An important anniversary is being celebrated in Pennsylvania through Independence Day weekend – the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, where the Confederate Army made its ill-fated charge in the last clash of the pivotal battle of the Civil War. Here’s a look back:
Gettysburg was the Civil War’s turning point and its bloodiest battle. Up to 10,000 Union and Confederate troops died there from July 1-3, 1863, with another 30,000 wounded.
For the Union, Maj. Gen. George Meade led the Army of the Potomac. For the Confederates, Gen. Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia.
Referred to by some as the “high water mark of the rebellion,” the battle ended Lee’s most ambitious attempt to invade Union territory.
President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address (“Four score and seven years ago …”) was made later that year, when Soldiers National Cemetery was dedicated in November 1863.
Two big Civil War re-enactments were scheduled during a 10-day celebration, which runs through Sunday. The National Park Service’s commemorative ceremony last Sunday featured a keynote address by author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Why did Lee order the ill-fated attack on Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg? Historians have long wrestled with that question, and now a geographer has come up with an answer, using sophisticated mapping software to recreate the battlefield exactly as Lee saw it. The explanation: Lee simply couldn’t see many of the Union soldiers amid the hills and valleys. As a result, the Confederate general underestimated his enemy’s troop strength. The map is live on the Smithsonian’s website, at www.si.edu.
By the numbers
1.2 million: Visitors each year to Gettysburg National Military Park
200,000: Visitors expected during the 150th anniversary celebration
7,500: Residents of Gettysburg, Pa.
Sources: Associated Press, National Park Service,
The Gettysburg Foundation
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