For two days the great armies of the North and the South had battered away at each other in and around the small town of Gettysburg. On the 3rd day the commander of Confederate forces, General Robert E. Lee looked across the open fields at Union forces located east of the Emmitsburg road. He was sure one final attack into the center of the line would bring victory. Defeating the Union force under the command of General George Meade would change the whole course of the war, and possibly even result in independence for the Confederacy.
Lee ordered Col. Edward Porter Alexander to orchestrate a massive bombardment with 125 cannons that would precede the attack of 12,500 troops lead by Generals Pickett, Pettigrew, and Trimble. Alexander was noted as the best artillerist in the Army of Northern Virginia, and he functioned as the tactical chief of artillery in the 1st Corps. Alexander's task was enormous. With limited ammunition, he would have to neutralize as much of the enemy's position as possible if Pickett's charge was to have any chance of success.
General Longstreet had great doubts about attacking the strong Federal position. Longstreet remembered how his troops stationed behind the rock wall at Marye's Heights had mowed down Union troops attacking up the long slope at Fredericksburg. At Gettysburg he had tried for days to talk General Lee out of engaging the Federal troops who held the high ground. But undaunted, Lee had confidence in the success of his plan.
As General Lee pointed to a "little clump of trees" as the objective, the hour was soon approaching when Alexander would begin his bombardment by the firing of two cannons in quick succession, signaling the start of the final battle of Gettysburg. The open ground to be crossed by the valiant soldiers of the South, would become the most famous battlefield in America.
150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg Series
This is the third in a series of three prints commemorating the Battle of Gettysburg.
Each print commemorates each of the three days of battle.