CHARLESTON, W.Va. - This week, 150 years ago, brave men from Union and Confederate forces clashed at a small town in south central Pennsylvania.
But the day after the bloody three-day battle, West Virginia's most decorated unit tracked and captured a supply train and hampered the fleeing Confederates even more.
Steve Cunningham, who works in Charleston Area Medical Center's Quality Improvement Center by day and is an avid historian by night, has studied the Civil War and West Virginia's role extensively.
He and Beth A. White, the executive director of the West Virginia Association for Justice, co-authored a journal piece for Civil War Regiments on the 1st West Virginia Cavalry's role in the war.
"The reason we did this project on some of these guys, I don't think people realize there were West Virginians who participated in some of these big events in U.S. history and made a big impact."
When the 1st Cavalry was mustered it was part of Loyal Virginia's Union forces, but when West Virginia achieved statehood in June 1863, it became a West Virginia unit. Cunningham said that statehood at that point still was an "iffy-type situation" because no one could guess how the Civil War was going to turn out.
"The outcome of the war would have determined if these statehood guys would be seen as heroes or as traitors," Cunningham said. "If the south would have won that battle and forced some sort of truce or compromise, who knows what sort of things would have come out of that."
Cunningham said Gettysburg was more than a battle and actually had been a campaign. The events leading up to, during and after the battle all were important.
Four Union units from West Virginia participated in the Battle of Gettysburg, including the 1st Cavalry, the 3rd Cavalry, the 7th Infantry and Battery C Light Artillery.
The 1st Cavalry was assigned the defense of Washington in 1862 but that ended on June 24, 1863 and the men began their advance on Gettysburg to face the Confederates, according to Cunningham and White's journal article.
While the Battle of Gettysburg was bloody - more than 7,000 men were killed and 17,000 were wounded - the Union was the victor. After the battle, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's forces were retreating back to safe Confederate territory in Virginia.
The Union knew that and was in hot pursuit.