The fulcrum of the Battle of Gettysburg was the Confederate infantry assault on the Union left flank on the afternoon of 3 July. It was preceded by an artillery bombardment on the Union lines, but the Confederates were by now short of munitions, and Union gunnery was not significantly degraded. Accordingly, the assault, ‘Pickett’s Charge’, met devastating fire, but reached the Union lines where desperate hand-to-hand combat ensued. The defenders’ lines bowed, but did not break, and the attack was repulsed. A cavalry attack was mounted upon the retreating Confederate troops, but the Union commander, General Meade, mindful of the huge losses incurred by both sides, decided against an active pursuit. Casualties on both sides totalled more than 50,000, c. 60 per cent of which were Confederate. The following day, the Confederate garrison surrendered after a long siege; ‘the highwater mark of the Confederacy’ had passed.
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