Andrew Harris wrote this letter on July 11, 1863, one week after the Battle of Gettysburg as the Union Army was trailing the retreating Confederate Army from Pennsylvania to Virginia.
In June 1863, General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia launched an invasion of the North.
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 the Northern army numbered approximately eighty-five thousand men to the South'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. The Northerners fortified their 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 Northern position. On July 3, Lee ordered parts of three Confederate divisions to assault the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Known as Pickett's Charge, nearly three-quarters of the Confederate soldiers involved in this attack 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, Southerners 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 South did not simply give up the fight after these two defeats. Confederates, both soldiers and civilians, remained hopeful in their diaries and letters that the South would win the wider war.
These defeats did discourage some Southerners. Other Southerners, though, were proud of their soldiers for taking the war to the North. Many Northerners were also hopeful. In the Battle of Vicksburg, Union General Ulysses S. Grant succeeded in gaining control of the Mississippi River for the North, effectively splitting the South into two parts. General Meade had repelled Lee's invasion. Many Northerners believed that the Union was closer to a final victory in the war. Other Northerners 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 North. At the same time that the Battle of Gettysburg was occurring, a Confederate force under John Hunt Morgan was raiding southern Indiana and Ohio. Northern soldiers eventually brought Morgan's Raid to an end. However, Morgan's Raid and Lee's invasion caused some Northerners 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.