The Devil’s Den, Indeed

If I could choose one thing to do whenever I need to blow off some steam, it would be go to a Civil War battlefield and take pictures, trying to imagine in my mind what it was like on the day of the battle.  I’ve been to several battlefields (Manassas, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Antietam and Gettysburg), but the one that most captivates my heart is Gettysburg.  It involved huge troop concentrations.  If the Union had lost at Gettysburg, the pathway was wide open for the Confederate Army to march right into Washington, DC and the war would have been over.  The statistics of the battle are mind-blowing, as it was the deadliest 3-day battle in American history.  Over 52,000 men were slaughtered or wounded (or missing) over the course of 3 days.  Fifty-two thousand.  Let that sink in.  What size town to you live in population-wise?  How many days (or hours) would it have taken for your entire town to be wiped out at that rate?  It remains to this day also the largest artillery battle every fought on American soil.

If you would like to learn more about the battle of Gettysburg, I highly recommend the video that Ted Turner put out, titled appropriately enough, Gettysburg.  It walks you through the 3 days of the battle and you get to know some of the main characters involved.

Part of the deadliest fighting took place on the second day of the battle near the places  known as the Wheatfield, Bloody Run, the Devil’s Den, the Peach Orchard and Little Round Top.  Little Round Top was highlighted in the story from the movie during the second day’s battle.  It marked the the southern end of the Union line, and if that line was turned or if the Confederates had been successful in going around the end of the Union battle line, the entire battle would almost certainly have been lost.

Stationed on top of Little Round Top was, among others, the 20th Maine unit commanded by colonel Joshua (Lawrence) Chamberlain.  They were at the very end of the line and withstood furious assault after furious assault from the Confederates, finally winning the battle when they were out of ammunition and they stormed down the hill with bayonets in place and the weary (from charging uphill) and frightened Confederates surrendered.

Today’s picture isn’t of Little Round Top, but the view from Little Round Top looking down towards the Devil’s Den, a pile of rocks where some of the fiercest fighting of the entire battle took place.  Men were fighting hand to hand, stabbing, shooting, clubbing one another in an attempt to survive.  Dead bodies and wounded filled the places between the rocks you see in today’s picture.  No wonder it was called the Devil’s Den, for surely the Devil’s work was being done there, and those who fought there certainly experienced hell on earth that day.

Tomorrow I’ll show a picture I took from Devil’s Den looking up at Little Round Top.

View of Devil's Den from Little Round Top, Gettysburg Military Battlefield, PA

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1890, the U.S. Cavalry killed over 200 native American men, women and children at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Betsy Flanagan is responsible for the term “cocktail.”  The term was coined in Elmsford, NY, in the bar where she worked as a barmaid, which was decorated with the tail feathers of male birds.  One day a patron asked for one of those “cock tails” and she served him a drink with a feather in it.

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