Important PA Battles & Skirmishes
July 1-3, 1863
The Battle of Gettysburg was fought between General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, about 75,000 strong, and Major General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac, 90,000 strong. Lee hoped an offensive operation might capitalize upon his recent success at Chancellorsville, lure Union troops away from the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, and the Mississippi River garrisons, and place intense pressure on the federal government to sue for peace. The three-day battle resulted in approximately 51,000 casualties and a decisive Union victory.
On July 4, Lee’s surviving soldiers began a 10-day retreat in driving rain and crossed the Potomac at Williamsport and Falling Waters, Maryland, again. The Army of the Potomac pursued cautiously, and although it engaged Confederates continually during the retreat, it could not arrest the Confederate withdrawal.
Easily the bloodiest battle of the war, the aftermath involved a massive clean-up operation, including the establishment of a general hospital called Camp Letterman and the burial of 3,500 slain Union soldiers in a “Soldiers’ National Cemetery.” The dedication of this cemetery on Nov. 19, 1863, served as an opportunity for President Lincoln to speak to the significance of the nation’s “new birth of freedom.” This speech, known as the “Gettysburg Address,” has become the Civil War’s most famous oration.
CWPA 150 welcomes your feedback. To share your comments or Civil War stories, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image Courtesy of The US Sanitary Commission Records