attacks as well. Sensing exhaustion among the Confederates who were also probably running out of ammunition, he formulated a final plan to defend the 20th Maine’s part of the shrinking Union line. There was a brief lull in the fighting when the colonel called all of his officers quickly to a meeting and explained his proposal- the 20th Maine was going to make a charge! 

The charge of the 20th Maine Infantry was the climax of the fighting in front of Vincent’s brigade and contributed greatly to the Union victory at Little Round Top.

This is our history, who we are.  We must never forget.

Liberty forever, freedom for all!


Filed under: American History, Battle, Civil War, Gettysburg, Joshua Chamberlain

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  • Gorges Smythe July 2, 2010 at 6:26 AM

    It takes a lot of courage to charge into the unknown with an empty gun!

  • John Carey July 2, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    It does indeed GS. Both sides displayed an amazing amount of courage on that day.