Midpoint of the War: May to July 1863

Gettysburg: The Third Day

When did the Federals open fire?

When Pickett’s men had advanced about three hundred yards. Every yard counted, so far as Pickett and his men were concerned, but the Federals wanted to be sure that every shot counted. When the Union defenders opened fire, they began with rifles, but soon these were rendered almost silent compared to the roar of cannon. The Union artillery had not been shut down; in fact, far from it.

How many Confederates fell with each cannon blast is hard to say, but statisticians and engineers who experiment with the guns from that period believe that between ten and fifteen went down with each significant artillery “hit.” Gaps soon appeared in the Confederate lines, but Pickett’s men closed them. The major exception was a regiment on the extreme Confederate left, which broke under the terrible punishment. Most of its men ran away.


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