General Lee in 1864
Robert E. Lee

(Library of Congress)

General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate "Army of Northern Virginia".
Born on January 19, 1807 at "Stratford" in Westmoreland County Virginia, Lee was the son of Anne Hill and Henry Lee, a distinguished cavalry officer during the American Revolution where he gained the nick-name "Light Horse Harry". Financial problems forced the elder Lee to move his family to a home in Alexandria where Robert attended school and enjoyed outdoor activities along the river. In 1825, the young Lee entered the US Military Academy at West Point. He excelled in his studies and military exercises, graduating second in the class of 1829. Two years later he married Mary Ann Randolph Custis, a direct descendent of Mary Washington and the family moved with Lee's assignments to the midwest and then Washington. At the outbreak of the War with Mexico, Lee was assigned to the army under General John E. Wool and General Winfield Scott and was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec. Lee distinguished himself during the war and received several promotions in rank after the war ended. In the decade that followed, he briefly served as superintendent of West Point and accepted a command in the 2nd US Cavalry. It was by chance that Lee was in Washington in 1859 when the violent abolitionist John Brown raided the United States Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Placed in command of Federal troops sent to recapture the arsenal, Lee directed the soldiers who stormed Brown's last holdout and captured Brown and his fellow conspirators.

Lee declined an offer to command the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War and offered his services to his native state. After serving in several administraive and field postions, he was assigned to command the Confederate Army at Richmond, which he named the "Army of Northern Virginia". Under his command, this army exploited Union mismanagement on numerous battlefields, making Lee one of the most victorious commanders in the Confederacy.

Lee's army was noted for its cadre of southern commanders who were veterans of numerous, hard-fought battles. Some performed better than in the summer of 1863.

Confederate officers at Gettysburg


A selection of officers and men who served under Lee's command in the Gettysburg Campaign.

George Gordon Meade
George G. Meade

(War Library, Philadelphia)

George Gordon Meade, commander of the Union "Army of the Potomac".
Born in Cadiz, Spain on December 31, 1815, Meade was primarily raised in Philadelphia though his family later moved to the Baltimore area. Meade entered the US Military Academy at West Point in 1831 and graduated 19th in the Class of 1835. Appointed to the 3rd US Artillery and transferred to Florida at the beginning of the Seminole Wars, Meade became ill and was reassigned to the Watertown Arsenal in Massachusetts for administrative duties. Disillusioned with military life, he resigned his commission in 1836 to work for a railroad company as an engineer but re-entered military service in 1842 to provide a stable home for his new wife. His army assignments took him to Texas in 1845 where he was assigned to General Winfield Scott's Army during the War with Mexico. After the war, Meade returned to Philadelphia where he engineered lighthouses for the Delaware Bay.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Meade offered his services to Pennsylvania and was appointed brigadier general of volunteers in command of a brigade of Pennsylvania regiments. Meade gained a reputation for being short-tempered and obstinate with junior officers and superiors alike, garnering him the nickname "The Old Snapping Turtle". At the Battle of Glendale on June 30, 1862, he was seriously wounded though refused to leave the field until the loss of blood so weakened him that he could not remain in the saddle.

Meade recovered and was placed in command of the division of "Pennsylvania Reserves", which he led at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam, Maryland, and Fredericksburg, Virginia. Subsequently assigned to command the Fifth Army Corps, he participated in the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, and then marched northward that summer once Lee's Army had crossed the Potomac River. It was still dark on June 28, 1863, while the army camped near Frederick, Maryland, when a courier arrived at Meade's tent bearing the news that he was appointed to command the Army of the Potomac. A surprised Meade protested at first but accepted his assignment and rode to army headquarters.

Later that morning, he finished a plan to set the army in motion northward to find Lee. Fortunately, the general had a group of excellent commanders in charge of his army.

Union officers at Gettysburg


A selection of officers and men who served under Meade's command at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Abraham Lincoln, 1863.
Abraham Lincoln

(Library of Congress)

Apart from soldiers, there were many other people who were important to the story of Gettysburg. One of these was President Abraham Lincoln who was invited to attend the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery where he gave his immortal "Gettysburg Address". The president not only honored the Union dead buried here, but delivered to the northern people a clear objective of why the war was being fought; "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Read the Gettysburg Address
(courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Order of Battle, Union

A roster of the regiments and organizations that served in the Union Army at Gettysburg.


A roster of the regiments and organizations that served in the Confederate Army at Gettysburg.

Last updated: August 9, 2022

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