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CASE HISTORICAL MUSEUM

GETTYSBURG - LITTLE ROUND TOP

JULY 2, 1863

   The thirty-four year old volunteer Colonel Josh L. Chamberlain had but one assignment hold the Union left "...at all costs."  To accomplish this mission, Chamberlain first deployed about forty men to his left to warn him in case the Confederates approached the line from that sector.  With his remaining nine Companies of Infantry (20th Maine) he arranged his men to cover the small rocky spur on the southern slopes of Little Round Top.

   Chamberlain did not have long to wait as the Confederates rushed his line.  Colonel William Oates' men had just finished a 25-mile march and were now engaged in the fight of their lifes. Colonel Oates swung the southern battle formation further to the right and the largest portion of the 15th Alabama was attackimg Chamberlain's left on an east west axis.

   Several times Oates and his Confederates charged Chamberlain's position in hopes of overrunning the line.  Each time the Southern troops were soundly repulsed.

   On the Union's left the situation was reaching  a critical state.  Over thirty percent of the defenders were out of action either killed or wounded, and the Confederates had broken through the line mometarily, only at the last minute to be beaten back.  Oates brother John fell dead within Union Lines struck by eight bullets and the rest of the 15th Alabama was rapidly dwindling under sustained Union Fire.

   Chamberlain, however was not in good shape either.  His left was weak and his whole line had expended nearly their compliment of sixty bullets per man.  Many Union muskets were fouled and the troops robbed rifles and cartridges from their wounded or dead comrades, as well as the enemy soldiers near the line.

   After almost two hours of bitter combat, the 20th Maine did the only thing left to do.  It charged with bayonet  and what began as a near Union defeat was quickly decided infavor of the men from Maine.

   Confederate General Longstreet, Commander of the Confederate 1st Corps, would later term the action "the hardest three houra of fighting ever done by any troops on the battlefield."

Colonel Joshua Chamberlain's bold counterattack at Little Round Top won him the Medal of Honor.