Robert E. Lee 2 Essay

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Robert E. Lee 2


The battle of Gettysburg was fought on July 1 through July 3, 1863, considered by most
military historians the turning point in the American Civil War (Johnson 84). The Battle
of Gettysburg was a decisive engagement in that it arrested the Confederates' second and
last major invasion of the North, destroyed their offensive strategy, and forced them to
fight a defensive war in which the slowness of their manufacturing capacity and
transportation facilities doomed them to defeat (McPherson 25).

The Army of the Potomac, under the Union general George Gordon Meade, numbered about
85,000; the Confederate army, under General Robert E. Lee, numbered about 75,000 (Johnson
90). After the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2 to 4, an important victory for the
Confederates, Lee divided his army into three corps, commanded by three lieutenant
generals: James Longstreet, Richard Stoddert Ewell, and Ambrose Powell Hill (Johnson 91).
Lee then formulated a plan for invading Pennsylvania, hoping to avert another federal
offensive in Virginia and planning to fight if he could get the federal army into a
vulnerable position; he also hoped that the invasion might increase Northern war-weariness
and lead the North to recognize the independence of the Confederate

States of America (Johnson 85). In pursuit of this plan, Lee crossed the Blue Ridge
Mountains, proceeded up the Shenandoah Valley, and, crossing Maryland, entered
Pennsylvania (Clark 86). Upon learning federal troops were north of the Potomac, Lee
decided to concentrate his whole army at Gettysburg (Clark 86).

On June 30, Confederate troops from General Hill's corps, on their way to Gettysburg, saw
federal troops that Meade had moved down to intercept the Confederate army (McPherson
102). The Battle began on July 1 outside of Gettysburg with an encounter between Hill's
advance brigades and the federal cavalry division commanded by Major General John Buford,
supported by infantry under Major General John Fulton Reynolds (McPherson 103). Hill
encountered stubborn resistance, and the fighting was undecided until Ewell arrived from
the north in the afternoon. The Confederates pushed against General Oliver Howard's corps
and forced the federal troops to retreat from their forward positions to Culp's Hill and
Cemetery Ridge, southeast of Gettysburg (McPherson 105). The fighting had been heavy on
both sides, but the Union troops suffered more losses. More than 4000 men were taken
prisoner by the Confederates, and Federal General John Reynolds was killed in battle
(McPherson 109). The federals did manage to capture Confederate General Archer, the first
Confederate officer to be taken prisoner after Lee assumed command of the Confederate army
(Warner 123). The corps led by Ewell did not move in to attack the Union troops but waited
for General Longstreet to bring in his corps to reinforce the outnumbered Confederate
troops (McPherson 123).

On the following day, July 2, Meade formed his forces in the shape of a horseshoe,
extending westward from Culp's Hill and southward along Cemetery Ridge to the hills of
Little Round Top and Round Top (Clark 123). The Confederates, on the other hand, were
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