With over 50,000 causalities in just 3 days in the first week of July 1863, the Gettysburg war, popularly known as the Battle of Gettysburg, remains one of North America’s largest and costliest battles ever fought on the continent. The battle between the Confederates, led by Gen. Robert E. Lee, and the Union, led by Gen. George G. Meade, is one that will forever linger in the memories of its citizens.
The Start of the War
Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee stirred the battle in June 1863, when he led his soldiers across the Potomac River in Virginia into Pennsylvania, after the Union forces suffered a significant defeat at his hand at Chancellorsville. He and his high-spirit Army of Northern Virginia were met by the Union Army led by its new commander, Gen. George G. Meade, who had just received power 3 days before the start of the battle.
Wednesday, 01 July 1863
On this day somewhere at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the Battle of Gettysburg began when Gen. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia clashed with the Union Army of Gen. George G. Meade.
With Gen. Lee rushing to the scene with about 25,000 soldiers, fate seemed to smile on him on this day. Not without a price anyway, although one of the Union General, Gen. John Reynolds was killed and the Union Army were pulled back through the town of Gettysburg, heavy causalities on the side of Gen. Lee’s were recorded.
The Union Army, led by Brig. Gen. John Buford, retreated and regrouped on the high ground of Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill on the south-eastern edge of Gettysburg. There, they reinforced their army and were soon joined by more troops.
Arguably, it is debated that Gen. Lee had sent orders to Confederate Gen. R.S. Ewell, the new commander of the Army of Northern Virginia’s Second Corps, to mount more pressure on the weakened Union army that retreated and regrouped at Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill. Gen. Lee had asked Gen. Ewell to seize the high grounds if possible so as to give the Confederates better advantage in the war. Gen. Ewell would not attack because he considered that the Union’s army might be too strong for his tired soldiers. Missing this opportunity is believed by many to be the biggest mistake the Confederates made. It bought the Union the time to set their armies in position and get more reinforcements.
Thursday, 02 July 1863
On the second day of July 1863, Gen. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia took the battle to the Union, with the hope of dislodging them from Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill but failed.
Both armies got more reinforcements in the late hours of Wednesday and early hours of the second day.
The reinforcements helped the Union Army to set up a fishhook-like formation spanning from Culp’s Hill through Cemetery Hill and Cemetery Ridge to the north of Little Round Top.
As a response to the Union’s formation, Gen. Lee planned to attack the Union from the two sides of the Union’s fishhook-like formation.
He ordered Gen. James Longstreet to attack the Union as early as possible from the left, around Devil’s Den, the Peach Orchard, the Wheatfield, the Little Round Top, and Cemetery Ridge while Gen. Ewell launches his from the right, close to East Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill.
Gen. James Longstreet’s delay in attacking the Union caused another major setback for the Confederates as it gave the Union more time to reinforce their lines. By the time Gen. Longstreet struck, the Union were already fully set in their positions and successfully resisted Gen. Longstreet forces. Again, the Confederates lost another opportunity to seize the left side of the Union’s line when Gen. Daniel Sickles shifted his army’s position to the open ground around Peach Orchard, thus separating them from the main Union formation. Seeing this crack, the Confederates marched up to confront them there and defeated the Union forces. This victory was short-lived as the Union army were able to hold up their stance at Little Round Top.
Gen. Ewell under Gen. Lee’s command advanced against the Unions from the right. Culp’s Hill was dense with trees and hilly. This gave the Unions an added advantage and caused the Confederates much trouble. Although they succeeded in capturing some trenches from the Unions at Culp’s Hill, they were not able to take full control of the right wing.
Gen. Lee’s army retreated and regrouped in the evening to plan for their last charge against the Union, on the very center of their fishhook-like formation.
Friday, o3 July 1863
Famous for Pickett’s Charge, Friday, 3rd of July 1863 marked the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, the death of thousands of men.
Gen. Lee gave his third and last attack on the Union Army, right at the center of their line against the arguments of Gen. Longstreet.
To keep the focus on Gen. George G. Meade on the sides of the line, Gen. Lee instructed Gen. Jeb Stuart’s to continue the assaults on the wings of the Union line. Gen. Jeb Stuart’s men met with heavy cannon fire that held them back and foiled the diversion.
With the arrival of Maj. Gen. George Pickett, and his troops as the spine of the attack, Gen. Lee led the Confederates to final defeat. The Union had ceased fire to delude the Confederates into thinking that they had run out of ammunitions. The Confederates fell for it and attacked the Union line. When they were at close range, the Union opened heavy fire and rifle shot at them. Still, under the bombardment of shell, rifle fires and canister, the Confederate rebels surge forward to the Union Line with all they had and for a moment broke through the center until they are confronted by a fresh stream of Union reinforcement that opened fire on them. The surprised and defeated soldiers drew back and tried to make it down the slope.
Here, at the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederate Gen. Lee and his esteemed army were conquered as he accepted defeat at the hands of the Union soldiers.
The End of the Battle
Indeed Pickett’s Charge penetrated the Union lines, but still, they failed. The Confederates under the command of Gen. Lee was forced to retreat, and this marked the end of the Battle of Gettysburg.
28,000 Confederate causalities including deaths, injuries, and missing soldiers were recorded while that of Union numbered 23,000.
Detailed Tour Itinerary
Tour lasts around 9 hours
Tour departure: 8:00 am
Time: 1 h 27 min (85.4 miles)
Private tour only
Total People: 8
Choose vehicle: SUV, Limousine, Van, Shuttle bus
Tour leaves from Washington DC to Gettysburg Battlefield
Meeting Location: 700 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20408