Devil’s Den

One of the most sketchable locations on the Gettysburg Battlefield is Devil’s Den.

Some of the most intense fighting on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg occurred in and around this collection of volcanic rocks. Like the odd house at the end of the cul de sac from my childhood that we deemed “haunted”, Devil’s Den, as legend has it, was believed to be the den of a serpent named “Devil”. This was the haunted grounds of urban legend for the youth of Gettysburg, even before the battle enveloped the town.

At this location, on the afternoon of July 2, Major General Daniel Sickle’s left flank was placed here under the command of Captain John Smith’s artillery battery. HIs position was attacked from the west by Confederates from Texas, Alabama, and Georgia. The Confederates overran the Union’s position and took Devil’s Den. They used this location to position sharpshooters to fired at the Union soldiers on Little Round Top.

The landscape now bears the ghastly and ghoulish names of this bloody encounter. The place names seem to be taken from the macabre works of Poe: the Slaughter Pen, Bloody Run, and the Valley of Death.

Devil’s Den was one of my favorite sketching locations at Gettysburg. I have always loved to sketch and paint the contours, layers, and textures of rocks and Devil’s Den supplied these in spades. I was very intentional with my sketching position. The rock in the foreground of the sketch (featured sketch) is a rock that is not featured or named on any interpretive signs at Devil’s Den. This rock is known as the Waud Rock.

The rock is named after battlefield sketcher, Alfred Waud. Waud followed the Army of the Potomic and sketched almost every battle that the army was engaged in. While many focus on the rise of photography during the Civil War, a sketcher amongst the carnage and danger of a live battle is very intriguing to me. When Waud was at Devil’s Den, he was photographed by Alexander Gardner as he sits on the rock that now bears his name.

While I was sketching the rocks, an elderly visitor came up and had a chat. He thought I was reading a book but I told him I was sketching the Waud Rock. He didn’t seem to be very impressed but I could tell that the reason he had approached me was because he wanted me to know that one of his distant relatives had fought at Little Round Top.

I sketched part of the spread seated on Waud Rock, in Waud’s, exact position, somehow summoning the sprit of this amazing sketcher through my backside.

Gardner’s photograph of Waud on his rock at Devil’s Den.
One of the most famous photographs from Gettysburg and perhaps the entire Civil War: a dead Confederate sharpshooter at Devil’s Den. It is now believed that this photo was staged. Yes the soldier is indeed dead but he was moved to this location and a rifle was placed against the rock wall.
The same location at Devil’s Den, sans sharpshooter, today.

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