Gettysburg National Military Park

Take a trip to the site of the largest battle ever fought in North America, one that involved more than 160,000 men and caused nearly 50,000 casualties.

Ike & Monty At Gettysburg (1957-05) by Paul SchutzerLIFE Photo Collection

Visit Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

In this Expedition we take a guided tour of some of the key parts of the three days of battle. You’ll see how the geography played a role and how the Union army was able to take advantage of it. Learn how the Battle of Gettysburg became a turning point in the war.

Cyclorama

The Gettysburg Cyclorama is a large painting of the Battle of Gettysburg. The painting covers an entire cylinder-shaped wall and shows the dramatic events of the battle.

Introduction to Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War. Prior to this battle the Confederate army under Robert E. Lee was dominating the Union army, which was led by a series of generals who frustrated Lincoln in their inability to successfully engage the enemy. 

But in Gettysburg, Lincoln would find an effective general in George Meade. Yet, in spite of Lee’s successes, all of his victories were in the South. It would take one decisive victory in the North to persuade the European powers to support the Confederate States of America. 

With this support, the Confederate States could become an independent country and retain its slave economy. So, Lee moved his army into Pennsylvania, hoping to meet and defeat the Union army one more time. The two armies met in Gettysburg and fought for three days. 

The idyllic panoramas you’ll see were the scenes of some of the bloodiest fighting in the Civil War. The outcome of Gettysburg, and of the Civil War itself, changed America forever. America is the country it is today due in part to the events of July 1- 3, 1863.

Gettysburg battlefield, day 1

During the first day of battle, Union troops held a position north of the town of Gettysburg, when they encountered Confederate troops. Both armies were still congregating at Gettysburg, but the Confederate army rapidly mobilized and soon outnumbered and outflanked the Union troops.

Toward the end of the day, the Union lines collapsed and the army retreated through the town of Gettysburg, until they took a defensive position on Cemetery Hill. The Confederates chose not to take Cemetery Hill on day 1, which allowed the Union army to consolidate its position. 

Confederate Army

In the distance the Confederate Third Corps under A.P. Hill would have descended upon the outnumbered Union forces.

Union Army

In the foreground the Union army held back the Confederates before their lines were overrun and the Union army retreated to Cemetery Hill.

Gettysburg Battlefield, day 1, Oak Ridge observation tower

This viewing tower gives a commanding view of the battleground on day 1.  Although the Union army was outnumbered by Confederate troops coming from the west and north, the Union held out long enough to allow the rest of General Meade’s troops to secure the heights to the south of Gettysburg. 

When the Union could no longer hold back the arriving Confederate troops, they retreated through the town and to the heights along Cemetery Hill. This proved a decisive advantage throughout the three days of the battle. 

The Mummasburg Road

From this viewing tower some of the roads leading to and around Gettysburg can be seen. The reason that Gettysburg proved to be an inevitable site for a battle is that so many roads led to it. The Mummasburg Road extends from near the observation tower to the west. This is one of the roads the Confederate army took on their way to Gettysburg.

Doubleday Avenue

In the foreground is Doubleday Avenue, which formed part of the Union line that held back the approaching Confederate army for most of the day.

McPherson Ridge

In the distance, toward the left, is the McPherson Ridge where Union troops helped repel the Confederates for most of the day.

Cemetery Hill, Days 1 and 2 of the Battle

During the first day of fighting, Confederate troops momentarily outnumbered the Union troops. Both armies were rushing to meet in Gettysburg, but parts of each army were still miles away. 

The Confederates drove the Union army through the main part of Gettysburg, to the south of the city. Union troops retreated and took a position on Cemetery Hill. Here, many Union troops hid behind tombstones and monuments as they held back the approaching Confederate army.

Cemetery Hill proved to be a strategic stronghold throughout the battle. Two of the three days of fighting took place here. General Lee realized that taking this hill would lead to a Confederate victory. But it proved to be an elusive target, and after two days of fighting, Lee attacked elsewhere along the Union front, having failed at capturing Cemetery Hill.

Gravestones

In the foreground are some gravestones that still show damage from the Battle of Gettysburg. The Union army held this ground throughout the three days of the battle.

Little Round Top

In the far distance is Little Round Top, where the Union was able to maintain its position under a heavy assault from the Confederate army on day 2 of the battle. Had Little Round Top fallen, the Confederates could have secured a victory.

General Hancock Statue on Cemetery Hill, Days 1+2 of Battle

Major General Winfield Hancock was a Union officer who was instrumental in holding Cemetery Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg. He was prominent in all three days of the battle and was recognized for his leadership after the war. 

On day 1 of the battle, Hancock immediately recognized the strategic value of Cemetery Hill and he made sure the Union army held the heights. On day 2 of the battle, the Confederate army attacked Cemetery Hill but Hancock’s men were able to fend off a fierce attack. 

This was the same day when Lee was attacking both ends of the Union line, which also included Little Round Top. Finally, on day 3, Hancock’s men helped fend off the attack along the center, Pickett’s Charge.

Gatehouse

Across the Baltimore Pike is the gatehouse and entry to the cemetery that gives Cemetery Hill its name.

Culp’s Hill

Behind the statue of Hancock is Culp’s Hill, which the Confederates attacked in their attemp to take Cemetery Hill on day 2 of battle.

The peach orchard, day 2 of the battle

Cemetery Hill was at one end of the Union line. At the other end of the Union line was Little Round Top. On day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederates attacked both ends of the Union line. Some of the bloodiest fighting took place on day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg. 

A particularly bloody fight occurred in a peach orchard, when the Union line was momentarily overextended and the Confederates attacked. The Confederate army overran the Union troops, but the Union was able to hold the heights along Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top. 

Wheatfield Road

In the foreground and extending into the background is Wheatfield Road, which leads to Little Round Top.

Emmittsburg Road

In the distance, on the left, is Emmittsburg Road, which is another key road leading to Gettysburg.

Monuments

There are a number of other monuments, including several for New York, Massachusetts,  and Pennsylvania. In particular, note the monument to the 141st Pennsylvania Volunteers, which is the nearest one in the panorama.

Little Round Top, day 2 of the battle

Little Round Top was at one end of the Union line and was strategically important. Its commanding height gave the Union a clear advantage. On day 2 of the battle, the Confederates attacked Little Round Top.

The Union held Little Round Top throughout the battle, although the Confederate army came close to taking Little Round Top, but the heroic fighting of Union soldiers repelled a fierce attack. The rugged terrain also helped the Union maintain its superior position.

At first, when the Confederate army attacked Little Round Top, there weren’t enough Union soldiers to hold it, but a quick rearrangement of troops secured the heights, but not after a near-disastrous defeat. There are many monuments found along Little Round Top, an indication of the ferocity of the fighting.

Pennsylvania Monument

In the foreground is a monument to 91st Pennsylvania Volunteers.

Statue

In the distance is the statue of Brigadier General Warren, who was instrumental in defending Little Round Top.

Little Round Top, alternate view

As the Confederate army made attack on Little Round Top there was a scramble on the Union side to bring enough troops to hold the heights. General Warren, seeing the urgency of bringing enough men to defend Little Round Top, quickly assembled a number of troops from New York.

NY Monuments

The larger monument commemorates the 12th and 44th New York Volunteers. The smaller monument commemorates the 140th New York Volunteers.

Roads

In the distance are some of the roads the paths the Confederate army took in their attack on Little Round Top.

Devil’s Den

In the distance is an outcropping of rocks that came to be known as Devil’s Den. On day 2, during the attack on Little Round Top, Devil’s Den became the site of a fierce exchange between the two armies. It was particularly effective for snipers and artillery.

Pickett’s Charge Battleground, day 3 of the battle

After two days of heavy fighting against each end of the Union line, General Lee still didn’t have his much-desired victory. But Lee felt that the Union center was weak enough to attack. 

His plan was to fire artillery into the center of the Union line, followed by a frontal attack by thousands of Confederate troops. This is the ground the Confederate troops crossed during Pickett’s Charge. In the distance the Union army was positioned.

Pickett’s Charge consisted of nearly 13,000 Confederate soldiers marching across a ¾-mile stretch of land to attack the Union position. The Union army was ready for the attack and Pickett’s Charge would be a disastrous defeat for the Confederates. After the third day of fighting, Lee’s army would retreat from Pennsylvania and the Confederates would never again fight on Northern soil.

Union Line

In the distance would have been the Union line, which was firing at the Confederate troops, who were easy targets in the open field.

Emmitsburg Road

Before reaching the Union line, Confederate troops would have reached the Emmitsburg Road, which slowed them down even more, making them easier, closer targets.

Virginia State Memorial, post-Civil War era

After the Civil War many states built monuments in remembrance of the soldiers who fought and died in the Battle of Gettysburg. The Virginia State Memorial shows Robert E. Lee on his horse, Traveller. This is the Virginia State Memorial, one of the largest in Gettysburg. It was near this location that Pickett’s Charge started. 

This would prove to be one of the deadliest and costliest attempts by the Confederates to defeat the Union army. The failure of Pickett’s Charge led to the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg.

Battleground

To the right, facing the Virginia State Memorial is the terrain that made up part of Pickett’s Charge.

Pennsylvania State Memorial, post-Civil War era

This is the Pennsylvania State Memorial, the largest monument in Gettysburg. The significance of this Memorial is that the men from Pennsylvania were not only defending America against a foreign invader, they were defending their home state.The statue at the top of the monument is Winged Victory.

There are a number of statues along the four exterior walls, including statues of Lincoln and General Meade. At the base of the Memorial are the names of the more than 30,000 men from Pennsylvania who fought at Gettysburg.

Hancock Road

Next to the memorial is Hancock Road, which leads directly to Gettysburg. This road was part of the Union line that fought back the Confederates during Pickett’s Charge. 

Gettysburg National Cemetery, post-Civil War era

After the battle many of the soldiers who died were buried in what became known as the Gettysburg National Cemetery. This became a way to honor the men who fought and died there. This burial ground became a precursor to Arlington National Cemetery. 

Anonymous Graves

In the foreground are many graves of the Union soldiers. Many of these graves are anonymous.

The Soldiers National Monument, post-Civil War era

The Soldiers National Monument is on Cemetery Hill. It is located near where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. The monument includes a set of marble statues at the base representing History, War, Peace and Plenty. The figure of Liberty stands on top of the monument.

Gettysburg

In the distance is the downtown section of Gettysburg.

Eternal Light Peace Memorial, 1938

Just northwest of Gettysburg, is the Eternal Light Peace Memorial. President Franklin D Roosevelt dedicated the Memorial at Gettysburg on the 75th anniversary of the battle. The flame atop the monument signifies eternal peace. This eternal flame inspired the grave of President John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.

Battleground

In the distance is the battleground where fierce fighting took place on day 1 of the battle.

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