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 left flank, smashed into it, and sent it falling back. This was the attack the Union commander, George Meade, had expected, but a desperate fight ensued as all reserves were thrown into the battle.
The Confederate army had the advantages of flat terrain and Culp's Hill in the north. The latter afforded clear views of the Union positions and movement of their reserves as well as fields of fire for rebel artillery that had been placed on the high hills. (Continued below map)
After four hours of intense combat the Union lines held and the Confederate advance halted. The unmolested Union right flank provided a clear line of communications back to Washington and the army held firm. Both sides suffered over twenty thousand killed, wounded, or captured each -- nearly a quarter of their respective army's strengths.
The battle was over and tactically a draw. The Army of the Potomac had held its ground and not been forced from the field, thus preventing a decisive rebel victory that could have end the war. Denying them this had earned the Union a significant strategic victory.
The rebels withdrew the following day and by fall, the campaign had moved back into Virginia with a new Union general in charge, Ulysses S Grant.