By the summer of 1863, General Lee has decided to march north. It is an enormous gambleto try to beat the Yankees on their home ground-but Lee's daring has made him successful in the past. After Antietam, Lee had two spectacular victories in Virginia: at Fredericksburg and at Chancellorsville. The South now seems to be winning the war. Lee heads for Pennsylvania. There he meets the Union army at a quiet college town named Gettysburg, where roads come together . It is postcard-pretty land: green and peaceful. A sign on Cemetery Hill says anyone firing a gun in the area will be fined $5.00. If, on the first three days of July in 1863, the town could have collected those fines, it would have been the richest place in America. No question: This would be the bloodiest three days of the entire war . On July 1, when the fighting begins, it looks as if it will be another Union defeat. The Rebels push the Union forces through the town. Warren Goss, a private in the Union Army, said: "The flowers in bloom upon the graves at the cemetery were shot away. Tombs and monuments were knocked to pieces, and ordinary gravestones shattered in rows."
July 2 comes; the fighting begins early and is even more murderous than on the day before. Men fight and die with a frenzy that is still hard to believe . A Northern regimentthe 1st Minnesotahas 262 men when the day begins; only 42 survive the day unwounded. By nightfall the land is cluttered with the bodies of men and horses. Colonel William C. Oates commanded the 15th Alabama troops. He observed that "blood stood in puddles in some places on the rocks."