The Battle of Gettysburg In the summer of 1863, mounting political pressure from Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government pushed General Robert E. Lee to invade Union territory – taking the War to the doorstep of the Union. Jefferson Davis had written and signed a letter addressed to Abraham Lincoln, petitioning an end of the war. It was to be delivered immediately following a significant Southern Victory in Union territory.
In June of 1863, the Army of Northern Virginia (lead by General Robert E. Lee) entered the Northern State of Pennsylvania, the beginning of the Gettysburg Campaign.
In spite of a tired and run-down soldiery, poor battle land choices, and an already entrenched Union Army, Lee yielded to political pressure and engaged the Union army. On July 1, 1863 the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg began.
The battle would wage on for three long, arduous, and blood-thirsty days with significant loss of life on both sides. In spite of definitive Union victories on the first two days of battle, Robert E. Lee would (against the advice of his most experienced battle Generals) order one last-ditch offensive.
On July 3, 1863 more than 12,000 Confederate troops would march unprotected across more than two miles of open land in a vain attempt to break the Union line at Cemetery Ridge. Picket’s Charge, as it is called, would be an abysmal failure, resulting in the destruction of the entire Brigade under Pickett’s command and more than 50% confederate fatalities . After the failed offensive, Lee’s army would hastily retreat to Virginia.
Both sides suffered extreme casualties during the Battle at Gettysburg and the war would continue for another two years. An estimated 50,000 men fell on the battlefield in Pennsylvania, both sides losing more than 20,000 soldiers. It was the single, bloodiest campaign of any American War.
President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the ground as a National Memorial to allof the Americans, both Union and Confederate, who died there and established a Soldiers’ National Cemetery. It was dedicated on November 19, 1863.