Chapter 20

by Christopher Rudolph © 2015

Chapter 20 – This poem, Charge of 20th Maine, focuses on how this regiment saved the left side of Little Round Top on July 2nd, 1863. Little Round Top was the left of the left Union flank. It was crucial that the 20th Maine hold this terrain. They were under fierce attack by the 15th Regiment Alabama Infantry, commanded by Colonel William Oates, which was part of General Law’s Brigade in General Hood’s Division. When totally out of ammunition, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain ordered the regiment to fix bayonets and charge. This charge saved the left side of Little Round Top. The right side of Little Round Top was still being attacked and is dealt with in Chapter 21. But saving the left side of Little Round Top, was crucial for being able to secure this tactical high ground. The 20th Maine, after all that they went through, were ordered to secure Big Round Top that night. They totally completed their mission.

chargeof20thmaine  Charge of 20th Maine

Chapter 20 – Charge of 20th Maine – 2nd Day

 

Rebel cannons began

Thundering in the West

Union Left trembling

Battering the ridge crest

 

Colonel Chamberlain ordered

Regiment to fall in

20th ME on the march

Battle soon to begin

 

Towards high ground they marched

Up over a bridge

Artillery fire growing louder

As it pounded the ridge

 

They continued up the rise

Until they had a great view

Of the battle raging below

Rebel army cutting through

 

The Rebels were trying to out flank

The Union Left side

They would be there soon

They were going to collide

 

Colonel Vincent told Chamberlain

This is where they would stop

20th ME must guard left flank

Of Little Round Top

 

The rest of the Brigade

Would form to the right

With 83rd and 44th

They would brace for the fight

                          

They formed around the hill

Staying off the crown bare

Rebels like to shoot high

Artillery raining up there

 

Steep slope in the woods

Strange place to fight

Soon they’d be facing

Hood’s Confederate might

 

So, on the extreme left

Of the Union line

Chamberlain’s 20th ME

Guarded the incline

 

Maine must hold the line

No rebels could pass

Union depended on them

Maine must fight to the last

 

These men from Maine

Must show their might

And the world will now see

How a professor can fight

 

Chamberlain ordered Captain Morrill

To take his fifty men from Company B

To the left front flank 

To be skirmishers in the trees

 

Company B was formed

From men from Piscataquis, Maine

Rebels attempting to out flank them

They must valiantly contain

 

Out there all alone

Clinging to a slope of despair

They were the left of the left

A line they could not let tear

 

To the summit top

Chamberlain quickly walked

Down below he viewed

Smoke cloaking masses of rocks

 

Red battle flags waving

Already at hill’s base

Masses of rebels yelling

They soon would face

 

Chamberlain went back to the line

Heard musketry explode

New York 44th

And 83rd PA did unload

 

They were shooting at rebels

Up the hill they did swarm

The battle getting hot

Setting sun still warm

 

The 20th Maine finding cover

Already now dug in

Behind rocks piled high

Let the battle begin

 

They charged fast

Like demons out of hell

Ferociously unleashed

Screaming the Rebel Yell

 

The sound was haunting

Filled many men with fear

But they were the end of the line

Army of Potomac ends here

 

Positioned behind rocks

The men hunched over and still

Chamberlain gave the order

To fire at will

 

A flurry of fire

Broke out to the right

The battle was on

The fight of all fights

 

Bullets cracked against rocks

And zipped through the leaves

15th Alabama was coming

Up through the trees

 

The Rebels were wearing

Uniforms gray yellow green

Disappearing at times

Behind a smoke screen

 

Blue soldiers bobbing

Grunting wailing

Clanging ramrods

Bullets sailing

 

Rising out of the trees

Dissolving in smoke

Blasted backwards battered

Rolling corpses croaked

 

Some got so close

Could see the bumps on their heads

In just a matter of seconds

They were soon filled with lead

 

Still they kept coming

Rebels forged ahead

Crouching and firing

Many men from Maine dead

 

The situation was dire

Now out of ammunition

But they couldn’t retreat

Must hold their position

 

If they don’t hold

The rebels will win

Sweep up over the hill

Whole Union flank caves in

 

Rebels were 30 yards away

Chamberlain from a gray rock large

Raising his swirling saber

Yelled, “Fix bayonets and charge!”

 

A roar of animal screams

Erupted from their chests

They poured over the crest

Down the hill they pressed

 

Down through dark bushes

Over rugged rocky ground       

Through twisted splintered trees

Down the hill they bound

 

Sharp bayonets pointed

Piercing through rebel hides

Blood gushing flowing

Out of their insides

 

Gray men below froze

Crouched then quickly turned

Running away from the Blue wave

Not wanting to be interred

 

Some just raised their hands

No time for them to run

Now they must surrender

The battle for them was done

 

Then through thick brush

Chamberlain squinted his eyes to see

Captain Morill wandering to him

With his boys from Company B

 

They had guarded the flank

The left of the left never fell

Them boys held their ground

They really had fought well

 

Chamberlain’s 20th Maine triumphed

The rebels were stopped

As the Second Day ended

The Union still held Little Round Top

 

The day was over

But no time to stop

Orders came for them

To climb Big Round Top

 

So, in the dark

The 20th Maine ascended

To the highest of high ground

Now to be defended

 

Go to Chapter 21

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