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Gettysburg History

Photos from the Library of Congress and Gettysburg NMP Archives


The Civil War

The American Civil War was a conflict between the United States of America, represented by the Union, and The Confederate States of America, represented by the Confederacy fought between 1861 and 1865. Described “as the most dramatic, violent and fateful experience in American history,” the Civil War remains a defining moment in our nation's history. 

The Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg has often been referred to as the “High Water Mark of the Rebellion.” Many consider it to be a turning point in the Civil War because the Union victory placed the Confederacy on the defensive and ended Gen. Robert E. Lee’s most ambitious attempt to invade Union territory. The Confederates never again reached the military strength they held at Gettysburg, yet the Civil War raged on for two more years. 

Who Fought at Gettysburg

More than 165,000 soldiers of The Army of Northern Virginia (the Confederacy), commanded by Gen. Robert E. Lee, and the Army of the Potomac (the Union), commanded by Gen. George G. Meade, fought at Gettysburg. Neither Gen. Lee nor Gen. Meade anticipated a battle at Gettysburg, but chance brought these two forces together. Union forces eventually defeated the Confederates after three days of fighting that resulted in approximately 51,000 soldiers killed, wounded, captured or missing, divided nearly equally between the two armies. 

The Gettysburg Address

The Soldiers’ National Cemetery was dedicated in November 1863, four months after the Battle of Gettysburg. It is a resting place for the Union dead at Gettysburg and was a first step toward helping the United States heal from the Battle of Gettysburg. As part of the dedication ceremony, President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to deliver what would become known as the Gettysburg Address. In just 272 words, Abraham Lincoln defined for the North, and for all Americans, the meaning, value and price of freedom.