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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. The Confederate army was, however, able to capture Rock Creek Bridge and capture a sizeable piece of the Baltimore Pike. (Continued below map)
The Union left held, however, and kept a clear line of communications back to Washington via the Taneytown Road. While its situation was not ideal, the Union army had not been forced off the field. 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 North Virginia has scored some tactical successes on the battlefield, but by not winning a decisive victory, the South had lost perhaps its last, best chance, to end the war on its terms. The next day, on July 4th, the rebels retreated south towards Virginia. They would never again invade the North.