The largest Civil War battle ever waged in the Western Hemisphere was fought 149 years ago near the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It began on July 1, 1863 and ended two days later with the climactic “Pickett’s Charge”. More than 150,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were drawn into the Battle of Gettysburg. By the time it was over, there were 51,112 casualties (23,049 Union and 28,063 Confederate) – which includes those dead, wounded, and missing – making it the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War. The actual number of deaths is believed to be around 7,800 (3,100 Union and 4,700 Confederate). Amazingly, only a single civilian was accidentally killed in the battle. The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the War Between the States.
Did You Know…? Records that show that the youngest boy to fight in the Civil War was only 10 years old. The average soldier’s ages ranged from 15-25, but some fought all the way up into their 70’s and 80’s.
The highest rate of casualties was in the color guard. If the enemy could see the flag, that’s where they directed their fire. Nevertheless, the flag bearer had an important position. He led the way for the troops to follow. If a flag man fell, another man would pick up the flag and take his place.
Gettysburg National Military Park
Post-battle preservation efforts saved small portions of the Gettysburg battlefield as a memorial to the Union victory. Then on February 11, 1895, congressional legislation was signed to establish Gettysburg National Military Park as a memorial dedicated to the armies that fought the great three day battle. Gettysburg National Military Park incorporates nearly 6,000 acres, with 26 miles of park roads and over 1,400 monuments, markers, and memorials. The Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg contains more than 7,000 interments including over 3,500 from the Civil War. It was here that President Abraham Lincoln delivered his immortal Gettysburg Address. For more information about the park, visit www.nps.gov/gett.