Civil War Series

The Battle of Gettysburg



Lee had intended to renew the attack of July 2 early on July 3 using Longstreet's Corps including Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett's division, which had reached the field on July 2. But when it became apparent that the Longstreet's Corps could not resume the attack at an early hour and an assault against the Union left did not promise success, Lee revised his plan. He shifted the focus of the assault to the Union center, where brigades of Anderson's division had attacked with near success the evening before. Instead of using Hood's and McLaws's men again, he decided that Herb's division, now commanded by General Pettigrew, and two brigades of Pender's division commanded by Maj. Gen. Isaac Trimble would join Pickett's three brigades in the effort. General Meade decided to fight a defensive battle—his forces would await a Confederate attack. There were no significant changes in Federal deployment at the Union center on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, but First Corps troops remained in the sector of the Second Corps, and there were thirty-nine artillery pieces commanded by Lt. Col. Freeman McGilvery aligned in front of the remnants of Caldwell's division.


As planned, the assault under the direction of General Longstreet would be preceded by a cannonade by Confederate batteries posted on the high ground along the Emmitsburg Road north from the Peach Orchard, on Seminary Ridge, and east of the town. It was intended that this fire would destroy the batteries on Cemetery Ridge and batter the infantry around them. This done, the Confederate infantry would advance, guiding on a clump of trees near an offset in the wall (the Angle) that marked the Union line at its center on Cemetery Ridge. Pickett's division on the right would be formed in two lines, and Trimble's two brigades would advance behind Pettigrew's right. All told, the assault column would number about 12,000 men. If it reached the Union center in relatively good condition, it would outnumber the Union forces posted there and be able to break the Union line. Other units would then advance to exploit the charge's success. Lee ordered General Stuart, who had reached the field on July 2 with his absent troopers, to an area about three miles east of Gettysburg with four brigades of cavalry. From this position. Stuart might be able to advance south toward the Union rear and exploit the success Lee hoped to achieve by the assault against the Union center.



It took the morning for the Confederates to prepare for their attack—to make tactical decisions, move the assault units into position, and brief their commanders. In the meantime, Johnson's division was hemorrhaging on Culp's Hill in a fight it could not win. Pickett's three brigades aligned themselves in the low ground east of Spangler's Woods, and the six bloodied brigades of Herb and Pender that had fought so well on July 1 formed behind the crest of Seminary Ridge to Pickett's left.

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