MORNING OF THE THIRD DAYGettysburg, July 3, 1863
It was a morning of high hopes. Confident and capable, General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had come North. Fresh from another dramatic victory, this one at Chancellorsville. Lee had led his hard-fighting Confederates to Pennsylvania. His strike into enemy country shifted the war from Virginia to the North, supplied his army with abundant provisions from the rich Pennsylvania countryside, and raised the likelihood of official recognition from the British government. More importantly, Lee hoped to win a mighty victory on Northern soil that would end the bloody war and secure nationhood for the Confederacy.
Two days earlier his army had collided with Northern forces from the Army of the Potomac outside the crossroads community of Gettysburg. After bitter, touch-and-go fighting, his troops had swept the field sending their blue-uniformed opponents reeling in retreat to a strong defensive line along Cemetery Ridge. On the battle's second day, Lee's legions had tried to break both Federal flanks and had failed.
Now, on this third day, Lee would attempt to crack the center of the enemy line. In one grand and glorious assault, he would hopefully shatter General George Meade's Federal army and end the war in a Southern victory. Lee arose early this morning. Accompanied by General James Longstreet, his "Old War Horse", he rode the entire length of the Confederate line, adjusting his artillery and preparing his infantry. After a brief daybreak drizzle, the morning sun cast gentle shadows through a thin strand of timber on the lower end of Seminary Ridge. In the early light of this summer day, the dream of Southern Independence still seemed bright and hopeful. It was morning of the third day at Gettysburg.
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