Midpoint of the War: May to July 1863

Gettysburg: The Second Day

How on earth could the Federals have left no units on Big Round Top?

It is, truly, extraordinary. The only answer that can be guessed at is that in the confusion and haste, someone may have mislaid an order. But there was Big Round Top, with absolutely no Union defenders, and Colonel William Oates’ Alabamians, part of General John Hood’s division, were practically there.

The Alabamians sprinted the last part of the way, and at around 4 P.M., they gained the summit of Big Round Top. What they saw amazed them. Not only was the entire valley around Gettysburg engulfed in smoke and flame, but they had found the only place where Confederate cannon could be placed. Admittedly, it would take a huge amount of energy to get guns atop that height, but once there, they could wreck havoc with the entire Army of the Potomac. Just minutes after coming to that realization, Colonel Oates received an order to move to Little Round Top, four hundred yards off. His protest was to no avail.

This map shows the various Confederate attacks made on the Union positions on July 2, 1863, a day when the South came very close to success.


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