Battle of Gettysburg

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Gettysburg Battlefield (1).jpg
Union and Confederate dead, Gettysburg Battlefield, Pa., July 1863. Photographed by Timothy H. O'Sullivan.

In June 1863, General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia launched an invasion of the Union.

On July 1, General George Meade and the Union's Army of the Potomac met Lee's force at the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The fighting started on July 1. While, over the course of the battle, the Union army numbered approximately eighty-five thousand men to the Confederacy’s seventy-five thousand soldiers, the Confederates outnumbered the Union soldiers as the battle opened. The Confederates drove the Northerners through the town. The Union soldiers took up a defensive position on Culp's Hill and Cemetery Ridge to the south and east of Gettysburg. Most Confederate troops took position on nearby Seminary Ridge to the west of Gettysburg and prepared for the next day's fighting.

During the evening of July 1, additional Union troops arrived and helped fortify the Union position. The next day Confederate forces assaulted the southern and northern portions of the Union line, but the attacks were not well coordinated and failed to breach the Union position. On July 3, Lee ordered parts of three Confederate divisions to assault the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Nearly three-quarters of the Confederate soldiers involved in this attack, known as Pickett’s Charge, were killed or wounded. On July 4, the Army of Northern Virginia began its retreat back to the South.

Numerous Ohioans participated in the Battle of Gettysburg. At least fifteen Ohio units fought at the battle. These units included:

  • 4th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 5th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 25th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 55th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 61st Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 75th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 82nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 107th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • 1st Artillery, Battery H, I, K, L
  • 1st Ohio Cavalry Regiment

Many historians have labeled this battle, along with the capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi, as the "high tide" of the Confederacy. According to some scholars, the Confederacy had no hope of winning the war and their independence after these two battles. Other historians have challenged this interpretation. The war lasted almost two more years. The Confederacy did not simply give up the fight after these two defeats. Confederates, both soldiers and civilians, remained hopeful in their diaries and letters that they would win the wider war.

These defeats did discourage some Confederates. Other Confederates, though, were proud of their soldiers for taking the war to the Union.

Many in the Union were also hopeful. In the Battle of Vicksburg, Union General Ulysses S. Grant succeeded in gaining control of the Mississippi River for the Union, effectively splitting the Confederacy into two parts. General Meade had repelled Lee's invasion. Many in the Union believed that they were closer to a final victory in the war. Others in the Union were less confident, including many Ohioans. Meade had defeated Lee's army, but the Confederates still had been able to launch an invasion of the Union. At the same time that the Battle of Gettysburg was occurring, a Confederate force under John Hunt Morgan was raiding southern Indiana and Ohio. Union soldiers eventually brought Morgan's Raid to an end. However, Morgan's Raid and Lee's invasion caused some in the Union to question whether their military would win the war. These two Confederate invasions inspired the Peace Democrats, including those in Ohio, to bring additional pressure on President Abraham Lincoln to negotiate a peace agreement with the Confederacy.

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