July 3, 1863: Confederate forces are defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg.

The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the turning points of the American Civil War, marking the high tide of the Confederacy and producing the largest number of casualties in any battle of the entire war, with each side suffering around 23,000. The battle took place in Pennsylvania - north of the Mason-Dixon Line, making it one of the only major Civil War battles (or perhaps the only) fought north of the line that traditionally divided the Northeastern and Southern halves of the United States. Until then, virtually all of the fighting and destruction had taken place in the South. It also marked the end of Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the Union after the failed Maryland Campaign; this time around, he and the Army of Northern Virginia aimed to penetrate the Union as far north as Philadelphia to relieve pressure off the war-torn South. His campaign was thwarted by the Union Army of the Potomac under George Meade, who had just three days earlier replaced Joseph Hooker, which outnumbered Lee’s own forces by 20,000.

The armies met on July 1 and fought fiercely for two days. One area of the battlefield located at the foot of the Little Round Top hill was dubbed the “Slaughter Pen” because, by the end of the battle, “ the ground was found in many places to be almost covered with the dead and wounded”. On July 3, George Pickett and two other Confederate generals launched an infantry assault now known as “Pickett’s Charge”, the “high-water mark” of the Confederate advance into the North, its best chance of victory, and ultimately a failure. The fighting came to a standstill on July 4, and by the evening Lee’s forces were in retreat, after Union forces elected to cease its attack. The Army of the Potomac then failed to pursue the fleeing forces and relinquished an important opening to destroy Robert E. Lee and the bulk of the Confederate army in one fell swoop, a cautious move for which George Meade was heavily criticized, even if his victory at Gettysburg was widely celebrated. 

Simultaneously a turning point, a moral victory (for the North, now optimistic over the fact that Robert E. Lee was not, in fact, unbeatable), and a squandered opportunity, the Battle of Gettysburg and the surrender of Vicksburg stamped out any hope the Confederacy still maintained for a victory or at the very least an equal truce to end the war. At the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg four months later, Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous address

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    Fun Fact: The very first image could be considered a “fake”. The gun in that images is the gun of a Northern Infantry...
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