Midpoint of the War: May to July 1863

Gettysburg: The First Day

What was that night like?

It was eerie. The moon was nearly full, and the Union men on Cemetery Hill had an excellent view into the fields where the Confederates were encamped. The cries of the wounded were heard by both sides, and there were men trapped in no man’s land who could not be extricated. The town of Gettysburg was in shambles, with federal soldiers hiding in cellars, attics, and even pigsties while the Confederates had the run of the streets. There had been eerie nights before—one thinks of the night after the Battle of Shiloh—but the heat and humidity, which remained most of the night, added to the stillness and the sense of impending death. Quite a few men deserted that night. On the other hand, there was a hero who endured all the worst that that night could offer.


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