Gettysburg's Peach Orchard
Longstreet, Sickles, and the Bloody Fight for the “Commanding Ground” Along the Emmitsburg Road
Imprint: Savas Beatie
More books have been written about the battle of Gettysburg than any other engagement of the Civil War. The historiography of the battle’s second day is usually dominated by the Union’s successful defense of Little Round Top, but the day’s most influential action occurred nearly one mile west along the Emmitsburg Road in and around farmer Joseph Sherfy’s peach orchard. Despite its overriding importance, no full-length study of this pivotal action has been written until now with James Hessler’s and Britt Isenberg’s Gettysburg’s Peach Orchard: Longstreet, Sickles, and the Bloody Fight for the “Commanding Ground” Along the Emmitsburg Road.
On July 2, 1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee ordered a skeptical Lt. Gen. James Longstreet to assault the Union left flank. The offensive was intended to seize the Peach Orchard and surrounding ground along the Emmitsburg Road for use as an artillery position to support the ongoing attack. However, Union general and former congressman Daniel Sickles, commander of the Union III Corps, misinterpreted his orders and occupied the orchard first.
What followed was some of Gettysburg’s bloodiest and most controversial fighting. General Sickles’s questionable advance forced Longstreet’s artillery and infantry to fight for every inch of ground on the way to Cemetery Ridge. The Confederate attack crushed the Peach Orchard salient and other parts of the Union line and threatened the left flank of Maj. Gen. George Meade’s Army of the Potomac. The command decisions made on and around the Sherfy property influenced actions on every part of the battlefield. The occupation of the high ground at the Peach Orchard helped General Lee rationalize ordering the tragic July 3 assault known as “Pickett’s Charge.”
This richly detailed study is based upon scores of primary accounts and a deep understanding of the complex terrain. Hessler and Isenberg, both Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides, combine the military aspects of the fighting with human interest stories in a balanced treatment of the bloody attack and defense of Gettysburg’s Peach Orchard. It is the study Gettysburg students have been waiting to read.
"For its ability to situate the reader within the historic and modern geography of the Peach Orchard, this book is especially useful for the battlefield visitor seeking a detailed work of the fighting there. Armchair readers will also benefit from its fascinating illumination of little-known accounts and personalities..." ~Civil War News
"Enhanced with the inclusion of an informative introduction (A Fatal Mistake), photographs, illustrations, and Appendix (Select Order of Battle), a twenty-four page Bibliography, and an eleven page Index, "Gettysburg's Peach Orchard: Longstreet, Sickles, and the Bloody Fight for the "Commanding Ground" Along the Emmitsburg Road" is an impressively informative and exceptionally well presented study that is very highly recommended as a core addition to personal, community, and academic library American Civil War military history collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists." ~Midwest Book Review
"...brilliantly cast and elegantly written..." ~The Strategy Bridge