A Copse of Trees at Gettysburg
On July 3rd, 1863 the fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania were already washed in blood. This was the third day of the battle between the forces of the United States and the Confederate States of America. The battle was not even supposed to happen. Days earlier almost by accident the two forces met. The battle began and took on a life of its own. Now on the third day, the Union forces were in defensive positions on a ridge outside of town. So far they had withstood the best that the Confederates had to offer.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee prepared his Army of Northern Virginia for one last push against the Union center. The push that he believed would end the battle and perhaps the war. His plan involved General Pickett’s division leading the charge against that line across a field almost a mile wide. To guide them they were told to march toward a copse of trees that stood at the dead center of the Union line.
The charge was a disaster for many reasons. Ineffective artillery, a foe that was stronger than was expected, fences that slowed the approach among them. Few Confederates made it to the Union fortifications, fewer still got through them. This failure allowed the Union to finish the day with a victory under their belt.
In all over 6,000 Confederate troops became casualties that day, compared to 1,500 on the Union side. The biggest casualty, however, was the Confederacy, for the loss at Gettysburg became the death toll for their hopes of independence. Oddly enough even though the Confederacy fell, the copse of trees still stand as defiant as ever.