The Battle of Carlisle: Did it affect the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg?

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought over three days (July 1-3, 1863) was a bloody and horrific turning point for the outcome of the American Civil War. Yet little is known about the Battle of Carlisle that took place on the evening of July 1, 1863 that certainly affected the turn of events that were about to occur in the following days. On July 1, 1863, Confederate troops under Lt. Gen. Ewell’s command arrived in Carlisle searching for supplies and food. After resting in the town, they continued north towards Harrisburg with the intention of capturing the city; they were later diverted to Gettysburg under General Robert E. Lee’s orders. General J.E.B Stuart arrived in Carlilse later on that evening with the intention of finding Ewell and his troops. However, his arrival coincided with Carlisle’s occupation by Baldy Smith and New York and Pennsylvania militia from the Union Army. Though the Confederates had a numerical advantage, they did not attack Carlisle. Once it was confirmed that there was only a small contingent of Union troops, General Stuart ordered Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee into the town to force the Union troops to leave and to clear out the women and children. Yet since Smith had already cleared the town of women and children he refused to retreat. Thus the Confederates’ horse artillery began bombarding the town. The shelling lasted for an hour before word spread that the two armies had begun fighting in Gettysburg. Gen. Stuart ordered that the Carlisle Barracks be set on fire before he immediately set off for the fighting in Gettysburg. Interestingly, during the shelling, misfire struck the church on 44 North Bedford Street (which was later the Carlisle Garment Factory and currently, Bedford’s Antique Store). One shell landed on the roof beams without exploding, which later affected church attendance since it scared the parishoners.

Gen. Stuart’s Confederate troops were distracted by actvity in Carlisle, PA, thus delaying their departure for the fighting that had erupted in Gettysburg. Had the Confederate troops not been in Carlisle and arrived more promptly in Gettysburg, would the outcome of the battle been in their favor? Would the South have been able to fight using offensive strategy rather than fighting defensively against the Union Army?

*Visit to Bedford Antique’s


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