Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Battle of Gettysburg - Day 2

Thursday, July 2, 1863

The Twentieth Massachusetts arose early and marched to their position for the day in the center of the Union line that stretched from Cemetery Hill at the north to the Round Tops at the south. Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered General James Longstreet to attack the left flank of the Union line for possession of the Round Tops, which were undefended as the day begun. In the afternoon Union General Daniel Sickles of the Third Corps moved his men to hold the higher ground at the Peach Orchard. This salient movement produced gaps in the Union line, and the Confederates immediately seized the opportunity to strike. Generals George Meade and Winfield Scott Hancock ordered Union regiments to plug the gaps in their line and to hold the high ground of the Round Tops. A series of fierce contests ensued during the afternoon at Devil's Den at the base of the Round Tops, at the Wheatfield, at the Round Tops, and along the Emmitsburg Road to roll up the left flank of the Union line. By nightfall the Round Tops were in solid possession of the Union. Although severely battered the Union line held strong. Both sides suffered heavy casualties for the day in some of the severest fighting of the entire war.

The Twentieth Massachusetts, with the exception of Company G, was not engaged in battle during July 2, but was subject to casualties from heavy artillery and rifle fire at their position in the Union center. Company G was engaged in picket duty along the Emmitsburg Road near the Codori Barn. Captain Henry Patten and Lieutenant Charles Cowgill were wounded during the battle, but were able to round up their men and return to the regiment. Sergeant Gustave Magnitzky was wounded and was technically a prisoner of the Confederates, but after nightfall he crawled to the Codori Barn and subsequently returned to the regiment. During the afternoon the regiment suffered heavily when their commander, Colonel Paul Revere, was mortally wounded by artillery fire. 1

1George A. Bruce, The Twentieth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry 1861 - 1865 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Riverside Press, 1906), 273-84. Richard F. Miller, Harvard's Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Lebanon, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2005), 258-62.

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