Battle of Gettysburg

An engraving of the battle of Gettysburg

Archive Photos/Stringer/Getty Images

Dates

July 1-3, 1863

Location

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Key Individuals Involved in the Battle of Gettysburg

Confederate: General Robert E. Lee

Outcome

Union Victory, with 51,000 casualties total. Of those, 28,000 were Confederate soldiers.

Overview of the Battle

General Robert E. Lee had succeeded at the Battle of Chancellorsville and decided to push north in his Gettysburg campaign. He met the Union forces in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Lee concentrated his army's full strength against Major General George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac at the Gettysburg crossroads.

On July 1, Lee's forces moved on the Union forces in the town from both the west and the north. This drove the Union defenders through the streets of the city to Cemetery Hill. During the night, reinforcements arrived for both sides of the battle.

On July 2, struck the Lee attempted to surround the Union army. First, he sent Longstreet's and Hill's divisions to strike the Union left flank at the Peach Orchard, Devil’s Den, the Wheatfield, and the Round Tops. He then sent Ewell's divisions against the Union right flank at Culp’s and East Cemetery Hills. By evening, the Union forces still held Little Round Top and had repulsed most of Ewell’s forces.

During the morning of July 3, the Union struck back and were able to drive the Confederate infantry from their last toe-hold on Culp’s Hill. That afternoon, after a short artillery bombardment, Lee decided to push the attack on the Union center on Cemetery Ridge. The Pickett-Pettigrew assault (more popularly, Pickett’s Charge) briefly struck through the Union line but was quickly repulsed with severe casualties. At the same time, Stuart’s cavalry tried to gain the Union rear, but his forces were also repulsed.

On July 4, Lee began withdrawing his army toward Williamsport on the Potomac River. His train of wounded stretched more than fourteen miles.

Significance of the Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg is seen as the turning point of the war. General Lee had attempted and failed to invade the North. This was a move designed to remove pressure from Virginia and possibly emerge victorious so as to quickly end the war. The failure of Pickett’s Charge was the sign of the South's loss. This loss for the Confederates was demoralizing. General Lee would never attempt another invasion of the North to this degree.