Friday, January 9, 2009

'The Only Position' - Howard at Gettysburg

The monument to Union Major General Oliver Otis Howard stands atop Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg, on the location where Howard placed his reserve during the first day of fighting. Howard understood the hill, which commanded the landscape south of Gettysburg, would be a critical fall back position should the hard-pressed First and Eleventh Corps need to retreat. "This looks like a good position," Howard, speaking of Cemetery Hill, told an aide. "It is the only position, general," was the t0-the-point reply. Obvious or not, the hill became an anchor of the Union line for the next two days of fighting along Cemetery Ridge. (Click image for larger view).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

West Virginia at Gettysburg

The monument to Union Major General O.O. Howard shares space with the 7th West Virginia Infantry monument on East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg. The 7th was part of the brigade sent to the hill as darkness fell and a Confederate attack crested there on the second day of fighting. Carroll's Brigade swept lingering rebels from Cemetery Hill in the confusion of night and smoke, the attack having almost reached its goal but unable to hold its gains. (Click image for larger view).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dawn at East Cemetery Hill - Gettysburg

Early morning light shows over East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg, where closely placed Union monuments indicate the importance of the position. It was at dusk and not dawn, however, when events at the hill were most critical. A Confederate charge on the second day crested and faltered on the top of the hill in failing dusk light. But on the first day the hill loomed large for what didn't happen: an attack by rebels against the retreating Union army, which was reconstituting itself south of Gettysburg after being pushed from north and west of the town. Would a Confederate assault late on the first day have changed the history of the battle? Almost certainly, but in exactly what fashion will forever remain in the shadows of history. (Click image for larger view).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

'Hold this position' - The Peach Orchard, Gettysburg

A Union gun peers over the Peach Orchard, scene of massed artillery and sharp fighting on the second day at Gettysburg. Union corps commander Major General Dan Sickles knew when he extended his line to form a salient here that the work would be hard. "Hold this position while you have a shot in your limbers and a man to work your guns," he told one battery commander. It was not a unique order on a day filled with similar directives - and it was nearly carried out as commanded when the batteries were threatened or overrun in what became a rout of the position. The Peach Orchard trees are undergoing replacement in a rehabilitation of the orchard, and are currently much smaller than the mature trees pictured here. (Click image for larger view).

Monday, January 5, 2009

Vincent on Little Round Top - Gettysburg

The location where Union brigade commander Colonel Strong Vincent fell with a mortal wound on the second day at Gettysburg is marked on the south slope of Little Round Top, though the exact site where he was hit is disputed. Vincent's brigade, including the 20th Maine, was responsible for securing Little Round Top. Placing the Maine men on the left of the Union line, he told the 20th's Colonel Joshua Chamberlain: "You understand! Hold this ground at all costs!" But Vincent's concerns were not limited to just one regiment of his brigade -he fell attempting to rally troops on the opposite end of his command from the 20th Maine, likely many yards from where this monument stands. (Click image for larger view).