Edited by Gerald Boerner
Commentary will be added shortly. GLB
These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2011 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved
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Quotations Related to GETTYSBURG:
“My dead and wounded were nearly as great in number as those still on duty.”
— William C. Oates
“Up, men, and to your posts! Don’t forget today that you are from Old Virginia!”
— George E. Pickett
“It ain’t so hard to get to that ridge – The hell of it is to stay there.”
— Confederate soldier
“The truth will be known in time, and I leave that to show how much of the responsibility of Gettysburg rests on my shoulders.”
— James Longstreet
“We entered Gettysburg in the afternoon, just in time to meet the enemy entering the town, and in good season to drive him back before his getting a foothold.”
— John Buford
“In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls.”
— Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
“After this urgent protest against entering into battle at Gettysburg according to instructions – which protest is the first and only one I ever made during my entire military career – I ordered my line to advance and make the assault.”
— John B. Hood
“Rations were scarcely issued, and the men about preparing supper, when rumors that the enemy had been encountered that day near Gettysburg absorbed every other interest, and very soon orders came to march forthwith to Gettysburg.”
— Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
Overview of the Gettysburg Campaign…
The Gettysburg Campaign was a series of battles fought in June and July 1863, during the American Civil War. After his victory in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia moved north for offensive operations in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker and then (from June 28) by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, pursued Lee, defeated him at the Battle of Gettysburg, but allowed him to escape back to Virginia.
Lee’s army slipped away from Federal contact at Fredericksburg, Virginia, on June 3, 1863. While they paused at Culpeper, the largest predominantly cavalry battle of the war was fought at Brandy Station on June 9. The Confederates crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains and moved north through the Shenandoah Valley, capturing the Union garrison at Winchester, Virginia, in the Second Battle of Winchester, June 13–15. Crossing the Potomac River, Lee’s Second Corps advanced through Maryland and Pennsylvania, reaching the Susquehanna River and threatening the state capital of Harrisburg. However, the Army of the Potomac was in pursuit and had reached Frederick, Maryland, before Lee realized his opponent had crossed the Potomac. Lee moved swiftly to concentrate his army around the crossroads town of Gettysburg.
The Battle of Gettysburg was the largest of the war. Starting as a chance meeting engagement on July 1, the Confederates were initially successful in driving Union cavalry and two infantry corps from their defensive positions, through the town, and onto Cemetery Hill. On July 2, with most of both armies now present, Lee launched fierce assaults on both flanks of the Union defensive line, which were repulsed with heavy losses on both sides. On July 3, Lee focused his attention on the Union center. The defeat of his massive infantry assault, Pickett’s Charge, caused Lee to order a retreat that began the evening of July 4.
The Confederate retreat to Virginia was plagued by bad weather, difficult roads, and numerous skirmishes with Union cavalry. However, Meade’s army did not maneuver aggressively enough to prevent the Army of Northern Virginia from crossing the Potomac to safety on the night of July 13–14.
Shortly after Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia defeated Hooker’s Army of the Potomac during the Chancellorsville Campaign (April 30 – May 6, 1863), Lee decided upon a second invasion of the North. Such a move would upset Union plans for the summer campaigning season, give Lee the ability to maneuver his army away from its defensive positions behind the Rappahannock River, and allow the Confederates to live off the bounty of the rich northern farms while giving war-ravaged Virginia a much needed rest. Lee’s army could also threaten Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, and encourage the growing peace movement in the North. Lee had written to his wife on April 19,
… next fall there will be a great change in public opinion at the North. The Republicans will be destroyed & I think the friends of peace will become so strong that the next administration will go in on that basis.
The Confederate government wanted Lee to reduce Union pressure threatening their garrison at Vicksburg, Mississippi, but he declined their suggestions to send troops to provide direct aid, arguing for the value of a concentrated blow in the Northeast.
In essence, Lee’s strategy was identical to the one he employed in the Maryland Campaign of 1862. He had discovered only recently the secret of how Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan had defeated that invasion, by intercepting Lee’s famous lost order to his corps commanders, which compelled him to fight in the Battle of Antietam before he could fully concentrate his army. This revelation improved his confidence that he could succeed in a northern invasion against another man he considered a timid and ineffective general, Joseph Hooker. Furthermore, after Chancellorsville he had supreme confidence in the men of his army, assuming they could handle any challenge he gave them.
Union Forces at the Start of the Campaign
The Army of the Potomac, initially under Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker (Maj. Gen. George G. Meade replaced Hooker in command on June 28), consisted of more than 90,000 men in the following organization:
During the advance on Gettysburg, Maj. Gen. Reynolds was in operational command of the left, or advanced, wing of the Army, consisting of the I, III, and XI Corps. Note that many other Union units (not part of the Army of the Potomac) were actively involved in the Gettysburg Campaign, but not directly involved in the Battle of Gettysburg. These included portions of the Union IV Corps, the militia and state troops of the Department of the Susquehanna, and various garrisons, including that at Harpers Ferry.
Confederate Forces at the Start of the Campaign
In reaction to the death of Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson after Chancellorsville, Lee reorganized his 75,000 men from two infantry corps into three.
Lee’s Advance to Gettysburg
On June 3, 1863, Lee’s army began to slip away northwesterly from Fredericksburg, Virginia, leaving A.P. Hill’s Corps in fortifications above Fredericksburg to protect the Confederate rear as it withdrew. By June 5, Longstreet’s and Ewell’s corps were camped in and around Culpeper, and Hooker had caught wind of the Confederate movement. Accordingly he ordered Sedgwick to conduct a reconnaissance in force across the Rappahannock River to Hill’s line, which resulted in a skirmish that convinced him Lee still occupied his old line around Fredericksburg. As a precaution, Lee temporarily halted Ewell’s Corps, but when he saw that Hooker would not press the Fredericksburg line to bring on a battle, he ordered Ewell to continue. On June 9, Lee ordered Stuart to cross the Rappahannock and raid Union forward positions, screening the Confederate Army from observation or interference as it moved north. Anticipating this imminent offensive action, Stuart ordered his troopers into bivouac around Brandy Station.
Hooker interpreted Stuart’s presence around Culpeper to be indicative of preparations for a raid on his army’s supply lines. In reaction to this, he ordered Alfred Pleasonton’s combined arms force of 8,000 cavalrymen and 3,000 infantry on a "spoiling raid," to "disperse and destroy" the 9,500 Confederates. Pleasonton’s attack plan called for a double envelopment of the enemy. The wing under John Buford would cross the river at Beverly’s Ford, two miles (3 km) northeast of Brandy Station; at the same time, David McM. Gregg’s wing would cross at Kelly’s Ford, six miles (10 km) downstream to the southeast. However, Pleasonton was unaware of the precise disposition of the enemy and he incorrectly assumed that his force was substantially larger than the Confederates he faced.
About 4:30 a.m. on June 9, Buford’s column crossed the Rappahannock River in a dense fog, surprising Grumble Jones’s brigade, which rode to the scene partially dressed and often riding bareback. They struck Buford’s leading brigade and temporarily checked its progress, just short of where Stuart’s Horse Artillery was camped and was vulnerable to capture. The artillery unlimbered on two knolls on either side of the Beverly’s Ford Road. Most of Jones’s command rallied to the left of this Confederate artillery line, while Hampton’s brigade formed to the right. The 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry unsuccessfully charged the guns at St. James Church, suffering the greatest casualties of any regiment in the battle.
Buford tried to turn the Confederate left and dislodge the artillery that was blocking the direct route to Brandy Station and sustained heavy losses displacing Rooney Lee’s brigade from a stone wall on Yew Ridge. Then, to the amazement of Buford’s men, the Confederates began pulling back. They were reacting to the arrival of Gregg’s cavalry division of about 2,800 men, which was the second major surprise of the day. Although Gregg had intended to cross at Kelly’s Ford at dawn, in concert with Buford’s crossing at Beverly’s, his men were delayed two hours. Between Gregg and the St. James battle was a prominent ridge called Fleetwood Hill, which had been Stuart’s headquarters the previous night. Stuart and most of his staff had departed for the front by this time, but a few shots from a 6-pounder howitzer delayed the advance of Col. Percy Wyndham’s brigade as they sent out skirmishers and returned cannon fire. When Gregg’s men charged up the western slope of Fleetwood and neared the crest, the lead elements of Jones’s brigade, which had just withdrawn from St. James Church, rode over the crown.
Gregg’s next brigade, led by Col. Judson Kilpatrick, swung around east of Brandy Station and attacked up the southern end and the eastern slope of Fleetwood Hill, only to discover that their appearance coincided with the arrival of Hampton’s brigade. A series of confusing charges and countercharges swept back and forth across the hill. The Confederates finally cleared the hill. Col. Alfred N. Duffié’s small 1,200-man division was delayed by two Confederate regiments in the vicinity of Stevensburg and arrived on the field too late to affect the action. While Jones and Hampton withdrew from their initial positions to fight at Fleetwood Hill, Rooney Lee continued to confront Buford, falling back to the northern end of the hill. Reinforced by Fitzhugh Lee’s brigade, Rooney Lee launched a counterattack against Buford at the same time as Pleasonton had called for a general withdrawal near sunset, and the ten-hour battle was over.
Brandy Station was the largest predominantly cavalry fight of the war, and the largest to take place on American soil. It was a tactical draw, although Pleasonton withdrew before finding the location of Lee’s infantry nearby and Stuart claimed a victory, attempting to disguise the embarrassment of a cavalry force being surprised as it was by Pleasonton. The battle established the emerging reputation of the Union cavalry as a peer of the Confederate mounted arm.
Second Battle of Winchester
After Brandy Station, Lee’s infantry forces began crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains and headed north, "down" the Shenandoah Valley. Ewell’s Corps, in the lead, crossed at Chester Gap on June 12 and then through Front Royal toward Winchester, Virginia. Longstreet’s Corps (accompanied by General Lee) moved to protect Ashby’s Gap and Snicker’s Gap. A.P. Hill waited until Hooker had withdrawn from Fredericksburg on June 14 and then followed Ewell’s route across the mountains, leapfrogging Longstreet’s Corps, which then brought up the rear of the army. Stuart’s cavalry remained to the east of the Blue Ridge to screen Lee’s army.
The Union garrison at Winchester stood directly in Ewell’s path. It was commanded by Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy, who had 7,000 men in three brigades—two in Winchester and one 10 miles to the east at Berryville. Three forts with interconnecting trenches had been constructed to defend the town. General-in-chief Henry W. Halleck had since May ordered Milroy’s superior, Maj. Gen. Robert C. Schenck of the Middle Department, to withdraw Milroy’s men to Harpers Ferry, but Schenck believed that these were only instances of Halleck’s typical suggestions rather than direct orders and did not act on them until explicitly threatened with removal on June 14. By then it was too late. As Allegheny Johnson’s division approached Winchester from the south on June 14 and Jubal Early approached from the west, Ewell ordered Rodes’s division to Berryville and then to Martinsburg, north of Winchester. These movements effectively surrounded the Federal garrison.
At 6 p.m. on June 14, Confederate artillery opened fire on the Union’s West Fort and the brigade of Brig. Gen. Harry T. Hays led the charge that captured the fort and a Union battery. As darkness fell, Milroy belatedly decided to retreat from his two remaining forts. Anticipating the movement, Ewell ordered Johnson to march northwest and block the Union escape route. At 3:30 a.m. on June 15, Johnson’s column intercepted Milroy’s on the Charles Town Road. Although Milroy ordered his men to fight their way out of the situation, when the Stonewall Brigade arrived just after dawn to cut the turnpike to the north, Milroy’s men began to surrender in large numbers. Milroy escaped personally but the Second Battle of Winchester cost the Union about 4,450 casualties (4,000 captured) out of 7,000 engaged, while the Confederates lost only 250 of 12,500 engaged.
Ewell began crossing the Potomac River near Hagerstown, Maryland, late on June 15, along with Jenkins’s cavalry brigade. Hill’s and Longstreet’s corps followed on June 24 and June 25.
The Invasion of Pennsylvania
President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 100,000 volunteers from four states to serve a term of six months "to repel the threatened and imminent invasion of Pennsylvania." Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin called for 50,000 volunteers to take arms as volunteer militia; only 7,000 initially responded, and Curtin asked for help from the New York State Militia. Gov. Joel Parker of New Jersey also responded by sending troops to Pennsylvania. The War Department created the Department of the Susquehanna, commanded by Maj. Gen. Darius N. Couch, to coordinate defensive efforts in Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia were considered potential targets and defensive preparations were made. In Harrisburg, the state government removed its archives from the town for safekeeping. (In much of southern Pennsylvania, the Gettysburg campaign became widely known as the "Emergency of 1863." The military campaign resulted in the displacement of thousands of refugees from Maryland and Pennsylvania who fled northward and eastward to avoid the oncoming Confederates, and resulted in a shift in demographics in several southern Pennsylvania boroughs and counties.)
Although a primary purpose of the campaign was for the Army of Northern Virginia to accumulate food and supplies outside of Virginia, Lee gave strict orders (General Order 72) to his army to minimize any negative impacts on the civilian population. Food, horses, and other supplies were generally not seized outright, although quartermasters reimbursing Northern farmers and merchants using Confederate money were not well received. Various towns, most notably York, Pennsylvania, were required to pay indemnities in lieu of supplies, under threat of destruction. During the invasion, the Confederates seized some 40 northern African Americans, a few of whom were escaped fugitive slaves but most were freemen. They were sent south under guard into slavery. … [MORE]
Jeb Stuart enjoyed the glory of circumnavigating an enemy army, which he had done on two previous occasions in 1862, during the Peninsula Campaign and at the end of the Maryland Campaign. It is possible that he had the same intention when he spoke to Robert E. Lee following the Battle of Upperville. He certainly needed to erase the stain on his reputation represented by his surprise and near defeat at the Battle of Brandy Station. The exact nature of Lee’s order to Stuart on June 22 has been argued by the participants and historians ever since, but the essence was that he was instructed to guard the mountain passes with part of his force while the Army of Northern Virginia was still south of the Potomac and that he was to cross the river with the remainder of the army and screen the right flank of Ewell’s Second Corps. Instead of taking a direct route north near the Blue Ridge Mountains, however, Stuart chose to reach Ewell’s flank by taking his three best brigades (those of Wade Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee, and John R. Chambliss, the latter replacing the wounded W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee) between the Union army and Washington, moving north through Rockville to Westminster and on into Pennsylvania, hoping to capture supplies along the way and cause havoc near the enemy capital. Stuart and his three brigades departed Salem Depot at 1 a.m. on June 25.
Unfortunately for Stuart’s plan, the Union army’s movement was underway and his proposed route was blocked by columns of Federal infantry from Hancock’s II Corps, forcing him to veer farther to the east than either he or General Lee had anticipated. This prevented Stuart from linking up with Ewell as ordered and deprived Lee of the use of his prime cavalry force, the "eyes and ears" of the army, while advancing into unfamiliar enemy territory.… [MORE]
Final Positioning for the Battle of Gettysburg
Meade Assumes Command
On the evening of June 27, Lincoln sent orders relieving Hooker. Hooker had argued with Halleck about defending the garrison at Harpers Ferry and petulantly offered to resign, which Halleck and Lincoln promptly accepted. George Meade, a Pennsylvanian who was commanding the V Corps, was ordered to assume command of the Army of the Potomac early on the morning of June 28 in Frederick, Maryland. Meade was surprised by the change of command order, having previously expressed his lack of interest in the army command. In fact, when an officer from Washington woke him with the order, he assumed he was being arrested for some transgression. Despite having little knowledge of what Hooker’s plans had been or the exact locations of the three columns moving quickly to the northwest, Meade kept up the pace. He telegraphed to Halleck, in accepting his new command, that he would "Move toward the Susquehanna, keeping Washington and Baltimore well covered, and if the enemy is checked in his attempt to cross the Susquehanna or if he turns toward Baltimore, to give him battle."
On June 30, Meade’s headquarters advanced to Taneytown, Maryland, and he issued two important orders. The first directed that a general advance in the direction of Gettysburg begin on July 1, a destination that was from 5 to 25 miles away from each of his seven infantry corps. The second order, known as the Pipe Creek Circular, established a prospective line on Big Pipe Creek, which had been surveyed by his engineers as a strong defensive position. Meade had the option of occupying this position and hoping that Lee would attack him there; alternatively, it would represent a fall back position if the army got into trouble at Gettysburg.
Lee Concentrates his Army
The lack of Stuart’s cavalry intelligence kept Lee unaware that his army’s normally sluggish foe had moved as far north as it had. It was only after a spy hired by Longstreet reported in that Lee found out his opponent had crossed the Potomac and was following him nearby. By June 29, Lee’s army was strung out in an arc from Chambersburg (28 miles (45 km) northwest of Gettysburg) to Carlisle (30 miles (48 km) north of Gettysburg) to near Harrisburg and Wrightsville on the Susquehanna River. Ewell’s Corps had almost reached the Susquehanna River and was prepared to menace Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania state capital. Early’s Division occupied York, which was the largest Northern town to fall to the Confederates during the war. Longstreet and Hill were near Chambersburg.
Lee ordered a concentration of his forces around Cashtown, located at the eastern base of South Mountain and 8 miles (13 km) west of Gettysburg. On June 30, while part of Hill’s Corps was in Cashtown, one of Hill’s brigades, North Carolinians under Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew, ventured toward Gettysburg. The memoirs of Maj. Gen. Henry Heth, Pettigrew’s division commander, claimed that he sent Pettigrew to search for supplies in town—especially shoes.
When Pettigrew’s troops approached Gettysburg on June 30, they noticed Union cavalry under Brig. Gen. John Buford arriving south of town, and Pettigrew returned to Cashtown without engaging them. When Pettigrew told Hill and Heth about what he had seen, neither general believed that there was a substantial Federal force in or near the town, suspecting that it had been only Pennsylvania militia. Despite General Lee’s order to avoid a general engagement until his entire army was concentrated, Hill decided to mount a significant reconnaissance in force the following morning to determine the size and strength of the enemy force in his front. Around 5 a.m. on Wednesday, July 1, two brigades of Heth’s division advanced to Gettysburg.
Please take time to further explore more about American Civil War, Gettysburg,
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Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Wikipedia: American Civil War…
Wikipedia: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania…
Wikipedia: Gettysburg Campaign…
Wikipedia: Battle of Brandy Station…
Wikipedia: Second Battle of Winchester…
Wikipedia: Skirmish of Sporting Hill…
Brainy Quote: GETTYSBURG Quotes…
A Proud Table: BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG Quotes…
Other Posts on related Topics:
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Robert E. Lee and the Battle of Gettysburg…
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Civil War: Battle of Brandy Station in 1863…