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Gettysburg In Depth

 

This page provides an interactive map of the major battlegrounds at Gettysburg

 

Home >> United States History >> Civil War >> Civil War Battles >> Before Gettysburg

 

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Major Battles/Events

Bull Run I
Peninsula Campaign
Trent Affair
Ironclads
Shiloh
Winchester
Bull Run II
Harper’s Ferry
Antietam
Stones River
Fredericksburg
Chancellorsville
Gettysburg Prelude
Gettysburg Day 1
Gettysburg Day 3
Vicksburg
NY Draft Riots
Chickamauga
Chattanooga
Overland Campaign
Sherman’s March to the Sea
Fall of Petersburg
Fall of Richmond
Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse
 

Major American Wars

 
French and Indian War
Revolutionary War
War of 1812
Mexican-American War
Civil War

Click on the Points on the Gettysburg Map Below to Learn More

McPherson Ridge

 

McPherson Ridge is a 530 foot high hill situated on the northwest portion of the battlefield. It was the site of the original Union Army headquarters until it was taken on the first day of the battle by Confederate forces under Henry Heth. Heth’s unit incurred significant casualties (as many as 1,500 out of 7,000), but managed to send Union defenses retreating to Seminary Ridge.

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Cemetery Hill

 

Cemetery Hill was a gentle ridge south of the town of Gettysburg that saw significant action on days one and two of the Gettysburg battle. It represented the northernmost reach of the Union "fish-hook" defensive line and rises about 80 feet above the town center. On July 1, Confederate general Richard Ewell failed to capture Cemetery Hill after false intelligence suggested large numbers of Union troops were converging upon it.

On the second day, furious, but uncoordinated, and ultimately unsuccessful evening assaults led by Confederate General Jubal Early upon Cemetery Hill resulted in massive casualties. Early had alerted General Robert Rodes to prepare a secondary assault, but Rodes failed to prepare his unit and aborted the mission as darkness fell. Union forces managed to hold Cemetery Hill despite the high casualties. In the battle, Confederate colonel Isaac Avery was killed by a musket ball.

It was upon Cemetery Hill, where Abraham Lincoln was deliver his Gettysburg Address on November 22, 1863.

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Seminary Ridge

 

Seminary Ridge is a ridge west of the town of Gettysburg. It was named for the Lutheran Theological Seminary overlooking Gettysburg from the west. It was an essential portion of the battlefield for the Confederate Army as Robert E. Lee chose to position his headquarters there (at the Thaddeus Stevens building) because it gave him superior views of Union positions. It also formed the major portion of the confederate defensive lines on the second and third days of the battle. Confederate forces used the ridge to bombard Union positions on Cemetery Hill.

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Peach Orchard

 

Located just east of the Emmitsburg Road, the Peach Orchard was the site of some of the battle’s most intense fighting on the second day (July 2). Union forces (called Corps III) under the command of the mercurial Daniel Sickles reached the peach orchard as they moved from Devil’s Den to the slightly higher ground at the peach orchard, where they were caught in a salient (a situation in which they were vulnerable to gunfire from two sides). Despite the vulnerability, By 6:30 P.M. Confederate General James Longstreet’s Corps converged upon the Peach Orchard. 2,900 Confederates under the Command of William Barksdale and William Tatum Wofford crushed Union resistance with a direct assault in the Peach Orchard. Union forces withdrew from the orchard in a disorganized retreat and were able to escape to the relative safety of Cemetery Ridge where lines could be re-formed.

Despite the carnage, many of the peach trees in the orchard survived the onslaught. Owner of the orchard, Farmer Sherfy, would eventually advertise that his peaches were from the actual battlefield.

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Devil’s Den

 

Devi's Den

Devil’s Den is a rocky, boulder-strewn area, just south of the Wheatfield at the Gettysburg battlefield. It was the site of intense fighting during the second day of the Gettysburg Battle. Union forces called Corps III, under the command of Daniel Sickles occupied the Devil’s Den and surrounding areas because it was situated higher than their previous position at the bottom of Cemetery Ridge. Sickles moved Corps III to the region without approval from Commanding General George Meade, who was infuriated. Sickles moved the battery of Captain James Smith directly among the cliffs and boulders. Because of the difficult terrain, Smith could only fit four of his six big guns. There was no room for anything else, and extra ammunition would be nearly impossible to get to the guns.

Confederate General John Bell Hood ordered a brigade under Evander Law to attack the rocky formations of Devil’s Den, which they did successfully, even though they had just marched 20 miles in the unforgiving summer humidity. Confederate forces eventually wore down Smith’s men in the rocky labyrinth and captured three of his big guns and occupied the boulders. The tall rocks at Devil’s Den would provide an excellent platform for Confederate sharpshooters to snipe away at Union soldiers occupying Little Round Top to the northeast.

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Culp’s Hill

 

 

Culp’s Hill on the morning of July 3rd by Edwin Forbes

Culp’s Hill, located southeast of the town of Gettysburg, was a crucial land feature for the Union army. Culp’s Hill is actually two peaks separated by a narrow saddle. The higher of the two peaks rises 630 feet above sea level. The "hook" part of the famous Union fish-hook defensive line ran over Culp’s Hill. It’s position over the Baltimore Pike made its defense essential so that supplies could run unimpeded to Union lines.

Culp’s Hill was a major target of importance for Confederate forces on the second day of the battle. Defended solely by the brigade of Union General George Greene, it wasn’t until 7:00 P.M. that Confederate forces attacked the hill. Three Confederate brigades totaling 4,700 soldiers under the command of Edward Johnson stormed up the east slope of Culp’s Hill. Greene, badly outnumbered, quickly sent for reinforcements, which arrived in the form of seven brigades. The strong Union defenses, and the darkness of night, made the Confederate assaults difficult, and numerous assaults were repulsed, resulting in heavy casualties on the Confederate side. By the time fighting ceased for the night, the Confederates were successful in occupying a portion of the southeastern slope of the hill. Both sides prepared for battle again in the morning.

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Cemetery Ridge

 

Pickett's Charge on Cemetery Ridge

Pickett’s Charge on Cemetery Ridge by Edwin Forbes

Cemetery Ridge was an important site at the Battle of Gettysburg. For the Union Army, it formed the center of its “fish-hook” defense. For the Confederates, Pickett’s Charge up Cemetery Ridge represented a desperate attempt against impossible odds to continue their foray deeper into Northern soil. 

After Confederate attacks on both flanks of the Union army failed to dislodge them on the second day of battle, Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee was determined to strike them at their center on Cemetery Ridge on July 3rd. Lee’s second in command, General James Longstreet urged Lee to reconsider the strategy, but Lee refused. 

On July 3rd, Lee ordered a massive artillery bombardment on the grounds in front of Cemetery Ridge for the purposes of softening the Union defenses. The bombardment was largely ineffective due to defective equipment and poor firing. Furthermore, Union forces returned fire creating an apocalyptic scene of war, fire, and smoke on the battlefield. Union gunners who overshot their targets actually ended up killing scores of Confederate soldiers waiting to advance on Seminary Ridge. 

At about 2:00 P.M., despite Longstreet’s misgivings, Confederate infantry numbering about 12,500 stepped foot onto the grassy fields toward Union defenses nearly a mile away. The Confederate line was nearly a mile wide. As they drove forward on the undulating surface, they took withering fire from Union gunners and cannons from seemingly every direction. Huge gaps started appearing in the Confederate lines from the cannons, causing many to turn and run. It was a disaster for the Confederate Army. One in two soldiers on Cemetery Ridge that day was killed, wounded, or captured. Dozens of officers were killed or injured. Few Confederates made it to the stone wall, though Confederate soldiers under the command of Lewis Armistead were able to push Union forces back at a turn in the stone fence referred to as  “The Angle.” In what came to be known as the “High Water Mark of the Confederacy, this was the closest Confederate soldiers came to breaching Union defenses. Those soldiers were quickly repulsed. 

The rout on Cemetery Ridge would represent the end for Lee’s Army in Pennsylvania. He would never again fight on Northern soil.

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Little Round Top

 

 

Little Round Top 1863

Little Round Top was the site of a major Confederate assault on Union positions on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. In what may have been the most intense fighting of the entire war, Union forces repulsed numerous Confederate assaults up the hill. The scene at Little Round Top was the setting for the popular Civil War novel, Killer Angels.

On 4:00 P.M., on July 2, Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee ordered a massive assault on the Union left flank. Union forces under Daniel Sickles had abandoned the grounds near Little Round Top for the higher ground of Devil’s Den, leaving Little Round Top vulnerable. Various regiments were quickly dispatched to defend the hill including Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine, which was ordered to hold the position at the extreme left flank of the Union line.

Confederate forces consisting of Alabama and Texas brigades under the command of Evander Law stormed the hill after marching 20 miles the same day. Violent clashes ensued which included hand-to-hand combat between Union and Confederate soldiers. Numerous Confederate charges and assaults up the hill were repulsed. Colonel Chamberlain, whose 20th Maine Division had run out of ammunition, withstood several Confederate assaults while incurring significant casualties. With no ammunition and massive casualties, Chamberlain knew his men could not withstand another assault. In a last ditch effort to avoid being overrun, he ordered his men to meet the next assault with a bayonet charge, an unconventional military strategy, which shocked the advancing Confederates and halted their offensive. Other Union regiments on Little Round Top held their positions as well, despite sniper fire coming from Confederates on Devil’s Den. Over 1,700 casualties from both sides combined were recorded at Little Round Top.

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Big Round Top (Round Top)

 

Big Round Top, located just south of the more famous Little Round Top is the highest point on the Gettysburg battlefield, rising about 785 feet above sea level. It was the site of minor fighting on day two and more intense fighting on day three of the Battle of Gettysburg. On the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Union calvary forces under the command of William Wells and Elon Farnsworth assaulted five Alabama regiments under the Command of Evander Law on Big Round Top. Both Wells and Farnsworth rode through the battle with their Vermont regiments. Farnsworth was killed in the action, but Wells managed to survive. Wells was awarded a Medal of Honor for his efforts.

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Wheatfield

 

Located just north of Devil’s Den, the Wheatfield was the scene of intense fighting on July 2. Control of the Wheatfield and surrounding areas would allow access to the heights south of Gettysburg. Earlier in the day, Union general Daniel Sickles moved his regiments from the base of Cemetery Ridge to what he thought was higher ground at the Wheatfield, Peach Orchard, and Devil’s Den. In doing so, he created a potentially catastrophic salient, a vulnerable position for any military force where they were open on two sides to enemy fire. Sickels moved his soldiers without permission of General Meade.

Confederate forces smashed into Sickles’ Corps III in area next to the Wheatfield called Stony Ridge and intense fighting began. Despite Union reinforcements that arrived in the late afternoon, Confederate forces would gain temporary control of both Stony Hill and the Wheatfield after Union Brigadier General James Barnes mysteriously withdrew his soldiers from the area. Union forces retreated back to Little Round Top where they were able to reform their lines. Exhausted Confederate soldiers pursuing the fleeing Union soldiers would be repulsed by troops under William McCandless, thereby preventing Confederate forces from gaining access to the heights.

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