Battle of Gettysburg
Renewed Fighting at Culp’s Hill
©State Museum of Pennsylvania
1863 Jul 3 04:00 - Jul 3 11:00

Renewed Fighting at Culp’s Hill

Culp's Hill, Culps Hill, Getty

On July 3, 1863, General Lee's plan was to renew his attacks by coordinating the action on Culp's Hill with another attack by Longstreet and A.P. Hill against Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet was not ready for an early attack, and the Union forces on Culp's Hill did not accommodate Lee by waiting. At dawn, five Union batteries opened fire on Steuart's brigade in the positions they had captured and kept them pinned down for 30 minutes before a planned attack by two of Geary's brigades. However, the Confederates beat them to the punch.

Fighting continued until late in the morning and consisted of three attacks by Johnson's men, each a failure. The attacks were essentially a replay of those the previous evening, although in daylight.[102]

Since the fighting had stopped the previous night, the XI Corps units had been reinforced by additional troops from the I Corps and VI Corps. Ewell had reinforced Johnson with additional brigades from the division of Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes, under Brig. Gens. Junius Daniel and William "Extra Billy" Smith and Col. Edward A. O'Neal. These additional forces were insufficient to deal with the strong Union defensive positions. Greene repeated a tactic he had used the previous evening: he rotated regiments in and out of the breastworks while they reloaded, enabling them to keep up a high rate of fire.[103]

In the final of the three Confederate attacks, around 10 am (10:00), Walker's Stonewall Brigade and Daniel's North Carolina brigade assaulted Greene from the east, while Steuart's brigade advanced over the open field toward the main hill against the brigades of Candy and Kane, which did not have the advantage of strong breastworks to fight behind. Nevertheless, both attacks were beaten back with heavy losses. The attacks against the heights were again fruitless, and superior use of artillery on the open fields to the south made the difference there.[104]

The end of the fighting came near noon, with a futile attack by two Union regiments near Spangler's Spring. General Slocum, observing from the distant Powers Hill, believing that the Confederates were faltering, ordered Ruger to retake the works they had captured. Ruger passed the order to Silas Colgrove's brigade, and it was misinterpreted to mean a direct frontal assault on the Confederate position. The two regiments selected for the assault, the 2nd Massachusetts and the 27th Indiana, consisted of a total of 650 men against the 1,000 Confederates behind the works with about 100 yards (100 meters) of open field in front. When Lt. Col. Charles Mudge of the 2nd Massachusetts heard the order, he insisted that the officer repeat it: "Well, it is murder, but it's the order." The two regiments attacked in sequence with the Massachusetts men in front, and they were both repelled with terrific losses: 43% of the Massachusetts soldiers, 32% of the Hoosiers. General Ruger spoke of the misconstrued order as "one of those unfortunate occurrences that will happen in the excitement of battle".[105]