Little Round Top is hallowed ground; it’s a place where courage, death, and valor met on a bloody hill. It’s a place where the extreme heroic actions of a few, helped extend the reach of freedom for those in bondage. Union men defended that small knoll and their sacrifice literally saved a young nation. Little Round Top served as the last Southern anchor point of the Union Army on the Second Day of the Battle of Gettysburg. If the defending soldiers were overwhelmed by the Confederate forces at this critical location, then the Union Armies Left Flank would fall. The Confederates would then gain the high ground and like dominoes, the Union Army would have toppled upon its self. If the Union Army was routed at Gettysburg in the Northern State of Pennsylvania, Confederate General Robert Lee would be free to march his Army south uncontested and force President Lincoln to capitulate to the Confederate Cause.
On the early morning of July 2, 1863, the high ground on the Union Force’s far left flank laid undefended from an impending Confederate attack. Without orders and on his own initiative, Union Colonel Strong Vincent, knowing the vital importance of the position ordered his Third Brigade to occupy and defend the high ground at a small hill called Little Round Top. The order to secure this vital position was given to the 20th Maine Volunteers Commanded by Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. Only a year previous, Colonel Chamberlain was a Professor of Rhetoric at Bowdoin College in Maine. He spoke more than 8 languages fluently but had little military experience and only became the Commander of the Infantry Company a month previously. Colonel Chamberlain was given the order from Colonel Strong Vincent to, “hold the ground at all hazards”. Within minutes of taking their positions on that little rocky hill, the 20th Maine was attacked by the 15th Alabama, Commanded by Colonel William Oates. Multiple attacks by the Confederates were thrown up that hill and were repulsed by the Union Troops. After each attack, the Confederates shifted their forces to flank and overwhelm the 20th Maine. After many assaults on their position, Union Forces found themselves stretched thin and without ammunition to defend against another attack. Colonel Chamberlain’s orders were clear, there was to be no surrender. Without hope of reinforcements, little ammunition nor men to hold the line, the situation was dire. At that moment, the Professor from Bowdoin College gave the order to those left in his Command to equip bayonets. With no other options available, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain issued the order to attack down the blood drenched hill. This action served to confuse and disorient the Confederate Forces and turned the tide of the battle. The Confederate forces never recovered from the Chamberlain’s bayonet charge and were driven from the field saving the high ground and the Union’s left flank.
Colonel William Oats, Commander of the 15th Alabama Infantry who lost half his force on that gory day explained, “the dead literally covered the ground”. Union Army Colonel Strong Vincent who ordered the defense of Little Round Top was mortally wounded while rallying his men. He was promoted to General while on his death bed before succumbing to his wounds. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain survived the three-day Battle of Gettysburg and continued to lead men into battle. At the Second Battle of Petersburg, Colonel Chamberlain was severely wounded and was suspected to die of his wounds and was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. He even out maneuvered death and survived the wound to live till age 85. After the war he served as the Governor of Maine as well as President of Bowdoin College.
The History that can still be felt at Little Round Top is palatable to the senses. Take the time to wonder the many monuments dedicated to all that fought there. My suggestion is to read the book “Killer Angeles” by Michael Shaara. Its not a long read but is informative beyond measure and written in such a way that is pure historical bliss. Reading the book will help you acclimatize yourself to the many facets of the Battle of Gettysburg and will give you additional information to help you more enjoy your visit.
Incredible Museums should be cherished and loved; Motorcycle Museums should be memorialized. I would call Barber Motorsports Museum a Two Wheeled Shrine of epic proportions. Plan a trip there if feasible and make it a priority.
I am in the process of planning a ride through Southeast Colorado which I am calling the American Travesty Tour. I try to research the historical significance of places that I plan on visiting on my motorcycle. I find that a bit of inquiry before the trip, makes the sites I see more vibrant and impactful. Planning this ride really made me reflect upon the concept of the duel Characteristic of Man. The notion that an individual can be both good and evil is not all that easy to swallow until one really dwells upon the deep unending depth of an individual’s soul. Were all capable of doing wondrous positive things as well as committing horrific acts of evil. What is an even more bazaar is that individuals often can do these things in conjunction with one another. Researching the historical significance of the Sand Creek Massacre and the Granada War Relocation Center in Southeast Colorado put into perspective the wrongs that my own country has committed. These are not the only sins that burden my own cultural identity but give me a sense of what we are all capable of doing if we do not live with an ethical and spiritual conscious. As a combat veteran, I can tell you that I am proud to be an American but one also must keep their hearts open to learning opportunities that we can learn from the past.
On November 29th 1864, America lost its moral compass when a force of Colorado US Volunteer Calvary under the command of US Army Colonel John Chivington attacked a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapaho Native Americans. The encampment was filled with mostly women and children, since the men were out hunting food for the upcoming winter. The band of Indians were requested to move to the Sand Creek area of Southeast Colorado and were guaranteed their safety by the American Government. In their village flew an American Flag along with a White Flag underneath the stars and stripes which was raised by the tribe to show their peaceful nature. Most adult Cheyenne and Arapaho men in the encampment were either sick or too old to attend the hunt. There is no real accurate causality list but it is safe to report that more than 100 Arapaho and Cheyenne Native Americans were killed, mostly women and children. This attack became known as the Sand Creek Massacre. This blood bath lead to further violence throughout the region when countless reprisals were made against white settlers in response to the Sand Creek Massacre by Native American Warriors. It’s a classic sad tale of hate begetting hate. Not all the military personal under Colonel Chivington participated in the massacre. Captain Soule who was in charge of Company D of the 1st Colorado Calvary ordered his men to stand down and did not attack when given the charge orders. Captain Soule latter testified against Colonel Chivington. On April 23, 1865 Silas Soule was murdered in Denver, CO while on duty as a Provost Marshal. Evidence suggests that his untimely death was payback for his eye witness testimony against Colonel Chivington.
Granada War Relocation Center, also known Camp Amache was a Japanese Relocation Camp located just outside Granada, CO in Southeast Colorado. In the spring of 1942, Japanese Americans were rounded up and forced from their homes and made to move to one of ten such Japanese Relocation Camps. Individuals were only allowed to bring one bag to the relocation centers and were forced to sell their valuables and property including pets and livestock before getting forced out of their homes. It’s hard to fathom such fear and hate which lead to such an abysmal act. While their family members were stuck in War Re-Location Camps, Japanese Americans were fighting the fascists in Europe. The US Army 442nd Regiment was made up of mostly men of Japanese ancestry and was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American Warfare. The 442nd Infantry Regiment earned 9486 Purple Hearts and was awarded eight Presidential Unit Citations. Their motto was “Go for Broke” and they lived up to that creed with twenty-one of their members being awarded the Medal of Honor.
I never have posted my pre-ride research before an upcoming ride but felt so affected by what I learned that I wanted to put in words and share. I plan on taking this journey in the next few months and will hopefully be able to share more information.