This painting by Edwin Forbes recreates Pickett's Charge, the climax of the Battle of Gettysburg that took place on the afternoon of July 3, 1863. The scene is from the perspective of the Confederates who were looking east toward Union troops located in the distance atop Cemetery Ridge. As the Confederates methodically marched forward across nearly three-quarters of a mile of open field, the Union soldiers fired on them, causing massive casualties.
Forbes (1839–1895) was a New York City–born artist who worked as a sketch artist during the Civil War for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. He observed a number of battles first-hand, including the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, and the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1–3, 1863. After the war, he made paintings based on his sketches, including multiple scenes of Pickett's Charge. In his memoir, An Artist's Story of the Great War (1890), he recalled how the field of battle on July 3 looked "simply terrible. The Confederate dead lay in long lines, as if a giant reaper had been driven over the ground to reap a human harvest. Nothing but admiration ought ever to be felt for the discipline, the splendid courage, of these brave men; while posterity will wonder at the misdirected zeal which brought forth such valor in so unworthy a cause."