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Battle of Gettysburg: Day 3
Day 3 July 3rd, 1863 - Overview
Fighting resumed early morning on the 3rd as five Union Batteries opened fire on the Confederate position on Culp's Hill. Shortly after the barrage, Johnson's Division renewed its attack against the Union defenders. Johnson attacked three times, but each attempt failed to penetrate the Union line. The Union position had now been reinforced by units from the I and VI Corps and were virtually impregnable.

Lee had wanted to finish the battle with a decisive encounter. His plan was to conduct a massive artillery barrage along the Union line followed by an infantry charge into the Union center. His plan called for about 160 cannons and 12,000 men to participate in the attack. The attack would take place under the command of General Longstreet and involve the men of MG George E. Pickett and BG James J. Pettigrew.

At approximately 13:00, the Confederate artillery opened fire all along the Union line, concentrating on the Union Batteries. The Confederate barrage lasted about 2 hours but did not inflict significant damage as most of the fire overshot their intended targets. The Union counter-barraged but held off near the end in order to conserve against an impending Confederate infantry attack.

Now, about 15:00, the time had come for Longstreet's assault against the Union center. The Confederate line stretched for almost one mile and began the march across 1,400 yards of open ground. The Union Batteries all along the length from Cemetery Hill to Little Round Top opened fire and managed to open holes in the advancing line.

As Pickett and Pettigrew converged, the line compacted to focused on the Union position called the Angle. As the the Confederates neared, the Union units were able to flank and fire into the approaching line with devastating results. Still the Confederates came and despite heavy losses and under the leadership of BG Lewis Armistead, were able to storm the Angle, capturing several cannons. But, the Confederate position was exposed and reinforcements were not to arrive. Soon those that reached the Angle were forced back across the field in retreat.

Over 50% (almost 5,600) of the men involved in the charge became casualties. The Union loss is believed to have been around 1,500.

Earlier in the day, Lee had sent General Stuart with four brigades of cavalry to attempt to swing around the Union's right and exploit any successes by the Confederate infantry. At 15:00, about three miles east of Gettysburg, Stuart ran into two brigades commanded by BG McGregg. The battle that followed was one of the largest cavalry engagements of the war. Both sides attacked and counterattacked but the battle ended in a draw with Gregg's men holding their position.

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Copyright © 2007 Brian Williams.

Last Modified: 02/10/2007.

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