American Battlefield Trust’s map of the Battle of Gettysburg - The Peach Orchard
As Longstreet's attack column was moving into place, Union III Corps commander Gen. Daniel Sickles advanced his troops off Cemetery Ridge to a position he deemed to be ground better suited for defense: the elevated, open plateau around farmer Joseph Sherfy’s peach orchard on the Emmitsburg Road. Sickles’ thin line stretched nearly a mile from the Rogers farm to Devil’s Den.
When Longstreet launched his attack, Joseph Kershaw’s South Carolina men from McLaws’ division pushed east across the George Rose farm. Kershaw’s seven regiments split and were forced to give attention to both Union infantry and artillery in the orchard on their left flank and regiments posted on a boulder-covered hill in their front. After Kershaw’s men advanced, the Mississippians under William Barksdale moved forward and pushed back the Union regiments and artillery from around the Sherfy farm, but Barksdale went down mortally wounded.
Five volunteer batteries from the Artillery Reserve under Freeman McGilvery augmented Sickles’ regiments, and formed a solid line of cannon along the road facing south toward the Rose farm. McGilvery’s batteries tore into the flanks of Kershaw’s men as they moved across their front. Eventually, Sickles’ line collapsed and the infantry and artillery units tumbled back toward Cemetery Ridge.