Civil War Series

The Battle of Gettysburg



At 1 P.M. some 170 Confederate guns (we cannot know the exact number) opened on the Union line. Although they gave special attention to the Union center, they fired at batteries all along the Union line from East Cemetery Hill to the Round Tops. Perhaps only eighty guns replied for the compact Union position had no room for more. The black powder created much smoke at the battery positions and in the target areas that limited visibility and accuracy. Although the Confederate batteries inflicted great damage on batteries at the Union center, they tended to fire high so that many shells landed in the Union rear as far away as Culp's Hill, and others drove Meade's staff from the Leister house to Powers Hill and the Artillery Reserve from its park. Union guns, however, were able to inflict significant casualties on the Confederate infantry. Yet, to conserve ammunition for use when the Confederate infantry attacked, Brig. Gen. Henry J. Hunt, the Federal artillery commander, ordered his guns to cease firing long before the Confederate batteries stopped their fire.

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Following a two-hour artillery bombardment of the Union center, the Confederate divisions of Pickett, Pettigrew and Trimble advanced to assault Cemetery Ridge at 3 P.M. Despite terrible loss, parts of all three divisions reached the Union works before being forced to retreat. The entire attack lasted no more than one hour.

The Confederate batteries fired for nearly two hours and became short of ammunition. On seeing Lt. T. Fred Brown's badly damaged Rhode Island battery leave its position at the Union center, Colonel Alexander, who commanded the artillery of Longstreet's Corps, told Longstreet that the time for the infantry advance had come.

The Union forces waited on Cemetery Ridge. There had been casualties, but the infantry units remained intact. Many of Union soldiers waiting behind the walls had more than one loaded rifle at hand.

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