In July of 1863 the Western Maryland Railroad connected Gettysburg to the east, and an unfinished extension paralleled Chambersburg Pike (now US 30) on the west side of town. Although rails had not yet been laid, the roadbed was finished, including a series of three cuts through the north-south ridges. On the afternoon of July 1st these served as protection to Confederate units advancing on the field, but became a fatal trap when Union troops attacked the cut. The railroad was completed after the war and is still in daily use today.

The Railroad Cut at Gettysburg

The scene looks west through the middle Railroad Cut under the Reynolds Avenue bridge

Troops from Confederate Brigadier General Joseph R. Davis’s Brigade – the 2nd Mississippi, 42nd Mississippi and 55th North Carolina – took shelter in the middle cut as the Union 6th Wisconsin, joined by the 84th and 95th New York, attacked from the south. The 6th’s Lieutenant Colonel Rufus Dawes reported that around 160 out of the 450 men of his regiment fell in the charge. But when they reached the cut Confederate troops found it almost impossible to return fire due to the steep sides of the embankment. Many Confederates were killed and over two hundred captured.

The Railroad cut looking east from the Reynolds Avenue bridge

Looking southeast from the Reynolds Avenue bridge over the cut, with the monuments to the 95th New York and 6th Wisconsin. Chambersburg Road (U.S. 30) parallels the railroad in the distance.

 

Looking west at the middle Railroad Cut and the Reynolds Avenue bridge at Gettysburg

Looking west at the middle Railroad Cut and the Reynolds Avenue bridge. Several monuments can be seen to the right (north) of the cut. From left to right: the white shaft of the 3rd Indiana Cavalry ; the 147th New York Infantry; the headquarters marker for Davis’ Brigade, C.S.A. just barely peeking over the road; the statue of Brigadier General James Wadsworth; the 56th Pennsylvania Infantry just to left of the small clump of trees; and just to its right the headquarters marker of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 1st Corps, U.S.A.

Looking east at the eastern railroad cut through Seminary Ridge at Gettysburg.

Looking east at the eastern railroad cut through Seminary Ridge. Although the cut was here at the time of the battle, no rails had been laid. Gettysburg is just beyond the cut, and General Lee’s Headquarters Quality Inn Motel is just to the right of the trees. A switch branching north to the facilities of Gettysburg’s tourist railroad can be seen at the eastern edge of the cut. The four guns of the Salem, Virginia, Battery were in reserve on the north (left) bank of the cut on July 2nd and the two smoothbore Napoleons remained there during the barrage on the 3rd, but were not engaged.

Looking east towards Gettysburg from the Reynolds Avenue bridge