Longstreet was reluctant about the attack that Lee had ordered. It called for nearly 12,000 men (nine brigades) to march over 1,000 yards across open ground. The Confederate line would stretch for over a mile. Pettigrew’s Division (of A.P. Hill’s Corps) would comprise of the northern portion of the attack while Pickett’s Division (Longstreet’s Corps) would be the southern wing.
The attack began with over one hundred Confederate guns opening fire along the Union lines. The Confederate shells tended to land over the Union lines and land in the rear (near the wagons and hospitals). Meade was forced to relocate his headquarters to Power’s Hill. Colonel Alexander, commander of the Confederate I Corps Artillery, noticed that the Union batteries were momentarily withdrawing from their positions. Colonel Alexander gave his opinion that the charge should proceed.
The attack started from Seminary Ridge with Pickett’s and Trimble’s Divisions and slowly marched eastward. Union batteries from Cemetery Hill to Little Round Top immediately opened fire on the advancing line, opening temporary gaps in the units. The Confederates kept coming and after 15 minutes, reformed their lines after crossing Emmitsburg Road.
The Confederates were now outnumbered and cutoff from any reinforcements. Soon, anyone left in the Angle was either captured or killed. The remaining Confederate units near the Angle slowly retreated and made their way back towards Seminary Ridge after realizing no reinforcements were to come.
Pickett lost nearly 3,000 men. He lost all 15 regimental commanders, including two BG’s and six Col’s. When Pickett returned to Lee, he was ordered to prepare against a possible Union counterattack. Pickett then replied, “General Lee, I have no division now.”
Despite the Confederate retreat, the Southerners were still a formidable force. Meade, having assumed command only 6 days earlier, was in no mood to face the Confederate guns lining Seminary Ridge. In addition, nightfall was soon approaching. The following day, July 4th, erupted in rainfall and saw the retreat of Lee’s army.