Honor and Courage at Little Round Top

There were many pivotal moments in the most pivotal battle of the Civil War; almost every inch of soil on the Gettysburg battlefield has a story to tell. However, of all the incredible moments of that three day conflict, few were as important for the Union army than the stand at Little Round Top.

On Wednesday, Breitbart News will be airing the only live broadcast in the nation of the commemoration of Pickett's Charge, and interviewing authors Jeff Sharaa and Allen Guelzo, from Gettysburg noon to 6 p.m. EDT from "The Angle" on Cemetery Ridge. Sharaa and Guelzo are experts on Gettysburg battlefield history.

Historian Allen Guelzo mentions in his newly-released New York Times bestselling book, Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, that “Little Round Top was called by as many as nine different names in after action reports.” But the name “Little Round Top” looms large in the minds of Americans who come to the Gettysburg battlefield and according to the Associated Press it is the most visited site.

The intense fight at Little Round Top took place on July 2, 1863, the second day of battle. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee believed that the Union left flank had been spread thin and ordered an attack. Union Gen. George Meade sensed that an attack was underway and ordered a number of regiments to occupy the undefended hill, Little Round Top.

Guelzo described the strategic importance of Little Round Top and holding the high ground in a recent interview with the Associated Press. He mentioned how having the advantage of better visibility gave the Union army a better view of the battlefield and that thick foliage and ridges in the battlefield, “concealed what turned out to be the deadly truth" at Gettysburg. From a 21st century vantage point it can be hard to remember how difficult navigation could be on a 19th century battlefield. Today, one can use an Iphone app to take a virtual tour of the Gettysburg battlefield. Gen. Lee would have been jealous.

Michael Sharaa, famous author and father of Jeff Sharaa -- who continued his father’s legacy of writing Civil War novels, wrote an impressive fictional account of the fight at Little Round Top in his book, The Killer Angels. Killer Angels was turned into the Ronald F. Maxwell film, Gettysburg. Michael Sharaa wrote of the Union officer in charge of the most famous engagement during the Little Round Top defense, Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain:

All his life he had been a detached man, but he was not detached anymore. He had grown up in the cold New England woods, the iron dark, grown in contained silence like a lone house on a mountain, and now he was no longer alone; he had joined not only the army but the race, not only the country but mankind.

Jeff Sharaa talked about Col. Chamberlain in an interview with Stephen K. Bannon on Breitbart News' coverage of the opening ceremony of 150th Anniversary of Gettysburg, mentioning how the Bowdoin college professor turned soldier was just a “common man” and not a professional warrior. Sharaa said that he went into the war not knowing what to expect, only knowing that he wanted to “serve” and that “honor” was something that was very important to the Civil War generation.

Chamberlain was ordered by his commanding officer, unsung hero Col. Strong Vincent, to hold Little Round Top, “at all costs.” He obeyed and held the hill, at great cost.

Chamberlain’s men held Little Round Top after many rounds of assault by Confederate’s. He ordered “Bayonet!” as the Union ammunition supply had nearly run out. The Union soldiers charged down the slope and smashed into the Confederate line, engaging in fierce hand-to-hand combat. The action took Confederates by surprise and drove them away from the hill.

Though Guelzo wrote that there has been some “puffing up” of the importance of Little Round Top and of Chamberlain’s role in in the course of the battle, there is no doubt that the men who defended the hill showed incredible courage in the face of a brutal assault. Ultimately, it was that courage and commitment to the cause of the Union that gave the boys in blue the strength to win the war.

Photo source: Flickr/thelearnedfoot_

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