The Battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1 to July 3 in 1863 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle was fought between the Union and the Confederate forces in the American Civil War. It is known throughout history as the most famous battle of the Civil War due to the cost and the high number of casualties from both sides.

The Union’s Army of the Potomac was commanded by General George G. Meade. He replaced Joseph Hooker after President Abraham Lincoln was not satisfied with the way in which he was leading the Union Army. General Meade’s first order of business when he was named commander was to stop the Confederate forces as they had forced their way into the Union’s territory.

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The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was commanded by General Robert E. Lee. Right before the Battle of Gettysburg, he led his army to success in another major battle which provided him with confidence to march into the Union’s territory. Lee commanded his army across the Potomac River into Maryland and they eventually landed in southern Pennsylvania.

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Battle of Gettysburg Day 1

The first day of the Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1st.  The Confederate Army made plans a few days earlier to settle in the town of Gettysburg and wait for the opportunity to attack the Union Army. However, when they reached Gettysburg they found the Union Army already there. The Confederacy had about 25,000 soldiers and the Union had less than 20,000, so they attacked the Union. After an intense battle with heavy casualties from both sides, the Confederate Army was able to push the Union back into the town of Cemetery Hill. General Lee saw this as an opportunity to attack the Union again before they were able to accumulate more troops. However, Richard Ewell, who was in charge of the Army of Northern Virginia’s Second Corps, declined to order the attack. He believed the position the Union had was too strong and eventually the opportunity vanished. By nightfall, the Union Army increased the number of Union soldiers and extended their position along Cemetery Ridge to a hill known as the Little Round Top.       

Battle of Gettysburg Day 2

On July 2nd Confederate General James Longstreet examined the position of the Union Army and suggested to General Lee that they hold off on attacking the Union. Longstreet was the second- in- command behind General Lee and he believed the Confederate Army should move to the east of the Union and wait for them to attack. At approximately 10 am, General Lee ordered Longstreet to attack. Since Longstreet did not agree with the command, he took his time in ordering his army and it took them until the latter part of the afternoon to finally open fire on the Union. By this time, the Union was able to grow even stronger and better their position. For several hours, Longstreet and his troops battled the Union in a brutal fight. After a few hours, General Ewell was ordered by General Lee to attack the Union from the north and the east. By 10:30 pm, the battle stopped as both sides needed time to regroup and take care of the wounded. The combined casualties between both sides had created one of the largest on any two-day war at nearly 35,000.

The Union suffered some loss in their positions, but at the end of the night they were still able to hold a strong defense against the Confederates. General Lee and General Meade both met with their teams to plan their actions for the next day. Union Commander Meade wanted his army to keep their position and wait for the Confederate Army to attack them first as they had done in the previous days. On the other side, General Lee again wanted to attack the Union and drive them further out despite the Union having the better defensive position.

Battle of Gettysburg Day 3

On the third and final day of the Battle of Gettysburg, General Lee wanted to take a risk and win the entire battle. On the morning of July 3rd the Union used cannons to try to remove the Confederates from the nearby trenches. This started a 3 hour battle with the Confederates charging at the Union. Around 11 am, all fire stopped as both sides needed time to come up with a new plan. At about 1 pm, the Confederate Army opened fire with cannons aimed at the Union’s position on Cemetery Ridge. In return, the Union also used cannons to drive the Confederates back causing the battlefield to succumb to big clouds of smoke. General George Pickett and about 12,000 men were ordered to advance toward the Union in what was later known as the “Pickett’s Charge”. They made their way to the Union Army a mile away on Cemetery Ridge. When they came in range, the Union soldiers quickly greeted them with cannons and rifles. Both sides engaged in a bloody battle that would ultimately end the battle of Gettysburg. Only one-third of the Confederate men survived the attack as they made their way back to their own territory after the failed attack. The Confederates lost the battle of Gettysburg as General Lee commanded the remaining survivors to make their way back to the South. General Meade and the Union helped turn the tide of the Civil War in favor of the Union. It has been reported that the Confederates suffered more than 28,000 casualties while the Union suffered close to 23,000 in what would be known as one of the greatest battles of the Civil War.

On November 19, President Abraham Lincoln went back to the Gettysburg battlefield where he delivered the Gettysburg Address and set the tone for a “government of the People, by the People, for the People” which has become a representation of our democracy.

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