Military geology and the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863

Geology Today 06/2006; 22(4):142 - 149. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2451.2006.00571.x


Gettysburg – the most costly of all battles of the American Civil War, and one of the most significant battles ever fought. Contested in rural Pennsylvania, the Battle of Gettysburg took place after a chance encounter by the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia (General Robert E. Lee) with the Union Army of the Potomac (Major-General George Meade). It was to prove the turning point in the war, the so-called ‘high tide’ of the Confederacy, as after Gettysburg the fortunes of war turned in favour of the Union. Fought over three days in early July 1863, the battle continues to be analyzed and re-analyzed from all perspectives. Significantly, it was the first battle to be re-interpreted from the perspective of its geology, by Andrew Brown of the Pennsylvania State Survey in the early 1960s. It continues to fascinate geologists interested in the overall impact of geology and terrain in determining the outcome of battle. This article examines why Gettysburg has been so influential in shaping our understanding of geology in warfare.

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