The Gettysburg Campaign: August - September 1862
While the Western Generals were starting their offensive into the Confederacy, the Eastern Generals of the Army of the Susquehanna and the Army of Pennsylvania, Generals Meade and McClellan respectively, devised a strategy to try and out-maneuver Lee and use their numerical superiority to crush his Army of Northern Virginia. They understood that General Lee was somewhere in Pennsylvania, and they needed to find a way to drive in back into Maryland, or even Virginia if they could. Agreeing with the Navy, the two Generals finalized their strategy. They would move both of their armies South, looking to attack Westminster, Maryland. This, they hoped, would draw the Army of Northern Virginia out where they could crush them, and drive back towards Washington.
General Lee, however, had other plans. President Davis had recently ordered Lee to attack Philadelphia to try and capture the new Union Capitol, but Lee kept it on the back of his mind, going after it only if they could get rid of the Union Army they were facing. General J.E.B. Stuart, always the audacious one, was riding into Pennsylvania to try and disrupt communications. It was his cavalry that saw the movements from the Union army, coming towards Westminster. Quickly reporting back to General Lee with this information, Lee made his decision. He would ride up towards the advancing Union Army, and hopefully, find a position favorable to the Confederacy on Union ground, away from Maryland, where he could sit and have the Union Army break against his lines. His army, totaling around 72,644 men was going to face the new Army of Pennsylvania and the Army of Susquehanna, totaling around 134,464 between them. General Lee knew of the rough numbers, and figured it was about 2 to 1 odds. This was the worst ratio he had ever faced, but he was sure that he would be able to pull off a victory, somehow.
Movements started on August 14th, with General Lee ordering his Corps froward into the North. General A.P. Hill decided to march along Taneytown Road, with General Ewell marching along the Baltimore Pike. General Jackson decided to march up to Hanover, and from there assess his situation. General Longstreet, stationed in Washington City, took the Westminster Road, hoping to handle the rear of the Army. General Jackson changed his route in Hanover to march along the Hanover Road. These movements were designed to bring the entire Confederate Army to bear in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was here that General Lee thought they would regroup and then asses where they should move to.
Just a day later, the Union Army began their march down South, towards Westminster. As if by design, the Union Army also planned to converge in Gettysburg before pushing South once again. Generals Pope and Sedgwick marched on the Chambersburg Pike, Slocum and Hancock coming down the Carlisle Road. General Sickles was approaching from the North, down Harrisburg Road. While General Burnside make his way along York Road.
1. The Overview of Movements before the Battle of Gettysburg.
The tentative moments of sporadic fighting began around mid-morning on August 20th, 1862. Nothing serious, with shots fired and no injuries. Now, both of the armies knew exactly where the other was. The stage was set for the largest war ever seen in Human History to this point. Pitting the Army of Northern Virginia, General Lee commanding against the Army of the Susquehanna, General Meade commanding. Supporting the Army of the Susquehanna was the Army of Pennsylvania, General McClellan commanding. The Army of Pennsylvania was mostly raw recruits, with only two regiments of veteran infantry.
The opening hours of August 21st, 1862 was marked as the First Day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Only General Longstreet's and General Jackson's Corps were fully up and ready on August 21st. They were facing four corps of Union Infantry. General Longstreet had to deal with the Corps of Pope and Sedgwick. Longstreet was positioned along the Southern edge of Fairfield Road, setting up his men across Seminary Ridge and to the stream. The Union attacks came quickly, and they surprised General Longstreet, not expecting two corps to bear down upon him so early in the morning. The fighting was fierce, and the ever cautious General Longstreet was forced to pull back. Not wanting to get double flanked, he moved his Corps South and East, linking up with General Ewell's corps who were stilling coming online.
The situation North of Gettysburg was quite, with Sickle's Corps coming down Carlisle Road and occupying the town of Gettysburg. A regiment or two was detached in order to try and fight against General Longstreet's men, but the cost was to high, and they decided to return back to Gettysburg.
General Jackson, positioned East of the town, had several problems to deal with. He had to keep an eye on Sickle's Corps, as well as defend against General Burnside's division coming down from the York Road. Jackson was originally positioned along the South side of the York road, but he had to turn his right flank to deal with General Burnside. Jackson, unable to hold his position, was forced to retreat after fighting for several hours, finding that their position was simply unfavorable, not even the genius of General Jackson could hold the Confederate line, and they broke and ran South, towards Culp's Hill.
[-1,000 Regulars from the USA. - 3,000 Conscripts from the USA. -3,000 Regulars from the USA. -5,000 Conscripts from the CSA.]
2. Day 1 of the Battle of Gettysburg.
During the night, the rest of Ewell's and Hill's Corps were up, along with a few extra divisions of Jackson's and Longstreet's Corps. Finally, the entire Army of Northern Virginia was camped out South of Gettysburg, ready to try and keep the Union Army from breaking them.
The fighting was initiated by General Burnside who decided to try and move Generals Jackson and Hill off of Culp's Hill. Burnside, not knowing that both Hill and Jackson had ordered entrenchments built during the night, ordered his Corps to charge up the Hill to try and disengage them. It wasn't until two charges in that Burnside was given the information. He ordered that the assault be stopped immediately, and a charge be renewed against the Confederate forces at Cemetery Hill. This too, proved fruitless as General Jackson counter-charged down the hill, holding the very bottom of the hill, like a Stonewall. His actions in defending Cemetery Hill earned him the nickname "Stonewall" Jackson.
The other fighting took place South, at the other flank of the Confederate Army. General Longstreet, abandoning his position from the first day, took up a defensive position in the Peach Orchard, hoping the terrain would discourage a Union attack. However, General Meade wouldn't have anything of it. He ordered General Slocum to fully engage. General Longstreet was determined to try and hold his line, and General Lee was pressuring Longstreet not to give up any more ground.
True to Lee's word, Longstreet fought fiercely in the Peach Orchard, before being driven back to the Wheat Field, until finally he was forced to retreat to the Devil's Den. Every step of the way, Union men feel by the dozen. But they were not deterred, much to Longstreet's dismay. After taking nearly six thousand casualties before the day was done, General Longstreet finally gave up and ordered his men into defensive positions on two small hills, forming the Left Flank of the Confederate Army. Finally, after two days of stalemate and constant running by the Confederate Army, the stage was set for the final day of battle.
[-4,000 Regulars from the USA. -10,000 Conscripts from the USA. -3,000 Regulars from the CSA. -9,000 Conscripts from the CSA.]
3. Day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Third Day of the Battle of Gettysburg decided the entire battle, and with it, the fate of the Gettysburg Campaign.
General Meade, confident in both of the Army's ability to break the Confederates, ordered every single Union Corps to attack the Confederate line, which looped like a fishhook around Culp's Hill, all the way down to the Little Round tops. Although the ground was favorable, General Lee was worried that the Union Army would flank him on both sides and take his army by the rear. By doing this, General Lee tried to ensure his flanks were strong and well defended.
In the early morning, General Burnside, along with General Slocum, assaulted the Confederate lines. General A.P. Hill and General Jackson, in charge of the Confederate Right Flank, ordered more men to hold the line. Wave after wave of Union men charged up the hill, determined to shove the Confederates back. With each and every charge the Confederates responded with an equally fierce defense. Two days of digging in finally paid off, as General Burnside, faced with huge casualties, called off his attacks completely.
General Slocum, was even more unlucky in the South. General Longstreet had ordered fortifications be be built on the top of the steep hills. The Union charged valiantly up the steep hills, with musket fire and cannon raining down upon them. General George Pickett, commander of the 1st Division, 2nd Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, held the extreme Left Flank of the Confederate Army. General Slocum focused his forces here. The message to General Pickett was clear. Hold the little rocky hill at all costs.
Three Union charges later, with heavy casualties, resulted in heavy Confederate casualties as well. General Pickett was distraught, his army was running out of ammunition. A few hours before noon, Slocum ordered yet another charge against the Confederate Lines. Leading this charge was the 20th Maine Regiment. Matched against the 18th Virginia Infantry. Completely run out of ammo, General Pickett was unsure what to do. Thinking quickly, he ordered bayonets attached, and for the entire 1st Division to sweep down, in the shape of an L, to drive back the Yankees.
This move, dubbed "Pickett's Charge" was a resounding success. Sustaining little casualties on his side, many Union men were captured, and the rest of the Union assault broke and ran, retreating back to the safety of the Union centre. Captured in this affair was Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, who praised General Pickett for his valiant and brilliant bayonet charge.
It was around noon that the action on the flanks ceased. General Meade was left with a very difficult decision. Both attacks on the flanks were a failure. He reasoned that the Flanks were fortified, and the Centre was weak. At 12:46 PM, he ordered the commencement of a massive charge to be undertaken by elements of General Pope, General Sickles, and General Hancock's three corps. Headed by General Hancock, this charge was meant to break the Confederate Centre, divide their Army, and smash it.
At 1:34 PM, 55,000 men rallied together at Seminary Ridge, and began their march toward the Confederate Centre. Generals Jackson and Ewell, seeing this move, ordered a massive artillery barrage to weaken the incoming forces. By the time the Union forces reached Emmittsburg Road, the call for the double-quick was given. Thousands of men fell as the defending Confederates, bolstered by reserves and men from the Flanks, fired back at the Union troops, defiant, and unwavering.
The 3rd Division of the IX Corps of the Army of Susquehanna was the first to read the stonewall which the Confederates were camped behind. The Confederates tried desperately to drive them back, using grapeshot, and calling up every cannon they could muster. At the position called "The Angle" the Union Army converged. The entire Battle hinged on this very spot.
Climbing over the wall, the Union troops quickly started to establish a foothold. Regiment after Regiment poured into the area, many mean cheering because they felt victory. The moral of the Confederates was crumbling, more and more territory was lost the Union invaders. The casualties grew ever higher as regiment after regiment on both sides was destroyed.
Suddenly, charging at full speed, was General J.E.B. Stuart's Calvary. Word of the breech traveled fast, and acting without orders General Stuart took his entire division of cavalry, and slammed them into the Union foothold. Cutlass met flesh, as the Cavalry division destroyed any semblance of Union organization. This help, once the Cavalry dismounted, resulted in the Confederates plugging up the hole in their line, and firing back at the now retreating, and battered, Union divisions.
[-10,000 Regulars from the USA. -40,000 Conscripts from the USA. -5,000 Regulars from the CSA. -13,000 Conscripts from the CSA.]
4. Day 3 of the Battle of Gettysburg.
The entire thing was failure for General Meade and the Union Army. By the very resolve, the will of the Confederate Army, it kept itself intact. Greatly battered, General Meade was resigned to defeat. Both sides were equally as tired as the other, but the Confederate's held their position. The actions of JEB Stuart's Calvary was praised throughout the Confederate Army, and Damned throughout the Union Army. The losses sustained by both the Union armies were simply too much to handle. General McClellan resigned his position as head of the Army of Pennsylvania, and ordered the remainder of his men into the Army of the Susquehanna.
On August 24th, 1862, General George Meade ordered his entire Army to retreat Northwards, pulling out of Gettysburg and ceding the town, the ground, and hundreds of wagon's worth of supplies to the Confederate Army. The retreat was undertaken in an orderly fashion, taking up position in Harrisburg, across the Susquehanna River. On September 1st, 1862, General Meade met with his staff, and against their protests, he resigned from the United States Army.
5. General Meade and his staff, on the day Meade resigned from the Union Army.
General Lee, knowing full well of his victory, took the time to reestablish himself in Gettysburg, making it the hub of the Confederate Army in the area, shipping supplies and reinforcements from down South. For the rest of September, Gettysburg would serve as the headquarters of General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. Content at the victory, Lee decided he would make camp early here, waiting for the Fall and Winter to be over. It would take until next year for the Union Army to be anywhere close to fighting ability, and Lee needed to give his gallant troops a rest.
In mid September, 1862, Confederate President Jefferson Davis arrived by stagecoach in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to deliver the now famous Gettysburg Address.
Originally Posted by President Davis' Gettysburg Address