National Geographic : 1963 Jul
Running to the attack, an infantryman of the 1st Minnesota Volunteers heads for Trostle Woods to counter a Confederate breakthrough on July 2, 1863. During some 15 minutes of furious action the regiment 10 suffered 82 percent casualties. down through it, and beyond. Three days and it was done, and 51,000 men of North and South were dead, wounded, or missing. Late on the fourth day-Independence Day-hindered by a driving rainstorm, Lee started his retreat, knowing that the South had lost in the North, perhaps knowing in his heart that as of July 4, 1863, the end had begun for the Confederacy. Lee's effectives moved south by way of the Hagerstown Road; his wounded, guarded by Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden's cavalry, went out Chambersburg Pike. Many of the wound ed had been without food for 36 hours; many had received no medical attention. The wag ons had no springs. General Imboden later said that he witnessed the most heartrending scenes of the war during the retreat. Hardship Stalked Both Blue and Gray What, you may ask, were the Confederates doing in Pennsylvania? No one is better qual ified to answer than Frederick Tilberg of the National Park Service, Research Historian at Gettysburg. The South, Dr. Tilberg explained to me, was carrying the war to the North even as Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was drawing the noose ever tighter around Vicksburg, 900 miles away in Mississippi.* Lee's army marched westward from Fred ericksburg and up through the Shenandoah Valley, hidden from Union forces moving north on the other side of the Blue Ridge. More and more, Lee menaced Washington and Baltimore (map, page 14). Confederate troops went through Gettys burg on June 26; they lacked money, food, and shoes. Some were barefoot. (Outside Vicksburg, in the Union trenches, there were shoeless Northern soldiers, too.) Lee was out of touch at this time with his cavalry-his eyes and ears. Only on June 28, while near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, did he learn that the Union Army was in the vicinity of Frederick, Maryland, about 40 miles away. He decided to await the Federals in a good defensive position at Cashtown, eight miles northwest of Gettysburg. Neither Meade nor Lee foresaw Gettysburg as the field of battle, but there the advance units of their armies came together June 30, 1863. All roads had converged on a ridged plain, a land of wheat fields and orchards and meadows, with a town of 2,400 souls at its heart. It was a thriving market place, this *NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Civil War coverage includes "Witness to a War," by Robert T. Cochran, Jr., April, 1961. See also Battlefields of the Civil War, a map sup plement with that issue.