The battle of Gettysburg was considered the turning point in the American
Civil War. This battle was fought from July 1 through July 3, 1863. This victory
by the North destroyed the Southern strategy and also helped the North gain more
confidence.

Leading the Army of the Potomac was the Union general George Gordon
Meade, his army numbered about 85,000. The confederate army, led by General
Robert E. Lee, consisted of about 75,000. After the Battle of Chancellorsville Lee
divided his army into three groups, commanded by three generals; James
Longstreet, Richard Stoddert Ewell, and Ambrose Powell Hill. Lee then made a
plan for invading Pennsylvania, trying to avoid another federal offensive in
Virginia and planning to fight if he could get the federal army into a defenseless
position; he also hoped that the invasion might increase Northern war-weariness
and lead the North to recognize the independence of the Confederate States of
America. Using his plan, Lee crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains, proceeded up the
Shenandoah Valley, and crossing Maryland, entering Pennsylvania. After hearing
the federal troops were north of the Potomac, Lee decided to concentrate his whole
army at Gettysburg.

Confederate troops from General Hill’s corps, on June 30 on their way to
Gettysburg, noted federal troops that Meade had moved down to intercept the
Confederate army. The battle began on July 1 outside of Gettysburg with an
encounter between Hill’s advance brigades and the federal cavalry division
commanded by Major General John Buford. Hill encountered stubborn resistance,
and the fighting was inclusive until Ewell arrived from the north in the afternoon.
The Confederates pushed against General Oliver Howard’s corps and forced the
federal troops to retire from their forward positions to Culp’s Hill and Cemetery
Ridge, southeast of Gettysburg. The fighting had been heavy on both sides, but the
Union troops suffered more losses. More than 4,000 men were taken prisoner by
the Confederates, and Federal General John Reynolds was killed in battle. The
federals did manage to capture Confederate General Archer. The corps led by
Ewell did not move in to attack the Union troops but waited for General Longstreet
to bring in his cops to reinforce the outnumbered Confederate troops.

Then on July 2nd, Meade formed his forces in the shape of a horseshoe,
extending westward from Culp’s Hill and southward along Cemetery Ridge to the
hills of Little Round Top and Round Top. The Confederates were deployed in a
long, thin, concave line, with Longstreet and Ewell on the flanks and Hill in the
center.

Going against the advice of Longstreet and despite the fact that he had no
cavalry, Lee resolved to attack the federal positions. Longstreet was unable to
advance until late afternoon, allowing the federal troops to make preparations for
the expected assault. General Abner Doubleday of the federal army strengthened
his hold on Cemetery Hill. The federals held Cemetery Ridge and Little Round
Top, but Longstreet moved confederate troops along Peach Orchard, driving the
federals from their positions there. Although Ewell won part of Culp’s Hill, he
was unable to break the federal line there or on the eastern part of Cemetery Ridge.
On the night of July 2, Meade held a council of war in which the decision was
made not to retreat. On the third day of battle, the federals were secure in their
positions and the Confederates had lost their offensive stance. General Lee
decided to mount an attack despite the other generals opposing it. The offensive
did not begin until after noon. Groups from three Confederate divisions, including
the division led by Major General George E. Pickett, totaling fewer than 15,000
men, took part in a memorable charge on Cemetery Ridge against a huge attack of
federal artillery and musket fire. The attack is know as Pickett’s Charge.
Although the Confederate troops conquered Meade’s first line of defense, the
strain on the Confederates proved too great, and they fell back, having lost over
three-fourths of their forces.

With the pushing back of Pickett’s Charge, the Battle of Gettysburg was
totally over. During the three days of battle, the federal army lost 3,070 killed,
14,497 wounded, and 5,434 captured or missing. The Confederates lost about
3,500 killed, 18,000 wounded, and 5,150 captured or missing.