...okay, back to the history lesson.
On this day at Gettysburg, General Lee decided on an all-out attack at the Union center. Believing the Northern forces would be too spread out and reinforcing the flanks he had attacked on Day Two, he wanted to send as massive a number of troops he could - three divisions - to break the Union line altogether.
Problem was distance. It was pretty much a half-mile march across open terrain, and there was no damn way any army would last long crossing that space.
|Look at that: that's what 14,000 men had to cross facing 10,000 guns in a near-perfect defensive position...|
Lee planned on a massive artillery barrage as a means of softening up the Union lines before he sent his divisions across. It didn't work: Confederate artillery overshot the Union defensive positions along Cemetery Ridge leaving most of those troops and their own cannons intact. And the South didn't have enough artillery to ensure they could take enough Union positions out.
And somewhere before 3:00 PM, Pickett's Charge - along with Trimble and Pettigrew's divisions - marched across that open field.
It ruined the Confederate army: over 60 percent of those divisions were killed, wounded or captured. Generals like Lewis Armistead were killed. Troops and officers Lee could not replace were gone forever.
Instead of a decisive Confederate victory - and one that could garner European recognition and support - it was a decisive Union victory. Combined with the loss that same day of the key city of Vicksburg - which meant the Mississippi River was under full Union control - it signaled that the Southern states would not, could not win their war to preserve their way of life (i.e., agrarian plutocracy driven by slave labor and King Cotton).
And yet they kept fighting for two more years of civil war... and a hundred years of Jim Crow segregation and lynching... and another fifty years fighting the civil rights laws of the 1960s and today... /headdesk