"DAY TWO: 20TH MAINE - JOSHUA CHAMBERLAIN" Top 5 Page for this destination Gettysburg National Military Park Things to Do Tip by mtncorg
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While the O’Rorke’s men were saving the right flank on the Little Round Top, the men of the 20th Maine defended the left against the 15th and 47th Alabama. These regiments had swung high on Big Round Top to avoid persistent fire from detached U.S. Sharpshooters. They came in hard on the 20th Maine. On and on they grappled with each other, the Alabamians trying to extend their right flank to go around the Federal left, but Col. Joshua Chamberlain, commander of 20th Maine, kept thinning his own force to meet the threat. The leader of the 47th went down and his men began to fall back leaving the 15th by itself. Their commander, Col. William Oates, pressed the attack for awhile against a “… fire that was so destructive that my line wavered like a man trying to walk against a strong wind ….” One of Oates’ captains went down crying, “Oh God! That I could see my mother.” Oates decided it was time to retreat, but just as he was about to, the initiative was wrenched from his hands by Chamberlain. Chamberlain realized he didn’t have enough ammunition left to defend against another charge so he ordered a bayonet attack. The attack - still taught as a example of small unit action by the U.S. Army today - caught the Alabamians by total surprise and, in Oates sad words, “We ran like a herd of wild cattle.” The Little Round Top and the Union left was secure. Chamberlain and one of his sergeants were awarded the Medal of honor for their actions that day.
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