Are You Going the Wrong Way?

We followed a trail and climbed to the top of Devil’s Den, a tumbled cluster of large boulders. It provided several good hiding places for Confederate soldiers to shoot at Union soldiers.

Late afternoon sunshine burned my back. I looked directly across the wide valley named the Slaughter Pen by Confederate soldiers to the hill known as Little Round Top.

Devil’s Den in distance as seen from Little Round Top; Slaughter Pen in middle ground

In today’s post about Gettysburg National Military Park, I want to take the viewpoint of the July 2nd battle for Little Round Top from the Confederate perspective. To read about it from the Union perspective, please read my previous post: Gettysburg—the Story of Little Round Top.

Above Devil’s Den and farther along the ridge to my left (north), Confederate sharpshooters would have been arranged. From this vantage point I looked across the valley and easily picked out the statue of Brig. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren. What an easy target he made.

If Brig. Gen. Warren did indeed survey the battlefield from the current placement of his statue, how in the world did those Confederate sharpshooters miss him? Without his actions the Union would not have been prepared for the danger at Little Round Top.

Farther north, Confederate batteries lined the west side of the battlefield. They faced the Union troops positioned on the east side known as Cemetery Ridge.

Cemetery Ridge, Devil’s Den, and Slaughter Pen—such appropriate names, don’t you think?

We climbed above Devil’s Den and drove farther south along West Confederate Avenue on Warfield Ridge. We came upon the Alabama monument.

The artist had portrayed a dying soldier who handed a living soldier his remaining ammunition. Above them both, a female figure, the spirit of Alabama stood erect. Her right hand clutched the dying soldier’s shoulder while her left arm extended above the head of the living. She pointed at something in the distance, symbolically she urged the living to continue the fight.

Perhaps it was the fading light striking the sharp edges of the statues. Perhaps it was my physical weariness from climbing the hills and boulders in the heat of the day coupled with my emotional weariness from thinking about all the lives lost. Perhaps it was the symbolism of the memorial with that single exclamation emblazoned above the figures: Alabamians!

Whatever it was, I felt as if the statue’s weight of stone and bronze descended on me—the crushing grief of an entire state. Tears stung my eyes. Slowly I exhaled. Ohh.

The fighting was fierce for Little Round Top. Reports of the battle stated: “the blood stood in pools on the rocks.”

Confederate and Union blood. Blood of men and boys from Alabama and Maine and Michigan and New York and Pennsylvania and Texas.

American blood.

I wish so many lives had not been lost on both sides of the Civil War. I wish so many families had not lost their sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers. I wish close friends and brothers, sons and fathers had not been separated by different political viewpoints, in some cases even facing each other on the opposite sides of their guns.

Each side fought for a cause they believed in. Great debates raged around them—debates that led to the Civil War or War Between the States.

Great debates swirl around our country now. In the midst of it all, we seem to have forgotten our manners. We seem to have forgotten each person is entitled to his or her opinion.

We drove back into the parking lot at the base of Devil’s Den. Some of the smaller roads along the auto-tour route at the Gettysburg battlefield were one way. We couldn’t go any farther because a sign proclaimed: Wrong Way.

It struck me. If only those Confederate soldiers had seen a sign proclaiming: Wrong Way, perhaps they would not have entered the Slaughter Pen. Perhaps they would never have attempted to scale Little Round Top. Perhaps so much loss could have been avoided. If only.

Whichever side you take in current debates, please do not let your anger guide your speech or actions. Stop and consider. Are you going about it the wrong way?

We’ve already had one civil war.

One is enough.


© 2018 SuZan Klassen

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