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Devil's Den




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5/12/02

 
Devil's Den


Day 2 Map

Rocks of Devil's Den

Devil's Den!


Sharpshooters pen 1998

The area just to west west of Little Round Top made of of Large Diabase bolders created millons of years ago from volcanic activity.....This group of Large Bolders that we know as "Devils Den" has a long and very interesting History.We will not only examine what its role was during the battle of Gettysburg but a brief history of the area in general

Sitting in a rocky vally on the west side of Little Round Top is the area we know today as "Devil's Den. Over 150 million years in age this area of large boulders was formed by the activity of glaciers during the ice age. The igneous rock was forced up through the earth during the ice age. The area known as "The Gettysburg Sill is about Forty miles Long and nearly 2000 feet thick. It can be seen quite easily by flying over in an airplane or helicopter.This greystone and shale formation is prone to erosion and has been eroding for thousands of years.The rocks are sensitive to heat and cold,wind and rain,snow and ice.

It is very possible that the ground in this area was host to another struggle long before the Civil War. Given the nature of the ground with its natural defenses and cracks and crevices it is only understandable that this "Hallowed Ground" is actually good ground for a battle.Many artifacts including arrowheads of different size,tomahawks and other relics have long been storied to have been found on this rocky ridge of the Gettysburg Sill.An old story sometimes heard is that "Devils Den" was the place of a massive Indian Battle of two tribes fighting over the "Big Rocks" because it was once a pyramid type structure that was deystroyed by natural forces. Though unlikely it is odd that you can even to this day walk in and around and through these rocks. Many caverns and tunnels are accesible to small adults and children. In fact it has become a place for children to climb and play through the rocks.
The den
The Diabase bolders ofDevil's Den.
Photo Courtesy of National Park Service
The first people to have setteled the area we know today as Gettysburg were of German and scottish decent. They came in the early 1700's seeking freedom and a place called "Paridise". William Penn would later name a place in Lancaster County Paradise for the same reasons. William Penns sons would have a tract of land known as "The manor of Maske" which would consist of over 40,000 acres and would include the den area. The main lanmark of coure in the area would be "Big Round Top". With a height of 786 Ft. above sea level, Big round Top at that time called "Adam Lynn's Hill" named after an early settler, would show up in the earliest deeds in the 1760's. The early familys--Lynn's,Sherfy's,Armstrong's,Blacks', Miller's and Wood's would be the first modern family's to inhabit the land. The evidence of this is that rock carvings have been known to be found in and around the area of Devil's Den, most of them ranging from 1849 to the 1880's.

4th New York Battery
4th N Y Battery Monument
Devil's Den

Photo courtesy of National Park Service
Where did this area get the name Devils Den?. Is it something evil? Or does it just reflect the epic battle that was fought there? According to tradition , the area of Devil's Den was inhabited by a type of blacksnake called "The Devil". This is understandable sice snakes have traditionally beek frowned upon and thought of as eerie and unwelcome pests. The Bible refers to the Devil as a "serpent". Anyway as tradition goes this black snake made its home in this large area of rocks. It is a cool and cavern like area perfect for snakes.Even to this day there are several species of snake that still roam the area in and around the round tops.It is very likely that soldiers from the battle on both sides wanted to remember the terrible place that they fought upon and asked of its name from local citizens. These locals may have called it Devil's Den. John Bachelder an early park guide was the one who first popularized the title through his tours and his extensive maps which are a cornerstone for marking this ground even to this day.

On July Second, James Smith commanding the 4th NY Battery put his men at Devils Den. The Confederates attacked Smith's men in the Devils Den from three positions all at one time.The area was not favorable to either side. The large rocks of 20 feet or more was a horrible place for a battle. With shot and shell racing in around and over the rocks, many troops were killed as a result of scrapnel from these projectiles bopuncing off the boulders.As in many places during the Civil War where the ground was less than favorable,men were thrown into confusion. The battle in this area would switch back and forth several times. Smith placed four of his guns in the vicinity of Trangular Field where they fought off Confederate forces, both infantry and artillery. The artillery commanded by Brigadeer General Henry L. Benning made life hell for Smiths artillerymen. Smith then would turn his attention to the infantry which was quickly advancing up the triangular field toward the Devil's Den. The 15th Georgia and 1st Texas made repeated assults on the heights slowly but surely wearing down the union defenders.For over two hours this desparate assualt and defence would rage in the area until the 1st Texas would finally break through and capture the three of Smiths guns.The 44th Georgia would then pass over the den and make thier way through the gourge next to Little Round Top. The 6th New Jersey and 40th Ny would take on these alabamians and another bloody drawn out struggle would take place in the Valley of Death."

Fighting at Devil's Den
Union retreat from Devil's Den
Drawn by Alfred Waud after the battle.

Battles and Leaders and National Park Service

Back and Forth the battle would rage until the Union defenders were forced to retreat. Devil's Den would be captured by the Confederates and they would use it as a sharpshooters pen to pick off Union Defenders on Little Round Top and the surrounding area.Though the Confederates would take the Den they would fail in thier attemt to secure the heights of Little and Big Round Top.As night approached the confederacy would draw up plans for a massive attack on the middle of the Union line on July 3rd and the Den area would take a back seat.


Little Round Top 1863
The Rocks of Devil's Den.
Library of Congress
In the following days and weeks after the battle, men from both the Confederacy and Union would lie decomposing in the hot summer sun. Photographers would come to photograph them before burial details could bury the dead.Devil's Den had always been a strange place with alot more to it than the vicious struggle that took place here on July 2nd of 1863.It has a geological significance, a historical one and a long history of fables,legend and stories that would seem very believeable. I definately recoomend a book entitled "Devil's Den A History and Guide" by Garry E Adleman and Timothy H Smith which can be obtained at the bookstore at The Gettysburg National Military Park. This book goes in depth with a complete History of this most visited spot of the battlefield.


Panoramic View of the "Devils Den" November 11 1863(Click to Enlarge)


Panoramic View of the "Devils Den" Feb 2001(Click to Enlarge)

 


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