The Battle of Gettysburg

A Flag from Gettysburg

The  most famous and most important Civil War battle occurred from July 1 to July 3, 1863, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It began as a skirmish but by its end involved 160,000 American soldiers.Before the battle, major cities in the North including Philadelphia, Baltimore and even Washington were under threat of attack from General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia which had crossed the Potomac River and marched into Pennsylvania.

The Union Army of the Potomac under General George G. Meade marched to intercept Lee. They clashed at Gettysburg.  The day ended with the moaning and sobbing of thousands of wounded men on the slopes and meadows south of Gettysburg that could be heard throughout the night.

Lee gambled on winning the Battle of Gettysburg and in effect win the Civil War by attacking the next day at the center of the Union line along Cemetery Ridge where it would be least expected.

The gamble failed.  Lee rode out and met the survivors, telling them, “It is all my fault.”  To Pickett he said, “Upon my shoulders rests the blame.” Later, when he got back to headquarters Lee lamented, “Too bad. Too bad! Oh, too bad!” The tide of the war was permanently turned against the South.  Confederate causalities in dead, wounded and missing were 28,000 out of 75,000. Union casualties were 23,000 out of 88,000.

That night and into the next day, Saturday, July 4, Confederate wounded were loaded aboard wagons that began the journey south. Lee was forced to abandon his dead and begin a long slow withdrawal of his army back to Virginia. Union commander Meade, out of fatigue and caution, did not immediately pursue Lee and lost the opportunity to end the Civil War sooner rather than later.   

Tomorrow, President Lincoln Hoists the Flag    RitaBay

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