PIckett’s Charge Map – Click Image for larger view (at the Civil War Trust website).
The morning of July 3, 1863 began with an assault on Culp’s Hill, but General Meade had ordered troops back to Culp’s Hill to fortify Union ranks. By 11 am, the Union forces regained lost ground. The Confederate assault at Culp’s Hill was stymied. General George Edward Pickett’s brigade, having the only fresh troops on day three of the battle, was ordered, under General James Longstreet’s command, to assault the weakened center of the Union line. Confederate artillery commenced firing on Union troops on Cemetery Ridge at approximately 1 pm. Union cannons answered this bombardment with a cannonade of their own. At 3 pm, the battlefield quieted and the order to begin the infamous “Pickett’s Charge” across a mile of open battlefield towards a “copse of trees” was given.
Originally positioned at the rear of the brigade, General Lewis Addison Armistead, a Confederate from North Carolina, led his men forward during the charge. Union cannon began to fire at the advancing Confederate Army, mowing down as many as 20 Confederate troops at a time, as it advanced towards Cemetery Ridge. General Armistead’s “support troops” filled in the gaps and, eventually, ended up in the front of the Confederate charge.
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Devils Den, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (c1909) – Location of intensive fighting on Day 2 (July 2, 1863) of the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War.
Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress Archives.
I’ve been to the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania twice (so far) in my lifetime. Once in 1999 with my family and again in 2005 with my old, college roommates at my insistence. Both times, I’ve really enjoyed myself there. The historical significance of the Gettysburg Battlefield alone is really inspiring. And, of course, the ample graveyards and ghost stories really made me feel at home.
You have to spend at least a day in Gettysburg. The battlefield is so extensive it takes a whole day to do a self guided car tour– if you see everything from Iverson’s Pits, the Roundtops, the Devil’s Den, the Triangular Field, and Culp’s Hill (among other places). The visitor centers, cemeteries, and museums are really engaging too. Probably the most notable thing about this battlefield is the documentation of the battle and the National Park’s efforts to restore the battlefield to how it looked those three fateful days in 1863. In the years since I’ve been to Gettysburg, they’ve removed trees where there were none and planted trees and orchards where they once stood. Something about the atmosphere and the terrible amounts of men who met their untimely demise on the field of battle in Gettysburg calls to the dead– though the official park stance on the paranormal is that they have no stance on the paranormal.
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51,000 men. That’s the number of American soldiers who were missing, wounded, and those met their demise on the battlefield in Gettysburg, PA on July 1-3, 1863. By today’s standards, these losses are the equivalent of 6 million men in three days. Confederate General Robert E. Lee lost one-third of his army during this battle. It was a grueling and iconic battle of the American Civil War for it marked the turning of the war in favor of the Union armies. It was also one of the bloodiest battles of the war, and probably the most hallowed and, dare I say, haunted ground in the country.
Today marks the beginning of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. What better way to honor the brave men who fought at Gettysburg than sharing stories from the battle?
The first day of the battle did not go well for the Union troops. A minor skirmish started in the northwest of Gettysburg around 10 am. Major General John F. Reynolds and his troops attempted to hold the Confederates at bay, but Reynolds was struck and killed. (Read “Star-Crossed Loves of Gettysburg” for more of Reynolds’ tragic story.) By 4 pm, the Federal troops were retreating through Gettysburg towards Cemetery Hill. Several troops were cut off from their units and killed in the retreat. One of those soldiers was the source of a battlefield mystery of a Union soldier who died during the retreat.
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