Gettysburg: The Confederate Tragedy
In the summer of 1863, the United States was sharply divided in a brutal civil war. The Union army of the northern states was pitted against the Confederate army of the separatist southern states in what would prove to be the bloodiest war that the nation has ever been involved in. That summer was especially harsh on both sides. The casualty lists were extremely lengthy as the two sides faced off in some of the deadliest engagements of the war.
The summer of 1863 was a particularly desperate time in the war for the South. The southern stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi, was under siege by a powerful Union force. The economic state of the South was all but destroyed by the ravages of war and it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep the Confederate armies well supplied. General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, was well aware of the situation when he came up with one of the most daring plans of the entire war. He planned to move his forces across the Potomac River and invade the North. Considering the circumstances that he faced, it was probably a wise and justified move (Freeman 147). He hoped to ease the pressure on Vicksburg simply by applying a little on Washington. At the same time, the constant demand for supplies would be solved as the army lived off the fertile lands in the north for the summer.
The Confederate army's uncontested march northward, however, did not last long. As expected, once General Joseph Hooker of the Union Army of the Potomac heard of the Confederate advance, he maneuvered his army into position between the Confederates and Washington in order to protect the northern capital. The days of June grew long as the two mighty armies slowly drifted northward. Tensions were high as President Lincoln's patience wore thin. By the time he had replaced Hooker with General George G. Meade, the gap between the two armies had already become dangerously small. By then, only one small town stood between them and it seemed as if every road in the area led to it. On July 1, 1863, a division of Confederate infantry marched to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in hopes of seizing a supply of desperately needed shoes for the ill-shod, sore-footed infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia. Much to their surprise, however, a division of Union cavalry, who had reached the town only a few hours earlier, had dismounted and was awaiting their arrival on the northwest side of town. Fierce fighting broke out as the Confederates slowly pushed their opponent back through the town itself and into the highlands to the south. That night, thousands of troops from both sides were rushed to the vicinity of Gettysburg and by morning there were over 100,000 soldiers in position there. The Battle of Gettysburg had begun, and it would soon prove to be one of the most pivotal battles of the entire war.
Ever since the conclusion of the American Civil War, there has been...