In May of 1863 Confederate General and Commander of the southern army Robert E.
Lee decided to take the war to the north with the ultimate goal of winning a victory on northern soil and forcing Washington,
D.C. to settle for a peace agreement with the Confederate states. Up until this point the Confederate strategy had been a
defensive and cautious one, letting the Union army take the offensive and be the invading force. However this time it would
be the Confederate army that would be the invaders and on the offensive. Clearly Robert E. Lee's string of victories against
the Union army during the first two years of the Civil War influenced Lee to carry out this bold plan for his army. Robert
E. Lee led his three Confederate Corps north using the Blue Ridge Mountains to screen his movement as he pushed north into
Pennsylvania. Robert E. Lee led the Confederate First Corps commanded by General James Longstreet, the Second Corps commanded
by General Richard Ewell, and the Third Corps commanded by General A.P.Hill. The Union army began their pursuit of Lee's army
and Lee's army was being shadowed by two brigades of Union cavalry under the command of General John Buford. As Lee pushed
into Pennsylvania he was let down by General Jeb Stuart who commanded the Confederate cavalry. It was General Jeb Stuart's
cavalry that was to be the eyes of the army as it pushed north and was to keep Lee informed as to the location and
status of the pursuing northern army. Instead Stuart had been roaming around Pennsylvania near Harrisburg and York engaging
in raids and getting in the Pennsylvania newspapers. When Lee finally learned of the close proximity of the northern army
he was in a vulnerable state as his army was spread from Chambersburg to Carlisle to York. Lee knew he had to consolidate
his army or else his army risked being destroyed piecemeal. As Lee viewed a map of Pennsylvania his eye caught
a nearby town that had ten roads leading into it like a spider from from each direction on the map. That town that caught
Lee's eye was the town of Gettysburg. It was Gettysburg that Lee ordered his troops to descend upon Gettysburg in order to
consolidate their forces. It is important to realize the significance of the many roads leading into Gettysburg. To
move an army of that size, nearly 80,000 men, multiple road ways were needed and the roads that led into Gettysburg provided
that. However Robert E. Lee did not desire a full scale engagement with the Army of the Potomac. Lee wanted first to unite
his forces which were spread between three towns north, northwest, and northeast of Gettysburg. As a result the Confederate
troops approached first from the West (from Chambersburg) and then soon after from the north (from Carlisle), and then from
the northeast (from York).
General John Buford, whose two brigades of Union
cavalry were shadowing Robert E. Lee's army, realized the significance of Gettysburg and anticipated that Lee's army would
try to occupy the town. The significance of Gettysburg was not only the many roads leading into it but also the many hills
and ridges that dominated the land just south of the town. General John Buford was the first to notice the many strategic
hills and ridges around Gettysburg. By this time it was June 30, 1863. Buford had a decision to make, should he withdraw
from the town knowing that he did his duty in tracking and reporting the location of Lee's army and thus allow the Confederates
to take the town and surrounding strategic ground or should he stay and try to make a stand the next morning against the Confederate
infantry who for sure would be entering the town the next morning. General Buford had seen enough so far in the war of Union
troops being sent to take high ground with an entrenched opponent and the ensuing Union losses and massive casualties.
General Buford decided to stay and hold for as long as he could until the Union infantry arrives. This was a brave decision
as cavalry is usually not expected to make a prolonged stand against blocks and columns of infantry. General Buford dismounted
his cavalry troopers, assigning every fourth man to watch the horses, and deployed his men in a battle line west of the town
at near Seminary Ridge. The next morning elements of the Confederate army began to enter Gettysburg from the west and the
battle of Gettysburg begins. It was July 1st, 1863.
Enlarged Maps of Day 1 Gettysburg Battlefield
Robert E. Lee on the morning of July 1st did not desire a full scale engagement because
his troops had not all arrived at Gettysburg and were still somewhat spread out. However events soon spun out of control as
the initial Confederate troops who had expected to encounter militia when they entered the town ended up colliding with
two brigades of dismounted cavalry. Buford's troopers were accomplishing their mission to buy time until the Union infantry
arrived. They were able to repulse the initial waves of Confederate troops coming from the west. However Confederate troops
began arriving north of the town and Buford's troopers were running out of time. Finally, relief arrived, Major John Reynolds,
who days earlier had turned down command of the entire Union army, led the Union Army's First Corp and Eleventh Corps to Gettysburg.
The newly arrived Union infantry relieved Buford's weary troopers and the First Corps took over the battle line west of town
(north and south of the Chambersburg Road). Lysander Cutler's brigade formed north of the Chambersburg Pike and the Iron Brigade
formed south of the Pike in McPherson's Woods. The fighting on July 1st can be divided up into two parts: the morning battle
and the afternoon battle, the two being separated by a noonday lull. The morning fight was won by the Union's First Corps.
During the noon day lull The Union's 11th Corp arrived and marched through town, streaming out north of the town and formed
a battle line facing north, extending from Barlow's Knoll all the way west to near (but not touching) Oak Ridge. Also, after
the morning fight, the First Corp lines changed significantly. North of the Chambersburg Pike, First Corp troops formed a
line further east along Oak Ridge and in Shead's Woods. The First Corp Units south of the Chambersburg Pike moved down McPherson's
Ridge and held the low ground on the east bank of Willoughby Run. Multiple times the Iron Brigade asked for permission to
move to more Defensible ground but was denied by Maj. General Abner Doubleday. For the first half of the day the battle went
well for the Union. However remaining Confederate divisions began arriving north and west of Gettysburg and pressure
was increasingly mounting on the Union troops defending the town. A great tragedy for the Union had occurred that morning,
Major John Reynold's had been killed soon after he deployed the Union infantry. He had been atop his horse west of the town
leading the First Corps when he was shot and died instantly. Major General John Reynolds was most likely the Union's brightest
and most dashing General. He was a gentlemen and possessed all the characteristics in being a leader.
In the afternoon, the Eleventh Corp lines north of town began to crumble at the right
flank as more Confederate troops arrived from the northeast. This additonal pressure was too much. Starting from right to
left the Eleventh Corp battle line began to crumble. The area where the Union line north of town began to crumble is known
as Barlow's Knoll. Soon the entire Eleventh Corp was in full retreat through the streets of Gettysburg as they headed to an
assigned location to regroup in case of such a disaster. That designated spot was Cemetery Hill just south of town. The collapse
of Union line north of town spelled disaster for the Union's First Corp who was still holding their ground west of town. The
break of the Union line north of town meant the Union line west of town would be flanked and rolled up like a carpet it did
not withdraw, for it was the Eleventh Corp that was protecting the First Corp right flank. Therefore in afternoon of July
1st the entire Union command at Gettysburg was in full retreat. It should be noted that the Union First Corp held on more
stubbornly than the Union 11th Corp. The Iron Brigade stopped and fired volleys no less than five times during their falling
back from Willoughby Run to the site of their final stand on Seminary Ridge at the Lutheran Seminary. The retreating troops
poured into the streets of Gettysburg as they headed to Cemetery Hill just south of town. The Confederates pursued the retreating
Union troops as mayhem reigned in the streets of Gettysburg. As a result of the first day's fighting the Confederates were
victorious and occupied the town. However the Confederate army missed key opportunites. Robert E. Lee's generals did not press
the attack on Cemetery Hill when the Union troops retreated there. The critical delay allowed the Union troops to regroup
and dig in on Cemetery Hill and the adjacent and wooded Culp's Hill. Though the Union army lost the first day it still held
high ground and was being strengthened by the arrival of more Union Corp's coming from the south.
(above) View looking west from Oak Ridge. This
would have been the view of Union soldier's holding Oak Ridge on the afternoon of July 1st. The ridge was held by Cutler's
Bigade and Baxter's Brigade of the Union First Corp. The Confederate brigades attacking the Union Troops were attacking from
Oak Hill and had to march south and then wheel left to strike the Union position on Oak Ridge. Iverson's Brigade and Daniel's
Brigade sufered heavy casualties in the attempts to dislodge the Union troops from Oak Ridge. Iverson's attack is one of the
most infamous of Gettysburg. Brig. General Alfred Iverson stayed behind and did not advance with his brigade. His brigade
had no skirmishers out in front of the main line. His brigade knew Union troops were there but was not exactly sure where.
The Union soldiers behind a stone wall on Oak RIdge suddenly rose up (after laying prone) and with orders to "aim low"
devastated Iverson's brigade with one volley. Iverson's Brigade lost 500 men immediately and they fell in a straight line
as though on parade. The depression of ground in the photo is "Iverson's pits". His men were buried there.
In the early 1870s the mass grave was dug up and the remains shipped south, however the depression of ground still exists.
In the later 1860s, The farmer of the Forney Farm reported to a newspaper that his farm hands refused to work the fields at
night due to strange phenomena occuring in the fields.
(above) A soldier atop the momument of the 11th Pennsylvania
gazes out over the fields during sunset west of Oak Ridge as though their foe was still approaching.
(above) At the base of the 11th Pennsylvania monument
is the statue of a dog named Sally who was the mascot of the regiment. Sally had been in many battles with her regiment. After
the 11th PA had to retreat from their postion on Oak Ridge, Sally stayed behind and remained with the dead and wounded that
had been left behind. Those who retreated back to Cemetery Hill assumed Sally had not survived since she was not with them.
However days later, after the battle, they found her keeping vigil over the fallen of their regiment.
Day 2 July 2nd, 1863
(above) Photos of the McPherson Farm where Buford's dismounted cavalry made their stand against Confederate infantry.
(above) Fields of the McPherson Farm, looking west toward Willoughby Run. Heth's Division
advanced up this slope. This would have been the view for many of Buford's troopers in the morning of July 1st as well as
for First Corp regiments positioned at the McPherson Farm in the afternoon of July 1st.
(above) A view of the McPherson Farm from the east, Chambersburg Pike can be seen to the right. This photo was taken
from the swale between Seminary Ridge and McPherson Ridge. Union reinforcements held this position during different times
during the fighting on July 1st. In the afternoon of July 1st, after the First Corp displaced to a final line at the
Lutheran Seminary, this swale became a trap for advancing Confederate units trying to dislodge the battered First Corp units
from their breastworks at the Seminary.
(above) The Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg, note the cupola, it was from there that General John Buford anxiously
watched the road south waiting for Union reinforcements to appear in the morning of July 1st. Later, in the afternoon of July
1st, the Lutheran seminary became the location of the First Corp's last stand. The shattered remnants of the First Corp, including
the Iron Brigade, formed a last line behind breastworks that were thrown up just in front of the seminary buildings.
Those who made this stand, stood with massed artillery, had faces blackened with powder, stood under tattered flags,
and jeered the oncoming Confederates of Pender's Division with the words, "Come on Johnny! Come on!". The
casualties in Pender's Division (caught in the swale between Seminary Ridge and McPherson's Ridge) during the initial attacks
against this position, specifically Scales Brigade, were so bad that in some regiments an entire company was wiped out.
(above) Monument marking part of the I Corp's battle line that formed west of the town. This monument to the 147th
Pennsylvania is just north of Chambersburg Pike and the railroad cut would be off to the rear right of the photo. The 147th
Pennsylvania was part of Brigadier General Lysander Cutler's 2nd Brigade of the I Corp's 1st Division. Three of Cutler's five
regiments would be outflanked by General Davis' Brigade whose battle line was longer than than that of Cutler's Brigade.
Cutler's Brigade was forced to retreat, however the two regiments of Cutler's Brigade posted south of the Chambersburg Pike
turned and faced north, marched to the road and opened a flanking fire on Davis's Brigade as it pursued the fleeing regiments
of Cutler's Brigade. Cutler's two regiments south of the Chambersburg Pike were joined by the 6th Wisconsin, at this point
Davis' Brigade sought cover in an unfinished railroad cut. From their cover in the cut the men of Davis's Brigade poured fire
into the three Federal regiments along the Chambersburg Pike. This led to the famous charge towards the railroad cut of the
6th Wisconsin and the 95th New York followed by the 14th Brooklyn. 180 men of the 6th Wisconsin fell in the charge. After
brief fighting along the top of the railroad cut the trapped Confederates inside the railroad cut surrendered. In this action
Confederate General Davis had lost 2300 men.
(above) General Francis Barlow unwisely placed his division on a rise of ground now known as "Barlow's Knoll"
in the afternoon of July 1st. The position was too far forward from the rest of the 11th Corp line and was exposed and difficult
to defend. The collapse of the 11th Corp line north of the town began here. As a result of the 11th Corp being unable to hold
their position in the afternoon of July 1st, the First Corp had to abandon their position on Oak Ridge and at the Lutheran
Seminary. The lines of the two Corp had formed a lazy "L" with the First Corp's line facing west and the Eleventh
Corp's facing north.
(above) This statue of a soldier on the monument
of the 24th Michigan of the famed Iron Brigade keeps a silent and timeless vigil over the ground in which the regiment lost
so many men. The 24th Michigan arrived at Gettysburg with 400 men and departed Gettysburg with 99. Most of the regiment's
men were lost in the fight between Willoughby Run and the Lutheran Seminary in the afternoon of July 1st.
(above) A statue of John Burns the "hero of Gettysburg" (1794-1872). John Burns was an older civilian living
in Gettysburg at the time of the battle. John Burns lived on the southeastern corner of the intersection of Chambersburg St.
and High St. When the fighting broke out in the morning of July 1st, 1863, John Burns who had been a veteran of the war of
1812, grabbed his old musket, dressed in formal attire, and headed for the Union line at McPherson Ridge. He missed the
morning fight but arrived in time for the afternoon fight. There he joined the 150th PA and fought with the regiment. There
are claims that John Burns also fought with the Iron Brigade in McPherson's Woods. It is generally agreed upon and confirmed
that John Burns fought on McPherson Ridge and that he was wounded three times before throwing aside his musket and burying
his cartidges so he would not be executed as a civilian taking up arms. The first Confederate soldiers to come into contact
with Burns seemed to have believed that he was a wounded civilian caught in the crossfire. However John Burns, while recovering
in his house during the remainder of the battle, had a close call when a minie ball crashed through his room. He did believe
that it was an assassination attempt and that perhaps the Confederates had suspicions about his involvement on the first day's
field. John Burns was hailed by many after the battle as being a hero, however to the men who refused to fight as he did,
he was resented.