|The Battle of Gettysburg
|Digital History ID 3085|
On the evening of July 1, most of Lee's army of 75,000 reached Gettysburg. Meanwhile, most of the 90,000-man Union army of General George Meade (1815-1872) arrived at Gettysburg that same evening.
On July 2, Lee tried to attack Union positions from the left and right flanks, but northern troops repelled the attack. The next day, the Union army, which expected Lee to attack again on the flanks, reinforced its flanks. But Lee launched a frontal attack on the center of the Union lines, which came as a shock and a surprise. However, a frontal assault against a well-fortified defensive position on a hill was very unlikely to succeed. Some 15,000 Confederate troops, led by General George E. Pickett (1825-1875), marched three-quarters of a mile into withering Union rifle and artillery fire. Although about a hundred Confederate soldiers succeeded in temporarily breaking through the Union defenses, the northern lines held firm. When Lee finally ordered a retreat back into Virginia, it became clear that the Confederacy had suffered a disastrous defeat.
Nearly 25,000 Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing in action at the Battle of Gettysburg. After Gettysburg, Lee was never able to mount another major offensive.
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