Abraham Lincoln, Alfred Pleasonton, Alfred Waud, Army of North Virginia, Army of the Potomac, Battlelines: Gettysburg, Cemetery Hill, Edwin Forbes, George Meade, Gettysburg, Henry Heth, J.E.B. Stuart, John Buford, John Reynolds, McPherson's Ridge, Richard Ewell, Robert E. Lee, William Pender
Note: The annual anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg is this weekend. To commemorate that, we are posting, with permission, excerpts from Battlelines: Gettysburg, that describe aspects of the battle. Battlelines: Gettysburg contains the battlefield drawings of Alfred Waud and Edwin Forbes, the only two artists who witnessed the battle.
Lee had wanted to avoid any major engagements with Union forces until he could determine where they were and could choose a battleground that would give his smaller force an advantage. But, as often happens, the plans of the generals dissipate into the realities of the battlefield.
Early on July 1, Confederate generals Henry Heth and William Pender rode with their forces down the Chambersburg Road toward Gettysburg in order to drive Union forces out of the town. They did not expect to encounter much resistance. Instead, they found Union General John Buford’s division of Federal cavalry about three miles northwest of Gettysburg. That division had no intention of being moved, at least not without a fight.
Heth committed his lines to the fight, and Buford’s lines stiffened. The battle was joined.
In this initial battle, the Confederates had the advantage in numbers and position, and the Union forces gradually dropped back. General John Reynolds, hearing that the battle was unfolding, brought his brigades up to join the Union lines on ground known as McPherson’s Ridge. As the fighting began to intensify, Reynolds commanded the lines from his horse and was hit by a bullet at the base of his skull. He died instantly.