Today in American History: July 1, 1863

Today in American History: July 1, 1863

On July 1, 1863 one of the greatest military conflicts in American history began when Union and Confederate soldiers faced off at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This gruesome battle lasted for three days and ended with the Confederate retreat to Virginia led by Robert E. Lee. 

 Two months before Gettysburg, Lee delivered a blow to the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville, Virginia. In order to relieve some pressure from the war torn Virginia, he made plans for a northern invasion. Lee's army was about 80,000 men strong, and began moving forward on June 3. The yankees were commanded by Joseph Hooker and were about 100,000 men strong. Shortly after Lee went on the move, Hooker moved and stayed between Lee and Washington D.C. But, by June 28 Hooker resigned and was replaced by George G. Meade because of his frustrations with the restrictions that the Lincoln administration placed on him as a commander.

Once Meade took over command of the Union army, Lee's army had moved into Pennsylvania. On the morning of July 1, units of the two forces came into contact with each other just outside of Gettysburg. The sounds of battle alerted other units, and by noon a full on battle was raging. In just the first couple of hours of the battle, the Union General John Reynolds was killed. The Union forces soon realized they were outnumbered. The battle line ran the length of the northwestern rim of Gettysburg. The Confederate forces applied pressure along the entire Union front, and slowly drove the Union soldiers through the town.

By the evening, the Union troops had rallied on the high ground of the southeastern part of Gettysburg. Soon, more and more troops arrived. Meade's army created a fish hook shaped line that was 3 miles long. It ran from Culp's Hill on the right flank, along Cemetery Hill and Cemetery Ridge, and up to the base of Little Round Top. The Confederate army held onto Gettysburg and scattered along a 6 mile arc to try and surround the Union troops. Lee's men would continue to attack the Union troops, before launching the famous Pickett's Charge on July 3. The battle ended July 3, and was the most costly in terms of losses in the entire Civil War. It's also recognized as the turning point in the war. 


Back to blog