Who won the Battle of Gettysburg?

The Battle of Gettysburg was a decisive victory for the Union.

Tactically it may have seemed about even. Both armies lost about the same number of men, and Lee kept his army on the field until the evening of the day after the battle, waiting for a counterattack by Meade which never came. But Meade’s larger army could better afford the losses – all eight of Lee’s infantry divisions lost about a third of their strength, while Meade’s largest Army Corps was virtually untouched. Lee was almost out of artillery ammunition, while Meade had enough for another battle. And Meade had no need to throw himself into a dangerous counterattack; time was on his side as Union reinforcements moved to surround Lee, deep in enemy territory with no hope of reinforcement.

Both armies were badly hurt in the battle. The Union 1st and 3rd Corps never recovered from their casualties and were merged into other corps in March of 1864. Pickett’s Division was so badly hurt it was detached from Longstreet and sent to a quiet(er) sector along the Virginia-North Carolina border to recruit and recover. But the Union could more readily find fresh recruits, while Lee would increasingly struggle with a shortage of men, particularly of field and general officers.

Strategically there was no question. The Battle of Gettysburg stopped the Confederate invasion of the North and forced Lee to withdraw to Virginia. He was successful in his secondary goal of gathering supplies from untouched Northern regions, but his goal of moving the fighting out of war-ravaged Virginia only lasted for a few weeks. By August the armies had returned to their starting places along the Rappahannock River. Lee’s primary goal of finally being able to exploit a Confederate victory by pursuing and destroying a beaten Union army would remain an elusive dream.