And, as the 4th Maine and the 44th Alabama engaged in their own private war, the fighting had extended towards Little Round Top and the Wheatfield, so that "the whole line was alive with burning powder." [Maine at Gettysburg, p. 164.] Benning had thrown the main force of his brigade to the assistance of the very left, coming in with Robertson's 1st Texas and the 3rd Arkansas instead of supporting Law as intended. Benning had followed Robertson most of the way from the Emmittsburg Road, all the time thinking him to be Law. In reality, Law was drawn off into the woods after reaching the fields of the Slyder Farm and never was seen by Benning. Robertson with his left wing was about 400 yards in advance, and Benning endeavored to maintain that distance, even "halting once or twice to preserve its interval." [Official Records, volume 27, part 2, p. 415.] While Benning remained in his supporting position, Robertson was hotly engaged in attempting to not only take Smith's guns but in protecting his left from the rest of Ward's Brigade in Rose Woods. Robertson son had sent at least one courier to Hood pleading for him to throw in some of the supports on his left, to protect him because cause of the absence of McLaw's Division coming up yet at that point. But the courier returned, informing Robertson of the removal of Hood from the field due to his wound. Robertson immediately sent another messenger to Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, asking him to coordinate reinforcements and sent other messengers to Benning and Anderson, who had been watching developments from the rear, to hurry to his support, [Ibid., p. 405.] Benning, in the meantime, had perceived that Robertson was having difficulties in taking Houck's Ridge in his front and advanced [Ibid., p. 415.] , apparently coming up just as the Texas regiment was being hurled back across Rose Run by the bayonet charge of the 124th New York.
Benning's regiments consisted of two wings-the 2nd and 17th Georgia on the right and the 20th and 15th Georgia on the left of his line. The left found itself at the base of Houck's Ridge where Rose Spring poured into Plum Run, and saw the 1st Texas "struggling" to keep their assault alive. They fell in with them, much to the consternation of Colonel Work, who would rather have had Benning on his left to assist Col. Van H. Manning's Arkansas regiment in protecting the flank from the Union regiments in Rose Woods and the lower end of the Wheatfield. Work became hopelessly entangled with the 15th Georgia as Benning's Brigade came into line. After "several ineffectual efforts upon the part of both commanders ... to separate the men of the two regiments," it was decided the delay was not worth the price of losing even more time and momentum. [Official Records, volume 27, part 2, p. 408.] From the base of the hill at the stone wall, orders were relayed to both regiments to advance together and take the crest of Houck's Ridge, "some 100 yards or more to the front." On their right was Colonel John Jones' 20th Georgia Regiment, whose force would have to advance up the cleared triangular field, whereas the 15th Georgia and 1st Texas were sheltered by the "wooded, rock hill" of Rose Woods to the immediate left. The force of their attack would carry the 15th Georgia and part of the 1st Texas into the fighting in Rose Woods for the Wheatfield for the rest of the evening, but they were compelled to fall back to the stone wall at the base of the Weikert Field at least twice to reorganize after suffering casualties in the woods and being endangered by the flanking attacks from Cross' Brigade and later, Ayres' Regulars. [Ibid., p. 422.]
Just as the 15th Georgia and the 1st Texas prepared to jump the wall at the base of the Weikert Field to initiate their first attack, they heard their comrades to the right become hotly engaged as they also began their advance. As the right ascended the hill towards Smith's Battery they were unaware that the guns were to receive additional reinforcements before they reached the crest. The 4th Maine which had suffered severely from the 44th Alabama, abandoned its position in the Plum Run Gorge and came back up the treacherous rocky slope to assist its brigade comrades. Walker later recollected that he had ordered the movement after most of his skirmishers to the right had been "swooped up" by the advance of the 2nd Georgia down Plum Run toward the Devil's Den, and after the 44th Alabama joined the attack by Benning's 2nd and 17th Georgia Regiments. [Maine at Gettysburg, pp. 165-166.]
The gunners of Smith's Battery were abandoning the rifled Parrotts at this point, bringing off the horses, caissons, and remaining ammunition, but leaving the guns useless to the enemy [Bradley, 'At Gettysburg."] Smith, in a quandary, looking for more supports, saw the 4th Maine being forced back (northward) up the gorge from his position by the 44th Alabama and the Georgians. He could see the enemy advancing on his front. General Hunter had contacted Smith and told him to try to hold another thirty minutes, but Smith's supports were rapidly diminishing by the attrition of the gunfire. Indeed the 124th New York was now so small that they no longer were in line as supporting his troops. By the losses incurred in Weikert's Field and Sherfy's woodlot swamp the line had closed so much to the right to preserve its alignment that at this point their present left flank was where the right flank had been at the opening of the battle (at the edge of Rose Woods), and almost 100 yards to the right of Smith's guns. [A. W. Tucker to J. E. Smith, "From Comrade Tucker, National Tribune (4 February 1886).] Only the 99th Pennsylvania had some semblance of strength to it in its rear. Smith had gambled that he could buy more time by keeping his guns in position with these few supports, than by withdrawing them and proving to the Confederates how weak his position was. The fact that the guns remained could be a deterrent to an overwhelming stampede by the shot-torn troops facing them.
The men of Robertson's and Benning's Brigades had felt the sting and effective fire from the four Parrotts on their long advance to this point. While eager to seek revenge and capture the battery, the Confederates were understandably hesitant about assuring that could be done without incurring more artillery casualties. In the end, Smith weighed the benefits and the losses, and chose to leave the remaining three of his forward guns in position (one having been withdrawn shortly after the infantry conflict began because of its being partially disabled). Here the battery could mimic the "Quaker guns" and would at least present a "bold front" and impel the Confederates to "approach it gingerly." [Smith, P. 103.]
Captain Smith ran back to his two remaining pieces on the opposite hillock of Houck's Ridge (at the north end), to ready them to repel the impending pursuit by the enemy. His guns were trained at the Plum Run gorge between the Devil's Den and Big Round Top, through the Slaughter Pen, and he played his guns upon the soldiers of the 44th Alabama and and Georgia who were just pressing the 4th Maine from its position.
Walker's Maine troops were heading up the rear of Devil's Den to see if they could be of better use in a stronger position. After they were manhandled by Perry and the flanking movement of Benning's right wing. Walker had directed his regiment to fall back about 100 yards or more and fix bayonets before ascending Houck's Ridge. Walker related later that one of his vivid memories of the battle occurred at this point, as he could "never forget the 'click' that was made by the fixing of bayonets, it was as one." [Walker to Bachelder, 6 January 1886.] Thus was reflected the unity of spirit in the defense by Ward's Brigade.
The 44th Alabama continued in pursuit, inspired probably by the presence of the 2nd Georgia coming down Plum Run gorge to the left, and crossed the run at the command of Perry. Perry himself would miss the glory of the chase, however, being fagged out by the strenuous advance after so long a day and seeking refuge among the boulders along Plum Run. From his shelter, Perry tried to recover from "heat and excessive exertion" and could do little more than listen to the battle as it surged. "The incessant roar of small arms, the deadly hiss of Minie' balls, the shouts of the combatants, the booming of the cannon, the explosion of shells and the crash of their fragments among the rocks, all blended in one dread chorus whose sublimity and terror no expressing could compass." His major, George Cary, would ably represent the field command that day in Perry's stead. Leading his regiment with the colors in his own hands, Cary disappeared from Perry's view into the smoke and rock of Devil's Den. The next time his colonel saw him, Major Cary would return with "an armful of swords as trophies of his victory," primarily from the right wing of the 4th Maine. [Perry, "At Devil's Den," pp. 161-162.]
The troops on Houck's Ridge with Smith's abandoned guns endeavored to hold the position. Throughout the hour or so since their withdrawal from the base of Weikert's Field, the shattered remnant of the 124th continued to exchange shots with the Georgians and Texans who had taken their place at the wall in that valley. The New Yorkers could see many of their casualties in the open field over which they had advanced and retreated-some dead, like Captain Nicolas whose body was wedged between boulders, and some wounded and bleeding between the two lines. They also could see the remains of their heroic Colonel Ellis' and Major Cromwell, which had been lain on a large boulder near their lines as a vivid reminder of the cost they were paying for the pile of rocks on Houck's Ridge. The men had been defending Smith's guns since 3 p.m., but for some time now they had been fightingto protect the bodies of these two officers. After Smith abandoned his guns the acting commander ordered a detail to remove the remains of Ellis and Cromwell and see that they got safely to friends, not wishing to unnecessarily expose them to impending, capture. As the lifeless forms of the field officers were carried to the rear, the men of the 124th New York saw the enemy finally advance from the wall in their direction.
General Ward, during all this, was not idle. He had recognized the deteriorating condition of his position by the time of Benning's arrival to help the 1st Texas seal the doom of the Orange Blossoms. He was able to obtain two regiments, which were needed everywhere in this spreading Confederate strike on the Third Corps line, and had them dispatched to his support. Still convinced that Plum Run gorge was the key, the regiments were directed to that place. If only they could unite his left at Houck's Ridge with the troops on Little Round Top before a breach in his line was effected there might still be a chance to contain and turn back Hood's forces. Unfortunately, the 4th Maine was unable to hold out by itself at this site, exposed to a frontal and enfilading fire from Plum Run gorge and from the woods and rocks on the edge of the Slaughter Pen, and had retreated to the comparative safety of the rest of the brigade atop the Den.
The first support to enter the fray was the 6th New Jersey of Burling's Brigade (Humphrey's Division), a brigade 'which was disassembled throughout the conflict to bolster all parts of the line. The 6th New Jersey hurried through the Wheatfield and advanced through the Rose Woods before coming to the fence that formed the boundary separating the Rose Farm and its Wheatfield from Houck's Ridge. Not being guided to any particular position Lieutenant Colonel Stephen R. Gilkyson began to fire from the fence down into the valley at the 44th and 48th Alabama Regiments and at Benning's right. Scanning the situation and the relative positions of the opposing forces, Gilkyson decided to advance his regiment to a point behind and to the left of Devil's Den, where he hoped he would form a junction with Ward's Brigade, since the 4th Maine had just retreated up that height. He moved his regiment almost 200 yards from the fence across the expanse of Houck's Ridge in front of the last section of Smith's Battery. [Official Records, volume 27, part 1, P. 577.] The movement of the 6th New Jersey cut off the fire from Smith's guns [Smith, P. 104.] , which up to that moment had been effective.
These two guns of Smith had proven as effective in cutting down the enemy as the other four had been during the developing stages of the Confederate attack. When he first opened fire from these two reserve guns, which were obscured from sight by the Devil's Den and the crest of Houck's Ridge, Smith took the enemy "by surprise." From the moment of his first round Smith watched the battle flag of the Confederates coming up Plum Run gorge drop three times from the effect of his deadly charges of canister. Three times he watched their line waver and be forced into the shelter of the woods. [Ibid.]
Benning had been unaware that the guns were there until he "ascertained" the fact after his right received "a terrible fire from them which swept down the gorge." [Official Records, volume 27, part 2, P. 414.] It was the fate of the 2nd Georgia to be the troops to be baptized in the blood of Plum Run, created by the tearing wounds from Smith's artillery fire. Up to the time they reached the gorge their advance had been "splendid," but the nature of the terrain in the gorge threw the regiment out of any semblance of alignment. But with "dauntless courage" the officers and men of the 2nd Georgia continued advancing, notwithstanding the fire from the section of guns and the 6th New Jersey or the nature of the rocks and the undergrowth. Indeed, they did not halt until they advanced beyond Benning's other regiments and beyond the "rock eminence on the left" (Devil's Den). Here the 2nd Georgia made a stand, across Plum Run from the Devil's Den, where it "fought as gallantly as men could fight, and did not yield an inch of ground." [Ibid., P. 420.]
Following the 6th New Jersey into the whirlpool was the 40th New York, the "Mozart Regiment." It had been directed by Captain J. B. Briscow of Birney's staff to move by the left flank in front of Winslow's Battery in the Wheatfield as a detail from DeTrobriand's Brigade. Hastening through the point of woods, or northern finger of Rose Woods bordering the eastern edge of the Wheatfield, the 40th New York took their first position at "the short piece of stone wall in front of the two guns of Smith's 4th New York Battery." The regiment was met by Smith, who implored them to save his battery. [Ibid., P. 526.] The regiment responded by firing a few volleys into the enemy towards Devil's Den, and charging "down the meadow to the rocky ravine below."[John B. Bachelder (Notes on Services of Troops at the Battle of Gettysburg) (c. 1875). Huntington Library, Microfilm #N1550.] In their advance the 40th New York passed through Smith' park of horses and carriages, [Smith, p 104.] and faded into the battle smoke as they approached Benning's Georgians and the 48th Alabama. Their advance was particularly memorable to the Mozart Regiment since they moved down Plum Run itself, straddling the creek bed at a double_quick, many of the men "up to their knees in mud and water." [Official'Records, volume 27, part 1, P. 526.] Despite the obstructions to a charge, the impetuous attack of the New Yorkers created a sense of uneasiness in the Confederates in the gorge, and they fell back to the higher grounds of Devil's Den and the woods above the Slaughter Pen. Their losses during the advance were severe, however, and they could not dislodge the Confederates completely. Colonel Thomas W. Egan himself, leading the 40th New York, was unhorsed when his mount fell and was compelled to lead the regiment in on foot. [Fred C. Floyd, History of the 40th (Mozart) Regiment New York Volunteers (Boston: F. H. Gilson Company, 1909), P. 202.]
Smith, admittedly crestfallen at the chain of events, sent his carriages and horses into Rose Woods about this time and prepared to abandon his secondary position. To his front his four guns were being overrun by the final concerted attack of Benning's 15th, 17th, and 20th Georgia Regiments and the survivors of the 1st Texas. It had been but moments since the men of the 124th New York saw the attack beginning, on their front. They must have witnessed the last desperate defense by the 99th Pennsylvania (of which so little has been written), with its colors resting against one of the unmanned guns of Smith's Battery as a rallying point. The 99th lost more than Orange County's regiment that day-109 falling before the enemy's attack, but did not have the pens to elaborate upon their heroism in the days and years that followed. Perhaps the memory of that lone battle flag defiantly planted at the guns and the rows of dead and wounded left atop the crest of Houck's Ridge are history enough, as poignant testimony of the commitment of the 99th Pennsylvania to carrying out its last full measure of devotion. The firepower concentrated upon the advancing Confederates from these three depleted regiments was not only proven by the casualties inflicted, but by the report of Lieutenant Colonel J. D. Waddell of the 20th Georgia. He counted 87 separate holes in his battle flag after the action, 38 of which were due to minie' balls. Captain Smith and Lieutenant Charles F. Hazlett were responsible for the other 49, which "from the character of the rents" were caused by "fragments of shell." [Official Records, volume 27, part 2, P. 427.]
The only consolation for Captain Smith was that he had forestalled the Confederate advance working all six guns to his utmost. He had impeded Confederate progress and allowed his survivors the time to deploy reinforcements along the line and take possession of Little Round Top. He told an officer of Hazlett's Company D, 5th U.S., after the battle that he kept looking over to Little Round Top, wondering when the Federals would occupy it and relieve him and that, while firing the final shots from his reserve section, he heard the first report from Hazlett's rifled guns on the summit of Little Round Top. At the time, Captain Smith considered the roar from the pieces the "sweetest music ... ever heard." [Benjamin Rittenhouse, "The Battle of Gettysburg as Seen from Little Round Top," in Kenneth Bandy, The Gettysburg Papers, volume 2 (Dayton: Morningside Bookshop, 1978), p. 522.]
It would be Hazlett's lot on the summit of Little Round Top to carry out the duties as the artillery anchor of the left. His regular army gunners were up to the task. Coming into position, the guns were immediately trained on two targets- the Confederate batteries along Bushman and Warfield Ridges which were contesting the Union artillery and infantry at the Peach Orchard, and upon the infantry of Hood's Division in the woods and fields below.
The Confederates had as vivid a memory of the damage inflicted by Hazlett's Round Top battery as they had of Smith's rocky ledge battery. Colonel Perry's 44th Alabama was among the first to feel its effect, when it was subjected to "an enfilading fire of grape (sic) and spherical case shot," which was momentarily deadly, but which was not as destructive later on because of the protection "afforded by the rocks." [Official Records, volume 27, part 2, P. 394.] The initial thrill of victory felt by Major Cary upon capturing so many officers and their swords atop Houck's Ridge was worn away quickly at the first rounds from Hazlett's guns. When Cary reported to Perry with his armful of swords, he complained that the cannon were "playing on his position". Perry ordered the regiment to withdraw from the crest and find shelter on the sides of the hill near Slaughter Pen where he was. [Perry, "At Devil's Den," P. 162.]
Robertson's and Benning's Brigades likewise felt this new firepower, especially near and on the crest of Houck's Ridge. Colonel John A. Jones, commanding the 20th Georgia in its attack on the abandoned guns of Smith's Battery and the determined men of Ward's Brigade above him, was "instantly killed at the post of duty by a fragment of shell when nearly halfway up the hill, and but a moment before it was carried." [Official Records, volume 27, part 2, P. 426.] General Benning himself reported that the "shells of the enemy from the adjacent mountain were incessantly bursting along the summit of the peak, and every head that showed itself was the target for a Minie' ball." [ibid., p. 415.] Robertson's left, having secured the crest of the hill at Houck's Ridge with the Georgians, likewise did not have much time to celebrate its victory since later throughout the rest of the evening "several pieces of artillery was playing on and literally ploughing up the ground in the meadow or flat immediately in the rear of [his] position." [Robertson to Bachelder, 11 May 1882.] The men of the 1st Texas suffered considerably in their position atop Devil's Den at the ridge after the capture of Smith's Battery, Hazlett's Battery was determined to keep the forces on the crest of Houck's Ridge from supplementing their comrades in an attack on Little Round Top, and a "terrific fire of artillery was concentrated against the hill occupied by . . . the First regiment." The commander of the Texans attested to the severe and nasty nature of this concentrated fire by noting that "many were killed and wounded" by it, "some, losing their heads, and others so horribly mutilated and mangled that their identity could scarcely be established." That Hazlett succeeded in keeping at least the 1st Texas from joining in with its sister regiments in the attack on Little Round Top can be seen in that Colonel Work was proud that his men could (at least) "heroically and unflinchingly . . . maintain their position." [Official Records, volume 27, part 2, p. 409.]
The fighting in the area of the Slaughter Pen and Weikert's Field, and at this southern crest of Houck's Ridge, ended with nightfall of 2 July. That night, and early in the morning of the following day, most of Robertson's and Law's forces moved to the south and east, throwing up stone wall breastworks in the woods at the base of Big Round Top. Benning's Brigade of Georgians stubbornly held the Houck's Ridge area until removed on the evening of the third. Most of the bodies that fell in the Slaughter Pen and near the Weikert Field were too exposed to the deadly fire from Little Round Top to be recovered, and they remained where they fell until after the Confederate army began its retreat back into Virginia. It would be the lot of Union burial details to inter the dead from Alabama, Georgia, and Texas who were scattered about the boulders and bushes. The photographs of the dead at this end of the field were recorded before these details reached these areas, and provide a striking testimony to the significance of battle action in this area. The words written by the commanders and survivors of both sides have been used in this study to clarify and describe the nature of the fighting, as well as to its relative importance, but the photographs will always provide visible historic evidence that what these men endured was recorded in their narratives.