Gettysburg Remembered

map courtesy of PBS
map courtesy of PBS

For many, today means the last day at the office before a long weekend goes into effect for Independence Day. However, Civil War buffs and historians recognize July 2nd as day two of another important event in American history – the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

In the three hours of fighting on this evening 146 years ago, roughly 10,000 casualties were totaled for the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac each. Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet said, “best three hours’ fighting ever done by any troops on any battle-field” with regards to his divisions’ performance. Notably, these divisions did not include the 26th North Carolina Regiment – so many members had been taken on July 1st that they were allowed to rest on the 2nd. After the third and final day of fighting, only 90 of the original 800 men made it out of battle. If that 11 percent survival rate seems small, consider that

by the end of the war, only 131 of the almost 2,000 men  (6.5%) to serve in the 26th NC were still in service.

Two titles from UNC Press – both by Gettysburg expert Harry W. Pfanz – deal specifically with the fighting on 2 July 1863. Gettysburg – The Second Day is the comprehensive study in exactly what happened that day and the implications for the Confederacy’s Robert E. Lee and the Union’s George G. Meade. Pfanz explores the action in greater detail in Gettysburg – Culp’s Hill and Cemetary Hill.

– Matt