The Battle of Gettysburg took place on July 1-3, 1863 in and near the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This battle was one of the most important battles of the Civil War for the North. Robert E. Lee had invaded the North and was trying to defeat the Union Army once and for all. However, the Union Army held him off and sent him retreating. This was a major turning point in the war.
The Confederate Army was led by General Robert E. Lee along with General's Longstreet and Pickett. The Union Army was led by General George Meade.
The Battle took place over three days. On the first day the armies were still coming together. The Confederates outnumbered the Union the first day and caused them to retreat through the town of Gettysburg to the south side of town. General Lee wanted his men to continue the attack and finish off the Union troops. However, his men delayed and the Union had the opportunity to dig in and set up their defenses.
By the second day, the armies from both sides were now at full force. The Union had around 94,000 soldiers and the Confederates around 72,000. Lee attacked and there was fierce fighting throughout the day with both sides taking heavy losses. The Union lines held.
First page of John Hay's draft of the Gettysburg Address from the Library of Congress
The third day, General Lee decided to make an all or nothing attack. He felt if he could win this battle, the South would win the war. He sent General Pickett, with 12,500 men, on a direct charge at the heart of the Union Army. This famous attack is called Pickett's Charge. Pickett's men were defeated with over half of them injured or killed. General Lee and the Confederate Army retreated.
The Battle of Gettysburg was the deadliest battle of the Civil War. There were around 46,000 casualties including nearly 8,000 deaths.
After the Battle
General Meade and the Union Army were exhausted and had many casualties and deaths of their own to deal with. They did not pursue Lee's Army. President Lincoln was disappointed that Meade did not pursue General Lee as he felt the entire Confederate army could have been defeated and the war ended that day.
Later that year, on November 1, 1863, President Lincoln attended the dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. His speech was short and lasted only two minutes. Not much was thought of the speech at the time, but today it is considered one of the greatest speeches ever given.