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Wisconsin at Gettysburg, 150 Years Ago

An etching depicting the Battle of Gettysburg
WHI 69984

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. It's considered one of the most pivotal battles of the Civil War because it halted the Confederacy's attempt to invade the North. During the middle of June 1863, 75,000 Confederate troops crossed the Potomac into Maryland and Pennsylvania. The Union fielded more than 80,000 soldiers to try to stop them. The two sides first faced off on the morning of July 1 outside the town of Gettysburg. Wisconsin troops were the first to encounter the enemy that day. Battle lines quickly developed as both sides rushed their soldiers into the small Pennsylvania town.

For three days, fierce fighting occurred over a wide area in and around Gettysburg. When it was over, the Confederates retreated with a caravan of wounded men stretching nearly 15 miles. More than 28,000 Confederate troops were killed, wounded or missing. The Union lost more than 24,000. There were more casualties in those three days than in any other Civil War battle.

Wisconsin at Gettysburg

The Iron Brigade (including the 2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin Infantry regiments) was in the thick of the battle on the first day. The 3rd, 5th and 26th Wisconsin Infantry regiments and Company G of the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters (made up of Wisconsin residents) also fought but sustained many fewer casualties than the Iron Brigade regiments.

On the morning of July 1, the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry was the first to engage with Confederate troops. It immediately lost nearly a third of its men, among them Colonel Lucius Fairchild, whose left arm had to be amputated. On the second and third days, the remaining Iron Brigade units were generally kept away from the front lines. Over the course of the battle they lost a total of 578 men.

The 26th Wisconsin Infantry, which was composed almost entirely of German immigrants, fought throughout the first day and lost more than 210 of its men. The 3rd and the 5th Wisconsin Infantry regiments arrived late in the battle and saw less action than the other Wisconsin regiments. Berdan's Sharpshooters were instrumental in repulsing Confederate attacks, including during the decisive moment of Pickett's Charge on the third day.

Discover More

Read Stories About Gettysburg by Wisconsin Soldiers

:: Posted July 2, 2013

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