The American Civil War fought from 1861-1865 ranks as the most terrible conflict ever experienced in the Western Hemisphere in recorded history. The Confederate States of America’s War of Secession from the United States of America recorded a total death toll on both sides exceeding 625,000 military personnel killed and 412,200 wounded. Total military casualties exceeded 1,037,200. The number of civilian casualties throughout the Civil War are unknown but most probably exceeded several million as collateral casualties of war, and from disease, and starvation.
In comparison, World War II United States military personnel killed was 416,837 with 683,846 wounded for a total of 1,100,683 casualties. However when the number of American civilian casualties is factored in World War II pales in comparison. The destruction caused to the Southern Confederacy also greatly exceeds the destruction caused to the Continental United States during World War II.
On July 1, 1863 the bloodiest battle ever fought in recorded history in the Western Hemisphere was fought for three days in and around the township of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on the eve of the anniversary of the signing of the American Continental Congress’s adoption of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 4, 1776. This battle of the Confederate States of America‘s attempt to secede from the Union of the United States of America seems to have become a footnote in American Civil War history. Yet, on the eve of “The Battle of Gettysburg‘s” anniversary, this engagement means far more than a turning point in the “War of Secession“. Up to this point, the Confederate States of America had been winning the war against the Union. Robert E. Lee, General of the Army of Northern Virginia for the Confederate States of America, (who became the Confederacy’s closest military adviser to President Jefferson Davis, former Secretary of War of the United States of America), as he won battle after battle against the Union forces of the North until Gettysburg, where he lost his first major, and possibly greatest battle, in a shattering defeat which devastated the Southern States’ psyche in its attempt to secede from the Union.
The American Civil War was not a rebellion of loosely aligned Southern States against a unified U.S. Federal Government. It was a war of armies on both sides made up of numerous regiments from individual states dedicated to the cause of a Union of Northern States versus a Confederacy of Southern States based on whether the law of the Central U.S. Government superseded the rights of States granted under the Constitution of the United States of America. When President Abraham Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, and his final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, President Jefferson Davis and the Southern Confederacy saw it as a supreme threat to the vital security and economy of the Confederacy. This set the stage for the epic Battle of Gettysburg.
General E. Lee was arguably the greatest military mind and field general ever to graduate from the West Point Academy, (Class of 1829). Robert E. Lee served in the United States Army from 1829–1861. Resigning his commission as a colonel on April 20, 1861 for a commission in the Confederate States of America as a colonel and took up command of the Virginia state forces on April 23. During his career in the United States Army he distinguished himself during the Mexican–American War (1846–1848), as a chief aid to Brevet Lieutenant General Winfield Scott:
At the outbreak of the American Civil War, Colonel Robert E. Lee was appointed to command all of Virginia’s forces, but upon the formation of the Confederate States Army, he was named one of its first five full generals. General Lee’s first field assignment was commanding Confederate forces in western Virginia, where he was defeated at the Battle of Cheat Mountain and was widely blamed for Confederate setbacks. Following the wounding of General Joseph E. Johnston at the Battle of Seven Pines, on June 1, 1862, General Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia, his first opportunity to lead an army in the field.
In the spring of 1862, as part of the Peninsula Campaign, the Union Army of the Potomac under Major General George B. McClellan advanced upon Richmond from Fort Monroe, eventually reaching the eastern edges of the Confederate capital along the Chickahominy River. General Lee then launched a series of attacks, the Seven Days Battles, against General McClellan’s forces. General Lee’s assaults resulted in heavy Confederate casualties. They were marred by clumsy tactical performances by his division commanders, but his aggressive actions unnerved General McClellan, who retreated to a point on the James River and abandoned the Peninsula Campaign.
After General McClellan’s retreat, General Lee defeated another Union army under the command of Union General John Pope at the Second Battle of Bull Run also known as the Battle of Second Manassas. Within 90 days of taking command, General Lee had run Union General McClellan off the Peninsula, defeated General Pope at the Second Battle of Bull Run and had moved the battle lines from 6 miles outside Richmond, to 20 miles outside of Washington D.C..
General Lee then invaded Maryland, hoping to replenish his supplies and possibly influence the Northern elections to fall in favor of ending the war. General McClellan’s men recovered a lost order that revealed General Lee’s plans. General McClellan, however, was too slow in moving, not realizing General Lee had been informed by a spy that General McClellan knew of his plans. General Lee urgently recalled Lieutenant General (CSA) Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, concentrating his forces west of Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg, Maryland. In the bloodiest day of the war thus far, (The Battle of Antietam, also known as Battle of Sharpsburg), both sides suffered enormous losses. General Lee miraculously withstood the Union assaults. His army severely battered, General Lee withdrew back to Virginia.
When President Abraham Lincoln used the Confederate reversal as an opportunity to announce the Emancipation Proclamation putting the Confederacy on the diplomatic and moral defensive, and would ultimately devastate the Confederacy’s slave-based economy. Disappointed by General McClellan’s failure to destroy General Lee’s army, President Lincoln named General Ambrose Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac. General Burnside ordered an attack across the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg. Delays in building bridges across the river allowed General Lee’s army ample time to organize strong defenses, and the frontal assault by Union forces on December 13, 1862, was a disaster for the Union. There were 12,600 Union casualties to 5,000 Confederate; one of the most “one-sided battles” in the Civil War.
After the bitter Union defeat at Fredericksburg, President Lincoln named General Joseph Hooker commander of the Army of the Potomac. General Hooker’s advance to attack General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in May, 1863, near Chancellorsville, Virginia, was defeated by General Lee and his famed General, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s daring plan to divide the army by attacking Union General Hooker’s flank. It was a victory over a larger force, but it also came with high casualties. It was particularly costly in one respect: General Lee’s finest corps commander, General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, was accidentally fired upon by his own troops. Weakened by his wounds, he succumbed to pneumonia. The loss of General Thomas Jackson may have been General Lee’s greatest loss until the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Battle of Gettysburg, July 1–3, 1863, Adams County, Pennsylvania
Battle of Gettysburg by Currier and Ives
The Battle of Gettysburg, was fought July 1–3, 1863, in Adams County and in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War, it is often described as the war’s turning point. Union Major General 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 Union North.
Up to this point in the American Civil War, the General of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee, had not lost any military actions or battles which jeopardized the Confederates Army of Northern Virginia during the war. Robert E. Lee is arguably the greatest general ever to graduate from West Point. Yet he lost the Battle of Gettysburg because he ignored several Sun Tzu fundamentals of war.
Sun Tzu’s Essence of War
General Robert E. Lee’s strategy was to deceive the Army of the Potomac by feinting a direct attack on Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as it was a predominant strategic objective. Harrisburg was a significant training center for the Union Army, with tens of thousands of troops passing through Camp Curtin. It was also a major rail center and a vital link between the Atlantic coast and the Midwest, with several railroads running through the city and over the Susquehanna River. From Harrisburg, General Lee would have access to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania’s coal mining and steel manufacturing mills and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s industrial armory manufacturing. General Lee would be able to cut-off weapons and munitions supplies from the Springfield Armory in Springfield, Pennsylvania, thus crippling the entire Union Armies’ supply lines.
General Robert E. Lee’s true strategic objective to divert the Union Army of the Potomac to engage his attack on Harrisburg, Pennsylvania would leave the Capital of Washington, D.C.. in Maryland, on the border with Virginia, defenseless to an attack by Robert E. Lee’s Army’s main body. General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate States of America’s President Jefferson Davis believed that if they captured the Union’s Capital City, President Abraham Lincoln, and Congress, that the war would be ended with the unconditional surrender of the Union and the recognition of the Confederate States of America.
However, General Robert E. Lee was unaware that in a dispute over the use of the forces defending the Harpers Ferry garrison, Major General Joseph Hooker Commander of the Army of the Potomac offered his resignation, and President Lincoln and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, who were looking for an excuse to get rid of General Hooker, immediately accepted. They replaced General Hooker early on the morning of June 28, 1863 with Major General George Gordon Meade, then commander of the V Corps of the Army of the Potomac, making him Commanding General of the Union’s Army of the Potomac.
Sun Tzu’s Essence of War
General Lee’s strategy was founded on the premise that Major General Joseph Hooker would panic, and break Sun Tzu’s axiom by “fighting first than seeking victory”, by trying to defend Harrisburg thus leaving Washington D.C. virtually defenseless. In the end, General Robert E. Lee was the one to make that very same error in judgement by “fighting first than seeking victory” at the Battle of Gettysburg.
On June 29, when General Lee learned that the Army of the Potomac had crossed the Potomac River, he ordered a concentration of his forces around Cashtown, located at the eastern base of South Mountain and eight miles west of Gettysburg.
Knowing General Lee could either take Harrisburg, Pennsylvania or Washington, D.C. in Virginia, Major General George G. Meade conferred with his staff to decide how to defend against General Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania. On June 30, 1863, under orders from General George G. Meade, Brigadier General John Buford of the Union Army, arrived south of the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Also on June 30, Confederate Brigadier General J. Johnston Pettigrew, ventured toward Gettysburg to search for supplies, in particular shoes for his barefoot troops, in the town of Gettysburg, under the orders of Major General Henry Heth, his division commander.
Despite General Lee’s order to avoid a general engagement until his entire army was concentrated, Confederate Major General Heth’s commanding officer, Lieutenant General 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 (Brigadier General John Buford of the Union Army). Around 5 a.m. on Wednesday, July 1, two brigades of Confederate General Heth’s division advanced to Gettysburg.
Battle of Gettysburg, First Day, July 1, 1863
The Battle Field Of Gettysburg July 1863
Anticipating that the Confederates would march on Gettysburg from the west on the morning of July 1, Union Brigadier General John Buford laid out his defenses on three ridges west of the town: Herr Ridge, McPherson Ridge, and Seminary Ridge. These were appropriate terrain for a delaying action by his small cavalry division against superior Confederate infantry forces, and was 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. Brigadier General John Buford understood that if the Confederates could gain control of these heights, General Meade’s army would have significant difficulty dislodging them. And if General Lee placed a battery of cannons in these positions they could rain down death and destruction on Union forces attempting to retake these strategic positions.
Sun Tzu’s Essence of War
Union Brigadier General John Buford used Mark McNeilly‘s fourth and fifth principles of his publication “Sun Tzu and The Art of Modern Warfare” (“Speed and Preparation” to “Prepare the Battlefield”), and Sun Tzu’s axiom’s 7, 9, and 10 (“bring their enemy to the field of battle”; “only fight if a position or objective is critical!”; and “Hold the high ground to maintain an advantage over the enemy”. Being confronted by superior forces, General Buford chose to defend the high ground, in a holding action, waiting for the Union I Corps commanded by Major General John F. Reynolds to reinforce him and cover his flank.
Map of Battle of Gettysburg Map – July 1, 1863
Major General Heth’s Confederate division advanced with two brigades forward, commanded by Brigadier Generals James J. Archer and Joseph R. Davis. They proceeded easterly in columns along the Chambersburg Pike. Eventually, General Heth’s men reached dismounted troopers of Colonel William Gamble‘s cavalry brigade, who raised determined resistance and delaying tactics from behind fence posts with fire from their breechloading carbines. Still, by 10:20 a.m., the Confederates had pushed the Union cavalrymen east to McPherson Ridge, at which time the vanguard of the Union I Corps lead by Major General John F. Reynolds finally reinforced Colonel Gamble’s tattered cavalry brigade.
North of the pike, Confederate General Davis gained a temporary success against Union Brigadier General 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, General Archer’s Confederate brigade assaulted through McPherson’s Woods. The Federal Iron Brigade under Union Brigadier General Solomon Meredith enjoyed initial success against General Archer’s attacks, and captured several hundred men, including Brigadier General Archer himself.
Union Major General Reynolds of I Corps was shot and killed early in the fighting while directing troop and artillery placements just to the east of the woods. Shelby Foote wrote that “the Union cause lost a man considered by many to be the best general in the army.” Union Major General Abner Doubleday assumed command of I Corps. 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 General Pettigrew and Colonel John M. Brockenbrough.
As Brigadier General Pettigrew’s North Carolina Brigade came on line, they flanked the Union’s 19th Indiana and drove the Iron Brigade back. The 26th North Carolina (the largest regiment in the Confederate 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 regiment, North or South. Slowly the Iron Brigade was pushed out of the woods toward Seminary Ridge. Confederate Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell Hill, added Major General William Dorsey Pender‘s division to the assault, and the Union I Corps was driven back through the grounds of the Lutheran Seminary and into Gettysburg’s streets.
As the fighting to the west proceeded, two divisions of Confederate Lieutenant General Richard Stoddert Ewell‘s Second Corps, marching west toward Cashtown in accordance with General 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 commanded by Major General Oliver O. Howard raced north on the Baltimore Pike and Taneytown Road. By early afternoon, the Union’s line ran in a semicircle west, north, and northeast of Gettysburg.
The Union forces did not have enough troops; Union Brigadier General Lysander Cutler, was deployed north of the Chambersburg Pike, with his right flank unprotected. The leftmost division of the Union XI Corps was unable to deploy in time to strengthen the line, so Major General Abner Doubleday was forced to throw in reserve brigades to salvage his line.
Around 2 p.m., the Confederate Second Corps divisions of Major Generals Robert E. Rodes and Jubal Early assaulted and out-flanked the Union I and XI Corps positions north and northwest of town. The Confederate brigades of Colonel Edward A. O’Neal and Brigadier General Alfred Iverson suffered severe losses assaulting the Union I Corps division of Brigadier General John C. Robinson south of Oak Hill. General Early’s division profited from a blunder by Union Brigadier General 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); creating a protrusion in the line, (open to flanking attacks from both sides), and General Early’s troops overran General Barlow’s division, which constituted the right flank of the Union Army’s position. General Barlow was wounded and captured in the attack.
As Union positions collapsed both north and west of town, forcing Major General Howard to order a retreat to the high ground south of town at Cemetery Hill, where he had left the division of Brigadier General Adolph von Steinwehr in reserve.
Due to the setbacks of the Union forces to mount effective defenses Major General Winfield S. Hancock assumed command of the battlefield. Sent by General Meade when he heard that General Reynolds had been killed, Major General Hancock, commander of the II Corps and Meade’s most trusted subordinate, was ordered to take command of the field and to determine whether Gettysburg was an appropriate place for a major battle. General Hancock proved to be worthy of the task of mounting the proper defenses of General Lee’s strategy to destroy the Union Army of the Potomac.
General Hancock quickly deduced that Little Round Top, Culp’s Hill, and Cemetery Hill would provide the Union forces a formidable position to anchor its defenses against the onslaught to come from General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Major General Hancock used Sun Tzu’s axioms 5,7, 9 and 10 to form his strategy to prepare the battlefield and dictate the terms of combat to the enemy with speed and preparation to overcome resistance.
Sun Tzu’s Essence of War
Confederate Lieutenant General Hill’s blatant disregard to General Robert E. Lee’s standing order “not to engage the enemy” disregarded not only the chain of command but also Sun Tzu’s axioms 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 13. Lieutenant General Hill’s numerical advantage, previous string of victories, and hubris contributed to his complete disregard of Mark McNeilly’s sixth principle “Character-Based Leadership: Leading by Example”. Although the Confederates gained terrain on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Sun Tzu’s axiom 13 “Some ground should not be contested if it has no tactical or strategic advantage!” was totally disregarded. The Confederate advantage on the first day of the battle provided no strategic advantage in obtaining General Lee’s objective to capture Washington D.C.
The first day at Gettysburg, more significant than simply a prelude to the bloody second and third days, ranks as the 23rd largest 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. Confederate Lieutenant General Hill seemed to completely disregard Sun Tzu’s 5th axiom “The winning army realizes the conditions for victory first, then fights!”.
Battle of Gettysburg, Second Day, July 2, 1863
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. Confederate Lieutenant General Longstreet’s third division, commanded by Major General George Pickett, had begun the march from Chambersburg early in the morning; it did not arrive until late on July 2.
Map of The Battle of Gettysburg Map on July 2, 1863
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 along Cemetery Ridge, terminating just north of Little Round Top. Most of the Union XII Corps was on Culp’s Hill; the remnants of the Union I and XI Corps defended Cemetery Hill; Union II Corps covered most of the northern half of Cemetery Ridge; and Union 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 to the west on Seminary Ridge, ran east through the town, then curved southeast to a point opposite Culp’s Hill. Thus, the Union army had interior lines, while the Confederate line was nearly five miles long.
General Robert E. Lee’s battle plan for July 2 called for Lieutenant General James 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 progressive en echelon sequence of this attack would prevent Union General George Meade from shifting troops from his center to bolster his left flank. At the same time, Confederate Major General Edward “Allegheny” Johnson’s and Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s Second Corps divisions were to make a feint against Culp’s and Cemetery Hills (again, to prevent the shifting of Union troops), and to turn the feint into a full-scale attack if a favorable opportunity presented itself.
General Robert E. Lee’s strategy was based on faulty intelligence. Instead of moving beyond the Union’s left and attacking their flank, Confederate Lieutenant General Longstreet’s left division would face the Union Major General Daniel Sickles‘s III Corps directly in their path. General Sickles had been dissatisfied with the position assigned him on the southern end of Cemetery Ridge. Seeing higher ground more favorable to artillery positions a half mile to the west, he advanced his corps—without orders—to 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. However, this created an untenable position at the Peach Orchard. Union Brigadier General Andrew A. Humphreys‘s division (in position along the Emmitsburg Road) and Major General 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.
Attack on the Union Left Flank
Map of The Battle of Gettysburg for Left Flank Union Army on July 2, 1863
As Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s divisions slammed into the Union III Corps, Major General George Meade was forced to send 20,000 reinforcements in the form of the entire V Corps, Brigadier General 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 General Lee’s plan since Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood‘s division moved more easterly than intended, losing its alignment with the Emmitsburg Road, attacking Devil’s Den and Little Round Top. Confederate Major General Lafayette McLaws, coming in on Confederate Lieutenant General Hood’s left, drove multiple attacks into the thinly stretched Union III Corps in the Wheatfield and overwhelmed them in Sherfy’s Peach Orchard.
Confederate Major General McLaws’s attack eventually reached Plum Run Valley (the “Valley of Death”) before being beaten back by the Union’s Pennsylvania Reserves division of the V Corps, moving down from Little Round Top. The Union III Corps was virtually destroyed as an effective combat unit in this battle, and General Sickles’s leg was amputated after it was shattered by a cannonball. Union Brigadier General John Curtis Caldwell‘s division was destroyed piecemeal in the Wheatfield. Confederate Lieutenant General Richard H. Anderson‘s division, coming from Major General McLaws’s left and starting forward around 6 p.m., reached the crest of Cemetery Ridge, but it could not hold the position in the face of counterattacks from the Union II Corps, including an almost suicidal bayonet charge by the small 1st Minnesota regiment against a Confederate brigade, ordered in desperation by Major General Winfield Scott Hancock to buy time for reinforcements to arrive.
Bayonet Charge of the Union’s 20th Maine from Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg
As fighting raged in the Wheatfield and Devil’s Den, Union Colonel 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 Confederate Brigadier General Evander M. Law‘s brigade of Lieutenant General Hood’s division. General George Meade’s chief engineer, Brigadier General Gouverneur K. Warren, had realized the importance of this position, and dispatched Colonel Vincent’s brigade, an artillery battery, and the 140th New York to occupy Little Round Top mere minutes before Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood’s troops arrived. The defense of Little Round Top with a bayonet charge by the Union’s 20th Maine was one of the most fabled episodes in the American Civil War.
Attack on the Union Right Flank
The Battle of Gettysburg July 2, 1863 – Union breastworks Culp Hill on Right Flank
About 7:00 p.m., the Union Second Corps’ attack by Confederate Major General Edward “Allegheny” 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 Confederate Lieutenant General Longstreet’s attacks, and the only portion of the corps remaining on the hill was a Union brigade of New Yorkers under Brigadier General George S. Greene. Because of General Greene’s insistence on constructing strong defensive works, and with reinforcements from the I and XI Corps, General Greene’s men held off the Confederate attackers, although the Southerners did capture a portion of the abandoned Union defensive positions on the lower part of Culp’s Hill.
At first dark, two of Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early‘s brigades attacked the Union XI Corps positions on East Cemetery Hill where Union Colonial Andrew L. Harris of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, came under a withering attack, losing half his men; however, Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early failed to support his brigades in their attack, and Confederate Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell‘s remaining division, that of Major General Robert E. Rodes, failed to aid Lieutenant General Jubal 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 the Union II Corps, the Union troops retained possession of East Cemetery Hill, and Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s brigades were forced to withdraw.
Battle of Gettysburg, Third Day, July 3, 1863
Painting of The Battle of Gettysburg July 3, 1863 by Currier and Ives
Confederate General Robert E. Lee wished to renew the attack on Friday, July 3, using the same basic plan as the previous day: Lieutenant General James Longstreet would attack the Union’s left defensive position, while Lieutenant General Richard Ewell attacked Culp’s Hill. However, before Lieutenant General James 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.
Unable to fully control Culp’s Hill, General Lee should have recalled Napoleon Bonaparte’s situation at the Battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815. As Napoleon Bonaparte had believed at the Battle of Waterloo versus the British under the command of the Duke of Wellington, General Robert E Lee believed if he could break through the center of the Union’s defenses and roll up through the lines of defense to the left he could collapse the entire Union defensive positions.
Sun Tzu’s Essence of War
General Robert E. Lee completely ignored all the axioms of Sun Tzu, as Napoleon Bonaparte had, and he completely ignored Mark McNeilly’s 4th principle of preparedness and Sun Tzu’s “understanding of your enemies alliances and resources”. General Lee also ignored Su Tzu’s 9th axiom “Only fight if a position or objective is critical!”. The town of Gettysburg had no strategic value to General Lee’s plans. But like Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo he still decided to press the attack.
As Brigadier General Hermann Haupt had assisted the Union Army of Virginia and Army of the Potomac in the Northern Virginia Campaign and the Maryland Campaign, he was particularly effective in supporting the Gettysburg Campaign, conducted in an area he knew well from his youth. During the Battle of Gettysburg, General Haupt hastily organized trains which kept the Union Army well supplied, and he organized the returning trains to carry thousands of Union wounded to hospitals. After the battle, Haupt boarded one of his trains and arrived at the White House on July 6, 1863, being the first to inform President Lincoln that General Lee’s defeated army was not being pursued vigorously by Union Major General Meade.
As Napoleon knew the Prussian Army was closing in on his army to re-enforce the Duke of Wellington and the British, General Robert E. Lee knew General George G. Meade and the Army of the Potomac was being resupplied with troops, weapons, and munitions from the railroad yards in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Map of The Battle of Gettysburg Map on July 3, 1863
Without full control of Culp’s Hill, General Robert E Lee was forced to change his plans. General Lee ordered Lieutenant General James Longstreet to mount a major offensive against Major General George G. Meade’s Union positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Its futility was questioned by the General James Longstreet, and was arguably an avoidable mistake from which the Southern war effort never fully recovered psychologically. Historians have questioned if Lieutenant General James Longstreet had the resolve to personally issue the fateful orders to Major General George Edward Pickett to have his Virginia division, of First Corps, plus six brigades from Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell Hill‘s Corps, attack the Union 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 Union positions was used to bombard and weaken the Union’s center of its defensive line. 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 Union Army of the Potomac’s artillery, under the command of Brigadier General Henry Jackson Hunt, at first did not return the enemy’s fire. After waiting about 15 minutes, approximately 80 Union cannons returned fire. The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was critically low on artillery ammunition, and their cannonade barrage did not significantly affect the Union defensive positions.
Painting of Pickett’s Charge at The Battle of Gettysburg July 3, 1863
Around 3 p.m., the cannon fire subsided, and 12,500 Confederate soldiers stepped from the ridgeline and advanced the three-quarters of a mile 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 artillery positions on Cemetery Hill and north of Little Round Top, and rifled musket and canon canister fire from Major General Hancock‘s II Corps. In the Union center, the commander of artillery had held fire during the Confederate bombardment, leading Confederate commanders to believe the Union cannon batteries had been knocked out. However, they opened fire on the Confederate infantry during their approach with devastating results using canister grapeshot munitions. Nearly one half of the Confederate attackers did not return to their own lines. Although the Union 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, Union reinforcements rushed into the breach, and the Confederate attack was repulsed. The farthest advance of Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead‘s brigade of Major General George Pickett’s division at the Angle is referred to as the “High-water mark of the Confederacy”, arguably representing the closest the Confederacy ever came to its goal of achieving independence from the Union via military victory.
Gettysburg Map of Union and Confederate Positions and Calvary Engagements
There were two significant cavalry engagements on July 3. Major General James Ewell Brown “Jeb” 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 Union right and hitting their train railways and lines of communications. Three miles east of Gettysburg, in what is now called “East Cavalry Field”, Major General Jeb Stuart’s forces collided with Union cavalry: Brigadier General David McMurtrie Gregg’s division and Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer‘s brigade. A lengthy mounted battle, including hand-to-hand sabre combat, ensued. General Custer’s charge, leading the 1st Michigan Cavalry, blunted the attack by Lieutenant General Wade Hampton‘s brigade, blocking Major General Jeb Stuart from achieving his objectives in the Union rear.
After hearing news of the day’s victory, Union Brigadier General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick launched a cavalry attack against the infantry positions of Lieutenant General Longstreet’s Corps southwest of Big Round Top. Ordered to hold his position on the lower earthen works of Big Round Top, Union Brigadier General Elon J. Farnsworth protested against the futility of such a move but obeyed his orders. Farnsworth was killed in the attack, and his brigade suffered significant losses.
- General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia’s Withdrawal – July 5-14, 1863
Map of The Battle of Gettysburg Confederate Retreat – July 5-14, 1863
General Lee started his Army of Northern Virginia in motion late the evening of July 4 towards Fairfield
and Chambersburg. Cavalry under Brigadier General John D. Imboden
was entrusted to escort the miles-long wagon train of supplies and wounded men that General Lee wanted to take back to Virginia with him, using the route through Cashtown and Hagerstown to Williamsport, Maryland
. General Meade’s Army of the Potomac followed, although the pursuit was not pursued with any great fervor as the Union forces were exhausted. The recently rain-swollen Potomac trapped General Lee’s army on the north bank of the river for a time, but when the Union forces finally caught up, the Confederates had forded the river. The rear-guard action at Falling Waters
on July 14 added some more names to the long casualty lists, including General Pettigrew, who was mortally wounded.
It is argued by historians as to whether The Battle of Gettysburg was a decisive victory for the Union forces. Up until Gettysburg the Confederate States of America was winning the Confederate States of America’s War of Succession. If Gettysburg is not considered a decisive victory it most certainly should be considered the turning point of the Civil War.
The American Civil War, as it became known, lasted two more years. The Confederacy never again held the advantage. But the remainder of the war grew brutal and ever so more personal then it had been prior to and during its first two years. Even today the slogan “The Confederacy will rise again!” rings out in many of the original states of the Confederate States of America.
- General George G. Meade – Commander of the Army of the Potomac
General George Meade remained Commander of the Army of the Potomac until March 1864. President Abraham Lincoln appointed Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant Commander of all Union armies in his stead.
President Abraham Lincoln never forgave General George Meade for not destroying the Army of Northern Virginia and allowing General Robert E. Lee to escape with his army across the Potomac River into Virginia causing the American Civil War to continue for another two years. General Robert E. Lee’s withdrawal began on July 5 of 1863 and took till July 14 to complete.
- On January 31, 1865, General Robert E. Lee was promoted to general-in-chief of Confederate forces.
This was a desperate act by Confederate President Jefferson Davis to bolster the moral of the Confederate Troops as Union Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, under orders from General Ulysses S. Grant, ripped through the Southern Confederacy destroying and burning everything in his path in particular the total destruction of Atlanta, Georgia by razing and burning the city to the ground on September 2, 1864 and culminating with his “March to the Sea” and taking the strategic port city of Savannah, Georgia on November 16, 1864 and ended with the capture of the port of Savannah on December 21, 1864; when on December 13, William B. Hazen’s division of General Oliver Otis Howard‘s army stormed Fort McAllister, guarding the Ogeechee River, south of Savannah, in the Battle of Fort McAllister and captured it within 15 minutes. With the taking of the Port of Savannah, the Union Fleet was able to resupply, re-equip, and reinforce Major General Sherman’s army.
Most historian’s, (probably from the North), downplay the total destruction of Atlanta, Georgia, as only the destruction of approximately 30% of the city. However, it is more likely that the firestorm that ensued in Atlanta could have destroyed as much as 65% of the city. This would have severally crippled the remaining 35%, and most certainly ruined the Confederacy’s principal source of supplies to the Armies of the Confederacy. Atlanta, Georgia was comparable to the Union’s Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as the major lynch-pin to the logistical support of their armies.
General Sherman then set into motion the plans of General Ulysses S. Grant to trap Richmond Virginia and General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in a pincer maneuver.
General Lee’s army, thinned by desertion and casualties, was now much smaller than General Grant’s. Union forces won a decisive victory at the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865 forcing Lee to evacuate Petersburg and Richmond.
With an Army of 60,000 Union infantry and cavalry, General Sherman would have to move north towards Richmond, Virginia, through South Carolina and North Carolina. General Sherman was particularly interested in targeting South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, because of the effect that it would have on Southern morale. Upon taking the capital city of Columbia, South Carolina, General Sherman’s troops, without orders from General Sherman, put the capital city to the torch burning it to the ground. General Sherman proceeded through central South Carolina cutting a swath of destruction to all war and economic facilities and materials in the state.
Upon reaching North Carolina, General Sherman ordered his troops to exercise restraint, as North Carolina had shown serious reservations about seceding from the Union by a voting to secede by a narrow majority. General Sherman’s army met surprised resistance from Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, under orders from General Robert E. Lee, to stop the advance of General Sherman’s Union Army. With only 22,000 infantry and cavalry, on March 19, 1865, General Johnston was able to catch the left-wing of General Sherman’s army by surprise at the Battle of Bentonville and briefly gained some tactical successes before superior numbers forced him to retreat to Raleigh, North Carolina. Unable to secure the capital, General Johnston’s army withdrew to Greensboro.
The Confederacy never recovered from the Battle of Gettysburg and slowly deteriorated till its surrender by General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865 to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant
, General of the Army of the Union, at the McLean House in the village of Appomattox Court House. Once General Sherman’s Army reached the East Coast and established contact with the Union Fleet. Union victory appeared certain, and Lincoln resolved to attempt a negotiated end to the war with the Confederates.
He enlisted Francis Preston Blair
to carry a message to Jefferson Davis. President Davis appointed three Commissioners, who were sent to Grant to arrange a peace conference. Meanwhile, Lincoln sent Secretary of State Seward and his emissary Major Thomas T. Eckert
to Hampton Roads to facilitate a meeting. Eckert met with the Confederate Commissioners and insisted that they acknowledge that “one common country” was to be the subject of the conference. This brought matters to a halt; General Grant contacted President Lincoln directly and he agreed to personally meet with the Commissioners at Fort Monroe. Though Grant was pivotal in arranging the peace conference, it ultimately yielded no results; but Grant had demonstrated a remarkable willingness and ability to assume a diplomatic role beyond his normal military posture.
After learning of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House
on April 9, General Johnston agreed to meet with General Sherman between the lines at a small farm known as Bennett Place near present day Durham, North Carolina
. After three separate days (April 17, 18, and 26, 1865) of negotiations, Johnston surrendered the Army of Tennessee and all remaining Confederate forces still active in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. It was the largest surrender of the war, totaling 89,270 soldiers.General Robert E. Lee was arguably the greatest military mind to graduate from The United States Military Academy at West Point. He was a top graduate of the Academy graduating second in his class of 1829.
After General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox he faded from history. Yet his rival Ulysses S. Grant became the 18th President of the United States. Ulysses S. Grant graduated 21st in his class from The United States Military Academy at West Point in 1843.
While General Robert E. Lee was always regarded as an officer and gentleman of the highest honor, Ulysses S. Grant’s Presidential Administration was one of the most corrupt in United States history.
- Confederate President Jefferson Davis
Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his wife were captured on May 10, 1865, at Irwinville in Irwin County, Georgia. On May 19, 1865, Davis was imprisoned in a casemate at Fortress Monroe, on the coast of Virginia. He was placed in irons for three days. Jefferson Davis was indicted for treason a year later. After two years of imprisonment, Davis was released on bail of $100,000, which was posted by prominent citizens of both Northern and Southern states, including Horace Greeley, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Gerrit Smith. Jefferson Davis visited Canada, Cuba and Europe in search of work. In December 1868 the court rejected a motion to nullify the indictment, but the prosecution dropped the case in February 1869. Falling into obscurity, Jefferson Davis completed A Short History of the Confederate States of America in October 1889. He died at age 81 at 12:45 AM on Friday, December 6, 1889, in the presence of several friends and with his hand in his wife Varina’s.
- President Abraham Lincoln
After being in a coma for nine hours, President Abraham Lincoln died at 7:22 am on April 15 1865, after John Wilkes Booth crept up from behind and at about 10:13 pm, aimed a derringer at the back of the President’s head and fired at point-blank range, mortally wounding the President while he and his wife attended a play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. on April 14.
John Wilkes Booth, believed to be a member of “The Knights of the Golden Circle”, was finally trapped and fatally wounded in the neck, by Union troops, and was dragged from the barn to the porch of the Richard H. Garrett’s farm, just south of Port Royal, Caroline County, Virginia, where he died three hours later, on April 24, 1865, at the age of 26. The bullet had pierced three vertebrae and partially severed his spinal cord, paralyzing him. In his dying moments, he reportedly whispered, “Tell my mother I died for my country”.
John Wilkes Booth was not readily forgotten. Frank and Jesse James, of the famed “James and Younger Gang”, continued to fight a guerrilla war against the Federal Government for several years as members of “The Knights of the Golden Circle” by robbing banks and payroll shipments owned by Northern Carpetbaggers and Railroad Robber Barons to provide capital for the rising of a new Confederacy. There efforts to the call that “The South Shall Rise Again!” ended in failure.
Many secret and secretive organizations still exist today in an attempt to reform the Confederate States of America – CSA. Some of these organizations are:
- The Order of the Knights of the Golden Circle – also known of the KGC
- The Ku Klux Klan – also known as the KKK
- The Church of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
- The Knights of the White Camelia
- The Invisible Empire
- The Nine Nations of North America
- Casualties of The Battle of Gettysburg
How Many People Died In The Battle Of Gettysburg?
The two armies suffered between 46,000 and 51,000 casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg. Union casualties were 23,055 (3,155 killed, 14,531 wounded, 5,369 captured or missing), while Confederate casualties are more difficult to estimate. Many authors have referred to as many as 28,000 Confederate casualties, but Busey and Martin’s more recent definitive 2005 work, “Regimental Strengths and Losses”, documents 23,231 (4,708 killed, 12,693 wounded, 5,830 captured or missing). Nearly a third of General Robert E. Lee’s general officers were killed, wounded, or captured. The casualties for both sides during the entire campaign were 57,225.
The total number of Union and Confederate forces officially killed at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania probably exceeded 8,000 dead. If the count of those missing in action, (Union missing 5369 and Confederate missing 5827), could represent as many as were captured for a total of 11,196). Since most prisoners of war perished in prison camps both North and South it could be concluded that the total number of forces which died because of The Battle of Gettysburg could have easily exceeded 14,000.
The Battle of Gettysburg was the single most bloody battle of the American Civil War. This battle which occurred from the July 1-3, 1863 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania resulted in 51,000 casualties of which 28,000 were Confederate soldiers. Even though the Union was considered the winner of the battle the war continued for two more years.
The Battle of Gettysburg was the single most bloodiest battle ever recorded on American soil.
The following tables summarize casualties by corps for the Union and Confederate forces during the three day battle.