The John Weikert Farm “Heavens Gate” - small

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The John Weikert Farm

Heavens Gate”

The John Weikert farm, nestled into the woods on the edge of the infamous “Valley of Death” at the base of Little Round Top and near the Wheatfield, was witness to some of the most horrendous fighting during the Battle of Gettysburg. Running through the valley is Plum Run, but it earned a second name after the slow tributary ran red with blood of the fallen soldiers of both North and South for a few hours in July 1863.

At twilight on July 2, Union Brigadier Samuel Crawford’s two Pennsylvania infantry brigades attacked the Confederates across the Valley of Death. The area directly between Devil’s Den and the Round Tops at that point became known as the “Slaughter Pen”. The 2nd US Sharpshooters were stationed behind a stone wall at the base of the hill until over run by the 4th and 5th Texas. Robertson’s Texans and Arkansas regiments followed by Benning’s Georgians descended onto the Federal positions. In the wild fight that followed, some of the Confederates assailed the Devil’s Den, while others flooded into the Valley of Death where they were hit by fire from Union soldiers on Little Round Top. A private of the 4th Texas, Joe Smith, dipped a handkerchief into the murky waters of Plum Run and wrapped it around his head to cool himself. The handkerchief was an inviting target and Smith fell with a bullet through his skull.

Leading the 5th Texas across Plum Run and trying to gain a foothold on the slopes of Little Round Top, Confederate Major J. C. Rogers was astounded by the absurd formality of a messenger from Gen. Law. Saying the aide, “General Law presents his compliments, and says hold this place at all hazards.” “Compliments Hell!” bellowed Rogers. “Who wants compliments in such a damned place as this? Go back and tell General Law if he expects me to hold the world with just the 5th Texas Regiment.”

On the rocky crest above Devil’s Den, the 1st Texas and 15th Georgia closed in on Smith’s 4th New York Battery. With his supply of canister almost gone, the Captain shouted, “Give them shell! Give them solid shot! Damn them, give them anything!” A single salvo cut down 15 Texans and yet they charged on. Desperately trying to save Smith’s guns, Union Major Cromwell charged forward against the on coming Confederate horde. Shouting, “The day is ours”, he was struck by a bullet and he went down. Col. Ellis, screamed to his men, “My God! My God men, your major is down, save him, save him”. Ellis stood in his stirrups and was instantly struck in the forehead by a bullet. He pitched from his horse dead amongst the rocks. The struggle recalled one Confederate, was “more like Indian fighting than anything I experienced during the war.” Private Val Giles of the 4th Texas wrote later on the contest, “Every soldier was his own general. Private soldiers gave commands as loud as officers, nobody paying attention to either.”

The Valley, Devil’s Den and surrounding slopes were littered with dead and wounded. On July 4th, the heavy rains came and Plum Run now became a Bloody Run swelling and washing upon the banks causing many wounded, who could not move, to drown.