Little Round Top from the Valley of Death

Little Round Top seems even more imposing after moving down from Houck’s Ridge into the Plum Run Valley. After the Battle of Gettysburg this area was tagged the “Valley of Death,” a name that hasn’t caught on as readily as many of the other battlefield features. From here the highest part of the summit is about 150 feet overhead. The scale is better appreciated when noticing the group of visitors around the monument on the left side of the summit. This is the monument to the 91st Pennslvania, and just behind it is the highest point of Little Round Top’s summit. Down the hill to the right is the “castle” monument to the 44th New York. This is the largest regimental monument on the Gettysburg battlefield, with a second floor observation deck and a tower the height of a four story building. On the far right of the photo is the monument to the 16th Michigan. This is the southern edge of the summit of Little Round Top, which drops down another fifty feet before beginning to climb again to Big Round Top.

The 16th Michigan monument also marks the western flank of the Union brigade of Strong Vincent during the fighting on July 2nd. Vincent’s Brigade were the first combat troops to arrive on the hill and formed facing to the south (to the right) to stop a Confederate attack coming from the direction of Big Round Top. The brigade formed roughly in a line that started at the 16th Michigan monument and stretched directly away from the photographer to end with Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine.

But that was not the only threat to Little Round Top. Texans and Alabamans of Hood’s Confederate Division were fighting their way up the slope in the photo, clawing their way up boulders and through the underbrush. Only the last minute arrival of Stephen Weed’s Brigade, led by Patrick O’Rorke’s 140th New York, kept the hill in Union hands. But they paid a heavy price. Strong Vincent, Stephen Weed and Patrick O’Rorke were all killed or mortally wounded on Little Round Top.

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