Battle Summary – Aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg

Aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg: This article summarizes the aftermath of the bloodiest battle in American history (July 1-3, 1863).

Last Update: October 28, 2020 (9:15 pm). This page looks best on a computer display screen. 

Aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg

Gen. Robert E. Lee led his army back to Virginia after waiting for a Union counter-attack that never came. In other words, Gen. George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac did not pursue Lee aggressively enough to prevent Lee from escaping south across the Potomac River, and so the Army of Northern Virginia retreated. As a result, President Abraham Lincoln was sorely disappointed that the Battle of Gettysburg was not Lee’s final defeat. And even though the Confederate port city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, fell to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863, Lee remained a threat.

Aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

In the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, more than 30,000 soldiers from both armies were either hospitalized or left for dead on the battlefield. Moreover, thousands of horse and mule carcasses littered the battlefield, and about 2,400 Gettysburg citizens returned to find their homes, churches, barns, and other property destroyed. Then several months later, on November 19, 1863, Soldiers’ National Cemetery was dedicated for the burial of Union soldiers on Cemetery Hill. About 15,000 people were in attendance, and President Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address, in which he framed for the country the meaning of so much battlefield death:

“… It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

In the aftermath of Gettysburg, the bloodshed was barely half over, and the U. S. Civil War continued until April, 1865.

Casualty Counts

About 170,000 soldiers fought at the Battle of Gettysburg, and there were more than 51,000 casualties (dead, wounded, missing). Above all, the number is staggering.

 UnionConfederateTotal
Dead:3,1553,9037,058
Wounded:14,52918,73533,264
Missing:5,3655,42510,790
Total:23,04928,06351,112

Source: Historynet.com, “Gettysburg Casualties (Battle Deaths at Gettysburg),” Battle of Gettysburg, accessed November 17, 2016, www.historynet.com/gettysburg-casualties. Of the 120 Union and Confederate generals at Gettysburg, 11 died from their wounds:

Union:Reynolds, Zook, Weed, Farnsworth, and (posthumously) Vincent
Confederate:Semmes, Barksdale, Armistead, Garnett, Pender, and (during the retreat) Pettigrew

Further Reading

For more in-depth coverage, please see Civil War Cycling’s annotated bibliographies on the Civil War and Gettysburg.

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