Gettysburg, High water mark

This designation was introduced after the war when the monuments of the Gettysburg Battlefield were being erected. Some historians have argued that the battle was the turning point of the war and that this was the place that represented the Confederacy’s last major offensive operation in the Eastern Theater.

On the third day of the battle (July 3, 1863), Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered an attack on the Union center, located on Cemetery Ridge. This offensive maneuver called for almost 12,500 men to march over 1,000 yards of dangerously open terrain.

Preceded by a massive but mostly ineffective Confederate artillery barrage, the march across open fields towards the Union lines became known as Pickett’s Charge; Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett was one of three division commanders under the command of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, but his name has been popularly associated with the assault. Union guns and infantry on Cemetery Ridge opened fire on the advancing men, decimating the Confederate ranks. One of Pickett’s brigade commanders was General Lewis Addison Armistead. His men were able to breach the Union lines in just one place, a bend in the wall that has become known as “the Angle.” This gap in the Union line was quickly closed with any Confederate soldiers who had breached it being quickly captured or killed.

Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia retreated the next day, leaving Gettysburg for Virginia. Even though the war lasted almost another two years, Lee launched few offensive operations during that time, none of them near the scale of the Gettysburg Campaign.

This photograph taken May 7, 1899.  Noting its provenance (the historical photos of the Lawrence Public Library) the men in the image are probably Lawrence men.

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