The Battle Of Gettysburg In Light Of Primary Sources Literature Review Samples

Type of paper: Literature Review

Topic: War, Battle, Gettysburg, Armed Forces, Army, Union, Newspaper, Media

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2020/12/02

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The Battle of Gettysburg was a three day battle fought from July 1st to July 3rd 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle was fought between the Union and the Confederate forces. This battle is known to be the fiercest of all battles during the American Civil War and the most number of lives were also lost during this three day bloodshed. Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s attempts to take over the North were thwarted during this battle by the Union General Maj. Gen. George Meade's Army of the Potomac. The Union casualties amounted to 23,049 (3,155 dead, 14,529 wounded, 5,365 missing) whereas the Confederate casualties amounted to 28,063 (3,903 dead, 18,735 injured, and 5,425 missing) which accounted for more than a third of General Lee’s army (
There are various primary sources which account for this battle and the events which led to it. These sources consist of speeches, personal eye witness accounts and also a historical account by the Confederate General Lee. The battle will be analyzed in light of these sources in order to understand the dynamics which took place between the various forces as well as the general stance of the people regarding this battle.
General Robert E Lee in his official account of the battle made from the Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia on July 31, 1863 reported the on goings of the war very aptly. This account is published in “The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies”. General Lee in this account narrates the events which led to the “strengthening of the enemy’s position” and the “reduction of our ammunition”. General Lee is not bitter in this account and is quite admirable of his troops and their “valor” on the battlefield. The General narrates the morning of the engagement on the first day; they were able to deal heavy blows initially. However, soon attacks could not be carried out as they were not aware of the strength of the rest of the enemy’s force and wanted to wait for the rest of their own troops as well. He says that they prepared for the assault and these preparations were completed the next day. On the second day their army was able to get some high ground over the enemy due to “General Ewell’s attack on the enemy’s right”. General Longstreet, another one of their General’s was able to secure this ground after some struggle. He narrates that these successes made him confident enough to carry out the assault on the third day which doomed the battle for them. General Lee narrates that due to the fact their ammunition had reduced and the enemy had gained time to attack, they were dealt with heavy blows on the third day and hence suffered defeat. He ends his account by commending his troops d their valor on the battle front and accepting defeat respectably and with honor (Larry Vandermolen).
General Lee’s report was accurate and without biased as he recounts the happenings of the battle honestly. The report is an excellent primary source as it is devoid of any dishonesty and exaggeration. The only partiality of this report towards the Confederate Army is the way with which General Lee commends his troops. General Lee’s documents serves as an important narrative in the history as a guideline to find the real stories of the battle of Gettysburg and its horrors.
Another notable account of the battle was provided by Tillie Pierce who was a young girl at the time. Her accounts have been published in numerous books and are also available on online internet archives. Tillie’s father was a butcher in the village of Gettysburg and she published her narrative of the three bloody days 26 years after the battle took place. Tillie narrates that the prior to the battle, the Rebels attacked the village and demanded whatever they desired from the village folk. They took eatables, clothes, alcohol and even a large amount of money through formal requests to the town council and informal ransacking. Soon after it was evident that there would be a war and many villagers including her family fled to nearby safe houses. Tillie narrates that during the battle she saw a lot of wounded soldiers who were close to losing their lives because of the war and many of them did lose their lives. She also narrates that the war had hardened the officers and most of them were quite brutal to not just the enemy’s men but also their own. Tillie recounts the aftermath of the war by saying that “the whole scene was one of cruel butchery” as there were dead bodies and mutilated limbs scattered on the battlefield. She also says that everything that belonged to the forces such as dead men, horses; ammunition seemed to be “there in one confused and indescribable mass” (Alleman).
The source of account of Tillie Pierce is reliable as it shows the accounts of the girl near the time of the war. According to the “Time and Place rule”, the source fits perfectly to be reliable. However, by reading the text carefully, it is evident that the author shows as little bias as possible, in an attempt to stay neutral. Alleman does not favor one army or the other, but says that both were hardened by the war and faced the horrors of the war that changed them.
“Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and the Battle of Gettysburg through Primary Sources (Civil War through Primary Sources)” consists of some of the earliest primary sources of the battle. The book consists of major facts and figures from the battle and how it affected the North. It also consists of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. The most interesting thing about this book is that it traces the causes behind this battle unlike other primary sources. It lists down slavery as the biggest reason for the discord among between the North and South. Like General Lee’s account, this book narrates the three day battle in full detail. It in addition mentions that on the first day of the battle, both sides estimated quickly that they would require additional assistance due to the heavy losses both the sides suffered. This account also mentions General Lee’s command on his men and says that his men respected him rather than fearing him.
This source is mostly unbiased in its accounts and narrates the events with showing the picture from the narrative of both sides. It narrates Lincoln’s address accurately and can be termed as an unbiased and reliable source, overall.
Some of the newspaper of that time also proved to be reliable primary sources for the battle. It is said that most of the newspapers reported the same thing however; each newspaper did add their own signature reporting style to the reports.
The New Work Tribune published news of the battle on July 3rd 1863 in a compilation from all the areas that were affected by the battle. The newspaper being from the North majorly celebrates the defeat of the Confederate army through a sectional headline that said “The Rebels Repulsed and Driven”. The newspaper also recounts the sad demise of General Reynolds on the battle front who was a notable Union officer. It commends the bravery of the Union troops on the battle front ( The newspaper was heavily biased towards the Union Army which is quite clear from the examples provided of its reporting of events.
The New York Times was also another newspaper which brought news from the battle primarily. It was the first newspaper to bring news from the battle front on the second day of fighting which was 2nd July. It brought news from the front however; it was also heavily biased towards the Union army. It was one of the first newspapers to report that “Major-Gen. Reynolds was mortally wounded and has since died”. Various newspapers printed this report the next day but by then Philadelphia Press and The New York Tribune had managed to get more information from the battle field (The New York Times).
The Southern newspapers on the other hand were much less informed and quite unaccepting of the news which the Northern papers published. Some of the major Southern Newspaper such as The Richmond Enquirer, The Charleston Mercury, and The Savannah Republican faced disruption of contact with their correspondents. On July 10th, The Charleston Mercury in its headline announced “a brilliant and crushing victory achieved by the army under Gen. Lee!”. This was mostly due to the fact that these newspapers failed to grasp any news which informed of their troops suffering in the battle field. However, when their reporters finally did make it back to Virginia, they had no choice, but to accept defeat and face the facts of their heavy loss in the battlefield. However, a considerable amount of time had passed when the news reached the South and it was on July 22nd that The Charleston Mercury declared “We must accept [the results] of the campaign with Southern manliness” (Brasher).


Hence, it is safe to say that the battle was narrated with biased from both sides and apart from the official report of the battle, most of the accounts cannot be deemed 100% credible or unbiased. However, this does not mean that all the information provided in these accounts was wrong; it just means that the partiality of these accounts with two opposite entities affected the primary sources heavily.


Alleman, Tillie Pierce. At Gettysburg. Baltimore, MD: Butternut and Blue, 1994. Print.,. 'New-York Daily Tribune. (New-York [N.Y.]) 1842-1866, July 03, 1863, Image 1'. N.p., 1863. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.,. 'The Battle Of Gettysburg Summary & Facts | Civilwar.Org'. N.p., 2015. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.
Ford, Carin T, and Carin T Ford. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address And The Battle Of Gettysburg Through Primary Sources. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2013. Print.
Larry Vandermolen, Irene Cheung - from 4e SG/site. 'Primary Source: Robert E. Lee's Account Of The Battle Of Gettysburg (July 31, 1863)'. N.p., 2015. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.
The New York Times,. 'The Rebel Invasion'. 1863. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.

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