Luckily for traveling history buffs, the weather in Gettysburg is fairly predictable, even during the peak days of summer. The average temperature maxes out at around 85 degrees fahrenheit. That said, if you’re used to dry heat, the humidity on the Gettysburg Battlefield is something to keep in mind. Thanks to all the rain which falls in this region, the high humidity makes the temperature feel a lot worse. Gettysburg sees about 9 rainy days per month in May, June, and July, and 6-7 rainy days in August and September.
Are you travelling in the winter? January and February occasionally see a few days of heavy snowfall but the park service is vigilant about cleaning the roads quickly and early.
Luckily, you’re going to tour Gettysburg Battlefield from the comfort of your own car so you can adjust the AC and heat as needed! The weather won’t make much of a difference in your visit… not like it did during the actual battle.
What was the weather like in Gettysburg during the battle?
The combination of heat and humidity during the three-day Battle of Gettysburg is thought by some historians to have changed the course of the battle entirely.
During those first days of July, 1863, temperatures ranged from the mid to high 80s. Doesn’t sound that bad? Well, consider that the soldiers on both sides had to wear heavy wool uniforms while running, fighting, and carrying heavy equipment. And that’s not even taking into account the humidity, which would have been around a sticky 60%! This means that even soldiers who hunkered down in shady spots couldn’t find much respite from the heat. All in all, Gettysburg was a sweaty, and probably exceptionally stinky, battle…. and a lot of that can be attributed to the weather.
So how does the weather at Gettysburg change the outcome of the battle? Well, let’s consider one particular example to understand a little better: Pickett’s Charge. At Confederate General Robert E Lee’s direction, Major General George Pickett led a massive, 12,500-man charge toward heavily-fortified Union lines. This last-ditch effort attack took place at the hottest point of the hottest day of the battle: 2pm on July 3rd. The temperature had just cracked 87 degrees. The sun was directly overhead, beating down on the wool-clad attackers.
Now, the charge was always going to be a long shot, but Lee’s men had just spent the last two days charging up hills in the stifling heat. By the time this charge was ordered, they had just about run out of gas. The Union men, on the other hand, had the luxury of staying put. As the defenders, they didn’t need to rush across vast fields or sprint uphill. In a battle like this one, an advantage as small as that can make all the difference in the world. The Union repelled the Confederate attack at the “High Water Mark”. Check out this historic spot during your visit with this Gettysburg self-guided driving tour.
What might have happened if the weather had been a little cooler? Sometimes, maybe all it takes to change the history of a nation is a few degrees fahrenheit! Learn all about the effect of Gettysburg on the Civil War with this self-guided driving tour during your visit.