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Civil War Series

The Battle of Gettysburg

   

JULY 3, MORNING—CULP'S HILL

Five Union batteries opened a deadly fire on the Confederate penetration on Culp's Hill at dawn. A Maryland Confederate wrote that "the whole hillside seemed enveloped in a blaze." The artillery fire ceased in half an hour, and the Confederates renewed their assault. The fighting continued until late morning. Johnson's men attacked three times, and each attack failed. The Twelfth Corps units had been reinforced by troops from the First and Sixth Corps, and their position was too strong four the Confederates to take.

Most of the Union troops fought from the cover of breastworks; the Confederates had only the shelter afforded by trees and rocks on the hill's slopes. The principal fighting rook place on the main hill. There, Union regiments moved to and from the breastworks from a nearby ravine where the soldiers cleaned their rifles and replenished their ammunition. In the last Confederate attacks, at perhaps 10 A.M., the Stonewall Brigade and Daniel's North Carolina brigade assaulted Greene's position from the east while Steuart's brigade advanced over Pardee Field toward the main hill. Both attacks failed dismally. A futile attack by two Union regiments across the meadow by Spangler's Spring against Johnson's left symbolized the end of the fighting on the hill, and by noon it was over. Ewell's assaults against the Union right had failed.

EDWIN FORBES ILLUSTRATION OF THE CONFEDERATE ATTACK ON CULP'S HILL (GNMP COLLECTION)

There was a signal act of bravery at the end of Johnson's last assault. Some soldiers of the Stonewall Brigade were stranded near the Union breastworks when the brigade's assault failed and were certain to be shot if they did not surrender. Maj. Benjamin W. Leigh of General Johnson's staff saw them attempt to surrender and rode almost to the Union works in an effort to stop them. Union soldiers shot at Leigh, of course, and riddled him and his horse with bullets. But they admired his bravery, mentioned it in their reports, and buried him with special care.

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