The Battle of Gettysburg, fought from July 1 to July 3, 1863, is considered the most important engagement of the American Civil War. After a great victory over Union forces at Chancellorsville, General Robert E. Lee marched his Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania in late June 1863. On July 1, the advancing Confederates clashed with the Union’s Army of the Potomac, commanded by General George G. Meade, at the crossroads town of Gettysburg. The next day saw even heavier fighting, as the Confederates attacked the Federals on both left and right. On July 3, Lee ordered an attack by fewer than 15,000 troops on the enemy’s center at Cemetery Ridge. The assault, known as “Pickett’s Charge,” managed to pierce the Union lines but eventually failed, at the cost of thousands of rebel casualties, and Lee was forced to withdraw his battered army toward Virginia on July 4. (history.com)
Join the tour groups at the Gettysburg National Military Park.
First of July, 1863
5am – Confederate Major General Henry Heth’s Division sets out for Gettysburg from Cashtown. To the west of town Union Brig. General John Buford’s Cavalry Division sits just west of town with 2,700 troops. Advanced skirmishers have been deployed to meet the Confederate advance.
10:15am – Union General John Reynolds’ I Corps arrived on the scene to reinforce Buford’s Division against increasing pressure from the roughly 13,500 advancing Confederates.
Second of July, 1863
4:30pm – Confederate regiments from Texas and Alabama overrun Union skirmishers on Big Round Top and make their way toward Little Round Top. Union Brigadier General Governor K. Warren notices that Little Round Top is undefended and after sending aides foe help, Colonel Strong Vincent reinforces the hill just as the Confederate assault begins.
4:15-5:30pm – After Union General Daniel Sickles advanced his entire corps to higher ground ½ mile out of line with the rest of the Union army, a dangerous salient was created. It did however put his men in a position that the Confederates did not expect so heavy fighting ensued immediately upon the initial assault. Confederate General John Bell Hood led the assault and his men from Alabama, Texas and Georgia fought valiantly, but were unable to unseat the Union forces.
4:15pm-7:30pm – Often referred to as the “Bloody Wheatfield” due to the catastrophic losses by both sides in just a few hours of fighting on this 20-acre sight. Time-after-time the Wheatfield exchanged hands and was the scene of frantic hand-to-hand fighting that was a rarity in Civil War battles. In the end the Confederates failed to capitalize on their successes and the Union forces commanded the field.
5:45-7:00pm – Initially, Brigadier General Joseph B. Kershaw’s South Carolina brigades attacked the Union lines at Stony Hill. General Sickles who had been leading his troops from the Trostle house began to withdraw due to the pressure of the advancing Confederates. A cannonball caught Sickles in the right leg and he was quickly put on a stretcher and taken to the rear.
8:00-midnight – Culp’s Hill was a substantial hill with wooded slopes on the extreme right flank of the Union army. It made up the point on the “fishhook” as part of the Union defenses and saw considerable action on July 2.
Third of July,1863
1:00-3:50pm – General Robert E. Lee’s plan of attack was to assault the Union center with 12,000 troops with General James Longstreet coordinating the attack. After a devastating artillery attack that was intended to loosen up the Union defenses, the Confederates attacked across a mile of open ground.
Jeb Stuart at Gettysburg
Contrary to the movie “Gettysburg”, Jeb Stuart was not “riding around getting his name in the papers”. He was in fact following orders given him by General Lee to ride around the Union Armies and gather supplies for the Army of Northewrn Virginia. He was to be away from the Army for two to four days. This being the tactic used in the past. Stuart’s orders were to join Ewell’s Corps in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The Battle of Gettysburg was not a fight for shoes. Brigades were sent into the town in search of shoes as part of the process of foraging. When Lee found out that the Army of the Potomac was “in the open” and between him and the Potomac, he ordered an emergency concentration centered on Cashtown Pennsylvania. By the time Stuart got to Carlisle, Ewell had already left for Cashtown.
Stuart was further hampered by the wagon train of 100 wagons of supplies he had “acquired” in Rockville, Maryland.
The US Army War College Lecture Series
This is a playlist of 17 lectures.