National Park Service black bar with arrowhead logo
NPS History E-Library
 
 

Civil War Series

The Battle of Gettysburg

   

JULY 2, EVENING—EWELL ATTACKS CEMETERY HILL

Soon after the fighting opened on Culp's Hill, Brig. Gen. Harry T. Hays's and Col. Isaac Avery's brigades of Early's division attacked Cemetery Hill from a ravine south and southeast of the town, and Rodes's division moved from the town to attack the hill from the west. Early's two brigades advanced at dusk "in gallant style" and struck Cols. Andrew L. Harris's and Leopold von Gilsa's brigades of Barlow's (Ames's) division, Eleventh Corps, which were in position at the base of the hill. Shortly before the Confederates struck, Brig. Gen. Adelbert Ames sent the 17th Connecticut Regiment from its place in the line of Harris's brigade to the left of von Gilsa's line. This shift left a gap that Harris was unable to close before the Confederates appeared. Hays's brigade "fotched up" at a low stone wall near the left of the Union line with a Rebel yell. An Ohio sergeant remembered that Hays's Louisianans "put their big feet on the stone wall and went over like deer." They exploited the gap, and both brigades punched through other weak spots in the Union line. Some of Early's men pushed toward the batteries at the top of the hill, but most of them remained near its base fighting in the darkness with the four Union regiments that still held their positions there. The attackers who climbed the hill reached the guns of Capt. Michael Wiedrich's New York battery and Capt. R. Bruce Ricketts's Pennsylvania battery and battled the cannoneers and the troops driven from the base of the hill who had rallied near the guns. Reinforcements from the Eleventh Corps and Second Corps helped the defenders repulse Early's assault. This could not have been done so easily had Ewell's attack against the hill been better coordinated.

BRIGADIER GENERAL ALPHEUS S. WILLIAMS (GNMP)

"MENDING THE FLAG," THE 149TH NEW YORK AT CULP'S HILL, JULY 3 (GNMP)

EDWIN FORBES ILLUSTRATION OF CONFEDERATE ATTACK ON CEMETERY HILL, JULY 2 (GNMP COLLECTION)

Rodes's division was not ready to attack until Early's fight was over. It had filed west from the town and into the fields northwest of Cemetery Hill, formed for the assault there, advanced a short distance in the darkness, and stopped. By this time Early's attack was over. General Ramseur, who led Rodes's attack, wisely halted the movement before serious fighting began.

Among those who died that night was Col. Isaac Avery, commander of Hoke's North Carolina brigade. He fell alone, and as he slipped into unconsciousness he scrawled on a scrap of paper; "Major; Tell my father I died with my face to the enemy."


(click on image for a PDF version)
JULY 2, 1863. EAST CEMETERY HILL 8-9 P.M.
At the same time that Ewell sent Johnson forward against Culp's Hill, Early's division moved from its positions near Gettysburg to storm the eastern slopes of Cemetery Hill. The Union troops of the 11th Corps, positioned at the base of the hill, were driven from their position. Elements of Early's men reached the summit of the hill but were thrown back by stubborn Union resistance.


MEADE AND HIS GENERALS MEET AT THE LEISTER FARM ON THE NIGHT OF JULY 2 (USAMHI)

PERIOD PHOTOGRAPH OF THE LEISTER HOUSE, WHICH SERVED AS MEADE'S HEADQUARTERS DURING THE BATTLE (CWL)

After the fighting died, Williams's and Geary's divisions of the Twelfth Corps returned to Culp's Hill. Both took up positions to seal off the Confederate penetration and drive Johnson's men from the hill. Geary reinforced Greene's line on the main hill and faced the Rebels on the lower hill from the north. Williams and the corps artillery confronted the Confederate penetration on the lower hill from McAllister's Woods on the south and from the Baltimore Pike. That night also four Confederate brigades that had not fought on July 2 reinforced Johnson's three brigades on Culp's Hill. Both sides prepared to attack at dawn.

After the fighting on Cemetery Ridge was over, Meade met with his corps commanders at his headquarters in the Leister house behind the Union center. They discussed the battle, the condition of their units, their lack of rations, and other matters; all present expressed the view that they should continue the fight at Gettysburg.

Previous Top Next


 

History and Culture