Gettysburg is a concept album told by the combatants. It is a Rock History of the battle fought July 1 through July 4 1863. The battle was fought in and around the town of Gettysburg Pennsylvania producing the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War and was the war’s turning point.

The Union 93,921 men strong would suffer 23,055 casualties and losses - 3,155 killed, 14,531 wounded and 5,369 captured or missing. The Confederacy 71,699 men strong would suffer 23,231 casualties and losses - 4,708 killed, 12,693 wounded and 5,830 captured or missing. Union General George Gordon Meade’s Army of the Potomac defeated attacks by Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, ending Lee’s invasion of the North.

Song: Gettysburg

 General Lee led his army for a second invasion of the North, hoping to reach as far as Harrisburg Pennsylvania or Philadelphia to influence Northern politicians to give up their prosecution of the war. If General Lee could defeat the Army of the Potomac he was to deliver a letter to President Lincoln suing for peace. The following is a salient history of the battle.

The two armies began to collide at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863 as Lee concentrated his forces there. Low ridges to the northwest of town were defended by two Union Calvary brigades commanded by General John Buford. They were scouting in advance of their Army of the Potomac, which was moving north through Maryland in an effort to catch up with General Robert E. Lee’s army. 

The rebel army was approaching from the north and west of Gettysburg. For a week they had been rampaging through the Pennsylvania countryside taking livestock, food, and clothes and demanding tribute from prosperous towns that had been untouched by war. A rebel division, commanded by Gen. Henry Heth, camped four miles west of Gettysburg that night. Heth had learned there was a hidden storage of shoes in the town and told his corps commander, General Ambrose P Hill “if there is no objection General, I will take my division tomorrow and get those shoes.” 

At about 8 AM Gen. Heth and his 7,461 men reached the crest of Herr Ridge, about 1.5 miles from Gettysburg and saw Bufords 2,748 dismounted cavalry men deployed for battle along Willoughby Run. Rebel soldiers moved straight down the hill into a hail of bullets delivered by troops firing breech loaded carbines and a battery of artillery. The Rebels were stalled for a short time before reinforcements arrived.

Song: It’s All Or Nothing

From on top of a building Gen. Buford watched his men being pushed back when Gen John Reynolds  announced his corps was following him and asked Buford to hold out until they arrived. “The devils to pay!” exclaimed Buford. He replied “I reckon I can.” 

At first Union troops stymied the approach of Lee’s III Corp from the west.Then Lee’s II Corp led by General Stephen D. Ramseur came up after two brigades in front of them had been pushed back from Oak Ridge.  Then Gen. Jubal A Early’s arrived on the field on the Union Army’s flank causing the Yankees to relinquish their line and retreat through Gettysburg. 

Little Round Top is the smaller of two rocky hills south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. A key defensive line was defended under the command of Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. The battle was decided by a dramatic downhill bayonet charge that is one of the most well-known actions at Gettysburg. Chamberlain would be awarded the Medal of Honor and the honor of commanding the Union troops at Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia in 1865.

Song: Hold the Line

The Battle of the Little Round Top (July 2, 1863) found Col. Chamberlain and Col. Strong Vincent and their 20th Maine at the far left end of the Union line with the 83rd Pennsylvania, 44th New York, and 16th Michigan infantry regiments to their right. They had to hold the Little 

Round Top at all costs. The men waited until troops from the 15th Alabama regiment, under Col. William C. Oates charged up the hill attempting to flank the Union position. Time and again the Confederates struck until the 20th Maine was almost doubled back upon itself. With many casualties and ammunition running low, Col Chamberlain recognized the dire circumstances and ordered his left wing (which was now looking southeast, compared to the rest of the regiment which was facing west) to initiate a bayonet charge. From his report of the day: “At that crisis, I ordered the bayonet. The word was enough.” 

The 20th Maine charged down the hill, with the left wing wheeling continually to make the charging line swing like a hinge creating a simultaneous frontal assault and flanking maneuver capturing many of the Confederate soldiers and successfully saving the flank.

Song: Fighting For Freedom 

Song: Hero

Pickett’s Charge was an infantry assault ordered by Confederate General Robert E. Lee attacking positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863. It’s futility was predicted by the charge’s commander Lt. Gen. James Longstreet. The charged is named after Maj. Gen. George Pickett one of three Confederate generals who led the charge under Longstreet. 

After Confederate attacks on both Union flanks had failed the day and night before, Lee was determined to strike the Union center on the third day. Gen. Meade rightly predicted that Lee would try to attack his line in the center the following morning. The infantry assault was preceded by a massive artillery bombardment that was meant to soften up the Union defense and silence its artillery, However, it was largely ineffective. Approximately 12,500 men in nine infantry brigades advance over open fields for three quarters of a mile under heavy Union artillery and rifle fire. Although some confederates were able to breach the low stone wall that shielded many of the Union defenders, they could not maintain their positions and were repulsed with over 50% casualties. It was a decisive defeat that ended the three day battle and Lee’s campaign into Pennsylvania. 

Song: Pickett’s Charge 

Pickett’s Charge was a blood bath.The Union lost about 1,500 killed and wounded. Pickett’s division suffered 2,655 casualties (498 killed, 643 wounded, 833 captured).Pettigrew’s losses are estimated at about 2,700 (470 killed, 1893 wounded, 377 captured). Trimble’s two brigades reported lost 885 (155 killed, 650 wounded and 80 captured). Wilcox’s brigade reported losses of 200 and Lang reported losses of 400. Total losses during the attack were 6,555 of which 1,123 Confederates killed on the battlefield, another 4.019 wounded and a good number of injured were also capture. The Union reports state that 3,750 men were captured. 

Casualties were high among the commanders of the charge. Pickett’s three brigade commanders and all thirteen of his regimental commanders were casualties. Kemper was seriously wounded, captured by Union soldiers, rescued and then captured again during the retreat to Virginia. Garnett and Armistead were killed. Garnett had a previous leg injury and rode his horse during the charge, despite knowing that conspicuously riding a horse into heavy enemy fire would mean certain death. Armistead is known for leading his brigade with his cap on the tip of his sword. His brigade made the deepest progress through Union line. 

General Armistead was mortally wounded, falling near the “Angle” at what is now called the high water mark of the Confederacy. Of the 15 regimental commanders in Pickett’s division, the Virginia Military Institute produced eleven and all eleven were lost.

Song: Brothers In Arms

Lewis Addison Armistead was born on February 18, 1817 in New Bern, North Carolina. Hew was accepted to West Point on March 21, 1833 but tendered his resignation to the school for the second time, (the first time because of an illness that left him behind in his studies his first year at West Point and was going to fail his annual exam) on January 29, 1836 for “cracking a mess hall plate over the head of fellow classmate Jubal Early” 

Lewis married for the first time in 1844 to Cecilia Lee Love. It was also in this year that Lewis met someone who would be a life-long friend, fellow army officer Winfield Scott Hancock. 

With the attack on For Sumter, South Carolina in April of 1861, many southern men were faced with the difficult decision of remaining with the army they had served loyally for most of their lives, or leaving to fight for their home states. Most would resign their commissions, for to fight against their respective states would mean fighting their own families; this was something many could not and would not do. So, like many of his southern comrades, Lew A Amistead resigned from the U.S. Army on May 26, 1861. 

In an incident popularized in Michael Shaara’s “Killer Angels,” Armistead attended a tearful farewell party held for the departing southerners by their brother officers and wives at the home of Winfield and Almira Hancock in Los Angeles, California. Lewis gave to Hancock’s wife, Almira, his prayer book inscribed with Trust in God and Fear Nothing.” Other possessions he also gave the Hancock's, to be forwarded to his family in the event of his death. To his friend Winfield he gave a new Major’s uniform and goodbyes were said in what was to be a final farewell between dear and trusted friends. 

General Armistead’s most famous service came at his last fight, the Battle o f Gettysburg. In the lead when the remnants of Pickett’s Division and other units pierced the Union Line, he crossed the wall at the Angle, his hat upon his sword, and he was shot down and captured. Later it was learned that General Hancock was wounded almost at the same time. There is no evidence that they saw each other in the last two days of Armistead’s life. He passed on July 5. 

Winfield Scott Hancock (Feb. 14, 1824 - Feb 9, 1886) was a career U.S. Army officer and the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 1880. He served with distinction in the army for four decades including service int the Mexican-American War and as a Union general in the Civil War. Known to army colleagues as “Hancock the Superb”, he was noted for his leadership at Gettysburg. One historian noted “no other Union General at Gettyburg dominated men by the sheer force of their presence more completely than Hancock.” Another wrote “...his tactical skill had won him the quick admiration of adversaries who had come to know him as the “Thunderbolt of the Army of the Potomac.” 

At Gettysburg after his friend Major General John F. Reynolds was killed on July 1, Major General George G. Meade sent Hancock ahead to take command of the units on the field and assess the situation. Hancock was in temporary command of the left wing of the army consisting of the I,II,III, and XI Corps. It demonstrated General Meade’s confidence in him as he was not the most senior Union officer. Hancock and Maj. General Oliver O. Howard argued about the command arrangement but Hancock prevailed and organized the Union defenses on Cemetery Hill as the Confederate forces forced the I and XI Corps back through town. He had the authority from Meade to withdraw the forces so he was responsible for the decision to stand and fight at Gettysburg. Meade arrived at midnight and command reverted to him. 

On July 2, Hancock’s II Corp was positioned on Cemetery Ridge, roughly in the center of the Union line while Lee would launch assaults on both ends of the line. On the Union left, Lt. General James Longstreet’s assault smashed the III Corps and Hancock sent in his 1st division Union Brig. Gen. John C. Caldwell to reinforce the Union in the wheat field. As Lt. General A.P. Hill’s Corps continued the attack toward the Union center, Hancock rallied the defenses and rushed units to critical spots. In one famous incident, he sacrificed a regiment, the 1st Minnesota, by ordering it to advance and attack a confederate brigade four times its size causing the Minnesotans to suffer 87% casualties. While costly to the regiment, this heroic sacrifice bought time to organize the defensive line and saved the day for the Union army. 

On July 3, Hancock continued in his position on Cemetery ridge and bore the brunt of Pickett’s Charge. During the massive Confederate artillery bombardment that preceded the assault, Hancock was prominent on horseback in reviewing and encouraging his troop. When one of his subordinates protested, “General the Corps commander ought not risk his life that way,” Hancock is said to have replied, “There are times when a Corps commander’s life does not count.” Hancock suffered a severe wound caused by a bullet striking the pommel of his saddle entering his right thigh along with wood fragments and a large bent nail. Helped from his horse by his aides, and with a tourniquet applied to stanch the bleeding, he removed the saddle nail himself and mistaking its source remarked “they must be hard up for ammunition whey they throw such shot as that.” 

News of Armistead’s death was brought to Hancock by a member of his staff. Despite his pain, Hancock refused evacuation to the rear until the battle was resolved. He had been an inspiration for his troops through the three day battle. Hancock later received the thanks of the U.S. Congress for “...his gallant, meritorious and conspicuous share in that great and decisive victory.”

Song: Fighting For Freedom Redux

Song: Lee’s Lament

Gettysburg campaign (July 5 - July 14) 

The armies stared at one another across the bloody fields on July 4, the same day that the Vicksburg garrison surrendered to Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Lee reformed his lines into a defensive position hoping that Meade would attack. Meade decided against the risk. He did order a series of small probing actions, including sending the U.S. Regulars over a mile towards the right of the Confederate lines but they withdrew under artillery fire and Meade chose not to press an attack. Lincoln was unhappy with Meade for not attacking. A series of sharp exchanges between opposing skirmish lines only added more names to the casualty lists. By mid-day the firing at Gettysburg had stopped and both armies began to collect their remaining wounded and bury some of the dead. A proposal by Lee for a prisoner exchange was rejected by Meade. On July 5 in a driving rain the bulk of the Army of Northern Virginia left Gettysburg on the Hagerstown Road - the Battle of Gettyburg was over and the Confederates were headed back to Virginia.

Song: Let It Reign

The two armies suffered between 46,000 and 51,000 casualties. The casualties for both sides during the entire campaign were 57,225. There is one documented civilian death during the battle. Ginnie Wade, 20 years old, was shot by a stray bullet that passed through he kitchen in town while she was making bread. 

Nearly 8,000 had been killed and their bodies were lying in the hot summer sun needing to be buried quickly. Over 3,000 horse carcasses were burned in a series of piles south of town; town folk became violently ill from the stench. The ravages of war would still be evident in Gettysburg more than 4 months later when on Nov. 19 the Soldiers National Cemetery was dedicated. During that ceremony President Lincoln with his Gettysburg Address re-dedicated the Union to the war effort.