Battle of Gettysburg

Battle of Gettysburg

Overview
The Battle of Gettysburg (locally ˈɡɛtɨsbɜrɡ, with an ss sound), was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Gettysburg is a borough that is the county seat, part of the Gettysburg Battlefield, and the eponym for the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. The town hosts visitors to the Gettysburg National Military Park and has 3 institutions of higher learning: Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg College, and...

, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, it is often described as the war's turning point
Turning point of the American Civil War
There is widespread disagreement over the turning point of the American Civil War. The idea of a turning point is an event after which most observers would agree that the eventual outcome was inevitable. While the Battle of Gettysburg is the most widely cited , there are several other arguable...

. Union
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 Maj. Gen.
Major general (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general...

 George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac
Army of the Potomac
The Army of the Potomac was the major Union Army in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War.-History:The Army of the Potomac was created in 1861, but was then only the size of a corps . Its nucleus was called the Army of Northeastern Virginia, under Brig. Gen...

 defeated attacks by Confederate
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

 Gen. Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

's Army of Northern Virginia
Army of Northern Virginia
The Army of Northern Virginia was the primary military force of the Confederate States of America in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War, as well as the primary command structure of the Department of Northern Virginia. It was most often arrayed against the Union Army of the Potomac...

, ending Lee's invasion of the North.

After his success at Chancellorsville
Battle of Chancellorsville
The Battle of Chancellorsville was a major battle of the American Civil War, and the principal engagement of the Chancellorsville Campaign. It was fought from April 30 to May 6, 1863, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near the village of Chancellorsville. Two related battles were fought nearby on...

 in Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 in May 1863, Lee led his army through the Shenandoah Valley
Shenandoah Valley
The Shenandoah Valley is both a geographic valley and cultural region of western Virginia and West Virginia in the United States. The valley is bounded to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians , to the north by the Potomac River...

 to begin his second invasion of the North—the Gettysburg Campaign
Gettysburg Campaign
The Gettysburg Campaign was a series of battles fought in June and July 1863, during the American Civil War. After his victory in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia moved north for offensive operations in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The...

.
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Encyclopedia
The Battle of Gettysburg (locally ˈɡɛtɨsbɜrɡ, with an ss sound), was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Gettysburg is a borough that is the county seat, part of the Gettysburg Battlefield, and the eponym for the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. The town hosts visitors to the Gettysburg National Military Park and has 3 institutions of higher learning: Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg College, and...

, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, it is often described as the war's turning point
Turning point of the American Civil War
There is widespread disagreement over the turning point of the American Civil War. The idea of a turning point is an event after which most observers would agree that the eventual outcome was inevitable. While the Battle of Gettysburg is the most widely cited , there are several other arguable...

. Union
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 Maj. Gen.
Major general (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general...

 George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac
Army of the Potomac
The Army of the Potomac was the major Union Army in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War.-History:The Army of the Potomac was created in 1861, but was then only the size of a corps . Its nucleus was called the Army of Northeastern Virginia, under Brig. Gen...

 defeated attacks by Confederate
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

 Gen. Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

's Army of Northern Virginia
Army of Northern Virginia
The Army of Northern Virginia was the primary military force of the Confederate States of America in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War, as well as the primary command structure of the Department of Northern Virginia. It was most often arrayed against the Union Army of the Potomac...

, ending Lee's invasion of the North.

After his success at Chancellorsville
Battle of Chancellorsville
The Battle of Chancellorsville was a major battle of the American Civil War, and the principal engagement of the Chancellorsville Campaign. It was fought from April 30 to May 6, 1863, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near the village of Chancellorsville. Two related battles were fought nearby on...

 in Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 in May 1863, Lee led his army through the Shenandoah Valley
Shenandoah Valley
The Shenandoah Valley is both a geographic valley and cultural region of western Virginia and West Virginia in the United States. The valley is bounded to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians , to the north by the Potomac River...

 to begin his second invasion of the North—the Gettysburg Campaign
Gettysburg Campaign
The Gettysburg Campaign was a series of battles fought in June and July 1863, during the American Civil War. After his victory in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia moved north for offensive operations in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The...

. With his army in high spirits, Lee intended to shift the focus of the summer campaign from war-ravaged northern Virginia and hoped to influence Northern politicians to give up their prosecution of the war by penetrating as far as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 49,528, making it the ninth largest city in Pennsylvania...

, or even Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

. Prodded by President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker
Joseph Hooker
Joseph Hooker was a career United States Army officer, achieving the rank of major general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Although he served throughout the war, usually with distinction, Hooker is best remembered for his stunning defeat by Confederate General Robert E...

 moved his army in pursuit, but was relieved just three days before the battle and replaced by Meade.

Elements of the two armies initially collided at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, as Lee urgently concentrated his forces there, his objective being to engage the Union army and destroy it. Low ridges to the northwest of town were defended initially by a Union cavalry division under Brig. Gen. John Buford
John Buford
John Buford, Jr. was a Union cavalry officer during the American Civil War, with a prominent role at the start of the Battle of Gettysburg.-Early years:...

, and soon reinforced with two corps
Corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

 of Union infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

. However, two large Confederate corps assaulted them from the northwest and north, collapsing the hastily developed Union lines, sending the defenders retreating through the streets of town to the hills just to the south.

On the second day of battle, most of both armies had assembled. The Union line was laid out in a defensive formation resembling a fishhook. In the late afternoon of July 2, Lee launched a heavy assault on the Union left flank, and fierce fighting raged at Little Round Top
Little Round Top
Little Round Top is the smaller of two rocky hills south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was the site of an unsuccessful assault by Confederate troops against the Union left flank on July 2, 1863, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg....

, the Wheatfield, Devil's Den
Devil's Den
Devils Den is a boulder-strewn Gettysburg Battlefield hill used by artillery and infantry during the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, Second Day...

, and the Peach Orchard. On the Union right, demonstrations
Demonstration (military)
In military terminology, a demonstration is an attack or show of force on a front where a decision is not sought, made with the aim of deceiving the enemy....

 escalated into full-scale assaults on Culp's Hill
Culp's Hill
Culps Hill is a Battle of Gettysburg landform south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, with a heavily wooded summit of . The east slope is to Rock Creek , 160 feet lower in elevation, and the west slope is to a saddle with Stevens Knoll with a summit lower than the Culps Hill summit...

 and Cemetery Hill
Cemetery Hill
Cemetery Hill is a Gettysburg Battlefield landform which had 1863 military engagements each day of the July 1–3 Battle of Gettysburg. The northernmost part of the Army of the Potomac defensive "fish-hook" line, the hill is gently sloped and provided a site for American Civil War artillery...

. All across the battlefield, despite significant losses, the Union defenders held their lines.

On the third day of battle, July 3, fighting resumed on Culp's Hill, and cavalry battles raged to the east and south, but the main event was a dramatic infantry assault by 12,500 Confederates against the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge
Cemetery Ridge
Cemetery Ridge is a geographic feature in Gettysburg National Military Park south of the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that figured prominently in the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1 to July 3, 1863. It formed a primary defensive position for the Union Army during the battle, roughly the center of...

, known as Pickett's Charge
Pickett's Charge
Pickett's Charge was an infantry assault ordered by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee against Maj. Gen. George G. Meade's Union positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Its futility was predicted by the charge's commander,...

. The charge was repulsed by Union rifle
Civil War rifles
During the American Civil War, the rifle was the most common weapon found on the battlefield. Most of the rifles during that time were loaded with a small lead musket ball or with a minnie ball and black powder. Most rifles of this era were muzzle loaded rifled muskets...

 and artillery fire, at great losses to the Confederate army. Lee led his army on a torturous retreat back to Virginia
Retreat from Gettysburg
The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia began its Retreat from Gettysburg on July 4, 1863. Following General Robert E. Lee's failure to defeat the Union Army at the Battle of Gettysburg , he ordered a retreat through Maryland and over the Potomac River to relative safety in Virginia. The Union...

. Between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both armies were casualties in the three-day battle. That November, President Lincoln used the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg National Cemetery
Gettysburg National Cemetery
The Gettysburg National Cemetery is located on Cemetery Hill in the Gettysburg Battlefield near the borough of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and adjacent to Evergreen Cemetery to the south...

 to honor the fallen Union soldiers and redefine the purpose of the war in his historic Gettysburg Address
Gettysburg Address
The Gettysburg Address is a speech by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and is one of the most well-known speeches in United States history. It was delivered by Lincoln during the American Civil War, on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery...

.

Background and movement to battle


Shortly after the Army of Northern Virginia won a major victory over the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Chancellorsville
Battle of Chancellorsville
The Battle of Chancellorsville was a major battle of the American Civil War, and the principal engagement of the Chancellorsville Campaign. It was fought from April 30 to May 6, 1863, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near the village of Chancellorsville. Two related battles were fought nearby on...

 (April 30 – May 6, 1863), Robert E. Lee decided upon a second invasion of the North (the first was the unsuccessful Maryland Campaign
Maryland Campaign
The Maryland Campaign, or the Antietam Campaign is widely considered one of the major turning points of the American Civil War. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North was repulsed by Maj. Gen. George B...

 of September 1862, which ended in the bloody Battle of Antietam
Battle of Antietam
The Battle of Antietam , fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Antietam Creek, as part of the Maryland Campaign, was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with about 23,000...

). Such a move would upset Federal
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...

 plans for the summer campaigning season and possibly reduce the pressure on the besieged Confederate garrison at Vicksburg
Vicksburg, Mississippi
Vicksburg is a city in Warren County, Mississippi, United States. It is the only city in Warren County. It is located northwest of New Orleans on the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, and due west of Jackson, the state capital. In 1900, 14,834 people lived in Vicksburg; in 1910, 20,814; in 1920,...

. The invasion would allow the Confederates to live off the bounty of the rich Northern farms while giving war-ravaged Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 a much-needed rest. In addition, Lee's 72,000-man army could threaten Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, and possibly strengthen the growing peace movement in the North.

Thus, on June 3, Lee's army began to shift northward from Fredericksburg, Virginia
Fredericksburg, Virginia
Fredericksburg is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia located south of Washington, D.C., and north of Richmond. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 24,286...

. To attain more efficiency in his command, Lee had reorganized his two large corps into three new corps. Lt. Gen. James Longstreet
James Longstreet
James Longstreet was one of the foremost Confederate generals of the American Civil War and the principal subordinate to General Robert E. Lee, who called him his "Old War Horse." He served under Lee as a corps commander for many of the famous battles fought by the Army of Northern Virginia in the...

 retained command of his First Corps. The old corps of deceased Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson
Stonewall Jackson
ຄຽשת״ׇׂׂׂׂ֣|birth_place= Clarksburg, Virginia |death_place=Guinea Station, Virginia|placeofburial=Stonewall Jackson Memorial CemeteryLexington, Virginia|placeofburial_label= Place of burial|image=...

 was divided in two, with the Second Corps going to Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell
Richard S. Ewell
Richard Stoddert Ewell was a career United States Army officer and a Confederate general during the American Civil War. He achieved fame as a senior commander under Stonewall Jackson and Robert E...

 and the new Third Corps to Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill. The Cavalry Division was commanded by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart
J.E.B. Stuart
James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart was a U.S. Army officer from Virginia and a Confederate States Army general during the American Civil War. He was known to his friends as "Jeb", from the initials of his given names. Stuart was a cavalry commander known for his mastery of reconnaissance and the use...

.

The Union Army of the Potomac, under Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker
Joseph Hooker
Joseph Hooker was a career United States Army officer, achieving the rank of major general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Although he served throughout the war, usually with distinction, Hooker is best remembered for his stunning defeat by Confederate General Robert E...

, consisted of seven infantry corps, a cavalry corps, and an Artillery Reserve, for a combined strength of about 94,000 men. However, President Lincoln replaced Hooker with Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, a Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

n, because of Hooker's defeat at Chancellorsville
Battle of Chancellorsville
The Battle of Chancellorsville was a major battle of the American Civil War, and the principal engagement of the Chancellorsville Campaign. It was fought from April 30 to May 6, 1863, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near the village of Chancellorsville. Two related battles were fought nearby on...

 and his timid response to Lee's second invasion north of the Potomac River
Potomac River
The Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, located along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. The river is approximately long, with a drainage area of about 14,700 square miles...

.

The first major action of the campaign took place on June 9 between cavalry forces at Brandy Station
Battle of Brandy Station
The Battle of Brandy Station, also called the Battle of Fleetwood Hill, was the largest predominantly cavalry engagement of the American Civil War, as well as the largest to take place ever on American soil. It was fought at the beginning of the Gettysburg Campaign by the Union cavalry under Maj....

, near Culpeper, Virginia
Culpeper, Virginia
Culpeper is an incorporated town in Culpeper County, Virginia, United States. The population was 9,664 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Culpeper County. Culpeper is part of the Culpeper Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Culpeper County. Both the Town of Culpeper and...

. The 9,500 Confederate cavalrymen under Stuart were surprised by Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton
Alfred Pleasonton
Alfred Pleasonton was a United States Army officer and General of Union cavalry during the American Civil War. He commanded the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac during the Gettysburg Campaign, including the largest predominantly cavalry battle of the war, Brandy Station...

's combined arms
Combined arms
Combined arms is an approach to warfare which seeks to integrate different branches of a military to achieve mutually complementary effects...

 force of two cavalry divisions (8,000 troopers) and 3,000 infantry, but Stuart eventually repulsed the Union attack. The inconclusive battle, the largest predominantly cavalry engagement of the war, proved for the first time that the Union horse soldier was equal to his Southern counterpart.

By mid-June, the Army of Northern Virginia was poised to cross the Potomac River and enter Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

. After defeating the Federal garrisons at Winchester and Martinsburg
Martinsburg, West Virginia
Martinsburg is a city in the Eastern Panhandle region of West Virginia, United States. The city's population was 14,972 at the 2000 census; according to a 2009 Census Bureau estimate, Martinsburg's population was 17,117, making it the largest city in the Eastern Panhandle and the eighth largest...

, Ewell's Second Corps began crossing the river on June 15. Hill's and Longstreet's corps followed on June 24 and June 25. Hooker's army pursued, keeping between the U.S. capital and Lee's army. The Federals crossed the Potomac from June 25 to June 27.

Lee gave strict orders for his army to minimize any negative impacts on the civilian population. Food, horses, and other supplies were generally not seized outright, although quartermasters reimbursing Northern farmers and merchants with Confederate money
Confederate States of America dollar
The Confederate States of America dollar was first issued into circulation in April 1861, when the Confederacy was only two months old, and on the eve of the outbreak of the Civil War....

 were not well received. Various towns, most notably York, Pennsylvania
York, Pennsylvania
York, known as the White Rose City , is a city located in York County, Pennsylvania, United States which is in the South Central region of the state. The population within the city limits was 43,718 at the 2010 census, which was a 7.0% increase from the 2000 count of 40,862...

, were required to pay indemnities in lieu of supplies, under threat of destruction. During the invasion, the Confederates seized some 40 northern African Americans, a few of whom were escaped fugitive slaves
History of slavery in the United States
Slavery in the United States was a form of slave labor which existed as a legal institution in North America for more than a century before the founding of the United States in 1776, and continued mostly in the South until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in...

 but most were freemen. They were sent south into slavery under guard.

On June 26, elements of Maj. Gen. Jubal Early's division of Ewell's Corps occupied the town of Gettysburg after chasing off newly raised Pennsylvania militia
Militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

 in a series of minor skirmishes. Early laid the borough under tribute but did not collect any significant supplies. Soldiers burned several railroad cars and a covered bridge
Covered bridge
A covered bridge is a bridge with enclosed sides and a roof, often accommodating only a single lane of traffic. Most covered bridges are wooden; some newer ones are concrete or metal with glass sides...

, and destroyed nearby rails and telegraph lines. The following morning, Early departed for adjacent York County
York County, Pennsylvania
York County is a county in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of 2010, the population was 434,972. It is in the Susquehanna Valley, a large fertile agricultural region in South Central Pennsylvania....

.

Meanwhile, in a controversial move, Lee allowed Jeb Stuart to take a portion of the army's cavalry and ride around the east flank of the Union army. Lee's orders gave Stuart much latitude, and both generals share the blame for the long absence of Stuart's cavalry, as well as for the failure to assign a more active role to the cavalry left with the army. Stuart and his three best brigades were absent from the army during the crucial phase of the approach to Gettysburg and the first two days of battle. By June 29, Lee's army was strung out in an arc from Chambersburg
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
Chambersburg is a borough in the South Central region of Pennsylvania, United States. It is miles north of Maryland and the Mason-Dixon line and southwest of Harrisburg in the Cumberland Valley, which is part of the Great Appalachian Valley. Chambersburg is the county seat of Franklin County...

 (28 miles (45 km) northwest of Gettysburg) to Carlisle
Carlisle, Pennsylvania
Carlisle is a borough in and the county seat of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, United States. The name is traditionally pronounced with emphasis on the second syllable. Carlisle is located within the Cumberland Valley, a highly productive agricultural region. As of the 2010 census, the borough...

 (30 miles (48 km) north of Gettysburg) to near Harrisburg
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 49,528, making it the ninth largest city in Pennsylvania...

 and Wrightsville
Wrightsville, Pennsylvania
Wrightsville is a borough in York County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 2,310 at the 2010 census. Wrightsville borough has a police department, historic society, and a volunteer fire company.- History :According to a plaque at Samuel S...

 on the Susquehanna River
Susquehanna River
The Susquehanna River is a river located in the northeastern United States. At long, it is the longest river on the American east coast that drains into the Atlantic Ocean, and with its watershed it is the 16th largest river in the United States, and the longest river in the continental United...

.

In a dispute over the use of the forces defending the Harpers Ferry
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Harpers Ferry is a historic town in Jefferson County, West Virginia, United States. In many books the town is called "Harper's Ferry" with an apostrophe....

 garrison, Hooker offered his resignation, and Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, who were looking for an excuse to get rid of him, immediately accepted. They replaced Hooker early on the morning of June 28 with Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, then commander of the V Corps.

On June 29, when Lee learned that the Army of the Potomac had crossed the Potomac River, he ordered a concentration of his forces around Cashtown
Cashtown-McKnightstown, Pennsylvania
The Cashtown-McKnightstown Census Designated Place was the 2000 United States Census area designated by obsolete Census Code 11588 which has been replaced by the Cashtown and McKnightstown Census Designated Places, which the USGS designated as separate named places on August 30,...

, located at the eastern base of South Mountain
South Mountain (Maryland and Pennsylvania)
South Mountain is the northern extension of the Blue Ridge Mountain range in Maryland and Pennsylvania. From the Potomac River near Knoxville, Maryland in the south, to Dillsburg, Pennsylvania in the north, the long range separates the Hagerstown and Cumberland valleys from the Piedmont regions of...

 and eight miles (13 km) west of Gettysburg. On June 30, while part of Hill's Corps was in Cashtown, one of Hill's brigades, North Carolinians under Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew
J. Johnston Pettigrew
James Johnston Pettigrew was an author, lawyer, linguist, diplomat, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War...

, ventured toward Gettysburg. In his memoirs, Maj. Gen. Henry Heth
Henry Heth
Henry "Harry" Heth was a career United States Army officer and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He is best remembered for inadvertently precipitating the Battle of Gettysburg, when he sent some of his troops of the Army of Northern Virginia to the small Pennsylvania village,...

, Pettigrew's division commander, claimed that he sent Pettigrew to search for supplies in town—especially shoes.

When Pettigrew's troops approached Gettysburg on June 30, they noticed Union cavalry under Brig. Gen. John Buford
John Buford
John Buford, Jr. was a Union cavalry officer during the American Civil War, with a prominent role at the start of the Battle of Gettysburg.-Early years:...

 arriving south of town, and Pettigrew returned to Cashtown without engaging them. When Pettigrew told Hill and Heth what he had seen, neither general believed that there was a substantial Federal force in or near the town, suspecting that it had been only Pennsylvania militia. Despite General Lee's order to avoid a general engagement until his entire army was concentrated, Hill decided to mount a significant reconnaissance in force the following morning to determine the size and strength of the enemy force in his front. Around 5 a.m. on Wednesday, July 1, two brigades of Heth's division advanced to Gettysburg.

First day of battle



Anticipating that the Confederates would march on Gettysburg from the west on the morning of July 1, Buford laid out his defenses on three ridges west of the town: Herr Ridge, McPherson Ridge, and Seminary Ridge. These were appropriate terrain for a delaying action by his small cavalry division against superior Confederate infantry forces, meant to buy time awaiting the arrival of Union infantrymen who could occupy the strong defensive positions south of town at Cemetery Hill
Cemetery Hill
Cemetery Hill is a Gettysburg Battlefield landform which had 1863 military engagements each day of the July 1–3 Battle of Gettysburg. The northernmost part of the Army of the Potomac defensive "fish-hook" line, the hill is gently sloped and provided a site for American Civil War artillery...

, Cemetery Ridge
Cemetery Ridge
Cemetery Ridge is a geographic feature in Gettysburg National Military Park south of the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that figured prominently in the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1 to July 3, 1863. It formed a primary defensive position for the Union Army during the battle, roughly the center of...

, and Culp's Hill
Culp's Hill
Culps Hill is a Battle of Gettysburg landform south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, with a heavily wooded summit of . The east slope is to Rock Creek , 160 feet lower in elevation, and the west slope is to a saddle with Stevens Knoll with a summit lower than the Culps Hill summit...

. Buford understood that if the Confederates could gain control of these heights, Meade's army would have difficulty dislodging them.
Heth's division advanced with two brigades forward, commanded by Brig. Gens. James J. Archer
James J. Archer
James Jay Archer was a lawyer and an officer in the United States Army during the Mexican-American War, and he later served as a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War....

 and Joseph R. Davis
Joseph R. Davis
Joseph Robert Davis was a Confederate general during the American Civil War and nephew of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. His troops played an important role in the Battle of Gettysburg.-Early life:...

. They proceeded easterly in columns along the Chambersburg Pike. Three miles (5 km) west of town, about 7:30 a.m. on July 1, the two brigades met light resistance from vedette
Vedette
The French military term vedette , also spelled vidette, migrated into English and other languages to refer to a mounted sentry or outpost, who has the function of bringing information, giving signals or warnings of danger, etc., to a main body of troops...

s of Union cavalry, and deployed into line. According to lore, the Union soldier to fire the first shot of the battle was Lt. Marcellus Jones
Marcellus Jones
Marcellus Ephraim Jones is widely regarded as the soldier who fired the first shot at the Battle of Gettysburg .-Early life:...

. In 1886 Lt. Jones returned to Gettysburg to mark the spot where he fired the first shot with a monument. Eventually, Heth's men reached dismounted troopers of Col. William Gamble's
William Gamble (USA)
William Gamble was a civil engineer and a Union cavalry officer in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

 cavalry brigade, who raised determined resistance and delaying tactics from behind fence posts with fire from their breechloading carbine
Carbine
A carbine , from French carabine, is a longarm similar to but shorter than a rifle or musket. Many carbines are shortened versions of full rifles, firing the same ammunition at a lower velocity due to a shorter barrel length....

s. Still, by 10:20 a.m., the Confederates had pushed the Union cavalrymen east to McPherson Ridge, when the vanguard of the I Corps (Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds
John F. Reynolds
John Fulton Reynolds was a career United States Army officer and a general in the American Civil War. One of the Union Army's most respected senior commanders, he played a key role in committing the Army of the Potomac to the Battle of Gettysburg and was killed at the start of the battle.-Early...

) finally arrived.

North of the pike, Davis gained a temporary success against Brig. Gen. Lysander Cutler
Lysander Cutler
Lysander Cutler was an American businessman, educator, politician, and a Union Army General during the American Civil War.-Early years:Cutler was born in Royalston, Massachusetts, the son of a farmer...

's brigade but was repulsed with heavy losses in an action around an unfinished railroad bed cut in the ridge. South of the pike, Archer's brigade assaulted through Herbst (also known as McPherson's) Woods. The Federal Iron Brigade
Iron Brigade
The Iron Brigade, also known as the Iron Brigade of the West or the Black Hat Brigade, was an infantry brigade in the Union Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War. Although it fought entirely in the Eastern Theater, it was composed of regiments from Western states...

 under Brig. Gen. Solomon Meredith
Solomon Meredith
Solomon Meredith was a prominent Indiana farmer, politician, and lawman who was a controversial Union Army general in the American Civil War...

 enjoyed initial success against Archer, capturing several hundred men, including Archer himself.

General Reynolds was shot and killed early in the fighting while directing troop and artillery placements just to the east of the woods. Shelby Foote wrote that the Union cause lost a man considered by many to be "the best general in the army." Maj. Gen. Abner Doubleday
Abner Doubleday
Abner Doubleday was a career United States Army officer and Union general in the American Civil War. He fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter, the opening battle of the war, and had a pivotal role in the early fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg. Gettysburg was his finest hour, but his...

 assumed command. Fighting in the Chambersburg Pike area lasted until about 12:30 p.m. It resumed around 2:30 p.m., when Heth's entire division engaged, adding the brigades of Pettigrew and Col. John M. Brockenbrough
John M. Brockenbrough
John Mercer Brockenbrough was a farmer and a Confederate colonel in the American Civil War.-Early life:Brockenbrough was born in Richmond County, Virginia, and graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1850....

.

As Pettigrew's North Carolina Brigade came on line, they flanked the 19th Indiana and drove the Iron Brigade back. The 26th North Carolina (the largest regiment in the army with 839 men) lost heavily, leaving the first day's fight with around 212 men. By the end of the three-day battle, they had about 152 men standing, the highest casualty percentage for one battle of any regiment, North or South. Slowly the Iron Brigade was pushed out of the woods toward Seminary Ridge. Hill added Maj. Gen. William Dorsey Pender
William Dorsey Pender
William Dorsey Pender was one of the youngest, and most promising, generals fighting for the Confederacy in the American Civil War. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.-Early life:...

's division to the assault, and the I Corps was driven back through the grounds of the Lutheran Seminary
Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg
The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg is America's oldest Lutheran seminary and a site of 1863 Battle of Gettysburg military engagements.-History:...

 and Gettysburg streets.

As the fighting to the west proceeded, two divisions of Ewell's Second Corps, marching west toward Cashtown in accordance with Lee's order for the army to concentrate in that vicinity, turned south on the Carlisle and Harrisburg roads toward Gettysburg, while the Union XI Corps (Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard
Oliver O. Howard
Oliver Otis Howard was a career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War...

) raced north on the Baltimore Pike and Taneytown Road. By early afternoon, the Federal line ran in a semicircle west, north, and northeast of Gettysburg.

However, the Federals did not have enough troops; Cutler, who was deployed north of the Chambersburg Pike, had his right flank in the air. The leftmost division of the XI Corps was unable to deploy in time to strengthen the line, so Doubleday was forced to throw in reserve brigades to salvage his line.

Around 2 p.m., the Confederate Second Corps divisions of Maj. Gens. Robert E. Rodes
Robert E. Rodes
Robert Emmett Rodes was a railroad civil engineer and a promising young Confederate general in the American Civil War, killed in battle in the Shenandoah Valley.-Education, antebellum career:...

 and Jubal Early assaulted and out-flanked the Union I and XI Corps positions north and northwest of town. The Confederate brigades of Col. Edward A. O'Neal and Brig. Gen. Alfred Iverson
Alfred Iverson, Jr.
Alfred Iverson, Jr. was a lawyer, an officer in the Mexican-American War, a U.S. Army cavalry officer, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He served in the 1862–63 campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia as a regimental and later brigade commander...

 suffered severe losses assaulting the I Corps division of Brig. Gen. John C. Robinson
John C. Robinson
John Cleveland Robinson had a long and distinguished career in the United States Army, fighting in numerous wars and culminating his career as a Union Army brigadier general of volunteers and brevet major general of volunteers in the American Civil War. In 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated...

 south of Oak Hill. Early's division profited from a blunder by Brig. Gen. Francis C. Barlow
Francis C. Barlow
Francis Channing Barlow was a lawyer, politician, and Union General during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

, when he advanced his XI Corps division to Blocher's Knoll (directly north of town and now known as Barlow's Knoll); this represented a salient
Salients, re-entrants and pockets
A salient is a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory. The salient is surrounded by the enemy on three sides, making the troops occupying the salient vulnerable. The enemy's line facing a salient is referred to as a re-entrant...

 in the corps line, susceptible to attack from multiple sides, and Early's troops overran Barlow's division, which constituted the right flank of the Union Army's position. Barlow was wounded and captured in the attack.

As Federal positions collapsed both north and west of town, Gen. Howard ordered a retreat to the high ground south of town at Cemetery Hill, where he had left the division of Brig. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr
Adolph von Steinwehr
Baron Adolph Wilhelm August Friedrich von Steinwehr was a German-Brunswick army officer who emigrated to the United States, became a geographer, cartographer, and author, and served as a Union general in the American Civil War.-Early life:Steinwehr was born in Blankenburg, in the Duchy of...

 in reserve. Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock assumed command of the battlefield, sent by Meade when he heard that Reynolds had been killed. Hancock, commander of the II Corps and Meade's most trusted subordinate, was ordered to take command of the field and to determine whether Gettysburg was an appropriate place for a major battle. Hancock told Howard, "I think this the strongest position by nature upon which to fight a battle that I ever saw." When Howard agreed, Hancock concluded the discussion: "Very well, sir, I select this as the battle-field." Hancock's determination had a morale-boosting effect on the retreating Union soldiers, but he played no direct tactical role on the first day.

General Lee understood the defensive potential to the Union if they held this high ground. He sent orders to Ewell that Cemetery Hill be taken "if practicable." Ewell, who had previously served under Stonewall Jackson, a general well known for issuing peremptory orders, determined such an assault was not practicable and, thus, did not attempt it; this decision is considered by historians to be a great missed opportunity.

The first day at Gettysburg, more significant than simply a prelude to the bloody second and third days, ranks as the 23rd biggest battle of the war by number of troops engaged. About one quarter of Meade's army (22,000 men) and one third of Lee's army (27,000) were engaged.

Second day of battle




Plans and movement to battle


Throughout the evening of July 1 and morning of July 2, most of the remaining infantry of both armies arrived on the field, including the Union II, III, V, VI, and XII Corps. Longstreet's third division, commanded by Maj. Gen. George Pickett
George Pickett
George Edward Pickett was a career United States Army officer who became a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

, had begun the march from Chambersburg early in the morning; it did not arrive until late on July 2.

The Union line ran from Culp's Hill southeast of the town, northwest to Cemetery Hill just south of town, then south for nearly two miles (3 km) along Cemetery Ridge, terminating just north of Little Round Top. Most of the XII Corps was on Culp's Hill; the remnants of I and XI Corps defended Cemetery Hill; II Corps covered most of the northern half of Cemetery Ridge; and III Corps was ordered to take up a position to its flank. The shape of the Union line is popularly described as a "fishhook" formation. The Confederate line paralleled the Union line about a mile (1,600 m) to the west on Seminary Ridge, ran east through the town, then curved southeast to a point opposite Culp's Hill. Thus, the Federal army had interior lines, while the Confederate line was nearly five miles (8 km) long.

Lee's battle plan for July 2 called for Longstreet's First Corps to position itself stealthily to attack the Union left flank, facing northeast astraddle the Emmitsburg Road, and to roll up the Federal line. The attack sequence was to begin with Maj. Gens. John Bell Hood
John Bell Hood
John Bell Hood was a Confederate general during the American Civil War. Hood had a reputation for bravery and aggressiveness that sometimes bordered on recklessness...

's and Lafayette McLaws
Lafayette McLaws
Lafayette McLaws was a United States Army officer and a Confederate general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

's divisions, followed by Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson
Richard H. Anderson
Richard Heron Anderson was a career U.S. Army officer, fighting with distinction in the Mexican-American War. He also served as a Confederate general during the American Civil War, fighting in the Eastern Theater of the conflict and most notably during the 1864 Battle of Spotsylvania Court House...

's division of Hill's Third Corps. The progressive en echelon
Echelon formation
An echelon formation is a military formation in which members are arranged diagonally. Each member is stationed behind and to the right , or behind and to the left , of the member ahead...

 sequence of this attack would prevent Meade from shifting troops from his center to bolster his left. At the same time, Maj. Gen. Edward "Allegheny" Johnson's
Edward Johnson (general)
Edward Johnson , also known as Allegheny Johnson , was a United States Army officer and a Confederate general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

 and Jubal Early's Second Corps divisions were to make a demonstration
Demonstration (military)
In military terminology, a demonstration is an attack or show of force on a front where a decision is not sought, made with the aim of deceiving the enemy....

 against Culp's and Cemetery Hills (again, to prevent the shifting of Federal troops), and to turn the demonstration into a full-scale attack if a favorable opportunity presented itself.

Lee's plan, however, was based on faulty intelligence, exacerbated by Stuart's continued absence from the battlefield. Instead of moving beyond the Federals' left and attacking their flank, Longstreet's left division, under McLaws, would face Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles
Daniel Sickles
Daniel Edgar Sickles was a colorful and controversial American politician, Union general in the American Civil War, and diplomat....

's III Corps directly in their path. Sickles had been dissatisfied with the position assigned him on the southern end of Cemetery Ridge. Seeing higher ground more favorable to artillery positions a half mile (800 m) to the west, he advanced his corps—without orders—to the slightly higher ground along the Emmitsburg Road. The new line ran from Devil's Den, northwest to the Sherfy farm's Peach Orchard, then northeast along the Emmitsburg Road to south of the Codori farm. This created an untenable salient at the Peach Orchard; Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys
Andrew A. Humphreys
Andrew Atkinson Humphreys , was a career United States Army officer, civil engineer, and a Union General in the American Civil War. He served in senior positions in the Army of the Potomac, including division command, chief of staff, and corps command, and was Chief Engineer of the U.S...

's division (in position along the Emmitsburg Road) and Maj. Gen. David B. Birney
David B. Birney
David Bell Birney was a businessman, lawyer, and a Union General in the American Civil War.-Early life:Birney was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the son of an abolitionist from Kentucky, James G. Birney. The Birney family returned to Kentucky in 1833, and James Birney freed his slaves...

's division (to the south) were subject to attacks from two sides and were spread out over a longer front than their small corps could defend effectively.

Longstreet's attack was to be made as early as practicable; however, Longstreet got permission from Lee to await the arrival of one of his brigades, and while marching to the assigned position, his men came within sight of a Union signal station on Little Round Top. Countermarching to avoid detection wasted much time, and Hood's and McLaws's divisions did not launch their attacks until just after 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively.

Attacks on the Union left flank



As Longstreet's divisions slammed into the Union III Corps, Meade was forced to send 20,000 reinforcements in the form of the entire V Corps, Brig. Gen. John C. Caldwell
John C. Caldwell
John Curtis Caldwell was a teacher, a Union general in the American Civil War, and an American diplomat.-Early life:Caldwell was born in Lowell, Vermont...

's division of the II Corps, most of the XII Corps, and small portions of the newly arrived VI Corps. The Confederate assault deviated from Lee's plan since Hood's division moved more easterly than intended, losing its alignment with the Emmitsburg Road, attacking Devil's Den and Little Round Top. McLaws, coming in on Hood's left, drove multiple attacks into the thinly stretched III Corps in the Wheatfield and overwhelmed them in Sherfy's Peach Orchard. McLaws's attack eventually reached Plum Run Valley (the "Valley of Death") before being beaten back by the Pennsylvania Reserves
Pennsylvania Reserves
The Pennsylvania Reserves were an infantry division in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Noted for its famous commanders and high casualties, it served in the Eastern Theater, and fought in many important battles, including Antietam and Gettysburg....

 division of the V Corps, moving down from Little Round Top. The III Corps was virtually destroyed as a combat unit in this battle, and Sickles's leg was amputated after it was shattered by a cannonball. Caldwell's division was destroyed piecemeal in the Wheatfield. Anderson's division, coming from McLaws's left and starting forward around 6 p.m., reached the crest of Cemetery Ridge, but it could not hold the position in the face of counterattacks from the II Corps, including an almost suicidal bayonet charge by the small 1st Minnesota
1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry
The 1st Regiment, Minnesota Volunteer Infantry was a volunteer infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was noted in particular for its gallant service and heavy casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg....

 regiment against a Confederate brigade, ordered in desperation by Hancock to buy time for reinforcements to arrive.

As fighting raged in the Wheatfield and Devil's Den, Col. Strong Vincent
Strong Vincent
Strong Vincent was a lawyer who became famous as a U.S. Army officer during the fighting on Little Round Top at the American Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, where he was mortally wounded.-Early life:...

 of V Corps had a precarious hold on Little Round Top, an important hill at the extreme left of the Union line. His brigade of four relatively small regiments was able to resist repeated assaults by Brig. Gen. Evander M. Law
Evander M. Law
Evander McIver Law was an author, teacher, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

's brigade of Hood's division. Meade's chief engineer, Brig. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren
Gouverneur K. Warren
Gouverneur Kemble Warren was a civil engineer and prominent general in the Union Army during the American Civil War...

, had realized the importance of this position, and dispatched Vincent's brigade, an artillery battery, and the 140th New York to occupy Little Round Top mere minutes before Hood's troops arrived. The defense of Little Round Top with a bayonet charge by the 20th Maine
20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment
The 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment was a combat unit of the United States Army during the American Civil War, most famous for its defense of Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863.-Organization:...

 was one of the most fabled episodes in the Civil War and propelled Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain into prominence after the war.

Attacks on the Union right flank



About 7:00 p.m., the Second Corps' attack by Johnson's division on Culp's Hill got off to a late start. Most of the hill's defenders, the Union XII Corps, had been sent to the left to defend against Longstreet's attacks, and the only portion of the corps remaining on the hill was a brigade of New Yorkers under Brig. Gen. George S. Greene
George S. Greene
George Sears Greene was a civil engineer and a Union general during the American Civil War. He was part of the Greene family of Rhode Island, which had a distinguished military record for the United States. His greatest contribution during the war was his defense of the Union right flank at Culp's...

. Because of Greene's insistence on constructing strong defensive works, and with reinforcements from the I and XI Corps, Greene's men held off the Confederate attackers, although the Southerners did capture a portion of the abandoned Federal works on the lower part of Culp's Hill.

Just at dark, two of Jubal Early's brigades attacked the Union XI Corps positions on East Cemetery Hill where Col. Andrew L. Harris
Andrew L. Harris
Andrew Lintner Harris was one of the heroes of the Battle of Gettysburg and the last Civil War general to serve as a governor in the U.S., serving as the 44th Governor of Ohio.-Biography:Harris was born in Milford Township, Butler County, Ohio, and was educated in the local schools...

 of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, came under a withering attack, losing half his men; however, Early failed to support his brigades in their attack, and Ewell's remaining division, that of Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes
Robert E. Rodes
Robert Emmett Rodes was a railroad civil engineer and a promising young Confederate general in the American Civil War, killed in battle in the Shenandoah Valley.-Education, antebellum career:...

, failed to aid Early's attack by moving against Cemetery Hill from the west. The Union army's interior lines enabled its commanders to shift troops quickly to critical areas, and with reinforcements from II Corps, the Federal troops retained possession of East Cemetery Hill, and Early's brigades were forced to withdraw.

Jeb Stuart and his three cavalry brigades arrived in Gettysburg around noon but had no role in the second day's battle. Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton
Wade Hampton III
Wade Hampton III was a Confederate cavalry leader during the American Civil War and afterward a politician from South Carolina, serving as its 77th Governor and as a U.S...

's brigade fought a minor engagement with newly promoted 23-year-old Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer was a United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. Raised in Michigan and Ohio, Custer was admitted to West Point in 1858, where he graduated last in his class...

's Michigan
Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

 cavalry near Hunterstown
Battle of Hunterstown
The Battle of Hunterstown was a minor cavalry engagement in Adams County, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 1863, during the Gettysburg Campaign of the American Civil War...

 to the northeast of Gettysburg.

Third day of battle



General Lee wished to renew the attack on Friday, July 3, using the same basic plan as the previous day: Longstreet would attack the Federal left, while Ewell attacked Culp's Hill. However, before Longstreet was ready, Union XII Corps troops started a dawn artillery bombardment against the Confederates on Culp's Hill in an effort to regain a portion of their lost works. The Confederates attacked, and the second fight for Culp's Hill ended around 11 a.m., after some seven hours of bitter combat.

Lee was forced to change his plans. Longstreet would command Pickett's Virginia division of his own First Corps, plus six brigades from Hill's Corps, in an attack on the Federal II Corps position at the right center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Prior to the attack, all the artillery the Confederacy could bring to bear on the Federal positions would bombard and weaken the enemy's line.


Around 1 p.m., from 150 to 170 Confederate guns began an artillery bombardment that was probably the largest of the war. In order to save valuable ammunition for the infantry attack that they knew would follow, the Army of the Potomac's artillery, under the command of Brig. Gen. Henry Jackson Hunt
Henry Jackson Hunt
Henry Jackson Hunt was Chief of Artillery in the Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War. Considered by his contemporaries the greatest artillery tactician and strategist of the war, he was a master of the science of gunnery and rewrote the manual on the organization and use of artillery...

, at first did not return the enemy's fire. After waiting about 15 minutes, about 80 Federal cannons added to the din. The Army of Northern Virginia was critically low on artillery ammunition, and the cannonade did not significantly affect the Union position. Around 3 p.m., the cannon fire subsided, and 12,500 Southern soldiers stepped from the ridgeline and advanced the three-quarters of a mile (1,200 m) to Cemetery Ridge in what is known to history as "Pickett's Charge
Pickett's Charge
Pickett's Charge was an infantry assault ordered by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee against Maj. Gen. George G. Meade's Union positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Its futility was predicted by the charge's commander,...

". As the Confederates approached, there was fierce flanking artillery fire from Union positions on Cemetery Hill and north of Little Round Top, and musket and canister fire from Hancock's II Corps. In the Union center, the commander of artillery had held fire during the Confederate bombardment, leading Southern commanders to believe the Northern cannon batteries had been knocked out. However, they opened fire on the Confederate infantry during their approach with devastating results. Nearly one half of the attackers did not return to their own lines. Although the Federal line wavered and broke temporarily at a jog called the "Angle" in a low stone fence, just north of a patch of vegetation called the Copse of Trees, reinforcements rushed into the breach, and the Confederate attack was repulsed. The farthest advance of Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead's brigade of Maj. Gen. George Pickett
George Pickett
George Edward Pickett was a career United States Army officer who became a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

's division at the Angle is referred to as the "High-water mark of the Confederacy", arguably representing the closest the South ever came to its goal of achieving independence from the Union via military victory.

There were two significant cavalry engagements on July 3. Stuart was sent to guard the Confederate left flank and was to be prepared to exploit any success the infantry might achieve on Cemetery Hill by flanking the Federal right and hitting their trains and lines of communications. Three miles (5 km) east of Gettysburg, in what is now called "East Cavalry Field" (not shown on the accompanying map, but between the York and Hanover Roads), Stuart's forces collided with Federal cavalry: Brig. Gen. David McMurtrie Gregg
David McMurtrie Gregg
David McMurtrie Gregg was a farmer, diplomat, and a Union cavalry general in the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

's division and Brig. Gen. Custer's brigade. A lengthy mounted battle, including hand-to-hand sabre combat, ensued. Custer's charge, leading the 1st Michigan Cavalry, blunted the attack by Wade Hampton's
Wade Hampton III
Wade Hampton III was a Confederate cavalry leader during the American Civil War and afterward a politician from South Carolina, serving as its 77th Governor and as a U.S...

 brigade, blocking Stuart from achieving his objectives in the Federal rear. Meanwhile, after hearing news of the day's victory, Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick launched a cavalry attack against the infantry positions of Longstreet's Corps southwest of Big Round Top
Big Round Top
Big Round Top is a boulder-strewn hill notable as the topographic high point of the Gettysburg Battlefield and for 1863 American Civil War engagements for which Medals of Honor were awarded...

. Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth
Elon J. Farnsworth
Elon John Farnsworth was a Union Army cavalry general in the American Civil War, killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.-Early life and career:...

 protested against the futility of such a move but obeyed orders. Farnsworth was killed in the attack, and his brigade suffered significant losses.

Casualties



The two armies suffered between 46,000 and 51,000 casualties. Union casualties were 23,055 (3,155 killed, 14,531 wounded, 5,369 captured or missing), while Confederate casualties are more difficult to estimate. Many authors have referred to as many as 28,000 Confederate casualties, but Busey and Martin's more recent definitive 2005 work, Regimental Strengths and Losses, documents 23,231 (4,708 killed, 12,693 wounded, 5,830 captured or missing). Nearly a third of Lee's general officers were killed, wounded, or captured. The casualties for both sides during the entire campaign were 57,225.

The following tables summarize casualties by corps for the Union and Confederate forces during the three day battle.
Union Corps Casualties (k/w/m)
I Corps 6059 (666/3231/2162)
II Corps 4369 (797/3194/378)
III Corps 4211 (593/3029/589)
V Corps 2187 (365/1611/211)
VI Corps 242 (27/185/30)
XI Corps 3807 (369/1924/1514)
XII Corps 1082 (204/812/66)
Cavalry Corps 852 (91/354/407)
Artillery Reserve 242 (43/187/12)
Confederate Corps Casualties (k/w/m)
First Corps 7665 (1617/4205/1843)
Second Corps 6686 (1301/3629/1756)
Third Corps 8495 (1724/4683/2088)
Cavalry Corps 380 (66/174/140)


Bruce Catton
Bruce Catton
Charles Bruce Catton was an American historian and journalist, best known for his books on the American Civil War. Known as a narrative historian, Catton specialized in popular histories that emphasized colorful characters and historical vignettes, in addition to the basic facts, dates, and analyses...

 wrote, "The town of Gettysburg looked as if some universal moving day had been interrupted by catastrophe." But there was only one documented civilian death during the battle: Ginnie Wade (also widely known as Jennie), 20 years old, was hit by a stray bullet that passed through her kitchen in town while she was making bread. Nearly 8,000 had been killed outright; these bodies, lying in the hot summer sun, needed to be buried quickly. Over 3,000 horse carcasses were burned in a series of piles south of town; townsfolk became violently ill from the stench.

Confederate retreat




The armies stared at one another in a heavy rain across the bloody fields on July 4, the same day that the Vicksburg
Battle of Vicksburg
The Siege of Vicksburg was the final major military action in the Vicksburg Campaign of the American Civil War. In a series of maneuvers, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee crossed the Mississippi River and drove the Confederate army of Lt. Gen. John C...

 garrison surrendered to Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

. Lee had reformed his lines into a defensive position on Seminary Ridge the night of July 3, evacuating the town of Gettysburg. The Confederates remained on the battlefield, hoping that Meade would attack, but the cautious Union commander decided against the risk, a decision for which he would later be criticized. Both armies began to collect their remaining wounded and bury some of the dead. A proposal by Lee for a prisoner exchange was rejected by Meade.

Lee started his Army of Northern Virginia in motion late the evening of July 4 towards Fairfield
Fairfield, Pennsylvania
Fairfield is a borough in Adams County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 486 at the 2000 census.-History:During the Gettysburg Campaign in the American Civil War, the Battle of Fairfield played an important role in securing the Fairfield pass and the Hagerstown Road, enabling Robert E...

 and Chambersburg. Cavalry under Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden
John D. Imboden
John Daniel Imboden was a lawyer, teacher, Virginia state legislator. During the American Civil War, he was a Confederate cavalry general and partisan fighter...

 was entrusted to escort the miles-long wagon train of supplies and wounded men that Lee wanted to take back to Virginia with him, using the route through Cashtown and Hagerstown to Williamsport, Maryland
Williamsport, Maryland
Williamsport is a town in Washington County, Maryland, United States. The population was 1,868 at the 2000 census and 2,278 as of July 2008.-Geography: Williamsport is located at ....

. Meade's army followed, although the pursuit was half-spirited. The recently rain-swollen Potomac trapped Lee's army on the north bank of the river for a time, but when the Federals finally caught up, the Confederates had forded the river. The rear-guard action at Falling Waters
Battle of Williamsport
The Battle of Williamsport, also known as the Battle of Hagerstown or Falling Waters, took place from July 6 to July 16, 1863, in Washington County, Maryland, as part of the Gettysburg Campaign of the American Civil War....

 on July 14 added some more names to the long casualty lists, including General Pettigrew, who was mortally wounded.

In a brief letter to Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck written on July 7, Lincoln remarked on the two major Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. He continued:
Halleck then relayed the contents of Lincoln's letter to Meade in a telegram. Despite repeated pleas from Lincoln and Halleck, which continued over the next week, Meade did not pursue Lee's army aggressively enough to destroy it before it crossed back over the Potomac River to safety in the South. The campaign continued into Virginia with light engagements until July 23, in the minor Battle of Manassas Gap
Battle of Manassas Gap
The Battle of Manassas Gap, also known as the Battle of Wapping Heights, took place on July 23, 1863, in Warren County, Virginia, at the conclusion of General Robert E. Lee's retreat back to Virginia in the final days of the Gettysburg Campaign of the American Civil War...

, after which Meade abandoned any attempts at pursuit and the two armies took up positions across from each other on the Rappahannock River
Rappahannock River
The Rappahannock River is a river in eastern Virginia, in the United States, approximately in length. It traverses the entire northern part of the state, from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west, across the Piedmont, to the Chesapeake Bay, south of the Potomac River.An important river in American...

.

Union reaction to the news of the victory


The news of the Union victory electrified the North. A headline in The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer is a morning daily newspaper that serves the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, metropolitan area of the United States. The newspaper was founded by John R. Walker and John Norvell in June 1829 as The Pennsylvania Inquirer and is the third-oldest surviving daily newspaper in the...

proclaimed "VICTORY! WATERLOO
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

 ECLIPSED!" New York diarist George Templeton Strong
George Templeton Strong
George Templeton Strong was an American lawyer and diarist. His 2,250-page diary, discovered in the 1930s, provides a striking personal account of life in the 19th century, especially during the events of the American Civil War...

 wrote:
However, the Union enthusiasm soon dissipated as the public realized that Lee's army had escaped destruction and the war would continue. Lincoln complained to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles
Gideon Welles
Gideon Welles was the United States Secretary of the Navy from 1861 to 1869. His buildup of the Navy to successfully execute blockades of Southern ports was a key component of Northern victory of the Civil War...

 that "Our army held the war in the hollow of their hand and they would not close it!" Brig. Gen. Alexander S. Webb
Alexander S. Webb
Alexander Stewart Webb was a career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War who received the Medal of Honor for gallantry at the Battle of Gettysburg...

 wrote to his father on July 17, stating that such Washington politicians as "Chase
Salmon P. Chase
Salmon Portland Chase was an American politician and jurist who served as U.S. Senator from Ohio and the 23rd Governor of Ohio; as U.S. Treasury Secretary under President Abraham Lincoln; and as the sixth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.Chase was one of the most prominent members...

, Seward
William H. Seward
William Henry Seward, Sr. was the 12th Governor of New York, United States Senator and the United States Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson...

 and others," disgusted with Meade, "write to me that Lee really won that Battle!"

Effect on the Confederacy


The Confederates had lost politically as well as militarily. During the final hours of the battle, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens
Alexander Stephens
Alexander Hamilton Stephens was an American politician from Georgia. He was Vice President of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. He also served as a U.S...

 was approaching the Union lines at Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. With a population of 242,803 as of the 2010 Census, it is Virginia's second-largest city behind neighboring Virginia Beach....

, under a flag of truce
White flag
White flags have had different meanings throughout history and depending on the locale.-Flag of temporary truce in order to parley :...

. Although his formal instructions from Confederate President Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Finis Davis , also known as Jeff Davis, was an American statesman and leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, serving as President for its entire history. He was born in Kentucky to Samuel and Jane Davis...

 had limited his powers to negotiations on prisoner exchanges and other procedural matters, historian James M. McPherson
James M. McPherson
James M. McPherson is an American Civil War historian, and is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University. He received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Battle Cry of Freedom, his most famous book...

 speculates that he had informal goals of presenting peace overtures. Davis had hoped that Stephens would reach Washington from the south while Lee's victorious army was marching toward it from the north. President Lincoln, upon hearing of the Gettysburg results, refused Stephens's request to pass through the lines. Furthermore, when the news reached London, any lingering hopes of European recognition of the Confederacy were finally abandoned. Henry Adams wrote, "The disasters of the rebels are unredeemed by even any hope of success. It is now conceded that all idea of intervention is at an end."

The immediate reaction of the Southern military and public sectors was that Gettysburg was a setback, not a disaster. The sentiment was that Lee had been successful on July 1 and had fought a valiant battle on July 2–3, but could not dislodge the Union Army from the strong defensive position to which it fled. The Confederates successfully stood their ground on July 4 and withdrew only after they realized Meade would not attack them. The withdrawal to the Potomac that could have been a disaster was handled masterfully. Furthermore, the Army of the Potomac had been kept away from Virginia farmlands for the summer and all predicted that Meade would be too timid to threaten them for the rest of the year. Lee himself had a positive view of the campaign, writing to his wife that the army had returned "rather sooner than I had originally contemplated, but having accomplished what I proposed on leaving the Rappahannock, viz., relieving the Valley of the presence of the enemy and drawing his Army north of the Potomac." He was quoted as saying to Maj. John Seddon, brother of the Confederate secretary of war, "Sir, we did whip them at Gettysburg, and it will be seen for the next six months that that army will be as quiet as a sucking dove." Some Southern publications, such as the Charleston Mercury, criticized Lee's actions in the campaign and on August 8 he offered his resignation to President Davis, who quickly rejected it.

Gettysburg became a postbellum focus of the "Lost Cause"
Lost Cause of the Confederacy
The Lost Cause is the name commonly given to an American literary and intellectual movement that sought to reconcile the traditional white society of the U.S. South to the defeat of the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War of 1861–1865...

, a movement by writers such as Edward A. Pollard and Jubal Early to explain the reasons for the Confederate defeat in the war. A fundamental premise of their argument was that the South was doomed because of the overwhelming advantage in manpower and industrial might possessed by the North. However, they claim it also suffered because Robert E. Lee, who up until this time had been almost invincible, was betrayed by the failures of some of his key subordinates at Gettysburg: Ewell, for failing to seize Cemetery Hill on July 1; Stuart, for depriving the army of cavalry intelligence for a key part of the campaign; and especially Longstreet, for failing to attack on July 2 as early and as forcefully as Lee had originally intended. In this view, Gettysburg was seen as a great lost opportunity, in which a decisive victory by Lee could have meant the end of the war in the Confederacy's favor.

Gettysburg Address



The ravages of war were still evident in Gettysburg more than four months later when, on November 19, the Soldiers' National Cemetery was dedicated. During this ceremony, President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 honored the fallen and redefined the purpose of the war in his historic Gettysburg Address
Gettysburg Address
The Gettysburg Address is a speech by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and is one of the most well-known speeches in United States history. It was delivered by Lincoln during the American Civil War, on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery...

.

Today, the Gettysburg National Cemetery
Gettysburg National Cemetery
The Gettysburg National Cemetery is located on Cemetery Hill in the Gettysburg Battlefield near the borough of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and adjacent to Evergreen Cemetery to the south...

 and Gettysburg National Military Park
Gettysburg Battlefield
The Gettysburg Battlefield is the area of the July 1–3, 1863, military engagements of the Battle of Gettysburg within and around the borough of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Locations of military engagements extend from the 4 acre site of the first shot & at on the west of the borough, to East...

 are maintained by the U.S. National Park Service as two of the nation's most revered historical landmarks.

Decisive victory?


The nature of the result of the Battle of Gettysburg has been the subject of controversy for years. Although not seen as overwhelmingly significant at the time, particularly since the war continued for almost two years, in retrospect it has often been cited as the "turning point"
Turning point of the American Civil War
There is widespread disagreement over the turning point of the American Civil War. The idea of a turning point is an event after which most observers would agree that the eventual outcome was inevitable. While the Battle of Gettysburg is the most widely cited , there are several other arguable...

, usually in combination with the fall of Vicksburg the following day. This is based on the hindsight that, after Gettysburg, Lee's army conducted no more strategic offensives—his army merely reacted to the initiative of Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 in 1864 and 1865—and by the speculative viewpoint of the Lost Cause writers that a Confederate victory at Gettysburg might have resulted in the end of the war.
It is currently a widely held view that Gettysburg was a decisive victory
Decisive victory
A decisive victory is an indisputable military victory of a battle that determines or significantly influences the ultimate result of a conflict. It does not always coincide with the end of combat...

 for the Union, but the term is imprecise. It is inarguable that Lee's offensive on July 3 was turned back decisively and his campaign in Pennsylvania was terminated prematurely (although the Confederates at the time argued that this was a temporary setback and that the goals of the campaign were largely met). However, when the more common definition of "decisive victory" is intended—an indisputable military victory of a battle that determines or significantly influences the ultimate result of a conflict—historians are divided. For example, David J. Eicher
David J. Eicher
David John Eicher is an American editor, writer, and popularizer of astronomy and space. He has been editor-in-chief of Astronomy magazine since 2002...

 called Gettysburg a "strategic loss for the Confederacy" and James M. McPherson
James M. McPherson
James M. McPherson is an American Civil War historian, and is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University. He received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Battle Cry of Freedom, his most famous book...

 wrote that "Lee and his men would go on to earn further laurels. But they never again possessed the power and reputation they carried into Pennsylvania those palmy summer days of 1863." However, Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones wrote that the "strategic impact of the Battle of Gettysburg was ... fairly limited." Steven E. Woodworth wrote that "Gettysburg proved only the near impossibility of decisive action in the Eastern theater." Edwin Coddington pointed out the heavy toll on the Army of the Potomac and that "after the battle Meade no longer possessed a truly effective instrument for the accomplishments of his task. The army needed a thorough reorganization with new commanders and fresh troops, but these changes were not made until Grant appeared on the scene in March 1864." Joseph T. Glatthaar wrote that "Lost opportunities and near successes plagued the Army of Northern Virginia during its Northern invasion," yet after Gettysburg, "without the distractions of duty as an invading force, without the breakdown of discipline, the Army of Northern Virginia [remained] an extremely formidable force." Ed Bearss
Ed Bearss
Edwin Cole Bearss , a United States Marine Corps veteran of World War II, is a military historian and author known for his work on the American Civil War and World War II eras and is a popular tour guide of historic battlefields...

 wrote, "Lee's invasion of the North had been a costly failure. Nevertheless, at best the Army of the Potomac had simply preserved the strategic stalemate in the Eastern Theater ..." Peter Carmichael refers to the "horrendous losses at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, which effectively destroyed Lee's offensive capacity," implying that these cumulative losses were not the result of a single battle. Thomas Goss, writing in the U.S. Army's Military Review journal on the definition of "decisive" and the application of that description to Gettysburg, concludes: "For all that was decided and accomplished, the Battle of Gettysburg fails to earn the label 'decisive battle'."

Lee vs. Meade



Prior to Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee had established a reputation as an almost invincible general, achieving stunning victories against superior numbers—although usually at the cost of high casualties to his army—during the Seven Days
Seven Days Battles
The Seven Days Battles was a series of six major battles over the seven days from June 25 to July 1, 1862, near Richmond, Virginia during the American Civil War. Confederate General Robert E. Lee drove the invading Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, away from...

, the Northern Virginia Campaign
Northern Virginia Campaign
The Northern Virginia Campaign, also known as the Second Bull Run Campaign or Second Manassas Campaign, was a series of battles fought in Virginia during August and September 1862 in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War. Confederate General Robert E...

 (including the Second Battle of Bull Run
Second Battle of Bull Run
The Second Battle of Bull Run or Second Manassas was fought August 28–30, 1862, as part of the American Civil War. It was the culmination of an offensive campaign waged by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia against Union Maj. Gen...

), Fredericksburg
Battle of Fredericksburg
The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought December 11–15, 1862, in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia, between General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside...

, and Chancellorsville
Battle of Chancellorsville
The Battle of Chancellorsville was a major battle of the American Civil War, and the principal engagement of the Chancellorsville Campaign. It was fought from April 30 to May 6, 1863, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near the village of Chancellorsville. Two related battles were fought nearby on...

. Only the Maryland Campaign
Maryland Campaign
The Maryland Campaign, or the Antietam Campaign is widely considered one of the major turning points of the American Civil War. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North was repulsed by Maj. Gen. George B...

, with its tactically inconclusive Battle of Antietam
Battle of Antietam
The Battle of Antietam , fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Antietam Creek, as part of the Maryland Campaign, was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with about 23,000...

, had been less than successful. Therefore, historians have attempted to explain how Lee's winning streak was interrupted so dramatically at Gettysburg. Although the issue is tainted by attempts to portray history and Lee's reputation in a manner supporting different partisan goals, the major factors in Lee's loss arguably can be attributed to: (1) Lee's overconfidence in the invincibility of his men; (2) the performance of his subordinates, and his management thereof; (3) health issues, and; (4) the performance of his opponent, George G. Meade, and the Army of the Potomac.


Throughout the campaign, Lee was influenced by the belief that his men were invincible; most of Lee's experiences with the Army of Northern Virginia had convinced him of this, including the great victory at Chancellorsville in early May and the rout of the Union troops at Gettysburg on July 1. Since morale plays an important role in military victory when other factors are equal, Lee did not want to dampen his army's desire to fight and resisted suggestions, principally by Longstreet, to withdraw from the recently captured Gettysburg to select a ground more favorable to his army. War correspondent Peter W. Alexander wrote that Lee "acted, probably, under the impression that his troops were able to carry any position however formidable. If such was the case, he committed an error, such however as the ablest commanders will sometimes fall into." Lee himself concurred with this judgment, writing to President Davis, "No blame can be attached to the army for its failure to accomplish what was projected by me, nor should it be censured for the unreasonable expectations of the public—I am alone to blame, in perhaps expecting too much of its prowess and valor."

The most controversial assessments of the battle involve the performance of Lee's subordinates. The dominant theme of the Lost Cause writers and many other historians is that Lee's senior generals failed him in crucial ways, directly causing the loss of the battle; the alternative viewpoint is that Lee did not manage his subordinates adequately, and did not thereby compensate for their shortcomings. Two of his corps commanders—Richard S. Ewell
Richard S. Ewell
Richard Stoddert Ewell was a career United States Army officer and a Confederate general during the American Civil War. He achieved fame as a senior commander under Stonewall Jackson and Robert E...

 and A.P. Hill—had only recently been promoted and were not fully accustomed to Lee's style of command, in which he provided only general objectives and guidance to their former commander, Stonewall Jackson
Stonewall Jackson
ຄຽשת״ׇׂׂׂׂ֣|birth_place= Clarksburg, Virginia |death_place=Guinea Station, Virginia|placeofburial=Stonewall Jackson Memorial CemeteryLexington, Virginia|placeofburial_label= Place of burial|image=...

; Jackson translated these into detailed, specific orders to his division commanders. All four of Lee's principal commanders received criticism during the campaign and battle:
  • James Longstreet
    James Longstreet
    James Longstreet was one of the foremost Confederate generals of the American Civil War and the principal subordinate to General Robert E. Lee, who called him his "Old War Horse." He served under Lee as a corps commander for many of the famous battles fought by the Army of Northern Virginia in the...

     suffered most severely from the wrath of the Lost Cause authors, not the least because he directly criticized Lee in postbellum writings and became a Republican after the war. His critics accuse him of attacking much later than Lee intended on July 2, squandering a chance to hit the Union Army before its defensive positions had firmed up. They also question his lack of motivation to attack strongly on July 2 and July 3 because he had argued that the army should have maneuvered to a place where it would force Meade to attack them. The alternative view is that Lee was in close contact with Longstreet during the battle, agreed to delays on the morning of July 2, and never criticized Longstreet's performance. (There is also considerable speculation about what an attack might have looked like before Dan Sickles moved the III Corps toward the Peach Orchard.)
  • J.E.B. Stuart
    J.E.B. Stuart
    James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart was a U.S. Army officer from Virginia and a Confederate States Army general during the American Civil War. He was known to his friends as "Jeb", from the initials of his given names. Stuart was a cavalry commander known for his mastery of reconnaissance and the use...

     deprived Lee of cavalry intelligence during a good part of the campaign by taking his three best brigades on a path away from the army's. This arguably led to Lee's surprise at Hooker's vigorous pursuit; the meeting engagement on July 1 that escalated into the full battle prematurely; and it also prevented Lee from understanding the full disposition of the enemy on July 2. The disagreements regarding Stuart's culpability for the situation center around the relatively vague orders issued by Lee, but most modern historians agree that both generals were responsible to some extent for the failure of the cavalry's mission early in the campaign.
  • Richard S. Ewell
    Richard S. Ewell
    Richard Stoddert Ewell was a career United States Army officer and a Confederate general during the American Civil War. He achieved fame as a senior commander under Stonewall Jackson and Robert E...

     has been universally criticized for failing to seize the high ground on the afternoon of July 1. Once again the disagreement centers on Lee's orders, which provided general guidance for Ewell to act "if practicable." Many historians speculate that Stonewall Jackson, if he had survived Chancellorsville, would have aggressively seized Culp's Hill, rendering Cemetery Hill indefensible, and changing the entire complexion of the battle. A differently worded order from Lee might have made the difference with this subordinate.
  • A.P. Hill has received some criticism for his ineffective performance. His actions caused the battle to begin and then escalate on July 1, despite Lee's orders not to bring on a general engagement (although historians point out that Hill kept Lee well informed of his actions during the day). However, illness minimized his personal involvement in the remainder of the battle, and Lee took the explicit step of removing troops from Hill's corps and giving them to Longstreet for Pickett's Charge
    Pickett's Charge
    Pickett's Charge was an infantry assault ordered by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee against Maj. Gen. George G. Meade's Union positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Its futility was predicted by the charge's commander,...

    .



In addition to Hill's illness, Lee's performance was affected by his own illness, which has been speculated as chest pains due to angina. He wrote to Jefferson Davis that his physical condition prevented him from offering full supervision in the field, and said, "I am so dull that in making use of the eyes of others I am frequently misled."

As a final factor, Lee faced a new and formidable opponent in George G. Meade, and the Army of the Potomac fought well on its home territory. Although new to his army command, Meade deployed his forces relatively effectively; relied on strong subordinates such as Winfield S. Hancock to make decisions where and when they were needed; took great advantage of defensive positions; nimbly shifted defensive resources on interior lines to parry strong threats; and, unlike some of his predecessors, stood his ground throughout the battle in the face of fierce Confederate attacks. Lee was quoted before the battle as saying Meade "would commit no blunders on my front and if I make one ... will make haste to take advantage of it." That prediction proved to be correct at Gettysburg. Stephen Sears wrote, "The fact of the matter is that George G. Meade, unexpectedly and against all odds, thoroughly outgeneraled Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg." Edwin B. Coddington wrote that the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac received a "sense of triumph which grew into an imperishable faith in [themselves]. The men knew what they could do under an extremely competent general; one of lesser ability and courage could well have lost the battle."

Meade had his own detractors as well. Similar to the situation with Lee, Meade suffered partisan attacks about his performance at Gettysburg, but he had the misfortune of experiencing them in person. Supporters of his predecessor, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker
Joseph Hooker
Joseph Hooker was a career United States Army officer, achieving the rank of major general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Although he served throughout the war, usually with distinction, Hooker is best remembered for his stunning defeat by Confederate General Robert E...

, lambasted Meade before the U.S. Congress's Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, where Radical Republicans suspected that Meade was a Copperhead
Copperheads (politics)
The Copperheads were a vocal group of Democrats in the Northern United States who opposed the American Civil War, wanting an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates. Republicans started calling anti-war Democrats "Copperheads," likening them to the venomous snake...

 and tried in vain to relieve him from command. Daniel E. Sickles and Daniel Butterfield
Daniel Butterfield
Daniel Adams Butterfield was a New York businessman, a Union General in the American Civil War, and Assistant U.S. Treasurer in New York. He is credited with composing the bugle call Taps and was involved in the Black Friday gold scandal in the Grant administration...

 accused Meade of planning to retreat from Gettysburg during the battle. Most politicians, including Lincoln, criticized Meade for what they considered to be his tepid pursuit of Lee after the battle. A number of Meade's most competent subordinates—Winfield S. Hancock, John Gibbon
John Gibbon
John Gibbon was a career United States Army officer who fought in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars.-Early life:...

, Gouverneur K. Warren
Gouverneur K. Warren
Gouverneur Kemble Warren was a civil engineer and prominent general in the Union Army during the American Civil War...

, and Henry J. Hunt, all heroes of the battle—defended Meade in print, but Meade was embittered by the overall experience.

Commemoration in U.S. postage and coinage


A commemorative half dollar
Early United States commemorative coins
The Early United States commemorative coins traditionally begins with the 1892 Colombian Half dollar and extends through the 1954 Booker T. Washington issue. The profits from the sale of commemorative coins was often used to fund a specific project...

 for the battle was produced in 1936. As was typical for the period, mintage was very low, just 26,928.

During the Civil War Centennial
American Civil War Centennial
The American Civil War Centennial was the official United States commemoration of the American Civil War, also known as the War Between the States...

, the U.S. Post Office issued five postage stamps commemorating the 100th anniversaries of famous battles, as they occurred over a four-year period, beginning with the Battle of Fort Sumter
Battle of Fort Sumter
The Battle of Fort Sumter was the bombardment and surrender of Fort Sumter, near Charleston, South Carolina, that started the American Civil War. Following declarations of secession by seven Southern states, South Carolina demanded that the U.S. Army abandon its facilities in Charleston Harbor. On...

 Centennial issue of 1961. The Battle of Shiloh
Battle of Shiloh
The Battle of Shiloh, also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, was a major battle in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, fought April 6–7, 1862, in southwestern Tennessee. A Union army under Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had moved via the Tennessee River deep into Tennessee and...

 commemorative stamp was issued in 1962, the Battle of Gettysburg in 1963, the Battle of the Wilderness
Battle of the Wilderness
The Battle of the Wilderness, fought May 5–7, 1864, was the first battle of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Virginia Overland Campaign against Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Both armies suffered heavy casualties, a harbinger of a bloody war of attrition by...

 in 1964, and the Appomattox Centennial commemorative stamp in 1965.

On January 24, 2011, the America the Beautiful quarters program will introduce a 25-cent coin commemorating Gettysburg National Military Park and the Battle of Gettysburg. The reverse side of the coin depicts the monument on Cemetery Ridge to the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry.

In popular media


The Battle of Gettysburg was depicted in the 1993 film, Gettysburg, based on Michael Shaara
Michael Shaara
Michael Shaara was an American writer of science fiction, sports fiction, and historical fiction. He was born to Italian immigrant parents in Jersey City, New Jersey, graduated from Rutgers University in 1951, and served as a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne division...

's 1974 novel The Killer Angels
The Killer Angels
The Killer Angels is a historical novel by Michael Shaara that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975. The book tells the story of four days of the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War: June 30, 1863, as the troops of both the Union and the Confederacy move into battle around...

. The film and novel focused primarily on the actions of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, John Buford
John Buford
John Buford, Jr. was a Union cavalry officer during the American Civil War, with a prominent role at the start of the Battle of Gettysburg.-Early years:...

, Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

, and James Longstreet
James Longstreet
James Longstreet was one of the foremost Confederate generals of the American Civil War and the principal subordinate to General Robert E. Lee, who called him his "Old War Horse." He served under Lee as a corps commander for many of the famous battles fought by the Army of Northern Virginia in the...

 during the battle. The first day focused on Buford's cavalry defense, the second day on Chamberlain's defense at Little Round Top
Little Round Top
Little Round Top is the smaller of two rocky hills south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was the site of an unsuccessful assault by Confederate troops against the Union left flank on July 2, 1863, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg....

, and the third day on Pickett's Charge
Pickett's Charge
Pickett's Charge was an infantry assault ordered by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee against Maj. Gen. George G. Meade's Union positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Its futility was predicted by the charge's commander,...

.

In the 2004 mockumentary
Mockumentary
A mockumentary , is a type of film or television show in which fictitious events are presented in documentary format. These productions are often used to analyze or comment on current events and issues by using a fictitious setting, or to parody the documentary form itself...

 C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America
C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America
C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America is a 2004 mockumentary directed by Kevin Willmott. It is a fictional "tongue-in-cheek" account of an alternate history, in which the Confederates won the American Civil War, establishing the new Confederate States of America...

, the Battle of Gettysburg is won by the Confederate forces as a result of politician Judah P. Benjamin
Judah P. Benjamin
Judah Philip Benjamin was an American politician and lawyer. Born a British subject in the West Indies, he moved to the United States with his parents and became a citizen. He later became a citizen of the Confederate States of America. After the collapse of the Confederacy, Benjamin moved to...

 successfully convincing the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 to aid the Confederacy. This causes a butterfly effect
Butterfly effect
In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions; where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state...

 that sees the Confederacy win the Civil War and subsequently conquer all of North and South America except Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

.

Further reading

  • Bachelder, John B.
    John B. Bachelder
    John Badger Bachelder was a portrait and landscape painter, lithographer, and photographer, but best known as the preeminent 19th century historian of the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War...

     The Bachelder Papers: Gettysburg in Their Own Words. Edited by David L. Ladd and Audrey J. Ladd. 3 vols. Dayton, OH: Morningside Press, 1994. ISBN 0-89029-320-1.
  • Bachelder, John B. Gettysburg: What to See, and How to See It: Embodying Full Information for Visiting the Field. Boston: Bachelder, 1873. .
  • Ballard, Ted, and Billy Arthur. Gettysburg Staff Ride Briefing Book. Carlisle, PA: United States Army Center of Military History, 1999. .
  • Bearss, Edwin C.
    Ed Bearss
    Edwin Cole Bearss , a United States Marine Corps veteran of World War II, is a military historian and author known for his work on the American Civil War and World War II eras and is a popular tour guide of historic battlefields...

     Receding Tide: Vicksburg and Gettysburg: The Campaigns That Changed the Civil War. Washington DC: National Geographic Society, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4262-0510-1.
  • Boritt, Gabor S.
    Gabor Boritt
    Gabor S. Boritt was the Robert Fluhrer Professor of Civil War Studies and Director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. Born in World War II Hungary, he participated as a teenager in the 1956 revolution against the Soviet Union. He escaped to the United States, where he received his...

    , ed. The Gettysburg Nobody Knows. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-19-510223-1.
  • Desjardin, Thomas A. These Honored Dead: How the Story of Gettysburg Shaped American Memory. New York: Da Capo Press, 2003. ISBN 0-306-81267-3.
  • Frassanito, William A. Early Photography at Gettysburg. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1995. ISBN 1-57747-032-X.
  • Fremantle, Arthur J. L.
    Arthur Fremantle
    General Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, GCMG, CB was a British soldier, a member of Her Majesty's Coldstream Guards, and a notable British witness to the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War...

     The Fremantle Diary: A Journal of the Confederacy. Edited by Walter Lord. Short Hills, NJ: Burford Books, 2002. ISBN 1-58080-085-8. First published 1954 by Capicorn Books.
  • Gallagher, Gary W., ed. Three Days at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-87338-629-9.
  • Gottfried, Bradley M. Brigades of Gettysburg. New York: Da Capo Press, 2002. ISBN 0-306-81175-8.
  • Gottfried, Bradley M. The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3 – June 13, 1863. New York: Savas Beatie, 2007. ISBN 978-1-932714-30-2.
  • Grimsley, Mark, and Brooks D. Simpson. Gettysburg: A Battlefield Guide. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8032-7077-1.
  • Hall, Jeffrey C. The Stand of the U.S. Army at Gettysburg. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-253-34258-9.
  • Haskell, Frank Aretas
    Frank A. Haskell
    Franklin Aretas Haskell was a Union Army officer during the American Civil War who was killed during the Battle of Cold Harbor. Haskell wrote a famous account of the Battle of Gettysburg that was published posthumously....

    . The Battle of Gettysburg. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2006. ISBN 978-1-4286-6012-0.
  • Hawthorne, Frederick W. Gettysburg: Stories of Men and Monuments. Gettysburg, PA: Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides, 1988. ISBN 0-9657444-0-X.
  • Huntington, Tom. Pennsylvania Civil War Trails: The Guide to Battle Sites, Monuments, Museums and Towns. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8117-3379-3.
  • Laino, Philip, Gettysburg Campaign Atlas, 2nd ed. Dayton, OH: Gatehouse Press 2009. ISBN 978-1-934900-45-1.
  • McMurry, Richard M. "The Pennsylvania Gambit and the Gettysburg Splash." In The Gettysburg Nobody Knows, edited by Gabor Boritt
    Gabor Boritt
    Gabor S. Boritt was the Robert Fluhrer Professor of Civil War Studies and Director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. Born in World War II Hungary, he participated as a teenager in the 1956 revolution against the Soviet Union. He escaped to the United States, where he received his...

    . New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-19-510223-1.
  • McPherson, James M.
    James M. McPherson
    James M. McPherson is an American Civil War historian, and is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University. He received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Battle Cry of Freedom, his most famous book...

     Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg. New York: Crown Publishers, 2003. ISBN 0-609-61023-6.
  • New York (State), William F. Fox, and Daniel Edgar Sickles. New York at Gettysburg: Final Report on the Battlefield of Gettysburg. Albany, NY: J.B. Lyon Company, Printers, 1900. .
  • Paris, Louis-Philippe-Albert d'Orléans
    Philippe, Comte de Paris
    Philippe d'Orléans, Count of Paris was the grandson of Louis Philippe I, King of the French. He was a claimant to the French throne from 1848 until his death.-Early life:...

    . The Battle of Gettysburg: A History of the Civil War in America. Digital Scanning, Inc., 1999. ISBN 1-58218-066-0. First published 1869 by Germer Baillière.
  • Petruzzi, J. David, and Steven Stanley. The Complete Gettysburg Guide. New York: Savas Beatie, 2009. ISBN 978-1-932714-63-0.
  • Shaara, Michael
    Michael Shaara
    Michael Shaara was an American writer of science fiction, sports fiction, and historical fiction. He was born to Italian immigrant parents in Jersey City, New Jersey, graduated from Rutgers University in 1951, and served as a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne division...

    . The Killer Angels: A Novel. New York: Ballantine Books, 2001. ISBN 978-0345444127. First published 1974 by David McKay Co.
  • Stackpole, Gen. Edward J. They Met at Gettysburg. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1956, .

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