July 2, 1863 - Second Day
"The great Rebel assault, the greatest ever made upon this continent, had been made and signally repulsed...."
1st Lt. Frank A. Haskell, U.S.A.
Aide to Brig. Gen. John Gibbon.
When the Union position at the Peach Orchard (1/2 mile to your right) collapsed on the afternoon of July 2, a Confederate victory seemed imminent. The Union left was giving way. Wounded and retreating Federals streamed eastward (to your left) to seek field hospitals or lost regiments.
General Meade, the Union commander, rushed reinforcements to this area, hoping to prevent a rout. Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock directed the fresh Union troops to critical positions. Lt. Col. Freeman McGilvery assembled artillery batteries along the ridge to your left and right to impede the attackers. Near here Union marksmen shot down Confederate Brig. Gen. William Barksdale, the hard-driving Mississippian. The Confederate attack lost momentum.
The immediate crisis over, General Meade reassured his men, "...it is all right now." That night the Union army strengthened its line from the Round Tops north to Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill. The day's fighting had reaped a harvest of nearly 20,000 dead, wounded, and missing. The following day General Lee would attack once more.
(Key to Panorama in the Upper Center and Right):
You are now standing on United States Avenue looking south down the Plum Run Valley.
(1) Little Round Top
On the afternoon of July 2 Union troops reached this strategic high ground just in time to defend it from Longstreet's attacking Confederates.
(2) Big Round Top
On the afternoon of July 2 Confederates of Hood's Division occupied the summit, but were driven off that night by Union infantry. Big Round Top became the southern anchor of the Union line.
(3) Plum Run Valley
Also called "Valley of Death." On the night of July 2 Union troops occupied the high ground on the left side of the valley, opposed by Confederate skirmishers on the right sided. In the "no man's land" between the armies, the wounded cried for help in the dark.