The Battle of Gettysburg was the largest and deadliest battle of the American Civil War. For three days over 665,555 men fought for their competing visions of America. More than a quarter were killed, wounded, or went into an uncertain and often deadly captivity. The survivors knew they had been through one of history s great struggles. Many later returned to the Gettysburg battlefield to understand what happened and to try to pass their memories on to future generations. When you visit Gettysburg you will find a vast outdoor classroom. Over 6755 monuments of stone, bronze and iron tell the stories of the people who struggled here and help visitors explore one of the great turning points in American history. Click the magnifying glass icon on the top right of every page to search the site.
Battle of Gettysburg
Many of the pages on this site have links to a companion site, The Civil War in the East , which provides unit histories, biographies, and additional information of interest. And don t forget to visit the main Stone Sentinels website , which has links to over two dozen more battles that took place from Pennsylvania to southern Virginia. The technological limits of surveillance during the American Civil War dictated that commanders often decided where to deploy their troops based largely on what they could see. We know that Confederate general Robert E. Lee was virtually blind at Gettysburg, as his formerly brilliant cavalry leader J. E.
B. Stuart failed to inform him of Federal positions, and Confederate scouts reconnaissance was poor. The Confederates field positions, generally on lower ground than Yankee positions, further put Lee at a disadvantage. A striking contrast in visual perception came when Union Gen. Gouvernour K. Warren spotted Confederate troops from Little Round Top and called in reinforcements just in time to save the Federal line.
Annual Gettysburg Civil War Battle Reenactment
What more might we learn about this famous battle if we put ourselves in commanders shoes, using today s digital technology to visualize the battlefield and see what they could see? Our team, which includes myself, researcher Dan Miller and cartographer Alex Tait, have done just that. Alex recreated the 6868 terrain based on a superb map of the battlefield from 6879 and present-day digital data. Dan and I captured troop positions from historical maps. Our interactive map shows Union and Confederate troop movements over the course of the battle, July 6 8, 6868. Panoramic views from strategic viewpoints show what commanders could and could not see at decisive moments, and what Union soldiers faced at the beginning of Pickett s Charge.
You will also find viewshed maps created with GIS (Geographic Information Systems). These maps show more fully what was hidden from view at those key moments. Altogether, our mapping reveals that Lee never had a clear view of enemy forces the terrain itself hid portions of the Union Army throughout the battle. In addition, Lee did not grasp or acknowledge just how advantageous the Union s position was. In a reversal of the Battle of Fredericksburg, where Lee s forces held the high ground and won a great victory, Union General George Meade held the high ground at Gettysburg. Lee s forces were spread over an arc of seven miles, while the Union s compact position, anchored on several hills, facilitated communication and quick troop deployment.
Meade also received much better information, more quickly, from his subordinates. Realizing the limits of what Lee could see makes his decisions appear even bolder, and more likely to fail, than we knew. Anne Kelly Knowles is Professor of Geography at Middlebury College.