Now that you’ve had time to digest the geology of Devil’s Den let’s talk about the attacks on July 2nd 1863. Devil’s Den saw intense fighting as part of Robert E. Lee’s flank attack on the Union Fish Hook line. In total there were 2,400 Union soldiers and 5,500 Confederate soldiers engaged at Devil’s’ Den. All in all the day would see 800 Union casualties and 1800 Confederate casualties ending with the Confederate possession and the Union retreat from Devil’s Den. The Map below shows the movement of troops in the Devi’s Den area on July 2nd 1863. Note that this map does go into much more detail than I will in this post. As always if you have any further questions about this post or the maps/pictures in it feel free to leave a comment or email.
Image courtesy of The Civil War Trust linked to from theminiaturespage.com
Devil’s Den was the end of General Sickles’ III corp battle line. On Devil’s Den were four 10 pound Parrot Cannons commanded by Captain James Smith’s 4th New York Independent Battery. Around 4 pm Hood’s division began the first assault on the Union line at Devil’s Den. During the assault he was hit in the arm by a shell fragment forcing his leave from the battle. His arm would hang limp for the rest of his life. The 1st Texas and 3rd Arkansas attacked the west area of Devil’s Den while the 44th and 48th Alabama attacked the east side coming up the Plum Run valley. At this point Union reinforcements were called upon from the 99th Pennsylvania to help the line along Plum Run.
Brigadier Generals Henry Benning and George Anderson led the second Confederate wave with regiments from Georgia. They tried to exploit a gap between Devil’s Den and The Wheat Field. Anderson’s regiments were repulsed by the Union; however the Texans managed to capture 3 of Smith’s guns. Ward’s men began retreating under the support of the 40th New York and 6th New Jersey.
After Ward’s retreat the Devil’s Den became the home to confederate sharpshooters. The confederates will hold Devil’s Den for the rest of the day and use it as a position to pick off Union troops on top of Little Round Top, 500 yards away. The large boulders provided plenty of places to take shelter from attacks. The relatively hard rocks would easily stop the lead bullets fired from the Union lines. The following is an example of soldiers using the rocks for cover. It was typed up and researched by one of our guides/owner Bob Steenstra, the original citation is below this article.
Pvt. Wilson Barbee of the 1st Texas was a courier on General Hood’s staff whose horse was shot away during the fight. A reluctant courier, he was happy to have an excuse to grab a rifle and take a crack at the Yankees. He climbed a boulder and began shooting while other rebels taking shelter behind the boulder were content to load rifles and pass them up to him. After a while he was hit in the right leg. Here is what one Texan remembered:
“Climbing instantly back, he again commenced shooting. In less than two minutes he was tumbled off the rock by a ball in the other leg. Still unsatisfied, he crawled back a second time, but there was not more than a minute before, being wounded in the body, he again fell, this time dropping on his back behind the rock that had been his perch, and that which was my shelter. Too seriously wounded this time to extricate himself from the narrow passageway, he called for help, and the last time I saw him that day, he was lying there, crying and cursing because the boys would not come to his relief and help him back on the rock.”
If you come to visit Devil’s Den go to the top and look for a large oak tree. You’ll know when you find it, it’s the largest one up there. This is one of the few witness tress. This tree is somewhere between 180-190 years. It’s called a witness tree because it was standing when the battle took place. If trees could talk… Thanks for reading!
See Devil’s Den: A History and Guide by Garry E. Adelman and Timothy H. Smith (1997, Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, PA) page 51.