Edited by Gerald Boerner




Commentary will be added shortly. GLB

[ Part 2 of 2 — Battle of Gettysburg, Day 3 ]


These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2011 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved

[ 3760 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…


Early's_Charge_on_East_Cemetery_HillGeneral 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 2 of 2 — Battle of Gettysburg, Day 3 ]


Pickett’s Charge up Cemetery Ridge on Day 3

( Continued from Battle of Gettysburg, Day 3a )

Infantry Assault (Continued)

Trimble’s division of two brigades followed Pettigrew’s, but made poor progress. Confusing orders from Trimble caused Lane to send only 3½ of his North Carolina regiments forward. Renewed fire from the 8th Ohio and the onslaught of Hays’s riflemen prevented most of these men from getting past the Emmitsburg Road. Scales’s North Carolina brigade, led by Col. William L. J. Lowrance, started with a heavier disadvantage—they had lost almost two-thirds of their men on July 1. They were also driven back and Lowrance was wounded. The Union defenders also took casualties, but Hays encouraged his men by riding back and forth just behind the battle line, shouting "Hurrah! Boys, we’re giving them hell!". Two horses were shot out from under him. Historian Stephen W. Sears calls Hays’s performance "inspiring".

On the right flank, Pickett’s Virginians crossed the Emmitsburg Road and wheeled partially to their left to face northeast. They marched in two lines, led by the brigades of Brig. Gen. James L. Kemper on the right and Brig. Gen. Richard B. Garnett on the left; Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead’s brigade followed closely behind. As the division wheeled to the left, its right flank was exposed to McGilvery’s guns and the front of Doubleday’s Union division on Cemetery Ridge. Stannard’s Vermont Brigade marched forward, faced north, and delivered withering fire into the rear of Kemper’s brigade. At about this time, General Hancock, who had been prominent in displaying himself on horseback to his men during the Confederate artillery bombardment, was wounded by a bullet striking the pommel of his saddle, entering his inner right thigh along with wood fragments and a large bent nail. He refused evacuation to the rear until the battle was settled.

Picketts_Charge_FieldThe field of Pickett’s Charge taken from the Union Line,
near the High Water Mark. The ridge of trees is where
the Confederate Line was positioned

As Pickett’s men advanced, they withstood the defensive fire of first Stannard’s brigade, then Harrow’s, and then Hall’s, before approaching a minor salient in the Union center, a low stone wall taking an 80-yard right-angle turn known afterward as "The Angle." It was defended by Brig. Gen. Alexander S. Webb’s Philadelphia Brigade. Webb placed the two remaining guns of (the severely wounded) Lt. Alonzo Cushing’s Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery, at the front of his line at the stone fence, with the 69th and 71st Pennsylvania regiments to defend the fence and the guns. The two guns and 940 men could not match the massive firepower that Hays’s division, to their right, had been able to unleash.

Two gaps opened up in the Union line: the commander of the 71st Pennsylvania ordered his men to retreat when the Confederates came too close to the Angle; south of the copse of trees, the men of the 59th New York (Hall’s brigade) inexplicably bolted for the rear. In the latter case, this left Captain Andrew Cowan and his 1st New York Independent artillery battery to face the oncoming infantry. Assisted personally by artillery chief Henry Hunt, Cowan ordered five guns to fire double canister simultaneously. The entire Confederate line to his front disappeared. The gap vacated by most of the 71st Pennsylvania, however, was more serious, leaving only a handful of the 71st, 268 men of the 69th Pennsylvania, and Cushing’s two guns to receive the 2,500 to 3,000 men of Garnett’s and Armistead’s brigades as they began to cross the stone fence. The Irishmen of the 69th Pennsylvania resisted fiercely in a melee of rifle fire, bayonets, and fists. Webb, mortified that the 71st had retreated, brought the 72nd Pennsylvania (a Zouave regiment) forward, stabilizing the line. During the fight, the severely wounded Cushing was killed as he shouted to his men, three bullets striking him, the third in his mouth. The Confederates seized his guns and turned them to face the Union troops, but they had no ammunition to fire. As more Union reinforcements arrived, the defensive line became impregnable and the Confederates began to slip away individually, with no senior officers remaining to call a formal retreat.    

The infantry assault lasted less than an hour. The supporting attack by Wilcox and Lang on Pickett’s right was never a factor; they did not approach the Union line until after Pickett was defeated, and their advance was quickly broken up by McGilvery’s guns and by the Vermont Brigade.


Battle of Gettysburg, Third Day Cavalry Battles

The history of the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 3, 1863) has focused on the disastrous infantry assault nicknamed Pickett’s Charge. During and after that charge, however, two significant cavalry battles also occurred: one approximately three miles (5 km) to the east, in the area known today as East Cavalry Field, the other southwest of the [Big] Round Top mountain (sometimes called South Cavalry Field).

Farnsworth's_ChargeFarnsworth’s Charge, Battles and Leaders

The East Cavalry Field fighting was an attempt by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalry to get into the Federal rear and exploit any success that Pickett’s Charge may have generated. Union cavalry under Brig. Gens. David McM. Gregg and George Armstrong Custer repulsed the Confederate advances.

In South Cavalry Field, after Pickett’s Charge had been defeated, reckless cavalry charges against the right flank of the Confederate Army, ordered by Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick, were easily repulsed, resulting in the death of Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth.

Background and Cavalry Forces

Cavalry forces played a significant role at Gettysburg only on the first and third days of the battle. On the first day (July 1, 1863), the Union cavalry division of Brig. Gen. John Buford successfully delayed the Confederate infantry forces under Maj. Gen. Henry Heth until Union infantry could arrive on the battlefield. By the end of the day, Buford’s troopers had retired from the field.

On the Confederate side, most of Maj. Gen. Stuart’s cavalry division was absent from the battlefield until late on the second day. Possibly misunderstanding orders from General Robert E. Lee, Stuart had taken his three best brigades of cavalry on a pointless ride around the right flank of the Union Army of the Potomac and was out of touch with the main body of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia since June 24, depriving Lee of critical intelligence information and of screening services. Stuart arrived from Carlisle at General Lee’s headquarters shortly after noon on July 2, and his exhausted brigades arrived that evening, too late to affect the planning or execution of the second day’s battle. Hampton’s Brigade camped to the north, following the relatively minor clash with Union cavalry at Hunterstown that afternoon.

Lee’s orders for Stuart were to prepare for operations on July 3 in support of the Confederate infantry assault against the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Stuart was to protect the Confederate left flank and attempt to move around the Union right flank and into the enemy’s rear. If Stuart’s forces could proceed south from the York Pike along the Low Dutch Road, they would soon reach the Baltimore Pike, which was the main avenue of communications for the Army of the Potomac, and they could launch devastating and demoralizing attacks against the Union rear, capitalizing on the confusion from the assault (Pickett’s Charge) that Lee planned for the Union center.

Confederate cavalry forces under Stuart for this operation consisted of the three brigades he had taken on his ride around the Union Army (commanded by Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton, Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, and Colonel John Chambliss) and the brigade of Col. Albert G. Jenkins (under the command of Col. Milton J. Ferguson following Jenkins’s wounding on July 2). Although these four brigades should have amounted to approximately 5,000 troopers, it is likely that only 3,430 men and 13 guns saw action that day. And following their nine-day ride around Maryland and Pennsylvania, they and their horses were weary and not in prime condition for battle. … [MORE]

East Cavalry Field

At about 11 a.m. on July 3, Stuart reached Cress Ridge, just north of what is now called East Cavalry Field, and signaled Lee that he was in position by ordering the firing of four guns, one in each direction of the compass. This was a foolish error because he also alerted Gregg to his presence. The brigades of McIntosh and Custer were positioned to block Stuart. As the Confederates approached, Gregg engaged them with an artillery duel, and the superior skills of the Union horse artillerymen got the better of Stuart’s guns.

Stuart’s plan had been to pin down McIntosh’s and Custer’s skirmishers around the Rummel farm and swing over Cress Ridge, around the left flank of the defenders, but the Federal skirmish line pushed back tenaciously; the troopers from the 5th Michigan Cavalry were armed with Spencer repeating rifles, multiplying their firepower. Stuart decided on a direct cavalry charge to break their resistance. He ordered an assault by the 1st Virginia Cavalry, his own old regiment, now in Fitz Lee’s brigade. The battle started in earnest at approximately 1 p.m., at the same time that Col. Edward Porter Alexander’s Confederate artillery barrage opened up on Cemetery Ridge. Fitz Lee’s troopers came pouring through the farm of John Rummel, scattering the Union skirmish line.[8]

Gregg ordered Custer to counterattack with the 7th Michigan. Custer personally led the regiment, shouting "Come on, you Wolverines!" Waves of horsemen collided in furious fighting along the fence line on Rummel’s farm. Seven hundred men fought at point-blank range across the fence with carbines, pistols, and sabers. Custer’s horse was shot out from under him, and he commandeered a bugler’s horse. Eventually enough of Custer’s men were amassed to break down the fence, and they caused the Virginians to retreat. Stuart sent in reinforcements from all three of his brigades: the 9th and 13th Virginia (Chambliss’s Brigade), the 1st North Carolina and Jeff Davis Legion (Hampton’s), and squadrons from the 2nd Virginia (Lee’s). Custer’s pursuit was broken, and the 7th Michigan fell back in a disorderly retreat.

Stuart tried again for a breakthrough by sending in the bulk of Wade Hampton’s brigade, accelerating in formation from a walk to a gallop, sabers flashing, calling forth "murmurs of admiration" from their Union targets. Union horse artillery batteries attempted to block the advance with shell and canister, but the Confederates moved too quickly and were able to fill in for lost men, maintaining their momentum. Once again the cry "Come on, you Wolverines!" was heard as Custer and Col. Charles H. Town led the 1st Michigan Cavalry into the fray, also at a gallop. A trooper from one of Gregg’s Pennsylvania regiments observed,

As the two columns approached each other the pace of each increased, when suddenly a crash, like the falling of timber, betokened the crisis. So sudden and violent was the collision that many of the horses were turned end over end and crushed their riders beneath them.

As the horsemen fought desperately in the center, McIntosh personally led his brigade against Hampton’s right flank and the 3rd Pennsylvania and 1st New Jersey hit Hampton’s left from north of the Lott house. Hampton received a serious saber wound to the head; Custer lost his second horse of the day. Assaulted from three sides, the Confederates withdrew. The Union troopers were in no condition to pursue beyond the Rummel farmhouse.

The losses from the 40 intense minutes of fighting on East Cavalry Field were relatively minor: 254 Union casualties, 219 of them from Custer’s brigade; 181 Confederate. Although tactically inconclusive, the battle was a strategic loss for Stuart and Robert E. Lee, whose plans to drive into the Union rear were foiled.

South Cavalry Field

On the morning of July 3, Union Cavalry Corps commander Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton ordered two of his brigades to the left flank of the Union army. He ordered Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt’s Reserve Brigade of Buford’s division to move north from Emmitsburg to join Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick’s division, moving from Two Taverns on the Baltimore Pike to the area southwest of Round Top. By this time, the only brigade in Kilpatrick’s division was that of Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth, George Custer’s brigade having been detached for service with David Gregg at East Cavalry Field. It is unclear what Pleasonton hoped to accomplish. There is no record that he performed any reconnaissance in this area. It has been speculated that Army of the Potomac commander George G. Meade was preparing for a possible counterattack to follow the repulse of Pickett’s Charge, which he had anticipated since the night before.

Farnsworth reached the area at approximately 1 p.m., about the time the massive Confederate artillery barrage started in preparation for Pickett’s Charge, and his 1,925 troops took up a position in a line south of the George Bushman farm. From left to right, the regiments were the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry, the 1st West Virginia, and 1st Vermont. Battery E., 4th U.S. Artillery, occupied a small, rocky knoll in the rear and the 5th New York cavalry was placed in a nearby ravine to guard the artillery. Joined by Kilpatrick, they awaited Merritt’s brigade, which arrived at about 3 p.m. and took up a position straddling the Emmitsburg Road, to Farnsworth’s left. By this time the infantry portion of Pickett’s Charge had begun, and Kilpatrick was eager to get his men into the fight.

On the Confederate line to the east of the Emmitsburg Road, only infantry troops were involved. The four brigades of Hood’s division, under the command of Brig. Gen. Evander M. Law, had occupied the area from Round Top, through Devil’s Den, and back to the road since the battle on July 2. Initially, Law had just the 1st Texas Infantry (from Brig. Gen. Jerome B. Robertson’s Texas Brigade) facing Farnsworth to the south, but he soon reinforced them with 47th Alabama Infantry, the 1st South Carolina, and artillery. To the west of the road, facing Merritt, was the Georgia brigade of Brig. Gen. George "Tige" Anderson.

Young Kilpatrick had little experience in commanding cavalry, and he demonstrated that by attacking fortified infantry positions in a piecemeal fashion. West of the road, Merritt went in first, with his 6th Pennsylvania cavalrymen fighting dismounted. Anderson’s Georgians repulsed their attack easily. Farnsworth was to follow, but he was astonished to hear Kilpatrick’s order for a mounted cavalry charge. The Confederate defenders were positioned behind a stone fence with wooden fence rails piled high above it, too high for horses to jump, which would require the attackers to dismount under fire and dismantle the fence. The terrain leading to it was broken, undulating ground, with large boulders, fences, and woodlots, making it unsuitable for a cavalry charge. Accounts differ as to the details of the argument between Farnsworth and Kilpatrick, but it is generally believed that Kilpatrick dared or shamed Farnsworth into making the charge the latter knew would be suicidal. Farnsworth allegedly said "General, if you order the charge I will lead it, but you must take the awful responsibility."

First in the assault was the 1st West Virginia Cavalry, led by Colonel Nathaniel P. Richmond. They rode in great confusion after coming under heavy fire from the 1st Texas, but they were able to breach the wall. Hand-to-hand fighting with sabers, rifles, and even rocks ensued, but the attack was forced back. Of the 400 Federal cavalrymen in the attack, there were 98 casualties. The second wave came from the 18th Pennsylvania, supported by companies of the 5th New York, but they were also turned back under heavy rifle fire, with 20 casualties.

It was finally the turn of the 1st Vermont Cavalry, about 400 officers and men, which Farnsworth divided into three battalions of four companies each under Lieutenant Colonel Addison W. Preston, Major William Wells, and Captain Henry C. Parsons. Parsons’s battalion led the charge, passing the Texans and riding north into the blinding sun toward the John Slyder farm. Evander Law sent three Georgia regiments (the 9th, 11th, and 59th) to move to the support of the Texans and the artillery batteries. A staff officer carrying the order encountered the 4th Alabama, who also joined in support. An Alabama lieutenant yelled "Cavalry, boys, cavalry! This is no fight, only a frolic, give it to them!" And the infantrymen found many easy targets.

All three battalion advances were turned back with great losses. The final group, led by Wells and by Farnsworth, circled back toward Big Round Top, where they met a line of the 15th Alabama across their front. Farnsworth’s party had dwindled to only 10 troopers as they weaved back and forth, trying to avoid the murderous fire. Farnsworth fell from his horse, struck in the chest, abdomen, and leg by five bullets. Postwar accounts by a Confederate soldier that claimed Farnsworth committed suicide with his pistol to avoid capture have been discounted. Major Wells received the Medal of Honor for his heroism in leading the rest of his men back to safety. The Vermont regiment suffered 65 casualties during the futile assault.

Kilpatrick’s ill-considered and poorly executed cavalry charges are remembered as a low point in the history of the U.S. Cavalry and marked the final significant hostilities at the Battle of Gettysburg. Six miles (10 km) west of Gettysburg, one of Merritt’s regiments, the 6th U.S. Cavalry, was defeated that afternoon at Fairfield by Brig. Gen. William E. "Grumble" Jones’s "Laurel Brigade," an action not considered to be a formal part of the Battle of Gettysburg, but one that had a critical role in the retreat of Lee’s army.

All of Pleasonton’s cavalry brigades were exercised for the remainder of the Gettysburg Campaign in the lackluster pursuit of Lee’s army back across the Potomac River




Please take time to further explore more about American Civil War, Battle of
Gettysburg, Cavalry Battles, Little Round Top, Culp’s Hill, Cemetery Hill,
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Robert E. Lee, George G. Meade, and the Little
Round Top
by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below. In most cases,
the text in the body of this post has been selectively excerpted from the articles;
footnotes and hyperlinks have been removed for readability




Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: American Civil War…

Wikipedia: Battle of Gettysburg…

Wikipedia: Battle of Gettysburg, Third Day Cavalry Battles…

Wikipedia: Pickett’s Charge…

Wikipedia: Culp’s Hill…

Wikipedia: Cemetery Hill…



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…