The Devil is in the Details
This pic was taken at Gettysburg in 2013 from Little Round Top. Looking to the center of the picture you will see a rock formation (you can make out the cars parked around it). That formation is known as Devils Den.
During the second day of the battle (June 1-3, 1863) this position changed hands several times and was used both for artillery and infantry. Once the Confederates had secured the position it was used heavily by snipers as it gave a great view of the Union positions on Little Round Top and some of the surrounding areas. We could literally talk for days about the actions that happened in and around Devils Den, but we come to this now for another reason.
You see when I was first studying the Civil War whenever I came across Gettysburg there was always Devils Den. It is not uncommon for certain places on the battlefield to take on names that denote certain “character”. Bloody Lane, The Peach Orchard, The Sunken Road. To students of the war those names immediately bring up images of the actions fought at those places. Devils Den though was different. That outcropping of rock was called Devils Den before the war.
Before the War
As early as 1856 the rocks were known for a large snake named the Devil. His home became known as the Devils Den. After the war the area was known by a few different variations of it until the original name stuck.
Now I know that sometimes tour guides like to embellish and tell stories, it’s part of the job. A little digging in the archives of the Gettysburg Times seems to collaborate at least a part of the story. In the Jan 23rd 1932 issue a brief paragraph relates a sighting of the famous snake in 1881, right where it had been known to be for at least a quarter of a century. Here is a link to the article. It is easy to forget these battles took place near homes and communities that had a history before the war.