About The Battle of Gettysburg
view: Overview of the Battle, Civil War Timeline

The 24th Michigan, also known as Detroit and Wayne County Regiment, was originally composed of volunteers from the Detroit Area. Recruiting began on July 26th, 1862 and in less than 2 weeks, the ranks had been filled. It served in the Army of the Potomac, and was assigned to the famous Iron Brigade. While not one of the original regiments, the 24th Michigan quickly earned the respect of the hard fighting westerners. Not heavily engaged at Fredericksburg or Chancellorsville, the Regiment marched to Gettysburg some 493 strong. By the end of the first day's battle fewer than 100 men answered roll call, having incurred approximately 80% casualties. The Regiment has the dubious distinction of having the highest losses of any of the 400 union regiments engaged at Gettysburg. The regiment played an important role in Grant's 1864 campaign, and was engaged heavily at Wilderness, Spottsylvannia, and Petersburg. In the spring of 1865, the regiment was assigned to duty at Camp Butler Illinois. The governor of Michigan authorized the Regiment to recruit up to full strength, which was quite unusual and an indication of the reputation that that the men had fought so hard to earn. The regiment was part of the honor guard at Lincoln's Funeral in Springfield, Illinois. A month later, the regiment returned to Detroit and was mustered out on June 30, 1865. By 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Re-enactors Site

Michigan, The Hotbed of Radicals and Renegades

Why was Michigan a bit more socially advanced than many other states? Why did Michigan citizens stand up for women's rights when other states refused to even consider the idea? What inspired Michigan to be the first English speaking governmental entity to outlaw capital punishment? Michigan established a state penitentiary and abolished excessive punishments in favor of rehabilitation. Michigan built the first mental health sanitarium. Michigan's state education system led the movement for quality public schooling for all children. In addition to three early land grant universities, Michigan established numerous private colleges started by religious organizations. Michigan gave women the right to limited voting on public school issues, long before the country ratified women suffrage legislation. Many Michigan residents risked personal safety to help hundreds of slaves escape to safety in Canada. In a word, the people of Michigan were passionate. They found strength to stand up for their ideas and beliefs.

Michigan's presence in the Civil War is yet another example of Michigan's selfless giving for an important cause. When the Civil War started, about 40% of the residents were native born Michiganders, about 33% were born in New England, and less than 1% were born in slave states. Michigan had never experienced the type of economic system that benefited greatly by slave labor. Early fur traders partnered with Native Americans who had expertise in trapping and fur processing. Furs were exchanged for goods that Native Americans desired. Slave labor would have benefited no one. When settlers came to Michigan, their idea of a farming business never included slave labor. Although there were a few slaves among the earliest settlers, the practice was frowned upon and had mostly disappeared long before the Civil War. Michigan settlers sought a homestead large enough to support their family and to produce enough excess to trade for necessary goods or services. Some farmers were fortunate enough to acquire enough additional acreage to need the help of a hired hand during harvest season. Unlike the South and their cotton industry, early Michigan farmers never embarked on large-scale, labor-intensive crop production. Thus the people of Michigan could regard the morality of slavery, unencumbered by a need to protect an economic system that was totally dependant on very cheap slave labor. Michigan was called the "Hotbed of Radicals and Renegades."

The most dramatic social reform in Michigan was the antislavery movement. The large number of small, proudly independent farmers that comprised the states population contributed to the hatred of slavery. They were led by such prominent Quakers as Laura Haviland and Elizabeth Chandler.

An important outgrowth of the slavery question was the development of the Republican Party. This new element on the American political scene was founded in Michigan at the famed meeting under the oaks at Jackson in 1854. The new party, the dominant force in Michigan politics for many decades, resulted from the unification of former Whigs, some disenchanted Democrats, and several smaller parties and activist individuals rallying under the banner of antislavery and specific economic issues. Michigan's Governor Austin Blair played an important role in the formation of the Republican Party and recruiting men for the Civil War.

Michigan was loyal to the Union and to Abraham Lincolns pledge to preserve it, and, when war broke out with the bombardment of Fort Sumter in South Carolina in April 1861, Michigans citizens responded militarily, and at home through agriculture and mining.

The first regiment from the western states to respond to Lincoln's call for troops was the First Michigan Infantry. Governor Blair worked hard to recruit Michigan soldiers and they arrived in Washington on May 16, 1861. Lincoln was reported to have been tearful when he exclaimed upon the arrival of the Michigan troops, Thank God for Michigan. Michigan men fought in virtually all of the major campaigns and battles of the Civil War. Michigans response to the crisis that would nullify and dissolve the union of states was overwhelmingly loyal. Approximately 23% of the male population of the state in the armed forces. This percentage included some Indians and more than 1,600 black soldiers.

The Iron Brigade was organized at Washington, D. C. in the fall of 1861 to be a group of talented and courageous warriors. Brig. Gen. Rufus King, former editor of Milwaukee's Sentinel and Gazette served as its first commander until Brig. Gen. John Gibbon assumed command in May 1862. Gibbon insisted on training and discipline, which improved the brigade's efficiency. Gibbon outfitted them with the black felt Army hat and canvas gaiters to bolster morale and foster a sense of esprit de corps among them men. The hats in particular became a symbol of pride and inspired the distinctive nickname of the "Black Hat Brigade."

After General Lee's failed Maryland Campaign, the Iron Brigade was strengthened with the addition of the 24th Michigan. It remained a Western brigade amongst a sea of Eastern units, and no doubt served as another source of pride for its battle hardened veterans. The brigade saw limited action at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville but it bore a heavy burden at Gettysburg.

The battle at Gettysburg virtually destroyed the original Iron Brigade. On the first day's fighting, the Iron Brigade suffered enormous casualties but managed to slow the Confederate advance, which enabled fresh federal troops to arrive. The brigade's casualties were about 1,212 out of 1,883 soldiers. The 24th Michigan lost 80% of its soldiers and the 2nd Wisconsin lost 77%. With less than 25% of its original soldiers, it was necessary to add Eastern regiments to the brigade and lost some of its character. The "All Western" brigade was no longer.

24th Michigan Infantry "At Gettysburg, the greatest battle of the war, out of over 400 regiments engaged in the 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry sustained the greatest loss, 397 out of 496, or 80 percent. It stands nineteenth in percentage of killed and died of wounds in the entire war." With the final victory in sight, the Union soldiers from Michigan were recognized by a grateful state
. . . for their unfaltering faith in the justice of our cause, their self-sacrificing patriotism, their patient endurance, their heroic fortitude, their unsurpassed valor, and their glorious victories.

Overview of the Battle at Gettysburg

The most important battle during the Civil War was waged during three sultry summer days, around the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It began as a skirmish, but through the genius of some and misfortune of others, it was the battle that turned the tide of the war. By the battle's, end it had involved 160,000 Americans.

Before the battle, major cities in the North such as Philadelphia, Baltimore and even Washington were under threat of attack from General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, which had crossed the Potomac River and marched into Pennsylvania.

The Union Army of the Potomac under was under the command of General George G. Meade when it marched to intercept General Robert E. Lee.

On Tuesday morning, June 30, an infantry brigade of Confederate soldiers searching for shoes, headed toward Gettysburg (population 2,400). The Confederate commander looked through his field glasses and spotted a long column of Union cavalry also heading toward Gettysburg. He withdrew his brigade and informed his superior, Gen. Henry Heth, who in turn told his superior, A.P. Hill, he would go back the following morning and "get those shoes."

On Wednesday morning, July 1, two divisions of Confederates headed back to Gettysburg and ran into Union cavalry west of the town at Willoughby Run. They began fighting and it quickly escalated into a battle. General Lee moved 25,000 men to Gettysburg, while the Union had less than 20,000 soldiers.

Fierce fighting ensued resulting in and heavy casualties on both sides. Union soldiers were pushed back through the town of Gettysburg where they regrouped south of the town along the high ground near the cemetery. Lee ordered Confederate General R.S. Ewell to seize the high ground from the battle weary Federals "if practicable." Gen. Ewell hesitated to attack thereby giving the Union troops a chance to dig in along Cemetery Ridge and bring in reinforcements with artillery. By the time Lee realized Ewell had not attacked, the opportunity had vanished.

When General Meade arrived at the scene and thought it was an ideal place to do battle with Lee's Army. Meade anticipated reinforcements totaling up to 100,000 men to arrive and strengthen his defensive position.

Confederate General James Longstreet saw the Union position as nearly impregnable and told Lee it should be left alone. He argued that Lee's Army should instead move east between the Union Army and Washington D.C. and build a defensive position thus forcing the Federals to attack them instead.

But Lee believed his own army was invincible, however he was also without his much-needed cavalry, which served as his eyes and ears during troop movements. Cavalry leader Jeb Stuart had gone off with his troops to harass the Federals. Stuart's expedition would turn out to be for the most part a wild goose chase, which left Lee at a disadvantage until he returned.

Lee decided to attack the Union Army's defensive position at the southern end of Cemetery Ridge, which he thought was not being defended well.

On Thursday, July 2, at about 10 a.m. the next morning, Gen. Longstreet was ordered by General Lee to attack. But Longstreet was quite slow in getting his troops into position and didn't attack until 4 p.m. that afternoon thus giving the Union Army even more time to strengthen its position.

When Longstreet finally attacked, some of the most bitter fighting of the Civil War erupted in little pockets of the countryside poetically called Little Round Top, Devil's Den, the Wheat Field and the Peach Orchard. Longstreet managed to take the Peach Orchard but was driven back at Little Round Top.

When the rest of the country was just finishing dinner, around 6:30 p.m., Gen. Ewell attacked the Union line from the north and east at Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill. The attack lasted into darkness but was finally unsuccessful at Cemetery Hill, although the Rebels seized some trenches on Culp's Hill. By 10:30 p.m., the day's fighting had come to an end. The Union still held the strong defensive position along Cemetery Ridge but had lost some ground during the fighting to the Confederates.

It was a beautiful, clear evening. Stars twinkled in the dark blue sky, the sting of gunpowder hung in the air, and thousands of men, wounded, dying, and mourning suffered through the summer night under the compassionless light of a full moon.

War councils progressed through the night to sketch a plan for the coming day. Union Commander Meade recognized the superiority of his position and decided to remain in place and wait for Lee to attack. Confederate Longstreet again tried to convince Lee that attacking such a strong position would be suicidal. Lee, however, thought the Union soldiers were battered and would collapse under one final push.

War is a series of gambles and General Lee gambled that winning the battle fought in and around Gettysburg would win the war. He decided to attack the center of the Union line along Cemetery Ridge where it would be least expected. He planned to send in the fresh troops of Gen. George Pickett. Gen. Ewell was to renew his assault on Culp's Hill.

On Friday, July 3, about 4:30 a.m., Meade upset Lee's timetable by pounding the Rebels on Culp's Hill to drive them from the trenches. Instead of drawing back, the Rebels attacked the Federals around 8 a.m. A vicious three hour struggle progressed that saw the Rebels charging up the hill time after time, only to be beaten back. Finally the Federals counter attacked and drove the Rebels off the hill and east across a creek. Around 11 o'clock, fighting on Culp's Hill halted and fearful calm settled over the battlefield.

Longstreet again expressed his opposition to Lees battle plan. Lee believed that 15,000 men would participate in the Rebel charge on Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet's reply was, "It is my opinion that no 15,000 men ever arrayed for battle can take that position." But Lee was obsessed with his plan and ordered it to go forward.

As Confederate soldiers moved into position into the woods opposite Cemetery Ridge for the coming charge Meade moved some of the Union troops away from Cemetery Ridge. Earlier in the day, Meade thought (correctly) that Lee would attack the center, but changed his mind. Meade had only 5,750 infantrymen stretched out along the half-mile front to initially face the 15,000 man Confederate charge.

Lee attempted to divert Union forces from the main battle area by instigating a clash about three miles from the battle area. This attempt failed.

A few minutes after 1 p.m., the final battle at Gettysburg started with volleys from 170 Confederate cannons firing on the Union's position on Cemetery Ridge. They were trying to clear the way for their soldiers to charge up the ridge. This was the heaviest artillery barrage of the war, but many of the Rebel shells missed their targets and flew harmlessly overhead.

Union soldiers returned cannon fire, and when the air was so heavy with smoke and dust, the Union slowed down and stopped their rate of fire to fool the Rebels into thinking the cannons were destroyed. Still the Confederates waited for General Longstreet to give the order for the troops to advance. The despondent General merely raised his hand to Pickett in agreement, too overwhelmed with dread and emotion to respond.

"Charge the enemy and remember old Virginia!" yelled 12,000 Rebels who formed an orderly line that stretched a mile from flank to flank. Federal soldiers watched in wonder as the brave Confederates marched silently, with the military pageantry of a bygone age, a mile up the hill toward the Union Army.

With deadly accuracy the Union soldiers aimed and fired at the Confederates as the got within range. Cannons loaded with grapeshot torn into the Rebels ripping holes in their advancing line. The Rebels returned fire and when they got close enough, they commenced a running charge upon the Union soldiers with fixed bayonets.

For an hour the two armies of men fought each other with their fists, stabbed each other with their bayonets, shot each other with their guns. For a moment, the Rebels nearly achieved their objective, which was a small clump of oak trees on top of Cemetery Ridge. But Union reinforcements arrived and the infantry units were re-grouped and swarmed in to fire on the Rebel ranks. Now the Confederates were outnumbered and out powered. Their line gave way and receded as the soldiers back down the slope. Lee had gambled and lost, his army was beaten, and 7500 of his dead were left on the field of battle. As he rode among the survivors he uttered remorsefully, "It is all my fault." To Pickett he said, "Upon my shoulders rests the blame." When Lee finally returned to his headquarters, he threw himself into a chair, with hands covering his face he exclaimed, "Too bad. Too bad! Oh, too bad!"

The Union suffered 23,000 casualties out of 88,000 soldiers and the Confederates had 28,000 dead, wounded and missing out of 75,000. The Confederates were forced to leave their dead behind.

The wounded Confederates were placed into wagons where they began a long, slow trip home to the South. The battle had taken its toll on Commander Meade. He was sharply criticized by President Lincoln who wrote an angry letter to Meade saying he missed a "golden opportunity" to end the war right there. Fortunately, the letter was never delivered.

President Lincoln dedicated the military cemetery of Gettysburg on November 19. The Gettysburg Address, one of the most celebrated statements ever written, took Lincoln a little over two minutes to deliver and was given a tepid reception at the time.
Over time, however, the speech and its words - government of the People, by the People, for the People - have come to symbolize the definition of democracy itself.

Civil War Time Line


April 12 Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter

April 15 Lincoln issued a call for troops

April 19 Lincoln proclaimed a blockade of the South

May 21 Richmond, Va., was chosen as the Confederate capital

July 21 Battle of Bull Run caused Northern troops retreated in disorder after the First


February 6 Fort Henry fell to Union Forces

March 9 Monitor and Merrimack (the iron clad ships) battled with no winner

April 6-7 Battle of Shiloh where both Sides suffered heavy losses (Union won)

April 16 Confederacy began its draft of soldiers

April 18-25 The Farragut attacked and captured New Orleans.

May 4 McClellan's Union troops occupied Yorktown, VA and proceeded to advance on Richmond, VA

June 6 Memphis fell to Union armies

June 25-July 1 Battles of the Seven Days where Lee's Confederate forces saved Richmond

August 27-30 Generals Lee and Jackson led Southern troops to victory in the second battle of Bull Run

September 17 Confederate forces defeated in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg)

September 22 Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

December 13 Burnside's Union forces crushed in the Battle of Fredericksburg


January 1 Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation

January 2 Confederates retreated after the Battle of Stones River (Murfeesboro)

March 3 The North passed a draft law

May 1-19 Grant's army defeated the Confederates in Mississippi and began to besiege Vicksburg

July 1-3 Battle of Gettysburg marked turning point of the war as Confederates were

July 4 Vicksburg fell to Union troops

July 8 Union army occupied Port Hudson, LA

September 19-20 Confederate troops under Bragg won the Battle of Chickamauga

November 19 Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address

November 23-25 Grant and Thomas were victorious at Battle of Chattanooga


March 9 Grant became General in Chief of the Union army

May 5-6 Union and Confederate troops clashed in the Battle of the Wilderness

May 8-19 Grant and Lee maintained their military positions in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House

June 3 The Union suffered heavy losses on the final day of the Battle of Cold Harbor

June 20 Grant's troops laid siege to Petersburg, VA

July 11-12 Confederate forces under Early almost reached Washington but retreated after brief fighting

August 5 Farragut won the Battle of Mobile Bay

September 2 Sherman's Union soldiers captured Atlanta

October 19 Sheridan leads destruction of the Shenandoah Valley

November 8 Lincoln was reelected President

November 15 Sherman began his march through Georgia

November 23 Hood invaded Tennessee

December 15-16 Battle of Nashville annihilated Hood's (Union) army

December 21 Sherman's troops occupied Savannah, GA


February 6 Lee became general in chief of the Southern army

April 2 Confederate soldiers gave up Petersburg and Richmond

April 9 Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox

April 14 Lincoln was assassinated

April 26 Johnston surrendered to Sherman

May 4 Confederate army in Alabama and Mississippi surrendered

May 11 Jefferson Davis was captured by infantrymen from Allegan, MI

May 26 The last Confederate soldiers surrendered

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