July 3, 1863, was a pivotal day in the Civil War. On that day, the Union Army scored a key victory in the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, and Confederates offered their surrender at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Battle of Gettysburg ended the Confederates’ last major invasion of the North and is viewed by some as the war’s turning point. The Confederate loss of Vicksburg was perhaps more important because it opened the way for the North to seize control of the entire Mississippi River, cutting the Confederacy in half.
West Virginians played important roles in both efforts. At Gettysburg, Union troops in the 1st West Virginia Cavalry participated in a charge against Confederate infantrymen during the battle’s waning moments on July 3. That same day, Confederate soldiers from West Virginia were part of General George Pickett’s disastrous charge, climaxing the battle. Union soldiers from the 1st West Virginia Light Artillery’s Battery C were on the opposing side of Pickett’s Charge.
Hundreds of miles to the southwest, seven soldiers in the 4th West Virginia Infantry earned the Medal of Honor for their heroism in the Union assault on Vicksburg’s defenses.