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Little Round Top

Little Round Top was the site of a skirmish during the Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863 to July 4, 1863. It was so named because of its shape, a round, wooded hill located in Gettysburg, near to Big Round Top, named for the same reason, and for obvious size differentials. The Union army, led by General George G. Meade at that time, had situated their line so that the extreme left of the ranks were on top of a rocky hill, called Little Round Top.

A principle of military tactics in the Civil War period was to attack the flanks of the enemy line, since the most vulnerable point of any line is at its ends, where the defenders could present the least number of men to the enemy. Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain, in charge of the Twentieth Maine Infantry, was given the task by his superior officer of holding the left flank of the Union army at all costs. Chamberlain was then left to his own devices to hold the hill.

According to Chamberlain's report, the enemy was expected to attack the left flank "desperately," because it was the obvious weak point of the Union army. The attack, coordinated by General Longstreet and carried out by Colonel Oates's men, proceeded as expected, and, under fire, Chamberlain's men refused their left wing, which made his line into an L, turning back from the general line at right angles. His foresight in this situation repelled the first attack at the flank.

The enemy attack was vigorous, to the point that Chamberlain found his entire regiment running out of ammunition. At this, he ordered the fixing of bayonets, and led a screaming charge down the hill, his men firing their last rounds as they ran. The regiment to the right of the Twentieth Maine, commanded by Captain Morrill, sent forces down the hill as well to attack the fading Confederate forces, and practically the entire attacking brigade was killed or captured.

After this battle, Chamberlain reported a loss of 136 men killed, and 30 wounded, many mortally. After this battle, the 20th Maine was moved from the line to rest, and eventually to reinforce the center of the line the next day, in Pickett's Charge, the culmination of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Col. Chamberlain's report available at http://www.civil-war.net/reports/JLC-Gettysburg.htm

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