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Battle of Gettysburg: Day 3
Day 3: July 3, 1863 - Pickett's Charge
High Water Mark.  Pickett's Charge approached from the right.Longstreet was reluctant about the attack that Lee had ordered. It called for nearly 12,000 men (nine brigades) to march over 1,000 yards across open ground. The Confederate line would stretch for over a mile. Pettigrew's Division (of A.P. Hill's Corps) would comprise of the northern portion of the attack while Pickett's Division (Longstreet's Corps) would be the southern wing.

The attack began with over one hundred Confederate guns opening fire along the Union lines. The Confederate shells tended to land over the Union lines and land amidst the rear (near the wagons and hospitals). In fact, Meade was forced to relocate his headquarters to Power's Hill. Colonel Alexander, commander of the Confederate I Corps Artillery, noticed that the Union batteries were momentarily withdrawing from their positions (only to be replenished and supported with replacement batteries) . If any time had come, this was the time. In effect, Colonel Alexander gave his opinion that the charge should proceed.

Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge starting place. Looking at Cemetery Ridge.  National Tower in background.  Low (almost scrub appearing trees in left rear) before the higher trees, represent an orchard planted by the NPS at the site of the Bliss Farm.The attack started from Seminary Ridge with Pickett's and Trimble's Divisions and slowly marched eastward. Union batteries from Cemetery Hill to Little Round Top immediately opened fire on the advancing line, opening temporary gaps in the units. The Confederates kept coming and after 15 minutes, reformed their lines after crossing Emmitsburg Road. When the Confederates were within 400 yards, the Union artillery began firing canister and were also within Union rifle distance. The two wings of the Confederate advance converged as Pettigrew moved to the right and Pickett to the left. The line now compacted to about 1/2 mile long.

BG James L. Kemper's Brigade formed Pickett's lead right-front brigade. To his left was BG Richard B. Garnett's Brigade followed by BG Lewis A. Armistead's Brigade. Pickett ordered his men to turn to the northeast in order to link with Pettigrew's Division. This exposed his right flank to the artillery on Little Round Top and the southern portion of Cemetery Ridge. This allowed the Union artillery to fire along the Confederate line with little chance of missing a target.

Col. Robert Mayo's Brigade, Pettigrew's left brigade, was attacked by artillery of the XI Corps on Cemetery Hill. The 8th Ohio Regiment (of Carroll's Brigade), under the command of LtC. Franklin Sawyer, had been sent out earlier to form a skirmishing line. Instead of withdrawing (as skirmishers are usually required), Sawyer faced his men southwest to fire on Mayo's Brigade which was passing in front. Though Sawyer's Regiment was largely outnumbered, Mayo's men had sustained enormous losses from the artillery barrage on Cemetery Hill. Sawyer's attack was enough to send Mayo's men running to the rear. This now exposed the remaining Pettigrew Brigades to flanking fire.

Pettigrew now linked with Pickett and both continued steadily eastward up the slope. Hays' Division (Union) formed behind a stone wall and waited until Col. Birkett D. Fry's Brigade was within 200 yards. Now that Mayo's Brigade had fled the field, Hays was able to overlap Pettigrew's left. Hays ordered his right to overlap Pettigrew's left and face southwest. On the right flank of the Confederate advance (Kemper's Brigade), the exact same maneuver was being initiated by BG George J. Stannard's Brigade (13 VT, 14 VT, and 16 VT). Stannard was able to fire upon Kemper and inflict huge casualties with impunity. This caused Kemper's men to crowd to the north away from Stannard's fire.

High water mark looking at Virginia Monument, where Pickett's men originated out of the woods on Seminary RidgeThe Confederates began to bunch near the center and became "a mingled mass, from fifteen to thirty deep." Opposite the main assault was the "Angle" - a point in the Union line where it formed a 90-degree angle. Positioned in the Angle, behind a stone wall, was the 71st PA Regiment (250 men). To their left, was the 69th PA, supported by five guns of Cowan's 1st NY Battery. As the Confederates pushed forward, the men and artillery in the Angle poured devastating fire into the approaching units. Still, the Confederates came, this time reaching the stone wall of the Angle. General Armistead led the Confederate attack with a group of about 200 men and overran most of the 69th and 71st PA before reaching Cowan's Battery. General Webb, who watched the attack, ordered the 72nd PA into battle.

The 72nd PA halted the Confederate advance and forced many of the enemy to seek cover behind the western side of the stone wall. Hand-to-hand fighting raged in the Angle and Webb ordered a charge by the 72nd. The Regiment refused the order and Webb gave up the attempt. By this time, Col. Devereux's 19th MA Regiment and the 42nd NY Regiment rushed into the Angle to drive the Confederates out.

High water mark, clump of trees for which the Army of Northern Virginia focused their assault. Commands Honored Memorial.The Confederates were now outnumbered and cutoff from any reinforcements. Soon, anyone left in the Angle was either captured or killed. The remaining Confederate units near the Angle slowly retreated and made their way back towards Seminary Ridge after realizing no reinforcements were to come.

Pickett lost nearly 3,000 men (over half) of his Division. He lost all 15 regimental commanders, including two BG's and six Col's. When Pickett returned to Lee, he was ordered to prepare against a possible Union counterattack. Pickett then replied, "General Lee, I have no division now."

Despite the Confederate retreat, the Southerners were still a formidable force. Meade, having assumed command only 6 days earlier, was in no mood to face the Confederate guns lining Seminary Ridge. In addition, nightfall was soon approaching. The following day, July 4th, erupted in rainfall and saw the retreat of Lee's army.

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