The Battle of Gettysburg lasted from July 1st through the 3rd. The commander of the Confederate army was Robert E. Lee. Lee’s plan was to strike through the North, and make his way to Washington D.C for a peaceful negotiation, and therefore the end of the war. He had already had a failed attempt at Antietam. However, Lee was still confident, because of his earlier victory in Chancellorsville. The Union Army had recently gotten a new general because their earlier general, Hooker, could not be trusted. Their new general was General George Gordon Meade. Just three days after Meade was appointed, they met up with Lee’s army at Gettysburg, a very small town that practically no one had ever heard of until this battle. First, an division lead by southern general Henry Heth marched into Gettysburg. However, an army lead by Union general John Buford had already arrived, as Buford saw Gettysburg as a key place with all the crossroads meeting there. When Heth’s army arrived, Buford held them of successfully for two hours while waiting for back-up. Eventually, MajorGeneral John Reynolds arrives on the scene and relieved Buford’s army. Unfortunately, not even one day had passed before Reynolds was shot in the head and killed. The fighting ensued, growing in violence every minute. A Union Army army who called themselves the Iron Brigade arrived to fight, and lost many men in the process. Not long after, Lee’s army arrived, and the Yankee’s began to retreat towards the safety of the Gettysburg Cemetery. The fighting continued. The Union were confused as they retreated, and about two or three thousand soldiers were captured. The Confederate army got the Union army cornered. One of the generals, Richard Ewell, had a choice to attack and to maybe finish of the Union. However, Ewell though it impracticable, and his men needed rest, so he chose not to attack. Near the end of the first day was when General George Meade arrived. Another plus was that the Union still held the high ground. This was critical. The Union could move and communicate quicker. By holding an incredible defensive position on Culp’s Hill, Cemetery Hill, and a hill called Little Round Top, the Union had a very good chance of winning the battle.
The second day of the Battle of Gettysburg was quite brutal. Somewhere between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers died on both sides. Union casualties alone was 23,055. This day started when Lee mentioned his plan to one of his most trustworthy generals, James Longstreet. His plan was simply to attack the Union and gain control of the high ground. Longstreet was against this plan, as it seemed too foolhardy. He had another, and, in his mind, a wiser, plan. Longstreet’s plan was to sneak around to the Union’s left, where they could gain ground between them and the capital. However, Lee was very strongly against this, and the army ended up carrying out Lee’s plan. Longstreet carried out Lee’s plans and had the army ready to attack by 4:00 on thesecond day. However, the Union was no longer where they expected them to be. Union General Dan Sickles was not holding the left thank like he should be. Though not very famous as far as the Civil War goes, Sickles was, in fact, an important character with some interesting background. Before the Dawn of the Civil War, Sickles was a lawyer and a legislator. In 1859 he was serving in U.S Congress. It was this year that Sickles shot and killed a man named Philip Barton Key. Key, who was apparently doing some wrong to Sickles in regard to his wife, thereby being the motivation for the murder, was in fact the son of Francis Scott Key, the composer of our national anthem, The StarSpangled Banner. Sickles was then judged in court, with Edwin Stanton as his defense attorney. Stanton would later become Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War. Sickles was declared innocent with the claim that he had been temporarily insane when committing the murder. Sickles then forgave his cheating wife. Unfortunately, this outraged the public (because the public was understanding and sympathetic of him at the time, for him to suddenly forgive his wife and brush it all of his shoulder was simply too much for them to take.), so Sickles political career ended. When the Civil War started, he saw it as a fresh start for him, so he took the chance and entered the war. After a success at the New York Brigade, he was promoted to Colonel. By the time the battle of Gettysburg began, he had been promoted to General. In the Battle of Gettysburg, Sickles made a move. However, he took it upon himself to do this- he consulted with no one. He had been ordered to hold the left thank, a crucial place on the hill. Instead, Sickles moved over to higher ground, as well as along a road leading out of Gettysburg. In this place there was a great helping of rocks and boulders. This place was called Devil’s Den. By doing this, he protected his army much better.
However, he also left a whole side of the hill undefended and open to attack. General Meade was absolutely furious, and ordered Sickles back to his position, but Sickles did not do so. Not long after that, Longstreet attacked the Union’s left side. The second day of battle started. Two men, General Warren and Lieutenant Washington Robeling to scout the situation. They saw that the Union wasn’t doing well in this attack at all, especially Sickles in the Peach Orchard (Devil’s Den). Warren called for reinforcements.Four regiments from the Union 5th Corps were sent. The Little Round Top was crucial. The Union had to keep hold of it at all times, or everything would be lost. Fortunately, one of the reinforcement sent was the 20th main, led be Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Chamberlain had been ordered to hold the Little Round Top at all hazards. Chamberlain’s men took cover behind rocks. Soon, the southern Colonel Oates beat hard against Chamberlain’s men for almost two hours. Near the end, onethird of Chamberlain’s men were either killed or injured. Those that still survived had practically run out of ammunition. As the confederate troops prepared for another attack, Chamberlain ordered part of his regiment to form a right angle with the rest of the Union line. Chamberlain knew he could advance, or he could retreat. He chose to advance. Part of his army held their position, while the other portion advanced down to the Confederates. The south were surprised by Chamberlain’s decision. Some surrendered while others ran. As they ran, Chamberlain’s men continued to fire. With this success, Chamberlain had fulfilled his orders to keep Little Round Top at all costs. Sickles was still being heavily assaulted, and Sickles lost a leg. It had been blown of right at the knee. Elsewhere, Union reinforcements were sent. This opened a gap in the Union Army. The south saw this opportunity and took it. However, a Union Regiment, the 1st Minnesota, a small regiment with only 262 men, rushed to defend against the south. Of the 262 men, only 47 were alive and unhurt. This was highest casualty number of a Union regiment in all of the Civil War. Despite their losses, they defended the gap in the Union army. Just before the day ended, southern general Ewell attacked the Union on the right. However, his attempts were fruitless. After this attack, night came, and the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg ended.
July third, 1863, was the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg as well as the last. Combined, the North and South causalities added up to about 35,000 already. Today, more blood was to be shed. This day particularly is what made the Battle of Gettysburg so famous in the history of America. General George Meade decided he would wait and see if Lee’s army attacked his. If not, Meade would attack him. Lee was indeed planning an attack. Whereas on July second he attacked the sides, this time he would go for the center of the Union Army. General George Pickett would lead this charge. Another Southern general, Jeb Stuart, would lead his division around the Union Army and attack them in the rear. With the Union surrounded on both sides, Lee expected his division to cut through to the middle of Meade’s army like butter, thereby winning the battle. First, however, the middle of the Union’s front lines must be weakened, so Lee ordered General Longstreet to use 150 guns focused on the middle of the Union’s front lines for two hours straight. The Union reacted by doing the same to the South in return. The shooting was crazy, and was heard 140 miles away in Pittsburgh. This artillery fire is regarded as the loudest noises ever to be heard in North America. However, Lee’s attempt to weaken the middle of the Union’s front lines proved to be inefeective. The Union brought down the quantity of their firing. By doing so, the Union saved ammunition and was able to keep their guns ready for the South’s later advancement. After the firing, the Union waited anxiously for the South to attack. Finally, at 1:45 in the afternoon, the South were ordered to move in. 15,000 Confederate soldiers ran forward, guns ready, to meet the Union army. The Union Artillery opened fire. Union Infantry protected themselves as they waited their turn to fight. The Union Artillery continued their fire, destroying the Confederate Army, bit by bit. The Confederate Army, however, kept coming. Surprisingly, about two or three hundred southern soldiers broke through the Union lines. Hand-to-hand fighting ensued. It lasted only half an hour before the Confederate gave up, seeing that they were finally defeated. Lee left the town, and Meade half-heartedly pursued. However, he let Lee go, seeing the chase as pointless. As Meade said, chasing after Lee’s army was like an old woman trying to shoo her geese across a creek.
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