Midpoint of the War: May to July 1863

Gettysburg: The Second Day

What was the worst of it, from the Confederate point of view?

They had already been fighting for two hours, and some of them were exhausted. They had taken Big Round Top with ease, then commands from above insisted they assault Little Round Top, which—in the overall scheme of things—was a tougher proposition. But the very worst thing was that as they charged up the hill, they were pounded by rifle fire from the sides. Colonel Oates remembered men being hit in the head by bullets from above, then in the stomach and legs by bullets from the side, or flank. But there was another factor involved: Oates, too, had a brother on the field.

John Oates had been sick for days before the battle, and no doubt he suffered even more than most of his fellows as they charged and attacked in the afternoon heat of July 3, 1863. After being wounded no fewer than five times, John Oates was captured by the Federals, and he died a few days later (his elder brother suffered from guilt for years afterward).


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