Monday, July 15, 2013

July 3, 1863

July 3, 1863

---Siege of Vicksburg, Day 42

---Siege of Port Hudson, Day 37

Battle of Gettysburg

Lt. Gen. James Longstreet
Day 3:  This morning, Ewell renews his attacks on Culp’s Hill, but by 9:00 AM it is clear that no progress can be made---Gen. Slocum having reinforced every position there---and he withdraws Johnson’s division.  Gen. Lee orders Longstreet to renew his attack on the Federal left, but later changes his mind to an attack on the Federal center on Cemetery Ridge.  He is given Pickett’s fresh division from his own corps, and Heth’s Division (commanded now by Pettigrew) and Pender’s Division (commanded by Trimble) in support.  Longstreet again voices his well-known opposition to a frontal assault, but Lee overrules him.  Longstreet orders Col. E. Porter Alexander to place all available artillery so that they can thoroughly hammer the Union center to weaken it, and to drive the Yankee artillery off the ridge.  Alexander places 150 guns or more in position, ready for the bombardment that will begin at 1:00 PM.  Longstreet gives orders to Pickett, who will lead the charge after Alexander’s guns soften up the Federal center.  Advancing in a two-division front, Pettigrew will line up with Pickett to his right, with Trimble in support of Pettigrew.  All told, there will be 13,000 men making this attack. 

At about 1:30 PM, the Confederate guns open fire, concentrating on the narrow area of the Union center indicated by General Lee.  The Federal artillery soon begins to answer.  This is the largest artillery duel on record in the western hemisphere, and it lasts for more than 90 minutes.  Brig. Gen. Henry Hunt, who commands the reserve artillery for the Union, orders the Federal guns to fire more slowly in order to cool the guns and to conserve ammunition.  Badly damaged guns are replaced by fresh batteries.  The Rebels take the Yankees’ slackening fire to mean that the Rebel bombardment has succeeded.  Trying to save enough ammunition to support Pickett and Pettigrew, Alexander sends word to Longstreet, who reluctantly gives the order for the assault. 
Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, USA
At about 3:00 PM, Pickett, Pettigrew, and Trimble step out with nine brigades amongst them, emerging from the trees along Seminary Ridge, to cross a mile of open fields.  Their front stretches nearly a mile in width, as well.  As they come under artillery fire, they took heavy casualties.  Rifle fire from the concentrated Yankees hits them as they cross the Emmitsburg Road.  As they advance, it becomes clear that they are going to strike the portion of the Union center where Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock is in command.
Thulstrup's painting of Hancock directing the Federal defense on July 3.
As Pettigrew’s brigades approached the Union lines, Brockenbrough’s brigade comes under fire on the left flank from the 8th Ohio Infantry, which has come out in front of the Union lines, faced left, and fired into the advancing ranks; Brockenbrough’s Virginians break up and lose all formation, also scattering many of Trimble’s men behind them as they retreat to the rear.  The Union artillery fires about 1,600 rounds at the advancing Southerners, and the left flank of the attack does not advance much farther than the Emmitsburg Road.  Trimble and what is left of Pettigrew are shattered by concentrated rifle volleys from Alexander Hays’ division, as Hays himself rides up and down his lines, encouraging his men, even though he has two horses shot out from under him.  Hancock himself is also constantly exposed to enemy fire, riding in open view to encourage his men.  He directs the defense and placement of reinforcements.

Two brigades from Anderson’s division are to support Pickett’s right flank, but Wilcox’s Alabamians and Lang’s Floridians veer away from the route of the Charge in the heavy smoke on the battlefield, and end up leaving a large gap on Pickett’s right.  The right flank of the attack---Pickett’s division itself---is endangered by the brigade of Vermont regiments under Stannard, who also move out in front, face to the right, and pour volley after volley into Kemper’s brigade, in particular, and Gen. Kemper faces some of his troops away from the attack to deal with Stannard.  Somewhere around this time, Gen. Hancock is hit by a bullet, but refuses to be removed from the field.  But the weight of Pickett’s division is about to strike at Gen. John Gibbon’s division, whose brigades (Hall, Webb, and Harrow) who are all packed behind a stone wall that cuts in at an angle near a copse of trees, just south of Hays’ line. 

Maj. Gen. George Pickett, CSA

Captain Cowan’s 1st N.Y. Independent Battery fires five cannon loaded with double charges of canister, and the Rebel line in his front simply disappears.   Garnett’s brigade begins to shred as they push against Hall’s brigade---some of whom panic and retreat---and Webb’s brigade.  The 71st Pennsylvania of Webb’s brigade at first retreats, without orders, leaving a gap.  Gen. Armistead with his brigade takes the wall, and driving back the 69th Pennsylvania and capturing two guns.  Webb rushes forward the 72nd Pennsylvania.  At this moment, the Pennsylvania Reserves, from behind Cemetery Ridge, charge into the fray and stop the Confederate momentum cold.  Garnett is down, and Armistead has been mortally wounded.  The Southern troops begin to melt away, those who escape capture.  The fragments of the massive charge begin to drift westward toward the Confederate lines. 
Brig. Gen. Lewis Armistead, CSA
The attacking force has lost more than half of its men.  Pickett has lost all three of his brigade commanders, and every one of his fifteen regimental commanders is either dead or wounded. 

In case of Pickett’s success, Gen. Jeb Stuart was to ride around the Federal right flank and endanger their retreat route.   But a few miles east of the Cemetery Hill, Stuart meets Gen. David Gregg’s Union cavalry, and there is inconclusive fightin, mostly mounted, between the mounted arms of both armies.  Finally, a reckless saber charge by newly-promoted Brig. Gen. George A. Custer and his brigade of Michiganders blunts Stuart’s advance, and decides the contest in the Yankee’s favor: one more cavalry defeat for Stuart in a long list of them on this campaign. 
Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer, USA
In one last tragic incident, Gen. Judson Kilpatrick orders a cavalry charge on the Rebel right flank not far from the Little Round Top: he sends forward the brigade under Brig. Gen. Elon Farnsworth, who is killed as his unsupported brigade is badly mauled in the attempt.

Gen. Meade sees that Lee will not make any more attacks this day, and he decides himself not to use his fresh VI Corps, 18,000 strong, to attack Lee.  The Rebels plan to withdraw.

Union Victory.

Losses:           Killed            Wounded           Missing / Captured        Total

U.S.                 3,155                14,531                      5,369                           23,055

C.S.                  4,708               12,693                     5,830                            23,231*

* Other sources place Confederate losses closer to 27,000 men.

---Gen. John C. Pemberton, commander of the Rebel army in Vicksburg, sends a request for terms of surrender for Vicksburg.  Grant agrees to parole the Confederate prisoners, but will not allow them to keep their “body servants” as personal property.

No comments:

Post a Comment