Battle of Gettysburg Fact Sheet

Updated August 10, 2023 | Infoplease Staff
battle of gettysburg

A guide to the battle that inspired Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address

by Catherine McNiff
John F. Reynolds

Union General John Reynolds, killed on the first day of fighting.

What: The Battle of Gettysburg, the American Civil War

Where: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, pop. 2,400

When: July 1–3, 1863

Who: A total of more than 165,000 troops comprised of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac under Union General George Gordon Meade.

Battle of Gettysburg Facts

The Battle of Gettysburg was a decisive victory for the North and marked the turning point of the Civil War. Called the "High Water Mark of the Rebellion," the Confederate defeat in Pennsylvania dealt a blow from which the South never fully recovered.

The Battle of Gettysburg was not—as many skirmishes were—planned. A forward division of A.P. Hill's Confederate corps led by Harry Heth were headed for town, looking for shoes. They had heard that a supply of shoes was available in town, certainly an attractive commodity for tired foot soldiers. Observed by John Buford's Federal cavalry, the advancing column soon came under fire—the first shots of one of the most important battles of the war.

Gettysburg was the Civil War's bloodiest battle. Three days of fighting left 21,000 bodies sprawled across 25 square miles. The final tally (a combination of both sides): 7,000 dead and 51,000 casualties (killed, wounded, captured, missing).


More than 3,000 horses were killed at Gettysburg.

General John J. Reynolds, considered one of the Union's greatest generals was killed by a sharpshooter's bullet on the first day of fighting.

It was at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery on November 19, 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address.

The South's beloved General Lee was originally offered command of the Union Army. Lee, ever faithful to his home state of Virginia, turned the offer down, choosing instead the command of the southern troops. There is a sculptural tribute to General Lee at the Virginia Memorial, which overlooks the fields of Pickett's Charge. Lee is depicted astride his favorite steed, Traveller.

The North's general was less beloved and was known for being stubborn and ill-tempered. Nicknamed "Old Snapping Turtle," General Meade took command of the Union forces only three days before the Battle of Gettysburg. His memorial can be found at Cemetery Ridge and includes his horse, named Old Baldy.

One hour's drive northeast from Gettysburg is Hershey, Penn., the home of Hershey chocolate and Hershey Park. Although most famous for his chocolate, Milton Hershey was a notable humanitarian and philanthropist. Hershey not only built a chocolate factory (1905), but also a model community for its employees, including homes, public transport, and an amusement park (1907). He also founded a school for orphan boys (1909) that is still operational under his guiding principles today, offering a free, private coed home and school for children of families with low income, limited resources, and increased social needs.

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