« 上一頁繼續 »
the Potomac should stand in its place and receive whatever blows the Army of Northern Virginia might deliver; and as the news of this resolution ran through the ranks, from Culp's Hill to Round Top, every soldier's heart responded with a fervent Amen!
GETTYSBURG.—THE THIRD DAY.
When day broke upon the 3d of July it found the Army of the Potomac in the identical positions to which Hancock had directed the broken brigades of the First and Eleventh Corps and the first reenforcements arriving upon the field in the afternoon of Wednesday. While, in general, the plan of battle was strictly defensive, it was imperative that Johnson should at once be driven out of the breastworks upon the right which had been captured by him late in the previous evening. To this task the Twelfth Corps, under Slocum, supported by Shaler's brigade from the Sixth, promptly and gallantly addressed itself. Johnson had been heavily re-enforced, and the nature of the country made combinations for the attack upon him exceedingly difficult; but the Union troops would not be denied and, after a bloody fight, the enemy were driven out and our line became through all its length complete. And now the Army of the Potomac awaits in silence, in suspense, in anxiety, but not in dread, the attack which it is known to all, from the highest to the lowest, Lee must needs make. For him to retreat without a decisive encounter is morally impossible. Neither the political nor the military exigencies of the Confederacy will admit of it. But will he seek first to manoeuvre the Army of the Potomac out of its position by a movement around one or the other of its flanks? If he commits himself to an immediate attack, will it be against our left, where the terrible battle of the second day has barely ceased to rage; against our left center, along Cemetery Ridge, now held by Hancock; against our right center on Cemetery Hill, which Early and Rodes only last night attempted; or against our right, from which the Confederates have this very morning been driven? As the veteran regiments of the Potomac army lie awaiting the coming assault, does each soldier more hope that the honor of the conflict may come to him and to his comrades under the same tattered flag; or that the decision of the Confederate commander may direct the blow upon some other part of the long line, and the cup thus pass from his own lips? Does the long delay bring relief to the feelings with which the troops arose from their bivouac; or does it but intensify the sense of strain as the period of suspense is prolonged? Only for himself can any of the survivors of that memorable day answer these questions.
Meanwhile Hancock was intently engaged in preparing for the defense of the long line assigned to him, which embraced the positions occupied by the First Corps, now under Newton, as well as those held by the Second, of which Gibbon had taken immediate command. The popular notion regarding the third day at Gettysburg greatly exaggerates the strength of the Union left center. Abrupt, and at points even rugged, as were the faces of Culp's and Cemetery Hills, the descent from Cemetery Ridge toward the west was not considerable, even at the first; while, as our line ran still farther south, the ridge shrank more and more into the plain, until, in the positions where the Third Corps had the day before at first been stationed, the ground presented scarcely any advantage over that directly in its front.
In fact, the point which the Confederate commander had selected for his great attack was at about the middle of Hancock's long line, and was also about at the mean as regarded elevation. "The clump of trees," which Lee had that morning pointed out to Longstreet, stood upon ground which a casual observer three or four hundred yards in front might have deemed little higher than his own, although the eye of a trained artillerist would at once have seen that it afforded just elevation enough for the best effect of canister. To the right of this position lay the division of Alexander Hays. "The clump of trees" itself and the ground immediately to the left was occupied by the division of Gibbon, while farther on was Doubleday's division of the First Corps (comprising the Second Vermont brigade, of which we shall have much to say), and then Caldwell's division of the Second Corps. The shorter convex line of the Union army allowed the service of far less artillery than was massed upon the longer concave line of the Confederates; but, on the other hand, the formation of the Union line facilitated in a high degree the passage of troops from flank to flank, as the exigencies of battle should require. Finally, the convexity of the Union line might make the positions of the artillery reserve, of the ammunition trains and of headquarters and staff an almost intolerable one, as the fire of three or four miles of batteries should converge into the narrow space between the Union wings.
I esteem it a great good fortune to have from the pen of a soldier, a jurist and a man of affairs, the account of an interview with General Hancock just before the mighty cannonade of the 3d of July broke out. There are countless tributes—in letters, in books, and in official reports—to the bearing and demeanor of the commander of the Second Corps upon the field of battle; but the impression made by Hancock upon a man like Wheelock G. Veazey *
* Then Colonel of the Sixteenth Vermont regiment: subsequently Justice of the Supreme Court of Vermont, Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, and now (1894) a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission.