July 1, 1863 — July 3, 1863

Most of General Lee’s army of 75,000 reached Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the evening of July 1. Most of the 90,000-man Union army of General George Meade arrived at Gettysburg that same evening. On July 2, Lee tried to attack Union positions from the left and right flanks, but Union 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. 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 federal lines held firm. When Lee finally ordered a retreat back into Virginia, it became clear that the Confederacy had suffered a disastrous defeat. Gettysburg ended in Union victory but at a cost of 51,000 casualties, making it the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.

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