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    • U.S. Marks Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg


      "Battle of Gettysburg" by Thure de Thulstrup, depicting Pickett's Charge


      Today the nation commemorates the 158th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

      On July 1, 1863, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia met the Union Army of the Potomac at the sleepy town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. For three days, these armies engaged in some of the hardest and bloodiest fighting of the Civil War.

      In the weeks leading up to the battle, Confederate General Robert E. Lee led his 75,000-man army north to attack Union territory. In response, Union Major General George Meade moved 95,000 U.S. Soldiers forward to engage the enemy force.

      During the first day of the battle, there were a number of skirmishes in and around the town. Lee saw an opportunity to destroy the Union army, and so he committed his forces in full.

      On July 2, with both armies assembled, the battle began to rage. Heated engagements flared up throughout the day at Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, Culp’s Hill, and other locations. While the Confederates had enjoyed a number of early tactical successes, the Union forces held their lines.

      Then, on the third and final day of the battle, nine brigades of Confederate infantry, supported by artillery, attacked the center of the Union Line in an assault known as Pickett’s Charge. However, these forces, marching forward over 1,300 yards, were cut to pieces by Union small arms and cannon fires. These Confederate attackers suffered over 50% casualties, with survivors being driven back from the field.

      Thus ended the Battle of Gettysburg.

      The costs were high. In the end, casualties numbered  28,063 with 3,903 KIA among Confederate forces and 23,049  with 3,155 KIA among Union forces. It was the costliest battle in American history.

      With Lee’s push blunted, Confederate forces did not attempt any further attacks into the north. His army retreated back to Virginia through heavy rains.

      The combined military and political losses of the Confederates, compounded with further defeats in other theaters, hampered its efforts to sustain the war. It was the beginning of the end of the Confederate States of America.

      But the war would continue for almost two more years, costing more lives. It would take years more for the nation to recover fully from the conflict.

      Those American fighting men, much like those today, served honorably through some of the most difficult moments of our nation’s history. For actions in the Gettysburg Campaign, the United States awarded 72 Medals of Honor to veterans.

      Let us never forget the costs.

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