War on Two Fronts: Shiloh to Gettysburg

By John Cannan | Go to book overview
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THEODORE GARRISH


The Stand of the 20th Maine

The anchor for the Federal line at Gettysburg was a steep prominence studded with rocky outcroppings, a hill known as Little Round Top. Had the Confederates ever managed to take it, Meade's position would have become untenable and he would be forced to retreat in ignominious defeat. Instrumental in the defense of this position was the gallant stand of the 20th Maine led by a former professor at Bowdoin College, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. Despite being hard pressed, outnumbered, and low on ammunition, the soldiers from the Pine Tree State held their position and fiercely drove back the enemy. The story of this episode is related in this selection penned by a private of the 20th Maine, Theodore Garrish, in his work Army Life: A Privute's Reminiscences of the Civil War.

On the 28th of June, General Hooker, at his own request, was relieved of his command, and it was given to General Meade. The latter had been in command of our corps. We knew him to be a brave and gallant officer, but feared a mistake had been made in changing commanders just as a battle was to be fought. Many rumors came back to us from the front, and from these we learned that Lee's troops numbered at least one hundred thousand, that he was concentrating his forces near Gettysburgh, and that a desperate battle would probably be fought near that place. We knew that the army of the Potomac did not number over eighty thousand men, that the authorities of the states of Pennsylvania and New York were moving so slowly in raising troops that but little aid would be received from them, and that unaided we must cope with our old foe.

On the first day of July we crossed the state line of Pennsylvania, and noted the event by loud cheering and much enthusiasm. And here, on the border of the state, we learned that our cavalry under General Buford, and our old First corps, under General Reynolds, had on that day

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