Day Three – High Water Mark

by kpmautner

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By the third day of the battle, both sides were shot up.  Meade’s army was massed on Cemetery Ridge in a line which stretched from Gettysburg proper to the Roundtops, a distance of five miles.  Lee’s force was tightly packed, a mile away, behind Seminary Ridge.  The photos above rattled my mind when I realized the geography implied.

Beginning with the upper left:  you are standing with your back to Meade’s statue – which stands where his headquarters stood during the final day of battle.  The statue in the center is  to commemorate the soldiers who fought hand-to-hand at this point.  If you didn’t have time to load your musket (remember that breech-loading weapons were about a year off yet for the majority of troops) you used it like a baseball bat.

Upper right photo:  you are standing in the Union lines, watching General George Pickett’s 15,000 Confederates approaching you across one mile of uphill and broken ground with absolutely no cover anywhere, and cannon firing on you from directly in front, and from high ground to your left and to your right.

Lower left:  below the stone wall, looking toward the snake-fencing on the Emmitsburg Road.  At the time of the battle, the road was dirt and sunken about four feet below the current asphalt surface.  There were snake fences on both sides of the road.  If you were with the Confederate army during Pickett’s Charge, you had to climb the first fence, drop down into the sunken road, climb up to and over the second fence, and proceed – all under cannon fire.  By this time, you were in range of canister fire (shells loaded with scrap metal and other shrapnel).  Not fun.

Lower right:  you are in Confederate territory looking UP at the Union infantry and cannons.  The marker to the left of center marks the high-water mark of the Confederacy – the furthest North reached by the Confederate army before being forced to retreat.  According to our guide, the Confederate army sent approximately 15,000 up the slope.  Tallies believe at 5,000 at most made it back to where they started.  The entire engagement lasted 45 minutes.