A Great Battle Going on About Gettysburg~July 3, 1863

A Great Battle Going on About Gettysburg

In their own words:

Gettysburg on the third day

Gettysburg on the third day

July 3– Friday– Gettysburg, Pennsylvania– Overnight the Union forces have dug in and fortified their positions. Unable to turn the Federal flanks in yesterday’s fighting, Confederate General Lee decides on a thrust right at the Union middle. A two hour artillery duel begins at 1 pm in the afternoon. When Union guns cease firing, General Longstreet gives a rather reluctant and wordless signal to General George Pickett to launch his infantry attack at the Federal middle. Nine Confederate infantry brigades advance over open fields for three-quarters of a mile under heavy Union artillery and rifle fire. Although some Confederate soldiers are able to breach the low stone wall that shields many of the Union defenders, they can not maintain their hold and are repulsed with over 50% casualties, a decisive defeat that ends the three-day battle and Lee’s campaign into Pennsylvania. Of the 5500 soldiers which Pickett leads into action, 1499 are taken prisoner, 224 killed and 1140 wounded. General Pickett’s units lose 12 of 15 battle flags. Having lost so many officers, the Confederate retreat back across the same ground is disorganized. Total Union casualties from repelling the assault are 2332, dead, wounded and missing. Some of the highest are among the 20th Massachusetts, the so-called “Harvard Regiment,” which suffered 31 killed, 93 wounded, and 3 missing, most of them in 20 minutes of hard fighting. East of the town General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry tangles with Federal cavalry for three hours in an inconclusive fight. Among the casualties this day, Confederate General Lew Armistead, a North Carolina born career soldier, age 46, is mortally wounded and will die July 5th, a prisoner. Confederate General Isaac Trimble, Virginia-born, age 61, West Point Class of 1822, loses part of his left leg and will be taken prisoner. Confederate General Johnston Pettigrew from North Carolina, author, lawyer, diplomat, linguist, and legislator whose 35th birthday is tomorrow, sustains a serious injury to his right hand. [He will die on July 14th during a skirmish as Lee retreats back to Virginia.] Confederate General John Bell Hood, a 32 year old Texan, losses the use of his left arm. Union General Winfield Scott Hancock, age 39, a Pennsylvanian and West Point graduate, Class of 1844, sustains a serious wound to his right leg which will incapacitate him for the next five months. Union General John Gibbon, also Pennsylvania-born, age 36, West Point Class of 1847, is seriously wounded in the left shoulder.The only civilian casualty, Jennie Wade, age 20, a seamstress, is kneading bread dough early in the morning in the kitchen of her sister, when she is struck and killed by a stray shot from a Confederate soldier. [Jennie is betrothed to Union soldier Johnston Skelly, who, unbeknown to her, is a prisoner in Virginia and will die of his wounds on July 12th.] High temperature reaches 87 degrees. A violent thunderstorm passes through the area after 6 o’clock in the evening.

Confederate charge

Confederate charge

July 3– Friday– Gettysburg, Pennsylvania– Tillie Pierce describes her day. “Some of the soldiers told us that they had planted cannon on two sides of the house, and that if the Rebels attempted to reach the Taneytown Road, as they had the day before, there would likely be hard fighting right around the house; and that if we remained, we would be in the midst of flying bullets and shell. Under these circumstances we made all possible haste to depart. After proceeding a mile or so down the Taneytown road, we turned to the left and crossed over to the Baltimore Pike, near the Two Taverns. We finally arrived at a farmhouse beyond the pike, and found the place full of people who had also fled from their homes, to get beyond the dangers of the battle. Toward the close of the afternoon it was noticed that the roar of the battle was subsiding, and after all had become quiet we started back for Mr. Weikert’s home. As we drove along in the cool of the evening, we noticed that everywhere confusion prevailed. Fences were thrown down near and far; knapsacks, blankets and many other articles lay scattered here and there. The whole country seemed filled with desolation. Upon reaching the place I fairly shrank back aghast at the awful sight presented. The approaches were crowded with wounded, dying and dead. The air was filled with moanings and groanings. As we passed on toward the house, we were compelled to pick our steps in order that we might not tread on the prostrate bodies. When we entered the house we found it also completely filled with the wounded. We hardly knew what to do or where to go. They, however, removed most of the wounded, and thus after a while made room for the family. As soon as possible, we endeavored to make ourselves useful by rendering assistance in this heartrending state of affairs. I remember that Mrs. Weikert went through the house, and after searching awhile, brought all the muslin and linen she could spare. This we tore into bandages and gave them to the surgeons, to bind up the poor soldier’s wounds. . . . . Twilight had now fallen; another day had closed; with the soldiers saying that they believed this day the Rebels were whipped, but at an awful sacrifice.”

Gbrg canon photos-Mar31-10

July 3– Friday– Gettysburg, Pennsylvania– Rhode Islander Elishsa Hunt Rhodes recounts his day. “This morning the troops were under arms before light and ready for the great battle that we knew must be fought.” Of the artillery barrage and Pickett’s charge, he writes, “The flying iron and pieces of stone struck men down in every direction. It is said that this fire continued for about two hours, but I have no idea of the time. . . . Soon the Rebel yell and we have found since that Rebel General Pickett made a charge with his Division and was repulsed after reaching some of our batteries. Our lines of infantry in front of us rose up and poured in a terrible fire. . . . Again night came upon us and we slept among the dead and dying.”

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

July 3– Friday– Gettysburg, Pennsylvania– Sally Robbins Broadhead remembers. “We knew that with every explosion, and the scream of each shell, human beings were hurried, through excruciating pain into another world, and that many more were torn and mangled and lying in torment worse than death, and no one able to extend relief. The thought made me very sad, and feel that, if it was God’s will, I would rather be taken away than remain to see the misery that would follow.”

high water mark of Pickett's charge

high water mark of Pickett’s charge

July 3– Friday– Gettysburg, Pennsylvania– Pennsylvania soldier Samuel Cormany summarizes the day. Friday. “Cannonading commenced early– and battle was on again in full intensity at 10 o’clock we were ordered to the Front and Center, but immediately removed to the right of the Center– had some skirmishing. Pretty lively– Our squadron almost ran into a Rebel Battery with a Brigade of Cavalry maneuvering in the woods. They didn’t want to see us, but moved left-ward and we held the woods all P-M.–All seemed rather quiet for several hours– From 1 1/2 til 4 P.M– there was the heaviest cannonading I ever have heard– One constant roar with rising and falling inflections.”

cavalry in combat, Gettysburg, July 3

cavalry in combat, Gettysburg, July 3

July 3– Friday– Gettysburg, Pennsylvania– Sir Arthur James Fremantle summarizes Pickett’s charge and the response of General’s Lee and Longstreet. “When I got close up to General Longstreet, I saw one of his regiments advancing through the woods in good order; so, thinking I was just in time to see the attack, I remarked to the General that ‘I wouldn’t have missed this for any thing’ Longstreet was seated at the top of a snake fence at the edge of the wood, and looking perfectly calm and imperturbed [sic]. He replied, laughing, ‘The devil you wouldn’t! I would like to have missed it very much; we’ve attacked and been repulsed: look there!’ For the first time I then had a view of the open space between the two positions, and saw it covered with Confederates slowly and sulkily returning towards us in small broken parties, under a heavy fire of artillery. But the fire where we were was not so hard as further to the rear; for although the air seemed alive with shell, yet the greater number burst behind us. The General told me that Pickett’s division had succeeded in carrying the enemy’s position and capturing his guns, but after remaining there twenty minutes, it had been forced to retire, on the retreat of Heth and Pettigrew on its left. No person could have been more calm or self-possessed than General Longstreet under these trying circumstances, aggravated as they now were by the movements of the enemy, who began to show a strong disposition to advance. I could now thoroughly appreciate the term bulldog, which I had heard applied to him by the soldiers. Difficulties seem to make no other impression upon him than to make him a little more savage.”

After Longstreet gives orders to a number of his officers, three of whom had their horses shot out from underneath them, “He [Longstreet] asked for something to drink: I gave him some rum out of my silver flask, which I begged he would keep in remembrance of the occasion; he smiled, and, to my great satisfaction, accepted the memorial. He then went off to give some orders to McLaws’s division. Soon afterwards I joined General Lee, who had in the mean while come to that part of the field on becoming aware of the disaster. If Longstreet’s conduct was admirable, that of General Lee was perfectly sublime. He was engaged in rallying and in encouraging the broken troops, and was riding about a little in front of the wood, quite alone–the whole of his Staff being engaged in a similar manner further to the rear.”

In the early evening, Fremantle speaks with several Confederate cannoneers.”When they observed General Lee they said, ‘We’ve not lost confidence in the old man: this day’s work won’t do him no harm. Uncle Robert will get us into Washington yet; you bet he will!’”

Sir Arthur Fremantle, British observer of the Gettysburg campaign

Sir Arthur Fremantle, British observer of the Gettysburg campaign

July 3– Friday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– Rachel Cormany writes of her day. “Started out with Cora & a little basket on the hunt for something to eat out of the garden. I am tired of bread & molasses–went to Mammy Royers & got some peas & new potatoes– Cora got as many raspberries as she could eat. Came home put Cora to sleep then went to Mrs McG’s for milk. got a few cherries to eat also a few for Cora when I got back Daddy Byers was standing at the gate. he came to see how I was getting along & told me how the rebels acted– they robbed him of a good deal . . . . There are no rebels in town today except the sick– & two or three squads passed through, in all not much over a hundred if that many. One squad asked the way to Gettysburg & were sent towards Harrisburg. They did not go very far until they asked again, when they were told the truth they came back very angry & wanted the man that sent them the wrong way but he was not to be found. Cannonading was heard all day.”

Rachel Cormany of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

Rachel Cormany of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

July 3– Friday– Franklin County, Pennsylvania– Amos Stouffer describes the day. “A fine cloudy day. The rebs all left last night about midnight. They were uneasy about the Yankees. They stole all the bees & chickens in the neighborhood. We have heard rumors of a great battle going on about Gettysburg. The rebs are in a tight place and I think will leave thousands in this state to be buried. General Mead has superceded Hooker, he being unwell.”

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