By William E. Welsh One of the smoothbore cannons in Captain Merritt B. Miller’s Third Company of the Washington Artillery deployed west of Emmitsburg Road just south of the town of Gettysburg fired a single round at 1:07 p.m. as a signal for the Confederate bombardment of Cemetery Ridge to begin. Colonel Edward Porter Alexander, at the request of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, had toiled all morning to assemble and position 170 cannon from all three Confederate corps to participate that afternoon in the largest cannonade ever undertaken on the North American continent. The target of the Confederate rifled and smoothbore cannon was a 500-yard section of Cemetery Ridge, a low elevation in the cultivated landscape that rose just 40 feet above the surrounding terrain. Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, the Union commander, had assigned the Union II Corps to defend the position, which occupied the center of the Union army’s fishhook-shaped battle line. Maj. Gen. Winfield Hancock, who commanded the II Corps, had five batteries of cannon under his immediate control, organized into an artillery brigade. Meade also issued orders for additional batteries to be drawn from the Army of the Potomac’s artillery reserve to deploy in support of the II Corps. More Federal batteries belonging to the Union I Corps occupied the ground north of Hancock’s corps, which included Cemetery Hill, a commanding height that rose 500 feet above the town of Gettysburg. [caption id="attachment_58530" alig


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