Battle of Gettysburg
This most famous and most important Civil War Battle occurred over three hot summer days, July 1 to July 3, 1863, around the small market town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It began as a skirmish but by its end involved 160,000 Americans.
Before the battle, major cities in the North such as Philadelphia, Baltimore and even Washington were under threat of attack from General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia which had crossed the Potomac River and marched into Pennsylvania.
The Union Army of the Potomac under its very new and untried commander, General George G. Meade, marched to intercept Lee.
On Tuesday morning, June 30, an infantry brigade of Confederate soldiers searching for shoes headed toward Gettysburg (population 2,400). The Confederate commander looked through his field glasses and spotted a long column of Federal cavalry heading toward the town. He withdrew his brigade and informed his superior, Gen. Henry Heth, who in turn told his superior, A.P. Hill, he would go back the following morning and "get those shoes."
Wednesday morning, July 1, two divisions of Confederates headed back to Gettysburg. They ran into Federal cavalry west of the town at Willoughby Run and the skirmish began. Events would quickly escalate. Lee rushed 25,000 men to the scene. The Union had less than 20,000.
After much fierce fighting and heavy casualties on both sides, the Federals were pushed back through the town of Gettysburg and regrouped south of the town along the high ground near the cemetery. Lee ordered Confederate General R.S. Ewell to seize the high ground from the battle weary Federals "if practicable." Gen. Ewell hesitated to attack thereby giving the Union troops a chance to dig in along Cemetery Ridge and bring in reinforcements with artillery. By the time Lee realized Ewell had not attacked, the opportunity had vanished.
Meade arrived at the scene and thought it was an ideal place to do battle with