I only recently saw the park, and as I was traveling for business, I did not have the time to tour it the way a tourist would. A friend and colleague and I were, however, able to spend some time on our way back to Baltimore touring the park, for which we were both grateful.. Still, I was frankly hugely impressed. Having only read of the battle, I didn't appreciate the battle's nature in some ways until I saw the ground, which I think is the norm for battlefields quite frankly. You have to see them, to rally grasp them.
One thing that's difficult to appreciate, without having been there, is the vast scale of the battle. The battlefield is very large. Monuments to individual units show how densely packed the battleground was with men. A huge field, but heavily populated with troops on the field.
Culps Hill was attacked, along with Cemetery Hill, on the second day of the battle, with Confederate forces attempting to take these two positions, which jutted out towards Gettysburg, and therefore were assaulted from two, nearly three, sides. The Union lines held. The prior day they had not, and these positions were the ones they had fallen back upon.
Looking at Cemetery Hill from Culps Hill.
Southern Edge of the battleground
The following photographs depicts the southern edge of the battlefield, an area that Confederate forces would have crossed through, but which wasn't really involved in the battle. Pennsylvania farm land, then as now.
Round Top and Little Round Top.
Two very prominent hills are found on the southern part of the field, Round Top and Little Round Top. They're virtually natural fortifications.
The Confederate forces, lacking cavalry as Gen. JEB Stuart was detached from the column raiding some distance from it and not always knowing where it was, was basically blind on the field and failed to realize that 10,000 Union troops occupied the hill, an intelligence and military failure that was to prove very costly to the Confederates. On day two of the battle, the Confederate troops attempted to move past the base of the hills to attack Union positions from the south, but instead found themselves exposed to well position Union troops.
In learning this, the Confederate forces attempted to take both hills, with their efforts to take Little Round Top being particularly well known. The ground is so favorable to the defense that the effort, viewed today, would appear to be nearly insane. It failed.
Stone wall on Round Top.
The center of the battlefield.
Between the hill positions of Culps Hill and Cemetery Hill, and Round Top and Little Round Top, is a lower area which would have been gently rolling farmland. Indeed, a picturesque farm exists right in the center of it, and did then.
It was this area that ultimately received the massive Confederate charge on the third day of battle, although it is sometimes forgotten that this also featured a renewed assault on Culps Hill. Longstreet troops disengaged from their positions on the lower levels of Little Round Top at the time, that effort having been conclusively given up. The enormous center assault, which had been anticipated by Union General Meade the day prior, famously featured Pickett's division, but it was only one of three Confederate divisions engaged in that part of the line. It did advance the furthest, actually reaching the Union lines, before massive casualties put a halt to it, and the battle was over.
Monument to Pennsylvania's troops at the battlefield.
Monument to Minnesota's troops.
Monument noting the "high water mark" of the Confederacy, the northernmost main line attack of the war.
This grove of trees existed at the time of the battle, as did the farm in the left hand corner.
Confederate lines, A.P. Hill's artillery battery.
The objective on the third day of battle, as viewed from the Confederate lines.