Little Round Top by Edwin Forbes
The left flank consisted of the 386 officers and men of the 20th Maine regiment and the 83rd Pennsylvania. Seeing the Confederates shifting around his flank, Chamberlain first stretched his line to the point where his men were in a single-file line, then ordered the southernmost half of his line to swing back during a lull following another Confederate charge. It was there that they “refused the line”—formed an angle to the main line in an attempt to prevent the Confederate flanking maneuver. Despite heavy losses, the 20th Maine held through two subsequent charges by the 15th Alabama and other Confederate regiments for a total of ninety minutes.
Chamberlain (knowing that his men were out of ammunition, his numbers were being depleted, and his men would not be able to repulse another Confederate charge) ordered his men to equip bayonets and counterattack. He ordered his left flank, which had been pulled back, to advance in a ‘right-wheel forward’ maneuver. As soon as they were in line with the rest of the regiment, the remainder of the regiment would charge akin to a door swinging shut. This simultaneous frontal assault and flanking maneuver halted and captured a good portion of the 15th Alabama. While Chamberlain ordered the advance, Lieutenant Holman Melcher spontaneously and separate to Chamberlain’s command initiated a charge from the center of the line that further aided the regiment’s efforts.
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain ordered the bayonet charge on Little Round Top.
During their retreat, the Confederates were subjected to a volley of rifle fire from Company B of the 20th Maine, commanded by Captain Walter G. Morrill, and a few of the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters, who had been placed by Chamberlain behind a stone wall 150 yards to the east, hoping to guard against an envelopment. This group, who had been hidden from sight, caused considerable confusion in the Confederate ranks.
Thirty years later, Chamberlain received a Medal of Honor for his conduct in the defense of Little Round Top. The citation read that it was awarded for “daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults, and ordering the advance position on the Great Round Top.” About Little Round Top
Little Round Top (left) and [Big] Round Top, photographed from Plum Run Valley in 1909