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Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The Battle of Gettysburg

photo of memorial to Battle of Gettysburg, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
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Battle of Gettysburg

General Lee's Farewell

Introduction

The turning point of the American Civil War occurred at the Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863. It was here that General Robert E. Lee's Confederate army of 75,000 men and the 87,000 man Northern army of General George G. Meade met, by chance, when a Confederate brigade sent there for supplies observed a forward column of Meade's cavalry.

Of the more than 2,000 land engagements of the Civil War, Gettysburg ranks supreme. Although the Battle of Gettysburg did not end the war, not attain any major war aim for the North or the South, it remains the great battle of the war.

Here at Gettysburg on July 1, 2 and 3, 1863, more men actually fought and more men died than in any other battle before or since on North American soil.

Day 1

On July 1, the great Battle of Gettysburg began with Confederate troops attacking Union troops on McPherson Ridge, west of town. Outnumbered, the Union forces managed to hold until afternoon when they were overpowered and driven back through town. In the confusion, thousands of Union soldiers were captured before they could rally on Cemetery Hill, south of town. Long into the night Union troops labored over their defenses while the bulk of Meade's army arrived and took positions.

Day 2

On July 2, the battle lines were drawn up in two sweeping arcs. The main portions of both armies were nearly a mile apart on two parallel ridges; Union forces on Cemetery Ridge facing Confederate forces on Seminary Ridge to the west. Lee ordered an attack against both Union flanks. James Longstreet's thrust on the Union left broke through D.E. Sickles' advance lines at the Peach Orchard, left the wheatfield strewn with dead and wounded, and turned the base of Little Round Top into a shambles. R.S. Ewell's attack proved futile against the entrenched Union right on East Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill.

Day 3

On July 3, Lee's artillery opened a bombardment that for a time engaged the massed guns of both sides in a thundering duel for supremacy, but did little to soften up the Union center on Cemetery Ridge.

The climax of the Battle of Gettysburg came when Major General George E. Pickett, in a desperate attempt to recapture the partial success of the preceding day, spearheaded a massed infantry of some 12,000 Confederate troops across the open field toward the Union center on Cemetery Ridge.

Raked by artillery and rifle fire, Pickett's men reached but failed to break the Union line, and the magnificent effort ended in disaster. In 50 minutes, 10,000 in the assault had become casualties, and the attack - forever to be known as Pickett's Charge - was now history.

Aftermath

With the failure of the Charge the battle was over - the Union was saved. There were 51,000 casualties making Gettysburg the bloodiest battle of American history.

Over 172,000 men and 634 cannon were positioned in an area encompassing 26 square miles. Additionally, an estimated 567 tons of ammunition was expended and, when the battle had ended, 5,000 dead horses and the other wreckage of war presented a scene of terrible devastation.

The Confederate army that staggered back from the fight at Gettysburg was physically and spiritually exhausted. Lee would never again attempt an offensive operation of such proportions. Meade, though he was criticized for not immediately pursuing Lee's army, had carried the day in the battle that has become known as the High Water Mark of the Confederacy.

The war was to rage for two more terrible and tormenting years but the Confederacy never recovered from the losses of Gettysburg. And through the deepening twilight of Confederate military might, all who had been to Gettysburg, would remember.

This web site developed by 1st Traveler's Choice for the Inns of the Gettysburg Area

For more information contact Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau
102 Carlisle Street, Gettysburg, PA 17325
(717) 334-6274 ---- Toll Free: (800) 337-5015 ---- Fax: (717) 334-1166
Email: info@gettysburg.travel
Website: www.gettysburg.travel

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