North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

July 18, 2013

Remembering Gettysburg 150 years later: Confederates fall at landmark battle

By Rob Thomas
Special to The North Jefferson News

Last in a series remembering the Battle of Gettysburg

The 15th Alabama continued to attack, pushing their way to within a gun barrel’s reach of the Union soldiers at Little Round Top at Gettysburg.

Union Col. Chamberlain, having lost one-third of his men, and now without ammunition, could not give up his position.  

In a desperate move because his men were practically out of ammunition, he yelled “Bayonets!” then readied his men for a downhill charge. Right into the oncoming 15th Alabama, the 20th Maine swept down the hillside, fighting with bayonets.  

The two armies were engaged in a brutal, bloody battle. The Alabama soldiers were pushed back and retreated down the hill. The most important fight of the battle was over as 22 men retrieved water for the brigade. After the battle, Oats commented that the difference between victory and defeat may have just been the missing 22 men.   

As the sun rose on the third day, Hardaway’s artillery placed two guns across from Seminary Ridge. Now with all four cannons firing, they were successful in supporting Confederate regiments.

The 5th Alabama sharpshooters moved to the southern borders of Gettysburg.  From this position, they could use their long-range rifles to fire on Union artillery positions.  The men of the 5th complained of having their arms and shoulders in pain from the continuous firing of muskets.  

The 5th Alabama received orders to reinforce divisions at Culp’s Hill. Arriving at daybreak, they engaged in battle at 8 a.m. From the eastern slope of the hill, the Union opened up deadly fire on the Confederates, shelling them for a half hour.  The fight lasted for three hours, with the Confederates unable to move the Union.  Around noon, the Union withdrew under orders from Union Gen. Johnson.

As the 10th Alabama battled in Gettysburg, Pvt. Bill Carmichael fought twice as hard. He fought for himself and his brother, Benjamin, who was with the 28th Alabama when captured while fighting at Shiloh. Benjamin was sent to Camp Chase in Ohio, where he remained until the end of the war when he was released.

Bill Carmichael fought from 1861 until the surrender in Appomattox, Va., where he took part in the battle before the surrender. Both brothers returned home to Jefferson County, Ala., where they lived and raised families.

Today many of their family still lives in the area. Gardendale resident Travis Stevens is a descendent of Benjamin Carmichael. Stevens is proud of his heritage.  Carmichael’s discharge papers are a priceless family treasure and a wonderful part of his family history.

At the end of the battle, both sides suffered great loss of life. The Confederates reported 20,000 killed. From the 6,000 men from Alabama, 2,249 lost their lives at Gettysburg. The Union suffered 23,000 losses.

Alabama had soldiers on the field of battle from the first shot fired until the end as both armies were leaving a ravaged town in the wake of war. The battle for Little Round Top was the most important battle of Gettysburg. The fight was the turning point of the battle, fought between the 20th Maine and 15th Alabama. If not for 22 men displaced, the Union may have been overtaken, placing the high ground in control of the Confederates.