THE BREASTWORKS AT CULP'S HILL.
II. BY GEORGE S. GREENE, BREVET-MAJOR-GENERAL, U.S. V.
THE breastworks on Culp's Hill referred to in the foregoing article were constructed under my immediate direction. Orders were given to throw up breastworks as soon as the troops came on the line. The approximate shape of the line at first held by the entire corps and afterward by my single brigade was this:
Greene's \ b
Brigade \~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~\ c
/ Kane's Brigade \ First Division
/ (Ireland's Reg.) \
/ d \
When Meade ordered the whole of the Twelfth Corps from Culp's Hill to reenforce his left, Slocum ordered my brigade to remain and "occupy the breastworks thrown up by the corps." The rest of the corps moved off just before dusk (about 7 P.M.) I immediately extended my men to the right to comply with the order as far as possible. Ireland's regiment (the 149th N.Y.), which was on my right, occupied the intrenchments vacated by Kane's brigade, his left at b, and a regiment from Howard's corps was placed on Ireland's right. This regiment, without being specially attacked, was marched to the rear by its colonel, when an attack upon it was imminently probable, much to the disgust of his men, as reported. As soon as I received orders to occupy the intrenchments, I applied to Wadsworth and received two regiments, which were placed in rear of my right, behind the points b and d, but sufficiently in the rear to support any part of the line.
The movement of the 149th Regiment had hardly been made when the regiment on picket was driven in by a vigorous attack by Johnson's division of Ewell's corps, which was continued with great perseverance. The enemy finally extended their left to cover Ireland's right, which had been left in the air by the desertion of the Pennsylvania regiment from Howard's corps. Ireland was forced back and rallied his regiment behind the traverse, b d, which had been built to protect my right, and which now served its purpose. As soon as Ireland's movement was seen-- or, rather heard, for it was dark- I brought up the reserve, which checked any further advance of the enemy on the right. Very soon after this movement, Kane, with his brigade, arrived and took post on the right of my reserve, and the enemy ceased their attacks, after about three hours' continuous fighting.
As the troops marched out, General Kane followed the First Brigade of the Second Division toward the left. When the column arrived at the Baltimore pike the First Division followed the staff-officer sent to conduct it toward the left The Second Division marched down the pike to the rear. Kane, hearing the firing on my position, inquired as to their destination, and, not being satisfied, took the responsibility of returning to the fight, and immediately countermarched; as he came near the position which had been occupied by the First Division, the enemy's pickets fired on him, and this being heard by me, I sent an officer to conduct Kane in by the safer route of the turnpike. He arrived about 10 o'clock P.M., just after the enemy had been repulsed on my right. His presence tended to render the enemy cautious, and they rested on their arms till morning. The First Brigade (Candy's) of the Second Division arrived at Culp's Hill about 1 A. M., long after the fighting had ceased. General Williams, who commanded the Twelfth Corps, and General Slocum, who commanded the right wing, having been advised of the enemy's position, the artillery was placed in position before daylight, and after a heavy bombardment, the infantry, by a gallant and successful charge, drove the enemy from the position they had occupied in the night in the lines of the First Division.
The attack on my front, on the morning of the 3d of July, was renewed by Johnson's division simultaneously with our attack on the enemy in our lines on our right, and was conducted with the Utmost vigor. The greater part of their heavy losses were sustained within a few yards of our breastworks. His adjutant, Major Watkins Leigh persisted in riding up to the very front of our lines, pushing his men to an assault on my works, where both horse and rider were killed, pierced simultaneously with several bullets. About fifty of the men got too near to our lines to retreat, and threw down their arms, ran up close to our works, threw up their handkerchiefs or white rags, and were allowed to come unarmed into our lines. Shaler's and Canda's brigades were sent to our support and took part in the defense of our lines on the morning of July 3d. By 10 A.M. the fighting ceased, and at I P.M. the enemy had disappeared from our front, and our men went to Rock Creek for water.
Of the disastrous consequences to the Union army, had Lee succeeded in penetrating our lines and placing himself square across the Baltimore pike in rear of the center and right wing of the entire army, there can be no question. Fortunately it was averted by the steady and determined courage of the five New York regiments above named. The assailants were Johnson's division of Ewell's (Second) Corps, consisting of twenty-two regiments, organized into four brigades- Steuart's, Nicholls's, Jones's, and Walker's --the latter being the famous "Stonewall Brigade," first commanded by Stonewall Jackson.
To the discernment of General Slocum, who saw the danger to which the army would be exposed by the movement ordered, and who took the responsibility of modifying the orders which he had received, is due the honor of having saved the army from a great and perhaps fatal disaster.