Colonel Patrick O'Rorke Colonel Strong Vincent Brigadier General Warren
Warren had been born in Cold Spring, New York, January 8, 1830. A slight, intense man who was always focused on the job at hand, he graduated second in the West Point Class of 1850. The days that preceded July I were eventful ones for Warren. He had married Emily Chase Forbes two weeks earlier, had a change of Army commanders, and had turned down Meade's offer to replace Maj. Gen. Daniel Butterfield as chief of staff, all within a week.
Warren was comfortable working with his new commander, but felt that he could render his best service continuing as the chief engineer. In the twilight of the war, Warren would suffer the indignity of relief from command of the 5th Corps, but the early morning of July second found him riding to Gettysburg and into the annals of American history. Later, when Warren attempted to reconstruct his activities during the Battle of Gettysburg, he could not recall when he arrived on the field.2 Based on the distance from Taneytown, it was probably as late as mid-morning.
When Warren arrived and reported to Meade at the Widow Leister's house, Meade consulted with him on several issues and sent him to observe the battlefield. He was asked to examine the ground on the right and make recommendations as to its suitability for an offensive . maneuver.3 After riding over and observing the position, Warren expressed concern that the ground in front of Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum's Twelfth Corps was too rough and was more favorable for defensive action, and Meade took his advice.4
Meade had been busy since his arrival on the field, checking the deployment of the various corps. About 3 p.m. Warren rode with Meade and others to check the troop positions on the left.5 Warren had three engineer officers supporting him-Chauncey B. Reese, Ranald S. Mackenzie and Washington A. Roebling-as well as a number of orderlies.6
Warren held all three lieutenants in high esteem but Washington Roebling was his favorite. Roebling was married to Warren's sister and the two were close friends. Roebling would go on to follow his father in building the Brooklyn Bridge and have his health suffer because of it. Years after the war, Roebling recalled that Warren went to Little Round Top after Meade directed him to "ride over and if anything serious is going on ... attend to it."7 In a post-war letter to Capt. Porter Farley, Warren stated that Meade sent him upon Warren's request.8 Regardless, Warren and his party rode several hundred yards from the point near Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles's forward position to the northern end of Little Round Top.
A little before 3:30 p.m., they arrived at the crest and came upon the signal station, the only troops on the hill.9 A signal station had been on Little Round Top since the evening of July 1 when torch communications was achieved with the station on the mountain behind Emmitsburg, Maryland.10 The station had been abandoned when Brig. Gen. John W. Geary moved his division to the right and had been reoccupied by Brig. Gen. John Buford's signal officer, Lt. Aaron B. Jerome. Jerome operated the station during the morning of July 2 and had reported Col. Hiram Berdan's foray with Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill's troops around noon.11 Jerome had vacated the position when Buford moved his division from the screening position on the left of Meade's line to Westminster. The signal station was now manned by Capt. James Hall, Capt. P. A. Taylor, and Sgt. John Chemberlin.12 Hall had sent a number of messages regarding troop movements to the signal station, which supported Meade's headquarters. After the war, in a letter to Farley, Warren recalled his action at the signal station:
There were no troops on it and it was used as a Signal Station. I saw that this was the key of the whole position and that our troops in the woods in front of it could not see the ground in front of them, so that the enemy would come upon them before they would be aware of it. The long line of woods on the [east] side of the Emmitsburg road, which road was along a ridge, furnished an excellent place for the enemy to form out of sight, so I requested the Captain of a rifle battery just in front of Little Round Top to fire a shot into these woods. He did so, and as the shot went whistling through the air the sound of it reached the enemies' troops and caused every one to look in the direction of it. The motion revealed to me the glistening of gun barrels and bayonets of the enemy's line of battle already formed and far outflanking the position of any of our troops, so that the line of his advance from his right to Little Round Top was unopposed. I have been particular in telling this, as the discovery was intensely thrilling to my feelings and almost appalling.13
Shortly after the shot was fired from Smith's battery, the Confederate troops opened fire on the signal station. Captain Hall and his signal party began to withdraw from the exposed station, but Warren "requested" that they stay and wave their flags in defiance, in order to make the hill look as though it were occupied.20
At the opening of the battle of July 2, there were no troops belonging to General Sickles' corps on Round Top Ridge. General Sickles, when called upon by General Warren, through me, to furnish troops for the defense of that position, refused to do so, stating that his whole command was necessary to defend his front, or words to that effect. General [George] Sykes furnished troops for the object stated above as soon as called upon to do so.25
Mackenzie asked Sickles for an entire brigade to garrisonLittleRoundTop.26 He most likely made this request near Sickles's headquarters, which were on the Trostle Farm within sight of the Peach Orchard. By that time, the Peach Orchard was receiving heavy fire from Rebel artillery, the headquarters were confused with activity, and Sickles was focused on the problems to his front. He flatly refused to provide any troops. Mackenzie quickly rode away. He was riding hard, looking for Brig. Gen. David Birney-commanding Sickles' lst Division, which was deployed on Sickles' left-when he came upon Maj. Gen. George Sykes, commander of the 5th Corps.27
When he found out that the 3rd Corps was not in position, Meade had directed Sykes to take his corps out of the reserve position and support the left. Sykes received his directions shortly before 3 p.m., during a meeting of the corps commanders which Sickles had not attended.28 George Sykes had been the commander of the 5th Corps for only a few days, having assumed the position after Meade gave up corps command in order to assume command of the army. Sykes was a true professional soldier and had resisted having his corps committed "piecemeal" when Meade had originally asked him to provide a brigade to support Sickles. But when asked, by a lieutenant, to send a brigade, unsupported, to Little Round Top, he agreed to do so with alacrity. Sykes could see the importance of occupying the terrain, and sent a captain from his staff to order Brig. Gen. JamesBarnes, commanding the IstDivision, to send a brigade. Barnes' division was halted near the George Weikert house, having been brought forward via the Granite Schoolhouse Lane, while Barnes rode forward with Sykes to detail the placement of the division.
"Captain, what are your orders?" The captain replied, "Where is General Barnes?" Vincent said, "What are your orders? Give me your orders." The captain answered, "General Sykes told me to direct General Barnes to send one of his brigades to occupy that hill yonder," pointing to Little Round Top. Vincent said, "I will take the responsibility of taking my brigade there." Returning to the brigade, he directed Colonel [James C.] Rice, the senior colonel, to bring the brigade to the hill as rapidly as possible, then rode away toward the northwest face of the hill. I followed him.30 "
Warren was still near the signal station and did not see Vincent and Norton as they picked their way through the boulders.31 Norton continued:
Reaching the foot of the bill and finding it impossible to ride up to the top in that direction, owing to the steepness of the ascent and the loose stones which covered the surface, he turned to the left and, skirting the northern foot of the ridge, turned into the woods behind the ridge on the eastern side. He rode on until we reached the South end, where the line of great rocks which form the summit suddenly terminates by an abrupt descent of perhaps fifty feet.32
While Warren continued to remain by the signal station, unaware that Strong Vincent was on the other end of the hill picking regimental fighting positions, Capts. Charles Hazlett and Augustus P. Martin appeared on the summit.33 Martin, commanding 5th Corps artillery brigade, and Hazlett, commanding Battery D, 5th United States Artillery, rode up the hill on their own accord in search of an effective position for Hazlett's battery to support the 5th Corps. The junior officers conferred with Warren and after some discussion as to the effectiveness of the battery firing from the crest, Hazlett told Warren, "The sound of my guns will be encouraging to our troops and disheartening to the others, and my battery's no use if this hill is lost."34 Nine years after the battle, Warren could not recall with certainty whether Hazlett's battery came up before he left to secure more help or after he returned from doing so. It is probable that Warren spoke with Hazlett and Martin before he left the hill but the battery did not get up until he returned. It appears that Warren learned of the position of Vincent's brigade shortly after speaking with Hazlett and Martin.35 THE ARTILLERISTS DECIDE TO DEPLOY
Hazlett's battery came toward the hill as quickly as it could. They dropped off their caissons, which were secured on the eastern side of Little Round Top. The battery was moved up the wooded slope on the east side of the hill. Lt. Benjamin F. Rittenhouse, to whom command of the battery would devolve after Hazlett was killed, was responsible for moving the battery forward, and later recalled that the battery went up quickly and that "I do not believe a piece barked a tree. ... We went there at a trot, each man and horse trying to pull the whole battery by himself." 36 At least one gun section may have passed through the files of the 140th New York as that regiment was hurried to the hill.38 Warren himself assisted Hazlett in placing the first tw pieces which arrived at the crest by lifting a gun car riage "bodily" over the rocks with the help of som stragglers." Rittenhouse recalled placing all six of th battery's guns on the hill but Warren only remembers two."39 Rittenhouse described the action:
When the fourth piece was unlimbered, one of the cannoniers placed the sponge bucket near it, as number one dipped his sponge in it, a bullet pierced it near the bottom, and let out all the water, he paused, turned to the front, grit his teeth, said "damn," but looked as though he thought more, sent his sponge home with a vim, and as the first shot was fired said, "take that, damn you!440
Warren rode off the hill for the last time, shortly after assisting in placing the two guns on the crest and if all six guns came up, he probably never saw them. At some point in the action, while talking to Hazlett, Warren was wounded in the neck by a musket ball.14 It was a slight wound and did not affect Warren's performance, although Brig. Gen. John Gibbon believed that the wound was the cause for Warren sleeping through Meade's council of war later that evening.42
Strong Vincent, followed by Private Norton, had ridden to the base of the hill's northwest slope and found it impractical to climb. Perhaps Warren did not see him because he was busy discussing gun emplacements with Hazlett, but Norton later commented that he never saw the signallers. Vincent rode around to the eastern side and climbed to the southern crest of the hill.43 Vincent and Norton were still mounted when they first came uponlhe small shelf on which Vincent would place his brigade. The position was almost halfway down the southwestern slope of the hill.44 Vincent, a Harvard man, was not a professional soldier; however, no regular officer could have picked a better position for the brigade that day. It would be aligned along the "military crest" where the Confederates could not pass without being observed and taken under fire by the defenders. VINCENT PICKS A POSITION
The lone brigade commander and his flag bearer observed the battle raging in the Peach Orchard but did not see any Confederates to the front. As they sat their horses, shells began to fall near them; first on the right and then a few feet to the left. "They are firing at the flag, go behind the rocks with it," exclaimed Vincent.45 Norton rode his horse behind the large boulders and Vincent followed shortly, gave his mount to Norton to hold, and went back down to the lower ground on foot to continue his reconnaissance.
Vincent had left the duty of bringing the brigade forward to Col. James C. Rice, commanding the 44th New York. Norton described the brigade's deployment:
I think the regiments which had followed the same route we took, arrived in the following order: Forty-forth New York, Sixteenth Michigan, Eighty-third Pennsylvania and Twentieth Maine. As the head of the column came up, Vincent said to Colonel Rice, "Form your regiment here, Colonel, with the right at the foot of this rock." Colonel Rice replied, "Colonel, in every previous battle in which we have been engaged, the Forty-fourth and Eighty-third have fought side by side. I wish it could be so today." Vincent appreciated the feeling and answered, "It shall be so, let the Sixteenth pass you." The order was sent back, the Forty-forth was halted until the Sixteenth had reached its place, then under Vincent's direction the Forty-forth, Eighty-third and Twentieth took their respective positions and set out skirmish lines to the front.46
After the 16th Michigan passed the 44th New York the regiments were aligned on the rough ground with the 20th Maine on the left, followed by the 83rd Pennsylvania, the 44th New York, and the 16th Michigan.47 In contrast to Norton's recollections, Col. Joshua L. Chainberlain, commanding the 20th Maine, wrote after the war that his regiment was first in the brigade column a it climbed the slope and went into position "on right into file on line" in order to face the enemy when the regiment got into position.48 He recalled in his report that his regiment took artillery fire as they were climbing, and that,
the crashing of shells made us move lively along the crest. . . . Passing to the southern slope of Little Round Top, Colonel Vincent indicated to me the ground my regiment was to occupy, informing me that this was the extreme left of our general line, and that a desperate attack was expected in order to turn that position, concluding by telling me I was to "hold that ground at all hazards." That was the last word I heard from him ."49
Chamberlain brought his regiment in line among the trees andboulders facing Big Round Top. When his line was formed, he detached Company B, Capt. Walter G. Morrill commanding, as skirmishers in order to extend and protect the left from surprise, as the flank was "in the air".
Capt. Orpheus S. Woodward, commanding the 83rd Pennsylvania, formed his regiment to the right of Chamberlain's with some companies facing south and others facing west as the command wrapped itself around the corner of the hill. The 83rd formed the center of what Colonel Rice, to whom command of the brigade devolved after the mortal wounding of Vincent, described in his report as a "quarter circle." Woodward sent skirmishers down the rock slope out to the west toward Plum Run.50
The 44th New York was next in line to the right of the 83rd Pennsylvania. The regiment's commander, Colonel Rice, also sent out a company of skirmishers. In order to best use the available time, Rice went over to the left and asked his fellow regimental commander, Chamberlain, to accompany him to the right of the 44th, to the "clearer space," in order to observe the Plum Run valley. The view left quite an impression on Chamberlain:
The enemy had already turned the Third Corps' left, the Devil's Den was a smoking crater, the Plum Run gorge was a whirling maelstrom one force was charging our advanced batteries near the Wheatfield; the flanking force was pressing past the base of the Round Tops; all rolling towards us in tumultuous waves. It was a stirring, not to say, appalling sight; here, a whole battery of shot and shell cutting a ragged chasm through a serried mass, flinging men and horses like drift aside; there, a rifle volley at close range, with reeling shock, hands tossed in air, muskets dropped with death's quick relax, or clutched with last, convulsive energy, men falling like grass before the scythe.... Yes, brave Rice! it was well for us to see this; the better to see it through. A look into each other's eyes; without a word, we resumed our respective places.51
Having passed the 44th New York so the "Butterfield twins" could fight together, the little 16th Michigan assumed its position on the far right of Vincent's brave brigade. The 16th Michigan was exposed in its alignment on the shelf and had its right flank "in the air".
Vincent's smallest regiment, the 16th Michigan had fewer than 250 men in line and its ranks were further depleted when Lt. Col. Norval E. Welch sent two companies out as skirmishers. The regiment was in grave danger as it waited for John Bell Hood's brigades .52
Still standing near the signal station, wounded and under heavy musket fire, Warren was justifiably concerned. He had sent two aides, Reese and MacKenzie, to get troops, but was unsure of the results. Hazlett had arrived and decided to bring his battery up but it had yet to arrive. Unable to see what was transpiring with Vincent's brigade, Warren received a call for help from Colonel Rice, to whom command of Vincent's brigade had devolved.53 Warren-with Roebling, Reese and an orderly, riding hard down the hill to get assistance- spotted a brigade marching along the Wheatfield Road, heading toward the Wheatfield to support Sickles. The order to support Sickles had been canceled but the brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Stephen Weed was not yet aware of it. Warren was fortunate indeed. The brigade was the 3rd Brigade of Ayres's Division, which Warren had previously commanded. Warren may not have been quite the "demon of blazing energy" that his biographer, Emerson Taylor, labeled him, but witnesses recalled that he was unusually excited.54 As Warren approached the brigade at a gallop, he spotted the 140th New York, commanded by Col. Patrick O'Rorke, marching in a column of fours. Warren called out to O'Rorke to bring the regiment up to Little Round Top. O'Rorke answered that General Weed had gone forward to locate positions and expected the regiment to follow. "Never mind that," Warren replied. "I'll take the responsibility." Warren's impatient manner convinced O'Rorke of the importance of the task at hand and he turned the regimental column to the left toward Little Round Top.55 Warren left at a gallop but apparently did not ride directly back to Little Round Top with the 140th. WARREN RIDES FOR HELP
O'Rorke, Roebling, and the 140th's adjutant, Capt. Porter Farley, guided the regiment to the hill top. They led it diagonally up the eastern slope. A trailing section of Hazlett's battery caused confusion as the guns and horses passed through the column while they were climbing the hill.56 O'RORKE GOES TO THE HILL
When Colonel O'Rorke and his guides topped the hill and looked to the west toward Plum Run, the view was even more dramatic than that which Rice and Chamberlain had solemnly observed. Farley described it as "war's wild Panorama." He continued:
There was no time for tactical formations. Delay was ruin. Hesitation was destruction. Well was it for the cause he served that the man who led our regiment that day was one prompt to decide and brave to execute. The bullets flew in among the men the moment the leading company mounted the ridge, and as not a musket was loaded the natural impulse was to halt and load them. But O'Rorke permitted no such delay. Springing from his horse, he threw his reins to the sergeant major; his sword flashed from its scabbard into the sunlight, and calling: "This way, boys," he led the charge over the rocks, down this hillside, till he came abreast the men of Vincent's Brigade.57
O'Rorke was killed leading the regiment down the slope to shore up the crumbling right of the 16th Michigan.
Accounts vary significantly as to the part Warren played in the action after O'Rorke reached the crest. Farley indicated that after talking to O'Rorke on the Wheatfield Road, "Warren rode off, evidently bent on securing other troops. But Cpl. James Campbell, Company D, wrote that Warren was directing O'Rorke on the crest of the hill telling him where to position the 140th."58 Roebling left O'Rorke as soon as they topped the crest of the hill to ride to Meade and report as to the disposition of troops."59 It is probable that Warren directed him to do so.
Early in the afternoon, Maj. Gen. George Sykes had been directed by Meade to support Sickles and had communicated that fact to Sickles. Later, at the 3 p.m. corps commanders meeting at the Widow Leister's house, Meade told Sykes to take his corps and protect the left of the army's position, since Sickles was not in position. Sykes thought that this meant he would have control of the use of his own corps, instead of having to deal them out "piecemeal" to Sickles. Based on his own reconnaissance, Sykes understood that his corps would not be able to fight as one cohesive unit, but he was resisting having Sickles take elements from his corps as he desired. WEED BRINGS HIS BRIGADE
Later that day, Sykes had ordered Weed's brigade to Little Round Top, but Sickles had sent a messenger with orders to bring the brigade to the support of his own line.60 When Warren pulled O'Rorke's regiment out of the brigade column, brigade commander Weed was under the impression that the brigade was in direct support of Sickles. Weed had left O'Rorke "in charge" as he went forward to find the brigade's position.61 The brigade adjutant, Capt. A. S. Marvin and Warren's brother, Edgar, left the brigade to ride to Weed and inform him that O'Rorke had taken his regiment and left for Little Round Top.
Capt. Edgar Warren, after finding Weed at Sickles's headquarters on the Trostle Farm, got instructions as to where to post the brigade and rode back and began leading it, without the 140th, to a position in support of Sickles. Sykes, upon learning that the brigade was heading away from Little Round Top, sent a messenger to the brigade to direct it back to the hill. When Captain Warren explained that he was under orders from Weed to reinforce Sickles, the messenger asked to be taken to Weed. Weed learned that Sykes wanted the brigade on Little Round Top, and left Sickles' headquarters and rode back to the brigade.62 Weed evidently left his brigade after giving it orders and rode ahead to Little Round Top. Warren stated that he never conferred with Weed, and left the hill before he arrived.63 Weed's remaining regiments arrived and were posted after the main fighting was over. The 140th New York had fought alongside the 16th Michigan well down the slope, but the rest of Weed's brigade were aligned on the crest of the hill. The 91 St Pennsylvania went in on the right of the 140th, followed by the 146th New York and the 55th Pennsylvania.64 They established breastworks and assisted in collecting prisoners but did little fighting. Weed's regiments were joined by Company L, Ist Ohio Light Artillery, posted an the northern slope of the hill.
That evening the signal station, which had been abandoned by Hall and Chemberlin, was reoccupied by Capt. E.C. Pierce and Sgt. Luther Furst of the 6th Corps. Due to heavy musket fire from Devil's Den, these men did little flag signaling for the rest of the battle.65
Warren deserves all the honor he has received for his actions on Little Round Top on the afternoon of July 2, 1863. He has, however, been given credit for a number of things which he frankly admitted that he did not do. There is significant confusion surrounding the events leading up to the defense of Little Round Top. Numerous accounts have Warren detecting Hood's men without any assistance from the signallers, but this is simply an unnecessary embellishment of his actions when he arrived at the signal station. The famous shot fired from Smith's battery simply confirmed what Captain Hall was reporting to him. Numerous versions have Warren personally detaching Vincent's brigade from Barnes's division, which clearly did not occur. There are first-hand accounts that depict Warren pointing out fighting positions to Vincent.66 EPILOGUE
None of these points should detract from what Warren did accomplish. He recognized the importance of the position and upon realizing the deployment of Hood's division, took immediate and determined action to garrison the hill. He took the advice of junior officers to include Hazlett and Martin. Additionally, and most important, he stayed on the job until the hill was properly manned, lending his rank and position to the task at hand while placing himself in personal danger. Lesser staff officers would have given orders and ridden off to another part of the field. Warren used his staff and, when required, rode down personally to acquire additional troops.67
The signallers made a substantial contribution. Capt. Lemuel Norton, the chief signal officer, picked the position and recommended it to Hall. By merely occupying it, they caused a two-hour delay in Longstreet's attack, due to his decision to countermarch when he saw the signal station. The signal station sent a number of messages detailing movement on the Federal left. Because some of this traffic described Longstreet's countermarch, it has been described as confusing, but their reports certainly provided ample information to Meade's headquarters that there was activity on the left. Most important, they pointed out the activity to Warren when he arrived at the station. He satisfied himself that the message was accurate, and acted on it. Lieutenant Mackenzie deserves recognition for his actions as a determined messenger. After Sickles turned him down, Mackenzie did not ride back and report that fact to Warren; he kept going until he found a responsible general officer who would take action. This was a significant feat for a young officer, and had he not persisted, Vincent would have not arrived on the crest in time.
Although George Sykes received criticism for being slow," he took decisive action when called upon by Mackenzie, and responded by initially ordering a brigade to support the position.68 He was a key factor in the sequence of events and continued to provide relief to the hill by redirecting Weed's brigade. Even though Weed's brigade did not figure prominently in the fighting, it must surely have had the effect of discouraging the Confederates from any thoughts of trying one last time to take the hill.
Strong Vincent's post war champion, Oliver Norton, did a superb job defending his commander's rightful place in Gettysburg history. Vincent's role is important for two reasons. First, he took the responsibility of quickly moving his command to the hill as soon as he knew that Sykes wanted a brigade posted there. A more cautious commander would have sought the permission of his division commander and lost precious time in the process. Because he understood the importance of time in securing the position, Vincent played a vital role in the afternoon's successes. Secondly, Vincent had the good tactical judgment to place his brigade in exactly the right position. This decision was based on knowing how to fight under the circumstances coupled with a timely reconnaissance.
The effect of Hazlett's battery in the fight was significant. Warren realized that the guns would do little real physical damage from the crest, due to their inability to depress to the angle required for direct fire on attacking troops ascending the hill. However, Hazlett truly understood the psychological effect of his weapons and insisted to a doubting general officer that they be deployed. Many firsthand accounts of the action describe the dramatic sight of the battery going up the hill. Both Hazlett and Martin deserve credit for taking the initiative of going to the hill in the first place. Young as they were, they realized its importance.69
Patrick O'Rorke, much like Vincent, took a chance when he pulled his large regiment out of column when his commander was not present. O'Rorke, again like Vincent, understood the essence of timing and led his men quickly down the slope without stopping to load their weapons. His actions were instrumental in shoring up Vincent's crumbling right.70
Time has not diminished Gouverneur Kemble Warren's contribution to the salvation of Little Round Top. However, it has made it apparent that like most successful officers, he had a lot of help. Vincent, Hazlett, O'Rorke and Weed responded to the call and lost their lives; along with Sykes, Mackenzie, Martin, and Hall, who also played key parts in the drama, they became the "Saviors of Little Round Top."