3 Jul 2018

The Battle Ends: 155 Years to the Day Since Gettysburg

The Battle Ends: 155 Years to the Day Since Gettysburg

Two days of fighting already had made Gettysburg the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, with 39,000 casualties. But it wasn’t over yet.

Initially, Lee planned to renew the previous day’s offensive with further attacks on the federal flanks. Around dawn, Union artillery on Culp’s Hill began an intense bombardment to retake a portion of the defensive works on the lower slopes. The Confederates attacked, but despite seven hours of fierce fighting, the Union line held firm.

A strategy is born - and anticipated

Lee settled upon a new strategy: If both flanks had been reinforced in the wake of his nearly successful assaults the previous day, logic held that the center must have been weakened to compensate. To exploit this perceived vulnerability, Lee ordered a massed frontal assault of some 12,000 Confederate infantry against the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Unfortunately for Lee, Union General Meade had predicted this move and would be ready.

Pickett’s Charge begins

The resulting attack is known to history as Pickett’s Charge for the contributions made by the division of General George Pickett, whose troops formed a portion of the attacking force. The charge was preceded by a massive artillery bombardment. Despite its ferocity, much of the fire on both sides missed the mark. As their artillery dwindled, the Southern force stepped off in unison at about 3:00 p.m., setting a deliberate pace across 1700 yards of open field.

Moving forward, the Confederates were raked by artillery fire in front and flank. When they reached the Emmitsburg Road, which bisected the field, those Southerners who were still alive slowed to take down fences that blocked their path. Once on the other side, the attack continued to falter as Union gunners switched to canister shot, and musket fire became increasingly accurate and effective from the infantry safely positioned behind a low stone wall.

As the Confederates approached, gaps opened in the Union line and determined Southerners poured through, to be met with hand-to-hand combat and a barrage of point-blank artillery fire. The breach was short-lived, and its location has become known as the High Water Mark of the Confederacy.

The Confederates retreat

The Battle of Gettysburg ended with as many as 51,000 soldiers killed, wounded, captured or missing. As Lee led his army on a torturous retreat back to Virginia, an extensive network of field hospitals emerged to treat the injured, while local residents began the hard work of dealing with the dead and returning to normalcy. Four months after the battle, President Lincoln used the dedication ceremony for Gettysburg’s Soldiers’ National Cemetery to honor the fallen Union soldiers and redefine the purpose of the war in his historic Gettysburg Address.

Visit Gettysburg in 3 Days
Ready to see these hallowed grounds for yourself? We made a flexible itinerary you can use to experience all the Civil War history Gettysburg has to offer.

A Virtual Gettysburg Cyclorama

How did artists during the Civil War and its aftermath remember and reflect upon the conflict in a time before film and radio — not to mention TV and the Internet? The answer: cycloramas. This 5-minute, 360-degree video gets as close to the experience of the cyclorama as possible without a trip to Gettysburg.

Alonzo Cushing at Gettysburg

This War Department episode features the incredible story of Alonzo H. Cushing at the Battle of Gettysburg. Watch this video to see Cushing’s bloodstained leather belt and the spot where he fell at the height of Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863.

Meanwhile, in Mississippi
On July 4, 1863, the 47-day siege of warfare at Vicksburg ended with the surrender of John Pemberton’s forces. Explore the historic sites of this remarkable campaign — from Port Gibson to the Siege of Vicksburg. Onboard historian videos, audio accounts of soldiers from the battle, photos, orders of battle, chronologies, key facts, and more are just a click away.

Join Us Live!

Experience the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg with us through a series of Facebook and YouTube Live events. From July 1 through 3, 2018, we will take you virtually to places many never get to experience. We’ll show you rare photos and artifacts, and answer as many of your questions as we can. Just go to the American Battlefield Trust’s Facebook page and YouTube Channel and start watching.

How Lincoln Changed the World

Why do President Lincoln's words following the Battle of Gettysburg still matter to each and every one of us? In this video, Professor Doug Douds of the Army War College explains how Lincoln changed the world in two minutes. This video was produced in partnership with Prager University and made possible by a gift from a generous donor.

American Battlefield Trust

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