The battle at Gettysburg is said to be one of the most significant battles throughout the Civil War. Lee and his Confederate army suffered conflicting view among leaders and underestimated the Union forces. Besides President Lincolns famous "Gettysburg Address" speech, that reevaluated Americas purpose for fighting this war, and hoped to reunite the country by restated the Constitution through his own words. This is one piece of history that every soldier, Union or Confederate, could identify. It can be argued that the defeat at Gettysburg cost the Confederate army the Civil War. Due to a misunderstanding between General Lee and Longstreet, the Confederate army placed their victory at Gettysburg in jeopardy.
First, General Longstreet's plan was to march into the Pennsylvania, draw the superior Army of the Potomac out of its fortifications around Washington; then, outmaneuver the larger, slower Union force and get between them and Washington. Lastly the confederate army would, find some high ground between the Army of the Potomac and Washington to defend, so the Union would be forced to attack in order to rescue their lines of communication with the capital.
The fighting at Gettysburg began largely as an accident when, on July 1, a column of Confederate troops moving south ran into and engaged the forward cavalry elements of the Union army. The Confederate generals, mistaking the Union forces for militia, attacked, hoping to secure supplies and requisitions from the town. The Union, however, saw this as the beginning of a larger battle and rushed regular infantry troops north to the battlefield. The Confederates, then, were forced to rush their forces to the field so that the Union army could not dismember them piecemeal. This was Day 1 of the battle, and was largely out of the control of the Confederate commanders. At day's end, the Union held the high ground southeast of Gettysburg, while the Confederates held the town. The Union prepared, expecting to be attacked in the morning.
It was that first night of the battle where the disagreement between Lee and Longstreet became a problem. Longstreet wanted to pull the Confederate army out of Gettysburg and move around the Union forces for a march on Washington. This probably would have worked--it is unlikely that General Meade, the Union commander (whose notorious caution would later allow the defeated Confederates to escape back into Virginia), would have moved his forces from the high ground before it was too late. Lee, on the other hand, believed that withdrawing from the town his men had just captured would be bad for morale, and more importantly that the Confederates only had enough supplies for one pitched battle--a series of skirmishes was to their great disadvantage, as attrition was against them. Lee felt that he had to attack immediately, en masse, before the remainder of the Union army arrived. Longstreet feared General Lee's decision...