Battle of Gettysburg

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Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg is one of the most famous events of the American Civil War (1861–65). It took place from July 1 to July 3, 1863, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania . Gettysburg is about thirty miles south of the state capital of Harrisburg. The battle was part of the attempt by the army of the Confederate States of America to invade the northern states and discourage Union support. The clash at Gettysburg was the deadliest of the war. Union victory ended the Confederate march north, forcing its army to retreat.

By May 1863, the Confederate Army had defeated the Union Army in several important battles. The Northern population was growing more dissatisfied with the lack of Union progress, and a peace movement was growing. The Southern population, particularly in Virginia where most of the fighting occurred, was struggling to support the armies. Essential provisions like food were running low.

A bold strategy

Hoping to relieve Virginia from his armies, find provisions in the fields of Pennsylvania, and stir up antiwar sentiment in the North, Confederate general Robert E. Lee (1807–1870) decided to invade the North and perhaps capture Harrisburg. His troops numbered seventy-five thousand men organized into three corps.

Union troops met the Confederate invasion at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. Nearly ninety thousand troops under the leadership of Union general George C. Meade (1815–1872) fought bitterly for three days to block the Confederate march. With great losses on both sides, General Lee retreated to Virginia on July 4. His army was severely weakened, with more than twenty thousand captured, wounded, or killed. The Union Army suffered approximately twenty-three thousand similar losses.

Remembering Gettysburg

Gettysburg has a national cemetery where President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865; served 1861–65) gave his famous Gettysburg Address in 1863. The battlefields of Gettysburg are now preserved at Gettysburg National Military Park.

The Battle of Gettysburg was a major Union victory and is often considered the turning point of the Civil War. Though General Meade was criticized for not pursuing Lee's army in its retreat, Meade's army earned praise for its success in stopping the invasion.