from The Gettysburg Compiler, October 12, 1899

Little Round Top

Story of the Fight There During
the Battle of Gettysburg By
A.P. Martin Commanding
Artillery Brigade, 5th
Corps, Prepared for
Luther W. Minnigh,
October 12th, 1899

About four o' clock on the afternoon of July 2nd, 1863, the Fifth Army Corps under command of Major General George Sykes was ordered from its position in rear of Cemetery Ridge to the support of the Third Army Corps which, at that time, was hotly engaged with the enemy at the Peach Orchard, in the Wheat Field and at the Devil's Den. I was in command of the Artillery of the 5th Corps, composed of five batteries of six guns each as follows, viz: Battery D, 5th U.S. Artillery, Lieut. Chas. E. Hazlett, commanding, formerly (Griffin's Battery); Battery I, 5th U.S. Artillery, Lieut. M. F. Watson, commanding, formerly (Weed's Battery); Battery C, 1st New York Artillery, Captain Almont Barnes, commanding; Battery L, 1st Ohio Artillery, Captain F.C. Gibbs, commanding; Battery C, Massachusetts Artillery, Lieut. Aaron F. Walcott, commanding (Martin's Battery) [Martin, being the Senior officer, was assigned to the command of the Artillery by Gen. Mead when he was in command of the 5th Army Corps.]

When the order was received to move to the front, I directed the batteries to advance in the usual order, two batteries in rear of the two leading divisions and one battery in rear of the 3rd division, at the same time instructing Lieut. Hazlett to accompany me and lead off in rear of Barns' (sp) Division. For the first time during the year or more that Lieut. Hazlett had been under my command as Division and Corps Chief of Artillery, he hesitated, and turning tome said: I have just received bad news from home and I would rather some one else would lead off to-day; besides, he said, I have a premonition that this will be my last battle. I explained to him that I had great confidence in him and I preferred to have him go on to the field with me and then we moved on together. He was a brave and gallant soldier, always ready to do his full duty. He often said if he should ever fall in battle he hoped it would not be in a skirmish or small engagement, but in a big battle. In this respect he certainly had his wish.

While on our way to the front, where the Third Corps was furiously engaged with the enemy, Gen. G.K. Warren, Chief Engineer on the Staff of Gen. Mead, detached Vincent's Brigade of the 1st Div. 5th Corps, from the advancing column and conducted it in the direction of Little Round Top.

Later it appeared that Gen. Warren had been to the summit of Little Round Top where he found a detachment of the Signal Corps, communicating information to Headquarters. He saw at a glance the importance of Little Round Top and realized the necessity of securing it before it fell into the hands of the enemy, as it was really the key to the Union position on Cemetery Ridge. He at once dashed down the northern slope of the hill, detached Vincent's Brigade (3rd Brig, 1st Div, 5th Corps) and led it as rapidly as possible around the easterly slope of Little Round Top to the gorge between the two Round Tops. When they reached this position they met the enemy advancing through the gorge for the purpose of seizing and if possible holding this important position which Gen. Longstreet in his accounts of the battle, calls "the citadel of the field." Vincent at once deployed his Brigade and drove the enmy back through the woods, when the enemy rallied, reformed their line and entered into a desperate struggle for the mastery. After fighting for several hours with varied fortune, Vincent's Brigade made a desperate charge, led by the 20th Maine, under the gallant Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain. The enemy was handsomely repelled and the Union troops held the ground to the end of the battle. Col. Vincent was mortally wounded early in the engagement and taken from the field. He was succeeded as commander of the brigade by Col. James C. Rice of the 44th N.Y. Regt., a brave and heroic soldier, who was later promoted to be a Brigadier General, and was killed in the Wilderness campaign. Col. Vincent lived until the 7th of July, and before his death was promoted to be a Brigadier General for gallant and meritorious conduct on the field of battle.

On learning of the death of Gen. Vincent, Col. Rice issued the following order which was a beautiful and appropriate tribute to his memory:

"Brigadier General Strong Vincent died at Gettysburg, July 7th, 1863, within sight of the field which his bravery had so greatly assisted to win. A day hallowed with all the glory of success is thus sombered by the sorrow of our loss. Wreaths of victory give way to chaplets of mourning, bears exultant to feelings of grief. A soldier, a scholar, a friend has fallen. For his country, struggling for its life, he willingly gave his own. Grateful for his services, the State which proudly calls him as her own will give him an honored monument, but he will ever remain buried in our hearts, and our love for his memory will outlast the stone that shall bear the inscription of his bravery, his virtues and his patriotism."
When the two remaining brigades of Barnes' Division, (Fittons and Sweitzers); arrived at the Wheat Field the column halted for these two brigades to deploy and move into the piece of woods to the left near Winslow's Battery. At that moment I discovered the hill to the left and rear, which we subsequently found was Little Round Top, and suggested to Lieut. Hazlett that possibly there might be a good position for a batter on the summit of th hill if we could reach it, though it seemed somewhat doubtful from the rough and rocky appearance of the westerly slope. At my suggestion, however, we rode on rapidly toward the northerly base of the hill, which we then designated as Rocky Hill, leaving orders to the other batteries to move up into position, and directing Lieut. Rittenhouse to move on in the direction I had indicated with the battery while we went on ahead at a lively gallop to reconnoiter the ground. We encountered a heavily wooded hill with thick undergrowth of saplings, which impeded the rapid progress of the battery, so that Lieut. Hazlett and myself reached the summit of the hill some little time before or in advance of the battery. We examined the ground quickly; there was no question as to the value of the position or of its importance to the Union Army or of the fatal disadvantage should it fall into the hands of the enemy. The battery by this time had reached a position in rear of the large boulders at the summit, which was as far as the guns could be drawn by the horses. There they were of no use as they were concealed and shut off from the enemy's position. How to get the guns up over the boulders, where they could be brought into action was the difficult problem that confronted us. There were a few infantry soldiers, not over a dozen stragglers from Vincent's Brigade, loitering behind the boulders. We decided to press them into service and then undertake with the help of our own men to lift the guns into position. We then unlimbered the guns and lifted them bodily over the boulders into position, leaving the limbers, caissons and horses behind the rocks. Three cannoneers were shot while getting the guns in position, where they remained till the end of the battle, rendering valuable and efficient service.

When the first shot was fired from that battery the enemy's skirmish line was advancing up the westerly slope of Little Round Top and were within one hundred yards of the summit, having penetrated the valley between the Round Tops and Devil's Den. The battery was in position from twenty minutes to half and hour before General Weed's brigade arrived, and up to that time we had not infantry support except Vincent's Brigade in the gorge on our extreme left. The Third Division, Penna. Reserves, under General Crawford, arrived shortly after Weed's Brigade and was posted on the northern slope of Little Round Top, remaining there until just before sundown on the 2nd of July, when Gen. Crawford made a gallant charge down the westerly slope and across the ravine, driving the enemy back towards Seminary Ridge.

Just before Gen. Crawford made his charge, and while the regulars were being driven back toward the ravine, I was standing beside Gen. Weed, where we were watching with intense anxiety the progress of the battle in the valley below. As we stood there, on the very summit of Little Round Top, Gen. Weed said to me: "Martin, I would rather die on this spot than see those rascals gain one inch of ground." I little realized what his fate was so soon to be. I left him where we were standing and started to go down the north-westerly slope of the hill to speak to Gen. Sykes, who was there among the boulders with other officers watching the battle, but before I reached Gen. Sykes I turned around and saw my friend, Gen. Weed, reeling and falling to the ground. I turned and said to Gen. Sykes, "Gen. Weed has fallen," and then turned to go to his assistance, but before reaching him Lieut. Hazlett, who was a little to the left of Gen. Weed, hurried to his assistance, and while bending over the stricken form of Gen. Weed a bullet struck Lieut. Hazlett in the back of the head and he fell unconscious across the body of his dying friend. They were both removed behind the boulders and soon expired. Gen. Weed lived three or four hours and was conscious up to the time of his death. Lieut. Hazlett never spoke after he fell. Thus ended the services of two as brave and heroic men as the sun ever shone upon. Col. O'Rorke, of the 140th N.Y., Weed's Brigade, was also killed. All three of these officers were recent graduates of West Point and were men of great promise.

When the 5th Corps was approaching the battlefield I rode up to Gen. Sykes and asked him if he had any orders to give me. He said, "No sir, I hold you responsible that the artillery does its work." From that moment to the end of the battle I only received one order from a superior officer, and directed all the batteries to their positions. Gen. Hunt, Chief of Artillery of the Army of the Potomac, ordered me to slacken my fire and save ammunition at about half-past two on the afternoon of July 3rd.

Whatever I did or did not do, there is one thing I wish to have distinctly understood, which is this. I consider the credit of saving Little Round Top due wholly to Gen. G.K. Warren. Had it not been for his prompt and energetic efforts in placing Vincent's Brigade in position between the Round Tops the enemy would have unquestionably been in possession of that stronghold, so that no one could have place a battery in position on the summit, neither could the Union infantry have maintained its position along Cemetery Ridge. But with Vincent's Brigade holding the enemy in check on our left flank until re-enforcements arrived we were enabled to secure and hold one of the most formidable and important artillery positions upon the entire field of battle.

I did not see Gen. Warren upon the field of Gettysburg until after the guns of Hazlett's Battery were in position. Gen. Warren's first words to me were "Martin, how the h--l did you get those guns up here?"

Lieut. M.F. Watson commanding Battery I, 5th U.S. Artillery, (Weed's Battery) was wounded and lost a leg in the field near the Trostle House. This battery was sent with Walcott's Battery C, Mass. Artillery, to the assistance of the 3rd Corps before the batteries arrived from the Reserve Artillery.

Watson's Battery was captured by the enemy and recaptured by a gallant charge of the Garabaldi Guards at the request of and led by Lieut. Publes of the battery. The whole battery was totally disabled and sent to the rear and never again returned to the army as an organization.

Among the interesting incidents that occurred on Little Round Top was the summary way in which a sharpshooter was disposed of in rear of Devil's Den. He had concealed himself behind a stone wall between two boulders and for a long time we were annoyed by shots from that direction, one of which actually combed my hair over my left ear and passed through the shoulder of a man a little taller than myself who was standing behind me for a cover. At last we were able to locate the spot, by the use of a field glass, from whence the shots came by little puffs of smoke that preceded the whizzing of the bullets that passed by our heads. We then loaded one of our guns with a percussion shell, taking careful and accurate aim. When the shot was fired the shell struck and exploded on the face of one of the boulders. We supposed the shot had frightened him away, as we were no longer troubled with shots from that location. When the battle was ended we rode over to the Devil's Den and found behind the wall a dead Confederate soldier lying upon his back and, so far as we could see, did not have a mark upon his body, and from that fact became convinced that he was killed by the concussion of the shell when it exploded on the face of the boulder.