Encouraged by his victory at Chancellorsville, Lee launched a second invasion of the North in June 1863. He knew that if Northern communities started to worry about their own safety, they would put tremendous pressure on Northern political leaders to negotiate a peace agreement with the Confederacy, even if it meant giving the Southern states their independence.
Lee's Army of Northern Virginia advanced into Pennsylvania, where they were met by the Union's Army of the Potomac and its new commander, General George Meade (1815-1872; see entry). On July 1, the two armies clashed outside of a little town called Gettysburg. The battle contin ued for three days. Again and again, rebel troops crashed against Meade's defenses in hopes of smashing through and seizing victory. But the Army of the Potomac fought bravely, refusing to cave in to the rebel attacks.
The battle finally ended on July 3, when Lee ordered a disastrous charge at the heart of the Union defenses. This attack—known as "Pickett's Charge" after one of the Confederate officers who led the offensive—ended in complete failure for the South. Union weaponry easily shattered the advance. Shocked by this disastrous turn of events, Lee gathered his battered army together and retreated back to Virginia.
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