Meade's first brigade rushed through the gap, climbing over a railroad embankment and turning to the right, struck Lane's brigade on the flank. The third Union brigade turned to the left, striking Archer. The second rushed in as well, supporting the other two. Archer and Lane's lines bent back under the heavy pressure on their flanks, but were not broken. Maxey Gregg's Confederate brigade was a little to the rear of the Confederate line. They were called up as reinforcements, but did not know exactly where to go. They lay down under artillery fire and stacked their muskets. Hearing musketry fire rolling towards them, they began to reform, but before they could even grab their rifles the Federals were upon them. Unprepared for the fierce attack by Meade's advancing men, the Southerners fled. Gregg, who was partially deaf, did not hear the Federals and was shot from his horse. The bullet cut his spinal cord and he died two days later.
As Meade's division was recoiling from its defeat, John Gibbon was preparing to go forward on Meade's right. At 1:30 pm this division moved forward, but by that time it was too late to follow up on Meade's temporary success. Gibbon's moved across open fields toward the enemy, taking heavy casualties from the Confederates on the wooded hill. As they grew closer Gibbon halted his men, exchanging fire with the Confederates. Finally he ordered a charge.
|Slaughter Pen Farm|
Gibbon and Meade and been unsuccessful primarily because their initial gains were not supported with reinforcements. It was not for lack of men. Meade, coming back from his defeat, encountered David Birney with his division, and poured forth a slew of profanities at him for failing to move forward. The problem was not just with the lower echelons of command. Burnside ordered Franklin to continue his attacks, but Franklin refused saying all of his troops were already in action. However, this was not true. 5,000 Northerners had fallen as had 4,000 Confederates, but he still had 20,000 men available that had not fired a shot. This ended the battle on the Confederate right, and with it ended the Northern chance for victory at Fredericksburg.
It was this section of the field that the Federals had their best chance. They achieved a breakthrough, but troops were not available to make good that success. Franklin's refusal to attack doomed the battle for the Union. George Meade said:
For my part the more I think of that battle the more annoyed I am that such a great chance should have failed me. The slightest straw almost would have kept the tide in our favor.