On This Day 150 Years Ago
Gettysburg, July 3, 1863
“Culp’s Hill hung in the balance for hours on July 3, with heavy casualties on both sides, but the North managed to keep the Confederates at bay. At the western side of the battlefield, Southern generals under Longstreet’s command were preparing for an artillery barrage that began at 1:00PM, the prelude to the Confederate’s final assault, now remembered as Pickett’s Charge.
“After two hours of deafening cannon fire, Pickett’s Charge began quietly, as nearly 18,000 Confederates stepped out from the trees on Seminary Ridge and marched across the open fields. For a full 10 minutes, awed Union soldiers watched them come. They soon realized that the waves of Rebels were converging on a copse of trees near ‘the Angle,’ a jog in the fence line along which thousands of Northern troops awaited the onslaught.
“The Confederate’s charge briefly broke the Union line but failed to overwhelm the Yankees. Decimated by Federal artillery, their forces and courage spent, Confederate soldiers retreated back across the fields of wheat and rye. Meanwhile, a few miles to the east, J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry had launched a simultaneous attack meant to draw Union forces away from Pickett’s Charge. Stuart found stiffer resistance from Union horsemen than he expected, including a brigade led by young George A. Custer that sustained some of the heaviest casualties of the battle. The next day, July 4, the heavens let loose a flood of rain at Gettysburg as the Confederates retreated toward Virginia. Time would show that Gettysburg had been the high tide of the Confederacy, its most audacious battle and its greatest loss.”
This account comes from a fascinating look at the three days of Gettysburg, as seen by those on the ground. To see this work of a Smithsonian team led by Professor Anne Kelly Knowles, go to this site.
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