Latest News By Telegraph: Pickett’s Charge

Latest News
Headquarters Army of the Potomac, July 3
Semi-Official Report 

The decisive battle has been fought to-day, and the enemy repulsed with terrific loss. At daylight Lee’s right wing batteries opened upon our left, and shortly after those of his centre followed.

After half an hour’s cannonading, doing but little damage to us, the fire slackened and only occasional shots were exchanged. Shortly afterwards the enemy’s left, composed entirely of infantry and sharpshooters, made an attack on our right wing so sudden and importunely that our skirmishers and front line were driven back from their entrenchments, but by the aid of the batteries in the rear and the bravery of the 12th corps, we regained the first position, capturing a considerable number of prisoners. Several hours of ominous silence followed this repulse. At 1 o’clock the enemy fired two shots, apparently the signal for the grandest artillery fight ever witnessed on this continent.  Before a moment elapsed it is estimated at least 80 guns opened upon us. Our batteries returned the fire, and for more than one hour it seemed impossible that man or beast could live. The range as exhibited on the two previous days was wanting on this occasion, most of their shells exploding far in the rear of our front, and generally missing our batteries. Under cover of this Lee advanced his columns of infantry from their covers and made several desperate attempts to carry the lines by assault, but each successive attempt repelled with terrific havoc to them. Some of our batteries, whose ammunition being expended and the men exhausted, ceased to fire, and on the approach of the reserve batteries withdrew to the rear.

The enemy, on seeing the batteries withdrawn, and mistaking this for a retreat, made a rapid infantry charge upon the hill and obtained position in our lines, cutting to pieces and almost annihilating the small infantry supports, but before they had time to rejoice at their imaginary success, the breech batteries poured in a deadly fire of canister. The infantry reserve joined on either flank of the gap, charged them and added greatly to their destruction. They were completely surprised, and hundreds threw down their guns and asked for quarter. Nearly the entire brigade of Gen. Dick Garnett surrendered, and Garnett himself was wounded and barely made his escape.

Longstreet was mortally wounded and captured. He is reported to have died in one hour afterward.

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This telegraphed report of an as-yet-unnamed battle near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was probably received, but not published by the Daily Democrat and News until July 6 as this newspaper did not print on the Fourth of July nor the next day, as it was a Sunday.  Even so, the telegraph shortened the usual delay in news of the War by a week or more.

It’s important to note, however, that quick news doesn’t always mean accurate facts:  As official reports later showed, Lieutenant General Longstreet* was unwounded. It was Brigadier General Garnett who suffered a fatal wound and died on the field.

The Brigadier General wasn’t the only one to fall in what would later be known as Pickett’s Charge, a bloody fight between an estimated 6,500 Union troops and 15,000 Confederate soldiers on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Union losses during this bloody battle, including the dead and the wounded, those missing in action or taken prisoner, totaled about 1,500.  Confederate losses were over 6,000; roughly half those men were from Major General George Pickett’s division.

The evening of Pickett’s Charge, General Lee regrouped and waited for Major General Meade to attack, while heavy rains began to fall.  Several small skirmishes took place on July 4th, but no further major battles, and by evening, General Lee had started to move his troops south.

The supply wagon train filled with Confederate wounded was reported to be 14 miles long.

(posted by Amy D.)

*Longstreet, Garnett, Pickett, and Lee all served with the Confederate forces. Major General Meade served with the Union.

For telegraph information leading up to the battle of Gettysburg, please click here.

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1 Response to Latest News By Telegraph: Pickett’s Charge

  1. Dennis Malik says:

    Another great book on the civil war is Face of Heaven by Paul Murra. I think that is the right spelling.

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