As the calendar flipped from June to July in 1863, two events changed the course of the Civil War. The first event occurred in in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Gettysburg, a small market town founded in the soft, rolling hills of south central Pennsylvania on Samuel Gettys farm half a century before, was unknown to most Americans. Four days later, on July 4, it had become “The Most Famous Small Town in America,” as boosters would come to call it.
On the morning of July 1, Robert E. Lee and 76,000 troops of the Army of Northern Virginia arrived in Gettysburg where they were engaged by 92,000 men under the command of Union General George Meade.  Over the next three days fighting would rage across 25 square miles surrounding Gettysburg, finally ending with a desperate Confederate infantry charge across open ground directly into the heart of the Union’s defensive line. The attack ended in disaster and Lee’s only invasion into Northern territory was over. More men fought at Gettysburg and more men died than any battle ever contested on American soil.
With Lee and his army in full retreat on July 4, it was obvious that the armies of the South would never be able to conquer their Northern opposition in the “War of Northern Aggression.” It did not, however, mean that the rebel cause was lost and, in fact, the Army of Northern Virginia would continue to fight for nearly two more years. It was the events taking place the very same day 1,000 miles in Vicksburg to the west that doomed the Confederacy and insured their defeat.
Categories: United States History