Lee’s troops limp back to Virginia
Gettysburg has been fought a week earlier, and the boldest offensive ever waged by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee has been turned back by Union forces.
And so a turning point arrived 150 years ago this month in the Civil War. After the three days of fierce battle and bloodletting at Gettysburg, Pa., Lee’s exhausted columns are retreating in the second week of July to Virginia, seat of the Confederacy.
Witnesses reported hearing the frequent wailing and cries of the wounded being carried back on wagon trains. At times rain lashed at the retreating columns.
Although major fighting at Gettysburg is over and the Union has held firm, Union Gen. George Meade contemplates an all-out assault on retreating Confederates trapped beside the rain-swollen Potomac River, just across from Virginia. Nonetheless, Mead scraps plans for an offensive around July 13, 1863, providing Lee the opportunity to escape southward after the failure of his gamble at Gettysburg.
Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia manages to get across the Potomac River in these hot days of July so as to regroup and fight another day.