The Defense of Little Round Top 

Little Round Top was an area in the battle of Gettysburg where one of the most important parts of the battle was fought. It represented a crucial strategic position located at the lower left end of the Union "fishhook" defensive position.

What Happened

  • Little Round Top was originally left undefended, but Union General Gouverneur Warren noticed that the South was preparing for an assault on the hill and knew that if it was captured that it would roll up the flank of the Union Army of the Potomac. 
  • Four regiments were mustered up and sent to defend Little Round Top: 
  1. the 20th Maine, led by Colonel Chamberlain, 
  2. the 83rd Pennsylvania, 
  3. the 44th New York, 
  4. the 16th Michigan. 
  • The 20th Maine was the farthest left of all the Union men. The most vicious fighting at Little Round Top was at the far left which was defended by the 20th Maine. There were many assaults that were repulsed and the casualties on both sides increased. Then two more Southern Regiments assaulted the 20th Maine and got within a dozen yards before the intense fire of the 20th Maine turned back the vicious Southern onslaught. 
  • After being fought off, the Southerners attempted to flank the Union Army
  • In response, Chamberlain was forced to stretch his lines so thin they were only one man deep, yet they still managed to hold the line.  And while that was happening the right flank at Little Round Top was also being attacked. 
  • But luckily, the 140th New York came and helped to relieve the pressure on the right flank. While this was going on the the 20th Maine was repelling attack after attack and was running low on ammunition. 
  • After the most recent attack from the 15th Alabama, the 20th Maine was out of ammunition and saw the Southerners preparing for another attack. Colonel Chamberlain refused to retreat, and his orders to were to hold the line at all hazards which he followed to the letter. 
  • Colonel Chamberlain ordered the 20th Maine to "fix bayonets" and they charged the Southerners. 
  • The first line of the South threw down their arms and surrendered to the charging Union troops and the rest of the Southern troops fled. Colonel Chamberlain had saved the Union army.

Colonel Chamberlain (Center with sword raised) leading the 20th Maine in a last ditch effort to hold Little Round Top.
Colonel Chamberlain (center) Leading the 20th Maine at Little Round Top