|America Celebrates the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, July 1-3, 2013|
GUEST BLOG—By the Civil War Trust—Throughout America between July 1-3, citizens of all stripes will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, one of the most iconic and bloodiest conflicts of the Civil War. The material on this blog today is from the excellent website (civilwar.org) belonging to The Civil War Trust, a truly creative organization dedicated to saving America’s Civil War Battlefields. Visiting the Civil War Trust’s website will direct you every aspect of that great war.
Yesterday, this blog pointed out one of the amazing animated war maps that the Civil War Trust and Wide Awake Films put together. Viewing that moving map, which shows troop activity during the bloody three days is one of the best Battle of Gettysburg primers anywhere. To quickly catch up on your Gettysburg history view the following short video: http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/gettysburg/maps/gettysburg-animated-map/
The Civil War Trust pointed out that although, it is the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War and one of the most visited places in the United States, but Gettysburg is still plagued by misinformation. Set the record straight with these ten key facts.
Fact 1: The battle was fought at Gettysburg because of the area road system—it had nothing to do with shoes.
The Town of Gettysburg, population 2,000, was a town on the rise. It boasted three newspapers, two institutes of higher learning, several churches and banks, but no shoe factory or warehouse. The ten roads that led into town are what brought the armies to Gettysburg. The shoe myth can be traced to a late-1870s statement by Confederate general Henry Heth.
Fact 2: The First Day’s battle was a much larger engagement than is generally portrayed.
The first day’s fighting (at McPherson’s Ridge, Oak Hill, Oak Ridge, Seminary Ridge, Barlow’s Knoll and in and around the town) involved some 50,000 soldiers of which roughly 15,500 were killed, wounded, captured or missing. The first day in itself ranks as the 12th bloodiest battle of the Civil War—with more casualties than the battles of Bull Run and Franklin combined.
Fact 3: The Second Day’s Battle was the largest and costliest of the three days.
The second day’s fighting (at Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard, Cemetery Ridge, Trostle’s Farm, Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill) involved at least 100,000 soldiers of which roughly 20,000 were killed, wounded, captured or missing. The second day in itself ranks as the 10th bloodiest battle of the Civil War—with far more casualties than the much larger Battle of Fredericksburg.
Fact 4: Of 120 generals present at Gettysburg, nine were killed or mortally wounded during the battle.
On the Confederate side, generals Semmes, Barksdale, Armistead, Garnett, and Pender (plus Pettigrew during the retreat). On the Union side, generals Reynolds, Zook, Weed, and Farnsworth (and Vincent, promoted posthumously). No other battle claimed as many general officers.
Fact 5: Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill were far more important than Little Round Top.
While Little Round Top is far more popular today, its importance to the Union army is at least debatable. The same cannot be said for Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill. The two latter hills formed the center and right of the Union’s main position and also protected the Union army’s only real lifeline on July 2 and 3—the Baltimore Pike. Had Confederates captured and controlled either of these two hills, the Union army would have had to leave the Gettysburg area. It is as simple as that. Even with its sweeping views and commanding height, the same cannot be said for Little Round Top.
Fact 6: Pickett’s Charge was large and grand but by no means the largest charge of the Civil War. Not even close.
Pickett’s Charge involved some 12,000 Confederate soldiers, but the Confederate charge at Franklin had roughly 20,000. Even that pales in comparison to the grand Confederate charge at Gaines’ Mill which involved more than 50,000 Confederate troops. Even the well-known 260-gun bombardment that preceded Pickett’s Charge was not the largest of the war. There was at least one bombardment at Petersburg with more than 400 cannons involved.
Fact 7: The Battle of Gettysburg is by far the costliest battle of the Civil War but not necessarily the largest.
While each of the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg rank in the top 15 bloodiest battles of the Civil War—the 160,000 troops present at Gettysburg are eclipsed by the more than 185,000 at Fredericksburg.
Fact 8: Sixty-three Medals of Honor awarded to Union soldiers for their actions at Gettysburg. The deeds spanned the battlefield and were awarded from wartime into the 20th century. Eight were awarded for actions on July 1, and 28 each for actions on July 2 and July 3.
Fact 9: The Gettysburg Address essentially said the same thing as the famous orator Edward Everett’s speech but in 1/60th the time.
When Lincoln uttered these two sentences, “We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this,” he was essentially repeating an idea that had already been stated—only Lincoln said it more succinctly. Everett used more than 5,500 words to make the same point. Most every part of the corresponding speeches can be examined this way and leaves no doubt as to why Everett wrote to Lincoln: "I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."
Fact 10: While the Gettysburg Battlefield is well-preserved, there are still numerous parcels to be saved.
•There are more than 1,400 monuments, markers and tablets at Gettysburg.
•More than 30,000 dead and wounded soldiers were left in the battle's wake.
•More than one-third of all known photographs of dead soldiers on Civil War battlefields were recorded at Gettysburg.
•General George Gordon Meade was only in command for three days before the battle.
•The Battle of Gettysburg started without the knowledge or consent of either army commander -- Lee or Meade.
•The 200 million year-old Gettysburg Sill created the volcanic boulders on the Union right and left flanks.
•The Battle of Gettysburg was fought on some of the hottest days of the summer. The hottest time of the month, nearly 90 degrees, was right during Pickett's Charge on July 3rd.
•It did not rain during the battle, but a heavy downpour soaked the battlefield the day after.
•Most of the battlefield places were nameless before the battle—there was no reason to name them. But the battle made a wheatfield into The Wheatfield and a peach orchard into The Peach Orchard.
•General Lee lost 23 battle flags in Pickett's Charge -- more than he had lost in the previous 14 months combined.
DAY BY DAY OVERVIEW: Battle of Gettysburg
July 1 - 3, 1863
Adams County, Pennsylvania.
By The Civil War Trust
After his astounding victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, in May 1863, Robert E. Lee led his Army of Northern Virginia in its second invasion of the North—the Gettysburg Campaign. With his army in high spirits, Lee intended to collect supplies in the abundant Pennsylvania farmland and take the fighting away from war-ravaged Virginia. He wanted to threaten Northern cities, weaken the North's appetite for war and, especially, win a major battle on Northern soil and strengthen the peace movement in the North. Prodded by President Abraham Lincoln, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker moved his Union Army of the Potomac in pursuit, but was relieved of command just three days before the battle. Hooker's successor, Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade moved northward, keeping his army between Lee and Washington, D.C. When Lee learned that Meade was in Pennsylvania, Lee concentrated his army around Gettysburg.
Elements of the two armies collided west and north of the town on July 1, 1863. Union cavalry under Brig. Gen. John Buford slowed the Confederate advance until Union infantry, the Union 1st and 11th Corps, arrived. More Confederate reinforcements under generals A.P. Hill and Richard Ewell reached the scene, however, and 30,000 Confederates ultimately defeated 20,000 Yankees, who fell back through Gettysburg to the hills south of town--Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill.
On the second day of battle, the Union defended a fishhook-shaped range of hills and ridges south of Gettysburg with around 90,000 soldiers. Confederates essentially wrapped around the Union position with 70,000 soldiers. On the afternoon of July 2, Lee launched a heavy assault on the Union left flank, and fierce fighting raged at Devil's Den, Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard and Cemetery Ridge. On the Union right, demonstrations escalated into full-scale assaults on Culp's Hill and East Cemetery Hill. Although the Confederates gained ground, the Union defenders still held strong positions by the end of the day.
On July 3, fighting resumed on Culp's Hill, and cavalry battles raged to the east and south, but the main event was a dramatic infantry assault by 12,000 Confederates against the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge--Pickett's Charge. The charge was repulsed by Union rifle and artillery fire, at great losses to the Confederate army. Lee led his army on a torturous retreat back to Virginia. As many as 51,000 soldiers from both armies were killed, wounded, captured or missing in the three-day battle. Four months after the battle, President Lincoln used the dedication ceremony for Gettysburg's Soldiers National Cemetery to honor the fallen Union soldiers and redefine the purpose of the war in his historic Gettysburg Address.