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Confederates. But the day wore on, hour after hour, without anything more serious than a reconnoissance from the Third Corps in front of the Emmittsburg road, and some fighting on the skirmish line in front of the Second Corps. Responsibility for this long delay has remained in dispute. Generally speaking, the blame has been cast upon Longstreet, all the more since his accession to the Republican party and his acceptance of office under President Grant. It is alleged that Longstreet was in the early morning ordered to move around the left flank of the Union forces with a portion of his corps, and at the same time make a vigorous front attack with the remainder. A success on the Union left was to be followed up by the other Confederate troops, in order successively from their right to their left.
However it came about, the attack was, in fact, delayed until about four o'clock in the afternoon, at which time the Fifth Corps was up on our side and lay ..resting after its long march, along Rock Creek, at the Baltimore pike. Meanwhile, however, a change had taken place in the disposition of the Union forces—a change fraught with momentous consequences. General Sickles, dissatisfied with the ground on which his corps was drawn up and seeing that the ridge over which the Emmittsburg road ran in his front was at some points higher than his own, suddenly and without notice either to Meade or to Hancock, advanced his troops to the Emmittsburg road, along which he extended his line (Humphreys's division on the right) as far as the Peach Orchard, from which point it was "refused," or drawn back at an angle toward, but not to, Little Round Top, the left of the" corps resting on the "Devil's Den," a wild, rocky bit of country strangely in contrast with the general character of the region. So that when Longstreet, after compassing his long detour, brought Hood's and McLaws's divisions up against the Union left, that line had been advanced to meet him part way, and offered to his attack an angle both sides of which it was in his power to enfilade by artillery fire.
The causes which had delayed the Confederate attack took nothing from its vehemence when once it fell. The men of the Third Corps met the assault with the utmost bravery, battling long and hard as became the old divisions of Hooker and Kearney. But even before the troops along the Emmittsburg road and from the Peach Orchard to the "Devil's Den " were assailed, the Confederates were passing around Sickles's flank to lay hold on Little Round Top, so strangely left undefended. It was the prescience and prompt action of General Gouverneur K. Warren which discerned the hostile advance in this direction and brought up the brigade of Vincent from the Fifth Corps, which, after a deadly struggle, often hand to hand, defeated this dangerous movement and made the Union flank secure.
But now the long-prepared attack fell with deadly fury upon the left of the Third Corps at the "Devil's Den," and extended gradually along its entire line. At last the center was broken at the Peach Orchard, and both the lines which formed the fatal angle were taken in reverse and rear by the eager Confederates, who poured in great numbers through the gap they had made. In this appeared the natural effects of the error committed by Sickles in advancing his line. The troops which were hurried to his aid came into positions in which they fought on unequal terms and from which each division was in turn driven out by the Confederates appearing on its flank. Barnes's division of the Fifth Corps, Caldwell's of the Second, and Ayers's "regular" division were successively thrown into action, only to be forced back with the loss of nearly half their numbers. This, however, did not prevent the display of the utmost gallantry; and the battle on the left, during the afternoon of the 2d of July at Gettysburg, will always be celebrated for its deeds of daring and for the stern and long resistance offered to the Confederate advance.
But, meanwhile, what of the left center? We have seen that Longstreet with two divisions had attacked the Union left, both in flank and in front, and had succeeded in driving Sickles out of the Peach Orchard and in beating back the troops of the Fifth and Second Corps sent to his support, although Little Round Top had been made secure by the sagacity and energy of Warren. It was part of the scheme of battle that, so soon as Longstreet should gain ground, the other divisions of Lee's army should advance, in order from right to left, and take up the assault upon the Union position. The corps on Longstreet's left was Hill's, and Hill's right division was Anderson's. This division, accordingly, should have advanced immediately upon the breaking through of Sickles's line; and its advance would have been straight against the left of the Second Corps. What, in fact, occurred?
Hancock had, with great anxiety, seen the throwing forward of Sickles's corps to the Emmittsburg road. As he watched the movement of Humphreys's division he turned to his staff and said: "Gentlemen, that is a splendid advance. But," he added after a moment's pause, " those troops will be coming back again very soon." Sickles's change of position had opened a wide gap between the Third Corps and the Second. Partially to fill this space, the Fifteenth Massachusetts and Eighty-second New York were thrown forward to the Emmittsburg road, at the Codori House, and Brown's Rhode Island battery was pushed to the front to cover with its fire a portion of the field thus exposed. And so the left center of our line waited to see what would come of Sickles's venturesome initiative. It was even later in the afternoon when General Meade learned the error which his subordinate had committed. The order to recall the Third Corps was on his lips when the roar of musketry told that the battle was joined, and that, for good or for ill, Sickles must be supported in his advanced position.
The course of this narrative does not require us to give a detailed account of the terrible fighting on the left: in the Peach Orchard, on the rugged slopes of Little Round Top, amid the rocky gorges of the "Devil's Den," or in the historical Wheat Field where Caldwell's division of the Second Corps lost half of all the officers and men it carried into action, including the heroic Zook, of New York, Cross, of New Hampshire, and Roberts, of Pennsylvania. With that division, his own—that of which he took command amid the wreck and disorder of Antietam and which he had led with so much glory at Fredericksburg and at Chancellorsville—duty did not allow Hancock to go when it was sent down to the left to assist its hard-pressed comrades of the Third Corps. It was his part to remain with his other divisions and hold the left center, on which at any time the storm might burst. But now, up from the left comes the news that Longstreet has driven everything before him and Sickles has been desperately wounded; and soon an order from General Meade places Hancock in command of the whole left wing. At once he rides away, taking with him Willard's brigade of Hays's division. He sees Hum