American Red Cross
The bloodiest battle of the American Civil War took place 150 years ago on July 1-3, 1863 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Today, the Battle
of Gettysburg is still remembered as the largest battle fought in North America, with more men fighting and dying than any other battle in
America before or since. The Union Army suffered losses of 3,155 killed; 14,529 wounded; and 5,365 missing and captured. The Confederate Army suffered losses of 3,903 killed; 18,735 wounded; and 5,425 missing and captured.
Gettysburg residents transformed churches, public spaces, farm land, and private homes into hospitals. Union and Confederate field hospitals were set up in separate areas of the county for treatment of the wounded. Camp Letterman General Hospital was established on the eastern side of Gettysburg. Union surgeons, with the help of the U.S. Sanitary Commission and Christian Commission, treated wounded
from both armies before patients were transported to permanent hospitals in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington. Another field hospital at George Spangler Farm treated over 1,400 wounded soldiers from both sides of the battle.
Following the Emancipation Proclamation and the Lieber Code issued earlier in 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg occurred during a pivotal moment in the U.S.’s conversation on racial and human equality. During the Civil War, the Confederacy declared that any captured African
American soldiers would be re-sold into slavery. The areas of Gettysburg and Adams County, located in Pennsylvania where slavery had been abolished, had many African American citizens and property owners.
When news of the Confederate Army’s attack reached the Gettysburg area, many African American citizens fled in fear of re-enslavement.
The Lieber Code, as a doctrine that prohibited cruel treatment of civilians and soldiers, specifically included Articles that aimed to protect
the dignity and freedom of the African American Union soldiers. Although these articles of the Lieber Code were not always enforced,
the doctrine was important in its recognition of the humanity and rights of African American Union soldiers during a time in U.S. history when equal rights for all was not guaranteed under the law.
The American Civil War – A Humanitarian Perspective includes lessons and resources for teachers and students featuring bystanders
stories of medical workers caring for wounded on both sides of Civil War battlefields and an exploration of the Lieber Code – rules established by President Abraham Lincoln to limit the conduct of military forces during the American Civil War.
• “Gettysburg: History & Culture,” National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/gett/historyculture/index.htm
• “Gettysburg: Civil War Timeline,” National Park Service,
• “Battle of Gettysburg,” Gettysburg Foundation,
• “Gettysburg,” Civil War Trust, http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/gettysburg.html?tab=facts
• “Customary IHL,” ICRC, http://www.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v2_rul_rule94
• “Civil War Journal – Camp Letterman,” Celebrate Gettysburg,
• “African Americans in the Civil War: Equality Earned With Blood,” National Geographic,
• National Museum of Civil War Medicine, http://www.civilwarmed.org/