I found an excellent article written by Timothy J. Orr about the 'game changing' actions of the 2nd USSS at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. Mr. Orr provides a number of primary and secondary sources for his article; he also provides his interpretation of where Lt. Pettijohn's scouting detail occurred and the disposition of Co. A and D at the time of Hood's assault. Orr suggests these two companies were deployed to 'refuse the line' (think of their deployment as the foot of an upside down 'L; so the skrimsiers were facing due west to confront any forces attacking across Emmitsburg road).
This past October, Dan Wambaugh, Brian White and I (with Mr. Orr's article in hand) explored the Co. A & D positions. This coincided with our using Fransanito's book to discover the 'death sites' of unburied CSA soldiers on the Rose Farm fields as photographed by O'Sullivan's crew on July 6. The 'death sites' are due north (about 200 yards) from the proposed Company A and D positions. Based on our own very through tromping the area, I believe there are aspects of Mr. Orr's hypothesis open to debate.
For one, I found the ground immediately in front of the stone wall (if you own Fransanito's Early Photography at Gettysburg
use the LRT studies to examine the Timber barn/Rose woods), rises up to obscure the Emmitsburg Road. This would mean USSS skirmishers would either have to advance beyond the stone wall (and opening a gap between the rest of the USSS skimish line) to see and engage an attacking force. Second, if these companys were deployed further east from the crest of the hill/stonewall, they would be in the woods (directly south and parallel to the Timber barn). Such a position makes it virtually impossible to see anything except the top of the ridge, and hide an attacking force until it was in point blank range. While at the 'woods position' I turned around to consider my chances if I had to make a 'run for it' from Texas skirmishers. There was NOTHING but 400 yards of open and jumbled terrain until the lower slopes of Devils Den. OR I could try to sprint to Rose Woods over the same ground 200 yards away, while exposed to enfliade fire the entire way.
While Orr's hypothesis offers one possibilty of how Pettijohn and his comrades got 'gobbled' during the opening minutes of Hood's assault, I still have problems with it. Having studied the tactics of the USSS for over two decades and operated in tacticals/battle scenarios as a modern sharpshooter; and now having walked over the terrain in question, I am at a loss how anybody from Lt./Sgt. Pettijohn down to the lowliest private allowed themselves to be posted in terrain that was not only indefensible but guaranteed their destruction. When you consider at the opposite end of the skirmish line Company B and F's skillful use of terrain and tactics caused Col. Oates to change his route of attack that decisively changed the outcome of the battle. The Pettijohn Co. A/D hypothesis just doesn't add up for me. But it has certainly motivated my comrades and I to seek out letters or journals by the sharpshooters who were there to confirm Mr. Orr's hypotheis or offer other interpretations.
Mr. Orr offers a very refreshing and thoughly enjoyable addition to 2nd USSS at Gettysburg. The link to Mr. Orr's article ican be found here: http://www.nps.gov/history/history/onli ... essay5.pdf
Enjoy the article--I certainly did.
Hudson Squad Mess