A no-frills day-by-day account of what was happening 150 years ago, this blog is intended to be a way that we can experience or remember the Civil War with more immediacy, in addition to understanding the flow of time as we live in it.
Monday, July 15, 2013
July 3, 1863
July 3, 1863
of Vicksburg, Day 42
---Siege of Port Hudson, Day
Lt. Gen. James Longstreet
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer, USA
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.
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.
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.
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.