JULY 2CEMETERY RIDGE
As Barksdale's, Wilcox's, and Lang's brigades crushed the Third
Corps's right and swept toward Cemetery Ridge, Meade, Hancock, and
others strove mightily to position troops to halt their drive. By the
time the Confederates reached the base of the ridge their ranks had been
riddled, their lines disordered, and they had begun to lose momentum.
Hancock led Col. George L. Willard's brigade of his Second Corps down to
meet Barksdale's brigade. Willard's men attacked Barksdale's advancing
line just west of Plum Run and drove it back, but the guns of Col. E.
Porter Alexander's artillery battalion, which had moved forward to the
high ground by the Emmitsburg Road, repelled them in turn. Both
Barksdale and Willard fell in the fight. As he rode north in search of
more troops to throw against the advancing Rebel lines, Hancock saw
Wilcox's brigade nearing the swale at the base of the ridge. Only the
1st Minnesota Regiment was at hand. Hancock pointed to a Confederate
flag that flew above the advancing line and shouted to Col. William
Colvill, "Advance, Colonel, and take those colors." The Minnesotans
charged, struck the tired Alabamians, and blunted their attack. But the
cost was horrible"more than two-thirds" in the charge were killed
or wounded. To the left, Williams's division of the Twelfth Corps
reached the ridge in time to repulse the 21st Mississippi Regiment and
recapture Bigelow's lost guns.
BRIGADIER GENERAL BARKSDALE LEAD HIS MEN AGAINST UNION DEFENDERS AT THE
SHERFY FARM (PAINTING BY DON TROIANI. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF HISTORICAL
ART PRINTS, SOUTHBURY, CT.)|
Brig. Gen. Ambrose R. Wright's Georgia brigade advanced on the left
of the Florida brigade. The sun was setting as Wright's men advanced
gallantly toward the Union center. They crushed two regiments posted at
the Emmitsburg Road north of the Codori house and captured guns of Lt.
T. Fred Brown's and Lt. Gulian V. Weir's batteries that were in front of
the ridge near the Codori buildings. Fortunately for Wright's men,
Hancock's efforts to aid Sickles had left a broad gap in the Union line
south of the Copse of Trees, and the Floridians and Georgians made for
it. Union troops held Lang's men from the ridge, but the right of
Wright's line penetrated the gap and reached the ridge's crest. They had
broken the Union line, but Brig. Gen. Carnot Pusey's brigade on their
left and others did not come to their aid. Instead Union troops of the
First and Second Corps, some led by Meade himself, struck the Georgians
and drove them back. By darkness, Meade's forces had halted the
Confederate attack. Meade was jubilant; when someone observed that
things had been pretty desperate at one time, he replied, "Yes, but it
is all right now, it is all right now." In later years, Longstreet wrote
that on July 2 the men of his corps had done the "best three hours'
fighting done by any troops on any battle-field." It would be difficult
to prove him wrong. Yet it had not been enough to secure victory from an
equally tenacious Union defense.