1. A battle of the American Civil War (1863); the defeat of Robert E. Lee's invading Confederate army was a major victory for the Union; Also called: battle of Gettysburg.
2. Borough in Pennsylvania (USA); zip code 17325.
3. City in South Dakota (USA); zip code 57442.
4. Village in Ohio (USA).
Site of one of the decisive battles of the American Civil War: a Confederate defeat by Union forces 1–3 July 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 80 km/50 mi northwest of Baltimore. The site is now a national cemetery, at the dedication of which President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address 19 Nov 1863, a speech in which he reiterated the principles of freedom, equality, and democracy embodied in the US Constitution.
The South’s heavy losses at Gettysburg came in the same week as their defeat at Vicksburg, and the Confederacy remained on the defensive for the rest of the war. The battle ended Robert E Lee’s invasion of the North. The address begins with “Fourscore and seven years ago”, and ends with an assertion of “government of the people, by the people, and for the people”.
After his victory at Chancellorsville, Lee, at the head of a force of 72,000 troops, decided to advance north into Union territory as his army was starving and needed to operate in an area which could provide food. Lee marched his main force up the western side of the Blue Ridge mountains and sent General J E B (“Jeb”) Stuart’s cavalry to the east to act as scouts. Unfortunately, Stuart was keen for glory and set off to find a Union force to defeat. He eventually rounded up a Union wagon train and began leading it slowly back toward Lee but failed to carry out any scouting. When the Confederates reached Chambersburg, they found that two Union corps were a few miles away across the mountains and that General Joseph Hooker had been replaced as commander of the Union Army of the Potomac by General George Meade, a more dangerous adversary.
Lee sent General Ambrose P Hill’s corps over the mountains to reconnoiter and report on the Union forces’ strength; they advanced into Gettysburg hoping to find supplies they could appropriate. A Union cavalry patrol discovered them and Meade began moving his 82,000-strong army toward Gettysburg. The two forces met close to the town and fighting broke out more or less immediately: as units of both sides appeared on the scene they were fed into positions and joined the battle. The Union forces eventually passed through the town and took up a strong position on Cemetery Hill. Lee ordered General Richard Ewell’s corps to attack it “if practicable” but Ewell lost his nerve and never attacked. Lee moved his troops on to Seminary ridge, across the valley, and ordered an attack the following morning.
Confederate general James Longstreet favored outflanking Meade to block his route to Washington but his suggestion was dismissed. He failed to support Ewell during the attack next morning, only making his move in the early afternoon and then, as soon as Lee was out of sight, halting again. By the time Lee got him moving again the Union lines had outflanked his corps but Longstreet continued according to Lee's original plan, turning the attack into a shambles. Night fell, the armies rested, and the following day Lee planned another concerted attack.
Longstreet again failed to move, allowing Ewell to make his attack and be beaten back. Instead, he decided on an artillery bombardment to soften up the Union lines, but due to the powder smoke most of the shells went over the Union position. Ammunition began to run low, and General George A Pickett, waiting with his division to make a frontal attack when Ewell and Longstreet had done their part, was warned that unless he made his assault now, there would be no covering fire available. Longstreet ordered Pickett to advance, without informing Lee that the ammunition situation was critical. “Pickett’s Charge” went into history; his division poured from a ravine and was blown to shreds by concentrated Union artillery fire. At the same time Hill made an attack on the Union lines which was driven off by the appearance of a strong Union reserve. This was enough, and the two armies retired to their lines. During the night, Lee saw that there was no hope of victory, disengaged his troops, and set off back to Virginia.