Monday, June 28, 2010

This Week in American History- The Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is considered the Civil War's turning point. This battle claimed the largest number of casualties of the war. The battle began on July 1, 1863. The Confederates heavily attacked the hastily put-together Union lines. The Union lines crumbled and retreated through the streets of Gettysburg. On the second day, the majority of both armies had gathered. The Union troops were arranged in a defensive formation shaped like a fishhook. Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, instigated heavy attacks on the Union's left flank and intense fighting ensued at Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Devil's Den, and the Peach Orchard. On the Union's right flank there were attacks on Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill. All across the battleground the Union defenders held their lines, regardless of considerable losses. On July 3rd, the third day of battle, fighting continued on Culp's Hill and cavalry battles commenced to the east and south. The pinnacle of the battle, however, was a charge by 12,500 Confederates against the midpoint of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. This assault is now known as Pickett's Charge. The charge was fended off by Union artillery and rifle fire, resulting in great losses on the Confederate side. General Lee directed his troops to retreat back to Virginia. All together, approximately 50,000 American lives were lost during the three-day battle. That November, President Lincoln delivered an empowering speech- the Gettysburg Address, honoring the fallen, at the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

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