"Holding the High Ground"



(Source: The Battle of Gettysburg, Military History Online)


After driving the Union army back through the town of Gettysburg, Confederate forces commanding the east side of town stopped short of Culp’s and East Cemetery Hill as night enveloped the battlefield.  General Lee left the decision to press the July 1st attack on Culp’s Hill up to General Ewell.  Since Ewell had only two brigades available and could not depend on reinforcements, he decided not to attack the Union force on the hill.  Although that decision has been the subject of strong debates both pro and con, there is no doubt it gave the Union troops a greater opportunity to entrench and fortify their positions on the hill. 

The Cemetery Hill fighting opened at dusk on July 2nd with General Early’s division pressing from south and southeast of town and Rhodes’ division intending to attack from the town to the west.  Troops from Early’s division included Brig. General Harry T. Hays with the Louisiana Tigers and Col. Isaac Avery’s North Carolinians gamely punched through weak spots in the Union line.  The attackers reached the Federal guns on East Cemetery Hill and battled the Union cannoneers and troops driven from the base of the hill.  Reinforcements from the Union Eleventh and Second Corps helped fill the gap and repulse Early’s assault.  Unfortunately for the Confederates, Rhodes’ division was not ready for the fight until after Early’s fight was over so Rhodes’ division halted their attack on July 2nd.

The intense battle for Cemetery and Culp’s Hill during the evening and night of July 2nd was only a prelude to another ferocious Confederate assault early the next morning on July 3rd. 

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Revised 12/21/2012