Battle of Gettysburg

Battle of East Cemetery Hill
Battle of East Cemetery Hill ©Keith Rocco
1863 Jul 2 19:30

Battle of East Cemetery Hill

Memorial to Major General Oliv

After the Confederates attacked Culp's Hill at about 7 p.m. and as dusk fell around 7:30 p.m., Ewell sent two brigades from the division of Jubal A. Early against East Cemetery Hill from the east, and he alerted the division of Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes to prepare a follow-up assault against Cemetery Hill proper from the northwest. The two brigades from Early's division were commanded by Brig. Gen. Harry T. Hays: his own Louisiana Tigers Brigade and Hoke's Brigade, the latter commanded by Colonel Isaac E. Avery. They stepped off from a line parallel to Winebrenner's Run southeast of town. Hays commanded five Louisiana regiments, which together numbered only about 1,200 officers and men.

The 2 Union brigades of 650 and 500 officers and men. Harris' brigade was at a low stone wall on the northern end of the hill and wrapped around the base of the hill onto Brickyard Lane (now Wainwright Av). Von Gilsa's brigade was scattered along the lane as well as on the hill. Two regiments, the 41st New York and the 33rd Massachusetts, were stationed in Culp's Meadow beyond Brickyard Lane in expectation of an attack by Johnson's division. More westerly on the hill were the divisions of Maj. Gens. Adolph von Steinwehr and Carl Schurz. Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, nominally of the I Corps, commanded the artillery batteries on the hill and on Steven's Knoll. The relatively steep slope of East Cemetery Hill made artillery fire difficult to direct against infantry because the gun barrels could not be depressed sufficiently, but they did their best with canister and double canister fire.[98]

Attacking with a Rebel yell against the Ohio regiments and the 17th Connecticut in the center, Hays' forces bounded over a gap in the Union line at the stone wall. Through other weak spots some Confederates reached the batteries at the top of the hill and others fought in the darkness with the 4 remaining Union regiments on the line at the stone wall.

The 58th and 119th New York regiments of Krzyżanowski's brigade reinforced Wiedrich's battery from West Cemetery Hill, as did a II Corps brigade under Col. Samuel S. Carroll from Cemetery Ridge arriving in the dark double-quick over the hill's south slope through Evergreen Cemetery as the Confederate attack was starting to ebb. Carroll's men secured Ricketts's battery and swept the North Carolinians down the hill and Krzyżanowski led his men to sweep the Louisiana attackers down the hill until they reached the base and "flopped down" for Wiedrich's guns to fire canister at the retreating Confederates.[99]

Brig. Gen. Dodson Ramseur, the leading brigade commander, saw the futility of a night assault against artillery-backed Union troops in 2 lines behind stone walls. Ewell had ordered Brig. Gen. James H. Lane, in command of Pender's division, to attack if a "favorable opportunity presented", but when notified Ewell's attack was starting and Ewell was requesting cooperation in the unfavorable attack, Lane sent back no reply.