5 Things You Didn't Know About The Battle of Gettysburg

On July 1, 1863, one of the biggest battles of the Civil War between Union and Confederate troops began outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Here are 5 facts you may not know about the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil...


Nine Generals Died at the Battle of Gettysburg # After only the first day of battle, Gettysburg saw more casualties than the Battle of Cold Harbor. Image credit: WikiCommons At the battle of Gettysburg, there were 120 generals leading the Union and Confederate troops. Confederate Generals Barksdale, Semmes, Garnett, Pender, Pettigrew and Armistead were killed. Union Generals Zook, Reynolds, Farnsworth, and Weed were killed, along with General Strong Vincent, who was promoted to the rank posthumously.

George Custer Helped to Win the Civil War # The second day of battle at Gettysburg was the worst, with about 20,000 soldiers dead, captured, wounded or missing in action by its end. Image credit: WikiCommons Brig. General George A. Custer, the one who ended up being killed at the Battle of the Bighorn in 1876, helped to thwart 6,000 Confederate troops trying to sneak around the area called Cemetery Ridge. Had Confederate troops accomplished this feat, they would have been able to attack Union forces from the east at the same time Picket and his troops were moving in from the west. Eventually, the Confederate cavalry was driven back, which allowed Union troops to shoot down the rebel soldiers that accompanied Pickett.


A 75-Year-Old Gettysburg Citizen Volunteered Alongside the Union Troops. # The second day of battle at Gettysburg was the worst, with about 20,000 soldiers dead, captured, wounded or missing in action by its end. Image credit: WikiCommons As the Confederate Army approached town, John Burns, a 75-year-old veteran of the War of 1812 and resident of Gettysburg, grabbed his flintlock musket and volunteered his services to the nearest Union regiment. Though initially greeted with some snickers and snide remarks, Burns proved ready to fight and suffered three wounds on the first day of battle. Though captured by the Confederates, they allowed him to return home to his wife. After the battle, Burns became a local celebrity of sorts and even had a chance to meet President Lincoln. 

In 2014, President Obama Awarded a Medal of Honor to a Fallen Union Soldier. Since the battle concluded on July 3, 1863, American presidents have awarded 64 Medals of Honor to various soldiers whose service went above and beyond the call of duty at Gettysburg. The most recent recipient, Alonzo Cushing, received his award posthumously from President Obama in 2014. Cushing was just 22 when he was killed defending Cemetery Ridge. Cushing was struck three times — once through the shoulder, a second time in the abdomen, and third fatally in the mouth. Cushing fought through the first two wounds despite an officer ordering him to go to the rear. According to Obama's Medal of Honor Citation, Cushing's efforts killed several Confederates and helped repel Pickett's Charge.

A Body From the Battle Was Found as Late as 1996 The 2,400 residents of Gettysburg had the onerous duty of disposing of almost 7,000 bodies left behind by both armies, which was done hastily due to necessity. It was here at the consecration of the new national cemetery site on November 19, 1863, President Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address, as the stench of death still hung over the area. As late as 1996, a soldier’s remains from the Civil War were found near an area called Railroad Cut; it has not been possible to identify him or say whether he was a Union or Confederate soldier.