As did Colonel Strong Vincent's Brigade on the Union left, Brigadier General George Sears Greene's
brigade of about 1,500 men would face a daunting challenge at the Union line's opposite terminus on Culp's Hill**. As Major
General Daniel Sickles' 3rd Corps line crumbled at the southern end of the battlefield, the Union's
Commanding General George Gordon Meade ordered several brigades from Major General Henry Slocum's 12th
Corps, to which Greene belonged, to draw from Culp's Hill and proceed to the southern end of the
field for support. As the re-deployment progressed, General Greene's brigade found itself alone on
the hill. General Greene had earlier reconnoitered the ground, expertly positioned his men, and
ordered them to entrench. His foresight would serve his men well as Confederates from Major General
Edward "Allegheny" Johnson's Division repeatedly, ferociously attacked the bluecoats with
almost three times the number of Northern men present on this hill.
With the acrid smoke of thousands of muskets lingering in the
air and darkness closing upon the men below, the visibility on this battered hill slowly but inexorably faded. Likewise did
the opportunity for the continuation of the hammering Southern attacks. General Greene's New Yorkers held against incredible
odds with Colonel David Ireland's 137th New York securing the far right. As Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain's 20th Maine had
protected the far left and would not give, so the stouthearted men of the 137th would bend but did not break. The far right of
the Union line would remain secure. The brigades taken from the hill would return late that night to find the breastworks below
the 137th New York occupied by the southerners who sought to take this hill. General Greene's troops, reinforced by their
returning comrades, would again hold their ground when fighting resumed in the early morning of the following day.
In his official report, Major General Alpheus Williams would address both the
contributions of the brigade and General Greene's skill in laying out the breastworks to advantage. "General Greene, in
attempting to extend his brigade to occupy the entire line of breastworks, after the withdrawal of the rest of the corps, found
that the enemy had already seized upon and occupied in strong force the right of the line, from which he attacked Greene's brigade
with great vigor. Fortunately, this brigade occupied a portion of the breastworks, which, turning at almost right angles to the
line on the right, ascended a broken and rocky slope toward our left, and presented a steep wall of rock toward the enemy. A narrow
space between the angle of the breastworks and the open field toward, the Baltimore Pike was densely wooded and full of large rocks
and boulders. General Greene seized with skill and judgment the advantages of this position, and held it with his small brigade
against overwhelming numbers with signal gallantry and determination. At length, after three hours' night conflict, having been
re-enforced by detachments from the First and Eleventh Corps, and subsequently by Kane's brigade returning to its position, General
Greene succeeded in repulsing the enemy from his immediate front. This gallant officer merits especial mention for the faithful and
able manner in which he conducted this defense, and protected, under difficult circumstances, a most important part of our line."
Above, Major General George S. Greene (his rank at war's end) is pictured pointing
over the works and the hill his skill and determination helped to secure. As did the rest of his brigade, the 149th New York dug
trenches and erected breastworks as ordered. A captain in the 149th would later offer a glimpse into the hell they feared this hill
would become. "The pale faces, starting eye-balls, and nervous hands grasping loaded muskets, told how terrible were those
moments of suspense."
In the picture of the relief to your right, you can see some evidence of how the men in blue constructed their cover and how the
works appeared. Heavy logs allowed protection for all but the head and shoulders, allowing soldiers to fire and reload in comparative
Click on the image to your right to see a reproduction of breastworks similar to those
constructed by General George Greene's men on Culp's Hill. You can find several small sections of reconstructed Confederate
breastworks behind the Confederate lines near the Mule Shoe Salient on the Spotsylvania Battlefield near Spotsylvania Court House,
** Although Culp's Hill is
frequently described as the far right of the Union line at Gettysburg, Union troops of the 61st Pennsylvania on
Wolf's Hill, slightly southeast from Culp's Hill, state that they were the
"extreme right of infantry of the army". After a 37 mile march to reach the battlefield, the men of General John Sedgwick's
6th Corps perhaps earned the right to say as much.
There are several monuments to the regiments in Brigadier General Thomas H. Neill's Brigade of the 2nd Division of the Union 6th Corps
on Wolf's Hill. However, they are currently on private property and are not accessible without permission of the property owner.