Little Bits of History

Four score and seven years ago

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 1, 2010

July 1, 1863: The Battle of Gettysburg, a crucial battle of the US Civil War, is begun in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The first shots of the Civil War, fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, began the four year effort testing the young American nation’s ability to survive.

There were over 2,000 land engagements in this bloody struggle between the North and South. Gettysburg did not end the war or attain any major war aim for either side.  However in this battle, more men fought and more men died than in any other engagement of the war.

George G. Mead led 93,921 troops of the Union army against Robert E. Lee’s 71,699 men of the Confederate States of America. The battle lasted three days with over 45,000 casualties suffered – nearly 8,000 killed, 27,000 wounded, and 11,000 missing or captured.

Dead Union soldiers at Gettysburg, photographed by Timothy H. O'Sullivan about July 5-6, 1863.

Lee’s army had recently been very successful at Chancellorsville, Virginia and euphoric with victory, Lee opted to invade the North again. Shots were first exchanged between the two armies at 5:30 AM. Battalions of men fought on until 4 PM with the Confederate army in seeming victory. The Union lost 12,000 men to the Confederacy’s loss of 6,500.

During the second day’s fighting, Lee again gained ground and each side lost about 9,000 men. The Union army did not retreat from the strong position they held on Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill. On the third day, Lt. General Ewell of the Union army was defeated attempting to defend Culp’s Hill and withdrew around 11 AM. At 1 PM, another battle began that lasted two hours and then subsided. In the aftermath, General Pickett charged the Union line with devastating losses, costing nearly 5,600 Confederate casualties. The Confederate forces left Gettysburg discouraged – materially and psychologically exhausted. The war raged for two more years, but the Southern army never truly recovered from their defeat here.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” – Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address

“Gettysburg proved a significant turning point in the war, and therefore in the preservation of the United States and abolition of slavery. The Civil War ended lingering doubts since its conception about whether the United States would survive.” – James McPherson, Union officer

“A heavy task was before us; we were equal to it, and shall all remember with pride that at Gettysburg we did our country much service.” – John Buford, Union officer

“I have fought against the people of the North because I believed they were seeking to wrest from the South its dearest rights. But I have never cherished toward them bitter or vindictive feelings, and have never seen the day when I did not pray for them.” – Robert E. Lee

Also on this day, in 1879 The Watchtower was first published.
Bonus link: on this day  in 1862, Russian State Library was founded.

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  1. […] on this day, in 1879 The Watchtower was first published. Bonus link: on this day  in 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg began. Leave a […]


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