"In the early morning of July 3, there was fighting on the Union right. "At it again," wrote
Meade to his wife, "with what result remains to be seen. Army in fine spirits and everyone determined to do or die."
On the other side, after Lee and Longstreet had made a reconnaissance of the Union position, Lee said that he was going to attack
the enemy’s centre. "Great God," said Longstreet, "Look, General Lee, at the insurmountable difficulties between
our line and that of the Yankees-the steep hills, the tiers of artillery, the fences, the heavy skirmish line-and then we’ll have
to fight our infantry against their batteries. Look at the ground well have to charge over, nearly a mile of that open ground there
under the rain of their canister and shrapnel." "The enemy is there, General Longstreet, and I am going to strike
him," said Lee in his quiet, determined voice.
All the events of the past month-invasion and answering maneuvre, marching and countermarching, the fighting of two days-were
the prelude to a critical episode; three or four terrible hours were now imminent which should go far toward deciding the issue
of the war.
From 11 A.M. until 1 P.M. there was an ominous stillness. Suddenly from the Confederate side
came the reports of two signal guns in quick succession. A bombardment from one hundred and fifty
cannon commenced and was replied to by eighty guns of the Union Army whose convex line, advantageous
in other respects, did not admit of their bringing into action a large part of their artillery.
The Confederate fire was chiefly concentrated upon the Second Corps where Hancock had resumed
command. It was, he wrote in his report, "the heaviest artillery fire I have ever known."
But it did little damage. The Union soldiers lay under the protection of stone walls, swells of the
ground and earthworks and the projectiles of the enemy passed over their heads, sweeping the open
ground in their rear.
Hancock with his staff, his corps flag flying, rode deliberately along the
front of his line and, by his coolness and his magnificent presence, inspired his men with courage
and determination. One of his brigadiers, an old neighbor, said to him, "General the corps
commander ought not to risk his life in that way." Hancock replied, "There are times when
a corps commander's life does not count."