2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Battle of Gettysburg - July 1863
The Reality of War: A Grim Harvest

Dead near the Rose Woods
Warning: Possibly Disturbing Image
As July 4th came to a close, the Army Northern Virginia began to move south towards safer ground. Although the southerners maintained their fighting ability and food stores remained plentiful, Lee's army lacked the supply trains of ammunition necessary to attack or defend themselves from the Union army. They had also lost many of their finest officers and needed to reorganize. As they moved again through the gaps in South Mountain towards Virginia, many a southern man would mourn the loss of friends and comrades who fell among the thousands killed in the last three days. Confederate casualty estimates range from a staggering 23,000 to 28,000 killed, wounded, or captured. Union losses would mirror the ghastly figures of their gray clad foes with estimates of about 21,000.

Unfinished Confederate graves
Warning: Possibly Disturbing Image
Today, if you travel through the town or across the battlefield, a close look reveals a few homes whose exteriors still show bullet damage. Several have a shell or two lodged in brick walls. Yet the observant eye finds little evidence to suggest the level of horror that once gripped these now peaceful, serene grounds. The National Cemetery serves as a solemn, reflective home to over 3,500 Union dead. The National Park Service continues their efforts to restore the battlefield to its 1863 appearance. The grounds elicit reminiscences of times past. The park vistas are simply beautiful. The monuments dotting the landscape allow for the only continuous hint that something extraordinarily, something catastrophic, occurred here.

Warning: Possibly Disturbing Image
Yet July of 1863 presented an entirely different scene. With both the sounds of battle and the occupying troops now gone from their town, the people of Gettysburg cautiously emerged from their cellars, casting a weary eye to their surroundings. They would stare in shocked awe at carnage on a scale neither imagined nor seen before. They would wonder of the families now shattered, the tens of thousands of wounded, and how they might soon reclaim their lives. The citizens who unwillingly hosted the largest battle ever fought on American soil would gaze upon the dead soldiers numbering many times more than there were people in their town. Almost ten times the number of their population now lay wounded and in need of care. Strewn among the human wreckage were thousands of dead or dying horse and mules. The lingering, ubiquitous stench became unbearable. Flies swarmed in the millions. With countless shallow graves dug on formerly productive properties, some would simply leave and begin anew elsewhere.

The dead awaiting burial
Warning: Possibly Disturbing Image
The photos posted here document the lost lives of only a small portion of those who would never again walk this earth. The three day maelstrom sacrificed nine to ten thousand men with three times that many left wounded. Over 7,000,000 bullets flew in the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg accompanied by many tons of artillery shells. Individual valor proved no match for gunpowder, lead and iron. Despite the grand descriptions of a glorious battle won on Union soil or a campaign valiantly prosecuted against long odds, the grim reality of this war was death on a colossal scale. Confederate President Jefferson Davis would aptly state of this conflict, "We are grinding the seed corn of the republic." Many of the young, promising men who would have contributed to a growing nation, now lay dead on the field, lost to all but God.