Gettysburg An Overview Essay Research Paper This

Gettysburg An Overview Essay, Research Paper This most famous and most important Civil War Battle occurred over three hot summer days, July 1 to July 3, 1863,

Gettysburg An Overview Essay, Research Paper

This most famous and most important Civil War Battle occurred over three hot summer days, July

1 to July 3, 1863,

around the small market town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It began as a skirmish but by the time

it ended, it

involved 160,00 Americans.

Before the battle, major cities in the North such as Philadelphia, Baltimore and even Washington

itself, were under

threat of attack from General Robert E. Lee s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia which had

crossed the

Potomac River and marched into Pennsylvania.

the Union Army of the Potomac under its new and untried commander, General George G.

Meade, marched to

intercept Lee.

On Tuesday morning, June 30, an infantry brigade of Confederate soldiers searching for shoes

headed toward

Gettysburg (population about 2,400). The Confederate commander looked through his field

glasses and spotted a

long column of Federal cavalry heading toward the town. He withdrew his brigade and informed

his superior, Hen.

Henry Heth, who in turn told his superior, A.P. Hill, he would go back the following morning

and get those shoes .

This kinda of tells you how much of an advantage the North had over the South. Desperate

bare-footed men risked

their lives for shoes.

Wednesday, July 1, two divisions of Confederates headed back to Gettysburg. They ran into

Federal cavalry west of

the town at Willoughby Run (I have Willoughby Run on my model here) and the skirmish began.

Events quickly

escalated. Lee rushed 25,000 men to the scene while the Union had less than 20,000.

After much fierce fighting and heavy casualties on both sides, the Federals were pushed back

through the town of

Gettysburg and regrouped south of the town along the high ground near the cemetery (which is

here on my map).

Lee ordered Confederate General R.S. Ewell to seize the high ground from the battle tired

Federals . Gen. Ewell

hesitated to attack thereby giving the Union troops a chance to dig in along Cemetery Ridge and

bring in

reinforcements with artillery. By the time Lee realized Ewell had not attacked, it was too late to

attempt the attack.

Meade arrived at the area and thought it was an ideal place to do battle with the Rebel army. He

expected a massive

number of Union soldiers totaling up to 100,000to arrive and strengthen his defensive position.

Confederate General James Lonstreet saw the Union position as nearly impenetrable and told Lee

it should be left

alone. He argued that the Confederate Army should instead move east between the Union Army

and Washington and

build a defensive position thus forcing the Federals to attack them instead. But Lee believed his

army was invincible

and he also didn t have his cavalry which served as his eyes and ears. With his cavalry he could

track the Unions

troop movements. Cavalry leader Jev Stuart had gone off with his troops to harass the Federals

leaving Lee with a

disadvantage.

Lee decided to attack the Union Army s defensive position at the southern end of Cemetery Ridge

which he thought

was less defended.

Around 10 a.m. the next morning, Thursday, July 2, Gen. Lonstreet was ordered by Lee to attack.

but Lonstreet was

quite slow in getting his troops into position and didn t even attack them until 4 p.m. that

afternoon. This gave the

Union Army more time to strengthen their position.

When Longstreet attacked, some of the most bitter fighting of the Civil War erupted at places

now part of American

military folklore such as Little Round Top, Devil s Den, the Wheat Field and the Peach Orchard

(which can all be

seen on my model). Longstreet took the Peach Orchard but was driven back at Little Round Top.

About 6:30 p.m. Gen. Ewell attacked the Union Line from the north and east at Cemetery Hill

and Culp s Hill (which

can be seen on my model also). The attack lasted into darkness but was finally decided

unsuccessful at Cemetery

Hill, although Rebels seized some trenches on Culp s Hill.

By about 10:30 p.m., the day s fighting came to and end. The Federals had lost some ground

during the Rebel

onslaught but still held the strong defensive position along Cemetery Ridge. Both sides

regrouped and counted their

causalities.

Generals from each side gathered in war councils to plan for the coming day. Union commander

Meade decided his

army would remain in place and wait for Lee to attack. On the Confederate side, Longstreet once

again tried to talk

Lee out of attacking such a strong position. But lee thought the beaten up Union soldiers were

nearly done and fall

under one last push.

As dawn broke on Friday, July 3, about 4:30 a.m., Lee s timetable was undermined as Union

cannons pounded the

Rebels on Culp s Hill to drive them from the trenches. The Rebels did not withdraw, but instead

attacked the

Federals around 8 a.m. Thus began a vicious three hour struggle with the Rebels constantly

charging up the hill only

to be repelled back. The Federals finally counter attacked and drove the Rebels off the hill and

east across the Rock

Creek. Around 11 a.m. the fighting on Culp s Hill stopped. Then an eerie quiet settled over the

battlefield.

And again, Lee encountered arguments about his battle plan from Longstreet. Lee estimated

about 15,000 men

would participate in the Rebel charge on Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet responded, It is my

opinion that no 15,000

men ever arrayed for battle can take that position. . But of course Lee did it his way.

Throughout the morning and into the afternoon there was a 90 degree temperature and high

humidity. Through this

the Rebels moved into position in the woods opposite Cemetery Ridge for the coming charge.

Interestingly, some

Union troops were moved away from Cemetery Ridge on Mead s orders because he thought Lee

would attack again

in the south. Several hours before, Mead had correctly predicted Lee would attack the center, but

now thought

otherwise. He left only 5,750 infantry men stretched out along the half-mile front to initially face

a 13,000 man Rebel

charge.

Lee sent Jeb Stuart s recently returned cavalry to go behind the Union position in order to divert

Federal forces from

the main battle area. Around noon, Union and Confederate cavalry troops battled three miles east

of Gettysburg but

Stuart was eventually repulsed by cannon fire led in part by Gen. George Custer and the Union

Cavalry. The

diversion attempt failed.

Back at the main battle site, just after 1 p.m. about 170 Confederate cannons opened fire on the

Union position on

Cemetery Ridge to pave the way for the Rebel Charge. This was the heaviest artillery barrage of

the war. The

Federals returned heavy cannon fire and soon the battlefield was covered in smoke and dust.

Around 2:30 p.m. the

Federals slowed their rate of fire, then stopped firing, to conserve ammunition and to fool he

Rebels into thinking the

cannons were knocked out-and thats exactly what the Rebels thought too.

But as the Rebels got within range, Federal cannons opened fire using grapeshot which is a shell

containing iron balls

that flew apart when fired, and they also used deadly waves of rifle fire. Soon the Rebel army was

torn apart but they

still moved forward.

Pickett s charge was almost more after the once majestic army of 13,000 had its numbers of

troops dwindle.. The

Rebels still move forward, shooting then charging with bayonets. The battle lasted for about and

hour mostly of

hand-to-hand combat. Finally what was left of Pickett s charge (5,500) retreated .

Lee admitted this was his mistake and the tide of war now turned in the North s favor. The Union

lost about 23,000, and the Confederates lost about 28,000.

That night and into the next day, Saturday, July4, Confederate wounded were loaded on wagons

that began the trop

back toward the South. Lee was forced to take his army and retreat back to Virginia. Union

commander Meade, out

of fatigue and caution , did not immediately pursue Lee, infuriating President Lincoln who wrote a

bitter letter to

Meade (pass out). Lincoln said he missed a golden opportunity to end the war right there.

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