Confederate Dead at Gettysburg
Crude wooden headboards, etched with the initials of the dead, mark the fresh graves of Confederate soldiers who fell at Gettysburg. Timothy O'Sullivan, an assistant to photographer Alexander Gardner, made this plate on July 5, 1863, two days after the Battle of Gettysburg and only one day after the withdrawal of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.
In June of 1863, following his victory at Chancellorsville, Lee decided once again to take the war to the North and pushed up the Shenandoah Valley into Maryland and Pennsylvania. On July 1, his troops encountered the cavalry of Union general John Buford at Gettysburg, and a general engagement began. Both the Union and Confederate armies concentrated at Gettysburg, leading to a three–day battle. Lee, against the misgivings of some of his subordinates, pushed for aggressive assaults on July 2 and again on July 3, the most famous being Pickett's Charge. The Union lines held, and Lee began his retreat to Virginia on July 4. He had gained little at the cost of more than 20,000 casualties, nearly a third of his army.
After the battle, residents of Gettysburg faced the challenge of burying the dead, including these Confederates. In addition to the human carnage strewn across the field, hundreds of decaying horses littered the area.