Edited by Gerald Boerner
Commentary will be added shortly. GLB
[ Part 1 of 2 — Battle of Gettysburg, Day 3 ]
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[ 3775 Words ]
Quotations Related to GETTYSBURG
“My dead and wounded were nearly as great in number as those still on duty.”
— William C. Oates
“Up, men, and to your posts! Don’t forget today that you are from Old Virginia!”
— George E. Pickett
“It ain’t so hard to get to that ridge – The hell of it is to stay there.”
— Confederate soldier
“The truth will be known in time, and I leave that to show how much of the responsibility of Gettysburg rests on my shoulders.”
— James Longstreet
“We entered Gettysburg in the afternoon, just in time to meet the enemy entering the town, and in good season to drive him back before his getting a foothold.”
— John Buford
“In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls.”
— Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
“After this urgent protest against entering into battle at Gettysburg according to instructions – which protest is the first and only one I ever made during my entire military career – I ordered my line to advance and make the assault.”
— John B. Hood
“Rations were scarcely issued, and the men about preparing supper, when rumors that the enemy had been encountered that day near Gettysburg absorbed every other interest, and very soon orders came to march forthwith to Gettysburg.”
— Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
Battle of Gettysburg — Day 3: Union Fights Back Confederate Attacks…
General Lee wished to renew the attack on Friday, July 3, using the same basic plan as the previous day: Longstreet would attack the Federal left, while Ewell attacked Culp’s Hill. However, before Longstreet was ready, Union XII Corps troops started a dawn artillery bombardment against the Confederates on Culp’s Hill in an effort to regain a portion of their lost works. The Confederates attacked, and the second fight for Culp’s Hill ended around 11 a.m., after some seven hours of bitter combat.
Lee was forced to change his plans. Longstreet would command Pickett’s Virginia division of his own First Corps, plus six brigades from Hill’s Corps, in an attack on the Federal II Corps position at the right center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Prior to the attack, all the artillery the Confederacy could bring to bear on the Federal positions would bombard and weaken the enemy’s line.
There were two significant cavalry engagements on July 3. Stuart was sent to guard the Confederate left flank and was to be prepared to exploit any success the infantry might achieve on Cemetery Hill by flanking the Federal right and hitting their trains and lines of communications. Three miles (5 km) east of Gettysburg, in what is now called "East Cavalry Field" (not shown on the accompanying map, but between the York and Hanover Roads), Stuart’s forces collided with Federal cavalry: Brig. Gen. David McMurtrie Gregg’s division and Brig. Gen. Custer’s brigade. A lengthy mounted battle, including hand-to-hand sabre combat, ensued. Custer’s charge, leading the 1st Michigan Cavalry, blunted the attack by Wade Hampton’s brigade, blocking Stuart from achieving his objectives in the Federal rear. Meanwhile, after hearing news of the day’s victory, Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick launched a cavalry attack against the infantry positions of Longstreet’s Corps southwest of Big Round Top. Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth protested against the futility of such a move but obeyed orders. Farnsworth was killed in the attack, and his brigade suffered significant losses
[ Part 1 of 2 — Battle of Gettysburg, Day 3 ]
Culp’s Hill on the Third Day
On July 3, General Lee’s plan was to renew his attacks by coordinating the action on Culp’s Hill with another attack by Longstreet and A.P. Hill against Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet was not ready for an early attack, and the Union forces on Culp’s Hill did not accommodate Lee by waiting. At dawn, five Union batteries opened fire on Steuart’s brigade in the positions they had captured and kept them pinned down for 30 minutes before a planned attack by two of Geary’s brigades. However, the Confederates beat them to the punch. An attempt by Lee to hold off the start of the fighting was fruitless. Ewell sent back a terse reply by messenger: "Too late to recall." Fighting continued until late in the morning and consisted of three attacks by Johnson’s men, each a failure. The attacks were essentially a replay of those the previous evening, although in daylight.
Charge of the 2nd Maryland Infantry, CSA into the "slaughterpen" at Culp’s Hill,
Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. So severe were the casualties among the
Marylanders that General Steuart is said to have broken down and wept,
wringing his hands and crying "my poor boys".
Since the fighting had stopped the previous night, the XI Corps units had been reinforced by additional troops from the I Corps and VI Corps. Ewell had reinforced Johnson with additional brigades from the division of Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes, under Brig. Gens. Junius Daniel and William "Extra Billy" Smith and Col. Edward A. O’Neal. These additional forces were insufficient to deal with the strong Union defensive positions. Greene repeated a tactic he had used the previous evening: he rotated regiments in and out of the breastworks while they reloaded, enabling them to keep up a high rate of fire.
In the final of the three Confederate attacks, around 10 a.m., Walker’s Stonewall Brigade and Daniel’s North Carolina brigade assaulted Greene from the east, while Steuart’s brigade advanced over the open field toward the main hill against the brigades of Candy and Kane, which did not have the advantage of strong breastworks to fight behind. Nevertheless, both attacks were beaten back with heavy losses. The attacks against the heights were again fruitless, and superior use of artillery on the open fields to the south made the difference there.
The 1st Maryland Potomac Home Brigade (despite its name, a regiment of inexperienced recruits) was badly shot up struggling for a stone wall crossing the open field parallel to the line of works. Geary replaced them with the 147th Pennsylvania of Candy’s brigade, which charged successfully, giving the field the name "Pardee Field" after the Pennsylvanians’ Lt. Col. Ario Pardee, Jr.
The end of the fighting came near noon, with a futile attack by two Union regiments near Spangler’s Spring. General Slocum, observing from the distant Powers Hill, believing that the Confederates were faltering, ordered Ruger to retake the works they had captured. Ruger passed the order to Silas Colgrove’s brigade, and it was misinterpreted to mean a direct frontal assault on the Confederate position. The two regiments selected for the assault, the 2nd Massachusetts and the 27th Indiana, consisted of a total of 650 men against the 1,000 Confederates behind the works with 100 yards of open field in front. When Lt. Col. Charles Mudge of the 2nd Massachusetts heard the order he insisted that the officer repeat it. He was then quoted as saying "Well, it is murder, but it’s the order." The two regiments attacked in sequence with the Massachusetts men in front, and they were both repelled with terrific losses: 43% of the Massachusetts soldiers, 32% of the Indianans. General Ruger spoke of the misconstrued order as "one of those unfortunate occurrences that will happen in the excitement of battle."
Despite receiving reinforcements and attempting his assaults again, Johnson was repulsed with terrible losses from one end of his line to the other. Colonel O’Neal wrote that his brigade "charged time and again up to their works but were every time compelled to retire. Many gallant men were lost." The losses at Culp’s Hill included approximately 2,000 men in Johnson’s division, nearly a third. An additional 800 fell from the reinforcing brigades on July 3. The XII corps lost about 1,000 men over both days, including 300 men in Greene’s brigade, or one fifth. Alpheus Williams summed up the futility of this fighting: "The wonder is that the rebels persisted so long in an attempt that the first half hour must have told them was useless."
One of the sad stories of the war involved the Culp family. Two of Henry Culp’s nephews were brothers: John Wesley Culp and William Culp. Wesley joined the Confederate States Army and William the Union Army. Wesley’s regiment, the 2nd Virginia Infantry, fought at Culp’s Hill, and he was killed in the fighting on his family property on July 3. Ironically, he allegedly was carrying a message from another soldier, just deceased, to "Ginnie" Wade, the only civilian killed during the battle. (His brother William was not present at Gettysburg and survived the war.)
Pickett’s Charge up Cemetery Ridge on Day 3
Pickett’s Charge was an infantry assault ordered by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee against Maj. Gen. George G. Meade’s Union positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Its futility was predicted by the charge’s commander, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, and it was arguably an avoidable mistake from which the Southern war effort never fully recovered psychologically. The farthest point reached by the attack has been referred to as the high-water mark of the Confederacy.
After Confederate attacks on both Union flanks had failed the day and night before, Lee was determined to strike the Union center on the third day. On the night of July 2, General Meade correctly predicted at a council of war that Lee would try an attack on his lines in the center the following morning.
The infantry assault was preceded by a massive artillery bombardment that was meant to soften up the Union defense and silence its artillery, but it was largely ineffective. Approximately 12,500 men in nine infantry brigades advanced over open fields for three-quarters of a mile under heavy Union artillery and rifle fire. Although some Confederates were able to breach the low stone wall that shielded many of the Union defenders, they could not maintain their hold and were repulsed with over 50% casualties, a decisive defeat that ended the three-day battle and Lee’s campaign into Pennsylvania. Years later, when asked why his charge at Gettysburg failed, General Pickett replied: "I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.
Plans and Command Structures
Pickett’s charge was planned for three Confederate divisions, commanded by Maj. Gen. George Pickett, Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew, and Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble, consisting of troops from Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s First Corps and Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill’s Third Corps. Pettigrew commanded brigades from Maj. Gen. Henry Heth’s old division, under Col. Birkett D. Fry (Archer’s Brigade), Col. James K. Marshall (Pettigrew’s Brigade), Brig. Gen. Joseph R. Davis, and Col. John M. Brockenbrough. Trimble, commanding Maj. Gen. Dorsey Pender’s division, had the brigades of Brig. Gens. Alfred M. Scales (temporarily commanded by Col. William Lee J. Lowrance) and James H. Lane. Two brigades from Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson’s division (Hill’s Corps) were to support the attack on the right flank: Brig. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox and Col. David Lang (Perry’s brigade).
The target of the Confederate assault was the center of the Union Army of the Potomac’s II Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock. Directly in the center was the division of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon with the brigades of Brig. Gen. William Harrow, Col. Norman J. Hall, and Brig. Gen. Alexander S. Webb. (On the night of July 2, General Meade correctly predicted to Gibbon at a council of war that Lee would try an attack on Gibbon’s sector the following morning.) To the north of this position were brigades from the division of Brig. Gen. Alexander Hays, and to the south was Maj. Gen. Abner Doubleday’s division of the I Corps, including the 2nd Vermont Brigade of Brig. Gen. George J. Stannard and the 121st Pennsylvania under the command of Col. Chapman Biddle. General Meade’s headquarters were just behind the II Corps line, in the small house owned by the widow Lydia Leister. …
From the beginning of the planning, things went awry for the Confederates. While Pickett’s division had not been used yet at Gettysburg, A.P. Hill’s health became an issue and he did not participate in selecting which of his troops were to be used for the charge. Some of Hill’s corps had fought lightly on July 1 and not at all on July 2. However, troops that had done heavy fighting on July 1 ended up making the charge.
Although the assault is known to popular history as Pickett’s Charge, overall command was given to James Longstreet, and Pickett was one of his divisional commanders. Lee did tell Longstreet that Pickett’s fresh division should lead the assault, so the name is appropriate, although some recent historians have used the name Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Assault (or, less frequently, Longstreet’s Assault) to more fairly distribute the credit (or blame). With Hill sidelined, Pettigrew’s and Trimble’s divisions were delegated to Longstreet’s authority as well. Thus, General Pickett’s name has been lent to a charge in which he commanded about one-third of the men and was under the supervision of his corps commander throughout. Pickett’s men were almost exclusively from Virginia, with the other divisions consisting of troops from North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. The supporting troops under Wilcox and Lang were from Alabama and Florida.
In conjunction with the infantry assault, Lee planned a cavalry action in the Union rear. Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart led his cavalry division to the east, prepared to exploit Lee’s hoped-for breakthrough by attacking the Union rear and disrupting its line of communications (and retreat) along the Baltimore Pike.
Despite Lee’s hope for an early start, it took all morning to arrange the infantry assault force. Neither Lee’s nor Longstreet’s headquarters sent orders to Pickett to have his division on the battlefield by daylight. Historian Jeffrey D. Wert blames this oversight on Longstreet, describing it either as a misunderstanding of Lee’s verbal order or a mistake. Some of the many criticisms of Longstreet’s Gettysburg performance by the postbellum Lost Cause authors cite this failure as evidence that Longstreet deliberately undermined Lee’s plan for the battle.
Meanwhile, on the far right end of the Union line, a seven-hour battle raged for the control of Culp’s Hill. Lee’s intent was to synchronize his offensive across the battlefield, keeping Meade from concentrating his numerically superior force, but the assaults were poorly coordinated and Maj. Gen. Edward "Allegheny" Johnson’s attacks against Culp’s Hill petered out just as Longstreet’s cannonade began.
The infantry charge was preceded by what General Lee hoped would be a powerful and well-concentrated cannonade of the Union center, destroying the Union artillery batteries that could defeat the assault and demoralizing the Union infantry. But a combination of inept artillery leadership and defective equipment doomed the barrage from the beginning. Longstreet’s corps artillery chief, Col. Edward Porter Alexander, had effective command of the field; Lee’s artillery chief, Maj. Gen. William N. Pendleton, played little role other than to obstruct the effective placement of artillery from the other two corps. Despite Alexander’s efforts, then, there was insufficient concentration of Confederate fire on the objective.
The July 3 bombardment was likely the largest of the war, with hundreds of cannons from both sides firing along the lines for almost two hours, starting around 1 p.m. Confederate guns numbered between 150 and 170 and fired from a line over two miles (3 km) long, starting in the south at the Peach Orchard and running roughly parallel to the Emmitsburg Road. Confederate Brig. Gen. Evander M. Law wrote, "The cannonade in the center … presented one of the most magnificent battle-scenes witnessed during the war. Looking up the valley towards Gettysburg, the hills on either side were capped with crowns of flame and smoke, as 300 guns, about equally divided between the two ridges, vomited their iron hail upon each other."
Despite its ferocity, the fire was mostly ineffectual. Confederate shells often overshot the infantry front lines, and the smoke covering the battlefield concealed that fact from the gunners. Union artillery chief Brig. Gen. Henry J. Hunt had only about 80 guns available to conduct counter-battery fire; the geographic features of the Union line had limited areas for effective gun emplacement. He also ordered that firing cease to conserve ammunition, but to fool Alexander, Hunt ordered his cannons to cease fire slowly to create the illusion that they were being destroyed one by one. By the time all of Hunt’s cannons ceased fire, and still blinded by the smoke from battle, Alexander fell for Hunt’s illusion and interpreted this to mean that many of the batteries had been destroyed. Hunt had to resist the strong arguments of General Hancock, who demanded Union fire to lift the spirits of the infantrymen pinned down under Alexander’s bombardment. Even Meade was affected by the artillery—the Leister house was a victim of frequent overshots, and he had to evacuate with his staff to Powers Hill.
The day was hot, 87 °F (31 °C) by one account and humid, and the Confederates suffered under the hot sun and from the Union counter-battery fire as they awaited the order to advance. When Union cannoneers overshot their targets, they often hit the massed infantry waiting in the woods of Seminary Ridge or in the shallow depressions just behind Alexander’s guns, causing significant casualties before the charge began.
Longstreet opposed the charge from the beginning, preferring his own plan for a strategic movement around the Union left flank. He claims to have told Lee:
General, I have been a soldier all my life. I have been with soldiers engaged in fights by couples, by squads, companies, regiments, divisions, and armies, and should know, as well as any one, what soldiers can do. It is my opinion that no fifteen thousand men ever arrayed for battle can take that position.
Longstreet looked for ways to avoid ordering the charge by attempting to pass responsibility to young Col. Alexander, but he eventually did give the order himself non-verbally; when Alexander notified Pickett that he was running dangerously short of ammunition, Longstreet nodded reluctantly to Pickett’s request to step off. For Pickett, there was virtually no Confederate artillery with ammunition available to support his assault directly.
The entire force that stepped off toward the Union positions consisted of about 12,500 men. Although the attack is popularly called a "charge", the men marched deliberately in line, to speed up and then charge only when they were within a few hundred yards of the enemy. The line consisted of Pettigrew and Trimble on the left, and Pickett to the right. The nine brigades of men stretched over a mile-long (1,600 m) front. The Confederates encountered heavy artillery fire while advancing across open fields nearly a mile to reach the Union line. The ground between Seminary Ridge and Cemetery Ridge is slightly undulating, and the advancing troops periodically disappeared from the view of the Union cannoneers. As the three Confederate divisions advanced, awaiting Union soldiers began shouting "Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!" in reference to the disastrous Union advance on the Confederate line during the 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg. Fire from Lt. Col. Freeman McGilvery’s concealed artillery positions north of Little Round Top raked the Confederate right flank, while the artillery fire from Cemetery Hill hit the left. Shell and solid shot in the beginning turned to canister and musket fire as the Confederates came within 400 yards of the Union line. The mile-long front shrank to less than half a mile (800 m) as the men filled in gaps that appeared throughout the line and followed the natural tendency to move away from the flanking fire.
On the left flank of the attack, Brockenbrough’s brigade was devastated by artillery fire from Cemetery Hill. They were also subjected to a surprise musket fusillade from the 8th Ohio Infantry regiment. The 160 Ohioans, firing from a single line, so surprised Brockenbrough’s Virginians—already demoralized by their losses to artillery fire—that they panicked and fled back to Seminary Ridge, crashing through Trimble’s division and causing many of his men to bolt as well. The Ohioans followed up with a successful flanking attack on Davis’s brigade of Mississippians and North Carolinians, which was now the left flank of Pettigrew’s division. The survivors were subjected to increasing artillery fire from Cemetery Hill. More than 1,600 rounds were fired at Pettigrew’s men during the assault. This portion of the assault never advanced much farther than the sturdy fence at the Emmitsburg Road. By this time, the Confederates were close enough to be fired on by artillery canister and Alexander Hays’ division unleashed very effective musketry fire from behind 260 yards of stone wall, with every rifleman of the division lined up as many as four deep, exchanging places in line as they fired and then fell back to reload.
They were at once enveloped in a dense cloud of smoke and dust. Arms, heads, blankets, guns and knapsacks were thrown and tossed in to the clear air. … A moan went up from the field, distinctly to be heard amid the storm of battle.
— Lt. Col. Franklin Sawyer, 8th Ohio
[ Continued on in Part 2 of 2 — Battle of Gettysburg, Day 3 ]
Please take time to further explore more about American Civil War, Battle of
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Wikipedia: Cemetery Hill…
A Proud Table: BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG Quotes…
Other Posts on related Topics:
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Robert E. Lee and the Battle of Gettysburg…
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Civil War: Battle of Brandy Station in 1863…