The Battle of Gettysburg The Battle of Gettysburg by by hcj


									                  The Battle of Gettysburg
                                 by Savannah Bayles

       In June of 1863, Confederate general Robert E. Lee decided to set off on a

second invasion on the North. He wanted to destroy the railroad bridge at

Harrisburg, then he would turn his attention to Philadelphia, Baltimore, or

Washington where he believed would be “best for our interest.” Confederate troops

were scattered on a wide scale after the long trek, and soldiers were searching towns

across southern Pennsylvania for supplies that they badly needed. It was in the town

of Gettysburg that the confederate soldiers, in search of shoes, spotted the union

troops headed their way.

       On July 1, the two sides soon clashed on McPherson Ridge, west of town. The

skirmishes became more gruesome even as reinforcements arrived. They were able

to stand their ground until afternoon, being overpowered by additional southern

troops; the Union soldiers were pushed back through Gettysburg. Amongst the

confusion of retreating, thousands of Union soldiers were taken captive before they

could rally on tip of Cemetery Hill. That night the Union soldiers labored over their

defenses while General Meade’s army got into position.

       On July 2, Lee’s armies attacked again. The majority of both the Union and

Confederate armies were fighting as close as 1 mile apart on two parallel ridges. The

Union forces fought upon Cemetery Ridge, in the well known “fish hook,” and the

Confederate troops were gathered on Seminary Ridge to the west. During some of

the fiercest fighting of the war, the Confederates were able to accomplish some

minor successes, but the Union soldiers remained atop Cemetery Ridge. Although

advised not to, Lee ordered an attack on the Union. General Lee had thought that

the previous attacks had greatly weakened the Union forces. Yet, he was wrong. This

move only lead to thousands of wounded and dead soldiers, which were left in
Wheatfield and Plum Run (now known as Bloody Run). One man told of a heart-

breaking experience in, “Reminiscences of the Civil War.”

       “In the midst of the wild disorder in his ranks, and through a storm of bullets,

a Union officer was seeking to rally his men for a final stand. He, too, went down,

pierced by a Minie’ ball. Riding forward with my rapidly advancing lines, I discovered

that brave officer lying upon his back, with the July sun pouring its rays into his pale

face. He was surrounded by the Union, and his own life seemed to be ebbing out.

Quickly dismounting and lifting his head, I gave him water from my canteen, asked

his name and the character of his wounds. He was Major-General Francis C. Barlow,

of New York, and of Howard’s Corps. The ball had entered his body in front and

passed out near the spinal cord, paralyzing him in legs and arms. Neither of is had

the remotest thought that he would possibly survive many hours. I summoned

several soldiers who were looking after the wounded, and directed them to place him

upon a litter and carry him to the shade in the rear. Before parting, he asked me to

take from his pocket a package of letters and destroy them. They were from his wife.

He had but one request to make of me. That request was that if I should live to the

end of the war and should ever meet Mrs. Barlow, I would tell her of our meeting on

the field of Gettysburg and of his thoughts of her in his last moments. He wished me

to assure her that he died doing his duty at the front, that he was willing to give his

life for his country, and that his deepest regret was that he must die without looking

upon her face again.”

       “I learned that Mrs. Barlow was with the Union army, and near the battlefield.

When it is remembered how closely Mrs. Gordon followed me, it will not be difficult

to realize that my sympathies were especially stirred by the announcement that his

wife was so near him. Passing through the day’s battle unhurt, I dispatched at its

close, under flag of truce, the promised message to Mrs. Barlow. I assured her that if
she wished to come through the lines she should have safe escort to her husband’s


         Although the second day of the war was bloody and gruesome, the next day

would be even more horrible! Lee had decided to attack the very center of the Union

line on Cemetery Ridge. He was sure that would be the last place the Yankees would

suspect him to attack.

         On July 3, the Rebels spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon

preparing and moving into position for the charge. At one o’clock in the afternoon,

the South opened fire with their big guns, cannons, and weapons. Union cannons

answered back, leaving the battlefield shrouded in blinding smoke and dust. The

Yankee soldiers watched in amazement as about 14,000 Confederate soldiers formed

an orderly line that stretched for a mile, and marched to Cemetery Ridge. In what

became known as “Pickett’s Charge,” it was known as one of the most incredible

efforts in military history. The Confederates were suddenly being hit by cannons that

were using grapeshot’s (a shell containing iron balls that flew apart when fired) and

deadly accurate rifle volleys. Union soldiers later recalled that they could hardly even

fire a shot without hitting a Confederate soldier, which were falling by the thousands.

Bravely, the survivors form the hail storm of bombs continued moving forward, until

they were close enough to charge.

         Through it all, Pickett’s men reached Cemetery Hill, but was not able to break

through the Union line. Within 50 minutes, 10,000 Rebels, associated in Pickett’s

Charge, had become casualties, or deaths.

         With the failure of Pickett’s Charge, the Battle of Gettysburg was over - the

Union was saved! On the afternoon of July 4, 1863, Lee’s men retreated, loaded up

their wounded into wagons and rode away, leaving their dead soldiers behind. As

they left, this small town of only 2,400 was devastatingly left with approximately

3,155 dead Federal soldiers and 3,903 Confederate soldiers killed. There were
14,529 wounded and mortally wounded Federal soldiers and 18,735 Confederate

soldiers wounded. Yet, there were 5,365 Federal soldiers missing and 5,425

Confederate soldiers missing. This was a total of 23,049 losses for the Union army

and 28,063 losses for the Confederate army.

         The Confederate army that staggered weakly back from the Battle of

Gettysburg was physically, spiritually, and mentally exhausted. General Lee would

never again be able to attempt, or even think about another offensive strategy that

called for such daring and drastic measures. General Meade of the Union army,

though criticized for not immediately pursuing Lee’s army after having retreated, had

carried the day in the battle that is now known to us as the turning point of the Civil


         After the battles of Gettysburg, the Governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew Curtin,

gave the local judge, David Wills, the unpleasureable task of cleaning up the

battlefield. Not only was there thousands of dead bodies covering the land, but also

about 5,000 dead horses, which obviously, created a very unpleasant stench. Mr.

Wills quickly pronounced 17 acres of the battlefield a national cemetery, and started

burying the dead. When the horrible job was finished, he invited the famous orator,

Edward Everett, to be the main speaker at the dedication of this historic site.

President Lincoln was also asked to give his thoughts.

         On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln gave his powerful speech, written

on the back of an envelope, which has become known as the “Gettysburg Address.”

Those who attended the event, had to endure a long two hour speech from Edward

Everett, and surprisingly enough, not many recall or wish to recall his speech.

Although Lincoln’s address was a short and simple two minute talk, it is considered

by many to be the most powerful statements ever. The audience then was stunned

by the inspiration of his speech, and still the world today remains in awe of his

           Lest we forget what occurred during this destructive and horrible war,

reminders sadly but firmly guide us back into perspective during those times when

we succumb to the temptation to completely romanticize this and any other distant

event. Although inarguably this war gave birth to near infinite examples of heroism

and compassion, there was also indescribable and unrelenting slaughter and

destruction on a mammoth scale. In the Gettysburg National Cemetery alone, over

3.500 lay in rest who perished during the desperate struggles of this war. That so

many returned to these fields after such tremendous loss, seeking to honor their

dead, speaks to the need to remember and learn from this moment in our history.

# The Battle of Gettysburg: Remembrance - Lest We Forget

Savannah.HTM Back to home page

                    “The Battle of Gettysburg.”
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          “Gettysburg Battle American Civil War July 1863.” Date Found – 05/06/03

          “The Battle of Gettysburg: July 1, 1863 – Day 1.” Date Found – 05/06/03

                    “Three Days at Gettysburg.”
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           “The Battle at Gettysburg (July 1, 2, 3, 1863).”       Date Found – 05/06/03

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