Gettysburg Campaign

Gettysburg Campaign

thumb|400px|Gettysburg Campaign (through July 3)Cavalry movements shown with dashed lines.

The Gettysburg Campaign was a series of battles fought in June and July 1863, during the American Civil War. After his victory in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia moved north for offensive operations in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade (from June 28), pursued Lee, defeated him at the Battle of Gettysburg, but allowed him to escape back to Virginia.

In much of southern Pennsylvania, the Gettysburg campaign became widely known as the "Emergency of 1863," as Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin scrambled to raise regiments of volunteer militia to repel the threatened invasion. The military campaign resulted in the displacement of thousands of refugees from Maryland and Pennsylvania who fled northward and eastward to avoid the oncoming Confederates, and resulted in a shift in demographics in several southern Pennsylvania boroughs and counties. It also resulted in over 47,000 military casualties, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in civilian property damage and losses.


Shortly after Lee's Army of Northern Virginia defeated Hooker's Army of the Potomac during the Chancellorsville Campaign (April 30 – May 6, 1863), Lee decided upon a second invasion of the North. Such a move would upset Union plans for the summer campaigning season, give Lee the ability to maneuver his army away from its defensive positions behind the Rappahannock River, and allow the Confederates to live off the bounty of the rich northern farms while giving war-ravaged Virginia a much needed rest. Lee's army could also threaten Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, and encourage the growing peace movement in the North. Lee had written to his wife on April 19,

The Confederate government wanted Lee to reduce Union pressure threatening their garrison at Vicksburg, Mississippi, but he declined their suggestions to send troops to provide direct aid, arguing for the value of a concentrated blow in the Northeast. [Coddington, pp. 5-7; Sears, p. 15.]

In essence, Lee's strategy was identical to the one he employed in the Maryland Campaign of 1862. He had discovered only recently the secret of how Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan had defeated that invasion, by intercepting Lee's famous lost order to his corps commanders, which compelled him to fight in the Battle of Antietam before he could fully concentrate his army. This revelation improved his confidence that he could succeed in a northern invasion against another man he considered a timid and ineffective general, Joseph Hooker. Furthermore, after Chancellorsville he had supreme confidence in the men of his army, assuming they could handle any challenge he gave them. [Sears, pp. 13-14.]

On June 3, 1863, Lee's army began to slip away northwesterly from Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Opposing forces

In reaction to the death of Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, Lee had reorganized the two large corps of the Army of Northern Virginia into three new corps. Lt. Gen. James Longstreet retained command of the First Corps, but with one fewer division. Jackson's old corps was divided into two, with the Second Corps commanded by Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell and the new Third Corps by Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill. With those three corps and Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry division, the army had approximately 75,000 men.

The Army of the Potomac, under Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, consisted of seven corps of infantry and artillery, a cavalry corps, and an artillery reserve, for a combined strength of more than 90,000 men. However, President Abraham Lincoln soon replaced Hooker with Maj. Gen. George G. Meade because of Hooker's defeat at Chancellorsville and disagreements about his response to Lee's second invasion north of the Potomac.


The following battles were fought in the Gettysburg Campaign:

; Battle of Brandy Station (June 9, 1863): Union cavalry under Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, conducting a reconnaissance-in-force to determine the location of Lee's army, surprised J.E.B. Stuart with a dawn attack against his camp outside Brandy Station, Virginia. In what became the largest predominantly cavalry fight of the war, as well as the largest to take place ever on American soil. [ [ Brandy Station Foundation] . Of the 20,500 men engaged, approximately 3,000 were Union infantrymen. The Battle of Trevilian Station in 1864 was the largest "all"-cavalry battle of the war. According to the [ Civil War Preservation Trust] Brandy Station was the largest battle of its kind on American soil.] there was no clear victory for either side, although Pleasonton withdrew before finding the location of Lee's infantry nearby. Brandy Station established the emerging reputation of the Union cavalry as a peer of the Confederate mounted arm. After the battle, Lee's infantry forces, led by Ewell's Second Corps, crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains at Manassas Gap (and other nearby passes) and headed north.

; Second Battle of Winchester (June 13–15): Ewell's corps cleared the Shenandoah Valley for the Confederate movement north behind the Blue Ridge Mountains by defeating the garrison at Winchester, Virginia, commanded by Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy. Milroy was ordered to withdraw to Harpers Ferry, but he chose to remain, assuming his fortifications could withstand assault or siege. He withdrew at dusk on June 14 in the hopes of reaching Charles Town, but was cut off by a flank attack by the division of Maj. Gen. Edward "Allegheny" Johnson; over 3,000 men were taken prisoner, and Lee's army reaped numerous guns and supply wagons. Although Lee had originally intended to keep the corps of Longstreet and Hill on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge, Ewell's battle at Winchester drew both corps to the west in case support was needed. All three corps continued north in the Valley, while Stuart's cavalry held the Loudoun Valley (the eastern entrance to the vital Blue Ridge Mountains) to screen Lee's movements.

Meanwhile, the Army of the Potomac was moving with unaccustomed celerity. On June 16, it reached Manassas Junction. Hooker did not know Lee's intentions, and Stuart's cavalry masked the army's movements behind the Blue Ridge effectively. He originally conceived the idea of reacting to Lee's absence by seizing unprotected Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital. But Lincoln sternly reminded him that Lee's army was the true objective. His orders were to pursue and defeat Lee but to stay between Lee and Washington and Baltimore. Governor Andrew Curtin, concerned that his state was Lee's ultimate target, called for 50,000 volunteers to take arms; only 7,000 initially responded, and Curtain asked for help from the New York State Militia. Gov. Joel Parker of New Jersey also responded by sending troops to Pennsylvania.

; Battle of Aldie (June 17): A sharp cavalry duel at Aldie, Virginia, between the brigade of Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick and Confederate Col. Thomas T. Munford, delayed Federal cavalry from penetrating deep into the Loudoun Valley just west of the Bull Run Mountains. After four hours of mounted assaults, Kilpatrick was reinforced, and Munford withdrew toward Middleburg.

; Battle of Middleburg (June 17–19): The 1st Rhode Island Cavalry was attacked at Middleburg, Virginia, and routed by two brigades of Confederate horsemen. On June 19, Stuart's force was driven back behind the town and withdrew farther into the Loudoun Valley.

; Battle of Upperville (June 21): While Kilpatrick attacked Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton's Confederates at Upperville, Virginia, Union cavalry division commander Brig. Gen. John Buford attacked the Confederate cavalry's left flank but was repulsed. Stuart skillfully protected his supply trains and finally withdrew to a strong defensive position near Ashby's Gap. However, once the Federal cavalry had withdrawn from the region, he soon left the Loudoun Valley with three cavalry brigades on a wide-ranging reconnaissance and raid to the east, beyond the right flank of the Army of the Potomac. This was one of the most controversial actions of the war. Lee's orders to Stuart envisioned him screening the army and reporting on Union movements, but Stuart either misunderstood or ignored those orders, leaving Lee without reconnaissance in enemy territory, while Stuart attempted to recreate his previous exploits, riding entirely around the enemy army and raiding supply trains.

Ewell's corps continued to push deeper into Pennsylvania, with two divisions heading through the Cumberland Valley to threaten Harrisburg, while Maj. Gen. Jubal Early's division marched eastward over the South Mountain range, occupying Gettysburg on June 26 after a brief series of skirmishes with state emergency militia and two companies of cavalry.

As Lee's offensive strategy became clear, Union general-in-chief Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck planned a countermove that could take advantage of the now lightly defended Confederate capital of Richmond. He ordered the Union Department of Virginia, two corps under Maj. Gen. John A. Dix, to move on Richmond from its locations on the Virginia Peninsula (around Yorktown and Williamsburg) and near Suffolk. However, Halleck made the mistake of not explicitly ordering Dix to attack Richmond. The orders were to "threaten Richmond, by seizing and destroying their railroad bridges over the South and North Anna Rivers, and do them all the damage possible." Dix, a well respected politician, was not an aggressive general, but he eventually contemplated attacking Richmond despite the vagueness of Halleck's instructions. On June 27, his men conducted a successful cavalry raid on Hanover Junction, led by Col. Samuel P. Spears, which defeated the Confederate regiment guarding the railroad junction, destroyed the bridge over the South Anna River and the quartermaster's depot, capturing supplies, wagons, and 100 prisoners including General Lee's son, Brig. Gen. W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee. On June 29, at a council of war, Dix and his lieutenants express concerns about their limited strength (about 32,000 men) and decided to limit themselves to threatening gestures. Confederate Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill wrote that the Union advance on Richmond was "not a feint but a faint." The net effect of the operation was primarily psychological, causing the Confederates to hold back some troops from Lee's offensive to guard the capital. [Coddington, pp. 100-02.]

On the evening of June 27, Lincoln sent orders relieving Hooker. Hooker had argued with Halleck about defending the garrison at Harpers Ferry and petulantly offered to resign. Halleck and Lincoln promptly accepted the resignation. George Meade, previously commanding the V Corps, was ordered to assume command of the Army of the Potomac early on the morning of June 28 in Frederick, Maryland. Meade was surprised by the change of command order, having previously expressed his lack of interest in the army command. In fact, when an officer from Washington woke him with the order, he assumed he was being arrested for some transgression. Despite having little knowledge of what Hooker's plans had been or the exact locations of the three columns moving quickly to the northwest, Meade kept up the pace.

Lee was unaware that his army's normally sluggish foe had moved as far north as it had. The lack of Stuart's cavalry intelligence kept him unaware. It was only after a spy hired by Longstreet reported in that Lee found out his opponent had crossed the Potomac and was following him nearby. By this time, Lee's forces were widely separated. Ewell's corps had almost reached the Susquehanna River and was prepared to menace Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania state capital. Early's division occupied York, which was the largest Northern town to fall to the Confederates during the war. Longstreet and Hill were near Chambersburg. Lee sent urgent messages to his corps commanders to concentrate his army around Cashtown or Gettysburg, depending on circumstances.

; Skirmish of Sporting Hill (June 30): Confederate cavalry under the command of Brig. Gen. Albert G. Jenkins raided nearby Mechanicsburg on June 28 and skirmished with the 22nd and 37th New York Militia at Sporting Hill on the west side of Camp Hill on June 29. The Confederates then pressed on to the outer defenses of Fort Couch, where they skirmished with the outer picket line for over an hour, the northernmost engagement of the Gettysburg Campaign. They later withdrew in the direction of Carlisle.

; Battle of Hanover (June 30): J.E.B. Stuart, on his wide-ranging raid around the Union army, attacked a Union cavalry regiment and drove it through the streets of Hanover, Pennsylvania. Union Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth's brigade arrived and counterattacked, nearly capturing Stuart. After additional forces arrived, Stuart was stalemated and forced to move even further to the east. His orders to maintain contact with Ewell's advance could not be fulfilled, and he was two days hard riding away from Lee's army on the eve of the great battle.

; Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3): Gettysburg was the greatest battle of the war and is often considered its turning point. Meade defeated Lee in a three-day battle fought by 160,000 soldiers, with 51,000 casualties. It started as a meeting engagement on July 1 when brigades from Maj. Gen. Henry Heth's division clashed with Buford's cavalry, and then Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds's I Corps. As the Union XI Corps arrived, they and the I Corps were smashed by Ewell's and Hill's corps arriving from the north and forced back through the town, taking up defensive positions on Cemetery Hill, Culp's Hill, and Cemetery Ridge, south of town. On July 2, Lee launched a massive pair of assaults against the left and right flanks of Meade's army. Fierce battles raged at Little Round Top, Devil's Den, the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard, East Cemetery Hill, and Culp's Hill. Meade was able to shift his defenders along interior lines, and they repulsed the Confederate advances. On July 3, Lee launched Pickett's Charge against the Union center, and almost three divisions were slaughtered. By this time, Stuart had returned, and he fought an inconclusive cavalry duel to the east of the main battlefield, attempting to drive into the Union rear area. The two armies stayed in position on July 4 (the same day the Siege of Vicksburg ended in a stunning Union victory), and then Lee ordered a retreat.

; Battle of Carlisle (July 1): Stuart, attempting to locate Ewell's corps, rode into Carlisle, which had been occupied by Ewell a few days before. He found the town defended by a small contingent of Union militia. After learning of Lee's whereabouts near Gettysburg, he broke off combat, torching the Carlisle Barracks in the process.

; Battle of Hunterstown (July 2): After Stuart arrived in Gettysburg, he ordered Wade Hampton to take a position to cover the left rear of the Confederate battle lines. Hampton moved into position astride the Hunterstown Road four miles (6 km) northeast of town, blocking access for any Union forces that might try to swing around behind Lee's lines. Two brigades of Union cavalry from Judson Kilpatrick's division under Brig. Gens. George Armstrong Custer and Elon J. Farnsworth were probing for the end of the Confederate left flank. Custer attacked Hampton on the road between Hunterstown and Gettysburg, and Hampton counterattacked. When Farnsworth arrived with his brigade, Hampton did not press his attack, and an artillery duel ensued until dark. Hampton then withdrew towards Gettysburg.

Following the defeat at Gettysburg, Lee started his Army of Northern Virginia in motion late the evening of July 4 towards Fairfield and Chambersburg. Cavalry under John D. Imboden was entrusted to guard the miles-long wagon train of wounded that Lee wanted to take back to Virginia with him. Thousands of more seriously wounded soldiers were left behind in the Gettysburg area, along with medical personnel. Meade's army celebrated the retirement of the Confederates and began what would become a rather sluggish pursuit. Pennsylvania called up thousands of new recruits and organized them into regiments and brigades of emergency militia, often led by former Army of the Potomac generals such as James Nagle and William F. "Baldy" Smith. Much of this new militia force, which included state militia from New York, was also sent in pursuit of Lee, but did not see any significant combat.

; Battle of Fairfield (July 3): Elements of Brig. Gen. William "Grumble" Jones's "Laurel Brigade" clashed with the 6th U.S. Cavalry near Fairfield, Pennsylvania, in the mid-afternoon. After an initial charge by the 6th Virginia Cavalry was repulsed, Jones brought up his artillery, as well as the 7th Virginia Cavalry. Thus reinforced, Jones swept the Federals from their ridgetop defensive position and chased them for three miles (5 km) before halting. His action kept the Hagerstown Road open as Lee's line of retreat to the Potomac River.

; Fight at Monterey Gap

citation |title=Army of the Potomac [tablet 6 of 9] |location=on East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg Battlefield|quote=
... "Fight at Monterey Gap
Skirmishes at Fairfield Gap and Emmitsburg, Maryland
NOTE: The tablet distinguishes between the greater term "Battle", the middle term "Fight", and the least term "Skirmish".
NOTE: An additional reference titles the fight "Charge At Monterey":
*citation |publisher=National Tribune |title=The Charge of Monterey. A 1st Ohio Cavalryman Relates the Circumstances of a Thrilling Episode. Lovejoy. Co A. |first=Samuel Lovejoy |last=Gillespie |date=October 12, 1899 |work=Monterey Pass. Md. Gettysburg Campaign] (July 4–5): Union cavalry harassed Lee's rear guard as the Army of Northern Virginia began its retreat toward the Potomac in a driving rainstorm.Fact|date=December 2007 During the night, Judson Kilpatrick's cavalry reached the mountain summit after driving back elements of "Grumble" Jones' Confederate mounted infantry.Fact|date=December 2007 A Union battery deployed at the Monterey House and began shelling a column of retreating Confederate wagons. By 3:30 a.m. on July 5 Kilpatrick's troopers had reached the road occupied by Ewell’s wagon train.Fact|date=December 2007 In a savage attack, Kilpatrick captured and destroyed nine miles worth of wagons, taking 1,360 prisoners and a large number of horses and mules.Fact|date=December 2007

; Battle of Williamsport (July 6–16): The Battle of Williamsport was a series of minor engagements during Lee's retreat toward the Potomac River. Meade pursued Lee but was unable to attack in force before Lee slipped across the Potomac. The period since July 4 had been very rainy and roads were in bad shape, but Lee's forces were more motivated to move and stayed ahead of Meade. Confederate cavalry Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden, escorting the wagon train of wounded, was cut off by rising flood waters on July 6 and made a bold stand against attacks from Buford and Judson Kilpatrick, relying on the wounded to bear arms in the defense. Meade held a council of war with his subordinates on July 12 and decided to attack Lee on July 14 before he could cross the river to safety. However, the bulk of Lee's army crossed the Potomac at Falling Waters, West Virginia, on the night of July 13–14, foiling Meade's plan. Troops from Heth's division screened the crossing, and Kilpatrick's cavalry captured about 700 men from the rear guard. Confederate Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew, who had survived Pickett's Charge, was mortally wounded in this action.

; Battle of Boonsboro (July 8): Lee's rear guard cavalry clashed with Federal cavalry in the South Mountain passes, delaying Union pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia.

; Battle of Funkstown (July 10): Stuart's cavalry continued its efforts to delay Federal pursuit in an encounter near Funkstown, Maryland, which results in nearly 500 casualties among the opposing forces. The fight also marked the first time since the Battle of Gettysburg that Union infantry engaged Confederate infantry in the same engagement. Stuart was successful in delaying Pleasonton's cavalry for another day.

; Battle of Manassas Gap (July 23): Meade unsuccessfully attempted to attack Lee's retreating forces in the Shenandoah Valley. Maj. Gen. William H. French's assault was poorly coordinated. It pushed the Confederates back, but they slipped away relatively unscathed. On July 24, the Union army occupied Front Royal, Virginia, but Lee's army was safely beyond pursuit.


The Gettysburg Campaign represented the final major offensive by Robert E. Lee in the Civil War. From this point on, all combat operations of the Army of Northern Virginia were in reaction to Union initiatives. Lee suffered over 27,000 casualties during the campaign, [Sears, p. 498. In addition to Gettysburg itself, there were approximately 4,500 casualties on the march north and during the retreat.] a price very difficult for the Confederacy to pay. And the campaign met none of its major objectives. Union campaign casualties were approximately 30,100. [Sears, p. 496. Casualties outside of Gettysburg, including the large capture of Union troops at Winchester, were 7,300.]

However, Meade received severe criticism for allowing Lee to escape, just as Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan had done after the Battle of Antietam. Under pressure from Lincoln, he launched two campaigns that fall—Bristoe and Mine Run—to attempt to defeat Lee. Both were failures. He also suffered humiliation at the hands of his political enemies in front of the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, questioning his actions at Gettysburg and his failure to defeat Lee at the Potomac.

On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln spoke at the dedication ceremonies for the national cemetery created at the Gettysburg battlefield. His Gettysburg Address redefined the war, named the destruction of slavery as a specific goal, and called for a "new birth of freedom" in the nation.


* [ National Park Service battle descriptions]
* Coddington, Edwin B., "The Gettysburg Campaign; a study in command", Scribner's, 1968, ISBN 0-684-84569-5.
* Esposito, Vincent J., [ "West Point Atlas of American Wars"] , Frederick A. Praeger, 1959.
* Longacre, Edward G., "The Cavalry at Gettysburg", University of Nebraska Press, 1986, ISBN 0-8032-7941-8.
* Sears, Stephen W., "Gettysburg", Houghton Mifflin, 2003, ISBN 0-395-86761-4.


Further reading

* Busey, John W., and Martin, David G., "Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg", 4th Ed., Longstreet House, 2005, ISBN 0-944413-67-6.
* Clark, Champ, and the Editors of Time-Life Books, "Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide", Time-Life Books, 1985, ISBN 0-8094-4758-4.
*Cole, J. Timothy and Bradley R. Foley., "Collett Leventhorpe, the English Confederate: the Life of a Civil War General, 1815-1889," West Jefferson NC: McFarland Publishers, 2007, ISBN 978-0786426492.
* Eicher, David J., "The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War", Simon & Schuster, 2001, ISBN 0-684-84944-5.
* Foote, Shelby, "The Civil War, A Narrative: Fredericksburg to Meridian", Random House, 1958, ISBN 0-394-49517-9.
* Gottfried, Bradley M., "Brigades of Gettysburg", Da Capo Press, 2002, ISBN 0-306-81175-8.
* Gottfried, Bradley M., "The Artillery of Gettysburg", Cumberland House Publishing, 2008, ISBN 978-1-58182-623-4.
* Gottfried, Bradley M., "The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3 – June 13, 1863", Savas Beatie, 2007, ISBN 978-1-932714-30-2.
* Harman, Troy D., "Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg", Stackpole Books, 2003, ISBN 0-8117-0054-2.
* Martin, David G., "Gettysburg July 1", rev. ed., Combined Publishing, 1996, ISBN 0-938289-81-0.
* McPherson, James M., "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States)", Oxford University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-19-503863-0.
* Nye, Wilbur S., "Here Come the Rebels!", Louisiana State University Press, 1965 (reprinted by Morningside House, 1984), ISBN 0-89029-080-6.
* Pfanz, Harry W., "Gettysburgndash The First Day", University of North Carolina Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8078-2624-3.
* Pfanz, Harry W., "Gettysburgndash The Second Day", University of North Carolina Press, 1987, ISBN 0-8078-1749-X.
* Pfanz, Harry W., "Gettysburg: Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill", University of North Carolina Press, 1993, ISBN 0-8078-2118-7.
* Sauers, Richard A., "Battle of Gettysburg", "Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History", Heidler, David S., and Heidler, Jeanne T., eds., W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, ISBN 0-393-04758-X.
* Symonds, Craig L., "American Heritage History of the Battle of Gettysburg", HarperCollins, 2001, ISBN 0-06-019474-X.
* Tagg, Larry, [ "The Generals of Gettysburg"] , Savas Publishing, 1998, ISBN 1-882810-30-9.
* Trudeau, Noah Andre, "Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage", HarperCollins, 2002, ISBN 0-06-019363-8.
* Tucker, Glenn, "High Tide at Gettysburg", Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1958 (reprinted by Morningside House, 1983), ISBN 0-89029-715-4.
* Wert, Jeffry D., "Gettysburg: Day Three", Simon & Schuster, 2001, ISBN 0-684-85914-9.

External links

* [ General Lee's report on the campaign]
* [ Animated History of The Gettysburg Campaign]

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