A Shrine to the Civil War’s Bloodiest Battle
In the first three days of July 1863, the Union and Confederate armies clashed on these grounds in a battle that has come to be seen as the turning point of the American Civil War. It was the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil, with more than 50,000 men killed, wounded, or captured – almost a third of those who fought on both sides.
Four months after the battle, Abraham Lincoln gave his famous address at the dedication of the battlefield’s National Cemetery, which held the bodies of 3,555 soldiers.
Today the 6,000-acre grounds are protected as a national park, with more than 1,700 statues, monuments, and cannons marking 40 miles of scenic avenues that wend past the battlefield’s most legendary sites, including Robert E. Lee’s temporary headquarters, Cemetery Hill, and the field on which General George Pickett made his climactic and ill-fated charge against the Union lines, sustaining more than 5,000 casualties in a mere fifty minutes.
Gettysburg Civil War Heritage Days take place during the week surrounding July Fourth, when several skirmishes are reenacted by some 20,000 volunteer participants, many dressed in Confederate gray and Union blue, portraying infantry, cavalry, and fife-and-drum corps.
On a lighter note, the week is filled with many diversions: band concerts, lectures and tours given by prominent Civil War scholars, vendors in costume selling authentic memorabilia, and a re-enactment of a Civil War marriage.