Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gettysburg – Lee's Plan

When the sun set and the battle ended on July 2nd, it was apparent that although the battle plan was based on faulty information and had not been executed until late, it had gained some success. Sickle's line had been broken and reinforcements sent to him had been crushed. But all the attacks ultimately failed for lack of support. There seemed to be opportunities for the next day. Lee thought if an attack on Cemetery Hill was well supported it might be able to follow up on the partial successes gained the previous day and break the Union line. Lee's plan for the third day at Gettysburg would remain unchanged. Lee made the mistake of trying the same thing again, and hoping that a favorable opportunity would allow him to win the battle. He had great confidence in his army, and believed that if they worked together they could not be defeated. Using Pickett's fresh division, Longstreet would again attack the Federal left while Ewell continued his diversion on Meade's right.

On the other side of Cemetery Ridge, Meade was holding a council of war. He asked his Corps commanders whether the army should retreat, hold in its position, or launch an attack. The consensus, as famously stated by Slocum, was that they should "stay and fight it out." The battle would continue on July 3rd.

Union breastworks on Culp's Hill
The battle on Culp's Hill resumed early on the third day. The Federals had surrounded the foothold of Union entrenchments Johnson's division had gained. After an artillery duel Ewell attacked with more troops. There was little room to maneuver, and the fight came down to a deafening and deadly barrage of musketry. So many shots were fired through the men's rifles they became to hot to touch. The rebels pressed hard they were unable to break the Federal lines. Then the Federals counter-attacked and pushed the Confederates down Culp's Hill, recapturing their entrenchments. The renewed Confederate attack on Culp's Hill had been unsuccessful, and it had not even served its purpose as a diversion. No one had told Pickett he was to attack in the morning, and so as the fighting wound down on Culp's Hill the troops were still being prepared to make what would be called Pickett's charge.


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