Battle of Gettysburg

Sickles repositions
Sickles spurs ahead of his staff to inspect the front lines of his threatened III Corps at the tip of the Peach Orchard salient. Confederates can be seen massing for an attack by the fringe of trees in the distance. ©Edwin Forbes
1863 Jul 2 15:30

Sickles repositions

The Peach Orchard, Wheatfield

When Sickles arrived with his III Corps, General Meade instructed him to take up a position on Cemetery Ridge that linked up with the II Corps on his right and anchored his left on Little Round Top. Sickles originally did so, but after noon he became concerned about a slightly higher piece of ground 0.7 miles (1,100 m) to his front, a peach orchard owned by the Sherfy family. He undoubtedly recalled the debacle at Chancellorsville, where the high ground (Hazel Grove) he was forced to give up was used against him as a deadly Confederate artillery platform. Acting without authorization from Meade, Sickles marched his corps to occupy the peach orchard. This had two significant negative consequences: his position now took the form of a salient, which could be attacked from multiple sides; and he was forced to occupy lines that were much longer than his two-division corps could defend. Meade rode to the III Corps position and impatiently explained “General Sickles, this is neutral ground, our guns command it, as well as the enemy’s. The very reason you cannot hold it applies to them.” [68] Meade was furious about this insubordination, but it was too late to do anything about it—the Confederate attack was imminent.[69]

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