The turning point of the American Civil War and possibly the most important battle in the history of the United States.

Confederate general Robert E. Lee knew that he did not have the strength to take Washington, D.C., but the Army of the North was beginning to harass the southern capital of Richmond, Virginia. By invading the North, Lee felt he could achieve two objectives: moving the North's army away from Richmond and should he gain a victory, the international recognition of Britain and other European states.

The battle began on the northern outskirts of the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg. It started as cavalry engagement between a Southern force attempting to take Gettysburg for a shoe factory and a defending Union brigade. Soon the bulk of both armies was involved in the fighting -- the South under Lee and the North under General George Meade. The South won some resounding victories on the first day of the battle. They forced the North into a defensive posture, and eventually sent the Union line retreating through Gettysburg. The South was too exhausted to pursue at the end of day one, and the North reformed its line on south side of Gettysburg.

At the beginning of the second day, the Union made tactical mistakes, including leaving a 2/3 mile gap in their line, that the South exposed forcing another Union retreat to the aptly named Cemetery Hill. Fortunately for the North, late in the day reinforcements arrived, and Cemetery Hill was held for the evening. The Confederate cavalry encamped at Culp's Hill on the North's right flank, while Lee and the bulk of his army waited out the night on Seminary Ridge on the North's left flank.

Lee had two successful days of flanking the North under his belt and wanted to score a decisive victory on day three of the battle. His plan called for a massive artillery assualt on the center of the Union line, followed by an infantry charge from the southwest. His cavalry was to sweep down from the southeast to hold any gains made by the infantry.

At one in the afternoon the South unleashed a massive, though mostly ineffective, two hour artillery assault. Following that assault, the men of Major General George Pickett and Brigadier General James Pettigrew attempted to charge the Union line 1400 yards from their current position. As the Confederates charged, they were flanked by Union soldiers and artillery who dealt devastating losses to the Rebels. Of the 12,000 Grey soldiers involved in the two hour action that became known as Pickett's Charge, 5,600 were listed as casualties. The Union suffered 1,200 casualties during the same two hours.

Pickett's men did , rather heroically considering the losses they received, manage to take a part of Cemetery Hill only to lose it when the cavalary reinforcements could not break the right flank of the Union line. This forced Pickett's men back across the same, now body strewn, field they had just charged forward across. Southern morale was devastated and the charge effectively ended the battle as a stalemate.

All told the Union suffered 23,040 official casualties of which 8,000 were deaths. Confederate casualties are estimated at 28,000 with 10,000 dead. Nearly a third of those involved in the battle were killed or wounded. This was the last major Southern foray into the North, and the Confederate Army never did fully recover from its losses at Gettysburg.