The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most pivotal battles in the Civil War. It’s considered a turning point, because after it was over, the Union gained the momentum needed to propel its forces through the rest of the war, successfully forcing Robert E. Lee to surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.
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Between July 1 and 3 in 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg took place. There were numerous skirmishes over the three days, starting with ones on the ridges located on the west side of the city. These ridges – Seminary Ridge, Herr Ridge, and McPherson Ridge, are where the Union placed its troops, figuring that the Confederacy would head straight for the highest ground, thus giving themselves a tactical advantage. This was exactly what happened. Confederate troops went straight towards those ridges, and eventually overcame the Union’s defenses. The Union army wound up retreating yet another hilly location – Cemetery Hill. In the process, men on both sides died, but the casualties were nothing like what was to come in the next two days.
On day two of the battle, the Union held the high ground at Cemetery Hill, while the Confederate army attacked them from almost all sides. This battle was held slightly south of Gettysburg proper, although the townspeople still had to deal with being invaded. Additional troops were called in to help the Confederate hold the hill, although some, such as the three cavalry brigades under Jeb Stuart, didn’t arrive until too late in the day to fight. They saved their manpower (and horse power) for the next day, when the Confederacy tried again. Despite their best efforts, they couldn’t make the Union soldiers budge, and the north remained in charge of Cemetery Hill.
Day three involved even more fighting, as the Union fortified their holdings and extended their reach down from Cemetery Hill to Little Round Top. An additional regiment was stationed to the south, ready and waiting to advance and attack any Confederate troops trying to dislodge the Union from the west. This worked, and the Union won the battle, although not before the infamous Pickett’s Charge, where the Confederates tried one last time to overpower them.
In all, the three day battle led to quite a number of casualties on both sides. The Union lost 23,000 men. Of that, 3,155 died, the rest were wounded or captured. The Confederates also lost around 23,000, however, Lee’s officers were decimated – over 1/3 of them were either captured, wounded or killed in the battle.