Thank you for being a FReeper and for your wonderful support of our Military and our Veterans.
God Bless you.
By the morning of July 3, the Army of the Potomac was formed into a "fishhook" line firmly anchored on Cemetery Ridge. Fighting erupted on Culp's Hill early that morning when Union troops attacked Confederates who had taken a portion of the hill the night before. After six hours of intense fighting, the Union succeeded in driving off the southerners. With the loss of his advantage at Culp's Hill, General Lee decided to alter his strategy. Having already ordered his cavalry chief, JEB Stuart, to ride around the right of the Union position and attack the Union supply line, Lee decided to strike what he thought to be a weakened Union center. He issued orders for a massive bombardment of the center followed by an assault of 18,000 men, co-ordinated and commanded by his trusted corps commander, General James Longstreet. Longstreet's assault, better known today as "Pickett's Charge", would be Lee's last gamble at Gettysburg.
These fields are where the last Confederate attack of the battle, known as "Pickett's Charge", occurred. Almost one mile of open ground lay between Seminary Ridge in the distance, and Cemetery Ridge in the foreground. The day before this great charge, Confederate soldiers swarmed through the distant woods that line Seminary Ridge, moving artillery and infantry into position to prepare for the July 2 attack against the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. It was late on the second day of the battle that General Ambrose Wright's brigade advanced across this wide plain to strike Union troops centered around the Codori House on the Emmitsburg Road. Though initially successful, Wright's men could not penetrate the Union line and were thrown back. Soon after dawn on July 3, these fields and pastures were full of troops engaged in heavy skirmish fighting that lasted throughout the morning.
Promptly at 1 o'clock, two Confederate guns were fired to begin the artillery bombardment. Over 150 southern cannon replied, sending shot and shell into the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Colonel Edward P. Alexander recalled, "In another minute every gun was at work. The enemy were not slow in coming back at us, and the grand roar of nearly the whole artillery of both armies burst in on the silence, almost as suddenly as the full notes of an organ would fill a church. The enemy's position seemed to have broken out with guns everywhere and from Round Top to Cemetery Hill was blazing like a volcano. The air seemed full of missiles from every direction." For nearly two hours the deadly duel with Union cannoneers on Cemetery Ridge continued with no let up in the volume of shells or ear-splitting blasts. The cannonade was so loud and sound carried so well that it could be heard as far away as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a distance of 40 miles.
General James Longstreet was tasked with command of the infantry in the last great charge of the battle. General George Pickett's Division of Virginia soldiers, General Heth's Division (commanded by General J.J Pettigrew), and two brigades of General Pender's Division (commanded by General Isaac Trimble), approximately 12,000 infantrymen, would make the initial charge. The troops would be followed by reinforcements including General Cadmus Wilcox's Alabama brigade and Colonel David Lang's brigade of three Florida regiments. General Lee's last gamble for victory at Gettysburg now rested in the hands and hearts of these southern infantrymen, about to enter into one of the most desperate and famous charges in American history. After an hour and a half of cannonading, the Union guns fell silent, which was mistaken for a general withdrawal. Alexander scribbled a note to General Pickett: "For God's sake, come quick... come quick, or my ammunition won't let me support you properly." Pickett carried the message to General Longstreet, seated on a fence in Spangler's Woods near the location of the Virginia Monument. Sad and bitter, Longstreet could barely a nod a reply. The dashing Pickett rode off to order his men forward while Longstreet remained on his fence, preferring not to watch the disaster about to befall his troops.
"Up men and to your posts," ordered a joyous General Pickett. "Don't forget today that you are from Old Virginia!" His men cheered as they rushed into formation. "Before us lay bright fields and fair landscape," a Confederate staff officer remembered as the southern infantry stood in perfect order, prepared to cross the mile of open farmland. The huge formations moved forward, each regiment marked with the red cloth battle flags of the Army of Northern Virginia. This massive parade was suddenly rained upon by a shower of artillery shells as Union guns came back to life.
The Union position was not abandoned as some thought. Union artillery came to life, blasting the large formations with shell and canister- a tin can filled with iron balls that when fired acted like a giant shotgun, cutting large swaths through the close ranks. Officers dropped as sergeants and even privates took command. In the center of the column was Brig. General Lewis Armistead at the head of his brigade with his hat thrust upon his sword. Despite the terrible fire, the Confederates made their way up to "the Angle" at the Union center and halted. Pushing his way through the crowd, Armistead knew what had to be done. "Boys, we can't stay here!", he cried. "Give them the cold steel!"
Explosions ripped through the Confederate ranks. Officers waved swords and shouted above the noise for the men to close the gaps. Guided by their flags, the southerners continued on toward Cemetery Ridge.
This small grove or "copse" of trees had little or no significance prior to the Battle of Gettysburg, but on July 3, 1863, it was the focal point around which swept vicious hand-to-hand combat during the climax of "Pickett's Charge". The trees grow within a confined area known as "The Angle", named for the stone fence that bends to the west and then southward to border the small pasture where the original trees stood. It was behind this stonewall that Union troops were positioned during the battle. The title of "High Water Mark of the Rebellion" was bestowed upon the copse by John B. Bachelder, the first government historian of the Gettysburg battlefield, who realized its significance during a visit to the site with a veteran of General Pickett's Division. It was through Bachelder's influence that the "High Water Mark of the Rebellion Monument" was placed here and dedicated in 1892. The monument lists the commands of both armies that participated in Pickett's Charge. This grouping of trees marked a Confederate crest of the battle and the war. After Gettysburg, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia would never reach such a high point again.
Approximately 7,000 Union soldiers were positioned in the area of the Angle and adjacent to it, men of the Union Second Corps commanded on July 3rd by Brigadier General John Gibbon. Some expressed relief to be over the ordeal of the artillery bombardment as they gazed at the parade of southern infantry headed toward them. "Beautiful, gloriously beautiful did this vast array appear in the lovely little valley," observed one soldier. The southerners reached the Emmitsburg Road and began to leap over the stout fences. "The column pressed on," General Gibbon observed, "coming within musketry range without receiving immediately our fire, our men envincing a striking disposition to withhold it until it could be delivered with deadly effect."
The Union line suddenly came to life, pouring a dreadful fire of lead into the southern ranks. Within the acre of ground surrounding the clump of trees was the famed "Philadelphia Brigade", regiments raised in and around the city of Philadelphia, under the command of Brig. General Alexander Webb. Webb's men sent volley after volley into the mass of Confederates who pushed onward and, despite the intense fire, reached the stone wall. Congregating along the wall, Pickett's men intermingled with some from Pettigrew's command and all traded rifle shots across the bare space of 50 yards between them and some of Webb's men standing on the crest of the ridge. The last of Pickett's brigadiers, General Lewis Armistead, pushed his way through the crowd and led a charge over the wall. The fighting was brutal and at one point was hand to hand in the copse of trees. The last remaining Union batteries used double-shots of canister to blast away groups of southerners who ventured their way around the Yankees still holding the wall south of the trees. Without reinforcements or support, the Confederates could not hold the Angle and clump of trees. Those who could retreated to Seminary Ridge leaving behind their dead and wounded.
The High Water area is one of the most visited sites on the battlefield and has been the scene of countless reunions and ceremonies. Veterans of the Philadelphia Brigade and Pickett's Division returned to this site several times, grasping hands over the same stone wall that so many had died over during the battle. The reminders of the men who fought here and those that died live on in the granite and bronze monuments that stand within the Angle.
North of Pickett's Division, troops under Generals Pettigrew and Trimble reached the Emmitsburg Road to attack Union positions between Ziegler's Grove and the Angle. Following their red battle flags, groups of Confederates leapt the fences lining the road and forged ahead toward the stone wall behind which were aligned troops under General Alexander Hays. Hays had lined up his men in a solid mass behind the stone walls and fences, backed up by artillery.
Artillerymen had set up their guns at the edge of the woods, which also provided shade from the warm afternoon sun. The grove was the only tall stand of trees on this portion of Cemetery Ridge where the ridge took a sharp turn to the east to join into Cemetery Hill. Hays' men, with several regiments of the First Army Corps nearby, enjoyed a clear field of fire in three directions and had successfully kept Robert Rodes' division at bay during the second day of the battle and the morning of the 3rd.
A line of stone walls provided natural protection for the infantry regiments here and Hays' men used these strong walls for defensive positions on July 2 and 3. Rails than added height to the walls were taken down and piled on stop of the stones to add height for the men kneeling and standing behind them. During Pickett's Charge, the wall south of the Brian barn bristled with infantrymen who fired down at the Confederates crossing the Emmitsburg Road, approximately 200 feet away.
These Confederates were under the command of James Johnston Pettigrew and Isaac Trimble. Halted by the heavy musketry from Hays' line, the southerners also suffered the fire from Union batteries on west Cemetery Hill and in Ziegler's Grove. Though many soldiers halted in the road to shoot back, others followed their flag bearers over the fences and continued on toward the stonewall. Soldiers fell by the dozens, but the flags continued forward. General Pettigrew had just conferred with General Trimble near the road when both were severely wounded, Pettigrew in the hand and Trimble in the leg. No supports could be seen coming to their aid and a lone Union regiment, the 8th Ohio Infantry, swung into the southern left flank, sending a spattering of rifle fire down the road and hitting men who crouched there with deadly accuracy. The Confederate flags disappeared, fallen into the smoke, not rising again as bearers and supporters were killed or wounded. There was nothing left for Pettigrew to do but order a retreat.
General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia were stunned by the stark reality of the repulse. Over 15,000 men had stepped off Seminary Ridge in the attack. Only 6,000 returned.
General Meade arrived on the scene just as the last few shots echoed over the hills. Seeing the Confederates in retreat, the general waved his hat and shouted a hoarse "Hurrah!" as a Union band struck up "The Battle Cry of Freedom". General Meade knew that his army had given Lee a telling blow, but his had also suffered severely during the battle. Satisfied with the day's results, Meade decided to hold his commanding position and wait for Lee's next move. Apart from a skirmish on the southern flank of both armies, the Battle of Gettysburg had drawn to a bloody close.
Lee knew that he could no longer remain in Pennsylvania. Late that evening, he dictated orders for his army to withdraw from Gettysburg and begin the retreat back to Virginia. Storm clouds and a heavy rain that evening signaled the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, but the suffering was far from over.
All told, the cost of the Gettysburg Campaign was dreadful; 23,045 Union soldiers (24% of 95,369), and 27,528 Confederate soldiers (36% of 77,500) had been killed, wounded, or were missing.
The Battle of Gettysburg was an extremely important victory for the Army of the Potomac and ended Lee's invasion of the north. Yet the agony of the battle was felt in Pennsylvania for many months after. Approximately 22,000 wounded Union and Confederate soldiers filled churches, barns, and private homes.
We also more enthusiastically than ever *SALUTE* the men and women of each specialty, and say:
It is for selfish reasons that I support our military and veterans. My father was a WWII vet who set an example of honor, dignity, and love of country. His unwavering respect for those in positions of leadership, even when he disagreed, and his utmost respect for the flag and all that she represents filled me with awe at, not only a man with such convictions, but a country whose basic concepts could evoke such respect. Now I am married to a military member who likewise, loves his country and has never been anything but honorable and dedicated to the country that he serves.
God bless you all for the work that you do to raise the awareness for, and the spirits of, our service members.
Freedom Is Worth Fighting For !!
Molon Labe !!
On the Eve of our Independence Day it seems especially appropriate to remember and thank all those who serve to protect the Freedoms we all enjoy!
Hey there Everybody from the Black Hills of South Dakota...sigh...literally..