on day three of the Battle of Gettysburg
(July 3, 1863
) General Robert E. Lee
ordered Lieutenant General James Longstreet
to send Major General George E. Pickett
's division of some 5000 Confederate soldiers
against the center of the Federal
line on Cemetery Ridge
prior to the charge the Confederate army engaged in one of the biggest artillery offensives in history (it is said that the guns could be heard in Pittsburgh) to weaken the Federal line .. this was largely ineffective, though, as most of the cannons over shot.
the artillery barrage ended and Pickett began the charge across the long, open field leading to Cemetery Ridge and the awaiting Union soldiers .. along the way the Federal artillery did most of the damage to the incoming Confederates .. so when they did reach the Union line they were in no condition to put up a fight.
so after being flanked and severely decimated, Pickett's division retreated .. (the one-third that was left) .. and so ended the Battle of Gettysburg.