Friday, August 17, 2007

Scenes From Gettysburg: The Devil's Den

The view from the ridge where Hood and McLaws staged their assault. The Devils Den can be seen just to the left of the Round Tops

The Devils Den

The close quarters of the Devils Den. In these nooks and crannies the soldiers fought a bloody, hand to hand battle.

On July 2nd, 1863, the two armies faced each other across an open field; the Federals occupying the higher Cemetary Ridge just southeast of the town and the Confederates on Seminary Ridge just southwest of the town.

Despite the Federal's formidable position, Lee decided to attack. With knowledge the Federals left flank was "in the air", Lee sent General James Longstreet on a roundabout march with two divisions of his First Corps to attempt to turn this end of the federal line.

In the intervening period, Federal Major General Dan Sickles, noting his position just right of the Round Tops was significantly lower than the ground in front of him, moved his corps forward in a salient covering the Devil's Den, a wheat field and a peach orchard. The wisdom of this move is still debated today.

The attack began en echelon from south to north beginning with McLaws division then to Hood's division. Encountering the Federals where they expected empty space, McLaws struck at the Round Tops and Hood became entangled in a knot of rocks called The Devil's Den. All order was lost and Hood later described the encounter as "indian fighting" meaning it was every man for himself.

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