1863 Jan 1
, Gettysburg

Shortly after the Army of Northern Virginia won a major victory over the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30 – May 6, 1863), General Robert E. Lee decided upon a second invasion of the North (the first was the unsuccessful Maryland campaign of September 1862, which ended in the bloody Battle of Antietam). Such a move would upset the Union's plans for the summer campaigning season and possibly reduce the pressure on the besieged Confederate garrison at Vicksburg. The invasion would allow the Confederates to live off the bounty of the rich Northern farms while giving war-ravaged Virginia a much-needed rest. In addition, Lee's 72,000-man army[1] could threaten Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, and possibly strengthen the growing peace movement in the North.[2]

Early Sighting | ©Keith Rocco

Early Sighting

1863 Jun 30
, Gettysburg

A Confederate infantry brigade from Gen. A. P. Hill's corps heads toward Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in search of supplies. The Confederates spot Union cavalry heading toward Gettysburg.

General Buford’s troops arrive in Gettysburg the day before the battle is set to commence. | ©Dale Gallon

First Day Summary

1863 Jul 1 00:01
, Gettysburg

The first day of the Battle of Gettysburg began as an engagement between isolated units of the Army of Northern Virginia under Confederate General Robert E. Lee and the Army of the Potomac under Union Maj. Gen. George G. Meade. It soon escalated into a major battle which culminated in the outnumbered and defeated Union forces retreating to the high ground south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The first-day battle proceeded in three phases as combatants continued to arrive at the battlefield. In the morning, two brigades of Confederate Maj. Gen. Henry Heth's division (of Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill's Third Corps) were delayed by dismounted Union cavalrymen under Brig. Gen. John Buford. As infantry reinforcements arrived under Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds of the Union I Corps, the Confederate assaults down the Chambersburg Pike were repulsed, although Gen. Reynolds was killed.

By early afternoon, the Union XI Corps, commanded by Major General Oliver Otis Howard, had arrived, and the Union position was in a semicircle from west to north of the town. The Confederate Second Corps under Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell began a massive assault from the north, with Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes's division attacking from Oak Hill and Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early's division attacking across the open fields north of town. The Union lines generally held under extremely heavy pressure, although the salient at Barlow's Knoll was overrun.

The third phase of the battle came as Rodes renewed his assault from the north and Heth returned with his entire division from the west, accompanied by the division of Maj. Gen. W. Dorsey Pender. Heavy fighting in Herbst's Woods (near the Lutheran Theological Seminary) and on Oak Ridge finally caused the Union line to collapse. Some of the Federals conducted a fighting withdrawal through the town, suffering heavy casualties and losing many prisoners; others simply retreated. They took up good defensive positions on Cemetery Hill and waited for additional attacks. Despite discretionary orders from Robert E. Lee to take the heights "if practicable," Richard Ewell chose not to attack. Historians have debated ever since how the battle might have ended differently if he had found it practicable to do so.

Heth’s Division sets out for Gettysburg | ©Bradley Schmehl

Heth’s Division sets out for Gettysburg

1863 Jul 1 05:00
, Cashtown

Confederate Maj. General Henry Heth’s Division sets out for Gettysburg from Cashtown. To the west of town Union Brig. General John Buford’s Cavalry Division sits just west of town with 2,700 troops. Advanced skirmishers have been deployed to meet the Confederate advance.

Confederate Maj. Gen. Henry Heth's division, from Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill's Third Corps, advanced towards Gettysburg. Heth deployed no cavalry and led, unconventionally, with the artillery battalion of Maj. William J. Pegram.[3] Two infantry brigades followed, commanded by Brig. Gen. James J. Archer and Joseph R. Davis, proceeding easterly in columns along the Chambersburg Pike.

Defense by Buford's Cavalry | ©Dale Gallon

Defense by Buford's Cavalry

1863 Jul 1 07:30
, McPherson Farm

Three miles (4.8 km) west of town, about 7:30 a.m., Heth's two brigades met light resistance from cavalry vedettes and deployed into line. Eventually, they reached dismounted troopers from Col. William Gamble's cavalry brigade. The first shot of the battle was claimed to be fired by Lieutenant Marcellus E. Jones of the 8th Illinois Cavalry, fired at an unidentified man on a gray horse over a half-mile away; the act was merely symbolic.[4] Buford's 2,748 troopers would soon be faced with 7,600 Confederate infantrymen, deploying from columns into line of battle.[5]

Gamble's men mounted determined resistance and delaying tactics from behind fence posts with rapid fire, mostly from their breech-loading carbines. While none of the troopers were armed with multi-shot repeating carbines, they were able to fire two or three times faster than a muzzle-loaded carbine or rifle with their breechloading carbines manufactured by Sharps, Burnside, and others.[6] Some troopers in the brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. William Gamble had Spencer repeating rifles. The breech-loading design of the carbines and rifles meant that Union troops did not have to stand to reload and could do so safely behind cover. This was a great advantage over the Confederates, who still had to stand to reload, thus providing an easier target. But this was so far a relatively bloodless affair. By 10:20 a.m., the Confederates had reached Herr Ridge and had pushed the Federal cavalrymen east to McPherson Ridge, when the vanguard of the I Corps finally arrived, the division of Maj. Gen. James S. Wadsworth. The troops were led personally by Gen. Reynolds, who conferred briefly with Buford and hurried back to bring more men forward.[7]

"Chosen Ground", Reynolds leads the Iron Brigade at Gettysburg. | ©Keith Rocco

Davis versus Cutler

1863 Jul 1 10:00 - Jul 1 10:30
, McPherson Farm

The morning infantry fighting occurred on either side of the Chambersburg Pike, mostly on McPherson Ridge. To the south, the dominant features were Willoughby Run and Herbst Woods (sometimes called McPherson Woods, but they were the property of John Herbst). Brig. Gen. Lysander Cutler's Union brigade opposed Davis's brigade; three of Cutler's regiments were north of the Pike, two to the south. To the left of Cutler, Brig. Gen. Solomon Meredith's Iron Brigade opposed Archer.[8]

Major General John Reynolds and two brigades of the Union First Corps infantry arrive and join the line along McPherson Ridge against increasing pressure from the roughly 13,500 advancing Confederates. One is the Iron Brigade, the other is the PA Bucktail Brigade. General Reynolds directed both brigades into position and placed guns from the Maine battery of Capt. James A. Hall where Calef's had stood earlier.[9] While the general rode his horse along the east end of Herbst Woods, shouting "Forward men! Forward for God's sake, and drive those fellows out of the woods," he fell from his horse, killed instantly by a bullet striking him behind the ear. (Some historians believe Reynolds was felled by a sharpshooter, but it is more likely that he was killed by random shot in a volley of rifle fire directed at the 2nd Wisconsin.) Maj. Gen. Abner Doubleday assumed command of the I Corps.[10]

On the right of the Union line, three regiments of Cutler's brigade were fired on by Davis's brigade before they could get into position on the ridge. Davis's line overlapped the right of Cutler's, making the Union position untenable, and Wadsworth ordered Cutler's regiments back to Seminary Ridge. The commander of the 147th New York, Lt. Col. Francis C. Miller, was shot before he could inform his troops of the withdrawal, and they remained to fight under heavy pressure until a second order came. In under 30 minutes, 45% of Gen. Cutler's 1,007 men became casualties, with the 147th losing 207 of its 380 officers and men.[11] Some of Davis's victorious men turned toward the Union positions south of the railroad bed while others drove east toward Seminary Ridge. This defocused the Confederate effort north of the pike.[12]

Archer versus Meredith | ©Don Troiani

Archer versus Meredith

1863 Jul 1 10:45
, Herbst Woods

South of the pike, Archer's men were expecting an easy fight against dismounted cavalrymen and were astonished to recognize the black Hardee hats worn by the men facing them through the woods: the famous Iron Brigade, formed from regiments in the Western states of Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, had a reputation as fierce, tenacious fighters. As the Confederates crossed Willoughby Run and climbed the slope into Herbst Woods, they were enveloped on their right by the longer Union line, the reverse of the situation north of the pike.[13]

Brig. Gen. Archer was captured in the fighting, the first general officer in Robert E. Lee's army to suffer that fate. Archer was most likely positioned around the 14th Tennessee when he was captured by Private Patrick Moloney of Company G., 2nd Wisconsin, "a brave patriotic and fervent young Irishman." Archer resisted capture, but Moloney overpowered him. Moloney was killed later that day, but he received the Medal of Honor for his exploit. When Archer was taken to the rear, he encountered his former Army colleague Gen. Doubleday, who greeted him good-naturedly, "Good morning, Archer! How are you? I am glad to see you!" Archer replied, "Well, I am not glad to see you by a damn sight!"[14]

Iron Brigade Guard"Fight for the Colors" by Don Troiani A painting portraying the 6th Wisconsin and Iron Brigade Guard at the Bloody Railroad Cut, July 1, 1863. | ©Don Troiani

Railroad Cut

1863 Jul 1 11:00
, The Railroad Cut

At around 11 a.m., Doubleday sent his reserve regiment, the 6th Wisconsin, an Iron Brigade regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Rufus R. Dawes, north in the direction of Davis's disorganized brigade. The Wisconsin men paused at the fence along the pike and fired, which halted Davis's attack on Cutler's men and caused many of them to seek cover in the unfinished railroad cut. The 6th joined the 95th New York and the 84th New York (also known as the 14th Brooklyn), a "demi-brigade" commanded by Col. E.B. Fowler, along the pike.[15] The three regiments charged to the railroad cut, where Davis's men were seeking cover. The majority of the 600-foot (180 m) cut was too deep to be an effective firing position—as deep as 15 feet (4.6 m).[16] Making the situation more difficult was the absence of their overall commander, General Davis, whose location was unknown.[17]

The men of the three regiments nevertheless faced daunting fire as they charged toward the cut. The 6th Wisconsin's American flag went down at least three times during the charge. At one point Dawes took up the fallen flag before it was seized from him by a corporal of the color guard. As the Union line neared the Confederates, its flanks became folded back and it took on the appearance of an inverted V. When the Union men reached the railroad cut, vicious hand-to-hand and bayonet fighting broke out. They were able to pour enfilading fire from both ends of the cut, and many Confederates considered surrender. Colonel Dawes took the initiative by shouting "Where is the colonel of this regiment?" Major John Blair of the 2nd Mississippi stood up and responded, "Who are you?" Dawes replied, "I command this regiment. Surrender or I will fire."[18]

The officer replied not a word, but promptly handed me his sword, and his men, who still held them, threw down their muskets. The coolness, self possession, and discipline which held back our men from pouring a general volley saved a hundred lives of the enemy, and as my mind goes back to the fearful excitement of the moment, I marvel at it.

— Col. Rufus R. Dawes, Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers (1890, p. 169)

Despite this surrender, leaving Dawes standing awkwardly holding seven swords, the fighting continued for minutes more and numerous Confederates were able to escape back to Herr Ridge. The three Union regiments lost 390–440 of 1,184 engaged, but they had blunted Davis's attack, prevented them from striking the rear of the Iron Brigade, and so overwhelmed the Confederate brigade that it was unable to participate significantly in combat for the rest of the day.

Midday Lull | ©Don Troiani

Midday Lull

1863 Jul 1 11:30
, McPherson Farm

By 11:30 a.m., the battlefield was temporarily quiet. On the Confederate side, Henry Heth faced an embarrassing situation. He had been under orders from General Lee to avoid a general engagement until the full Army of Northern Virginia had concentrated in the area. But his excursion to Gettysburg, ostensibly to find shoes, was essentially a reconnaissance in force conducted by a full infantry division. This indeed had started a general engagement and Heth was on the losing side so far. By 12:30 p.m., his remaining two brigades, under Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew and Col. John M. Brockenbrough, had arrived on the scene, as had the division (four brigades) of Maj. Gen. Dorsey Pender, also from Hill's Corps.

Considerably more Confederate forces were on the way, however. Two divisions of the Second Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, were approaching Gettysburg from the north, from the towns of Carlisle and York. The five brigades of Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes marched down the Carlisle Road but left it before reaching town to advance down the wooded crest of Oak Ridge, where they could link up with the left flank of Hill's Corps. The four brigades under Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early approached on the Harrisburg Road. Union cavalry outposts north of the town detected both movements. Ewell's remaining division (Maj. Gen. Edward "Allegheny" Johnson) did not arrive until late in the day.[19]

On the Union side, Doubleday reorganized his lines as more units of the I Corps arrived. First on hand was the Corps Artillery under Col. Charles S. Wainwright, followed by two brigades from Doubleday's division, now commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Rowley, which Doubleday placed on either end of his line. The XI Corps arrived from the south before noon, moving up the Taneytown and Emmitsburg Roads. Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard was surveying the area from the roof of the Fahnestock Brothers' dry-goods store downtown at about 11:30[20] when he heard that Reynolds had been killed and that he was now in command of all Union forces on the field. He recalled: "My heart was heavy and the situation was grave indeed, but surely I did not hesitate a moment. God helping us, we will stay here till the Army comes. I assumed the command of the field."[21]

Howard immediately sent messengers to summon reinforcements from the III Corps (Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles) and the XII Corps (Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum). Howard's first XI Corps division to arrive, under Maj. Gen. Carl Schurz, was sent north to take a position on Oak Ridge and link up with the right of the I Corps. (The division was commanded temporarily by Brig. Gen. Alexander Schimmelfennig while Schurz filled in for Howard as XI Corps commander.) The division of Brig. Gen. Francis C. Barlow was placed on Schurz's right to support him. The third division to arrive, under Brig. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr, was placed on Cemetery Hill along with two batteries of artillery to hold the hill as a rallying point if the Union troops could not hold their positions; this placement on the hill corresponded with orders sent earlier in the day to Howard by Reynolds just before he was killed.[22]

However, Rodes beat Schurz to Oak Hill, so the XI Corps division was forced to take up positions in the broad plain north of the town, below and to the east of Oak Hill.[23] They linked up with the I Corps reserve division of Brig. Gen. John C. Robinson, whose two brigades had been sent forward by Doubleday when he heard about Ewell's arrival.[24] Howard's defensive line was not a particularly strong one in the north.[25] He was soon outnumbered (his XI Corps, still suffering the effects of their defeat at the Battle of Chancellorsville, had only 8,700 effectives), and the terrain his men occupied in the north was poorly selected for defense. He held out some hope that reinforcements from Slocum's XII Corps would arrive up the Baltimore Pike in time to make a difference.[26]

Oak Ridge Fight | ©James V Griffin

Oak Ridge Fight

1863 Jul 1 14:00
, Eternal Light Peace Memorial

Rodes initially sent three brigades south against Union troops that represented the right flank of the I Corps and the left flank of the XI Corps: from east to west, Brig. Gen. George P. Doles, Col. Edward A. O'Neal, and Brig. Gen. Alfred Iverson. Doles's Georgia brigade stood guarding the flank, awaiting the arrival of Early's division. Both O'Neal's and Iverson's attacks fared poorly against the six veteran regiments in the brigade of Brig. Gen. Henry Baxter, manning a line in a shallow inverted V, facing north on the ridge behind the Mummasburg Road. O'Neal's men were sent forward without coordinating with Iverson on their flank and fell back under heavy fire from the I Corps troops.[27]

Iverson failed to perform even a rudimentary reconnaissance and sent his men forward blindly while he stayed in the rear (as had O'Neal, minutes earlier). More of Baxter's men were concealed in woods behind a stone wall and rose to fire withering volleys from less than 100 yards (91 m) away, creating over 800 casualties among the 1,350 North Carolinians. Stories are told about groups of dead bodies lying in almost parade-ground formations, heels of their boots perfectly aligned. (The bodies were later buried on the scene, and this area is today known as "Iverson's Pits", source of many local tales of supernatural phenomena.)[28]

Baxter's brigade was worn down and out of ammunition. At 3:00 p.m. he withdrew his brigade, and Gen. Robinson replaced it with the brigade of Brig. Gen. Gabriel R. Paul. Rodes then committed his two reserve brigades: Brig. Gens. Junius Daniel and Dodson Ramseur. Ramseur attacked first, but Paul's brigade held its crucial position. Paul had a bullet go in one temple and out the other, blinding him permanently (he survived the wound and lived 20 more years after the battle). Before the end of the day, three other commanders of that brigade were wounded.[29]

Daniel's North Carolina brigade then attempted to break the I Corps line to the southwest along the Chambersburg Pike. They ran into stiff resistance from Col. Roy Stone's Pennsylvania "Bucktail Brigade" in the same area around the railroad cut as the morning's battle. Fierce fighting eventually ground to a standstill.[30]

Depicts the fight at the Edward McPherson Barn, 3.30 PM. | ©Timothy J. Orr

Barlow’s Knoll Fight

1863 Jul 1 14:15 - Jul 1 16:00
, Barlow Knoll

Richard Ewell's second division, under Jubal Early, swept down the Harrisburg Road, deployed in a battle line three brigades wide, almost a mile across (1,600 m) and almost half a mile (800 m) wider than the Union defensive line. Early started with a large-scale artillery bombardment. The Georgia brigade of Brigadier-General John B. Gordon was then directed for a frontal attack against Barlow's Knoll, pinning down the defenders, while the brigades of Brigadier-General Harry T. Hays and Colonel Isaac E. Avery swung around their exposed flank. At the same time the Georgians under Doles launched a synchronized assault with Gordon. The defenders of Barlow's Knoll targeted by Gordon were 900 men of von Gilsa's brigade; in May, two of his regiments had been the initial target of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's flanking attack at Chancellorsville. The men of the 54th and 68th New York held out as long as they could, but they were overwhelmed. Then the 153rd Pennsylvania succumbed. Barlow, attempting to rally his troops, was shot in the side and captured. Barlow's second brigade, under Ames, came under attack by Doles and Gordon. Both Union brigades conducted a disorderly retreat to the south.[38]

The left flank of the XI Corps was held by Gen. Schimmelfennig's division. They were subjected to a deadly artillery crossfire from Rodes' and Early's batteries, and as they deployed they were attacked by Doles' infantry. Doles' and Early's troops were able to employ a flanking attack and roll up three brigade of the corps from the right, and they fell back in confusion toward the town. A desperate counterattack by the 157th New York from von Amsberg's brigade was surrounded on three sides, causing it to suffer 307 casualties (75%).[39]

Gen. Howard, witnessing this disaster, sent forward an artillery battery and an infantry brigade from von Steinwehr's reserve force, under Col. Charles Coster. Coster's battle line just north of the town in Kuhn's brickyard was overwhelmed by Hays and Avery. He provided valuable cover for the retreating soldiers, but at a high price: of Coster's 800 men, 313 were captured, as were two of the four guns from the battery.[40]

The collapse of the XI Corps was completed by 4 p.m., after a fight of less than an hour. They suffered 3,200 casualties (1,400 of them prisoners), about half the number sent forward from Cemetery Hill. The losses in Gordon's and Doles's brigades were under 750.[41]

North Carolinians drove back federal troops in the first day at Gettysburg. At far left background is the Railroad Cut; at right is the Lutheran Seminary. In the background is Gettysburg. | ©James Alexander Walker

Heth renews his Attack

1863 Jul 1 14:30
, McPherson Farm

Gen. Lee arrived on the battlefield at about 2:30 p.m., as Rodes's men were in mid-attack. Seeing that a major assault was underway, he lifted his restriction on a general engagement and gave permission to Hill to resume his attacks from the morning. First in line was Heth's division again, with two fresh brigades: Pettigrew's North Carolinians and Col. John M. Brockenbrough's Virginians.[31]

Pettigrew's Brigade was deployed in a line that extended south beyond the ground defended by the Iron Brigade. Enveloping the left flank of the 19th Indiana, Pettigrew's North Carolinians, the largest brigade in the army, drove back the Iron Brigade in some of the fiercest fighting of the war. The Iron Brigade was pushed out of the woods, made three temporary stands in the open ground to the east, but then had to fall back toward the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Gen. Meredith was downed with a head wound, made all the worse when his horse fell on him. To the left of the Iron Brigade was the brigade of Col. Chapman Biddle, defending open ground on McPherson Ridge, but they were outflanked and decimated. To the right, Stone's Bucktails, facing both west and north along the Chambersburg Pike, were attacked by both Brockenbrough and Daniel.[32]

Casualties were severe that afternoon. The 26th North Carolina (the largest regiment of the army with 839 men) lost heavily, leaving the first day's fight with around 212 men. Their commander, Colonel Henry K. Burgwyn, was fatally wounded by a bullet through his chest. By the end of the three-day battle, they had about 152 men standing, the highest casualty percentage for one battle of any regiment, North or South.[33] One of the Union regiments, the 24th Michigan, lost 399 of 496.[34] It had nine color bearers shot down, and its commander, Col. Henry A. Morrow, was wounded in the head and captured. The 151st Pennsylvania of Biddle's brigade lost 337 of 467.[35]

The highest ranking casualty of this engagement was Gen. Heth, who was struck by a bullet in the head. He was apparently saved because he had stuffed wads of paper into a new hat, which was otherwise too large for his head.[36] But there were two consequences to this glancing blow. Heth was unconscious for over 24 hours and had no further command involvement in the three-day battle. He was also unable to urge Pender's division to move forward and supplement his struggling assault. Pender was oddly passive during this phase of the battle; the typically more aggressive tendencies of a young general in Lee's army would have seen him move forward on his own accord. Hill shared the blame for failing to order him forward as well, but he claimed illness. History cannot know Pender's motivations; he was mortally wounded the next day and left no report.[37]

Rodes and Pender break through | ©Dale Gallon

Rodes and Pender break through

1863 Jul 1 16:00
, Seminary Ridge

Rodes's original faulty attack at 2:00 had stalled, but he launched his reserve brigade, under Ramseur, against Paul's Brigade in the salient on the Mummasburg Road, with Doles's Brigade against the left flank of the XI Corps. Daniel's Brigade resumed its attack, now to the east against Baxter on Oak Ridge. This time Rodes was more successful, mostly because Early coordinated an attack on his flank.[42]

In the west, the Union troops had fallen back to the Seminary and built hasty breastworks running 600 yards (550 m) north-south before the western face of Schmucker Hall, bolstered by 20 guns of Wainwright's battalion. Dorsey Pender's division of Hill's Corps stepped through the exhausted lines of Heth's men at about 4:00 p.m. to finish off the I Corps survivors. The brigade of Brig. Gen. Alfred M. Scales attacked first, on the northern flank. His five regiments of 1,400 North Carolinians were virtually annihilated in one of the fiercest artillery barrages of the war, rivaling Pickett's Charge to come, but on a more concentrated scale. Twenty guns spaced only 5 yards (4.6 m) apart fired spherical case, explosive shells, canister, and double canister rounds into the approaching brigade, which emerged from the fight with only 500 men standing and a single lieutenant in command. Scales wrote afterwards that he found "only a squad here and there marked the place where regiments had rested."[43]

The attack continued in the southern-central area, where Col. Abner M. Perrin ordered his South Carolina brigade (four regiments of 1,500 men) to advance rapidly without pausing to fire. Perrin was prominently on horseback leading his men but miraculously was untouched. He directed his men to a weak point in the breastworks on the Union left, a 50-yard (46 m) gap between Biddle's left-hand regiment, the 121st Pennsylvania, and Gamble's cavalrymen, attempting to guard the flank. They broke through, enveloping the Union line and rolling it up to the north as Scales's men continued to pin down the right flank.

Union Retreat | ©Keith Rocco

Union Retreat

1863 Jul 1 16:15
, Gettysburg

The Union position was untenable, and the men could see the XI Corps retreating from the northern battle, pursued by masses of Confederates. Doubleday ordered a withdrawal east to Cemetery Hill.[44] On the southern flank, the North Carolina brigade of Brig. Gen. James H. Lane contributed little to the assault; he was kept busy by a clash with Union cavalry on the Hagerstown Road. Brig. Gen. Edward L. Thomas's Georgia Brigade was in reserve well to the rear, not summoned by Pender or Hill to assist or exploit the breakthrough.[45]

Union troops retreated in different states of order. The brigades on Seminary Ridge were said to move deliberately and slowly, keeping in control, although Col. Wainwright's artillery was not informed of the order to retreat and found themselves alone. When Wainwright realized his situation, he ordered his gun crews to withdraw at a walk, not wishing to panic the infantry and start a rout. As pressure eventually increased, Wainwright ordered his 17 remaining guns to gallop down Chambersburg Street, three abreast.[46] A.P. Hill failed to commit any of his reserves to the pursuit of the Seminary defenders, a great missed opportunity.[47]

Rear Guard

1863 Jul 1 16:19
, The Railroad Cut

Near the railroad cut, Daniel's Brigade renewed their assault, and almost 500 Union soldiers surrendered and were taken prisoner. Paul's Brigade, under attack by Ramseur, became seriously isolated and Gen. Robinson ordered it to withdraw. He ordered the 16th Maine to hold its position "at any cost" as a rear guard against the enemy pursuit. The regiment, commanded by Col. Charles Tilden, returned to the stone wall on the Mummasburg Road, and their fierce fire gave sufficient time for the rest of the brigade to escape, which they did, in considerably more disarray than those from the Seminary. The 16th Maine started the day with 298 men, but at the end of this holding action there were only 35 survivors.[48]

Coster's Stand

1863 Jul 1 16:20
, Brickyard Alley

For the XI Corps, it was a sad reminder of their retreat at Chancellorsville in May. Under heavy pursuit by Hays and Avery, they clogged the streets of the town; no one in the corps had planned routes for this contingency. Hand-to-hand fighting broke out in various places. Parts of the corps conducted an organized fighting retreat, such as Coster's stand in the brickyard. The private citizens of Gettysburg panicked amidst the turmoil, and artillery shells bursting overhead and fleeing refugees added to the congestion. Some soldiers sought to avoid capture by hiding in basements and in fenced backyards. Gen. Alexander Schimmelfennig was one such person who climbed a fence and hid behind a woodpile in the kitchen garden of the Garlach family for the rest of the three-day battle.[49] The only advantage that the XI Corps soldiers had was that they were familiar with the route to Cemetery Hill, having passed through that way in the morning; many in the I Corps, including senior officers, did not know where the cemetery was.[50]

Hancock at Cemetery Hill | ©Don Troiani

Hancock at Cemetery Hill

1863 Jul 1 16:40
, East Cemetery Hill

As the Union troops climbed Cemetery Hill, they encountered the determined Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock. At midday, Gen. Meade was nine miles (14 km) south of Gettysburg in Taneytown, Maryland, when he heard that Reynolds had been killed. He immediately dispatched Hancock, commander of the II Corps and his most trusted subordinate, to the scene with orders to take command of the field and to determine whether Gettysburg was an appropriate place for a major battle. (Meade's original plan had been to man a defensive line on Pipe Creek, a few miles south in Maryland. But the serious battle underway was making that a difficult option.)[51]

When Hancock arrived on Cemetery Hill, he met with Howard and they had a brief disagreement about Meade's command order. As the senior officer, Howard yielded only grudgingly to Hancock's direction. Although Hancock arrived after 4:00 p.m. and commanded no units on the field that day, he took control of the Union troops arriving on the hill and directed them to defensive positions with his "imperious and defiant" (and profane) persona. As to the choice of Gettysburg as the battlefield, Hancock told Howard "I think this the strongest position by nature upon which to fight a battle that I ever saw." When Howard agreed, Hancock concluded the discussion: "Very well, sir, I select this as the battle-field." Brig. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren, chief engineer of the Army of the Potomac, inspected the ground and concurred with Hancock.[52]

Lee presses Ewell on | ©Dale Gallon

Lee presses Ewell on

1863 Jul 1 17:00
, Gettysburg Battlefield: Lee’s Headquarters

General Lee also understood the defensive potential to the Union army if they held the high ground of Cemetery Hill. He sent orders to Ewell to "carry the hill occupied by the enemy, if he found it practicable, but to avoid a general engagement until the arrival of the other divisions of the army." In the face of this discretionary, and possibly contradictory, order, Ewell chose not to attempt the assault.[53] One reason posited was the battle fatigue of his men in the late afternoon, although "Allegheny" Johnson's division of Ewell's Corps was within an hour of arriving on the battlefield. Another was the difficulty of assaulting the hill through the narrow corridors afforded by the streets of Gettysburg immediately to the north. Ewell requested assistance from A.P. Hill, but that general felt his corps was too depleted from the day's battle and General Lee did not want to bring up Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson's division from the reserve. Ewell did consider taking Culp's Hill, which would have made the Union position on Cemetery Hill untenable. However, Jubal Early opposed the idea when it was reported that Union troops (probably Slocum's XII Corps) were approaching on the York Pike, and he sent the brigades of John B. Gordon and Brig. Gen. William "Extra Billy" Smith to block that perceived threat; Early urged waiting for Johnson's division to take the hill. After Johnson's division arrived via the Chambersburg Pike, it maneuvered toward the east of town in preparation to take the hill, but a small reconnaissance party sent in advance encountered a picket line of the 7th Indiana Infantry, which opened fire and captured a Confederate officer and soldier. The remainder of the Confederates fled and attempts to seize Culp's Hill on July 1 came to an end.[54]

Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Gettysburg, 1st July 1863. | ©Mort Kunstler


1863 Jul 1 18:00
, Gettysburg

Most of the rest of both armies arrived that evening or early the next morning. Johnson's division joined Ewell and Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson's joined Hill. Two of the three divisions of the First Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, arrived in the morning. Three cavalry brigades under Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart were still out of the area, on a wide-ranging raid to the northeast. Gen. Lee sorely felt the loss of the "eyes and ears of the Army"; Stuart's absence had contributed to the accidental start of the battle that morning and left Lee unsure about enemy dispositions through most of July 2. On the Union side, Meade arrived after midnight. The II Corps and III Corps took up positions on Cemetery Ridge, and the XII Corps and the V Corps were nearby to the east. Only the VI Corps was a significant distance from the battlefield, marching rapidly to join the Army of the Potomac.[55]

The first day at Gettysburg—more significant than simply a prelude to the bloody second and third days—ranks as the 23rd-largest battle of the war by number of troops engaged. About one quarter of Meade's army (22,000 men) and one third of Lee's army (27,000) were engaged.[56] Union casualties were almost 9,000; Confederate slightly over 6,000.[57]

Second Day Summary | ©Mort Künstler

Second Day Summary

1863 Jul 2 00:01
, Gettysburg

Throughout the evening of July 1 and morning of July 2, most of the remaining infantry of both armies arrived on the field, including the Union II, III, V, VI, and XII Corps. Two of Longstreet's divisions were on the road: Brigadier General George Pickett, had begun the 22-mile (35 km) march from Chambersburg, while Brigadier General Evander M. Law had begun the march from Guilford. Both arrived late in the morning.

The Union line ran from Culp's Hill southeast of the town, northwest to Cemetery Hill just south of town, then south for nearly two miles (3 km) along Cemetery Ridge, terminating just north of Little Round Top.[58] Most of the XII Corps was on Culp's Hill; the remnants of I and XI Corps defended Cemetery Hill; II Corps covered most of the northern half of Cemetery Ridge; and III Corps was ordered to take up a position to its flank. The shape of the Union line is popularly described as a "fishhook" formation.[59]

The Confederate line paralleled the Union line about one mile (1,600 m) to the west on Seminary Ridge, ran east through the town, then curved southeast to a point opposite Culp's Hill. Thus, the Union army had interior lines, while the Confederate line was nearly five miles (8 km) long.[60]

Lee orders two of his generals, James Longstreet and Ewell, to attack the flanks of Union forces on Culp's Hill. But Longstreet delays, and attacks much later than Ewell, giving Union forces more time to strengthen their position.

The Union's Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles advances in front of the main line and comes under attack. The two sides engage in some of the fiercest fighting of the Civil War, ensuring that the locations Peach Orchard, Devil's Den, the Wheatfield and Little Round Top go down in history. Ewell attacks Union troops at Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill, but Union forces hold their position.

Confederate Council | ©Jones Brothers Publishing Co.

Confederate Council

1863 Jul 2 06:00
, Gettysburg Battlefield: Lee’s Headquarters

Lee wanted to seize the high ground south of Gettysburg, primarily Cemetery Hill, which dominated the town, the Union supply lines, and the road to Washington, D.C., and he believed an attack up the Emmitsburg Road would be the best approach. He desired an early-morning assault by Longstreet's Corps, reinforced by Ewell, who would move his Corps from its current location north of town to join Longstreet. Ewell protested this arrangement, claiming his men would be demoralized if forced to move from the ground they had captured.[61] And Longstreet protested that his division commanded by John Bell Hood had not arrived completely (and that Pickett's division had not arrived at all).[62] Lee compromised with his subordinates. Ewell would remain in place and conduct a demonstration (a minor diversionary attack) against Culp's Hill, pinning down the right flank of the Union defenders so that they could not reinforce their left, where Longstreet would launch the primary attack as soon as he was ready. Ewell's demonstration would be turned into a full-scale assault if the opportunity presented itself.[63]

Lee ordered Longstreet to launch a surprise attack with two divisions straddling, and guiding on, the Emmitsburg Road.[64] Hood's division would move up the eastern side of the road, Lafayette McLaws's the western side, each perpendicular to it. The objective was to strike the Union Army in an oblique attack, rolling up their left flank, collapsing the line of Union corps onto each other, and seizing Cemetery Hill.[65] The Third Corps division of Richard H. Anderson would join the attack against the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge at the appropriate time. This plan was based on faulty intelligence because of the absence of J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry, leaving Lee with an incomplete understanding of the position of his enemy. He believed that the left flank of the Union army was adjacent to the Emmitsburg Road hanging "in the air" (unsupported by any natural barrier), and an early morning scouting expedition seemed to confirm that.[66] In reality, by dawn of July 2 the Union line stretched the length of Cemetery Ridge and anchored at the foot of the imposing Little Round Top. Lee's plan was doomed from its conception, as Meade's line occupied only a small portion of the Emmitsburg Road near the town itself. Any force attacking up the road would find two entire Union corps and their guns posted on the ridge to their immediate right flank. By midday, however, Union general Sickles would change all that.[67]

Second Day Deployments | ©Don Troiani

Second Day Deployments

1863 Jul 2 10:00
, Gettysburg

All of the Rebel Army of Northern Virginia reaches Gettysburg except Major General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry and, from Longstree’s corps, Major General George Pickett’s division and Brigadier General Evander Law’s brigade. They arrive during the day after marching all night.

Sickles spurs ahead of his staff to inspect the front lines of his threatened III Corps at the tip of the Peach Orchard salient. Confederates can be seen massing for an attack by the fringe of trees in the distance. | ©Edwin Forbes

Sickles repositions

1863 Jul 2 15:30
, The Peach Orchard

When Sickles arrived with his III Corps, General Meade instructed him to take up a position on Cemetery Ridge that linked up with the II Corps on his right and anchored his left on Little Round Top. Sickles originally did so, but after noon he became concerned about a slightly higher piece of ground 0.7 miles (1,100 m) to his front, a peach orchard owned by the Sherfy family. He undoubtedly recalled the debacle at Chancellorsville, where the high ground (Hazel Grove) he was forced to give up was used against him as a deadly Confederate artillery platform. Acting without authorization from Meade, Sickles marched his corps to occupy the peach orchard. This had two significant negative consequences: his position now took the form of a salient, which could be attacked from multiple sides; and he was forced to occupy lines that were much longer than his two-division corps could defend. Meade rode to the III Corps position and impatiently explained “General Sickles, this is neutral ground, our guns command it, as well as the enemy’s. The very reason you cannot hold it applies to them.” [68] Meade was furious about this insubordination, but it was too late to do anything about it—the Confederate attack was imminent.[69]

Hood's Texans: Battle of Gettysburg, July 2nd, 1863. | ©Mark Maritato

Longstreet’s Attack

1863 Jul 2 16:00
, Warfield Ridge Observation Tower

Longstreet's attack was delayed, however, because he first had to wait for his final brigade (Evander M. Law's, Hood's division) to arrive, and then he was forced to march on a long, circuitous route that could not be seen by Union Army Signal Corps observers on Little Round Top. It was 4 p.m. by the time his two divisions reached their jumping off points, and then he and his generals were astonished to find the III Corps planted directly in front of them on the Emmitsburg Road. Hood argued with Longstreet that this new situation demanded a change in tactics; he wanted to swing around, below and behind, Round Top and hit the Union Army in the rear. Longstreet, however, refused to consider such a modification to Lee's order.[70]

Even so, and partly because of Sickles's unexpected location, Longstreet's assault did not proceed according to Lee's plan. Instead of wheeling left to join a simultaneous two-division push on either side of the Emmitsburg Road, Hood's division attacked in a more easterly direction than intended, and McLaws's and Anderson's divisions deployed brigade by brigade, in an en echelon style of attack, also heading more to the east than the intended northeast.[71]

Longstreet's attack commenced with a 30-minute artillery barrage by 36 guns that was particularly punishing to the Union infantry in the Peach Orchard and the troops and batteries on Houck's Ridge. Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood's division deployed in Biesecker's Woods on Warfield Ridge (the southern extension of Seminary Ridge) in two lines of two brigades each: at the left front, Brig. Gen. Jerome B. Robertson's Texas Brigade (Hood's old unit); right front, Brig. Gen. Evander M. Law; left rear, Brig. Gen. George T. Anderson; right rear, Brig. Gen. Henry L. Benning.[72]

Hood's Assault | ©Don Troiani

Hood's Assault

1863 Jul 2 16:01
, The Slyder Farm

At 4:30 p.m., Hood stood in his stirrups at the front of the Texas Brigade and shouted, "Fix bayonets, my brave Texans! Forward and take those heights!" It is unclear to which heights he was referring. His orders were to cross the Emmitsburg Road and wheel left, moving north with his left flank guiding on the road. This discrepancy became a serious problem when, minutes later on Slyder's Lane, Hood was felled by an artillery shell bursting overhead, severely wounding his left arm and putting him out of action. His division moved ahead to the east, no longer under central control.[73]

There were four probable reasons for the deviation in the division's direction: first, regiments from the III Corps were unexpectedly in the Devil's Den area and they would threaten Hood's right flank if they were not dealt with; second, fire from the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters at Slyder's farm drew the attention of lead elements of Law's Brigade, moving in pursuit and drawing his brigade to the right; third, the terrain was rough and units naturally lost their parade-ground alignments; finally, Hood's senior subordinate, Gen. Law, was unaware that he was now in command of the division, so he could not exercise control.[74]

The two lead brigades split their advances into two directions, although not on brigade boundaries. The 1st Texas and 3rd Arkansas of Robertson's brigade and the 44th and 48th Alabama of Law's brigade headed in the direction of Devil's Den, while Law directed the remaining five regiments toward the Round Tops.[75]

Devil's Den | ©Keith Rocco

Devil's Den

1863 Jul 2 16:15 - Jul 2 17:30
, Devil's Den

Devil's Den was located at the extreme left of the III Corps line, manned by the large brigade (six regiments and two companies of sharpshooters, 2,200 men in all) of Brigadier General J. H. Hobart Ward, in Maj. Gen. David B. Birney's division. The 3rd Arkansas and the 1st Texas drove through Rose Woods and hit Ward's line head-on. His troops had lacked the time or inclination to erect breastworks, and for over an hour both sides participated in a standup fight of unusual ferocity. In the first 30 minutes, the 20th Indiana lost more than half of its men. Its colonel, John Wheeler, was killed and its lieutenant colonel wounded. The 86th New York also lost its commander.

Meanwhile, the two regiments from Law's brigade that had split from the column advancing to the Round Tops pushed up Plum Run Valley and threatened to turn Ward's flank. Their target was the 4th Maine and the 124th New York, defending the 4th New York Independent artillery battery commanded by Captain James Smith, whose fire was causing considerable disruption in Law's brigade's advance. The pressure grew great enough that Ward needed to call the 99th Pennsylvania from his far right to reinforce his left. The commander of the 124th New York, Colonel Augustus Van Horne Ellis, and his major, James Cromwell, decided to counterattack. They mounted their horses despite the protests of soldiers who urged them to lead more safely on foot. Maj. Cromwell said, "The men must see us today." They led the charge of their "Orange Blossoms" regiment to the west, down the slope of Houck's Ridge through a triangular field surrounded by a low stone fence, sending the 1st Texas reeling back 200 yards (180 m). But both Colonel Ellis and Major Cromwell were shot dead as the Texans rallied with a massed volley; and the New Yorkers retreated to their starting point, with only 100 survivors from the 283 they started with. As reinforcements from the 99th Pennsylvania arrived, Ward's brigade retook the crest.[76]

The second wave of Hood's assault was the brigades of Henry Benning and George "Tige" Anderson. They detected a gap in Birney's division line: to Ward's right, there was a considerable gap before the brigade of Régis de Trobriand began. Anderson's line smashed into Trobriand and the gap at the southern edge of the Wheatfield. The Union defense was fierce, and Anderson's brigade pulled back.

Two of Benning's Confederate regiments, the 2nd and 17th Georgia, moved down Plum Run Valley around Ward's flank. They received murderous fire from the 99th Pennsylvania and Hazlett's battery on Little Round Top, but they kept pushing forward. Capt. Smith's New York battery was under severe pressure from three sides, but its supporting infantry regiments were suffering severe casualties and could not protect it.

Birney scrambled to find reinforcements. He sent the 40th New York and 6th New Jersey from the Wheatfield into Plum Run Valley to block the approach into Ward's flank. They collided with Benning's and Law's men in rocky, broken ground that the survivors would remember as the "Slaughter Pen". (Plum Run itself was known as "Bloody Run"; Plum Run Valley as the "Valley of Death".) Col. Thomas W. Egan, commanding the 40th New York, was called on by Smith to recover his guns. The men of the "Mozart" regiment slammed into the 2nd and 17th Georgia regiments, with initial success. As Ward's line along Houck's Ridge continued to collapse, the position manned by the 40th became increasingly untenable. However, Egan pressed his regiment onward, according to Col. Wesley Hodges of the 17th Georgia, launching seven attacks against the Confederate positions within the boulders of Slaughter Pen and Devil's Den. As the men of the 40th fell back under relentless pressure, the 6th New Jersey covered their withdrawal and lost a third of its men in the process.[77]

The pressure on Ward's brigade was eventually too great, and he was forced to call for a retreat. Hood's division secured Devil's Den and the southern part of Houck's Ridge. The center of the fighting shifted to the northwest, to Rose Woods and the Wheatfield, while five regiments under Evander Law assaulted Little Round Top to the east. Benning's men spent the next 22 hours on Devil's Den, firing across the Valley of Death on Union troops massed on Little Round Top.[78]

Col. Joshua Chamberlain at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863. | ©Mort Künstler

Warren reinforces Little Round Top

1863 Jul 2 16:20
, Little Round Top

Little Round Top was undefended by Union troops. Maj. Sickles, defying Meade's orders, moved his corps a few hundred yards west to the Emmitsburg Road and the Peach Orchard. When Meade discovered this situation, he dispatched his chief engineer, Brig. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren, to attempt to deal with the situation south of Sickles' position. Climbing Little Round Top, Warren found only a small Signal Corps station there. He saw the glint of bayonets in the sun to the southwest and realized that a Confederate assault into the Union flank was imminent. He hurriedly sent staff officers, including Washington Roebling, to find help from any available units in the vicinity.[79]

The response to this request for help came from Maj. Gen. George Sykes, commander of the Union V Corps. Sykes quickly dispatched a messenger to order his 1st Division, commanded by Brig. Gen. James Barnes, to Little Round Top. Before the messenger could reach Barnes, he encountered Col. Strong Vincent, commander of the 3rd Brigade, who seized the initiative and directed his four regiments to Little Round Top without waiting for permission from Barnes. He and Oliver W. Norton, the brigade bugler, galloped ahead to reconnoiter and guide his four regiments into position.[80]

Upon arrival on Little Round Top, Vincent and Norton received fire from Confederate batteries almost immediately. On the western slope, he placed the 16th Michigan, and then proceeding counterclockwise were the 44th New York, the 83rd Pennsylvania, and finally, at the end of the line on the southern slope, the 20th Maine. Arriving only ten minutes before the Confederates, Vincent ordered his brigade to take cover and wait, and he ordered Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, commander of the 20th Maine, to hold his position, the extreme left of the Army of the Potomac, at all costs. Chamberlain and his 385 men waited for what was to come.[81]

Fix Bayonets | ©Kieth Rocco

Battle of Little Round Top

1863 Jul 2 16:30 - Jul 2 19:30
, Little Round Top

The approaching Confederates were the Alabama Brigade of Hood's Division, commanded by Brig. Gen. Evander M. Law. Dispatching the 4th, 15th, and 47th Alabama, and the 4th and 5th Texas to Little Round Top, Law ordered his men to take the hill. The men were exhausted, having marched more than 20 miles (32 km) that day to reach this point. The day was hot and their canteens were empty. Approaching the Union line on the crest of the hill, Law's men were thrown back by the first Union volley and withdrew briefly to regroup. The 15th Alabama, commanded by Col. William C. Oates, repositioned further right and attempted to find the Union left flank.[82]

The Unioin left flank consisted of the 386 officers and men of the 20th Maine regiment and the 83rd Pennsylvania. Seeing the Confederates shifting around his flank, Chamberlain first stretched his line to the point where his men were in a single-file line, then ordered the southernmost half of his line to swing back during a lull following another Confederate charge. It was there that they "refused the line"—formed an angle to the main line in an attempt to prevent the Confederate flanking maneuver. Despite heavy losses, the 20th Maine held through two subsequent charges by the 15th Alabama and other Confederate regiments for a total of ninety minutes.[83]

Collapse of the Peach Orchard line, 114th Pennsylvania, Sherfy farmhouse in the background, Gettysburg, 2 July 1863. | ©Bradley Schmehl

McLaws's Assault

1863 Jul 2 17:00
, The Peach Orchard

Lee's original plan called for Hood and McLaws to attack in concert, but Longstreet held back McLaws while Hood's attack progressed. Around 5 p.m., Longstreet saw that Hood's division was reaching its limits and that the enemy to its front was fully engaged. He ordered McLaws to send in Kershaw's brigade, with Barksdale's to follow on the left, beginning the en echelon attack—one brigade after another in sequence—that would be used for the rest of the afternoon's attack. McLaws resented Longstreet's hands-on management of his brigades. Those brigades engaged in some of the bloodiest fighting of the battle: the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard. Colonel Byron Root Pierce's 3rd Michigan Regiment, which was part of de Trobriand's brigade, engaged Kershaw's South Carolinian forces during the defense of Peach Orchard.

Peach Orchard | ©Bradley Schmehl

Peach Orchard

1863 Jul 2 17:01
, The Peach Orchard

While the right wing of Kershaw's brigade attacked into the Wheatfield, its left wing wheeled left to attack the Pennsylvania troops in the brigade of Brig. Gen. Charles K. Graham, the right flank of Birney's line, where 30 guns from the III Corps and the Artillery Reserve attempted to hold the sector. The South Carolinians were subjected to infantry volleys from the Peach Orchard and canister from all along the line. Suddenly someone unknown shouted a false command, and the attacking regiments turned to their right, toward the Wheatfield, which presented their left flank to the batteries.

Meanwhile, the two brigades on McLaws's left—Barksdale's in front and Wofford's behind—charged directly into the Peach Orchard, the point of the salient in Sickles's line. Gen. Barksdale led the charge on horseback, long hair flowing in the wind, sword waving in the air. Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys's division had only about 1,000 men to cover the 500 yards (460 m) from the Peach Orchard northward along the Emmitsburg Road to the lane leading to the Abraham Trostle farm. Some were still facing south, from where they had been firing on Kershaw's brigade, so they were hit in their vulnerable flank. Barksdale's 1,600 Mississippians wheeled left against the flank of Humphreys's division, collapsing their line, regiment by regiment. Graham's brigade retreated back toward Cemetery Ridge; Graham had two horses shot out from under him. He was hit by a shell fragment, and by a bullet in his upper body. He was eventually captured by the 21st Mississippi. Wofford's men dealt with the defenders of the orchard.[87]

As Barksdale's men pushed toward Sickles's headquarters near the Trostle barn, the general and his staff began to move to the rear, when a cannonball caught Sickles in the right leg. He was carried off in a stretcher, sitting up and puffing on his cigar, attempting to encourage his men. That evening his leg was amputated, and he returned to Washington, D.C. Gen. Birney assumed command of the III Corps, which was soon rendered ineffective as a fighting force.[88]

The relentless infantry charges posed extreme danger to the Union artillery batteries in the orchard and on the Wheatfield Road, and they were forced to withdraw under pressure. The six Napoleons of Capt. John Bigelow's 9th Massachusetts Light Artillery, on the left of the line, "retired by prolonge," a technique rarely used in which the cannon was dragged backwards as it fired rapidly, the movement aided by the gun's recoil. By the time they reached the Trostle house, they were told to hold the position to cover the infantry retreat, but they were eventually overrun by troops of the 21st Mississippi, who captured three of their guns.[89]

The Last Rounds. | ©Don Troiani

Bloody Wheatfield

1863 Jul 2 17:02
, Houck's Ridge

The first engagement in the Wheatfield was actually that of Anderson's brigade (Hood's division) attacking the 17th Maine of Trobriand's brigade, a spillover from Hood's attack on Houck's Ridge. Although under pressure and with its neighboring regiments on Stony Hill withdrawing, the 17th Maine held its position behind a low stone wall with the assistance of Winslow's battery, and Anderson fell back.

By 5:30 p.m., when the first of Kershaw's regiments neared the Rose farmhouse, Stony Hill had been reinforced by two brigades of the 1st Division, V Corps, under Brig. Gen. James Barnes, those of Cols. William S. Tilton and Jacob B. Sweitzer. Kershaw's men placed great pressure on the 17th Maine, but it continued to hold. For some reason, however, Barnes withdrew his understrength division about 300 yards (270 m) to the north—without consultation with Birney's men—to a new position near the Wheatfield Road. Trobriand and the 17th Maine had to follow suit, and the Confederates seized Stony Hill and streamed into the Wheatfield.

Earlier that afternoon, as Meade realized the folly of Sickles's movement, he ordered Hancock to send a division from the II Corps to reinforce the III Corps. Hancock sent the 1st Division under Brig. Gen. John C. Caldwell from its reserve position behind Cemetery Ridge. It arrived at about 6 p.m. and three brigades, under Cols. Samuel K. Zook, Patrick Kelly (the Irish Brigade), and Edward E. Cross moved forward; the fourth brigade, under Col. John R. Brooke, was in reserve. Zook and Kelly drove the Confederates from Stony Hill, and Cross cleared the Wheatfield, pushing Kershaw's men back to the edge of Rose Woods. Both Zook and Cross were mortally wounded in leading their brigades through these assaults, as was Confederate Semmes. When Cross's men had exhausted their ammunition, Caldwell ordered Brooke to relieve them. By this time, however, the Union position in the Peach Orchard had collapsed (see next section), and Wofford's assault continued down the Wheatfield Road, taking Stony Hill and flanking the Union forces in the Wheatfield. Brooke's brigade in Rose Woods had to retreat in some disorder. Sweitzer's brigade was sent in to delay the Confederate assault, and they did this effectively in vicious hand-to-hand combat.

Additional Union troops had arrived by this time. The 2nd Division of the V corps, under Brig. Gen. Romeyn B. Ayres, was known as the "Regular Division" because two of its three brigades were composed entirely of U.S. Army (regular army) troops, not state volunteers. (The brigade of volunteers, under Brig. Gen. Stephen H. Weed, was already engaged on Little Round Top, so only the regular army brigades arrived at the Wheatfield.) In their advance across the Valley of Death they had come under heavy fire from Confederate sharpshooters in Devil's Den. As the regulars advanced, the Confederates swarmed over Stony Hill and through Rose Woods, flanking the newly arrived brigades. The regulars retreated back to the relative safety of Little Round Top in good order, despite taking heavy casualties and pursuing Confederates.

This final Confederate assault through the Wheatfield continued past Houck's Ridge into the Valley of Death at about 7:30 p.m. The brigades of Anderson, Semmes, and Kershaw were exhausted from hours of combat in the summer heat and advanced east with units jumbled up together. Wofford's brigade followed to the left along the Wheatfield Road. As they reached the northern shoulder of Little Round Top, they were met with a counterattack from the 3rd Division (the Pennsylvania Reserves) of the V Corps, under Brig. Gen. Samuel W. Crawford. The brigade of Col. William McCandless, including a company from the Gettysburg area, spearheaded the attack and drove the exhausted Confederates back beyond the Wheatfield to Stony Hill. Realizing that his troops were too far advanced and exposed, Crawford pulled the brigade back to the east edge of the Wheatfield.

The bloody Wheatfield remained quiet for the rest of the battle. But it took a heavy toll on the men who traded possession back-and-forth. The Confederates had fought six brigades against 13 (somewhat smaller) Federal brigades, and of the 20,444 men engaged, about 30% were casualties. Some of the wounded managed to crawl to Plum Run but could not cross it. The river ran red with their blood.

Anderson's Assault | ©Mort Künstler

Anderson's Assault

1863 Jul 2 18:00
, Cemetery Ridge

The remaining portion of the en echelon attack was the responsibility of Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson's division of A.P. Hill's Third Corps, and he attacked starting at about 6 p.m. with five brigades in line.

The brigades of Wilcox and Lang hit the front and right flank of Humphreys's line, dooming any chance for his division to maintain its position on the Emmitsburg Road and completing the collapse of the III Corps. Humphrey displayed considerable bravery during the attack, leading his men from horseback and forcing them to maintain good order during their withdrawal.

On Cemetery Ridge, Generals Meade and Hancock were scrambling to find reinforcements. Meade had sent virtually all of his available troops (including most of the XII Corps, who would be needed momentarily on Culp's Hill) to his left flank to counter Longstreet's assault, leaving the center of his line relatively weak. There was insufficient infantry on Cemetery Ridge and only a few artillery pieces, rallied from the debacle of the Peach Orchard by Lt. Col. Freeman McGilvery.[90]

The long march from Seminary Ridge had left some of the Southern units disorganized, and their commanders paused momentarily at Plum Run to reorganize. Hancock led the II Corps brigade of Col. George L. Willard to meet Barksdale's brigade as it moved toward the ridge. Willard's New Yorkers drove the Mississippians back to Emmitsburg Road.

As Hancock rode north to find additional reinforcements, he saw Wilcox's brigade nearing the base of the ridge, aiming at a gap in the Union line. The timing was critical, and Hancock chose the only troops at hand, the men of the 1st Minnesota, Harrow's Brigade, of the 2nd Division of the II Corps. They were originally placed there to guard Thomas's U.S. Battery. He pointed to a Confederate flag over the advancing line and shouted to Col. William Colvill, "Advance, Colonel, and take those colors!" The 262 Minnesotans charged the Alabama brigade with bayonets fixed, and they blunted their advance at Plum Run but at horrible cost—215 casualties (82%), including 40 deaths or mortal wounds, one of the largest regimental single-action losses of the war. Despite overwhelming Confederate numbers, the small 1st Minnesota, with the support of Willard's brigade on their left, checked Wilcox's advance and the Alabamians were forced to withdraw.[91]

The third Confederate brigade in line, under Ambrose Wright, crushed two regiments posted on the Emmitsburg Road north of the Codori farm, captured the guns of two batteries, and advanced toward a gap in the Union line just south of the Copse of Trees. Wright's Georgia brigade may have reached the crest of Cemetery Ridge and beyond.

Carnot Posey's brigade made slow progress and never crossed the Emmitsburg Road, despite protestations from Wright. William Mahone's brigade inexplicably never moved at all. Gen. Anderson sent a messenger with orders to Mahone to advance, but Mahone refused. Part of the blame for the failure of Wright's assault must lie with Anderson, who took little active part in directing his division in battle.[92]

Chamberlain's Bayonet Charge at Little Round Top | ©Mort Küntsler

Chamberlains' Bayonet Charge

1863 Jul 2 19:00
, Little Round Top

Chamberlain (knowing that his men were out of ammunition, his numbers were being depleted, and his men would not be able to repulse another Confederate charge) ordered his men to equip bayonets and counterattack. He ordered his left flank, which had been pulled back, to advance in a 'right-wheel forward' maneuver. As soon as they were in line with the rest of the regiment, the remainder of the regiment would charge akin to a door swinging shut. This simultaneous frontal assault and flanking maneuver halted and captured a good portion of the 15th Alabama.[84] While Chamberlain ordered the advance, Lieutenant Holman Melcher spontaneously and separate to Chamberlain's command initiated a charge from the center of the line that further aided the regiment's efforts.[85] [86]

Twenty-First Ohio at Horseshoe Ridge. | ©Keith Rocco

Culp's Hill

1863 Jul 2 19:00
, Culp's Hill

Around 7 pm (19:00), as dusk began to fall, and the Confederate assaults on the Union left and center were slowing, Ewell chose to begin his main infantry assault. He sent three brigades (4,700 men) from the division of Maj. Gen. Edward "Allegheny" Johnson across Rock Creek and up the eastern slope of Culp's Hill. The Stonewall Brigade, under Brig. Gen. James A. Walker, had been dispatched earlier in the day to screen the Confederate left flank to the east of Rock Creek. Although Johnson ordered Walker join the dusk assault, he was unable to do so as the Stonewall Brigade sparred with Union cavalry under Brig. Gen. David M. Gregg for control of Brinkerhoff's Ridge.[93]

On the Confederate right flank, Jones's brigade of Virginians had the most difficult terrain to cross, the steepest part of Culp's Hill. As they scrambled through the woods and up the rocky slope, they were shocked at the strength of the Union breastworks on the crest. Their charges were beaten off with relative ease by the 60th New York, which suffered very few casualties. Confederate casualties were high, including General Jones, who was wounded and left the field.

In the center, Nicholls's Louisiana brigade had a similar experience to Jones's. The attackers were essentially invisible in the dark except for brief instances when they fired, but the defensive works were impressive, and the 78th and 102nd New York regiments suffered few casualties in a fight that lasted four hours.[94]

Steuart's regiments on the left occupied the empty breastworks on the lower hill and felt their way in the darkness toward Greene's right flank. The Union defenders waited nervously, watching as the flashes of the Confederate rifles drew near. But as they approached, Greene's men delivered a withering fire.

Two regiments on Steuart's left, the 23rd and 10th Virginia, outflanked the works of the 137th New York. Like the fabled 20th Maine of Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain on Little Round Top earlier that afternoon, Col. David Ireland of the 137th New York found himself on the extreme end of the Union army, fending off a strong flanking attack. Under heavy pressure, the New Yorkers were forced back to occupy a traversing trench that Greene had engineered facing south. They essentially held their ground and protected the flank, but they lost almost a third of their men in doing so. Because of the darkness and Greene's brigade's heroic defense, Steuart's men did not realize that they had almost unlimited access to the main line of communication for the Union army, the Baltimore Pike, only 600 yards to their front. Ireland and his men prevented a huge disaster from befalling Meade's army, although they never received the publicity that their colleagues from Maine enjoyed.[95]

During the heat of the fighting, the sound of battle reached II Corps commander Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock on Cemetery Ridge, who immediately sent additional reserve forces. The 71st Pennsylvania filed in to assist the 137th New York on Greene's right.[96]

By the time the rest of the XII Corps returned late that night, Confederate troops had occupied some of the Union defensive line on the southeastern slope of the hill, near Spangler's Spring. This caused considerable confusion as the Union troops stumbled in the dark to find enemy soldiers in the positions they had vacated. Gen. Williams did not want to continue this confused fight, so he ordered his men to occupy the open field in front of the woods and wait for daylight. While Steuart's brigade maintained a fragile hold on the lower heights, Johnson's other two brigades were pulled off the hill, also to wait for daylight. Geary's men returned to reinforce Greene. Both sides prepared to attack at dawn.[97]

Battle of East Cemetery Hill | ©Keith Rocco

Battle of East Cemetery Hill

1863 Jul 2 19:30
, Memorial to Major General Oliver O. Howard

After the Confederates attacked Culp's Hill at about 7 p.m. and as dusk fell around 7:30 p.m., Ewell sent two brigades from the division of Jubal A. Early against East Cemetery Hill from the east, and he alerted the division of Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes to prepare a follow-up assault against Cemetery Hill proper from the northwest. The two brigades from Early's division were commanded by Brig. Gen. Harry T. Hays: his own Louisiana Tigers Brigade and Hoke's Brigade, the latter commanded by Colonel Isaac E. Avery. They stepped off from a line parallel to Winebrenner's Run southeast of town. Hays commanded five Louisiana regiments, which together numbered only about 1,200 officers and men.

The 2 Union brigades of 650 and 500 officers and men. Harris' brigade was at a low stone wall on the northern end of the hill and wrapped around the base of the hill onto Brickyard Lane (now Wainwright Av). Von Gilsa's brigade was scattered along the lane as well as on the hill. Two regiments, the 41st New York and the 33rd Massachusetts, were stationed in Culp's Meadow beyond Brickyard Lane in expectation of an attack by Johnson's division. More westerly on the hill were the divisions of Maj. Gens. Adolph von Steinwehr and Carl Schurz. Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, nominally of the I Corps, commanded the artillery batteries on the hill and on Steven's Knoll. The relatively steep slope of East Cemetery Hill made artillery fire difficult to direct against infantry because the gun barrels could not be depressed sufficiently, but they did their best with canister and double canister fire.[98]

Attacking with a Rebel yell against the Ohio regiments and the 17th Connecticut in the center, Hays' forces bounded over a gap in the Union line at the stone wall. Through other weak spots some Confederates reached the batteries at the top of the hill and others fought in the darkness with the 4 remaining Union regiments on the line at the stone wall.

The 58th and 119th New York regiments of Krzyżanowski's brigade reinforced Wiedrich's battery from West Cemetery Hill, as did a II Corps brigade under Col. Samuel S. Carroll from Cemetery Ridge arriving in the dark double-quick over the hill's south slope through Evergreen Cemetery as the Confederate attack was starting to ebb. Carroll's men secured Ricketts's battery and swept the North Carolinians down the hill and Krzyżanowski led his men to sweep the Louisiana attackers down the hill until they reached the base and "flopped down" for Wiedrich's guns to fire canister at the retreating Confederates.[99]

Brig. Gen. Dodson Ramseur, the leading brigade commander, saw the futility of a night assault against artillery-backed Union troops in 2 lines behind stone walls. Ewell had ordered Brig. Gen. James H. Lane, in command of Pender's division, to attack if a "favorable opportunity presented", but when notified Ewell's attack was starting and Ewell was requesting cooperation in the unfavorable attack, Lane sent back no reply.

Meade and his generals in the council of war. | ©Don Stivers

Council of War

1863 Jul 2 22:30
, Leister Farm

The battlefield fell silent around 10:30 p.m., except for the cries of the wounded and dying. Meade made his decision late that night in a council of war that included his senior staff officers and corps commanders. The assembled officers agreed that, despite the beating the army took, it was advisable for the army to remain in its present position and to await attack by the enemy, although there was some disagreement about how long to wait if Lee chose not to attack. There is some evidence that Meade had already decided this issue and was using the meeting not as a formal council of war, but as a way to achieve consensus among officers he had commanded for less than a week. As the meeting broke up, Meade took aside Brig. Gen. John Gibbon, in command of the II Corps, and predicted, "If Lee attacks tomorrow, it will be in your front. ... he has made attacks on both our flanks and failed and if he concludes to try it again, it will be on our centre."[100]

There was considerably less confidence in Confederate headquarters that night. The army had suffered a significant defeat by not dislodging their enemy. A staff officer remarked that Lee was "not in good humor over the miscarriage of his plans and his orders."

Years later, Longstreet would write that his troops on the second day had done the "best three hours' fighting done by any troops on any battle-field."[101] That night he continued to advocate for a strategic movement around the Union left flank, but Lee would hear none of it.

On the night of July 2, all of the remaining elements of both armies had arrived: Stuart's cavalry and Pickett's division for the Confederates and John Sedgwick's Union VI Corps. The stage was set for the bloody climax of the three-day battle.

Fury at the Wall | ©Dan Nance

Third Day Summary

1863 Jul 3 00:01
, Gettysburg

In the early hours of July 3, the Union forces in the Twelfth Army Corps successfully repelled a Confederate attack on Culp's Hill following a seven-hour battle, and re-established their fortified position. Despite believing that his men were on the verge of victory the day before, General Lee decided to order an attack on the Union center at Cemetery Ridge. He sent three divisions, preceded by an artillery barrage, to attack the Union infantry positions that were dug in about three-quarters of a mile away. The attack, also known as "Pickett's Charge," was led by George Pickett and involved fewer than 15,000 troops.

Although General Longstreet voiced objections, General Lee was determined to proceed with the attack. At around 3 p.m., after a barrage from about 150 Confederate guns, the attack was launched. Union infantry opened fire on the advancing Confederate soldiers from behind stone walls, while regiments from Vermont, New York, and Ohio attacked both flanks of the Confederate forces. The Confederates were trapped and suffered heavy losses; only about half of them survived, and Pickett's division lost two-thirds of its men. The survivors retreated to their starting position, while Lee and Longstreet scrambled to fortify their defense line after the failed assault.

Renewed Fighting at Culp’s Hill | ©State Museum of Pennsylvania

Renewed Fighting at Culp’s Hill

1863 Jul 3 04:00 - Jul 3 11:00
, Culp's Hill

On July 3, 1863, General Lee's plan was to renew his attacks by coordinating the action on Culp's Hill with another attack by Longstreet and A.P. Hill against Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet was not ready for an early attack, and the Union forces on Culp's Hill did not accommodate Lee by waiting. At dawn, five Union batteries opened fire on Steuart's brigade in the positions they had captured and kept them pinned down for 30 minutes before a planned attack by two of Geary's brigades. However, the Confederates beat them to the punch.

Fighting continued until late in the morning and consisted of three attacks by Johnson's men, each a failure. The attacks were essentially a replay of those the previous evening, although in daylight.[102]

Since the fighting had stopped the previous night, the XI Corps units had been reinforced by additional troops from the I Corps and VI Corps. Ewell had reinforced Johnson with additional brigades from the division of Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes, under Brig. Gens. Junius Daniel and William "Extra Billy" Smith and Col. Edward A. O'Neal. These additional forces were insufficient to deal with the strong Union defensive positions. Greene repeated a tactic he had used the previous evening: he rotated regiments in and out of the breastworks while they reloaded, enabling them to keep up a high rate of fire.[103]

In the final of the three Confederate attacks, around 10 am (10:00), Walker's Stonewall Brigade and Daniel's North Carolina brigade assaulted Greene from the east, while Steuart's brigade advanced over the open field toward the main hill against the brigades of Candy and Kane, which did not have the advantage of strong breastworks to fight behind. Nevertheless, both attacks were beaten back with heavy losses. The attacks against the heights were again fruitless, and superior use of artillery on the open fields to the south made the difference there.[104]

The end of the fighting came near noon, with a futile attack by two Union regiments near Spangler's Spring. General Slocum, observing from the distant Powers Hill, believing that the Confederates were faltering, ordered Ruger to retake the works they had captured. Ruger passed the order to Silas Colgrove's brigade, and it was misinterpreted to mean a direct frontal assault on the Confederate position. The two regiments selected for the assault, the 2nd Massachusetts and the 27th Indiana, consisted of a total of 650 men against the 1,000 Confederates behind the works with about 100 yards (100 meters) of open field in front. When Lt. Col. Charles Mudge of the 2nd Massachusetts heard the order, he insisted that the officer repeat it: "Well, it is murder, but it's the order." The two regiments attacked in sequence with the Massachusetts men in front, and they were both repelled with terrific losses: 43% of the Massachusetts soldiers, 32% of the Hoosiers. General Ruger spoke of the misconstrued order as "one of those unfortunate occurrences that will happen in the excitement of battle".[105]

East Cavalry Field Battle | ©Don Troiani

East Cavalry Field Battle

1863 Jul 3 13:00
, East Cavalry Field

At about 11:00 a.m. on July 3, Stuart reached Cress Ridge, just north of what is now called East Cavalry Field, and signaled Lee that he was in position by ordering the firing of four guns, one in each direction of the compass. This was a foolish error because he also alerted Gregg to his presence. The brigades of McIntosh and Custer were positioned to block Stuart. As the Confederates approached, Gregg engaged them with an artillery duel and the superior skills of the Union horse artillerymen got the better of Stuart's guns.[114]

Stuart's plan had been to pin down McIntosh's and Custer's skirmishers around the Rummel farm and swing over Cress Ridge, around the left flank of the defenders, but the Federal skirmish line pushed back tenaciously; the troopers from the 5th Michigan Cavalry were armed with Spencer repeating rifles, multiplying their firepower. Stuart decided on a direct cavalry charge to break their resistance. He ordered an assault by the 1st Virginia Cavalry, his own old regiment, now in Fitz Lee's brigade. The battle started in earnest at approximately 1:00 p.m., at the same time that Col. Edward Porter Alexander's Confederate artillery barrage opened up on Cemetery Ridge. Fitz Lee's troopers came pouring through the farm of John Rummel, scattering the Union skirmish line.[115]

Gregg ordered Custer to counterattack with the 7th Michigan. Custer personally led the regiment, shouting "Come on, you Wolverines!". Waves of horsemen collided in furious fighting along the fence line on Rummel's farm. Seven hundred men fought at point-blank range across the fence with carbines, pistols and sabers. Custer's horse was shot out from under him, and he commandeered a bugler's horse. Eventually enough of Custer's men were amassed to break down the fence, and they caused the Virginians to retreat. Stuart sent in reinforcements from all three of his brigades: the 9th and 13th Virginia (Chambliss' Brigade), the 1st North Carolina and Jeff Davis Legion (Hampton's) and squadrons from the 2nd Virginia (Lee's). Custer's pursuit was broken, and the 7th Michigan fell back in a disorderly retreat.[116]

Stuart tried again for a breakthrough by sending in the bulk of Wade Hampton's brigade, accelerating in formation from a walk to a gallop, sabers flashing, calling forth "murmurs of admiration" from their Union targets. Union horse artillery batteries attempted to block the advance with shell and canister, but the Confederates moved too quickly and were able to fill in for lost men, maintaining their momentum.

As the horsemen fought desperately in the center, McIntosh personally led his brigade against Hampton's right flank while the 3rd Pennsylvania under Captain William E. Miller and 1st New Jersey hit Hampton's left from north of the Lott house. Hampton received a serious saber wound to the head; Custer lost his second horse of the day. Assaulted from three sides, the Confederates withdrew. The Union troopers were in no condition to pursue beyond the Rummel farmhouse.[117]

The losses from the 40 intense minutes of fighting on East Cavalry Field were relatively minor: 254 Union casualties—219 of them from Custer's brigade—and 181 Confederate. Although tactically inconclusive, the battle was a strategic loss for Stuart and Robert E. Lee, whose plans to drive into the Union rear were foiled.[118]

Thunder at Dawn Painting. | ©Mark Maritato

Largest Artillery Bombardment of the War

1863 Jul 3 13:00 - Jul 3 15:00
, Seminary Ridge

from 150 to 170 Confederate guns began an artillery bombardment that was probably the largest of the war. In order to save valuable ammunition for the infantry attack that they knew would follow, the Army of the Potomac's artillery, under the command of Brigadier General Henry Jackson Hunt, at first did not return the enemy's fire. After waiting about 15 minutes, about 80 Union cannons opened fire. The Army of Northern Virginia was critically low on artillery ammunition, and the cannonade did not significantly affect the Union position.

Pickett's Charge. | ©Keith Rocco

Pickett's Charge

1863 Jul 3 15:00 - Jul 3 16:00
, Cemetery Ridge

Around 3 p.m.,[106] the cannon fire subsided, and between 10,500 and 12,500 Southern soldiers stepped from the ridgeline and advanced the three-quarters of a mile (1,200 m) to Cemetery Ridge.[107] A more accurate name for the charge would be the "Pickett–Pettigrew–Trimble Charge" after the commanders of the three divisions taking part in the charge, but the role of Pickett's division has led to the attack generally being known as "Pickett's Charge".[108] As the Confederates approached, there was fierce flanking artillery fire from Union positions on Cemetery Hill and the Little Round Top area,[109] and musket and canister fire from Hancock's II Corps.[110] In the Union center, the commander of artillery had held fire during the Confederate bombardment (in order to save it for the infantry assault, which Meade had correctly predicted the day before), leading Southern commanders to believe the Northern cannon batteries had been knocked out. However, they opened fire on the Confederate infantry during their approach with devastating results.[111]

Although the Union line wavered and broke temporarily at a jog called the "Angle" in a low stone fence, just north of a patch of vegetation called the Copse of Trees, reinforcements rushed into the breach, and the Confederate attack was repelled. The farthest advance, by Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead's brigade of Pickett's division at the Angle, is referred to as the "high-water mark of the Confederacy".[112] Union and Confederate soldiers locked in hand-to-hand combat, attacking with their rifles, bayonets, rocks and even their bare hands. Armistead ordered his Confederates to turn two captured cannons against Union troops, but discovered that there was no ammunition left, the last double canister shots having been used against the charging Confederates. Armistead was mortally wounded shortly afterward. Nearly one half of the Confederate attackers did not return to their own lines.[113] Pickett's division lost about two thirds of its men, and all three brigadiers were killed or wounded.[111]

South Cavalry Field Battle

1863 Jul 3 17:00
, Big Round Top

After hearing news of the Union's success against Pickett's charge, Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick launched a cavalry attack against the infantry positions of Longstreet's Corps southwest of Big Round Top. The terrain was difficult for a mounted attack because it was rough, heavily wooded, and contained huge boulders—and Longstreet's men were entrenched with artillery support.[119] Brigadier General Elon J. Farnsworth protested against the futility of such a move, but obeyed orders. Farnsworth was killed in the fourth of five unsuccessful attacks, and his brigade suffered significant losses.[120] Although Kilpatrick was described by at least one Union leader as "brave, enterprising, and energetic", incidents such as Farnsworth's charge earned him the nickname of "Kill Cavalry".[121]

Lee retreats

Lee retreats

1863 Jul 4 18:00
, Cashtown

On the morning of July 4, with Lee's army still present, Meade ordered his cavalry to get to the rear of Lee's army.[122] In a heavy rain, the armies stared at one another across the bloody fields, on the same day that, some 900 miles (1,400 km) away, the Vicksburg garrison surrendered to Major General Ulysses S. Grant. Lee had reformed his lines into a defensive position on Seminary Ridge the night of July 3, evacuating the town of Gettysburg. The Confederates remained on the battlefield's west side, hoping that Meade would attack, but the cautious Union commander decided against the risk, a decision for which he would later be criticized. Both armies began to collect their remaining wounded and bury some of the dead. A proposal by Lee for a prisoner exchange was rejected by Meade.[123]

Late in the rainy afternoon, Lee started moving the non-fighting portion of his army back to Virginia. Cavalry under Brigadier General John D. Imboden was entrusted to escort the seventeen-mile long wagon train of supplies and wounded men, using a long route through Cashtown and Greencastle to Williamsport, Maryland. After sunset, the fighting portion of Lee's army began its retreat to Virginia using a more direct (but more mountainous) route that began on the road to Fairfield.[124] Although Lee knew exactly what he needed to do, Meade's situation was different. Meade needed to remain at Gettysburg until he was certain Lee was gone. If Meade left first, he could possibly leave an opening for Lee to get to Washington or Baltimore. In addition, the army that left the battlefield first was often considered the defeated army.[125]


1863 Nov 19
, Gettysburg

The two armies suffered between 46,000 and 51,000 casualties. Union casualties were 23,055 (3,155 killed, 14,531 wounded, 5,369 captured or missing),[126] while Confederate casualties are more difficult to estimate. The casualties for both sides for the 6-week campaign, according to Sears, were 57,225.[127] In addition to being the deadliest battle of the war, Gettysburg also had the most generals killed in action. Several generals also were wounded.

Compounding the effects of the defeat was the end of the Siege of Vicksburg, which surrendered to Grant's Federal armies in the West on July 4, the day after the Gettysburg battle, costing the Confederacy an additional 30,000 men, along with all their arms and stores.

On August 8, Lee offered his resignation to President Davis, who quickly rejected it.[128] The ravages of war were still evident in Gettysburg more than four months later when, on November 19, the Soldiers' National Cemetery was dedicated. During this ceremony, President Lincoln honored the fallen and redefined the purpose of the war in his historic Gettysburg Address.[129]


Footnotes for Battle of Gettysburg.

  1. Busey and Martin, p. 260, state that Confederate "engaged strength" at the battle was 71,699; McPherson, p. 648, lists the Confederate strength at the start of the campaign as 75,000, while Eicher, p. 503 gives a lower number of 70,200.
  2. Coddington, pp. 8-9; Eicher, p. 490.
  3. Martin, p. 60.
  4. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 52-56; Martin, pp. 63-64.
  5. Eicher, p. 510.
  6. Martin, pp. 80-81.
  7. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 57, 59, 74; Martin, pp. 82-88, 96-97.
  8. Pfanz, First Day, p. 60; Martin, p. 103.
  9. Martin, pp. 102, 104.
  10. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 77-78; Martin, pp. 140-43.
  11. Pfanz, Battle of Gettysburg, p. 13.
  12. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 81-90.
  13. Martin, pp. 149-61; Pfanz, First Day, pp. 91-98; Pfanz, Battle of Gettysburg, p. 13.
  14. Martin, pp. 160-61; Pfanz, First Day, pp. 100-101.
  15. Pfanz, Battle of Gettysburg, p. 13.
  16. Martin, p. 125.
  17. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 102-14.
  18. Pfanz, First Day, p. 112.
  19. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 148, 228; Martin, pp. 204-206.
  20. Martin, p. 198
  21. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 123, 124, 128, 137; Martin, p. 198.
  22. Martin, pp. 198-202; Pfanz, First Day, pp. 137, 140, 216.
  23. Pfanz, Battle of Gettysburg, p. 15.
  24. Pfanz, First Day, p. 130.
  25. Pfanz, First Day, p. 238.
  26. Pfanz, First Day, p. 158.
  27. Martin, pp. 205-210; Pfanz, First Day, pp. 163-66.
  28. Martin, pp. 224-38; Pfanz, First Day, pp. 170-78.
  29. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 182-84; Martin, pp. 247-55.
  30. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 194-213; Martin, pp. 238-47.
  31. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 275-76; Martin, p. 341.
  32. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 276-93; Martin, p. 342.
  33. Busey and Martin, pp. 298, 501.
  34. Busey and Martin, pp. 22, 386.
  35. Busey and Martin, pp. 27, 386.
  36. Martin, p. 366; Pfanz, First Day, p. 292.
  37. Martin, p. 395.
  38. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 229-48; Martin, pp. 277-91.
  39. Martin, p. 302; Pfanz, First Day, pp. 254-57.
  40. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 258-68; Martin, pp. 306-23.
  41. Sears, p. 217.
  42. Martin, pp. 386-93.
  43. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 305-11; Martin, pp. 394-404; Sears, p. 218.
  44. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 311-17; Martin, pp. 404-26.
  45. Martin, pp. 426-29; Pfanz, First Day, p. 302.
  46. Sears, p. 220; Martin, p. 446.
  47. Pfanz, First Day, p. 320; Sears, p. 223.
  48. Martin, pp. 379, 389-92.
  49. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 328-29.
  50. Martin, p. 333.
  51. Pfanz, First Day, pp. 337-38; Sears, pp. 223-25.
  52. Martin, pp. 482-88.
  53. Sears, p. 227; Martin, p. 504; Mackowski and White, p. 35.
  54. Mackowski and White, pp. 36-41; Bearss, pp. 171-72; Coddington, pp. 317-21; Gottfried, p. 549; Pfanz, First Day, pp. 347-49; Martin, p. 510.
  55. Eicher, p. 520; Martin, p. 537.
  56. Martin, p. 9, citing Thomas L. Livermore's Numbers & Losses in the Civil War in America (Houghton Mifflin, 1900).
  57. Trudeau, p. 272.
  58. A Map Study of the Battle of Gettysburg | Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  59. Eicher, p. 521; Sears, pp. 245-246.
  60. Clark, p. 74; Eicher, p. 521.
  61. Pfanz, Second Day, pp. 61, 111-112.
  62. Pfanz, Second Day, p. 112.
  63. Pfanz, Second Day, pp. 113-114.
  64. Pfanz, Second Day, p. 153.
  65. Harman, p. 27.
  66. Pfanz, Second Day, pp. 106-107.
  67. Hall, pp. 89, 97.
  68. Sears p. 263
  69. Eicher, pp. 523-524. Pfanz, Second Day, pp. 21-25.
  70. Pfanz, Second Day, pp. 119-123.
  71. Harman, pp. 50-51.
  72. Eicher, pp. 524-525. Pfanz, Second Day, pp. 158-167.
  73. Eicher, pp. 524-525. Pfanz, Second Day, pp. 167-174.
  74. Harman, pp. 55-56. Eicher, p. 526.
  75. Eicher, p. 526. Pfanz, Second Day, p. 174.
  76. Adelman and Smith, pp. 29-43. Eicher, p. 527. Pfanz, Second Day, pp. 185-194.
  77. Adelman and Smith, pp. 48-62.
  78. Adelman and Smith, pp. 48-62.
  79. Desjardin, p. 36; Pfanz, p. 5.
  80. Norton, p. 167. Norton was a member of the 83rd Pennsylvania, which Vincent commanded before becoming its brigade commander.
  81. Desjardin, p. 36; Pfanz, pp. 208, 216.
  82. Desjardin, pp. 51-55; Pfanz, p. 216.
  83. Pfanz, p. 232; Cross, David F. (June 12, 2006). "Battle of Gettysburg: Fighting at Little Round Top". HistoryNet.com. Retrieved 2012-01-02.
  84. Desjardin, pp. 69-71.
  85. Desjardin, p. 69.
  86. Melcher, p. 61.
  87. Sears, pp. 298-300. Pfanz, Second Day, pp. 318-332.
  88. Pfanz, Battle of Gettysburg, p. 34. Sears, p. 301. Pfanz, Second Day, pp. 333-335.
  89. Sears, pp. 308-309. Pfanz, Second Day, pp. 341-346.
  90. Sears, p. 346. Pfanz, Second Day, p. 318
  91. Eicher, p. 536. Sears, pp. 320-21. Pfanz, Second Day, pp. 406, 410-14; Busey & Martin, Regimental Losses, p. 129.
  92. Pfanz, Battle of Gettysburg, p. 36. Sears, pp. 323-24. Pfanz, Second Day, pp. 386-89.
  93. "The Stonewall Brigade at Gettysburg - Part Two: Clash on Brinkerhoff's Ridge". The Stonewall Brigade. 2021-03-20. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  94. Sears, p. 328.
  95. Pfanz, Culp's Hill, pp. 220-22; Pfanz, Battle of Gettysburg, p. 40; Sears, p. 329.
  96. Pfanz, Culp's Hill, pp. 220-21.
  97. Pfanz, Culp's Hill, p. 234.
  98. Pfanz, Culp's Hill, pp. 238, 240-248.
  99. Pfanz, Culp's Hill, pp. 263-75.
  100. Sears, pp. 342-45. Eicher, pp. 539-40. Coddington, pp. 449-53.
  101. Pfanz, Second Day, p. 425.
  102. Pfanz, Battle of Gettysburg, pp. 42-43.
  103. Murray, p. 47; Pfanz, Culp's Hill, pp. 288-89.
  104. Pfanz, Culp's Hill, pp. 310-25.
  105. Sears, pp. 366-68.
  106. Coddington, 402; McPherson, 662; Eicher, 546; Trudeau, 484; Walsh 281.
  107. Wert, p.194
  108. Sears, pp. 358-359.
  109. Wert, pp. 198-199.
  110. Wert, pp.205-207.
  111. McPherson, p. 662.
  112. McPherson, pp. 661-663; Clark, pp. 133-144; Symonds, pp. 214-241; Eicher, pp. 543-549.
  113. Glatthaar, p. 281.
  114. Sears, p. 460; Coddington, p. 521; Wert, p. 264.
  115. Longacre, p. 226; Sears, p. 461; Wert, p. 265.
  116. Sears, p. 461; Wert, pp. 266-67.
  117. Sears, p. 462; Wert, p. 269.
  118. Sears, p. 462; Wert, p. 271.
  119. Starr pp. 440-441
  120. Eicher, pp. 549-550; Longacre, pp. 226-231, 240-44; Sauers, p. 836; Wert, pp. 272-280.
  121. Starr, pp.417-418
  122. Starr, p. 443.
  123. Eicher, p. 550; Coddington, pp. 539-544; Clark, pp. 146-147; Sears, p. 469; Wert, p. 300.
  124. Coddington, p. 538.
  125. Coddington, p. 539.
  126. Busey and Martin, p. 125.
  127. Sears, p. 513.
  128. Gallagher, Lee and His Army, pp. 86, 93, 102-05; Sears, pp. 501-502; McPherson, p. 665, in contrast to Gallagher, depicts Lee as "profoundly depressed" about the battle.
  129. White, p. 251.


References for Battle of Gettysburg.

  • Bearss, Edwin C. Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2006. ISBN 0-7922-7568-3.
  • Bearss, Edwin C. Receding Tide: Vicksburg and Gettysburg: The Campaigns That Changed the Civil War. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4262-0510-1.
  • Busey, John W., and David G. Martin. Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg, 4th ed. Hightstown, NJ: Longstreet House, 2005. ISBN 0-944413-67-6.
  • Carmichael, Peter S., ed. Audacity Personified: The Generalship of Robert E. Lee. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8071-2929-1.
  • Catton, Bruce. Glory Road. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1952. ISBN 0-385-04167-5.
  • Clark, Champ, and the Editors of Time-Life Books. Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1985. ISBN 0-8094-4758-4.
  • Coddington, Edwin B. The Gettysburg Campaign; a study in command. New York: Scribner's, 1968. ISBN 0-684-84569-5.
  • Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. ISBN 0-684-80846-3.
  • Eicher, David J. The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN 0-684-84944-5.
  • Esposito, Vincent J. West Point Atlas of American Wars. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1959. OCLC 5890637. The collection of maps (without explanatory text) is available online at the West Point website.
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  • Wittenberg, Eric J., J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent. One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4–14, 1863. New York: Savas Beatie, 2008. ISBN 978-1-932714-43-2.
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Memoirs and Primary Sources

  • Paris, Louis-Philippe-Albert d'Orléans. The Battle of Gettysburg: A History of the Civil War in America. Digital Scanning, Inc., 1999. ISBN 1-58218-066-0. First published 1869 by Germer Baillière.
  • New York (State), William F. Fox, and Daniel Edgar Sickles. New York at Gettysburg: Final Report on the Battlefield of Gettysburg. Albany, NY: J.B. Lyon Company, Printers, 1900. OCLC 607395975.
  • U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880–1901.