The numbers multiply into new questions and ideas for how to think about three days in July, 1863. Count on it!

In early July, 1863, troops from General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia (the Confederates) met up with a patrol of Union cavalry on the outskirts of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Over the next three days, this encounter grew into a turning point of the Civil War. Lee’s forces battled against General Meade’s Army of the Potomac (the Union). When the battle was over, Lee’s army was defeated, and his aim of taking Civil War fight into the north had ended. The war would continue for another eighteen months, but Gettysburg changed the course of the conflict.


What were the distances and dimensions?

Battlefield Size

Day by Day

How Far How Fast



The battlefield is an area of about 3.33 x 5.33 miles (about 17.75 square miles). In comparison, Washington, DC today occupies an area of just under 70 square miles. If there are about 484 football fields (including the end zones) in a square mile, the battlefield would be about the same size as 8,591 football fields.

How large is your town or city?
What part of your town/city is the same size as the battlefield? You can compare sizes of different geographic locations using this tool.
What other events take place across this large an area?

Sources for this information:
Gettysburg Battlefield
Washington, D.C.

Troops coming to Gettysburg marched long distances. General Meade’s men sometimes marched 20 to 30 miles per day on their way to Gettysburg. Earlier in the war, it had been usual for troops to march only 6 miles per day.

Questions: How far does the average American teenager walk in a day?
When was the last time you walked 20 miles in one day?

Source for this information:
Approaches to Gettysburg

We know that Stuart’s Confederate troops were in Rockville MD on June 28.

On June 29, they were in Westminster, MD which is 41 miles.

On June 30, they were in Dover, PA which is another 41 miles

On July 1, they were in Carlisle, PA, which is 24 miles

On July 2, they were in Gettysburg, which is 30 miles.

Can you plot a map showing the places you travel in a five day period and by what means you travel? Use a tool such as Google Maps or Google Earth.

Source for this information:
Gettysburg Campaign Chronology

While that seems like a short distance today, with highways and automobile travel, this was over rough terrain and on foot.

Most people walk around 3 miles per hour.

To cover 40 miles, it would take more than 10 hours at that speed. Troops must have walked much faster.

A marathon is about 26 miles. Civil War soldiers covered more distance while wearing heavy uniforms and carrying 40 pounds of equipment.

With your full school backpack, how long would it take you to walk 26 miles? (How did you estimate your answer?)

Sources for this information:
How Fast Does a Human Walk?
Average Civil War Marching Speed
Civil War Journal - Who were the soldiers at Gettysburg?

The tallest point on the battlefield is Big Round Top at 794 feet.

What is the highest point within the 18 square miles around your home?
What is it used for?
Why does elevation matter in a battle?

Source for this information:
Gettysburg elevations

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