6 Surprising Facts About The Battle of Gettysburg

On July 1, 1863, one of the biggest battles of the Civil War between Union and Confederate troops began outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Here are 6 facts you may not know about this bloody battle fought on American soil...


The Second Day’s Battle Was The Largest of The Three On the second of three extremely bloody and costly battle days, the fighting took place at famous locations such as Devil’s Den, Little Round top, Cemetery Hill, Culp’s Hill, and the Peach Orchard. All told, the second day’s battle required over 100,000 soldiers, 20,000 of whom ended up killed, wounded, captured, or missing. Overall, the battle ranked as the 10th bloodiest battle of the Civil War – all in just one day!

A Surprising Number of Women Fought as Soldiers Women who disguised themselves as men fought on both sides throughout the Civil War, including nine who were known to have died on the battlefield, seven who were taken as prisoners of war, and another seven who were wounded. The body of one female soldier was found near the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg following Pickett’s charge, and another was wounded at the battle and lost a leg. Marie Tepe was one Philadelphia woman who fought in 13 battles, including at Gettysburg.


The Wagon Train of Wounded Confederates Soldiers Was 17 Miles Long After a shocking and disheartening defeat, the Army of North Virginia fled Gettysburg on July 4 bound for home. There were enough wounded soldiers to fill a 17-mile wagon train that filed back down through Pennsylvania and Maryland, bound for Virginia. However, the company met trouble when they reached the Potomac River; heavy rainfall arrived as the battle ceased and lasted for several days, causing dangerously high water levels and blocking the troops’ passage across.

Residents of Gettysburg Collected Over 37,000 Rifles from the Battlefield. Of those 24,000 were loaded with at least one round of ammunition. An estimated 7,000 rounds of ammunition were fired at Gettysburg along with over 500 cannonballs. One estimate claims it took 100 rounds of ammunition for one casualty at Gettysburg. Rifles could shoot about 400 yards, whereas the cannons could reach up to a mile and a half.   

The Only Civilian Casualty Was a Young Woman Baking in Her Kitchen On July 2, Major General George Meade and his troops brought the numbers of Union soldiers to 90,000, and Confederate troop numbers had reached 75,000. A young woman named Mary Virginia Wade, age 20, was the only non-soldier to die during the three-day battle. It was reported that Mary was baking bread as a number of women were to pass out to the soldiers on both sides when she was hit by a stray bullet. A statue was erected in her honor in Gettysburg in 1900.

The Last Fallen Soldier Was Found in 1996 When the battle was over, the citizens of Gettysburg had the onerous task of burying almost 7,000 corpses left behind by the military. So the graves tended to be shallow and covered with stones because speed was important. On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln arrived to speak at the dedication of a national cemetery for the Union soldiers. It was said that the smell of death still hung in the air as he gave the Gettysburg Address because of the hasty burial of the Confederate bodies. The last remaining body was found in 1996 close to Railroad Cut. It hasn’t been determined whether he was a Union or Confederate soldier, although it has been speculated that he was from a Mississippi regiment.