The Battle Of Gettysburg


Fought July 1 through July 3, 1863, considered by most military historians the turning point in the Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg was a major battle in that it arrested the Confederates\' second and last major invasion of the North, destroyed their offense, and forced them to fight a defensive war in which the inability of their manufacturing capacity and transportation facilities doomed them to defeat. The Army of the Potomac, under the Union general George Gordon Meade, numbered about 85,000. The Confederate army, under General Robert E. Lee, was about 75,000 men strong. After the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2nd to 4th, a huge victory for the Confederates, Lee divided his army into three corps, commanded by three lieutenant generals: James Longstreet, Richard Stoddert Ewell, and Ambrose Powell Hill. Lee then formulated a plan for invading Pennsylvania, hoping to avert another federal offensive in Virginia and planning to fight if he could get the federal army into a vulnerable position. He also hoped that the invasion might increase Northern war awareness and lead the North to recognize the independence of the Confederate States of America. In search of this plan, Lee crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains, proceeded up the Shenandoah Valley, crossing Maryland, and entered Pennsylvania. Upon learning federal troops were north of the Potomac, Lee decided to concentrate his whole army at Gettysburg. On June 30, Confederate troops from General Hill\'s corps, on their way to Gettysburg, noted federal troops that Meade had moved down to intercept the Confederate army. The battle began on July 1 outside of Gettysburg with an encounter between Hill\'s advance brigades and the federal cavalry division commanded by Major General John Buford. Hill encountered stubborn resistance, and the fighting was uncertain until Ewell arrived from the north in the afternoon. The Confederates pushed against General Oliver Howard\'s corps and forced the federal troops to retreat from their forward positions to Culp\'s Hill and Cemetery Ridge, southeast of Gettysburg. The fighting had been heavy on both sides, but the Union troops suffered more losses. More than 4000 men were taken prisoner by the Confederates, and Federal General John Reynolds was killed in battle. The federals did manage to capture Confederate General Archer, the first Confederate officer to be taken prisoner after Lee took command of the Confederate army. The corps led by Ewell did not move in to attack the Union troops, but waited for General Longstreet to bring in his corps to reinforce the outnumbered Confederate troops. On the following day, July 2, Meade formed his forces in the shape of a horseshoe, extending westward from Culp\'s Hill and southward along Cemetery. The Confederates, on the other hand, were deployed in a long, thin, concave line, with Longstreet and Ewell on the flanks and Hill in the center. Lee, against the advice of Longstreet and despite the fact that he had no army, resolved to attack the federal positions. Longstreet was unable to advance until late afternoon, in which it allowed the federal troops to make preparations for the expected attack. General Abner Doubleday of the federal army strengthened his hold on Cemetery Hill. The federals held Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top, but Longstreet moved Confederate troops along Peach Orchard, driving the federals from their positions there. Although Ewell won part of Culp\'s Hill, he was unable to break the federal line there or on the eastern part of Cemetery Ridge. On the night of July 2, Meade held a council of war in which the decision was made not to retreat. On the third day of battle, the federals were secure in their positions and the Confederates had lost their offensive stance. General Lee decided to mount an attack despite opposition from other Confederate generals. The offensive did not begin until after noon. Groups from three Confederate divisions, including the division led by Major General George E. Pickett, totaling fewer than 15,000 men, took part in a unforgettable charge on Cemetery Ridge against a withering barrage of federal artillery and musket fire. The attack is known as Pickett\'s Charge. Although the Confederate troops breached Meade\'s first line of defense, the strain on the Confederates proved too great, and they fell back, having lost over three-fourths of their force.