The Federals had the best of A. P. Hill's forces until midafternoon on the first day at Gettysburg, when, outflanked by Ewell, advancing from the north, they were driven to Cemetery Hill, south of the town. Meade on the recommendation of Winfield Scott Hancock abandoned his Pipe Creek plans and hurried up his whole force. On July 2, against the Union left, Longstreet led the main attack, which was not delivered until about 4 p.m.; the Army of the Potomac thus had time to consolidate its strong position. The Confederates took the Peach Orchard but were repulsed when they attempted to seize Round Top and Little Round Top, commanding eminences at the south end of Cemetery Ridge. On the Union right, Ewell carried Culp's Hill but was beaten off at Cemetery Hill.
Meade's counterattack on the morning of July 3 retook Culp's Hill. Lee ordered Longstreet to attack the Union center with George E. Pickett's division, supported by part of Hill's corps (about 15,000 men in all). After a bombardment of the Union position by the massed Confederate artillery, Pickett moved forward in his famous charge. In the face of terrific artillery and musket fire, the gallant Southerners reached and momentarily held the first Union line. But Pickett's support gave way, and Hancock drove him back with tremendous losses. Meanwhile Stuart's cavalry, in an attempt to get at the Union right and rear, was defeated by David M. Gregg. Both armies, exhausted, held their positions until the night of July 4, when Lee withdrew. High water in the Potomac delayed his crossing back to Virginia, but Meade did not attack him in force.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.