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Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Battle of Gettysburg: Day Three

Union General Meade, Commander of the Army of the Potomac held his Council of War the night of July 2nd at his Headquarters on Cemetery Ridge.  All his Generals had there orders.

Confederate General Lee, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, was very confident of his Army's gains on July 2nd and the taking 5,000 Union soldiers prisoner.  The Army of Northern Virginia attacked each end of the Union line and had done a lot of damage.

General Lee did not consult with his field commanders.  His plan was the plan.  Parts of Culp's Hill, on the Union's right flank were held by Confederate troops. General Ewell should finish the job of taking the it.  General Longstreet will command the attack on the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, at daylight.  General J.E.B. Stuart and the right wing of the Confederate Cavalry will to circle the Union lines and attack the center from the rear.  Combined assaults on the same section of the Northern lines will create the void needed to do maximum damaged, force the Union Army to retreat and gain victory.  Synchronized attacks were essential to make the July 3rd attack plan work.

As the National Park Rangers say, "The plan looks great on paper."
If only the Union commanders had been briefed...

Artillery sounded at 4:00 am on Culp's Hill.  Union cannon were firing on Confederates who had taken lower sections of the hill.  Union soldiers rooted out Rebels from positions higher 
up on the hill.  

The battle on the extreme left 
of the Union lines would rage
for seven hours.  

This monument commemorates the valiant actions of the First Eastern Shore Maryland Volunteer Infantry.

Ranger Jim shares stories of
valor of the 149th New York 
Infantry as he relates this
portion of the battle.

By 11:00 am, the vicious battle for Culp's Hill had ended with the Confederates in retreat. 

Daybreak came and went.  Longstreet's attack did not materialize.  Troops were being organized. General Pickett and his men arrived the night before and were placed in the line at Seminary Ridge. Hours crawled by and the Confederate artillery was silent.  

General Edward Porter Alexander, commander of the Confederate Artillery, began the artillery barrage at 1:00 pm.  More than  150 cannons hurled shells at the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Union cannon, under the command of General Henry J. Hunt responded. The cannons roared for an hour and then, Union artillery fire slowed and ceased, leading Confederates believe that the Union cannon had been knocked out of the fight.  Rebel artillery stopped around 3:00 pm.  

15,000 Confederate infantrymen, in formation, emerged from the treeline on Seminary Ridge around and started to cross the fields toward Cemetery Ridge.  (About a mile)  This advance is known as Pickett's Charge, even though other commanders were on the field.

Eric, Adam & I drove to the Virginia
Monument on Seminary Ridge.

Eric & Adam read the signs
near the monument.

A shot of me at one of
the fence lines near
the woods.

The reason Adam and I look like Heidi's grandfather, with our pants tucked into argyle socks is... Ticks are rampant in Gettysburg National Military Park.  (I removed a tick from Adam two days earlier.)

Adam & I start our walk
toward Cemetery Ridge.

As we walk, Adam and I talk about the condition on July 3, 1863.  Smoke hung across the fields from the hour long Confederate artillery bombardment.  The sun may have been blotted out by all of the smoke in the mid afternoon heat. Imagine wearing wool, carrying rifles, ammunition and whatever else individual soldiers carried. And, it's noisy...  Shouted orders; drummers beating time for their regiments; snorting horses moving to among the men;  the men's labored breathing, prayers and curses. 

 A path has been mowed across the fields for visitors.
We don't have to climb fences, like 
Confederate troops did.

Confederate infantry crossed fields in front of them.  The Second Vermont Brigade, under the command of General George J. Stannard, was placed on the left flank (southern end) of Union line on Cemetery Ridge.  They watched line of grey in the fields move to the right, leaving the riflemen with easy targets to fire at.  Many men fell wounded and dying.

Adam & I think of the
men in grey piling up
as they advanced.

Confederate lines slowed as soldiers crossed fence lines and surged around obstacles in their way.

Unbeknownst to General Lee and his commanders, the majority of Union cannon were in working order and reinforcements arrived to repel the attacking forces.

About midway through the advance, Union cannon opened up on the Rebels and many of the attackers fell. The deafening noise increased with the screams of wounded men.  The line of grey moved over and around fallen comrades as they crossed the Emmitsburg Road.

Cemetery Ridge, lined with monuments is in the distance.

The Union perspective from Cemetery Ridge....  
Watching the Confederate advance.

Virginians led by General Lewis Armisted surged up Cemetery Ridge and crossed the stone wall at its summit, called The Angle.  A melee ensued with desperate hand to hand combat. Both sides were exhausted.  Union soldiers started pushing their attackers back and the Confederate assault lost momentum.  Men in grey started falling back and began retreating across the fields to Seminary Ridge.

What about General J.E.B. Stuart and the Confederate Cavalry east of Gettysburg?  They ran into Union Cavalry commanded by General David M. Gregg.  The Southern suffered heavy losses and withdrew. 

General Lee did not break the Army of the Potomac.  The South had no leverage to demand concessions from the North.

General Meade and the Union Army waited on July 4th for the attack that did not come. General Lee and his battered Army of Northern Virginia moved south to Virginia and two more years of fighting.

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