Soldiers from Alabama were engaged in many key aspects of the battle. On the second day of battle, the Fifteenth Alabama Infantry, part of Hood’s Division, under the leadership of Gen. Evander Law, attempted to take high ground at Little Round Top, where they were defeated by Joshua L. Chamberlain’s Twentieth Maine, in what has become one of the most famous events of the war. Later, on July 3, troops from the Thirteenth Alabama, under the leadership of Col. Birkett Davenport Fry, participated in the ill-fated “Pickett’s Charge,” in which approximately fourteen thousand rebel soldiers attempted to take the well-fortified Cemetery Ridge. John S. Tucker, a soldier serving in the Fifth Alabama Infantry Regiment of the Army of Northern Virginia, wrote that July 1, 1863, was, to him, “the sad[d]est day of the war.” While driving Northern troops through the town of Gettysburg, his friend, identified only as Tunie, was killed, and Tucker wrote that he would never “forget my feelings when I got to him & found him lifeless. How sudden & heart-rending the change–had parted with him only a few hours before in perfect health & fine spirits, never dreaming that it was the last & final interview.” Although saddened by the loss of his friend, Tucker and his fellow soldiers would continue to hold Gettysburg throughout the battle.
Meanwhile, along the Mississippi River, Confederate forces were suffering another defeat in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Throughout the winter of 1862–1863, Union forces under Grant had attempted repeatedly to capture the river fortress without success, and by the spring of 1863, Confederates believed that a Union retreat to Memphis was imminent. Grant, on the other hand, had different plans. By April 30, Grant’s men had successfully crossed the river thirty miles south of Vicksburg and were headed toward the city, which fell under siege in May. For two months, the siege continued, with the Confederates trapped inside the city without enough provisions. The hardship tested the sanity of many of the city’s inhabitants. On July 3–4, 1863, Confederate forces, under the leadership of John C. Pemberton, surrendered to Grant. Six days later the Confederate garrison at Port Hudson, further south on the Mississippi River, also fell to the Union army. The occupations of Vicksburg and Port Hudson further solidified federal control of the Mississippi River, and perhaps more than Gettysburg, signaled the end of the Confederacy.
As at Gettysburg, many Alabamians joined the fighting in Vicksburg. Gen. Stephen D. Lee, who commanded Alabama troops during the siege, wrote that despite harsh conditions, “the troops under my command exhibited cheerfulness and good spirit, feeling confident that they would finally be released.” However, the brave Alabamians and their fellow Confederates could not save Vicksburg from Union hands. As fall approached in 1863, Confederates were reeling from staggering losses in the east and in the west.