The battle near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania ended the only major invasion the Union during the America Civil War and is considered by many historians as a turning point of the conflict.
In the summer of 1863, following a series of victories, Gen. Robert E. Lee led the Confederate Army in an invasion of the northern states. Lee wanted to secure supplies for his troops and was confident that a Confederate victory in Union territory would gain recognition of the Confederacy from European nations.
The Confederates met Union forces near the village of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on July 1. The Union troops under Gen. George G. Meade took establish a defensive line on the high ground to the south of town. Skirmishes took place throughout the day as both armies moved into position.
By the next morning 90,000 Union and 75,000 Confederate soldiers were in place around Gettysburg. Lee attacked the Union flanks with some success, but not as effectively as planned. Some Confederate leaders chose to attack the wrong places, allowing Union replacements to refortify the North’s position.
Thinking that the Union flanks had been significantly weakened, Lee attacked the main line of the enemy force on the afternoon of July 3. The main force of 15,000 Confederate troops advanced in what became known as Pickett’s charge. The attack failed horribly, and thousands of men died.
Lee retreated back Virginia on July 4, 1863. He had lost roughly one-third of his army, including 17 generals. The Union army had lost an almost equal number of men.
While Gettysburg was a major victory for the North, Meade failed to pursue and destroy the retreating army. Lee was able to regroup and continue fighting for another 2 years.