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JULY 1-3, 1863
BY ELSIE SINGMASTER
HE battle of Gettysburg was the
most important battle of the Civil
War. The contest had been thus far without decisive result. Intervention and acknowledgment of the independence of the Confederacy by foreign powers was imminent. In the North dissatisfaction reigned, enthusiasm had begun to cool. The Northern army was about to lose fifteen thousand men by the expiration of their term of service, and there was no prospect of the re-enlistment of so many.
The battle of Gettysburg was the only battle of the war fought on Northern soil. Here the enemy was at hand; Harrisburg, a great railway center and depot of supplies, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, lay exposed to the danger of capture.
There were engaged at Gettysburg about eighty thousand men on the Union side and about eighty thousand on the Confederate side. Of this number the Union loss was about twenty-three thousand in killed, wounded, and missing; the Confederate about twenty thousand-an appallingly large proportion. All the loyal Union States except Kentucky and Missouri were represented. Every Confederate State had soldiers upon the field.
The town of Gettysburg was in no way remarkable before the battle. It was a little village, seven miles from the Maryland border and about forty-five miles from Harrisburg. It was founded in 1780, and though it was the county seat, it numbered in 1863 only three thousand inhabitants. Its most famous citizen was Thaddeus Stevens. Gettysburg has two educational institutions, the Lutheran Theological Seminary, giving its name to the ridge west of the town, and Pennsylvania College, also an institution of the Lutheran Church, in the town itself. The only citizen to be killed in the battle was a woman, Miss Jennie Wade, who was struck by a stray shot, probably from the Union lines. Old John Burns seized his squirrel gun and fought with the Union troops. He was wounded three times and left on the field for dead, but recovered and lived to be a source of great interest and admiration.
The village lay apart from the main lines of railway travel, and except for the pranks of the students and the sessions of court it knew little excitement. Its topographical features seem to have prepared it, however, to be the arena for one of the greatest battles of history.
Gettysburg is the meeting-place of eight roads, several of which are good pikes. Therefore troops could be moved about swiftly and could be easily concentrated. The two adjacent ridges offered fine positions to contending armies. Seminary Ridge to the west, occupied first by the Union and afterwards by the Confederate troops, has no sharp elevations. Cemetery Ridge to the east, occupied by the Union troops on the second and third days of the battle, is terminated on the north by Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill and on the south by Big Round Top and Little Round Top. There are no great streams; the masses of rock and stretches of woodland are thick enough to protect but not to interfere with the movement of troops. Cemetery Ridge is higher than Seminary Ridge, and is therefore admirably suited to troops on the defensive, a fact which helped materially to give the Union forces the victory. The village itself occupies about the center of the field, which, exclusive of the cavalry field to the east, covers an area of about twenty-five square miles.
The Union troops advanced, speaking generally, from the south by way of the Baltimore, Taneytown, and Emmittsburg roads. The Confederate troops advanced, speaking generally also, from the north, by way of the York, Chambersburg, Mummasburg, Carlisle, and York roads. At the beginning of June, after its defeat at Chancellorsville, the Army of the Potomac under General Hooker lay north of the Rappahannock River in Virginia. The Confederate Army of Virginia, under General Lee, began meanwhile to move toward the north. The Union army started in pursuit, and, capturing General Stuart's official papers, discovered General Lee's orders for a march into Pennsylvania. Thereupon began the great parallel procession, the two armies meeting in skir
THE BATTLEFIELD OF GETTYSBURG
mishes on the way, General Lee being unaware, Ridge to Willoughby Run, and had the however, that the Union army was advancing ground between Willoughby Run and Marsh in mass.
Creek, three miles farther to the west, thorThe Confederate army crossed the Poto- oughly patrolled. Early on the morning of mac and moved up the Cumberland Valley Wednesday, July 1, his pickets saw the to Chambersburg, Carlisle, and Cashtown. advance of the enemy, General Heth's Early's division marched on June 26 from division of the Third Confederate Corps, Cashtown to York, part of the command advancing along the Chambersburg pike. going through Gettysburg to seek supplies. One picket galloped back with the news: the Now suddenly General Lee was amazed to other, from the shelter of the bridge, fired discover that the Union troops were close at the first shot of the battle, three miles to the hand. Immediately lying at Cashtown, he west of Gettysburg. concentrated his army.
At once the Confederates, fearing a large The Union army, meanwhile, had crossed force, proceeded more cautiously. The Union the Potomac at Frederick. There General cavalry squadrons, coming promptly to the Hooker resigned and General Meade took relief of their comrades, so harassed the his place, and the army continued to move advancing troops that they were two hours in north, east of South Mountain. General traversing the three miles to Willoughby Run. Meade proposed to give battle on the heights Until a quarter of ten General Buford directof Pipe Creek, fifteen miles south of Gettys- ed his small host in their effort to stay the burg. But on the night of the 29th of June, approach of the foe, while in the cupola of General Buford of the cavalry saw the lights the Seminary his lookouts gazed eagerly toof the Confederate camp-fires between Mon wards the south, watching for reinforcements. terey and Fairfield, and was at once ordered Presently General Buford was summoned to Gettysburg
to observe a large body of Union troops adThe Army of the Potomac was well clothed, vancing along the Emmittsburg road. In a well fed, magnificently disciplined, and thor few minutes General Reynolds himself arrived, oughly reliable. It had been relieved of a and directed and encouraged the troops. leader of whose judgment it was not certain, Cutler's brigade of Union infantry was and had been put under one for whom it had now placed across the Chambersburg pike, great respect. The Confederate army was and the exhausted cavalry fell to the rear. no less ready for battle. It was not quite Meredith's Iron Brigade took possession of as well cared for as the Northern army, but the woodland. For two hours the l'nion it had the cheering recollection of many vic troops not only held their own against a supetories and a leader whom it adored.
rior number, but succeeded in driving back The Army of the Potomac was divided the Confederates. The Confederate Generals into seven corps—the First, under General Archer and Davis lost more than half their Reynolds and afterwards under General effective force, and General Archer was Doubleday ; the Second, under General Han- finally captured with all his men. cock and afterwards under General Gibbon ; During the engagement in the woodland, the Third, under General Sickles; the Fifth General Reynolds was shot as he was riding under General Sykes ; the Sixth, under Gen- among his troops. General Reynolds was eral Sedgwick; the Eleventh, under General one of the best-loved soldiers of the Union Howard; the Twelfth, under General Slocum. army. A Pennsylvanian by birth, a graduThe three cavalry divisions under the direc ate of West Point, he had seen distinguished tion of General Pleasonton were commanded service in the Mexican War. At the time of severally by Buford, Gregg, and Kilpatrick. the battle he was forty-three years old, with
In the Confederate army there were only a prospect of great fame before him. three corps, each one of which was much was at once succeeded by General Doubleday. larger than a Union corps. They were under In spite of its early victories and its heroic the command of Generals Longstreet, Ewell, struggles, it became more and more evident and A. P. Hill. The Confederate cavalry as noon approached that Cutler's brigade was under the command of General J. E. B. would have to fall back and that the Union Stuart.
troops were being worsted. Immediately upon his arrival at Gettys Between ten and eleven o'clock General burg General Buford established his camp Howard had arrived in the town and had upon a little ridge sloping west from Seminary heard the news of Reynolds's death. Seeing
the strategic importance of Culp's Hill, he troops were disposed as follows: The Elevgave orders that it be fortified. He then enth Corps occupied Cemetery Hill; to its notified General Meade that Reynolds had left was the First Corps. The Twelfth been killed and begged that the Twelfth Corps was sent to Culp's Hill, the Second Corps be forwarded. He sent two divisions Corps was placed along Cemetery Ridge. of his own corps under Generals Shim The Third Corps extended the line of the melpfennig and Barlow to reinforce the Second. The Fifth Corps was placed in Union right, upon which General Ewell's reserve near the Rock Creek crossing of the artillery had opened fire. General Barlow Baltimore turnpike, until six P.M., when the was severely wounded ; both the Eleventh Sixth Corps arrived. Then the Fifth Corps Corps and the gallant First Corps were com was moved to the extreme left. pelled to retire to Cemetery Hill.
Now, directly, the two armies faced each There was great confusion as the troops other. Each was somewhat sheltered by passed through the town. General Shim woodland, but between them the country melpfennig was captured, and could not regain was open.
The Union army lay, as has his command for three days ; General Barlow been said, on slightly higher ground than the lay within the Confederate lines, and hun Confederate. Each army was strong, deterdreds of prisoners were captured. By half mined, confident. past four the Union troops were fortifying The second day of the battle dawned clear their new position on Cemetery Ridge. and bright. It was General Lee's plan to
General Lee arrived upon the field in time attack the whole line at once. Longstreet to see the end of the first day's battle and to was to begin with his fresh columns and Hill rejoice with the Confederate troops in their and Ewell were to follow upon hearing his success. He declared that, contrary to his guns. But the attack was not begun until late usual custom of fighting upon the defensive, in the afternoon, when valuable time had he would the next day attack the Union been lost by the Confederates and gained by forces. All the bright moonlit night his line the Federals. was forming along Seminary Ridge. Gen At three o'clock the battle opened. Lee eral Longstreet was placed on the extreme believed that if General Sickles's Third Corps right; General Ewell kept his position on could be driven from its position near a little the extreme left; between them was placed peach orchard, he could reach the crest General A. P. Hill. General Pickett with beyond. After a severe struggle and with his division of Longstreet's Corps was still great loss Longstreet accomplished his purfar back in South Mountain guarding the pose ; the Third Union Corps was in immiwagon trains.
nent danger of annihilation. With it sufWhen General Meade heard at his head fered the first division of the Second Corps quarters in Taneytown the news of Reynolds's which was sent to its. aid. death, he ordered General Hancock to pro While this engagement was in progress ceed to Gettysburg. At once taking prece General Warren observed that Little Round dence of General Howard, he rode up and Top was about to be captured, and here down the line directing the troops. Having at once the troops of the Fifth Corps took helped to restore order, and having consulted their position. They succeeded in driving with the Generals present, he rode back to back the oncoming Confederates, but with Taneytown, to discover that General Meade tremendous loss. had already determined to proceed to Gettys To the far right of the Union line there burg.
was a third contest. The Twelfth Corps, The bright moonlight aided not only the holding Culp's Hill, was assaulted by Gensoldiers upon the field who were throwing eral Ewell. In a fearful conflict the Louisiup defenses, but illumined the path of thou ana Tigers were so beaten that of seventeen sands of their comrades, hurrying toward hundred only three hundred got back to the them over the rough roads. The troops met village where their line had formed. As Union many stragglers who reported the events of reinforcements arrived, General Johnson, of the day, and presently a mounted guard the Confederate army, moved back of the accompanying the body of General Reynolds hill, where he camped for the night. Here to Baltimore.
the lines were so close together that the At one o'clock in morning Gen al opposing forces drank from the same spring. Meade arrived upon the field. The Union Thus closed the second day of battle, with
victory for the Union troops. General Lee assailing them with new volleys. At a little had turned back the line of the Third stone wall, forming a sharp angle, they pierced Corps, but he had failed to capture the for an instant the Union line, but were driven Round Tops or to pierce the Union center, back, slain, captured, their colors taken, their and his losses were heavy.
cause lost. The tide of battle had turned; - Early on the morning of the 3d of July the the tide of war had begun to ebb. Twelfth Corps drove the Confederates from The joy in the l’nion army was indescribthe Union works on Culp's Hill. As early able. Shouting their triumph, they forgot as possible the Union lines were reformed. the long marches, the privations, the misRiding up and down the line, General Meade eries; they even forgot their comrades lying saw for himself that his army was prepared all about them in terrible positions of agony. for the assault which he anticipated.
The battle of Gettysburg was won. General Lee planned to attack the left The conquered could not stay to see their center of the Union line. General Pickett's dead buried or to give their wounded the fresh troops had arrived; they were to be succor which might save their lives. Out reinforced by other infantry troops and by the Hagerstown road in the darkness and General Stuart's cavalry. Unfortunately for pouring rain of a terrific storm, toward disGeneral Lee's plans, General Stuart was inter tant Monterey Gap, disheartened, fearful of cepted by the Union cavalry and his approach attack, they made their weary way. cut off in a brilliant engagement.
At once the task of caring for the wounded The Confederate guns, one hundred and left on the field was begun. The churches, thirty-eight in number, were made ready. the public buildings, the college buildings, Meade's position was such that he could the private houses of the village became hosplace only seventy guns in line, but he had a pitals where army nurses, citizens of Gettyslarge artillery reserve.
burg, and scores of charitable persons from At one o'clock a single cannon from the other places dressed wounds, assisted in amConfederate line opened the fight.
putations, and helped to control delirium. echoed by a vast roar from its fellows and At once, also, the sad task of burying the replied to by an equal blast from its foes. dead was begun. The bodies were laid, not For an hour and a half the fierce duel con in separate graves, but in great trenches, tinued. Then General Hunt, of the Union which could sometimes be only loosely covforces, ordered the Union fire to cease so that ered. In the fall and winter the bodies were the guns might cool and the ammunition be transferred to single graves in the National saved for the charge of the Confederate Cemetery, a tract of about seventeen acres, infantry which was sure to follow.
dedicated by the great speech of Abraham Across the wide field on the Confederate Lincoln. Here the National Monument, with line, Pickett with his troops and his reinforce- its encircling rows of unknown dead, was ments waited. The Union guns were now erected. silent, according to General Hunt's command. Before the war was over plans were made Certain that the Union ammunition had failed, for the preservation and the marking of the General Lee, urged by General Pickett, gave whole vast battlefield. Fine avenues have the order to advance, and, mounting his horse, been constructed, great observation towers General Pickett rode confiden tly to the head have been built, hundreds of markers and of his troops. In the center of the l'nion monuments have been placed. No effort has line stood a rounded clump of trees; toward been spared to maintain the original topothis the Confederate troops aimed their graphical features of the field. The open course : they were five thousand men sup spaces have been kept open, thinning groves ported by nine thousand, the best and bravest have been replanted, old trees showing the soldiers of the South.
effect of the iron hail have been preserved. Then, suddenly, an amazing sound startled The returning soldier may be able to recall their ears. The Union guns were only tem each sound and sight of the conflict as he porarily silenced; they now thundered forth finds his way back to his old position, but he once more. But still, in the face of solid shot, will carry away with him a more valuable shell, and canister, the Confederates advanced. impression of desolation turned to beauty, of They lost their magnificent formation, but strife become peace. All honor to him who still they moved on. Stannard with his here on this blood-stained tract fought our Vermont brigade advanced to meet them, battle for ụs !