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Gettysburg Battlefield Online





3/13/03

 

Gettysburg Battlefield Online


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2/12/03


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Gettysburg shortly after the Battle (1863)


Confedarate Prisoners (1863)

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Birney's Zouaves  The 23rd PA
Twenty Third Pennsylvania

After the battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863, General Robert E. Lee felt that his invinsible army was ready to attack in the North. They began thier march into Pennsylvania in late May and into June in which would be known as the Gettysburg Campaign.

The Army of the Potamac under the command of "Fightin" Joe Hooker, knew that Lee would be on the offensive yet did not know when the strike would come. Lincoln frusterated by Hookers lack of offensive manuvers was meeting with his cabinet on what to do with the situation. On June 9 1863, General Alfred Pleasonton bagan a manuver across the Rappahannock River toward Brandy Station with over Eleven thousand of his calvary troops. He ran into the Calvary under the command of Jeb Stuart ignighting the largest battle between calvary since the war had begun. Though no one in particular had a victory in this calvary battle, The Army of the Potomac now knew where Lee was headed.

Between June 13th and June 26th 1863 hooker moved his army out of the State of Virgina, through Winchester and into the Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania. By that date Jeb Stuart had convinced General Lee that the best move to make would be to take three brigades of cavalry across the Potomac River on the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains screening his calvary from the Union , and cut across Army. He would then attack from the rear of the Federal army.Though on paper this move seemed as if it would work, it never did and Lee without his "eyes" would be affected at the Battle of Gettysburg.

In the last week of June 1863 the Confederate army was concentrated just west of Gettysburg Pennsylvania in Chambersburg and Cashtown. Several time in the last week small goups of Confederate soldiers were sent into the town to scout out the situation and strength of the army of the Potamac.The plan was to take Harrisburg and Lee wanted no surprise attacks from an army he really wasnt sure about. Not having Jeb Stuart was beginning to have an effect on Lee's manuvers. On June 28, Lee had recieved information that the Army of the Potamac was in Frederick Maryland and that Hooker had been replaced by General George Gordon Meade. Lee decided to bring his entire army to the east side of the Blue Ridge Mountains and take the offensive on a battle on a small Pennsylvania town which had a hub of seven roads called Gettysburg.

JULY 1 1863

On July 1st General Hill's men were sent into the town thinking they would meet up against a small force of calvary under John Buford and possibly a few local militia. As the army marched east on the Chambersburg pike, they had no idea that they were about to begin the turning point in the Civil War.

In the early light of the morning the first shots of the battle began about 4 miles east of the town diamond at Marsh Creek. For the next four hours the Confedrates would struggle eastwars as Buford's Dismounted Calvary put up a scrappy fight as they dismounted and fought a much larger force of men. Basically this heroic manuver by Buford was buying precious time for John Reynolds and his infantry force of about 15,000 men to arrive.

Around 10.30 a.m., The First Corps arrived and engaged Henry Heth along McPherson's Ridge.One hour later, Henry Heth had been defeated and forced to withdraw to Herr's Ridge. Early in the actionon the first day near a wooded area just west of the Lutheran Seminary, Gen John Reynolds was killed, and command of the battlefield was given to Howard. As both sides brought up reinforcements there was a suttle quiet that enveloped the Battlefield. The Federal First Corps deployed to defend the western approaches to Gettysburg, while The Eleventh Corps formed up north of the town. John Buford's cavalry covered the flanks of the infantry. Howard left one of his divisions in reserve on Cemetery Hill. His strategy was simple: Buy enogh time for The entire Army to arrive, concentrate and get into position.

General Robert E. Lee arrived on the field around 12:30.His original plan was not to get into an engagement with the enemy since he had no idea of thier strength and the fact that he did not know the ground in and around Gettysburg well.Just before 1 O Clock, Rodes's division of Ewell's Corps arrived on Oak Hill and attacked the right of The First Corps. One hour later. Heth's division joined the attack on the First Corps. At 3 p.m., the battle spread north of the town when Jubal Early's division of Ewell's Corps attacked down the Harrisburg Road and crushed the flank of XI Corps. At about the same time, west of Gettysburg, Pender's division relieved Heth and assaulted I Corps' position along Seminary Ridge. By 4 p.m., both Federal corps were in retreat through Gettysburg to Cemetery Hill. Federal losses numbered slightly over 9,000, including some 3,000 captured, compared with Confederate losses of about 6,500.

The day's action had resulted in a Confederate victory, but Federal forces held onto the high ground south of Gettysburg, where their position was soon strengthened by reinforcements.

JULY 2 1863

The success of his army in the fighting on July 1 encouraged Lee to renew the battle on July 2. An early morning reconnaissance of the Federal left revealed that their line did not extend as far south as Little Round Top. Lee directed Longstreet to take two divisions of I Corps and march south until they reached the flank of the Federal forces. They would attack from this point, supported by a division of A.P. Hill's corps - a total force of nearly 20,000 men. While Longstreet carried out the main offensive, Ewell was ordered to conduct a demonstration against the Federal right. However, he was given discretion to mount a full-scale attack should the opportunity present itself.

The Federal army was well prepared for Lee's offensive. Six of its seven corps had arrived on the battlefield, and VI Corps was making a thirty-six-mile forced march to reach it. Meade had deployed his army in a fish-hook-shaped formation, with the right on Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill, the center along Cemetery Ridge, and the left on Little Round Top. The left of the Federal lin c was held by Major General Daniel Sickles's III Corps. Sickles was dissatisfied with his assigned position and in the early afternoon, without orders, he advanced his line nearly half a mile west in order to take advantage of the high open ground around a nearby peach orchard.

Soon after Sickles took up this new position, Longstreet attacked. Third Corps was hard pressed and Meade sent V Corps and part of 11 Corps to reinforce Sickles in the Peach Orchard. But, after furious fighting, Longstreet's forces broke through, causing Sickles's entire line to collapse. The Confederates pursued to the base of Little Round Top, but Federal reinforcements, including elements of VI Corps, checked their advance. Farther north, elements of a division of the Confederate III Corps advanced to the slopes of Cemetery Ridge before they too were forced to retire.

On the Federal right, Ewell did not attack until evening, after Longstreet's onslaught had subsided. The effort to storm Cemetery Hill was ultimately unsuccessful. Ewell's attacks were also repulsed at Culp's Hill, although a foothold was gained near the base of the hill.

The second day's fighting had cost each army some 9,000 casualties. Lee's forces had again gained ground, but had failed to dislodge the Federal army from its strong position.

JULY 3 1863

Lee's confidence was unshaken by the events of July 2. That night, he ordered Longstreet, who had been reinforced by Major General George Pickett's division, to renew his assault on the Federal left. Simultaneously, Ewell, who had also been reinforced, was to storm Culp's Hill. Stuart's cavalry, which had rejoined the army late that day, was ordered to march well east of Gettysburg, and attempt to penetrate to the Federal rear where they might disrupt communications and distract Meade.

Meanwhile, Meade had determined to hold his position and await Lee's attack. However, at Culp's Hill he authorized XII Corps to drive Ewell's forces out of the captured Federal trenches at daylight. The Federal effort opened with a concentrated artillery bombardment which precipitated a tremendous musketry battle.

With Ewell already engaged, Lee rode to Longstreet's headquarters to observe his preparations for the attack on the Federal left. Longstreet misunderstood his orders and was planning instead a movement to turn the Federal left. With the hope of a coordinated attack now lost, Lee was forced to modify his plans. He determined to shift his main attack to the Federal center on Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet was placed in command of the effort. The plan was first to subject the Federal position to bombardment by nearly 140 cannon, then to send Pickett, Pettigrew and half of Trimble's divisions (formerly Heth's and Pender's) - nearly 12,000 men - forward to smash the Federal center.

While Longstreet made his preparations during the morning, Ewell's forces were defeated in their counterattacks on Culp's Hill, and withdrew around 11:00 a.m.

At l:00 pm, Longstreet opened the great bombardment of the Federal line. The Federal army replied with approximately 80 cannon and a giant duel ensued which lasted for nearly two hours. After the bombardment subsided, the infantry went forward. This has subsequently been known throughout history as "Pickett's Charge."Federal artillery, followed by musketry, cut their formations to pieces and inflicted devastating losses. A small Confederate force effected one small penetration of the Federal line, but was overwhelmed. The attack ended in disaster, with nearly 5,600 Confederate casualties. Meanwhile, three miles east of Gettysburg, Stuart's cavalry was engaged by Federal cavalry under Brigadier General David Gregg. The cavalry clash was indecisive, but Stuart was neutralized and posed no threat to the Federal rear.

The battle was effectively over. Federal losses numbered approximately 23,000, while estimates of Confederate losses range between 20,000 and 28,000.

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