Mapping the Battle of Gettysburg – Little Round Top Revealed

GeoCue Group recently partnered with the National Park Service (NPS) in a pilot project to assess culturally significant areas within Gettysburg National Military Park using small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS). The area of interest (AOI) for this project was the western face of Little Round Top. Little Round Top was the location of a defensive stand by the Union army during the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg. On July 2, 1863, Confederate forces attempted to capture Little Round Top—the left flank of the Union line (Pfanz 1987). This fight included the famous bayonet charge led by the Union Army’s 20th of Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, under the command of lieutenant colonel Joshua Chamberlain, who captured and repelled the advancing Confederate Army’s 15th of Alabama (Desjardin 1995). The Confederate attack was ultimately unsuccessful. The Union Army would use the hill to counterattack and as an artillery battery position later in the Battle (Hall 2003).

The AOI for this project was prepared by the removal of large amounts of vegetation using a controlled burn. This allowed for a more thorough assessment than past surveys and increased the area visible to the sUAS camera sensor. The flights performed on site resulted in the creation of a geographically accurate orthomosaic and 3D point cloud, which allowed the NPS to more precisely quantify and catalogue earthworks and stonewalls dating back to the Civil War Era.

The western face of Little Round Top comprises approximately 52 acres and is surrounded by asphalt pavement. The site includes earthworks, stonewalls and erected monuments. Moving from west to east, the site increases in elevation. The western side of the AOI has a small stream network and is marshy. The center of the site is very rocky with little vegetation present (due to the controlled burn). The eastern side of the site is rocky with some vegetation (mostly trees) unaffected by the controlled burn.

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