Battle of Gettysburg
Episode #8 of the course “Battles of All Time”
Date: July 1–3, 1863
Some of the greatest battles actually happen within a nation, and when internal conflicts arise, they are occasionally handled in way that is a poor solution for virtually everyone. The Civil War in the United States is an example. Essentially, the Civil War was between the southern States, the Confederates, and the northern States, the Union. There was conflict on a number of issues, but slavery may have been one of the most important factors driving this civil war.
Prior to the Battle of Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee was leading his army through Pennsylvania in an attempt to move the fighting away from Virginia and on to northern soil. He decided to concentrate his army in Gettysburg when he learned that Union troops were in Pennsylvania. The Union troops led by Major General George Gordon Meade were trying to keep their ranks placed between the Confederate forces and Washington, D.C. the Union capital (and the capital today).
On the first day of fighting between the two, July 1, 1863, the Confederate troops defeated the Unioners and the troops retreated to the hills just south of Gettysburg—Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill. On the second day, the Union army defended their post, but the Confederate forces did gain some ground. Finally, on the third day, 12,000 Confederates charged the center of the Union line in what became known as Pickett’s Charge. The charge was cut down by Union rifles and artillery, so the Confederates suffered a huge loss in that single attack. Shortly thereafter, Lee led his army in a retreat back through Virginia.
The total strengths were roughly 165,620 soldiers, including 93,921 Union men and 71,699 Confederate men. The total casualties were roughly 46,286 soldiers, including 23,055 Union men and 23,231 Confederate men.
This battle was memorialized in President Lincoln’s address at this location just four months later. He dedicated the Gettysburg’s Soldiers National Cemetery to honor the fallen Union soldiers.
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