In 2010, the Civil War Trust (www.civilwar.org) successfully preserved five acres on Powers Hill, the "Forgotten Hill" of the Gettysburg battlefield.
Power’s Hill is lesser known because Union and rebel forces did not fight on its slopes. Powers Hill was where 14 Federal artillery pieces were situated to aid in the defense of Culp’s Hill (less than a mile to the northeast).
The cannon fire from Powers Hill and from larger batteries along the Baltimore Pike created a cross fire that kept the confederate forces from using Spangler’s Spring and meadow to flank Culp’s upper and lower hills on the southside.
Rebel officers called fire from the Federal artillery as pure hell.
By not being able to flank or surround Culp’s Hill on any of the 3-days of the Gettysburg battle (July 1-3, 1863), the South was forced to attack frontally “up the steep hill” where they were met with entrenched and well armed Union forces occupying the top. The North held Culp’s Hill throughout the battle thus protecting supply lines and the rear of General George Meade’s forces.
The following is an excerpt from Civil War Trust blog. In this interview with Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Charlie Fennell, he discusses the historical importance of the fight involving Power’s Hill for Culp's Hill and Spangler's Spring during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Civil War Trust: What role did Power’s Hill play in the struggle for Spangler’s Meadow?
CF: One of the more significant terrain features which is forgotten today and had a huge impact on the outcome was Power's Hill. Artillery fire from this hill contained the Confederate forces in Spangler's Meadow and force them to attack the Union position head-on. As the Park Service takes down trees in the Spangler's Meadow area visitors will begin to better appreciate the importance of Powers Hill in the battle. It is therefore essential for a true understanding of the Battle of Gettysburg that Power's Hill be preserved and restored to its 1863 appearance.
Civil War Trust: Artillery aside, what else happened around Power’s Hill?
CF: In addition to being a very important artillery position it was also Slocum's Headquarters and one of the places that General Meade went to escape the artillery fire preceding Pickett's Charge.
Civil War Trust: How well preserved is the area around Culp’s Hill and Power’s Hill?
CF: All things considered the Culp's Hill and Spangler's Spring areas are fairly well preserved but the ground along the Baltimore Pike including Power's Hill is not. In fact, in order to get to one of the monuments you have to cross private ground.
UPDATE: With the 2010 acquisition of five acres on Power's Hill (which have since been turned over to the National Park Service) the Civil War Trust made these monuments more easily accessible to the public.
MORE ON CHARLIE FENNELL
Dr. Charles Fennell is a longtime licensed battlefield guide at Gettysburg, specializing in the actions around Culp's Hill on which subject he wrote his doctoral dissertation. He is an instructor at a Harrisburg Area Community College and lives with his family in Hanover, Pennsylvania.
CAPTIONS (TOP TO LOWER:)
1. In this Civil War Trust map by Steven Stanley it shows the juxtaposition of the Union cannons on Power’s Hill (and the Baltimore Pike) which constantly bombarded Spangler’s Spring and Meadow area keeping the Confederates from flanking Culp’s Hill along the southside.
2. A closer look at the battle for Culp’s Hill shows how the rebels were forced to attack up the hill instead of flanking around to the south. It is the cannon fire from the forgotten hill (Power’s Hill) that kept the South under withering artillery fire all during the three day Battle of Gettysburg.
3. Spangler’s Meadow shortly after battles
4. Spangler’s Meadow today
5. Dr. Charles Fennell is standing at the location where the Mathew Brady photograph below was taken in 1863. The monument to the 150th New York Infantry Regiment is behind the camera. This view was taken facing south. Photo: Rob Shenk
6. Mathew Brady photograph shows the Union breastworks not visible in 2009 photo above. The rebel forces attempted to charge up the hill (from left side of photo) toward the Federal positions atop Culp’s Hill. They were repulsed each time.
7. View from the top: Painting by Edwin Forbes shows generally the same breastworks but from the opposite viewpoint as photo above.
8. View from the bottom. In another Edwin Forbes painting the scene drawn is of the evening of July 2, 1863 when rebel forces attempted to climb to the top of Culp’s Hill. The breastworks in this painting are shown above in the Brady photograph.