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SENTRY JOURNAL » American History, Civil War, Pickett's Charge » July 3, 1863, Gettysburg Day 3: Pickett’s Charge

July 3, 1863, Gettysburg Day 3: Pickett’s Charge

This is my last post on the Battle of Gettysburg.  I wanted to take the time to remember this battle because it was so vital in our nation’s history.  After the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg and the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4th the Confederacy never fully recovered.

The following is from CivilWarAcademy.com.

“It was 1:00pm when the Confederate artillery began the first phase of the battle plan. Over 150 guns opened fire on the Union center. The Federals returned fire and the most massive artillery bombardment during the Civil War had begun. The sound was so loud the gunners ears actually bled. The barrage was so loud it could be heard as far away as Philadelphia and Baltimore.”

“For over an hour the artillery duel continued. At a little past 2:00pm the Union began to slowly stop firing. This was a trick to deceive the Confederates into believing they had knocked out all the Union guns. The trick worked and at 3:00pm the Rebels stopped firing. They were also dangerously low on ammunition and needed to conserve it as much as possible.”

“It was at this time the commander of the Confederate artillery pleaded with Pickett to attack now otherwise we will not be able to support you. Pickett rushed to Longstreet asking for permission to begin the attack. So despondent over the attack, which he knew would fail, Longstreet could do nothing more than simply nod his head and wave his hand to give the order to Pickett.”

“Now was the moment that over 12,000 rebel troops emerged from the tree line and lined up in formation for the fateful long march. Their main focus was a little clump of trees behind the Federal lines.”

“General Pickett was in very high spirits and truly believed his men would be able to break the Union lines. The moral of his men was also high because they also believed the Federals would break. Pickett shouted to his men that they were all Virginians and to remember what they were fighting for. With this the Confederates started forward.”

“The long gray line advanced toward those clump of trees in a steady walk. At first all guns were silent including the Federals. The Union troops were in awe seeing this vast force of humanity slowly but steadily approaching them.”

“Halfway across the field Pickett’s division (which was not personally led by Pickett because he had stayed behind and was watching the battle with the rest of the commanders) performed a left oblique to close the gap between them and the rest of the units. This was when the Union opened up with their artillery on the advancing rebels. They fired from both Cemetery Hill and Little Round Top, slamming into both flanks.  The Confederates finally reached the Emmitsburg road only to be confronted with a simple fence. This simple fence however turned out to be a very difficult obstacle.”

“The Confederates still bravely pushed forward toward a low stonewall which was just in front of the little clump of trees, which was the target of the southern attack. They had finally reached the Union line. This was the moment where the battle would either be won or lost. The rebels rushed the stonewall and brutal hand-to-hand combat quickly ensued.”
 
“It was now that Confederate General Armistead famously put his hat on the tip of his sword and urged his men forward. Forward they went over the stonewall. Armistead only had about 300 men following him at this point but still they pushed on. Here was an artillery battery commanded by Colonel Alonzo Cushing and while his men were falling back Cushing ran up to one of his guns to “give them one more shot” which turned out to be his last words. He was immediately shot in the chin and killed instantly falling over his gun.”

“This was the “high water mark of the Confederacy” at the “angle”. This is the closet point they ever came to winning the Civil War.”

“The rebels reached Cushing’s guns and Armistead now with his hat falling to the hilt of his sword urged his men to turn the guns on the Yankees. Before achieving this however Armistead was shot three times and fell to the ground. His wounds were not believed to be fatal and he was taken to a Union field hospital for treatment. He died on July 5th. The cause of death is not officially known.”

“The Union quickly poured in fresh troops to fix their broken line and counterattacked.”


“Stuart and his cavalry were suppose to meet the infantry attacking the Federals in the rear of their line. Stuart never showed up. He and his men ran into Federal cavalry commanded by George Armstrong Custer and were forced to withdraw.  Because of this the southern troops were forced to retreat. The rebels fled back to their original lines. It was all over. Pickett’s charge had failed.”


“The attack was broken, over half of the 12,500 troops that started the attack were gone. They were dead, wounded, or missing. Pickett’s division only had 800 men left out of 5,000. Lee took full blame for this failure and greeted the troops as they returned back to the Confederate lines. He tried to encourage them to pick up rifles and prepare for a Federal counterattack, which he believed, would be forthcoming.”

“The next day July 4th the two armies glared at each other across the open field. Lee still thinking Meade would attack prepared a defensive line and hoped for an attack to come so he could do to the Union what the Union did to his men.  Meade however had other ideas and decided that his troops had done more than enough at Gettysburg and did not launch an attack. With that the battle ended.”

From the movie Gettysburg; Pickett’s Charge.

I actually visited the battlefield and I must say it was one of those events that change a person’s life.  It had a profound impact on me and forever changed me.  We must never forget our history.

Liberty forever, freedom for all!

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Comments
  • Trestin July 3, 2010 at 5:32 AM

    I've never really gotten into the Civil War. I love to study the Revolutionary War, but not as much the Civil War. I wonder if it is because of being raised in a place that was almost completely disconnected from the civil war; or if the idea of Americans killing Americans is so unappealing.

  • John Carey July 3, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    The Civil War is a period in our history that I have always been extremely interested in. I grew up in Pennsylvania and have visited Gettysburg a number of times. I'm not down with the idea of Americans killing Americans, but the way I see it is we must remember the past so that we do not repeat it Trestin.

  • Anonymous August 29, 2010 at 12:49 PM

    If I had been in my early 20s in 1861 I would have been opposed both to slavery and to secession. Having said that I would gladly have fought and died for the Confederate cause. One cannot objectively study accurate American history of that period without coming to the conclusion that the northern states were oppressing the south economically and politically. Whether secession was a legal option for the South is actually irrelevant. The point is that the northern states, collectively, had forced the South into an unjust situation where secession was its only alternative.

    To those who truly understand what really happened in the United States from 1832-1865, nothing is more infuriating than the liberal mantra that the American War Between the States was fought for no other reason than to end slavery. This lie cheapens the sacrifices made by the courageous men, both Union and Confederate, who fought and died together on the war's many battlefields.

  • John Carey August 29, 2010 at 6:20 PM

    Slavery did play a major role because it set the tone. Maybe it was the excuse that was used in the end to scratch an itch that had been itching since even before the ink was even dry on the Constitution. Thanks for the comment.

  • Anonymous October 27, 2010 at 4:59 AM

    Some people feel that they live alife years ago.
    I have often felt that I was at Gettysburg making the march across the open field. When ever I go to the "High Water Mark" I feel the heat of that day and the sweet rolling down my back in my wool uuniform. I have walked (from the confederate side) across the open field up to "The Angle". I do not believe that I survived.