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The annual reunion of the Twentieth Maine Regiment Association was held
at the Springs Hotel,
Gettysburg, Pa., Wednesday evening, Oct. 2, 1889. The following were present:
J. L. Chamberlain, New York.
J. F. Land and wife, New York.
H. L Prince, wife and two ladies, Washington, D.C.
F. M. Rogers, Melrose, Mass.
J. E. DeWitt and wife, Natick, Mass.
Arthur M. Bean, East Bethel.
J. F. Stafford and wife, Farmington, N. H.
H. S. Melcher, Portland.
S. L. Miller, Waldoboro.
W. K. Bickford, Thomaston.
J. B. Westcott, Bath.
Joseph Tyler, Merrimac, Mass.
Reuel Thomas, North Cambridge, Mass.
E. S. Coan, Auburn.
H. A. Swett, Gloucester, Mass.
L. B. Heald, East Sumner.
G. W. Reynolds and wife, Waterville.
A. B. Latham, West Auburn.
W. H. True, Portland.
J. L. Bradford, Union.
W. B. Bradford, Cushing.
Edwin Keating, Warren.
John M. Kennedy, Warren.
Theodore Gerrish and wife, Portland.
0. P. Tucker, Mexico
B.F. French, Linneus
Benj. R. Fields, Rockport ,
A. E. Fernald and son, (Roy Fernald), Winterport
C. S. Cook and wife, Portland
Ira R. Sylvester, Washington
S. A. Bennett, New Portland
J. B. Bachelder, (Honorary Member), Hyde Park, Mass.
The Association was called to order by President Melcher. The report of the Secretary and Treasurer was read and accepted.
The President read a letter from Maj. P. M. Fogler, regretting his inability to be present. The President gave an outline of the program of exercises for the next day, followed by remarks on the same subject by Gen. Chamberlain, Col. Bachelder and Capt. Prince.
Comrades J. E. DeWitt, W. K. Bickford and J. L. Bradford were made a committee to nominate a board of officers. The committee subsequently reported the following:
For President, H. S. Melcher.
Vice President, F. M. Rogers.
Secretary and Treasurer, S. L. Miller.
Dr. Wescott was authorized to cast the vote of the Association for the above.
Voted that a committee on necrology be appointed. The chair appointed the following; E. S. Coan, A. E. Fernald, Reuel Thomas.
Voted that a reunion of the Association be held next year at such time and place as the Executive Committee may designate. (The President, Vice President and Secretary constitute the Executive Committee).
Remarks by Maj. F. Land.
Voted to lay upon the table the question of the sons of members, which had been called up.
Voted that a committee of three be appointed to prepare resolutions of sympathy to Mrs. Gen. Warren and have them published in the press. The following comrades were constituted that committee: T. Gerrish, J. F. Land, E. S@ Coan.
The meeting closed with the reading by the secretary of a poem entitled,
"The Maltese Cross," followed by benediction by Comrade Gerrish.
Thursday afternoon, Oct. 3. 1889, after the general exercises on the battlefield, the members of the Twentieth Maine Regiment Association, with their ladies and many other excursionists, assembled on Little Round Top, where the exercises, dedicatory of the monument erected by the survivors of the regiment, were held. (A cut of the monument appears on the opposite page.)
President Melcher, having called the assembly to order, made the following remarks:
Ladies and Comrades:
It is an occasion of great interest to us all,
that after these twenty-six years so many of the survivors of the Twentieth
Regiment, Maine Volunteer Infantry, are permitted to meet and stand on
this historic ground, made sacred by the blood of our comrades who fell
here in the defense of this vital position of the great battlefield of
the war of the rebellion.
We are assembled here today to dedicate this monument, erected by the survivors of the regiment and their friends, to commemorate the important fight at this point on the great battlefield of Gettysburg, and also as a memorial of the thirty-eight brave men who gave their lives that this position might be held and defended.
Seven years ago, this month, a company of the survivors of our regiment made a pilgrimage to this place to select and dedicate the site on which this monument should be erected.
Appropriate exercises were held here at that time, consisting of prayer by Rev. T. Gerrish , oration by General Chamberlain, singing of America by the company and benediction by Rev. C. A. Southard.
At a meeting of the Association in the parlors of the Eagle Hotel, in town, a monument committee was appointed, Gen. Ellis Spear and Capt. Howard L. Prince, of Washington, Maj. J. F. Land, of New York, and Capt. A. E. Fernald and Rev. T. Gerrish, of Maine, constituting that committee.
The Executive Committee of the Association was authorized
to raise the necessary funds. The
work has been completed and paid for.
It is built of granite from the hills of our own
States, and will stand as long as these hills and
mountains endure - to forever witness to what the brave sons of Maine did here to save the Nation
and defend the flag in the day of peril.
We stand here, to-day, under the same battle-torn
and blood-stained flag that was carried to
victory in the struggle for this key point, to dedicate this monument. Our comrades, Capt. Howard
L. Prince is the Historian and General J. L. Chamberlain, who led us in this battle, will deliver the
Address, after which "Joe" Tyler, the bugler of the Regiment during the war, will sound "Lights out,"
in memory of our brave comrades, who gave their lives in defense of this position, who names are not
only engraved in the monument but in our hearts and in history - while they are gently sleeping in the
National Cemetery yonder, awaiting the bugle-call of the resurrection day.
After the exercises here, we shall proceed to the
position held by Capt. Morrill's Co. B. on the
flank, and direct the placing of the tablet to mark his line, and thence to the summit of Round Top,
where we shall dedicate the monument, erected there by the State, to mark the position captured by
the Regiment after the fight here and held by it until relieved at 10 o'clock a. m., July 3. The exercises
there will be : historical address by our Comrade S. L. Miller, address the General Chamberlain,
singing of America by the company and prayer and benediction by Rev. T. Gerrish.
The historian of the occasion, Capt. Howard L. Prince, was then introduced.
Your historian has evidently been selected on the same plan as the contributors
of war articles for
the magazines. He acknowledges, with perhaps a pardonable pride, that he has within hearing of the
guns of Gettysburg, and asserts that circumstances beyond his control detained him at a distance,
which at that time would doubtless have been shared by many, to whom their part in this great battle
is now their most cherished recollection. The most intimate connection he had with the battle, was
to conduct a train-load of shoes for the gallant but footsore survivors thereof, over the stony roads
of South Mountain at midnight. On this expedition he painfully and laboriously directed the
movements of a small white mule, an animal possessed of most astonishing military accomplishment.
He habitually advanced by company front, while his head as persistently pointed to the flank, came
to a halt every third corner of the prevalent worm fence, and through out an active skirmish line to
It is needless to further state to this audience that the shoes were
the usual admirable collection
of misfits, that none of them were large enough for Co. B., and if adjectives had been bullets the
Quartermaster Sergeant would have been better off in front of the 15th Alabama. This is the usual
reward of a Quartermaster and a historian. What can the combination of the two expect? It is with
surprise therefore at my own temerity, that I dare to speak of great deeds in the presence of the actors
themselves, and to air my feeble periods in the face of one whose eloquence has made the "20th
Maine at Gettysburg" a classic scarcely less renowned that his own brilliant career. I can only hope
to set forth in plain and simple phrase, the things done here a quarter century ago, to tell with such
accuracy as I may, the story of those few hours, big with such great consequence to country and
humanity, and ask your kindly charity on the effort, which, however feeble, will, I trust, be found
faithful and just to comrades living and dead.
In the afternoon of July 1st, the Fifth Corps, forming the right of
the wide-spread fan of the Union
army, after marching for days though the green lanes and over the blooming hills of Maryland,
crowned with generous fruitage and promise of corn and wine, on which liberal levies were made by
the dusty and hungry boys in blue, had crossed, with gladsome shouts and waving banners, and strains
of exultant music, the line which separated Dixie's Land from "God's country," and sweeping down
the broad pike, had halted near the town of Hanover. But little time was given to enjoy the novel
sensations of a camp in a friendly land, where the red-cheeked maidens leaned over rose-bordered
hedges to exchange smiles and admiring glances with the bold-eyed lads, who were only too ready
to take snap-shots at flirtation, and put in practice arts almost forgotten amid the sour faces and
averted heads of a hostile population. The echoes of Lee's cannon far away to the left had sent the
orders flying from corps to corps for a speedy concentration at the little village, destined to become
famous as the Waterloo of the Western Continent, and as the evening shadows gathered, the merry
corporal snatched his last mouthful of friend hard-tack, the gay staff officer waved a farewell kiss to
the fair acquaintance of an hour, and the men of the Maltese cross streamed away along the roads that
led to battle, to fame, and death. None who made that night's march will ever forget it. The crowded
roads, the ever-present sense that great necessities waited on the presence of the corps, at the earliest
possible moment on the field in front, the variations of hearty welcome and churlish inhospitality that,
in some cases, weighed the use of pump or a drink of milk against the deliverance from hostile
invasion, filled that night with memories, whose recital enlivened many a picket reserve among the
pines of Virginia, and have furnished stock in trade for volumes of "swapped lies" at Grand Army
camp-fires in these latter days of peace. Till midnight the march continued, and then arrived within
supporting distance of our friends in arms, the wearied ranks threw themselves down for a sleep till
daylight, when a march of some three miles brought the corps in touch with the right of the Twelfth,
Williams' Division, which was then east of Rock Creek on the slopes of Wolf Hill, to the south-east
of the village between the Hanover and Baltimore Pikes. This position was reached and the command
massed between 6 and 7 a.m. At eight o'clock, Geary's troops having been relieved from the left, and
regained their corps, Gen. Slocum moved the division of Williams to the West side of Rock Creek,
and as that was withdrawn, the Fifth Corps was massed by division at the crossing of Rock Creek,
near a mill. This was some distance to the left and rear of the position first occupied. At this time
Gen. Meade, struck by the inactivity of the enemy, whose only sign of life was a somewhat lively
reception of a skirmish line sent out by the Third Corps from the Peach Orchard to the Warfield ridge,
had become impressed with the idea that Lee had not finished the concentration of his forces. He
then formed the plan of assuming the offensive and attacking Lee's left on Benner's Hill with the
Twelfth Corps, supported by the Fifth Corps as soon as the Sixth should arrive. A dispatch making
these dispositions was sent to Gen. Slocum at 9:30 a.m., but both Gen. Slocum and Gen. Warren
advised against it on account of the difficult character of the ground, Slocum's answer and adverse
report being made at 10:30 a.m. But a small portion of the Sixth Corps was then within reach, and
the Fifth had by no means recovered from its exhausting march of the previous night, and the
command can count it among their bits of good luck that they were thus reserved for a defensive
battle rather than an attack against Jackson's veterans on the slopes of Rock Creek. The corps was
then moved across Rock Creek by the narrow bridge at the mill and massed in column to the left of
the Baltimore Pike and of a cross road, connecting the Pike with the Taneytown road, the reserve
artillery being parked on the same cross road a short distance in advance, the First Division occupying
a peach orchard. The corps was therefore in a position to reinforce the front line either to the right,
left, or centre, and these operation being completed soon after midday the troops were enabled to
obtain some needed rest and food in preparation for the mighty struggle so near at hand; while at this
point twenty rounds of cartridges were issued to each man in addition to those already in the boxes,
making a total of sixty rounds.
As we are concerned with the movements of one regiment only, out of
the vast array which lined
these hills on that July day, we need only touch upon the wider tactical movements sufficiently to
show why and when our regiment reached the point which was to be the scene of its sorest struggle
and greatest triumph. The movements of the enemy having indicated with sufficient clearness that
he intended to attack the left, and Gen. Meade having satisfied himself that the position taken up by
the Third corps could not withstand the onset of the foe, with the numbers in line between the Peach
Orchard and the Devil's Den, and given directions to Gen. Sykes to bring forward his corps.
Consequently as stated in Gen. Barnes' official report, the corps was started from its position, near
Rock Creek, about four o'clock and moved rapidly by the cross road, which debouches into the
Taneytown road just east of Geo. Weikert's house. Nothing is harder than to make a successful
reconciliation of the hours names in different reports and histories when certain events took place.
And the battle of Gettysburg is peculiarly confusing in this respect. While the writers substantially
agree in opening the artillery fire at about 3:30, the time of the successive attacks of Hood and
McLaws varies both in Union and Confederate authorities from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The Confederate
attack was to commence at the right and be taken up towards the left, and the brigade commander
on the right (Law) claims to have gone into action at five, carried the crest of the Devil's Den, and
then gone to find out why McLaws did not support his left, while the latter says he opened at four!
Our own authorities are no better. I mention this because Gen. Doubleday charges the Fifth Corps
with delay in coming to the support of the Third Corps. I am certain, however, that the advance of
the Fifth Corps was at the Wheat Field before the troops of Birney's Division were seriously engaged
at all, and certainly long before any troops of McLaws had attacked the Peach Orchard or the right
of De Trobriand. And this is proved by the incident which caused our brigade, the head of the corps,
to be deflected from its march to the Wheat Field and carried to Round Top. Gen. Warren left Meade
and Sickles at the Peach Orchard, "just before the action began in earnest," says Warren - "at a
quarter of four o'clock," says the Comte de Paris - and, under Gen. Meade's directions, proceeded
to the extreme left; he found Litle Round Top bare of troops and used only as a signal station. No
enemy was then in sight, and he directed Smith, whose battery of rifle guns was on the hill about
Devil's Den, to send a shot over the thick woods beyond the Emmitsburg Road, a mile away, where
he thought their lines were concealed. As the shot screamed through the tree tops the Confederate
soldiers instinctively glanced up, their arms moving at the same time, and the sun sent a flash of light
reflecting from their polished guns, that ran through the forest like a gleam of lightning, revealing the
extent of the line that far outflanked the Union position, and would easily overlap this hill, which
Warren recognized at once as the key to the position. Communicating at once with Gen. Sykes, who
was with Gen. Barnes just completing his reconnaissance at the Wheat Field, the brigade of Vincent,
leading the division, was ordered to Round Top. As this brigade reached the Spur before Hood's
advance had fairly swung its right wing into contact, it follows that not only was Warren's precaution
successful, but also that our two brigades, following in our rear, were at the Wheat Field before
McLaws' attacked, and the Comte de Paris asserts that these two brigades, which had halted near the
field, which Birney was rectifying his alignment, were pushed into a front line by half past four. Thus,
disregarding the inaccuracies and inconsistencies of the time reports, the sequence of events fully
exonerates the whole of the first division from the charge of tardiness. The Third Brigade, pursuing
its march towards the Third Corps line, has passed Weikert's house and reached the strip of woods
running down from Trostle's house, coming, as it passed down the slope towards the woods, within
sight of the position at the Orchard, and of our batteries on the cross road, now hotly engaged with
the rebel guns on the Emmitsburg road and the Warfield Ridge, the shells from which fell beyond our
batteries and several burst near the column before it turned. Several accounts have spoken of the
Third Corps being then engaged at the Peach Orchard, but this is clearly erroneous. There was no
infantry engaged there for at least an hour later, and any musketry heard in that direction must have
been from the pressing skirmish lines. Just as the edge of the forest was reached, Col. Vincent,
answering the call of Warren, under the orders of Gen. Sykes, turned the head of column sharply to
the left, and striking the Millerstown road, it was hurried at the double quick up the northern slope
of Round Top, thence passing under the shoulder of the hill on its eastern side, until reaching the
point where Col. Vincent had directed it to form in order to hold the spur on its southern and western
faces, against the onset of Hood's division, so soon to burst upon it. The 44th N. Y. was placed on
the right of the line, then the 16 Mich., the 83rd Pa. and the 20th Me. on the left, that being the order
of march for the day, but for some reason, the 16th was shifted to the right of the brigade. The
historian of the 83rd Pa., Capt. Judson, is authority for the statement that this change was made at
the request of Col. Rice of the 44th, who said to Col. Vincent, that "the 83rd and 44th had hitherto
fought side by side in every battle and he wished they might do the same to-day." The two right
regiments were placed somewhat below the brow of the hill on its western slope, facing the Devil's
Den and the gorge of Plum Run, while the 83rd filled the semi-circular bend of the escarpment as it
doubles back to face the loftier summit of Round Top, and the 20th prolonged this line, facing
generally toward the higher mountain, and looking down into the comparatively open and smooth
depression between the summits, filled with scattering trees and sparse underbrush, through which
to the left could be seen the glint of the sunshine upon the open fields beyond the mountain slope.
Still farther to the left and rear of the general line of the 83rd and 20th prolonged, the ground falls
off more sharply and is filled with huge boulders. On this line Col. Chamberlain brings the regiment
into place "on the right by file into line," that the flank nearest the enemy may be first firmly planted,
and receives from Col. Vincent his last orders, "to hold this ground at all hazards," and then that
gallant soldier, without fear or reproach, departs forever from the sight of his soldiers of the 20th
Maine, to fall within a short hour at the very moment of victory. Each regiment threw out
skirmishers, Co. B, Capt. Morrill, being ordered to extend the left flank of the 20th across the low
ground, and cover the front and exposed flank against attack, it being known that the command at
that time held the extreme left of the Union line. As the regiment stands there in the terrible hush that
precedes the actual clash of arms, the few minutes that try men's souls more than the charge of the
retreat, as each man tightens his belt, prepares his cartridges for most rapid use, and gives a last
hurried thought to home and friends, then shuts his teeth and glances with firm lips and set eyes
through the forest for signs of the approaching enemy, let us for a moment consider the dispositions
of our adversary and learn, what we could not then know, of the direction and weight of his advance.
The right division of Longstreet's Corps, which was to open the battle
and by whose movements
the others were to be guided, was composed of the brigades of Law, Robinson, Benning and
Anderson, formed in two lines, the two first named brigades leading. These were massed in the
woods beyond the Emmitsburg road, and the order of advance was to make a half wheel to the left
in order to attack the left of Sickles's line, stationed at the Devil's Den, roll it up, and by the
successive attacks of the other division to the right, sweep away the whole corps and crush that wing
of our army. Before the advance was made, however, Gen. Law, commanding the right brigade, had
sent Sergt. McMiller in command of a scouting party to ascertain in what force the Federals were
posted on the heights of Round Top. His report sent back and received before the advance, showed
that the position could be easily carried from rear, and commanded the whole Federal line. Gen. Law
thereupon remonstrated with Hood against a frontal attack, and advised the turning of Round Top.
Hood was impressed with the idea sufficiently to send a staff officer to Longstreet with the protest
and his endorsement, but the corps commander dispatched one of his own aides with orders "to begin
the attack at once." Longstreet had already been over-ruled in his proposition to Gen. Lee, to
maneuver Meade out of his position, and the attack having been delayed till Lee was becoming
impatient, he doubtless thought it futile to suggest any further modification. The discussion had,
however, this effect, which bore directly on our part in the battle. The importance of Round Top was
so deeply felt that the right of the attacking division was so far directed to the right, as to pass over
the mountain instead of bearing left to the stony hill, occupied by Ward. Gen. Law says that his did
this to protect his right, and as Gen. Hood was wounded soon after the advance commenced, Law
succeeded to the command of the division, and his dispositions were not set aside. The regiments of
Law's brigade, beginning at its right, were the 44th, 48th, 15th, 47th and 4th Ala., and Robertson's
the 4th, 5th, and 1st Texas and 3rd Ark. The result of the changed direction was to expose the flank
of Robertson's men to the fire of Ward's brigade, and the rebel advance became separated, the 4th and
5th Texas keeping touch with Law's men, and the 1st Texas and 3rd Ark. charging the stony hill to
the left. The brigades o f Anderson and Benning adhered to their original order of the half wheel and
become engaged as a front line with Birney's division, as soon as unmasked by the movement of the
leading brigades to the right. In order to fill the gap in Robertson's brigade, Gen. Law, just as the line
reached the base of the mountain, detached the 44th and 48th Ala. from the extreme right and,
marching them in rear of the line, connected with the left of the 4th Texas, and in that line they
afterwards came to attack the western slope of Round Top in front of the 16th Mich. and Ward's
brigade. This movement left the 15th Ala. on the rebel right, and in line with the 47th it advanced
straight up the southern face of the mountain, pushing back the skirmishers of the Second U. S.
Sharpshooters, who had been met in the open fields this side of the Emmitsburg road, and who from
their vantage ground among the rocks and their accurate fire, gave the 15th so much trouble that Col.
Oates believed he had driven a line of battle and thought he had found it again when he met the first
fire of the 20th Me. the rebel troops had made a march of twenty-four miles since three o'clock that
morning, and the climb up the hill found them pretty well exhausted, made as it was in the face of an
annoying fire and clinging to bushes and over huge boulders. Arriving at the top Col. Oates gave his
men ten minutes rest, during which time the remainder of his brigade and Robertson's had gone
forward by smoother routes and become engaged with the troops of Ward and Vincent on both sides
of Plum Run. Maj. Melcher has elsewhere stated that this delay was a fatal one, as it enabled
Vincent's brigade to become established on the Spur. I do not think this is correct, for the 4th Ala
and the Texas men, who moved straight on found Vincent's 83rd and 44th ready for them, and as the
20th was formed at the same time, allowing only for the time in coming from the rear of the brigade,
the Maine men would have given the Alabamians an equally warm reception ten minutes earlier. Its
only possible effect was to put our enemies in a little better fighting trim, and to make their attack
more rapid and vigorous. It should be remembered also that the skirmishers of the 44th had been out
ten minutes before driven in by Robertson's advance, so that the hill was occupied at least twenty
minutes before Oates descended the hither slope. Col. Oates was convinced at once that the summit
of round Top was an important position to hold, and that it should be occupied with artillery, and
endeavored to communicate his views to Gen. Law, through the latter's chief of staff, who had ridden
upon the hill to inquire the cause of the delay; but that officer insisted that the orders were imperative
for an advance until the infantry were engaged and Col. Oates disobeyed, moving down the northern
face of the mountain and bearing somewhat to the left to regain touch with the remainder of the
Let us glance for a moment at the adversaries who are about to measure
strength amid these
woods and gloomy rocks, and to fill this hollow with such carnage that it has been called the Valley
of Death. The 20th is entirely enveloped in woods, and awaits its enemy in silence and ignorance of
his force; but on the sight of the other regiments of the brigade, a grand but fearful spectacle is
spread. The troops of Robertson are already out of sight. They have entered the woods at the base
of the mountain, their eyes fixed on its frowning heights, brushing with almost contemptuous haste
past the flanks of the Third Corps, and disdaining to notice even a skirmish line, say the men of the
4th Me. at the Devil's Den, the fire which they poured into them at short range. But beyond down
the sunny slopes of Rose's farm, in double battle lines, come their supports of Anderson and Benning,
the incomparable infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia. The rugged rocks above the gorge are
blazing with the musketry of Ward, while Smith's rifled guns on the hill and in the gorge below, and
a little later Hazlitt's Parrott's on Round Top, smoke and thunder, tearing great gaps in the advancing
lines. Far off to the right, the road up to the Peach Orchard is crowded with the guns of the Third
Corps and the Reserve, and the heights beyond tremble with the answer of all of Longstreet's artillery.
Their shells search all points of our lines, and scream over the heads of the 20th until the advancing
infantry compels them to withhold their fire. These men, who are descending the slopes of round Top
and climbing the sides of the Death Valley, are no strangers to the Army of the Potomac. They have
met us at Antietam and watched our lines dash in useless valor against the bloody hills of
Fredericksburg. These very divisions swept amid the shadows of evening, down from the Douglass
heights, in just such an attack against the left of Pope at Manassas, and drove it from the field. the
memories of Chancellorsville are fresh in their minds. Is it any wonder that they are confident of
victory? But now they must attack and we defend, and these hills and rocks will to-day repeat to
them the lesson of Malvern Hill, and the flower of Longstreet's Corps, ere to-morrow's sun goes
down, will be stretched in death before the lines of Hancock and in these hollows at our feet. Our
brethren at the right, like us awaiting the crash of battle, are veterans of the Peninsular and of Pope's
campaign, were decimated at Gaines's Mill, and covered the fatal hillside at Groveton, with their slain,
up to the muzzles of Jackson's guns. But for the men of the 20th this was the first real stand up fight.
They were under fire to be sure at Shepherdstown; they made a gallant advance at Fredericksburg,
showing the stuff that was in them, but their losses were light in spite of their hazardous position; and
the running fight at Aldie was more trying to the legs and wind than the courage. But here is to be
the crucial test of temper, discipline, and nerve, and who are the men to undergo it? Scarce ten
months before nearly a thousand men had followed the standards of the Third Brigade into Maryland,
under the gallant Ames. But exposure and disease have made fearful inroads in their ranks. Three
hundred passed through the dreary portals of the hospital, from the wind and rain-swept camp of
Antietam. Many found a grave in the little cemetery at Stoneman's, whence lack of proper knowledge
of housing and feeding sent many more to recruit the increasing list of absent sick, till on this ground
are found in line, three hundred and fifty-eight rank and file, out of almost thrice that number who
gaily marched away from the Pine Tree State less than a year before. But the weak, the weary, the
fearful, the shirkers have been dropped; the chaff is sifted from the wheat; these men who are left can
fight all day and march all night, and have been welded by discipline into a tempered weapon of steel
that will never fail it's master's hand in the time of need, never to be more highly tried, more
triumphantly vindicated than in the fateful moments of the next hour. Morrill and his skirmishers are
already deploying on the side of Round Top, taking nearly fifty men from the line, already short, that
is to meet the onset of three times its number of the best troops of Longstreet's Corps.
Let us glance down the line from the right. "Pap" Clark is acting as
field officer, and E is
commanded by Sidelinger, then comes Folger, always cheerful, with his sturdy men of the coast, then
the irrepressible Jim Nichols, who always had trouble to make "K" wheel, but not the least in keeping
himself and "K" up to the front in a fight, then the two companies at the bloody angle, under the
beloved Keene and quiet Lewis, the farmer boys of A and F., half of whom are soon to fall in death
and wounds. Next Aroostock's hardy sons, giant in form and stout of heart, and behind them Joe
Land, who won't stop cracking his jokes till the Johnnies strike his front. Here come the "Oxford
bears," with Billings, calm, modest, but true as steel, his moments of like already numbered, and D
with jolly Fitch, and last old reliable F, over which Spear, never wanting in the hour of need, still
keeps a fatherly eye, and how many other names these familiar letters recall to us, good boys and true,
who did their duty here beneath these waving boughs, and have gone to their reward, or live to
receive the plaudits of a grateful country, and to tell the deeds of their gallant dead; and up and down
the line, with a last word of encouragement or caution, walks the quiet man, whose calm exterior
concealed the fire of the warrior and the heart of steel, whose careful dispositions and ready resource,
whose unswerving courage and audacious nerve in the last desperate crisis, are to crown himself and
his faithful soldiers with victory and fadeless laurels.
Already the regiments on our right are feeling the presence of the enemy,
the musketry draws
nearer, and eyes peering under the foliage see the gray lines coming down the opposite slope. They
are coming on in a solid front, with no skirmishers, and it is seen almost instantly that their line
extends far beyond our left flank and will soon envelope and overwhelm it. In an instant a sheet of
flame bursts from our front, described by Col. Oates as the most destructive fire he ever met, and it
brought his advance to a stand-still at once. He states in his official report that his right exactly
engaged our left, but that after two or three rounds he observed the enemy giving way in his front,
except that potion confronting his two left companies and the 47th Ala. As his companies were at
least twice the front of ours, his regiment having nearly six hundred and fifty men in line, that
statement would include the whole right wing of our regiment. This movement which Col. Oates
describes as a flight was, I believe, the refusal of the left wing of [the] 20th to prevent its envelopment
by the largely superior force opposed to it, and this hypothesis will assist in setting the time when this
refusal took place, about which there is considerable difference of opinion in the regiment, some
maintaining that it was done as soon as the enemy appeared and his strength was disclosed, and others
that it was made under fire and after he had commenced to extend his line to the left. It is probable
that both statements are correct from different points of view. It is not believed to be possible to
reconcile all the theories and beliefs of the actors, even in so small a space as the front of a regiment,
and when we fail, as sometimes we must, we must conclude, that as there is a substantial agreement
on the main features of the action, these disputed details were seen from different points, or were
viewed at different stages as part of a whole. Now it is well known that our gallant Lieut. Nichols
always maintained that he first made known to Col. Chamberlain, and the Colonel in his official report
says that his attention was called to it by an officer from the centre, which was about Nichols's
position, and that then mounting upon a rock he was able to discern it for himself, and took the action
already described, Major Spear is equally sure that he called Col. Chamberlain's attention to it before
the regiment was fairly under fire, and that the new disposition was then made. Now as the
Confederate line came down the mountain, inclining to the left, in order to regain connection with the
4th Ala., (and which according to Col. Oates it never did make,) it is probable that the right became
engaged an appreciable space of time before the left, as the latter wing was somewhat swung back
in the beginning, to conform to the ground, else it would have fallen below the crest, and this is borne
out by a passage in Col. Chamberlain's report, which says the action "gradually extended along my
entire front." This very nearly harmonizes all the divergent views, and also accounts for the apparent
retreat noticed by Pates, of which he confesses he was unable at the time to take advantage, having
plenty to do in holding his line up "under a most galling fire."
The statements of all the Union officers made at the time of the battle,
Chamberlain's report and those of Col. Rice, Gen. Barnes and Gen Sykes and Capt. Judson of the
83rd, speak of the troops assailing the 20th as moving by flank for that purpose, and with the
exception of Col. Chamberlain, it is definitely stated by all, that these troops were the same who had
attacked in front of the hill. The statements and publications since the war by Col. Oates, show that
theory to be erroneous, and that the troops attacking us fought in no other place, but came directly
over Round Top, and that the flanking movement as first seen was more apparent than real, and
caused by the more tardy appearance of the right wing of the attacking force. It is a high compliment
to the spirit and vigor of both sides, that each commander believed his adversary to have been
reinforced during the action, though the great disparity of force against us afforded by far the best
foundation for the belief.
While still holding his command to our original front, Col. Oates say
he was informed that the gap
between the 47th Ala. and the 4th had not been filled, and that the first named was in consequence
receiving a flank fire, presumably from the left of the 83rd that was fast destroying its morale. Only
seven companies of this regiment were in the battle, three having been left in the rear to guard a road,
and in addition it was badly officered, its official report made by the Major, stating that the Colonel,
while retaining nominal command, remained so far in the rear that he was worse than useless, and the
Lieut. Col., Bulger, designated by Oates as a "gallant old gentleman of sixty," was dangerously
wounded and fell into our hands, and soon after the regiment, having lost one-third of its number,
retreated in confusion up the mountain. Whether, however, any more than the left half of this
regiment retreated before the final repulse, we have no certain information. Its report is short and
deals only in generalities. Certain it is, however, That there was no cessation of the deadly fire on
our front, and it is hardly probable that the commander of the 15th would have continued to bear to
his right, if he know (sp) that his left flank was also in the air. He declared, at any rate, that, just at
the moment when the 47th showed signs of distress, pivoting on his left which was then at a large
rock, he made a left wheel of his regiment in order to take advantage of the more broken ground in
our left front, and also hoping thereby to enfilade our line and thus relieve his distressed neighbor.
Whatever the result on the 47th Ala., there is no question of its effect on the 20th Me. His great
superiority in number, enabled him easily, although in the concave order, or cover our entire front,
and to bring a most deadly cross fire on the salient at our color company. He made his first advance
from this new direction with great vigor and weight, hoping to drive us from our position, but was
met by a fire form the left companies that surpassed in its deadly effects that already experienced on
the right, which had caused him severe losses. He says that his line wavered before it like men trying
to walk against a strong wind, and it was compelled to give way. Again and again was this mad rush
repeated, each time to be beaten off by the ever thinning line that desperately clung to its ledge of
rock, refusing to yield except as it involuntarily shrunk for a pace or two at a time from the storm of
lead which swept its front. Col. Oates himself advanced, as he tells us, close to our lines at the head
of his men, and at times the hostile force(s) were actually at hand to hand distance. Twice the rebels
were followed down the slope so sharply that they were obliged to use the bayonet, and in places
small squads of men in their charges reached our actual front. The reports of both commanders are
authority for these statements. The front surged backward and forward like a wave. At times our
dead and wounded were in front of our line, then by a superhuman effort our gallant lads would carry
our combat forward beyond their prostrate forms. Continually the gray lines crept up by squads
under protecting trees and boulders, and the firing became at closer and closer range. And even the
enemy's line essayed to reach around the then front of blue that, stretched out in places to a single
rank, could not go much farther without breaking. So far had they extended, that their bullets passed
beyond and into the ranks of the other regiments further up the hill, and Capt. Woodward,
commanding the 83rd, sent his adjutant to ask if the 20th had been turned. Col. Chamberlain assured
him that he was holding his ground, but would like a company, if possible, to extend his line. Capt.
Woodward was unable to do this, but by shortening his line somewhat, he was able to cover the right
of the 20th and enable it to take a little more ground to the left. Meanwhile the brigade in front of
the hill was hard pushed to hold its own, and the heavy roar of musketry in the fitful lulls of our own
guns, came to the anxious ears of our commander and told only too plainly, what would be the result
if our line gave away. Not a man in that devoted band but knew that the safety of the brigade, and
perhaps of the army, depended on the steadfastness with which that point was held, and so fought on
and on, with no hope of assistance, but not a thought of giving up. Already nearly half of the little
force is prostrate. The dead and wounded clog the footsteps of the living. Capt. Billings of C., the
gallant and devoted soldier, has fallen with a mortal wound. Young Kendall is just breathing his last
sighs. Great-hearted Charley Steele of Co. H., beloved by all the regiment, pours out his life-blood
at the feet of his Captain. Lathrop of the same company, a giant in statute, lies cold in death, and
beside him Buck, promoted and vindicated from a cruel injustice, wears a smile of content upon his
bloodless lips. Two heroes are gone whom Nichols can illy spare from the rolls of K, Buxton, a mere
boy, my school-mate in a quiet country town, true patriot and gentle spirit, only a few days before
declaring his readiness to give his life for country, has received his death wound and seals his devotion
with calm fortitude; and tall, grave, silent George Noyes, first Sergeant, an ever sure reliance of his
officers in camp and field, sleeps in peace amid the horrid crush of battle. Tozier still bears the colors
aloft, and of the guard Livermore and Coan will live to tell their children of the day of Round Top,
but Day has answered his last roll-call and Reed lies helpless among the rocks. The two companies
at the colors, receiving a fire from three sides, are swept like trees by a whirlwind. Keene has been
temporarily disabled and twenty-one of forty of his men are out of the battle, seven killed on the spot,
and out of the twenty-six in A, only eight still grimly face the enemy and swear to avenge their fallen
comrades, while to the right and left in less proportion but in fearful totals the loss foots up; a few
names among which I have recalled, but all of whom in grateful remembrance are borne on yonder
sculptured stone, where in far distant summers that we shall not see, future generations will read of
the valor and devotion of these heroes of the 20th Maine.
The punishment inflicted upon the more crowded ranks of the enemy had
not been less severe.
These lives of ours had not been cheaply sold, but a fearful price had been exacted for each drop of
loyal blood. The eyes that glanced along the rifles had been keen and true and shots not idly wasted.
His officers had freely exposed themselves in leading the successive charges and the mortality among
them was great. The Lieut. Col. had lost his leg, two Captains and four Lieutenants had been
instantly killed, John Oates, the Colonel's brother, struck by eight bullets, and in all nineteen our of
forty were disabled. With all the advantage of his heavy line, he had not been able to gain a single
foot of permanent advance, and the prospects of success were not brightening, except as he must
have been able to discern from his near approach that our lines were thinning. He was also becoming
solicitous about his right flank, being in a hostile and unknown country and aware that he was on the
extreme right of his army, and had been moreover for some time experiencing the effects of a fitful
and mysterious fire, which came apparently from his rear, and at times his men had been struck by
bullets from front and rear at the same time.
To understand this assistance to our fire, then unknown and unsuspected
by us, we must go back
to Capt. Morrill and his men, who had scarcely commenced to deploy up the sides of Round Top
when the roar of battle in his rear, told him that the enemy in force had interposed between himself
and his regiment. He at once moved his company by the left flank to uncover the enemy and at the
same time to discover and guard against a flank movement on the left. Arriving on the open field at
the left of the woods, he found twelve or fifteen of the Sharpshooters, under command of a non-commissioned officer, who had been driven in by Hood's advance over Round Top, and who asked
leave to remain under the Captain's orders during the battle. Morrill, who generally went into action
with a musket, and was, I think, the coolest man we had in the regiment in an emergency, and had
no superior on the skirmish line, placed his men behind the stone wall, which crosses the depression
between the mountains, just at the edge of the field, and therefore exactly on the flank of the 15th
Ala. before the movement to the left was made, and in its rear during the greater part of the action.
This position he maintained during the battle undiscovered by the rebels, and for prudential reasons
not disclosing his whereabouts by any steady fire, but non who knew Co. B will doubt that the
temptation of an occasional shot through the loop-holes of that stone wall was too strong to be
resisted, and these shots did excellent service in awakening uneasiness in the Confederate ranks.
Whatever misgivings the rebel commander may have had as to his position,
he ordered his officers
to sell out as dearly as possible, and the attack was pushed with no cessation perceptible on our side.
Gen. Grant has said that in every battle there comes a time when both sides being nearly exhausted,
the combatant who can make a final effort, or hold his own a moment longer by sheer force of will,
is to be the winner. That moment was rapidly approaching to this two wrestlers, foemen worthy of
each other, but so unequally matched in numbers, for which the slight advantage of position made
little amends, that the issue seemed almost certain against the weaker party. Every advance seems
more difficult to resist. How long can flesh and blood endure it? As the line surges back from the
determined rushes of the enemy and from the fire which scorches their very faces, the officers on the
left, Spear, Land and others, are holding the flat of their swords against the line to assist in
maintaining its place. Ammunition is rapidly exhausting. Many men have replenished their stock
from the boxes of their fallen comrades, but that resource cannot last long and then what? Death is
easy but defeat is worse, and there is but one last expedient, the cold steel, truly a forlorn hope when
the force of the enemy is at least two to one. Lieut. Melcher, in command of Co. F., has suggested
to Col. Chamberlain an advance of his company, in order to cover the line of wounded, exposed by
the retirement of the left wing, but such a movement if unsuccessful, might give the enemy
opportunity for a counter charge which would sweep us from the hill. Yet matters are now at such
a crisis that boldness, even that of desperation, may be the truest safety, and the Colonel has decided
to take the offensive with the whole regiment. The die is thrown, and the one word "bayonets" rings
from Chamberlain's lips like a bugle note, and down that worn and weary line the word and the action
go, like a flash of lightning through the powder-smoke. To the anxious, frenzied heart of every man
in that battle-torn array, it came as the chance of life to the drowning, and as his hand drew the
shining weapon his foot was advanced to carry it toward the bosom of his foe. The lines were in
motion before the words of command were completed, and Col. Chamberlain does not know whether
he ever finished that order. In an instant, less time than has been required to tell it, Melcher has
sprung ahead of the line, the colors are advancing, and with one wild rush the devoted regiment hurls
itself down the ledge into the midst of the gray lines, not thirty paces distant. Officers and men are
striving for the lead. Spear and Land leap down from a broad rock into the midst of a knot of
Confederates, huddled behind it for safety. Some have greater opportunities for individual deeds than
others, but every man does his duty. For one instant the battle wavers in the balance. Pistols are
levied, swords flash in the air and bayonets clash. An officer fires in Col. Chamberlain's face, and
then, seeing the line upon him, surrenders his sword with the other. Which wins the day, Union or
rebel? Will our little line be swallowed up in the gray ranks? No! No! They turn, they fly! and from
yonder wall, as if by magic, rises a blue line and pour (sic) a deadly volley into the discomfited foe.
Thank God! The victory is ours! and glory to the God of Hosts from whom all blessings are. The
Stars and Bars are flying in defeat, and the flag of Freedom and Union waves in triumph over this
stricken hillside, where dying eyes look up through happy tears, as the shouts of victory float back
through the rattle of pursuing musketry, and death is sweetened by the knowledge that life has not
been lost in vain.
Col. Oates has said that he passed the order among his men to retreat
without regard to order and
reform on the top of the mountain, but it is a remarkable fact that the execution of that order should
have been coincident with the charge of the 20th. The extent to which his line had enveloped the
Union forces, now became nearly the destruction of his command, for the advance of the right of our
regiment was nearly at right angles to the line of his retreat, cutting off his right wing, that bewildered
dashed in all directions seeking for safety, many rushing towards a lane in the direction of the rear of
our army and, throwing down their arms, are captured by scores. The biting shots of Co. B., as they
pour in volley after volley from their wall, add speed to the flying feet of those who are able to pass
the fast converging lines of the pursuit. The 83rd dashes out from its position, pocking up those who
cross its front, Morrill launches his fresh men after them, and far up the mountain side the fugitives
are pressed, the list of captures still growing, till prudence compells a recall, and with lightened
hearts, the regiment is formed on the old line, and addresses itself to the task of caring for its dead
and wounded and gathering in the fruits of its hard won victory. Capt. Morrill threw out his skirmish
line on the left of Rou d Top and remained there until 9 p. m., when he rejoined the regiment.
Four hundred prisoners, mostly from the 15th and 47th Ala., were sent
to the rear. These
included the wounded Lieut. Col. of the 47th and several line officers. Fifty dead of the 15th were
buried in our front, and about one hundred of their badly wounded were also left behind to become
prisoners. Col. Oates went into the action with one of the strongest and finest regiments in Hood's
Division, its effectives (and this in the Confederate army meant the men on the battle line) numbers
six hundred and eighty-six officers and men. When the roll was called that night in the bivouac at the
Emmittsburg road, but two hundred and twenty-five answered, and less than half the officers. Our
own loss, as now reported in the rebellion records, was twenty-nine men killed on the field, six
officers and eighty-five men wounded, and five men missing; the latter were captured on Round Top
in the night, and three officers and six men died of their wounds, making thirty-eight whose names
are borne on the tablets of the monument.
The attack of Law and Robertson on the front, though bitter and persistent,
had been repulsed
by the rest of our brigade and that of Gen. Weed, at the expense of the lives of many brave men and
those gallant officers, Vincent, Med O'Rorke and Hazlitt, before the final charge of the 20th, and no
further attempt was made against this vital point of the line. The troops of Hood were thoroughly
exhausted and the advance of McCandlers across Plum Run, and the massing of the Sixth Corps on
its northern slope, deterred any movement of fresh troops.
A word may be said as to the belief of Col. Oates that his right was
menaced by "long lines of
Union infantry." He states that two of his Captains of the 15th reported a command with flags
moving from the right. Unless this was purely imaginary, it must have been a distant view of the
advance of the reserves, who were so far away that they did not reach the ground till the action was
fully over. It is not impossible that a sentinel on the extreme edge of the wood might have descried
them, but no one on the battle line knew of them; Capt. Morrill did not see them, and they gave no
aid or comfort, physical or moral, to the imperiled battlaions of the 20th. An obscurely worded
passage in gen. Doubleday's account of the battle lends some weight to the theory of the arrival of
Fisher's Brigade, but as the next sentence gives the 20th Maine the credit of clearing the ground by
their final charge, it may be dismissed. The regiment having fought concealed by woods, its action,
unlike that of most troops at Gettysburg, was not overlooked by superior officers, but full credit was
given to its services by brigade, division and corps commanders. The later publications by the
Confederates who opposed us more than sustain all that our most ardent champions ever asserted,
for while they show a loss in the 15th Ala. almost unprecedented, they also show, by the known
positions of other troops, that this heavy punishment and complete overthrow was effected solely by
one regiment, with half the number of men, which contended also, for at least a portion of the batle,
with the 44th Ala. It was the great, good fortune of Vincent's Brigade and the 20th Me. that they
were taken from the vortex of the wheatfield that swallowed up brigades and divisions, and,
subjecting them to continual enfilading fires, quenched their valor in blood and rendered their
sacrifices nugatory. They men of Tilton and Sweitzer, of Zook, and Cross and De Trobriand were
no less brave than those who stood on Round Top, but victory was denied them through no fault of
theirs. Ours would have been the same fate, but the fortunes of war, or let us rather say the hand of
Him who doth His will among the armies of Heaven, placed our beloved regiment where it had the
opportunity to render a signal service to the army and the country. It I have been able, in even so
humble a degree, to show how well that duty was performed, I am more than content.
No man who wore the uniform of the 20th Me., or who followed where the
bugles sang "Dan
Butterfield," but may claim a part of the glories of Gettysburg. "No many who carried arms in this
greatest of our country's battles but may tell the tale with glowing pride," and transmit its memory
as a priceless haritage to his childrne's children; "no scar here won but yields its meed of honor' no
life laid down upon this hard-fought field but inscribes his name who bravely gave it up upon the roll
of imperishable renown."
Capt. Prince was followed by Gen. J. L. Chamberlain, who commanded the
regiment during the
battle. He spoke as follows:
A quarter of a century ago on this rugged crest you were doing what
you deemed your duty. To-day you come with modest mein, with care more
for truth than for priase, to retrace and record the
simple facts - the outward form - of your movements and action. But far more than this entered into
your thought and motive, and far greater was the result of the action taken than any statistical
descrition of it could import.
You were making history. The world has recorded for you more than you
have written. The
centuries to come will share and recognize the victory won here, with growing gratitude. The
country has ackowledged your service. Your State is proud of it. The well-earned and unsought
fame has moved you already to ackowledge your deserts. Your own loyal and loving zeal for justice
has indeed anticipated the State's recognition. At your own cost you set your monument here to
mark the ground where failthful service and devotion wrought a result to momentous.
Today your historians have recalled the facts. On that line which has
been so patiently and
candidly investigated and as far as possible freed from doubt and unclearness, your admirable record
leaves little to be desired. But as this is a suitable, if not final, opportunity for accurate and complete
statement of these facts, I may be indulged in a remark or two germane to this matter, which recent
visits and this occasion itself suggests.
I am certain that the position of this monument is quite to the left
of the center of our regimental
line when the final charge was ordered. Our original left did not extend quite to the great rock which
now supports this memorial of honor. When we changed front with our left wing and extended it by
the flank and rear, the color was brought to mark the new centre, which was to become the salient
of our formation; and it was placed, I was sorry to do it, on the smooth and open slope, and in a
position completely exposed. Beyond this the left was refused and extended in single rank. When
the charge was made I was beside the color-bearer, and I know well that we struck the enemy where
their line was open to view, and the ground comparatively unobstructed. The color advanced in the
direction of the proper front of the right wing, and passed the rock altogether to our left. I am not
at all criticising the judgement of our comrades who selected the great boulder for the base of the
monument. It was entirely fitting to mark it with that honor, as it became so conspicuous an object
during the terrible struggle - the centre and pivot of the whirlpool that raged around.
I take note also of the surprise of several officers to hear that it
was some other than a single one
of them who came to me in the course of the fight with information of the enemy's extended
movements to envelop our left. Now, as might well be believed of such gentlemen and soldiers, they
are all right; no one of them is wrong.
It was quite early in the action, and while as yet only our right wing
was hotly engaged, that an
officer from that centre reported to me that a large body of the enemy could be seen in his front,
moving along the bottom of the valley below us, deliberately toward our extreme left and rear. I
sprang upon a rock in our line, which allowed me to see over the heads of those with whom we were
then engaged, and the movement and intent of the enemy was plain to be seen. It was this timely
knowledge that enabled me to plan the prompt movement which you so admirably executed - that
rapid change of front, doubling back upon ourselves, and the single rank formation, which proved so
effectual for our stubborn resistance.
Sometime after this, while we were hard pressed all upon sides, an officer
from the extreme left
reported to me, with great anxiety, that the enemy were outflanking our left, thrown back as it was.
I found the situation critical, and immediately ordered the right company to repair to the extreme left
in support, and sent to eh commanding officer of the 83rd Penn. regiment, asking him to extend his
left to cover the ground vacated on our right. But as a found this movement produced much
confusion, and this withdrawal was likely to be misconstrued into a retreat, I was obliged to
countermand the order, and let the left wing hold on as best it could, and as best it did.
One more matter. In the third fierce onsent of the enemy, through a
rift in the rolling smoke I saw
with consternation that our centre was nearly shot away, and the color guarded by only a little group,
who seemed to be checking the enmy by their heroic bearing and not by numbers, and I sent the
adjutant to the commanding officer of the color company, to ask him to hold on if he possibly could,
till I could reinforce him from some other regiment. So little expectation had I that the adjutant could
live to reach the spot, I pressed into my service a trusted sergeant and dispatched him with the same
message. Meantime the crash had come, and out of the flame and smoke emerged that center,
bearing the color still aloft, forced back, pressed in upon itself, but solid and firm, and impregnable
front, face to the foe. The enemy on their part had also recoiled, and were gathering in the low
shrubbery for a new assault. Our ammunition was gone. It was manifest that we could not stand
before the wave that was ready to roll upon us. Knowing all this I resolved upon the desperate
chances of counter-charge with the bayonet. I at once sent to the left wing to give them notice and
time for the required change of front. Just then the brave and thoughtful Lieutenent, commanding
the color company, came up to me and said, "I think I could press forward with my company, if you
will permit me, and cover the ground where our dead and wounded are." "You shall have the
chance," was my answer, "I am about to order a charge. We are to make a great right wheel." What
he did, you who know him know. What you did, the world knows.
I am sorry to have heard it intimated that any hesitated when that order
was given. That was not
so. No man hesitated. There might be the appearance of it to those who did no understand the whole
situation. The left wing bent back like an ox-bow, or sharp lunette, hand to take some little time to
come up into the line of our general front, so as to form the close, continuous edge which was to
strike like a sword-cut upon the enemy's ranks. By the time they had got up and straightened the line,
the centre and salient, you may be sure, was already in motion. Nobody hesitated to obey the order.
In fact, to tell the truth, the order was never given, or but imperfectly. The enemy were already
pressing up the slope. There was only time or need for the words, "Bayonet! Forward to the right!"
The quick-witted and tense-nerved men caught the words out of my lips, and almost the action out
of my hands.
So much elucidation of facts. You see there may be stories, apparently
not consistent with each
other, yet all of them true in their time and place, and so far as each actor is concerned.
And while every one here, officer and soldier, did more than his duty,
and acted with utmost
intelligence and spirit, you must permit me to add the remark that I commanded my regiment that day.
Words elsewhere spoken by me to-day in our State's behalf strive to
express the motive and
purpose of this great struggle, and the character and consequence of the victory vouchsafed us. It
is there I speak of country; here it needs only that I speak of you, and of ground made glorious by
you and yours.
The lesson imporessed on me as I stand here and my heart and mind traverse
your faces, and the
years that are gone, is that in a great, momentous struggle like this commemorated here, it is
character that tells. I do not mean simply or chiefly bravery. Many a man has that, who may become
surprised or idsconcerted at a sudden change in the posture of affairs. What I mean by character is
a firm and seasoned substance of soul. I mean such qualities or acquirements as intelligence,
thoughtfulness, consicentiousness, right-mindedness, patience, fortitude, long-suffering and
I could see all this on your faces when you were coming into position
here for the desperate
encounter; man by man, file by file, on the right into line. I knew that you all knew that was staked
on your endurance and heroism. Some of you heard Vincent say to me, with such earnest and
prophetic eyes, pointing to the right of our position and the front of the oncoming attack, "You
understand, Colonel, this ground must be held at all costs!" I did understand; with a heavy weight
on my mind and spirit. You understood; and it was done. Held, and at what cost! Held, and for
There is no need that I should recount to the friends who stand around
us here, what would have
happened had this little line - this thin, keen edge of Damascus stell - been broken down from its
guard. All can see what would have become of our Brigade swallowed up; of Weed's, struck in the
rea; of Hazlitt's guns, taken in the flank and turned to launch their thunder-bolts upon our troops,
already sore pressed in the gorge at our feet, and the fields upon the great front and right. Round
Top lost - the day lost - Gettysburg lost - who can tell or dream what for loss thence would follow!
I do not know whether any friends who now stand here on this calm and
sunny day, comprehend
how the weight of such a responsibility presses upon the spirit. We were young then. We do not
count ourselves old yet; and these things were done more than twenty-six years ago/. We believe we
could do them now; but we wonder how we could have done them then. Doubtless the spring and
elasticity of youth helped us to bear the burden and recover from the shock. But something more
than youthful ardor and dash was demended for such a test. And that was yours. In thought, in habit,
in experience, in discipline, you were veterans. It was a matter, as I have said, of character. It was
the soul of youth suddenly springing into the flush and flower of manhood. It was the force of the
characters you had formed in the silent and peaceful years by the mother's knee and by the father's
side, which stood you in such stead inthe day of trial. And so it is. We know not of the future, and
cannot plan for it much. But we can hold our spirits and our bodies so pure and high, we may cherish
such thoughts and such ideals, and dream such dreams of lofty purpose, that we can determine and
know what manner of men we will be whenever and wherever the hour strikes, that calls to noble
action. This predestination God has given us in charge. No man becomes suddenly different from
his habit and cherished thought. We carry our accostumed manners with us. And it was the boyhood
you brought from your homes which made you men; which braced your hearts, which shone upon
your foreheads, which held you steadfast in mind and body, and lifted these heights of Gettysburg ot
This Round Top spur, as it is easy to see to-day, was a commanding position
in that battle, cand
confessedly the key of the field for that day's fight. It is deliberately so pronounced in official papers
by the leaders of both sides. I stood on that summit not long ago with Longstreet and officers of our
own army, not so much disposed as he by the events of that day's fighting, to praise the Fifth Corps,
and they one and all acknowledged that this was by nature and in fact the supreme position. One of
the ablest of the southern historians, describing in his impassioned style the fight which circled and
flamed around this creast, says, "That was the glittering coronet we longed to clutch." The glittering
coronet was won, but not by them. All honor to those who seeing it, seized it in thought; who gained
it, who held it, who glorified it. All honor to Warren, first and last, and now forever, of the Fifth
Corps; to Vincent, to Rice, to Hazlitt, to Weed, to Ayres, - chief commanders here. Peace be to their
spirits where they have gone. Honor and sacred remembrance to those who fell here, and buried part
of our hearts with them. Honor to the memory of those who fought here with us and for us, and who
fell elsewhere, or have died since, heart-broken at the harshness or injustice of a political government.
Honor to you, who have wrought and endured so much and so well. And so, farewell.
The service on Little Round Top was appropriately closed by Joseph Tyler
sounding the bugal
call of "Tap," which brought tears to the eyes of many a listener.
The Association then climbed the heights of Round Top proper, where
the State of Maine has
erected a solid granite monument, and where the assembled veterans listed to
Mr. President: - We read upon the monument erected by our state to commemorate
the valor of
her sons upon the field of battle, the following inscription: -"the 20th Me. Regt., 3rd Brigade, 1st
Division, 5th Corps., Col.. Joshua L. Chamberlain, captured and held this position on the evening of
July 2nd, 1863, pursuing the enemy from its front on the line marked by the monument below." *
* * "This monument marks the extreme left of the Union line during the battle of the third day."
This modest legend will not fully convey to the minds of the thousands
who in coming years visit
this historic ground, the dangerous character of the movement it is designed to make memorable. The
magnificent defense of the extreme left of Little Round Top by the Twentieth Maine on the afternoon
of July 2nd, 1863, graphicly decribed by Capt. Prince, so overshadowed all susequent movements of
the regiment at Gettysburg, that the importance of the occupation of Round Top proper has not been
fully estimated, even by the officers and men who climbed it precipitous and rocky side during the
early part of the night following that eventful day. This dearly bought victory of the afternoon was
insecrure while the enemy was permitted to occupy Round Top, which reared its wooded crest 564
feet above the plain but a few rods from the position held by the 3rd Brigade.
It was some time after the Twentieth returned from the bayonet charge
and pursuit of the enemy,
and the shades of night were falling, when the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 5th Corps., commanded by
Col. Joseph W. Fisher, arrived in the rear of Litle Round Top. Col. Rice, who had assumed command
of our Brigade when Col. Vincent was wounded, asked Fisher to advance with his brigade and seize
the crest of Round Top. This movement Col. Fisher hesitated to make, giving as a reason that, on
account of the darkness and the nature of the ground, and his men newly arrived, being ignorant of
the situation, the attempt was extremely difficult and dangerous. Col. Rice then asked Col.
Chamberlain if he would take the heights, and our commander replied: "Yes, the 20th Maine will take
them!" Col. Fisher then agreed to support the Twentieth in this movement.
The casualties of battle, together with the details to bury the dead
and bring up ammunition, had
reduced the ranks of the Twentieth to 200 muskets. The men had just passed through such an ordeal
as only those who have experienced the horror of war can comprehend; one man in every three had
been shot down; they were exhausted, hungry and thirsty; but they received the command with
enthusiasm. Leaving their dead comrades, who lay so thickly about them, to be buried by the detail,
the regiment advanced in line of battle across the vale, and were soon struggling over the boulders
which obstructed theascent of the steep sides of Round Top. This advance was made just to the left
of the present path up the mountain. When the summit was reached it was intesely dark in the woods,
although the open ground was flooded with the light of a full moon.
The Twentieth was now occupying an extremely dangerous position, entirely
isolated from the
main line and exposed to attack from the enemy, or to be cut off altogether from the brigade on Litle
Round Top. This was a period of much anxiety. While strengthening his position Col. Chamberlain
heard troops advancing on his right. Being challenged, they replied that they were sent to support
the 20th Maine which they were trying to find. These were the 5th and 12th Penn. Reserves. They
were conducted to the propoer position, but as they were marching by the "right flank," in fronting,
of course, they faced to the rear. The confusion and noise attending the efforts to have them "face
by the rear rank," drew the attention of the enemy, who fired a sharp volley in our direction. The
Reserves had been floundering around in the darkness for some time and it is not strange that they
began to think they had marched
Instead of facing by their rear rank our supports moved off in a direction
opposite from the enemy
Apprenhending that the rebels might seize this opportunity to envelope
our right, Col.
Chamberlain hastily deatiled a picket line on the front and right, and retired the main body to the
lower ground near the foot of the ascent. He then dispatched a request to Col. Rice for the 83rd
Penn. and afterwards for the 44th N. Y., to support the 20th on the right by echelon. In this
formation, being partially supplied with ammunition, the line again advanced considerably beyond its
former position where the men lay on their arms till morning, expecting an attack at any moment.
I have mentioned the detail of a picket line in the early part of the
night. These pickets advanced
down the side of the hill in our front until they could see the enemy by the light of campfires and hear
conversation, when they retired part way up to the crest. The Confederates had evidently heard their
movements for they soon sent a squad to ascertain whether they were friends or foes. Being hailed
by our picket they anwered, "Friends," and were told to come right along. This strategy continued
till twenty-five of the 4th Texas Regiment had been captured by company E on the right of the line.
At this time some officer farther to the left gave an order to fire and no more prisoners were taken
that night. These prisoners were sent to the rear under the escort of John Bradford and Eugene
Kelloran of company I, who tramped around in the darkness a long time trying to find the Provost
Guard. Coming out into an open space they decided to bivouac till morning when the prisoners were
turned over to the proper officers. under the escort of John Bradford and Eugene Kelleran of company 1, who tramped around in the darkness a long time trying to find the Provost Guard. Coming out into an open space they decided to bivouac till morning when the prisoners were turned over to the proper officers.
The only casualty to the Twentieth during this movement occurred in the morning when Lieut. Arad Linscott took a musket and going out in advance of the picket line to get a shot at the enemy, who were firing in among our men, was mortally wounded in the thigh by a sharpshooter.
At ten o'clock on the morning of the 3rd the regiment was relieved by other troops and marched back over the ground where it had fought the day before and, having received sixty rounds of ammunition, took position with the brigade behind a stone wall at the right of Little Round Top where it remained during the terrible cannonade preceding Picket's charge.
The quiet of an October day now reigns on Round Top and it is difficult to realize the terrors of that July night twenty-six years ago. Here are the steep ascents, the huge boulders and the sturdy oaks, but the darkness of night, the presence of a brave and vigilant foe, the crack of the rifle and the singing bullet are missing. Unquestionably the movement was made under great apprehension and nervousness. One comrade, whose courage has been tested on many battlefields, says he does not know what time the advance was made; he was too excited to look at his watch as he would have done had he understood what kind of history we were making then. Another comrade, who has brevets and medals to prove his bravery, owns that he never was so scared in his life. And even our valiant Colonel confesses that he was "not a little nervous and apprehensive."
Under cover of darkness, however, the position was carried and held by our troops during the remainder of the battle. The neglect of Hood's Division which was massed in close proximity, to hold it when occupied, or attempt its subsequent capture, is one of the many mistakes which have been apparent in all great military operations. Col. William C. Oates, who commanded the 15th Alabama in the attack on the Twentieth at Little Round Top, in his account of the battle, claims that Round Top, which is 166 feet higher and only 1,000 yards distant from Little Round Top, was the more important of the two; that if Gen. Longstreet has crowned Round Top with his artillery any time on the afternoon of the 2nd, even though it had been only supported by the two Alabama regiments, who had possession of it till sunset, he would have won the battle.
This address was followed by brief remarks from Gen. Chamberlain and the exercises were closed with prayer and benediction by Rev. Theodore Garish.
During these ceremonies, what remains of the old regimental battle flag
was unfurled by Comrade E. S. Can, one of the color guards in battle.