Frank Vittor designed the Battle of Gettysburg half dollar,
which shows on its obverse two soldiers, one from each side
in the war, who look like brothers. BLUE AND GREY REUNION
is one of the inscriptions on the border of the coin. It
refers to an event that was scheduled for July 1-3 in 1938.
The other border inscription is UNITED STATED OF AMERICA.
The words on the borders are separated by stars. In an
arc just under the border is LIBERTY. Below it is E PLURIBUS
UNUM on two lines. On the reverse we see double-bladed fasces,
which are the Roman symbol of the power of life and death.
The Fasces divide the two symbols of each side, the Union
and Confederate shields. Oak and olive branches, seen in
the wreath, symbolize war and peace. The reverse border
inscription is 1863 75TH ANNIVERSARY 1938 BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG
separated by stars.
Above the Union shield are the words IN GOD, and above
the Confederated shield are WE TRUST. Below the fasces is
the date, 1936, and below that is the denomination HALF
DOLLAR, separated by tiny stars. The 1936 date is the date
of the authorizing act. It is actually irrelevant to the
commemoration. The coin was struck in 1937 for a 75th anniversary,
which took place in 1938.
actual reunion that this half dollar commemorates took place
in 1938. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was among those
who attended. At the ceremony Roosevelt dedicated the Eternal
Light Peace Memorial. Among many other souvenirs, these commemorative
halves were on sale there for $1.65. Later when the American
Legion received distribution rights, they raised the price
to $2.65, hoping that the increase would make people think
that buying the coin would be a good investment.
The Pennsylvania State Commission was located
in the Hotel Gettysburg in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Executive
Secretary, Paul L. Roy, wanted the coins to be made by all
three mints; however, they were made only in Philadelphia.
He sent out a postcard saying that the issue had been oversubscribed.
This was a lie that he used to falsely increase demand. The
unsold balance of the original 50,000 coins was turned over
to the American Legion for further distribution. However,
23,100 remained unsold and were returned to the mint for melting.
The net number of coins including assay coins was 26,928.
The standard original packaging was a paper coin envelope
with an unprinted three-coin cardboard holder.
The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the three early commemorative
issues that were made to specifically deal with a Civil War
event. The others were the Stone Mountain and the Antietam
The Battle of Gettysburg (July 1
July 3, 1863), fought in, and around the town of Gettysburg,
Pennsylvania, as part of the Gettysburg Campaign, was
the battle with the largest number of casualties in
the American Civil War and is frequently cited as the
war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade's
Army of the Potomac defeated attacks by Confederate
General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, ending
Lee's invasion of the North.
Following his success at Chancellorsville
in May 1863, Lee led his army through the Shenandoah
Valley for his second invasion of the North, hoping
to reach as far as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or even
Philadelphia, and to influence Northern politicians
to give up their prosecution of the war.
Prodded by President
Abraham Lincoln, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker moved his army in
pursuit, but was relieved almost on the eve of battle and
replaced by Meade.
The two armies began to collide at Gettysburg
on July 1, 1863, as Lee urgently concentrated his forces there.
Low ridges to the northwest of town were defended initially
by a Union cavalry division, which was soon reinforced with
two corps of Union infantry. However, two large Confederate
corps assaulted them from the northwest and north, collapsing
the hastily developed Union lines, sending the defenders retreating
through the streets of town to the hills just to the south.
On the second day of battle, most of both armies had assembled.
The Union line was laid out in a defensive formation resembling
a fishhook. Lee launched a heavy assault on the Union left
flank, and fierce fighting raged at Little Round Top, the
Wheatfield, Devil's Den, and the Peach Orchard. On the Union
right, demonstrations escalated into full-scale assaults on
Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill. Across the battlefield, despite
significant losses, the Union defenders held their lines.
On the third day of battle, July 3, fighting resumed on Culp's
Hill, and cavalry battles raged to the east and south, but
the main event was a dramatic infantry assault by 12,500 Confederates
against the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Pickett's
Charge was repulsed by Union rifle and artillery fire at great
losses to the Confederate army. Lee led his army on a torturous
retreat back to Virginia. Between 46,000 and 51,000 Americans
were casualties in the three-day battle. That November, President
Lincoln used the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg National
Cemetery to honor the fallen and redefine the purpose of the
war in his historic Gettysburg Address.
Background and movement to battle
Shortly after the Army of Northern Virginia won a decisive
victory over the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Chancellorsville
(April 30 May 6, 1863), Robert E. Lee decided upon
a second invasion of the North (the first was the unsuccessful
Maryland Campaign of September 1862). Such a move would upset
Federal plans for the summer campaigning season and possibly
relieve the besieged Confederate garrison at Vicksburg. It
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 could threaten
Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, and possibly strengthen
the growing peace movement in the North.
Thus, on June 3, Lee's army began to shift northward from
Fredericksburg, Virginia. In order to attain more efficiency
in his commands, Lee had reorganized his two large corps into
three new corps. Lt. Gen. James Longstreet retained command
of his First Corps. The old corps of deceased Thomas J. "Stonewall"
Jackson was divided into two, with the Second Corps going
to Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell and the new Third Corps to Lt.
Gen. A.P. Hill. The Cavalry Corps was commanded by Maj. Gen.
The Union Army of the Potomac, under Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker,
consisted of seven infantry corps, a cavalry corps, and an
Artillery Reserve, for a combined strength of about 94,000
men. However, President Lincoln replaced Hooker with Maj.
Gen. George Gordon Meade, a Pennsylvanian, because of Hooker's
defeat at Chancellorsville and his timid response to Lee's
second invasion north of the Potomac River.
The first major action of the campaign took place on June
9 between the opposing cavalry forces at Brandy Station, near
Culpeper, Virginia. The Confederate cavalry under Stuart was
surprised and nearly routed by the Union I Corps, but Stuart
eventually prevailed. The battle, the largest cavalry engagement
of the war, proved that for the first time, the Union horse
soldier was equal to his Southern counterpart.
By mid-June, the Army of Northern Virginia was poised to
cross the Potomac River and enter Maryland. After defeating
the Federal garrisons at Winchester and Martinsburg, Ewell's
Second Corps began crossing the river on June 15. Hill's and
Longstreet's corps followed on June 24 and June 25. Hooker's
army pursued, keeping between the U.S. capital and Lee's army.
The Federals crossed the Potomac from June 25 to June 27.
Lee gave strict orders to his army to minimize any negative
impacts on the civilian population. Food, horses, and other
supplies were generally not seized outright, although quartermasters
reimbursing northern farmers and merchants using Confederate
money were not well received. Various towns, most notably
York, Pennsylvania, were required to pay indemnities in lieu
of supplies, under threat of destruction. The most controversial
of the Confederate actions during the invasion was the seizure
of some forty northern African Americans, a few of whom were
escaped slaves but most freemen. They were sent south into
slavery under guard.
On June 26, elements of Maj. Gen. Jubal Early's division
of Ewell's Corps occupied the town of Gettysburg after chasing
off newly raised Pennsylvania militia in a series of minor
skirmishes. Early laid the borough under tribute but did not
collect any significant supplies. Soldiers burned several
railroad cars and a covered bridge, and they destroyed nearby
rails and telegraph lines. The following morning, Early departed
for adjacent York County.
Meanwhile, in a controversial move, Lee allowed J.E.B. Stuart
to take a portion of the army's cavalry and ride around the
east flank of the Union army. Lee's orders gave Stuart much
latitude, and both generals share the blame for the long absence
of Stuart's cavalry, as well as for the failure to assign
a more active role to the cavalry left with the army. Stuart
and his three best brigades were absent from the army during
the crucial phase of the approach to Gettysburg and the first
two days of battle. By June 29, Lee's army was strung out
in an arc from Chambersburg (28 miles (45 km) northwest of
Gettysburg) to Carlisle (30 miles (48 km) north of Gettysburg)
to near Harrisburg and Wrightsville on the Susquehanna River.
In a dispute over the use of the forces defending the Harpers
Ferry garrison, Hooker offered his resignation, and Abraham
Lincoln and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, who were looking
for an excuse to get rid of him, immediately accepted. They
replaced him early on the morning of June 28 with Maj. Gen.
George Gordon Meade, commander of the V Corps.
On June 29, when Lee learned that the Army of the Potomac
had crossed its namesake river, he ordered a concentration
of his forces around Cashtown, located at the eastern base
of South Mountain and eight miles (13 km) west of Gettysburg.
On June 30, while part of Hill's Corps was in Cashtown, one
of Hill's brigades, North Carolinians under Brig. Gen. J.
Johnston Pettigrew, ventured toward Gettysburg. The memoirs
of Maj. Gen. Henry Heth, Pettigrew's division commander, claimed
that Pettigrew was in search of a large supply of shoes in
town, but this explanation may have been devised in retrospect
to justify an overly heavy reconnaissance force.
When Pettigrew's troops approached Gettysburg on June 30,
they noticed Union cavalry under Brig. Gen. John Buford arriving
south of town, and Pettigrew returned to Cashtown without
engaging them. When Pettigrew told Hill and Heth about what
he had seen, neither general believed that there was a substantial
Federal force in or near the town, suspecting that it had
been only Pennsylvania militia. Despite General Lee's order
to avoid a general engagement until his entire army was concentrated,
Hill decided to mount a significant reconnaissance in force
the following morning to determine the size and strength of
the enemy force in his front. Around 5 a.m. on Wednesday,
July 1, two brigades of Heth's division advanced to Gettysburg.
First day of battle
realized the importance of the high ground directly to
the south of Gettysburg, knowing that if the Confederates
could gain control of the heights, Meade's army would
have difficulty dislodging them. He decided to utilize
three ridges west of Gettysburg: Herr Ridge, McPherson
Ridge, and Seminary Ridge (proceeding west to east toward
the town). These were appropriate terrain for a delaying
action by his small division against superior Confederate
infantry forces, meant to buy time awaiting the arrival
of Union infantrymen who could occupy the strong defensive
positions south of town at Cemetery Hill, Cemetery Ridge,
and Culp's Hill.
advanced with two brigades forward, commanded by Brig.
Gens. James J. Archer and Joseph R. Davis. They proceeded
easterly in columns along the Chambersburg Pike. Three
miles (5 km) west of town, about 7:30 a.m. on July 1,
Heth's two brigades met light resistance from vedettes
of Union cavalry, and deployed into line. Eventually,
they reached dismounted troopers from Col. William Gamble's
cavalry brigade, who raised determined resistance and
delaying tactics from behind fence posts with fire from
their breechloading carbines. By 10:20 a.m., the Confederates
had pushed the Union cavalrymen east to McPherson Ridge,
when the vanguard of the I Corps (Maj. Gen. John F.
Reynolds) finally arrived.
North of the pike, Davis gained a temporary
success against Brig. Gen. Lysander Cutler's brigade
but was repulsed with heavy losses in an action around
an unfinished railroad bed cut in the ridge. South of
the pike, Archer's brigade assaulted through Herbst
(also know as McPherson's) Woods. The Federal Iron Brigade
under Brig. Gen. Solomon Meredith enjoyed initial success
against Archer, capturing several hundred men, including
Early in the fighting, while General Reynolds was directing
troop and artillery placements just to the east of the woods,
he fell from his horse, killed by a bullet, which struck him
behind the right ear. Maj. Gen. Abner Doubleday assumed command.
Fighting in the Chambersburg Pike area lasted until about 12:30
p.m. It resumed around 2:30 p.m., when Heth's entire division
engaged, adding the brigades of Pettigrew and Col. John M. Brockenbrough.
As Pettigrew's North Carolina Brigade came on line, they
flanked the 19th Indiana and drove the Iron Brigade back.
The 26th North Carolina (the largest regiment in the army
with 839 men) lost heavily, leaving the first day's fight
with around 212 men. By the end of the three-day battle, they
had about 152 men standing, the highest casualty percentage
for one battle of any other regiment, North or South. Slowly
the Iron Brigade was pushed out of the woods toward Seminary
Ridge. Hill added Maj. Gen. William Dorsey Pender's division
to the assault, and the I Corps was driven back through the
grounds of the Lutheran Seminary and Gettysburg streets.
As the fighting to the west proceeded, two divisions of Ewell's
Second Corps, marching west toward Cashtown in accordance
with Lee's order for the army to concentrate in that vicinity,
turned south on the Carlisle and Harrisburg Roads toward Gettysburg,
while the Union XI Corps (Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard) raced
north on the Baltimore Pike and Taneytown Road. By early afternoon,
the Federal line ran in a semi-circle west, north, and northeast
However, the Federals did not have enough troops; Cutler,
who was deployed north of the Chambersburg Pike, had his right
flank in the air. The leftmost division of the XI Corps was
unable to deploy in time to strengthen the line, so Doubleday
was forced to throw in reserve brigades to salvage his line.
Around 2:00 p.m., the Second Corps divisions of Maj. Gens.
Robert E. Rodes and Jubal Early assaulted and out-flanked
the Union I and XI Corps positions north and northwest of
town. The brigades of Col. Edward A. O'Neal and Brig. Gen.
Alfred Iverson suffered severe losses assaulting the I Corps
division of Brig. Gen. John C. Robinson south of Oak Hill.
Early's division profited from a blunder made by Brig. Gen.
Francis C. Barlow, when he advanced his XI Corps division
to Blocher's Knoll (directly north of town and now known as
Barlow's Knoll); this represented a salient in the corps line,
susceptible to attack from multiple sides, and Early's troops
overran his division, which constituted the right flank of
the Union Army's position. Barlow was wounded and captured
in the attack.
As Federal positions collapsed both north and west of town,
Gen. Howard ordered a retreat to the high ground south of
town at Cemetery Hill, where he had left the division of Brig.
Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr as a reserve. Maj. Gen. Winfield
S. Hancock assumed command of the battlefield, sent by Meade
when he heard that Reynolds had been killed. Hancock, commander
of the II Corps and his most trusted subordinate, was ordered
to take command of the field and to determine whether Gettysburg
was an appropriate place for a major battle. Hancock told
Howard, who was technically superior in rank, "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." Hancock's determination had a morale-boosting
effect on the retreating Union soldiers, but he played no
direct tactical role on the first day.
Gen. Lee understood the defensive potential to the Union
if they held this high ground. He sent orders to Ewell that
Cemetery Hill be taken "if practicable." Ewell chose
not to attempt the assault; this decision is considered by
historians to be a great missed opportunity.
The first day at Gettysburg, more significant than simply
a prelude to the bloody second and third days, ranks as the
23rd biggest 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.
Second day of battle
Plans and movement to
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. Longstreet's third division,
commanded by George Pickett, had begun the march from
Chambersburg early in the morning; it did not arrive
until late on July 2.
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. 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. The Confederate
line paralleled the Union line about a 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 Federal army had interior lines, while
the Confederate line was nearly five miles (8 km) in
Lee's battle plan for July 2 called
for Longstreet's First Corps to position itself stealthily
to attack the Union left flank, facing northeast astraddle
the Emmitsburg Road, and to roll up the Federal line.
The attack sequence was to begin with Maj. Gens. John
Bell Hood's and Lafayette McLaws's divisions, followed
by Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson's division of Hill's
Third Corps. The progressive en echelon sequence of
this attack would prevent Meade from shifting troops
from his center to bolster his left. At the same time,
Maj. Gen. Edward "Allegheny" Johnson's and
Jubal Early's Second Corps divisions were to make a
"demonstration" against Culp's and Cemetery
Hills (again, to prevent the shifting of Federal troops),
and to turn the demonstration into a full-scale attack
if a favorable opportunity presented itself.
Lee's plan, however, was based on faulty intelligence, exacerbated
by Stuart's continued absence from the battlefield. Instead
of moving beyond the Federals' left and attacking their flank,
Longstreet's left division, under McLaws, would face Maj. Gen.
Daniel Sickles's III Corps directly in their path. Sickles was
dissatisfied with the position assigned him on the southern
end of Cemetery Ridge. Seeing higher ground more favorable to
artillery positions a half mile (800 m) to the west, he advanced
his corpswithout ordersto the slightly higher ground
along the Emmitsburg Road. The new line ran from Devil's Den,
northwest to the Sherfy farm's Peach Orchard, then northeast
along the Emmitsburg Road to south of the Codori farm. This
created an untenable salient at the Peach Orchard; Brig. Gen.
Andrew A. Humphreys's division (in position along the Emmitsburg
Road) and Maj. Gen. David B. Birney's division (to the south)
were subject to attacks from two sides and were spread out over
a longer front than their small corps could defend effectively.
Longstreet's attack was to be made as early as practicable;
however, Longstreet got permission from Lee to await the arrival
of one of his brigades, and while marching to the assigned
position, his men came within sight of a Union signal station
on Little Round Top. Countermarching to avoid detection wasted
much time, and Hood's and McLaws's divisions did not launch
their attacks until just after 4 p.m.
Attacks on the Union left flank
As Longstreet's divisions slammed into
the Union III Corps, Meade was forced to send 20,000
reinforcements in the form of the entire V Corps, Brig.
Gen. John C. Caldwell's division of the II Corps, most
of the XII Corps, and small portions of the newly arrived
VI Corps. The Confederate assault deviated from Lee's
plan since Hood's division moved more easterly than
intended, losing its alignment with the Emmitsburg Road,
attacking Devil's Den and Little Round Top. McLaws,
coming in on Hood's left, drove multiple attacks into
the thinly stretched III Corps in the Wheatfield and
overwhelmed them in Sherfy's Peach Orchard. McLaws's
attack eventually reached Plum Run Valley (the "Valley
of Death") before being beaten back by the Pennsylvania
Reserves division of the V Corps, moving down from Little
Round Top. The III Corps was virtually destroyed as
a combat unit in this battle, and Sickles's leg was
amputated after it was shattered by a cannonball. Caldwell's
division was destroyed piecemeal in the Wheatfield.
Anderson's division assault on McLaws's left, starting
around 6 p.m., reached the crest of Cemetery Ridge,
but they could not hold the position in the face of
counterattacks from the II Corps, including an almost
suicidal counterattack by the 1st Minnesota against
a Confederate brigade, ordered in desperation by Hancock.
As fighting raged in the Wheatfield
and Devil's Den, Col. Strong Vincent of V Corps had
a precarious hold on Little Round Top, an important
hill at the extreme left of the Union line. His brigade
of four relatively small regiments was able to resist
repeated assaults by Brig. Gen. Evander Law's brigade
of Hood's division. Meade's chief engineer, Brig. Gen.
Gouverneur K. Warren, had realized the importance of
this position, and dispatched Vincent's brigade, an
artillery battery, and the 140th New York to occupy
Little Round Top mere minutes before Hood's troops arrived.
The defense of Little Round Top with a bayonet charge
by the 20th Maine was one of the most fabled episodes
in the Civil War and propelled Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain
into prominence after the war.
Attacks on the Union right flank
About 7:00 p.m., the Second Corps' attack by Johnson's division
on Culp's Hill got off to a late start. Most of the hill's
defenders, the Union XII Corps, had been sent to the left
to defend against Longstreet's attacks, and the only portion
of the corps remaining on the hill was a brigade of New Yorkers
under Brig. Gen. George S. Greene. Because of Greene's insistence
on constructing strong defensive works, and with reinforcements
from the I and XI Corps, Greene's men held off the Confederate
attackers, although the Southerners did capture a portion
of the abandoned Federal works on the lower part of Culp's
Just at dark, two of Jubal Early's brigades attacked the
Union XI Corps positions on East Cemetery Hill where Col.
Andrew L. Harris of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, came under
a withering attack, losing half his men; however, Early failed
to support his brigades in their attack, and Ewell's remaining
division, that of Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes, failed to aid
Early's attack by moving against Cemetery Hill from the west.
The Union army's interior lines enabled its commanders to
shift troops quickly to critical areas, and with reinforcements
from II Corps, the Federal troops retained possession of East
Cemetery Hill, and Early's brigades were forced to withdraw.
Jeb Stuart and his three cavalry brigades arrived in Gettysburg
around noon but had no role in the second day's battle. Brig.
Gen. Wade Hampton's brigade fought a minor engagement with
George Armstrong Custer's Michigan cavalry near Hunterstown
to the northeast of Gettysburg.
Third day of battle
General Lee wished to renew
the attack on Friday, July 3, using the same basic plan
as the previous day: Longstreet would attack the Federal
left, while Ewell attacked Culp's Hill. However, before
Longstreet was ready, Union XII Corps troops started a
dawn artillery bombardment against the Confederates on
Culp's Hill in an effort to regain a portion of their
lost works. The Confederates attacked, and the second
fight for Culp's Hill ended around 11 a.m., after some
seven hours of bitter combat.
was forced to change his plans. Longstreet would command
Pickett's Virginia division of his own First Corps,
plus six brigades from Hill's Corps, in an attack on
the Federal II Corps position at the right center of
the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Prior to the attack,
all the artillery the Confederacy could bring to bear
on the Federal positions would bombard and weaken the
Around 1 p.m., 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 at first did not
return the enemy's fire. After waiting about 15 minutes,
about 80 Federal cannons added to the din. The Army
of Northern Virginia was critically low on artillery
ammunition, and the cannonade did not significantly
affect the Union position. Around 3 p.m., the cannon
fire subsided, and 12,500 Southern soldiers stepped
from the ridgeline and advanced the three-quarters of
a mile (1,200 m) to Cemetery Ridge in what is known
to history as "Pickett's Charge". As the Confederates
approached, there was fierce flanking artillery fire
from Union positions on Cemetery Hill and north of Little
Round Top, and musket and canister fire from Hancock's
II Corps. Nearly one half of the attackers did not return
to their own lines.
Although the Federal 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 repulsed. There were two significant
cavalry engagements on July 3. Stuart was sent to guard the
Confederate left flank and was to be prepared to exploit any
success the infantry might achieve on Cemetery Hill by flanking
the Federal right and hitting their trains and lines of communications.
Three miles (5 km) east of Gettysburg, in what is now called
"East Cavalry Field" (not shown on the accompanying
map, but between the York and Hanover Roads), Stuart's forces
collided with Federal cavalry: Brig. Gen. David McM. Gregg's
division and George A. Custer's brigade. A lengthy mounted
battle, including hand-to-hand sabre combat, ensued. Custer's
charge, leading the 1st Michigan Cavalry, blunted the attack
by Wade Hampton's brigade, blocking Stuart from achieving
his objectives in the Federal rear. Meanwhile, after hearing
news of the day's victory, Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick launched
a cavalry attack against the infantry positions of Longstreet's
Corps southwest of Big Round Top. Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth
protested against the futility of such a move but obeyed orders.
Farnsworth was killed in the attack, and his brigade suffered
The Confederate retreat
The armies stared at one another across
the bloody fields on July 4, the same day that the Vicksburg
garrison surrendered to Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
Lee reformed his lines into a defensive position, hoping
that Meade would attack. The cautious Union commander,
however, decided against the risk, a decision for which
he would later be criticized. He did order a series
of small probing actions, including sending the U.S.
Regulars over a mile towards the right of the Confederate
lines, but they withdrew under artillery fire and Meade
decided not to press an attack. A series of sharp exchanges
between the opposing skirmish lines merely added more
names to the casualty lists. By mid-afternoon, the firing
at Gettysburg had essentially stopped, and 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.
On July 5, in a driving rain, the bulk
of the Army of Northern Virginia left Gettysburg on
the Hagerstown Road; the Battle of Gettysburg was over,
and the Confederates headed back to Virginia. Meade's
army followed, although the pursuit was half-spirited.
The recently rain-swollen Potomac trapped Lee's army
on the north bank of the river for a time, but when
the Federals finally caught up, the Confederates had
forded the river.
The rear-guard action at Falling Waters on July 14 ended the
Gettysburg Campaign and added some more names to the long casualty
lists, including General Pettigrew, who was mortally wounded.
In a brief letter to Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck written on
July 7, Lincoln remarked on the two major Union victories
at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. He continued:
Now, if Gen. Meade can complete his work so
gloriously prosecuted thus far, by the literal or substantial
destruction of Lee's army, the rebellion will be over.
Halleck then relayed the contents of Lincoln's letter to
Meade in a telegram. However, despite repeated pleas from
Lincoln and Halleck, which continued over the next week, Meade
did not pursue Lee's army aggressively enough to destroy it
before it crossed back over the Potomac River to safety in
Reaction to the news of the Union victory
The news of the Union victory electrified the North. A headline
in The Philadelphia Inquirer proclaimed "VICTORY! WATERLOO
ECLIPSED!" New York diarist George Templeton Strong wrote:
The results of this victory
are priceless. ... The charm of Robert E. Lee's invincibility
is broken. The Army of the Potomac has at last found
a general that can handle it, and has stood nobly up
to its terrible work in spite of its long disheartening
list of hard-fought failures. ... Copperheads are palsied
and dumb for the moment at least. ... Government is
strengthened four-fold at home and abroad.
George Templeton Strong, Diary,
Impact on the Confederacy
had lost politically as well as militarily. During the
final hours of the battle, Confederate Vice President
Alexander Stephens was approaching the Union lines at
Norfolk, Virginia, under a flag of truce. Although his
formal instructions from Confederate President Jefferson
Davis had limited his powers to negotiations on prisoner
exchanges and other procedural matters, historian James
M. McPherson speculates that he had informal goals of
presenting peace overtures. Davis had hoped that Stephens
would reach Washington from the south while Lee's victorious
army was marching toward it from the north. President
Lincoln, upon hearing of the Gettysburg results, refused
Stephens's request to pass through the lines. Furthermore,
when the news reached London, any lingering hopes of European
recognition of the Confederacy were finally abandoned.
Henry Adams wrote, "The disasters of the rebels are
unredeemed by even any hope of success. It is now conceded
that all idea of intervention is at an end."
"The Harvest of
Death": Union dead on the battlefield at Gettysburg,
Pennsylvania, photographed July 5 or July 6, 1863, by
Timothy H. O'Sullivan.
Some economic historians have pointed to the fact that after
the loss at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the market for Confederate
war bonds dropped precipitously. "European investors
gave Johnny Reb about a 42 percent chance of winning the war
in early 1863 prior to the battle of Gettysburg. ... However,
news of the severity of costly Confederate defeats at Gettysburg/Vicksburg
led to a sell-off in rebel bonds and the probability of a
Southern victory fell to about 15 percent by the end of 1863."
The two armies
had suffered between 46,000 and 51,000 casualties. Union
casualties were 23,055 (3,155 killed, 14,531 wounded,
5,369 captured or missing). Confederate casualties
are more difficult to estimate. Many authors cite about
28,000 overall casualties, but Busey and Martin's definitive
2005 work, Regimental Strengths and Losses, documents
23,231 (4,708 killed, 12,693 wounded, 5,830 captured or
missing). The casualties for both sides during the entire
campaign were 57,225. There was one documented civilian
death during the battle: Ginnie Wade, 20 years old, was
shot by a stray bullet that passed through her kitchen
in town while she was making bread.
Gettysburg National Cemetery
Nearly 8,000 had been killed outright; these bodies, lying in
the hot summer sun, needed to be buried quickly. Over 3,000
horse carcasses were burned in a series of piles south of town;
townsfolk became violently ill from the stench. The ravages
of war would still be evident in Gettysburg more than four months
later when, on November 19, the Soldiers' National Cemetery
was dedicated. During this ceremony, President Abraham Lincoln
with his Gettysburg Address re-dedicated the Union to the war
Today, the Gettysburg National Cemetery and Gettysburg National
Military Park are maintained by the U.S. National Park Service
as two of the nation's most revered historical landmarks.
Assessment of Lee's leadership style
Throughout the campaign, General Lee seemed to have entertained
the belief that his men were invincible; most of Lee's experiences
with the army had convinced him of this, including the great
victory at Chancellorsville in early May and the rout of the
Union troops at Gettysburg on July 1. Although high morale
plays an important role in military victory when other factors
are equal, Lee could not refuse his army's desire to fight.
To the detrimental effects of their collective blind faith
was added the fact that the Army of Northern Virginia had
many new and inexperienced commanders (Neither Hill nor Ewell,
for instance, though capable division commanders, had commanded
a corps before). It had recently lost Stonewall Jackson, one
of its most competent offensive generals. Also, Lee's method
of giving generalized orders and leaving it up to his lieutenants
to work out the details contributed to his defeat. Although
this method may have worked with Jackson, it proved inadequate
when dealing with corps commanders unused to Lee's style of
command. Lee faced dramatic differences in going from defender
to invaderlong supply lines, a hostile local population,
and an imperative to force the enemy from its position. Lastly,
after July 1, the Confederates were simply not able to coordinate
their attacks. Lee faced a new and very dangerous opponent
in George Meade, and the Army of the Potomac stood to the
task and fought well on its home territory.