July 02, 2007

Gratuitous Civil War Geekery Posting


Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Little Round Top on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.*** Thanks to the movie Gettysburg, many more people of late recognize the heroism of Col. Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Regiment that held the extreme left of the Union line on Little Round Top, and rightly so. However, if you have to pick THE hero of the Republic on that hill that day, the honor might very well instead go to the man pictured above, Col. Strong Vincent.

Vincent was the Brigade Commander of the brigade that included Chamberlain's regiment (as well as Vincent's own 83rd Pennsylvania, 44th New York and 16th Michigan) and was on his way up to the line when he was found by a messenger sent from Brig. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren, the Chief Engineer of the Army of the Potomac: That horse's ass Dan Sickles (my words, not Warren's) had moved the III Corp forward of the ridge line against orders, leaving the Round Tops exposed. Warren needed infantry to occupy the position quick before the Rebs could get to it. When Vincent heard this, he decided to bring his own brigade directly to the spot, without waiting for orders from his superiors. He beat the Confederates there by about ten minutes. Standing on the summit of Little Round Top in the heat of battle and rallying his men with the cry "Don't give an inch!" he was hit by a shot in the groin and fell.

Vincent was promoted to the rank of General on the field for his heroism and acumen, although it is unlikely that he ever became aware of this tribute. He died of his wound on July 7.

***It should be noted that the Round Tops and the Devil's Den, which were on the left side of the Union line, were not the only scenes of combat that day. Instead, the Confederates pressed their attack all along the line, all the way over to Culp's Hill on the extreme right. Furthermore, the fighting went on well into the evening, with several Reb breakthroughs thrown back by the extreme effort of the Federals. To try and pick only one hero for the day (on either side) would be an exercise in pure futility.

UPDATE: Incidentally, of all the books I've read about Gettysburg, this is still perhaps the best of the lot:


High Tide at Gettysburg by Glenn Tucker. It covers not just the three days of fighting at Gettysburg itself, but Lee's entire Pennsylvania campaign, starting at the beginning of June and ending July 13 when he recrossed the Potomac back into Virginia. The book is well written and provides both a good overview as well as a great deal of fascinating detail. (For example, the 15th Alabama - which went against Chamberlain's 20th Maine - did so without water, their canteen party having been picked up by Union troops before the battle. What difference might full canteens have made in the outcome?)

Posted by Robert at July 2, 2007 10:59 AM | TrackBack

Yeah! You got that right! Woo Hoo!

Incidentally, if you look at the statue to Col. Vincent, which is at the public library on the bayfront in Erie, PA, you will see my husband's name on it; he was on the Strong Vincent committee, donchaknow.

Posted by: GroovyVic at July 2, 2007 10:56 AM

Chamberlain later wrote a few books himself:


Posted by: mojo at July 2, 2007 02:00 PM

Yes, I've got Passing of the Armies (in fact, I think it's the LMC's copy) and it's very good. I've been meaning to buy the rest of his work as well.

Posted by: Robbo the LB at July 2, 2007 02:06 PM

I actually have (and frequently wear) a Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain t-shirt. People usually wonder if the guy shown is Abraham Lincoln. *sheesh*

Posted by: The Commissar at July 2, 2007 02:21 PM

To tie this thread to the book meme above, I recently purchased Stephen Sears' 2003 history of the battle. Good stuff.

Posted by: ChrisN at July 2, 2007 06:40 PM

I've just got to say it: if it wasn't for Jeff Daniels (who, I hear from a reliable source, is a real jerk) and that movie, a lot of people wouldn't even know about Chamberlain.

But I'm biased, being from the same area as Vincent.

Incidentally, Robbo, did you know Vincent was an Episcopalian? Yep, I've even been to the church he attended. Verra nice.

Posted by: GroovyVic at July 3, 2007 07:03 AM