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The Battle of Gettysburg

May 21st, 2013 · Jennie Y. · Staff Recommendations

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Battle of Gettysburg and President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The Battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil. It is considered the turning point of the Civil War.

The outcome of the war was decided during the first three hot days of July at Gettysburg. On July 1st 1863, the Confederate Army advanced from northwest of the town and drove the Union Army to Cemetery Hill, south of the town. In the next two days, Confederate Commander, General Lee, ordered waves of attacks against the Union’s right flank (Culp’s Hill), its left flank (Little Round Top), at the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard, and against the Federal center where Pickett’s Charge took place.

Armed with rifle muskets, the infantrymen pushed the battle line back and forth, charged with bayonets at each other, and fought hand to hand. The two armies together suffered more than 45,000 casualties over the course of the three day battle. Though they had momentary success, the Confederates could not capture the high ground that the Union Army held for two days. As a result, Lee’s army retreated hastily on July 4th, 1863.

The victory of the battle greatly lifted the spirits of the Union army and dashed the hopes of the Confederacy. In the Gettysburg Address on November 19th, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave meaning to both the battle and the Civil War.

How did Lincoln tie the battle and the war to the survival of the nation and to its founding ideals of freedom and equality in his two-minute speech? Why did neighbors, friends, classmates, cousins and brothers fight against each other to death? What brought the two armies to Gettysburg? What kinds of strategies did the generals employ? What decisions, coordinations, calculations and mistakes did each army make and why? What are the myths and legends about the battle?

You may find the answers to these questions and more in the following DVDs and books including those by Pulitzer prize-winners Michael Shaara, James McPherson, and Garry Wills:

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