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Decision 4 of 4
Result: Significant Union Victory
On the afternoon of July 3rd, a thunderous artillery barrage opened fire on the Union center. Northern guns returned the fire with solid effect, but were then ordered to cease after an hour and a half to convince the rebels that the artillery preparation had been successful. Little did they realize that it was a diversion.
Over fifteen thousand soldiers of Pickett's division and brigades from the Confederate I and III Corps surged toward the Union right flank, smashed into it, and sent it falling back beyond the Baltimore Pike. The Union commander, General George Meade, had expected an attack from the opposite direction and was caught unawares.
However, the length of the march and Union control of the high ground at the Round Tops enabled him to spot the rebel movements and shift his forces to avert disaster. With great effort, the Confederate army managed to capture Rock Creek Bridge and a sizeable piece of the Baltimore Pike. (Continued below map)
After four hours of intense combat the front stabilized. The Union positions, though battered, remained strong and General Meade was not forced to withdraw since his left flank and the Taneytown Road was secure. Both sides suffered over twenty thousand killed, wounded, or captured each -- nearly a quarter of their respective army's strengths.
The battle was over. The Army of the Potomac had held its ground and forced what was, in essence, a small tactical Southern victory. But strategically, the South had lost perhaps its last, best chance to end the war on its terms. The next day, July 4, the rebel army retreated south into Virginia.